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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