Thursday, August 28, 2014

Expertise

Anybody in the corporate world would have heard this term atleast a million times. (Or maybe i am exaggerating, thousands of times). If you ask me, I am really getting bored of that term. What do you mean by expertise? How well a person knows something? And how do you balance expertise with actual knowledge? People who are perceived as experts in a subject fall into four kinds 1) they know nothing else but the subject, are pretty obssessed and up to date 2) they are perceived as experts and know a few terms to throw to make themselves seem smart and try to ensure that they spread the feeling that expertise is difficult to attain. 3) they know nothing at all about the subject and aspire to learn and call themselves experts in the process. 4) they know the subject well and other stuff as well and are a pleasure to be around.

Needless to say, 4 is a dying or almost non existent breed. The problem with experts is that, once somebody is branded an expert, a lot of other people decide to not bother about that skill. This is just an observation and need not necessarily hold good everywhere. The gaining of expertise seems so difficult that even basic understanding is often ignored. I dont like to be called an expert in a field because everything offers so much to learn and things keep evolving all the time. I would love to be called a person who understands and works with something than as an expert. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Instant Gratification

I am finally admitting that maybe, the root cause of a lot of stress I have in life is the addiction to instant gratification. While I do have 5,10 year plans, a lot of my plans involves me achieving something immediately too. I have forgotten how to slow down and enjoy something and take pleasure in the small things in life.At work, when I finish something, i start something else. I look at cars and I want to book one immediately. I go to a book shop, pick up books, finish them and then want a new set. I hardly review anything I read and I read a lot! I want to buy games. I want to travel, immediately. I want to prove myself and be accepted, immediately.

Once I saw what was happening, I was surprised, guilty and then finally accepting. I dont want to have it all immediately. I might not be my age forever, but nothing can stop me from being as alive at 75 as i was at 18. Nothing, except myself. I cannot afford to think that my life is over by the time I hit the 40s. I think, once i finally, completely, internalise the last bit, my stress levels will reduce and I will learn to live one day at a time, seeing the world for what it is and being thankful for all that he has blessed me with.

It is an unfortunate fact that most folks in my generation do not seem to think so and though it would be easy to blame the peer pressure for it, I really cannot do that as the person who influences me the most is myself. I am going to be the change I want to see and I am going to learn to accept things a little more than I do right now.


Running

I have started running today. After ages of wanting to. I decided enough was enough and started jogging with the dogs. They love going out and i always feel the walks arent enough exercise for their energy levels. Today, i took the first step. I hope to improve and run more over the weeks (jog mostly) and improve my stamina .These two already make me socialize and walk a lot and with this added, i think they will make me a lean, mean fighting machine. :)

When history repeats

Most times in life, we take actions completely unaware of the consequences or, we underestimate the impact. They always are just waiting to come back. In one form or the other. You think you are safe and you start planning for the unresolved future and at that point, bam! It comes in and hits you so hard in the face, that you cannot breathe and are left clutching at straws and wondering, why do these things happen? I am so open for excitement, but I really cannot handle such situations well. Then, they say, there is nothing called handling well, you just handle as well as you can and you move on. I am trying to. I am so really trying to.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Glass Road - board game review

Another acquisition from the US of A. A German game i think. I still havent gotten obsessed enough to know the manufacturers by heart.

Its a 1-4 player game (not a typo, you can play it alone) and the objective of the game is to clear the Bavarian forests and build settlements while making glass and brick from the resources at hand.

You have a landscape board dotted with forests, pits, groves and water bodies. These have to be cleared to build processing/instant or bonus buildings. To build buildings, you need specialists and resources. Every player starts of with some resources needed to make brick and glass. They have to use up the resources to make glass taking the help of a few specialists. All players have the same set of specialists but they can choose when to play the same. For eg, the woodcutter can clear a forest and give you wood which can help you with making glass. There are 4 production rounds and at the end of four, the player with the highest total wins.

Sounds simple? Well, when we tried setting it up, it really was not. We got carried away by the board. It is beautiful to say the least. Very detailed imagery, a heady collection of powers for the specialists and the production board is plain lovely. I am not a serious gamer yet and so i loved the intrigue as to what the card i wanted to build might reveal. All three of us had played the game for the first time and our strategies were so different. We had a few friendly scuffles over the specialists but then, the game took us a good 1 hour to play. The different landscape boards, the specialist cards and the buildings had me drooling. The buildings could have been a little more impressive but that could be because we only picked a few and worked on building the same.

I am going to try playing it alone sometime. The rules booklet was very detailed, but we started playing after watching a video in youtube and used the booklet more as a reference while playing. I am so happy I have this new hobby. :)

Credit for the image - http://www.thirstymeeples.co.uk/images/uploads/Glass_RoadIN.jpg

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Phase 10

Yet another game in my long list. This was a gift from one of my good friends who felt i would like it as she finds it addictive. Compared to my dear colossal arena and rune age, this one was a cake walk. It is pure luck and some strategy and guessing.

There are 24 cards in 4 different colors and you have to use those cards to complete a phase. A phase can require you to create a run (1,2,3 is a run) of select number of cards or it can require you to create a set (1,1,1 is a set). Once you complete a phase, you have to discard or build with your hand until someone exhausts all cards. Trust me, luck plays such a big role in this game. If you finish a phase and are out, you are lucky and you can go on to the next phase. But if you dont, you have to get points for every card you hold and start from scratch again. Whoever finishes all the phases first wins. If there is a tie, the total is taken into account.

I had calls in the evening so we decided to go with just 5 phases. I can imagine this game being fun when there is a larger group involved and I am hoping I can get to play it this weekend.

Rune age

We got this game quite sometime back through a friend and I have been itching to play it. The first time we did the set up,it took us a couple of hours as we were complicating it a lot. I mean, this was one of the first few games we were trying to play ourselves without anyone explaining the rules. The dogs got crazy and we let it rest that day. Yesterday, God was very happy and he gave us a relatively free evening and we got started.

For the uninitiated, this is a deck building game. Say, if you have played rummy, you keep and discard cards depending on the hand you are forming. In a deck building game, you build a deck which you can draw out of when needed.

The rune age is split into four warring groups and there are multiple scenarios you can play. There are "The Lathari elves", "The Daqan Lords", "Waiqar the undying" and "The uthuk Y'llan". Each group has its strengths and weaknesses and also has a similar army, that is equally balanced. We had picked "The resurgence of the dragon lords" as the scenario. The booklet said that both of us could lose to the board and that piqued our interest.

We were given 8 cards in the first round, a mixture of army units and gold. The cards are shuffled and we pick 5 from the top for our hand. Gold can help you buy army units and each unit has its strengths. Strengths/gold are required to purchase strongholds and cities which have influence and influence is required to purchase gold and the neutral cards. Whatever i do in my turn, (spend gold/influence or battle), I am supposed to put the acquired cards face up on the discard pile The discard pile is untouched until my deck is exhausted and my shuffled discard pile becomes my new deck and i again pick 5 cards. This goes on. Sounds confusing? well, it is fun once the game begins. The best part is strategising how to win and how you can best defeat the enemy. There are these event cards that are dealt out during the game as well. The event can damage your home base without you doing anything or give you a strength if you defeat it.

One of the funky things about the game is this attrition die you throw in and subtract the points from the total of your battle against your enemy. This is a sucker and you always have to have more strengths just to be safe! There are these awesome neutral cards with vivid imagery and you can pick them up too! Some help you add one strength to your unit when you battle. Some help you to throw a card and pick up a couple more, some help you to just gain brute strength.I loved the neutral cities as they gave me such an awesome influence and helped me purchase enough gold. I was lucky enough to figure out the importance of neutral cities and higher value cards early on.

This game involves some or a lot of element of luck, but there is a healthy mix of strategy and timing thrown in too. Definitely one of my favorites in terms of beauty of the cards and just the whole experience of playing.

Image courtesy - http://www.gamerdad.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/FFG.Rune-Age.GenCon.2011-2011-08-03-044-Small.jpg

The Detainee - Peter Liney

I should have read the sleeve and stopped myself. I just could not. Like how I'm drawn towards something so horrible I'm convinced its not real and convinced it is and I should be running somewhere - very very fast. I did not and I am up at 120 writing a review for a book I should not have read in the first place.

The detainee is set in a dystopian future where the government, unable to deal with the increasing numbers of old people and unable to pay out their pensions due to a debt crisis has devised a simple solution. They're left to rot with garbage in an island away from the city. The propaganda was so effective that anyone without the means to support themselves or with family that's willing to, is shipped away. They live out of salvaged garbage and await their death.

A band of warloards who control the garbage hunt them down every time there is a fog. Hunt because there are surveillance satellites that on normal days shoot first and talk later.

Big guy Clancy, an ex muscleman left to rot finds a hidden tunnel and that  changes his life and that of those around him.

Enough about the plot. The book was disgustingly dark with glimmers of hope thrown in. The characters and the love seemed a little contrived. The writing was brilliant - I give you that. Too realistic for my taste and given my view of the world I almost believed it.

I  want to think of the world as a beautiful place but I guess this book struck a chord with the part of me disgusted by some of our realities. A good read for those with the stomach for it and I think I'm going to read part two as I can't help myself. I have to know. Know how bad it becomes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tales of the Kin - Sworn in Steel

I started part two of the series after much haggling over who can use the ipad to read ebooks. I finished it in 1 short and one very long sitting. The clock told me it was 3 in the morning when i was finally done. The book was better than Among Thieves for me as it had a host of interesting characters and a lot of drama and magic.

The book begins where the last one let off. Degan and Drothe had parted ways over something ( I am not telling you why. Read the book). One of Deagans brothers from the order, Wolf/Silver asks Drothe to find out where Degan is to bring Order back to the Order. Nosing around, Drothe finds the whereabouts of Degan (Bronze) and it is in the famed capital of the despotic state of Djan, filled with magical Djin and over lords called Zakurs and a crazy king. The sixth prince favors actors and patronizes them. Drothe decides to use a play troupe to make the trip and his Oak Woman comes along for the ride. Whether Drothe succeeds in pacifying Degan forms the rest of the plot.


We learn more about the Order of the Degans and the revelations are surprising to say the least. The Zakurs in Djan aren't very forgiving of a Grey Prince they think is setting shop in their Old City and Drothe constantly runs into trouble. There is loads of magic in this book and an assassins school, with assassins who can manipulate the darkness is introduced. The deathly lady assassin is a woman after my own heart and I love Hulick for having such awesome kick ass female characters like her and the Oak Woman.

The play troupe was a little boring and I was disappointed with them to say the least. That is probably the only thing I did not like about the book.

But then, there are conspiracies and conspiracies within conspiracies to keep any reader occupied. The Imperial zone as i like to call it within the Old City in the heart is brilliantly depicted. I loved the similarities and the differences between Djan and the Imperial kingdom. Like in the first book, Drothe is but a victim of his circumstances, but he really uses his wit to turn it to his advantage.

The Drothe - Bronze bond was missing a little but the magic was slowly coming back towards the end. There were a few sentimental parts in the book and I loved that Drothe hung on to Degan's sword the way he did.

The padishahs palace sounded so awesome and I really wish they convert this book into a movie so i get to see the wazir's secretary's library and the widower's fan.

I had guessed the secret of the Degans somewhere in the middle of the book but it wasnt too obvious to a casual reader. I wanted it to be true.

I am really looking forward to the next book. I hope Drothe comes to peace with his role as a grey prince and I get to learn more about that world. The epilogue hinted at it and I am happy. I want to see his character to evolve to become much more and hopefully the sexy assassin learns more about him and his night vision and enlightens me as well. There are enough loose ends to warrant a next book but not too many to leave a reader guessing.

Oh man, i am liking reading a fantasy series. Long Live Douglas Hulick for making me read and fall in love with a world that is dancing right in front of me. I am hazy from lack of sleep but alive like I have felt very few times before. :)

Tales of the Kin - Among Thieves

Douglas Hulick happened to me. I mean, it came on as a sudden onslaught on a day I was ruing my fate at not having read a good book in a long time. I started reading "Among Thieves" on a lazy Sunday afternoon after a very heavy lunch and was hooked.

The book is set in a world where an all powerful emperor rules the imperial kingdom. The emperor rules as three incarnations, each incarnation nothing but a part of his soul passed on through the power of the Angels who want him to rule. There is an underworld in his kingdom where Upright men lord over the thieves. There are myths about a Dark King who brought together the warring kin and who was shut down by the emperor. The world of the Kin is a complex one with multiple players. There are Noses like our Hero Drothe who collect information for the Upright men (the Kin Bosses, much like local mob heads) and then there are Mouths who can control magic and then there are scribes who can copy stuff and Cutters who have ways of making people talk which are not always pleasant, Oak Women and Men who guard the Kin and Degans, an order about which nobody knows much, but which has powerful swordsmen, undefeatable at best and who operate through mysterious oaths. The worlds of the Imperial Court and the Kin collide at times, but it is never bloody and there is a curfew of sorts between the Kin bosses.

That is, until Drothe stumbles upon a mystery by accident. One of his men, who was supposed to get him a relic, does not do so and dies rather than tell who has it. He starts following leads while working for Nicco, his boss who wants to know what is happening in Ten Ways a hell hole of sorts. He comes across a relic which changes his life and the way he sees the world around him forever. This is my attempt at writing the synopsis and trust me, i haven't done any justice to the intrigue, the charm and the aura of the book.

The characters are cool and awesome. There is Drothe who has a lot of smart aleck remarks and refuses to bow down no matter what. He magically escapes from tight situations with his wit and I cant help falling in love with a guy like that. His sister Christiana, who is part of the imperial court, refuses to acknowledge him in public but get her to run his errands in private. Their relationship is beautiful in its own way. Degan, (Bronze Degan) and Drothe swear an Oath which means much more as they are friends who get each other pretty well. Drothe has an Oak Woman who guards his quarters which he shares with an apothecary.

The part of the book i surprisingly enjoyed is the sword play and all the action scenes. They were mind blowingly awesome. I loved it that there were powerful female characters and that there was so much magic involved in the words and the world. Douglas Hulick has inspired me to write this long a review and i think the one for the next book is going to be even longer. I am drawn into this world, so help me God.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gamed

I have got 2 very interesting games from the US, shipped from Amazon and I am so looking forward to playing them.

Glass road and 7 Wonders are the awesome games and as if to let me play, I dont have calls after 8.30 today for now. Usually my mondays are pretty screwed but I think God is in a humorous mood today and wants me to see the magic unfold.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The run

Have you ever run in your life? Run like nobody's watching? Run like nothing matters but the wind in your face and the ground beneath your foot? Run like nothing is more precious than this instant? Run to tease, to play, to just live?
Well Laika knows how to. Watching her run in an enclosed area is a pleasure. I get bugged if she runs away from us as she manages sometimes , but I love watching her run. She's my miracle. My reminder to enjoy the smallest things in life to the fullest. Thank you darling. You are an inspiration.

Its over

The last three weeks have been magical to say the least. I've had some very beautiful revelations, traveled for pleasure and work, spoken in a conference, enjoyed different cuisines, temperatures and cultures and effectively taken a much deserved break from the work I love.

I know its over and I have to get back to the grind but I've promised myself to see a little magic everyday ( inspired by the book the secret garden) and I'm going to keep that promise. I've become more positive over the last two months thanks to RK giving me an interesting view of life and this magic is all that I need right now. Life, here I come. You'll see me greeting you at 645 am now. Looking forward to this phase.

Retractable leashes

I've had my eye on these cool retractable leashes for the dogs. I found it too damn expensive here. I've lost count of the times I've had some injury to my hands because of holding the leash when these jokers get excited and the scratches in my legs bear testimony to all I've braved to help them relieve themselves. The retractable leash with the cool handle is an awesome solution and I'm glad I found a good pair in Walmart for quarter of the price here. I know I can't categorize it as a necessity but this is one purchase I don't feel guilty about.

Discounted

A particular realizations been dawning on me and its not a pleasant one. I pride myself on being a careful spender and today I had a look at my last month expenses. I was shocked by the numbers. All of it was in deals of one form or the other. I've sworn last week that I wouldn't buy things I don't need and I really resisted the urge in the US and did not buy clothes. This feeling of being discounted and taken for a ride is not a pleasant one.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Breezing through

While flying through London earlier this week, I was stuck in the line for close to two hours. It seemed to take forever and it was super boring. Today , I just breezed through security in less than 5 minutes. It felt so awesome. Thank you god for all your mercies.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Boston calling

I had a really lovely time in the super duck tours in Boston. I was enthralled by this vehicle that could go on water and land. Add to it the fact that I got to learn about this awesome city, it was a wonderful experience. Our crew had a few rehearsed lines but nobody could debate their knowledge of the city. I got to know a lot of quirky fun facts. About a molasses drum that over flowed and killed people, about Rose Kennedy who was baptized, married and given a funeral in the same church, about brutalist architecture, about movies shot in Boston and of course about the history of the town. Anyone here should walk around or try to know more about this city. The old and the new co exist so beautifully here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The lounges

Am accessing the priority lounges for the first time in my life and wowwww!! they are awesome. I need to make sure I get enough points to keep accessing them and travel with style.

London was so crowded and security took ages to clear. But it was fun watching people scurry around. I had a 4 hour lay over so the one hour queue did not perturb me..

Excited and jittery

Am on my way to Boston via British airways and I'm conflicted. I love flying and this time around things haven't been too smooth. They forgot to give me immigration form and luggage tag and this after standing for an hour in the queue post an online check in which I needn't have bothered about.

I hope my checked in luggage reaches soon and in one piece.

Friday, August 08, 2014

When truth fails

When the truth fails, we take refuge behind the lies
The mind and the heart knows the distinction
But the lies are far prettier any day..
The lies can be painted, tweaked and easily rewritten..
The lies can be shared faster and remembered quicker
Remembered to suit any need and modified in any way
Someday the truth pops up for its never fully hidden..
We switch on partial vision and happily move forward
When truth fails to satisfy, lies abound
And they succeed in becoming the truth
I see it, I know it but I want to believe that in the longer run truth always triumphs
In one form or the other.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The safari

I did a camel safari in the desert yesterday. 4km in 1 hour.. It was so amazing.. But I'm never picking it as my mode of transport.. An 8 yr old was guiding my camel around. How do these kids do it man..

The auction

Today, we were in Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is the only living fort we saw. Here you can watch people walk by with cows and fortifications with canons all in one place. The king has rented out the queens palace to shop keepers. Tourists are a major source of income here now.

We went to this haveli called Patwaji ki haveli and there is a museum in the first house. We were directed upstairs and when I looked down I saw an auction of Indian artifacts in progress. A beautiful wall hanging was going at 100$. I was taken by our guide, a local to the house where its brought whole sale from. It was 1000 rs there. I was sad as those who need the money never get it and the middle men make a killing.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The divine through the mists

We left happening Udaipur on 3rd to reach the quieter Mt.Abu. We were greeted with a heavy mist. The drive through the hill side was pretty slow with the mists making visibility very low. We managed to reach the Dilwara temple and it was such a unique experience.

We walked through the pristine temple complex where no cameras are allowed, soaking in a very divine atmosphere. The mists seeped through the domes and as I sat admiring the jain thirtankars, I could feel something very calm and soothing trying to communicate with me. For a change I saw things through my eyes and not the camera's. The craftsmanship here is mind boggling and I wonder why such beauties aren't thrown open to the outside world more.An unforgettable afternoon.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Surprises galore

I was haggling at a jewelry store in the evening. I get a call from someone who tells me I'm being unfair by not telling him were in udaipur. I am taken aback for a minute and then I am so glad to hear that persons in Udaipur today. We worked together in my previous company and its my strong belief that it was the best team I could ever be a part of.
He met us with his wife (whom I fell in love with) and took us out to ambrai - a beautiful lake facing restaurant, in udaipur. Minutes turned to hours and we had such a lovely evening. It's strange and beautiful when such old relationships take off like there's never been a break..

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Discovering Rajasthan - Kumbalgarh fort

Were in udaipur now. While I'm writing a nice long travelogue, I thought I'd write about this place today. I've never heard of it until the itinerary for the day was discussed. Rana Pratap was born here and the place was such an awesome walk. Its got the second longest wall after the great wall of China and rulers of mewar took refuge here. The fort fell only once to the combined forces of Akbar, and a few more kings. 

 I loved the views and the fortress. It was a wonderful experience.

We also ran into a bhujia marketeer from Bikaner and he clicked very good photos of us and directed us to a nearby Mela. But the place was a little inaccessible and so we did not go there. Lovely place which made me so proud to be a citizen of such a talented country.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Strange coincidences

They say that the world is a small place. Today I got further proof for that. We're in Udaipur for vacation and today is BITSian day. To the uninitiated, I am a proud BITSian.  I missed the celebrations last year and this year I chanced to see a meet up happening in Udaipur.
I sent a message to the number listed and though we were pretty late in coming back from gamboling around the city, this wonderful gentleman sent a car to pick us up. We met so many folks from our alma mater, extremely successful and humble men from all walks of life that I am all the more inspired to do something useful.
It was a very different evening for us in a strange city and frankly I felt very much at home. Life is sometimes full of wonderful coincidences. Long live bits pilani..