Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick Gun Murugan: The Return of the Legend

MTV meme celebrity Quick Gun Murugan is back in his own movie. A South Indian "vegetarian cowboy", he first became famous from his two-minute spots on MTV back in the mid-90's, for his Dravidian witticisms, Bond-like bravado and ridiculously superhuman feats of marksmanship. I'm betting that more than a few Southies (and maybe even a few Northies) are going to get nicknamed "Quick Gun" in college campuses across India. Anyway, this soundtrack number, sung by Mika Singh, is really catchy. Mind it!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Amsterdam 2009

View from the hotel bar deck, where five canals merge

While the CogSci conference took up almost the entirety of four days in Amsterdam, I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of explorations and visits in the evenings, and the one and a half days after the conference. The conference itself was awesome, and our paper appeared to have been received well, despite our having been allotted a last-day-last-show slot. The city is beautiful and is always full of life, well into the wee hours of the morning. I could not catch a Dutch movie, but I managed to squeeze in an improv comedy show. And thanks to fortunate misfortune, I got an extra day in Amsterdam, which was so what I needed to wrap up some things I needed to do before leaving.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nana Kitade: Kibo no Kakera

The Hague 2009

Noordinde, near my hotel

Den Haag is not particularly large or lively, but there is so much natural and cultural beauty to see for its size. I spent around 24 hours in the city, and absolutely loved it. A very walkable city center, a good tram system for longer distances, beautiful canals, plenty of gorgeous parks to roam (and even see some deer and ducks), and lots of public and museum art to keep the wanderer occupied.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brussels 2009

My neighbors

I was fortunate to live so close to Jubelpark, thereby getting museums, an excellent park, EU buildings and the business district for neighbors. At the same time, I was within (what I consider) walkable distance to the city's palace area and urban centre, availing myself of even more museums and exhibits. I had three days, so I took my time: walked almost everywhere I wanted to go, explored the city and suburbs, ate leisurely, stopped and sat down when I felt like it. As with most cities of the kind, there was far more to see than can be seen properly in a few days. Of what I really wanted to see, I missed the Magritte Museum, and an exhibit by Keith Haring. But I think I made the best use of my time, considering my goal was to relax and explore as much as it was to muse and take photos.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Dubai Metro Trip

Quite pleased that Dubai has joined the ranks of the 150 or so metrified cities in the world, I took my first trip today, on Tuesday the 15th of September, nearly a week after the official launch. While there were some teething and adaptation issues in the first week (someone apparently hit the emergency stop button, thinking it was like the stop buttons on the public buses), things appear to have more or less settled by now.

For now, only 10 stations are open, so I had to take a cab from the one closest to my destination. Still, the savings are immense, and the time taken to get there was comparable to that which would be taken by a private vehicle. Getting in and out was smooth and hassle-free with the wave-and-walk Nol card. It was all so ... first world.

Some of the stations are especially impressive and unique, and the frequency and punctuality seem to be well planned. Some stations were dug surprisingly deep into the earth. The cars were also comfortable and sharp-looking. I expect to use a lot of this service, considering how close stations are to my home and other areas of interest.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dubai gets a Metro

There is a metro stop very close to my home, close to where my relatives live, and not too far from where my university is located. Not to mention the stops near major malls and hubs. The launch also coincides with the rollout of a new unified proximity fare card system called "Nol" for bus, metro and waterbus transport. As a nod towards market segmentation and/or social stratification, there is going to be a "Gold Class" of coaches. Definitely as a nod to the segregation options available to women and families in this part of the world, there is going to be a coach for women and children too (wonder what happens if you are a father with your children). While the traffic congestion and taxi availability problem that ostensibly motivated its development have mostly disappeared due to the recession, it is still a relatively cheap*fast means of long-distance transport, and will be especially useful once the economy recovers (and may even contribute to said recovery). Looking forward to a ride on the weekend, and the remaining stations opening in the near future.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Selling Private Service and Retail to Emiratis


The sight of young Emirati men and women working as fishmongers and bakers or checkout assistants and shelf-stackers is very unusual.

The jobs are normally filled by Dubai's massive foreign workforce.

Emirati workers in the retail sector are still a minority within a minority.

Nationals constitute less than 20% of the total population and according to some researchers make up less than 1% of the private sector workforce.

This is because employers in the emirate have found it notoriously difficult to attract young nationals into the private sector.

They mostly favour working in the public sector - which offers more pay, far fewer working hours, longer holidays and security.

There is also the issue of prestige. Working in a supermarket still carries, for many Emiratis, a stigma.

But the Aswaaq stores are providing an unlikely setting for a cultural revolution.


This is a step in the right direction. Once retail and service are no longer stigmatized, perhaps there will be more fair treatment and better compensation for those professional classes. And when "management" is not seen as the only/primary career path for Emiratis, they will have more incentive to diversify their skill acquisition towards more "hands-on" type careers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nigerian Scam Victims Offered Restitution ... yeah, right

Got this in my email. Gosh, this is just royal. I wonder how many of those people who got financially punk'd by these guys would come back for seconds. Hmmm, actually ...

Attn: Beneficiary, I write to bring to your notice as a delegate from the Nigerian Government Reimbursement committee under the strict supervision of the United Nations to pay Five Thousand Nigerian 419 scam victims the sum of $950,000 USD (Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars Only) each. You are however listed as one of the beneficiaries for these payments. You are expected to get back to us for your immediate reimbursement.
As a result of this laudable recommendations, you are hereby informed that during the last U.N.meeting held in Abuja,Nigeria, it was alarmed so much by the rest of the world on the lose of funds by various foreigners to the scam artists operating in syndicates all over the world today. In other to redeem the good image of our country, the President has ordered the immediate payment of $950,000 USD each to the affected victims in accordance with the U.N.recommendations.
Due to the corrupt and inefficient Banking Systems in Nigeria, these payments are to be made by BARCLAYS BANK PLC, UK as the corresponding paying bank under the funding assistance of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Presently,Two Thousand Five Hundred Beneficiaries have been paid;more than 50% of the Victims are from the United States, while about 40% are from other parts of the world.
Your particulars were among those mentioned by some of the Syndicates that were apprehended in Lagos, Nigeria as one of the victims of the operations, you are hereby warned not to communicate or duplicate this message to anybody for any reason whatsoever as the U.S. secret service in conjunction with The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has swage into action to track this criminals down.
Once again, you are expected to keep it secret until these criminals are all apprehended. ...