Come on Sirils!! (aka the CRICKET MEETUP)

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Each player, of course, matters in every match. Jayasuriya is the most-capped one-day cricketer in history, a flamboyant opening batsman whose fearless stroke play can give an innings unstoppable momentum, and a useful spin-bowler as well. Vaas is the master of new-ball bowling who can destroy an opponent’s innings almost before they start. Murali is the unorthodox wizard of spin who bamboozles the most gifted, in-form batsmen.

Their importance on Saturday also rests on their presence in a match played 11 years ago: They are the three survivors of the team that beat Australia in the 1996 World Cup final in Lahore, Pakistan.Link

When: Tomorrow, 4/28, at 12:30

Where: Eight Mile Creek, NYC

Why: To watch SRI LANKA KICK ASS!!

The game starts around 9am EST, and a Sri Lankan crew will be there, holding it down, if you don’t want to miss a minute.

FYI: Eight Mile Creek is an expat Australian bar/restaurant, so we’re taking the meetup into enemy turf. Should be a screaming, cheering, hair-raising good time. Come ready to show your colors! Continue reading

DC SMeetup V: The Belated Writeup

Sixteen of you showed up to one decadent brunch at Heritage India in Dupont on Sunday afternoon; afterwards, most of us meandered over to the Cosi across Connecticut Avenue because we couldn’t bear to stop listening to and laughing with each other. What a FANTASTIC meetup (click the picture above to enlarge it, if you’d like proof of that). DC’s fifth was easily its best and that’s saying a LOT.

That makes what I have to type next even worse. I know. You mutineers are disappointed in my lack of prompt meetup writingup; if it is any consolation, you can’t possibly be as irritated as the actual attendees, some of whom came all the way from New Jersey and Florida, all of whom watched me type furtively and furiously, only to later wonder, “WTF?” as references to one of the BEST events we’ve ever hosted in any city popped up on my diary blog and my ancient fotolog. Will you reduce the number of spankings I deserve if I point out that I flickr’d the album of photographs from the meetup that same night? All 72 of them? No? Damn.

Well, here’s the cringe-inducing story, morning glories. I am an idiot. I am so used to Microsoft word saving, checking and wiping my kundi for me that I have become ridiculously lazy. I no longer do any of the above on my own (okay fine, maybe I do one of them) because I just assume it will all be taken care of…and by assuming…oh, how I’ve made an ass out of you and me. Or maybe just me.

I lost everything, because I no longer HAVE MS Word on my uber-adored iBook. I have whatever no-nonsense word-processing crap it comes with…and while it worked just dandy for my purposes, it taught me a very expensive lesson by not spoiling me via auto-save. Le sigh. If only I had been able to get online to liveblog all the mischievous merrymaking…

I’m not exaggerating– this was one of the funniest seven-hour conversations this website has ever inspired and it’s awful you won’t get to read any of it.

Here’s an example of what went down:

PORN!
This still reduces me to giggles. Ok, I’m going to summarize for the benefit of the poor people who were unable to share in the joy that was Sunday’s DC Meetup. Be warned, the following description is NSFW or children.
At a certain point in the conversation, our beloved ANNA decides to STAND UP and wax eloquent about this great new reality show she’s discovered…”Debbie Does Dallas Again.” She relates this great moment wherein our favorite brown porn star, Sunny Leone, is seeking career advice FROM HER BROTHER, and actually begins to mimic a certain act. “Should I start doing boy-girl?” our Anna yells, “because if I do, it’ll mean I have to do double-penetration,” and here she pantomimes with her hands…um…well…fellatio and spelunking the small hole, if you will. One hand forward, one hand back, so to speak.
Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if we’d had the restaurant to ourselves, which we did right up until roughly that moment. But fortuitously, a largish gaggle of desis wandered in at JUST THAT POINT, children in tow. While the parents were discussing whether to park themselves at a table, two or three 8-to-10-year old boys walked to the door, then froze there, utterly stunned, mouth agape, transfixed by Anna’s enthusiastic rendering of her new favorite TV show.
This led some of us to comment that Anna had more-or-less kick-started puberty in a few kids that day, and that there would be some interesting Q&A sessions with the parents in the Accord / Camry on the way home that night. “Mommy, I feel funny…in my pants.”
I still get the giggles when I think of the total expressionless intent stare on the faces of those kids while watching you, AJ. Pure gold!

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No Balle Balle for Bally

HL Menken famously said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” That’s true not just of customers, but of corporate employees as well.

If I managed a gym and I was hiring somebody to do sales, I would care about how much experience they had, maybe how fit they looked, but I can’t imagine caring about the nationality or religion of the applicant. And this would especially true in a place like Fresno which is one of the most diverse counties in the state of California. Still, that’s just what one Bally’s in Fresno did – out and out discriminated against a Sikh man:

Sukdev “Devin” Singh Dhaliwal applied for a sales job with one of Bally’s five Fresno fitness centers in 2004. An interviewer quizzed Dhaliwal, who was born and raised in California, about his religious and ethnic background, and then denied him a job and hired non-Sikh, non-Indian applicants with less experience, according to the commission.

He was basically asked where he was born, where his parents were born, what religion he subscribed to and whether he was a Muslim,” said EEOC program analyst Linda Li. “He’s very American.” [Link]

Why bring up news from almost 3 years ago today? Because it took that long for Bally’s to face justice and … lose:

Under the consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, Bally must pay Dhaliwal $24,000 in damages and provide training in equal opportunity hiring practices to managers at its Fresno locations. Dhaliwal said he plans to donate some of the money to his alma mater, California State University, Fresno, where a business law professor steered him to the EEOC after hearing about the interview. [Link]

It’s not a lot of money, but it should send a message. Sadly, it’s a message that still needs sending.

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Converts not invaders

A soon to be published genetic study of the population of Northern India is sure to get the attention of some right wing groups who like to come up with their own alternate “theories” with regards to the history of Hindu/Muslim interaction on the sub-continent.

Scientists have confirmed what historians have known.

Genetic studies have suggested that Muslims in northern India are mostly descendants of local people who embraced Islam rather than repositories of foreign DNA deposited by waves of invaders.

The studies by scientists in India, Spain and the US indicate that while the Shias and the Sunnis in Uttar Pradesh are mostly descendants of converts, the former have some elements of paternal foreign ancestry…

“In the mtDNA, we do not see discrete signals from outside India,” Rene J. Herrera, a biologist at Florida International University in the US and one of the collaborators, said. “Thus, both are, for the most part, descendants from local caste groups,” he told The Telegraph.

However, the Shias do show some signatures of foreign DNA from southwest Asia and North Africa in the Y chromosome, Herrera said. [Link]

Within the last decade it has continued to amaze me how some strands of DNA can help corroborate or disprove decades worth of historical investigation. As the techniques become quicker and cheaper I’m sure we’ll be unlocking all kinds of secrets about the movements of humans and whether they mated with each other or killed each other.

Principal component analysis (PCA), a statistical tool that separates individuals on the basis of differences in their properties was employed to place each social group on a plot. According to this plot Shias and Sunnis are much closer to Brahmins, Bhargavas, and tribals from Karnataka than people from UAE, Yemen, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and or Central Asian countries. PCA generated a plot that showed three clear clusters- Souther Arabian Peninsula, North East African population in upper left quadrant, East Central Asian and Middle Eastern group in the lower right hand corner, and all Indian groups can be found closer to each other to the right. [Link]

A while back I blogged about this National Geographic Project that is looking to systematically trace the movement of humanity’s genes. Have any readers swabbed their cheeks and sent in their DNA yet? Want to share your results?

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The View from Liberty Avenue

SinghRoti.jpgOne of the great pleasures of following the Cricket World Cup this past month has been the chance to spend time with cricket fans and glimpse the global and diasporic affinities that simultaneously connect them and set them apart, in a metropolis like New York, from the mainstream culture of the city. Cricket is a niche sport even in immigrant-rich New York, since, after all, only a fraction of those immigrants come from cricket-playing countries. Yet the diversity of the cricket community, drawn as it is from all corners of the former British Empire, and the fact that all those places have a critical mass of expatriates or immigrants in New York, has produced in this World Cup season a kind of hyper-cosmopolitan sub-culture; one that, in its own way, illustrates the cross-hatching of differences and solidarities that makes life in the city complex and stimulating.

I’ve tried to capture some of that joyous complexity in a radio story that ran yesterday. The reporting (only a fraction of which made it into the piece, radio being like film a craft where most of your work ends up on the cutting room floor) led me to such arduous research environments as the Australian pub 8 Mile Creek, where expats of various nationalities were toasting the home side’s demolition of England with six-dollar bottles of Cooper’s Sparkling Ale. But it also gave me an introduction to the Indo-Caribbean community in Richmond Hill, Queens; and the revelation to my new-to-New-York eyes of the sheer size of that community, let alone its history and apparent present dynamism, will be the lasting memory of this World Cup in my personal experience. Continue reading

Can’t buy me love?

All over the greater diaspora, Aunties bemoan that desi children are picky. How will they ever be satisfied? How will they ever settle down and start popping out the requisite grandkids?

Aunties can sleep better at night now that SCIENCE is on the job. Examining peoples’ behavior in online dating settings (which is equivalent to looking at biodata), they’ve noticed a few clear patterns:

Men are easy – they are generally interested in hotness above all.

Women are choosier, but it turns out their preferences are fungible. This is good news for aunties because it gives them a metric with which to translate different suitor’s attributes to a common scale, allowing them to rank apples and oranges. They can tell, for example, whether an average woman (in this study) is likely to prefer the not quite as handsome, shorter i-banker or the more gorgeous, slightly taller, high school English teacher.

What is this common scale? Money. According to these researchers, women will forgive men’s flaws if (gasp) they earn more.

Consider looks. A guy can compensate for ordinary looks with more moola, which tells us what he has to reveal in his biodata if he wants to be a playa:

Suppose you’re an ordinary-looking guy whose online picture is ranked around the median in attractiveness… And suppose you’d like to be as successful with women as a guy whose picture is ranked in the top tenth. Then you’d need to make $143,000 more than him. If your picture is ranked in the bottom tenth, you’d need to make $186,000 more than him. [Link]

Cash also acts like elevator shoes for our shorter brothers:

… a 5-foot-0 guy would need to make $325,000 more than a 6-foot-0 man to be as successful in the online dating market. [Link]

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Radically private water

When I was little, I went to India for my Mamaji’s wedding. At that point, we still drank the water, although it was very the last time we did so. I got very sick and lost enough weight that my ribs were visible. In fact, I became so emaciated that I could tickle my bottom few ribs from the inside, much to the horror of my parents. To make things worse, it was hot in Amritsar that year, over 100 degrees, and we were in an old house without air conditioning.

Throughout it all, as the adored foreign child, I was coddled and comforted. It wasn’t that bad for me. Still, it gave me some compassion for those who have to drink water far worse, such as the 2 million children who die each year for want of proper water and sanitation.

The big policy debate over water privatization seems to have ground to a halt. In poor countries, governments do a lousy job of getting water to their people (maybe 30% of Indians have access to clean water), and while de facto privatization proceeds apace, formal privatization schemes seem to have done poorly enough to reduce earlier corporate enthusiasm.

Still, two of the more imaginative schemes I’ve seen in the past year have argued for extreme privatization, decentralizing the provision of clean water down to the sub-village, or even personal level.

For example, the Lifestraw is designed to give each person their own personal water purification system:

… a plastic tube with seven filters: graduated meshes with holes as fine as 6 microns (a human hair is 50 to 100 microns), followed by resin impregnated with iodine and another of activated carbon. It can be worn around the neck and lasts a year.

Lifestraw isn’t perfect, but it filters out at least 99.99 percent of many parasites and bacteria, the demons in most fatal cases of diarrhea. [Link]

The original Lifestraw was field tested amongst the earthquake refugees in Kashmir.

Although the idea is pretty cool, it has its detractors. Critics argue that there is no market for such a product – that at $3.50 (or possibly even $2), it is still multiple days work to pay for each person’s straw, and it still only lasts a year. They also argue that it doesn’t reduce the long distances people have to travel to get water, thus reducing its appeal, and that local water projects are more effective because of economies of scale [Link].

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Easy Devanagari

If you want to learn Devanagri without too much blood sweat and tears, fear not! There are two ways to make your learning easier.

The first is watching music videos of various sort at DesiLassi, a site put together to showcase the next generation of Dr. Brij Kothari’s Same Language Subtitling approach to increasing literacy. If you’re the kind of person who knows all the words to the songs in the Bollyflicks you watch, you’ll be fluent in no time:

The idea builds on people’s existing knowledge of lyrics, enabling early literates to anticipate the subtitles and read along; the inherent repetition in songs makes them an ideal vehicle for practice. The use of subtitling is a simple approach that leverages popular culture to encourage the sizeable population of India to read. [Link]

They have some great examples of this approach being used with songs, trailers, promos and albums. Unfortunately, perhaps for copyright reasons, I can’t actually embed any of their actual Bollywood videos, so do click through.

If you use this approach, then Aishwarya can be your personal reading tutor, much as Morgan Freeman (in reruns) was mine, back in the day. Short of learning Hindi by smoking crack, it’s probably the best modern science will ever do.

The other approach uses your knowledge of English to teach you the Devanagri alphabet, like below [Thanks Blue!]:

The lessons start simply, teaching you to recognize characters from their context in English words, and get a good deal harder.

Related Posts: Mass literacy can be fun

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My yoga is unstoppable

When I was younger, I was always jealous of the other Asian kids. Why? Because they had kick-ass unarmed martial arts. A Chinese kid could say “Hey, don’t mess with me – I know Kung Fu like Bruce Lee!” What was I going to say in response – “Well, I know Ahimsa like Gandhi?”

And it wasn’t just the Chinese kids. If you were Korean, you could say you knew TaeKwanDo. If you were Japanese, obviously you could claim to know Karate. Sure, India does have martial arts like gatka, wrestling, and Kalaripayattu but nobody had heard of those and I couldn’t even pronounce “Kalaripayattu.”

In fact, the physical activity that India is most known for is Yoga. I like Yoga but it’s not very macho, and how on earth are you going to use it to defend yourself?

In fact, this amazingly paneer filled clip from Yoga vs. Kung Fu is the only time I’ve seen Yoga used in a movie to beat somebody up:

[Yes, it's dubbed into French. IMHO, that just makes it all better.]

Of course, you could always try to sell Yoga as the perfect adjunct to a more bloodthirsty activity, like shooting guns:

You shoot better when you realize that your soul is a leaf falling through time, and that work shouldn’t equal struggle. And yoga never aligns you with the universe better than when your forearm is still tingling from the buck and recoil of a .357 bullpup.
Someone needs to open a combination shooting range and yoga studio. I’m serious. Maybe I should do it. Hose off a few clips of Glaser safety slugs, then see how deep you can go into Warrior II. The murder rate would go down. No, wait — it would stay the same, but people would realize it’s all part of a bigger plan. [Link]

Maybe that’s the best way to make Yoga more effective as a tool for avenging the wrong done to your master – do Yoga softly, but carry a big Dandasana.

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Do I Make You Offended Baby, Do I? — The Snorenell Edition

An “anonymous” tipster [Thanks, gf.] passed on a link to the Cornell American, which seems to be a free newspaper available on campus up there in gorge-us Ithaca. Apparently, it is a publication so desirable, you are limited to one copy per person, but I’m keeping you from the relevant background info so I’ll give you a sec to peep the following blockquote about the awesomeness which is The Cornell American:

Founded in January 1992, its mission is to “raise a traditional American perspective, so as to balance debate on campus and to further conservative ideals.” The opinions presented in the Cornell American are solely those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the advertisers or persons listed as staff.[link]

The alert mutineer who blew up our hotline asked this salient question:

Satire or “Ivy Twerps [being] Ivy Twerps” to quote Siddhartha?

She posed that query regarding a mock schedule of events for “Islam Awareness Week 2007!”, a piece so significant, it didn’t have a byline more specific than “staff”. How thoughtful! How helpful.

Here’s what I have to say to that– and by responding thusly, I have now officially turned in to my parents, but I think their take on such things is appropriate in this case, especially– if you have to hide something, doesn’t that tell you you’re doing something wrong? Eh, edi?

Highlights of the agenda after the jump. Continue reading