Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Floating for lifesaving

I’m sure most of you would have read/heard/watched the story of four divers getting swept away by a current in the sea off Mount Lavinia recently. Rather miraculously, all four were found nearly after 24 hours. When interviewed, the divers told the media how they kept floating for more than a day at sea.

There are few important lessons that could be learned thanks to these individuals' endurance. One, don’t swim against a current. It’s a waste of energy and you’ll ultimately end up tiring yourself and get cramped (and eventually drown, if no help arrives). Two, stay calm. Because you are in the middle of nowhere and panicking will not help. Three, float. Don’t swim. Why? Again because you’re in unknown territory and not sure whether you’ll reach a land or a safe place. Hopefully, your endurance holds-up and help arrives. But since it’s not a very energy-consuming exercise, you may even swim slowly towards a marked direction.

What do they mean by float? Do we just float like that? Answer is no. You’ve got to learn, relax & practice it. Technique-wise you’ll need to master the kicks and build-up endurance. This is where basic lifesaving lessons could help. I often see swimming classes advertised in papers, websites etc., stating all the strokes in the world. But in a scenario as above, all the swimming in the world may not be the most needed or appropriate. So I propose that every coach should stress on teaching floating techniques to their students. I’m not rejecting the need of actual swimming. But lifesaving methods should be treated as a life skill as far as I’m concerned.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A layered Transport Model

Traffic seems to be growing in the country, especially in the capital and suburbs. Increasing number of vehicles and roads that are unable to accommodate them are the main reasons. The inevitable factor of undisciplined drivers & pedestrians does exist too. But the lack of infrastructure stands out. There ought to be short-term and long-term policy brainstorming being performed somewhere out there, but with unseen results. So, I have visualised a transport model, if anyone's interested in taking my 'five cents'.

The best way is to study how some countries have successfully curbed traffic congestion. Once, I met a person who worked in Italy, and he was telling me that they had planned their cities a long time ago as a 'layered' plan. I don't know whether this is correct as a fact, but some evidence can be seen. What I propose is something on the same lines, because widening existing roads or building new ones aren't always feasible, given that we are a developing nation and rely highly on foreign monetary assistance. Not to mention the scarcity of available lands. Well, we do need financial assistance, but whatever infrastructure built needs to be sustainable or else we'll end up in a similar situation a few years down the line.

When the Dutch built a canal system in Colombo, it couldn't have been a part of a long-term plan, but may be because they thought of it as the most viable transportation system suitable for the geography of the area. After all this was an era with no fuel-driven vehicles. In my plan I propose these existing waterways be utilised for transport. A project was kicked-off two years ago, but hasn't lasted long. I think the publicity and popularity it received was not enough, for otherwise the system was a very low-cost transportation method. Mind you, safety and health matters need to be taken care of too. But these type of waterways are utilised immensely in developed countries.

The other issues are with roads and railroads. I propose a merge. How? There are two ways: subways under the existing roads or elevated railway lines over the existing roads. This provides for maximum utilisation of land and infrastructure since what we are talking is a 'vertical' approach as opposed to the orthodox 'horizontal' approach.

 A subway

 An overhead (elevated) railway

This of course has been implemented in many countries as seen in the pictures above. If all three layers (subway, highway, overhead) could be implemented in one alignment that would be an ultimate solution. I even propose that overhead railways or roads be built over existing waterways, thereby making use of them both. If the costs involved are deemed to be high, still it is much sustainable than our current solutions. My point is a layered approach and not necessarily everything what I've highlighted here. But if any decision-maker is willing to extract something of this that seems to be practical and feasible, be my guest.

The model - illustrated

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sri Lankan 'rebel' players' tour to South Africa (1982) (a quick recap)

It was 18 years ago on a day like today that Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first democratically elected black president, thereby officially ending the apartheid. During the apartheid, South Africa was banned from international sport and any team or players who travelled to play in that country were severely penalized, often with long durations of bans.

Towards the end of 1982, 14 Sri Lankan cricketers (some of them national players) made a 'rebel' tour to South Africa. The result was a 25 year ban to each of them. But, the most damaging impact was that our cricket-crazy island nation lost some of the most talented Sri Lankan cricketers and their services for the future. Hence, some experts believe that it would have retracted the country's cricketing prowess by a few good years.

Stats and records of the above-mentioned 'Arosa SL' tour are very scarce. But Cricinfo has a somewhat comprehensive (if one may regard it as such) record in their archives. I happened to stumble upon it and found the figures and scorecards pretty interesting. Although 12 matches were played, the archives have the scores of only 11 matches. The scorecard of an ODI is missing. Sri Lanka lost all matches with the exception of two, which were drawn against Western Province & Eastern Province teams. The tour comprised of four ODIs, six First-class matches & two 'Test' matches. Even though the Lankan players were beaten well and truly, there were some exceptional & consistent performances from a few of our talented players of yesteryear.

In order to discover these 'jewels' of both teams, and to obtain a hitherto unknown and a more relevant picture of these unseen (by me) players, I performed a very simple analysis noting down the best performances of players from the two teams. What I found have been listed below (format-wise).

First-class matches

For Sri Lanka, the most consistent batsmen were Bernard Perera & Anura Ranasinghe, both scoring more than 300 runs throughout the series. The highest score by a Lankan batsman was 96 by Perera. Bandula De Silva & Flavian Aponso too had made decent contributions. The standout bowler was Tony Opatha, while Ranasinghe & Lalith Kaluperuma had chipped in with a few wickets. Ranasinghe's all-round capabilities had left a prominent mark throughout these matches. I was also amazed to find out that Jerry Woutersz was a pretty good batter.

One thing I noted was that a few South African national players represented the Western Province team, including Peter Kirsten. There were altogether five centuries - two from Transvaal players (Mark Venter & Henry Fotheringham), another couple from Western Province players (Ken McEwan & Lawrence Seeff) and one from an Eastern Province batsman (Dave Richardson) - the highest being 159 runs made by Fotheringham. Bowlers such as Pienaar Anker, Kenny Watson, Kenneth Cooper & Michael Clare seemed to have had good spells capturing more than 5 wickets in matches they played.

Test matches

Though only two matches were played, six SL batsmen were able to score half centuries, while Bernard Perera was the sole centurion (102). Flavian Aponso and Jerry Woutersz were the most consistent batsmen. There is nothing much to talk about the Sri Lankan bowling in test matches, but Lalith Kaluperuma had managed to secure a 5-wicket haul.

While it wouldn't take rocket science to understand that the SA batsmen would have had a run feast, three of them stood out. Namely, Jimmy Cook, Graeme Pollock & Lawrence Seeff. All three of them had scored a 150+ score, the highest being a 197 by Pollock. Garth Le Roux's performance was the best for a SA bowler which included a 6-wicket haul as well.

ODI matches

The only Lankan batsman to score a century is Anura Ranasinghe (100). None of the others were able to surpass the half-century mark. This may sound a bit startling, given that each innings was played for 55 overs unlike nowadays. But then again, that might be attributed to good South African bowling. Bowling-wise too there isn't much to talk, except that Susantha Karunaratne had picked up a couple of wickets twice.

For South Africa, three batsmen made centuries: Jimmy Cook, Peter Kirsten & Lawrence Seeff; Seeff and Cook displaying their capabilities in the shorter format too. Barry Richards was also consistent making a couple of half centuries. Vince van der Bijl was the best bowler for the South Africans.

So that brings to an end my short recap/analysis of a long-forgotten and (in)famous series of the past. If you are interested in going through the scores and figures of each match, you may do so by visiting the link provided at the beginning of this article.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A week of tech meet-ups

It's not often that you find yourself attending several tech-related meet-ups during a week, especially in Sri Lanka (let alone happening). But, last week turned out to be exactly that. If there is a trend building as such, then that's great and I hope for more. These provide an opportunity to share, learn and network with people offline as oppose to Googling or Social Networking. It also reminds some that they are humans!

First was at Coco Veranda on Monday 23rd January. This was arranged through by a bunch of guys from a company called WebGurus and was meant for PHP developers only. Being the first of its kind I attended, (and probably the first in Colombo) there were about 15 - 20 PHP developers gathered that evening. The session commenced with each person introducing him/herself while the main feature of the evening was a presentation by Jayawi Perera on the security aspects of PHP development, which was pretty good. Afterwards, it was more chatter within the gathering to go along with Coco's delicacies (there were many). It was agreed to hold a similar meet-up every month to discuss PHP related stuff.

Come Thursday, and it was time for Refresh Colombo. This was the first 'Refresh' for 2012, and two talks and an inaugural networking session were lined-up for the evening. Needless to say, there were about or probably more than 100 people attending this time around. Personally I was glad to meet an old friend Dilshan Kathriarachchi after about seven years. One of the talks scheduled for the evening was by him. The first presentation was an SEO audit of a local website by Shaad Hamid. He discussed a few SEO points and shared some tips in between too - which SEOs normally wouldn’t do. Then it was Dilshan. He talked on his experiences with start-ups and the journey so far. I had stuff to reminisce during the talk too, because it was he and his first start-up that I first worked with eight years ago. Those were crazy and fun times. Lastly it was a networking session, where we got to know others that we hadn't met or talked before and discussed what they were up to.


From two-digit attendance to three-digit attendance, and the last for the week was easily a four-digit one.  The second 'Android Forum', organised by Etisalat Sri Lanka, it was. This was held at the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel on the 27th of January. The morning programme was meant for Android developers, whereas the evening session was aimed at explaining the ABCs of Android. There were some fine presentations in-between and a useful panel discussion as well. The guy from Google Israel was something special too.

All-in-all it was a week full of knowledge to harness, people to connect and stuff to share. One thing unique about all these functions was that they were free of charge. So it is only proper to sincerely thank all the wonderful people behind the sponsoring & organising of these events.