Monday, June 18, 2018

Surprises galore at FIFA World Cup 2018

Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson saving
a penalty kick from Argentina's Lionel Messi
Photo credit: Marca
With the FIFA World Cup on in Russia, there is at least one good match to look forward to everyday till July 15, when the final will be played.

I come from a state in India, Kerala, where people are so crazy about football. All are united as one, when it comes to interest in the game, and no conversation is complete without some reference to the ongoing World Cup matches.

Eleven matches were complete till yesterday; and if there is one theme running across all of them, it is how it has been hard time for the favourites.

On June 15, Portugal, in spite of having Cristiano Ronaldo, were held to a 3-3 tie by Spain.

On June 16, Argentina, in spite of having Messi, were held to a 1-1 draw by, of all teams, Iceland.

On June 17, Germany suffered a shock defeat by Mexico 0-1, and Brazil were held 1-1 by Switzerland.

Of course, in every tournament, there are surprises. It's good they are there, so that we don't have predictable, and therefore boring, matches.

Today evening, England will face Tunisia. And, I am wondering how that will go. The tournament is wide open.

YOUR PREDICTIONS?

Which four team you think have the highest chances of winning the cup?

I am placing my bet on Brazil. The other three in the order of probability are: Germany, Argentina and France.

If I can add two more, I won't be surprised if Spain and even England make it to the top four.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle -- the golden 3R Rule for resource conservation

Image courtesy: University
of Southern Indiana
It is extremely heartening to see that in many places people are practising the golden 3R Rule for conserving natural resources -- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

A number of things that we use in our daily lives can be minimised by using smaller quantities, so that there is no wastage. If something is not needed, instead of putting it in the garbage bin, it is better to pass it on to someone who might need it.

Water and electricity

These are two things that we tend to take so much for granted. We can easily reduce the amount of water and power that we use. I make it a point to open the tap only as much, so that too much water doesn't flow: basically just the required amount.  Very often we tend to open the tap to such an extent that more water than what is necessary flows out, which is of course wasted. No wonder, there are grave warnings of water running out.

Same is the case with electricity. Air conditioners, fan and light often remain switched on even if we don't need them. We take availability of electricity for granted. If we can reduce the consumption,

Paper

If my observation is any indication, there is at least some reduction in the use of paper, with most of the routine communication now online in soft copy format. This is not to undervalue of the importance of having something written on paper, or reading something written on paper. That can be the subject of another post.

When I swipe my card in a store, a paper trail of the payment receipt is generated by the point of sale machine. I always tell cashier, I don't need the customer copy, because I have already got a conformation via a text message on my phone. I have seen some stores not taking out a paper receipt for themselves too. When I asked them, why they weren't taking one, they said, it's logged in the system, and there is no need for a paper receipt.

My late father always reused available pieces of paper (like the reverse side of bills, envelopes and advertisement flyer that come along with newspapers, or dropped in our letterbox) to write anything that was not formal, and didn't require taking a new sheet of paper.

A non-government organisation, Youth for Seva, in Bengaluru, has launched an initiative called 'Give Paper Back', which involves collecting notebooks that have unused pages in them. The idea is to take these unused sheets, stitch and bind them to make new notebooks that are distributed in rural schools for students.

Clothes

The trend is catching on, and it's not just paper.

In the city of Thiruvananthapuram (capital of south Indian state of Kerala), outside a shopping mall, there is a red box, which resembles a letter box, in which you can drop old clothes, or even a new ones. This is an initiative by a non-government organisation called Support 4 Society. They are planning to install such "dress banks" outside other shopping centres as well.

Plastic

Though plastic is very useful, and not all plastic is harmful, there is plenty of it that is needlessly used and harming our ecology. The South Western Railway (of Indian Railways) has, in partnership with a private firm, set up bottle-crushing machines at train stations in the city of Bengaluru. They were earlier introduced in Mysuru. They are there in Ahmedabad, Pune, and Mumbai, stations as well. As a token of appreciation, if you enter your mobile number in the machine, you get a cash back of Rs 5 in your Paytm wallet.

Spectacles

Various organisations like Lions Club, Red Cross etc collect used spectacles send them to recycling units. Some opticians too accept old specs.

These are really heart-warming initiatives, which not only need all the support and encouragement, but also are worthy of being emulated.

What about you?

Do you consciously make an effort to reduce and reuse? Are you aware of similar initiatives?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Shrinking job opportunities for seniors

Climbing up the career ladder, gives a person more experience and brings in more wages. But the flip side is higher one goes, narrower become chances of getting hired. My impression is not based on any research, but on purely anecdotal evidences.

One tends to find more job openings for younger people. The younger crowd tries to experiment  and explore different careers. There is a lot of churning in that level, and naturally, job vacancies keep coming up in the lower rungs of an organisation.

In the middle and senior levels, many people tend to stick on to their jobs. They are averse to taking risks since they have various commitments like expenditure for their children's education, many loans which they need to pay back monthly etc.

Another reason is that employees at lower levels are paid lesser. There is a heavy cost burden when organisations recruit staff at higher levels. So, the probability of getting hired at senior levels become lesser.

Seniors tend to come to an organisations with a heavier baggage than juniors. They might also be less amenable and flexible, compared to a junior who might be willing to experiment and learn.

The seniors are usually counted for their experience, broad perspective, insights and ability to make very informed and mature decisions. In this context, a news item that I read a couple of month ago, comes to mind. 

A Mumbai-based startup, Truebil, which is a virtual market place for pre-owned cars, is hiring interns who are over 60 years of age to work at middle and senior level managerial positions. Two advantages here: one, helping elders understand how new, niche technology works; and two, putting their maturity and experience to good use to mentor the employees of the startup who are mostly in their mid-twenties.

But all said and done, as we grow older, we need to understand and accept the fact that we have had our heydays; and that there are younger, brighter, smarter men and women who would be more efficient. 

But, if someone wants to count on our skill sets, maturity and experience, like that startup, we are always there.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
Right from the moment Donald Trump threw his hat into the presidential contest ring, I have been following updates about him. So, when I got to know about this book, I naturally wanted to read it.

Unlike other books, the problem with this one was that, the most explosive or sensational points had already become headlines in major global news platforms, even before the book became available for purchase. So, when I bought the book and read it, it didn't have the sort of impact it should actually have had.

Almost all persons connected to the Trump administration figure in this book. It is all about how he dealt with them, how they dealt with him, what they did, what they didn't do, how he hired them, how he fired them, what they thought about the President etc. And, Michael Wolff adds his own interpretations to all of that.

If you have been following news headlines related to Trump, a lot of pages of this book will just evoke a feeling of deja vu. You would get a little more of insights into those controversies, their contexts, and implications.

There are references to Trump as a person, and his habits as well. Apparently, he reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor. And he said, “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.”

Wolff writes about Trump, "Personal dignity — that is, apparent uprightness and respectability — is one of his fixations. He is uncomfortable when the men around him are not wearing suit and ties."

After a point, the book becomes boring and predictable, with lots of details of intrigues, deals and strategies. As I reached the end of the book, I was wondering if Trump doesn't have any pleasant side to him at all. I don't know if he doesn't really have; or the author hasn't been able to get that out, or he didn't want to highlight that in the book.

If Trump is a person who has no quality worth writing home about, then how did he reach the position he is in now?

View my list of books on Goodreads

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Don't let loneliness make you feel sad

All parents are happy to see their children grow up and be independent. But, ironically, the fact that the kids are confident enough to venture out into the world on their own triggers sadness.

We are talking of "empty nest syndrome", which is not a disease but a feeling of loneliness, when the only child or the last of the children, leaves home for higher studies or on work. If we are not conscious of the symptoms, they can gnaw at our well-being.

(Even if you are not a parent, whose child has left home, there could be occasions when you feel lonely. So, you can carry on reading the post.)

When unchecked, some people turn cynical, sarcastic, and critical of anything and everything around them. Some others become short tempered and snap at every other person. In extreme cases, people could even turn to substance abuse like alcoholism.

What we should do

  • Accept the fact that the child had to relocate, and the consequent loneliness is an inevitability. 
  • There is nothing to feel sad about; instead we should find companionship. 
  • Speak on the phone to people who you are comfortable with, connect with such people on social media, emails etc.
  • Do some physical activity. Walk, run, exercises are good options. 
  • If you like cooking, get into the kitchen. 
  • Clean the house. 
  • Don’t put all clothes in the washing machine, wash some manually. 
  • Do some craft work, or paint. 
  • Do anything that involves the movement of your limbs.
  • Give your mind some work. Solve puzzles, read, write. Do something creative.
  • Do some good to people. No need to look around for opportunities; there are so many occasions in our daily routine, when someone needs some assistance. Be conscious of such opportunities, and reach out to them.

What we did

Our turn to face loneliness came when our son left home for another city for his post-graduation. Needless to say, the emptiness in our house is very palpable. Not just one person is not around, there is silence since we no longer hear the music my son plays on his mobile. The chit-chats, and the playful pranks are missing. And he isn’t with us now, for us to take care of.

One immediate thing, my wife and I did straightway was to ensure that we both had our weekly off day from work on the same day. (I have my off on Sunday and she had it on Wednesday.) She spoke to her boss, and got it moved to Sunday. 

We thought it was better for both to take off on a weekend rather than on Wednesday, because that will give us an opportunity to catch up with our friends, or attend some social functions, which we generally used to miss. So, now we have been meeting up with friends, watching some movies etc. 

Since we both are employed full time, we are occupied most of the waking hours. When we retire, we will have to seriously look around for something to be occupied with.

What are you doing?

  • Have you faced empty nest syndrome? 
  • Or do you know people who have facing this condition?
  • If you have been affected, how are you overcoming it?


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Do you talk or type?

Credit: Apple
You can not only talk on the phone, but you can also talk to the phone.

It is common knowledge -- at least among people who regularly use smartphones and other handheld computing devices -- that there is an option to speak to the phone, instead of typing.

Ask Google

For example, if you are looking for something on the Internet, you don't have to key in words into search engines likes Google or Bing or Yahoo. You can tap on the small microphone icon, within the search box, and speak to your phone.

Actually, some mobile keyboards give you the option to switch to voice commands, which means you can actually dictate an email rather than type it out.

You can also unlock your phone by speaking into it.

What is the weather today?

There are also voice-based digital assistants. Google has one called Google Assistant, there is Alexa Echo from Amazon.

Alexa is particularly useful. You can get advice on what the weather would be for the day, so you can decide what dress you should wear; or you can ask Alexa to add cheese to your shopping cart.

Then, why type when you can talk?

Very often talking is easier than typing, is it not? But when I look around, most people are typing on their phones, and not talking to it.

If talking is easier, then why is everyone typing?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Usher in new ideas, and accept them

Everything around us is changing at a fast pace. Forget 50 years ago, even 20 to 30 years ago, the world was so different.

While technology has made our lives easier, there are plenty of depressing things happening. There is no end to violence and killings; there are many instances of financial deceits; and physical intimidation, covert and overt. There is a lot of suffering and pain undergone by people, because they have been wronged.

In such a situation, it's only natural that many of us could be despondent; depressed with the new ways of the world, as it were. To pull our spirits up, we need to cut through this negativity; and keep reminding ourselves the good old phrase: 'Every cloud has a silver lining'.

The 50+ age group

Though pessimistic and cynical people can be found in any age group, there are many in the above-50 age bracket, for the simple reason that they have a long past to feel good about. There are many old people who keep saying, "In those days .... ", or "When we were young ... " The subtle hint in those statements is: "The past was better than the present."

I have also heard some old people making comments such as: “Look at this generation, How disorganised and careless they are. Moral standards and value systems have taken such a beating ...” These are people who find it hard to adjust to the different value systems of the younger generation.

About a month ago, some of us friends were having a discussion on how bright, smart and enthusiastic youngsters are today; and also on some of the successful startups (from Facebook to some lesser known ones) that are headed by young people. Then an old person amongst us, in his late sixties, made a comment that was very sarcastic, belittling the youngsters.

He said, “We struggled so hard for years together to reach the positions that youngsters are enjoying today without much effort." His complaint seemed to be: “I had to suffer so much, but these kids are having it so easy.” (But the fact is that youngsters are also putting in a lot of effort to be successful.)

Needless to say, such an attitude is not encouraging at all. Actually, it reeks so much of negativity.

Need to stay positive

I am not saying that everyone who is above 50 is low-spirited. There are so many people in that age bracket who are so cheerful and brimming over with positivity. They have so much of hope and trust in the youngsters.

One example of this was the gentleman whom I saw in the metro train recently. I blogged about him  last week.

There might be downsides, but in many ways, today's world is far better than what it was in the past. The youngsters may have different value systems and priorities. It might not be always possible to relate to the new dynamics. It might be also difficult to agree with everything that youngsters say and believe in. But that doesn't mean, all of us are hurtling towards disaster.

Change is inevitable

I think we should give space to the new ways of thinking, and new models of working and lifestyle. Afterall, as someone once said, 'the only permanent feature is change'.

Let us also not forget that when we were younger, our way of thinking was different from that of our parents' generation. So, it is only natural that the norm today is different from what it was many years ago.

As Alfred Tennyson wrote in Idylls of the King, "Old order changeth yielding place to the new."

Let us accept and embrace change.