Friday, July 3, 2015

Different perspectives

One of the coolest things with my current Television channel subscription is – I get access to news channels from various countries. Besides the local news channel (CNA – Channel News Asia), I have access to the following:

  1. Sky News – UK
  2. CCTV News – China
  3. NHK World TV – Japan
  4. France 24 – France
  5. Deutsche Welle – Germany
  6. Russia Today – Russia
  7. FOX News Channel – USA
  8. CNN International
  9. HLN – USA
  10. Bloomberg Television
  11. CNBC Asia
  12. Times Now – India

The cool part of having such access is – for contentious international topics, I get to see the viewpoint of multiple parties. And that’s where it really changes your perspective about international news. I have learnt to be more sceptical, and I tend to no longer take news at its face value.

For e.g. – The way the disputes in Ukraine or the conflict in the Middle-east are covered by American news channels are far different than the way they are covered by Russia Today. Or the Asian border disputes as covered by CCTV as compared to NHK are vastly different. You get to really listen to everyone’s point of view and makes you more tolerant.

I think for everyone to have a peaceful co-existence it is important that news from different regions (or from neighbouring countries) is broadcast.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Meeting room names

In my profession, I get to visit and meet a lot of customers. And most of these meetings happen in “Meeting rooms”. I have noticed that meeting rooms have a character which somehow reflects the culture of the organization.

If they are flowers, fruits, trees, plants, rivers etc. the organization turns out to be (or at least pretends to be environmentally friendly). If they got names like – MR1, 2, 3 etc then you can be rest assured that it’s an engineering firm run by a strict Engineer.

My company has the names of the islands around Singapore as it’s meeting room names – Pedra Branca, St John’s island etc. And that’s because my CEO is an avid sailor.

Anyway, the funniest place that I ever went to was an organization that had famous movie names as their meeting rooms – “Sound of Music”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” etc. I attended a huge argument laden, animated meeting in which I was a mute spectator while my sales guys defended our stance against a very rude and nasty customer. After I came out of the meeting room, I casually glanced at the meeting room name which said – “The good the bad and the ugly”.

The good, the bad and the ugly theme

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I’m back

Yeah. If there is one thing I have learned from Arnold Swaziland (sorry, can’t ever spell or say his last name without making him sound like a Maharashtrian) is to say “I’ll be back” in style.

I’ll be back

So yeah, I disappeared for more than 1.5 months. What was I doing? Well, besides being generally lethargic, wasting my time on the internet and procrastinating I did 1 big thing. I went through a part-time course in “Statistical Analysis for Business”. TL;DR – I did a crash course in data analysis.

So what did I learn? Well, I learnt enough to know that – I still have a long way to go to use statistics in business analytics and to not trust all those predictive stats and analysis that are blatantly thrown in my face.

If you have been checking my blog often, thank you for your patience. I shall be back to my old routine.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Stupid Walk

Cars in Singapore are prohibitively expensive. To control traffic congestion on the tiny island, the Government runs a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) scheme which effectively discourages poor people (like me) from owning cars on the island. The rational is to control pollution and traffic. The COE is auctioned monthly and let’s you own a car for 10 years with that certificate. To give you an idea, as of this blog post writing the value of COE is $67,601 for cars below 1600cc. The irony now is – people who can afford to buy the COE are so rich that the most commonly bought cars in Singapore are – Lexus, Mercedes and BMW. To be precise – the best-selling car in 2014 was the Mercedes Benz E-Class.

Fast & Furious stars react to car prices in Singapore

The public transport however is extremely well developed (amongst the best in the world) and walking is highly encouraged. There are pedestrian walkways everywhere. You got travellators, escalators and covered walkways to shelter you from the extreme weather. You can practically walk from one end of the island to another (because there are pavements and pedestrian walkways absolutely everywhere!).

My Fitbit says that I have walked a little over a 4700 km in the last 1.8 years that I have had it. Considering that I never ever run, that’s a feat in itself. I can partially credit it to the lack of private transport and mostly to my love for walking aimlessly.

Over the period of my lifetime I have done some extremely stupid walks. Places where I should have taken some means of transport, but I misjudged the distance and ended up walking a lot! Anyway, the height of stupidity is that – I have accidentally walked the entire length of 2 airports in Singapore looking for a bus stop where there was none.

I always thought that airport runways are just over a km long. But once after I walked the entire length of Changi airport in the dead of a night, I checked that the pure runway is 4.0 km and with the airport and it’s premises, my walk was over 6 km (and mind you, that area is pretty deserted – no body expects people to walk near an airport unless you are into plane spotting). And like I discovered there are no buses in the dead of the night servicing insane people walking near an airport.

Changi Airport Length

Anyway, even after having learnt my lesson from my Changi walking incident, I ended up walking the length of another airport accidentally last week. This time luckily though, it was a private aircraft runway – Seletar Airport (so much shorter!). I ended up doing just over 3km.


I have decided never to start walking when I see big planes landing or taking off over my head. That just means that their is an airport somewhere near and there is no chance that I can get public transport!

Sunday, April 26, 2015


74.3% of Singapore’s population is of Chinese origin. My observation in general with the Chinese race has been that – the men are blessed with minimal to no facial hair (Obviously I am generalizing).

Which means, most men look clean shaven and probably spend no time grooming facial hair (known as shaving). No wonder they are so productive. These men save an average of 15 minutes everyday! During my Movember challenge, I implored some of my colleagues to join me. But they argued that to get a moustache, they would need a year or more. A month was an impossible target to get anything on their upper lips.

Now, if there are not many consumers for shaving products then naturally, you hardly find any good products on the super-market aisle. Every time I run out of my shaving cream, I dearly miss Indian malls. Out here all I see is one brand and one type of cream. And that too looks like it has been lying around on the aisle for ages desperately waiting for an owner!

With the amazing hair growing capacity of the average Indian male, we have a plethora of options for shaving foams and creams back home. Besides the magical properties, we have creams for every conceivable skin type – sensitive, oily, rough, dry and the list goes on. Then there are moisturisers, skin-softeners, whiteners and what not. Oh I so dearly miss my shaving creams!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Chewing Gum

Singapore gets a lot of flak in international media for its draconian ban on chewing gums. Chewing Gums in Singapore have been banned since 1992. There is an interesting Wikipedia article about the ban. The gist being – Gums are expensive to clean and they cause a lot of nuisance if they are stuck in public properties – like train door sensors, public-transport seats or even on elevator buttons. The logical thing the Government did back then was – just ban the gums.

Any big metropolitan city that I have been to, one thing I have distinctly noticed on the pavements always is – stuck chewing gums. These are remarkably absent in Singapore. The cost of cleaning one such stuck gum is approximated to around 3 SGD. And then in the public restrooms in these cities, I have occasionally seen a lone chewing gum happily dancing away in a urinal for what might seem like ages. And the gum is not biodegradable. So the freedom of having chewing gums is associated with a big cost for the city to clean the gum.

Chewing gum on Sidewalk

Since I had nothing much to do on the weekend, I actually spent sometime surfing YouTube for “chewing gum cleaning machines”, and the internet sure didn’t disappoint me. That does look like a lot of effort (and $$)

High-pressure Dry-ice blasting of Chewing Gums

Anyway, to conclude, if you eat chewing gums, please be extra careful to dispose them off in the right places (rubbish chutes) and prevent causing litter that is expensive and unsightly. That’s my community service message for the day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Impulse buying

I belong to the community of electronics buyers that do their complete and thorough research before buying anything. It could be as stupid as a USB drive or something as complicated as a Computer. I spend days researching, reading reviews and going through articles on the internet to really understand what I am getting into. Most of the times, the research is not justified for the value I get and many times it painfully slows down the buying process.

Singapore has 4 IT shows a year. IT shows are like electronics carnivals where a set of electronic retailers come to an exhibition hall and setup temporary stalls to sell their stuff. Sometimes there are discounts but most of the times you just collect freebies that you don’t want. I have religiously been to these quarterly events for as long as I have been here. Though I regularly go to these  exhibitions, I have hardly bought anything without knowing about it before. This time however was an exception.

I succumbed to impulse buying and bought a shiny and expensive new toy. A Bluetooth speaker. A Creative SBS Roar 2. To be fair, I am really happy with my buy. But I was not really looking for a Bluetooth speaker and I hadn’t researched anything when I bought it.

Creative SBS Roar 2

Now, I have generally been a big Creative Technologies fan. So every IT show, I make it a point to stop by their booth. This time, I heard a passionate sales guy selling the SBS Roar 2. He was so damn convincing and so sincere that I made an impulse decision then and there to buy the speakers. I am amazed by his selling skills and continue to be surprised by my gullibility.

Anyway, now I am loving the speaker and it is definitely worth the price that I paid. I am also listening to my music collection that much more often now (and not just stuck to the radio).

Thursday, April 2, 2015


The word drifting reminds me of this car racing game I played more than a decade ago – Need for Speed. I spent many a weekends during my engineering days trying hard to complete the “Factory Driver” levels in NFS Porsche Unleashed. And that is where I perfected the art of drifting a Porsche using my keyboard arrow keys.

Anyways, this blog post has nothing to do with that drifting. So read on. Though Singapore is a small country it is blessed with a whole lot of reservoirs. I had a chance to Kayak in one of them a few weeks ago. Now, mind you, my physical fitness level is embarrassingly bad. And any kind of Kayaking requires serious upper body strength to move your kayak in the direction desired.

While I have kayaked in the ocean and in rivers before, I was totally unprepared to kayak in a reservoir (or so I figured out!). So as I set out, I set myself a target to go to the other end of the reservoir and make my way back. What I didn’t notice was that there was a steady flow of water perpendicular to my direction and while I was inching forward by my paddling, I was also drifting away (without me noticing). After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the other end of the reservoir. And when I turned around to get back to the starting point, I gasped in horror as I couldn’t see it anymore. That’s the time when I realized that I had badly drifted. Anyway. while it was sunny, I had enough water and a life jacket to survive. Yeah no chance of a cast away. So I slowly and steadily started my herculean task of paddling my way back.

Luckily, the operators realized that I was no where in sight and having known my physical capabilities assumed that I had drifted. So a knight in shining armour came in a power boat and tied my kayak to his boat and dragged me back. I might just have set a world record for the fastest kayak ever. I am sure kayaks don't get dragged this way unless an incapable idiot is paddling them.

Anyway, long story short, I had an experience of a lifetime riding behind the power boat with a kayak. I held my paddle high up above my head and came back to the shore like a hero.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

50 shades of brown

Last 2 months have been quite fun for me in terms of outdoor activities that I could do on weekends. My normal weekends are quite lazy with getting up late, browsing worthlessly on social media and watching funny YouTube videos. This follows the cleaning, washing and mundane house keeping stuff.

However as luck would have it, since first weekend of February I have been going out in the sun almost every weekend. So it has been – exploring ancient ruins, trekking, swimming, kayaking, laying around on a beach and just generally being in the sun.

Depending on the clothes that I wore at that time, I have effectively had levels of tan on my body. For e.g. I did a weekend with trousers followed by shorts, then I have “darker tan lines” indicating the place where the trouser ended, then lighter ones with the place where my short ended on the legs. The more I stay outdoors the stronger the original tan becomes.

While legs and hands with these shades can be ignored, I have some funny tan lines on my face based on the cap that I wore and swimming goggles on subsequent weekends. Effectively, now I have the privilege of having multiple shades to show off, than just one brown. I wonder if Indian fairness creams can help me this time!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The fortune teller

Had a rather weird encounter with a stranger last week. Got approached by an Indian guy on the street asking me for directions to a random place in Singapore. It was far away so I gave him directions to the nearest public transport, but he insisted he wanted to walk there! So with my amazing directing skills, I gave him a very comprehensive idea of how to walk down to that place using the compass as a reference! (almost 2 KMs away).

After my long rant (which I could figure he was least interested!) he suddenly changed his topic. He said by talking to me he knew that I was unhappy at work. He said that I deserved more in life than what I had got and I was very compassionate etc. Then he gave a few other pearls of wisdom about me and then said that he could “help” me make my life better if I went for his paid consultation. He my dear friends, turned out to be a fortune teller.

Now, as far as his skills are concerned, he might be extremely good at his profession, or he could be very good at statistics. I mean, a guy my age, size and nationality helping a complete random stranger on the street would have certain set of characteristics that any person can easily predict, without necessarily knowing anything about me. And then there are some general human tendencies like – everyone thinks they are paid less than they deserve or that their job is tough and not that easily replaceable etc.

Anyway, what he failed miserably at predicting was my general fear of horoscopes. So as far as identifying target customers was concerned, he could totally not predict. I politely said no, and without giving any more directions walked away from him! So much for helping strangers on the road.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Economic impact of obesity

Came across an interesting paper published by the Mckinsey Global institute titled “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis”. It makes for a very good read on the economic impact of obesity on the world! Some alarming statistics – 30% of the world is now either overweight or obese that too by the lenient WHO standards of having a BMI of 25 or higher! (If you follow the stricter standards of Singapore’s Health promotion board then for Asians, they classify BMI above 23 to be overweight already. That will bring up the number quite a bit!)

The economic impact of world obesity is now estimated to be 2.0 Trillion USD per annum. The estimate is based on loss of economic productivity, costs to healthcare systems and investment required to mitigate the impact of obesity.

Mckinsey Global Institute - Overcoming obesity

It is actually at par with the other social evils (like Wars and Terrorism) that get a lot of media coverage. I am appalled, amazed and amused because whenever I read such reports, I think of the future as shown in Wall-E the Pixar movie. I have embedded the clip for your viewing pleasure. When I saw it for the first time, rather than finding it funny, I felt it was more of what the future is really going to be!

Wall-E Obese People

Another interesting topic is that it details an exhaustive list of 74 different types of interventions in 18 categories such as – Healthy meals, Labelling, Media restrictions, Parental education, Portion control, Public-health campaigns etc. that can help control the rise of obesity. However, the paper also states that it requires multiple sets of interventions to be simultaneously applied to help have an effect. As someone who has actively struggled with weight control all my life, I can identify with most of the interventions.

So if you are bored (or interested) I highly recommend reading the paper (or atleast the executive summary). And finally, if it got you scared, then I would love to share this long but amazingly written article about food by Michael Pollan titled “Unhappy Meals” (written more than 8 years ago, but still my favourite read for nutrition and portion control!).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Naming convention

Anyone who has been to a coffee shop and given your name to the barista there knows exactly what I am talking about. They never spell your names right. I thought the baristas got my name wrong because I am an Indian and Girish is not really that common a name like let’s say Rahul.

But then after having coffee with dozens of other people with even simple sounding English names being horribly misspelt, I kinda figured that it’s like a “ritual” for them to get back at you. In one Starbucks I kinda got friendly with the barista and one fine day asked him why can’t he get my name correct. To this he gave a friendly suggestion that they don’t care what my name is as long as I can be uniquely identified amongst the orders. So he suggested I use “Gary” instead. It kinda made sense so the next time when I went around I told him I am “Gary”, only to have “Curry” written on my cup. Anyway, that’s the last time I used “Gary” and thought it was better to have my real name misspelt.

Recently I came across this gem of a video which has a hilarious take on this misspelling problem. Give it a look.

Starbucks Naming Convention

And today I had the fortune to go Starbucks twice and this is what I got:

Morning Name        Evening Name

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Internet Detox

So I had to move houses again. I threw away a boat load of stuff and realized that I have become an hoarder. Before it gets out of hand, I decided to seek expert advice (read a book) and now am actively trying to live a frugal lifestyle. It’s difficult and I don’t know when I might just cave in to some fickle temptation again.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

Anyway, the reason I disappeared for so long was not my moving or frugal living fad. It was because I was out of access to internet at home for close to a month. My expert brain miscalculated my contract terms and conditions and effectively locked myself off my service provider’s contract. Now all is well and I am back to the big bad online world.

In the last few weeks I realized that without internet at home, I actually have about 3-4 hours every night where I can do something productive than look at other people’s wedding pictures, baby pictures, travel pictures or political opinion on Facebook. I can actually get things done (like arrange stuff, move stuff, read stuff, meet real flesh and blood people) in the real physical world. The absence of internet helped me to rearrange stuff in my new place fairly fast and I could actually also catch-up on some of my long pending reading.

Anyway, now I got internet back again at home (this time it’s Fibre Broadband). That means, I will no longer have time (cause I will be slacking and stalking and feeling miserable on Facebook). That also reminds me I haven’t seen YouTube for a while. So I signoff, and start procrastinating again.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Normal

All my life, I have had weird hobbies (e.g. Blogging), and weird way of doing things (e.g. Insistence on seeing museums). Many of my acquaintances classified me as “different” from them. Which I  believe was their sweet way of saying – “You aren't like us. You aren't normal!”. The more people I meet the more I realize that there are two distinct set of “people” in the world. The people that think I am normal, and others that think I am not.

As I ruminated further I realized that we are self-centred egoistic homo-sapiens. Whoever is like us is normal. Whoever is different from us is abnormal. Period.

So if you love to dance and party late into the night and drink till your heart’s content then all other people doing the same are normal people (and the ones sleeping cosily in their bed are abnormal). If you love to read fictional books and are a bibliophile then everyone else doing the same is normal. If you love seeing museums when you travel, everyone else who does the same is normal and if you think the sole purpose of traveling is to stand at touristic places and taking pictures – then people who do that are normal.

My conclusion is – for every person out there, there is a group of people who are similar to them. If you find a group that has some major personality traits similar to yours then you become friends. If not, then you “can’t get along with them”. And that my dear friend – is social life simplified. Now stop whining and go party while I sleep peacefully. If you wanna have early morning breakfast with me then you are normal!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Guide to boarding a flight

Note - This is like a dummies’ guide to navigate an airport to board a plane. For everyone of you this is completely redundant and boring. Please skip reading this post. I am putting it up cause I promised someone I would do this guide.

In this blog post we will go through boarding a random aircraft (UA049) at Mumbai International Airport (CSIA) to go to Newark.

Any Airport can be divided into the following parts (for passengers):

  1. Terminal
  2. Arrival
  3. Departure
  4. Departure Door
  5. Check-in Zone
  6. Check-in Counter
  7. Security
  8. Immigration
  9. Boarding Gate

Terminal - The Mumbai Airport as of 2015 has only one terminal T2. So there is nothing to worry about going to the wrong terminal anymore. The Taxi driver should take you to T2 and to the “Departure area” if you ask him to take you to the international airport. Departures are generally on the higher floor (so the taxi takes a bridge and drops you off).

Departure Door - In Mumbai, Departure taxi drop-off area has several doors (each door for a set of airline companies). The doors are written on the right side of the bridge as you approach the taxi drop-off area. However all doors lead to the same departure hall so the only advantage in getting off at the right door is – you have to walk less.

For our UA049 flight on the day I took pictures, it was Door 5.

Door at the Departure Drop-off Area

Once you enter from the door, first look for a Television showing “Departures” or “Departing Flights”. The flights are always listed in the ascending order of their scheduled departure time (even if the flight is delayed, its actual scheduled time is used for display).

All Internation Departure Details

Check-In Zone - Here we can see that UA049 which is scheduled to leave at 00:10 is listed along with the Zone where you have to go Check-in and get your boarding pass. The Zone is “J” in the picture.

Locate Flight by following the Departure time

Check-in Counter - Once you go inside the door and go towards the zone, you can see another Television listing the “Counter” for your flight. There are numerous counters in each zone, and you have to go to the right counter to get your boarding pass.

Departure Zone

Counter Details in Departure Zone

At the counter, give your ticket printout and passport, and the attendant should provide you with a boarding pass, an Immigration Form and your passport. The boarding pass will show your seat number and gate number and also your boarding time. Make sure to collect bag tags for all your carry-on baggage. Purses, and pouches are counted as separate carry-on items by the airport security. All your Check-in baggage will be taken away and checked-in to the flight here.

Directions to Immigration and Security Check

Security - After this, go in the general direction of “Immigration” and “Security” boards. In Mumbai you go through Security first followed by Immigration.

International Departures

At security make sure that all your carry-on luggage has the security stamps (stamped by the airport security personnel). Then proceed to Immigration.

Immigration - Here you have to submit the form that you got with your ticket and the officer will stamp your passport and boarding pass. I haven’t taken any pictures of the Security area cause I didn’t wish to cause any false suspicions.

Immigration Entrance

Gate - After you are done with Immigration, there will be Television displays again showing Flights listed in ascending order of their scheduled departure time, followed by the Gates at which they will be departing. This information is also available on the boarding pass. But sometimes the Gate might change after the boarding pass is issued, so these displays are the best source of latest information. They also indicate what is the current status at the Gate.

Flight Gate Details and Status

Our flight UA049 can be seen to be departing at Gate 86A. Follow general board directions to 80-90 Gates.

Signs at the Gate

There after follow directions to Gate 86A. And once you reach there, wait for announcements for the actual boarding to start.

Gate 86A

Bon Voyage. Mumbai Airport is amazingly beautiful and you can spend hours looking at all the local art that is promoted there.


I came back from a short trip to India. Nothing much I did except for the fact that I had a lot of butter chicken. I have decided to stop eating it for a while (till I recover from the excess!).

Anyway, this post is not about the chicken. I noticed that India is undergoing a massive revolution in ecommerce. Everything you can think of, can be bought online. And there are several competing online retailers for the same product category. I guess if you are in ecommerce, India is the best place to be. I can already safely predict that over the next decade, we will have a lot more joining the race, and then we will go through a massive round of bankruptcies and acquisitions leaving 3-4 ecommerce vendors dominating the market.

But anyway, the most affected by any ecommerce boom are always the brick and mortar retailers. The guys with showrooms where you can “touch and feel” the product before you buy. And as far as I understand, if there is one industry resilient to ecommerce – it is the apparel and clothing industry. People (in general) still love to “wear” and see their clothes before buying.

And here comes the irony. I tried to go buy myself a couple of formal shirts and realized that all the brick and mortar retailers I went to, have a new policy of “no-trial” of the shirts that you are gonna buy. So let’s say you wish to buy a shirt size 40 style “X” then they have something called generic trial shirts for that size. You are supposed to wear them and if satisfied, pick your desired shirt and meekly leave the shop. No trying.

I am amused and appalled by this policy. It’s like not using your “only” competitive advantage and giving your customers to the ecommerce retailers on a platter. If you don’t even let me try the shirt I wanna buy, why do I even buy at a brick and mortar store? I might as well buy it online and get it delivered home.

I can understand that shops are trying to cut costs of “repackaging” (I still don’t get why they have to pack the shirts for sale. They can just hang them on hangers for people to try before buying). I also understand that since India is a super massive market any damage of any idiotic policy will take years to have effect. But I find this suicidal to say the least.

I tried to be a concerned customer (or an idiot – the way you like to see it) and put this entire monologue as a comment in the “Suggestions box” of a shirt retailer that I patronized for last 10 years. I am pretty confident my comment either went to the trash bin the next day or was ignored in the hierarchy of the shop management.