Bayesian Recognition and the Inverse Charlie Chaplin Principle

So I bumped into Deepa at a coffee shop this evening. And she almost refused to recognise me. It turned out to be a case of Bayesian Recognition having gone wrong. And then followed in quick succession by a case of Inverse Charlie Chaplin Principle.

So I was sitting at this coffee shop in Jayanagar meeting an old acquaintance, and Deepa walked in, along with a couple of other people. It took me a while to recognise her, but presently I did, and it turned out that by then she was seated at a table such that we were directly facing each other, with some thirty feet between us (by now I was positive it was her).

I looked at her for a bit, waiting for her to recognise me. She didn’t. I got doubts on whether it was her, and almost took out my phone to message and ask her if it was indeed her. But then I decided it was a silly thing to do, and I should go for it the natural way. So I looked at her again, and looked at her for so long that if she were a stranger she would have thought I was leching at her (so you know that I was quite confident now that it was indeed Deepa). No response.

I started waving, with both arms. She was now looking at me, but past me. I continued waving, and I don’t know what my old acquaintance who I was talking to was thinking by now. And finally a wave back. And we got both got up, and walked towards each other, and started talking.

The Charlie Chaplin principle comes from this scene in a Charlie Chaplin movie which I can’t remember right now where he is standing in front of a statue of the king. Everyone who goes past him salutes him, and he feels high that everyone is saluting him, while everyone in effect is saluting the statue of the king behind him.

Thus, the “Charlie Chaplin Principle” refers to the case where you think someone is smiling at you or waving at you or saluting you, and it turns out that they are doing that to someone who is collinear¬†with you and them. Thus, you are like Charlie Chaplin, stupidly feeling happy about this person smiling/waving/saluting at you while it is someone else that they are addressing.

Like all good principles, this one too has an inverse – which we shall call the “Inverse Charlie Chaplin Principle”. In this one, someone is smiling or waving or blowing kisses at you, and you assume that the gesture is intended to someone else who is collinear with the two of you. Thus, you take no notice of the smile or wave or blown kiss, and get on with life, with the likelihood that you are pissing off the person who is smiling or waving or blowing kisses at you!

Both these effects have happened to me a few times, and I’ve been on both sides of both effects. And an instance of the Inverse principle happened today.

Deepa claimed that she initially failed to recognise me because she assumed that I’m in Spain, and that thus there’s no chance I would be in Jayanagar this evening (clearly she reads this blog, but not so regularly!). Thus, she eliminated me from her search space and was unable to fit my face to anyone else she knows.

Then when I started waving, the Inverse Charlie Chaplin Principle took over. Bizarrely (there was no one between us in the cafe save the acquaintance I was talking to, and I wouldn’t be waving wildly at someone at the same table for two as me; and Deepa was sitting with her back to the wall of the cafe so I presumably could not have been waving at anyone else behind her), she assumed that I was waving to someone else (or so that was her claim), and that it took time for her to realise that it was her that I was actually waving to!

Considering how Bayesian Recognition can throw you off, I’m prepared to forgive her. But I didn’t imagine that Bayesian Recognition would throw her off so much that it would cause an Inverse Charlie Chaplin Effect on her!

Oh, I must mention that I have grown a stubble (the razor I took on my trip to Europe was no good), and that she mentioned about not wearing her glasses today. Whatever!

Where you get coffee and tea

An old cranky professor once joked that “cafeteria” should be pronounced as “coffee tea area”, since it was the area where you got coffee and tea. We had laughed back then, both at the poor joke, and at the poor professor who attempted the poor joke. He was out of his wits as usual, we had assumed.

After my recent trip to Spain, though, I realise that he was not actually joking. “-eria”/”-aria” is a Spanish suffix that indicates a place where the prefix is sold. So a place where they sell Cerveza (beer) is a Cerveceria. A place where they sell Bombon (chocolate) is a Bomboneria. I even saw a “Churreria”, where they sold Churros.

So what is a cafeteria? The Spanish word for coffee is “cafe”. The Spanish word for tea is “te” (pronounced thay or something of that sort). So what would you call a place where you get cafe and te?

Cafeteria, of course! The old cranky professor wasn’t so cranky, after all.

Tiananmen Square

My website is under heavy attack – there have been multiple hacking attempts, and looking at some statistics I find that a lot of them seem to be coming from China.

So this post is my humble effort to get my website blocked in China so that these attacks will stop!

24 October

Today it’s 24th October and it’s still deepavali. An earlier occasion when the festival fell on this date was in 1995, which I rank among my best deepavalis ever

24th October 1995 saw a total solar eclipse in India. In Bangalore it was only partial but clearly visible. We had procured special goggles (made of aluminium foil or something) to view the eclipse. I don’t remember any other solar eclipse during my lifetime of close to 32 years getting that much footage.

I don’t have too many cousins (total of 5 both sides put together) but a couple of them were home that deepavali. So after the eclipse we went off to see The Mask in galaxy. One cousin who was 18 them just couldn’t get enough of Cameron Diaz’s cleavage and legs, I remember.

We came back and burst crackers. The previous day too we had burst – deepavali is a three day festival in Bangalore and usually we burst lots of crackers on days 1 and 3. Back then I remember going to relatives’ houses and relatives coming to my house to burst crackers together.

On day three (25 October 1995) we went to see Rangeela in urvashi. I was quite enamoured by Urmila Matondkar’s assets but couldn’t do or say a thing since my dad was sitting next to me! Just quietly watched. And back in those days there was no YouTube or Internet to make amends later!

I remember ruling thulping food at MTR after the movie. Don’t remember what I ate though.

And again we burst crackers that evening – in a cousins house if I remember right (or it might have been the other way round – cousins house oh day 2 and my house on day 3. I don’t remember now). 

This was only the latter half of the five day deepavali weekend that year. On the first two days 21st and 22nd I’d gone for a chess tournament somewhere in Rajajinagar (one of my last tournaments before I retired from competitive chess). I remember starting the tournament nondescriptly but having a spectacular second day of the tournament to finish with 4 out of 6 points, losing out on a podium finish on progressive score.

It was a spectacular five day weekend overall. The variety in fun was significant, and the quantity too!

Of late though I’ve stopped celebrating deepavali – crackers don’t excite me any more and there is nothing else to the festival as far as I’m concerned!

As I’d remarked on this blog a year or so back – festivals are like memes. In the original sense of the word, as Richard Dawkins intended it when he invented the word!

The legendary Charles de Gaulle

After I’d booked my ticket on air France for my trip to Amsterdam and Barcelona people warned me a about switching flights at Paris Charles de Gaulle, notorious for its complicated Connections and missed flights.

When I flew to Amsterdam two weeks back I was wondering what the fuss was all about – i got off the plane, ground staff told me where I should go, there were no lines at either security or passport control and I had reached my onward boarding gate well in time and with zero hassles.

On my return journey today though, things weren’t so smooth. To cut any suspense I made the flight – I’m writing this sitting inside the plane. But it wasa rather complicated journey that got me here.

The earlier flight landed at nine and they made announcements for passengers connecting on 10am flights so I assumed I was very well in time for my 1040 flight. And with that in mind I didn’t particularly hurry up, though I didn’t particularly delay things also. And then I realized things weren’t going to be as comfortable as I thought.

The passport control was extra long – the longest I’ve seen in a European airport (total of four data points). Took at least 20 minutes. Past that I thought I’ll find my gate – but then I dead end where I was told I had to take a bus to go from the L wing of terminal 2E to the M wing of the same terminal! The bus ran once every ten minutes or so.

Anyway I got my bus rather quickly but it was full – almost over packed! It got me to my terminal in about ten minutes which weren’t particularly pleasant! I was there by around 9:45.

After a quick visit to the restroom and some breakfast (the food on the morning flight was hardly sufficient so I grabbed a croissant and hot chocolate at the airport) I got to my gate only to see boarding was already almost complete!!

I guess I was among the last passengers to board! The good thing though is that the flight is largely empty (the only other time I’ve seen an international flight so empty was a dragon air from Hong Kong to Bangalore in 2010) and the seat next to me is empty!

I hope to have a peaceful flight (have got Neal Stephenson’s the baroque cycle for entertainment) and I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon!!

The Steven Davis Role

The first encounter between Liverpool and Southampton in the 2013-14 English Premier League season happened at Anfield in September, and Southampton won 1-0 with a Dejan Lovren goal from a set piece. So when the two sides met again at St. Mary’s in the latter half of the season, with Liverpool chasing the title, it was known that it would be a tough game for Liverpool.

Southampton dominated the first half, playing a front four of Steven Davis, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodrigues and Rickie Lambert. However, it was Liverpool who scored in that half, and led 1-0 at the break. Here is a picture I found on twitter that was uploaded at half time:

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino decided to change things for the second half. He took off his most unspectacular forward player Steven Davis and replaced him with Gaston Ramirez, the promising Uruguayan. Soon, Southampton unravelled and Liverpool completely dominated the second half as they won 3-0.

Now, there is no doubt that Ramirez is more talented than Davis and is definitely a better player in general. However, in the context of the rest of Southampton’s team, Ramirez’s introduction proved to be a disaster and there was little cohesion in their attacking play from the time he came on. Southampton became a disjointed team and went out of the game.

This has led me to define what I have come to call the “Steven Davis role”. It is basically a player who is not individually the best, but provides some kind of a glue that holds the team together. The player’s key skill, rather than looking at it from traditional axes such as passing or shooting or tackling or intercepting, is to change position, and to make sure that the team holds its shape at all times. It is to make sure that any players who are out of position are covered for, and that the attack retains its shape and focus.

Now, it must be remembered that last season Southampton’s attacking play was primarily based on strong movement and interplay between their front four. They had nominal positions defined, but they hardly stuck to those as they moved around in attack. Thus, Lambert who would start upfront would sometimes appear on the wing, with the nominal “number ten” Lallana going forward, for example.

And key to this system was Davis, who wasn’t particularly talented, but who would move in a way that would balance the attack. If the other three would move left to attack, he would take up a position slightly to the right – not too far away from the attack but providing a kind of counterbalance. He never led attacks himself, but he was always available to support the others’ attacks. And this is what made Southampton dangerous.

Once Davis had gone off, Southampton had no one to play this role. The kind of interplay they had in the first half disappeared. And their attacks became toothless and each attack had only one dimension which was easy to cover even for Liverpool’s normally shaky defence, as they kept a clean sheet.

It was a similar case I saw last night at the Camp Nou, with Barcelona’s Pedro Rodriguez playing in a “Steven Davis” role. Messi started in the middle and Neymar wide on the left. Pedro nominally started on the right. But soon it became clear that he was a kind of a “wide support striker” – his job was to appear in positions that complemented the rest of the attack rather than being in positions where he led the attack (though he did lead one glorious counterattack where he hit the post). It was like a kind of balance that he offered the team, and ensured their attacks had coherence (of course this being Barcelona they had Iniesta and Rakitic just behind to offer more “focal points”).

Last night was the last game of Luis Suarez’s ban, and it will be interesting what Barcelona do with him when he gets back this weekend. The instinct will be to remove Pedro in his favour, but it is not clear if an attack of Messi-Neymar-Suarez will be able to offer the same kind of coherence as an attack of Messi-Neymar-Pedro. That said, Suarez is an extremely intelligent player and showed in his Liverpool days that he is capable of being a “fighter”, so he might as well be played. But that will mean that Neymar will have to occasionally play the Davis/Pedro role, and it is not clear if he is capable of doing that.

We are in for interesting times.

The post has so far focussed on football but it is evident that his kind of a role is necessary in other team situations, including corporate teamwork, also. Sometimes you need that one guy who need not be individually spectacular, but is versatile and mobile enough that he can do several things, fill in for different people and make sure that any team he is part of will be “complete”. And in the absence of one such guy, the team can lose coherence and fail in its task.