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