Thursday, July 27, 2006

Celebrity Face Match

Found this link on Dhoomketu's blog. Once I got to the site, I just had to find out who I looked like, now didn't I? (Face it, there's a little Narcissus in all of us). So I uploaded a photograph, and guess what? The closest match to my face was none other than the 'air raid siren' Bruce Dickinson, with a whopping 72% match. Needless to say I was (and remain) as pleased as punch.

The other close matches were, rather more predictably, Adrian Brody (70%), David Schwimmer (67%) and Steve Vai (62%). Have been likened to each one of them before. But Bruce Dickinson! That's priceless. Take that all of you who've ever made fun of my nose.

Having said that, I wonder what heuristics they use to match the faces. I remember having a discussion with my boss a couple of years back about how the future of computing (and A.I. in particular) lay in pattern recognition algorithms. Have had lots of ideas thrown about, but I’m still not sure how it’s done. If anyone’s got a clue, do let me know.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What was he thinking?

No, this is not about Zidane and his head butt. I refer instead to Juan Pablo Montoya's decision to quit Formula-1 and signing up with Chip Ganassi's Nascar team. Such a move is, to say the least, befuddling. It is unheard of. It is, in fact, unprecedented (there's no precedent, baby!)

Which brings us to the question 'why'. Why did he do it? What would have compelled Montoya to willingly become the laughing stock of the entire F-1 fraternity (not to mention the fans)? At first I thought it might be the money. But top Nascar drivers earn between 5-7 million, while McLaren is paying Montoya 14 million per season. So that can't be it. Maybe, I reckoned then, he just needed a break. But a break from what? It's not like he's conquered one frontier and is moving on to another. The best he's ever managed in F-1 is a third place in the Championship some three years ago. Not like he's Michael Schumacher (or for that matter Fernando Alonso) or something. No, that can't be it either.

That left me with the only logical explanation[1]: the Dodge Charger (Montoya's Nascar ride) is quite simply a better car than the McLaren Mercedes MP4-21. Of course! That must be it. Why couldn't I see it earlier? It all makes perfect sense now.

ps: If someone has a better explanation, please let me know. I'd love to hear it.

[1] As Sherlock Holmes famously quoted "When you have eliminated all other contingencies, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Update: Swami suggests that Montoya must have lost a bad bet to a Colombian drug-lord (like backing South Korea to win the World cup), and now has to make up for it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The crazy diamond shines no more

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk
- John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale.
Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd and genius extraordinaire, is dead. For years I have fantasized about going to England, if only to catch a glimpse of Syd Barrett. To shake hands with him. To talk to him. To persuade him out of his self-imposed exile and get him to record a new album. These have been some of my fondest daydreams. Those dreams died today. Now I wonder if I'll ever visit England. Don't seem to have the motivation anymore.

Syd was more than just a founding member; he was the quintessence of Pink Floyd. It was Syd who created the psychedelic sound one associates with the band, the sound that so influenced their early work. And despite all the fame they achieved in their later years, for me the definitive Floyd shall always be Piper at the gates of Dawn (still my favourite album after all these years).

Driven to insanity by record labels and betrayed by his closest friends, Syd was a disturbing mix of child-like innocence and staggered bitterness. Behind this depraved man, though, was a musical genius. A much under-appreciated genius, whose influence can be heard in the music of bands ranging from U2 and Stone Roses to the grunge bands of the 90s.

But more than anything else, Syd was a sad, lonely man who could never adjust to a hypocritical world -- something we seem to do so effortlessly. Something we attribute to as part of 'growing up'. As if honesty and ingenuousness are traits not desirable in the adult world. And then we conveniently label the uncorrupted 'insane'. Syd Barrett was insane. Syd Barrett was also a pure, if troubled soul. I hope in death at least he finds solace.

RIP Syd Barret.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Vikash Dhorasoo would have nailed it

Italy won the World Cup. Hurrah for Italy!

Coming to the point, for me the defining moment of the game was not the sending off of Zenedine Zidane, but the substitution of David Trezeguet for Franck Ribery in the 101st minute. Throughout the tournament, Trezeguet was used sparingly, with Telugu-pride Vikash Dhorasoo being the preferred midfield substitute. And he hadn't done too badly either, if you ask me (which for some reason no one ever does; but I digress). In any case, I am convinced that Dhorasoo would have converted the penalty that Trezeguet ended up missing.

Sure it sounds hypothetical and may well be attributed to hindsight, but Dhorasoo was the man in form, had had more play time in the tournament, had led PSG successfully to a French cup win earlier in the year, and had a good record in penalty shootouts. Add to that the fact that Andhra-ites (or gultis, if you like) are notoriously famous for 'scoring', there is no doubt in my mind Dhorasoo was the logical choice for the substitution.

Apparently French coach Raymond Domenech didn't think so. Domenech is a superstitious man. So much so that he plans his starting line-ups based on star signs of his players. I wonder if that had something to do with his reluctance to use Dhorasoo. It might be one irrational decision that cost France the World Cup.