Monday Reads – 19/10

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This week’s articles include topics such as Work From Home, Why Read, The Power of Place and The Algebra of Happiness. Happy Reading!

Is Silicon Valley Ready for WFH? – Last week, I wrote about Twitter’s plans for a permanent Work From Home policy. This article looks at how some other Silicon Valley organisations’ plans for WFH.

Why Read? – Some nuggets from Harold Bloom’s book on ‘How to Read and Why’.

The Power of Place: 8 Writers on the Destinations that Changed their Lives – Beautiful nuggets from some leading travel writers on places that inspired them, and literally changes their lives.

The Algebra of Happiness – Regular readers of my weekly column would know that I do like reading articles by Professor Scott Galloway. This, for a change, is a video, but a very nice one on what really makes us happy.

The Future of Travel Media?

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I am a travel buff, and have been fortunate in being able to travel to many parts of India and beyond. And my love for travel also extends to consuming all forms of media on this topic.

My first love of travel related media is the humble map. As a child, I used to spend hours devouring maps, either in geography books, or stand-alone maps. It gave me such a thrill to ‘see’ different places and where they all fit in this beautiful world.

I think the next step for me was travel literature. I recollect going through a phase of voraciously consuming books by reputed travel authors and trying to imagine what they must have experienced during their travels.

I then discovered Travel Guides, specifically Lonely Planet. I used to enjoy browsing through their various titles, and drawing inspiration from them. It helped that my first job involved visiting many media stores (books and music) where I had the time to browse the book (and music) shelves.

Travel Guides, for me, are not just about specific information about a destination, but a way to learn more about a place in general – it’s history, culture, key highlights. I do have a small collection of Lonely Planet Guides in my library, with my favourite being the one on the Indian Himalayas.

Along with Travel Guides, I also started consuming travel magazines. This was the time when dedicated travel magazines were just being introduced in India, with Outlook Traveller being the pioneer in this space. I used to enjoy reading their issues, as well as the travel related books that they started publishing.

This was also the time when satellite TV took off in India, and we were suddenly bombarded by TV shows from around the world. One of my favourite genres was, and still is, the travel show. I particularly loved watching ‘Globe Trekker’. And it was a great joy to rediscover this during the lock-down.

And then the internet took off. Suddenly, it was much easier to access travel information from all over the world. I started reading online travel blogs, which provided a great resource to experience travel from the eyes (and words) of common travellers.

One of the first casualties (in my experience) of the rise of online travel media was the travel magazine. I didn’t need a physical magazine any longer to read about the latest hotspots.

The second casualty was books on travel. As I started traveling more and more (and writing occasionally about them), I found my interest in reading books about someone else’s travel experiences waning.

On the other hand, during the lock-down, I discovered travel podcasts. It was interesting to hear about the travel experiences of famous people, but I am not sure if this is likely to sustain for very long.

I still read travel guides and use them as reference material while planning a trip. The mode of reading has shifted from physical to online (e-readers) though.

Another genre that I discovered during the lock-down was the travel vlog. It is a bit surprising that I did not know about the existence of such a thing till this year, but then I was never much of a video watcher (till the pandemic enforced lock-down). Again, it is nice to be able to see places and journeys from the eyes of common travellers.

Looking forward, my sense is that the future of travel media is going to be greater and greater authenticity. By this, I mean that content generated by common people is likely to be more popular than the typical travel show where you have the same hosts talking about their visits.

Does that mean that there is no future for travel shows (or books)? I don’t think so. I believe there will always be an audience for quality long-form content. But the content has to move away from basic information about a place or journey to deeper insights and ruminations about the experience. One example of this would be Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows.

I am sure there would exist travel books on these lines as well, but I admit that I can’t recollect reading one. I have read a lot of travellers to Mumbai saying that ‘Shantaram’ was a great source of inspiration for them, so maybe that’s one example, but I can’t confirm because I haven’t yet read it.

Monday Reads – 12/10

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A few interesting articles from the world of Tech, and the city that’s probably highest on my bucket list of Indian cities to visit…

When the Dust Settles – A thought-provoking articles on who is likely to emerge as the winners in the post-pandemic ‘New Normal’ era…

Americans might never come back to the office, and Twitter is leading the charge – A detailed look behind the scenes of Twitter’s plans for indefinite work from home for its employees…

The disruption con: why big tech’s favourite buzzword is nonsense – This might not be a popular view, but it’s important to understand how others (non-tech folks) might perceive the tech world’s obsession with ‘Disruption’.

Hometown Discoveries: That Sweet Calcutta Cacophony – I am disappointed that, in my over 4 and a half decades, I have only visited Kolkata once, and that too, for a brief business visit. I would love to spend more time exploring this metropolis in Eastern India and soaking in its atmosphere. In the meantime, I have to do with reading such articles on the charms of the city.

Rediscovering the joys of the music album – ‘Slow Music’

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With the rise of digital and streaming audio, the concept of ‘music albums’ seems to have taken a bit of a back seat lately (at least in my opinion). When it is so easy to just listen to just your favourite song by an artiste, then why bother with listening to the whole album that includes that song?

I come from a generation that first started listening to music on cassettes (and vinyl records) and have lived through the birth of CDs and digital audio. I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to technology. While I certainly appreciate the benefits of newer technologies, I prefer to be a late adopter of these, rather than the first-movers or trend seekers. This allows me to savour the older technology for longer, as there is a very good chance that there’s no going back.

So, for a long time, I continued to listen to music on cassettes. I purchased my first CD in late 1998. While I purchased an iPod in 2005 or so, I hardly ever listened to it, still preferring the CD format. Similarly, I only started listening to streaming audio in late 2016.

While music streaming helped expose me to genres of music that I might have not explored otherwise, over the past few months, I have been experiencing a feeling of not knowing what to listen. The Paradox or Tyranny of Choice.

There was a time when I would be listening to music at least a few hours a day. It started dropping to maybe a few hours a week, even though I still enjoy listening to music.

Then one day, recently, I decided to listen, not to radio stations or playlists, but to an entire album. I don’t recollect which album it was, but I enjoyed the (almost lost) experience of listening to a collection of songs from the same artist in the form that the artist wanted listeners to. I followed this with a few other albums and the pleasure was sustained.

There is a movement in eating called ‘slow food’. I would like to call the pleasure of listening to an album in its entirety ‘Slow Music‘. Something to sit back and reflect on in these crazy times…

Monday Reads – 05/10

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So, we have entered the final quarter of 2020! And this week’s list includes topics such as Entropy Theory (as applicable to business), Barriers to Data Success, Dinner Table Syndrome and the Future of The American Ph.D. Happy reading!

Entropy Theory – Encyclopedia Britannica defines Entropy as ‘the measure of a system’s thermal energy per unit temperature that is unavailable for doing useful work.‘ Many of us might know it as the measure of randomness or chaos in a system. This excellent article applies this concept to the evolution of industry and businesses.

Why Culture Is the Greatest Barrier to Data Success – Many of us would have heard of the terms ‘Big Data’, ‘Machine Learning, etc. These terms have been around for a while now and most businesses would agree that they need to get better at understanding these and applicability to their specific use cases. However, many businesses are still struggling to adopt and adapt to a data oriented culture. This article lists some of the main reasons why businesses are finding it hard to inculcate a ‘Data Culture‘.

Why ‘Dinner Table Syndrome’ is getting worse for deaf people – There have been many articles written and discussions had on the ‘New Normal, ‘Working from Home’, the ‘Zoom Culture’, etc. But I must admit that, until I read this article, I had not thought of how challenging this could be for people who are hard of hearing and who might normally be relying more on visual cues to participate in a discussion.

What Is The Future Of The American Ph.D? – In this article, the author takes a deeper look at the state of Ph.D programmes in American universities and wonders if the impact the pandemic is having will be short-term or long-lasting.

Meet the couple who swapped city life to live on a remote Irish island with no electricity – I am sure many of us who live in cities would have occasionally wondered wistfully of chucking it all in to go live a simple life in the countryside. Recently, a couple living in Dublin, Ireland had this opportunity and this article talks about their experience.