Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rate my life - 2018

Another year has passed already?

I am seeing some changes this year and it relates very well to what actually happened. I also noticed another segment in the quiz which I never noticed earlier. Kind of surprising given I am doing this ritual for five years now. This is a comparative study with 20k other quizzers. While I am not utilizing the comparison for feel good feel bad tidbits, the quizzers went through answering detailed questions resulting in the final results. So the scores represent something in that aspect which I feel provides some insights.

Mind => Have no clue why the scores went down
Body => Spot on. I haven't acclimatized my behavior and eating habits with natural body degradation due to age. It is showing in more than one way. This twilight zone might be a good time to make some changes
Spirit => No clue why it went up
Friends/Family => My mother passed away recently. I just mentioned that in the quiz which is probably why the dip. Not sure of the correlation with the incident with the dip of 1.1 points
Love and Finance => Dead on at the same level which is accurate



This is 2018
This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.2
Mind: 6.8
Body: 6.9
Spirit: 7
Friends/Family: 4.7
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Comparison




This was 2017

This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.9
Mind: 6 7.5
Body: 7.8
Spirit: 6.8
Friends/Family: 5.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.4
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
This was 2014:
This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.8
Mind: 7.3
Body: 9
Spirit: 6.5
Friends/Family: 4.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
And this was 2013...
This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.3
Mind: 6.7
Body: 8.4
Spirit: 5.7
Friends/Family: 4.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ready Player One

Forgive me for starting with a cliche as always. Spoilers ahead. And I seriously recommend you don’t read the piece if you haven’t seen the movie. I will try to keep it mild but it is hard to say anything meaningful without revealing SOMETHING.

There is a certain bro code among thick friends. Its an implicitly understood paradigm of pacts and responses that borrows from both the cultural milieu and from the commingling personalities. There is, similarly, a certain gamers code among avid gamers. The shortcuts, the game universe, the spawned (see what I did there?) lingo, the treasures, the add ons and the bootups, hours of finger taps, gigabytes of bandwidth, “yo man”s and “rad”s and pixel glazed eyes shape the gamers code. At the risk of being way out of my depth, you can forgive me for assuming the 71-year-old Spielberg to be out of HIS depth in the gaming universe. (My startling experience with this aspect came with Blackhat where I saw an otherwise great director, Michael Mann, struggled for once to convincingly depict a nerdy thriller. This in spite of getting almost all the technicalities correct)

Hell, I might have been one of the outsiders save the hundreds of hours I put into Doom, One Must Fall, Duke Nukem 3D (judge me later), Bobby Goes to Home (yes Atari!), Loderunner, Quake and Tetris a couple of decades ago. But darn was I glad to have been so wrong about him. Instead of taking a nostalgic trip backwards, he ends up paying a profound tribute to the spirit of the game creators, the gamers and the gaming universes by taking a trip to the future. In the end this ends up taking us on a nostalgic trip backwards as well.

OASIS is the gaming future the past continuously strove for. It is all the passion, knowledge and the gamers united together with the then missing glue of technology. I was wearing 3D glasses watching the movie and midway it was such a sensory overload that the spawned (sue me) headache lasted well after the movie. I don’t regret it a bit. I don’t remember if I was gawking at any point. If there was, it probably would have been when the race started backwards. All the flying cars and the dinosaur and the kong gorilla in inversion was a mind-warped and mind-blown moment for me. I won’t blame my brain for the headache.

While it raises some serious questions about implications of being immersed in a falsity for so long - and these questions are relevant already - we can safely argue that the movie only extrapolates without exaggeration, what already exists, on a sufficiently linear timeline. 2045? Very plausible - give perhaps a decade more. But the question is more significant for the future. There is a certain detachment when gazing at pixels, be it the ubiquitous mobile or the computer or the television. A certain background awareness that the object of gazing is unreal. What if this last bastion of feeble anchorpoint to reality is taken away by incredibly efficient virtual reality and incredibly fast internet? What if the virtual seems more real? What if reality is disillusioning? What if the virtual is the new real? The last minute of the movie makes a passing recommendation of a plausible solution. But that recommendation-passing never was the goal was it? The goal was always celebration of the gamers culture. We can forgive the movie for that. Why so? Because we have the luxury now of seeing the future as it will be from the vantage point of the past. Raising the question is sufficient now as the first generation VR devices are off the block. What would be sufficient checks and balances to place so that the humanity of future doesn’t lose itself in the real OASIS of the future where virtuals start becoming reals for people?

Enmeshed in the pixels and the tizzy of gaming overload is a coherent storyline I am struggling to extricate. And there WAS a coherent storyline. It all made sense when I watched it. Boy meets girl in OASIS. Boy meets his friends in OASIS. Boy meets the villain in OASIS. Boy meets girl in reality. Boy meets his friends in reality. Boy meets the villain in reality. Does the boy save OASIS in reality? What does the boy learn about the gamers spirit and love and regret and friendship in the process? Since the movie operates in three different planes and happily criss crosses among the planes making my brain glaze over more than once, I need to watch it once in 2D again and once in 3D again to appreciate how all these dimensions come together as a creation.

Take a bow Steven Spielberg! As much as I love and prefer reality over all things virtual, its hard to not get rubbed on by the passion with which the imagination of the future and the spirit of the gaming past and an extremely sensible and plausible storyline have been woven together. Heck, I am tempted to take a joystick and play Doom again! (Raspberry Retro Pie is supposed to have Doom). May be I will do that. My bro (the real one in the literal sense of the meaning) will be happy to give me company. I will be happy to kick his ass and high five him then in true gamers spirit!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Jumanji - Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Movie permalink

I am writing this more for introspection than for the uninitiated to help choose. So there may be spoilers.

Very good pluses of the movie:
  • Unpretentious plot. It is as simple as it gets. As a result, they can repeat the same plot next time by changing the target of the game. It can do 2-3 rounds before it gets boring
  • Not setting up for a sequel. Needs guts as movies like this are money making machines. Of course, if the studio decides, they can always make a convoluted entry back. But the movie ending is unequivocal.
  •  Excellent humor. Non stop, simple and relies on delivery and situational comedy instead of wise-ass quirks. A little like Friends.
  • Great screenplay. With the plot being trivial, its the screenplay that would make or break a movie like this. So it delivers big time. 
One big minus is that the characters figure out what happens to them as they go along. That being the case, when one character dies (loses one of her three lives), she is in essence reborn. When you play a video game, the interpretation is trivial. Here the character experiences this. So dying and being reborn should feel real. It is kind of a big deal. But we audience see this like how we see a character die and come to life when we hold the controls. At least one instance of how the character feels should have been done. I am sure a real experience like this would transform the character totally. The movie takes the easy way out.

The other thing is that one of the characters get sucked into the game at a different year. Others get sucked into the game at a different year. When they are released they go back to their respective years. Now, the "current" of the earliest character and related events automagically change in the present. This is a huge deal and a time-warp of Interstellar or Stephen Hawking proportions. The movie wins because it doesn't try to make sense of these things and takes a trivial approach.

Finally, are there other characters who got sucked into the game at different times? Are they alive in the game? The game is essentially an alternate universe of its own. What happens if they die in the game? How is the bridge between the Jumanji universe and the earth universe maintained? The movie says: I am happy to ignore all these implications. Great, thank you for the honesty and I will take that!

Overall, I loved the humor. And the movie was entertaining throughout. 7/10

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What is wrong with how malls and their outlets operate?

I think corporates, builders and retailers are waking up to the fact that malls are a sure success recipe - provided the initial budget can be worked out. With my personal experience, I can say malls "work".

It is a very hard combination to beat. Place to park your vehicles, buffet of retail stores, buffet of eateries and a multiplex for movies. Charging a premium for the experience - premium in terms of slightly inflated food and retail prices - is ok.

This is a slightly whiny post and not everything is about the cost. Even items about the cost have a certain thought process behind them. The customer is the most important person on the premise of a mall and her experience should be the first design priority. Profitizing (yeah, I made that up) should be a side effect.

First, many retailers seem to operate their stores like they are stand alone. For example, if there is a mobile outlet that is outside the mall, nine times out of ten, I know what I want when I go there. So I go, get my job done and exit. In a mall, more often than not, I want to hang out. That involves a lot of "looking around" without buying. So the outlets need to be arranged like that. Most of the outlets I visit are arranged like standalone. The moment I walk in, one of them comes to me and asks what I want. Which is precisely the opposite of how it needs to be. A mall outlet should be arranged for the person to just walk around. The outlet incharge should be "absent but ready to be present". This will ensure foot fall. Some outlets get this design. But even they are guilty of the "yes sir?" behaviour. If they fix this, they will ensure more walk ins. And just the odds will ensure a purchase. Today, because of the layout and "yes sir?" I don't step into 85% of the outlets. What a waste! (And I am talking about win-win here, not my pleasure alone).

Some outlets take this "yes sir?" to another level. One example is the Lifestyle home decor store. Granted, with my shabby hair and unkempt beard, I sometimes look like a thief. Also granted, some people might genuinely look lost and may want help. But I suspect that their training and staff behavior are acutely geared towards making the person uncomfortable. This might be because of the reason I described above [no purchase, rubber-neck]. What the staff does is just follow me around wherever I walk making me acutely self conscious. This happened at least thrice. Twice, I just wanted to look. Once, I wanted to buy [a lot]. When I am looking, I want to be immersed with what I am looking. If I want help, I can call. But this actively and acutely following tactic is annoying and puts me off totally. Its almost the store saying "get out of my place"! The third time it happened, I went to the staff and asked "Am I looking suspicious?". He probably didn't expect this and said "No sir!". "Then why are you following me around?". "In case you need help.". Bad idea. If you really want to help, keep them around but don't hound me. If thievery is a concern, you can work around your CCTV and monitoring process.

Third the food-courts. Every food court now issues a card which has to be pre-loaded and used in the outlets. And the card itself is 20 rupees. This is a big nuisance. Some outlets like Express Avenue in Chennai don't have a refund process for the food card (someone please sue them). And the amount expires in a year. All this amounts to robbing people blind. Certain "elite" outlets like McDonalds, KFC are exempted from this food card process. [Of course, they buy their way out of exemption so its a fair business deal]. I can understand why the food cards are present. The FC lessor has a sales cut by sales volume and this is the easiest way for him to track the sales. But the scape goat is the customer. I personally have 4 cards. And I lost three which probably had about INR 300 in cash. It is estimated that the ambient cash on all issued cards in a mall amounts to INR 35 lakh. This is interest free money the FC lessor holds. It works because of the volume. A customer with INR 50 on her card will probably say no biggie! I will use it next time. Again, this is nothing but thievery.

So what is the solution? I will suggest, issue food cards for INR 20. But don't load the card with money. Let the customer pay in the outlet with cash or credit/debit card. In addition, they can swipe the food court card. You can have a board saying "if the outlet doesn't swipe the FC card, your food is free". When the customer goes, he can return the card and get his 20 bucks back. Of course, the FCs aren't going to do this themselves. A law should be made for this.

Finally, parking! In-mall parking is a convenience. But what happens there is nothing short of looting. We recently parked a two wheeler for five hours at express avenue and got charged INR 130. To top this, there is a board saying "parking at owner's risk". So what am I paying for? It is for leasing the parking space for the duration. Cars are much more expensive to park. Again, a law needs to be made that balances the customer's pocket with the owner's investment. Today the odds are totally stacked against the customer. Another solution (and a great business idea) is to totally waive off the parking fee for someone who spends INR 500 or more. Work out a way to make this happen. So if I just was a rubber neck in the duration I can pay more for pleasure of just window shopping.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Books I've read recently - #6

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
I picked this book up almost by accident. This book will clearly classify as seminal work. The high level essence of this book, I already knew. I guess most of us know. Which is, why deep work is important. The powerhouse impact came from the elucidation of the undercurrents and the implications. In a distraction happy world, people who do deep work are a rare breed. While it is inevitable it brings success and money, and perhaps fame, my takeaway was more significant (personally). It was about learning. It opened a window in my head about something I always knew but did not know. This book is a must read.

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
 I just had to read this following the earlier one (above) by Cal Newport. While verbose, I guess erring in favor of repeating is perhaps better than skimping. While not as impactful for me as 'Deep Work', this is still significant. Career capital, which this book defines, and deep work go hand in hand, so this is a must read as well. The most significant bit for me came in the appendix where the author describes how he applied each of the rules defined in the book in his own life.

Katwalk
 This was a charming story. The writing is simple and the story doesn't involve a major plot twist either. A bit boring in the middle, but I loved reading it. Without spoiling, a hat tip for keeping Kat's and Deb's friendship intact. I was half expecting a backstab. We can do without those - thank you very much!

The Gravy Train
 Thanks to Kindle, I am picking up interesting titles which I wouldn't have otherwise. I liked the narration. My gripe (not attributing to the author) was that 70% of the wall street and investment terminology went over my head. The author either had to be verbose and lay it out for laymen like me or assume knowledge and narrate it for the comfortable. Fair enough, he chose the latter. The story would have added two notches additional enjoyment if I had the concepts down. I like the thriller aspect of the story.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rate my life - 2017

While I didn't intend it this way, this has become an interesting ritual - since I now have historical data to compare.

While I can't comment on the scientific veracity of this quiz, some interesting things I see which correspond properly with the way I "feel" about these parameters:

Mind -> Steadily improving from 6.7 to  7.3 to 7.5
Body -> Vacillating, but "healthy"
Spirit -> Steadily improving from 5.7 to 6.5 to 6.8.
Friends and Family -> My hopeless areas, but improved by a whole point
Love -> Incredibly sustaining at same value
Finance -> Improved a tad

To be honest, my active work involves working with mind, body and spirit alone. The last three are left to providence. As damning as it sounds, the work done with the first three will invariably percolate to the last three.



This is now, 2017

This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.9
Mind: 6 7.5
Body: 7.8
Spirit: 6.8
Friends/Family: 5.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.4
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
This was 2014:
This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.8
Mind: 7.3
Body: 9
Spirit: 6.5
Friends/Family: 4.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
And this was 2013...
This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.3
Mind: 6.7
Body: 8.4
Spirit: 5.7
Friends/Family: 4.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
 
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