My Thoughts Of The Week …

05/25/10 (Tue): 35 days! The oil is still gushing. There is no plan in sight “which should work”. Dems blame their “easy target”, BP. Reps blame their “easy target”, Minerals Management Service. Whatever it is, it is a disaster for a very beautiful part of the country, which I visited in 2009 …

05/26/10 (Wed): “Sack Mahendra Dhoni”? Since 2007, while record could be better, overall not that bad. I.e. The very nature of the 20/20 game is so fickle. The guy is quite young, and is the solid ODI/Test Captain! He is no freeloader, with 25+ average and one T20 WC (in 2007)! More of the “knee jerk” reaction from passionate cricket fans?

05/27/10 (Thu): I was no big fan of Aamir Khan during 90s (“chocolate”). Shah Rukh Khan with Baazigar/Darr/DDLJ etc. was my fav. Then Sarfarosh (Speech to Mirchi seth), Ghulam (when his bro pulls a gun on him), Lagaan (explaining to mom why the match was crucial), Rang De Basanti (the climax), Ghajni etc. happened, and the megahit “3 Idiots”! Shah Rukh Khan may be a bigger star, but Aamir KhanΒ is the true method actor of his generation ..

05/28/10 (Fri): Matt Green. The guy is attempting a walking expedition from East Coast to West Coast. It will take him 6 months. Read an article about it. Interesting. After years of fantasizing about a cross-country drive (not walking!), I finally did a relatively tame flight-car-train trip from San Jose to Miami last year. A true cross-country drive would be amazing. Some day I hope to do a pure cross-country driving expedition.

05/29/10 (Sat): Eddy Curry is a mediocre (by NBA standards, that is) player from the NewYork Knicks. He earns roughly 11M$ a year and that too, for sitting on the bench and jumping up and waving the towel each time NY makes a basket πŸ™‚ The guy is so broke that people are now suing him! I guess the adage that “more you earn, more you spend” and “one can be happy at any earning level” makes sense …

Time Management

Time Management is something I have perfected, if I may say so myself. It is like any other skill, which has to be practiced and tweaked during the hectic day-to-day lives we all lead. I use it successfully both at work and in my personal life. Yes, it helps that it comes naturally to me. As people who know me can attest:

– I am rarely (if at all) late for a meeting, especially one I arrange, unless I get stopped by a Cop or get into some accident or something.

– I never come to a meeting with zero preparation. For me, meeting is where people with differing views and ideas and agendas come together (sacrificing valuable time) to form a consensus on a plan of action. It is NOT the time to read up on the documents/material.

–Β It is impossible to 100% remove that element of “surprise” from our lives. [Side story: When I completed my MSEE and accomplished my goal of an overall GPA of 4.0 (now, “why” I set this goal for myself is for another Blog) and was getting ready for a fun family vacation in December 2003, Surprise! A life-threatening Health Scare! All the advance planning could not help me there] Eh, without some tension/apprehension/nervousness, what is life? It is no fun to live life like a robot. If you read my Travel Blogs, you can note that I plan, but do not microplan my trips, as I like to leave some things to chance. In general, I am rarely caught by surprise.

– I plan ahead of time, yes, sometimes “Way ahead of time”.

I have great family (again, if I may say so myself), several passions, several hobbies,Β a very good set of friends and associates, and a job I love. It is not easy to give proper attention to each of these entities on a consistent basis.

Some tips from my side are …

(01) You cannot win them all (I.e. Prioritize)

As the saying goes, “pick your fight”! For example, I have around 20-30 Action Items pending on me. Am I going to complete it all today? No way. I pick the ones that are important and that I can reasonably complete today and keep the remaining ones active, for another time.

(02) Reflect

Spend atleast 20-30 minutes each day to reflect on what has happened and what needs to happen. This is very important. We all run around doing so many things that we tend to lose track of where each Action Item (personal or professional) is. Ultimately, we end up disappointing people and even worse, disappointing ourselves!

I love my first cup of coffee in the morning (if you are curious, black, with no sugar and no cream) and that is when I reflect. Coffee-lovers, if you have not tried it, try it. It helps that I wake up at around 4-4.30AM and there are no distractions when I do this.

(03) Office Supplies

Disclaimer: I do not work for Office Depot and nor do I get any commission from them.

I am a big fan of PostIts and Notes. With so many events happening in one’s lives (especially with kids), no human being can keep it consistently and safely, all “in the head”. We all need some help in remembering the Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Long-Term Action Items. Now, I do not mean to go to the extent of “Memento” (the movie), or as my friends from India knows, “Ghajni” (the movie), but you will find that a systematic approach to generating, maintaining and destroying notes helps a lot, be in your personal life or professional life.

You get one shot at life. By managing your time, you will be able to milk as much as you can out of it. Now, will Time Management solve all your problems? Nope. But, it will put you in a better position to tackle it.

Note: Suggestions are most welcome. I am still learning.

Adios …

Cruise Tips – Based on our experience …

My family had a very enjoyable, relaxing and safe Cruise with Princess in April 2010. There were no major hitches or issues. Following are some tips, based on our experience, and also based on our specific tastes (so, you might have to adjust them to your specific tastes/likes).

(01) Which Cruise Line?

As you might be aware, Princess, Seabourne, Cunard, Carnival, Holland America etc. are owned by one company! It is all about how these individual corporations are positioning themselves. For e.g. Carnival is all about “fun”. Princess is supposed to be a bit more “high end”, compared to Carnival etc. You can also note that the prices are all roughly the same. I would pick a Cruise line based on (a) Destination (b) Available Dates (c) Cabin Choices (available at the time of booking) (d) The Ship itself (check out its reviews online) (e) Price.

We liked our experience with Princess. As advertised, the staff were very friendly and helpful.

(02) Which is the best Cabin?

Based on insider information (provided by the “Ultimate Ship Tour” guide, Level8, middle cabin, is the best choice. That makes sense to me, since it was the lowest passenger Suite level (the lower, the better from a sea motion standpoint, I would think). Now, even though I booked the Cruise 7 months in advance, I had only a handful of Cabin choices when I booked. The Lesson? Book almost a year in advance! All the suites with balconies sell off fast.

(03) The Shows (Choices! Choices!)

Every Cruise Line will inform the travellers of the major shows on board, ahead of time. That helps. Also, in the case of Princess, we had a Daily Flier, describing all the on-board activities for that day. I.e. all relevant information in one 4-page document. Every morning,Β we used to review this and determine which activities we would do together and which ones we would do separately. I would strongly recommend having a “general outline” for the day. There are bound to be some very interesting events (e.g. History and Culture of the Ports of Call) and you would not want to miss that, in between all the distractions.

(04) Shore Excursions and Kids

If you have kids younger than 3 years, it is a good idea to load up on some easy-to-eat snacks before heading to the shore. My son is a big fan of Fruit Loops (the cereal). I used to have a couple of packets handy (taken from the Ship). Whenever he used to get cranky, I used to pull out the “magic solution” (i.e. Fruit Loops) πŸ™‚ Also, make sure you have some drinking water from the ship. Clean and trust-worthy drinking water could be tough to get in some locations.

(05) Formal Night

We really enjoyed the Formal Night. In my opinion, you should go for it. Dress up, mingle, enjoy! Though you can skip the Formal Night, if thats your inclination, I would not recommend it. That is part of the experience in my opinion.

(06) Shore Excursions and the unavoidable Tourist Traps

Have you ever been on a conducted tour which did NOT stop at some “luxury store” or some such? It is highly unlikely. So, we might as well adjust to it. If what these stores are selling is something you are planning to buy, great! Go for it! I am talking about being in a situation where you are looking forward to an in-depth tour into the History and Culture of a Port and suddenly find yourself in a store selling something you have no interest in. For e.g. what happened to me at Mazatlan. I have nothing against Jewellery. It is just not my passion (Note that I said “my”. It sure is my wife’s passion πŸ™‚ ). For me, an hour in one such store is pure torture. So what I do is to make sure of the available time (at the store) from the Guide and do some short walking around (i.e. exploring) of my own.

While on Shore Excursions, sit as much towards the front as possible. This allows you to hear the Guide better (though there is a mike) and also allows you to interact with them better.

(07) Interior Cabin or Cabin with Balcony?

This is a very important question. As mentioned above, I did not get much of a choice as far as cabins with balconies go. Also, my thinking was that “how much time am I going to spend in the cabin?”. While this is true to a large extent, shelling out the extra $$$ might be a good option in two cases (a) You do not have small kids (who might climb over the railings!) (b) The route is very scenic (e.g. Glaciers of Alaska). Having breakfast on a Balcony, while enjoying a spectacular view, is as MasterCard says, “Priceless!” …

If I were to do it again, I probably would take a Cabin with a Balcony.

(08) Should we take massages and should we splurge on drinks?

This is my philosphy … Play while you play, Work while you work, Enjoy while you enjoy … Well, you get the drift πŸ™‚ A Cruise is meant to be a relaxing vacation. Then, why not really go full tilt? We took massages and we had a lot of drinks. By the by, it might be better to have the massages on your way out as opposed to during the return. This is because, from what I know, the return trip is sometimes done pretty fast and the ship movement is really enhanced. Also, by that time, you would start to feel a bit squeazy.

(09) Events for kids

Please make sure that you arrange atleast one kid-friendly event every day. During our Cruise, Princess Pelicans (the play area for kids 6-9 years old) was a real boon. Our daughter really enjoyed it. For our 2-year-old son, everything was entertaining! It did not take much to keep him entertained.

(10) Ship Tour

After 9/11, Cruise companies are stingy in allowing passengers to attend a Ship Tour (atleast that is what Princess told me). It cost me 150$ for a 3-hour Tour. But it was worth every dollar, in my opinion. Not only do you get to see areas of the Ship which other passengers would not even know about, the guide is a source of all “inside information” and “interesting stories”. Why 150$, I would have paid 300$ for such a Tour. Though they also gave a lot of freebies during the Tour, the main attraction was definitely the experience itself. It was supposedly a “lottery” in Sapphire Princess and I was one of the 6 people in that Tour.

(11) Cuisine and Seating

Regarding the the Cuisine/Food, Danger! Be careful! Else you could easily return with some “extra baggage” πŸ™‚ Try to load up on Fruits as much as possible. My strategy was to have a really heavy breakfast (I love sausages and egg!) and then be on “Cruise Control” the rest of the way … Almost 80% of our meals were at seats near the window. Most of the time, the view was just great. I especially loved having a quiet breakfast (at around 7-7.30AM), while enjoying a view of the sea.

(12) Sea-sickness

The first 6 days were more or less okay. None of us were uncomfortable. The last day was a bit rough. I have two possible reasons for this. (a) The return was done at a much faster pace and the movement was more pronounced (this is my feeling, though I do not have Ship Speed Statistics to back me up πŸ™‚ ) (b) The first 6 days of movement had caught up with us. Anyway, we did not have to use the Sea-Sickness pills I had packed. Kids were fine throughout the Cruise.

(13) Cell Phone

Please make sure that you set it in the right mode (e.g. “Airplane Mode”, on an iPhone). Else, you will have a nice post-Cruise present from the Phone Company πŸ™‚ It is cheaper to fly to a foreign country and talk to the person directly, as opposed to talking to that person using International Rates! πŸ™‚

One final note: Plan in advance, leave sufficient time between flights/buses etc., research a bit on what to expect, keep an open mind, and ENJOY!

Happy Travels!