While visiting Washington DC earlier this week, we decided to go hiking at one of the nearby national parks. A uniquely American experience, I would strongly recommend taking a hike in any of the national parks. Americans make it a great marketing experience with big support to any visitors – they have a nice visitor centre with all amenities and officers on hand to explain everything about the park.
We chose to visit the Catoctin Mountain Park some 50 miles outside of Washington DC, in Thurmont Maryland, because it was a bit closer than the original selection of the Blue Ridge mountain, and had easier treks for the first time visitors. The drive itself was smooth with much less traffic than we had anticipated, and we reached the Catoctin Mountain Park in about an hour and fifteen minutes. My daughter mentioned that this was a smaller park in terms of area allocated due to its vicinity to Camp David with its high security. You can take a look at the following websites Catoctin Mountain Park and National Park Foundation – Catoctin Mountain Park
The officer at the visitor centre of the park took time to explain the various possibilities for trekking at the park, he also suggested we do the Cunningham Falls trail loop which will be a 2.8 mile round trip, followed by a visit to the Blue Ridge Summit via the Hog Rock. The map provided by him was helpful in understanding the route. We got ready for the trek and went into the dense park of tall trees with cool weather despite the blazing sun outside. It took all of around 2 hours for visiting Cunningham Falls at the end of this trail and return to the visitor centre.
On a scale of 1 to 5, probably this trek would rate at a less than moderate 2 in terms of difficulty. Mostly flat, with some climbing and ground undulations, combined with crossing some fallen trees, made it an interesting though not tough trek. I was wondering if I should have brought my Merrell shoes from Singapore – on this trip I was just wearing the usual walking/running shoes which do not provide good grip while walking on gravel. I have always had problems while coming down from an elevation, as I tend to slip on the gravel; further, going down causes strain on the knees.
The visitor centre brochures covered one dreadful aspect of the trek into this park which is the potential for catching Lyme disease which is an infectious disease caused by ticks. We were a bit scared after reading the printed material, but then chose to proceed anyway. You can read about this disease at Lyme disease .
It was good fun and is a nice bonding time with the family. When I was unstable at some point, my son would stand ready at my back to steady me and make me all right. There were many photo opportunities on the way and at Cunningham Falls. It was a good experience and we all liked the park and its trail that we undertook.
I kept talking to my family about how well the U.S. is organized in terms of infrastructure, provision of assistance (like the visitor centre), the helpful indicators provided while navigating the park, the interest that they create in children and also adults about the importance of such recreational activities (the visitor centre was full of young children when we visited), and the whole approach towards dealing with citizens/visitors which is imbued with a marketing flavour.
I believe that this is what we lack in many other parts of the world, and especially in India. There is rarely such guidance, infrastructure or marketing provided by the governments in many countries which probably have equally beautiful national parks or forests.
In any case, we decided to have such a national park hiking expedition during every visit to the U.S. or Canada in future.
Hopefully, you folks who are reading this post, will also love trekking and take a hike soon!
30th June 2017
When I go for a walk, I invariably run into folks who (a) do not keep to their lane (!); and, (b) are totally immersed in the screen of their smartphone. There are also folks who are lost in music from their iPhones (which is fine), but keep to their lane and are not looking at their smartphones, which is fine.
When I run into these kind of people, I wonder what they do. If going for a walk in a nature reserve or a park means something to an individual, he or she should focus on that activity and not continue to be enslaved by digital devices. If their focus continues to be on their smartphones, then they will lose the advantage of enjoying the natural surroundings while walking or running. The ability to see and imbibe one’s surroundings is one of the key benefits of going for a nature walk as compared to the usual gym treadmill run.
The number of youngsters who remain engrossed with their smartphones or keep talking to someone they know over their phones, surprises me. They are all completely oblivious to their surroundings and are taken in by someone at a distance. They miss out on the glorious sunrise, the lake view which unfolds right in front of them, the wooden walkway which opens up ahead of them, the other folks who run side by side and say “good morning” sometimes. Is it not a pity?
Yes, it is.
I believe that we have all become slaves to our smartphones, and are dependent on the same for news, messages, facebook posting, instagram, chats, email, calendar, facetime, skype, and what not. Since the applications are universal, it does not take much effort from a third party to be able to reach out to an individual walking or jogging in a park. I have often seen people chatting over facetime with their friends or children while I went for a morning walk.
Even older generation is susceptible to this fad, as their children sync up with them better if smartphone and apps on the same are used as a preferred method of communication.
No wonder that social media has become a rage across the teenager and twenty something communities around the world. We are all forced to partake, as no one wishes to be left out.
However, as I alluded to above, it is sometimes better to leave behind the phone and get connected with other people in a fact-to-face fashion. There is more meaning to that kind of interaction, than just a simplistic chat message, or a facebook post. People react more warmly and with lot of candour when there is a direct physical conversation, with eyes locking with each other.
But then the world has changed, right?
It is no longer a simplistic world, it is a much more complex world. There is no time for a casual sit-down coffee chat, which is more healthy and open.
Well, we have to deal with the new world for sure, but let us make an attempt to do what we all did in our young age – go to a park, run around, swing on the swing, laugh, and interact with other kids or people around. Don’t keep looking at your phone all the time. Sometimes, it is better to leave the phone behind at home, which is what my wife does all the time when we go for a joint walk.
It is infinitely better to have a face-to-face conversation with a continuous eye-lock. Think about it, and you will realise how much you miss it these days – whether with your spouse, friend, relative, or office colleague. Everybody seems to be so highly “automated”!!!
Let us go back in time. And see how much more meaningful life was.
4th February 2017
I have been walking almost every day even before Fitbit arrived a couple of years ago. I probably walked some 8,000 steps or so every morning without counting the steps, always wanting to measure and walk for atleast 2.5 KMs every early morning.
This had been going on for a long time.
But then, Fitbit arrived. And, many other copy cats also arrived. The Apple Health app arrived recently (may be some six months ago, cannot recall). More advanced measuring devices in the form of watches arrived in the market, but Fitbit retained its first mover hold on the market. That is what I think even today, though I am tempted by few other devices which I will talk about soon.
I started using Fitbit only very recently – from October 2016 onwards. I became a very loyal follower of the Fitbit revolution. I set a target of 8,500 steps for a typical day but then I was doing somewhere around 14,000 steps per day, the intent being to reach close to 100,000 steps for a typical week. Then, I marginally increased the weekly target to 105,000 steps which translated to an average of 15,000 steps per day. I thought this will be a good goal to achieve every day and every week, and it was going on for several weeks in this fashion. When I fall behind during a particular day, I always made up the very next day, and in the worst case, during the ensuing weekend, so that the total could always reach the weekly target. I found it difficult to reach the daily target especially when I travelled, as I do not like going to hotel gyms and running on the treadmill due to potential knee problems, so I was forced to walk within my hotel room and the hotel corridors, and sometimes on the road in front of the hotel, all the time looking at my smartphone to ensure that there was a reasonable “performance”. Ha Ha Ha !!!
I formed a group of like-minded folks on the Fitbit community (some 12 guys in the group, which I am trying to expand now), and loved when the app allowed me to “cheer”, “taunt” or message any specific guy. While things were progressing well, one of my colleagues talked to me about “setting” a new weekly target. I thought, may be 125,000 steps will be good, but then he suggested 150,000 steps which translated to more than 21,000 steps per day which was a 40% increase over what I was then doing every day!
I accepted the new goal, and then achieved the figure every day and for every week I achieved the total of 150,000 steps. Please note that the weekly figure is a cumulative figure for the past 7 days, which means you have to perform well every day – no excuse. This has been going on for the past few weeks, but then my colleague said he wanted to increase the target to 190,000 steps.
I said “no” to that new target, I told him it would be unreasonable and taxing on the body. He went ahead anyway, I have not seen him achieve that new figure on any day yet (for the previous 7 days as a cumulative total), but then he did achieve cumulative figures like 175,000 steps for a couple of days. He always maintained his total well above 160,000 steps – almost 23,000 steps a day!
But then, I reasoned that consistency and body comfort are more important in this exercise. Consistency means the ability to achieve the figure of around 21,000 steps a day every day, and then a cumulative total of 150,000 steps every day for the past 7 days, in an orderly fashion without negative deviation. I achieved the figures every day for the past 3 weeks or so in a consistent fashion.
“Body Comfort” means an assessment of whether one’s body, especially the legs, calves, ankles, thigh muscles, etc., are able to perform without any discernible pain. Though I did not have any pain for 9 out of 10 days, I did have occasional muscle pain just above the knees and I was able to address the same by resorting to “pain relieving patch” from Hisamitsu Pharma of Japan (the brand is “SALONPAS 30 HOT”, which was very effective). I do not need it anymore, as I have no pain for the past 10 days or so, but I keep this stuff at home, just in case……..
So, on both counts – “performance consistency” and “body comfort” aspects – I decided that my own best performance would not exceed the above figures, irrespective of other Fitbit group users’ performance. I also devised a mechanism of achieving the daily figures in an easy manner – before 8 AM every day, I would reach 10,000 steps; before 2 PM, I would do another 5,000 steps by doing several things – like doing most of my phone calls by walking around a conference room, walking a fairly decent distance to reach the lunch place and walking back, etc., The balance of 6,000 steps I would do anytime between 6 and 10 PM, probably around home area. In the back of my mind, the Fitbit challenge always exists every day, that I need to drive myself to achieve my targets for the day – a daily stepping figure of 21,000 steps and a daily cumulative total of 150,000 steps for the previous 7 days.
I also noticed that I was averaging between 14 and 15 KMs of walking everyday, that translated to a weekly total of close to 100 KMs and a monthly total of 400 KMs. Imagine, I could achieve somewhere in the region of 4,500 KMs in a typical year just by walking around!!!
Amazing, isn’t it? But more work is required in terms of developing strong muscles, and I will write about the same in a subsequent post.
In the meanwhile, “keep walking” with a performance target that you could consistently achieve while enjoying body comfort.
8th January 2017
Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate
One Night 4 college students were playing till late night and could not study for the test which was scheduled for the next day.
In the morning they thought of a plan. They made themselves look dirty with grease and dirt. They then went up to the Dean and said that they had gone out to a wedding last night and on their return the tire of their car burst and they had to push the car all the way back and that they were in no condition to appear for the test.
So the Dean said they could have the re-test after 3 days. They thanked him and said they would be ready by that time.
On the third day they appeared before the Dean. The Dean said that as this was a Special Condition Test, all four were required to sit in separate classrooms for the test. They all agreed as they had prepared well in the last 3 days.
The Test consisted of 2 questions with a total of 100 Marks.
See Below for the question Paper:
Q.1. Name of the car??
……….. ………… ……… (2 MARKS)
Q.2. which tire burst? (98 MARKS)
a) Front Left b) Front Right
c) Back Left d) Back Right
True story from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay…. a world class Technology university located in Mumbai, India.
Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate
8th January 2012
Reno in Nevada State of the U.S. is for the outdoor lovers.
I met several people whose passion revolved around trekking, hiking, skiing, and probably hunting !
Reno is surrounded by beautiful mountain range, which leads up to Lake Tahoe at 6,200 feet. I had the opportunity to visit this famous lake as well, and I will publish the write-up and photos in a separate blog post.
Last weekend, we went hiking in the hills around here (not far from the hotel where I was staying). The air was crisp and cold (around 10 degrees C at 10 AM), and quite refreshing. Since there was no humidity, there was no problem walking for a long distance – the only challenge was going up the hill on the narrow trails (and sometimes, there was no trail whatsoever).
Though a bit strenuous, I enjoyed the hiking – especially when you are with great friends, it is a pleasure to engage in a joint activity like this – and took in the views of the Reno city from afar. There were a number of houses built on the slopes of the hill – big and expensive, I was told.
We walked up some 300 feet, enjoyed our break-time conversations, and then walked back. Walking down a hill is a bit tough, but this hill was not that hard. I was told sometimes there could be some animals around here – like a huge cat, may be cheetah – but they do not come around when there are groups of people.
The whole experience was fantastic, and we reached back to our car without a sweat (!), after some 90 minutes or so. Such outdoor experience is difficult to get in the metro cities of India – we have to drive quite far to get a similar experience in the hills of Lonavala for example (near Mumbai).
The weather has worsened in terms of temperature now – dropping to negative 5 deg C today. Probably today was the coldest day during my stay here at Reno. But, still enjoyable to walk around if you protect with some heavy winter clothing ! Not as severe as the North-Eastern states of the U.S.
14th December 2012
It was another shameful display of lousy cricket at its nadir by India at the Perth Test Match against Australia. India lost by more than an innings. Having lost the Melbourne and Sydney Tests, India has lost the series 0-3. It is more or less clear that Australia will decimate India in the last Test at Adelaide.
India has come out as a cropper in this Series against Australia. Before the Series started it was the Australian Team which was in a disarray, and was expected not to do well even by Australians. But look at what they have achieved. Huge hits against the Indians.
It was funny that at my gym, no one was interested to see the Star Cricket Channel which was showing the match live. Everyone in India seems to have correctly guessed that India was going to be thrashed. And it was thrashed.
What happened to the Indian Captain’s famed leadership skills ? What happened to the formidable batting lineup that the Australians were worried about ? What happened to the fabulous skills of the Team Selectors who seem to have gone into the cold ? What happened to the famous coach of the Indian Cricket Team ?
To add insult to the injury, the Indian Captain MS Dhoni was fined for slow delivery of overs by the International Cricket Council. What a shame ?!
It is time to replace the aging batsman irrespective of any national or international record requirements. What is needed is a fresh lineup, dominated by strong batsmen, and development of pace bowlers. We need a young team, a team which would fight aggressively and vigorously for Indian success.
We don’t have that spirit in the current Team, notwithstanding their past successes. True success becomes enduring and sustainable in the longer term if the team is constantly assessed and rejuvenated without fear or favour. The only thing that should matter is India’s success and ascendancy to the top of the world cricketing league.
The current team cannot deliver and should be dismissed (selectively). Only the right guys should be retained and put through a rigorous training programme. It is not necessary to drive the team constantly through non-stop matches.
Let money not be the motivator of the Indian Cricket Team or the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) any longer.
15th January 2012
India recently concluded the Formula 1 Grand Prix successfully at Noida near Delhi. It was a grand success and went without a hitch. The racing circuit was endorsed by the key global racers as one of the best in the world.
While there are debates raging between the opposing camps – one which says it is a gross misuse of funds with no clear return on investment, and the other which says that India has truly arrived in the world’s premier sporting event – it is very evident from the success that private entrepreneurship is far better than government execution.
That statement is mostly true around the world. One reason which comes up clearly on the surface is that any government is not really geared towards running a business, or a sporting event for that matter. Governments around the world have mostly withdrawn from owning direct responsibility of running a business enterprise, though many might still have a controlling interest in several large enterprises. How can we expect to run a manufacturing industry, or a business using the services of government bureaucrats. I believe even public sector enterprises in India (majority-owned by Government of India through one of its ministries) should have at least a 50% representation by independent directors on their boards of directors. In some cases, it is not even 20%. We can all see the mess in Air India (now called “Indian”) – the flagship airlines of India owned by the government. Examples abound. Even in the sports arena, the world saw the Common Wealth Games (CWG) scandals in India last year: though the event itself happened without much of a problem, the corruption scandals tarnished the image of the Indian Government and the CWG institution.
In the case of Formula 1, the entire execution was by a private sector company, which obtained the license to run the Grand Prix from the Formula 1 Organizers, and the much-needed land from the Uttar Pradesh State Government (Noida is part of the state). There are several arguments in the Indian media that the company will not be able to recover the investment even after many years, and given the poor mindset on maintenance, the circuit would be wasted away in due course of time. What is the point in building such an expensive circuit, when it is going to be used just for a few days in a year ? Etc., etc.,
But the key point, Indians need to be proud, and there are very few things today that they can be proud of. When such a small city state as Singapore can host the Night Grand Prix so successfully for the past few years in the middle of its dense city, can India, a country of such vast proportions stand up and execute an ambitious project without corruption and with such perfection ? Yes, it can do so, if the executors are left to use their business sense and capabilities without unnecessary bureaucratic intervention.
Well, we can also argue till the cows come home, whether it was worthwhile to spend so much on an “elite” sport which very few people in the country understand or want to be involved in. Good question. Yes, most of even middle class must have come to know about the fact that a Grand Prix Formula 1 race is being held in India, only a few days before the event actually took place. One can also say that only the rich and famous, and the Bollywood celebrities were involved, and they were the only faces focused upon in the extensive media coverage last weekend. Yes, agreed on all the above counts. But all these observations do not detract from the excellent execution of a world-class project by private enterprise in India, and the Government of India would do well to learn from this experience and institute more public-private partnership events and enterprises to enhance the competitiveness of India on the global scene.
That would be a show-stopper, sorry, ground-breaking development in the long socialistic history of Independent India. It is not socialism, it is not capitalism, but it is “economic” partnership for ensuring the future of India.
6th November 2011