Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may have been an insightful, deeply meaningful and entertaining short story by James Thurber. When remade (oh yes! there has been another movie based on the short story long long ago), it may not have any resemblance to what James Thurber has written. The only resemblance to the short story would be the day dreaming Walter Mitty played by Ben Stiller. It is Ben Stiller playing Walter Mitty onscreen and Ben Stiller directing the movie behind the scenes make this a perfect one for the holidays.

Walter Mitty works for Life Magazine and handles the negatives department. He is good at what he does and have served the company for the past 16 years. Being good at his work is not enough to get him open up to the girl he is smitten with ie Cheryl Melhoff(Kristen Wiig) either online or offline. To make things complicated, Walter zones out according to his parlance which means he daydreams. In fact, he dreams about all the things he doesn't have the courage to do. When Life decides to shut down their operations to concentrate on the online edition, Walter searches for the missing negative 25 taken by Sean O'Connell(Sean Penn). This frantic search for the negative makes him overcome his fears and do things which he would normally have not done.

Ben Stiller bases his drama in New York and moves to many other part of the world in search of the negative. His movie stands for three reasons. First, it is the Ben Stiller the actor. Forget all the silly movies of which you have seen so far. The only thing he brings to this movie from his past repertoire is trying to make the humor stick out by underplaying the reactions. In this movie, he is still underplaying the role. But at the same time, he gives genuine expression on his face that makes you feel the guy who has given up a lot to provide his family after his dad's demise. One of the best scenes to watch out for him is when he gets on to the helicopter in Greenland. He has done it but he neither believe he has done it nor has any idea where the courage came from! You can see it all in Ben Stiller's face.

The second thing which makes this movie interesting is the imagery. The photography makes it clear Walter Mitty is lonely. The composition is done in order to highlight this factor. Walter is boring, in the traditional sense, and hence he is pitted against a lonely backdrop always. But this composition turns out to be so eye-pleasing and attention-capturing that you end up wishing to have visited these places. The third is the enjoyable sound track. The movie has so many songs coming up at the right junctures in the movie which makes you feel the emotions of Walter Mitty. 

This movie is sans the regular gang of Ben Stiller. The rest of the cast like Shirley MacLaine as Walter's mother, Adam Scott as the obnoxious managing director of the transition and Sean Penn play their parts well but is overshadowed by Ben Stiller.

This is the perfect movie for the holidays. After the movie, wait for the credit to finish if you love photographs. There are some amazing photographs during the end credits.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pappettan goes dancing

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.


I was out with Pappettan for the Christmas party. Within no time, Pappettan started heating up the dance floor with a lot of woman wanting to dance with him. A lot of staring across the dance floor at what kind of magic he was weaving was getting me anywhere. So I decided to navigate the dance floor to his side in order to have a closer look and also to eavesdrop on the conversation. When I reached his side of events, the music stopped. A bit of efforts from my side, I was able to follow the conversation.

Woman: *in a cheerful tone* ...And you told me you don't know to dance?

Me: *with a smirk and whispering to myself* Isn't that a known fact?

Pappettan: *as a matter of fact* I don't know to dance the western way.

Me: *trying hard to suppress the laughter*

Woman: *inquisitive* Really?

Pappettan: I have been practicing dance for 8 years.

Me: *shocked at this revelation*

Woman: *surprised* 8 years is a long time. So you have learnt one of the traditional dance forms of India?

Pappettan: Actually, no. It is one of the new forms of dance. It is called Bollywood contemporary.

Woman: *impressed*

Me: *head reeling*

At this point of time, the woman moved away and I couldn't contain it anymore. So I grabbed Pappettan.

Me: *agitated* Why are you fooling her with your lies?

Pappettan: *in an accusing tone* Your habit of snooping is going to get you into trouble one of these days!

Me: *more agitated with his response now* That is not an answer. Bollywood contemporary! 8 years!

Pappettan: *with a smile* Yes, I have practiced Bollywood contemporary for many years. So have you... Every one of us.

Me: *confused*

Pappettan: *victorious smile on his lips* Dappan Kuthu. Don't we know it? Isn't that we do in all parties?




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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh!!! I can't speak English!

Fluency. This was the subject appearing in two conversations on the same day with a few hours in between. The first was a seven year old telling me the difficulties of moving into a new country. Visiting is fine, but going to school might be a problem as she will not able to speak like a native speaker. The second was a grown up telling me he is not fluent in English.

The surprising factor in both the conversations was the same. The speakers were talking to me in English and telling me they are not fluent in English. If you ask me, they are able to communicate very well. They might not be using award winning prose but it was well constructed English barring a few misgivings. Then why do people think they are not fluent?

My take on this matter is simple. As long as you can communicate to the other person effectively, there is nothing to worry. If you still consider this being insufficient, you might want to check out others have to say about fluency. By others, I mean, wikipedia.... 

Tags: Musings,Fluent,English

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Movie Review: Love Crime

How come French movies while targeted for non-French speaking audience get their titles changed to a boring one? This movie was released in France as Crime d'amour but it became Love Crime" for rest of the world. Is there a phrase called "Love Crime"? "Crime of love" sounds better than Love Crime. It is what the movie is all about. At the same time, it is not all that simple as the title thanks to the masterstroke by the director Alain Corneau. What kind of love is being referred here? We are made to wonder about this all through the movie.

The movie is about the consequences of rivalry between two executives, Christine(Kristin Scott Thomas) and Isabelle(Ludivine Sagnier). Christine has been mentoring Isabelle and is also reaping the benefits of all the good work done by Isabelle. Christine cares for the younger woman. On the other hand, Isabelle has a lot of respect for her mentor. But what is the basis of their dependency on each other? This is the question the film makes us ask ourselves. You can see Christine giving authoritative opinions to Isabelle from lipstick to shawls. You can also see Isabelle getting involved with Christine's lover trying to mimic what her mentor does even in bed.

When things go sour, you see a timid Isabelle react in a violent way. It makes you wonder how a sudden change of character ispossible. At the same time, this is crucial to make the movie a thriller. So a little bit of suspension of disbelief helps. Barring this, Alain Corneau successfully keeps us engrossed in the movie. This could have been made into a sleazy movie easily. Instead of taking the easy way, Alain Corneau decides to play with our minds.

If you love thrillers, then go for it.

Language: French

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: The Raid: Redemption

An elite force comprising of 20 members storm into an apartment block situated in Jakarta's slums. The apartment houses a crime lord and the elite force intends to apprehend him. They are able to get inside the apartment successfully. While they are working their way upwards from the ground floor to the 15th floor where the crime lord has set up his base, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, most of the residents turn against the elite force and are out to kill them. To make matters complex, there are two in the elite force with different motives.

We have seen similar themes in the past. It is about the hunter becoming the hunted. It is about best laid plans going awry. So what makes this Indonesian movie directed by Gareth Evans special? There are many factors that contribute to making this special. We have not seen both the director and the lead actor Iko Uwais before. Then, they have used a martial arts forms from Indonesia which is called pencak silat. This form of martial arts has not been featured in any of the movies from Hollywood. This fighting style along with pushing us into action from the start of the movie ensures there are no dull moments.

The fighting style used is bloody which makes us cringe. Bodies are flung in all directions. There isn't an inch in the screen where bodies aren't flung during combat sequences. There are mutilations and killings which will make us close our eyes. Towards the end, it is two good guys fighting against a lone bad guy. There is no heroism here. And they fight like animals that you end up wondering is this what we all might end up doing to survive in such a situation! But if you don't take the action sequences seriously, then it is a beautifully choreographed sequence. Not only the final one, all the action sequences are brilliantly choreographed. 

This is strictly for action junkies. If you are afraid of graphic details on the scene, I advise you to stay away.

Language: Indonesian

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie Review: District B13

Also known as Banlieue 13, this film is from Luc Besson's stable. Luc Besson is not the director but the producer. The movie is directed by Pierre Morel. It isn't a recent movie. It comes long before Luc Besson started dishing out trashy action movies in a regular interval of times. Featuring two unknown faces, at least unknown to someone who isn't French or do not know anything about French movies, the movie is watchable one. It has a ridiculous plot but fantastic action sequences.

The movie opens up in the future. The year is 2010. Don't panic. You read it right. The movie was released in 2004. So it is opening in the future. As it is tough to control crime in Banlieue 13(B13) , the authorities have build a wall around it. Leito(David Belle) tries hard to keep his part of the B13 clean, resulting in frequent clashes the local druglord Taha. Thanks to Taha's influence, Leito ends up in prison and Leito's sister Lola(Dany Verissimo) is under Taha's custody. When a nuclear device goes missing, Captain Damien(Cyril Raffaelli) partners up with Leito to retrieve the nuke.

Before you start groaning, hear me out. David Belle is the founder of Parkour. Do I have your attention now? So, the movie has some amazing action sequences without any wires or choppy editing. There are chases over the high rises which is purely a pleasure to watch. Cyril Raffaelli may not match up with David Belle in agility during Parkour scenes. But he makes it up for the martial arts action sequences. When these factors combine together, we are not looking for a great plot. The action sequences are enough.

A must for action junkies.

Language: French

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Movie Review: Headhunters

Morten Tyldum adapts Jo Nesbø's novel for the big screen which is story of a headhunter who leads a double life. Roger Brown(Aksel Hennie) is a headhunter who has expensive tastes beyond his means even though he has a successful career and also a beautiful wife. In order to keep the extravagant lifestyle in fear of everything he holds dear especially his stunning wife, he steals art with the help of his friend and sells them. When Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) shows up in his life, everything turns upside down.

When the subject is a crime thriller, there is nothing to beat Scandinavian noir. Even the movies coming out of this region in this genre are graphic and realistic which ends up as an entertaining fare. The actors are better than their counterparts in Hollywood. If you have any doubt, check out the Millennium trilogy. The original Millennium trilogy and not the watered-down, disappointing Fincher-Craig version. Headhunters is a Norwegian movie. The protagonist and the antagonist are not familiar faces for us. But they are refreshing since we do not know what to expect as we have no preconceived notions about the movie.

Morten Tyldum leisurely builds the premise at the same time not boring us to death. When the ambitious Roger Brown gets the first hint of his life falling apart, the movie picks up momentum. Then it keeps us on our toes where we are trying to outguess the plot. It is over here the director and his team make us squirm in our seats by taking the unconventional routes. The loose ends are all neatly tied in the end. The picturesque locations of Norway are beautifully captured giving us something we have not seen in the past. As for the performance, Aksel Hennie stands out as he has a difficult job to perform as a confident guy who ends up as pawn in someone's plan where his life spirals out of control.

If you love thrillers, then this is for you. If you are a fan of Scandinavian noir, don't think further. Go for it.

You can watch the trailer here.

Language: Norwegian

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Photos: Deep in thought

Deep in thought!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Photos: How to spend an afternoon on a boat?

How do you spend an afternoon on a boat when you have rented it out with a group of friends? These two in the picture tells you the right way to do it.



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Photos: A boat ride

People have different desires. I don't want to say bucket lists because there is a fatality to that list. So I will keep it as desire for lack of better word. This is a simple fact I understood one lazy Saturday morning. My friend got up early, walked to the part of Thames which is near our home, rented a boat and woke up a bunch of friends to share the ride with him. The boat was not a small one. It was not an ideal day for boating. But my friend was flying back to India the next day.

This is one picture which captures the essence of the relaxed day spent boating.



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Books: Italian Ways

The title is brilliant as it conveys two aspects of the book written by Tim Parks. It tells us how the Italian railways run by Trenitalia operates and also how the Italian psyche can be seen from this angle. Hence the name chosen for the novel has duality associated with it. Tim Parks has lived in Italy for a great part of his life. He was not born an Italian but he is Italian now after adopted the country as his home. Given his writing style, he is the right person to educate us about the Italian ways. 

If you live in Europe, public transport plays an important part in your daily life. In the category of public transports, the trains are a major player - be it traveling inside the city or to adjoining cities or even to far flung places. Tim Parks details this important utility in life from the point of view of a frequent traveler. He has spent a considerable amount of his life in trains. But how does this all work? Is anyone making profit out of this enterprise? How are the fares structured if a virtual break-journey can take you to point A to point B in lesser price than taking a direct ticket? Why does ticket inspectors act authoritatively and then turn a blind eye to people traveling without a valid ticket? How is it that you end up with no seat even when you have a reservation? Why does train stations resemble a shopping mall after renovation? Why do you have to travel endlessly before you can get to platform serving inter-city service from a intra-city service?

Tim Parks provide a lot of insights with respect to Italian railways. Like I mentioned earlier, if you live in Europe, these questions might have crossed your mind. The best part is the answers to these questions. Some of the answers might have been obvious ones which we have overlooked. What makes these answers more interesting is the commonality of this with other countries where trains play a major role. In the developing countries, this will soon catch up.

I have a lot of Italian friends. That is one of the reasons to pick this book up. It ended up a thoroughly enjoyable read. If you do not have Italian friends, you can still pick it up if you love trains or train journeys.

Tags: Books,Tim Parks,Trenitalia,Italy



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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pappettan talks about dads and managers

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

The "carrot and stick" is one of the commonly used management technique to derive results. Unfortunately, this is also effective. The effectiveness is also the cause of the prevalent adoption of this technique. So one day, I was really upset at a project manager who was using this technique. That was also the evening I was meeting Pappettan. Eventually, my irk for the project manager soon veered into the conversation. Like always, Pappettan had a different take on this subject.

Pappettan: *eyes lost in deep thought* The project manager is like your father.

Me: *irritated as this too much for me* What? *pauses and as better sense prevailed* In what way?

Pappettan: *explains like a sage* Remember when we were young. Remember when our fathers promised to get us something we badly wanted if we aced in school.

Me: *dumbstruck and slowly seeing the reasoning*

Pappettan: Your project manager is the same person. The carrot you refer to is nothing but the promises our fathers made.

Me: *digesting this simple fact*

Pappettan: *enjoys the look on my face and then decides to drop the bomb* BUT... *leaves it hanging*

Me: *suddenly eager and impatient for the next pearl of wisdom* BUT???

Pappettan: But...there is a difference.

Me: *unable to handle the suspense* What is the difference?

Pappettan: *smiles and continues* Even when you don't make your end of the bargain, your father still gets you what he promised.




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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Movie Review: Arrambam


It is a mystery to me. How does an Ajith film always look good on trailer but end up as a movie which is badly edited, jumpy, with numerous build-ups to nothing? One thing for sure, all Ajith movies in the recent past have been consistent! Bad acting, style for nothing sprinkled generously with all the characteristics I mentioned before. Arrambam is no different. It is another rush job from Ajith's stable. I wonder the reason behind the rush. If you have been following the news, you already know this movie has taken a long while to make, just like any other Ajith movie. The movie also had a lot of location changes. Thankfully, the location changes is exciting for the viewer. But the excitement fizzes out when the location change doesn't translate to thrills or action.

Vishnuvardhan, who is teaming up yet again with Ajith, chooses a script which reminds you of Travolta-Jackman-Berry trio's Swordfish. Like the Hollywood movie, Ajith's AK is a bad guy who forces Arjun(Arya)  for his computer skills. In order to trap the latter, AK uses Maya(Nayantara) who is Arjun's college friend. Arya's girlfriend Anitha(Taapsee) also becomes a pawn in the game. Arjun is made to work different tasks like hacking into television networks and also hard disk drives of powerful money men. Having a quirky sense of righteousness, Arjun decides to break free from the clutches of AK with the help of upright police officer Prakash(Kishore). But AK is not what he seems to be. You may have already guessed it. The real villains are others. After a jumpy flashback, confrontation scenes with the villains and a few location changes, everything ends well. It ends well but not before leaving a trace of doubt in our minds of a possible sequel.

It is the director Vishnuvardhan who builds up the tempo for nothing. In Dubai, Ajith rides to a mansion on a Ducati. The Ducati builds up expectations in us after watching the wheeling in Mankatha. But it ends up as a scene where you see Ajith riding a Ducati. Period. There is a boat chase in Dubai. You see a whole lot of people riding boats. There is no action. Then there is a ridiculous Mexican standoff at the end. The lead pair, Ajith and Nayantara, looks tired throughout the movie. Ajith has the easier task. He is there for the style factor. Though he does look stylish, the character is not able to generate intrigue in the viewer. Nayantara is supposed to be the femme fatale but doesn't match up to Halle Berry. Then there is Arya and Tapsee as the second lead. Tapsee puts up a irritating show as a dumb girl. Luckily, Arya breathes a lot of life into a poorly written role and provides comic relief. The scenes where he is shown as large overfed college boy is funny because of his acting. He is able to make us forget the bad prosthetic. The villains have nothing much to offer and are lost in the crowd.

The picture perfect frames are the only good thing about the frame. The rest is forgettable! Enter at your risk.

Language: Tamil

Genre: Thriller

Rating: *

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

How do you make the restuarant to pay for a bottle of wine?

Can this really happen? I am pretty sure you will have many experts confirming this as a possibility. So let me ask you a more direct question. Can this happen to you? Now I am curious. What was your answer? As for me, I thought this could not happen to me until yesterday. Then, life throws you a surprise when you are least expecting one. The restaurant did pay for a bottle of wine.

I was in London yesterday meeting up with friends. I haven't seen or talked to these friends for more than a decade. The interesting thing about friends is that you start off quickly from where you left off even when the last meeting must have been decades back. So it was interesting conversation where the integrated British citizens were amusing me by having wine and not their national pride namely beer. 

Although we were seated outside a restaurant situated near Waterloo, the heater provided us comfort from the chilling weather. Sometime between the appetizer and the main course, the waiter turned up with a strange request regarding the heater. The heater is placed with part of outside on the patio and the other part inside the building. So it gives comfort to the guests sitting in the patio and inside at the same time. Whoever has come out with the design need to take a serious career self-evaluation . You will know in a moment why I say so. 

Under normal circumstances, the heater should give comfort to all. In this particular instance, the heater was giving comfort to us who were sitting outside and discomfort to those sitting inside. The waiter had approached us to see if it was okay to switch off the heater. Without batting an eyelid, my super cool friend readily agreed. When I was looking at him wide mouthed, he affirmatively to the waiter, "The bottle of wine is on the house for this!".

When the bill came, they had added the bottle of wine on the top and then subtracted it at the end. The reason for discount was stated as "long wait to be seated". The reason stated was not right. But we are happy as the bottle of wine was free.

Tags: Musings,Bottle,Wine,Restuarant,Free

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Traffic, Underground and People

There are a lot of things you can learn about a culture by studying the road traffic. This theme has recurrently appeared in many of my conversations with others. The theme also takes different tones. Sometimes, speaker states it with a sound of authority, even if the speaker has not lived anywhere else in the world. Sometimes, the speaker asks this in a form of question in order to get an affirmative nod. Sometimes, it is said in a resigned note as if there is nothing can be done of the lunacy unraveling before him. Today, I learned something from traffic but not the road traffic.

The traffic I refer to is the rush to get into the brilliant underground monstrosity which forms a part of life in a cosmopolitan city. In my case, it is referred to as Underground. These monstrosities are brilliant as it was initially built many years ago and it has given a face-lift many times over the passing time. All the engineering and thought processes from then to present in order to make this a necessity for millions is indeed mind boggling. Leave those aside. The commuters in every city have unspoken rules which also becomes a habit for them over a period of time. Today, I got down at one of London Underground stations and waited for my connecting train. The natural tendency was to stand closer to the wall while I wait for the train. Of course, this is a remnant from my Metro days in Paris. Within seconds, I was blocking the passage of everyone moving to different ends of the platform. Everyone over here stands closer to the rails while waiting for the train. People who are walking through the platform to their destinations passes behind the back of everyone waiting for the train.

It is strange. Standing closer to the rails is dangerous. But the platforms are shorter in London. The yellow lines, drawn on the platform, are closer to the rails than I have seen anywhere else in the world. For a newbie in the city, it is intimidatingly close to the rails. As for the regular commuters, they appeared to relaxed even though they were standing close to the rails!

So now if you are coming to London and waiting for your train in Underground, you know exactly where to stand.

Tags: Travel,London,Underground


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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Your team member has let you down

Did you flinch reading the heading of this post? I won't hold it against you if you did flinch. If you examine the statement, it is about betrayal. In the context of a project, there was an expectation and the team member did not match up to it there by betraying the trust we placed in the person. It is an act which brings out raw emotions in us. To be frank, I flinched when I heard the statement although the subject was not me.

There are two different issues which converged to create this statement. The first, the importance of communication in any project which is executed by people from different teams who normally work independent of each other. In such a case, it is important all of them meet together to discuss open issues. The second, there are different management styles.

Now let's go back to where we were. So a bunch of us from different teams were called in for a brainstorming session. The brainstorming session was chaired by someone higher up on the ladder. Since the meeting was arranged in a very short time, there was one person missing because he was on annual leave. Guess what happened.

The meeting was rescheduled and the someone higher up on the ladder clearly stated. "This session will only commence if everyone is here. Since your team member has let you down, you guys can reschedule this meeting". The meeting was rescheduled to 2 days later. This time, everyone turned up.

Tags: Musings,Project,Communication,Management

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Overwork = Beard?

Of late, my young friend who has a radiant smile turns up in the office with a beard. Okay, you can't call it a beard. He hasn't shaved for past few days. So he has hair all over his face which he has chosen to ignore for now. Very soon, it is growing into a full-fledged beard. Not only does the beard make him look tired but also masks the radiant smile on his face. Haven't you come across people whose smiles can make you want to smile because of the energy it exudes? My young friend falls under that category.

When I asked him about the reason for the soon-to-be beard, pat came the answer. Where is the time to shave? I sympathize with my friend. He has been putting long hours of late. But you don't need a beard to find this out. A look at his eyes shows how tired he is. But does that mean we don't have five minutes for a quick shave? The world is not going come down if we spend 5 extra minutes in front of the mirror enjoying our handsome faces and also mowed down the growing facial hair.

I have nothing against beard as long as you treat like a garden. Water it, tend it and prune it. If you do that, it becomes a style symbol especially if you have to walk into a room full of people for closing a deal or even presenting your work.

Tags: Musings,Young Friend,Beard,Work

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A Project Manager upsets his wife

Project managers have an easy life. Isn't that what we all complain about? This species comes with unrealistic demands. If you take a quick poll, this person must be the most hated man! In case you have already conducted a poll and come up with someone other than your project manager, I would like to meet that person. I am curious to know what that person has managed to achieve the stardom.

Having proclaimed all these, let me assure you. Being a project manager is not easy. They have personal lives too. My friend who is a project manager has an interesting story to tell me. Thanks to his present assignment, his life has been a mess with long days at work and often work spilling into the weekends. It came to a point that he had to attend calls even during his nephew's wedding. The situation is not alien to me as I have seen this happening in the past all around me.

What is the most interesting part of my friend's tale is his wife's reaction. Since he is perpetually on calls, his wife is having trouble sleeping. So she has asked him to shift to a hotel till the duration of the project. I am not sure what he has decided. Not to take calls or start looking for hotel deals.

Tags: Musings,Project Manager,Wife,Sleep

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Fine medical check-up

Doctors are funny. Their funny side usually comes up during a medical check-up especially the ones which are unplanned. Recently, my friend had to go for a medical check-up because of a sudden event thrust  upon him. He was traveling to a foreign country for a project. The organizational norms made him pay a visit to the hospital for a medical check-up. 

Without this medical check-up, there might be complications with the insurance claims, if any. Being associated with a professional trip, this medical check-up happened two days before my friend was supposed to fly. After the medical check-up, he turned up for his results. While collecting the report, he was asked to talk to the doctor. As a result, he ended up in the doctor’s cabin. Here is what happened in the cabin.

My Friend: *impatient* The nurse told me to meet you.

Doctor: *nodding, takes up my friend’s report and goes through it*

My Friend: *increasingly impatient*

Doctor: *keeps the report down* Sugar level is normal. Cholesterol level is normal. Everything is normal and fine.

My Friend: *almost ready to get up* So all is well. Can I go now?

Doctor: *slowly* The heart rate is low.

My Friend: *shocked* What??!!!

Doctor: *steady voice* Your heart rate is low.

My Friend: *confused* What? You told me everything is fine and now you tell me this.

Doctor: *looking blankly at my friendly*

My Friend: *take a deep breath, composes himself before starting to speak slowly and clearly* Let me make it clear for you. I am flying day after tomorrow to a foreign country. What do you suggest? Should I stick to the plan or should I cancel the plan? *pauses* Go or Not Go? That is the question!

Doctor: *sighs* You may fly. There may or may not be problems. If you want to be sure, then I need another week to give you a solid confirmation.

My friend spent considerable time on this dilemma. For the outside world, this might amount to half an hour. But for him, it was considerable time. Then, he decided to stick to the plan. He flew as per the plan. Now, I know you are curious about the low heart rate. It is a condition commonly found in athletes where their heart rate goes down below 60. How did my friend came to know about this? He consulted another doctor a few days after reaching his destination.

Tags: Musings,Medical Check-Up,Doctor,Professional Trip

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The 2W technique

The 2W technique. It is a nice way to manage work if there are chances of knowledge leakage and also subcontracting involved in a project. At least this is what I have learned in the past few days. Subcontracting, a long review process cycle and multiple team interactions are not new to me. These are the attributes of most of my assignments. Since these are not new, I am prepared for all this. What came as a surprise and a learning experience is the intensity of the review process and that is exactly where the 2W technique showed up.

2W is an acronym I coined since the methodology involves two Ws - What and Where. If you cancel the noise out from the chatter i.e. if you summarize the long emails and the everlasting discussions, the review is only about two things namely what and where. What is it that you are trying to do? Where have you documented it? To be truthful, during the excruciating review process whether it is face to face, emails or phone, when the person whose work is being reviewed is finally able to answer the what part, the where part usually makes him/her tongue tied. This is when all the artifacts have to be updated again which leads to another review cycle.

So far, we have seen the picture when sitting at one side of the table. Now let's change seats and cross over to the other side. While subcontracting a piece of work, you are trusting the supplier to the right thing. In some cases, the supplier might not be the one who will be supporting these systems. It could be another supplier or even an in-house team. What will they if they do not know where they can get the knowledge? Now add attrition to these woes. There is no way to take this initiative a success unless the what and the where is clear.

Do you see the importance of 2W technique? Now that I have told you the why, you can proceed to implement the what and where in your real life or projects.

Tags: Musings,What,Where,Why,Subcontract,Supplier,Project

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Books: Bad Luck and Trouble

It is post 9/11. The catastrophe that stuck on this fateful day has changed the habits of Jack Reacher. He can't travel like a bum anymore. He has to carry a passport and also an ATM card. Barring these minor changes in his routine, he is still the wanderer with no definite plan. But out of the blue, his old colleague Neagley reaches out to him in a way only a military policeman understands. This call will make Reacher to put together his old unit, or whatever is left of his old unit, back in order to do what Reacher does best - to avenge and to dispense justice.

When Lee Child returns to the Reacher series, the transformation is confined not only to his creation but also to himself. Lee Child is more vocal in this novel. There are subtle endorsements and also not-so-subtle criticism. The endorsements are pronounced while criticism are veiled where the names are taken in the former while references are given in the latter. It doesn't take the reader to be Reacher to figure the references to find out whom the author is pointing to.

But the most important transformation is to the mystery writer in Lee Child. Here the investigation is thankfully not quick deduction like seen in the earlier books but the slow gradual piecing together of clues to solve the mystery. Like any investigation, Reacher chases dead ends and retraces his path to take the other turn in the fork where he took the wrong turn. This is definitely a departure from the previous books. This also makes the book interesting to read. The rest is same as what we get in the other books.

The series is for Reacher fans. But this book can be enjoyed even by others who haven't been reading the series chronologically.

The other books in the series are.

Tags: Books,Lee Child,Jack Reacher



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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Movie Review: Escape Plan



Mikael Håfström puts together a thriller on a prison break from a high security prison in an undisclosed part of the world. The person who is planning the escape is Ray Breslin(Sylvester Stallone). As luck would have it, he has help from another inmate Emil Rottmayer(Arnold Schwarzenegger). How did Ray end up in a high security prison? The answer is simple. It is his own doing! Don't get me wrong. Ray is not a criminal. This is what he does for a living. He gets into a prison as an inmate. Then breaks out of it and lecture the authorities. about the security flaws. He has even written book on prison security. What a lousy job! Apparently it pays well. Otherwise, how can he afford a fancy office, good suits and expensive gadgets?

In the first 20 minutes, Mikael Håfström successfully captures our attention after he is not able to sustain the first impressions. We know the director is establishing Ray's profession and the new job in the first 20 minutes. He shows us what Ray does in the prison and walking out. Then he lets Ray puts it all together for the authorities. The conversation between Ray and his colleagues with meaningful looks and raised eyebrows makes it looks like a thriller with an interesting treatment. But as soon as Ray gets trapped in the high security prison as part of a new assignment and Rottmayer shows up, the movie takes a dive. It is difficult to make thrillers when set in confined space. There has to be a lot of things happening to make it really engaging which is missing. At the same time, Mikael Håfström is not able to capitalize on the crowd pleaser scenes especially when Schwarzenegger picks up the machine gun in the climax. The movie unintentionally provides you entertainment when Ray explains why he has chosen this profession.

It was an year ago we saw all the action stars from the 80s having fun on the screen mocking themselves while giving us our money's worth. Both Stallone and Schwarzenegger were part of that franchise. So when we see them together, we expect a lot of funny one-liners and fireworks. In both these departments, the movie draws a blank. The one-liners aren't funny enough even though the veterans tries to taunt each other. As it is all about a prison break, there is no action except in the climax.The only person who manages to capture our admiration is Jim Caviezel's Warden Hobbs. He is calm and detached. How he shows this without hamming is interesting to watch.

Wait for the DVD if you are a Sly/Arnie fan.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: *

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Photos: The Wheel of Fire

This image was captured at Hollycombe Steam Collection.



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Missing Roy, a true (data load) story

Roy is missing. Before I tell you the curious case of the missing Roy, let me explain what I mean by data load. If you are a software professional, you would have guessed it already. Before making big changes to an existing computer applications or rolling out new computer application, there is a phase in the project where data is loaded. These data are essential to the users to perform transactions. In some parlance, this is also called static data. If you examine the word closely, it is a misnomer. It is static when compared to the data related to transactions. In these parlance, the latter is also called dynamic data.

Now that I have established my technical prowess, let's get back to the Roy. The missing Roy was reported by my new acquaintance at work. We both started on this new project around the same time. Until recently, we didn't get a chance to have a tête-à-tête. His name ends with Kumar and he is from Patna. In my limited world experience, the two things go hand-in-hand. I have a lot of friends whose names end in Kumar and they are from Bihar. So it came as a surprise when he said he was a Bengali whose dad shifted to Patna for work. In fact, this is also surprising for me for I have only heard of people moving from Bihar to W Bengal.

While I was digesting this piece of information, my colleague volunteered more information to clear the air. "My name does not end in Kumar. It ends in Roy. So my name should ideally end in Kumar Roy", he said. With this statement, I realized we are not talking about an ideal situation here. So what happened to Roy? When did Roy go missing? He has an explanation to it. When he appeared for the board exams (which I assumed is our infamous Std X), Bihar was computerizing their educational institutions. Remember the data load part I was referring in the first paragraph. There was a data load to put all the information related to the students into system these institutions were using. That is when the Roy go missing.

The data load program truncated many of the names while loading into the system. As a result, a lot of people lost the last part of their name. My friend never bothered to correct this piece of information. That is the story of the missing Roy. Now I have a word for all software professionals involved in such projects. Whatever you are loading into systems is important for some one if not for you. So make sure you do the right thing. If you do not do the right thing, people can lose something valuable as was the case with Roy in my tale. Name is important. It is not easy to live with a half name or even a no-name!

Tags: Musings,Work,Data Load,Roy,Project

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Pappettan on heated discussions at work

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

Have you been in meetings where you have to argue forcibly to let others see your view point? If you have been in such meeting, what do you feel at the end? Exhausted? Bitter? Angry? If you felt any or all of these emotion, imagine what did the other person experience at the end of the meeting. The chances are he/she felt the same way! This was the topic of discussion with Pappettan one evening.

Pappettan: *with the brand of contagious enthusiasm he is known for* What is with you? Why are you looking sad?

Me: *heaving a sigh* There was this meeting at work. It didn't go well.

Pappettan: *chuckling* So, you are still stuck with work place issues. Come on, don't you know? Work stops at work when you leave for home.

Me: *tired but eager to tell my sorrows to someone* All through the meeting, we were arguing and shouting at each other.

Pappettan: *listens with a smile*

Me: *agitated* How can you work like this? It takes a ton of energy to convince people. Everyday is a struggle. Where do I find the energy? Forget about finding the energy, you create a lot of enemies as there is a lot of bad bloodonly end up with enemies at the end because of the way the argument turns out.

Pappettan: *chuckling* So you are worried about making enemies?

Me: *pauses to think before resuming* Yes. That is right.

Pappettan: *chuckles* How do you conclude such meetings?

Me: *confused* What do you mean?

Pappettan: *patiently* What happens at the end?

Me: *slightly irritated* I note down the action items if any, thank everyone and then walks out.

Pappettan: *like an interrogator* Only thank them?

Me: *irritated* Yes. Thank them as in "Thank you".

Pappettan: You could do a little better at that point.

Me: *having lost patience* Like what?

Pappettan: *smiling* You could say... "It was nice to have a healthy discussion" before you conclude.



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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pappettan talks to a smart-alec restaurant employee

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.


When you call a restaurant, you expect polite behavior if not a cheerful tone. Pappettan called up a restaurant recently in order to have food delivered to his door steps. I was present at that time when he called up the restaurant. It was a Sunday.

Restaurant Employee: Haaalo.

Pappettan: *unable to make out the reaction at the other end* Is it we-will-deliver restaurant?

Restaurant Employee: *loudly* Yes, it is.

Pappettan: *politely* Are you open today to take orders?

Restaurant Employee: *traces of a smirk in his voice* If I am not open, why would I pick up your call.

I am taking a detour here. Now what would you have said in such a situation. Let me be truthful. I would have been irritated at this point. What about you? If you have thought about this, let us move on with the narrative.

Pappettan: *laughs loudly*

Restaurant Employee: *perplexed and silent*

Pappettan: It is a Sunday. You might have opened the restaurant for cleaning. How would I know?

Restaurant Employee: *silent*

Pappettan: So that is why I asked. When in doubt, better ask. Isn't it?



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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Photos: Boating on River Thames

On a Saturday, I was woken up by a friend. He had rented a boat. Since I was still waking up, his enthusiasm wasn't contagious but bordering on irritation. The problem with rentals is that they come with a expiry date. In order to maximize the joy associated with being in a boat and steering a boat, we all had to hurry. This was the reason for the irritation. 

Eventually, we had a great time. This is one of the shots taken during the boat ride.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

You never specified it!

In certain work places, the employees are expected to remain connected all the time and also work over the weekends during crisis. In such work places when a crisis is averted, another crisis pops up in no time just like a Hydra. At the end, the option is to sacrifice your weekends and turn up for work. Slowly, a culture is formed when everyone resignedly accepts working on a weekend and this culture is passed on to new comers in the team.

A friend of mine has a tale to tell about a recent incident at his work place. He is involved in a project where people are injected on a regular basis to meet the seemingly impossible deadline. Normally, the injection happens on a Monday. By the time it is Friday, they are in for the first shock. They have to work during the weekend. By next Friday, they are used to this fact. This has been the way of life in this project. My friend recounts the conversation between the project manager and a new project team member on a recent Friday.

Project Manager(PM): *adopting a matter of fact tone* So, we are all meeting on Sunday to discuss this further.

New Project Team Member(NPTM): Okay. Please debrief me after your discussion.

PM: *confused* Why do you need a debrief? You will be there during the meeting. No?

NPTM: *in a serious tone* No, I won't be.

PM:*in a persuasive tone* We are in a crisis. So we need to put our heads together to control this.

NPTM: That is right. But I won't be there. I am not available on the weekends.

PM: *starting to lose patience* The project demands us to put in extra time. All of us are doing it and you also should do it.

NPTM: If I am supposed to put extra time on weekends, why didn't you tell me when you selected me for the project?

PM: *after a brief pause* It is the way it works here. I don't have to mention it specifically.

NPTM: You assumed. *smiles, pauses and continues* That is your problem. Have a great weekend.

Tags: Musings,Work,Weekend,Manager,Team Member

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

F in Disclaimer

If you are thinking there is no F in Disclaimer, then you are right. You may wonder what am I talking about. The F in Disclaimer emerged as part of the conversation with my newly acquired witty and ingenious friend. He is involved in a high visibility project. You may now ask me to show you a project which is not high visibility. It is impossible. No project is small or insignificant. Every project is a high visibility project as it is an overused term for instilling motivation in a team.

So my friend is involved in a high visibility project. With greater responsibility comes greater stress. The project is being tracked on a hour-by-hour basis. Who would have thought things could come to this level? I am not against tracking project on a hour-by-hour basis. A project can be tracked in the minutest span of time as long as you have set the framework for it in the initial place. If there is no framework, then the project may also be termed a circus. What is the point in tracking a circus on a hour-by-hour basis? Instead, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Imagine having external pressure from the customer in addition to the internal pressure to meet the aggressive deadlines. If both the parties - internal and external - turn out to be bad listeners, then people end up being walking-and-talking pressure cookers. Even though my friend is outwardly and inwardly calm, he has certain suggestions for payback. This is where Disclaimer comes into picture. The Disclaimer in consideration is the long line of text which corporations attach to the end of the email while sending out emails in order to limit the liabilities on the sender and the organization. My friend suggests to add F words and other colorful language in the disclaimer. Anyways, nobody reads the disclaimer. The sender, if frustrated, can get a temporary and much needed relief.

Before you start using the disclaimer to implement my friend's advice, let me warn you. I have taken disclaimers very seriously after this conversation and combs through the entire text to make sure there are no coded messages in between the lines.

Tags: Musings,Disclaimer,Project

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Photos: A boat on Thames



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Pappettan teaches how to shorten a schedule

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

You must have heard about people complaining about impossible schedules. In a modern day project scenario, there is always pressure to deliver in very less time with each successive project receiving lesser time to deliver than the previous one. I have many people ranting about this. To be truthful, I have also complained about this to many of my friends and colleagues. Recently, I was talking to Pappettan about this dilemma and it was interesting to note his take on this issue.

Me: They want me to deliver this project in 2 months.

Pappettan: *listening*

Me: How is it possible? They are asking me to do an impossible task.

Pappettan: *with a smile* What did Napolean teach us? I thought you wrote about it in your blog long back.

Me: *with a defensive tone* Well, he said... Impossible n'est pas français. But, I am not French!

Pappettan: *chuckling* Are you sure it is impossible?

Me: *quickly seizes the opportunity to lecture Pappettan* Don't you know it takes 9 months to deliver a child. If you put three people, the baby won't come out in 3 months. *sports a victorious smile after the grand speech*

Pappettan: *chuckling more*

Me: *confused*

Pappettan: *calmly* It is possible to deliver a baby in 3 months with one person.

Me: *about to say he has gone mad and then has second thoughts*

Pappettan: *smiles for an eternity, takes a brief pause before talking* You need to start with 6 month pregnant woman. Then it is possible to deliver in 3 months.



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