Friday, June 30, 2006

Wimbledon prize money...

While watching the Wimbledon tournaments on television recently, I saw an interview of Venus Williams after she had won a game. She was talking about a concerted move by the women players to get the prize money for the women's singles winner on par with that of the men's title holder. For the uninitiated, Wimbledon is the only grand slam that does not have equal prize money for the singles games. The Australian, French and US Open championships already give equal prize money for the men's and women's winners. The actual amounts are :
Men : £655,000
Women : £625,000
Now, the reason the organizers of Wimbledon have provided for the difference in the pay, is that the Men's tennis generates more revenue than the Women's side and Venus Williams refused to accept that point of view.

I believe that the organizers are right in doing what they want to do. If the organizers of the other grand slams wish to provide equal prize money, they are free to do so, and if Wimbledon chooses not to, then that is fine by me as well. I agree on the fact that the Men's tournament generates more excitement and money (tickets/ads/etc.), as in most sporting events around the world. Tennis is probably the only sport where the stardom and hype come close, but even then, perhaps unfortunately, the women's side still falls short. To me, watching Sampras was always more fun that watching the Williams sisters. Federer is still more fun that Henin-hardene and so on. The only time I thought the game was probably on par, was when Steffi Graf was at her best. Oddly enough, the Williams sisters were probably the number one reason why viewership interest in womens tennis dropped off since the mid nineties (that is another story entirely).

Why do I believe that the Wimbledon organizers are right ? Don't I believe in equality for women ? If you ask me that way, then yes ! I don't...anyone who suggests that women should be given equality, already starts with the ridiculuous assumption that women are not equal...I think they are already equal to men, and at times, may be better, about any sporting event, let us think calmly and be honest with ourselves - most sporting events generate greater buzz around the mens version than the womens version. It might be the fault of the media, of the organizers, our own preconceived notions...who knows...but it still is a solid fact. The men are paid more, they get better commercials, more television coverage, are more recognisable, and so on. One reason, I think, could be that the men's games are more physical and last longer. This is certainly true in's tennis matches last the better part of two or three hours on average, whereas the womens game is usually over in about an hour to hour an a half. This in itself means that more advertising revnue per game for the male version. Also, since the men play five sets and the women play three, the games are more exciting.

Being an amateur tennis player myself, and also a long term tennis/sports afficionado, I know that shorter games do not necessarily bring out the better a shorter game, there is a lesser chance of coming back, often after a single mistake. This is true in any sport...if the game is longer, or a longer series of games are played to decide on the winner, then the better player/team prevails (Eg. : In cricket, the better test playing team is anyday better than the one-day star, the two best teams often make it to the NBA finals, etc.). If the women's tennis tournament demands equal prize money, then I say play five sets and go the distance - provide both players better chances to get back into the game in the later stages. Also, the men's version provides for more excitement, as one sees booming serves, better winners and so on, whereas in the women's game we see greater rallies and more spirited running and people getting to the ball better. For me, that just isn't enough...getting to the ball is one thing...making that great passing shot or inside-out forehand winner, more consistently, is better.

There is another thought I wish to place out there...the doubles tournament winners. The prize money for the men's and women's doubles is £220,690 and £205,280 respectively. It is around one-third that of the singles winners, but the number of players is double! Why isn't Venus canvassing for equal prize money for all winners ? Singles and doubles alike...aren't doubles players tennis players ? Don't they deserve the same amounts of respect ? It is a different style of play and difficult for the singles winners to adapt to...the doubles games are just as exciting and often involve greater reaction times than singles. Why don't they deserve the same amounts of prize money as compared to the singles games ? If you can answer that, then the reasons for the other "inequality" should become obvious...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lost temples of India.

A wonderful documentary about the lost temples of India. It starts, of course, with the obvious choice - the Taj Mahal, but the documentary is about the Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore, built by Raja Raja Chola.

Some quotes from the documentary...
It was the biggest and tallest building ever built in India until that time. It was ten times bigger than anything ever built so far...
It was built in of the hardest stones to cut and shape.
More stone was moved than was used to construct the pyramids at Giza ! And the quarry was over 50 miles away, and was moved by river rafts !
Elephants were used to tranport the massive capstone up a six degree ramp, over a mile long !
Astonishing to say the least ! See the entire documentary for more interesting details...

Original link via Varnam.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fort Knox of Seeds!

Carved into a mountain on a remote island above the arctic circle, with almost half the length of a football field, it will have looming fences, motion detectors and steel airlock doors. Outside, free-roaming polar bears will provide the first line of defence. No, this is not a villain's lair from a James Bond flick, nor is it a top secret installation that Ethan Hunt has to break in to. It is, in fact, the seed vault.

To be built by the Norwegians, and endorsed by over a hundred nations, it will be what many call the "doomsday vault". It is the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe -- a nuclear war, asteroid hit or biological disaster. It will store the crop seeds, that over 10,000 years of known human history have been nurtured to feed the masses. Millions and millions of of seeds, from virtually every known variety of food on the planet will be stored there.

Some excerpts...

Scientists estimate there are 2 million varieties of plants used for food and forage today. That includes an astonishing 100,000 varieties of rice, the major staple of the human diet, and more than 1,000 varieties of banana, a nutritious fruit of global importance.

Seeds from these crops, which can be smaller than poppy seeds and as large as coconuts, are invaluable repositories of plant DNA. They are the raw material that farmers and researchers rely on to develop more productive and nutritious plants that can cope with climate change, new diseases or pests.

About 1,400 seed banks already exist, including large national collections in the United States and China; international ones maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), funded by the World Bank,
the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations; and small ones at universities and research labs. Seeds are typically stored at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and are periodically removed and germinated to grow plants, whose fresh seeds are redeposited.

Now, I wonder when Hollywood will take up this as the next go-to place to break in to!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Elephants Dream.

One of the newest concepts in the field of animation movies, is Elephants Dream. It is the world’s first open movie, made entirely with open source graphics software such as Blender, and with all production files freely available to use however you please, under a Creative Commons license.

The production files, the graphics, etc., are freely available for download and any one can modify it to create his/her own movie. The sound, music, animation, storyline, graphics, etc. may be modified. The only constraint is that you credit the original source, Blender, and release the results also as open source.

Hmmm...this might mean a new era in the field of animations...considering that it takes billions of dollars and many experienced folks working for years at a time to create an animation movie. The internet and openness seems to be pervading every field...

Friday, June 09, 2006

New HIV Drug.

A new drug, named PA-457, supposedly prevents HIV from spreading in an infected person and rapidly clears the virus !

The drug called PA-457, which is derived from betulinic acid and comes from by-products from paper manufacturers, is being manufactured and developed by Maryland drug manufacturer Panacos Pharmaceuticals. The drug is known as a
maturation inhibitor, which is a new group of drugs. Its purpose is to break down the protective protein coating of HIV. The drug exposes the inner genetic material by making holes in the coating of the virus essentially causing it to break down and disabling its ability to be passed from one human to the next. The drug also shows that it works on strains of HIV that are resistant to other medications. The drug is
also compatible with other HIV drugs.
"It stops the virus by interfering in one of the final stages in its assembly and stops it from 'budding out' from the wall of a cell"
Since most other medications for HIV is not effective in the long run, let us hope that this solution works.

ICC Rules that make no sense...

Virender Sehwag has been hit with a fine of 20% of his match fees, for excessing appealing in the recently drawn test match between India and the WI.
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Apparently he was fined for...
"the practice of celebrating a dismissal before the decision has been given"
Now here is what I do not understand...why is it wrong to celebrate a dismissal if you are a member of the fielding side ? Perhaps he might have been premature, but then again who isn't ? How many times have we seen the fielding side jump with joy, only to be disappointed at the fact that the umpire doesn't give the batsman out? One gets carried awy in the heat of the moment and the expectancy of winning...what is the harm in that ?

I believe that the ICC might be shooting itself in the proverbial foot with all these arcane rules and restrictions. In a sport that is already extremely technical, removing these obstacles would perhaps make it a lot more popular and easy-going...

World stupidest criminal!

A would-be robber from Japan probably qualifies...

A would-be Japanese bank robber asked staff how he should carry out the
crime before meekly obeying a request to leave and then accidentally
stabbing himself in the leg with a knife he was carrying.
the man first asked a bank teller, "Any idea how you rob a bank?"
The teller alerted another member of staff, who asked the man to leave.

"He left quietly when asked to," the police spokesman said.

However, the staff member escorting the man out of the bank
noticed the knife sticking out of his pocket and a bloodstain on his

This is the best part...

Police arrested the man for illegal possession of a weapon.

I guess this should go down in history as one of the stupidest things that people can do...wonder if he injured himself in (ahem) certain areas...then who knows ? He might even get nominated and win the Darwin Award for the year.

Friday, June 02, 2006

International Philosophy Match...

I found a treasurehouse of Monty Python clips on YouTube.

The one about the soccer match between philosophers cracked me's the video:

Of course, this was probably the funniest line from that clip...the idea is that a goal has been scored against the German team...
The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside. But Confucius has answered them with the final whistle! It's all over!
Another wonderful clip from Monty Python : the Argument Clinic