Saturday, January 26, 2008

Random thoughts on a weekend...

A very painful photograph...
Hundreds of thousands of birds have been culled once avian flu (H5N1) was discovered (West Bengal). I am not very clear if all these birds where affected or if this is the easy way out. Also makes me wonder if a more scientific approach can be taken.

Ahem, one more test!
You Are a Banana

You are mellow, easy going, and a total softie on the inside.
People find it really easy to get along with you. You suit most tastes.

And while you're very sweet, you're not boring or ordinary.
You have an attraction to the exotic, and you could show up anywhere... doing almost anything!

You are spirited, energetic, and a total kick to be around.
You're also quite funny. Your sense of humor is on the goofy side, and it fits you well.

One more! (this description is very consistent from several tests. The only other description I have gotten is ENFP)

Your Personality is Very Rare (INFP)

Your personality type is dreamy, romantic, elegant, and expressive.

Only about 5% of all people have your personality, including 6% of all women and 4% of all men
You are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.

4th test... Seems headed for a draw. Though both teams are playing well, the run rate of either team is too low to allow enough space for four innings. Should India have pressed on in their first innings as they have greater need to win this match?

I heard that Burj Dubai (the world's tallest building or tallest to be) houses a 7 star restaurant. A cup of coffee here is 250 USD (no kidding!). I wonder what would be in the coffee to cost so much. You cannot drink diamonds :)
Also, prorate this to a week's stay at this place! And if there are people who can afford this, the economic gap between these folks and the people at the other extreme is just staggering and spell-binding!

I was talking to a friend and mentioned that I was going to buy a copy of "First Things First". The friend was dismissive, not in a negative way, but said instead that "Mystic's Musings" was the base for everything. Everything that is addressed in any management book would be present in this book. It is not easy to make the connection at first, but the latter addresses everything about a human being and traverses dimensions not everyone would like or would be ready. What I enjoyed most was the assurance with which my friend spoke, who concluded saying "You read your book and you'll find what I said is true!" I did complete "First Things First" and it is beautiful in it's own right. Stephen Covey strikes me as a very very integrous person. But in the end, my friend would be right. If we are open enough to Mystic's Musings and can imbibe the material as deeply as possible, we'll be settled for good in terms of everything we need in this lifetime!

I think Thursday was foreigner's day for me. When driving to work, I saw at least three cabs with foreigners, all dressed up in formals. Apparently, clients visiting the offshore IT offices. But I never forgot the face of two folks in the cars. The terror of wading through Chennai traffic was apparent :). With IT highway under construction, the interim situation was even more messy. I guess, in their minds they would've been saying "Oh my God {option expletive}! People actually manage to drive through this and reach their offices!". They would've been happy they were not on the driver's seat! But seriously, in about ten years time, even after much streamlining, I think traffic will move only at snail's pace at most places in India. I guess, Mumbai is already like this. Several parts of Chennai and Bangalore, at least during peak hours, are like this. Add poor and irresponsible driving, and a traffic chaos is the perfect outcome. Once for a long stretch (~1km), I was able to out pace a Maruti car caught in traffic. I was walking! May be, linking the entire city through underground trains (something like NYC) would be a worthwhile project. If we start now, it can be completed by 2020 or so - but it would be the perfect complement to exploding traffic. The budget would be staggering though, but it would be an incredibly sensible infrastructural investment that would also address the traffic chaos in a long-term way.

"pirivOm san-thippOm" (tamil movie) is beautiful :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Random thoughts on a weekend...

a) Sadhguru addresses the Davos question. Click on the link and search for "Sadhguru" to vote. Voting ends 21st Jan 2008 (that's tomorrow, IST!). These votes make possible to showcase Sadhguru's address at the WEF and to other leaderships. Please cast your vote and pass on this message!

b)India defeats Australia. Victory aside, it showcased the fact that it is possible to play competitive cricket with Australia. It is now two games in a row after Sydney. What also stands apart in this victory was that it was not achieved by a single person's contribution. Every one chipped on.

c) We watched a magic show by P C Sorcar (or Sorcars!) yesterday. None of us were able to explain a single trick. I can say for sure that some tricks involved illusions and / or mass hypnosis. It's too mind boggling to think of it any other way. In a way, this is an art form by itself. I wish they could train magicians through a school instead of leaving it hereditary.

d) I was surprised to notice this was the most popular post(in terms of views) in my blog over the last two months or so :)

e) Isha kAttuppO (ஈஷா காட்டுப்பூ) is becoming popular. Nice to know :)

f) Happened to read some reviews / comments about a few English movies. Just reading thru them was intolerable. It kept me dizzy for an hour or so. Watching the movies themselves... eeks! I'll keep you away from the URL's even :)
Gives me the feeling that many of us are walking volcanoes. People with tools for expressing them (movies, novels, blogs!!, on other people) find some relief by venting it on a short term (but what happens to the recipients?!?). What about others?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chennai and Traffic

As years roll down in this hot and dusty city, the sight of traffic congestion is an unchanging one. Though vehicular volume is on the rise and is part-contributor to congestion, people who have lived in this town know that traffic congestion is not new. As early as the eighties (and as early as the sixties from occasional reports I have read), traffic congestion is a given fact. Both from inference and from direct observation, the traffic situation is caused by more than the count of vehicles plying. It is my take that this situation can be improved just by a change in behavior of the road-users - pedestrians and drivers alike. With the number of vehicles to roll out on the roads only increasing, and with some break through changes (Tata Nano etc), limited infrastructure all coming together, we may be caught in a terrible mess if we drive around like we're the only one on road. If you've been outside India to US, Europe etc, we may shrug off the smooth flow of traffic there ascribing it to infrastructure. It is partly true - what goes unnoticed and taken for granted is the road discipline of the users. This is more or less imbibed in their systems now. I wanted to list some causes I have observed as a road-user in Chennai. I am sure this will be a recurring aspect in other metros as well (Hyderabad for example was very similar).

1) Impatience:
Somehow, this seems to be a very common factor among every road user in this city - and if I must point out one fundamental aspect that this different across the US and India, this must be it. Infrastructure will come only second. We motorists are an impatient lot. The moment we stop at a signal, we are not prepared to wait. Even as the signal is on red, vehicles will start advancing threateningly forward as if this gesture will turn the signal to green.

i) Part of the reason I think is the way we are brought up. We do not know how to wait.
ii) Another reason is a vicious cycle. The way we have made the situation now - motorists know that driving for oneself is the only way to reach wherever they are going, for every one is going to do the same thing. If you wait - you wait forever.

2) Having the common good in mind:
Are we asking for too much? :)
Think about these scenarios:
i) A bus stops right in the middle of the road keeping people behind waiting. The bus could have easily moved left and picked up people giving clearance for other vehicles to flow through.
ii) At an intersection, leaving space for vehicles from a different direction, just in case the signal changes

These are just a few examples. But implementing this requires a change in the way we function. This change can be brought about by awareness campaigns. These work! I've seen several such campaigns for other aspects - HIV, PGH - which bring good focus, if not change. This is the first step.

Anyway, the above two are general causes. The following are specific situations where change is possible.

3) Unmanned intersections:
This is a road-user's nightmare. What typically happens is that vehicles from all directions try to go their way and get caught right in the middle. This situation can be easily remedied if each vehicle goes about in a round robin fashion and others wait meanwhile. In the US, I've seen this work beautifully even in very large intersections. A flashing red light across all directions indicates to the drivers that they must move in a round-robin fashion. For some one from India, this sight is a joy to watch. Other smaller roads have stop signs which produces the same effect.
Why doesn't this happen here? "Each one to oneself"

4) Travel Left
A major problem in big highways. Example - NH 45 (Chennai->Trichy). The roads are beautiful and speeds of 100 kmph can be attained consistently. Only if slower moving vehicles keep left for higher speed vehicles to move right. Again, in the US, this is a given fact. Vehicles keep right (opposite side there) unless they need to pass (overtake). In some cases on NH 45, I've seen buses running in parallel and people engaging in conversation across the buses (Yes! National Highway connecting two major cities - believe it!) These areas are also a nightmare for two wheeler users because of rash driving.
A simple disciplinary change can bring about a major transformation!

5) (No) Honk
Add to traffic congestion, noise congestion. We people have a wrong idea that honking makes the person in front disappear. What must be a simple alerting fact becomes an expression of irritation due to impatience. Several times, people needlessly honk knowing very well that the vehicle in front cannot move. We can again take a leaf out of the US traffic rule book. People don't honk unless needed. In fact, being honked at offends people there. We may require honking more frequently here, but we don't need to drive with our finger on the horn!

6) Stop at red
Hmmmm! Interesting idea.

7) Travel on your side of road
Hmmmm! Another interesting idea. So you're not supposed to travel on the opposite side? I assumed that if that is the case, there would be barricades in the middle.

8) If you're turning right, stay on the right side of the road
This will help vehicles moving straight ahead. Though for current situations, having a "straight-only" signal doesn't make sense when there is a right turn possible as well. I've noticed only "straight and right" works.

9) Plant more trees
:) :)
Sorry couldn't resist! (Click on the hyperlink)
Though it is not going to help with the congestion, it will definitely help with the pollution. Seriously, one idea I keep having is to plant trees right in the middle of the road as a long term solution. Trees can serve as a barricade instead of concrete barricades!

These are enough! These changes will improve the traffic situation by 50%+ (gut feel). This in itself a major change - without any infrastructure improvements. For, even with amazing infrastructure, we don't have the consciousness to use it responsibly or efficiently.

Any other common-sense approaches that can contribute to improvement of traffic situations?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

More interesting tests...

These tests are pretty interesting :)

Your Gluttony Quotient: 26%

You have a pretty good relationship with food - you enjoy it, but you don't go overboard.
You've struck the perfect balance between gluttony and self control.

Your Geek Profile:

Academic Geekiness: Low
Fashion Geekiness: Low
Geekiness in Love: Low
Internet Geekiness: Low
Movie Geekiness: Low
Gamer Geekiness: None
General Geekiness: None
Music Geekiness: None
SciFi Geekiness: None

Your Observation Skills Get A B-

Your senses are pretty sharp (okay, most of the time)
And it takes something big to distract you!

Your Brain is 53% Female, 47% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

Your Movie Buff Quotient: 28%

You're a very typical movie goer. You like movies, but you are by no means a movie buff.
You've seen many of the biggest blockbusters, but you haven't really started digging in to the classics.

Your Worry Factor is 31%

You worry a little, but you usually don't go overboard.
You know it's good to recognize your fears, as long as you let go of them.
So whenever you start to worry too much, just take a deep breath and relax.
You're not the worrying kind - and there's no reason to start.

Well, You Know What a Blog Is...

You got 4/8 correct!

But, truthfully, most blogs probably bore you.

You Will Die at Age 79

You're pretty average when it comes to how you live...
And how you'll die as well.

You Are a Little Messy

You aren't the cleanest person in the world, but you're definitely not a slob.
You clean up when you have the time, but you're realistic about what you can get done.
Generally, you're pretty organized and tidy - though you may have a few hidden messes.
You eventually get around to making things spotless, but you do it on your own schedule!

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 80%
Spelling: 80%
Vocabulary: 80%
Punctuation: 60%

How You Life Your Life

You seem to be straight forward, but you keep a lot inside.
You're laid back and chill, but sometimes you care too much about what others think.
You prefer a variety of friends and tend to change friends quickly.
You tend to dream big, but you worry that your dreams aren't attainable.

Your Inner Child Is Surprised

You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What kind of a person are you?

Came across this interesting link...
Don't know how true everything is though. As with all tests, some appear true and some appear out-of-way.

You Are 5: The Investigator

You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.
You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.
You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

At Your Best: You are sharp, inventive, and creative. You have the skills to lead the world.

At Your Worst: You are reclusive, weird, and a bit paranoid.

Your Fixation: Greed

Your Primary Fear: Being useless or incompetent

Your Primary Desire: Being competent and needed

Other Number 5's: Bill Gates, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Bjork, and Stephen Hawking.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Project Green Hands - 5th Jan 2008

This episode of PGH was very enjoyable. After all the ground work (!), this involved the implementation aspect. Other was that there was less physical work ( ;) ). The task was to distribute saplings to school children of Ebenezer HSS, Perungalathur (near Tambaram). The volunteers had already done the ground work of collecting names of children who were interested in growing the saplings in or near their homes by visiting them at a prior date. The name lists had been collected by class. The principal of the school and rest of the staff treated all PGH volunteers with respect and courtesy. Probably, being part of the school syllabus, they appreciated the intent behind the initiative. Overall, about 300 saplings were distributed to children of this school. The next task will be to make periodic checks to monitor how the saplings are faring after plantation.

The PGH volunteer explaining to the school children, the process of planting the saplings and caring for them.

Unloading from the truck and carrying them to the classrooms for distributing to the children.

Devi (PGH volunteer) with saplings.

:) :) - School children with saplings on their way to home after distribution.

PGH volunteer team for this episode.
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