Managing stud work

I begin this post with an apology. About two years back I’d promised that I won’t write any more on Studs and Fighters on this blog, and I’ll save all that for my forthcoming book. Unfortunately, since then I’ve managed not more than one page of my book, and that too has been in the last couple of weeks. I realize that by not writing about studs and fighters here, I’m losing that perspective of thought entirely, because of which I’ve not been able to write my book.

So, Chom (a friend) raised an important point during a discussion earlier today. He said that people who are studs, after they become “managers” (in which case their job is solely to manage other people. Think of someone like a partner in a consulting firm), start angling for more fighter work for their team.  That they seem to forget all their studness, and assume that all the people they manage are fighters.

I had argued earlier that once the partner of a consulting firm stops doing day-to-day work, the quality of work at the firm suffers. This post is an extension of that. So what Chom says inherently makes sense. Here’s why.

Stud work is risky. There is a good probability that it may not be completed. So when your target changes from the “total impact of work done” to “number of pieces of work successfully completed” the whole equation changes. You are not looking for those “big wins” from your team, any more. What you need from your team is a high rate of delivery, and a large number of projects that are completed. If you get big wins, that is just a bonus. But all you care for now is the number of wins.

So you start taking on more fighter work, and letting go of stud work. After all, it is now rational for you to do that. Your own working style can sit aside.

New York – Food Diary

Ok back to inputs now. I suppose this is much more palatable than outputs. One of the things that I did successfully on this trip to New York was to sample various kinds of cuisines. There were some repetitions, and there was this one particular restaurant I ended up giong to thrice, but overall I had an extremely good culinary experience. I’m writing this in the past tense as I’m on the way out of New York as I write this. I’m at the Emirates Lounge at JFK Airport (more about this in another post).

On most weekdays, breakfast and lunch were at office. There wasn’t much variety in lunch (our cafeteria wasn’t very diverse) so I ended up eating salad on most days. Breakfast I experimented and had a variety of things. Dinner, however, I ate out on all days, and though I couldn’t keep up completetly with my initial aim of a different cuisine each day, I did quite well. One of the reasons for not achieving my “target” was that Battery place, where I was living, wasn’t very well served by restaurants and on several days I put NED to take the train.

There were only 2 days when I didn’t have salad for lunch at the office cafeteria. Two fridays back (8th of Jan) I had some thai vegetables with rice. It was extremely heavy and I had trouble finishing. Oh and one of my regrets of this tour is that I didn’t have a good Thai meal anywhere. Green curry with rice types. Then, today I had mexican rice for lunch at the cafeteria. Rice with beans, roasted sweet corn and lettuce. Was pretty good stuff. Liked it.

Breakfast I tried a variety of stuff. I had “home-style fries” (basically south indian alu fry), scrambled eggs, omlette (really liked the omlettes in my office; had it several times), fruit salad (usually a supplement to other stuff; avocado, kharbuja, strawberries, grapes and pineapple), cream of wheat, oatmeal, etc. I realized how you need to add stuff such as raisins, honey, etc. in order to make oatmeal porridge more palatable, and if you add these stuffs it can be made really tasty while yet being healthy.

Dinner diary:

  • 3rd, 10th Jan: Chipotle mexican grill. Excellent stuff. Had been ages since I’d had Mexican stuff and it was extremely tasty. Highly recommended
  • 4th, 18th, 21st Jan: Alfanoose, Maiden Street, off Broadway. Mediterranean place. Excellent veg platter. One main dish (hummus/baba ganoush/falafel/.. ) with rice or salad, one side dish (chickpeas, tabouli, etc.) and a pita bread. Very filling and very tasty. I also had falafel sandwich as a supplement a couple of times. Excellent again.
  • 5th Jan: Wendy’s Fresh Mex. Right next to my office on Vesey Street. Supposedly authentic Mexican. Maaaajor letdown.
  • 6th Jan: Maoz Vegetarian, near Times square: Hummus-falafel sandwich with unlimited salad helpings. Brilliant. And cheap.
  • 7th Jan: Taj Tribeca, Murray Street. North Indian. Surprisingly excellent. Broke my no-Indian-food policy since some friends wanted to eat there. And it was extremely good.
  • 8th, 15th Jan: Adreinne’s Pizzabar, Stone Street. Bloody brilliant pizza. The Margherita I had on the 15th is the best I’ve EVER had. crunchy thin crust, just the right amount of cheese, etc. Can’t praise it more!
  • 9th Jan: Uncle Nick’s, Hell’s Kitchen. Greek. Had just a starter since it was so heavy. Essentially capsicum bajji with cheese. Decent.
  • 11th Jan: Hangawi, 32nd and 5th. Where else but in New York will you find a Korean Vegetarian place? Insanely brilliant salad and awesome soup. Main course (stonepot rice) wasn’t as good as the starter but ranked high on an absolute scale!
  • 12th Jan: Meskerem, Macdougal Street, Greenwich Village. Ethiopian. Cold dosa with 3 dals, 4 sabjis and one dal-level thing with wine. Pretty good stuff. But bad ambience. Too crowded.
  • 13th Jan: The Hummus Place, opposite Meskerem. Buggers didn’t accept AmEx cards so had to pay in cash. Fawa beans soup, roasted eggplant for starter, some hummus and chickpeas thing for main course nad Turkish coffee. the coffee was absolutely brilliant. Out of the world. Heavily laden with spices and extremely strong.
  • 14th Jan: Capri Caffe, Church Street. Authentic cuisine from the island of Capri. Again main crib is they didn’t take AmEx. Pretty good salad and excellent soup (green peas).
  • 16th Jan: Harrington’s. 31st and 7th. It’s a pub. Had some fried cheese and capsicum for starter. Panini for main course. How good can you expect the food to be in a bar?
  • 17th Jan: Some mexican place in Hell’s Kitchen. Decent but not brilliant. Expensive (ok friend’s wife’s relative paid for it, so I didn’t even expense it! ). No value for money. But excellent dessert (friend’s wife’s relative described it as a liquid Tiramisu – coffee, tequila and whipped cream). And this friend’s wife’s relative (US-settled) was surprised that you get Tiramisu in India!!
  • 19th Jan: The Village Trattoria, Greenwich Village. Lentil soup, bruschetta, some pasta with pesto sauce. Again brilliant. Excellent stuff. And not too expensive.
  • 20th Jan: Ancora Ristorante Italiano: Somewhere near Broad Street. Don’t konw exact address. It’s a high-class looking underground Italian place. Again pretty good. Ok I’ll reclassify that to brilliant.
  • 22nd Jan: Ok this was more of an evening snack preparing for the impending flight. Greek Salad at Cosi’s opposite my office. Excellent.

Ok I suppose I haven’t mentioned the times I ate breakfast or lunch out but it isn’t that significant so I’ll leave it out.


I spent this evening at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). They have this concept of “target free friday nights” where they allow visitors free entry after 4pm on Friday evenings (on Friday alone, the museum is open till 8pm), so I happily went to take advantage of it. It was already 630 by the time I got there and I had to make a pit stop at the museum cafe since I was awfully hungry, yet it allowed me more than sufficient time to inspect all that I had to inspect.

I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of art. It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate art. Just that I don’t have the patience to look at a picture from several thousand angles and make several thousand interpretations and then pass judgment on it. In that sense, for me, art is not like writing, it’s more like the cinema. See it once, form judgment, maybe blog about it and move on. I’m mentioning this here because I don’t want you to form wrong impressions of my while reading this essay.

I had a bit more than an hour to cover the museum and I spent most of my time on the fifth floor, in the “paintings and sculpture 1” section. This had a fair bit of hifunda stuff, but my level of interest in art is such that apart from Picasso, I don’t remember any of the artists’ names. Even if some of these pictures were to be shown to me in some quiz some day I don’t think I’ll recognize them. Some of it was brilliant, though, and I regret not taking along my new camera (I went straight from work). I hope to make amends by taking along my camera when I visit the Metropolitan Museum tomorrow.

I found most of the work underwhelming, though. I felt that this whole idea of “sculpture” is a complete fraud, and the biggest fraud of them all is Marcel Duchamp (no, I didn’t see “fountain” but saw some of his other “artwork”). Looking at everything it felt like I too can assemble a bunch of random objects, call a bunch of brilliant friends and ask them to interpret, and I have a great piece of art! I felt similarly underwhelmed by looking at Piet Mondrion’s paintings. Just felt  like a random collection of lines.

Ok so now I’ve got this fantastic idea – of “art parties”. Basically the hosts have to collect a set of random objects, or draw some random stuff on a canvas and get in a bunch of intellectual friends. Liquor should be served and under the influence of alcohol, the brilliance of the friends will flourish, and important insights about the art will be made! New interpretations will come up, new art will get formed. Then, all guests together create another piece of art, and all together will interpret it. Great art will be produced in copious amounts by this process!

I continued my way downwards through the museum. Nothing else worth of mention here was found. There was some brilliant stuff which I wanted to hang on my walls. There was mostly stuff that I considered ordinary. Oh, and I must mention that the most underwhelming stuff (in my opinion) was in this hall sponsored by Richard S Fuld Jr. Now you know why a certain company went under a year back!

Bangalore Book Festival

So today I made my way to Gayatri Vihar in the Palace Grounds to visit the Bangalore Book Festival, on its last day. It was interesting, though a bit crowded (what would you expect on the last day of an exhibition? and that too, when it’s a Sunday?). I didn’t buy much (just picked up two books) given the massive unread pile that lies at home. However, there was much scope for pertinent observations. Like I always do when I have a large number of unrelated pertinent observations, I’ll write this in bullet point form.

  • There were some 200 stalls. Actually, there might have been more. I didn’t keep count, despite the stalls having been numbered. Yeah, you can say that I wasn’t very observant.
  • All the major bookshops in Bangalore barring the multicity ones had set up shop there. I don’t really know what they were doing there. Or were they just trying to capture the market that only buys in fairs? Or did they set up stall there just to advertise themselves?
  • It seems like a lot of shops were trying to use the fair to get rid of inventory they wanted to discard. All they had to do was to stack all of this on one table and put a common price tag (say Rs. 50) on every book in that collection, and it was enough to draw insane crowds
  • One interesting stall at the fair had been set up by an online self-publishing company. I’ll probably check them out sometime next year when I might want to publish a blook. Seems like an interesting business model they’ve got. Print on demand!
  • I also met the guys at the fair. Once again, they were there for advertising themselves. Need to check them out sometime. Given the kind of books I buy, I think online is the best place to get long tail stuff.
  • There was an incredibly large number of islamic publishing houses at the fair! And have you guys seen the “want qur an? call 98xxxxxxxx for free copy” hoardings all over the city? Wonder why the Bajrang Dal doesn’t target those
  • There was large vernacular presence at the fair. I remember reading in the papers that there was a quota for Kannada publishers, but there was reasonable presence for other languages also, like Gult, Tam, Mellu, Hindi
  • A large number of stalls were ideology driven. Publishing houses attached to cults had set up stalls, probably to further the cause of their own cult. So there was an ISKCON stall, a Ramakrishna Mutt stall, a Ramana Maharshi stall, etc.
  • Attendance at most of these niche stalls was quite thin, as people mostly crowded the stalls being run by bookstores in order to hunt for bargains. Attendance was also mostly thin at publisher-run stalls, making me wonder why most of these people had bothered to come to the fair at all.
  • I saw one awesomely funny banner at the place. It was by “Dr Partha Bagchi, the world leader in stammering for last 20 years” or some such thing. Was too lazy to pull out my phone and click pic. But it was a masterpiece of a banner
  • Another interesting ideological publisher there was “Leftword books”. Their two sales reps were in kurtas and carrying jholas (ok I made the latter part up). And they were sellling all sorts of left-wing books. Wonder who funds them! And they were also selling posters of Che for 10 bucks each
  • I wonder what impact this fair will have on bookstores in Bangalore in the next few days. Or probably it was mostly the non-regular book buyers who did business at the fair and so the regulars will be back at their favourite shops tomorrow.

I bought two books. Vedam Jaishankar’s Casting A Spell: A history of Karnataka cricket (I got it at Rs. 200, as opposed to a list price of Rs 500) and Ravi Vasudevan’s “Making Meaning in Indian Cinema”.