My entry in New Yorker caption contest #372

 

Great PR – what an illusion for the people to show we’re against job automation and outsourcing!!

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Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

“There’s a lot of science fiction that talks about the near future. There’s a lot about great galaxy-spanning empires of the distant future. But there’s not much that talks about the part in between. The Expanse is playing on that bridge” – authors’ reply to the question of ‘What kind of story are you telling in this series’.

Written under the pen name James S. A. Corey-a collaboration between fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the story revolves around two men Holden and Miller andImage - Leviathan Wakes their rising-above-human decisions that averts a catastrophe. Two men totally opposite in character, the former a ship’s pilot and the latter a tired and aging criminal detective. The men are similar in that they are solution-driven, in that they’d do anything ranging from lying-to governments, to the guiding systems of missiles and even to self-driven rocks to intimidation, extortion, to get the job done.The similarities end there. This big book is about everything that comprises our solar system, including the meta-physical.

The book is two-faced, chapters divided between Holden’s experiences and Miller’s. The former’s is fast-paced, full of incidents and action, while the latter’s is noir’ish.

Miller sets out to bring home a kidnapped daughter of a wealthy empire so she could forget her personal dreams and do what is best for her family but ends up seeing her having been devoured by something alien to mankind. Holden faces loss in form of his ship and team members and sets out to avenge it.
How these two come into contact, understand the inner political workings, discover something totally bizzare and huge and thwart an end-of-humanity incident is what this book is about. It tries being an hard sci-fi but the latter half of the book, particularly the end throws the impression away.

Written by authors one of who’s name always gets followed with being ‘George R. R. Martin’s assistant, I can understand the scope of story includes meta-physical contacts and inter-species conversations, arguments and bargaining, but can’t say I buy it. It was a great ride and I’d like to stop by saying I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is excellent and it felt I was eating a sweet moist cake that I could go on devouring for hours together without getting stressed. To the ‘Caliban’s war’ I go.

The Djoker lives

ImageMuch has been said about the meteoric rise of Andy Murray during the second half of 2012. The improvement in consistency of first serves, reduction in unforced errors every match and most notably the increase in winners made people take up and notice if the Scot is up there to fight for multiple grand slams and the coveted World number one. It was far from those memories tonight, meeting the two-time consecutive, three time overall and a player who took the phrase ‘Never say die’ to it’s true intent – Novak Djokovic. Under the glittering Melbourne lights, over a finely managed tournament the Serb, although not at his best, had the better of the 2012 US open winner who he lost to.

Djokovic meeting Murray for the 18th timeComing into the match after a well fought victory over the legend in current tennis, Roger Federer in five sets, Murray’s opponent had an easier run up with straight set demolition of David Ferrer and an extra day rest.

The first set went eight minutes over an hour’s mark with no break point conversions leading to a tie break that was dominated by Andy Murray.

Not many people who have walked over the courts of grand slam tennis has had the mental toughness of the Serb to show no change of emotions on the first game of the second set, with cross court shots and drop volleys sending a message to his assailant that the night was still young. Murray’s aggressive followup earning three break points in the first game of the second set leading people to believe he was still in the match but failed to follow it up as the Serb won back all three break points and the game. After slipping 30-15 down on Murray’s serve at 2-2, Djokovic hit out in frustration kicking out the ball into the night sky. Perfect kick that would’ve won the praise of the ex-Bianconeri Alessandro Del Piero, who watched in the stands. Nerves tightened for the fans of the serb who held his composure the rest of the set to take it to another grid-lock. The two wins of serve over Murray in the tie breaker that led to another one-hour plus set handed the Serb the 2nd. Although the scores showed it was all equal, the movement by Djokovic was way better than his opponent who he has played against since the age of eleven. Eighteenth meeting between these two led to tennis aficionados believe the rivalry would bloom like the one between Clay court master Rafael Nadal and the perfectionist Federer, but today it remained a mere wishful thinking.

The third and fourth set was so different from the first two, in that the Serb practically owned the court breaking the Scot three times and buying back two break points during his serve. There were some pathways in the fourth set for Murray to get back his belief like once when he reached Djokovic’s drop shot but failed to get the winner by not more than an inch, but could that have led to a turnaround, we will never know. The world number one went on to win converting first Championship point to become the first player in the open era to win a grand-slam three times in a row. He also took over the final empty slot in the current trophy that looked happy to go to rest with it’s most worthy owner.

Murray’s conditioning, his sluggish movement, toe injury simply could not let him take advantage over an opponent whose arsenal of mighty serve-returns became his bane. Bring back Nadal, the tennis fan in me screamed becoming joyous to learn he will return courtside at the 2013 Brazil open.

Djokovic’s spins and cross court winners were few and far between, and the court seeming to have been made of glue as he spun unbalanced when performing his signature skating forehand during the first set did not lead to a loss to an opponent who’s gas seemed to simply run out in the middle of the third set. Three times the net acting Andy Murray expected after winning Federer, but one that led to Djokovic just getting the job done. It was only fitting that Novak Djokovic received his fourth Australian open title from four time winner Andre Agassi.

“What a joy, it’s an incredible feeling, winning the trophy once more, and it’s definitely my favorite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam. I love this court.”, Djokovic said during his post-match remarks. Here’s to wishing many more victories for the world number one.

Final score – 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Catching up

ImageA term that has never been associated with the God of tennis. Taking the word God to mean someone or something that is too perfect, indestructible, Federer has proven time and again that no body deserves that title more than him. But even Gods get tired, even Gods get weary, as seen from the recently completed semi-finals of Australian open. It was not something a Federer Fan would like to remember.

From the first set, the whole match was about how good Federer was, in catching up with his younger and mentally more positive champion in Andy Murray. Love him or loathe him, Murray solved the equation to a victory against a dominant opposition – he served excellent. With a first serve percentage of above 75 and points won on first serves around 80, Federer could do nothing against the Olympic gold medal winner but to catch him off handed in two tie-brakers. The break in the fourth set was a blip in the finesse of Murray’s tennis.

When everything was going the Scot’s way, a fresh burst of hope shone when Federer returned a overhead smash with his signature one handed backhand winner. None of that would be repeated in the Soct’s controlled performance in the fifth. After losing the first service game and getting up to 3-0, Federer could do no more than 2 points per game when Murray served.

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It was not an edge of the seat thriller and from a Federer fan, it was painful to see mental preparedness and age catching up to the successor of the great Sampras. No long games swaying at deuce, no epic tie-breakers and no an-hour-plus sets, it was a day when the God of tennis walked off his throne to a younger opponent who recently exited the shell playing to the equation of a winning tennis. Let us hope the great Serb who physically punishes his opponents gives a great opposition to the young Scot and makes a festival for the tennis fans in us.

Final score – 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 Andy Murray.

Is Coutinho worth the effort for the Reds?

ImageGiven that Wesley has already joined Galatasaray for petty cash Liverpool has turned all it’s attention to the budding mid-fielder in Philippe Coutinho, but is that a good step for the reds?

Well, thinking about Wesley, although his last couple of seasons has been far from the poignant passing and sure-scoring set pieces that he showed during the 2010 worldcup, his injury in 2011 was a major setback. Inter moved on without it‘s golden midfielder, they converted to a two-striker formation and had to change it in the middle of the game when Wesley came from the bench. Now that their play has changed a lot, it was time for him to go to a club where he will get more playing time trying to re-capture the player who won the Champions league with Inter.

Liverpool also is going through a metamorphosis. After a fallout from the Champions League winner manager Rafa Benitez who played 4-2-3-1 formation with attack from mid-field fuelled by Gerrard, and string of sublime completions from Torres, the club has gone through the hands of two more managers to the current one who look

s like he is on to something. Brendan Rodgers managed the rise of Swansea city to Premier League status, implemented frequent passing, start from the back, press high methodology that was vindicated to being world beaters by Barcelona F C. When he stated his idea to the new club, not many LFC fans were overjoyed. They know the tactic won’t work if the club does not have world class players-the passes won’t complete, the pressing will waste the forwards’ energy and it could potentially open holes in defense.

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Liverpool signed on Sahin from Real Madrid and it seemed to say something, just that the fans did not know what it was. Where would Sahin feature, now that Gerrard is back in business after a tough year on the sidelines due to injury? Sahin and Gerrard were very similar, both attacked plainly from the midfield, both liked long passes and both fed counter-attacks. Rodgers tried using Sahin in a non-explosive but attacking mid-fielder role with Gerrard in the defensive side, but expected to do his signature long passes. Sahin did not sit well with the club. He was let go.

The last eight games in premier league has seen the Reds win five and lose 3 with no draws, which is far from the way they started the campaign in the first five fixtures, bringing in two draws and a three loses to West Brom, Arsenal and their bitter rivals Manchester United. Their football seem to be coordinated, unlike their first victory at the end of September over Norwich which were due to the opponents’ mistakes. Henderson is picking up form, and although no one questioned his work ethic it is recent that his efforts started bringing in results.

With Joe Allen getting tired of too much time on the field, Lucas Leiva-the senior in the current squad has provided replacement in that position. Although he is not in the same form he was before injury, mistakes are minimal and he is solid in defending. With Sturridge’s addition to the team during the mid-season transfer window, the team owners seem to understand its manager’s vision. Play starts from the back with intense pressing and most of the players seem to know their part well. Although it is far from world beaters, it’s also far from the confused club it was the last two years. Suarez has been instrumental in bringing the club to forefront, a non-selfish, world class genius in him has saved the club single handed from misery a la Aston Villa is facing currently.

In this context, where will Coutinho feature? He is raw, 20 year old untapped talent from the land that produces babies that play soccer the minute they are born, he is far from someone who can bring in instant results like Van Persie or the Reds own Sturridge. His through-balls are sometimes Xavi/Iniesta like, but his nimble limbs make him easy to steal from by bigger and stronger defenders. His recent bouts of injury do not do him any favor.

In the current scheme of things, he could feature either in the left flank with Suarez overlaying with the striker, as Philippe has some experience with that. He could also play alongside/replace Henderson, and adding to the depth of the squad will certainly help the reds. But with no Champions League and being out of League cup, it is not going to guarantee him more playing time as Henderson is of late becoming a regular. Will he replace Gerrard in a much deeper role? Certainly not. All that could be done is to play double attacking midfielders with Philippe being one of them, sacrificing width, but that does not resonate well with BR’s pressing from the deep philosophy.

Liverpool will be better of focusing it’s energies in getting a better partner to Daniel Agger in the center back as Martin Skrtel has been off his game for a while now. It could also do a bit with more attacking wider midfielder, someone who can cut inside, like Arjen Robben. Who? There aren’t many talented wide players like him in the world and none in the market that the Reds can afford. Another choice would be an out and out defensive midfielder, someone like Xabi Alonso but who is faster, one who could take pressure off of Gerrard and allow the midfield-master to feed the current energetic forwards.

Let us hope Liverpool bolsters the squad and with BR’s philosophy converting it’s skeptics into believers, hope the club goes back to it’s glory days of long gone past.