Friday, July 06, 2007

Hard Eight

I have been tagged by BongoP'o'ndit with the eight-random-facts meme. Hmm... eight, hard! I guess it could have been worse; it could have been an eight-femmes meme. And I should know better than to say no to an Aussie, so here we go.

1. "They have trivia nights on Tuesdays...which if you can muster a group of four people seem like a lot of fun. However, the bartender told me that this one group by the name of "the four fat Indians" always wins...which they did the night I was there. Oddly enough, they weren't fat at all but actually quite skinny."

Not too sure about the veracity of the last two words and always is a bit of a stretch, but as the founding member of the four fat Indians, I think I like this Yelp reviewer.

2. To continue on a trivial note, on one summer evening of 1990, at Moulali Yuba Kendra, Calcutta, I had my first encounter with a beautiful mind who was surrounded by a group of scrawny boy-cheerleaders and the first flickers of now-all-too-familiar halo. Both of us were still in our shorts and at the end of the inter-school quiz, we joined forces in blasting the quizmaster. In the last round, DBPC's straight was who was the youngest ever world chess champion. A sitter and Parnab promptly replied Kasparov. The quiz-master strangely said no and the bonus came to UGHS. Thinking he must have misheard, I wisely and slowly repeated Garry Kasparov -- as opposed to Anatoly Karpov, you see -- but the quizmaster negated me as well and announced the answer with a derisive smile: Mikhail Tal. Now as much as I always admired the attacking style of this brilliant man from Riga and his 1960 masterpiece, both Parnab and I were correctly confident that Kasparov had broken Tal's record in 1985. We tried but failed to convince the quiz-master who must have got his answer from an outdated source. I still believe that this experience was a pivotal moment in shaping the beautiful mind and inspiring its future creativity. Unfortunately, that was not our last encounter as we both ended up in JU.

3. Speaking of chess and Russians, in the last tournament I played seven years ago in Seattle, when I won -- to be honest, I was sandbagging because my USCF rating was nowhere close to my real strength as I did not grow up in US and had played very few USCF-rated matches since my arrival in 1997 -- my rating section, the American organizer while announcing the names of winners said: and I thought Russian last names were hard to pronounce.

4. On the subject of last names, have you ever wondered about the poet, novelist, bureaucrat and economist Anita Agnihotri -- how, with that last name, does she manage to write Bangla so well? Wonder no more and yes, your hunch is right. She is my cousin and grew up as a fellow-Chattopadhyay. In Mussoorie, she happened to meet this man during one of those IAS dating training sessions. This is precisely why more Bengali men need to join the cadre.

5. If you are tired of cursing Bill Gates every time your Windows crawls, or worse, BSODs -- it doesn't happen any more, right? -- and would like to diversify your cussing targets, you can use me. For a couple of years, I was part of the evil empire's core OS team and my sloppy, buggy and kludgy hacks are to be found in Windows 2000 and XP, and probably in Vista as well.

6. After leaving Microsoft in 2000, I interviewed with Google for an engineering position, cleared the phone interview and scheduled an on-site. Then inspired by immense laziness and misplaced wisdom -- search is a commodity and how can they beat the likes of msft, yhoo, alta vista etc. -- I did not pursue the opportunity and joined another start-up. My only consolation is that the odds were in favor of me botching the on-site as they were very selective. On the other hand, I used to be smart back then. To convince myself that the very painful what-if scenario was not realistic, I finally managed to interview at Google for a senior management role a few months ago and was quite promptly rejected.

7. Where do you go to drown your sorrow? My vote is for Vegas and all-night no-limits Texas-Hold'em. It is hard to get a more direct, visceral exposure to all-American greed. The last visit ended in a remarkable way. On the night before we were to leave, I sneaked out of the hotel room -- a little discretion was warranted as the previous two night-outs had not been quite productive -- and started playing. After a couple of hours and a horrible streak, I was down another 300 bucks and was about to call it a night. Then I drew an ace and 10, and the flop had two aces. Everyone folded except a big British guy who was apparently very drunk and playing really loose. He kept bidding and with a set of aces, I kept calling. I could lose only if he had the fourth ace and a higher kicker than 10 -- it was definitely worth a shot. The river had the third ace and then I knew, with a quad of aces, I couldn't lose. He went all in. I called. Turned out he had a pair of queens and a full house, so he could lose only if I had a pair of kings or the fourth ace. He thought the odds of that happening were low, went for it and lost. Except that he didn't quite lose. The dealer announced a bad beat jackpot and that was the first time a jackpot was hit in that casino this year. The total was worth about eight grand. The bad beat loser gets to keep the bulk of it -- about three grand -- and the rest is divided among the other players. The fat British guy started jumping up and down. The dealer was excited too. In five years of dealing cards, he never hit a jackpot before and got great tips that night.

8. I never drink while playing poker mainly because I like to remember the faces, the cards and the banter, not so much because my play suffers. My threshold is quite high. Over the years, I have developed my own version of BAC diagnosis tests -- the most famous being how long it takes me to blurt out 50 American states in alphabetical order. I used to be good with the alphabetical list of 22 Indian states as well which I memorised when I was six from a book I can still picture, but too many new states have been added since then. Can secession really overcome under-development and inequality, and even if it does, is it worth me having to re-order my list every year? I do not think so.

And now I sign the CTBT and refuse to spread this meme. Sometimes you just have to take a stand, even against a misguided Aussie.


bongopondit said...

Hey, just to set records straight, I am no Aussie...still planning to support the Indians when they come down under next year.

Thanks for identifying the pivotal moment in The Beautiful Mind's life; have suffered much at his hands - long stories to be told when sufficiently drunk.

Will remember #5 during the frustrations of updating to Vista !

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