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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What’s keeping me busy

A few random updates…

1. Submitted my entry to ET Prodigy case study contest. In this contest I had to work on an imaginary situation wherein an individual, Arvind Apte, sets out to launch an NGO of his own, to help underprivileged job seekers turn into job creators. In our case study report we have to draft detailed business plan as to how he will identify potential entrepreneurs, how it will ensure self-sustainability of his NGO and how it could be made highly scalable.

Enjoyed working on this. Did I tell you the grand prize for this contest is Skoda Laura? In case I don’t win it, I hope they’ll let me drive it around for few days as a consolation prize. :) Anyway I learnt that Laura has successfully lured thousands of students and professionals to take part in this contest.

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2. Assisted a Social Media consultancy firm in their website revamping. I had to study a few dozen websites of various Indian and US social media consultancy firms and note down pros and cons of each of them. Let me see if I can publish a summarized version of my findings as a blog post.

Assisting the same firm set up an innovations lab. More details on this will be revealed at the right time, because right now everything is in conceptual stage.

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Windows 7 launch party

3. I’m a confirmed host for Microsoft Windows 7 launch party. This year MS is experimenting unconventional ways to promote windows. MS will be giving a free copy to a group of selected individuals who in turn are expected to conduct a party at their place, invite people and tell them about MS windows 7. Kind of Tupperware/Amway concept of promoting sales, only difference is party host’s sole gain is his/her free copy of Windows7 and doesn’t stand to gain anything if his/her guests buy further copies of Windows 7. I’m waiting for my host kit from Microsoft. Will keep you posted. Party is to happen next month. Those interested can checkout my party site. Let me know if you’d like an invite.

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4. Room mate Partho has returned from Kolkata after attending Durga Puja celebrations there. He’s got loads of photographs taken during the festivities-I’ll share some of those with you in a subsequent post. Festival wishes to all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Surviving a KSRTC volvo bus accident

One of my close friends, Santosh called me yesterday and narrated his recent experience traveling in a KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) Airavatha Volvo bus, from Bengaluru to Hubli. Due to negligent driving the bus met up with an accident at around 4 AM, some 10 kms before Haveri (A district HQ in Karnataka). Luckily there were no causalities though many suffered minor injuries. Santosh works for a leading Engineering services company and his work involves extensive travel, visiting factories all over and supervising installation activities.He usually doesn’t get sleep during night journeys and stays awake. He asked me to write a post on his close to death experience, so that it reaches larger mass and hopefully some KSRTC officials.

Here goes his narration of incidents that unfolded before and after the accident.

I boarded Bengaluru-Belgaum (via Hubli) KSRTC Volvo Airavatha at Majestic on Monday evening, (ticket no 15049073 PNR No: j145768064, seat no 24, Total fare Rs 511). Bus left from Bangalore at around 10.15PM, 15 minutes beyond schedule. A Vishnuvardhan starer Kannada movie, Bandhana was played at a disturbingly loud voice. Volume was toned down after repeated complaints and requests from passengers.

At around 1PM, the movie ended, conductor went to sleep in one of the front two seats that were empty. On a highway near Davanagere, driver was driving on the wrong side of the road, in a rather rash and unprofessional manner, with abrupt breakings and swings and nearly missed hitting a truck coming from opposite direction. After getting heavy scolding from the truck driver he carried on, without any improvements in his driving style. Again driving on the wrong side, he created a traffic jam and was forced to drive back couple of kms and make way for traffic. At Davangere he stopped for just 10-15 seconds, only to offload some cylinder like stuff he was carrying with him. No stops for tea or to attend nature’s calls.

4 AM in the morning, driving towards Haveri, probably 8-10kms before Haveri town, on an almost deserted nice 4 lane double road, our bus was cruising at about 80-100 kmph speed. With driver’s passion for driving on the wrong side notwithstanding, he missed noticing a diesel tanker on the road. The diesel tanker had fallen off road into a pit, with its rear part protruding on the road. Noticing it too late, our Volvo ended up ramming into the protruding rear part of the tanker, jolting all sleeping passengers.

It took several minutes for everyone to wake up and understand what’s happening. Due to the impact of collision, driver’s seat was pushed back by a meter or two, into the passenger section. His leg was jammed and he was screaming for help. We tried to remove him but we couldn’t. Of the 40+ passengers on board, some 25+ suffered minor to medium injuries, but fortunately there wasn’t any death.

We shouted for help and other buses stopped seeing the accident. They tried to break open the glass windows, but fiber windows were tough to crack. Finally people were evacuated through the front portion of the bus, which was severely crushed due to the impact.

We called the emergency number 12666 written on the bus for help. For long, no one received it. Finally, by about 4.20 some lady picked up the phone. As we briefed her about the accident and asked for help, she started interrogating us instead, asking our name, address, from where we were calling. She was not in a position to do anything other than listening.

As I came out, I had nothing else with me. My wallet, office laptop, cloths all were inside. I went inside searching for it, saw that all baggage had fallen off the racks on the passage and people were carelessly walking all over it, searching for their belongings while damaging others’. With some struggle I found my belongings and sighed in relief.

Most of the passengers were regular office goers who had to be in their office same day. No one had the time and patience to stay back and say either claim a compensation or assist police and other officials. Everyone left towards their destination hopping on to other buses or whatever mode of transportation they got. The conductor was in a shocked state and no one bothered him. I got on to a private bus and reached my Hotel in Hubli in one piece.

In retrospection,

  • The driver wasn’t drunk. He was aged about 35. He was wearing his uniform. May be he wasn’t trained properly or he had some unknown reasons to drive badly
  • We don’t know if the diesel tanker into which our bus rammed was loaded. Since Volvo had rear engine nothing catastrophic happened, else collision into a loaded fuel tanker with a front engine bus could have resulted in an explosion.
  • Conductor could have given company to driver and ensure that he stays awake and drives properly. Instead he enjoyed the movie and slept off. Most of the private buses will have two drivers, which is not a case with KSRTC
  • No pit stops or breaks were given all the way.
  • Bus as such was in a bad condition, with torn seats and smell. Every year KSRTC buys 1000s of new buses (and concerned officials and ministers pocket huge commission). Their attention to maintaining existing fleet is near zero.
  • Those manning emergency response numbers must be trained and prepared to handle emergencies like this
  • One of my co passengers was a Chief General Manager at NABARD. He was a first time KSRTC traveler and is thoroughly disappointed with his experience and has sworn not to travel KSRTC again.
  • Due to various reasons,people seldom complain/follow up after incidents like this as they’ll have their life to carry on with. I’ll be giving a written complaint to KSRTC on this within a few days, though I’m not optimistic on any action.
  • As there was no death, media and others weren’t interested in this accident. But coming so close to death was a horrifying experience. I hope incidents like this doesn’t repeat.
  • Weren't the Volvos supposed to have airbags for the driver? We didn't see any going off.

Narrated over phone by Santosh, composed by Shrinidhi

Related posts: Hyderabad-Bangalore by bus-Comparison of operators * Redbus.in review * BMTC Volvo city buses * Self drive car rentals * KSRTC website *

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review & Feedback: Unwind Centre School of Music

Unwind Centre (aka Unwind School of Music) is a reasonably reputed music institute having couple of branches in Chennai and Bangalore.Unwind Centre branches offer training on western music- vocal as well as instruments such as keyboard, guitar, drums etc.

Recently 5 of us (me and a friend, plus 3 other batch mates) joined Chennai Kilpauk branch of Unwind Centre to learn keyboard. The course was split over 6 months, in 3 modules each lasting 2 months, with one class of 1.5 hours duration per week. The fee was reasonable, at Rs. 200 registration + Rs 1700 per module.

It was nice to learn fundamentals of western music-it has much detailed notations and symbols compared to carnatic music. Module 1 went satisfactory, but soon after second module began we were subjected to unfair treatments. This post is a quick review of our observations and feedbacks and experiences.

Our agreed batch timing was Thursday 7.30PM to 9PM. Once module 2 began, after most of us paid the fee, Unwind Centre abruptly changed the timing to Sunday 5.30PM to 7PM, without taking us into confidence. This new timing was unacceptable to most of us, primarily because our weekend plans (out of city) will go for a toss (for next 4 months-not just once) if we’ve to stay in town during the weekend to attend Sunday evening class.

Expressing our discomfort about new timing, we asked for refund and are experiencing Unwind’s unprofessional ways of customer treatment. Mr. Prashanth, who handles Unwind Centre’s Kilpauk branch, tells us to come on a weekday to collect refund and when we go all the way to collect refund, tries to convince us to continue with the course/join some other course or join at some other branch later (whenever a batch gets started). When we insist that we want the promised refund now and we’ll think of other course/centre later, he changes his stand saying he is not authorized to refund and his director would call us next day. We ask for a written assurance that money will be refunded, for which he agrees to write it on backside of the cash receipt. Two minutes later, when asked to do so, he refuses again saying he is not authorized to promise like that. (They’re authorized to make as many oral promises as required so as to retain the money?) He also refuses to give contact details of his superiors but keeps repeating that his director would call us and they'd transfer money online.

We’re currently waiting for his “director” to call us, while exploring ways to escalate this. In brief we find Unwind School of Music guilty of following:

  • Abruptly changing batch timing without taking consent of customers
  • Refusing prompt refund of fee, even after agreeing to do so over phone
  • Wasting our time and money by false promise of refund and asking us to come to their office
  • Not giving contact details of superiors for follow up/escalation

Our other disappointments with Unwind Centre (I’d rename it Unfair Centre)

  • They could have provided module wise certificates as we clear test for each module, but they give it only at the end of full course.
  • Not letting students practice at the institute when no other batches are on (before taking your money they’ll say “You can come and practice anytime” and later insist that one should practice at home only (The lady who’d promised that we can practice quit Unwind Centre next week)
  • Not providing certain accessories (like keyboard foot switch, which is required to sustain sound) and asking students to buy it
  • Not maintaining all equipments in proper working condition (on most of the classes only 4 out of 5 keyboards were working)
  • Faculty wasting time on pretext of phone call, visitors, rain (while our classes were supposed to be from 7.30 to 9, most of the days it ran only from 8 to 8.45 or from 8.15 to 9)
  • Course material was in German language and it was in the form of pathetic photocopied sheets. We could only understand the symbol and not the text explanation in it. Also photocopying was done during class time, wasting several minutes for the same.

To be fair, couple of good points about Unwind Centre are as below:

  • Usually faculty there are good at the instruments they teach, and often perform at concerts once a while
  • Rates are reasonable
  • Having multiple branches (3 in Chennai- Adyar, Kilpauk & Anna Nagar, 2 in Bengaluru-Koramangala & ) : A possible flexibility to change course/branch etc (subject to feasibility , management discretion and applicable fees)
  • They organize concerts wherein their students sing/play to exhibit their talent (mostly in large groups-not solo and tickets will be priced Rs.200 upwards)
  • Usually batch size will be small enough so that faculty can give individual attention (does he gives is different)

Several people have built long term relationship with Unwind and may be ours is a rare incident. We often face payment related issues everywhere, but we had slightly higher expectation and professionalism from Unwind School of Music. While the general reputation of Unwind School of Music continues to be good, it would be better if they try to keep it up by showing some fair trade practices.

Also read: Random thoughts on Music * Raga Chintamani book review * Bad experience at Hotel Honeymoon Inn, Mussorie * Unwind Centre website *

Update: The director has called and has offered a refund. When and how exactly are yet to be worked out.

Update 2: After further follow ups and visits we finally got the money back

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stock Market Trading: Season’s hot picks

Past few days I’ve been enjoying trading through my demat account. After long time, my portfolio did break even and showed some profit. Below are some of the stocks I am watching currently-These have been picked purely because they appear to be fundamentally strong, priced very attractively, reasonably below their potential highs. Also most of these are showing good volatility using which smart traders can cash in

Name Symbol CMP 52 wk high 52 wk low

Tanla Solutions

tanla 68 190 21
Adlabs Films Ltd adlabsfilm 362 463 130
Orchid Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd orchidchem 163 228 56
Everest Kanto Cylinder ekc 212 297 84
PSL Ltd pslltd 179 293 60
Classic Diamonds classicd 28 38 6.6
REI Agro Ltd reiagro 49 104 36
Deep Industries deepind 113 143 28
Resurgere Mines and Minerals resurgere 107 199 36
BL Kashyap and Sons blkashyap 428 932 86
Praj Industries prajind 103 155 45
Future Capital Holdings fch 278 349 93
Suzlon Energy suzlon 99 225 33
Rolta India ROLTA 177 308 40
Aban Offshore Ltd abanoffsh 1593 2505 224

Disclaimer: This post is just for your information. I’m not a professional adviser and absolutely no liabilities will be accepted regarding the statements and suggestions made in this post. If you chose to invest, do so at your own risk. All opinions are welcome. Hoping that the market sustains the rally it has been witnessing during past few weeks. Even if it sees some correction next week, I feel it makes sense to stay put.

I’ve composed this post using windows live writer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Some more random photos

Posting some more photos taken in recent past.

1 A tribute to MJ?
An image of Michel Jackson was being made with pieces of black and white cloths at City Center last Saturday.
A tribute to Michael Jackson2.What happens when you let loose a van full of photographers to shoot sunrise on an early morning? Everyone trying their best with varying angles, views, settings... Clicked a month ago during Chitradurga trip.
photographing morning sun3.A group photo of organizers and volunteers at CII Connect 2009 Conference which concluded recently at Chennai. I contributed there as official blogger.
CII connect2009 volunteers4 Infosys MD K Gopalkrishan (right) releasing Kiruba Shankar (left)'s new book: "Wikipedia: A beginner's guide". Book launch happened during the Connect2009 conference and I got an autographed copy later in the day.
Kiruba Shankar and Infy MD K Gopalahrishnan releasing book(Note: Above 2 photos of Connect2009 are by Balakrishnan.)

5 Statue of someone (if you can identify this person pls comment) being downloaded from truck, assumably for installation close by-spotted on RK Salai this Sunday. Some more statues still standing inside, waiting for their destination.
Annadorai's statuesUpdate: It is the statue of C.N.Annadurai (Thanks to Hari and Ram)

6. Two photos of Vanivilas Dam (click to enlarge)

Some more random photos * Sony DSC H50 Camera review * Chennai Roadies * Advantages of starting early *

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Challenges in eWaste management

I'm currently live blogging CII's Connect2009 conference from Chennai Trade Centre, Chennai. Connect 2009 is a premier ICT event hosted by CII, supported by Govt of Tamil Nadu and Ministry of IT, Govt of India. As an official blogger, my task is mainly to listen to the talks given by experts, make quick notes and publish a blog post giving summary of their talk, so that those who couldn't attend the event will stay updated. One particular talk I just heard sometime back was very informative, so I though I'll share with my regular blog readers. Rest of the posts are available in Connect2009 official blog.

Below are the excerpts from a talk given by Ram Ramachandran, MD, TES-AMM India. Topic of discussion was Green IT.
Bitter truth about eWaste

There’s a perception that lots of money to be made in e-waste (electronic waste), while it is not so. Of the 3.36 lakh ton e waste generated in India last year (most of which came from China and other countries) only 19k ton recycled- that’s just 5%. Recycling process typically involves dismantling the unit, Recover plastics and metals, and send for further processing (to extract precious metals from PCB etc)

90% of intrinsic value of a scrap lies in PCB. Globally PCB is a 50 billion dollar industry-though they meet all regulations set by govt agencies and electronic goods manufacturers, very little consideration is given to recycling. Precious metals like gold, found in house hold applications and other equipment, is classified into Low grade, medium grade and high grade. High grade gold is not available in India. Anyone setting up recycling unit finds it difficult to sustain unless he has access to high grade gold or can source scraps with other precious metals. This makes the recycling business very challenging. Also high grade gold shouldn’t be mixed with low grade gold, else the yield will be very low.

Disposal practices:
In Europe, national laws exist to manage e-waste. Schemes exist wherein Producers and manufactures retake the product. Cost of recycling included in cost of product. However loopholes in the law are exploited often.( for example PCB has only 2% lead-which is lower than the limit set for other products, hence it escapes the ban) Of the 1.2 million ton e-waste was collected, about 40% was exported- mostly to countries like India.

USA: Recently 43 companies were warned for unsafe recycling practices, but no action taken. A draft bill was presented to fund R&D on e waste.

Japan has a law -home appliance recycling law- consumer pays recycling cost when he disposes the waste.

In India, Every gram of e waste is sold, all go on bidding war to dispose e waste. PSUs auction e waste. Informal buyers pay higher price as they don’t pay tax or bother to follow any regulation. However there have been no efforts to curb informal operators. Scrutiny is not applied to informal sector due to lack of willpower and manpower. Export requires special license, and overall, eWaste is not managed efficiently.

What needs to be done?
1 Efficient and effective legislation
2 Pragmatic import and export policy
3 Companies should follow ethical practices while disposing waste, not just look for scrap value.
4 Support from Government like tax exceptions

Possible minor errors in interpretation, if any, is regretted. Actual title was different (Grow from Green-E waste etc), edited by me. Photo from an email forward.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ideas generated at Connect2009 unconference

Today I attended CII Organized Connect2009 Unconference. Topic of the unconference was Innovation ideas though ICT (Information Communication Technology- Primarily mobile and internet.)

Lots of ideas were generated during 1.5 hour session and I was live blogging and live tweeting the event. Event was coordinated by veteran Kiruba Shankar and Tidel park auditorium was almost full. An unconference is exact opposite of a regular conference (where one speaker speaks and rest pretend to listen). Here each participant gets opportunity to speak out and everyone in the hall will be active by either a. speaking or b.organizing/volunteering or c. help spreading the word.

Here's a comprehensive list of ideas generated in today's Connect 2009 Unconference. To be honest, I believe this list is accurate to some 95% as I might have missed few ideas (either because they were lengthy and not to point or I failed to grasp/note them down). Sorry if I've missed any ideas.

Contributor name is also included wherever possible. Misinterpretation of idea, if any, is regretted.
1. Taxi pooling at airport (Keshav)- Saves money, fuel, emissions and traffic jams-Build a system through which people heading towards adjacent locations can group together and hire one single taxi.
2. SMS based GPS (Idea generated based on the fact that YSR's chopper could be traced because of an SMS sent from one of the officials)
3. Involve people in decision taking- MPs to live tweet from parliament and public to read and respond, so that instant feedback is conveyed.
4. Tweeting through ICT
5. Along with number, show location of caller in mobile (Ashok)
6. Community radio center in villages with intenet Kiosks so that villagers can surf, reply on problem and solutions
7. Reduce usage of vernacular languages
8. Television is must in each house-quality program should be shown. ICT should have its own channels. Great opportunity to develop our own language system like what china has done.
9. Directory of information
10. Video conference facility
11. Customized decision taking information to decision takers
12. Instead of going for new idea- Use existing EduSAT, take education to every part of country (Pattabhiraman)
13. Take ICT to gullies: pickup and encourage ideas from gullies, take it and post it on twitter. (Ex: Packing eggs in news paper)
14. Fix GPS in consumer durables for easy tracking
15. Making electronic controls for appliances with GSM models to bring down maintenance related issues. Already implemented by Pulsars-Makers of Vending machine controls and sugarcane juice making machine controls, used in Bangalore , that sends info on send daily usage, system condition and other aspects through SMS
16. Right2SayNO.com
17. Information at fingertips on taxi pricing between two location- Don’t give up, use technology to change them (Google latitude give distance between locations)
18. Music on demand though mobiles to save on memory card
19. Convert Sodexho pass into electronic form to prevent misuse.
20. Vehicle with GPS transmitter
21. Rotary supported project through village knowledge centre- Digital literacy, next web conferencing to take training on advanced courses (KB Sridhar)
22. Charging concept- Use solar and wind power to charge mobile.
23. Develop technology to detect authenticity of any innovation
24. De printer: Insert printed paper, get back white sheet
25. RFID tags on 1000 Rs notes and track them
26. Centralize issuance of mobile sim cards through an authorized agency to prevent misuse.
27. Technology to detect telephones in a room.
28. Use facebook wallpaper instead of SMS
29. Ability to share battery power between devices
30. Common Chargers
31. Language converter for SMSs
32. Change mindsets of people through technology-change minds of terrorists. Rename "Connect2009" to "Connect2009 onwards"
33. Just dial number to call garbage collectors and other civic services (Add on idea Potholebangalore.com was set up wherein people can upload photos of potholes, server crashed due to heavy usage)
34. Technology to receive SMS when mobile is switched off
35. GIS enable entire TamilNadu (Secretary IT)
36. GPS For ambulances
37. Cops can use and encourage twittering
38. Showing concern to environment. print both front and backside at once-saves paper
38. Drink and drive: Sensor to be fixed in vehicle during mfg, won’t let vehicle start.
40. Control all devices in home through bluetooth (already implemented by Jacob from kanyakumari: An idea and implementation that won 2nd price at Nokia innovations bluhome.net)
41. Helpdesk via SMS
42. Camera outside home-help us see visitor in home at our mobile phone when we are away
43. Cost aspect of technology
44. Cloth PC, Pant PC, fix PC in our clothing.(Gopi)

3rd and 29th were my ideas. A voting of ideas was also done. Few that got maximum votes were: Solar and wind charger, common charger etc. Let us wait and watch how many of these will be implemented. If you think you can implement some of these, please go ahead.

Cross published at Connect 2009 official blog
IMO, naming the event url as www.connect2009.in is a bad idea. I should have been www.connect.in/2009 (else next year they'll need an all new site-read more about best naming conventions for event websites)

Image from Flickr.

Related: Live blogging from WebInnovations 2008, Mumbai * Article 19 Manipal * Spot Blogging Contest at MSRIT Bangalore *

Fast Action Guide to a Court Reporting Career

Another guest post, from an international writer. Mary Ward writes about various legal career topics, including how to obtain a court reporting degree. Her interests and writing primarily focus on the more convenient and affordable options that online degrees offer. This article may not be of interest to general public, but will be useful to those looking for a legal career.

Let me know what you think of this article. Hari will be the best person to comment on this I believe- Admin

Fast Action Guide to a Court Reporting Career

If you’ve ever wondered how the courtroom runs so smoothly with all of the various things going on, look to the court reporter. This is a pivotal role when it comes to getting the day-to-day tasks done and ensuring that things run smoothly. There are many different points which need to be coordinated, and often times the court reporter is the one handling this behind the scenes. They are sort of the “quiet heroes” of the courtroom as people may not recognize how involved they are with the attorneys and judges often taking center state. So what does the court reporter do and how can you get involved in such a career path?

Keep it All Running

The basis of a court reporter’s responsibilities lie in the clerical or administrative side of the courtroom. This is no small task however as they need to keep apprised of everything going on in the courtroom and ensure that it is recorded properly. Their notes and administrative work then turns into official and often public documents, so it’s essential that they be able to work without errors and understand every aspect of what’s going on.

You will often see a court reporter sitting inside the courtroom taking copious notes as the proceedings occur. This takes a great attention to detail and an understanding of the legal system in general. It is essential that court reporting be accurate, unbiased, and be a clear and sound representation of what is going on and any possible outcomes highlighting everything that happens in between.

Training Programs

Court reporters often need to be involved in some sort of college curriculum to prepare them for such a career. You usually see either a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or even a specific court reporting program. The court reporting programs available range from one to three years and are focused specifically on the types of activities and curriculum that will prepare them for the courtroom specifically. The focus must be on criminal justice for a proper understanding of the fundamentals that will factor into their reporting duties.

Need for Court Reporting

There will always be a need for court reporting so long as there is crime being committed. The job outlook for this type of role therefore is very good and doesn’t show signs of slowing, in spite of a tough economy. It is possible to specialize in certain areas of the law and make your court reporting career focused within those functions. This can help to boost the likelihood of getting hired quickly upon completing the training requirements.

Related: Engineering Options * Making best use of bench * Broadcast Journalism *

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Book review: The Associate by John Grisham

I finished reading John Grisham’s latest book, “The associate” and this post is a quick review of the same.

In brief, I felt the book very interesting till the end, but was left highly disappointed because so many questions were left unattended and unanswered- like a suspense movie, without any climax.

Lead Characters:
Kyle McAvoy: A brilliant law student at Yale and editor of Yale Law Journal, who has received job offers from several law firms including Scully & Pershing, one of the top firms in NY.
Bennie Wright: Someone with unlimited budget and resources, having access to information and content like no one else, who blackmails Kyle to joining Scully & Pershing and steal some sensitive information related to a multibillion dollar litigation case between two defence contractor firms.
Other characters: Kyle’s friends, dad, Elaine etc

Plot: Kyle McAvoy is being blackmailed by a one Bennie Wright into joining Scully & Pershing and subsequently steal sensitive information from the firm. Reason why Kyle succumbs to blackmailing tactic is because Bennie has in his possession a video which, if released can ruin Kyle’s career and that of 3 of his friends. Information he was supposed to steal is worth billions of dollars as it can help competitor firm win a multibillion lawsuit.
Book Cover-The associate by John Grisham
Story primarily revolves around how Kyle follows instructions of Bennie but in parallel tries to outsmart his blackmailer. Book gives details of how law firms operate and life of associates and partners working there, chasing one single factor-how much and how long they can bill their clients-particularly how they hire freshers and bill their clients’ huge amount for their silly activities called work.

(Off topic, there’re lots of similarities between the law firms mentioned in the book and how Indian IT companies operate- hire freshers, train them and bill clients for their work. But the main difference is, IT companies will have fixed bid pricing model in most of the cases, wherein a client pays a pre-defined amount in exchange for a particular deliverable (a software product) where as doctors and lawyers never promise a result and always charge for their service irrespective of final outcome.)

Other aspects are his conflict in choosing public service vs joining big law firm, life of Baxter Tate (One of Kyle’s friends and college mate, of a super rich Tate family who is an alcoholic addict trying to undergo rehabilitation), Kyle and his friends trying to nullify the disaster that could be caused if video is released (The video is about 2 of Kyle’s friends getting intimate with Elaine during a college party, at Kyle’s apartment. Elaine later claimed she was raped but because there were no evidence and her character was well known to be loose police had dismissed the case-Bennie somehow has got hold of this video and uses it to blackmail Kyle)

The narration is very good-keeps you hooked. But at the end I was disappointed because of following reasons:
1 After describing how secure and robust information systems at Scully & Pershing (a reputable law firm that has employed Kyle) are, author’s way of stealing information from there is through USB drive. Now that is little difficult to digest, as most of the companies will have USB ports disabled in their office systems.

2 Who was Bennie Wright, whom did he work for, how did he get hold of the video and several other sensitive information about the law firm? All these questions unanswered.

3 What happened to the litigation case between Trylon and Bartin Dynamics? Who won, what happened to the contract to build those special aircrafts-all these questions unanswered.

4 Kyle’s father, a respected small town lawyer, goes to Elaine’s lawyer, tells her that there exists a secret video which they can use against his son and then offers huge cash deal in exchange for an agreement that Elaine and her lawyer will not sue his son. I feel this was uncalled for. It’s also not clear if this deal worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.

I felt the book kind of ended abruptly-In the end Kyle simply walks away-leaving everything behind, while Bennie is at large, posing a threat to his life.

Because of so many unanswered questions, when I finished reading the book I thought some pages must be missing. Went to a bookstore and checked few other copies to confirm that no pages were missing.

If you’ve read it tell me how you felt.
Other book reviews: It happened in India- Kishore Biyani * Raga Chintamani- Sundararaman Chintamani * The 3 mistakes of my life-Chetan Bhagat * Merchants of Deception- Eric S * Paths of Glory and Not a penny more, not a penny less- Jeff Archer ** Zero percentile by neeraj Chhibba * 2 States-by Chetan Bhagat

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Win Ugg boots every month

You might just wish to consider this- UK based company Whooga is giving away one pair of Ugg boots every month, in exchange for a small favor from your side-You'll need to add their tiny banner in your blog. Month after month you'll be eligible to win, as long as the banner is live on your blog/website.

For the uninitiated, UGG boots are highly rugged boots with elongated cover around your ankles. Very ideal during forest excursion/farming activities as they offer protection against snakes, other insects, mud, cold etc. Refer images at the end of the post to get better idea.

If you'd like to participate and consolidate your chances of winning, click on the image below, register, copy the code and add it to your blog sidebar.

I remember we had a black Ugg boot at home long back. I've not seen a pink Ugg boot yet-good options for those who are specific about colours.


Disclaimer: post published based on personal request from organizer. For any clarification, issues please contact Whoogaboots.co.uk

One good idea and two flop shows

Few years ago I’d published a post suggesting that public sanitation can be made free by generating revenue by means of displaying ads. This idea did receive lot of encouragement and someone even made an attempt at implementation. However nothing has worked out till date and this post shares two incidents related to it.

A Delhi based NGO (not yet registered), called Dream India Projects, approached me saying they’re planning to implement the business model I’d suggested in my post (display ads, collect revenue and provide free sanitation to all). I was happy and offered whatever help I could. (some more details) I understand they made some initial progress but hit a roadblock somewhere. Lots of mails circulated during initial days but after few months they died out.

Unlike what we’d thought earlier, getting advertisers was not at all a challenge. Several agencies approached offering very decent amount to make commercial use of display areas in and around the toilet complex. Just to give you an idea, companies that advertise at bus shelters pay 1-2 lakh per month. At that rate, a toilet facility which has relatively more display area commands better rates. Thus, though advertisers were ready, primary challenge was that civic authorities were not willing to handover controls of sanitation facilities to private operators for commercial exploitation. Thus, to the extent I understand, the implementation hit a roadblock as corporation authorities declined to give permission to manage public sanitation facilities. They may have their reasons, but at least on an experimental basis they could have agreed to the proposal and see if works.

I never heard from them (Coordinators of Dream India Project who were working on the implementation) again and have no clue if anything is happening. Assume mission is aborted. Those living in Delhi are requested to comment if you’ve noticed any developments in this regard.

In another related development, an individual who identified himself as research associate with ICFAI (ICFAI Research Centre, Ahmedabad) approached me earlier this year, saying they wish to include this “free public sanitation for all” model as a case study in one of their upcoming books (to be published by ICFAI university). I gave necessary authorization for them to include my work. Some reviews, corrections, rework and all happened and my contact address was taken, so as to send complimentary copy of the book.

However there’s no update from them since past 3+ months, so I assume the article didn’t make it to the book. Would have been nice otherwise.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Random Photos

1. An aged man was repeatedly diving into a medium sized pool inside Chitradurga fort. Not sure if he's doing it as an exercise or to entertain people or for his own fun. Took several snaps (using burst mode) but liked this one the most.
old man Diving into the pool 2.A kid dressed up like Hanuman, clicked at Chitradurga
Kid dressed as Hanuman 3.Peacock-with fully open feathers-first time I got to click such snap-shot at Guindy National Park. Unfortunately it was caged and camera view was distracted by the cage net.
Peacock with open feathers 4.Snake charmers: My cousin posing with a pet snake all over his body-Shot at Crocodile Bank, ECR Chennai. Earlier it was free, now they're charging Rs 30 to handle the snake and take pic. Idea is to get rid of the fear for snakes most of us have.
Ravi holding a live snake at crocodile bank 5. A young pineapple in our backyards
Pineapple sibling
View some more random photos