Sunday, June 24, 2012

6 years and counting

On 22nd May 2006, the first post of this blog was published. On 22nd May 2012, this blog completed 6 years. I've been too preoccupied to realize that. Today saw Saru Singhal celebrating their blog anniversary on Indiblogger and it struck me that my blog was to complete another year sometime around...

Overall the blogging is going on at a steady phase. Primary job is taking up most of the time and travel has been relatively less. The blog has about 840 posts now, about 200 were adding in past 1 year, averaging 4 posts per week. Most of the posts were travel and photography related, along with reviews.

Activities related to blogging which are worth mentioning include Tour of Nilgiris, Tata Aria Drive, Panasonic bloggers meet, Tata Grande Indibloggers meet, Tata Venture drive, Chikmagalur road trip * Malaysia trip, Valparai trip and a US trip. Also got to review few books and electronic products.

Readership has been stable, hovering around 700-800 visitors per day. Indiblogger rank is up to 87, but Google PR down to 3. Comment count is just about 3 per post on an average.

Not gaining any money from blogging, but it continues to be a medium to express my observations. Wanted to write something for print media, but no time last year.

The year ahead: Job would take up most of my time. Will manage to travel a bit, either on work or on leisure and that generates enough ideas to share on the blog. Hope I'll have my regular readers around. Due to lack of time I've not been able to visit back their blog and comment. Thanks for your readership and support as always.

Also check: Best of 2011 * Best of 2010 *

Securing pen from Pen borrowers

Let us take a break from travel related stuff and discuss about something very primitive. The Pen.

There're two kinds of people in this world- those who buy and carry a pen and those who manage with borrowed pen.

A pen costs about Rs 5 onwards and is required for various purposes- to take down notes, to note the phone number, to leave a message to someone, to sign, to draw your thoughts and so on. School and college goers need pen almost everyday, while others would need it depending on their nature of work.

Now this post is not about pens. It is about people borrowing your pens and not returning it. If you belong to the first category who always carry a pen, you’d have received several requests from others, including strangers for the pen. In most of the cases you would have obliged. What % of the cases you got back your pen without fail? 

I've observed, experienced the fact that people who borrow the pen, often forget to return it. Most of the time they forget, sometime returning the pen becomes difficult because
  • they already left for home or 
  • gave it to someone else
  • don't know who took it since they kept it at your desk when you were not around
  • threw that pen away as it was not writing
  • lost it
Since a pen costs just a few rupees, the time and effort spent on recovering it is not worth at times. Also going to a shop and buying a new pen often costs more in time and money than the cost of pen. Effectively, you'll end up without your pen when you need it urgently, while those who never cared to carry a pen, had good time with your pen.

It is not worth arguing with a friend or colleague that they didn't return your pen. But the inconvenience of not having your pen when you need it, is huge. Those who borrow the pen should understand this and should care to return it to the owner once purpose is done.

Sometimes the pen could be relatively expensive or someone might have gifted it to you. Losing them would hurt even more.
If your office gives unlimited supplies of stationary you're probably not worried about losing pens. But for most of us, it will be a concern. Also some of us have the luxury of overpriced gadgets which help take notes, but they are not yet a complete substitute for a physical pen (a 30k device to substitute for a Rs 5 pen and still it can't be used for signing)

Tips to prevent losing pens
  • Carry a pen with cap. When someone asks for the pen, give only the pen, not the cap. Keep the cap with you, it will remind you that someone has borrowed your pen and you can ask.
  • Carry a transparent pen, write your name on a piece of paper and roll it inside.  Those who borrow will be instantly reminded of the owner and you have higher chance of getting it back
  • If you're sitting at front desk with lot of visitor, tie a thread to the pen (seen in many banks)
  • Avoid keeping your pen in the shirt pocket. It reminds every one that you've a pen and they can ask for it. Instead, keep it inside the bag, take it out only when you need to use it
  • Carry a brand new pen in your bag. If someone asks for a pen, try to sell this new pen to them and ask for money... This will discourage them from asking again
Update: A kannada version of this article has been published in Udayavani Kannada daily. Click here to read
Any other idea?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Changi International Airport, Singapore

Of the few international airports I had explored in recent past (including Dubai, JFK, Colombo, Sau Paulo and Santiago), I find Changi international airport in Singapore more equipped to engage passengers. The reason I say so is because while all airports are loaded with duty free supermarkets trying to sell stuff, Changi offers lot of value added (most of them free) services to enable passengers make their wait a pleasant experience. 
Below are some of the provisions at Changi airport, which I couldn’t find in other airports I’ve been to.
  • Free leg massage chairs: Enjoy nice massage to your knees and foot at various massage chairs. No charges. In other airports, this service will be chargeable

  • Free big screen display: Enjoy favorite game at some of the big screens. No charges- killing couple of hours is not an issue
  • View aircrafts from up close (few other airports also facilitate this)- you can get close view of aircrafts landing and taking off. I clicked below picture while observing the landing and take offs
  • Kids play zone: free playing materials for kids to kill their time
  • Free internet- many airports offer this. But I found very few kiosks in Dubai and Colombo. Changi has considerably large number of kiosks to access internet, so you’ll not have to wait for long
  • Sky trains for inter terminal moves. (JFK had Air train connecting terminal to city though)
  • Clear Signages- In Dubai, I found an Indian restaurant in terminal 1 purely by luck. In Changi, restaurants and other facilities were easier to find due to adequate sign boards indicating what is where.
  • Changi airport authorities are very active on social media, responding to comments and concerns. 
Changi on facebook:
On twitter : @FansofChangi

Below: Casino counter at Changi Airport... 30SGD for a ticket
Above: A kiosk that allows you to take a photo of yourself and mail it to any email ID.

Changi also offers free city tours to those passengers who have couple of hours to spare before their connecting flight. If only I had this option in Dubai, I could have explored Dubai twice by now.

No wonder Changi is rated as one of the best airports in the world.
Also read: Newspapers in Singapore * Marina Bay Sands, Singapore *

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Newspapers in Singapore

Do you remember my earlier post on Srilankan Newspapers? On Sundays, newspapers in Srilanka would consist of 270-380 pages. Read about them here

Had a similar experience in Singapore, though No of pages are one half of what Srilankan newspapers offer.

On Saturday, THE STAITS TIMES had 139 pages, two third of which were ads. SingTel alone had 5 and a half page full ads that day.
The breakdown of 139 pages go as below:
Main paper: 48 pages
Home Special: 26 pages
Money Supplement: 15 pages
Saturday Supplement: 16 pages
Life: 34 pages
Total: 139 pages

On Sunday, the count was 124 pages. On Thursday, the count was 94 pages. I didn't count on other days.

Over 2/3rd of the pages are filled with ads of all kinds.Almost every fold had a full page ad. India and Bollywood related news gets about a page or two.

Below full page ad caught my attention... It had no clue as to who issued it- must be some job portal preparing for a print campaign

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

July 2012 Update: view better images in this post

Back from a short visit to Singapore. Didn't have any time to explore the place. Whatever I could click from taxi while travelling to and from airport is all I have as far as pics are concerned.

Below are the photos of Marina Bay Sands, a Casio+Hotel+Resort complex which stands unique due to its design.

First pic is what I could see from my hotel room
 Marina Bay sands
 Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay sands in one click


Older Singapore related posts: Gardens by the bay * Singapore Flyer * Jurong bird park, * Malaysia Twin towers * Singapore lifestyle *

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

What to do when your LPG cylinder is stolen?

We had our LPG cylinder stolen few months ago. It was empty and was kept outside in an unsecured area as were expecting the delivery guy to come and replace it. Some smart thief managed to steal it away when no one was around. When we returned home from work it was a surprise. We weren’t used to gas cylinder robbery. At first we thought agency guy might have taken the empty cylinder and would bring refill later... Eventually we realized that it is stolen.

We checked with the agency on the process. We were asked to file a police complaint. We did that. Police team promptly visited our residence, took statement from neighbors. After 1 week, they issued a non traceable report, saying lost cylinder couldn’t be found. We had to make a total of 5-7 visits to the police station, but no money had to be paid.

In between, delivery person came with new filled cylinder, but went back without delivering it, since we didn’t have an empty cylinder to give.

Next step was to get a demand draft for Rs 2000 in the name of Gas Agency. This, along with a letter and copy of police statement, was submitted to gas agency. Also logged a new refill request. Subsequently, a replacement cylinder was delivered.

The whole process took about 2 months.

It was good lesson learnt. We’ll probably chain the empty cylinder from now. Sharing it here so that you can be careful with your empty cylinder and be aware of the process in case an empty cylinder is stolen.

Our stolen cylinder is probably being circulated in black market, to those who are don’t have/can’t get regular gas connection and are ready to pay twice the normal price for a cylinder full of gas.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Manhattan city pics

It was evening time when I entered Manhattan area in NY. Got down from train and since my destination appeared to be just 2 streets away, decided to walk. It turned out to be pretty long walk though. No regrets, since it enabled be better explore the place. A Bangladeshi fruit vendor who has made NY his home since 20 years gave me some directions. As the night was lighting up, I came across these two buildings. I couldn't recognize them. If you know the name, do comment
I didn't have any maps or GPS, so was following street names and building numbers. On my way to destination, I troubled many people for direction, sometimes just to validate I'm heading in right direction-a security guard, a police officer, a lady bouncer at a pub entrance and few others. Almost all of them helped me the best they could. 
 Above left: top view close up of the building which I'd clicked in night.
All the other countries I've been to so far- Chile, Srilanka and Malaysia, I had managed to spot a pet cat and pet it. Couldn't do that in NY. Also missed clicking photo of legendary yellow taxis in NY.

Below: The crowded and busy city as seen from Empire state building
The underground train network is nice. Cheap, frequent and fast. Taxis take long time to reach the destination, as they need to wait at every intersection if light is red. 3 $ is the minimum fare (2.5 in train for single ride)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Statue of Liberty, Libery island, New York

Statue of Liberty was an iconic structure I'd seen in many hollywood movies. Eventually I saw it in my own eyes last month. This post shares some photos and related details.

Statue of Liberty is located in an island off New York. Connected by Statue Cruises, tourists often flock here in large numbers. Huge queues welcome you on weekends. Ferry ride opens at 9AM. When I reached the venue on a Friday morning and bought tickets by 9.45AM, the queue was long enough to go all the way into the centre of battery park. I had to stand in queue for about 1 hour, before we could clear security check and board the ferry. There's a provision to reserve your slots- those who have reserved tickets are allowed to bypass the queue.

Ticket costs US$ 13 and includes Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Ferry ride lasted for about 10 minutes. Statue of Liberty was gifted to US by France and is placed at Liberty Island. The island has a small park, refreshment centres. My entry ticket said "No access to Museum"-some construction work were going on at the site. Museum was probably closed.

 Helicopters were patrolling the place frequently. Clicked a close up

Some birds nearby
 Statue of Liberty as seen from Empire State Building...
 Water Taxi and sail
A liberty bike is also interesting piece of equipment in the campus

View of Manhattan skyline from Liberty Island- you can see world trade centers under construction

Also see: 9/11 Memorial * Empire State Building * Statue of Liberty * Ellis Island * Times Square NY