The Ma Foi Foundation

I was part, for a while, of the Teach India thing that TOI started, way back when… I was recently contacted by a foundation that does similar work. I think they’re doing very good work with enabling the less fortunate to become self-sufficient. They will help you sponsor a deserving kid through college, for example. They are backed by an MNC as part of its CSR work, and they say they do similar work in a dozen other countries.

Unfortunately for me, they work entirely in Chennai, and I’m moving to Bangalore at the end of the week. All I can do for them is send them some money. If anybody is willing and interested, and have some time or some money to spare, please consider donating. I’m sure they will be glad to receive your help. Also, personally, if you are willing to spare some money, please contact me so we can chip in and make a larger contribution.

There are more details here.

They can be contacted at

The Ma Foi Foundation,
1st Floor, No. 49, Cathedral Road,
Chennai – 600086
email: tfmf [at] mafoi [dot] com

This is no longer tennis

In a first round match between two relatively unknown players at Wimbledon, one expects… well, most of all, one expects not to hear about the match at all. Boy, did that go wrong here! This match, between John Isner of the US and Nikolas Mahut of France, has lasted nearly 11 hours (at the time of this writing, they are tied at 62-62 in the fifth set), going into a second day.  Not kidding. Not even about this being a first round match.

On day 10 at Wimbledon, when Thiemo de Bakker of the US beat compatriot Santiago Giraldo in a five setter with the last set ending 16-14, de Bakker must have thought himself severely hamstrung against whoever his second round opponent was going to be. Hallelujah! His opponent, if at all there is one, will be the winner of the match between Mahut and Isner. That second-round match will be a show-stopper, won’t it? Serves will go from one end to the other of the court… barely!

What happens if the two players decide to just keep playing? They must have realised neither of them is going to do anything more in this tournament. What happens if the other half of the men’s tournament has Federer reaching the finals and waiting for a first round match to get over? That, I’d like to see!


UPDATE: The match has finally ended with Isner winning the final set 70-68. Monsieur Federer will not wait at centre court for a first round match to get over. Pity.

On how to play the match before the final

India played Sri Lanka in a dress rehearsal of the Asia cup final, two days ago. Okay, maybe ‘played’ is an overstatement… India attempted to play Sri Lanka two days ago. And failed. Badly. Some of us were of the opinion that the Indian team can only truly play cricket against Pakistan. A few of us, however, were more optimistic. We thought this might be a strategy to lull Lanka into a false sense of being, you know, better.

Well, whaddayaknow! It turns out it was a strategy. India are currently handing Sri Lanka a veritable beatdown (At the time of this writing, Sri Lanka are 56/5 after 19 overs chasing 269). So, bravo, Gary Kirsten, and bravo, MS Dhoni. Strategy well-conceived. Strategy perfectly executed.

The Football World Cup and Korea DPR

I was very surprised when I first heard that North Korea was going to play in the football world cup. The sole aim of the North Korean regime of the great leader, that dead bastard, and his son, the dear leader, that sick, dying pig, is to keep the people of North Korea in a real-life Orwellian nightmare. The people of North Korea are absolute property of the ruling family, and live with a staggering lack of freedom – no electricity, no telephone, no internet other than the state-run intranet where the state puts up things you are allowed to see, no music, no TV, no movies, no free press. (That last one was a joke … Free Press? In North Korea?!). Heck, the people aren’t even allowed to buy their own food. Rations are provided by the state, in amounts deemed sufficient by the state. Meat is strictly for state-authorised celebratory occasions (read the birthday of the great leader).

Now, this kind of hellish repression is sustainable, for whatever length of time, only with absolute lack of information. Which explains why there is no access to the internet, or to TV or radio that doesn’t extol the virtues of the president, that dead SOB, Kim Il Sung. There is also active xenophobic propaganda – ‘South Koreans are so poor that they only feed themselves by rummaging through trash cans’, when nothing could be farther from the truth. And with one of the largest armed and police forces in the world, ready to step on the throats of anybody who deviates from the rule of the state in the slightest.

The only way to maintain this kind of absolute misinformation is to never let anybody see the outside world. Which is why it is utterly bewildering to me that the dictatorship slave-ownership that is the North Korean government would let some of its civilians out to play football. What is more surprising, however, is that only four players from the North Korean football team have been reported AWOL. How the heck did the managers and team officials (how much should one bet that these are army officers?) manage to keep the other fifteen nineteen[Thanks, Bhadwa] from doing the same thing?

Major League Bathos

My viva voce happened today.  6 months of work, followed by 4 months of no work (and I mean NO work), followed by 2 months of work, all judged by two people who are determinedly extremely uninterested in what you are saying for 30 minutes. IITM knows how to make a fellow feel useless.

In robotics, among the most difficult tasks to get a machine to do is to adapt to unexpected situations. Have you tried lifting a cup of coffee, only to find that the cup was empty when you thought it’d be full? Have you perhaps tried to take a step down a staircase that has already ended? Disappointment about the coffee aside, the ways your arm and leg muscles adjust to the unexpected change in load are mechansitically quite complex. And to get a robot to do this is incredibly hard.

I feel like that robot. I went prepared for murder. My murder. Instead… nothing. In George Costanza’s words, “NOTHING!”.  A few quibbles about report formatting aside, I was asked basically to explain my analysis better in the report, and told that the reason the part of my work that didn’t work didn’t work is because I was trying to square a circle. All quite nicely and at 40 dB.

‘OK, dude, that’s all we have for you. Go on.’

Like I said, major league bathos.

I don’t like Mondays

… especially if they include a 20 minute presentation on what I’ve been (supposedly) doing for the last 12 months.

Today’s my viva-voce.

And I dread presentations. To be fair, I have no problem talking in informal groups; I’m also not peeved giving random talks about stuff that doesn’t matter, stuff about which the more you obfuscate and beat around the bush the better… (to wit: HS course presentations at IITM). All you have to do is take a stand one way or another, and the presentation will go forward on its own with people doing carrying on the discussion for you. Or you appear to sit on the fence, and you’ll be considered a voice of moderation, a ‘sophisticated’ thinker.

Technical presentations about engineering, on the other hand… Yeesh!

Me no good. Me suck. Mi-viva in an hour. Me hope to survive.

This is even more an issue of survival than it would ordinarily be for me, because I’ve royally pissed off one of the members on my committee. (Ask me about it. I’ll tell you.)

If I make it through the presentation and question-session, I’ll say something about it here [Link updated] (after treating the prof who let me print my thesis out on his comp; Thanks, HSN).

Salut!