Productivity, Pain and PHP

These three P's have taken most of last couple of weeks. I just got a great boost to my productivity this week, after spending almost most of my office time (and a significant part of my hard earned money) at different Cafe Coffee Day and Barista, now I have my own office. Yes, it was almost 6-7 hours every day at these places with my laptop as it gave me comfortable working space, though this place was damn costly at one frappe/Cappuccino per hour and it was not doing any good to my caffeine addiction, but it was getting my things done. And every now and then a quick glance at tables around had enough eye tonic to recharge your batteries, if caffeine failed.

So now I have an office and need not worry about many things but the recent changes in job profile and some more responsibilities being put on me, the scene is not much different. Making things worse, is my back pain, which has bounced back like Saurav Ganguly and giving me really tough time. It ensured that I am not comfortable doing my set of very quick exercises which kept my waist size unchanged for last seven years. I am so helpless that if somebody slaps me or throw some punches on me, instead of me showing some old kick boxing skills, I need to resort 'Setting' (I learn this term  during my graduation days, if you cannot beat some body, uski setting kar do, get him beaten up).

This weekend also got my old programming skills revived and really had tough time coding in PHP. It is really pain to write an application to run on server which has been configured by someone else. The task I thought I can finish off in jiffy took  a lot, but finally I did and discovered that I am far better than most of these programmers' who told me that you cannot do it unless you have 'administrator' access to the server. I did it guys.


Red Rose

All my prayers could give

Was a single rose, red rose

And all I could do was

I kept on her tomb

Beneath that she was

With still extended hands

And hope in closed eyes....


Take care of mother.. Mother Earth

Take care of mother.. Mother Earth magnify

If you have kept yourself abreast of recent development on Climate and Global Warming, this is one issue which need to be taken seriously by people at large and not only by environment enthusiasts and activists.
Here is what we can do to make a small contribution individually to this big issue.
1. When going for shopping, make sure to carry bags/basket, so that you need not take paper or plastic bags.
2. Switch off all the electrical appliances when not in use. Save electricity, save environment.
3. Instead of using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, go for natural/herbal pesticides, Neem leaves are a good options for insectisides and pesticides and compost you can use instead of chemical fertilizers.
4. Save water. There are millions who are deprived of drinking water.
5. Restrict yourself from using plastic/things which cannot be recycled.
Spread the word, do it yourself and aks others to do it too..

Update: Read Aditi's Post Here , She has posted a beautiful poem, one of my favorite.


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Playing for pride, pride of the nation

The Hindu : Sport / Hockey : Book on Dhanraj Pillay released
Dhanraj Pilley, the neglected sports legend and the player who went in the field to give more than 200% whenever he was representing his country has got very little attention from the common person in this cricket crazy nation. If he has been in news, it was for his fights with administrators or his emotional outbursts. 
I have seen very few players, raising their game to new heights when they represented the country and two names stand apart, Leander Paes and Dhanraj Pilley.  It would be interesting know his story, at least I am going to go for it. I am happy that he is getting his due now, though his book release was quite a subdued event.


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Get maximum from your online time

Most of us spend a lot of time online doing stuff which can easily be done in a jiffy using some popular services and save you loads of time. Most of my friends think that I am using a lot of time doing blogging, social bookmarking, reading news on topic of my interest. In reality, I spend no more than one hour doing all this everyday. I just use the following regularly and get things done.

1. Google Reader and Bloglines - I have been into blogging since 2004 and keep a track of a number of blogs using Google Reader. This saves me from visiting all the blogs (and also from missing some of irregular bloggers who post once in a while), whenever a blog is updated I can see it in Google Reader and depending upon the topic and my interest I go through them. Though if a topic (sometime blogger as well) compels me to post comment I have to visit the blog. Once can easily categorize the blogs in Google Reader for ease of use. I categorize blogs on two basis, key words, and theme. Google Reader being from Google stable provides you with 'labels' so you can categorize (label) a blog into more than one category. I used to be on Bloglines, but Google Reader is far better option considering ease of use and other features.

2. Firefox and its extensions: Browsing with Firefox is a more productive and provides you loads of options compared to IE. This enables me to post bookmarks with just a click to Del.icio.us, Ma.Gnolia, BlueDot and discover some really great and useful sites using StumpleUpon. You can also install GreaseMonkey which gives you options to run third party scripts on a particular webpage in the browser. There are some very cool productive scripts using Gmail and GCalender. Though a word of cautions here, there are a number of extensions which provide no productivity and are more of a nuisance. They also make Firefox slow and unsteady so install extensions carefully. Google Toolbar is one extension you  must have.

3. Remember the milk and Google Calender: The key to productivity is having a good habit of creating To Do Lists. Remember the milk and Google Calender give you this facility and loads of feature. Every weekend I spend sometime to create a ToDo List using Remember the milk / Google Calender. My Google Calender is configured to send me an sms (free of any cost and it works on most of Indian Cellphone networks)  at specified time to remind me of a particular task . Remember the milk is a very good service and it can be integrated with Google Calender, though you can manage your Todo list using only Google Calender

4. iGoogle, Pageflakes, Netvibes: Startpages are very good tool to start your online journey daily. They gather all the things to one place and you can have a look at most of the things without hoping from one site to another. My iGoogle has Gmail Preview of mails, Wordsmith word of the day, news feed on particular tags, headlines from NYT, CNN, daily jokes, sports tid bits, remember the milk module, google notepad.. you name it and i have it there. So once I open my browser within 10 minutes I am updated.

5. Gmail and Labels: Gmail is one application capable of enhancing your productivity many time, if you can use it properly and know all its features and tweaks. I routed all my emails to Gmail only (including professional ids) and have applied a number of filters and labels. This saves me from checking my mails on different sites. Since I use Outlook for offline email reading, I keep one copy on gmail server, so even if I am traveling or do not have access to my laptop I can check them from any comp. It is also a cushion in case something goes wrong. You need to be a bit thoughtful while choosing Labels, normally I have some labels like M_I_T (Most Important Task), Rpl_Ltr (Reply Later), Useful_Info and so on. Once I read an email, I apply one or another label to it and that helps me in keeping track of these emails and necessary actions.

6. Windows Live Writer:  Writing a blog online is real pain. So I use WLW (Window Live Writer) to write my blogs offline. I have configured all my blogs (I mirror post on all) so with one click I can check the spelling, adjust pictures, ping the blogservers... Though there are other offline blogeditors/writers but this comes with unicode support (to type in languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarat etc.), this feature is lacking in most of other options (Qumaana my earlier favorite was handicapped on this front).  Technorati tags (now an inevitable part of a blog) can easily be added using this. So no need to remember <html> tags or ask you geek friend how to do this and that. It does everything. Though It doesn't support Yahoo 360 Bloggers.. :((. So to overcome this, I type everything in WLW and see it in WebPreview mode and then copy and paste it into Yahoo 360 compose box. It works fine.

7. Google News and Google Blogsearch:  Open Google News and you will have access to all the major headlines so you need not go from one online news site to another. And if you are interested in particular topic, you just need to search google news with that keyword. Also if you are regularly searching news on a particular thing, its better to subscribe to customized search RSS feed in your Google Reader (will write about it later as this post is already getting too long..). Most of my friends are surprised when the start blogging and invariably I happen to be the first one to comment.. You just need to search on Google Blogsearch for a particular word (in my case I have four five key words which links all my friends... and whenever they are going online.. a mention to them is inevitable.. guess them..). For example, I keep track on if somebody is writing on Rural Finance, whoever there is an update I get it in my Google Reader. Though I have put some well thought filters to restrict spam or not so useful content.



Visit to my provenience

After 5 years, I got time and opportunity to visit my ancestral place and my provenience. I have spent my early years in this place, which is located 9 kms from GT Road, near UP-Bihar border in Bihar. It is so close to UP that my Hutch SIM was not on roaming though I was in Bihar, it was still communicating through a tower in UP.

The occasion of visit or principal reason for visit was my sister's (cousin) marriage. First marriage in my family in last 20 years. And also, probably first time in last 10 years I saw all member of my extended family together.

Since my last visit (which was for one day at time of my grandmother funeral), the village has changed substantially. Though still not properly accessible by road (You cant reach this place by small cars as the roads are glaring example of corruptions and fund embezzlement.), but the work for new road is going on, hopefully next time I would visit this place it would be a pleasant journey from GT Road to my native village.

I had planned to move around my village (which I had not done since I left the village way back when I was studying in Class 3.) and first thing I wanted to see was my school. It used to be a two room building with no sitting arrangement for students as all the furniture we had was a couple of chairs for teachers. We had to carry empty Cement bags, which we used to spread on ground and study on that. My Old SchoolThe school was surrounded by mango orchard where in lunch break everyone used to visit if it is mango season to try one's luck, if one can find one delicacy from the orchard.

The school has changed as it has a new building ( but of two room only, they built the new building in place of the old rooms, see the picture) and I heard that they have got bench and desks for the students. But the attendance is thin, due to a new private school a couple of kilometers from my village (which charges Rs. 50 per month) and most of the upper caste people (only those who think that education can be of any use, and believe me they are in minority) are now sending their wards to this private school. I enquired about the old teachers, none of them are currently there, the school is manned by recruitment done under Shiksha Mitras (who get Rs. 4000 per month as salary).

 In evening, when we were sitting with fellow villagers and guests who had come to attend my sis marriage, my father told us that there is some fight going on in the village. He told us that there was some noise coming from the nearby mohalla. We were still speculating what is the reason, then one of my cousin came and told that that was not a fight but the policemen were beating a lady. I asked why? It was not very surprising for me, I have witness the policemen's atrocities and attitude when they visit villages. He told me that somebody has filed complaints against the lady's husband and they came to arrest the husband and the lady protested and started abusing the policemen.  It was disgusting. I have seen these policewala, they act as if they are god when they visit villages and take undue advantage of illiteracy and ignorance of these simpleton villagers. They are not aware of their rights and safeguards available, and even if they are aware of them, they fear the retaliatory action from the other policemen.



Seven Mags I loved When I was kid

1. Chandamama - We were waiting more eagerly to get this magazine from newspaper wala then our results. Beautiful stories of Kings, stories from ancient epics with written with clear motive of promoting values and culture in children made this magazine immensely popular among kids.

Recently, Chandamama's last 60 years issues have been digitized, so those who want to gift their children a good read, devoid of gory action and violent fantasy, this is a great option.

2. Champak - Loved it.  Cheekku (the rabbit), Meeku (the mice) and their  adventures were superb, since 1968 this magazine has established itself as the number one Children's Magazine of India. A part of Delhi Press Group, they followed their group policy of not promoting any superstitious or bhoot-prate stories, but clean healthy entertainment for kids. Even today, I get my hands on any issue of Champak, I make sure to find Cheeku's column and read it.

3.Lotpot - Full of laughter and great comic strips. The stories were invariably successful in bringing laughter and making you go 'lotpot' .  No advertisement and reading material from cover to cover at price of Rs. 2 (At present it is being sold at Rs.5). Though the paper was not great but stories were. Motu, Patlu and Ghasita's always used to find themselves in trouble in whatever they did. Though Ghasita was not the main hero of the Motu Patlu strip but his hair style and Haryanwai accent made him my favorite character.

4. Nandan - Unlike many children's magazine of that time, this one has backing of a one of the leading media house of country Hindustan Times Group and has some of the biggest name as its contributor. Edited by Jayprakash Bharti (one of the biggest name in Children's literature), it had/has strong focus on indian mythology and presented stories from Puranas and Upnishads. It was more structured and well presented compared to its competitors in 80's, there you had Crosswords, Find the Difference (Kaun Kitna Buddhiman), a very popular Tenaliraman. The Pari Katha Visheshank was its eagerly waited special issue by its readers. Vishwa Prasidha Kahania provided its reader the best of childrens literature from world over translated in hindi.

At the moment, it has gone numerous changes and is being edited by Mrinal Pandey, I just recently checked one issue from my brother, and found that the new avataar is no longer as fascinating. Earlier Nandan used to be full of stories and stories only. Now, they have started putting articles (probably following other mags), interviews and other pieces but somehow it doesnt reminds one of the old Nandan we were fond of.

5. Madhu Muskan- If anyone of you have read it, you would vividly remember, Daddy jee, Chustram Sushtram.. Great comic and great mag. I dont know whether it is being published today or not but it was really one mags I wanted to read again and again. I even had a collection of around 5-6 years of Madhu Mushkaan, but some of dear friends loyal to borrowed reading, betrayed me.

6. Suman Saurabh - Aimed at teens and probably only magazine in Hindi in late 80s and in 90s which went beyond storytelling and provided useful articles. Again from the stable of Delhi Press Group, I loved its Jasoosi Katha Visheshank (Detective Stroy Specials) and Vigyan Katha Visheshank (Sci-fi Specials). It is still going strong.

7. Balhansh - Though this was quite new compared to Champak, Chandamama and Nandan, but it can be categorized as more balanced reading experience for kids. Published by Rajasthan Government, it kept the allround growth of its reader in mind. While Kavi Aahat made people go hither and thither fearing his poems, Havaldaar Tholaram was no less then a mixture of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond with grey matters borrowed from the likes of Kaanti Shah and Raakhi Sawant, taking care of goons and evildoers as well as problems of common man. It has some great informative articles which were not very common at that time in children's magazine as most of the mags provided only stories and comic strips, the focus was not there on interesting or informative articles.

Now let me know, which were your favorites .....