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James Cameron finally works on Terminator Again

There are a few moments in my life that I would consider landmark incidents. Incidents that had an enormous amount of influence on what I have become. Some parts about our lives are built into us (like when we enter the pooja room, we automatically remove our foot wear before entering a temple) but others we learn after having an experience (like when we see a cybernetic organism understand the concept of pain).

I had one of those latter things, when I was in my high school and I had an opportunity to watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Back then, my English was pretty good (even in high school, I was already the best speaker in the class) and hence could make out much of what was happening on screen with Hollywood movies. In the 2 and half hours it took for the movie to start and end, my life had changed permanently. James Cameron, I knew then and there, would remain the most admired filmmaker in my life. Cameron paved the way for my movie habit, and today, I am something of a movie buff.

The tricky part is, After T2, Cameron moved on. I went back and watched T1 (which was almost as good as T2) and watched all of his other movies as well (like Abyss, and the super awesome Aliens). Over the years, I have come to enjoy all of his movies, with the exception of Titanic. Like any other young man, I enjoyed watching the full breasts of Kate Winslet many times over, but the ending was just too illogical and stupid for me. And this was back when I still a kid. I kept thinking, why did Leo and Kate just switch places every few minutes and keep each other warm? Then, I forget about the stupidity of it all, and rewind back to the point where Winslet slips into her birthday suit.

Then, Cameron finally made Avatar and I was like, whoa! I must have watched the trailer like a 1000 times, and then movie itself like some 30 times in the theatre. To summarize, Cameron is by far the greatest story teller in the world. Sure, I like other film makers. Michael Bay for his explosions. Nolan for his multi-level storytelling and making Batman totally cool, but also extremely sad. Tim Burton for covering everybody in white paint, and turning things gothic. Still, despite making movies less regularly than these directors, I continue to remain a big fan of Cameron.

That brings us to the main topic. James Cameron gave up the Terminator rights after T2. Personally, I think he had milked that concept as much as he could. T2 already had more than enough plot holes, but the rest of the things (incredible special effects, meaningful character development, and deep thought evoking scenes) took care of things. I have watched and enjoyed the remaining terminator movies (T3, Salvation and the hilariously bad Genesis) but T1 and T2 is what I think is proper canon. The remaining movies are like, cashing in on already cashed cheque.

Now, Cameron has announced that he is getting involved. Of course, right now Cameron is busy making 1000 sequels to Avatar, so he won’t have time to direct or even write the next Terminator. However, he has chosen to work the director of Deadpool, which is good. At best, Cameron might give a story Idea, and Cameron always gives a full story. He is not one of those ‘franchise’ guys. He always gives a proper narrative, like most old school story tellers. That is why I am very excited for this possibility of a new Terminator movie.

Another possibility is the Cameron won’t try to squeeze in Arnold into the script. Despite being pretty old in Genesis, Arnold did his best. It was the shoddy story, poor narrative and endless plot holes that really ruined the movie. I would say, despite the old age, it was actually Arnold which kept the movie together and made it enjoyable to me. However, Cameron will do the smart thing and keep Arnold out of it because, after the silliness of T3, Salvation and Genisys, I can no longer take Arnold seriously. Although Cameron can make some pretty silly stories, he ensures that there is some gravitas to everything. So yeah, I think Arnold will be kept out. Perhaps some sort of cameo would be cool, but that would be expecting too much.

Considering Cameron never works against a deadline (he has been making sequels to Avatar since 2009 and always moves the released date, even after an official release date is announced) so the new Terminator movie might only come around 2022 or 2023. Hopefully, I will still be a movie buff, and still watch it.

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RIP - John Hurt

Got up this morning to find out that one of my favorite actors, John Hurt, is no more. For a movie buff (I am not sure if there is a definition for a movie buff. I watch at least 15 to 20 movies, and almost all new released movies in multiplex, every month) such as myself, an actor's passing (ah, the inevitable conclusion of every life!) is like losing a dear friend.

The first I saw John Hurt in action was in one of the all time classic science fiction movie, Alien. I remember two scenes very clearly from that movie. The first scene is the one where the Xenomorph comes out of the chest, also called as the chest buster. Another is when Ripley does that slow undressing to wear the space suit (a scene which I now believe is extraneous because I cannot think of one 'logical' reason why it was there). What made the chest buster terrifying rather than comedy was the acting that John Hurt did. I watched Alien when I was like 15, and even today, I remember the horror and the rise of emotions that came with that scene. I knew back then, that John Hurt is that one actor, who I will remember for all time.

Obviously, John Hurt is an English actor. That means, he has probably done a lot of theatrical work, and indie movies and other stuff. I dont know much about that because I am more of a 'blockbuster' and 'popular' movies watching kind of guy. However, I always recognize him in his many, many bit roles in both good and bad movies. Almost all the time, his seasons are the most memorable. Along with his obviously awesome acting, his voice is what got to me. That drawling, slow delivery with effective pauses almost gave me that kindly expression that...I kind of wish, my grandparents gave me. I kept thinking, man, if John Hurt would have been my grandpa, I would hear him talk, like all the time.

I remember him from that Wrath of the Titans movie. Then, Harry Potter with that wand thing. Then, the Hellboy movies, which is just super cool. I see now that he was in only a handful of movies, but that shows how amazing he was at his work.

You are super cool, John Hurt...guy. Rest in Peace, man.

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Paytm problems and Issues with Mobile Wallets In General

Given my extreme usage of online services, it was only a matter of time, before I ran into some issue with mobile wallets. I always suspected that mobile wallets will let me down in the hour of need, and I now I have proof. Further, this is an indication that perhaps, it will be sometime before our economy becomes truly cashless, and why, even someone as obsessed about online services such as me, can only trust cash.  

The other day, I was travelling for work purposes, in a city far from where I live. I am talking at least 100 kilometers away. This distance becomes important later. I purchased some cakes worth a small amount of 80 rupees. I asked the vendor if he has paytm, and he said yes. Happily (I am always happy when I get to use digital money, and I have been like this even before this demonetization stuff happened) I whipped out my phone, scanned the bar code, and made the payment.  

I got an SMS, and I also got the successful transaction on my app. As I always do this, I showed the shop keeper that I have paid him. I proceeded to collect my purchased products, but the shop keeper stopped me. He said that he has not received an SMS or any updates on the app. I once again showed him (confirming that it was indeed his phone number, to which he agreed) my phone, the SMS and the paytm app transaction confirmation. The shop keeper refused to take this proof. He said that unless he gets and SMS, or the transaction shows up on his phone, he does not think payment has happened.  

I told him that he must then get into touch with support, and they should solve it for him. He flatout refused, and said that I must pay him in cash. I was on my way to a meeting, so I had no choice but to pay him cash, with the happy assumption that paytm will do a reverse charge. 2 days later, I know now, how wrong I was. 

Sequence of Events

For the sake of easy reading, I have divided the sequence of events as instances of communication. 

Instance 1  

I created a ticket through the app, mentioning the incident.  

Instance 2 

Support folks reply and say that, they can confirm the transaction. The email makes no mention of any of the details (like the confusion with the merchant). So, its clear that they did not bother to read the entire contents of my email.  

Instance 3 

I reply asking them to please look into my issue. I ask them to reverse the charge, after confirming with the merchant that cash has been paid.  

I also asked them for their office address, so I can write a complaint or visit the offices personally if the occasion should arise. 

Simultaneously, I contact their support twitter handle, air my grievance. There hasn’t been any responses at the time of this writing.  

Instance 4 

Support folks reply that, they can confirm the transaction. This is the exact same thing they said last time.  

In addition to that, the support folks tell me that, they are no longer responsible and now I must travel to the merchant (who is like at least a 100 kilometers away) and sort things out with him.  

In other words, paytm wishes to take no responsibility for the incident (they never sent him the transaction SMS and nor did the merchant app update the transaction details) and essentially washing their hands off the whole thing.  

Incident 5 

I replied again, asking them to provide me with their office address, so I can write a letter of complaint. So far, I don’t have a reply yet.  

[I will update the incidents if paytm should choose to respond] 

My Learnings 

I am a big time proponent of online stuff. I have been using online banking since 2006, and since then, everything I do, transactions as small as 10 rupees, has been done online, if the other party agrees. Since I turned consultant almost 4 years ago, I have always said no to cash, even forcing people to pay me online.  

Hence, when the demonetization drive started, I liked it. Now, even sundry purchases with the local shop owner (like tea and biscuits and other small shops and hotels) will take digital money. Still, I always felt that app based services (who don’t have a office to walk into or a phone number to call them directly and speak to a human) can be shaky when it comes to providing support. 

Poor access to support when it comes to say, booking a cab or food or hotel or even products such as phones and computers, are okay. If I don’t like a service provider, I can say good bye to him, and move on. I can ditch said product and simply buy another.  

With money, I cannot ditch money can I? The 80 rupees I lost is a small amount, but will I ever trust paytm with a big ticket purchase? Heck, if anything, I will stop using paytm altogether. However, this comes with collateral damage. Paytm is the biggest mobile wallet player in town. If the biggest player in town shows such ignorance, can we, consumers trust other wallet providers?  

I will update this section if someone from paytm contacts me and resolves the issue. Till then, I will simply have to stop using their services.  

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Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – Review

First up, I must thank Reliance Jio for actually making Netflix and Amazon Prime Video something worth paying for. I say this because the whole point of being a subscriber to a streaming video service is to be able to use it when you want, and to at least watch a movie while on the move. If not for Jio, I (and millions of other customers in India) would be stuck with expensive data usage bills. It would be cheaper to watch a movie at a multiplex than watch a movie on the phone with the pre-Reliance Jio data usage charges. 

Anyway, so yes, Jio is an important factor in me being able to enjoy streaming services. I am clubbing the review to include both Netflix and Amazon Prime because they launched (almost) simultaneously and they are both trying to accommodate the unique broadband situation here in India. 

To start off with, Prime Video is dirt cheap and is far more ‘value’ than, say, Netflix. Prime Video cost just 500 rupees (roughly 8 dollars) for an entire year. That’s less than 50 rupees per month. Of course, Prime Video is part of Amazon Prime which gives other benefits like free shopping (especially if you are like me and order lot of stuff on Amazon). In so many ways, Prime is just too good for the money it is asking. If we are simply judging the services based on the money basis, then Prime wins hands down. Seriously, Amazon wins, just like that. 

Of course, everything is not just about the value for money though. If so, Netflix should have been biting dust by now. It should have been shutdown. Fortunately, that is not the case. So, allow me to continue with this review. 

Let’s start with the apps and accessibility. Both the services provide access via browser and mobile apps. In this way, there are almost identical. Log in to the website and simply play the movie or video of choice. They both provide offline access. They both use some fantastic on the fly compression technology. What does this mean? Well, internet speed cannot be always guaranteed. That means, as the internet speed keeps varying, the video service must adapt accordingly, changing the video quality (resolution, or the number of pixels that is being pushed down the pipe to the mobile or tablet or browser) must also change. The idea is to make sure that 24 frames per second is available on the screen, come what may. In my experience, they both do this, and they are both pretty good at it. 

Speaking of video quality, Netflix takes a completely ‘I will do everything myself’ approach. That means, there is no fine control available to users to decide the amount of data. If the speed is good, Netflix will automatically use up the maximum available and if the speed is bad, Netflix will do the opposite. Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, allows fine control over the quality of content that is delivered. I get to choose the lowest quality of speed available, there by consuming the least amount of data that can be consumed. 

I for one, believe the fine control over movie quality is a good thing. Suppose, I am binge watching at a location that has good network speeds. However, although the speed is good, my data cap is not good. On Netflix I cannot control how much data gets consumed. On Amazon Prime, it is possible to set the playback to the lowest possible setting and hence watch more with ending up in a scenario where lots of data is consumed. Perhaps, this (and club that with the fact that Prime Video costs practically nothing) will be the defining reason why Amazon might win the streaming game a few years now, at least in India. 
So far though, it might appear as if I am leaning towards Prime Video as the absolute winner. Yet, Netflix has two Aces up its sleeve and for good or bad, Amazon has a lot of catching up to do. 

The first Ace is the amount of content. Obviously, Netflix has been in the content game lot longer than Amazon. Hence, the amount of Entertainment that is available in Netflix is much more than what is available at Prime. However, this only becomes obvious if one starts using them both regularly. Prime will run out of new stuff to offer (my guess) after 2 to 4 hours of daily watching, after say, 6 to 9 months. Netflix though, will probably not run out of new content even after 4 to 5 years. Then, there are these Netflix exclusives (and there are a lot of them and there seems to be no end in sight for this Netflix original content) which are actually good. 

Along with a huge collection of content, another place where Netflix shines, is content discovery. Content discovery is a issue no matter where you are. You go to a book store to buy a book, but it’s actually difficult to find a book that you might enjoy. Unless you have some very specific tastes (which mostly people don’t) in life, finding what you are looking for is extremely difficult. The same ‘discovery’ issues happen when you are present with a huge digital movie library.

This is where Netflix beats Prime hands down. Netflix has been in the movie business for more than a decade. Prime is simply the new kid on the block. That is why, Prime’s discovery features are just, extremely simple. Netflix seems to better understand what I want as a user and hence keeps recommending what I would probably like to watch next. Prime, just cannot do that right now. This is sort of ironic because Amazon happens to be the world’s largest retailer and hence, knows a lot of stuff about tracking customer behavior. I am shocked that they are unable to implement a subset of that algorithm in their video service. 

Lastly, there are the video players that show the movie. In this case, Prime has both a forward and back button, which is extremely useful if one wishes to skip forward and skip backward quickly. Netflix does not have skip forward, and I wished it has. Amazon also owns imdb, so lot of information is directly integrated into the player which is sort of neat. Netflix does not have this. 

The big question is, which one to choose. Personally, I like both and I will probably keep both. For those who can only pick one, then it comes to down to amount of watching you might do. If you consume less than a few hours of media every week, then Prime should be good enough. If consumption is more than 20 hours per week, Netflix is the best option. 

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Mi Band Review

My experience with Xiaomi has been mixed up. As I said in one of my earlier blog posts, their products are good value for money but their service ecosystem is just horrible. Of course, I will have to another service experience with them before I can revise my opinion about them. Despite my skepticism with the Chinese company’s service pipeline, I am still open to buying their products, especially cost very less money. 

So, when I decided that I want a health band, I had to look at some of the cheaper options. There were a lot of local players which were offering health bands for less than a thousand bucks (approximately 15 dollars) but Xiaomi was the only one that seems to have that nice engineering and a proper app to go with it. Reviews about it were excellent from the tech press. So, I decided to get the band and I did. 
To my credit, I have the band for 34 days now, and I have not missed a single day of my daily goal (which is 10000 steps, approximately 7 kilometers) so I have used it extensively. I hope that makes me enough of a user to share some solid opinion on the device. 

Let’s start off with the engineering of the device. It has the usual Mi simplicity attached to it. It has great finish, and it is extremely small. It’s less than the size of a thumb, and has a simple 3 point LED indicator. The LED indicator works in multiple ways. It indicates charging and it also indicates goals being met. It’s simple and neat, just the way I like it. 

If I have a complaint, that would be about the rubber band that contains the health tracking device. Mi seems to have lost their cool thing with the rubber band because it is a huge pain to remove and replace the health device with the rubber band. However, the remove and replace only needs to be done once in a month or even once in two months. The battery that is built into the band is just too good. Either the health tracking device itself consumes a small amount of power or the battery is too good. Either way, the battery life on this device is just amazing. A single charge that I did when I bought the device is still powering the band a month later. In fact, I am now worried that I will lose the charger of the band because I use it so rarely.

So far, the band itself works beautifully. The Mi Fit app (which is the other half of the package) is available from the play store. It is not as advanced as the other fitness apps. Still, it has the essentials. It counts the steps. It can be used to set targets (like daily targets) and the band will vibrate informatively when the target is hit. The app also has the option to track running (I haven’t tried tracking that yet) or the option to track sleeping (another thing which I am yet to try). Still though, the walking tracking part of the device works beautifully, so the other stuff should work just as fine. The app also has a neat history tracker, and weight tracker. It is simple but it is useful. 

The band does get uncomfortable over long durations of usage. Which means, wearing it round the clock (which is the whole point of a health band I suppose) is ruled out. The rubber material will create sweat and of course, exercising in the sun (which happens a lot) means you have live with the slight tan where the band was worn. 

All in all, I am impressed with the Mi Band. It’s low price, actually utility, the app that completes the picture makes for a fantastic package. Assuming that I continue my (so far unbroken streak of 35 day and counting exercise walk) current usage, I believe that I will probably upgrade to Mi Band 2 in a few months. 

The Little Prince – A book that makes you ask questions about yourself – kind of like the matrix

This year I decided to go out of my comfort zone of science fiction and fantasy and noir, and read something that I would not read otherwise. My mentor gave me a bunch of books and one of them is ‘The Little Prince’. One of the first things I did was not look up the book on the internet. The problem with internet is that, it kind of sets certain expectations which build a perception that has nothing to do with my opinions. 

With a blank slate, I read the book, and finished reading it in an hour at most. I am naturally a fast reader and the book itself is tiny with large illustrations. The narrative is being a pilot who has landed in some unknown place with a broken plane. As he repairs, he runs into this kid with golden hair. They talk and they discuss about pretty much everything under the sun. 

The book deals with pretty much everything. It talks about relationships, mostly. The relationships don’t have to be between people. It talks about the relationship between folks and animals. Folks and money. Folks and responsibilities. About love, friendship and how over time, relationships are built and how they gather momentum. It talks about mistakes being made. It also hints that the same mistakes were also opportunities and how, many don’t see them as such. 

The book also deals with mortality. It talks about women. It subtly hints at their vagueness and their limitations and their own understanding of the world. It also spends a surprisingly large amount of time on predators and preys. The food chain which shows that life is an endless cycle of death and life and death again. 

There is no plot has such. The ending is just as vague as almost every chapter. However, just breezing through it wont get me (or anybody else) far. This is another one of those books that is like the movie matrix. While the matrix has the cool action scenes to keep one engaged and give the brain a gap to relax and chill out, this book has no ‘in your face’ humor. Nothing in the book is obvious, but there are subtle hints splintered all over this thing for folks to interpret. 

I suspect that the book will mean something different to each person, depending on how much of life they have experience. A child might read it like a children’s book. An older might see it differently. Others might just roll their eyes and not go beyond the few pages. Probably because, the book comments on themselves with brutal honesty, in a way only their best friends can. 

I was able to understand some of the life stuff the book had to say. However, I am sure, as I mull over the content in my head over the next few days, I will see that there is more to the book than what is on display.

medium downsizes – we have been living in ad world for a while now

Content Management Solutions or simply CMS, is a web based software that allows easy management of content. There are many types of CMS. Stuff that is companies big and small are a different kind of CMS. Stuff that is used by everyday folks like cooks and students and consultants (like myself) are a different kind of CMS. Here, I am writing about everyday folk CMS. 

A popular CMS that most of us (at least those who read tech stuff, even casually) is wordpress. Wordpress started off as a blogging software but it can be used for so many things. Wordpress provides for free blogs, and google provides for the same and other companies also do so. This blog is powered by a software called BlogEngine.net. The point is, there are so may CMS’s. Then, there are the ‘new and cool’ CMS stuff like medium.

I had heard about medium a while ago. If you look at any of their ‘mediums’, it looks completely out of the world. It looks super cool and it just looks grand. However, a few minutes after spending on any medium site, I realize that it is, at the end of the day, just another blogging platform. It has some neat layout and a highlighting feature (which to me, is distracting than anything else, just like it is in Kindle) and some other neat tricks. Still, below all that, it is just another blogging software, at least as far as I am concerned. I may have made a snap judgement here, but that is my opinion for now. 

Today, I mention medium because they are downsizing. According to the blog posted by the owner of medium, it is because of the ad ecosystem on which almost everything on the internet seems to run. Since that is how the system is built, there is a certain impact it has on the services provided. It impacts how content creators make money in the first place. 

I kind of agree with that blog post. 

Today, the internet (and the many services, and the mobile apps that work with it) have the ‘free’ system. Stuff that we use everyday like search (Bing – you might be using Google), email (Outlook – you might be using Gmail or Yahoo or Rediff), cloud (OneDrive), social networks (Facebook, Instagram), chat (Messenger, Watsapp) and operating systems (Android) and so many other things that I cannot recall now are simply ‘free’. 

Now, free is good. Like everybody else, I like free stuff too. Yet, this creates a problem when someone comes along gives something better and asks for money, we simply refuse to pay. That’s because, an entire generation (folks who reached their teens after 2005) has now raised with the impression that they don’t have to pay for anything that they use. 

The thing is, folks don’t realize that they are paying with their time, and their entire personal lives. Folks who do realize are just fine with their lives being profiled. Either way, the winner are the companies that own these platforms and the companies that can afford to pay for advertising space. This is why almost all apps are now pay to win, and have all sorts of ads. This is also the reason why almost every news site has so much ads that sometimes its difficult to figure out where the content starts and where the ad ends. 

This hits journalism and content creators more than anything else. Article content and headlines have no choice but to be ‘attractive’ even if it is not supposed to be like that. This is what is called click bait. If folks don’t click on the link (on Google and Facebook, the two main drivers of the internet) they don tread the content. They don’t read the content (which is mixed with ads) the site that owns the content wont make money. The cycle repeats itself. God help those sites that are behind a pay wall. It’s either stupidly easy to beat the paywall or folks simply find an alternative and Facebook/Google are only happy to point the user to alternatives. 

This is the issue that medium discusses in its blog post. Medium (I still maintain that it is simply a blog engine with a glorified and extremely cool user interface) is trying to create a platform that will give quality content that is not, well, click baity or articles that are simply ads disguised as content. Medium was swimming against the current, and it is losing. They have lost 25 % of their staff, and I wont be surprised if Medium shutters completely in a few years.

It’s the year 2017 now, and folks who grew up using free things on the internet will not start paying now. Free will always win. This has far reaching ramifications (and in some cases, the circle is already completed) for all of us. Content as we know it will disappear. Companies and the people who build stuff like medium will have to quit or give up altogether. 

To me, that is a scary world, but I guess, this is one of those things that just happen. It’s how it is, and we simply have to embrace it, pick up the broken pieces, throw the pieces in the recycle trash bin and just, live with it.

Uber and it’s drivers – My driving partners

Life in the big city is always tricky. As someone who lives and spent a major portion of his life in a relatively minor city such as Mysore, working in the big cities such as Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai and others is always a little imposing. Ignoring all the other stuff that comes with big cities (high cost of food, crime rate, lingual and cultural differences), perhaps the most scariest part has to be travelling within city. Big cities grow too fast for their own good and public infrastructure is always playing catch up to growing demands. 

That is why, services such as Uber are so important. As I keep adding months to my consultant experience, I allow myself that luxury of being able to pick and choose my assignments. The whole process of choosing an assignment depends on dozens of factors and the availability of Uber has become an essential factor. Since Uber started in India, I must have taken over a 1000 trips. Yeah, that is not a typo.

There are alternatives available but I prefer Uber as my driving partner for a number of reasons. First up, my quantum of trips along with the large amount of data mining that a big company like Uber almost certainly does means my business history is available to them. That means, by design or by accident, I almost always get priority customer support. The priority customer support (something that I enjoy from my bank and other service providers I use so regularly) is something I enjoy. 

Then there is the fantastic professionalism that Uber has maintained despite cut throat competition. It will be a year or two until the app based taxi services industry matures. One of the first things that go down the hill in a cut throat business is professionalism. The user interface of the app itself is great and there is a certain consistency to its fairs as well as the driver behavior. 

The driver behavior…and the drivers! Ah, that is the best part is it not. While I am something of a loner in my life (I have like may be five friends) I am not an introvert. Heck, I would not pick a career as a consultant if not for my ability to strike up conversations with completely random strangers. The drivers, are folks who are almost always, extremely chatty. Of course, it takes a certain level of understanding to actually keep an open conversation with them and it just so happens that I am expert in that. 
During the dozens of conversations I have with the drivers every week, I get so much. I learn about the local news, politics, government stuff, people stuff and just so many things. Sometimes, I end up talking about software development, and other times, they end up telling me about how cars and the taxi business works. Other times it is the constant complaints about the traffic situation. There is almost always so much to talk about, and when the ride ends, both the driver and I would like to continue the conversation. In these scenarios, if it is the end of the work day, I usually ask the driver to join me for a cup of tea and we end up talking even more. After that, the driver moves on and, well, I will never see him again. It’s one of those classic movie situations where you meet some random person, engage some pleasant words and then they simply disappear. 

If there is one thing that bothers me a lot is how some passengers treat the drivers. A lot of folks seem to think that a driver is someone beneath them. I have heard (and seen) folks literally drive the driver crazy with unreasonable requests. Then, when things escalate, many a times, it is the driver who comes out on the wrong end of the conclusion and arguments. I don’t if the folks who are reading this blog are also Uber passengers but if you are an Uber passenger, just take it easy with the driver. Like you and me, he is a tax payer who also wants to do his job.

Elementary – Season Two – Studying the condition that is Holmes

Season One of Elementary was mostly about setting up the situation for this modern take of Sherlock Holmes. I have already written about the first season, and when things ended, the two consulting detectives – Sherlock and Joan – had a nice chemistry going on between them. 

In Season Two, the crimes are just as fascinating as they were in the first season. The situation is presented, and the two consultants look over the clues and figure out what is happening. The dynamics between the leads has been slightly tweaked. The focus is now on Sherlock taking on Joan as some kind of apprentice. Teaching her new things, and allowing her to become a detective on her own right. Along with this, there is also a lot of focus on what he will do to about helping others become sober from the drug habit, something which he himself has suffered from. He has reached a point where he himself is sponsoring other recovering addicts. The theme is all about Sherlock passing on his knowledge as well as sobriety to other people.

The season continues to introduce classical characters with their own twists. This is similar to what they did with Moriarty. Now we have a very different and rather selfish Lestrade. The other two police officers, Gregson and Bell continue to have a nice relationship with Sherlock. Another complaint I had with the first season was that there was no season wide arc. We still don’t have that since there are no mega villains pulling the strings, yet. However, the last few episodes run really fast with surprising twists and a satisfying arc. The show’s take on the Holme’s family is also interesting and I am looking forward to where this goes in the next season. 

As with the first season, the analysis of Sherlock Holmes as a condition, rather than a character continues. This time, the focus is on how, an individual with such unique abilities and outlook about life will fit in to the conventional system. This was always an element in the classic stories as well, but here, the entire season is dedicated to it. In fact, the drug habit that he has is directly linked to what will happen if Sherlock loses access to the people around him. In one of the episodes, Sherlock says that not having another person like him is something that he is worried about a lot. That particular sequence is acted and shot very well, and while it can be funny, it is also heart breaking because it is true for a lot of people. 

The season ends on an odd cliff hanger where in, the relationship between Sherlock and his protégé Joan, changes drastically. Watson realizes that being with Sherlock all the time means that she wont have a life of her own. Obviously, this hurts Sherlock and it is hinted that this is what he was always afraid of. If the support system around him crumbled, that would test his drug habit like crazy. In an odd way, it also shows how different this Sherlock his compared to the classic stories. In the classic stories, the Sherlock did depend on Watson as a friend but the lack of Watson did not bother all that much. When Watson decided to leave for his domestic life, Holmes continued to work his assignments.

This Holmes, is more human. In Season 3, how will things pan out for this more human, Sherlock. Guess I will watch and find out.

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Nintendo Switch might just be my first modern console

Yesterday, Nintendo finally provided more details about its latest console, simply called the ‘Switch’. They did announce it a long time ago, but only now are we getting some more concrete details like the pricing, supported games and other stuff. 

Now, the console market has three major players. Obviously, Nintendo is one of them. Then of course, Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (Playstation) are the other two. When Nintendo released the Wii, it redefined itself from the Xbox and Sony. While Xbox and Sony went after the traditional couch gamers, Wii did something different. It tried to engage the entire family, and succeeded. With those super cool controllers and all those simple games, Nintendo left the ‘couch gamer’ with all their high resolution, hard core first person shooter and adventure games aside. It went after fun, simple games with simple resolution displays. After that, Nintendo was in its own domain, leaving Xbox and PlayStation to fight it out with each other.

For a while, Wii was great. Families could finally get together and game. Folks got off their couches and just played. Then, Wii U was released which simply could not replicate the success of Wii. The family folks dumped their Wii but did not really upgraded to Wii U. It got less press, less attention and finally, less games.

Now, Nintendo, decides to continue what it started with Wii. It still has no intention of getting back to doing what Xbox and PlayStation. With Switch, it is betting on people being mobile. I am always mobile, and…I love it for that! The last time I played on a TV were those chinese made cartridge based game consoles. That was pretty much. After that, the new generation of consoles came into play and they were just too damn expensive. It all started will Xbox, then the Xbox 360 and now Xbox One. Each time, the consoles were simply way too expensive. First, my parents could not afford it. Now, I can afford it but I simply don’t stay at one place. I could go online and place an order for an Xbox One now, and it would be delivered in less than 3 days. 

That is why the Switch is so important. I am sure, my situation is not unique. Folks are on the move lot more than they were a few years ago. Thanks to the presence of internet, like everywhere with 3G and 4G coverage even in a country like ours, gaming has truly gone mobile. A case can be made that a high end tablet (like the iPad or some of those expensive Android tablets) should do the trick. It’s true. Android does have excellent gaming support, but most of the games are designed for ‘free to play’. Complete experiences are very hard to come by. Even, its touch and no matter how much technology improves, precision (at high speed) will never happen on touch screens. 

Switch solves that problem because the controllers are part of the tablet. So, I can have that precision that I so badly need. I can also connect the device to a television and get a big screen experience. And, if I don’t feel like holding the entire tablet, I could simply let it rest on a stand and use the detachable controllers and game on. It sounds like a dream gaming scenario. I can actually play when I feel like, and that is awesome. 

Now that I have made the decision to get it, one needs to look at pricing. Electronics in general cost a lot more than they do in their origin country. For instance, the Xbox One costs 300 dollars in US, but the same device will cost at least 450 dollars here in India. I do not know why the prices are always so high but since the price difference is constant across different brands, guess it has something to do with taxes and duties imposed on them. The Switch has a launch price of roughly 300 prices. Based on current comparisons, I suppose the device will cost about 25000 to 30000 rupees. Personally, I feel that for what the Switch offers, it is a reasonable price. While the Switch will release in a lot of places in March, I don’t think it will come to India in March. 

Perhaps by Jude, it should arrive. God willing, I will be an early owner of the Nintendo Switch.