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Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

Live TV!

In airlines, opinion, Strategy on March 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Kingfisher just pushed the envelope of competition for full-service passengers by introducing a feature I’ve never heard of as being available anywhere around the world! Live TV beamed to your console on the aircraft! I hadn’t been too impressed by their move to introduce video screens because the idea of watching a tired collection of recorded snippets did not excite me, particularly since any domestic flight is only going to last about an hour or so and with the meal-service, it didn’t seem like you needed any additional distractions. I’d resorted to tuning into ‘Kingfisher Radio’ with a respectable collection of 70s and 80s rock, but that too had started getting repetitive. But this time around, the screens sported an orange sticker that said “Live tv by Dish TV”. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but flipping through the channels, lo and behold, the first over of the West Indies V New Zealand, LIVE! Was one of the shortest flightest I’ve been on.

This sure gives Jet Airways something to chew on, given that they have added video screens to the business class section? (not sure though). Given that replicating the move would be costly and also be seen as a copy-cat move, what would be a fitting response (without dropping fares)? more elaborate meal options? more attendants at the airport? more flexible pricing? or maybe internet connectivity on flights (but that might be just as costly)?

I don’t see too many options available to them given that they can’t do much about ensuring timeliness of the flights. It will also depend on whether kingfisher chooses to hike its prices (this could be tricky since not many would be willing to pay extra for some channel-surfing) or maintains status quo (the more likely option). One thing is for sure, on lean days, given a choice, most people will choose the airline that offers more frills unless the competition offers a substantial price discount. What Kingfisher is doing can’t be bad for the industry though, it would only serve to more clearly segment the full-service versus the low-cost. Would make for interesting observation to watch for Jet’s response.

p.s: Of the 10 odd screens that were in my eye-line, each of those chose to tune into some form of bollywood gibberish than watch Brian Lara bat. A nation of cricket-lovers indeed…pfft!

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Chappelli rules

In blah, sports, world cup on March 27, 2007 at 7:27 pm

The first Super-8 match is halfway through and the defending champions have scored a very defendable 322. No, this is not another world-cup match review post. That the channel remained on Setmax was purely function of the fact that i had left the remote more than arms-length away. Left me open to the inane chatter of Mandira Bedi and Charu Sharma, but an unexpected bonus was that instead of the nonsensical Ayaz Memon, it was Ian Chappell on air. I’ve always been floored by the insightful comments the man makes. Not surprising why he was one of the best captains to’ve played for Australia. And sure enough, some points to ponder from the 2nd best commentator I’ve heard (1st being Benaud):

“When a spinner beats a batsman as completely as Samuels did to Hayden on that occasion, the ball simply has to land in the park, else there’s something wrong”

A reference to the quality of bats today that have much more wood but are not as packed/compressed (resulting in more distribution and therefore being easier to lift). A Hayden miscue off Samuels after he beat the batsman in flight ended up looping over the long-on fence. With the disruptive improvements in bats today, even badly timed shots go a long way. If administrators do not take this into consideration, spinners will become extinct.

“Shaun Tait is a handy weapon to have but as captain you have to realise that he will either bowl really well or will be very expensive (never in between). Also, his action will invariably result in injuries over his career.”

While the rest of the world Oohs and Aahs over the pace that Tait generates, Chappelli gives the captain’s assessment. Looking at his action that depends so much on his final stride with the extreme stress he puts on his back and front leg, one sees what he means

“Administrators need to consider bringing back the use of the 2-piece cricket ball to counter the heavier bats today”

The conventional cricket ball today consists of 4 pieces sewn together as opposed to 2 halves in ‘days of yore’. This results in a softer ball that loses shape and therefore does less in the air. The decision was made decades ago to let bats survive longer. However, to counter the growing domination of bats, maybe its time to bring the harder balls back. Another interesting point was how the size of golf balls was increased so they wouldn’t travel as far with the improvement in club technology.

Was a welcome change to have the two dimwit hosts completely incapable of contributing and therefore silent. If only there was a way to air-brush them out of the picture too.

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to whomsoever it may concern

In sachin, sports on March 26, 2007 at 10:58 am

This post is in response to a comment on my previous post. The comment in question explains why Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar should retire as of March 26th 2007. I figured Blogger comment sections would have their word limits, so I decided to make a post out of this one…

Now, not a lot needs to be said abt the character of someone who can reel of arguments but cannot be brought to put his name to them. while i do not have the luxury of having fantasy and imagination on my side, i shall attempt to respond to your points ANONYMOUS.

Anon #1 : DIGNITY = no business acumen (anon apparently does not like the food that these establishments serve)

me : so you dont like the bhindi, quite a problem that, i hate it myself…am sure the man himself would apologise to you for having hog-tied you to take you to his restaurant and having force-fed you. dude..its ok to exercise that thing called freedom of choice.

On an unrelated note, heard of the ‘Air-Jordan’ series? or ‘Shaqnosis’ by the same company? or the George Foreman grill? or Canon S3 powershot by Sharapova? or …well you get the idea. Have brand, will endorse…while am sure a restaurant chain titled with your name would draw crowds, it might’ve made more business sense the way its been done? just maybe?

Anon #2 : perfection…chipped f****** nail…london…responsibility means playing when injured. manjrekar is god! he’s short (lol..this is priceless)

me : firstly, i shall persuade him to apologise to you for being short.

I’m no doc, but i think chipped nail and tennis elbow are not necessarily the same thing. i wonder if you’d been told that he chose to play in spite of not being 100% fit how nice you’d have been to him.

Manjrekar…hmmm…ex-wonderboy of indian cricket…the best technique they said…was india’s best batsman (until the man in question came along)…achieved 10% of his ‘potential’..now makes his living giving sound bytes…wonder why he would say anything controversial…beats me?

Bubka and Armstrong – Phenomenal athletes in individual sports..individual glory. Shaq? takes him gazillion dollars to don a uniform, let alone step on court. do you really want to go there?

A lesson on cricket rules; you can continue playing a game even if injured, and you can bat with a bandaged jaw. Its slightly harder with an injured arm. The innings against Pak (in Chennai) with an injured back might not prove anything, or it might say everything that needs to be, of course, the fact that 6 players could not rustle up 14 runs is totally his fault.

Anon #3 : forget past performances and focus on last innings especially if its a failure

me : i can see how a hundred here would be better than the 35000 international runs. doesn’t really matter that he scored 40% of the teams runs. you were actually watching this one, so how dare he fail! your most valid point after the one about him being short

Anon #4 : Anon scored well in high-school, inference, sachin should have scored a hundred against SL

me : i tried but i keep convulsing with laughter at this point. ok, try a simple test, gather all the people you can find and have them stand around you while you type your response to my response. the number of times you’ll hit backspace will prove my point about how performing under the gaze of millions is sliiiightly different than you acing your finals. and yeah, some of those games that he performed in, for example the 98 against Pak in 2003 might have been more than ‘intermediates’

Anon #5 : respect for those praying for his elbow

me : praying for his elbow indeed. that might’ve been out of the goodness of our countrymen’s hearts, or maybe..just maybe, the tendency to play the perennial victim, waiting for the saviour to come score the runs and get us a victory, because they know, on their own, they will manage exactly zilch as they go through life.

As for your assessment of his capability, i agree it might carry more weight than what the likes of Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell etc say about him, but pardon me for going with the other group.

Final (or maybe semi-final) word : Your references to the likes of ‘The King’ and Chappell aren’t inaccurate, but how many of their failures did you ever see? How would you rate Viv Richards shot in the ’83 final that cost them the cup? Do you realise that had it not been that shot, WI would’ve made it 3-in-a-row?

Grace? The guy was the first certified cheater in the history of the game (read an account of his placing the bails back after being bowled and asking the bowler to continue).

As far as passion and promise go, even your vivid imagination would have trouble seeing a listless Tendulkar on the field of play.

Oh, by the way, I don’t give a rat’s ass about how your EPL fans react to losses.

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burn baby burn…

In rant, sachin, sports, world cup on March 25, 2007 at 1:05 pm

It’s only fair. I think its fitting that the cover page of the Hindustan Times and the Times of India showed angry fans burning/blackening posters of Sachin Tendulkar. It’s perfectly understandable that similar such fans grouped together and went to the Tendulkar residence and turned off the electricity mains to his apartment after he got out for nought in the crunch game against Sri Lanka. Thanks to every news channel for showing scrolling sms’s and emails from angry fans about how a bunch of “overpaid individuals interested only in making money” have let the nation down.

Serves the whole bunch of ’em right, especially Sachin Tendulkar. He should’ve known. He should’ve known when he first appeared on the test team as a 17 year old. He certainly should’ve have had an inkling when he stroked a hundred at Perth or when he set about redefining the term ‘opening batsman’ in one-day international cricket by going after the new ball in New Zealand. Over the years, he stubbornly refused to learn from the zillions of opportunities. Each time he set about dominating attacks or playing rear-guard on foreign pitches. Each time he raised his bat for having completed triple figures. Each time that opposition captains and their bowlers huddled together to work out ways to dismiss him and celebrated like the match was won when his was the first and only wicket to have fallen. He cannot feign ignorance when that ‘hard-as-steel’ veteran Steve Waugh said in his post-match interview that “We were beaten by a better player” (and not team). Not only that, he even had the audacity to exhibit his love for the game, I mean, how dumb do you have to be to celebrate a direct-hit runout as wildly as you celebrate a ton? oh, and especially when the throw wasn’t even yours?! Ridiculous!

Just because he was born with a rare combination of talent and temperament that will most likely never be seen again for several generations, he can’t just ignore the fact that his performances are the closest that, millions of people come, to a sense of achievement. He might claim in his defence that he is only a sportsman and only went out to give his best and that the rest  was never under his control, but that would be indeed weak. That it was unfair for spectators (and of that category, we have hordes) to shirk the responsibility of their own ambitions and need for fulfillment, and to tack it to the blade with MRF printed on it. He might plead that rarely have sportsmen maintained superlatives levels of performance for the duration of time that he has. What of his debt to the millions of this nation who, bereft of ability or temperament, will never amount to anything in the duration of their existence? He owes those teeming masses who will live their lives in utter mediocrity never having the opportunity to taste success for themselves. He owes them big.

As for the other 14, several of whom might’ve first picked up a bat because of the person discussed above, who are currently wondering about the physical safety of themselves and their families. For Rahul, Zaheer, Ajit, Sehwag and co. The teeming blue billion have extracted the ultimate pound of flesh. Never again will they enjoy a game of cricket like they must’ve when they first picked up a bat or a ball. For they will now, more than ever, realise that this country does not understand the concept of competition or sportsmanship.

Sachin Tendulkar and the rest should be ashamed to be Indian. I know I am.

 

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India V Sri Lanka – preview

In sports, world cup on March 22, 2007 at 2:41 pm

If you believe the Sports pages of most dailies, certain key match-ups determine the fate of a cricket match. Hence, we are likely to see ‘Sehwag v/s Malinga’, ‘Murali v/s Sachin’, ‘Agarkar v/s Jayasurya’ and so on and so forth as being the deciders for India. Good reading aside, how can these ‘head-to-head’s be the deciding factors when their occurrence in themselves is a function of probability?

BOWLING

If bowling first, anything in excess of 230 at the Queen’s Park Oval is trouble. This is because of 3 reasons:

  1. Chasing under pressure is the worst situation to be in cricket
  2. India are not a good chasing side (inspite of the long list of successful run-chases, those were in bilateral series)
  3. Sri Lanka’s strength is its middle-overs slow bowlers adept at choking oppositions

That SL will score big if their openers; Tharanga and Sanath bat undefeated for 20 overs is not open to debate. However, India’s vulnerabilities have usually been against the ‘2nd wave’ – about the time that the opening bowlers complete their spells and the 3rd and 4th bowlers come on. These don’t even have to be part-timers, even with genuine bowlers, we tend to let the intensity subside and the opposition to play their way. This period, unhappily for India, coincides with the time that their best batsman, Sangakarra, is likely to be at the crease. In conjunction with Silva and Arnold, he could take the game away.

STRATEGY
  • Be flexible and sharp while ringing in bowling changes. Change the opening bowlers after 3-4 overs each (unless wickets are tumbling) and keep to short spells to not let the batsmen settle
  • Consider delaying power plays if under attack and take them immediately after wickets fall
  • Bounce ’em! (every couple of overs) Barring Sangakarra, they do not like it short. This warrants getting Sreesanth in at the expense of a spinner.
BATTING

If chasing, it will need two of the top three to play a big one. If batting first however, the typical Indian innings shows a spirited charge in the first 15 followed by a lethargic stroll from 16 – 40. The Lankan bowlers get better with dot balls and soon the trickle of runs goes dry. Our weakness lays in giving too much respect to the likes of Vaas and the disinterest in quick running when a combination of Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj are at the crease.

STRATEGY
  • Do not go in with pre-conceived defensive intent against any bowler, particularly Vaas and Murali. Play the bowling rather than the bowler and show intent with aggressive running
  • Reassess target totals every 5 overs and change gear accordingly. Something we fail miserably at.
  • Run scoring against the Lankans gets more difficult as the innings progresses, so go in thinking about scoring 60% of the runs in the first 25 overs 

BOTTOMLINE : Arm-chair analysis rules!

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Advertising World Cup

In advertising, blah, world cup on March 21, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Friday is India’s “Do-or-Die” encounter against Sri Lanka and the match has just the right amount of tantalizing lead-ups to it to make it an advertiser’s delight. If we could get access to security camera footage from some of the biggest corporates in the world, it would be funny to see company chiefs fervently praying for a victory to the team representing one of their largest markets. And it doesn’t matter who’re official sponsors, pretty much all the usual suspects will be rooting for team India come friday.

Akin to an assignment we had in Advertising class, I noted some of the ads on display in an hour of cricket and then rated them on memorability on a scale of low-medium-high. I excluded brands on players’ clothing and equipment since they vary by teams.

TV Commercials: Pepsi, Nike, Hutch, Reliance Comm, Airtel, BSNL, Videocon, LG, Sansui, ITC, Nokia, Gopal supari, Mcdowells, Dainik Jagran, Daikin, Gillette, The Mobile Store, Maruti, Thomas Cook, Hero Honda, TVS, Sprite

On-field placements : Hutch, Hero Honda, LG, Pepsi, Visa, Gatorade

On-screen placements : Hutch, 99acres.com, ITC, Western Union, monster.com, Union Bank, Nokia

LOW

The ads with lowest impact are unsurprisingly the on-screen and on-field placements due to their static nature. However, out of those the on-screen placements vary in impact depending on when they appear. 99acres.com and Western Union would lose out to monster.com and Union Bank, the difference being the former are shown during live action and the latter during action replays. I figure a viewer would be more likely to notice a logo on screen during a slow-motion sequence and not be as irritated with it as during live play

MEDIUM

The TV commercials without too many repeat airings would be in the middle, although some ads like Airtel stay in mind inspite of being infrequent. I would rate the Gatorade on-field ad to be in this category simply because it would be compelling for spectators at the ground while sitting under the sweltering hot sun. It would be a crime for expensive commercials to fall in this category since at the end of the day, the viewer might just confuse your ad with a competitor’s

HIGH

Finally, the ones that stay determined by a function of number of times they’re aired. But a boring ad falling in this category would just irritate viewers (like Videocon, Sansui, Gillette). On the other hand, Nike, Airtel, Sprite have made ads that have repeat viewability.

THE WINNER

The most ubiquitous brand hands down, in my opinion, is Hutch. The catchy SML plan ads (of which there are several versions) combined with the distinctive on-field logos and billboards. Add to that the free publicity from the acquisition bid, and we have a clear winner.

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f***wits

In rant, sports, world cup on March 19, 2007 at 6:11 am

Appalling…spineless…petulant! The first two words would’ve been seen with increasing regularity since the time Bangladesh scored their winning runs against India, but not the last one. That’s because I’m referring, not to the 12 who represented India in the game, but the millions of ‘supporters’ who have been ‘wronged’.

  1. Portly housewives wearing pads over their sarees as they beat up pictures of Dravid and co.
  2. Mobs in various parts of the country burning effigies representing the ‘villains’
  3. Other mobs pelting stones at players’ houses
  4. Politicians, beurocrats, BCCI administrators condemning the performance and demanding redress

Just who in F***’s name do we think we are?! Somewhere in the process of the game gaining its astronomic popularity and its players becoming household names, every tom, dick and harry in our populous country thinks he has part ownership of the Indian cricket team. Its like each person believes that its our magnanimity that allows each of those 11 individuals to be out on the field. That they perform for our entertainment.

What the f***wits don’t understand is that its a sport, not a bullshit reality tv show where every line is scripted to pander to their tastes. In sport, you go out, give it your best and look to play better than your opposition on the day. While the best sporting encounters are when there are two teams playing at their best, that, often is not the case.

Did the Indian team play at their best? Not by a huge margin. Did they try like mad? HELL YEAH! The same f***wits might point out that this was against a team that has been the traditional punching bag for every heavyweight. Fact is, if you blank out the names on the backs of their shirts, and monochrome the video, you’d have a hard time figuring out what team this was. They might be brought back down to earth by the Lankans, but on that day, they were near flawless in their efforts.

They’re sportsmen and must be hurting from that defeat and in a perfect world, their response would be to launch themselves at their next opponent to give them a memorable cricketing lesson. But when the l’il shits back home are stoning your homes, you can’t help but wonder if they’ll just show everyone the middle finger on live television and walk off the field. With all the afficionados of the game that we have, it shouldn’t be a big deal to replace all of them with better players, should it? Or maybe the f***wit response will be to show their rabid competitiveness by going online and voting to eject some pseudo-celebrity off a f***wit show.

World Cup flashbacks

In sachin, sports, world cup on March 13, 2007 at 9:57 am

World cup 2007 starts off today and its hard to miss with every instrument of the media targetting the event in its spotlight. Got me thinking of the world cups that I’ve experienced.

1992 – Australia/New Zealand
My first world cup and what a start! The bold coloured clothing, the catchy theme song that played before every game that ended with “…who’ll rule the world…just see…who’ll rule the world” followed by a graphic of a ball smashing into a set of stumps followed by the match of the day. The round-robin format meant each team every other team and I thought India was the unluckiest team of the tournament. We lost to Australia by 1 run (after the rain rule had deducted 3 overs and 1 run from our run-chase), to England by a slim margin, our game against Sri Lanka (minnows then) was washed out. Couldn’t have been worse than what South Africa faced though, needing 21 from 13 balls in their semi-final against England, the rain intervened, the equation was revised to 21 off 1 ball…just like that! I remember thinking only cricket, working out result combinations on the back of my notebooks in school while the teacher droned on. My booster dose of cricket.

Unforgettable moment : Jadeja’s diving one-handed catch in the outfield to dismiss Allan Border. Was later judged as the catch of the tournament.

1996 – India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka
The lamest world-cup of the lot that was timed just right so that it was at the same time as my ‘career-determining exams’, the HSC (the ones that determine whether you go become a doctor, an engineer or a nothing)…don’t look so surprised, thats how ‘conventional wisdom’ worked in those days. I do know I would have spent a lot more time studying had it not been for the cricket circus. Missed a few of the other games for obvious reasons, but saw all of India’s games. It all ended with the farce at Eden Gardens against Sri Lanka. The disappointment wasn’t helped by my results a couple of months later and the dismay of not getting into the city’s best engineering college. Forgettable times indeed.

Unforgettable moment : Aamir Sohail spanks two consecutive fours off Venkatesh Prasad and for good measure gestures to the bowler where he’ll hit the next one through. Next ball, Prasad knocks back Sohail’s off-stump. Crowd goes mad…literally. First (and only) time I used the f-word in the presence of my parents. India wins!

1999 – England/Ireland/Holland
They preponed the world cup so it wouldn’t clash with the Olympics! Somehow cricket in the land of its origin has always been a mouth-watering prospect for me, but the event was a bit of a let down in the quality of games. Mostly ordinary performances by India, an exception being the assault on Sri Lanka at Taunton. Felt like sweet ol’ revenge for having knocked us out of the previous edition. There were 2 games that stay in memory. The 2 Australia-South Africa clashes with the famed drop by Herschelle gibbs resulting in Australia qualifying for the semi-final. There they played the best game ever in a world cup.. The final was academic with the champions steamrolling Pakistan

Unforgettable moment : Defending a huge total, Australia seemed home and dry when they had taken key South African tickets when ‘the’ Lance Klusener launched one of the most savage counter-attacks in world-cup history. With 9 needed off the last over (a tie would see Austalia through), it was still in Australia’s favour. But Damien Fleming had his first 2 deliveries smashed to the cover fence. With 1 needed off 4 balls, Klusener played out 2 dots followed by the worst communication mishap on a cricket field resulting in Donald getting runout with no bat in hand. Match tied. Austalia qualify for the final.

2003 – South Africa/Zimbabwe/Kenya
India’s best world cup with near perfect performances against the likes of New Zealand and England. Its not often mentioned that this was thanks in part to Dr Ali Bacher for preparing flat concrete tracks for our batsmen to flourish. A Tendulkar master-class against Pakistan set up the perfect final. But then they ran into that automaton of brilliance and professionalism. You had to feel bad for our boys as each of their over-eager efforts were dissected with surgical precision by Ponting and co.The game was over by lunch and the deserving team won it without breaking into a sweat thus showing there was daylight between them and the rest.

Unforgettable moment : ‘That’ over, when Sachin reminded the world what he was all about. I’ve written about it too many times to repeat here…so refer here

Coffee Day & Night

In blah on March 11, 2007 at 5:14 pm

My first weekend in several that wasn’t sandwiched between flights into and out of two of the worst cities on the road-traffic map and I still ended up sitting for over 10 hours in seats with limited legroom and that recline just enough to crack the knee-caps of the person sitting behind. I even straightened my seat when I saw our destination approach!

Travelled to a town called chickmagalore, in karnataka where two good friends decided to inflict their wedding on us. Ok, am kidding (lest they ever chance to come upon this post), its the most charming little place with its coffee plantations and restaurants that serve unedible food. Cafe Coffee Day, the next victim in line for Starbucks grows its stuff here as was evidenced by the outlet serving its wares in a town where not one individual would pay as much for an entire meal as CCD charges for its coffees.They’ll love me for my gift though, called “Its (mainly) his fault” a guide to marital bliss that ensures less nagging and more sex. Am quite proud of that one.

Anyone who’s taken a long trip on this country’s highways, knows how its really a game of russian roulette to go whizzing along lanes that have been strategically built to be wide enough to accomodate 1.85 buses side-by-side. Actually its more like a stand-off in the old west where the quicker hand to the dipper gets to thunder on while the vanquished must sidle to the side and…gasp…brake! Of course, not having qualified referees or for that matter even unqualified ones means that often there is genuine confusion on who ‘high-beamed’ first. I cannot for a moment imagine that the drivers of these mammoth vehicles have anything but fairness in their hearts, so it must be the actual belief that it was he who won the duel. Needless to say, this means several last fraction maneuvers that would leave Bond in his Aston-Martins to shame. Its a pity paint manufacturers have refined their processes enough to not make their products any thicker, else they’d be getting a repeat purchase every time a trip was completed.

All said, a fun weekend, and to know I do not wake up at 4am tomorrow…almost makes me look forward to the beginning of the week…i said almost.

The art of profitability – Adrian Slywotzky

In Book Review, consulting, Strategy on March 7, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Written in teacher – disciple style, the book is a series of meetings between Steve Gardner, in his first job in the strategic planning function at a company that’s going downhill, and a veteran of the business world, David Zhao, consultant to the top-brass of several companies. The oriental last name of the teacher is a none-too-subtle parallel to Sun Tzu’s ‘The art of war’, which is a quoted a few times in the book. Over the course of 23 meetings (all held on Saturday mornings in Zhao’s office), they discuss different profit models successfully employed by companies.

There are 23 profit models discussed in the book. While that seems overwhelming, the book does not delve into the intricacies. I found some of the models; like Customer Solution Profit, to be simplistic. However, a few of the models are handy to have an idea about and while the examples help drive home the point, a few more would have helped. The models are also not mutually exclusive and I found it hard to distinguish between a few of them.
All said, the book is a light read and fitting for when one’s waiting for the boarding announcement.
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