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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bouncer

I have been reading quite a bit of non-fiction in past 1.5 months. All this non-fiction that I am reading is trapped in MS Word Docs and Powerpoint presentations – in short, it is all purely work related.

 

This reading oscillates between boring and exciting as I find some parts interesting/exciting while the others are not exactly boring but they just bounce off my head (rather than seeping in and getting absorbed. This all reminds me of my study days (School / College / Engineering / MBA).

 

I don't have an HR background. I did my Engineering and then worked for an IT company, got laid off during the post-Y2K 'IT industry' tumble of 2001, ran my training start-up for some time before doing my MBA from NITIE (which is not known for HR specialization, btw). Then I joined Satyam and did Org. Change Mgmt Consulting for 5 years before joining Fujitsu Consulting India (doing the same). Now that I am in KPMG, I am supposed to become an all-rounder HR Consultant / Manager with adequate knowledge of various facets of the vast subject of Human Resource and even get some decent level of expertise and specialization in certain areas.

 

My education and career till date have left few HR receptors inside my brain which results in the 'bouncing off' of certain things that I read. Of course, a lot of HR is common sense but then there is advanced stuff too which does not 'stick' in the first read. I am going through the reading material twice, thrice and would continue to go through them till a decent amount 'sticks' and I can make intelligent conversation with colleagues and clients.

 

At this stage, I am at the bottom of the learning curve, learning not only from documentation but from people all around me in the team.

 

Not that I cannot have a intelligent and convincing conversation with them. I think I am smart enough to handle some conversation, if not a deep dive chat into the fundamentals of certain HR concepts and principles. I am a consultant after all and I got to be good at that.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chetan Bhagat … Finally !!

 

Chetan Bhagat is a popular Indian Author. No two views about that.

Chetan Bhagat is a good Indian Author. That depends.

Chetan Bhagat is a fantastic Author. Well …. ... .. . No

 
There was too much of hype around him and his books (and hype scares me). There was always some superficial hype and comments about his work. Generic terms would be used and I never quite met someone or read anywhere, anyone analyzing his works and talking good about different aspects of his writing. Maybe I didn't search well. Maybve my bias towards him colored my thinking about him. Maybe.

To read or not to read has been a question for me as far as Chetan Bhagat goes. Too much of hype around his writings made me wary of them. I had thought about reading his works and including it in my reading list for 2012 but something more appealing would come up and I would push this aside. Finally decided to quit procrastination on this one and picked one of his works to read.

The story seems interesting though written in pretty much uneventful manner. Chetan has an ordinary narration style – merely relaying of storyline – rather than making it interesting.
In this particular story that I read (The Three Mistakes of My Life); Chetan made good use of Real World Events to weave a story around them. Using the actual cricket matches with their actual dates, events and scores along with cataclysmic events like the Bhuj Earthquake in Gujarat, , the 9/11 Terrorist attack and the Godhra Train Burning in Gujarat and the consequential riots; and weaving them into the story (making them integral to the story and critical plot change points) was a good device and made interesting reading.
So in conclusion, Chetan Bhagat writes good time-pass books. We might even call them good. But they are definitely not fantastic. Irony is that they would anyway top the bestselling and largest selling charts because a good marketing campaign can make that happen (irrespective of quality of book) and CB is a known name now with quite a fan following, I suppose.
 
I would probably pick up another of his books and see if I would like to read further.
I will treat his works as a light read; just like I would treat Durjoy Datta's work.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Democracy

 

In a democracy, the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme in a democracy. ~ Aristotle

 

And hence, there can never be true democracy. 
 
The rich will never allow democracy to prevail and the politicians see politics as a means of getting rich (and not as a means to serve the nation, serve the people, protect democracy etc
 
Democracy has become a pradox in itself and it needs several thousand Mahatma's and Anna's to survive ... which doesnt seem possible.
 
Democracy is an illusion ... it hardly exists in reality.
 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Perspective & Paradigm Shift and a touch of humour

 

Some of you would remember the 'paradigm shift' story about a man in the train being troubled by the kids of another man who is doing nothing to discipline them. The man (being disturbed) is irritated and thinking ill about the father (irresponsible, unconcerned, no civic sense, no common sense, bad father and so on ). When this man comes to know that the 'father and kids' have just lost their mother and they are probably returning from the last rites; his outlook suddenly changes. His feelings and thoughts about this person take a u-turn and he is filled with compassion and not anger/irritation.

We might have experienced something similar in our lives. Think about it.

Another thing is our perspective that stems out of our way of life or often by our career and job profile. A housewife, a software engineer and a saree shop owner … all watching a typical daily soap on TV … each of them will see the same thing BUT notice a different thing … the housewife will notice the jewellery of the actresses, the software engineer will comment on the computers shown in the serial never being connected / never having wires around and the saree shop owner sees nothing but sarees. It happens to us too. We begin to look and perceive the world as we do it in our jobs. A new lens, a new filter gets added to our already clouded perceptions.  

Here is a small parable which brings in the aspect of the 'paradigm shift' as well as 'perspective' with a touch of humour !

A clergyman, a doctor and a business consultant were playing golf together one day and were waiting for a particularly slow group ahead. The business consultant exclaimed, "What's with these people? We've been waiting over half and hour! It's a complete disgrace."

The doctor agreed, "They're hopeless, I've never seen such a rabble on a golf course." The clergyman spotted the approaching greenkeeper and asked him what was going on, "What's happening with that group ahead of us? They're surely too slow and useless to be playing, aren't they?"

The greenkeeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind fire-fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The three golfers fell silent for a moment.
The clergyman said, "Oh dear, that's so sad. I shall say some special prayers for them tonight."

The doctor added, rather meekly, "That's a good thought. I'll get in touch with an ophthalmic surgeon friend of mine to see if there's anything that can be done for them."

After pondering the situation for a few seconds, the business consultant turned to the greenkeeper and asked,
"Why can't they play at night?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reading plans v/s Actual reading

 

 

Reading has been phenomenal in the past 6 months with a total reading score of 113. There have been some changes to the reading plans with an increasing trend towards short stories. I had a rough cut reading plan for 2012 which I blogged in January. I am comparing the plan to the actual in this post here.

 

Planned and Read - (1) Robert Ludlum (2) Devdutt Pattnaik (3) Chris Kuzneski

Planned but Unread – (1) Clive Cussler (2) Rick Riordan (3) Chetan Bhagat

Planned and Read and continues - Sherlock, 3I and Famous Five

Unplanned but read

Plenty of new authors (Indian, American, Japanese, and so on …)

Satyajit Ray Short Stories, Chicken Soup stories collection,

 

I discovered several new authors … reading new authors every month. Also discovered and read and enjoyed several series and independent short stories. The 3 authors planned but which remain unread (Clive Cussler, Rick Riordan, Chetan Bhagat) in the first half of the year will surely be read before the end of the year along with more new authors and non-Sherlock works of Conan Doyle.

 

The first 6 months have a very good reading score of around 18 full length novels (from 666 pages to 250 pages long) and 95 long and short stories (ranging from 100 pages to 10 pages length) in the first half of the year… a total of 113.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Perspective

 

In a story, the author writes in thirds person and becomes the GOD. He can see through all the characters and know their most intimate thoughts and feelings. He can write about all of them and you can read about all of them getting a balanced picture in mind.

What happens when a story is told in first person account? A perspective is added. The person narrating the story adds his own thoughts and feelings to the story and 'cannot' focus too much on the thoughts and feelings of the other characters in the story. He can narrate only what is visible to him/her and the story is biased now. You can feel what the narrator feels and empathize with him/her.  

What happens when a story is told in first person by another person? Another perspective is added. Now you see the same set of circumstances from the different set of eyes and different set of feelings and thoughts; hence a different bias. You can now empathize with this character and also pick up a few places where the earlier perspective was wrong/distorted/mistaken.

And these diverse perspectives can make all the difference.

During the school days, I heard a riddle/joke which I would often ask/tell my friends. It was like "What would have happened if Ravana would have won the war against Rama in Ramayan?" … and the answer was "We would have Ravanayan instead of Ramayan"

Give it a thought. The Ravanayan would be written from the perspective of Ravana as the HERO and Rama as the villain; a villain who was instrumental in the disfiguration of Ravana's sister and attack on Lanka. The villain was so bad that he was banished from his kingdom for 14 years by his very own father along with his wife and brother. The Ravanayan would talk about all the virtues of Ravana (Don't be surprised. He indeed had many virtues) and would talk about his knowledge (he had immense) and his penance (tapasya) to gain the favours from the Gods. He would have been acknowledged as the Hero amongst the Rakshashas, someone who spent his entire lifetime for the upliftment of Rakshashas and slaying to trecherous 'rishi muni' who conspired against Rakshashas and held pooja/worshipping/yagna against them. Rama on the other hand would be a villain who attacked the peaceful life of Lanka and killed countless soldiers and Ravana's Brother and Son. Hanuman would be the Terrorist who set the city on fire and killed hundreds of men, women and children. Ravana then kills Ram and exacts revenge on behalf of his sister, brothers and citizens. The 'kidnapping' of Sita being protrayed as a strategic move to lure Rama to Lanka and the fact that he never touched Sita during her tenure at Ashok Vatika being highlighted as a virtue of Ravana. After slaying Rama in the war; he then married Sita who would be a widow and had nowhere to go. Such was the greatness of Ravana. Think about it. If the author (and his sponsor) changes, the story changes.

Take another example - the British Raj in India. For over 150 years, the British ruled India and its people. We have read it in our history books; how Indians were oppressed by the British, tortured, deprived of rights and thrown into jail. We have read about our 'Freedom Fighters' who fought with the British (violently as well as non-violently) to get us a Free India and so on. Remember that these 'history books' are written by Indians and although they are supposed to be unbiased third person accounts; they end up being biased third person accounts since the basic premise is that the Indians were the victims and the British were the oppressors.  NOW, let's change the perspective.

What if a British guy wrote this? What if we read the British History written by one of 'them'? In that history, British would be glorified as a supreme race amongst humans who possess the vision and intelligence to lead the rest of the human race(s) towards a progressive future. They would talk about their quest to go around the world and show the world a better way to live life and run countries. They would talk about the 'technological' and 'civil' advancement they brought to the countries they went to. They would then talk about some individuals and groups who did not like this and went against them and caused trouble; rightfully labeling them as 'terrorists' and 'terrorist groups'!!
Consider the fact that when Bhagat Singh threw a Bomb in the court, he was nothing less than a Terrorist for the British. They were not exactly wrong in hanging him 'from their perspective'. Dont we ourselves condemn the Parliament bombing. Gandhi would seem a nuisance to British due to his strange non-violent approach (making it difficult for British to charge him for anything and label as terrorist) so they might even call him a 'shrewd man'.
Do you see the perspective? Do you see how different would be this history?
Even history cannot be completely trusted to tell us the 'facts' …

NOW, consider the terrorists and terrorist groups that you know of including the ones from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka … the Al Qaida's and LTTE's of the world … think about it … are they really terrorists or they are terrorists because they are against the forces that control the media! If the history or news was written by one of 'them', they would talk of the success (bombings and assassinations) and failures (failed bombings and assassinations) of their 'freedom struggle'. 9/11 would be a celebration for them. Kasab would be a martyr, a war hero ... a la Bhagat Singh for them?

So what is the TRUTH? Truth is relative.

Even the so called 'facts' are often presented with the bias brought in by who is presenting it and who is sponsoring the thought. Even story and event has multiple perspectives and we tend to believe the 'perspective' that we hear and want to hear.

Of course, I am not saying the 'terrorists' are right and not wrong. All I am trying to say is that perspectives matter and once you have a different perspective of a subject; the same thing can seem very very different.

On the lighter note: Think about Cindrella's story … what if her step-mom was to narrate the story. She would surely portray Cindrella as an ungrateful girl who sneaked out of your house (without permission) and 'stole' the clothes and the carriage and all … to attend the prince's ball where she mesmerized the prince using (black) magic so that her own daughters never had a chance. The next day, when the prince came to her house and discovered her, she told him a sob story of torture. The prince takes her away, marries her and you don't even get invited to the wedding of the girl whose care you had taken for over 20 years (in spite of having 2 daughters of your own). How ungrateful!

As I said … Perspectives are everything. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Half Glass Paradox

 

 

I am sure you would have come across the famous paradox of whether the glass is half full or half empty and would surely have read its numerous interpretations … here are some to tickle your humor vein (received in an email forward on the 'Trainers Forum' yahoo group).

 

The optimist says the glass is half full. The pessimist says the glass is half empty.

 

The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

 

The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow.

 

The fanatic thinks the glass is completely full, even though it isn't.

 

The entrepreneur sees the glass as undervalued by half its potential.

 

The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning.

 

The consultant says let's examine the question, prepare a strategy for an answer, and all for a daily rate of...

 

The school teacher says it's not about whether the glass is half empty or half full; it's whether there is something in the glass at all.

 

The professional trainer does not care if the glass is half full or half empty; he just knows that starting the discussion will give him ten minutes to figure out why his power-point presentation is not working.

 

The ground-down mother of a persistently demanding five-year old says sweetheart it's whatever you want it to be, just please let mummy have five minutes peace and quiet.

 

The computer specialist says that next year the glass capacity will double, be half the price, but cost you 50% more for me to give you the answer.

 

The logician says that where the glass is in process of being filled then it is half full; where it is in the process of being emptied then it is half empty; and where its status in terms of being filled or emptied is unknown then the glass is one in which a boundary between liquid and gas lies exactly midway between the inside bottom and the upper rim, assuming that the glass has parallel sides and rests on a level surface, and where it does not then the liquid/gas boundary lies exactly midway between the upper and lower equal halves of the available total volume of said glass.

 

The scientist says a guess based on a visual cue is inaccurate, so mark the glass at the bottom of the meniscus of the content, pour the content into a bigger glass; fill the empty glass with fresh content up to the mark; add the original content back in; if the combined content over-flows the lip, the glass was more than half full; if it doesn't reach the top, the glass was more than half empty; if it neither overflows nor fails to reach the top then it was either half-full or half-empty. Now what was the question again?

 

The grammarian says that while the terms half-full and half-empty are colloquially acceptable, the glass can technically be neither since both full and empty are absolute states and therefore are incapable of being halved or modified in any way

 

……………..

 

shoOOonya  say's …

 

Pick up the Glass and just drink the water to settle the question once and for all.

The Glass is now empty. Period.
 
AND .. the Glass has fulfilled its function (or philosophically speacking: Destiny) of holding some water for someone who needed it.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

June Reading – Part 3

 

Continued from previous post …

 

18. The Clock Work Man by William Jablonski

Yet another book from Blog Adda to review and this one was a very interesting read right from page 1 primarily because it was written in first person as a biographical narration of a 'clockwork man'. Detailed review posted in second half of last month on this blog.  

The way the clockwork man describes the things around him … his creator, his kids, his relationship with them, the way people behave and react around him (in his city and even in distant lands), the way he perceives the human world and their emotions… it's all very interesting and offer a different perspective of life. The story takes a break when our clockwork man attempts suicide. He is brought back to life more than 100 years later where he grapples with several mysteries including the wonders of the modern world and his place in it. It was a pretty enjoyable read although the climax/ending was a disappointment.

 

19. Sherlock Misadventures: A Double-Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain 

Mark Twain wrote this 'long' story (or should I say 2 stories with some links between them) and included Sherlock Holmes as a character in it for some quant reason I did not really understand except to take advantage of his popularity (which was a useful element in the story). Sherlock's expertise is not used, instead, it is ridiculed and all his deductions are proved wrong in a matter of minutes.

It was an interesting story nevertheless where the first half concentrates on one youth and older guy while the other half concentrates on another youth and another older guy; in both cases the young one wanting to exact revenge on the older one. The stories converge in the last paragraph and you finally realize why Mark Twain was telling you two stories which had no link whatsoever between them. The only drag-point being certain portions of the story that don't advance the story but only fill up the pages and waste your reading time. Those sections are not even entertaining.

 

 

20. We Can Remember for You Wholesale by Philip K Dick

 

After reading the Paycheck and Minority report short stories; I picked up this one. A trigger for picking this one was that I saw the movie 'Total Recall' on TV recently (and a remake of this movie is set to release this year). So I had to read this …

It was interesting to read this one and see the (huge) difference in the original story and the movie adaptation (I can no longer say that the movie was based on the story or was a movie adaptation of the story. It was simply inspired by the plot and the basic story premise). The movie had a plot which was more amenable to become an action thriller.

The actual short story is slightly complex where false 'manufactured' memories are being planted inside a person's head … which incidentally coincide with real memories. The genius of PKD has been apparent from the 3 stories that I have read this month and I am now looking forward to reading his other works on regular basis. 

 

21. Sherlock Misadventures: The Stolen Cigar Case by Bret Harte 

This case is about a case … a cigar case actually. AND it belongs to 'Hemlock Jones' and his suspicion lies with none other than his companion and confederate of his cases. A funny tale of the stolen cigar case which is eventually recovered by the Doctor himself but the relationship is forever severed because of the accusation and something else. The introduction calls this story as most devastating parodies ever perpetrated on The Great Man and the story itself has the words "Hemlock Jones, the Terror of Peculators!" uttered by the Doctor.

 

22. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Black Baronet by Adrian Doyle & John Carr

Sherlock and Watson are on a 'refreshing' vacation when a curious case pops up. A murder has been carried out and the clear suspect has no decent alibi. Sherlock sees the peculiarity of the case and based on circumstantial evidence, prevents the arrest of the suspect for a day. The next day he reveals how the murder was committed and essentially proves that the murder was but an accident. The murder weapon was but in plain sight but no one had recognized it.   

Later, Watson expresses his doubts and Sherlock explains that the accident was not without help and cover-up. He wishes to conceal (or let's say 'not reveal') the parties involved since the 'victim' was not without his vices and his death was a bit of justice in itself. In this story, john Carr and Adrian Doyle continue with the legacy of Sherlock where he often lets the murderer go scot-free when he feels that the murder was an act of justice and not a malicious one.

 

23. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Smashing Glass by William Arden  

A very interesting case comes up as the driver side windows of more than a 100 cars are smashed over a period of 2 months. The mystery is that no one seems to be able to find out how the glass is being smashed nor has anyone seen anyone actually doing it.

The trio gets involved and even risk getting the glass broken of the black and gold Rolls Royce. While they are investigating, they have an intruder around their Head Quarters and evidence that someone was planting a listening bug in/around their HQ. The trio effectively employ the ghost-to-ghost hook-up in this story (after a pretty long time) to discover that what they thought was a singular or dual case of window smashing was actually a widespread phenomenon.

The theft of an extremely valuable rare coin from one of the cars (whose window was also smashed) adds to the mystery while the presence of someone spying on the trio using electronic surveillance methods complicates things further. The trio manages to crack the mystery and nab the window smasher and eventually finds the stolen coin too, albeit after a twist in the tail of the tale.  

 

24. Sherlock Misadventures: The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes by O. Henry 

O. Henry came up with this small piece with the two characters named Shamrock Jolnes and Dr. Whatsup (there is no doubt regarding the inspiration behind these names). There is no case as such but the short is about a series of deductions Shamrock makes about a man in a tram/bus who does not offer his seat to the women standing around him. A funny tale with several deductions based on a funny sense of logic.

 

25. Sherlock Misadventures: The Umbrosa Burglary By R. C. Lehmann 

In this strange tale of Picklock Holes and Potson; Picklock is attending a 'party' (courtesy Potson) and makes some (funny) deductions about a youth by the riverside and also predicts (in privacy/secrecy) to Potson that there would be a robbery in the house during the night. Potson would have preferred to warn the host but Picklock declines. The thief is caught in the night; although not by Picklock. Some of the guests get hold of the thief and thrash him. A surprise ending in the last few lines reveals the secret of how Picklock could have predicted the robbery. 

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 30th June 2012)

The Three Investigators          38 out of 43

Best of Satyajit Ray                 17 out of 21

Sherlock: Exploits                    05 out of 12

Sherlock: Misadventures        14 out of 33

Total                                       74 out of 109

Monday, July 09, 2012

June Reading – Part 2

 

Continued from previous post …

 

9. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Wax Gamblers by Adrian Doyle & John Carr

Sherlock Holmes is bound to his bed/chair with a crutch after a fateful slip-n-fall from some stairs. While there is a storm outside, a worried old man and his grand-daughter arrive at 2 am with a curious case of gambling wax statues. Well, the old man hasn't seen them gambling but he is pretty sure there is some change of cards in their hands. Sherlock asks Watson to do the legwork; while he solves the case resting in his room.

Funny part of the story was when someone refers to Sherlock as a Scotland Yarder and he thinks of that as an insult.

As a strange coincidence … I read 2 stories back-to-back where the 'detective' solves the crime from the comfort of his home without stepping out of the house even once.

 

10. Paycheck by Philip K Dick

 

Saw the movie 6 years ago and jumped at the short story when I came across it. It was wonderful to read this as much as I enjoyed the movie. And I discovered a new author who enters my reading list.

The story is similar to the movie except for the climax and some of the clues. The movie takes a different direction but follows the same premise and plot. The story of a man who comes out of a 2 year employment with his brain cleaned off from memories of past 2 years. When time for payment comes, he is shocked to learn that he has willingly traded his payment of a fortune for a few worthless items which don't mean anything to him. He slowly and gradually realizes that the worthless items are all life savers for him and which lead to him a much bigger thing in life.

 

11. Sherlock Misadventures: The Adventure of the Remarkable Worm by Stuart Palmer 

A journalist, who has written a couple of controversial articles and has separated from his wife; gets acute pain in his stomach and loses consciousness on the road-side. When he comes around, he finds himself in the hospital with a weird unknown worm in a glass case next to his table. He picks that up and runs straight to Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of the worm.

Sherlock makes his deductions and even invites Watson to come along for investigation. For a change, Watson 'solves' the case from his arm-chair and informs Sherlock that the matter is pretty trivial.

 

12. The Pterodectyle's Egg by Satyajit Ray

Imagine meeting a complete stranger who tells you that he is a time traveler, tell you stories of his adventurous journeys and even lets you experiment with his time travel device. Well, our protagonist in this story meets a time traveler and is intrigued by him. The climax of the story is not very surprising but the conclusion is sweet !!

 

13. Minority Report by Philip K Dick

 

After reading the Paycheck; I was tempted to read the 'Minority Report' also. It turned out to be an equally rocking short story. The reading reiterated my pain … Science Fiction is no longer what it used to be a few decades / half a century ago. The writers of those days were so far ahead in their thinking and imagination while the writers of today are no match at all in the sci-fi arena.

The movie did not really follow the same plot as the short story. The story brings out the paradox of 'pre-crime' beautifully and has an amazing climax where a man is ready to destroy himself to see his work and ideology live on.

 

14. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Highgate Miracle by Adrian Doyle & John Carr

If you were to encounter a man who literally worshipped an old umbrella; you would proclaim him insane or full of superstition or something like that. Sherlock with his sharp mind sees what others fail to see. Also, when he arrives at the man's house, he finds 'Inspector' Lestrade already on the scene and together they wait for the man with the umbrella.

The mystery arises when the man appears at the door and then ducks back in to supposedly collect his umbrella. The man is not to be found thereafter in the house.

Incidentally, there is a reference of "a man who goes back into his house to collect his umbrella and is never seen again" in the original Canon Doyle stories which became the source of inspiration for the story above. It was also the source of inspiration for the story from the Misadventures series recorded at No. 8 in this month itself. It was interesting to read 2 stories being written inspired by the same sentence in yet another story from the past. 

 

15. The Dark Prophecy by Anthony Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski

When a book is authored by the creator of CSI (which is a personal favorite of mine since 2006 when I first encountered some episodes); it doesn't take long to jump into it and devour it quickly. This book is part of a new concept of DigiNovel about which I have written in a separate post.

The story follows Steve Dark, a former FBI agent pulled out of retirement to hunt down the world's worst serial killers. Steve Dark is pushed to his limits as he struggles to apprehend the worst of the worst. He has a past baggage which weighs him down (a serial killer killed each and every member of his family … and now only his daughter was left, for whom he constantly feared). The inner turmoil along with his inability to leave his job behind and retire are a recipe of disaster for himself. 

 

16. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon by Marc Brandel 

Imagine finding a special (and easily identifiable) kind of pigeon and putting it in a cage over-night and finding it replaced the next morning. The three investigators encounter a similar mystery with an added peculiar character who involuntary winks (hence called 'Blinky' by people) and pigeon-related enquiries leading them to a lady who has hundreds of birds in her home and backyard. More characters get added to the plot … a man with a heavy beard (the only thing visible on his face is his mouth and eyes) and some Japanese chaps.

As the story progresses, some birds are found dead (murder!!) and some pearls are found in possession of the birds making the plot thicker, trickier and mysterious.   

 

17. Sherlock Misadventures: The Adventure of the Two Collaborators by Sir James M. Barrie 

An interesting story with such a subtle ending that even I had trouble understanding the same … it's a story with 2 authors and Sherlock + Watson as the primary characters. There is particularly no plot as such, just a thought.

 

 

To Be Continued …

Thursday, July 05, 2012

June Reading – Part 1

 

After an astounding April and May, I was expecting June to be a slower month since I did not have much of travel and I even had a career transit happening. I moved from Fujitsu Consulting India to KPMG India … a change of job, a change of work location, a change of work profile … and the biggest of all … a potential career shift. The transit from Fujitsu to KPMG may well prove to be a career defining moment J  

I began June reading with the Traveler Magazine followed by a Jeffrey Archer novel. I also read a new concept Digi-Novel by 'CSI' Creator and BlogAdda gave me another book to review – The Clockwork Man. Between them, I continued reading several of the stories from Sherlock Holmes Exploits and Misadventures stories along with a couple of Satyajit Ray stories and 2 of the Three Investigators.

New author this month: Plenty. William Jablonski with his 'Clockwork Man' and Anthony Zuiker (with Duane Swierczynski) with their Digi-novel 'Dark Prophecy'; I also discovered Philip K Dick and read 3 of his short stories that were converted into Hollywood movies. Also, the third edition of the Mysterious Traveler Magazine had another set of 6 short stories by 6 different lesser known (literally unknown) authors and the Sherlock Holmes Misadventures were by different authors again, notably by the likes of Ellery Queen and Mark Twain.  

A fantastic reading score of 25 for this month; considering the change in my travel time of about 20-25 minutes in local trains (where I didn't even get to open the book at times since I travel during peak hours in the rush direction). And once again the post is split into 3 parts.

 
 

1-6. The Mysterious Traveler Magazine - May 2006 edition (6 short stories)

I picked up another edition of MTM which had another set of 6 interesting stories themed on Ghosts. They were interesting read.

The Macabre - Incident at Warren Pass by Mark West

A tale of horror where a man is trying to figure out what the hell is happening with the help of an old man. The climax is pretty interesting as the tables turn.  

Crime - The Broker by William A. Hall

No horror. No Ghosts. Just a regular American bar where people come to play pool, snooker, poker and while some enjoy the game, others enjoy the exchange of money on the outcome of the game. But what happens when greed grips you and you have no money to pay. What would you do? Would you even murder? … But that is not even the interesting part of the story !!!   

Strange Stories - The Attic by Chris Burdett

A story about a man who is afraid of visiting his friend's new house's attic after a horror filled ghostly experience he had in his youthful days. He describes his experience to his friends …  

Suspense - Fair and Square by Fenna Geelhoed  

Imagine a door-to-door salesman knocking at your door claiming that he deals with soles and he is ready to take your old soles and repair them and give it to someone else. You think it is a joke (who deals with soles?) and dismiss that guy unceremoniously.

Later in the middle of the night, you wake up hearing some commotion on the street and you find that salesman back at your steps asking again for your sole. And suddenly you realize that when you thought he meant 'sole' he was actually talking about your 'soul'. Now THAT makes it a pretty interesting read.

Mystery – The Big Fix by Pauline C. Smith

A private investigator is approached to find why a ethical celebrated boxer is going to engage in match-fixing, he is amused. When his most reliable information source keeps mum and even asks him to back off from the case; he is surprised and want to dig deeper. The case becomes murky as high profile political people are involved and shots are fired.  

Short Shocker - Special Delivery by the Mysterious Traveler

An insight into the thoughts of a man who is playing the role of a Sniper … perched atop a tall building waiting for his 'victim' so that he can shoot him. He is also aware that there is another person who is about to kill the victim and that as soon as she does it, she would be under a hail of bullets. He loves the girl and has to decide what to do next.

 

7. As the Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer 

This one was lying with me since a long time but the small font size was a put off for me. Reading the fine print while travelling was difficult and hence I was postponing the reading of this one. I have read Jeffrey Archer before; short stories as well as long novels but never quite became a 'fan' of his writing.  

It was a fantastic story of an enterprising man who starts from his grandfather's fruits and vegetables barrow and build his business empire besides serving in war. The story gets pretty complex as characters get involved and they play important roles in carrying the story forward. The story itself is very interesting with twists and turns; where the author mutes some of the conversations to create an element of suspense.

The way the whole novel is written is pretty interesting. The story is narrated from different people's perspective with some chapters written in first person. This means that the story goes back and forth often repeating events since they get narrated again by a different person … different perspective. Each person looks at an event with a different perspective.

Small print size and about 500 pages; this was a really really long novel; probably the longest that I would read in a long time. Absolutely loved reading it

 

8. Sherlock Misadventures: The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore by Ellery Queen 

A man steps out of his house, looks at the sky, has an inkling that it would rain, steps back inside to grab his umbrella …. And promptly disappears (almost as if he never existed). A mention of such an unsolved case exists in the original stories. History repeats itself when the grandson of the disappeared man does the same thing … right in front of the eyes of police who are waiting outside to grab him and throw him into prison. Ellery Queen solves the case lying on the bed (down with cold) giving instructions to his Inspector Father.

 

To Be Continued …


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Mumbai Local - First Class v/s Second Class

 

 

It is an old joke that the difference in the first class and second class of the Mumbai local trains is that people in first class use deodorants and hence you are exempted from the smelly underarms while travelling. The mute point being; both class of travel experience a passenger overload during the peak hours and you are almost equally squeezed and pushed around in both.

Of course, the seats in First Class are cushioned (unlike the hard seats of second class) but then that would make a difference only if you get to sit (which would be a likely probability only if you get into the train from the station it originates).

My father holds a first class pass from Churchgate to Andheri (since past 7 years, ever since we moved to Andheri). He often travels by Second class in the evening. Strange, isn't it?

This is why he does it … In the First class, there is an unwritten rule that on the seat, only the designated number of people (which is 3) will sit. No squeezing on the seats per se. In the second class, on the other hand, people will move and squeeze to accommodate an extra person so 4 people can sit. When my Dad gets in the train at Marine Lines while coming home, in all probabilities, 3 members are already seated on all seats. In first class, he would have to stand for over 40 minutes of the journey unless he gets a seat vacated by someone; while in Second class, he would get at least the 4th person seat which would translate into proper seating when someone gets up and leaves.

I don't have 'that' facility since I get in at Lower Parel (closest to my office) and by that time the trains are almost fully loaded with people. No space to sit and you got to struggle a bit (just a bit) to find some space to stand. I often get an empty seat to sit by the time the train reached Santacruz but then I often don't take it since it is just 5 more minutes to Andheri. The first class and second class difference is not really much for me except the 'Deo' part J and of course the fact that the crowd is 'little less' in first class … but the crowd is there nevertheless.

You can't really escape the crowd in Mumbai.   
 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Presentation Screens

 

When will projectors and presentation screen catch up with the screen sizes of laptops, desktops, TVs ??

Every time I design a presentation in Microsoft Powerpoint; I am faced with the situation where the aspect ratio of the powerpoint slide is 4:3 while the screens on which I work (mostly laptop / occasionally desktop) have long gone into the wide-screen mode (16:9 or wider).

Increasingly I find organizations sporting large size TV's in their conference rooms which get connected to the laptop you are carrying and the wide-screen TV becomes the 'screen/monitor' for your equally wide-screen laptop screen. No problems there most of the times. Problem is when you got to connect to the typical projector which is most often than not ceiling mounted or lies on the conference table. The projection screen is also 4:3 ratio and so is the projection from the projector. This often requires your laptop 'signal' or screen resolution to be changed to 4:3 format to match the projection.

THIS is troublesome and inconvenient as it shakes up my 'desktop' and moves around the various icons I have on screen. And then I have to search for my files and folders on the desktop.

Hope the manufacturers and software designers are already looking into it and working towards resolving the issues without inconveniencing the user.

I strongly feel it is time the presentation and projection format goes wide-screen …  and there should be a better software built into the laptop / computer / projector itself to take care of the appropriate projection ratios.