Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dubai - The land of the biggest, tallest, flashiest

Dubai is definitely the land of extravaganza. From Burj Al Arab - the 7 star hotel, to Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world, from Palm Jumeirah - the man made archipelago housing the most expensive residences & resorts to Dubai Mall - the largest shopping mall in the world, from Ski Dubai - the indoor ski report to Dune-Bashing as part of the desert safari... you can experience it all.

Burj Khalifa: At the top 
Level 148 of Burj Khalifa is definitely the place to be at sunset time. The view of the city below just before sunset and then to watch the Dubai skyline light up after dark is a beautiful experience. .
The road outside The Dubai Mall
View from Level 148 of Burj Khalifa
Burj Al Arab on the left & the silhouette of The Palm 

The Atlantis at the end of The Palm

After dark, the view right down below
Blue areas are the man made lakes for the Dubai Fountains
The roads seem never ending 
Burj Khalifa just before dark
Burj Khalifa all lit up

Dubai Fountains:
Having seen the beauty of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas, I was very excited to see the Dubai Fountains as they are both made by the same company. One thing is to witness Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall lit up at night, with this in the background to have the roaring fountains reach the sky with the roaring music is just an experience that must be had. Standing at different points, you get different views of the fountain.  

The way to experience the Dubai Marina is to take an evening stroll, walking along the restaurants, watching yachts and private boats. The other fun way to experience it during the day is The Yellow Boats. A 90 min speed boat ride going from the marina along the outer edge of Palm Jumeriah. The skipper speeds across the bumpy waves and stops in front of the Atlantis, Burj Al Arab and will tell you interesting stories about each of the landmarks. 
On the way back you will also see where The Dubai Eye is being constructed. Once completed, it will be the largest Ferris Wheel in the world, bigger than the London Eye.

Cayan Tower - The twisted building on the left
Burj Al Arab shaped like a sail against Jumeirah Hotel shaped like a wave
Residences and hotels at the Dubai Marina

Desert Safari:
Depending on how adventurous you are you can choose from a variety of activities as part of the desert safari. You have dune bashing, sand surfing, quad biking. In case you are going for the evening safari, you can stay on for from traditional dance and food at the desert camps.

Nothing but sand
The sun went behind clouds instantly changing the colour of the sand
Sunset at Jumeirah beach:
The public beach is just clean and beautiful. The water is so blue and clear. With views like the Burj Al Arab, the Marina and the Atlantis, it is the perfect way to end the day.

The sand structure on the right is a sunset view point
Dubai Marina on the extreme left & Burj Al Arab at the centre
Zooming into the Dubai Marina reflecting the sunlight
Last few glimpses of the sunset
The Atlantis at sunset

Dubai Mall and Mall of Emirates:
You can easily spend an entire day at each of these malls. From the Dubai Aquarium and underwater zoo to Ski Dubai and the ice skating rinks, window shopping across the world's biggest brands to eating at the many culinary outlets.

Gold Souk and Spice Souk:
Visiting old Dubai is like stepping into a completely different world. Array of shops filled with gold, precious stones and diamond jewelry. There can't be any other place on earth where so much gold is displayed all at one place.

Finishing off with the view of the Dubai skyline, shot from the hotel rooftop. What a view!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Superlative of 'Grand'

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The grandeur of this mosque cannot be described in words, it has to be witnessed in person. Other that the massive size of the structure, what stands out is the style of architecture, the intricate designs, the colours and the lighting.

Sunset is probably the best time to visit the mosque. It is such a brilliant feeling to watch the orange-yellow hues of the setting sun reflect on the shiny white marble. After dark, a bluish light is projected on the marble walls while the inner arches are bathed in warm yellow. 

There are three prayer halls, each with a grand chandelier incorporated with Swarovsky crystals. The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the world's largest carpet. 
The pillars outside the prayer halls are built with such beautiful symmetry, one could stand there all night and admire their never ending beauty.  

1. Women visiting this mosque have to follow a strict dress code. Do get additional details before visiting.
2. Tourists need special permission to visit the mosque at sunset time. Your tour guide should be able to arrange for this.

More pictures in my Flickr album here:

A closer look at the domes
View of the main entrance to the Grand Mosque
White marble against the setting sun
Contrasting shades of purple and gold
Such intricate designs. Such lovely colours

Love the symmetry of the main prayer hall
The main prayer hall
See the 3 chandeliers?
Including people here to provide a perspective on the size of the hall
Love the symmetry
Gold against the white against the blue
Yellow arches
Golden light
The crescent moon shines
Perfect touch - The crescent moon adorns the sky

(See the tiny people in the courtyard?)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Joy of Analysing Music

I am taking an online course called Fundamentals of Music Theory on Coursera. This is being offered by the University of Edinburgh.
In the first two weeks, we covered Pitches, Scales, Notes, Modes, Intervals and Clefs (yes, I am showing off :D)
Week three was my first hurdle - Rhythm and its forms. This was more mathematical calculations than music.
Weeks four and five covered Harmonies, Chord Inversions, Cadences... and I was completely lost!

But we had professors like Dr.Zack Moir (@zackmoir) who went to great lengths to support the learning experience. He conducted google hangouts, made additional demo videos based on queries and also interacted with students over social media getting feedback and resolving doubts.

Then came the final exam - Analysing a score.
Here I was, just beginning to learn to read notes and now I had to analyze a composition and that too one by Mozart. I had no clue where to begin. Some of the more experienced students (there were over 80,000 who were taking this course) provided guidance on how to approach this task.

I took a printout of the score and started writing down all the notes. Since this was a Quartet (composition performed with four voices/instruments) each bar had notations for two Violins, a Viola and a Cello.
I did not know before this that Cello was the abbreviation for Violonchelo or Violoncello. This was another #TIL moment for me.

After almost eight hours of pouring over the notes, the chords and the melody... when I listen to this performance it is all starting to make sense [video up to 03:09].

Until now, not knowing the theory behind music compositions, the only things that caught my attention were the harmonies and the accidental notes that made the melody more interesting. But now, understanding the theory (though to a very small extent) I am beginning to appreciate classical compositions even more.

I am so glad that we have #Coursera and other #MOOCs providing such great learning opportunities. #FTW

*** For someone (read Mozart) to have composed this music at the age of sixteen is beyond genius***

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Hong Kong - Skyscrapers

Here are photos from a recent trip to Hong Kong. My experiences included viewing the brilliant HK skyline full of skyscrapers, cable-cars rides through misty mountains, dolphin spotting in the sea, roller-coasters and other rides, tramways over 120 years old and wading through the endless streets of malls and shopping markets.

Initial photos from the airport.

Lines & Intersections - Airport ceiling design

The view outside the airport. The clouds add a lot of drama to this picture.

The below set is from The Peak. The observation deck is called Sky Terrace 428, which is 428 meters above sea level and offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the HK skyline. Stayed on a the deck for a few hours in order to capture shots in the sunlight and at dusk. It was rather a cloudy day, the sky wasn't very vibrant except for a touch of pink right before it became completely dark.

On the Kowloon side (beyond the water) you will see ICC (International Commerce Centre) and IFC (International Finance Centre) on the opposite side. These are the tallest buildings in HK and among the tallest in the world as well.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sustaining High Performance

I am really glad that I attended the Sustaining High Performance session facilitated by Shayamal Vallabhjee (@shayamalv) Sports Scientist, EQ Consultant and Motivational Speaker

The anecdotes that he used were so real and impactful, I found the entire session very inspiring. Here are my key takeaways:

1. Focus on your goals:
Know the difference between 'Should get' and 'Must get'. 'Should get' is the perception gained from others on what has to be achieved. 'Must get' is knowing how much to expect from yourself and then achieving it.
Goals have to be based on belief. Belief is measured by the sacrifices you are willing to make in order to achieve the goal. There is no point in having a goal if you are not willing to make sacrifices for it.
Once you identify your goals, quantify the time you want to spend on them. Based on the amount of time you spend, you will receive rewards.

2. Follow through the journey:
"Why does an athlete wake up early every single morning and go for his workout, when he is in the same amount of pain as you are?"

The athlete understands and believes that following this particular path will lead him to success.
You need to understand the process, only then following through the journey will give you the benefits that you seek. In the office environment, understand your role, understand what your managers expect from you, understand what you need to do in order to make progress. Understanding this structure and believing in it will help you follow through your career successfully.

3. Success:
When we are successful at something, we feel happy, we celebrate and then move on. We should take a moment to dwell into the factors that led to the success - what did we do well? what did we do differently? Then applying a similar strategy for other tasks will help sustain success. 

4. Coping with failure: Perseverance is the key
Short story: A man once visiting a zoo noticed that the elephant was standing next to a small gate and looking very sad. The visitor waited for the zoo keeper to come by and asked him why the elephant looked so sad. The zoo keeper explained that the elephant was looking at the forest that was beyond the gate, where the elephant's family was. The elephant was sad because it could not be with its family.
"But the gate is so small. why does the elephant just not push it down and escape to the forest" the visitor asked quite surprised.
To this the zoo keeper replied that the elephant had been in this zoo since it was really small. It had initially tried to push the gate and break it, but it was too small and not strong enough to do it. It had tried a few times and had then given up. Now, though the elephant was much larger and stronger, it still did not try to push the gate. It had stopped trying such a long time back, that it did not realize its own strength.

5. Stress:
When we are stressed, the body produces Adrenaline. The normal reaction to Adrenaline is called Fight or Flight. Back when man had to go hunting for food, the main reason for Adrenaline was an animal attack. The immediate response to that was to either fight the animal or run away.
In the office environment we can neither fight or run away, so we suppress our feelings. This is harmful. Exercising/Working out is a proven stress buster.

6. Relationships are forged in the heat of the battle:
How you react in a stressful situation impacts everyone around you. Putting your best self forward in such a situation forges strong relationships - be it with your team, your family or friends.

7. Fitness:
There is a direct correlation between fitness and focus/productivity. If the body is not fit, the mind will not be able to focus and it will impact your productivity.

8. Nutrition:
Eat at regular intervals. When this does not happen, the brain is not conditioned to burn calories. Instead, it stores it up in the body not knowing when nutrition will be received next.

9. Unwind - Do things that make you happy:
We tend to put off things that we know will make us happy. Take a minute to consider your life expectancy, how many years have passed, how many years are left.
When we look at it this way, it will increase the urgency in us and we will start making time for things that we have always wanted to do.

10. Emotional Quotient:
It is important to understand your range of emotions. At one end of the spectrum you have extreme stress and at the other end you have extreme happiness. Peace lies somewhere in between. On this spectrum, understand where you perform at your best. Some people thrive under stress, others when they are happy. Understand what works for you.
When you are in a difficult situation, visualize the image of a perfect moment, the happy place where you feel most comfortable. The more real the visualization, the quicker you will spring back to being yourself and focusing on what to do next.

11. Five Bs of High Performance:
Body - Health, confidence and hard work
Belief - Believe in yourself and your strengths
Balance - Between work and life
Basics - Get your basics right and keep it simple
Blame (or the lack of it) - Champions accept accountability. This is what drives them to make a change for the better.

Difference between Amateurs and Pros - Amateurs practice till they get it right. Pros practice till they can't get it wrong

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Park Bench

I watched from this corner, as you slowly walked in
Finding a lonely spot, with your books you settled in
Not once you lifted your head up, a shy girl I thought
I maintained my distance, for solitude's what you sought

The next time that you came by, you were wearing indigo
I remember this very clearly, for face was aglow
You smiled at passers-by and waved at the playing kids
You skipped along the garden path, I waited by the bridge

Spring-time a few years later, flowers were in full bloom
You strolled hand-in-hand with a man, your lover I assumed
I saw that you adored him, I saw how much he cared
Happy I was for both of you, you seemed the perfect pair

I didn't see you much after that, I learnt you'd become his wife
I missed seeing your pretty face, I hoped that you were alright
Many seasons came and went, others' stories I saw unfold
From where I stood and watched, not much remained untold

This gloomy Winter morning, it's as cold as it can get
Thick fog shrouds the park, through it I see your faint silhouette
As you come closer, I see you're all alone
Your pace is slow, there's such sadness, more than your eyes are willing to show

You sit down here beside me, I wish I could reach out and hug
I wish I could hold you in my arms, give you warmth and comfort
I wish I could speak to you and let you know I am your friend
I wish I could do something, but I am just an empty park bench

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Karthigai Deepam