writing my first windows phone 8 app

At some point yesterday, I submitted for approval my first ever Windows Phone app. It also happened to be my first ever Windows Phone 8 app, since I never got around to developing any apps for the previous version of the operating system. I figured I’d type some thoughts down on my experience as a developer who has worked pretty extensively with .NET technology before. I’ll try to keep things from getting too technical but I cannot make any promises.


#1: Same Old Technology

When I first had a desire to develop a mobile app, my target platform was obviously the iPhone since it was the largest and most successful app market that existed at the time (and possibly still but I’ve stopped following iOS closely). I went ahead and bought a Mac Mini since I needed an OS X machine to be able to write the appropriate code. I then sniffed around Objective C and figured I needed a guided experience so I went ahead and bought an e-book. I may have even read 2-3 chapters of that book.

The problem became apparent very quickly. I hated Objective C. I hated it with a passion. The syntax makes no sense to me–which I’m sure would change once I got used to it–but I could not imagine a world where I wanted to be used to Objective C. The code just looked ugly. Which is a weird thing to say. But it did. It did not feel structured and logical like C-like syntaxes, despite being a subset of C. Weird. In my opinion, Objective C looked just how OOP syntaxes should not look.

Anyhow, developing my WP8 app, I did not have to learn any crazy new technologies. I already have a firm grasp of C# and that was all I needed for the modeling aspects of my app. C# is almost syntactically identical to Java, so that’s a whole bunch of developers there that shouldn’t need to learn a new skillset. The UI language is something I did have to learn, but having used Silverlight and WPF in the past, this wasn’t a massive leap for me. I’ve had to handcode Cocoa UI in the past and let me say I easily prefer XAML-land. Everything makes sense to me and the MVVM pattern flows effortlessly.

#2: Developing Metro apps is easy

The thing I like most about Windows Phone is the design of the apps. Several developers (particularly cross-platform ones) choose to ignore the beautiful design language and develop cluttery navigational systems. I decided to stick with Metro and it was abundantly easy to do so. There’s lots of boilerplate code to get you started and once I installed the Windows Phone 8 toolkit, I had access to all the controls that MS use on their native apps. Using my pre-existing MVVM knowledge, I was able to get going very quickly. After deploying my app to my device and the emulator, I noticed that MS handled a lot of things seamlessly. One particular shoutout is the persistence of view models. My original code had me recalculating stuff every time a page was loaded with the intention of caching it manually sometime in the future (kinda like in ASP.NET land). I instead found that if I just added a flag to see if I had been to that page before, I could take advantage of view models being cached automatically. This is probably already the case with WPF, but I didn’t realize it and it made me happy.

#3: Haven’t yet done it, but I can see how easy it would be to replicate stuff into a Windows RT/WPF app

I haven’t done this yet, but I do have plans to write a cross-platform WP8/Windows 8/Windows RT app at some point. Given that the all three targets use so much shared technology, it seems that porting across platform really will be a matter of adding the appropriate #if and #endifs and writing the UI layer. This also leads itself to more modular code since I have to keep in mind to separate my modeling layers from my view layers. This can further be expanded to WPF and even ASP.NET which means a developer could go from one code-base to writing apps for: WP8, WP7.5, WinRT, .NET 4.5 and ASP.NET! This makes me seriously excited as I think about app ideas that can leverage all these different platforms.


#1: Getting a fully-capable dev machine

Unfortunately, WP8 development also has several shortfalls, the greatest of which is finding a dev machine capable of developing apps on. This search was ultimately futile from the perspective of finding a machine that was able to both run the emulator and deploy to my device. Of all the machines I work with (and I work with several), only my home-built desktop was able to support the hardware virtualization that allowed the emulators to run. Sure, the emulators run really well, but it makes no sense to me why you would make the barrier to entry so large for a fledgling mobile OS. I can easily see independent developers willing to give WP8 development a spin only to realize that they need to buy a brand new Windows 8 64-bit computer with the appropriate new processor architecture to be able to use an emulator.

Once I found a computer able to run the emulator (which happened to be the desktop I had built from scratch 3 or so years ago), I quickly found out that it was not able to talk to my phone via USB. This may be an issue with my USB controller but I do use several USB devices without event so this was still annoying to me. I ended up having to install Windows 8 on my personal laptop and dual boot it to have a device which could deploy to my phone. So now I have a weird workflow where I develop on my desktop and test things out via emulator before checking it in to TFS and then pulling down a copy of the code on my laptop, building it and deploying it to my 920. Not something I would recommend.

#2: Silverlight-based target is still generations behind .NET 4.5

While I mentioned that the technology is similar to standard .NET development for Windows Phone, sadly it is still a couple of generations behind the current .NET release. Libraries and keywords that I have become accustomed to in my day-to-day development are suddenly no longer available. Routed commands are something I missed, in particular, because it cramped my MVVM style. I had to write my own ICommand classes and I will have to do that for all the apps I develop. Uncool.

#3: Developer support and documentation is paltry

End-user documentation from MSDN is horrible. I cannot recall finding a single piece of code that helped me on the Windows Phone documentation section. Most of my queries get answered by a Google search, a StackOverflow question or just get worked around. Microsoft’s .NET documentation is very good with lots of examples of how to do things. They definitely need better code samples and not just a high-level journey through workflows. The most immediate thing that comes to mind is programmatically generating dynamic live tiles. MS has a huge page describing the tile technology–in English. They frequently reference dynamic tiles and doing things programmatically–but never provide a code sample! Craziness.

That’s it for now. I’ll put a link up to my app once it gets approved.

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stitches be cray

Day 63

So I got my stitches out yesterday… woo hoo! Unfortunately, though, all was not well. Apparently some water had soaked in under the Tegraderm bandage and caused maceration around the wounds. Now, I had changed the dressing on Sunday and the wounds had been dry so I guess my shower on Sunday evening was to blame. Or probably the fact that I was running late for The Dark Knight Rises so I had to put the wrap on my knee before the are had dried.

Anyhow, my stitches, or, more accurately, sutures, were good to be removed so they were cut and removed. They also poured some hydrogen peroxide on it and asked me to keep doing that for the next couple of days to make sure the wound didn’t infected. They put some 3M steri-stips on the wounds which apparently keeps them closed, or something. I was also put on a 1 week antibiotics course. In good news, I was permitted to shower without a garbage bag (double woo hoo!). I’m hoping the wound stays uninfected.

I also went back for my first full day of work yesterday and it was not bad at all. In fact, the bending and straightening of the knees is promoting blood flow, I think, because the pain when standing up has decreased quite a bit. It’s still present, but it’s probably on the level of a 4-5, now. If I had to rank the pain, I have the most while standing still, the second-most while walking and the least while sitting down with my leg flat.

That’s it for now! I’ll have some more photos later this week when the wounds don’t look disgusting.

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why i love windows phone 7

The internet, in general, hates Windows Phone so I decided to write a quick post to explain why I’m completely smitten by the platform. For background purposes, the Nokia Lumia 900 is my fourth smartphone after a BlackBerry Curve 8310, the iPhone 3GS and, most recently, the HTC HD7S. I’ve been using the Windows Phone platform since about July 2011 (the HD7S) and there’s no looking back, for me. Let’s go into details.

It’s Freaking Beautiful

The UI is absolutely stunning. Yes, the screen resolution doesn’t allow for “retina display” and WP manufacturers have not entered the ongoing pixel arms race, but the actual presentation of the operating system is beautiful. Metro is easily my favorite user experience on any piece of software I’ve used. The large tiles are bold and bright and the sharp edges gives them definition. Compare this with the grid of tiny icons that iOS/stock Android presents you (along with a number-based notification system) and the difference is massive if you allow yourself to believe in it. Of course, iOS and Android are making strides with an improved notification system and widgets, respectively, but I’m a fan of the WP presentation. It’s sexy and utilitarian. If I want to check the weather, I just need to unlock the phone and the live tile tells me the current weather and the next two days. If I want to see if anyone has posted anything on my Facebook or tweeted anything at me, once again, the live tile grabs all this information.

Everything is integrated

When I was using an iPhone, I had:

  • My contact list on my phone
  • My music playing off of Spotify with the Spotify app
  • My Facebook notifications coming through the FB app
  • My Twitter notifications coming through the Twitter app
  • Any synchronization being done through the shitty iTunes interface
  • QR Code/barcode scanning being done through third party apps
  • Pandora for live radio
  • Shazam to do song recognition

And it goes on. I use my phone primarily to keep track of my social networks, to text my friends, to listen to music and occasionally make a call or two. All the above things I mentioned are integrated into the core Windows Phone operating system. When I first set up my phone, I logged into my Windows Live and Facebook accounts. This grabbed all my contacts and even matched them up with the relevant Facebook accounts. I did install the third-party Facebook app but I hardly use it (also, it is extremely buggy).

The Windows Phone search button (a dedicated touch button that can be pressed at any time) allows you to not only search for text but to scan a barcode or QR code or even listen to music. Yup, the Shazam feature is automatically built in. Pandora still needs a third-party app (wpFandora does an excellent job) but more importantly, all my music is tracked through the Music & Videos hub. This means that if I heard a song on Pandora and then listened to other stuff on my phone, I can easily find the track in my music history as if it were being played from the same source.

I cancelled my Spotify subscription in favor of the Microsoft Zune Pass, which is the same price. The advantages? I don’t have to use iTunes again, ever. I can’t put into words how huge this advantage is for me. I absolutely detest iTunes. Zune is a more than worthy replacement and is about 1,452,530 sexier than iTunes. You know how OS X has been building up all these “full screen, immersive apps” the last few months? Well Zune has been doing that since… well, a long time. Another positive of Zune Pass is that it is essentially iTunes, Spotify, Spotify Mobile and Pandora rolled into one. I can listen to any song on Zune through subscription, and I can download it to my phone and play it offline. Of course, if I haven’t downloaded a song, I can look it up and play it from the marketplace section on the phone and even download it and save it to a playlist. Without having to buy it. Without having to download Spotify. The Pandora equivalent is “Smart DJ”. You can search for any artist and click “Smart DJ” and it will start playing related songs. Sure, their algorithm is probably not as good as Pandora’s, but you can get started with it immediately.

The hardware and software are unique… “different”

I find it most hilarious that I’m using Microsoft software and being “different”. It seems like only yesterday when Apple was forcing “think different” down everyone’s throats. For those not in the know, Nokia is using the slogan “beautifully different” to drive Lumia sales. And it’s ironic, but Microsoft’s product offering here is really unique and different. The iPhone is now the go-to smartphone for most users and the marketing advantage that Apple had with Macs of having “something cooler than yours” has not carried forward to their phone product line. Everyone has an iPhone. Except those people who have Android, which, in my opinion, basically means that you want (/need) to tinker with your OS to customize it to your needs or you are just to cheap to buy an iPhone. Or you hate the fact that Apple makes minor improvements to their product every year and then sells it as if it’s the greatest new thing. Android buyers have the latest technology available at a low price now, instead of next year. Alas, it comes at the cost of a fragmented marketplace that is struggling to deal with all the different versions of the operating system on their hardware, now.

Windows Phone has a minuscule market share and one that Microsoft, I think, should increase only enough to become the Mac of the smartphone market. The Lumia 900 is a fine hero device because it’s not just Android hardware with the WP software on it, but a device built from scratch to match the sexiness of the WP7 operating system. Of course, MS has historically operated on volume so they are trying to give the device away for free to try and get it in people’s hands. I suppose this works, but at some point I think MS should try to make Windows Phone a luxury device, rather than the Dell of smartphones.

And finally, the negatives…

Of coures, there are several negatives with the platform. The two that have been brought up the most are (1) “there are no apps” and (2) “this is last year’s hardware”. Yes, the app offering is fractional compared to the iTunes App Store and the Google Marketplace (or whatever its name is, right now). And the bigger problem, in my opinion, is that most big-name developers don’t even consider developing for WP. Which is mindblowing to me, as a developer, because Microsoft’s developer suite (Visual Studio) is heads and shoulders above iOS’ (XCode or Mono Touch) or Android’s (Eclipse or whatever Java editor you choose to use). .NET technology has been around for ages and most developers already know how to code in it. One would expect there to be a lot more Windows Phone developers, but I guess they are driven by market needs.

But going back to the crux of the issue, yes, there is an app problem. Any Windows Phone user who tries to tell you otherwise is just lying to himself or herself. I want to play Draw Something on my Lumia. I want to be with the “in” crowd of whatever game ends up being the next viral craze. This is a work in progress and it’s only going to change if there is a sufficient shift in market share for Windows Phone. All that said, the apps for WP are legitimate in themselves. There are several really nice apps that take advantage of the Metro UX and understand Microsoft’s vision with the operating system.

The second negative is, in my opinion, mostly just FUD. Yes, current generation Windows Phones are babies compared to the technical specifications of Android. Isn’t there an Android phone out there which is going to be quad-core? And really, the first thing that comes to my mind is, “why the hell do you need four cores on your phone?” It sounds like either the developer SDK is not efficient or that the developers are dumb. Windows Phone works like a dream with a single core. Everything is snappy and I have encountered little to no lag. That said, I do think that a few of the software requirements/implementations could use improvement. For example, I’d like to have higher resolution graphics and better camera software. I’m hoping Apollo will change some of this. And if Apollo does include dual-core support, I can’t imagine how awesome the platform would be. If WP’s performance is already comparable with iOS/Android with a fraction of the cores, a multi-core experience is only going to be better (especially given that MS has software pedigree in developing successful multi-core operating systems).

Alright, I’m gonna step off my soap box, now, since this was a fair bit longer than I expected. Keep in mind that these conclusions are drawn based off of my Lumia 900. A few of my opinions would be very different if I had been writing this article whilst using the HD7S, which is essentially just an Android phone with the Microsoft OS on it.

Feel free to comment with your opinion! I completely understand that my love of the MS offering is highly subjective. As with taste in music and preference for beer styles, I respect the fact that people like different things.

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generally speaking

I always get into a reflective mood around my birthday. More than the start of a new year, I think this is a better time to make resolutions and set goals, because it gives me a better idea of how I grew over one discrete year of existence. The reflective mood probably also has to do with the fact that my birthday is just 3 days before Valentine’s day and since I am invariably single during this time, I am in a particularly vitriolic state of mind.

So, year 25 of my life was, in general, a positive experience. I grew a lot and it was not only in circumference and weight (actually, I think I shrunk it both those departments). More importantly, I feel like I finally settled down in my job and my life and developed a friend circle that I can both depend on and have fun with. Mentally, I stopped taking myself so seriously and made an effort to be more extroverted, though there are still eons of room for improvement in that department.

There were just as many negatives, however. For one, I was pretty financially irresponsible. I fear that I am becoming the quintessential American consumer—purchasing all sorts of crap that I do not need and allowing it to pile-up in the various crevices of my apartment. I spent unspeakable amounts of money on dining and entertainment with friends. My only real investment in my financial future was irregular contributions to my savings account and consistent purchasing of employee stock. I did not maintain a personal budget and thus was prone to making bad consumer decisions. My attempt to rectify this has been to actually plan a budget for 2012 and tracking it week-to-week. Even if I do not stick exactly to my budget, at least I will have a smaller feedback cycle for when I am fucking up.

The second, and infinitely more frustrating, part of the last year of my life was the dearth of romance. Not that romance has been an integral part of many of the years of my life, or at least, successful and reciprocated romance, but I did make a conscious decision to make more of an effort. After having spent the majority of my college career being infatuated with a girl who was not only not interested, but ended up being not that great of a friend, I was more than ready to move on. Living with roommates for my first year of employment delayed this process since I didn’t have to feel the entire brunt of loneliness. Once I moved into a one bedroom, however, I realized that my social life was entirely in my own hands.

Now, the only problem was that I had to put myself into situations where I could actually meet women, since that would appear to be the required prerequisite to finding a woman who I was attracted to and who reflected that attraction. Unfortunately, my only existing avenues for such adventure were (a) the workplace and (b) the bar scene. This was not ideal since workplace romances are always tricky situations and I am always distrustful of the bar scene, telling myself it is because I don’t want to find some random at a bar (conveniently ignoring the fact that I am myself some random at a bar).

Neither of these situations really panned out. My workplace advances were pathetically rejected, leaving an expectedly awkward dangling friendship that took a while to repair. The bar scene prospects never panned out, probably because evidently all Austin bars are full of dudes and the ones that have girls seem to have ones that need to perennially run off to the restroom. Girls, you should get at least a little more creative with your rejection!

Around the time I was predicting, nay, expecting failure on both these fronts, I went ahead and created an account on OkCupid. The biggest step going into this was lying to myself that I was not as interesting enough in real life as I was on some website. It was probably after spending a couple of months sending 20-25 messages and receiving a response or two that I realized that, incredibly, I was more boring online than I was in real life. The ego blows continued. I have since concluded that the one thing OkCupid has going for it is that it is free. Unfortunately, since it is free, I feel like many of the girls on the site aren’t taking it seriously. And, talking with the one friend that I did make from that website (who is an extremely awesome platonic friend that I can now talk to about virtually anything), they are getting bombarded by hundreds of Neanderthal-writing-comprehension messages a day. These two theories combined, I am able to still sleep at night.

So where does this leave me in my current stage of life? Well, my problem in the earlier years of my life was the fear of rejection. For this reason, I would always take the time to get to know someone well before attempting to initiate a romantic connection. While I still do not believe this process is doomed, it has not panned out thus far. My continued rejection, both in real life and in the form of ignored messages on OkCupid signal that, unfortunately, rejection appears to be the norm. That kinda sucks, because I’m used to #winning and just being really awesome, generally speaking.

One of my close female friends from Rice suggested that I partake in more young professional activities. While I’m not exactly sure as to what this entails, I do realize that going out to a bar is not the most effective way to find someone interesting. For one, you usually can’t even hear what they are saying. I guess I will finally stop deleting the millions of emails I get every day from MeetUp and actually start attending some events. I’m also planning to volunteer (more?), especially at dog shelters. And I’m actually going to get a dog, after thinking about it for a year and a half. As a tweet from the @brotips_hq account put it best: “be the person your dog thinks you are”. Well, I don’t have a dog, so I’m going to rescue one and then hopefully enjoy some unconditional love. That’s my selfish reading of it, anyways.

Thank for reading! Feel free to leave comments but don’t expect responses. J

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force feed

I haven’t put anything on here for a while so I figured I’d write something instead of taking the easy option and just going to sleep.

I was originally going to put some raw, unadulterated, brainstorm rap verses on here but they sounded a lot better in my head than when I put them in this little textbox. Actually, that’s a lie, I never got the chance to put it down because, much like the hip hop songs you hear on the radio, I couldn’t understand any of the words. Maybe this means I have a shot at becoming America’s next YouTube star.

So yesterday I went and watched a Snoop Dogg concert. It was a very… interesting concert. Apart from the expected… herbal fragrances in the air, Snoop was present with a minimized crew on stage, pigtails and all. And a massive microphone that said “Snoop Dogg” on it. And, for some period of time, shades that said “Snoop Dogg” on it. And pretty much all his songs called out the fact that he was, in fact, Snoop Dogg. We get it, Snoop. You’re Big Snoop Dogg. Snoop Doggy Dogg. You’re kind of a unique dude.

The show was fun, though. He played a lot of songs I knew–something I was afraid of because I do not know that much Snoop Dogg. The Next Episode, P.I.M.P., Drop It Like It’s Hot, Gin and Juice, Doggy Style. He even did a bit of 2 of Americaz Most Wanted (collaborate with Tupac) and also, totally randomly, pulled out some Akon as well as Jump Around. He was having fun. I was having fun. It was all good.

While standing in line for the show, I noticed that Steve Aoki is coming to Stubb’s. Umm, yes please. Tickets have already been purchased. This is gonna be freaking awesome.

Also, I watched The Three Musketeers today. It was okay. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out if Luke Evans was Orlando Bloom. They looked pretty much the same, but then all the characters did with their long hair, unkempt beards and silly hats. I didn’t remember anything from the book, of which I have only read the abridged version, I’m pretty sure, so there was nothing to fall back on. The movie did make me want to buy the book and read it (again?) so I may have to do that. It’ll have to go to the end of my queue of 8-books that are pending on my reading list.

Fine, so this ended up being really boring. Whatever. I’ll try to work on the Drake cover this weekend.

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apparently it is really easy to stop receiving unsolicited calls

For the longest time, I thought that getting myself on the “Do Not Call” list would involve jumping through hoops such as calling a number, being put on hold for a long time and, of course, the whole process failing until it was done a few times. Well, I can’t vouch for the last part, but apparently getting yourself on this list is as easy as going to the U.S. Government’s website, aptly titled donotcall.gov:


All you have to do is click the Register Now button, enter your number and an email address and then click the confirmation link they send you on your email. If you are super paranoid, you can probably set up one of those temporary mailboxes and that way the government won’t be able to associate your phone number with your email address (although Facebook already does it).

I know a few million people in India who would be pleased as punch if such a system was available there!

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iTunes is a piece of crap

I don’t mean to regularly post about iTunes crappiness as far as media playing software goes, but it really stinks. Without fail, every time I’ve connected any one of my iOS devices to my computer (iPod Touch 1G, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 4) the software says my device has some sort of system error and that something failed and everything seems to work afterwards. Okay, fine. I understand that designing software is not Apple’s forte, but today the software has been unquestionably shitty.

To rewind a bit, I just got my iPod Touch 4 delivered today. The device itself is super sleek and sexy. I’m afraid it’ll break in half it’s so thin, and I cannot tell when it’s in my pockets. These could all be negatives but they’re in fact positives. The retina display looks spectacular. The cameras are good and the in-built speaker is a much needed feature that has been missing for ages. Great. Let’s use it. I should just be able to turn it on and go, right? Wrong.

Enter iTunes. As soon as I start the device, it asks me to plug it into iTunes. I groan. I guess this is the activation acrobatics. Fine, it activates. Oh wait, no. First I have to download iTunes 10. Okay, done. Now it activates. It then asks me to set up my device. I name it “iJolokia” to go with my recent theme of pepper-flavored computer devices. iTunes has it’s unbounded progress bar think for ages until it tells me “The device could not be set up. A file could not be copied” or some idiotic message like that.

The iPod page on iTunes lists my device as having 4GB of hard disk space. I bought a 32gig model. I disconnect and reconnect the device and iTunes tells me the iOS software needs to be updated. I update it. It then takes me to the “Set up as a new iPod” or “Restore from backup” page. I choose setup as new and try again. Fail.

Next, I jump through all the above hoops again. This time I restore from a backup of my iJolokia failed sync, not expecting it to really succeed. It tells me “iTunes could not restore the iPod iJolokia because the backup session failed”. This time I try to restore it from a backup of my old iPod Touch 1G, groaning because it will spend all the time syncing my old apps which I don’t want. I end up groaning for a different reason. The same message pops again.

What the hell?

Time for my first call to Apple Tech Support.

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ICC vs. FIFA, Part 1

This will be a 2 or 3 part piece comparing these two sporting governing bodies that host the two largest sporting spectacles by viewership in the world. Beware of rantiness!

This seems like as good a time as any to compare these two world bodies of a global sport. Both the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have been at the center of controversy over the last few weeks, albeit for very different reasons. Let’s take a look at each organization’s problems.

FIFA is in the middle of hosting the world’s largest sporting event, at least by viewership. The FIFA World Cup is a global showcase of some of the world’s most well-paid athletes and is a spectacle that is much larger than the globally reaching Olympics. Football/soccer is a game that anyone in the world can play anywhere as long as they have a rotund object that rolls around and the imagination to conjure up goalposts out of items lying around or, well, imagination.

However, FIFA has had it’s share of controversies during this world cup–almost all of them stemming from very poor officiating. Like cricket and most other sports, football uses humans to officiate and referee the game to make sure it’s played fairly and within the rules. Unlike almost every other sport played at an international level, these officials have no benefit of using any technology. This lack of technology has very strongly highlighted the err part of the “to err is human” idiom.

It started out with some very tame offside calls and non-offside calls. Fine, that’s okay since the offside is very difficult to pick out during live coverage, even for a viewer. However, this quickly grew into unfathomable calls (such as the mysterious foul that was called on the US against Slovenia, erasing their game winner) and ones that were downright wrong (such as Lampard’s goal being discounted because 2 yards into the goal was apparently not quite enough). There was also an offside call that went against Mexico against Argentina that could have been used as a precise example when explaining what the offside rule was to a newcomer to the sport.

Anyhow, humans make mistakes and that’s acceptable. What is unacceptable is the lack of accountability both by FIFA and the referees themselves. And the lack of desire to actually move the game into the current decade. Let’s tackle the first issue here–accountability. It took a ball that was yards into the goal being called a no-score that required Sepp Blatter to publicly apologize to the relevant national football associations. The other way Blatter has responded to criticism of his referees is by sending them home. Wouldn’t it just be easier for the referees to apologize themselves and accept that they’ve made a mistake? Or in some cases, explain the thinking behind the call (I’m still looking at that US goal against Slovenia and wondering where the foul was called).

When Jim Joyce missed a call that robbed a pitcher of a perfect game, he apologized publicly in the press conference that followed. He actually felt bad. I’m sure if FIFA referees were provided a mouthpiece to voice their sorrow for missing a call, much of the football-watching fraternity would be appeased. Sure, they’d still be pissed off, but at least they would realize that they were right (and they have been right). Just sitting quietly and pretending a problem doesn’t exist just aggravates it further. Throughout the last few world cups, mistakes have been piling up quicker and quicker. And they’re becoming very evident thanks to technology.

Which brings me to my  next point: technology (see that awesome segue?). As I mentioned earlier, FIFA is probably the only global sports organization that has shunned technology to be used to improve the quality of games. And in my opinion, it’s shunning is completely ridiculous. People who are agreeing with FIFA here provide reasons such as “maintain the human element” and “maintain the flow of the game”. Let me pick apart each of these points one-by-one.

The only reason we used the human element in the first place is because we had no way to rewind time. If there were cameras available when the sport was first played, do you think we would still have preferred to pay 4 guys to twiddle their thumbs and run around in short shorts and striped flags? No. The concentration would be to get the call right–after all the rules were designed for a reason. As a viewer of many, many sports, I choose to watch the game because I want to see uber-talented athletes compete against each other. I don’t watch basketball, cricket, football, soccer or any sport to see referees maintain the human element. The players are human–they’re hardly competing using controllers hooked up to a PS3! When watching football, I want to see a side clawing back to even a game or take a late lead or see an inch-perfect through pass beating an offside trap to set up a striker on goal. I don’t want to see the referees lifting their flags, blowing their whistles and shoving plastic cards in players’ faces (although the cautioning system is very warranted and one I think a lot of other contact sports could do with).

Secondly, the detractors of technology claim that technology would affect the flow of the game. Excuse me! Are we watching the same sport? Maybe this argument would have made sense 5-10 years ago when players played a tough game. Now, football is probably the most interrupted game out there. Play constantly stops and starts and stops and starts as the smallest of touches causes players to fly to the ground as if they’ve been laid out by a bareknuckle boxing champion’s knockout punch. I would really like to see a comparison of how many fouls we had at the 1998 World Cup compared to the 2010 World Cup. I think the increase would be several-fold.

Furthermore, when any controversial decision happens, minutes are wasted while players argue with the referee and the referee consults all his help. In fact, many a time, the correct decision has already been displayed to TV viewers before play has restarted. I would argue that going to technology would actually save the time wasted by the arguing and the bickering–since play would actually be reviewed, players could have no complaints because they would obviously have been right/wrong.

So how should one address this problem? I think allowing referees to attend press conferences is a must. FIFA may think it is protecting the referees by preventing them to address the media but I think it is doing a lot of harm to their image and the referees image. While referees who make such poor decisions in such a huge public light are always going to have it follow them around for the rest of their career, the least they could do is allow an asterisk to a note that says that the official in question actually admitted he was wrong and was sorry.

As for technology, I think it needs to be slowly inducted into the game. I’m not for the whole microchip idea in the shoes and the ball to determine offsides–that seems overly unnecessary. I think technology should be used in two cases: (1) whenever a goal has been scored whose validity is called into question (offside, goal-line decisions, fouls, etc.) and (2) when a player has been fouled in the box to determine if a dive was involved. There’s no need to spend a bunch of money developing goal line technology or stationing officials all over the field. Taking these two steps combined with the TV replays already available would help the game significantly and not waste too much time on the field. A fifth official would simply be reviewing the TV evidence while the game is progressing and if they see a bad call, just walkie into the main official on the pitch.

Cricket has suffered from similar problems for ages. For a game that is several centuries older than football, I think the ICC has done a great job in inducting technology into the game. In the next part of this series, I’ll look at how the ICC has approached technology with regards to the international game and where they have gone right or wrong. Finally, I’ll take a look at the political aspect of this discussion, since that’s the issue that has plagued the ICC recently.

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the last of the mango season

As with everything in life, all good things must come to an end. Mangoes are an excellent part of life and hence they must come to a particularly depressing end, as the mango season finally rolls on. Not that I’m complaining (too much) since I’ve had my fill of mangoes this summer. From the sweet alphonso mango, to the rarer yet tasty badami and dussehri varieties and even the baiganpali, which is what us Oriyas supposedly like the most!

I finally had the opportunity to eat my favourite mango “preparation”–diced mangoes with vanilla ice cream. This dessert is the perfect blend of fruit and ice cream, sweetness and coldness, and other illogical combinations. Whatever, it’s delicious and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d disagree with me (since I’d probably cause them to implode once they realized the folly of their ways). Anyways, I figured what better way to show you how delicious mangoes+vanilla ice cream is than showing you a few high-resolution photos to increase your blood pressure (and jealousy levels!).

An over-exposed look at the dessert
An over-exposed look at the dessert

A nice, little bowl of scrumptious
A nice, little bowl of scrumptious

One final exotic look at mangoes was in the form of mango souffle one weekend when Swati Bhauja and I convinced her to bring out the old cookbooks lest she forget how to make these wonderful desserts. Theoretically we (Bhauja and I) should know how to make souffle now but there were so many little things that my mom did from knowing the mistakes from previous attempts, that I got lost pretty quickly. Won’t complain, though, since the end result was fantastic. It was one of the few souffle’s I’ve had that has had the gelatin perfectly dissolved, is not too sweet, is not too liquidy, is not too solid, etc. It was a perfect end to the mango season (although I’ve been guilty of having a few more mangoes here and there since then!).

The undecorated mango souffle
The undecorated mango souffle

Mango souffle with ad-hoc decoration of real mangoes
Mango souffle with ad-hoc decoration of real mangoes

A serving of the souffle
A serving of the souffle

The chef flanked by her assistants
The chef flanked by her assistant

And that’s that! Yummmmmm… don’t know when I’ll get the chance to savour this king of fruits again. :(

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