Friday, March 28, 2014

How to sign off a heated discussion?

Have you been in meetings which quickly descended into a screaming match? I have been in several of such meetings. One of the things professional life teaches you is not to take things too hard on you. You don't let these things affect you a lot. Recently, I was part of an interesting teleconference and learnt a new technique on how to sign off a heated discussion.

There were two colleagues the teleconference besides me. During the call, the first colleague explained what are the checks and activities needed to be performed. This irked the second colleague . My second colleague thought the majority of checks and activities had already been completed and the first colleague had not prepared well for the meeting. This was how the screaming match started.

After some time, the first colleague declared, "This is not going anywhere. I am logging off the call". My second colleague refused to stop and continued hurling veiled insults. This irritated my first colleague further. Suddenly I heard a beep, signalling exit of my first colleague. I was embarrassed not knowing what to do next when I heard my second colleague saying, "By the way, thanks a lot for joining the call and your inputs".

Tags: Musings,Discussion,Colleague


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sharing is caring but you can't share everything...

Sharing is caring. But there are things in life which cannot be shared. The tricky part of this predicament is how you convey the underlying message. The message is not pleasant. Imagine you have to look into the eye of the other person and tell him you are not going to share it, whatever "it" might be. It is not easy to say "No", no matter what how cold hearted you think you are!

Last week, I was a silent spectator to a deal my friend was orchestrating. The deal was interesting where my friend came up with a very attractive proposition in terms of value delivered with respect to schedule, cost and functionality. As a result of his meticulous planning, my friend had a detailed work breakdown structure prepared in an excel sheet along with the efforts required to complete the various tasks.

During the meeting while talking about price, the persons sitting opposite him was sceptical about the price. They were not ready to believe my friend could pull this off at the given schedule in the given price. To win the critics over, my friend opened up the work breakdown structure and explained the rationale. Now, every one was convinced about my friend's capability. But there was a strange request from the opposite side. "Can you share this sheet with us?".

As soon as this question was spoken, both the sides went quiet. My friend and gang went silent because these details, if shared, might end up in the hands of his competitors. The opposite went silent because if my friend didn't say no, they have got a gold mine. I knew the answer before my friend spoke. So, I was curious to how he will frame the answer.

My friend started, "We will be happy to...". On hearing this, I winced. My friend was going to give away the critical piece of information. Then it dawned on me. He started the sentence in a positive note. But what he ended up saying was a "No" in a positive way. He actually said, "We will be happy to keep this file with us". He took me a few moments to figure it out. Once I figured out the meaning, I had trouble keeping the smile off my face.

As for you, here is the take away. There is always a way to say things in a positive way.

Tags: Musings,Sharing,Deal


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Photos: Powering the steam engine

This image was captured at Hollycombe Steam Collection.

Picture Courtesy:
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos


Books: Ghosts of Spain

What comes to your mind when you think of Spain? Does it remind you of a place where you can spend your holidays? I have never been to Spain. Judging by the postcards, movies and the excitement on the faces of my friends, I expected Spain to be an ideal place to spend your holidays. But little did I know Spain has more layers to it besides being a place for fun and frolic. It is also a place which is struggling to come to terms with it's ghosts.

Less than 40 years after the death of the Generalissimo, Francisco Franco, the people are still divided on what Spain went through during his reign. A lot of modernization happened under Franco. On the other hand, there was also a lot of brutality. Ironically, it was also a time when brother turned against brother or neighbour against neighbour. Even after all these years, Spain is still deeply divided on this subject and is reluctant in exorcising the demons. Modern Spain is trying to forget the past. At the same time, it is also trying to capitalize on the tourism. The tourism which has boosted construction has also ushered in corruption. At the same time, there are lone wolves who stand up against the tide. If this is not enough, nationalism is creating a division in the map of Spain. The Basques refuses to be Spanish. Similarly, Barcelona is not Spanish if you take the language and culture into consideration.

Having spent a considerable time in Spain, Giles Tremlett shows us a side of Spain which we have not seen. In order to paint this picture of Spain, he not only draws from the experience of living in the country for so many years but also the networks he has created in the country. He goes to different parts of the country, conducts interviews and uses this as the basis for telling us about the struggles of Spain. This technique serves in telling the facts like in an investigation in a very interesting way. This is the book to read if you are armchair traveller or if you plan to visit the country. Visiting places can help you take photographs. Knowing the people will help you tell a much more interesting story using the photographs. It will also help you understand and appreciate the locals you meet.

Tags: Books,Giles Tremlett,Spain


Friday, March 21, 2014

Books: Nothing to Lose

Two cities named Hope and Despair. Jack Reacher walks all the way from Hope to Despair out of curiosity and also lack of money. Within a matter of hours upon reaching Despair, no stones are unturned by the locals to let him know he is unwelcome. The local law agencies brand Reacher as a vagrant and drops him at the border of Hope and Despair making it clear to him that he will be arrested in case he returns.

What would you and me do in such a situation that is if you are ready to believe we might end up in such a situation? We might complain about this experience to all the people with sympathetic ears. So that is why our stories will never get written down as a novel. Jack Reacher is a different breed. Like a child, he decides to do exactly what he has been instructed not to do.

Lee Child continues the Reacher series with a new tale. Beyond the clever naming of the twin cities symbolizing radically different human emotions, the novel tells a story of a secretive town, faith, men and war. Like all Reacher novels, leave your brains behind. You can read it without exerting much pressure on your brains and forget about it as soon as you put the novel down.

The other books in the series are.

Tags: Books,Lee Child,Jack Reacher


The smell of spices

The smell of spices. It awakens us. 

Imagine yourself in a busy train. The seat next to you is empty. A man decides to occupy the seat besides you. When he sits down, the first thing that hits you is the smell of spices from his jacket. 

This could happen anywhere. It doesn't have to be a busy train. Sometimes I have experienced the smell of spices while wearing a jacket. The awareness is usually followed by frantic and extreme spraying of cologne or a visit to the laundry. I have to confess the latter always has been the most effective way. 

What baffles me is how does the smell of spices seep into the jacket? It is true we use a lot of spice. At the same time, we do not keep the jacket right next where we cook! We always take extreme care of our clothes. Despite this, our clothes smell of spices! How does this happen?

Tags: Musings,Smell,Spice,Cloth


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thank you, Dr Watson

In the updated reboot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous hero on TV, Martin Freeman (who plays Dr Watson) stares at his personal blog, clueless on what to write. I have only started with the first episode of the first season. The scene I described happens in the first couple of minutes. Dr Watson is suffering post war trauma. He limps using his walking aid, sits in front of laptop and stares at it. It is a role written for Martin Freeman who is known for playing interesting supporting roles.

But what is more interesting is the modern setting of the series. It happens in modern London. Watson has a therapist. The therapist looks like a cross dresser. Of the lot, Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be the unlikely character to play the superstar sleuth. But if you have seen the eccentric team leader played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Starter for 10, you will have no doubt he possesses the right eccentric acting style. It may not be the overly energetic style of Robert Downey Jr used for the big screen adaptation. But one with restricted body movements, fast dialogue delivery, piercing looks and slow cautious movements interrupted by abrupt movements. It is how Guy Ritchie likes to film in action scenes.

Yes, I admit I have "pre"decided to love the series. Like all others for whom these books were the first brush with the science of deduction, the characters are enchanting and endearing (than the author himself!). The image of Dr Watson staring into the monitor was in fact an eye-opener for me. Having read the book, we know Dr Watson is going to meet a new friend soon and will start writing about his new friend after successfully conquering the writer's block. Just thinking about it was so pleasant that I was smiling in no time. That also brought me to reality. I have not been writing for a long time. What am I waiting for? Dr Watson will meet his muse. Where is my muse? Using the yard stick of muse, I am the luckier than Dr Watson. While Dr Watson has only one person to be inspired from, I have many people around me. Then what do I need? A quiet seat in a bus or train to start writing? To tell you truth, I don't need a quiet seat. I am actually sitting in a crowded train and writing this.

And it feels so good to write.

Tags: Musings,Muse,Watson,Arthur Conan Doyle

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