Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bye bye 2nd Decade

So today we celebrate the last day of the end of the second decade of the 21st century. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I took a day off from my hectic office routine, went to a coffee shop overlooking the Marina Bay Sands and am writing this special blog post to reflect on it. This is what I am staring at - right this moment:

So here I am, continuing on my tradition of reflecting on the year before and giving you ideas for resolutions for the next year.  2019 was a year of awakening for me. I sort of realized that work can't be the focus of my life. I need to slow down and smell the coffee (figuratively). I should pause every now and then and look back and celebrate my successes (however small or insignificant they are) and focus on "acknowledging" happiness whenever it happens. Mid-life crisis continues to bother me. Aging is a continuous process and staying healthy now takes priority. As for my resolutions - I managed to read yet another 12 books in the year, and managed to get a bit more fitter - fastest 5K, longest run, did my first spartan race and exercised a bunch of muscle groups in my body that I didn't even know existed!

As for the decade, this one has been by far the most revolutionary decade in my personal life. A lot of major events happened this decade. If you are in my age group, I guess it has been your case as well (statistically the decade between the late 20s to late 30s is the one in which a lot of "changes" happen for most of us anyway - till we more or less "settle" down).

Thank you so much for being a part of my journey. I wish you a very happy 2020 and I hope your next decade is amazing!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Annular Solar Eclipse

So I finally got to see a Solar Eclipse. Not a total, but an annular (ring). Weather gave way and I managed to catch the exact fleeting moment (less than 2 minutes) when the "ring of fire" appeared. Singapore was expected to have a cloudy weather with chances of thunderstorm, but luckily, clouds cleared long enough for all of us to experience this amazing natural phenomenon.

At the end of the second decade of the 20th Century, we (as a human race) are more or less accustomed to everything of entertainment value (concerts, movies, sports events etc.) to happen flawlessly. We hardly see any natural phenomenon, so the concept of "chance" or the possibility of not being able to see it has become very remote. So while we started seeing the solar eclipse almost right since the partial eclipse began (at around 11:30 AM local time), I was not sure whether the clouds would cooperate and let us see the maximum eclipse (at around 01:22 PM local time). Luckily everything went smoothly and the clouds decided to cover the sun only after the maximum eclipse was over.

I had purchased a "Solar Viewer", the prices of which were obviously jacked up for the event and for a change I managed to see the eclipse (through the viewer) without getting affected by mobile phones, cameras etc. Just a pure experience without any social media or photo taking frenzy.

The last time I saw something of this sorts was the Lunar Eclipse in 2017 over Europe. But it was a partial eclipse, and I could not wait to see the maximum because I had meetings the next day morning and had to go sleep. I am glad I could see this solar eclipse completely and without much hassle. I am not sure if I will ever see another one.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The CC Mystery

After having spent more than 15 years in the work place and sending more than a hundred thousand emails, I believe I have more or less figured out the CC mystery in emails. Before I actually explain it to you, I think we all need a history lesson:

CC stands for carbon copy. It comes from the days when letters were hand-written or type-written and if multiple copies were required we put something called as a "carbon paper" behind the original letter to "copy" text over to sheets of paper behind the main paper. As a courtesy, the original paper would have a CC: line at the bottom indicating who else received the letter other than the person to whom it was addressed to. I saw my dad write business letters at home sometimes and the carbon paper happens to be a memory of my childhood. Since I started working, emails had already taken over as a means of corporate communication. So I never really had the pleasure of writing hand-written or type-written business letters. For the kids amongst us, this is how the carbon papers looked like:

Carbon Paper

Anyway, CCs in email began as an innocuous relic of the past for me. But now they have taken monstrous, political, and psychological forms of harassment. So here is a brief guide to interpreting CCs in your email.

  • If you receive an email with no CC:

The sender is your friend, colleague or a business partner that trusts you can do your job. They are getting things done on their side, and do not care about letting anyone else know about it

  • If you receive an email with your boss in CC:

The sender thinks you are incapable of responding without nudging your boss. The sender thinks that you are scared of your boss, or worst they are playing power games. In either case, ignore such emails till - either they follow-up or your boss wakes up from his slumber and happens to read that email - or even better - the sender calls your boss and complains that you have not responded yet

  • If you receive an email with the sender's boss in CC:

The sender needs to show their boss that they are working diligently, are keeping the boss "informed", or are worried that if they don't mark the boss, the boss won't know that they are working on. Respond immediately to such emails (if you can) and praise the sender incessantly for the job they are doing. They might score a raise, a promotion or a pat on the back (if the boss happens to read the email). You will make someone's day and they will be thankful to you for that.

  • If you receive an email with random people in CC:

The sender likes to "inform" and "keep in the loop" a lot of people who have nothing better to do. Or worst still it is a politically charged organization where multiple people's ego needs to be stroked and kept happy.

Anyway, jokes apart, I think too much email is the number one cause of anxiety and distraction for me. Coupled with instant messengers, emails are responsible for a lot of lost productivity. As we complete 2 decades in the 21st century, I firmly believe that it is easiest to work on shared documents and work collaboratively, and if you need to get things done, just call the person and talk!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Bowl of Shame

Losing weight and trying to be fit has been a long journey for me. I became somewhat  serious in 2012 and saw some significant weight loss that year. Subsequently I tried to maintain a healthy diet and caught up on some exercising consistently for a few years. My best year in terms of weight was 2015 after which I started slacking. Last 2 years have been terrible and I am almost back to where I started off. My entire weight chart now looks like a bowl, a bowl of shame!

My weight loss story is just like a million other stories you have heard before. People diet, lose weight and then gain back with a vengeance much more than they had lost. The problem really is - weight loss is a journey - not a destination. You should never really stop controlling what you eat unless you are blessed with a crazy awesome metabolism. And you never stop exercising and you never cave-in to temptation (other than the occasional celebration).

I can blame my age (slowing metabolism), my travel (have to eat whatever I get at the destination), my stress (eat comfort food), but the problem remains - I have no self-control. It reminds me of this witty meme that I came across on Reddit a while ago:

I need to lose weight. I know how to lose weight, but I don't wanna do the things that I need to do to lose the weight, but I still wanna lose weight.
You get me? - Anonymous meme read on Reddit
So if you are setting resolutions for the new year for weight loss, please note that they should be your resolutions for "rest of my life".

Sunday, December 1, 2019

U2 - The Joshua Tree Tour

And it finally happened. I managed to see my most favorite band of all times live in concert. Two hours of absolutely electrifying music with amazing performances by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. They did what they do best!

I was so looking forward to this concert and so afraid that I might not be able to attend that when it actually happened, it was so surreal for me. Getting concert tickets in Singapore for hot bands is not easy. Tickets get sold out within a matter of minutes once they are open for booking online. And since U2 is the highest grossing band of all times, I had my doubts that I would be even able to book the tickets. To err on the side of caution, I actually became a paid member of the U2 fan-club just because they were offering ticket booking a day early for the fan-club members.

So here I am, a day later, reliving the experience of a lifetime! Grew up with U2, so the band has been the biggest influence on my musical taste. It's amazing that they have been around for 40+ years and still have such a massive fan following. I am glad that they finally decided to come to Asia to perform live. I know that they will also perform in India, in Mumbai, on the grounds of my Engineering college, the place where I sort of heard them first and fell in love with.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Handpan Music

My office is a noisy place. We have open sitting, with everyone constantly talking to each other or on the phone almost all the time. This creates a very difficult environment for me to concentrate and do my work (when I myself am not talking or presenting). I tried experimenting with various kind of background music over the years to cut off the noise without causing more distraction. (Like I discovered you can't listen to songs with words in it and work - you end up listening to the words!).

A few months ago while we were in Tokyo, we heard this guy - Takao Minemoto busking at the train station in Shibuya. We were instantly mesmerized and fell in love with the instrument (and purchased his album then and there! (something I rarely have done with buskers). Since then, I have been exploring the wonder world of Handpan music on YouTube.

My current understanding of Handpan (mostly derived from Wikipedia) is - it is a derivative of an instrument called Hang made by a German company. Its sound is a mixture of sounds that some of the following instruments produce -  Trinidadian steelpan, Indian ghatam, Thai gong and Indonesian Gamelan.

Anyway for the musical bumpkin that I am handpan music is extremely soothing and something that I can listen to anytime to calm my nerves and focus on whatever task I am doing then. If you have never experienced, I would highly recommend you to go listen to it on YouTube now.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Mind over matter

Had the chance to volunteer for "Let's take a walk Singapore" yesterday. It's a long distance walking race with participants choosing to walk 20 KM, 50 KM, 100 KM or a grueling 150 KM. I had the privilege of checking in the 100 KM walkers at approximately their 64 KM mark and the 150 KM walkers at their 110 KM+ mark.

This race is not big, and it is a charity event. So neither does it have much media coverage nor does it have a huge prize money. What this means is that most participants are ordinary people (not athletes). The competitors are like you and me, with a day job, participating for fun and testing their endurance.

Most ultra long distance endurance athletes that I have spoken to tell me this - the muscle groups in the leg that we use for walking are slightly different than running. And long distance walking is way more difficult than long distance running because of the added element of time involved.

Being at a checkpoint where most participants had walked for more than 24 hours before reaching there was a surreal experience for me. These were ordinary human beings with extraordinary will-power. Imagine this. They all had walked a full-day or more under the grueling Singapore Sun. Most were walking alone with no company and only their sheer determination pushing them along. Almost every walker had few blisters on their feet and had blood stained socks. While we as volunteers tried our best to cheer them up and provide whatever basic first aid we had, the people pushed on with their own self-determination.

This event will go down my memory lane as an unforgettable evidence of how ordinary people like you and me can achieve extraordinary things in life.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Almighty Guarantee

So I have had an Osprey day-pack. It's awesome. Period. Can't ask more from a backpack. It has been with us everywhere we have ever been solo or together. So since we bought the bag, it has been to more places than we individually have ever been. It's been 5+ years now of owning the bag, and trust me when I tell you it has been through a lot of abuse. Two instances of crazy abuse are:
  1. Once I managed to melt an entire bar of a Macadamia nut milk chocolate inside the bag. It was a sticky gooey mess with ants partying, but I washed it and the bag turned out to look brand new
  2. We took it into the sulfur fumed crater of the Ijen mountain and covered ourselves and the bag with crazy sulfur fumes. I threw away my clothes and my shoes, but the Osprey survived and after washing a few times it even lost its pungent sulfur smell
Ijen Crater within the Sulfur Fumes

Naturally after using it for so long I was expecting something to give way. A month ago the "zipper holders" broke. I was thinking now it's time for the backpack to retire. However Osprey gives this "almighty guarantee" which sort of says that Osprey would fix any backpack however old it is for a defect. I was skeptical at first, cause zipper holders are made of plastic and these things eventually do wear out even if there is no defect.

So I was pleasantly surprised that Osprey, replaced all 3 of my zip holders for free no questions asked. Now I have a worn-out Osprey with new zip loops ready for my next adventure! Another reason why my next backpack would again be an Osprey.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Corporate Humanity

A few weeks ago I twisted and hurt my ankle quite bad. I had a business trip lined up right after that fateful day, and I had to cancel it. I had non-refundable tickets so I had given hopes of getting any refunds at all.

Just to try my luck, I wrote to the hotel and to the airline indicating that I am unable to fly because of my medical condition and attached my doctor's medical certificate. I am pleasantly surprised that both of them made an exception, and refunded my non-refundable reservations without any penalties. They were pleasant, responsive and did it without any administrative delays/ hassles to me.

I am amazed and my faith in humanity is restored again. I am glad that there are still human beings on the other side making such decisions (and delighting customers). It's not just an AI engine managing everything!

Thank you Hilton and thank you Air China for being nice to me. I am not a special (read gold/elite/platinum etc.) customer of either of them, yet they treated me well. Emails were responded and calls were picked up!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Entertaining F1

Whoever arranges the Singapore F1 is crazy good at business. While not everyone enjoys race cars and F1, almost everyone enjoys "entertainment". And almost everyone likes to go to live concerts. So if you can't get them to see the cars, then get them to see the concerts. What a brilliant way to make money!

Every year Singapore F1 organizers get musicians to perform at the F1 venue on all 3 days of the race weekend. A lot of big names have visited Singapore in the last decade that they have hosted the night race. While, I have almost completely stopped following F1, I still made it to the race this year, mainly because I wanted to see Fatboy Slim and Red Hot Chili Peppers perform live. Imagine seeing 2 concerts in one day just hours apart, jumping, screaming and head banging! (don't imagine the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) at my age)

Both concerts were very amazing. Here are my summarized thoughts ;):

Fatboyslim looks like Kevin Costner. I had never seen how he actually looks like, so it was a pleasant surprise. He also happens to be the first DJ act that I saw live. I am amazed at how many things a single person can do with whatever heck of a magical device that DJ Turntable is (yeah I know I am underestimating his talent - you give the same table to me, and all I could probably do is generate a lot of cacophony)

RHCP were amazing. So much energy. 2 hours of non-stop music. They didn't even take a 15 second break between their numbers. The stage was alive the entire time. I am amazed by their energy. All these bands are a constant reminder of how old I am getting and how soon! They were young when I heard them growing up, now they too are a bunch of very energetic uncles!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Collapsible hydration

I am on the road a lot. Not every customer/ prospect treats you like a human being and extends basic courtesy like offering drinking water. Also my job involves me talking a lot. This means that many a times I speak for 3-4 hours continuously, parched, desperately looking for drinking water.

While I have written about a water bottle before, I thought I let you guys know about another bottle that I discovered more than a year ago, has saved me a lot of times and is now my go-to bottle on the road.

So let me define my requirement first - I needed a light weight bottle that I could carry with me everywhere I go. It needed to be small and light. I should be able to stash it away in my laptop bag when there is no water inside it. It had to be leak proof and convenient to carry. The Hydrapack Stash happens to be the best bottle that met my requirements. It is collapsible, leak-proof and is just the right size for me to carry around.

And being the forgetful me, I have actually forgotten it in a few meeting rooms (in different countries) and luckily it has still come back to me! So if you are like me (on the road and don't get water offered to you by prospects), I guess this is your perfect companion for water.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The 8 shoe pair minimalist

After I fell in love with the concept of minimalism, I went crazy and minimized my life aggressively. I threw away/ donated a lot of stuff I had, and I reduced my impulsive consumption to unprecedented levels. I felt good, fulfilled and happy!

Over the years, my spontaneous consumption, however seems to have crept up again. While I have had a very strict policy for my clothes and my accessories (e.g. 1 belt, 1 watch, 1 wallet, 1 phone etc.) I realized that I haven't been mindful of my shoe purchases. Slowly and steadily that number has been rising. Last week, I did a count and now I am at a crazy number of - 8 pairs!

This is how the list goes:

I have been trying hard to rationalize and decide on throwing a few of them. The problem really is - shoe marketers have imbibed in my silly brain that I need a different shoe for every activity. Growing up we just had a pair of canvas shoes that could do everything - from climbing, hiking, walking to running and playing all kinds of sports. As a kid I loved playing badminton and table tennis barefoot. I remember in one inter-school tournament I was specifically asked to wear shoes else they would not let me participate. And I distinctly remember how awful I felt playing and losing that match. Not only did shoes make me feel uncomfortable, but also they made me realize that I had no "feel" of the ground! Gone are the days!

With a heavy heart, I have decided to stick to all my pair of shoes, cause well, as of now I can't find a solution to my shoe conundrum.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The K-pop Uncle

If you haven't figured out by now, let me repeat, I do crazy amounts of business trips. This naturally means I live in crazy number of hotel rooms. Now like every other business traveler, I have  a routine that I follow.

For example, the moment I enter the hotel room, I put all menus, notepads, pens, advertisements, letters etc in a drawer and keep them away till I checkout. I hate clutter. The best hotels are minimalists and do not provide any of this crap. Then I empty my bag and hang up all my clothes. I like to have the false sense of getting "settled".

Anyway, this blog post ain't about that. It's about my new found understanding of East Asian Music. Yeah, one of my morning routines in hotel rooms involves searching for a Music channel on the TV and playing it while I am getting ready for work. Typically, it is either MTV or Channel V. I grew up with MTV. It was "the" music channel for my generation to get to hear the latest music. However, these days I find it more of a reality TV channel and less of a music channel. Maybe because whenever I switch it on, some reality show is going on, and lately I hardly ever have heard music on it.

Channel V still seems to play a bit of music. Anyway for some reason the morning hours (07:00 - 08:00) in most time-zones in Asia seems to have East Asian Music playing. For the ignorant me, East Asian Music mainly consists of these 3 types (don't chide me for inaccuracy and/or ignorance)

K-pop (Korean)
J-pop (Japanese)
C-pop/ Mando-pop/ Canto-pop (Chinese mainly Mandarin or Cantonese)

Of course I don't understand any of the languages. If I try hard enough (sometimes) I can just figure out the language based on their accent/ tones. However almost every music video consists of extremely good looking and overly athletic bunch of girls or guys dancing around and crooning about (what I believe) is - heartache or love (depending on if they are smiling or crying). Being an uncle, of-course I think music when I was growing up was much better. But well that's not the point, every generation thinks so.

Naturally, the curious me, read quite extensively about this East-Asian music phenomenon (strictly for education purposes only). It looks like it's a crazy competitive industry (at-least in Korea) and people compete fiercely and sign away their lives to get those coveted K-pop contracts.

Now just to get you ignorant souls introduced to K-pop, let me show-off my knowledge here. As of now, I know (I can't recognize the band members yet) the following bands:

  • BTS
  • Blackpink
  • Twice
  • Girls Generation
  • Super Junior

Anyway, a blog written by me, about K-pop can't be complete unless I show you guys a video of Conan doing his trademark string dance and pretending to be a K-pop artist. So here it is:

Unfortunately, I can't name any big J-pop or C-pop bands yet. I am working on it. So next time when you meet me, if I happen to be humming a K-pop number, give me an A for trying (to blend in and be cool and young).

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Restroom symbols

So I specialize in admiring restrooms. I have blogged about them time and again, and it seems like they can't stop fascinating me. So here I go with another one.

Rectangular top = Male/ Triangular top = Female
Public restrooms are necessary evils. They are not "design elements" of your building or mall, they are the "required elements". So treat them like one. While I am all for futuristic designs and art, if there is one place where I really hate art is in my restrooms. When nature calls, it doesn't appreciate design, it appreciates efficiency and speed.

I am seeing this new trend of having beautiful and artistic symbols to indicate men and women on restroom doors. If it were an art gallery, I would appreciate. But not while I am rushing to relieve myself. Many a times I am stuck outside staring at restroom doors several times, just anticipating which door should I enter. Imagine the precious moments!

Art does not belong to restroom doors

Besides the traditional male and female symbols (the one with a triangle that indicates a woman), these days I find funny looking hats, dresses and all sorts of symbols that I am expected to interpret. Also, what is this obsession with blue doors for men and pink for women with no other indication whatsoever? What if I can't figure out the color, how am I expected to go in? One time in Japan I was stuck outside a restroom door because the only identification was the Japanese character for Male/ Female. How is a foreigner supposed to know?

And you know the worst offender? One time in a hipster looking restaurant they had a rooster on one door and a cat on another. Go figure!

Go figure!

I think the best rest room doors are where it is written in English - Men/ Gentlemen or better still, they have a picture of a man with a mustache and a beard (like this one I found at the Kerala airport). No confusion whatsoever! If I were to give a "best restroom entrance" award, this toilet would get it for sure.

Men go here - no confusions!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The elusive Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji to me is like the Statue of Liberty of New York or the Eiffel Tower of Paris. It's the quintessential symbol of  Japan in general and Tokyo in particular. Though its 2+ hours of a bus ride away from Tokyo, it's something that I take special effort visiting, cause, well that's the symbol of Japan for me.

Mt. Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko

As I write this blog post from a Ryokan facing the Mt. Fuji, I can't feel any more sad. This is the 4th time I have made a long trip out here to see the mountain and all I see is the base of the mountain covered by crazy amounts of clouds at the top. I haven't ever yearned to see anything else in my life, as much as I have for this now elusive mountain.

The first time ever I made the trip, it was a very sweet colleague of mine who drove me all the way from Tokyo to a spot where he said I would see Mt. Fuji for sure, when we couldn't see anything from there, he took me around the mountain to a few other places so that I could see "something". Unfortunately, all we saw really were clouds covering a mountain. To his credit, he showed me Odawara castle and Hakone in the process!

The second time, I did a day trip on a bus to see Mt. Fuji. While we made it to the 5th station, we couldn't really see the mountain. After that, the next time I made the effort was on our way to Kyoto. Everyone told me that we should sit on the "E" seats on the Shinkansen (bullet train) headed towards Kyoto and we will see the mountain after Hamamatsu station. Again, all we saw was a mountain base whose top was covered by clouds.

Then someone advised us that if you go to the top of Mt. Mitsutoge, then you can see Mt. Fuji for sure. So we did a 3.5 hour crazy hike up, to see clouds. All in all, I have seen clearer views of Mt. Fuji on the internet than in real life.

Panoramic view of Mt. Fuji from Mt Mitsutoge

Anyway, I do understand that the best time to see Mt. Fuji is in winter, and I have never been to Tokyo in winter. So there, I have a valid reason. Anyway, today I also found out that there is a company that provides you pictures with Mt. Fuji in your background if you are unlucky and you happen to be on a day when it is cloudy at the top.

Souvenir photo of Mt. Fuji in your background

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Trains and Toilets

So I am just back from a business trip to Tokyo. Just like many of you, I am generally mesmerized by the Japanese way of life. From their beautiful shrines, temples, zen gardens all the way to their food, electronics, umbrellas, pens, shoes, advertisements and culture, everything seems to be so extraordinary.

Anyway, after several trips to Tokyo, I have narrowed down on 2 Japanese things that I really adore - their train systems and their toilets (T&T).

Let me start with Trains. Disclaimer - I love public transit. I think it's the best means of transportation in an urban jungle and nothing can be more efficient. Every city that I go to, I always make it a point to "figure out" their public transit and use it extensively. It gives me a false sense of being a local. When I was younger in Singapore, I would always make it a point to be amongst the first ones to go visit a newly opened train station. In all the countries that I have been to, Tokyo by far, is the most complex train system that I have ever experienced. If the train system is not complex enough, their underground exits are even crazier. While I am generally proud of my sense of direction and my ability to understand complex metro systems, I still get easily lost on Japanese train stations just "looking" for the right exit.

Tokyo Subway Map
Tokyo Subway Route Map

But, the more I have used it, I realize there are so many small things that are provided to aid commuters, that it's just amazing (For e.g. do you know that it is possible to walk underground all the way from Tokyo station to Ginza if you take the right exits!). And while most Japanese people are stoic, if you ask them for directions they go out of their way to help a random stranger? We could do a treasure hunt on the Tokyo Train system and never get bored.

Breakfast gazing
Breakfast observing people

One of my favorite thing to do in Tokyo is to sit in a random small coffee shop inside a train station, sip on my coffee in the morning and see the world pass by. Every Japanese "salary man" in a suit making his way to his place of work, in a hurry, hassled by the crowd, but determined to reach his destination on time (yeah also the ladies, but if I say I observe them to - I sound like a creep - so yeah, I hardly notice them). Occasionally a cleaner or a police man making sure everything is in order would also pass by. While everyone will give you their own list of top 10 things to do in Tokyo, I would say that my list starts at "experience and assimilate the railway system".

Now let's talk about the Toilets. I think I have already dedicated a blog post to this one before. Now that I am repeating it, you can already imagine how in love I am with these works of art. I guess no where else in the world am I so fascinated to enter a public toilet just to see how amazing the toilet is. Forget about cleanliness, almost all toilets in Tokyo are amazingly clean. Depending on how old or new the toilet is you will get to experience a toilet that can do everything from bringing the seat down for you, cleaning it for you, making a loud musical tone so that you can do your business in peace without being embarrassed, to sophisticated nozzles, water jets and air driers that make sure that every bit of your backside is first cleaned with water and then dried so that you can confidently wear your pants later without any worry. Attention to detail and personal hygiene is way beyond my imagination. This is probably the only country in the world that "I look forward to" going to the toilet.

This my friends was a short summary of an otherwise tiring and uneventful trip to Tokyo. While I love the trains and toilets, I dread their work culture, the long work hours and the absolute crazy level of hard work.

Monday, May 20, 2019


Welcome to another fashion advice post from reverent uncle Girish. I have a very limited wardrobe. So limited that I can easily fit all my clothes (I mean absolutely every thing that I own now) in a carry-on suitcase.

I also seem to have a sort of an amnesia when I go buy new clothes. Which means, I forget what I already own and end up buying more clothes of the same color/ type and repeat my wardrobe. And then, I only shop from a very few places. Which means, I look the same most of the times.

Anyway, I recently realized that I have taken liking for this specific type of fabric called a seersucker. I realized this is when I washed 4 shirts all of the same fabric and type last week. Now, mind you, 4 is a big % of my total clothes, and if all of them happen to be of the same type, I believe I have fallen in love with that material. So this post now is hereby dedicated to the seersucker fabric.

For those of you who have forgotten, Singapore is an extremely humid and warm country. The national costume of most people (regardless of race, gender, age or class) is shorts and t-shirt. As I grow old, I moved from t-shirts to shirts, and that is where I came across seersucker! A quick Wikipedia search indicates that Seersucker is an all-cotton fabric of Indian origin that the British "found" and popularized to the western world. It is amazingly perfect for a humid weather and I can wear all day and sweat comfortably in it. Besides, you know what is the best part? It already has a "crumpled" look so you do not have to iron the shirts at all. All you have to do is - wash, dry, wear and repeat! Life can't get any simpler. So for the next few years if you see me wearing the same types of shirts - blame the British.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

My Movie Choices

Long term readers of my blog know that I am heavily inclined towards minimalism. The philosophical me thinks that this endeavor to constantly reduce things in my life is what has kept me sane (so far). Reducing things also boils down to constantly downsizing options. I like my life where I don't have to choose much. This however is much difficult than what it seems.

Everyday (for me) is a constant struggle amongst numerous choices. Whether it is choosing what to eat, which movie to see, which series to start watching, which clothes to wear, where to go, the average consumer has a plethora of choices. Anyway, over a period of time, I have learnt how to restrict my choices, and limit the decision making process that I have to go through.

This blog however is specifically about - how I chose which movies to watch. Well, before I start, I need to give you some context. The only place I watch movies these days is either on a long haul flight or on Netflix. We don't have channel-subscribed television at home anymore. After struggling several years on making movie choices, I boiled down to choosing my entertainment based on the actors I like. As of this writing, here are my favorite Hollywood actors (in no particular order):

  • Tom Hanks
  • Jake Gyllenhall
  • Christian Bale
  • Keanu Reeves
This is besides the fact that I watch all Quentin Tarantino movies. But he doesn't make that many movies for me to go choose to watch them on a flight (I guess, I have already watched most of them, and the ones I haven't, aren't available on Netflix or on flights!). So if I have to see a movie, I just go through the list and search for the ones in which one of these actors are present. This has led to me seeing a bunch of weird, dark and psychological thrillers. I won't say I particularly liked them, but I feel like I have already had my fair share of demented movies. I think other than Tom Hanks, all the other actors listed above, have made some serious "art" films. The list of weird movies that I saw in the last few months because of these actors (again in no particular order):
  • Siberia (Keanu) - Can't believe I saw it - if not for Keanu!
  • John Wick (Keanu) - The only senseless action movie I ever liked - I am waiting for part 3
  • Night Crawler (Jake) - Creepy, Jake is awesome!
  • Demolition (Jake) - Weird, emotional - Jake is awesome!
  • Nocturnal Animals (Jake) - Dark, emotional - Jake is awesome!
  • American Psycho (Christian) - Weird, Psycho - Can't believe I saw it!
  • Vice (Christian) - Awesome, loved it!
  • American Hustle (Christian) - Awesome, loved it!

I have thus concluded that either my choice of actors are artsy or they just happen to be the choice for artsy films! Anyway for the superhero lovers out there, Jake is entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe as "Mysterio". So now you gonna get a taste of him too :) !!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Real-time Translation

In my line of work, I present to random people of random nationalities all the while. Sometimes they understand me and my Maharashtrian accent, sometimes they don't. And that to me (and I believe also to them) is perfectly fine. I have been in many presentations where I have had blank stares from people mainly because of language problems, and I leave it at that and move on.

So last week, I had to present in several different meetings in Shenzhen (China) to quite a few Chinese people. I was expecting to have a mute meeting where I blabber, they partially understand me, and then we part ways happily and may be go out for a dinner where they talk in their language and I sit and enjoy my food.

However, to my pleasant surprise, I noticed that they had arranged for "real-time translators" in the room. These translators were 2 women who took turns (every few minutes) to translate me, in near real-time, to Mandarin as I spoke. All participants were wearing these nifty Bluetooth ear-pieces (including me) and whatever I said in English would be translated to them in Mandarin. Also, whatever they asked back in Mandarin would instantly be translated to English into my ear. I was amazed that - not only could they translate all the technical terms like Balance Sheet/ Consolidation/ Journals/ Notes to Accounts/ Schedules etc. but they also understood the context of the situation that I was talking about.

Later during the break, I chatted with them a bit and understood that they were translators specializing in "Financial and Performance Management Software". This brings me to the fact that whenever I see foreign leaders with different languages talking to each other on TV, I always wondered what they were actually talking about. However, after experiencing real-time translation myself, I can safely assume there are translators out there specializing in "diplomacy, politics and foreign affairs"!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Getting up on time

It's funny how I have to go back to a blog post that I wrote almost 10 years ago! So this one is like a follow-up to my post about clock radios and why I love them so much!

At the beginning of this century (2000) I discovered clock radios because my parents got me a Panasonic Music system that had a function for waking up at a time I desired; with the source of music that I liked (CD/ Radio/ Cassette). Most of my engineering days I used that function to get up almost always on time without any issues. After I started working, and I moved to a different location, I bought a clock radio there and continued my morning routine. Which remained so, all the while till I completed my MBA.

Around 2010, I discovered smartphones and more or less have been using them as alarm clocks ever since. Unfortunately, being a light sleeper, an alarm clock startles me out of bed every time it goes off, however soothing a sound I keep as my alarm. Not only does it make me grouchy, but also it makes me get up with an elevated heart beat, something I don't feel comfortable with.

Towards the end of last year, I decided to go give clock radios another shot mainly because I developed the bad habit of checking my email in my bed after my alarm went off in the phone. This turned out to be a very bad way of starting my day by thinking about work (Your email is everybody's action items for you - I don't remember which celebrity said that).

Anyway, I purchased the Sony ICF-C1 (it's sad to see that the Clock radio genre is dying and there are not many options in the market anymore). It does it's job quite well, and I have been having pleasant mornings ever since. I have started getting up on time ever since, and I don't feel that grouchy and stressed the moment I get up.

So, if you are like me, I highly recommend ditching your phone (keep it far away from your bedside table) and getting a clock radio because:
  1. You can get up gently (most clock radios progressively increase the sound of the music so you don't get startled)
  2. You won't check Email/ Messages/ Social Media first thing in the morning
  3. You will get to hear some good music early in the morning (hoping you have good soothing music radio stations in your vicinity)
  4. Unlike an alarm clock, you won't feel like switching off your radio to sleep more (even if you lie in bed listening to the music for 10 more minutes), and it will gradually awaken you!
So, to conclude - it's 2019, I am not getting any younger, and I feel like a nostalgic grandpa. I am, therefore, going back to old tech that I used while I was younger!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ciao Amigos

Hello there everyone! Hope 2019 has been good for you so far. I have been through the Gregorian new year celebrations followed by the Lunar new year celebrations. Besides celebrating and eating a lot more than I should have, I don't think I have done anything great on the personal front. Hope your resolutions are going great, and you haven't given up on any of them (yet).

I tried getting rid of my caffeine addiction beginning of this month. After a series of bad headache days (severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms), now I am at the 2 week mark and surviving without my daily coffee in the morning. I still get crazy occasional cravings for a cup of coffee (especially when I walk in front of a coffee shop and can smell the roasted coffee beans) but so far so good. I hope to reduce my coffee intake to a "reasonable" level in the near future. I never realized how much addictive coffee is! I have been to several early morning client meetings and gone around the place desperately looking for a coffee before the meeting. On such occasions even a bad coffee is better than no coffee!

Anyway, if your resolutions include fitness, I felt this comic from Oatmeal is quite apt for the feeling of helplessness I am currently going through:

Oatmeal - Exercise Response

While I managed to lose a bit of weight in my early 30s now it is getting increasingly difficult to hold onto it. Neither reasonable amount of diet nor exercise seems to have the desired effect. Either metabolism is slowing down or I ain't disciplined enough (or both :) !!)

Lastly I feel bad that Opportunity (the mars rover) is no longer operational. It was launched in 2003 right when I started working and all it's working life has overlapped mine. I still have to work for a lot more decades but Opportunity called it quits! Well jokes apart, I am amazed that a robot built for a 90 day mission managed to work for 15+ years.