Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Drives Me Crazy

"People [in California] drive like baboons on crack - they've stolen the keys and sort of figured out how to switch the thing on." - Hugh Laurie, June 2005

Rarely can truer words have been spoken. If there's one thing that has constantly frustrated me in my twelve years in this country, it's the driving. And it's at it's worst on the West Coast.

Believe it or not - and I know it's not easy in a culture that often takes individualism to the extreme - you are NOT the only person out there on the road. It does not belong to you and you alone. This appears to be the fundamental misconception floating around. If you wipe the dust off and look in the hitherto unused rear-view mirror in your vehicle, you will see that there are indeed others on the road. Many of them.

With that said, here are my top 6 lessons for drivers. Especially Californian drivers.

  1. There is more than one lane on the freeway, and there is a reason for that. You keep as far to the right as possible, unless you are overtaking another vehicle, or making room for people to merge onto the freeway at an entrance. It's really quite simple. Don't cruise at 50, 60, 70, or even 80 in the fast lane. If everybody on the road followed this one simple rule, congestion would improve ten-fold, and we'd all get where we're going that much faster. Without having to speed, undertake, or weave in and out of traffic. Try it tomorrow - and maybe you'll make a difference.
  2. On the left side of your steering wheel is a lever which controls the indicators. You may also have heard them referred to as flashers, or turn signals. When you are planning to change lanes, or turn - use this lever to turn on your indicator. Once you are done changing lanes or turning, return this lever to it's neutral position to turn OFF your indicator. Do this, and we'll all know what each other is doing, and be able to drive accordingly. If nothing else, I will no longer have to wait until roads are empty for several hundred yards in either direction before turning on to them, just because I never know who might be turning or changing lanes such that I would run right into them.
  3. The speed limit on a freeway on-ramp is not 20mph. You cannot merge into 65mph traffic at 20mph without causing a small traffic jam, or an accident. If you're on the freeway, make room in the merge lane at an entrance. If you're merging - a little bit of bravery won't hurt. And those three mirrors in your car can all help make it a little less painful.
  4. Driving at 100mph in the 'slow' lane on US-101 is not a great idea. But neither is driving at 20mph in the 'fast' lane. It is not your right to go at any speed upto and including 65mph in any lane you choose. See item 1 above for more details.
  5. Stop Signs are not intended to be an opportunity for you to display your good manners. That's not how it works. First come, first served. And the tie-breaker always goes to the guy on the right. There's nothing more to it. Waving others on invariable serves only to confuse the issue.
  6. The lines delineating your parking spot are intended to do exactly that. Park between them. You have big parking spaces in this country. It really should not be a problem. Your vehicle can fit in one parking space, so please position it accordingly.
That's enough of a rant. I'm sure I offended a few people - humour me, this is my pet peeve, and we all have a few of those. Of course, there are those who disagree with me. Apparently Kiwi drivers are even worse. Makes me wonder about visiting New Zealand.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Who'da thunk it?

How the mighty have fallen. Who would have thought, John, Pinky and Shobhan Mehta aside, that Bangladesh would comprehensively humble the Australian juggernaut yesterday?

I do them a disservice actually. When they beat Pakistan in the World Cup, 6 years ago, it was chalked down to match-fixing. When they then defeated India's finest, Joginder Sharma included, in December, the whispers arose again. Every time their Test status is questioned, it was said, their friendly neighbours would throw them a bone. Or a match.

So what say the nay-sayers now? Did Ricky Ponting and his men accept a few bob for this one too? Is that why Andrew Symonds was mysteriously left out of the team? I suppose I should be careful about this. Seven years ago when I wrote, in jest, about potential circumstantial evidence of match-fixing, a local newspaper in Dhaka picked up on my words of wisdom, and ran a back-page story suggesting that I had uncovered a great scandal. If anyone's thinking of running with this one - I'm JOKING.

In any case, it is absolutely fantastic for me to see the guys from Bangladesh perform like this. And that's not even just because we can now point out that Hong Kong performed better than Australia against them, restricting them to 221 in the 2004 Asia Cup.

Ten years ago, I remember playing against them in a U-19 tournament, in which they defeated a star-studded Sri Lankan side, containing the likes of Kumara Sangakkara and Dilhara Fernando, in the final. For all the Sri Lankan talent, the Bangladeshis were far and away the best side in the tournament. The ease with which Javed Omar and Khaled Mashud (the only two still surviving in the Bangladesh side from that tournament) picked off our bowling made it clear that they were destined for far greater things than we were. Not that we were worth anything, of course.

They were a superb bunch of blokes as well - we shared a coach (bus) with them, and they kept us all entertained. Their left arm medium pacer, Morshed Ali Khan was particularly good with the karaoke, and he also dismissed Saurav Ganguly on his ODI debut, so he could bowl a bit too.

I hope nobody gets carried away with this one result against an Australian team that clearly hasn't quite found it's feet on tour. There is a lot of work to be done yet, but what it has shown, is that there is raw talent worth something in Bangladesh. It has to be harnessed, and it will take time - but the worst thing we could do is to give up on them now.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A good old-fashioned whinge

Five years ago Real Madrid won the Champions League. In the same season, they finished fifth in La Primera Liga. Following previously agreed upon UEFA rules (article 1.0.3) to the letter, the Spanish FA petitioned to have Real Madrid admitted to the 2001 Champions League as defending champions, in place of Real Zaragoza, who finished 4th.

Zaragoza were shunted into the UEFA Cup, and their fortunes underwent a dramatic reversal, culminating in relegation a couple of seasons later. They have since recovered to top division mid-table mediocrity, but this alone is evidence enough that the decision was not one to be taken lightly.

What is interesting, and in fact amusing, is that even after all this happened, nobody felt the need to question or challenge the qualification rules for the Champions League. They were clearly established, and even the extreme case of the champions not qualifying was adequately handled. Everyone was content to work within the rules.

Wind the clock forward to 2005. In a quite inexplicable season for English football (witness Arsenal's ridiculous FA Cup victory), Liverpool somehow managed to get their hands on the Champions League trophy. Permanently, no less, with it being their 5th success overall. However, they finished just fifth in the Premiership. Sound familiar?

The English FA was faced with a choice. Either petition for Liverpool to take the 4th Champions League spot, and relegate Everton to the UEFA Cup, or have the Champions of Europe play in the UEFA Cup, and let Everton have the spot that they earned. A tough call, to say the least.

So what happens? The English FA now want to have their cake and eat it. They first rule that the 4th placed team, Everton, will get their due. But then, when Liverpool go and, admittedly much to everyone's surprise, win the Champions League, they decide they want Liverpool to be a 5th English team in the competition next year.

The media circus of course hops straight onto the bandwagon, and starts bleating on and on about how the rules are wrong. The same rules that everyone has repeatedly agreed to, despite the exact same circumstance having played out 5 years earlier.

I thought it was bad enough that the FA were acting so hypocritically, but even worse, at the end of it all, UEFA actually went and backtracked on their own rules. What a wonderful precedent! Agree to the rules, but if they somehow conspire against you, make enough noise, and they will be changed to suit you.

It really is a wonderful world we live in. Things don't go your way, so you make a bit of a fuss, and Bob's your uncle. And if there's one uncle nobody should want to have, it's Bob.

My little whinge aside, I must confess to one thing. Had this same scenario involved Manchester United, I would be supporting it in every way possible. Does that make me a hypocrite? Sure, the shoe fits. Does it make it right? Heck, no.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


In October 2003, the TSA stopped requiring passengers to remove their shoes before going through airport security checkpoint metal detectors.

In June 2005, the TSA security agents at San Jose continue to force passengers to remove their shoes. This, despite the fact that the looped video playing on the TV monitors over the security lines clearly state that this is not required. I've been through countless airports around the US and internationally in the last couple of years, and it's only San Jose whose agents continue to enforce this rule.

I have a special pair of shoes that I use for air travel. Taking them off to satisfy an overly officious agent serves only one purpose - to add another minute to the waiting time of the impatient passengers behind me in the line. Yet with the exception of one single agent, whom of course I rarely encounter, the folks at San Jose insist that I remove my shoes. Their explanations have ranged from the amusing "only people under 18 don't have to remove their shoes" to the downright contrarian "it is a requirement that everyone removes their shoes."

If someone could explain why San Jose is so special, please let me know. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that the TSA reads this blog (actually, I don't think anybody does).

The sad thing is - if San Jose is actually doing it right (which the TSA's own website clearly indicates is not the case), then every single other airport I have been to is doing it completely wrong. Either way, there's a problem in the system.