2015 Movies Review

Back in 2014 I managed to cram in a decent 76 movies into my year.
I told myself at the end of that year I would see MORE in 2015.

I did. I saw 77. 1 more.
Thats right. ONE MORE than 2014.
This is what impartial observers would lament is a case study in “winning in letter but not in spirit

Still…fair is fair. more is more.

Now as a Project Manager in the Consulting Space, taking a ‘situation’ and analyzing the shit out of it is a skill that comes second only to breathing both in ease and frequency from Monday through Friday. (weekends are for movies)
So that what I am going to do below.
Caveat Emptor : I am doing this for one veteran client : Me. But I am uploading this here so you can see it to get one useful thing from the infograph :

A list of the very best 6 movies from this pool. Of which 61 were extremely watchable.


2 great video games to try

In England, Summers are for Biking. Winters are for Gaming.

With the weather getting chillier by the passing day, nothing remotely beats sprawling on the sofa and firing up the xbox  with a hot cup of coffee parked next to you.

The game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing this year : ASSASSIN’S CREED – BLACK FLAG. What fun playing a pirate is!

The game is open world, which means you can roam pretty much wherever you want and totally ignore the linear narrative and plot. Which I did. Did not even bother with finishing the main plot till now and I don’t think I ever will. This is the cool thing with open world games like GTA, Fallout etc. You can totally ignore the main plot of the game and just do your thing. And in Black Flag the “thing” is Piracy! And believe me, hunting ships in the open sea is bloody darn fun. And I went deeeep into looting Spanish and English ships on the Atlantic to capture money and supplies to upgrade my ship (`The Jackdaw’). Gorgeous graphics makes it a quite an experience too. No hyperbole : Watching a massive blue whale suddenly emerge from the water, next to your ship and then do a flip. Memorable. Completely recommend a buy.

Metro Last Light : first person shooter. Meh. Started playing. Not a baaad game per se but nothing that stands out from the million other FPS out there. Gave up about 15% in.

Now gamers around the world right now are very pumped about ‘Fallout 4‘. I am staying away from playing it only because my personal gaming philosophy is ‘Wait for the reviews from the first lot of folks who play it‘. I am rear echelon infantry in gaming.

And that is why the game I am getting into this winter here is a game that won a lot of `GAME OF THE YEAR` awards in 2014. I engaged with it earlier in the year but this RPG has such a high learning curve I gave up about 2% in. Seriously. This is the type of game where the accompanying “slim” strategy guide is 500 pages of arcane details. The Game in question is  : Dragon Age Inquisition
I picked up where I left it and now, about 10% in, I am obsessively hooked. This game is so damn massive, people have played it for 200 hours and still not finished it. That is like playing a game from 9 AM to 5 PM for 25 days straight and still leaving it incomplete. These type of games are like digital heroine and the last 2 times I was this sucked in comprehensively was when I came across Civilization 5 on my PC in 2013 and Final Fantasy XI on the PS2 in 2008.

Like Mass Effect, another brilliant RPG, Dragon Age Inquisition has a in game team you slowly develop over multiple missions and you tend to become very attached a few of them and the more skilled they become, the more ambitious your missions become.

By the time the chilling xmas the newspapers are predicting is here, I am going to go kill some Dragons with my team mates.


Games as Portal to Learning – Life Lessons from Video Games

Even now in my late 30s I regularly play games on my Xbox and relish it. Most dismiss it as a silly distraction. But Gamers know just how good, immersive and addictive these new age games are. But even fewer realize how educational video games can be.

Yes. EDUCATIONAL. And not in the vague weasel-politician-word sense but in the real sense the word implies.

Allow me this anecdote to elaborate.

In early 2014 gaming website, Gamespot, released the list of the best XBOX 360 Games reviewed the previous year.

Much to my delight one of the games on that list was part of a series I have thoroughly enjoyed – ASSASSINS CREED. So I promptly purchased the game :

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a historical fiction action-adventure open world stealth video game. Players have praised its massive open world gameplay, numerous side-quests, beautiful graphics and very cool naval combat. The story is set in the early 18th century Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, and follows notorious pirate Edward Kenway. Unlike previous games, gameplay elements focus more on ship-based exploration in the open world map, while also retaining the series’ third-person land-based exploration, melee combat, and stealth system. The game spans across the Caribbean with the three main cities of Havana, Nassau and Kingston along with numerous islands, sunken ships, and forts. For the first time in the series, naval exploration became a major part of an Assassin’s Creed game, where Edward Kenway captains the Jackdaw, a ship he captures from a Spanish fleet.

I am about 50% into the game and totally absolutely love it. Piracy is so much fun!

There is a sequence about midway into the game story when I found myself swimming to a British ship to kill a bad guy on-board and it was almost sunset in the game. The ship was HUGE and there is a moment, when the light caught the ship as I was swimming to it, capturing it’s full massive frame. For a deliciously brief second or two I understood the shock and awe the new world people must have experienced when they saw these ships off their cost in the 15th century. Like I REALLY got it. It was the most immersive experience I have ever had playing a game and I have been playing them for 15+ years.

Something else I noticed when playing was that the Spanish ships always attacked British ships and vice versa. I got used to seeing these sea battles all the time and remember these are Game A.I controlled which means someone while designing the game programmed this into the game. And I wondered Why…? .

So I looked it up. Turns out in history The Spanish and The British have a LONG history of sparring on the high seas.

Went to GoodReads.com and researched that bit. A book ‘Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy’ has some solid reviews and seemed best poised to answer my question. So I hit the buy button. 56 chapters and 720 pages of naval history awaited me. Niceee! As now I write this blog I just hit chapter 13 : The famous 1588 Battle between the Spanish Armada and British Navy. Its gripping stuff.

The only problem is visualization. The author paints a picture with words of all the ships of the era but it is a bit difficult to visualize correctly. I don’t know the difference between a Caravel, A Galley and a Brig. Makes full immersion difficult. Very luckily, while browsing a BHF charity book-store I stumbled into this Hardcover Gem : ‘Empire of the Seas: How the Navy Forged the Modern World‘ by Brian Lavery. Like a Playboy magazine, I didn’t buy it for the content but for the PICTURES. Gorgeous sketches of naval history from the Medieval ages onwards.

The xbox game also got me interested in SHIP BUILDING as an activity since you find yourself constantly using your loot in the game to buy ship upgrades and I wanted to understand that a bit more. And Discovery Channel came to the rescue. The were selling this DVD documentary on ship building : “The World’s Biggest Ship: Building the Triple-E” – The 2 Disc documentary gives you an idea of how the Danish and South Koreans built the world’s most massive ships. And as luck would have it, an hour away from my flat is the best place in Earth to fully quench my thirst for understanding this naval history : The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. IN THE WORLD! Living in London is coincidentally convenient! I am going there soon, after I finish the book, the game and the documentary.

All this, everything you read above, started from one question in the middle of a game : ‘Why are those two ships in the distance sparring?’

So when someone you know starts really getting into gaming don’t just dismiss it as a silly distraction. It could be a portal to so much more.

2015-08-23 21.01.02

How to spot Bullshit Marketing

I may not have scraped too much off the passing wisdom iceberg but if asked to dispense something memorable in the here and now, a week into my 37th birthday, here it is :


American novelist Sinclair Lewis wryly noted early on that ‘Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless.’

imageIn the 21st century most sellers of un-needed goods (and 99% are that) are guilty of the wasteful crime of producing worthless same-as-the-next one-in-the-aisle products. They know this. The ad team they desperately hire to peddle the product knows this. Much more alarmingly for them both, the buyers are catching on.

The real solution of making something genuinely needed and nice is a hard tough route. That’s too much effort. So now the lazy ad team injects a cute baby or a adorable puppy, hoping the idiot consumer (that’s YOU by the way) is distracted enough by the ‘awwww‘ feeling long enough to reach into his purse and hand over the money. The only time this rule is invalid is when the end user of the product is an actual baby or puppy.

image Ads like these are an immediate insulting inadvertent revelation by the seller and her ad team of how little they all think of your general intelligence. For the ad is obliquely saying that a list of real benefits or features won’t convince you as much as a aww prop. Or maybe when they don’t have any REAL benefits or distinguishing feature, this shameful tactic is EVEN more useful.

The next time you see these type of bullshit ads, don’t fall for it.


Why I lost faith in interviews and resumes

Paul Graham is a programmer, writer, and famous investor and this blog on Start Up Ideas was a terrific read. Here is a sample gem : “One of my tricks for generating startup ideas is to imagine the ways in which we’ll seem backward to future generations.”

“…..Ways in which we’ll seem backward to future generations” If you ever wanted to get into business on your own you could spend a whole summer mind-mapping ideas just from that phrase. Now how about we modify it to be more contemporary in the here and now ? Like how about “Ways in which this X practice will seem backward to people from that Y Country over there?

Example : In London, if you have an Oyster Card you can travel on any public train, tube, bus, tram within city limits. Idea is self obviously smart and logical. But if you went to Delhi you cannot use the Metro Card anywhere else in the city. Seems so backward once one has used an oyster. This situation gives flesh to a famous quote by Gibson : THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE. IT’S JUST NOT VERY EVENLY DISTRIBUTED.

Now take Resumes and Interviews. I am going to bet that we’ll seem backward to future generations about this, This inane, needlessly convoluted and very artificial process. A resume is a piece of paper, composed by the author, with information cherry picked by the author, given to a future employer who cannot ever verify ALL the data in it. It’s like someone asking you to buy a Car/TV/toy using only and only the brochure for information about the object. No peeking anywhere else for data!

This whole thing is in massive need of re-engineering or even outright elimination. An interview is a short, tightly controlled, unnaturally stressed process to find out if the interviewee can perform certain tasks over the next 2000 to 10000 to 20000 hours with the employer/interviewer. This is how the majority get selected into white collar desk jobs in most parts of the world. But I for one continue to lose faith due to poor correlation of success in interview and role, from my own experience interviewing 500+ people till date.

There HAS GOT to be a better way. If only I knew what it was. I don’t. So I continue to interview.

A beautiful word I learnt : Yûgen


I liked this word Yûgen the moment I stumbled into it.

Yūgen is a Japanese word pertaining to ‘a profound awareness of the universe which evokes feelings that are inexplicably deep and too mysterious for words.’

Want to get a quick fix and feel for this word ? See a good space documentary, in HD, on a wide screen TV.

Even better, go to the nearest planetarium and watch some shows there. (J and I were were happily reeling after watching ‘HUBBLE 3D’ on IMAX)

Watch a clear sunset after to really rub it in.

I get this fix from reading some good sci-fi. Because good sci-fi is no just about cool future tech but opening your mind to new possibilities of human conduct and living. For example before I read ‘The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia‘ I always thought Anarchy, defined as an absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual was totally for the loonies only. But after reading that book and many many Culture Novels by Banks I am now a believer.

This is one of the true gifts of good sci-fi. It shows you the world and the rules you live in is not preordained but one among many possibilities. The Foundation Series by Asimov, that I read in my early teens blew my young mind into the next star system.

The Culture Series by Ian Banks absolutely screwed with my already fragile sense of this world we live in. Imperialism, Militarism and Democracy needs not be the permanent narrative. Was this even possible ? Yes. Banks shows you how that would turn out. Brilliantly. The best two books if you want this 2015 summer to be one where you deliberately read something that inspires YUGEN are :

Consider Phlebas
Player of Games

This current post is directly inspired by a long article I read today, a brilliant primer on THE CULTURE.

Read it to understand a little of both the world Ian builds and what Yugen tastes like.

Life in UK – How I came to love Britain over a drink

I fully remember my first brush with Cider.

I was 29 and in Bristol on a project.
It was a chilled Magners in a tall broad glass with 4 ice cubes floating in it.
I was in a pub that had some with outdoor seating.
It was a weekend and  I was with some colleagues from work.

4 years of a pointless hotel management degree where they all they taught you was how to manage a hotel in 1965 India in case you invented a time machine and REALLY were keen on extracting some value from the degree.
They never ever ever mentioned the existence of Cider as a drink that humanity has invented, when this drink could have BEEN the whole point of progress by humanity.

Back at the pub I thought “This sounds interesting…..WHY NOT !?!?!” (95% of everything GOOD that has happened to me started off with these 5 sentences, as did 66% of everything horrible)

I sipped some of the drink.
My eyes popped.
I sipped some more of the drink.
My skin tingled in a tingly way
I sipped even more of the drink.
My brain did happy somersaults.

I just could not believe I had been denied THIS MAGICAL LIQUID for 29 years of my time on Earth!

That was the moment when I became a lifetime fan of this amazing country. The British have done a lot of wrong in an to my country of birth but goddamn it they redeem themselves well.


Book Review : The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

I purchased a very tattered copy of this book in some forgotten book store years ago. I liked the burp. Finally in feb this year I dived in. What a complete treat.

This unassuming old book won the 1982 National Book Award for Non-fiction and a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The last time I read such a good book on interpersonal dynamics was The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. That one is easily one of the twenty best books I ever read. EVER.

This book, a true story, opens with a turf war between two computer design groups within Data General Corporation, a minicomputer vendor in the 1970s and then goes on to describe how the underdogs worked like daemons and delivered a machine no one confidently thought they could. Including the team at various many low points in the project.

Although the book talks about building a computer in 1978, it at heart is a really good primer on what organizational turfs and politics means and how the politics is the invisible presence in almost all interaction between key players and their plans. Any of you who works in a matrix organization or in a white collar job will appreciate the book that much more.
As a project manager I loved how the team approached this almost impossible task and tacked it. VERY good lessons the PMP training will not touch upon so full ROI if read by someone who manages complex projects for a living.

The Soul of a New Machine should be on the syllabus of all MBA courses, esp the more useless ones in third world countries since it adds immense value to understanding OB. Long tracts of it are necessarily dry and explanatory but then they needed to be in order for the reader to have more than a surface level view of what was at stake. The writer really immerses himself in the story and his character analysis is the part I found the most absorbing.

The Soul of a New Machine also cemented me an important lesson I am going to carry and pass on : The Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction winners are almost consistently amazing books. Something I cannot confidently vouch for about other book awards. I read another winner, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (a historical look at the way in which Al-Qaeda came into being, the background for various terrorist attacks and how they were investigated, and the events that led to the September 11 attacks) and it was also one of the BEST books I have ever read in the General Non-Fiction genre. Ever. In 2012 I really really relished ‘Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945’ by Tony Judt, which was nominated but did not win. Such a great primer on European 20th century history.

2015-03-22 13.02.26
this is my tattered copy of the book. Email me if you want me to mail it to you. free. I like sending good books to good homes.

Read all three in the coming decade and you will NOT be disappointed with any of them.

World History Beautifully Narrated

The Best Building in London
The British Museum

A History of the World in 100 Objects was a joint project of BBC (Radio 4) and the British Museum, comprising a 100-part radio series written and presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor. In 15-minute presentations broadcast on weekdays on Radio 4, MacGregor, voice like rich butter and chocolate mixed, used objects of ancient art, industry, technology and arms, all of which are in the British Museum’s collections, as an introduction to parts of human history. The series, four years in planning, began in  January 2010 and was broadcast over 20 weeks.

The Museum is dedicated to human history and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. Best Bit : Entry is Free. Once can come and go as many time as one pleases. This is going to be important later.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a UK-based international public-service broadcaster headquartered at Broadcasting House in London, about 15 minutes of brisk walking away from the Museum . It is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees, with about 23,000 staff.


Indian Schooling does a good job of conditioning its victims (‘students) to eventually hating History as a subject and it took me years to nullify this pavlovian reflex. Now it is one of my favourite subjects to read about. But as many of you know, reading ABOUT a historical subject/object and seeing it brings forth very different responses and the latter, being more visceral, feels that much more impactful, memorable, view altering. Like looking at a postcard of a place and BEING in that place.

Early on in 2014 I had this idea. I was going to visit the British Museum over the course of the full year and seek out all of these 100 objects at the museum, look at it, and while standing in front of the object, listen to the 15 odd minute podcast about that particular object. I calculated that the 25 odd hours of listening to the 100 podcasts would need about 20 odd visits to the museum over 2014, seeing maybe 4 to 5 objects over the course of a visit. And why not do it!?! What a perfect way to make up for my poor education on this and really learn about the HISTORY OF THE WORLD!

Processed with VSCOcam with s4 preset

Yesterday I finished visiting the museum for the 26th time and seeing the 100th object and listening to the 100th podcast. And it has been one of the most gratifying yearly goals I have ever undertaken and successfully completed. It made me really realize just how so very rich, fascinating and absorbing History really is outside of school curriculum.

I would recommend starting with the status of Ramesses II.

The imminent arrival of the head in England in 1818 inspired the poet Shelley to write that famous ode to Ozymandias (that Breaking Bad once used in a episode trailer):

… My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

The podcast series also makes one re-appreciate that iconic Carl Sagan excerpt from Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot, inspired by an image taken, at Sagan’s suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990.

If you too want to enjoy this fantastic BBC podcast series but don’t want to buy the not inexpensive ticket to London yet, below are the key links to access the free podcast series so you too can learn about A History of the World in 100 Objects sitting in your car or couch. I can guarantee you it is worth the investment in time.



2014 Books Review

I took the easy way out and went with an infograph to tell you 4 books you could try among the 33 books I read this year.

Click on the URL below or on this sentence to jump to the site.


Full list of books read in 2014 below :

Book 1 The Strategist’s Toolkit
Book 2 The Dispossessed
Book 3 Life Itself
Book 4 The Martian
Book 5 Old Man’s War
Book 6 A Fire Upon the Deep
Book 7 Badass
Book 8 A Deepness in the Sky
Book 9 The Lowland
Book 10 Brideshead Revisited
Book 11 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Book 12 All You Need Is Kill
Book 13 How the Light Gets In
Book 14 Slaughterhouse
Book 15 Physics of the Impossible
Book 16 The Whisperers
Book 17 Read This Before Our Next Meeting
Book 18 The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty
Book 19 What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Book 20 Skeleton Crew
Book 21 Fuzzy Nation
Book 22 Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #1)
Book 23 The Making of Modern Britain
Book 24 The Age of Wonder
Book 25 Thinking Statistically
Book 26 The Memory Chalet
Book 27 Fooled by Randomness
Book 28 Look To Windward
Book 29 Visit Sunny Chernobyl: Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places
Book 30 The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme
Book 31 From Dictatorship to Democracy
Book 32 Embroideries
Book 33 HBR Guide to Project Management