Worst Swap Deals

Not many could have fathomed how terrible an alternative the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be, for the erstwhile Indian National Congress (INC). While the latter keeps getting decimated with each passing election (albeit some minor positive upswings), it is quite clear the direction in which this nation aspires to move. While there are no formal metrics to analyze vote swings at a disaggregate level, it is quite fathomable (seeing the numbers) as to why this is something that needs to be mentioned. For there surely have been household-level decisions that led to this swap of choice. 5 years on, Modi ended up getting one more shot at arresting this slide (thanks to yet another landslide verdict based on unquantifiable metrics) but it seems like things will have to hit rock bottom before they improve. Not much of this predicament has led to a dialogue on fixing this mess other than toxic name-calling, blame game, and sometimes, sheer silence and ignorance.

Meanwhile, I received this classic on WhatsApp (in Malayalam):

It says, “they grabbed hold of things based on a wild majority but there seems to be no one capable of riding this vehicle. Any resemblance of this post to the state of the Indian economy is purely coincidental…”

I think this disastrous swap that most Indians are complicit to simply blows away the monumental failure of a swap between Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Also, RIP alternative punditry.

We all need a pick-me-up sometimes

So I got this wonderful update from one of the recent campaigns I was fortunate to be part of – something that has become very close to my heart. It concerns the lives of one of the most backward of regions (Elavanchery) in my home state (Kerala) – on an aspect that is very close to my heart owing to my past involvement and experiences (education). Everything about the intent and the expected outcomes of this was so beautiful that I remember getting sold into this by line 3 of the campaign brief. Now, I may have my biases considering that the person behind it has been someone I have admired for a while – from a distance, for various reasons. This woman (in her mid-20s) had quit her very comfortable desk job in one of the Big 4s in the consulting world because she “wanted to do things that she really wanted to do”. Things like this. Wow!

It’s almost an unexplainable feeling when some things (or people) turn out right – I guess this was one such moment. The update read as follows:

A big thank you to everyone who supported my small initiative to help the kids in my village.
Due to the amazing response, we exceeded the goal amount and were able to buy essentials for all the students in the school. 180 upper primary students and 230 lower primary students were given school bags, notebooks and other stationery.
The kids are really, really thrilled and send their love to each of you for your kind gesture ūüôā
Thanks!
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What Athira and her parents are managing to do there is pretty amazing and I wish them all the luck in their endeavors. Just look at those¬†smiles! ūüôā Best thing that happened this week, hands down. How’s everybody doing so far this year?

Gameday 1: England at the Euros

Gameday 1 of the English involvement at the Euros saw them square off with Russia at the Stade V√©lodrome in Marseille, France. A lot had been written (as usual) about the team’s chances and one would feel gutted (with a tinge of optimism, still) as an England fan as to how things have turned out tonight.

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[Source: The Guardian]

Roy Hodgson’s decision to go with a 4-3-3 leaving out Jamie Vardy did not really disappoint in terms of personnel on the field, but there were some very England-like errors during the game. Right after taking the lead, Roy took off Wayne Rooney. Now Wayne Rooney is the most polarizing English footballer there ever has been. In his new role at the center of the midfield, Rooney did not really disappoint, you know! He was conducting the play, pinging in some glorious passes into his much quick-footed forwards and getting the odd chance to go inside the opposition box himself.

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Wayne Rooney – vs Russia, Euro 2016. Not bad reading. [Source: Squawka]

And with Rooney, you’d always get that extra bit when the team needs some sorting out in its defense as well. Moments when you have a precarious 1-0 lead, you simply do not find the sense in substituting the second best performer of the day (after the England goal scorer, Eric Dier). And fatigue wasn’t really an issue from what it looked to the naked eye. Anyway, that happened. And England put in Jack Wilshere in his place. There was an expectation that with the game becoming more and more open, England would being in Jamie Vardy to apply the brake on the renewed optimism that Russia seemed to have obtained from nowhere (seriously, they were diabolical for most parts of the game!)

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Russia attacking to the RHS in the 2nd half. Marked difference from their approach in the first (where they attacked to the left), going by their heat map. [Source: Squawka]

What followed however was¬†one more defensive substitution that took the sting out of this English team going forward. In came James Milner for Raheem Sterling, and Vardy – the toast of the Premier League – was still on the bench. What then followed close to the end of play was 10 seconds of madness at the end of which Leonid Slutsky‘s Russia had got what they wanted out of the game – an equalizing goal and a crucial one point. Considering how the Welsh have fared against Slovakia¬†and the other result in Gameday 2 for England’s group, we may still not be completely immune from an embarrassing exit by Wednesday. This shouldn’t have happened. This England¬†team, although having started much better than in their previous major tournaments is still win-less from the opening game of a European Championship. For a team that are touted by the bookmakers to be the fourth favorites to triumph in France (although there’s an interesting side-track to that), today’s 1 point might not please¬†their chances of ending a 50 year drought one bit (although, as most of the English fans would like to think by now, their team was meant to bottle this one too). Let’s just hope things get better against Bale & Co.¬†¬†

PS: A strong word of disappointment and anguish towards what happened inside the stadium post-match between the two sets of fans. While some of it is the fault of the English fans themselves (we are no saints either), questions really need to be asked about a few other aspects – France’s preparedness in terms of security, the Russian ultras (no need to say anything more!) and the World Cup of 2018 to be held in Russia. We surely don’t want to see incidents like these. And I hope everyone values their life over a game of football.

A note on TRB 2015 and Washington DC

So yes, TRB 2015 was pretty awesome I thought. The efforts to hold the gargantuan conference in one venue (technically two, if you discount¬†the tunnel between the Marriott and the Convention Center) paid off and I am happy¬†to say that I did not miss out on any of my planned sessions (unlike last time). The Automated Vehicle (AV) sessions were well attended – so much so that I could not get into one of the sessions and had to be standing out on guard duty. But I’d imagine it is pretty great that a lot of attention has been focussed on something that is upon us, if not tomorrow, in a few years’ time.

My main idea of hitting DC this time was to attend the AV sessions and gauge what was going on with the rest of the AV research folk. A secondary interest was to catch up with people Рold and new. On the research front, abunch of interesting AV sessions. My favourites works on AVs were focussed around the consumer perception and anticipated travel behaviour aspects of AVs Рa study from Germany on travel time valuation, a few of the UT Austin works on shared AVs and a few of the posters (especially this one on social media and mode choice from UC Davis), which I thought were  brilliant. Apart from the sessions and meetings, it was nice to meet most of my old professors and colleagues from Portugal and a couple of very good friends from back home (NIT Calicut).

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Experimenting Eritrean cuisine – that went well.

While the sessions took shape, it snowed a bit in DC as well – my first active snowfall experience. It didn’t snow this time, last year though. And since I had been to most places around town, I didn’t bother much to go sightseeing either (the cold didn’t help too, I must say). Despite the cold weather, I must confess that I quite like Washington DC. It has the airs of this¬†big city with life moving at a comfortable pace. I have been told that the same can’t be said about New York City, where people always seem to be in a rush. DC from my experience, proved to a hybrid of Madras and Bombay. Add to that, the excellent accessibility guaranteed by the largely efficient, yet ill-maintained transit system and it does it for me. Coming from Florida, this is a welcome sight. The whole idea of not having to drive by your own volition excites me and I would totally see myself living and working there.

Loews Madison, Washington DC
Loews Madison, Washington DC

We found¬†a pretty nice (some may say fancy) place to stay close to the White House. I came back to Tampa last Thursday and still haven’t kicked out of the vacation mood. 2015 is the year of opportunities and one idea of heading off to such conferences is also to come back inspired to peg on and achieve more than last time. My dream¬†of being at peace with a book in hand while commuting (I know!!) seems to be getting closer and closer to reality.

The Biggest Transportation Breakthroughs of 2014

Eric Jaffe and CityLab have come up with an interesting list of the top transportation breakthroughs of the year 2014. The positives have more long term implications on urban mobility than the few odd negatives that came up during this year. My favourites were the emergence of self-driving cars (biased maybe, haha), some European cities banning cars in the city centre, the rise on on-demand transit in Helsinki, Finland and the possibility of high speed rail entering America, in that order.

What about yours?