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Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Monk Story


This is one of those interesting stories, I came across couple of years ago. This is about two Tibetan monks & a young lady.

Out of the two monks, one was "old and enlightened" and the other was "young and naive". They were walking together to their monastery, which is a 3 hours journey by walk. They came towards a wooden bridge, which would take them to the other side of the river. Due to recent rains, the wooden bridge was badly damaged & it would be quite a task to cross the bridge. When they were about to climb the bridge, they saw a young lady stuck in between 2 wooden blocks clinging  from the bridge & she was crying for help. They both ran towards her.

They rescued her & the 'old monk' offered to carry her across the river on his back since her legs were badly damaged. But the 'naive monk' was shocked to hear his superior's offer to the lady, but since he is old & superior he did not utter a word. The old monk carried the lady with caution & dropped her on the other side of the river. She thanked them profusely & they parted ways. All along the way, the naive monk was unhappy with the act of the old monk. His respect for the old monk reduced drastically & he was getting more frantic as time passed by. When they came to a rest for a short period before proceeding towards their monastery, the naive monk gathered courage & asked the old monk: "How can you claim yourself a devout monk, when you seize the first opportunity to touch a female. All your teachings to me make you a big hypocrite?"

The old and enlightened monk looked surprised and said, "I had put down the lady at the river bank many hours ago, how come you are still carrying her thought along?"

Naive monk realized his mistake & learned the lesson of his life.

Image courtesy: Google

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cloud! Cloud! - All about Cloud Computing!

I'm gonna be talking about a concept which cannot be ignored even if you are not part of the Technology Industry. Of course, I will simplify the terms and technical stuffs involved. But trust me, the topic i'm talking about is the future, so continue reading if you are not short of time. :-) Although it is an erstwhile concept, it is the current in-technology called "Cloud Computing".
Before I get into details, here is a fact:  Each one of you would have (used or using) this technology already! How come? If you are reading this blog, then you definitely have access to web-based e-mails. And if you are using email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail....etc, then where do you think you are storing your mails, attachments, drafts, pictures...etc? Yes, you guessed it right! It is not stored in your system but in the cloud. Also the software required to run the web-based email service and the storage of your account does not exist in your system. It is located on the email service provider's computer cloud system. To understand this further, keep reading.

To access the cloud data, all you need is an interface i.e (a computer or a terminal) and the (software application or the tool) required to access the cloud computing system. In case of Gmail, Yahoo Mail based email services, the application required to access the cloud system is a Web Browser(Ex: Chrome, IE, Firefox..etc) from your end.
Other example would be "Smartphones"(Samsung Galaxy, Nokia Lumia, Xperia, Iphones...etc). They use cloud computing technology to let you store and access data that normally wouldn't fit on your mobile device. I'm certain that you would have seen a "Cloud Storage" option with a free "XX" Giga Byte storage in your smartphone!
Do you guys remember a time, when mobile phones used to come with a tiny 'smart card', where they provide extra 2 GB of data storage for free. Now they are providing an extra 5 GB(Ex.) of 'cloud storage' for free. So it is very important to learn about this technology in theory because cloud is the future.

What is "Cloud Computing"?
'Cloud' is a metaphor for 'Internet', which is where cloud computing resides (rather than residing in a server that’s physically located at one of the company’s facilities or say in your personal computer). Cloud computing services provides business applications, software servicescomputing resources to the users via Internet on an as-needed basis.
  • The services are flexible: It provides service on-demand manner and scalable up to as many users as necessary, because the infrastructure is flexible. 
  • Customers pay based on their consumption (similar to pay & use concept like - an internet connection data usage or a talk-time in mobile phones). Yes, pay-per-use basis. 
Why do you think people would want another system to store their data and run their application, what is the advantage?
  • Utilizing cloud storage would bring the operating cost down. Cloud computing would reduce the need for advanced hardware or software on the client(user's) side. You wouldn't need to buy the fastest computer with the big chunk of memory, because the cloud system would take care of those needs for you. Instead, you could buy an inexpensive computer terminal. You wouldn't need a large hard drive because you'd store all your information on cloud. All you need to do is log into the cloud service from your system and use all the services remotely.
  • Servers and storage devices take up lots of space. Some companies rent physical space to store servers and databases because they don't have it available on site. Cloud computing gives these companies the option of storing data remotely on some server, removing the need for physical space.
  • IT companies or Corporations that rely on computers have to make sure they have the right software version in place to achieve goals. Cloud computing systems give these organizations company-wide access to computer applications. The companies don't have to buy a set of software or software licenses for every employee. Instead, the company could pay a fee to a cloud computing company and get the services and the version updates on time without you having to keep a tab on.
  • Say for example, a client/user would like to play a game which requires him or her to download a very big chunk of installable gaming software say 25 GB, you need not upgrade your personal computer's memory, instead download the software to your cloud and pay for the cloud services, this way you can enjoy the game anytime, anywhere you want.
  • Also the cloud services are cost effective, soon you can see a shortage of IT maintenance jobs across the world, Thanks to Cloud! :) For the ones who do not have any idea on Software Industry's "Maintenance and Support" job, here is the scoop - it is a "Cash Cow" for any IT Company. "Maintenance & Support" projects run for so many years and clients(like the fortune 500 companies) pay every Indian IT services provider(like TCS, Wipro or MNC's like Accenture, IBM) a big chunk of dollars for their service. So IT guys, watch out for the doomsday!!! :)
  • Clients would be able to access their applications and data from anywhere at anytime with any device, provided they have Internet Connection. Data wouldn't be confined to a hard drive on one user's computer or even a corporation's internal network. Do you think external hard drives and pen drives are going to see their doomsday soon? Yes, I guess! :-(
Now the trouble and the possible solution:
Security and Privacy of data are the only 2 concerns raised so far.

1)Security:
Handing important data of one company to another company worries the industry. Head of Corporations might think twice to take advantage of a cloud computing system because they can't keep their company's information under their scrutiny or protection. The counterargument to this position is that the companies offering cloud computing services live and die by their reputations(Ex Box.com,Dropbox.com..etc) by securing their client's data to the T. Otherwise, the service would lose all its clients. It's in their interest to employ the most advanced techniques to protect their clients' data.

2)Privacy:
If a client/user can log in from any location to access data and applications, it's possible that the client's privacy could be compromised. Cloud computing companies will need to find ways to protect user/client's privacy. There are 3 ways to deal with privacy issue:
  • First and foremost, educating the users/clients about Cloud and the reason for them to access data from cloud judiciously. And also by restricting them to never access company data from public computer network. By keeping their anti-virus, firewall up to date before accessing the cloud data, they can stay away from trouble.
  • Other way is to use Authentication techniques such as user names and passwords. Some random questions about the user can also be asked to do a second round of verification before logging in.
  • Another way is to employ an Authorization technique, every user/client is allowed to access only the data and applications relevant to his or her job by utilizing user access privilege options.
Hope I did not fry your brains too much! ;-) Just wanted to pass on some futuristic wisdom by simplifying the facts.
Image Courtesy: Google

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Importance of "+1" and some updates on new G+ feature!

Importance of "Plus One":
If you have been thinking that the G+ feature "Plus One(+1)" is nothing but Google's avatar of "Like" button in Facebook, with not much of an importance attached to it, other than showing the person who posted the content that you like the content - Then my buddies, you got it all wrong!!!!!!

Any idea, what is the market share of Google Search Engine(Oh, I call it "God of Internet")??? - Nearly 70%. Which ideally means, any content that you are sharing in the Internet space by utilizing any social media, should go via Google's purview to target maximum audience. Google's "Search Algorithm" is very sophisticated and trying to crack the pattern of ranking content is a big deal. That said, the "+1" that you do in Google Plus has much more significance, because it gets counted in Google's search algorithm to rank the content. So go ahead and keep "+1ing" and "Sharing" content in G+(but only when you find the content to be worthy enough)!
I hope this states the importance of +1!!

New G+ Features:
1)Page Alignment: The entire page alignment is multi-column based, with an option to switch to just one column running like before!
Is it really necessary? Yes, indeed.
Although, we may not like the current look and feel, it is actually helpful in reducing the bandwidth that was being sucked up by displaying bigger and rich content/pics and scrolling too much with the previous version of G+. That too, if you follow too many people - then, guess what? Even though you may not notice the advantage of this new design right now, you will appreciate it eventually for not sucking up your internet bandwidth too much!
This is a quality design for sure!

2)The re-design of "Share" window: When you share a particular piece of work or a picture, a new pop-out window arrives smooth and clear, unlike the previous trashy one which hangs sometimes!
Hence it is a meticulous piece of design, I'm loving G+ more.

3)G+ hangout: G+ hangout had quite a lot of issues in the previous version, if you could recollect!

a) In the previous version of G+, when a person named "XX" is offline, but you want to send a message to that person, you can communicate via an offline message using G+ hangouts/messaging - Indeed, it saves the offline message, but it was not intimating the person "XX" that there is an offline message waiting to be read. Until and unless, you click the chat window of that particular person, you are not gonna get the message. The other way is to check your mail, and that is too much of work!!
But the new design lists out the conversation(chat message) display with individual contacts on your right hand hang-out navigation bar. Hence the messages are never gonna get deleted until and unless you want it to be deleted. Isn't it super cool!!
And guess what, the contacts are listed in bigger blocks, hence the user can easily get a glimpse to see if there are any new offline messages.

b) Okie, if you have not figured out, how to see a person available online in G+ - here is the help!
A green horizontal line appears beneath the contact's profile photo(See the pic below), that is how you figure out.
c) Hangouts of G+ is integrated with G talk and G Messenger! Cool.

d) Another good thing, you need not look at the browser tab to see if the person on the other side is typing, the messenger gives "three green dot" marquee, which appears when the person types. Peace!

e) The flip side is - Now you cannot hide yourself by keeping your chat status "OFFLINE" although you are online - Oh, Man, this is sad!!! ;-)

f) Hangouts can be hidden by clicking the "Green double quotes" icon at the right hand corner.

4)Google Reader effect: If you were missing the product "Google Reader", then G+'s new design kinda brings in the effect of Reader to the user! Although, you still cannot read the whole shared content in G+, you still have to navigate to the posted link to read the content like before. This will not change because, most of bloggers use Google Adsense, hence if you need to generate revenue via you blog, you need the reader to navigate to your link, instead of reading straight out of G+.

5)Image: Also I observed that the "Image Upload" to be very user friendly and quicker than before. May be because of the sleek design!!

6)Image Editor: A built in "Super Image Editor", which gives more or less the feel of a "Adobe Photo Shop" effect!! Do jump in and mess your photographs up!!

7)Hashtags: Hashtags are introduced. If you are familiar with Twitter, then you might be aware of HashTags. WooHoo!

Verdict:
"Although, change is always hard to digest, most of the time it is for our own good"!, So start loving G+ more!! It can make your business grow better eventually!
End of the day, Facebook is just another Orkut, but Google is(as I put it), "God of Internet"!!! :-)

Image Courtesy: Google

Friday, August 30, 2013

What NOT to do with Social Media!

“What happens in 'Vegas' stays in 'Vegas'; what happens on 'Twitter' stays on 'Google' forever!” -  Jure Klepic
Ever heard this quote before? Although, the quote is sarcastic, isn't it scary?
For the past one week, we have been hearing news about NSA(National Security Agency), PRISM(A Govt. program, where corporates are supposed to provide user's data shared in social media and call records to Govt.) & several other Govt. agencies gathering personal data out of social media et al.

Here comes the question: Why do NSA or Govt. spy on our personal information? What do they achieve, by doing this?
A brief overview -> According to me, Govt. and the National Security agencies have always spied on the shared information available online. Only now, we are getting to know that our data is being monitored, thanks to a Whistle Blower named "Edward Snowden".

Why is this freaking people out? 
Mainly because of over-sharing of personal data in social media.
The impulse to share has caused many of us to unwittingly divulge ourselves in ways that can compromise our safety and security. Social networking sites are not a closed and safe universe. Others may be able to access your personal information without your knowledge. So be wary before sharing any data online.

Why do you think Govt. needs our data?
To protect us from vulnerabilities like terror attacks - Although, that sounds like a kindergarten student's answer, that is very much true!
After 9/11 attacks, The USA did not have any major attacks for 10 long years until Boston happened. Do you guys really think, there were no attempts made in The USA in the past 10 years? Indeed, there were attempts and those were thwarted with the help of defense and intelligence agencies. How do you think agencies get information about a potential attack dated future? It is a no-brainer! By spying(or espionage) on the available/hidden data. So don't you guys think, it is necessary for the security agencies to keep tab of what is happening in the internet world, when terrorists are also going tech savvy?

So now the obvious question: What should we do?
Indian internet users are the second largest online sharers, says a US report on the internet and computing trends. We are likely to share anything and everything online. Hence it is very likely that whatever we have shared so far are spied upon. And do we have a way out? Indeed, share contents judiciously and do not give away your personal details to the public.
Anything that ends up as digital data is vulnerable, and not just to governments and secret services but to corporates and other criminals too.

What not to do online?
1)Anything you share online is public! Yes, even if you say "Share only to yourself". I don't understand - Why would someone want to share information with themselves?
For example, G+ has this option of sharing to "Only me" - God(If he/she exists), knows why?
If you do not want to share information to public/friends/family, why type down the stuff in social media in the first place?
All data that you share online can be saved, retrieved or recovered.

2)Sharing private information to public is more or less like giving key to your private safe. Although, point number one holds good on any given day, do you really think people will stop sharing? Nope!
So let's move on to something doable: Every social media offers security settings to individuals. The first thing that you can do in G+ and Facebook is creating your social circle or groups. This way you can share only to the selected few, when you think the content that you are sharing is personal or private.

3)People get bolder online:  We start talking about Politicians, our Managers, Peers, big shots, creepy customer services, big corporates et al.(Oh, I do this too!) Why do we get bolder online? Is it because we find it cool to be bold online?
The rule of thumb: "If you cannot tell the targeted person whatever that you have typed down about him/her directly, then please don't say it online".
Or at least carry a disclaimer(like I do) that your views are personal and have no intentions to harm or give trauma to anyone. ;-)

4)Do not post pictures of your kids online, if you do not have your privacy setting fixed to display them only to your friends and family.
When I say friends, I'm not talking about the 500+ that you have in Facebook, to be honest with you, out of the 500 - you can only be closer to a maximum of 30. That is the human capacity, rest can be considered as acquaintances! Get real!

5)Do not let children less than age 15 use social media! Just 10 days back, 15 year-old "Nichole Cable" was allegedly murdered by a 20 something, who communicated with her via a fake Facebook profile, luring her out of her home to meet up with him and did the heinous crime. Do we need this?
Parents should be a part of social media to keep tab of their kid's activities online.

6)Never share your full address/location to the public. Also do not tell the whole world that you and your family are going to Mauritius for a vacation, by giving an open invitation for criminals to take a good look at your home.

Having said all the above, I do believe that friends/acquaintances are an integral part of ones life. It is not a joke when people say - "Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are!". You can make amazing friends online too, just make sure they are credible. Use your intuitive judgement before sharing personal and private data.

Image courtesy: Google

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Google Glass - All that you might want to know!

Google showcased the concept of  "Google Glass" in 2012, but for the past couple of months people(500 to 600 so far) started using the Glass and have come up with mixed reviews, with the feedback slightly tilting towards the negative side. Well, it is just a beta version(a test version)! The good thing about Google is that, they have sold Glasses only to app developers, testers and couple more and not to general public. Google is open to feedback and ready to fix problems and make them fool proof, before selling them to general public. I have been following this topic for quite sometime now and have read nearly 100 articles on this. Hence, I'm more or less capable of imparting some knowledge gained theoretically and sharing the same here.
Is it a computer, a tablet, a phone or what on earth is 'Google Glass'?
Google Glass is a head-mounted wearable technology(or a computer) that easily rests on your nose and ears very similar to a pair of glasses, only that it is a "Glassless Eyeglass". It has a camera, a projected display area, a touchpad(near your right temple), a speaker(near your right ear), and a microphone.
It is definitely not a phone but a wearable computer!

It runs on Google's famed Operating System "Android" which is controlled by voice, gestures and taps. For the movie enthusiasts - This technology is something like the one used in IRON MAN movies(although not completely)! Cool, Haan? We are getting there!

The glass projects the display content into the small glass frame(or Prism) in the front and refracts the image into your eyes, so this is how the content is displayed in front of your eye(do not worry, the prism is mounted above your eye level, so you are not going to hit a random Joe walking past you, because you did not see him :-)), The idea is to make information available at all times, and the best thing is Glass connects with your smart phone(only Android or iPhone as of now) via Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G, and 4G services.
Usage:
1)Tap the touch sensitive temple piece or simply tilt your head up and the screen gets activated. Speak the following two words “Ok Glass” aloud and the voice-activated device gives you a menu with a few options: Google, take a picture, record a video, get directions, send a reply, hang out. Just give the command aloud and Google Glass will take a picture or record a video without you having to touch the device.

2)The captured photos and videos are stored on the flash memory of the device, and can also be shared on social networking sites.

3)Google Glass will show you the emails you receive online and will let you reply to them via voice commands. If you are someone who googles a lot, you will love this device - you just have to ask a question and the device will bring in the answer from the net.

4)Google Maps are integrated into Glass, using voice command one can look up locations on the go.

5)Google Glass can show the world what you are seeing - Yes, live!
Say, you are in a Saree Shop and you are confused as to which one to choose from, then you can make your Friend see all those sarees live and pick one for you in real-time - Now, that is great!

6)How many times in your life you felt the need to have a camera in your hand that right moment -  Say, your daughter just started strolling for the first time, I'm sure many would have missed capturing that moment. But with Google Glass, all you have to do is - wear the device and command the camera to immediately shoot or capture the sweet moment! Voila.

7)For all the Google Plus fans:
Sharing is one incredibly easy task with Google Glass. Glass integrates with Google+ more than any other social networking site(obviously so).
Say for example, you are wearing the glass and cooking Pasta at the same time, you are done with your garnishing and you can take pick by commanding Glass to take one, and share it directly with G+ group, all this without you having to touch the glass - It is that cool!!

Flip Side:
Every product comes with several flip sides, and Google Glass is not an exception.

1)Battery problem - Although Google said the device can withstand a whole day after a single charge, the testers doesn't seem to share the same feeling. The battery life time is only 5 Hours.

2)No LED light display near the camera:  Hence people walking by, will not know if they are being photographed or filmed - Whoa! Now, that is not cool!

3)Google Glass costs $1500 - Whoops!

4)There is no lock screen, no voice command or no PIN code - hence the device's security can be compromised very easily -  This is a BIG concern.
Because of this security flaw, a hacker could easily take control of the device and he/she can see what you are seeing that moment, can hear what you are hearing, and he/she would get a glimpse of your life through your own eyes.
Say, you are wearing the Glass and at the same time looking at your computer at home, since your Glass is already compromised, when you type down the password to unlock your computer, the hacker is seeing that from a remote location via your eyes - OOPS, this is damn crazy!!

5)Futuristic Concern:
Note: The current version does not support "facial recognition technology" - but in future, it may.
If that happens, the "facial recognition technology" will allow a Google Glass wearer to walk past you and instantly know who you are, what you do, where you are from and it will list out your FB, G+ profiles and ultimately, your history is on display to the wearer - Scary, isn't it??
That is why I always say, never over-share information online! Internet should be used judiciously.

6)Wearing this gadget so close to the head(in turn your brain) might damage your nervous system or brain functioning - Do not have proof of sorts, but this could happen!!

Hope they rectify all the negative points before selling the Glass to general public!!

So Google Glass's ultimate aim is to - "Experience the world without you having to physically meddle with the device".

Hmm... this is just for fun!! ;-)
Image courtesy: Google

Friday, July 5, 2013

Medical Negligence

Although we have been hearing a lot of news recently about medical negligence, the news I read today morning made me pen down something related to this topic. Having experienced a not-so-fatal medical negligence myself(Click here to read -> Swine Flu Vaccine Goof up), I have a good hold on this topic.
And yes, Bangalore has some of the horrendous and most lethargic medical staffs(of course, not all) in India.
The Incident:
Yesterday, a 25-year-old woman died after being transfused wrong blood group in KC General Hospital, Bangalore. Her blood group was 'O' positive, but she was given 'B' positive instead, causing fatal complications, ultimately resulting in her death. Yes, it is not a mistake made by the Doctor nor the Manager of the Hospital, but because of their lethargic staffs/nurses. But do you think the doctor and the Manager will be spared? Nope. I'm sure the hospital will be sealed in no time. But can we get back the life? Ultimately who is getting affected because of such negligence, common man(as always, we are the doomed species). My heart goes out to that family!

Now, the hypothetical question:
In the above incident, at least the blood bottle had the correct sticker on, it was a human error to have ignored the sticker. But imagine a hypothetical situation, where you get a bottle with a sticker which says blood group 'AB-' but the bottle contains 'B+' group blood? The very thought sends a shiver down my spine. In this case, nobody can save us -  but there are several measures that we can take to avoid many other situations, in specific to medical negligence.

How to avoid such negligence:
  • Being proactive and informed about medical care is the best and the only way forward. 
  • We(Patients) should do research to understand our health condition, there are lots of sources available online - Yes, some of them are fake or not-so-correct but at least do some reading to understand the options available. Yes, we all consider Doctors as God! Hey, I do that too - because they are in a very responsible and life saving profession. And they deserve being compared to the Creator! Nothing wrong with that, but human beings in different professions are no less of a value, so take care and be cautious!
  • Never get intimidated by the medical system and the jargons they use. Speak up and advocate for your own well-being. If the word coming out of your Doctor's mouth makes no sense to you, stop him/her to elaborate what is being spoken about. 
  • If patients sense that something is wrong, they should tell or ask or reason their health care providers. It is the right of the patient.
  • Go for a second opinion, if you can afford. 
  • It is very important to trust the doctor or staff - but at the same time, it is more important to listen to your gut feeling and common sense.  End of the day - "To err is human!"
  • Have a family member or a friend or that somebody who gives a damn about you to accompany you on important visits to hospitals. Of course they are not going to help you in any way or take away your pain, but the very thought of having a support system nearby makes a huge difference. I have experienced this myself, and here it is:
The wisdom tooth saga:
I went to a nearby hospital chain to get one of my wisdom teeth extracted(Hey Creator! We humans do not need wisdom teeth/tooth at all, then why give us one(actually 4)?? Hmm...you know human beings once had tail....because there was no usage, they are gone!)
Anyways, I being my confident self, asked hell lot of questions to the Orthodontist and the final question of mine was - "Do I need to bring anybody else along with me for help?" She said, you don't look like you need help!! Aha, sometimes Doctors boost your confidence level crazily before the procedure that, you will fall for their word :-). And with full smile, I booked an appointment the next day. I went alone, having eaten good amount of food(You see, you cannot eat solid food for 2 days after extraction).

It was a tad complicated extraction, due to the positioning of the teeth, so the doctor used more or less all her instruments and also did a couple of 360 degree manoeuvres to get the thing out and it was all done in 15 minutes. She asked me if i'm feeling giddy, I said no.
So I got my prescription from her and walked to the Pharmaceutical located inside the hospital lobby and stood in the long line to the counter, and there I go - I have no freaking idea, I'm falling down with no control(Yes, as sensed by the doc, I'm feeling giddy - just that, after 5 mins from the time she asked me), the Gentleman aback of me caught me before I went straight to the floor. He escorted me to the nearby chair and there I was 80% giddy and remaining 20% trying to make sense. Everything was alright after 10 minutes of sitting idle, but the point is - please take somebody along with you, if you have to do a medical procedure. Your confidence cannot stop or prevent giddiness, you see! I learned a lesson, right there!

Image courtesy:  Google

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

RIP 'Google Reader' and what next?

We all know 'Google Reader' would shut it's service down on the 1st of July this year. If you are not aware, then try logging into Reader, you get a popup reminder like the one shown in the picture below. There are so many people, who logs into Reader as the first thing in the morning than logging into their own blogs, for them this shut down means letting go of a helping hand. And the worst thing is, there are umpteen number of alternatives available in the market for free, so which one to choose?
To be honest with you, there are pluses and minuses in each and every product. But there are 2 Reader alternatives which come close to Google Reader and that is Feedly and Digg!


I'm somehow inclined to try Feedly, so here I have jotted down some basic information to get started. If you already are using some other alternative, good for you! - You don't have to read further, coz this post is only about Feedly!

Ok, So why do you think Google is shutting down the Reader?

  • Ever heard of the line "Show me the money"?? Yeah, Google Reader was not generating any revenue for Google per se. Well, there are no advertisements listed in GR, so where is the money? Right.
  • Google Reader was losing considerable amount of Readers/Viewers over a period of time, hence the shut down.
  • Google wants to concentrate on few good apps rather than lots of mediocre apps. Fair enough, I think Google took a leaf from Steve Job's style of working!

Does Feedly have all the features of Google Reader?
More or less, yes!
Feedly supports features like list, keyboard shortcuts, tagging, favorites etc.
You may have to jump in and explore further!


How can one migrate/synchronize/transition/import to Feedly?
The process is very simple. Login into feedly URL using your Google account. Feedly will automatically sync your Google Reader account with Feedly. Phew...now, that is comfortable!
Here are the links to various Browsers and Mobile OS:
Note: I tried Chrome, so the rest of the URLs are untested.

Also note - "Google Reader" is different from "Blogger Reading List" - Do not get confused!!!
"Blogger Reader List"(See picture below) stays put. So do not worry!
So you will still be able to see the updates in the scrolling list, just that it is not as comfortable as the Reader.
I confirmed this news from a fellow Googler's blog
.

Hope this helps! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: "F?@K KNOWS" by Shailendra Singh

Months back, I went to this bookshop "Crossword". Usually, I go through their display, to get to know the current favorite among the readers! And guess what I stumbled on to - "F?@K Knows"! These bookshop chains usually arrange their favorites like a huge house of cards, which ideally means the book is selling like hot cakes (or) the author of the book has shelled out enough money to sell them by hook or by crook, utilizing some marketing strategy. See, some don't need money, all they need is fame!
F?@K KNOWS
Did I buy the book from the shop? Nope. The title and the foreword did not intrigue me too much to buy the book, but it intrigued me to a level that I went home and read online reviews on the book. And satisfied that, this book is gonna be a good one, I placed an order via "Flipkart". They are always on time, I got the book in just 2 days.

This book costs 195 bucks. It is a motivation-cum-self-help-cum-preachy-cum-bio-cum-weird book, yes - it clearly did not fall under any genre!

Ok, who is the author? Shailendra Singh! The ones, who follow Marketing related news in media, sports and entertainment would definitely know this guy as the Marketing Mogul of India! He is big in his own way! But mind you, he is no Chetan Bhagat! By the by, Chetan himself is no big deal of a writer, but he is a damn good story teller!

What is he talking about in this book? Hmm.. he talks about "EVERYTHING IN LIFE"!

What is with the title?
In colloquial usage of English - the word "F?@k knows" means "Who knows" or "I don't know"!!

Here is the breakdown!
Positive aspects:
  • The language flow is very simple, anybody who has been to any form of schooling can read this book.
  • Singh helps you to realize and examine what you really want to do with your life. He advises in a convincing way to follow your heart and clearly states not to follow your Dad's dream instead make your own dream come true. Cool!
  • He also talks about taking care of one's health by not indulging in unwanted stuffs in a very amicable way. Good thing is, he never advises, he only tells the readers - what he went through and if given one more chance what he would do via his writing.
  • He talks to the reader like a buddy/friend instead of a self-help Guru like say a Deepak Chopra or a Robin Sharma.
  • He uses real life examples and hence some of the chapters are very much believable and you might have come across such crossroads yourself.
  • In one of the chapters, he asks the reader to send him a mail answering the following 2 questions:
    • Who are you?
    • What do you want?
            Well, what is he gonna do with so many mails? Nothing actually. He says, 6 months from the time
            you send the mail, he is gonna resend the mail back to you asking if you ever achieved that
            goal you mentioned in the mail. Well, a nice idea!
            Do you guys think he is gonna really resend the mail after 6 months? I'm not too sure.
            But did I mail him? HaHa, you bet!!
  • Last but never the least, he clearly puts a strong case to appreciate and enjoy what you got in life rather than saving until you become too old to enjoy anything. Kudos for that!
One of my favorite lines from the book: "Worrying is like riding a tiger. If you can stay on top of it, you will enjoy the ride. If you get off, the tiger will eat you." - Yep, that is right!

Negative aspects:
  • If you are somebody, who cannot tolerate the F word used lavishly all throughout the book like Cherrapunji rain, then abstain from buying this book. Because there are at least 4 to 5 usage of F word in each page.
  • When a writer gets candid, it is a good thing, because you get to read the truth - but Singh gets it wrong in many places. He becomes too candid to a level that you cannot tolerate or digest certain lines. Unfathomable mistake!
  • There are certain things in life better left unexplained. But he delves into each and every nuances of sleaze, which really (trust me!) really makes you wanna nauseate! At least 5 chapters in the book are vulgar with details which are in-cognizable. Outright bull sh*t!
  • The book has 70+ chapters with less than 3 pages each. But there is no co-relation between 2 chapters, so you feel no connectivity at all!
  • If you are one of those who appreciates beauty of literature, then please stay away from this book, there is no good usage of grandeur in language.
  • Singh says, his target audiences are teenagers and 20 somethings(that is what he says!) - but trust me, make sure no teenager gets near this book!
  • He is a cool guy! Yes, I agree. But he is trying too hard to be super cool(or uber cool) by coming down to the level of Gen Y, which is not convincing enough! 
Verdict:
I would opine an acceptance rate of 50%.
Will I recommend this book to anybody? Well, not to my friends for sure :-)
So NOPE!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Have we lost our brain power to technology?

How many times a day do we use some form of technology in life? Pretty much every minute: be it the usage of smart phones, laptops, tablets, phablets,...etc. We got so much used to it that sometimes we do not see the answer to a simple problem lying right in front of us. As much as I love technology and anything to do with it, I do believe in the fact that - "Technology made us all lazy, to an extent".
To get back to our humanness, we have to use only those entities which are necessary and let go off the rest. If that is not possible, then take a "technology break" once a month - see how beautiful the day turns out to be! I did one complete day, and I was so peaceful, Zen like!

If somebody asks me to tell them the current-local-time, although I wear my watch all the time, I go straight to my phone, it is not that I cannot read time, it is just that my phone displays it for me. What can I say? Laziness personified! I'm sure many of you would have come across this!

The other day, I was at my Granny's house and we were talking about Kal Yug, Current Affairs(Yeah, My granny has a brain of a computer) and stuffs - our talk led to a small calculation, that required me to do a math 'division' and a 'square root' - Any idea, what I did? I took my phone out, opened my calc app, typed down all the numbers and calculated the amount. Having observed me for couple of minutes meddling with my phone, my granny gives me this "Blahhhhh" look and tells me the calculated amount with no aid. I was like, "Holy Cow, do I have to go back to basics now?", HaHa!!
See, this is what technology has done to our brains! I'm gonna end this post with a mini story that I came across in a technology site.

The story: 
It was the 1960's and the USA (NASA) is having problems getting replacements for pens. Due to the conditions of being in space (no gravity, no pressure, no air), pens don’t work well there, which is a bad news for Astronauts, so they spent Millions in research to make an "anti-gravity" pen that works.
The Russians, when faced with the same problem, used a pencil.
How cool!

Take away: The best solution to any given problem may be tech-free, simple and may just come from pure guess/thought. Technology has always been around to solve problems, or to do the undoable, when all other methods fail, but let’s not get carried away and be so eager to throw in technology into every single solution.
Technology: Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. :)

Image courtesy: Google

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A mini story and a lesson for life!

This is one of my favorite short stories. I got this story as a forwarded mail long back. There are only 2 lines in the story but the take away is worth spending couple of minutes. Not everyday we come across intense yet thought provoking stories(whoever that wrote the story, kudos to you boss!).
The Story:
A grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one." The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?" The grandfather answered: "The one I feed."

My Analogy:
What a powerful reply from the Grandfather! Isn't it? This is a very important scenario, mainly because it states no matter what the circumstance is - it is always "we" who decide as to which path to follow, which decision to take, which mountain to climb! Have you ever acted in ways that were unacceptable to yourself but felt powerless to control it? I'm sure you do. Sometimes it is very easy to control the outcome with our decisions just because the circumstance is trivial and some other time the circumstance could lead you to a 'catch 22' situation, hence the decision making becomes complicated. And this is where we end up taking the wrong route.

I'm not going to lecture as to how to take better decisions!! All I'm saying is - right from childhood, it is our responsibility to instill the thought process that there are many things in life that are beyond our ability to control, so sometimes we make mistakes and some other time we reap benefits because of making a better decision. Why do I keep stressing this point?....Keep reading, I got 2 incidents listed out, which can be related to the 'answer' of the mini story(above)!

1)Board Examination results:
Whenever a class 10th or 12th board examination result gets published, the next day we read news about students committing suicide because of scoring less marks. That somebody who committed suicide is nobody to us, but don't you guys feel - "that somebody" could have been one of our near and dear ones!
All we have to do is prepare them(kids) right from their childhood to face the world, teach them that the world is not gonna receive them with open arms and a candy bar, there is gonna be problems, setbacks but there is always a way out, may be the exit is a long and an exhaustive one, but there is definitely one! Instill the faith in them. Make them strong enough to take their own decisions, instead of towering over the shoulder all the time and trying to keep them under control. Give them the power to make decision and be there to bring them to the right track, when they derail.

2)Actress Jiah Khan's suicide:
When I read about Actress Jiah Khan's suicide - (Reason: because of having trouble in the relationship with her boyfriend), this is the thought came to my mind - Why did her parents or friends never sensed that there is a problem and try to help her out? Was she too good in acting that she endured pain inside and showed a gleeful face outside? Whatever the reason could be, committing suicide is not an option. Abusive boyfriend? Yeah! Get rid off him from your life, why take your own life and in turn make life hell for your near and dear ones?
Actor Shah Rukh Khan gave a sensible response to Jiah Khan's suicide, he said "Respect life more than love!" - This is again a very powerful yet simply put life quote. Do I even have to explain further? Nah!

So the take away is - The more we take effort to try to manage our negative thoughts, dilemmas and indecisiveness, the more merrier we become and appreciate whatever we got!

Image courtesy: Google

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dabbawala and a brand new deed called "Share My Dabba"!

We Indians are very much aware of the basic concept of Mumbai's Dabbawalas. For those who are not aware of this concept, here is an introduction:
Note: If you do not have time to read the entire post, just see the Youtube clip(below) - that summarizes everything!
Introduction:
The word "dabba" literally means "box", in specific "a box containing a meal" and the suffix "walla" means "the person who carries the box". Colloquially "Dabbawala" is a "lunch box distributing man".
The men in the household leave for work as early as 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning, hence the women in the household prepare the lunch and send them away with Dabbawalas to be delivered to their husband's workplace every day. And this service is unique to Mumbai's suburbs and the concept is existing for more than 100 years now. They manage to deliver tens of thousands of meals to workplaces all over the city with nearly 100% precision.

How does this work?
The service is moderately complex. A network of dabbawalas pick up the boxes from customer's homes and delivers the meal to a local railway station. The boxes are sorted for delivery to different stations in central Mumbai with codes or markings on the dabbas understood only by the dabbawala clan, and then re-sorted and carried to their destinations. After lunch, the empty boxes are delivered back home with a unique blend of teamwork, efficiency and an unparalleled dedication to punctuality.

The dabbawala business is still growing, at a steady rate of 5 to 10 percent a year, even with the sprawling and jam-packed restaurants in the vicinity. Not to forget, Business schools have studied their supply chain methods and presented papers/journals. The dabbawalas were invited to give lectures on how other firms can utilize their model to maximize effectiveness. Their service makes only one mistake per six million deliveries, Holy cow - It is indeed a big successful logistics and business model!!!
They even have a website and an SMS service to increase customer base. Their service was awarded a Six Sigma(for quality) - guess what? With no documentation - isn't it amazing?

So what is new? - SHARE MY DABBA!!
What is "Share my dabba"?
India, a country where there are so many people(especially kids) who stay hungry all through out the day because of not being able to afford food. There are some who gets to eat one square meal a day and there are several others who may not get that either.
But how many of us waste food??? hmm.... more or less everybody, be it in our own household or the lunch box we take to work(Not many I guess) or even at restaurants. So the edible left-over food is being dumped in the garbage bin of every household more or less everyday.
And this is where "Share My Dabba" comes into picture. The concept is simple - "Food is being wasted everyday and there are hungry children to feed and the dabbawalla helps them with the deed".


How exactly are the hungry kids going to benefit from this deed?
Do watch the clip(above) to know further!

It is an incredible idea. Kudos to the person who conceived this idea, kudos to the customer's who never forgets to stick the "share" sticker onto their dabbas, and kudos to the dabbawalas for re-sorting them out, and kudos to the volunteers for distributing them to the hungry kids!
To summarize, here is a quote by Lao Tzu which goes something like this - "Great acts are made up of small deeds", isn't it true?

Image & Video courtesy: Google & Youtube

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Onion and Tomato Chutney

If you are one of those, who is bored of the regular coconut chutney day-in-day-out, then this chutney will be a life saver. It is a good mix of onion, tomato and coconut sauteed with spices and ground to perfection. This goes very well with Idli, Dosa and also as a side to Curd Rice. I have seen people mix this chutney directly with plain rice and have them(something like a pachadi), so it kinda works that way too!!
Onion and Tomato Chutney
Ingredients:
1)Onion - 1(chopped)
2)Tomato - 2(chopped)
3)Green Chillies - 3(slit)
4)Grated Coconut - 4 tsp
5)Garlic - 3 pods(crushed)
6)Oil - 1 tsp
7)Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
8)Whole Red Chilli - 1
9)Urad Dal - 1 tsp
10)Asafetida - a pinch
11)Turmeric Powder - a pinch
12)Salt - to taste
13)Coriander leaves - 5 sprigs

Preparation:
1)Heat oil in a pan and add asafetida, cumin seeds, whole red chilli and urad dal. Let it splutter.
2)Add garlic and slit green chilli, saute for couple of seconds.
3)Add onion and salt, saute until they turn translucent.
4)Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and saute for 4 minutes.
5)Add coriander leaves and saute for couple of seconds.
6)Add grated coconut and saute for couple of seconds.
7)Switch off the stove and let the content cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
8)Grind the entire content in a mixer, until you get the mushy consistency.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Simple Kichdi

A simple one pot meal with protein rich dal, combined with no over-the-top seasoning and some veggies. Tada... you got yourself a lovely kichdi! Have this with papad, pickle and curd.
Kichdi is always light on the tummy and that is what makes me stick to this recipe at least once every two weeks. You can add any combination of veggies in the kichdi!
Simple Kichdi
Ingredients:
1)Rice - 3/4 cup
2)Yellow Moong dal - 1/2 cup
3)Onion - 1(medium, chopped)
4)Tomato - 1(medium, chopped)
5)Green chilli - 2(slit)
6)Broad Beans - 5(chopped)
7)Carrot - 1(small, chopped)
8)Garlic - 5 pods(chopped)
9)Asafoetida - a pinch
10)Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
11)Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
12)Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
13)Ghee - 1.5 tsp
14)Salt -  to taste
15)Water - as required
Simple Kichdi
Preparation:
1)Soak rice and dal in water for 30 minutes.
2)Heat 1 tsp of ghee in a pan and add asafoetida, mustard and cumin seeds, let it splutter.
3)Add chopped garlic and slit green chilli, saute for couple of seconds.
4)Add chopped onions and salt, saute until the onion turns translucent.
5)Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and mix well. Let it cook until done.
6)Now add chopped beans and carrot and saute well. Let it cook for couple of minutes.
7)Now add the rice and dal mixture and mix well.
8)Transfer the content to a pressure cooker and add enough water to get kichdi consistency.
Let it cook for 4 to 5 whistles.
9)Do add 0.5 tsp of ghee onto the kichdi and give it a stir at the end!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Taro Root Fry (Arbi Fry)

One of those fries which tastes perfect with any form of rice. You can change the spices as per your taste.
I usually have this with curd rice or rasam rice. But why the hell did I add mustard? Well, what can I say, without the black pearls any fry kinda looks bland to me, hence the unnecessary addition - you may choose to ignore!! :-)
Arbi Fry
Ingredients:
1)Taro Root(Arbi) - 6
2)Oil - 2 tsp
3)Red Chilli Powder - 3/4 tsp
4)Amchur Powder(Mango Powder) - 1/2 tsp
5)Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
6)Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
7)Salt - to taste

Preparation:
1)Clean and peel the skin of Arbi. Cut Arbi into desired shape and size.
2)Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. Let it splutter.
3)Add the chopped Arbis into the pan and stir well.
4)Add salt. Let it cook, do give it a stir now and then. Make sure the Arbis are tender yet crunchy.
5)Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, amchur powder and mix well.
6)Let it cook for couple of minutes and switch off the flame.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Simple Beet Pulao

Sometimes, it is all about taste and flavor of the food, and the other times - it is just about the look of it! So yesterday, I felt like adding some color to my food, well - what better way can one add color to their food than adding beet?
So here is a simple Pulao with vibrant color!
Beetroot Rice
Ingredients:
1)Beet Root(Beet) – 1 (grated)
2)Onion – 1 (chopped)
3)Green Chilli - 1(slit)
4)Long grained Rice – 1 cup
5)Water – as required
6)Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
7)Cinnamon, Cardamon, Bay Leaves – a little
8)Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
9)Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
10)Oil - 1 tsp
11)Salt -  to taste

Preparation:
1)Soak rice in Water for 30 minutes.
2)Heat oil in a pan(or pan cooker) and add cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamon and bay leaves. Saute well.
3)Add slit green chilli, chopped onions, salt and saute until onion turns translucent.
4)Add Chilli and Coriander powder and let it cook for couple of minutes.
5)Add grated beet and stir well. 
6)Add soaked rice, water and mix well. Let it cook for 2 minutes. You can see the vibrant color of water!
7)Transfer the content to a pressure cooker and cook for 2 whistles.

Vibrant Beet Pulao is ready to be served with curd or raita!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Coffee Panna Cotta

The climate in Bangalore is much acceptable for the past one week, thanks to the recent rains! For those, who are still experiencing the pestering hot and sweaty climate, here is a recipe(Well, for the Coffee Lovers)!! I can handle a strong decoction of coffee, hence the color of Panna Cotta is towards the darker side. If you wish the Panna Cotta to have slightly subtle coffee taste, adjust your coffee powder mix accordingly. Either ways, it tastes just right!!
Coffee Panna Cotta
Ingredients:
1)Instant Coffee Powder - 2 tsp(I used "Bru", please make sure you add less, If you do not like super strong coffee)
2)Cream (Low Fat) - 2 cups
3)Powdered Sugar - (I added nearly 3/4 of a cup - Please do adjust as per your taste)
4)Gelatin(Unflavored) - 2 tsp
5)Cold Water - a little
6)Whipped Cream - a spoonful
7)Cashew nut - 1 (Not necessary, at all!)
Coffee Panna Cotta
Preparation:
1)Take a pan - add the cream, coffee powder, sugar and mix well, so that the coffee powder blends with the cream and the sugar mixture. Do not boil, but let it cook in low heat for couple of minutes. When you realize that the mixture is gonna get boiled, switch off the heat. Keep aside.
2)In the mean time, add gelatin to cold water and give it a stir. Keep aside for less than 10 minutes.
3)Now pour the gelatin mix into the simmered content via a filter. Make sure the solid standouts from the gelatin is removed. Mix well.
4)Keep it aside for couple of minutes until the mixture cools down.
5)Add the mixture into bowls and cups of your choice and refrigerate it overnight.
Note: This is how it looks when out of fridge.
Coffee Panna Cotta
6)If you want the Panna Cotta to be plated like a pudding, then pour hot water over the bowl(by turning upside down) and keep it for couple of minutes before trying to plate it. This will ease the Panna Cotta out!
7)Add a spoonful of whipped cream over the top and throw in some instant coffee powder for the look.
I placed a cashew nut to the plated Panna Cotta. You may leave this step, I just added it because it looked like something was missing from the top :-)
Instant Coffee Panna Cotta
Enjoy your Panna Cotta. 
Also sending this recipe to Guru's summer giveaway!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lemon Rasam

A simple, refreshing and tangy rasam. No specific ingredients required and no need to grind anything, you don't even need Dal extract to make this rasam, can make this with whatever is lying around in kitchen :-)! Simply put, you are gonna spend hardly 5 minutes in making this rasam and it definitely tastes good with hot plain rice. Fryums or Pappad goes very well with this humble rasam.
Lemon Rasam
Ingredients:
1)Lemon - 1 
2)Tomato - 1(chopped)
3)Green Chilli - 2
4)Garlic - 5 to 6 cloves
5)Water - 3 cups
6)Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
7)Coriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
8)Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
9)Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
10)Salt - to taste
11)Sugar - 1 tsp
12)Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
13)Cumin Seeds -  1 tsp
14)Asafoetida  - a little
15)Whole Red Chilli - 2(small, crushed)
16)Ghee - 1.5 tsp
17)Coriander leaves - good amount
Lemon Rasam
Preparation:
1)Crush Green Chilli and Garlic cloves. Keep aside.
2)Heat ghee in a pan and add Asafoetida, Mustard Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Red Chilli and let it splutter.
3)Add the crushed green chilli and garlic, chopped tomato, chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt, sugar and water.
4)When the content nears the boiling state, add lemon juice and let it cook for a minute and switch off the flame.
5)Add chopped coriander leaves and the remaining ghee. Close the lid to arrest the flavor.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Poori Masala

Who doesn't like Poori Masala? Although, good amount of oil goes into making pooris, once in a while this is a great breakfast for sure! Here, I got my version.
Poori Masala
Ingredients:
For making Poori:
1)Wheat Flour - 2 cups
2)Rava (with fine texture) - 1 tsp
3)Oil - 1 tsp
4)Salt - a little
5)Water - as required
To deep fry pooris:
1)Oil - 1 cup
For making Masala:
1)Potato - 2
2)Onion - 1(chopped)
3)Tomato - 1(chopped)
4)Oil - 1 tsp
5)Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
6)Split Urad dhal - 1/2 tsp
7)Channa dhal - 1/2 tsp
8)Green Chili - 2
9)Besan or Gram Flour - 1 tsp
10)Curry Leaves - 2 to 3 sprigs
11)Asefoetida - a pinch
12)Ginger - 1/2 inch(grated)
13)Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
14)Salt - to taste
15)Coriander Leaves - 2 to 3 sprigs
Poori kizhangu
Preparation:
Poori:
1) Mix Wheat flour, Rava, Oil and Salt together in a bowl. Add enough water and make the dough. Make small ball sized rolls.
2)Flatten the dough balls with a rolling pin. Use oil instead of flour.
3)Heat oil in a frying pan. Deep fry the flattened dough until it puffs up on both the sides.

Masala:
1)Cook the potatoes in pressure cooker with water and salt for 2 whistles. Once done, peel off the skin, mash the potatoes and retain the water.
2)Heat oil in a pan and add Mustard, Split Urad dhal, Channa dhal, Green Chili, Curry Leaves, Ginger and Asefoetida. Let it splutter.
3)Add the chopped Onion, Salt and fry till they turn translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook till they are done.
4)Add Turmeric powder and cook for a min.
5)Mix Besan with little water and make a smooth paste. Keep aside.
6)Add the cooked/mashed potatoes along with the water, besan paste and cook for couple of minutes. Add coriander leaves and mix well.
Poori Masala is ready!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vatha Kulambu (Kuzhambu)

"Vatha Kulambu" is one of those tangy gravies, which tastes perfect with plain rice! Although, this is not a staple at home, I end up cooking pretty often. Mind you, this gravy can stay for a week when refrigerated. You just need a spoon full of gravy for a good amount of rice, but do not forget to sprinkle a little ghee on to your rice - Oh! just divine!
Vatha Kulambu
Ingredients:
1)Sunda Vathal - 2 tsp (Okie, what on earth is this? :-) It is called as "Dried Turkey Berry", you can get this in small sachet from super markets. If not available, you can make this gravy using just shallots or loads of garlic or okra!)
2)Shallots or small onions - 3(chopped)
3)Garlic - 7(chopped)
4)Tamarind pulp - a lemon sized ball, soaked in luke warm water(2.5 cups) for 15 minutes.
5)Gingelly oil - 3 tsp
6)Sambar Powder - 2 tsp(I used Shakti Sambar Powder)
7)Curry Leaves - 3 sprigs
8)Salt - to taste
9)Jaggery - a pinch
10)Asafetida - a pinch
11)Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
12)Split Urad dal - 1 tsp
13)Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
14)Whole Red Chilli - 2 to 3(small, crushed)
Vatha Kuzhambu
Preparation:
1)Heat oil in a pan and add asafetida, mustard seeds, urad dal, fenugreek seeds and whole red chilli. Let it splutter. Make sure the chilli is not burnt.
2)Add curry leaves, sunda vathal, chopped garlic and onion. Saute until they are done.
3)Add salt, sambar powder and mix well. Cook for couple of minutes.
4)Add tamarind extract and let it boil for 30 to 40 minutes(Yes, you heard it right - the liquidy gravy should turn to semi solid consistency, hence the time). Do not forget to close the lid of the pan, so that the flavor stays put.
Note: When the gravy boils(say after 15 minutes), add a pinch of jaggery to it and mix well.
5)Add a spoonful of Gingelly oil on to the gravy and mix well. (PS: Gingelly oil is good for health!)

Here you go,Vatha Kulambu is ready to be served with plain rice and ghee! I'm drooling already.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Are all advertisements mundane?

After an IT Industry bashing session with a dear friend, we changed the topic to ads. She asked me, if I had seen the latest "Idea cellular" ad - but, I had no clue. When I was heading back to my apartment, I youtubed to see, what the ad is all about. And trust me, it is an interesting commercial. Take a look.
Every time we encounter ads in between a match or a movie or a TV show, all we do is frown, but why?
Because advertisements are mundane, boring and not cool. Not to forget, ads are the primary source of revenue for any program that is being aired in TV. So the broadcasters are never gonna spare us from telecasting ads in between our favorite shows. Hence, the obvious question which comes to anybody's mind is - Why are they not making ads that are cooler or at least watchable?
Well, there are quite a few good ones available. But yes - not many, just a handful.

So here, I'm trying to dissect the perception, what works and what doesn't in advertisement.
No instant results:
The challenge in creating a killer ad is that, one has to make it appealing to the audience, in 1 to 2 minutes of time. Ads should have creativity, credibility, entertainment and a story. Out of the 4 listed items, story is the most important one.
Advertisements are not going to bring in immediate customers. Nobody is going to get outta their couch, to buy a "Scooty Pep" just because "Priyanka Chopra" rides one in their brand advertisement. Ads can never give immediate results. Ads may create expectations and interests but the results can only be measured eventually.

Brand should speak for itself:
One should never make advertisement based on the brand, instead the story that is being pitched in should sell the brand without asking the audience to go buy the brand. Successful advertisement seldom succeeds through argument or calls to action. Instead, it should create positive vibes and feelings that influences our behavior over time to encourage us to buy something in near future. No one likes to think that they are easily influenced. Hence, the best advertisements are ingenious enough to leave a lasting impression, at the same time they are ethical. Overselling a product is never fruitful.

Creating Brand Equity:
The most powerful tool to sell or market any product is advertisement.
Coke has spent millions in advertising over so many years to fortify the brand equity. Say, if they stop advertising in near future and I'm sure, at least for another decade - people would still continue to purchase their product.  Imagine, how profitable would that make the company to sell a "carbonated sugar water" that costs nothing to produce, for next decade with no marketing/advertising expenses.

Also from the awareness perspective, you may find people who do not know our Prime Minister's name, but I don't think there is anybody who doesn't know Coke! And that is brand equity!

Target Audience & knowing when to do what:
Advertisers should understand the relevancy of telecasting a particular ad at a particular time. Why is timing so important?
When Indian Idol show is going on, it makes sense to advertise Sony or JBL headphones, but at the same time - it may not be a good idea to advertise "Servo Engine Oil". You know they say, "Doing the right thing at the right time".
So the final question: Does advertising influence user's choice?
You may not think advertisement influences you. But marketeers do. Well, years & years of accumulated quantitative data proves that, advertising does influence user's choice not immediately but gradually.

Image & video Courtesy: Google and youtube

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sports - Why is it so important for kids?

The other day, I was talking to my cousin sister, she asked me - what other sport(other than Cricket) can her 8 year old son be a part of, either by playing or watching. I suggested, Formula One Racing. She asked me to teach her kiddo the basic nuances of the race, so that he can pick it up and start watching the race. I gladly agreed. The main reason she wants her son to learn some form of sport is that, she can stop him from spending umpteen number of hours watching cartoon(Chota Bheem - Seriously, why kids are crazy about this, right?) or playing video games or meddling with laptop or phone.
Why sports is not ONE OF THE best, but THE best way to a kid's well being? Read further:
1) Discipline and Physical Fitness:
Current generation of kids are fighting the pandemic called obesity. Blame their sedentary life style(Blame Chota Bheem, :-)). To be honest with you, this is reason enough to consider enrolling them in sports. Anything that is being taught, will start with the basics and the first word any kid learns from any sport is "discipline". Do you guys think, it is easy to make them sit at home & teach discipline? Nah! It is not possible.
Sports promote an active lifestyle and help children achieve and maintain a healthy body weight & image. They will very well be aware of what to eat and what not to, in couple of years of practice. Physically fit children are less likely to fall sick. Regular exercise reduces the feeling of stress, anxiety, mood swings in kids.

2) Social Skills:
Kids learn to interact not only with their peer group, but also with senior players, coaches, physical trainers and sports officials. They learn coordination and cooperation, leadership skills and communication skills that will help them in school, career and also in personal life.
A dedicated and skilled coach can have an amazing impact on children. In fact, kids respond better to an inspiring coach, than to their own parent.

3) Goal Orientation:
Sports teaches the importance of setting goals and working towards achieving them by individual contribution or by a team effort. The art of taking one step at a time towards achieving the ultimate goal, will be taught and experienced perfectly in sports. Even though, one may fail several times, the same is re-taught and re-experienced until they reach the highest goal.

4) Positive Image & Attitude:
Kids involved in sports exhibit higher self esteem and self confidence than the kids who are glued to cartoon network 24/7. As they grow further, you can very well sense that they have a better body image, being fit and energetic. Research from the many Institutes across America, points that children who participates in sports are less likely to smoke, do drugs or overuse alcohol.

5) The 5 “Ps” - (practice, patience, perseverance, pragmatism and positivity):
I'm sure everybody would have heard of 3 Ps of life, but here I got 5 Ps for sports.
Every kid who participates in some form of sports would definitely learn and follow the 5 Ps without fail.
  • Practice: Practice teaches them the quality of "you don't get glory without earning it" and pushes them to perfection.
  • Patience: Patience is what is required to sail through several successes and umpteen number of failures in sports. It will make them tough.
  • Perseverance: Perseverance is what is required to get back and do it all over again, when you fail. Who better can teach this concept than sports?
  • Pragmatism: Being practical is very important in sports - your goals should be practical, logical and achievable - You cannot run a Marathon with a day's practice, it requires you body, mind and soul to work in sync to achieve the common goal.
  • Positivity: Even when we are 9 wickets down and with 1 ball remaining and a 6 runs to score - the batsman should have the positive attitude & guts to pull a 6 run off the field and that quality is patented to Sports.
6) Ego under control:
One of the most destructive words in English, that is known to have ruined relationships and friendships, is "EGO". I have seen families breaking down to shambles because of ego problem. Trust me, sportsperson cannot afford to build ego and the first thing a good coach does, when he senses a smoke of ego in a sportsperson is to stamp down that one fatal quality from its root. One can utilize this quality of keeping ego under check, in both professional and personal life.

Is this not reason enough to push your kids to get involved in Sports? Think about it!

The are excellent movies in Hollywood, that would motivate not just kids but anybody to take up sports. When you get a chance - do watch these movies!
  • The Karate Kid 
  • Remember the Titans (Adult supervision required)
  • Goal! The Dream Begins (Adult supervision required
  • Million Dollar Baby (Adult supervision required)
  • Bend it Like Beckham (Adult supervision required)
Image Courtesy: Google

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to use SWOT in Personal Life?

I always draw parallels between my professional and personal life. Anything, one learns in their professional life can be customized and applied to their personal life but vice versa may not be true. So here is one such topic called SWOT Analysis. The interesting thing is, you can use SWOT analysis personally for self awareness & personal development without having to spend considerable amount of time, breaking your head.
Basic Definition:
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Who uses SWOT analysis professionally?
SWOT analysis is a tool for auditing and analyzing an organization, environment and individuals. SWOT analysis is the first stage of planning which helps professionals, managers and marketers to focus on key issues. Also from the IT industry perspective, we use this analysis for performance appraisal & feedback of any individual.

What is the aim of SWOT analysis?
The aim is to turn our weaknesses into strengths, and our threats into opportunities. The outcome of the analysis should be an increase in ‘value’ for customers/individuals.

How to use SWOT in personal life?
Doing a SWOT analysis of your life can give you a clear picture of who you are and the opportunities you have for your life. It will help you identify where you need to improve, and more importantly allows you to identify your internal strengths, that you can capitalize on to grab your opportunities and prevent any external threats.

It is also an essential key in your day-to-day decision making in your personal life. Before you decide to buy that expensive product, evaluate the impact of what can happen when you make that decision. You may find out that you will prevent yourself from making the wrong choice.

There are 4 steps to SWOT:

1)Write down:
Take a paper and divide it into four quarters. Label each area as S, W, O, T. Identify the area of your life that you are gonna address via SWOT.
[I have taken an example of "A typical Food Blogger's anxiety" to illustrate this analysis, instead of getting too personal - Write down the answers to following questions(you can come up with any number & type of questions) in the allotted quarter.]

Strength
Qn: Which areas do I excel in?
Ans: Cooking
Qn: What skills and capabilities do I possess?
Ans: Presentation, Photography

Weakness
Qn: What skills do I need to develop?
Ans: Networking, SEO, Social Media
Qn: Which personal difficulties do I need to work through to reach my goals?
Ans: Being regular, taking care of family & kids, time constraint, coming up with innovative ideas for cooking.

Opportunities
Qn: Which circumstances can help me achieve my goals?
Ans: Managing time efficiently by plotting couple of hours everyday to blogging(having a schedule),
following number of blogs to get inspired to further innovate the cooking style.
Qn: What could be the outcome, if I fulfil the above answer?
Ans: A balance between blogging and personal life, bringing steady flow of audiences, making bucks via advertisements.

Threats
Qn: What obstacles am I currently facing?
Ans: Dearth of creative ideas.
Qn: Which fears are holding me back?
Ans: Fear of not being regular, Fear of loosing audience, Fear of uncertainty.

The problem is half solved already, when you know what you have and what you don't. Yes, writing or jotting down is the first step towards achieving any goals. It is not without any reason that people take notes while in a meeting or a conference. Richard Branson, still runs around carrying a small notebook(in the era of phablets and tablets), to take note of anything and everything important that he comes across.

2)Think laterally and get a third person's opinion:
Sometimes the strengths that you have, may not look like a unique quality to you - but a third person(say a friend) can help you realize the strength or weakness. You may also want to get people who are close to you to share their perspective, especially on your strengths and weaknesses.

3)Understanding the concept of "One quality leading to another":
Remember one thing, strengths tend to lead to opportunities and weaknesses tend to lead to threats.
For example, if a weakness that you have is that, your cooking skills are limited to one particular cuisine(say South Indian), the threat might be that there is only so much that you can do with one type of cooking, which means in some time you are gonna run out of ideas(so that is a threat). The opportunity is that you can learn a different cuisine and turn that into your strength.

4)Apply the findings:
Once the list is ready, you need to look for ways to apply your findings. You can start applying your findings by asking questions about each quadrant.  For example you can ask: How can you use your strengths to maximize your potential? How can you get rid off your weakness? How can you find opportunity? How can avert threats?  The answers to these questions will help you with the strategies for achieving your goals.

You should have a much clearer perspective about who you are, where you are headed, and what opportunities you need to pursue, once you are done with applying the findings. Try out when you have sometime, perhaps it will help.

Image courtesy: Google