New Terminal (T3) at Singapore Airport Rocks!

Singapore has recently added a new terminal (Terminal 3 or T3) at its Changi Airport. And boy its impressive! Its huge, grand and in keeping with the current trends “very green” with plenty of plants and natural light (and not to mention waterfalls!). It feels a lot like being in a newly built 5-star hotel.

In general, I have found the Singapore airport to be very traveler friendly with plenty of information booths all over the airport. At T3, the Singapore Airport authorities seem to have taken this one step further. Within seconds of standing in front of one of the departure screens I was approached by airport officials asking me if I needed help. Not sure if this has to do with the “newness” of the terminal or if it is going to be an ongoing feature.

The departure gates of each flight are designed similar to those in London’s Heathrow and Dubai (where you have to go past a main door after check-in to enter the waiting area unlike in San Francisco), but I didn’t notice the overcrowding in the passage ways that was apparent in Dubai. On the other hand I found plenty of space for transit passengers to relax and take rest. There were dedicated lounges bunched around TV screens showing soaps, CNN, sports etc. to suit your tastes. The free Internet terminals are located close to the transit counters and are programmed to give you 10-minute access (after which a new session has to be started thereby reminding users to not hog the terminals).

p.s: It was built at a cost of $1.22 and designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and CPG Corporation.

YouBama for Obama!

Check out this newly launched site dedicated exclusively to Obama supporters. Antyone can upload a video stating why they are supporting Obama or link to a video that you already have on Youtube. Visitors to the site can view the video and vote on it, Digg style. Goerge Clooney’s endorsement appears at the top.

It is an “unofficial presidential campaign for Barack Obama”.

One more really cool by-product of the Youtube age in politics.

Trouble Makers Must Learn From Kumble

Harbhajan Singh escaped a serious charge thanks to the lack of evidence and India’s strangle-hold on world cricketing revenue. The Indian Board should seize the moment to caution its players rather than celebrate the verdict of the Bhajji hearing. The BCCI should be tough and send home the message to its players prior to the ODI series that on the field antics will not be tolerated. 

Sreesanth (Team India’s other problem child) meanwhile continues to make ridiculous statements. The young man has a lot of talent but clearly seems to be getting way ahead of himself. In Ishant Sharma India has found a fine Test class bowler. He along with Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan make a good bowling combination. Sreesanth should focus his energies on the game and try and secure his place in the team instead of making pointless statements that expose his immaturity rather than show his toughness.

Harbhajan Singh’s performance has started to drop over the years, particularly in Test matches. His performance at Adelaide being a case in point. He is no longer the force he was in 2001 when the Aussies visited India. In fact, Murali Karthik or Romesh Powar are equally good if not better options today for the Test team.

Both these players need to look no further than their Test captain Anil Kumble for model behavior.

Anil Kumble personifies an impressive blend of controlled aggression, remarkable fighting spirit and boundless commitment packaged in a pleasant personable manner. Instead of screaming and making faces or hurling abuses at the Aussies he delivered a killer punch by famously stating after the Sydney Test that “only one team was playing in the right spirit”. This series was a test of character both on and off the field and there is no question that Kumble left Ponting far behind on all fronts. After two successive defeats at Melbourne and Sydney, Kumble rallied his boys to an inspired win at Perth followed by a fighting performance at Adelaide.

Ponting and his boys on the other hand had to face plenty of flak after the Sydney Test. His team never really recovered from the aftermath of the Sydney Test and have been falling apart ever since. They succumbed in Perth and appeared frightened of losing at Adelaide (as rightly put by Sehwag). Gilchrist has decided to retire, while Shaun Tait is on an indefinite break. Hogg was a dismal failure and Australia minus Stewart MacGill seems to have no spin options while the backup for Brett Lee seems wanting. The leader of the world’s strongest team finds himself struggling at the cross roads, while India’s Anil Kumble seems like a definite role model.

Harbhajan, Sreesanth and the like will do well to learn a lesson or two from Kumble. Let us hope that the ODI series is more about cricket and less about on the field gimmicks.

Book Review: Confessions of an Economic Hitman

ConfessionsTitle: Confessions of an Economic Hitman
Author: John Perkins

The author worked for several years for consulting firms that encourage under developed (and developing) countries to accept large loans from the World Bank (and other similar institutions that provide financial aid) for large projects with the basic intent of eventually controlling the local governments and their policies to serve the needs of American Corporations. He calls it “corporatocracy”.
“Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars,”….If we falter, then a more malicious form of hitman, the jackal, steps to the plate. And if the jackal fails the job falls to the military.”

The EHMs cook up projections about the implications of these projects (often large infrastructure projects) in order to convince these countries to accept these loans. Also, a number of locals are bribed in the process if need be. The loans are then paid to US Corporations that service these projects. Ultimately, these governments are unable to pay back these loans and become proxies that serve US interests.

The book serves as a very good work of fiction. But it is highly likely that there is some truth to this book. Unfortunately, the author glosses over details of projections that he claimed to have “cooked” up as part of his job. This certainly leaves plenty of room for critics to rightfully argue the credibility of the authors story. While the underlying theme of the book is highly plausible, it is hard to say how much of it is really true vs. pure fiction. Ultimately, it is an interesting and engaging book.

The book covers the author’s first hand experiences in several countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Ecuador etc. The Saudi Arabian part is of particular interest in light of recent global events (the rise of Bin Laden, 9/11 etc.)

If you are a pro-environment, anti-big Corporation, and in general left leaning, and prone to alarmist tendencies, this is a book that is sure to confirm your worst fears. You are bound to have the “I told you so” moment on reading this book. In any case, a must read for anyone interested in geopolitics.

p.s: I love the cover design.

Omar Restaurant in Kannur, Kerala

If you are hungry late at night and in a mood for normal food (by this I mean not fast food or the Denny’s variety), small towns in India have plenty to offer. I was recently in Kannur in North Kerala and found myself in exactly this predicament. I was happy to find Omar restaurant very close to the Kannur Railway station. It was close to midnight. There were a few people at the restaurant! It took them close to 15-20 minutes to get the food, causing me to believe that the food was fresh. This was further confirmed by the fact that the food tasted great.

Movie Review: Kadhaparayumbol

Title: Kadhaparayumbol (“While Telling A Story”)
Language : Malayalam
Starring : Srinivasan, Mamooty, Meena

Srinivasan’s golden touch continues. His ability to churn out scripts that have the right blend of commercial value and realistic themes is simply phenomenal. This film is based on friendship. It is a story of two friends who grew up together but their lives take different turns. One of them (played by Momooty) grows up to become a huge movie star, while the other (played by Srinivasan) becomes a barber who lives in small, beautiful town. This might sound cliched but the treatment is what makes this movie very interesting.

The movie revolves completely around the barber’s life. There are no scenes about the friends in their childhood (like you would find in most conventional films). In fact, the movie star character makes an appearance only towards the end (if you discount one song sequence which was thrust in under the pretext of the movie star shooting a film). The early part of the film focuses on the barber struggling to make both ends meet.

There is plenty of everyday small town humor that had the audience in splits. Srinivasan delivers scores of funny lines all with a straight face (as he usually does) throughout the film. The bulk of the film focuses on how the barber’s life changes dramatically (for the worse) after the movie star comes to the small village to shoot a film. Despite his best efforts the word gets out about his past history with the big movie star. The entire village sees him as the “gateway” to the movie star. He however does not believe in raking up the past or currying favors. He believes instead in honest living despite his everyday struggles.

The end is a quick fire tear jerker (lasting only a few scenes) revolving around friendship and the movie stars’ side of the story. There are some pointed lines to dispel the myth about movie stars, and the craze for movie stars in general.

The early parts can be a little slow. Two songs were thrust in for commercial value. Overall a very enjoyable film. Tactfully made and brilliantly scripted.

p.s: This movie is being remade in Tamil, starring Tamil Superstar, Rajnikanth.

Adelaide Test: Play Dinesh Karthick

Team India is clearly faced with a dilemma. Wasim Jaffer has failed in six innings in a row. The Adelaide pitch is expected to assist spinners. Ishant Sharma bowled exceedingly well at Perth. So the dilemma comes down to whether Team India should drop Jaffer and pick Harbhajan instead, thereby strengthening the bowling or drop Ishant Sharma and pick Harbhajan based on the prognosis about the Adelaide pitch.

Five Bowlers?

Predictions about the Perth pitch proved to be horribly inaccurate. In fact, the Aussies goofed by including Tait ahead of an in-form Brad Hogg. So the theory that this pitch is likely to turn can be discounted for the most part.

In general, the five bowler combination makes sense for India. It clearly indicates a positive intent and strengthens the bowling. However, the selection has to be viewed in the context of current form of players and the result of the Perth Test. All the three seamers performed exceptionally well at Perth. Five bowlers where one is an all rounder is the ideal combination. Irfan certainly fits the all rounder profile, especially on current form. Accommodating Harbhajan in the team would mean dropping Jaffer because it would be a bad call to drop Ishant after his Perth performance.

India’s best bet against the Aussies is almost always to bat first and put up a big total. This means India’s strength lies in its batting. The current weak link appears to be Jaffer’s form. Asking Dravid to open once again is an unnecessary change. He clearly appears comfortable at number three and has batted better than he ever has this series at Perth at this position.

Dinesh Karthik for Wasim Jaffer

Under the circumstances it might be best for India to replace Wasim Jaffer with Dinesh Karthick for this Test. This is a gamble worth taking. This is certainly not the end of the road for Jaffer. He is still India’s lead Test opener. But his current form is questionable. There is no doubt that India’s key to winning lies in its batting. So anything that can strengthen the batting should be addressed. Besides, Virendar Sehwag has shown that he can be an effective fifth bowler, should the need arise.

Obama’s Speech Writer

If you are a fan of Senator Obama’s speeches, you must have wondered, who his speech writer was. The NY Times did a story on the lead speech writer, a 26-year old (!!), Mr. Jon Favreau. Very impressive indeed. This is just one more sign that an Obama Presidency is bound to bring hordes of young, talented people to the forefront of American politics.

But for now, Obama has to win South Carolina, convince John Edwards to quit and endorse him, and beef up his chances for super Tuesday in the big states. As of now, this seems like an uphill battle!

Check out one of Obama’s recent speeches. Notice how he starts of slowly and gathers steam as he progresses.

ODI Team Selection: Bold Step, Poor Execution

The selectors have made a bold move by phasing out Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly (and not considering in form VVS) in favor of some serious young blood. This is a great move by the selectors and in line with my view that India should play virtually different teams for different forms of the game.

The manner in which the selectors have gone about executing these changes is rather sad. After 10+ years of serving on the team, these players deserve better. Rahul Dravid was the captain barely a series ago and Ganguly has been in the form of his life. If this is a strategic move in favor of youth, the selectors should have had a discussion with these folks about their plans a few series earlier, so they are not surprised or disheartened. On the one hand if the experiment fails badly, then these players might be back in the team. On the other hand, if the experiment works, the players will surely miss a well deserved formal farewell from the ODI teams. Also, the timing of the announcement before the Adelaide Test could prove costly. It just reinforces the view that BCCI is still badly in need of some professional management.

These changes further indicate that MS Dhoni might just have what it takes to be a terrific captain. He intends to groom his own team, and if it involves phasing out the seniors he seems to be prepared to do just that. It is a gamble which could backfire but a sure sign of a man very much up to the leadership task.

The Sydney Saga: Pawar Should Act if Bhajji’s Ban is Not Revoked

The Aussie’s behaved like high-school bullies. They made blatantly false appeals and stood their ground even when they were clearly out. besides, the umpires doled out a whole bunch of decisions in their favor. To top it all, they brought racism charges on Harbhajan Singh despite Kumble’s impressively cool headed approach to the issue.

Now the ball is supposedly in Mr. Pawar’s court. Mr. Pawar, need to look no farther. He just needs to think back to the time last year when the Aussies tossed him off the stage to pose for photographs. He let them off lightly then. Now they have not played the game in the right spirit, pressurized the umpires to give wrong decisions and to make matters worse they have accused Harbhajan of being racist. This a serious allegation and deserves a serious response. If the ICC does not revoke the ban, it is time to call it quits (even if it involves writing Cricket Australia a check).

In addition, here are a few more issues that seem to have been lost in the discussion.

The possible reversal of the ban does raise some questions. If Bhajji is found not quilty after the appeal process, Mike Procter must be suspended from his referee job for a couple of series, shouldn’t he? What was the basis for his decision on the issue?

Bucknor’s removal from Perth is insufficient. The man has a terrible record against India. (One theory doing the rounds is that he has been harassed by people of Indian origin back in the West Indies?) and he should never be allowed to officiate in a match featuring India. In general, it might be a bad precedent, but show me another umpire who has as disgraceful a record as Mr. Bucknor against a specific country.

Why is the hearing on Hogg being delayed? After all it happened in the same Test match. It is an equally serious charge. But why is the case not being heard?

Last but not the least, why not annul the Sydney Test result? It might be hard for India to demand this, but certainly Cricket Australia can make the offer as part of a broader peace mission. It will certainly help rein in Ponting and his bunch of unruly boys and help Australian Cricket regain some of the respect that it surely has lost since the Sydney Test.