Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

Planning a Dream Trip via Skyscanner: Japan

After completing my Euro trip, I have been eying to visit Japan since long. It is like a dream – you board a flight and woosh – you’re transported to a completely new culture. Murakami and Guy Kawasaki have long since beckoned me with their works. It doesn’t help that Japan is land of samurais, geishas, mountains, bentos, castles, mountains, temples, shikansens, onsens, kabuki, ikebana, shiatsu, takarazuka revue, zen and zazen.

But hey, it’s Japan that means no communication in English, and it means completely different food for a veggie like me – so you need better preparation. Much better preparation than that I had needed for Europe. But first one must get basics right – visa, travel tickets, hotels and then one can spend time to plan more intricately.

First question that comes in mind: which is the best city to enter Japan – Tokyo, Nara, Kyoto, Sapporo, Okinara, Hokkaido? More clearly, which place has the cheapest flights? Even though I hadn’t made up my mind if I would visit Okinara and islands or Hokkaido, I was sure I would visit Tokyo in my first visit.

Japan is expensive. If not careful, you would go over budget in a blink and that is one thing that can cramp the pleasure of travelling. And in that planning the trip via Skyscanner was a lifesaver.

Picture12

The first search in skyscanner made clear that Tokyo was cheapest way to enter Japan compared to other Japanese cities. Another search confirmed that I wasn’t saving any money by catching a flight to Tokyo from let’s say Mumbai. Bangalore was as good place as any to start the journey.

Picture1

Cheapest flight is to Tokyo

So, that’s decided I  time I visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima  (all are close to Tokyo); Okinara, Mt Fuji and Hokkaido will have to wait for next time. I planned for 10 days in  December, a month when I always try to visit a new place, a personal ritual. Skyscanner was obviously a best choice since it scans all flight sites such as expedia, makemytrip, cleartrip, ibibo etc for best deals – hence, it is a lifesaver.

Picture2

Flight to be booked to Tokyo in December

Picture3

Bangalore-Tokyo flight – cheapest one available on the day

The Tokyo plan is roughly like this:

Motto: Have fun, live in bit relaxing luxury and do bit different things.

  1. Shiastu treatment
  2. Eat an izakaya (A buffet with both Japanese and Asian-Western fusion dishes all at a very affordable price)
  3. Geisha dress up, it happens in both Tokyo and Kyoto. (Tho I have never aspired to dressup in Indian tourist places such as Kashmir, HP)
  4. Watch kabuki and geisha dances
  5. Helicopter cruising from Tokyo bay at night
  6. Day trip to Nara – JR train or a bus will suffice. To be decided later.
  7. Trip to Onsen (steam bath) – since I am going in December, imagine the pleasure of onsen in snow-capped places. Bliss.

Here is more of Tokyo in pictures: http://www.skyscanner.net/news/tokyo-pictures

Next stop – Hiroshima

I don’t like my holidays to be too packed. Plus they say some people have a trip in Japan going in and out of trains. So I thought I would deviate from the norm and use a flight for this trip. Faster as well. Skyscanner helped again. 🙂

Picture4

Tokyo to Hiroshima flight – 1.5 hrs

After going through usual sites like Peace Park, memorial etc in Hiroshima, I head to Kyoto, by JR rail this time, which I have been ignoring. I should utilise my week rail pass that I intend to buy. (I tried car hire from Hiroshima to Kyoto using skyscanner before I remembered I didn’t have a driver’s license.)

Picture5Next stop – Kyoto

Two of the key things to do in Kyoto was to go to green tea picking and visit Takarazuka theatres. (Google for more info please).

Hotel bookings

Since all major flight travel bookings were done, I then turned my attention to booking hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. This was another easy job with Skyscanner as it has at its disposal LOT of options from various sites. At Skyscanner, I can search hotel results using filters such as popularity, price, stars and name. I checked these three factors when booking a hotel: location, price and reviews. At the end of the day, I was happy that I had found reasonably priced, good hotels!

Picture11

I booked hotels based on three key factors: Location, price and ratings

(See the highlighted tab in the first screenshot)

Hiroshima

Picture6

Easy hotel search at Skyscanner.com

Kyoto

Picture7

Hotel chosen at Kyoto – fast, reliable search

Actual hotel screenshots from the original site where you’ve to book. Nice place, isn’t it?

Picture8

Actual site where you can book the hotel in advance without any cancellation charges. Booking.com has been my favorite site. Glad, skyscanner scans along with hundreds of others!

Tokyo

Picture9

Finally the Tokyo hotel – not so expensive but good ratings!

And then back to Tokyo via JR rail to catch flight homeward. Sounds like a dream plan? To me, it is. 🙂

Total cost of trip

  1. Flights: 46, 483/- + 21, 809/- = 68292/-
  2. Hotels: Hiroshima: 2795/- + Kyoto: 4603/- + Tokyo: 8709/- = 16097/-

Total: 84394/-

(I still have 15k spare for other things and accommodate last minute travel plan changes.)

A sweet glimpse of this dream trip:

Picture10

May this dream come true. Amen!

(This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at BlogAdda.com)

Avant Garde Bloggies Awards’ 09: Winners

And the Winners and Runner-ups for Avant Garde Bloggies Awards are:

1.1 Best short story post



Winner: A true story of love (A candle burnt on 26/11/09)
Author: Lemonytree
Runner up: Of Hands That Held and Promises Not Kept
Author: Chandni

1.2. Best off-beat post

Winner: Draupadi, Sita and Helen of Troy
Author: Indian Homemmaker
Runner up: Yuva Dares to Bring Open Closet
Author: Sam

1.3. Best Book Review post



Winner: Book Review: “Bitter Chocolate – Child Sexual Abuse in India” by Pinki Virani
Author: Kiran Rao
Runner up: The Case of Missing Servant
Author: Smita

1.4. Best Movie Review post

Winner: Wake Up Sid Movie Review
Author: Partha Pratim
Runner up: Kurbaan
Author: Sahil Rizwan

1.5. Best Music Review post

Winner: Share a Tune: Inspired Music in Indian Films
Author: Gauri
Runner up: Rahman Unseen
Author: Shruthi

1.6.Best How-to post

Winner: How to Make Girlfriend
Author: DesiNinja
Runner up: Taking control of your inbox: Inbox Zero
Author: Vaibhav Gadodia

1.7. Most interesting personal rant post

Winner: Saala Ek Machchar Aaadmi Ko
Author: Sourabh Biswas
Runner up:
5 Reason Why I am more miserable than Dilbert
Author: Prateek Gupta

1.8.  Most Humorous post

Winner: We are Indians and so is Our English
Author: Gauri
Runner up:
1 Socialite, 1 Entrepreneur and 1 Software Engineer
Author: Abhiskek Iyengar

1.9. Best Satirical post

Winner: Driving in Delhi
Author: Amreekandesi
Runner up: The Undibloggies awards – the Indibloggies for the rest of us
Author: Neo Indian

1.10. Best travel post

Winner: London Files
Author: Parul
Runner up:
When I Saw God in Valparai…
Author: Radha

1.11. Best visual post

Winner: I Love My India
Author: Swaram
Runner up:
I Am Going On A Short Break
Author: Sakshi

1.12. Best culinary post

Winner: Gulab Jamun Recipe for Indian Cooking
Author: Srivalli
Runner up:
Not so Boring Potato
Author:
Gunjaish

1.13. Best consumer rights post

Winner: Who is Ripping and Cheating?
Author: Madhurie Singh
Runner up: Net Neutrality and Indians
Author: Indyeah

1.14. Best Poetry post

Winner: Ode to My Once Slim Waist
Author: Ritu
Runner up: For Brave Lady
Author: Suranga

1.15. Best tech post


Winner: Analyzing Twitter Lists-Follower Ratio As An Indicator Of Influence
Author: Mahendra
Runner up: 8 Google Wave plugins you must try when you get an account
Author: Dinsan

1.16. Best public interest post

Winner: In Silence I Suffer Hidden Hurt
Author: Tikuli
Runner up: Sex Education Has Nothing to Do with Blue Films
Author: Indian Homemaker

1.17. Best Personal post


Winner: If I Knew What I Know Now
Author: Minal
Runner up: Slumdogs. White Tigers. Indians.
Author: Amit

1.18. Best 55er post


Winner: Caught in Her Own
Author: Shilpa Garg
Runner up: Her Fault
Author: Shail

1.19. Most Evocative Post on Parenting


Winner: Three Generations
Author: Mad Momma
Runner up: I want I want I want
Author: Kiran/Karmic Kids

Blog awards

2.1. Most Beautiful Header award

Winner: Sahil Rizwan (Designed by Ashwin Chandran)
Runner up: Monika Manchanda – Mommy Blog

2.2. Most interesting sidebar award

Winner: Indimag
Runner up: Psych Babbler
and Indian Homemaker (IHM)

2.3. Best “About me” page award

Winner:
Amreekan Desi
Runner up: Vivek

2.4. Best blog design award

Winner: MayG and UTP
Runner up: Smita and Psych Babbler

2.5. Best Professional Blogger

Winner: The HR Store
Runner up: Rupa Rajgopalan

2.6. Most Disciplined blogger

Winner: Madhurie Singh
Runner up: Vimal

2.7. Most Networking blogger

Winner: Vimal (V-Lokam)
Runner up: Dhiren

2.8. Most Responsive Blogger

Winner: Vimal and Madhurie Singh
Runner up: Swaram

Congratulations to all the winners! With this we pull down the curtain on Avant Garde Bloggies Awards 2009.

P.S: 1. All the Avant Garde badges have been designed by Chirag, Dinsan and Sakshi.

2. Avant Garde Blog is public now. You can check the voting percentages of each category there.

Avant Garde Bloggies Awards: Results and More Light

The Avant Garde Bloggies Awards have concluded finally. I am aware I tried your patience a lot. (I have a self-deprecating, wry smile on my face now.) I apologize only for that: delay and inability to update as much as possible.

The results will be published on Monday.  You will also be able to see the percentages of votes case in favour of each candidate on the Avant Garde Bloggies Blog when the blog will be made public again on Monday.

There, the main objective of this post is done. Now is the time to express more about on motivations that led to Avant Garde and the thoughts behind it.

I started Avant Garde only because there was no measurable, prestigious, fair way of awarding blog posts. Every award seemed to be out of appreciation by a friend, rather than excellence. Awards are big motivation, as I know firsthand. And I decided if I am to reciprocate or hand out awards, I have to do it fairly, ingeniously, in a way every one gets to have their say. Readers of blog have their say. And yet, only excellence is awarded.

Avant Garde Bloggies Awards had three stages and each one had a thought behind them. It is a pity that I never took out time to explain these to my readers, or if I did, it didn’t really reach all my readers. Maybe I should blame my publicist, Nikhil, for it. 😛 (I know you refuse to believe, but Avant Garde had a professional-blogger publicist.) But better late than never. Plagued by few unseen challenges, I think it’s time I explain my thoughts. I owe the readers and participants an explanation.

Stage 1: Nominations were made by readers who liked a particular post and also author could nominate themselves. I realised most people (Ok, I amend that to ‘several’) were hesitant to nominate themselves. But reasoning behind the ‘self-nomination’ was that this award was for a post and not a blog. Who better than the author of the blog knows about his/her best work? Who else, indeed?

Plus, in case of a popular blog, which was nominated by more than 2 readers, it was the nomination by the author of the blog that was considered as final.

Also, this time around, there were restrictions that same blog cannot be nominated in more than three categories. Multiple nominations by same author in a category were not allowed. Yet most people did not pay heed to rules (but there were some who did, thank you to them), as a result the nomination list could not be compiled simultaneously. Most volunteers on the Scrutinizing Committee later had tough time finishing the task due to this reason. Unlike the last time where a list was ready to be scrutinized by them, now they had to first compile the list, and then sort by title, category and author.

[This is why it took about a month to put up a list of final nominations after pruning the 700+ entries we received. I shudder to think what would have had these folks not divided task amongst themselves: Dhiren, Vee, Vimal, Smita, Gaurav and Jaslene. Like me, Avant Garde was not their primary or even secondary vocation in life after our gruelling full-time jobs.  I remember one night I sat in dismay and defeat about how to go ahead with final sorting and formatting. Indyeah offered to help. Though she fell sick around the same time, she managed to show me light. Once I dug in work, I finished it in two nights straight. Wish she had intervened sooner, I could have had done with some light and vigor she infused. Avant Garde weighed heavily on my shoulders those days, resulting in more of Freudian inefficiency. ]

Stage 2: Judgment. Choice of judges was made on just two things; that the judges were bloggers and experts in the categories they were judging. Expert in the sense they knew the art of the categories they were judging and they had practiced it themselves. For example, Meetu is professional movie reviewer at her blog WOGMA. Anshul is cartoonist and photographer, his work for both can be seen here and here. Nikhil himself had a funny blog to credit and has also published a book. Nita, whose blog, I consider to be an authority on anything related to India and public service-related posts.

In some cases, I had my personal friends, like Rashmi whose tastes in literature I have come to trust over the years. She is also qualified to do that with her degree in literature and the fact that she writes to earn her own living. Withering Willow is another friend who makes her living writing ‘how-to’s and has a great eye for design. She is also a trained graphic designer and I have had pleasure to appreciate her design skills and creativity while working with her.

So, back to Avant Garde process, there are two judges in each category. Judges have a free hand to decide the criteria they use to score a category. For example, one of the judges’ criteria to rate posts in movie review category was:

Story-Screenplay-Characters/Acting/Direction/Other Technicalities/Language used/Contextual Reference/Insight/Humor/Style/Spoilers

Other judge’s criteria for scoring public interest category was: Importance of Issue raised/Aspects Covered/Extra insights/Originality/Clarity and writing style/Impact

Judges were requested to rate all posts on a scale of 10. Also, they had a right not to rate or reject a post if it is too shoddy or was plagiarised, but the reasons needed to be recorded.

Now scores from two judges were added to decide the 6 best posts. If you look at it carefully, there are two outcomes of such a system:

  1. It ensures only best, 6 best in this case, posts go to next stage of the award. This was important since by experience I know how sometimes polls are NOT actual reflection of excellence; they only reflect popularity of the blog/blogger.
  2. No one person has control over who wins or loses. Let me explain this one. We have judges of two different sensibilities on a category. For example, my sense of humour will be different than Nikhil’s whacky style. So, when we both judge same category, our criteria for judgement are different. So, the posts that emerge as winners are ones that have been scored reasonably well by BOTH of us. The 6 best posts are that were highly rated individually by Nikhil or me will not make the final cut if the other judge did not like it.

Stage 3: Polls. This is where you came in, readers. After having rated posts for their excellence, this stage does leave room to gauze popularity of a blog/blogger/post. There arises another challenge. I realised, several folks were shy to ask for vote for themselves. If you scrutinise the percentages carefully when I publish them on Monday, you will realise there are bloggers who have received no votes at all. Why? Either they never realised that they made it there (maybe they didn’t care at all) and they never informed their readers that they were nominated.

On the other hand, there were participants who ‘canvassed’ a lot. A friend also revealed how she stumbled upon a mail that was sent to her colleagues by an Avant Garde participant asking all of them to vote on the given link. The person had sent a mass mailer to all colleagues, family and friends coaxing them to vote! Now in this case, if the person wins, it is not excellence but the networking that won. Not that I have anything against it or I can stop it.

But my awards become a fail, if all participants do not inform their readers of their nominations. Because then all nominees are not getting a fair chance at polls. Some absolutely brilliant bloggers were also shy about letting their readers about it. I understand their inhibitions, but though I too may not be canvass for myself, I will at the least inform my readers.

Some categories had bare minimum voting initially, and it hurt. Unless good number of votes came in, there would be no weight in the verdict. That would have amounted to the failure of the mammoth effort undertaken. I pushed bloggers I knew to inform their reader about their nominations. In most cases, a single tweet or a Facebook update or a blogpost worked wonders.

Overall I received about 250 responses in a week. Except five categories (Best Music review, Best Sidebar, Best Header, Best Personal, Best Off-beat) all categories had 100 plus votes. Not bad, considering I am not big one on publicity, except one almost daily tweet by me. I am rather happy about the participation.

My last word before I sign off: All the posts that made it to polls were excellent as per se judges, irrespective of they win or not in polls. Polls , though are measure of popularity or networking, they are not ultimate devices to gauze excellence. Another thing, if you note, I have little control over who wins or loses, even in those few categories that I judged. It has so many deciding entities at various stages. Please do not curse me when you see the results. (Which is why I made this whole effort of writing this long post.  :P)

Lastly, thank you everyone: volunteers, badge designers (including Chirag, Sakshi and Dinsan), judges and above all participants for making this happen! Avant Garde exists because of its participants. Thanks to each one of you who wrote a post of Avant Garde in its inception days (and later) and spread the word in every way possible. May God bless you all!

Signing off,

Poonam

Happy Makar Sankranti: Updates

It was still two hours to go when I started writing this post, so yes, I am in time to wish you a very happy Makar Sankranti.

Update 1Bad news: No results today as promised. Avant Garde has been delayed. And I regret it.

Last time Avant Garde Bloggies Awards was smooth and on time. There were just about 100+ nominations and no complicated rules like limitations we have this time. This time, number of nominations received have been was mammoth 400+ 700+, thanks to social networking. Current list of nominations that I have on dashboard runs about 190 pages of Word document!! However, sad part is many of them are not compliant with rules.

In addition, I have been too caught with my full-time job, which is at the moment a WORK HELL (in terms of work load). As a result, Avant Garde suffered. I take full responsibility for the lapse and apologize for that.

But in doing that, I do disservice to friends and volunteers like Anshul, Dhiren, Vimal, Smita, Vee, Jaslene and Gaurav Saha. Because without them, I would not even have come this close.

I aim to finish FINAL compilation of nominations by this weekend. After that:

Phase 2: Judges select 6 best post in each categories (we will need 15 days for that)

Phase 3:  Polling on 6 best posts chosen by the judges (we will have 7 days of polling).

So yes, Avant Garde is DELAYED by exactly a month.

Polling will happen on Avant Garde Bloggies Awards Blog, which is now public. You can also see the list of judges there.

Update 2: As for compliance with rules, we have written to most of you bloggers, who have more than the allowed number of nominations, during this time.  But so many of you have not responded. Some of those who have not responded yet are: Noyon, Dev, NoyonPinasha, Blue Mist, Avada Kedavra, Suranga, Partha Pratim. Folks, if you answer by Saturady, All is well. But if not, I am regretful to inform that I will have to take off your nominations. 😦

For each of you who participated, thank you. 🙂 Especially those who nominated in compliance with rules the first time, a BIG thank you. You have no idea how much effort you have saved us. For next year, there has to be an automated system to compile and sort nominations.  But that will be later.

Update 3: And in other news (which my friend Gauri says is most overused cliche), I was interviewed at Blogadda. Life seems to have come to a full circle at least where interviews are concerned. Once I had started this initiative to interview bloggers at a team blog Being a Blogger (BaB), now I am myself the Interviewee.

You can read Part 1 of my interview here, which is more personal and about me and Part 2, which is more of my opinions on various issues. Let me know what you think about it. 🙂

Avant Garde Bloggies Awards 2009 – Addition of Categories

I have to start by thanking everyone for your support. We have received about 120+ nominations. Again, with public demand, here are two new categories:

Best 55 er Post: It is a post that tells a story in 55 words.

Best evocative post on parenting:  This category included all posts about your kids, parenting in general. It includes both mommy bloggers and daddy bloggers, if there are terms like that. 🙂

I would also like to point out that you can nominate all your science/nature posts under the Best Tech post category. Depending on the number of nomiantions we have in the Science category, we can start that next year. 🙂

Remember if a category doesn’t receive at least 6 nominations, it will be scrapped. There are very few nomiantions in these categories:

1. Best Consumer Rights post

2. Best Professional Blog

3. Best Tech Post

4. Best How-to Post (which surprisingly was a popular category last year)

5. Best Culinery Post: Surprisingly so far received only 6 nominations! How come! I thought we had lot of food  bloggers around. We then certainly have not been reaching out to all the right people.

Nominate more posts and save these categories from dungeons. 🙂

You can check the list of categories here. Please send in your nominations in the comments section of this Avant Garde kick-off post.

Note that if you can not see your comment after posting, please DO NOT WORRY. It has most probably gone into spam due to too many links.   I will retrieve it when I spend a moment on wordpress. For safety sake, just let me know in another comment that you nominated, I will approve your comment.

Lastly, please read the rules before nominating. As per now, you can nominate you posts in three categories, which excludes the blog award categories as listed in the list of categories. I publicly request all of you who have nominated themselves in all the categories, to consider and let us know,  in which three categories you would like to enter your blog posts.

P.S: Avant Garde Bloggies Awards Group on Facebook. has about 110 members, please join them for more updates that are not regularly posted here on the blog.

P.P.S:  Both the current header and Avant Garde Bloggies Awards badges have been designed by Chirag.

P.P.P.S: Please DO NOT write in your nominations in the comment section of this post. For nominations, write in the comments section of this Avant Garde kick-off post.

The Avant Garde Bloggies Awards 2009 – Kick Off

It’s that time of year again. On public demand, Avant Garde Bloggies Awards 2009 are here.

As you know from 2008, Avant Garde Bloggies awards aim to recognise the best posts from your blog. It is an award competition where your entries are voted and judged by fellow, expert bloggers. It is a competition to recognise your blog. And as always, its meant to be fun and healthy.

Continue reading ‘The Avant Garde Bloggies Awards 2009 – Kick Off’

Updates, Tag and General News

First the good news, I have written about DU distance learning students’ plight at their courses not being recognised. IGNOU has now given a green signal for DU distance learning courses. Hurray! 🙂

I had written this post at request of Deepak, who wasn’t receiving his appointment letter from Staff Selection Commission (SSC) even though he was selected. So, thankfully, Deepak will receive his appointment letter shortly.

All winners of Cricket-opedia Contest by Virgin IHL have received their gifts. However, I could confirm it with all winners except one, Sandil Srinivasan. Sandil, could you please let me know if you got your goody bag?

Now come the dedications and thank yous.

Continue reading ‘Updates, Tag and General News’


Subscribe to Visceral Observations

     
Add to Technorati Favorites

Thank you, Chirag!

This header has been created by Chirag.

A Torch Against Terrorists

     

What I SOMETIMES Tweet

I also write at:

Blog Archives

Read by Category

World AIDS Day 2008

Support World AIDS Day
The Hunger Site
Creative Commons License
Visceral Observations is written by Poonam Sharma. It is licensed to her under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License
Directory of General Blogs
July 2017
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31