Friday, August 11, 2017

[Book] The Decision Book

Ever wondered why our past experiences don't make us much wiser? 
or, why being structured actually makes a person more creative? 

What does our phone contact list say about us? 
Would you like to know how to choose a gift? 

Are you aware of your "Johari window"? 
Struggling with problems of converting your group of employees into a cohesive team? 

What's a "long tail"? How to determine if a business proposal is worth investing in? 

And most importantly, why do printers seem to break down just before an important deadline?

Well, as it turns out, there are proven statistical models and matrices that answer all these questions and much more. "The Decision Book" by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappelr puts together a collection of 50 of them. 

Some of them are quite well-known and straightforward, such as Eisenhower matrix, the SWOT analysis, or the Pareto principle. But many are fairly complicated, with exquisite names such as Uffe Elbaek model, or the Sinus Milieu model.

Whether you are a student of management, a professional in a managerial position, or like me, simply interested in mathematical models and personal productivity tools, this book is definitely for you.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

[Movie] Dunkirk - Christopher Nolan

    If you loved watching World War II-related movies such as Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Saving Private Ryan, or -- from the more recent times -- 'Valkyrie' and 'Fury', then you must—and I repeat, you MUST – watch Dunkirk.
      But before you set out to watch this movie, two things:
      1. Do your homework. Christopher Nolan provides no background information except a couple of lines of text at the beginning. To fully appreciate the importance of this moment in history, you must read beforehand about the Dunkirk siege and evacuation.
      2. Watch this in a good movie hall. It’s more of an ‘experience’ that just fills you up at multiple levels. If you can go to an IMAX, please do! This movie deserves to be seen in its full glory, or gloom.

      “Dunkirk” has no ‘hero’ or ‘villain’ in the traditional sense of these words. It has no female lead, no ‘family moments’, and it has no comic relief whatsoever. There are no lengthy, dramatic dialogs, no emotional and inspirational speeches. The movie provides no backstories of the characters. What unfolds before you for 110 minutes is war… pure, unadulterated, not-dumbed-down war in its full harshness, seen through the point-of-view of three groups of people -- on land, on the sea and in the air -- with their nonlinear timelines eventually converging together.

      Nolan captures the WW2 era perfectly… the muted color tones, the staccato gunfire, the ominous hum of Heinkel and Messerschmitt aircraft of Luftwaffe, the Spitfires from Royal Air Force engaging them in a dance of death over panoramic views of English Channel. 

      There are times when you hardly breathe, not just because of unrelenting action and mind numbing cinematography but also due to the heart-thumping background score by Hans Zimmer. It begins on a subtle level, and gradually grows on you until it firmly grips you… body, mind, and soul.

      I noticed that nowhere in the movie does anyone refer to “Nazi Germany”. It’s always ‘the enemy’. In fact, no ‘enemy’ soldiers are ever seen throughout the movie. They are always represented by bullets, bombs, and torpedoes.

      The movie primarily depicts fights over the sea and in the sky. I would have loved to see some action underwater (the U-Boats!), and over the land (especially the Panzer tanks!). They are referred to multiple times, but never actually shown on the screen.
      If you wish to 'virtually live' a war scene, see 'Dunkirk'.

      Monday, July 17, 2017

      [Movie] Rush

      After Michael Schumacher retired, I had stopped keeping 'track' of Formula-1 races. So, watching this movie last evening was a trip down the memory lane, reminiscing about the days of cutting photographs of 'Schumi' from Sportstar and other magazines. 

      The movie portrays the intense rivalry between two F-1 pro's of the 1970s, Niki Lauda and his arch rival, James Hunt. Directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13/ A Beautiful Mind), the plot remains largely true to the historical accuracies, complemented by some top-notch acting and snippets of dialog, especially by Lauda. 

      If the VROOM, VROOOOM sound and the sight of huge tyres scorching the tracks send an adrenaline rush through you and if you enjoy watching tightly-edited, fast-paced movies, this one is for you.

      Monday, April 17, 2017

      [Series] Game of Thrones

      Everyone who is following the Game of Thrones (series on HBO) has a favourite character of their own. Some liked Ned Stark, some adore Arya. Some marvel at the manipulations of Lord Baelish and Lord Varys, some like the daredevilry of John Snow. 

      But there's one character which, in my opinion, outshines them all: Tyrion Lannister. 

      This short-heighted fellow who has neither a gift of arms nor the support of any of the feudal families, spins such a complex web out of sheer ingenuity that it's like a spider stalking its prey. He has some of the best lines in the series and he delivers them with passion and conviction. 

      A hat tip to Peter Dinklage for his power-packed performance. We hope to see more of him as the murderous game for the Iron Throne nears its conclusion in Season 7 (2017) and season 8 (2018).

      Thursday, February 16, 2017

      [Book] चार नगरांतील माझे विश्व : Dr Jayant Naralikar

      It is rare to see an autobiography of an Indian scientist. It's even more rare to see an autobiography of Indian scientist in Marathi. So, coming across चार नगरांतील माझे विश्व by Dr Jayant Naralikar was something special.

      Dr. Naralikar is well known for his Quasi-Steady State Theory, an alternative theory to Big Bang Model of the origin of the universe. 
      In his autobiography, Dr. Naralikar narrates his life as a sequence of his living in four cities: His childhood and formative years in Benaras (Varanasi), doctoral and research years with Fred Hoyle at Cambridge, a professorship at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, and as Founder- Director of IUCAA, Pune. 
      The narrative is extremely detailed, running about 600 pages, and has a good collection of photographs, and a superb index. In fact, I read the book primarily using the index rather than the traditional start-to-finish approach.
      The book has received a Sahitya Academy award.