Saturday, December 29, 2007

Old economy experience

though i have been reading about and using many old economy services, the recent experience of getting the home painted was revealing and educative in many ways.

first, most of the transaction is based on the spoken word.
discussions on time lines, service levels, way of working etc

second, project management is very dynamic
the plans for the day keep evolving through the day, depending on the weather - or whether : whether the team wants to complete something that day itself or not..

third, the customer is not king..
having handed over the house to them, they rule. make decisions on making themselves comfortable at home

fourth, most of the competent workers are also very smart
want to do the least, if that is OK. one has to keep demanding specifics in terms of detail

fifth, their network is very effective
they can bring in a dozen persons at short notice, if required or they decide to

and sixth, the 'contract' is based on trust

while i felt my patience stressed at times, i can empathize with them - considering their formal training or lack of it, the stress levels : both physical and mental when they take up such jobs..

while having semblances of an organized sector, these are pretty much disorganized.
they lack basic occupational safety protections - which i pointed out to the main contractor. as mentioned earlier, their network is very close. most of the members seem to come from the same village or places that close to the home town of the main contractor.

it also helps to engage affiliates - for instance, in my case, carpenter who was referred by the painter. between them, they coordinate the sequence of polishing, touching up after the carpentry work etc.

i was debating engaging one of the 'professional' agencies to get the job done.
and decided in the last minute to go by word-of-mouth - from a neighbor who had used the services of the painter.

i am happy overall - and satisfied that the vacation days were well spent. after all both a vacation and the home painting was long overdue.

now, i look forward to a real vacation..

Saturday, December 22, 2007


sitting at home while the house is getting painted - is an interesting experience.

long overdue, this was a impulse decision to make good use of a few off days from work.

if not anything else, it added to the chaos of things lying everywhere - making Hoogle even more necessary.

but then, in all this - some time to wonder why ...
? why does the last peanut have to be rotten?
? why should the stapler run out of stapes when you want just one staple?
? why should the phone ring when you have someone at the door?
? why do all channels on tv or radio play ads at almost the same time?
? why is there a traffic jam when you are so close to home?
? why do you have someone at a party who always knows the punchlines for the new jokes you want to crack?

etc etc etc

Sunday, December 16, 2007


this is what i need.
a Home Google. the amount of time one spends at home - searching for things - should offer a neat opportunity for the next killer app..

do the following situations sound familiar?
- morning. school time. kids getting ready...
? where is my socks? did you take the homework note book? where is the pencilbox?....

- morning - getting ready to go to office..
? where is that file? cannot find a matching tie for that meeting today - it has been ages since i wore a tie .. and now i cannot find it

- just before leaving for a family vacation
? where are the keys for the suitcases? or the rooms we rarely lock... who has the tickets and the confirmation vouchers from the resort...

or just simple questions like:
? where is the remote?

a combination of RFID, GPS and Google should be able to do wonders - to know where everything is and locate them, just as i think of locating one..

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Witricity and more

came across this list of unusual power sources.

witricity, or wireless electricity is something that has been on my wish list.
with so much electromagnetic radiation around us, the excess energies that are dissipated can surely be tapped to power some of the low power consuming devices - such as headsets or mobile phones or even TV / Audio remote controls.

one does not have to bother changing the batteries..

when researchers start exploring they do come across many ideas - such as biovolt.. will leave that to your imagination of what can be used as raw material and how it can be produced..

see some of these unusual sources at:,39024649,39168674,00.htm

when i saw the energy generated from passenger footfalls, i was wondering if there were sources to generate power from hot air.

our politicians can be the prime source for such energy - at least in India, we need not worry about power shortages.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Alice + 10

this is the Alice in Smokiey's song about not living next door to Alice.

the song was about living next door to Alice for 24 years. and wondering how life would be after Alice moved.

it has been 34 years since some of us had spent a few years [about 5 in my case - and about 11 in many others' cases] in school together.

yes, i had an opportunity to reconnect and meet with some of my classmates from school - after 34 years.
while electronic contact was established a few months ago, it was a transit via Chicago that gave an opportunity to meet with the twins in the class for lunch.

then it was a totally chance meeting at a function - where i was one of the chief guests - when one of the persons attending waled up and asked -- are you from .. school? and wasn't your nickname ... i was amazed.

the next day, called up one of the more enthusiastic ones - whose phone # was on the egroup list, and, thanks to him - met up with about 10 of them in one go in the evening.

even after 34 years, a couple of them had not changed much and could be recognized. but for most others - at least for me - it was only through some incidents that i could recall who they were.

interesting how some of these memories come back with a little trigger.
also interesting was to note that some of them were still living in the same house as they were and some of the hangouts were still active.

was sad to hear about some of the teachers as well as classmates who had to go through some difficult times.

well, in case you were wondering why the post is titled Alice + 10 - it was just to trigger your curiosity..
it has been 34 years since i have not been living next door to some of my classmates.. yo!

so, smokiey - don't worry.. it will all come back to you even after 34 years..

Monday, November 26, 2007

shaken - and stirred..

out of bed this morning by an earthquake.

this was my second experience of an earthquake.
the first, a few years ago, was in California.
that was reasonably mild - we were sitting on a sofa inside the new office being furnished, taking stock of the progress in the cabling work.
when i thought that the sofa moved a bit - as if someone got up and pushed it back, while getting up -and i also notices that the wires hanging from the roof were also swaying vigorously..

the other person, who has been a California resident, did not notice it. possibly because he was used to such small tremors.

when we came out and checked with the building owner, it was confirmed that i had experienced my first quake.

but this morning, it was far more intense.
i reached noida close to midnight and this was a new guest house, that i was staying at, for the first time.
this one, as minimalistic as some of the other guest houses i have stayed in - had a net connection and got connected and cleared a few mails and was in bed around midnight.

i was woken up when i felt the bed shaking.
before i realized and could stir out of bed, i could see and feel the door rattling, the chairs literally jumping, as if we were all in a sieve and someone was shaking it.

as i recalled the emergency steps to be taken, to get under a cot - which seems to be counter intuitive - and wondered if there would be sufficient space underneath.. it stopped.

check out this site from the Los Angeles Fire Department for some tips.

p.s. this post filed from the room that shook - less than three hours from the quake. could have done it earlier, but i went back to sleep :-)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Time to worry..

well, i got one of these multi-level forwarded mail with the subject line as this post.
hoping that the friend who sent it to me had done so with absolutely sincere intentions to warn me of something that i have not been taking care of, as i should have - such as my yogasana - i patiently opened all the 9 mails that were embedded inside.

it was an article from a wellness site - that had a very simple solution to manage our worries.

it said that worrying is distracting and takes away productivity from our daily work routine. how true - i read on..
after some more statistics about how worrying affects people and the negative side effects and so on, it had a simple solution:

set aside a specific time every day to worry. preferably before just as you go to bed - so that you can fall asleep, overwhelmed by the worries and go to sleep. a sure cure for insomnia

sounded simple enough. except that it did not say anything about the kinds of dreams or nightmares it might induce.

anyway, the experience from the traffic jam yesterday evening, back from work - i decided to set aside the driving time as my worry time.

today, unfortunately for this plan - fortunately otherwise, the traffic was relatively smooth and i had to answer a couple of phone calls, that i forgot that i need to worry.

home now, i am worried that i did not worry during my worry time...

please help..

Friday, November 9, 2007

Invisible Pink Unicorn

came across this reference recently.
the IPU represents atheism - invented by one of the olders usenet discussion groups - when i saw this, was wondering if the 'followers' of the IPU are also 'believers'..

wonder if richard dawkins [the god delusion] was inspired by this..

Thursday, November 8, 2007


not Laugh out loud.
this is based on an observation that i heard recently.
this was about how on ecannot take anyone else for granted, as everyone seems to be Living their Own Life - hence LoL..

a lot has been written about nuclear families.
but, in today's competitive, consumerist world, it is more of I, me, myself.
and anything that is centered around onself is what seems to matter.

whether it is while standing in line for movie tickets or getting into a parking slot;
whether it is while ordering at a fast food restaurant or getting into a bus;

some of this agressive behaviour can be observed even in children.
is it because of the ads and programs they are exposed to?

many ads emphasize the individual and the rewards of pampering oneself -- 'i am worth it..'
or 'making your own road / rules..'

what are the new values of society?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

tiny cheats

on the plan last night, noticed that most people, even in business class, love to break the rules such as:
. removing the seat belt even before the plane comes to a complete halt
. switching on the cell phone before the announcement is made
and in other areas such as
. starting before the lights turn green
. moving just after the lights turn red
. have a little extra dollop of ice cream when one is reasonably full

wonder why..
p.s. mea also culpa!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

five wishes

I came across this site aging with dignity. (

a simple concept implemented effectively, this is now a valid 'living will' in many states of USA.

these five wishes relate to decisions an individual would prefer - or would have used as as basis for decisions, when one is not medically fit to make such decisions.

usually, these ar tough situations for families and friends, as they can only second guess what the person would have preferred and also have to convince others as well.

the five wishes relate to the following:
  1. the person i want to make care decisions for me, when i can't
  2. the kind of medical treatment i want or don't want
  3. how comfortable i want to be
  4. how i want people to treat me
  5. what i want my loved ones to know

the growing popularity of old age homes becoming more of elder care providing communities in india provide some options for elders to live with dignity and also have less worries about their physical care needs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

being un-wired

I am unwired at home now...
a long time wish to have a wireless connection for my laptop at home finally bore fruit today.

while the technology was available, it was not challenging enough to just take a solution out of the box - or as provided by bsnl - and use it.

i wanted to do it at zero or minimal cost - which was the catch.

a router received as a gift helped achieve that goal.

getting the settings right on the ADSL router connected to BSNL, this wireless router and also on the laptop - seemed to defy logic, as the most reasonable combinations did not work.

having misplaced the CD [documentation], i decided to use the online documents and started following the instructions step-by-step.
after four attempts and a couple of hours - which required multiple reboots of the system, i could just not get anything to work.

as i was about to give up, my son found the CD and the installation program gave me a different set of instructions - which took just about 10 minutes and the router was all set to work in the wired mode.

wireless was still a challenge.

after generous guidance from a friend - and some trial and error - mail started working a short while ago.

net access was still a problem.

then decided to use the old-fashioned approach of mimicking other settings that worked.

manual configuration and overrides on the router + laptop finally got me connected..

now i am free to move around home and also relocate the base stations .. while being connected.

i am sure that this will evoke some [strong] comments and responses from others at home.
will keep you posted of any interesting developments..

Sunday, October 28, 2007

inflection age - some other views

Got this from a friend - in one of the groups lists.
thought this explained my earlier post a little clearer..

George Carlin's Views on Aging

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions. "How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.
You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead. "How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16!

And then the greatest day of your life . . you become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony .

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed? You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.But wait!!!

You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would! So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday! You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime.

And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!" May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them."
2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.
8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.
10. Tell the people you love that you love them , at every opportunity.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

among academics

i had an opportunity to be immersed among academics at the recent IEEE international conference on requirements engineering.
after IISc, this was my experience of being among so many intellectuals in a serious conference.
i was a ppanelist [on two different panels]; the first was about the RE practices in specific niches [i had chosen the systems engineering space] and another on the impact on new trends in software engineering and services on Requirments Engineering.

it was a good experience to interact with the other panelists as well as the audience.

as a summary of my thoughts, i mentioned that the first expectation as a practitioner from the researchers was to help 'make the obvious explicit' in a simple manner.
this evoked a couple of questions and a brief discussion.
whether more documentation will make it explicit. my response was not to rely on written documentation, but identify ways of capturing and sharing the context [domain, business etc] and conveying it effectively.
with multi media and unstructured ways of generating knowledge in groups, through interactions, we need ways to capture and later aggregate, just in time..

re an earlier post on the answer being in the question:
one day, the party chief in Russia asked as peasant how the potato crop that year was.
Peasant: we have so many potatoes that, if they are all piled up, would reach the feet of God.
Chief: but there is no God!
Peasant: there are no potatoes, either!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

technology everywhere

just got back from a literal whirlwind trip.
it was my first trip to the US after almost one year.
while i have heard of many developments, it was surely a good first hand expereince.
start with the delhi-newark non-stop flight.
duration wise, shorter than the SFO-SIN i had flown once, but it was very convenient as i could leave here sunday afternoon and reach work monday morning!
the entertainment system on continental on the way out was very good - with VoD, the selection was very vast.

if the summaries of the shows / movies were also available with some critiques, it would have been easier to choose.

the technology @ the airports is still the same - and the security lines, as long.

the technology at teh hotel was all pervasive.
no money, no service - was their motto.
whether it was the wi-fi internet access from the rooms or using the LCD panel tv in the conference room - everything was centrally controlled and unless paid for or guaranteed by a credit card, one cannot use the facilities.

the best 'adoption' of tehcnology was when we were entering the customer's office - for a meeting with an officer who was based in a different building and the guard could not get through.
we could not reach his mobile.
as we wondered hiw to get in, the guard asked "do you have an email from him on your blackberry? you can show me that!"

that was the first acceptance of blackberry as a positive confirmation document that i came across!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

is there an 'inflection age'?

i wonder if there are different ages of inflection when our outlook, priorities and preferences change. what could be the triggers or the turning points:

? from wanting to appear / behave like someone older -> wanting to appear / behave like someone younger?
? from wanting to eat out -> eat home burnt food!
? from wanting to keep writing -> wanting to keep reading
? from wanting to see places during travel -> wanting to meet more people during travel
? from wanting to spend money [go shopping] -> wanting to make money

and so on...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blame it on the barber!

I had to blame someone and the butler has already taken too many blames in all the murder mysteries.

Well, this thought was triggered during my recent visit to the barber for a haircut.

I guess it was there even earlier, but I noticed it more only this time. There was a small TV showing endless repeats of clips from the Indian Twenty20 victory. nothing strange in itself, but it was just that I used to associate saloons with radio.

during school time, i remember listening to Vivid Bharati blaring at full blast in almost all the saloons.

I also have a special affinity towards the radio. from school days, i had to have some sounds in the background while studying and that was the radio.

starting with an old valve radio at home that my grandfather used to listen to, i moved to transistors and more fancy world receivers. at one time, I had more than a dozen radios in my collection.

one of them, that i still have - is a philips transistor, that i bought out of my saved pocket money, originally meant for my german language class fees.

for a few years, i was a serious SWL - short wave listener - as i could not make the time to become a full fledged HAM - radio amateur. that exposed me to not only many countries and cultures, but also some interesting events and friendship, including a tapespondent friend in Austria.

getting back to the main topic - with TV, i feel bad that the radio is not getting its proper attention.

Of course the FM stations have revived some interest and since many of us have to spend long hours on the road - in traffic jams, this helps.

i have been one of the early subscribers to worldspacce, backwhen it was still free! now, they have already announced an increase in the subscription fees for next year. but, i think i will continue to subscribe.

I like the variety and the quality of transmission. there is still a lot more to be done in terms of the programming quality, but gives me the variety and the channel that unobtrusively stays in the background, while i can do something else also in the background.

all said and done, i would still like to have the radio back in the barber shop! at least it would not make me strain my neck to watch what is playing on TV, while i get my hair cut. and maybe, who knows, it might interest you too to start listening more to the radio!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

the answer is in the question

nothing very philosophical..
i participated in a business excellence assessment on behalf of CII [the confederation of Indian industry].
it was an interesting experience - as it has been in the last 9 years that i have been participating.
every time, a new learning - both from the fellow assessors as well as the applicant organization.

the main difference between an audit - which many organizations are used to - and revolves around non compliance, an assessment is more to understand the maturity of various aspects that contribute to excellence in the way the business is run.
this requires a lot of reading, both what is written and between the lines - and also probing to elicit more information..

so, it becomes very important to know how to ask and what to ask.
many times, we start without knowing whom to ask. that becomes clearer based on initial interactions.

i am reminded of a story about a young priest who asked his bishop if he could smoke while praying. not surprisingly, the bishop answers NO. later that day the young priest meets an older priest puffing away while praying. he tells the senior "you should not be smoking while praying. the bishop does not condone that".
"that is strange. i asked the bishop and he allowed me" says the other priest.
curious, the young priest asks him -"what did you ask him?"
"well, i asked him if i could pray while smoking and he said that it was OK to pray at any time".

i also get a lot of questions about how to search in Google. many times it so happens that some persons find relevant results quickly while others keep searching..

it is a combination of choice of right keywords, ignoring non-relevant results etc and expand the search based on some initial results.

like my childhood hobby of DXing - or hunting for distant radio stations, i guess 'wilfing' is a good time-pass..

also, through that, one can collect trivia and other information that could be useful later.
and help narrow down the searches in the future.

so, to quote an old song - "the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind".
we just need to be receptive and tune in to pick the right one for us.

p.s. wilfing is to surf aimlessly or get lost while following one link after another and get to a point when we say 'What was I Looking For'

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Homemaking '-101'

a couple of months ago, i had the opportunity to be a home maker, as Anandi was traveling for a few weeks.
I was looking forward to the role with great anticipation.
The first few days were very tense. did not realize that apparently simple things could be very complicated and need attention to a lot of detail.
among the responsibilities was to prepare the breakfast and lunch for the kids.

from choosing what to make, and having the ingredients ready and use the right recipe [to also cater to the tastes of each person], each activity was an opportunity for disaster, and, to prove Murphy's laws.

sure enough, the milk wouldn't curdle in time; the milkman may turn up late; the quantity of veggies would become very less after deep frying; etc etc etc.

so, to crunch time - that would be a great help to get everything ready in 15 minutes in the morning, rather than the hour and half that it took - parallelizing processes was a sudden brainwave.
but, having multiple stoves on, added to the complexity of juggling with multiple stirrers, ingredients that need to be added and of course the time taken to cook each of the dishes.
just when sugar needed to be added to the tea brew, milk would start boiling..

another idea that was suggested was pre-processing or part-processing. why not make the rice the previous night, so that one just needs to mix with the gravy etc to make a flavoured rice the next morning.
that helped saving some time in the morning, but the results were not something that one could show off.. the taste and texture were surely not as it would be, when freshly made in the morning.
so, back to square one.

anyway, a lot of learning: hence the title for the post as '-101'. there was more learning from mistakes..
so, i now know many what-not-to-do or how-not-to-do than what or how to do it.

i am getting another option to repeat the course :-).

will try something more / different, and, share experiences in the blog soon..

Sunday, September 2, 2007

time and distance

this was something that we learnt in school. that between two points there is distance and also a dimension of time.

one of the points that struck me while i was traveling the last couple of weeks was that there has been some compression of distance - by faster travel as well as information and communication technologies that make it easy to acces information or even people.

time, however is still synchronous - what a great revelation.

i think i wrote about this earlier - compression of time, while talking about accelerated learning.
can we make time asynchronous? email is a good example. it lets individuals participate at their own time pace. but then, the elapsed time for a communication or transaction is much higher.
can we make time asynchronous? maybe that is the key to making meetings more effective. In this trip, i had to sit up almost all night once, to participate in a discussion where all the other participants were in bangalore. and continue staying up for a call with germany. since i was traveling the next day, it was not all that bad, but otherwise, the day/night continuum has an impact on the body clock.

which brings me to another recenet study of some BPO organizations. this study found that the maximum stress levels and consequent attrition seems to be in the US shift, compared to the European of Far east shifts. wonder why..

when you start wondering about things, it could lead to interesting possibilities. when i was talking to someone about the new airlines - IATA - baggage regulations, apparently brought in by the load handlers unions - that the maximum weight for a suitcase should be 50 lbs - 23 kgs. a change from the earlier size based limit for passengers form / to the US, there was a suggestion to have helium filled suitcases, that would weigh less than they actually are.
while it sounded quite a possibility, not sure what the catch would be..
any comments?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Video blogging

after my hello world, the world has not gone quiet.
i have - at least on this blog, with too many things happening.
after shooting some videos during tht recent trip to coorg - and a few pictures during the kolkata visit - the old fad of digital capture of still and moving images looks interesting once again.

my latest fad in this ares is desktop video.
one of my projects for this weekend.

let me see how much progress i can make..