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Monday, February 12th, 2007

Subject:fundamental attribution error
Time:3:19 pm.
I have been a proponent of the f.a.e for a long time, unaware however that there was a specific term that could be used to describe the logic I followed. The f.a.e is:

"the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior".

The f.a.e was coined in the social psychology field, but can be extended to explain or theorize in a number of other areas, most notably for me, economics. I'll start off by using an oft quoted example, since it explains the economic relevance of the point very clearly. Economists bankers and much of the corresponding, relevant literary world are quick to praise Alan Greenspan as the person responsible for stable growth and stable inflation, in the same way as they criticize Arthur Burns for spiralling inflation and volatile growth. Is not the economic version of f.a.e at play here? There is too much credit given to policy decisions, and perhaps not enough to favourable circumstances or luck. Situational factors play a prominent role in shaping how policies appear. It is true that you could easily turn it around and say policies are made keeping in mind the situations and environmental conditions, but this does not address the issue. In the cases above, of greenspan and burns, external shocks were of critical importance in explaining the inflation rates prevailing at the time. And during the periods in which these two bankers were in charge, the economic scenario was not limited to merely America, but follwed the trend of most of the developed countries in the world. That is to say inflation rates, growth patterns and so on were similar throughout similar regions of the globe.

Freakonimcs drives at the same point, a reason I liked reading it. A light, enjoyable read. Levitt argues that crime rates in New York fell not because of policies and initiatives undertaken by the mayor and commisioner of police, but simply because of random, more subtle events that played a huge role without planning for it. Ie situational elements had more to do with it than great planning or innovative thinking. This is true of much in life.
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Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Time:2:29 am.
The fates preordained that it would all end in a glorious triumph for Arsenal. The script was written thus: a young inexperienced side, led by thierry henry, overcoming all odds to reach the champions league final; A final that was to be held at paris, in whose suburbs henry learnt his trade. Lehmann had saved a penalty in the 89th minute against Villareal in the semifinal, to secure a passage through to the finals for Arsenal. Glory to the arsenal! The night began with much pomp and ceremony, and arsenal started brightly with a beautiful touch by henry, only to be denied by a save.

We believed. A while later, a through ball is played, eto breaks free and is brought down by lehmann at the edge of the penalty area. lehmann is sent off and belief is suspended. It was meant to be a spectacle, the cries ring out. Barcelona attack in waves. Cut to a later scene, and it flashed by oh so quickly: henry, a free kick at the right hand side, campbell rises and scores! Arsenal are a goal up. We believed. If we had forgotten, this was fate telling us it was on our side. For fifty further minutes we held on; A few sequences willl remain in the memory; eto hitting the post, henry missing two chances; 75th minute and 1-0, we believed.

10 minutes later and barcelona are 2-1 up, oh arsenal had been brave but it was not enough.

I switch off my TV, all the nervous excitement replaced by a cold numbness that I am sure I will shake off before I sleep. walk to my room, and there's a balmy breeze, bless my soul, a cold breeze after ages! I do not remember the last time I felt a cold breeze in madras. It rained at paris, and the breeze blew all the way here. Rain and music are interlinked for me by one song in particular: floods, pantera. Wind up the ol winamp.

What does one do? Smile a knowing smile, stare out of the window into the street, and ponder about the meaning of life, pause for a moment or two, smile and move on. We move on.
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Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Time:1:51 am.
It's raining out here, not a very strange thing to happen, and I'd like to pause for a moment and jot down notes, take a snapshot of living in the moment. By some quirk of fate, I am one of the few guys on campus (maybe the only one) to have three exams on a single day -today- with two exams sandwiching a class in which a presentation must be made.

One might be tempted into thinking that gloomy tidings beckon, but goldwave is open. The start marker is set at 6:18 and I've got a continuous loop of floods running; and all I can think to myself is: what exactly went through dimebag's mind when pantera produced this? Do these guitarists to these things in sudden flashes of inspiration or is it a painstaking incremental process? Do they rehearse the tunes, and then go "oh, screw that, let me try this chord.. do it again boys".

We see only the end product; we hear the finished masterpiece and, well, I'd like to believe that it happened this way. See, they're playing the song, and the background mixing and stuff takes place, and it's supposed to end this way, the way the guys had planned it. And from somewhere (where? where does creative inspiration stem from? from where does creative expression of such breathtaking brilliance derive itself?) this guitar solo, this end piece that has me hopelessly racking my mind for suitable adjectives just arrives. It's been raining steadily for a couple of hours now, not much change, just a middling drizzle and as I stare from the w400s wing, one light glows and lights up puddles. Rain and floods. Life.
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Sunday, July 10th, 2005

Time:2:20 pm.
Kings basketball was a thing of beauty. From the period beginning 1999, when j-will was drafted and they traded for webber and divac, until a year back, there was no more entertaining team in basketball. Back in those days when I would be up and about by 7 am and in readiness for school, I would have a few minutes of nothing to do immediately following breakfast and tying up of my shoelaces. Invariably, my hands would find the remote and star sports or espn would play loudly, much to the irritation of my dad. I could not see why puja and devotional songs and chants of "and the kings score again and the crowd goes wild" could not coexist in harmony. I digress. The point is, nba games would be shown three days a week, on wednesday, friday and saturday, and during those few minutes of nothingness between being ready for school/college and awaiting the bus, vivid images of basketball would colour my mind.

It somehow chanced that kings' games were shown more than most others. This was the period immediately after jordan had just made his second comeback, and left after the last of his six nba titles was safely in the bag. My knowledge of the sport was not too good back then, but even I could discern the growing discontent with the lack of entertaining basketball. It was almost as if, collectively, the nba was in a funk. The spurs, who were and still are the most boring team in the whole of professional sports, led by a superstar named tim duncan whose lack of facial expressions made me wonder for the first time about what plastic surgery might do to a person, had just won the title in the lockout shortened '99 season, a title phil jackson would always allude to as the one with the astrix. Anyway, that lockout shortened 50 game season also served to unite a group of players who were well off the radar as far as fans of the games were concerned- vlade divac, jason williams, and a disgruntled star in chris webber who hated the town of sacramento and vowed to stay not one day longer than his contract decreed.

Something happened. It is one of those things that cannot be logically reasoned out- one season they were nowhere, and the next, they had become the darlings of the nba. Peja Stojakovic, a much maligned draft pick of the kings in 1996, was beginning to blossom, and the kings had a defensive oriented perimeter guard in doug christie, and they had just drafted jason williams. If ever there was a more appropriate usage of the phrase 'it clicked', I am not aware of it. It clicked and they clicked. Webber was at his peak then, and divac was the best passing center in the league nobody paid attention to. They took the staid boring game as it was then and elevated it to a thing of beauty.

And jason williams, ah williams. He would whip behind the back passes to peja and c-webb and vlade and would drop the deftest of bounce passes into a curling christie. And the kings' fast break was a joy to watch. The basketball would go back and forth between jwill and peja and cwebb and it would not touch the floor once. For every jwill pass that landed in the crowd, there was one that made your eyes pop out. The kings would figure on the top ten plays every week with no marvellous athleticism, no rim shattering slam dunks, nothing but a passing and running game that literally took the breath away. They were no defensive machine, but who cared? They were fun to watch and webber was playing terrific and williams was doing things that hadn't been done since pistol pete maravich, and they were calling him white chocolate. He did the behind the back pass, the full court bounce pass, the no look bullet pass, the no look behind the back bullet pass, the off the elbow pass and the left handed no look curling away pass and nobody could describe them anymore. Along with williams development grew my love for the game.

Somewhere along the line, things changed. They were still fun to watch and they were still the most beautiful team in the nba, but, out of nowhere, they were now a good team. Perennial doormats of the nba, visiting teams would come to arco arena giving them all the attention usually accorded to a teenaged kid. But not anymore. It became a fortress and the crowd got behind the team and it was, by some distance, the noisiest, most raucous arena in the nba. They went from being 'those pesky kings' to challengers to the nba crown.

This, let it be remembered, was the 2000 season. When they were fun and entertaining and good. But they were good. Not great, merely good. What did the kings do? They traded away jason williams and got mike bibby. Let it be said that this was a great trade for the team, and one that culminated in, possibly, the greatest seven game series of all time, between the kings and the lakers, and as close as the kings would ever get to a championship.

But this isn't about the kings. Well, it is, but it is about me and the kings. It started off as a jason williams thing and became entangled with the kings philosophy and will end with jason williams. Williams left, the kings became better with bibby, a better ball handler, a better decision maker, a better crunch time shooter, and a team that could challenge the lakers. But they lost the plot in going for the championship. They started taking themselves too seriously. The flow wasn't there anymore and other teams began surpassing them on the run and gun style of basketball patented by the kings. And williams went off to memphis, and never did become an all star. And the kings peaked without him but have now lost their identity.

But for two wonderful seasons, there was no greater story in basketball. There was no greater feel good team in the nba and I was enraptured by it all. I was taken by the williams no look passes and the pass first philosophy which the kings developed, and my adoration for the kings continued after williams left. But it was those jwill passes that impinged themselves upon my consciousness more than anything else. And as I watch some of his plays (hurrah for illegal free downloads!) again, it only seemed the right thing to do to pay tribute to what jwill and the kings brought to my television screen and to courts across the length and breadth of the usa. They were a high tempo fun to watch basketball team that played basketball the way it should be played- they passed and shot and ran the pick and roll and the fast break and adopted a team first mentality spearheaded by the most creative passer the nba had seen since magic johnson. And jwill did not win them a championship but he electrified the crowds and got the adrenaline pumping and served to conjure up images of reverse english bounce passes and twenty five consecutive between-the-legs-dribbles and people forgot for a while that basketball, like all professional sports, was a means to make money for the owners. Williams did this, and did not get the credit he deserved. He had flair and creativity and a feel for the game which did not result in trophies or even a single all star berth, but he thrilled and dazzled and captured my imagination. And this, at the end of it all, is simply a long thank you jwill note.
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