Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Dark Knight

I watched The Dark Knight today. A lousy movie with no story, no plot, no acting….OK a bit of acting, but absolutely no sense.

Let me stop jumping to biased conclusions and be a bit more objective

The story

The whole dark knight story is confusing to say the least. What on earth was happening? There is nothing subtle about it, nothing which makes you pause and think, nothing which actually makes one sit up and take note. Bad man kills, good man saves, good man inadvertently kills, bad man laughs in glee…duh!!!

But actually, there are two areas in the story which are worth mentioning:

The scene about having such power in one hand
That the part where Morgan Freeman and Christian Bale have the conversation about the sonar evesdropping on all telephone conversation. That part made you think; how dangerous is it really? Don’t nuclear countries give the power to their head of states in nuclear matters? Though countries do have some form of accountability. Though this topic deserves a post of its own, it’s definitely a scene which makes you think.

The Ferry Scene
The ferry scene where neither boat presses the button is another very interesting part. Its touching and very thought provoking. It made me think if I would so such a thing. It is one thing blogging about it and saying “yeah I will never press the trigger yada yada yada” but another thing actually doing it. Its takes a lot of guts, a HELL lot of guts to actually make that decision.

Heath Ledger’s acting

Ok, the papers are gaga over him; EVERYONE is gaga over him, but seriously! Is he so good that he puts a shiver down your spine? Is he so good that the mere thought of him as the joker is creepy? Is he even so good that you hide behind someone? I don’t think so. He was good. Period. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, on the overall, a very over-rated and over-hyped movie.

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Leadership

Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam: ‘A Leader Should Know How to Manage Failure’

India Knowledge@Wharton: Could you give an example, from your own experience, of how leaders should manage failure?

Kalam: Let me tell you about my experience. In 1973 I became the project director of India’s satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India’s “Rohini” satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources — but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 — I think the month was August — we thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order. My experts — I had four or five of them with me — told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal. It was a big failure.

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference — where journalists from around the world were present — was at 7:45 am at ISRO’s satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure — he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite — and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, “You conduct the press conference today.”

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience.

Kawa Ijen

I went to this place last October. It was a unique experience of going to such a place.. I do admire those people who were carrying all that sulphur.

Maybe the article does not help visualise the exact ground-level situation. Imagine a ladder with rickety steps which might fall anytime. Now imagine the latter positioned almost vertically. Now on top imagine that when you climb the ladder, you cannot depend on the sides, you cannot make use of your hands much, but would have to climb using only your feet. Now finally, imagine the ladder constantly moving.

That’s how it was climbing down the steep mountain to the crater. Ok, you can use your hands, but the slope is so steep that mere leaning over to hold on to something would destabilise anyone.

We were On top of that, these people carry loads!!! Kudos to them. Here we were, with nothing to carry, nothing but our own weights. We (at least me) was huffing and puffing and crying with all the smog in my eyes, nose, ears, you name it. And we climbed down and up only once! These guys were doing it continuously. In fact, in the 2 hours or so we spent going up and down, I distinctly remember one guy crossing me at least 3 times. 3 times!

To top it off, they hardly missed a beat when climbing down or up. No stopping to regain their balance, no fumbling, no looking around for the next sure footing, a consistent and sure walk all the time. Though I guess there were used to it.

However, it was no joke, abs no joke doing that…Makes us realise the pampered and luxurious lives we lead.

Some pics of Kawa Ijen which we took during our trip.

A Worker Carrying a Sulphur Load

A Worker Carrying a Sulphur Load

Worker Coming Up The Mountain with a Load

Worker Coming Up The Mountain with a Load

Weighing the Sulphur

Weighing the Sulphur

Sculpted Sulphur

Sculpted Sulphur

The Crater (You can see the people as tiny dots on bottom left)

The Crater (You can see the people as tiny dots at the bottom of the picture)

The Actual Path of Ascent and Descent

The Actual Path of Ascent and Descent

Devils

Tasmanian Devil

Features:

  • Jaws are more powerful than a tiger’s
  • Opportunistic feeders, not specialised predators
  • Can smell food up to one kilometre away
  • Devils have at least 11 distinct vocal calls
  • Became “devils” in 1803 when sailors reported “unearthly” calls

Harmony in Architecture

I read this article some time back. Cities for Living explains what is important in architecture. What should a good building design consist of? What does one mean by a harmonious building?

The author is a bit biased towards the conservatism form of architecture, which mostly consists of columns, arcs, with relatively little glass. Yet, I tend to agree with some of these opinions.

He states clearly that the soul of a city lies in two factors; people and buildings; and I tend to agree with that. One cannot create a home without a family. In the same way cities; their culture, their life, their blood cannot be created without people. Its the people who breathe life into a city, give it it’s distinctive feature, it’s moods and it’s colours.

One residue of people is buildings. People create buildings; they decide how it should look according to their individual tastes, their sense of harmony, culture, tradition and their livelihood. Thus, no two buildings are alike. Each column has a story to tell, each roof has something interesting to share.

However, this tradition of building to suit the people is fast disappearing. Wherever you turn, the normal and staid rectangular glass buildings with a million storeys and gazillion lights and rooms are what you see. One can argue that these buildings signify the aspirations of the people in that city. And I am OK with that if this kind of architecture is synonymous with a particular place and people: it becomes architecture then.

But that is not the case at present. These types of functional buildings are everywhere, from Paris, to Rome to Milan to New York to Mumbai, Chennai, Jakarta, Singapore….you name it, and there you will find glass face buildings with lots of storeys and even more lights. It just juts out, there is no blend with nature, the culture of the people residing in that place; it’s too functional. And this is especially true of fast growing Asian nations.

I agree that the aim of most of Asia is to get its people out of the poverty line; give them some form of quality of life. That aim is undisputable and should be given the highest priority. But do spare a thought for culture. I am sure we can find a way of achieving that without forgoing on the beauty of our buildings and their architecture. I am sure we can have office spaces while maintaining some uniqueness in our city landscape. I am sure we can achieve this.

If only we try

Archives

Took me a long time to find out how to order the archives in a ascending manner without having to do a hack-something I wanted to try and avoid at all cost. Unfortunately, wordpress does not seem to have this feature, so a hack was necessary.

Below is the change:

In the general_template.php file found in wp-includes/ folder look for the method wp_get_archives. It should be line number 356.

Scroll down till you see the following code (line number 400)

if ( 'monthly' == $type ) {
$query = "SELECT DISTINCT YEAR(post_date) AS `year`, MONTH(post_date) AS `month`, count(ID) as posts FROM $wpdb->posts $join $where GROUP BY YEAR(post_date), MONTH(post_date) ORDER BY post_date DESC $limit";

Change the DESC to ASC and your done 🙂

Ankle

With a deer-like sprint
Stumbling with no grace
I race towards the ball
And try hard to take

I have to reach!
I have to return!
I have to win!
The point I need!

There! It’s done!
There! It’s gone!
To the back-court!
Where it belongs!

I walk back,
Contented and glad
Of getting the ball
And hitting it with might

And in this mind,
I go towards the tee,
Just to find,
Something flee!

Crack, it went,
The ankle which stood
Right by me
When the other smote

Crack, it went,
And I knew
Another year it will take
To heal anew

Tears in my eyes
Heart full of lead
I let out a wail
Protesting against the worst

I cried and cried
Oh why now!
Of all time to injure
A painful thought!

Soft was his touch
Caressing were his words
Smooth were his motions
As he soothed my pain away

Its ok my dear,
It’s all for the better
Chill and relax
Pls do not fretter

It’s only a twist,
Don’t think it bad
It’s only a twist
Chill and relax

Longed did I
To stay in his lap
Listening to those words
Lulling me to nap!

Wearily I get
Up to see
The wretched ankle
Swelling like a pig!

I have to say,
I have to agree,
Clumsy am I
In running to the tee!

This is a horrendous poem, but its been on my private list for so long that I decided it’s never going to get refined 🙂