Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kerala trip - Day 2 - Train timing, friends, relatives

A pleasant surprise early in the morning. The train reached the Kochuveli station, our destination, 25 minutes ahead of time - instead of 6.35 am it arrived at 6.10 am.
Thanks to the transportation requirements of the British Empire, they set up a wonderful railway network in India. It's one of the largest in the world. And running it is a mind-boggling operation.
Trains especially long-distance ones were known to run late. But in the last few years, they have been keeping time, possibly because of advances in technology. But reaching the destination this early was quite a surprise.
That reminds me what a friend once told me about airline timings. I was told, I am not sure if it's true, that the airlines add a few minutes to the expected arrival time at the destination, so that passengers are impressed that they reached their destination ahead of time. Also, just in case there is any unforeseen delay on the part of the airline, passengers won't scream at the airline for wasting their time; because the flight would have still landed on time!
The first engagement of the day was meeting an uncle of mine. He runs a school for autistic children in Thiruvananthapuram, and we met him there this morning.
Now there is a lot of advancement in the way differently-abled children are looked after. I was quite impressed with the thought that has gone behind the way the school has been designed and the various facilities for children. It was such a pleasant sight to see children play with different types of toys, which are designed specially for them.
We then went to meet a cousin of mine and her family. It's nearly two years since we met them last.
Then in the evening, we headed to the Thiruvananthapuram office of the media organisation I work for. I have a good friend there - we were colleagues in another media organisation as well, at the beginning of our careers some 30 years ago. So we ended up chatting about our other friends and some memorable days of yore.
A big surprise was that a colleague of mine here had worked with my wife, again long back at the beginning of their careers some 30 years ago!
Media circle is a small world... You talk to someone and it turns out that he knows a good friend of yours, or he has worked with someone you know.
Though we all could have chatted for hours, we didn't want to cut into their work hours. My and I then went for some shopping, had dinner and headed back home.
It was a day well spent, catching up with relatives and friends.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Kerala trip - Day 1 - Train journey

I am in a train along with my wife. We are heading for the annual alumni meet of my alma mater - Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Thiruvananthapuram district, south Kerala.
For my trips to Kerala, often in the past, I have taken the flight, owing to lack of time. It's just about an hour by air from Bengaluru.
But this time, we decided to take the train. It's 15 hours by rail. Since the climate is quite pleasant now, we chose the non-air-conditioned coach.
If I have the time, I always prefer the train to flight. And if the climate is good, nothing like the non-a/c cars. Unlike in a/c coaches, I don't feel claustrophobic.
Open windows that provide unfiltered view of the landscape -- lush greenery, undulating plains, hills and valleys, lakes and rivers. And the cool breeze that blows in makes it all the more worthwhile. The close proximity to nature: It's extremely refreshing.
The sound of the train racing on the tracks provides a sort of feeling of travel or movement. It takes a break only when the train stops at stations: the brief pauses in a journey.
If the halt is for some five minutes or more, it's also a chance to step out, have a look around the place, quickly grab a cup of tea or coffee, and then hop back in when it's time to move.
It's nearing 10.30 pm. Most of the lights in the coach are dimmed, with passengers reclining on their berths for a good night's sleep.
I am posting this via Blogger app. And I can't see an option to post photos, unlike on the website.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Crown, Sports and Blockchain

I took a three-week break from Blogger and visiting other blogs. We all need a break, don't we?

So, what have I been doing? Well, quite a bit.

Watching movies, cricket world cup, reading books, listening to lots of music ...


Matt Smith as Philip and
Clair Foy as Elizabeth / Netflix
One day I was giving a search on Netflix to see if it has the 1984 British TV Series 'Jewel in the Crown'. It is about the final days of the British reign in India.

I don't think it is available on Netflix. What showed up instead right on top was another British series The Crown.

I have been reading a lot of positive reviews about this epic of sorts, a biopic of Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch.

Without much ado, I began watching it. Soon, my wife joined me; and we have been restraining ourselves from getting into binge watching.
It's addictive, not without reason. Top class acting, direction and photography. At the last count, the film has fetched 15 awards under various heads.

Great performance by Claire Foy as Princess Elizabeth and later the queen, Matt Smith as her husband Prince Philip, and Vanessa Kirby as her younger sister Princess Margaret.

We have completed Season 2 Episode 3. The third season, with different actors as Elizabeth and Philip, is to be released later this year. There will be six seasons of 10 episodes each.

It's as much about the queen's life and British politics as much as it is about her sister's. What a contrast between the two siblings!

The innate personalities of the two, how the rigid royal rules come in the way of their personal lives, the role of the monarchy in the evolving world -- it's all portrayed so well and powerfully in the series.


Two weeks of tennis extravaganza / Wimbledon
There is so much happening in the sports arena. Today the third Grand Slam of the year opens at Wimbledon.

While it will be the predictable trio of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafel Nadal in the men's section, it will the new world number 1 Ashleigh Barty who will be the cynosure of all eyes.

Cricket World Cup is inching close to the semifinal stage. India lost for the first time yesterday against England.

Of course, I would like India to bring back the cup, which they have won twice. There will be stiff opposition from England, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Let us see how it goes.


Blockchain is a new type of internet / Equinix
Blockchain and bitcoin are not the same. Blockchain is like internet and bitcoin is one application like email or Facebook.

I had the good fortune of attending a two-day conference on this fledgeling technology.

It's already working quietly in the background of many services and product companies. But it's yet to take off in a big way.

It is a new way of computing or a new type of internet, wherein participating members of a network communicate to each other rather than via a central authority.

It's like sending an email directly to another person instead of routing it through Google or Microsoft or sending money directly instead of via a bank.

Another property of blockchain is it's immutable - data once approved and sealed, can't be tampered with. In case, someone breaks in, each member of the network gets a notification. This property is finding application in digitizing land records, medical records etc.

The third property of blockchain is what is called the 'power of provenance'. Which means the entire history of all activities is logged in and recorded.

Imagine, when you shop for fruit in a department store, how would you feel if you could scan a barcode and get to know, how was it cultivated, when and where the fruit was harvested, what fertilizers were used, where the commodity was stored, from where was it transported and all such details.

Blockchain is finding applications in many areas, especially in the retail business, empowering customers, and serving to increase the trust people have in the companies and the products they sell.

This news report says the French retailer Carrefour has seen in an increase in the sale of some products after they began using blockchain, customers now trust the products more.