Friday, May 30, 2014

Know what you are supposed to do

Do we really know what we should be doing? Are we wasting time to do a lot more than what is required, ending up pleasing none of our masters. This was the thought running through my mind when I sat across the table for discussing transition. As part of the recent management decisions, we are transitioning a chunk of work to a competitor due to various reasons. There are many to list. But let us say it is rationalizing the cost, questioning the status quo and venturing out of a existing relation to see what is out there.

As the part of the transition, a meeting was scheduled between the three parties - the old service provider(our side), the new service provide(the other side) and the customer. For the meeting, I compiled a list of daily activities performed by our side in order to support changes we have implemented. Since we had made changes recently, we were still supporting it with extreme care so as not to slow down the business as usual. The other side look at the list of daily activities and slashed down a few mercilessly. The other side didn't hesitate to share the reasoning. "I am here for operational support and not for customer service".

The other side has a point. Operational support is a different game which ensures all the operations are smooth. If there are queries related to data, why should the operation worry about? If the data is being transported from another system and there was a problem with the transporting mechanism, they will do everything to fix this at the earliest. But what is being transferred is not their headache. The data queries are all about what is being transferred.

The more important question is why were we doing these activities if we are not supposed to do it. How do we know what we are supposed to do? Isn't that what roles and responsibilities are for? Have you reviewed this against what you have been doing? The idea is not to limit yourself to doing what is written down or assigned to you. The idea is to know where you stand. Are you doing above what you are supposed to do? This helps in many ways. If you ever wonder why you are not productive, it might be because of these additional responsibilities. If you wonder why your boss is not happy but your customer is happy, it might be because of these additional responsibilities.

The most important thing is to take stock of the situation. So do you know what you are supposed to do? If you do not know, the other side will ask you with a smirk when the guards are down. "Now you realize you are doing more than what is required?". At that point, you might question yourself.

Tags: Musings,Roles,Responsibilities,Operational Support,Customer Support

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Notepad or Notepad?

This really happened. A bunch of us were for an important presentation. The other side had not shown up yet. We utilized the time to get the projector ready and beaming the slides on to the white board. Before the other side showed up, our leader gave out an instruction. It was uttered in a tone coated with stress related irritation told us. "Close all laptops except the one we are using for presentation". A very specific instruction, it was.

The leader had a reason. The open laptops eventually leads to divided attention. We ends up checking our emails furtively. This leads to distraction, culminating an awkward situation. We get caught in the middle of the discussion. Everyone expects us to answer a question which we did not hear. Finally, we humbly request to repeat the question. All this could be avoided if we closed that laptop. This is the positive side of this argument. But there is a glitch.

Of late, most of us are transitioning from taking notes down on a traditional notepad to the various notepad-like software available. What happens then? To delve into this, leave aside the moral conundrum about the murder of trees, climatic changes etc. Isn't it better to centralize our notes on the computer? We are carrying a bag which contain the laptop. Why burden it with pens and books resulting you carrying extra weight? These two arguments alone should be sufficient to justify the switch. So, we can't close that laptop anymore. It has to be stay open.

This switch also poses additional challenges. Right from school, we have been taking notes on a traditional notepad. We have learnt to do it in stealth that the speaker's speech is not interrupted. But for writing down notes using a software, we still have not achieved perfection.

How do you keep listening while you are typing notes looking at a screen?
How do you assure the speaker that we are still with him/her and not responding to another email?
How do you give the appearance of "being here" instead of "doing something"?

Tags: Musings,Notepad,Meetings

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Short cyclic ups and downs

Life has a lot of ups and downs. Never lose hope when you hit a downward curve for there is soon going to be upward swing. Isn't that what we have been told? Never tell this to my friend who is going through a very interesting period. He gives a smirk when you mention about the ups and down. Thankfully, he has not yet resorted to violence on hearing this. Even if he does, I wouldn't blame him.

For the past two weeks, my friend is racing against time to find an assignment. He had three weeks when he embarked on this quest. Everyone around him were assuring this was going to be a cakewalk. So, my friend wasn't overly worried although there was urgency in closing a deal as soon as possible. When he started the first week,  there were many opportunities, some of them showing a lot of promise. Although he pursued all of them with vigor, all the opportunities were lost as the week inched towards Friday. So on Friday evening, he was exactly where he was on Monday morning. In a place where there is a lot of hope but no opportunities.

In the second week, he picked himself from the ground and marched ahead with renewed energy. Luckily for him, there were new opportunities. As luck would have it, even this Friday evening left him at the same stop where he started on Monday morning. No opportunities but a lot of hope. Now for him, it is a race against time. How can I tell him about the ups and downs of his life? We experience these in a span of months or ,if lucky, in a span of years. My friend has been thrown up and down in a matter of two weeks. It is almost like as soon as he reaches the shore, a strong tide sweeps him back into the ocean.

Tags: Musings,Hope,Life

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Movie Review: Pain and Gain

Michael Bay meets Guy Ritchie and Oliver Stone. That is the only way I can sum up this movie. Over the years, we have expected a certain type of movie from Michael Bay. This involves a lot of pyrotechnics, stylized action, superficial characters and wafer-thin plot line. This is where Michael Bay surprises us. Instead of going the usual route, Michael Bay decides to tell us a story of greed involving a group of bodybuilders with characters more developed that in his previous movies and plot twisting and turning every 5 minutes. In the process, he has a movie which has excellent performances, a screenplay quirky enough to be written by Oliver Stone and imagery worthy of Guy Richie.

Daniel Lugo(Mark Wahlberg), Adrian Doorbal(Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle(Dwayne Johnson) works at the Sun Gym in Miami which is owned by John Mese(Rob Corddry). Misguided by self help programs and also the concept of the American dream, Lugo cooks up a plan to kidnap one of the wealthy patrons Victor Kershaw(Tony Shalhoub) for extorting money. Possessing a lot of determination but not having intelligence levels matching with the determination levels, the trio finds it very difficult to get money out of Kershaw. When they finally succeed, it become even more difficult to dispose of Kershaw. Very soon, a private detective Ed Du Bois(Ed Harris) gets interested in the trio and start tracking them.

The movie is violent. Some of the scenes are very graphic. At other times, it is very repulsive to the point of being comical. Throughout the movie, Michael Bay and his team pushes our imagination to make us hate the lead characters. They want to earn money the easy way. The easy way means crime. One crime leads to another. Similarly, hunger for money is satisfied only by having more money which in turn means the lead characters are ready to commit another crime. Since they are bodybuilders, they go by the adage "No Pain, No Gain" which also explains the title. Ironically, there is no gain while there is a lot of pain.

It is interesting to watch the disintegration of the lead characters into senseless criminals despite the mayhem on the screen. This is made possible by the performances of Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie. Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson stands out as the determined yet silly ring leader and the cokehead who is walking the thin line respectively. Tony Shalhoub reminds us of Joe Pesci.

If you can stomach violence, then this is worth watching for the performances and a story of greed which goes awry.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***


Monday, May 5, 2014

Asking for tissues is not recommended

There are many advantages in carrying tissues. The main advantage is the ability to arrest the outbreak of germs. You can use the tissue to cover your mouth while coughing. You can sneeze into the tissue. If you are in a hot and humid place, you can use tissues to wipe out the sweat. Tissues are useful when you are traveling in a group. The group can be your choice of friends or the kind the public transport thrusts upon you. Whatever be your group, it makes the rest of the people a little more comfortable if you are using tissues. 

I say a little more comfortable as I feel achieving 100% comfort factor when someone is sneezing or coughing is impossible. That takes us to the next question. Do you carry a box of tissues while traveling? A box might be too big for you can also get tissues in small packs which can easily slip into your handbag or even the pockets in your jacket. The emphasis here is not the size of the tissue-pack but on the actual deed of carrying it. I ask again. Do you carry a pack of tissues? I recommend you to carry one. This prevents you from asking tissues from your friends. When you compare the hygiene factor with the embarrassment factor, the hygiene factor wins. But I ask you to carry tissues not because of the embarrassment. When you ask for tissues, you may end up with a lot more than what you asked for. You can listen to the conversation between two friends who are travelling together.

Friend Without Tissues(FWT): *with evident frustration* I hate this cold.

Second Friend(SF): *uninterested*

FWT: *continues in the frustrated tone* On top  of it, I have this sneezing spell.

SF: *still uninterested*

FWT: *in a pleading tone* Would you have any tissues with you?

SF: Sorry, don't ask me for tissues...*takes a pause*

FWT: *surprised* What?

SF: I can give you issues but not tissues... for I have a lot of issues to be resolved. Is that fine with you?

Sometimes, it is easier to carry the tissues.

Tags: Musings,Tissues,Hygiene,Embarrassment

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Pathfinder to Scotland

Traveling is very relaxing. Even if you have to drive for 9 hours to reach your destination. Even if you are in a SUV designed for 7 people. Even if you thrown from one side to other inside the vehicle while speeding on the winding roads. All this makes sense when your destination is a remote village in Scotland. The land which can be aptly termed rustic beauty. The land where they speak English differently which makes me suspect the locals are eating while talking. As of now, Scotland is still part of UK. So, this is the right time for me to visit as I don't need another visa on my passport to visit. This may change in the future.

The sun has long withdrawn when we reached Scotland. So a good part of our journey was in the darkness. The roads are interesting when you are riding shotgun. For the driver, it requires a lot of attention. There are no lights on the road. So you have to depend on the headlights of the vehicle. Luckily, our choice of vehicle had powerful lights. Some parts of the road did not have a clear demarcation between the right and the left. So the driver has to exercise his judgement on how much of the road can be taken by his vehicle. On the positive side, traffic is scant. There are speed cameras like the counties have got a major discount of these equipment! Then there are roads with no shoulders and rock walls on one side. That is more scarier if you are driving a vehicle you are not accustomed to.

Traveling also makes me compare the new place with the ones which I have already visited. The rock walls and absence of demarcation reminds me of the drive to Manali. This is equally beautiful and equally exciting or scary depending on which angle you are looking at. These are some of the similarities you could draw. In fact, no two places are the same in the world. Isn't the amazing thing about nature? Like life, instead of yearning for the other thing or the near-perfect thing, we should just kick back and enjoy what we experience right now. If it brings a whiff of nostalgia, all the better. The key is not to brood about it. Isn't it?

Tags: Travel,Scotland,Pathfinder


Thursday, May 1, 2014

What you envision while you order may not be what you get

When you choose a bottle of wine in a restaurant, it is presented to you in great style. You can examine the bottle before it is opened. After opening the bottle, you test drive the wine by sipping the first offering. At this point, you can sent the bottle back if you do not like it. Although I have never rejected a bottle, I am sure there are many people who have had this experience. Have you wondered what happens when we order food in a restaurant? We are in the restaurant primarily for the food and not for the wine. 

Let's examine the same scene with respect to food. We take a long time to examine and understand the menu. Thankfully, some of the menus have a brief description about the dish. We may consult the waiter for a clearer explanation on how a certain dish is made. Then we make a decision and wait for the food. The food, when it arrives, in most cases is laid out artistically on the plate. The waiter retires after serving the food who will come back a few minutes later to check if you are enjoying the meal. 

Can you tell me the fundamental difference here as compared to our experience with the wine? There is no way for me to send the food back. Of course, I can send it back to cook the dish for a little more time. So if a steak is rare, then I can make it medium rare. But there is no guarantee that you are getting what you thought you are getting after reading the menu and consulting the waiter. Aren't we taking a bigger risk when we order food? In the case of wine, we can see the bottle of wine which essentially gives us an additional checkpoint to reverse our initial decision. Is this why ordering food in a restaurant is considered as an adventure? Is this why foodies are called adventurers? 

We have no clue what we are getting when we order food. Some of the restaurants display a professionally taken picture of food on their menu. What looks good on the picture might not be taste as well on your palate. Of course, the picture helps. A couple of weeks back, I was at a restaurant which features food from various parts of Asia. There was a picture of the food. But it tasted a whole lot of tamarind when it arrived. There was no way of finding this from the picture. Finally, I switched dishes with my friend because I am okay with tamarind while my friend was not. Don't look at me like that. I like "different" things.

Call me less adventurous. This is exactly why I liked concept I found in a "military" hotel concept in the Nugambakkam area in Chennai. I was in the area a decade back. "Military" hotel means a restaurant which serves meat in the local lingo. They place the various offerings in small bowls on a large tray. There is no traditional menu but a big black board on the wall displaying all the items available. In addition, they take the tray to the table in order for their clientele to have a first look at what they are getting. After this point, there is very little that can go wrong.

Tags: Musings,Food,Restaurant,Adventure

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