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
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Tags: Photos


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


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


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.


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: *


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


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


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


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


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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