Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the Fog Effect

One of the e-newsletters that I get daily had this editor's note yesterday..




Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Armadillo Cut

I enjoy cutting vegetables and fruits from childhood.
next to watering plants, this is one of the activities i find very soothing.
every vegetable or fruit has its own personality and style. if you understand that, you can make the cutting activity interesting.
one of the first techniques i learnt from my father was to cut oranges for people who like the fruit, but not the pips and do not prefer to bite and spit the seeds.

the idea was to split every piece [or whatever it is called]so that it can be opened like 2 wings.

the seeds can be easily removed and it is served without the seedds. for thosethat want only the fruit, they can help themsleves easily.
later on i used to wonder why some cuts are called french cuts - particularly beans.
all i can associate with french cuts is that they have slanting cuts.

i remember my stay in one of the suburbs of Paris called Cergy Pontoise, which was a modern township.

among the nice things there was that one could get from one part of the town to another completely on foot, and not have to cross any of the roads.

the town planners also believed that while a straight line might be the shortest path between two points, it is not necessarily the prettiest. and their focus was to make the town pretty.

coming back to my vegetable cuts, to make the job interesting, i try different ways of cutting, to reduce the time taken as well as the presentation.
which was when i figured out that i could name [and patent?] a way of cutting okra!
i call it the armadillo cut.

the technique is to arrange the lady's fingers in a pyramid - with the large ones at the base and stack the smaller ones on top.
as the height grows, you reduce the number of okras, till you reach the top with a single okra.
then it is very easy to cut all of them together with very few strokes of the knife.
the cut okras resemble an armadillo, with its scaly skin.
the armadillo cut for okras is fast and fun..
other fruits i like cutting are : jackfruit, watermelon, coconuts.
i still have not figured an easy [ane least messy] way or cutting pineapples..
any suggestions?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

IISc @ 100

due to bad planning, i could not register for the centenary celebration conference @ IISc, my alma mater.
initially, i was not sure of my travel plans - though, of late, i have reduced it substantially.

then it was not knowing if any of my class / batch mates or immediate seniors / juniors would also be there.
and then, the registrations closed - as they had an overwhelming number of registrations.

that is good, in a way - as IIScians have been known to be very quiet and aloof.
compared to some other institutions, the activities of IIScians have been more of individual contributions and not so much in social gatherings and exchanges.

that was also a reason for my skepticism of finding some others i know.
but, then, that is somewhat like a reason for the IIScian behavior!

anyway, when i got the invitation to attend a get togethe and dinner on friday - pre conference - for the alumni, i jumped at it.
one class mate and a batch mate said they were going.
after reaching teh venue, i called a couple more and one of them also turned up.

what was surprising was that some persons had come to bangalroe exclusively to participate in this. one from mumbai and a couple from hyderabad and about half a dozen from chennai!

made me feel ashamed that i missed registering.

i also could meet many more seniors, who were also there at the dinner.
when they started calling out the batched - from 1954 -- i felt not so old.

this institute has been an institution [could not find any other words].
i have many fond memories of not only the knowledge acquired during the three year stay there, but also the wonderful people i got to know - such as faculty and also opportunities to interact with the likes of Prof. Satish Dhawan - who had made tremendous contributions to the indian space programme.

here's wishing the institute more centuries of continued contributions to the community.

free massage

post the mumbai events, all hotels are on high alert.
since my office is in the commercial wing of a multi starred hotel, i go through the layers of security meant for VIPs - at least, let me assume that I am in the league of VIPs!

a couple of interesting things that i have noticed are
- the way they search seems to be changing, though slightly - from day to day. earlier, it was just a view under the chassis with a mirror
- the location where this search happens

etc etc etc, let me not document all the variations and the details to give them the benefit of their techniques.

last week, i had a meeting with a visitor from the US in a different star hotel.
as we entered, we were asked to show state issues IDs.

and then after other screenigs, the body frsiking.

later, as we chatted over dinner, he remarked the positive side of all this is the free massage you get many times a day! though not in the comfort and privacy of a spa!

while this is intended to lighten the situation, when will we regain the confidence and mutual trust among people?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The *sexuals : marketing inventions?

First it was the metrosexuals.
this word has been around for a long time - if i remember right, from sometime in the mid 90s - when the term was coined to denote the generation of men who were conscious of their apearance.
this also led to a market of designer clothes and accessories that were to be used to be considered a metrosexual.
it became fashionable to be a metrosexual to be on page 3!

like with all products over time, since 'new and improved' versions need to be created, we got the Uber sexual.
defined as a male who is similar to a metroseual but displays the traditional manly qualities such as confidence, strength and class. 

recently, i came across a classification - the gastrosexual.
the article that introduced me to this term went on to talk about this also possibly being a strategy by marketeers. this is a term being used for the launch of food products for male cooks!
as far as i know, most of the celebrity chefs are male, though, at home, the best food is made by women..

the one that beat me recently was the 'technosexual'. 
the ones we used to call geeks or nerds are reborn as technosexuals.
again, the main characteristic of these men are the *est [latest, largest, fastest etc] gadgets that they surround themselves with. whether is is the PDA or the extra large flat screen [plasma] TV or the designer [prada?] sandals, they have to have them.

i do not know whether these marketers have taken the strategy that 'sex sells' to the extreme.

i did some research on the origin of these words. and guess what i found!

a term for people who create these words with a *sexual form.

they are called the logosexuals!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

internalizing green

of late, i find a lot of space in the media devoted to going green.
there are also many books and even major corporations that talk of going green - getting carbon credits etc.
and a lot of talk of sustainable architecture.
when i saw this on the road yesterday, while waiting for the traffic light to turn green - i was wondering..

the picture may not be very clear, but what i saw was this.
the driver of the car ahead of me was smoking. I guess a car is not a public place and hence the new no-smoking rules may not apply..
what he did was what triggered this thought:
he put his hand out [with the cigarette] and was dumping the ashen tip on the plants growing on the divider!
i am not sure if it is the bangalore traffic that makes one behave differently on the road or is all this talk just another fad being promoted by the media?

how do we bring about the concern for the environment to where the rubber meets the road -  where it can make a significant difference?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quizzing again

after many many years, i participated in a Quiz competition.
organized by a bookstore, it was more of an impulsive decision, as a third member of a three member team - the other two being my niece and son.
waitlisted 30, after the organizers stopped confirmed entries after 400 - yes, 400! we were not sure if we would even get an opportunity to participate in the prelims.

we did get in, to a packed house at the chowdiah hall.
we debated some of the questions as to whose guess would be right and chose one.
some were very clear answers and some were tricky.

there were many 'professional' quizzers participating as well as school children, some of who were very very serious about quizzing.

having gone that far, we wanted to take our chance anyway.

though we did not stay back for the prelim results to be announced, it was a very refreshing experience.

brought back memories of college days - particularly the IISc days - and the quiz club.

quizzing is a simple but effective way to get people participate and also learn collectively.

in case you were wondering - we made 15 out of 40.
could have got a few more right - but after a quick discussion, we chose the wrong answer :-(

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deepavali thoughts

it is deepavali time.
this time, the mood seems somewhat subdued.
partly the rains and partly, i guess, the drain on the stock markets.
today's paper talks about the reduced cracker sales.
increased cost and weather are considered the reasons.

but, some persons i spoke to - including some youngsters, who otherwise would have loved to burst crackers - were not that keen.
is it because the fireworks we see on TV and movies - which are grander and more vicarious. whether it is violence in the news and movies or the well orchestrated displays that precede or are part of concluding sessions of major events.

the small 'bijlees' or 'sparrows' or 'lakshmi's or even the 'atom' or 'hydrogen' bombs feel very pale in comparison.

i also noiticed this time, that the campaigns on going green [avoiding noise and air pollution] or the ones that say do something instead..
like donating for the needy or other social causes instead of spending on crackers.

a couple of years ago, it was a campaign against child labor, that used to be rampant in the fireworks industry.

it is good to see the spread of the spirit of sharing and caring.
like most occasions these days, this is also an opportunity for the retailers to gram a share of the wallets.
giving is redefined as buying.
one's affection and caring is measured by the price of the gifts to be given out.

newspapers carry full page ads; more implicit or not so subtle are placed articles on the goodness of giving. 
yesterday's issue of Mint - a paper that i started liking - carried a special article on 100 options for giving.

while these provide opportunities for one to cleanse some felings of guilt, more tolerance and consideration for others is needed to make every day a deepavali celebration.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the business of education

recently, i had an opportunity to visit a couple of educational institutions in a tier 2 city in tamilnadu.
one of the visits was for an assessment for business excellence and the other was more of a courtesy visit.

it was a good revelation on the business of education.
i was pleasantly surprised by the number of highly qualified persons who have taken to teaching and continue their research interests.
i had been under the impression that research was only at the IITs, IISc and IIMs.
the topics of research were also very contemporary and relevant to the present times.

the investments made by some of the institutions in infrastructure - with hig end technical equipment etc., was also very good to see.

over informal interactions, also came to know how many private institutions have come to the education field, with the intention of making fast money.
with minimal facilities, mostly part time staff etc - they collect a lot of cash with minimal investments,

i have seen the products of all kinds of institutions, as they get into the working world. and had wondered how come there is so much variation in the quality of the output.

these few days gave me more insight into the business of education.
how the ratings / rankings games are played, how the positioning with the campus recruitment teams is well planned etc.

these revelations only reinforced by belief that we need to do something in a large scale at the primary eduction level to bring about a consistent change in the attitudes in our children's view of the world.

with things like the current economic crisis raising basic questions on the soundness of the decisions of the 'adults', i get some simple questions that have no clear answers.

the children should not lose faith in the human systems.
let us start with primary education.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Third Olive

After many years I had an opportunity [!] to travel by local flights in the US.
in the recent years, it has been more of landing directly at one of the international airports and spending my time near that location, or travel by surface.

the pressures that airlines are under was very evident.
the no free baggage allowance - with charges of $15-$25 going upto $100 for checked in baggages was a surprise - having been used the 2 PCs free allowance.

talking to some others, i came across some of the innovative cost cutting measures that airlines seem to have adopted.

one canadian airline - that flew cross country, all over land - except for a brief stretch over lake michigan - apparently decided to do away with the flotation devices, as they were not flying over water. the saved weight, in turn, helped them improve the fuel efficiency [or maybe let them carry more baggage / cargo, to get more revenue].

while going from san jose to dallas, with a stopover in phoenix - for about 20 minutes, we were asked to keep the shutters down, to reduce the heating inside the cabin - that would help reduce the air conditioning load! i think that is a good idea anyway - of going, thinking green!

i was also told of canceled flights due to low occupancy. there was a time - when the southwest airlines model  of keeping their aircraft as much as possible on the air, with very quick turnaround times on the ground - meant additional revenue!

back home, on my favourite carrier - jet airways, i noticed something strange on my way to delhi. the meal did not include a salad! there used to be some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber - and an optional lemon slice or a chilli. the doubt was confirmed on my return flight - when, again, the salad was missing.

was it weight cutting? or cost cutting? or an attempt to be more conscious of waste? like the third olive.. the title of this post.

one americal airline had analyzed the consumption patterns of their passengers. they found that they normally served their drinks with three olives. and invariably, the third olive was not consumed. so, they figured that by reducing the number of olives served to two, they would save a significant number of olives - just multiply the # drinks per flight into the number of flights per year - and consequently, cost!

in times of trouble - that we seem to be in now, particularly after the wall street crashes, any creatuive way to reduce waste is most welcome.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

immersed in radio waves

It feels strange that i should have written about the radio just a few days ago.
now, one more thought related to radio..
i was at a user conference in the silicon valley area.
this area has always been very high in terms of technology.

this time, i was impressed by a technology called nTAG.
a device that was given to every participant, it could recognize other participants, detect your presence in a particular session, enable exchange of calling card information, participate in live polls, surveys etc and also manage one's schedule of visiting various sessions.
all this over RF technology.

pretty neat!
the scary though is: someone can and probably is - constantly watching you, as you move around, meet with others etc.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

return of the radio?

there was a recent news item that listening to the radio [or was it music too?] while driving was a punishable in offence in mumbai.
the reason given was that it could be distracting and therefore dangerous.

set me thinking..
for me, radio has been very special from childhood.
i needed a background ambience - which in those times was best provided by the radio - in the pre i-pod days! - to be able to effectively study or concentrate.
that got me into the hobby of short wave listening and DXing etc later.

then, there was the near death of the radio - with TV taking prime time from the viewers.

with the entry of FM radio and community radio stations in india, radio has been seeing a revival.
while on the one hand, these are commercial ventures and are slowly degenerating into a me-too format - with the main focus being on getting more advertising revenues and targetting the same audience with a lot of flocal flavour in every city, i find some stations trying a different formula.

in bangalore, the government channel - amruthavarshini - has been dishing out - for limited hours every day - good classical music, both hindustani and carnatic.
the AIR rainbow, has a very good collection of songs - indian and western - but need more forceful RJs.

bangalore also has radio indigo, that is the only private station that still plays only western / english music.

in chennai, i found chennai live being more of a mixed bag - still not possibly equalling teh collection of the old madras-2 station!

in delhi, i recently heard the station called 'meow' - an exclusive women oriented channel.

it is good to see that the diversity in interests are beign recognized and that there are sufficient target audience for each of these segments that it makes it worthwhile to have some dedicated services to cater to their needs..

at one time, i used to collect radios - from each of my travel destinations. i stopped that a long time ago.
maybe it is time to revive that..

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google's growing footprint on my desktop

I am sure that i am not the first or the last to write about Chrome - the new browser from Google.
i was hoping to be among the first to download last night - and stayed up till about 11.45 IST, but then went to sleep as the link was not activated till then.

when i did it this morning, the net was slow - or was it the download site.. but, anyway, the first impressions are pretty good.

though, one typical google 'feature' that i do not like - still exists. no prompts for the location where the application should be installed. same happens for google talk as well. they go to the default C: drive, while i prefer to have all applications in stalled on a different drive.

having said that - i notice that most pages load fast. on some of my work related pages, the rendering was not clean.

the browsing history in thumbnails is interesting - so are the bookmarks tab.

the menu bar is non existent. still need to figure out how to print / save the pages.

when i looked at my desktop shortcuts, i realized that i have 4 google apps - out of the 10 custom shortcuts that i maintain!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

recursion in blogs?

i have always been impressed with the ingeniuty of the poet who had composed a song in tamil - that wonders how others wrote songs..
even without a main theme or plot, just talking about the lack of a plot could make a story or a blog post.

though i get many ideas to write about, they seem to vanish the moment i sit down to post. add to that the travel and slightly chaotic schedules, it is becoming difficult to maintain a regular frequency.

when i decided to write this post - so that the gap between two posts is not very long -- assuming that you find it worthwhile to read my posts occasionally -- the problem was what can i blog about today.

as i wait for the rain ourside to subside - to go out, there is a rush of ideas
- the beijing olympics?
-- talk of the winners and the ways of the winners?
-- talk of the infrastructure and the arrangements?
-- discuss the preparations and the fitness levels of the comnpetitors - and feeling guilty at not keeping fit..

- the damage caused by the kosi
-- how unpredictable nature is and the futility of considering modern development as a solution to growth

- the recent book i read
-- lean brain management: that says using less intelligence on the normal activities will free up so much intelligence that it can go and perfect itself

etc etc etc
but then, a blog is not a random list. well, it can be at times. i have also created such lists.
but then, it has to be at teh spur of the moment,

if it is very contemplated, i guess it would be a book.

so, as i wonder what to blog about and how to say it, it has beome a topic for this blog.

as i remember reading in one of my early programming books:
- to iterate is good; but to recurse is divine...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Plastic Palms of Puducheri

Give time a break - say the hoardings, inviting people to come to Pondicherry.

after a long time, i took a very short break from chennai - and went to pondicherry, by bus.
i have been visiting pondicherry for many years - i can remember a visit almost 40 years ago, with my dad.
this time, as i was also going there alone - the last few times have been rushed drives in half a day - i decided to relive some of my old routines..

i was lucky to get some standing space, said the good hearted conductor, as it was a saturday afternoon - who, for some reason, took pity on me and offered his seat whenever he was moving inside to issue tickets etc - and ensured that the seat next to him was for me, when that passenger got off along the way.

like a walk along the beach after breakfast and a brief stop at the public library to catch up with all the newspapers..

a lot has changed.
from a sleepy little town - that one could walk all around in less than an hour, it has become a city and has expanded in all directions..
i could see many new hotels and restaurants including boutique hotels - such as the ones on the beach road, including a yoga therapy center.
some of the other hotel chains - such as GRT and Ginger also have established their presence.

the old trishaws are not to be seen at all. they have given way to the share autos and buses even for travel from the city to the new bus stand.

the old bus stand and the train station are still intact, though the bus stand is not used.

i do not have any complaints against development - but feel that some old things need not change and surely there is no need to make everything modern - like the plastic palms for street lights!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is energy sustainable?

I read a book called 'Keeping the lights on - Towards Sustainable Electricity', by Walt patterson.
[also on my shelfari bookshelf]

written in a simple language, it discusses various 'myths' related to sustainable energy and proposes an argument about changing the way we look at energy.
among other things, his main points are:
  • energy is only used and not consumed.
  • since energy can never be created or destroyes [as per the law of thermodynamics], as can only do something about the use of fuels
  • we need to change the way we think about the energy carriers  aka fuels
  • one of the main reasons for promoting a culture of energy self sufficiency and energy security is the way we treat and charge the usage of energy
  • building more efficient networks for transsportation of fuels [including electricity] could also help increase the benefits we derive from these fuels
he goes on to talk about the complete ecosystem - of the energy carriers [such as electricity], the converters [devices].
he talks and quotes from another paper of his 'running the planet', where he urges us to stop borrowing from our descendants.

written in simple language, this book can be read to get a quick overview of various issues related to energy being sustainable.

but, the treatment of some of the aspects is not very deep and particularly the references to not using nuclear energy is not very convincing.

his website promises a lot more detailed treatment that i have not gone through yet.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

temple economy

it is interesting to note how the lines between commerce / economy, religion - or rather religious sentiments are being exploited by vested interests.

i noticed a few new constructions coming up in my neighborhood.
one is a big arch at the entrance of a narrow side road - leading to a small temple. the arch has been growing steadily and now stands as a tall concrete structure with painted figurines on the pillars.
another is an empty [again concrete] shell coming up on a storm water drain! yes standing on a narrow stretch between the drain and a compountd wall, the structure extends over the drain as well.

i am sure that this will become a very popular temple and soon encroach upon as much of land in the neighborhood as possible.

this is not the first such example. i have seen at least two other such 'enterprises' that have occupied space in playgrounds.

all these in areas where there are already many small temples very close. in one of the large land grabbing cases nearby, along with the hutments, two temples also came up.

wonder where the money for all this comes from.
with even a portion of that spent towards improving the storm water drain [which is always clogged during the monsoon] or the street surface, life would be much better for the local residents.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

toothbrushes - the ultimate frontier in innovation?

i have always been amazed at how the toothbrush industry has been innovating to keep growing.
recently, when i had some time to kill - at a grocery store - while waiting for the shopping to complete - i was near the tooth brush shelf.
the variety of the toothbrushes was at least equal to - if not more than - the variety in tooth pastes.
while i could understand the variations in tooth pastes - such as flavors, colors, packaging and claiming ingredients that would give one a good feeling, i had wondered what distinguishes one brush from another.
the innovations are not just product design innovations, but also in packaging and positoning.
looking at the claims by the brushes, one wonders why nobody has found the ultimate toothbrush yet.
from the curved ones to the zig zags, from sensitive to strong, from ones with bells for kids to motors for mechanized brushing.
from brushes with changeable handles to caps for the brush heads, from brushes with specially shaped bristles to brushes with specially arranged gum massagers - the combinations and variations seem to be infinite.
wonder how we kept our teeth clean when tooth brushes were much simpler.. or when we uses tooth powder?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

legal density

first a disclaimer:
i have a lot of admiration and respect for the legal profession and i also have a few good friends who are lawyers..
now the story for this post:
i was recently invited to witness a worldwide simulcast of an 'IP auction', that was being conducted in Europe.
intrigued, i went to the event - where there were some discussions on what is needed for an ecosystem to create more IPs and another discussion on the role of collaboration between industry, academia and government.
unfortunately, i could not connect with many of the speakers, as they all seemed to be more interested in establishing their credentials and track record more than address the topic.
with the exception of a couple of others, it appeared that the event was full of lawyers.
probably there were more lawyers per square inch than vehicles during peak hour traffic in Bangalore.
anyway - coming to the auction - it looked like an attempt to create a secondary market - along the lines of the stock market.
i have never understood the stock market [or the financial services in the secondary and tertiary markets, though i have been providing some technology solutions in that space]. as it all appears unreal and removed from the real value being created by manufacturing or services industries.
in a way, it is probably good because this created revenue opportunities for others, than just the inventor.
one day, when my ideas are patented, this might also help me realize more value for those..
till then, i choose to remain a sceptic.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Name Games

my recent experiences in getting some certificates - including a correction on my daughter's passport led me to seriously think of how seriously people take the names of others..
right from school days, when i used to be an active short wave listener and had many pen friends across the globe, i would receive mails addressed to me with different spellings. when someone hears my name and address, they spell it the way they think is right.. including one addressed to c.bangu and a partial address.
somehow it reached me and the postman said that any mail received at that post office, which they could not figure out, he would check with me - as i used to receive a lof ot foreign mails...
for some reason, my name has been a favourite with many to spell it the way they chose to.
i have been called Siva, Shiv, Shiva, Guru, Siv, 'viz' etc etc etc
i always used to tell people that they can call me anything as long as they do not call me names.

in running around to get some papers organized for my daughter's visa, i realized that the project to correct the names and synchronize them will be a major effort.
the names are spelt the way the clerk in an office chooses - so i have different spellings for the name as it appears in some bank accounts [it was ok when the account was opened, but changed when an additional passbook was issued], property documents, PAN cards. voter ID card, airline frequent flyer cards etc etc etc.
is there any service that would detect these anomalies and get it all sorted out quickly?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bangalore airport - user experience

last week, i had the opportunity to experience travel through the Bangalore airport.
almost three weeks after it opened, i had mixed expectations, based on media reports and what some others had to say.
the drive to the airport was surprisingly fast - it was a sunday and without much traffic, i could make the 50 km stretch in less than an hour! my estimate was at least an hour and a half.
checkin: while there were many counters, the organization was still not very efficient, and my wait at the line was longer than at teh old airport, even though i did not have any bag to check in.
the airlines lounge was not yet operational and i was asked to use one of the three restaurants.
security screenign: was very quick - more scanners and faster screning.
this gave me some more time in the departure area - with shops including a bookstore run by crossword - but it did not feel the same like Sankars at the old airport.
three restaurants, but insufficient seating made people wait for a seat.
wonder how it would be during other peak hours.
there are more departure gates, but the waiting area in front had few seats. i also noticed that teh departure diaplays were positioned in fairly obscure points - and it was not very intuitive to locate one.
when i found my gate, there were two flights - from two different carriers - that were assigned to that gate, to depart at the same time! this was while many other gates were free.
while waiting for the departure, i thought of using the free wi-fi internet connection. as per the brochure, a free 15-minute session was available for all passengers.
when i connected, the home page asked me to sms a code to a number, to get a passowrd for a 1 hour connectivity.
eager to use the exrta surfing time, i got only a response that the service was nto available yet, as a return sms! wonder why they could not have put that up on the home page itself, saving passengers the cost of an sms..
overall, the departure experience needs to improve.
the arrival:
in chennai, we were told that the incoming flight was delated due to congestion @ bangalore. the same aircraft was to return to bangalore. effectively, the delay was close to 2 hours! not sure what the reason was, but part of the blame was put on the new airport..
on landing, even though there were free aerobridges, the plane was taken to a bay a little away from the terminal.
we had to wait for about 10 minutes, while the ground staff were figuring out how to get the ladder attached to the plane. theycould not get the height right. after a couple of attempts, that was set right. these were reported as problems in the first couple of days - but looked like it continues. not sure if it is the training for the staff or the quality of equipment.
a longer walk from the arrival gate to the exit, but the additional space did not make it feel crowded.
noticed many people waiting for their luggage from earlier flights, evan at that time of the night [close to midnight].
the return drive home also took less than an hour.
i am sure that during normal hours or peak hours, it is not going to be that smooth.
the highway - between hebbal flyover and the airport has a couple of signals and also speedbreakers - but there is talk of dropping the signal free access to the airport from the city.
instead, a high speed rail link is being planned.
for the time being, one just has to grin and bear it, while the airport matures.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bangalore airport 2.0

last weekend was an opportunity to ring out the old and ring in the new.
i was returning from chennai on friday and was supposed to land at the new airport - on day 1 of its operations.
but, due to elections in other parts of karnataka, the opening was delayed by a day.
so, mine was among the last flights that landed at the old airport.

I had many complaints about the old airport - in terms of passenger convenience, once you get into the airport.
but no complaints - in fact all admiration for the little book stall - sankars - that i used to partonise regularly.
small shop, but a very good collection of books- and an ever ready and informed person at the cash register, always ready to help.
i bought a book - other than the usual magazines etc - when the person told me that they do not have space at the new airport.
the ride back home took much longe rthan usual - close to an hour and a half - maybe a ploy by the new airport to get people used to long commutes..

on sunday, had an opportunity to go to the new airport to receive my niece.
decided to try the airport shuttle service, rather than drive.
the ride to the airport was by a volvo bus - that took an hour and 20 minutes in the afternoon.
being a new landmark, one could see many people picnicing there!

it was spacious in terms of parking spaces, the foyer, the arrival area etc.
but overall, it gave an impression of an international standard small time airport..
from the number of people i could see - it will soon be crowded.
the airport is still under construction and getting stable in terms of services and facilities.
maybe that is airport 2.0 - like web2.0 - constantly evolving and ever in beta.
this is reinforced by the 'mechanical' problems with the starircase / aerobridge that made passengers wait a couple of hours inside the aircraft, bagge belts that took more than 40 minutes to deliver baggages and even the parking gate, that would not let anyone out of the parking lot for more than a couple of hours.

the return trip was not by volvo - as they are only once an hour and it would have been a long wait.
the driver was new to the route, and took a wrong turn - and nearly got lost.
the only other passenger - apart from us - had to navigate. that and the traffic, made the return trip more than an two hours and fifteen minutes.

as i talk to persons who have been using the new airport in the last few days, the initial impression seems to be positive.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Life: scripted by the Inbox

as i write this blog, i am installing an add-in called xobni to outlook.

one of the features i liked about it is the analytics that it is expected to have about emails flowing into the inbox.. see sample from the weekend traffic. the weekday traffic is much more..

i am hoping that it will give me ideas to tame my inbox that is growing out of control.

at one time, the main problem was spam.
nowadays, it is being in a CC for a 'reply all' thread seems to be a major contributor.

if i stay away from my inbox - or am not connected for a few hours, i can be sure of another few dozens mails flowing in.

I have now come to classify my mails into three categories.

the first are the ones that i am expecting - either information, updates or actions that i need.
the second are some subscriptions [newsletters etc] that i would like to have.
the third category - that is presently about 60% of my mailbox load - are things that i really do not need, but cannot delete without reading - as there could be some implied contribution from me.

I have always wanted to infer more on the patterns of mails and the persons from whom i receive mails.

just when i was getting convinced that the sole purpose of my life was to respond to emails, i feel that this kind of a tool would give me better control on my life outside the inbox!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


it is just coincidence that my earlier post was also titled two alphabets.
this XY is more about the GenX and GenY, inspired by a recent book i read - retire retirement.
you will find more details on my shelfari bookshelf.
the award winning author, tamara erickson - is also an interesting story teller.
in this book, she provides encouragement to the near retirees of GenX and provides many tips to extend careers after formal retirement ages.
she defines Boomers as those who were born between 65 and 80; the Gen Y was born between is 85 to 2000
Those pre genX are classified as traditionalists.
in terms of their behavior, they hold the following approaches to life:
Traditionalists: I want to join the world and benefit accordingly
Boomers: I want to hel change the world. But I must also compete to win
genX: I can't depend on institutions - I must keep my options open
genY: I must live life now - and work toward long term shared goals
one tip that she provides for the Boomers - who are the main target audience is to : Explore, experiment, strengthen your edge

she also has a blog @ http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/erickson/
you might find it interesting if you want to know more on this subject.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


that is not his real name.
i have known him for about 4 years now.
his role was 'office boy' - though he has children in the school going age. his main responsibilities were to keep the office clean and take care of any urgent requirements related to admin.
his salary was hardly enough to make ends meet, but his ambitions to provide a good education for his children were very serious.
a couple of years ago, when he coould no longer have free lunch in the office, it hit him hard.
when he approached me for help, i tired to refer his name to a few of my contacts.
lack of formal secondary schooling was a big challenge.
i suggested that learn driving and get a driver's license. that would have got him a significant increase in the monthly income.
to be fair to him, he did try. but, somehow could not get sufficient confidence to drive.
it was fortunate for him to get a break in a slightly different role - a role that made him responsible to get signatures on cheques.
the complication was that no two signatories on cheques would be available in the same building - and even in different locations, but not at the same time.
he had to now not only keep track of the cheques to be signed, but also the movement of the signatories.
i do not know how he does that, but would sense a signatory's presence in the office and bring the cheques for signature.
he would also have sorted the cheques based on importance and urgency - saying things like : this has to go to the bank in the next 30 minutes, so please sign these right away and the others can wait.
or, warn in advance about a big backlog or a hundred cheques to be signed that day, positively, as there were either vendors waiting for payment or ex-employees waiting for settlement or employees waiting for their claims to be processed etc..
i like the way he takes complete ownership of his job. and doing it with a cheerful smile always.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

entertainment and other new age businesses

These days, everything is getting professional - and a for-profit business.
including what were traditionally considered as pure diversion or art forms.
time was - even now, to a large extent - when artists were considered very special in their status in society, but hardly rewarded per contemporary standards.
the recent 'commercialization' of cricket teams in India is a clear example of how sports can be converted to entertainment, packaged and popularized as such.
while it is too early to say anything about the success of this approach, many of the concepts are based on proven approaches adopted in the west.
i have remarked earlier on the packaged selling of new movies in India. it feels sometimes that the entire media is part of the bigger game plan to ensure that the mind share of the public is complete to the extent of making one feel guilty for missing a movie!
of course, the professionalism has also reflected in some very good productions.
in the recent past, i can recollect: Taare Zameen Par and Five Point Someone - as two examples of taking simple concepts and converting them to a good product; one on screen and another on the theatre stage.
at the same time, a great disappointment has been 'mungaru male' - a move that was such a hit and got rave reviews. i felt that the most of the aspects - the cast, the acting, the storyline, the script etc were all very average to below average.
one more area that i have seen become more professional is in organizing outbound, adventure camps for children.
as far back as 12-14 years ago, when our daughter went for a trip to munnar, this existed, but to a small extent.
nowadays, you find many such agencies and they cater to different budgets and preferences of both parents and children.
one more area where i would like to see similar advances, though it might mean higher costs for the consumers:
- education, particularly primary education
this should help in better quality education being made available to more [if these businesses target the bottom of the pyramid] and delivered in a more consistent manner.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Parallel Societies

I remember buying palmyrah fruits from this person over thas last few years.
he was a familiar figure on the walking track along the mini forest.
a few days ago, in order to save time, we had 'pre-ordered' and told him that we would collect the fruits when we get back from the walk, as he invariably used to make us wait.
that day, after serving the previous customer, who had also pre-ordered, before us, he cut his thumb, while chopping.
i went looking for a medical shop to get some band aid, but no shop was open that early.
the next day, he was back at his post, and i engaged him in a conversation.
he was a regular farmer, with both palmyrah and watermelon. his investment in watermelon was close to one lakh rupees..
he went on to say that he comes to bangalore along with a few other fellow villagers for a few weeks, in the palmyrah season.
some person [middle man] organizes their stay in minimalistic rooms and also takes care of some other incidental expenses.
after this conversation, i began to observe how these 'nomads by design' lived.
i could spot a whole parallel society - providing accommodation, serving tiny cups of coffee and tea while they are at work, roadside food courts to cater to simple, affordable food - from breakfast to dinner..
are these the micro economies that thrive in parallel realms?
the urban elite is a very very small portion of this larger society.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Power of God

It pays to be connected. at the highest level possible.
this may not be new to you, but, when you see that in reality, one starts thinking...
Today, a strange thing happened on my flight. i had, through web-check in got my favourite seat - and was the first to check in, as reflected in the SEQ # on the ticket.
i had to check in a suitcase, and went to the counter, the person was very confused. she found that my printout said 10c, while the screen showed that 16f was blocked for me!
after a couple of rounds of hush hush discussions with colleagues and a supervisor, i was told that there was some confusion and gave me a boarding pass with the new seat allocation. the SEQ on the boarding pass was 87!
i could not guess what the reason could be.
inside the aircraft, i was very curious to see the person who had stolen my rightful seat! he looked somewhat familiar - and there were a couple of airport officials who were making some petty conversation with him.
so, i asked the hostess who that gentleman was. ever ready to help the passengers, she smiled and said that she did not know his name, but that he was a swamiji.
that was when i realized the full impact of the first line of this post..

a related contextual line that i had heard from a friend - after the recent cricket controversies during India's tour of Australia, abot the clout of the BCCI..
Q: what is the difference between BCCI and God?
A: God does not think that (s)he is BCCI!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bangalore Traffic : the inspiration for science

Bangalore has been known as the seat of science and technology.
the reasons were the Indian Institute of Science and the public sector and defence establishments that had a lot of activity based on research and development.
Also called the silicon valley of India, many wonder what the magic of Bangalore is and how it came to be.
I want to share my theory about how science is very natural to bangalore.
Darwin is said to have been inspired by Galapagos for his survival theory. Actually, it was from Bangalore. The theory that india was actually attached to south america long ago gives rise to the possibility that Darwin mightg have actually come to India and wrongly written in his diaries that it was Galapagos.
one has to see Bangalore traffic - where the theory of survival of the most aggressive is very visibly and simply demonstrated. this behavior is based on another theory that one has the might of way. the bigger the vehicle, the more might you have to chaneg your mind as often as you can and, like an ad claims, 'make your own road'.
the survival insticnt is in the genes of the drivers. if it is not, they acquire it after driving in bangalore for some time. this goes to show that genetic behavior can be modified.. the basis of most genetic resesrch today.
it is not only in biology, that bangalore traffic has been an inspiration.
take physics - the Bernoulli principle. those who need to visualize it only needs to drive in bangalore. the more number of lanes, the slower the traffic. as the road narrows at some point, vehicles speed up, to make sure that they get across the narrow spot fastest, ahead of others. every vehicle and driver suddenly remembers that the ancestor for the buses and the big SUVs was the simple two-wheeled cycle and think that their genes convey that they just need the width of the cycle to get through the narrow patch.
it is not all serious onthe roads here.
everyone plays the game of blink at intersections. if you blink, the other person gets the right of way! or, when the policeman blinks, you can sneak through..
i can feel that my own driving style has become more aggressive over the years that i have been in bangalore.
there are a few mre such theories - but more of that some other time

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Enjoy your towel, sir!

i have always been curious to understand the training programs that some industries have.
in some five star restaurants, i wonder why the trainees are made to wear shining brass badges that say 'trainee'. it makes me nervous when trainees bring or take glasses of water or soup, precariously balanced on their hands.
maybe it is to ensure that the guests are more understanding when they see a trainee.

as part of that training, they are also trained to make some small conversation - such as
? how are you today?
? did you have a good day at work?
? enjoy your meal!
i can understand that.
one of the airlines that i regularly travel with, even has a question in their passenger feedback form - whether one was greeted on entry into the aircraft.. making it explict that it is a standard instruction to repeat the welcome greeting for every person boarding.

recently, a trainee steward [the cabin crew normally does not wear the trainee badge ], but i could sense that this person was new to the job - by the enthusiasm displayed to please every passenger.
while serving snacks, he made sure that everyone was wished - enjoy your meal, sir / madam!
while distributing the cold towels to freshen up, he said - enjoy your towel, sir!
to me, that is the limit...

Saturday, March 1, 2008


I came across this site recently.
called ficlets - this is a collaborative authoring site that lets the members collaboratively develop stories.
another similar site is storybox
one of the types of party games that i used to enjoy a lot was the team storybuilding games.
the simplest is when one person starts with a sentence and each subsequent person continues the story with one sentence each.
the more difficult version is where we need to build a story word by word.
to make it even more interesting, a condition that the words have to be in the alphabetic sequence may be added.
this mode is best played by a team of two and the speed of the story building will be a factor of victory.
the opponent team will choose the first letter to start the game.
anyone game to play this?
maybe we can try to play this online - as a wiki story.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

seeds for creative excuses

i guess that one of the triggers for creativity in an individual is when one has to come up with excuses.
not sure if excuses are created to get rid of one's guilt feeling or to escape additional comments from others.
in any case, i find that such situtations provide a lot of scope for creative excuses.
after some time, these could become expectations from others - like in my case, the excuses for not having green tea, have become expectations.
i am forced to come up with reasons why that is not the right time to have tea.
these excuses are not considered valid and i anyway end up drinking the green tea.
not that i do not like it - in fact, i like some of the flavors - it is just that i prefer if it is more like iced tea - chilled.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Daily speed limit

Do you have a daily speed limit?
i have noticed this while driving.
there are some days when i seem to be happy driving at 40.
and some other days, when anything less than 60 feels very slow.
this is irrespective of traffic conditions.
the same applies to some other tasks as well. long pending things are not necessarily big tasks that require a lot of effort. just that it gets postponed.
and when in a mood, many things seem to get done quickly.
this is from clearing the clutter in the drawers or rooms to clearing the mailbox!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

where peacocks danced

it was a long pending trip.
finding the right time that suited everyone in the family meant that it had to be taken as a power break in the middle of the week.

a day [and two consecutive night train journeys] trip to mayiladuthurai [earlier known as mayavaram] was mainly to visit the rare [the only?] saraswati temple in koothanoor [ http://www.hinduonnet.com/2001/10/25/stories/13250799.htm ].

we also visited a temple for lalitha, where the popular lalitha sahasranamam was supposed to have been chanted first as well as a rara temple for Ganesha in a normal human form - before his head was replaced with that of an elephant - the Adi Vinayaka temple. [a quick search before writing this post showed that there are a few other such temples in tamilnadu, in the same area].

our landing point was mayiladuthurai - where the station has been partly converted to broad gauge and the rest is still in meter gauge, under conversion.

the family that hosted us for breakfast lunch [and packed dinner for the night train] were very good family friends of my in-laws.

their affection was extremely touching. we were overwhelmed by the hospitality and the simple and surrounding affection.

i had written earlier on LoL. this obviously does not not apply to them - possibly for all non-urban families.

society and the close knit families still mean a lot and their lives spin around them. while having grown to have the benefits of modern technology and advancements, the basic values and the small-town atmosphere where almost everybody knows everybody else and genuinely cares about them are still to be seen and felt.

it was a refreshing power break. the trains were full, but did not feel crowded.
surely the temples were very quiet and we could spend undistrubed time in all the temples.
i was told that the crowds usually come in during the weekends.

in all this i could not see any peacocks - in the town where once peacocks danced - hence the name mayiladuthurai [or mayooram or mayavaram].

it is surely worth another, more leisurely visit to this part of the country.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

waiting for zero

earlier this week, as i was packing for my travel to Delhi, saw the news update that Delhi was to hit zero degrees on friday.

amidst hectic, allday [and almot all night] meetings, thought i would step out to feel the cold.
the thursday papers carried reports from BBC that confirmed the prediction and those from the local met department that maintained that the temperature would drop to only about 2 degrees.

even more than the twenty-20 match this was the main topic of discussion that morning.

an interview on TV with a 6th standard student showed her as very unhappy, as the government had declared a holiday till class 5. her question was, we are just one more year older - why should we not have a holiday?

some of the questions by kids have no easy answers.
like the one from the child star of 'taare zameen par'. he was unhappy that he was adjudged the best child star. his question was - when i was the main character, why not best actor?

back to delhi and the wait for zero - the previous geological experience was the tremor recently, that i could feel - while @ Noida.

no entrepreneur had thought of making T-shirts or other accessories - that would proclaim something like 'I survived zero-degrees'.

after a late night meeting and some backlog to be cleared the next morning, i slept through the night for about 5 hours and thezero point must havce just passed by..

today, when i checked the papers, news etc - there was no mention of this record being reached.

guess i need to wait for the next winter.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Shtop Lights

Everyone talks about the retail boom in India.
it is overflowing to the streets as well.
i am sure you would have been approached by some hawkers at stop lights with a fairly large array of goods.

other than the traditional car wipe cloths, i have seen 'designer' sun glasses, magazines, sun shades, electric mosquito swatters and a range of seasonal items.

This week, there were Indian National Flags, stickers, and soem desktop displays of flags.

i am amazed at the distribution network and also the economics.
though i have not bought anything from these hawkers, i am sure there is sufficient business to make this viable.

Stop lights are becoming Shop Lights - or stoppers shops!

a recent sales pitch from a small boy raised a few doubts in my mind.

this boy was selling tissues. he wanted me to be his first customer - around 9 AM.
his offer was 5 packs for Rs. 100.
i had the window glass down a little, so he decided to engage in a harder sell.
when i responsed to his initial offer with a no, he must have felt that he had got my attention and interest.
he said, For you, sir, i will give you 6 packs for Rs. 100.

the sale was still not concluded.
the car started inching towards the light.
the next 'final offer' was for 7 packs for Rs. 100 and that i could never get that deal again, ever..

it was a false alarm, as the light was still red.
this time, he said, 'sir, last and final offer - 8 packs for Rs. 100'. i will give you all the boxes i have.. i am giving this only because you are my first customer.

as the car started moving, i started to wonder if i would have anyway felt bad and cheated anyway - either because the actual price would have been even lower or maybe the boxes were all empty or had a very low number of tissues.

i do not want to get the answer by buying from the street corner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

less is better

the last two days, most of the maxi-cabs and many private buses are off the roads in bangalore.

while they are protesting the mandate of fitting their vehicles with speed limiting devices, it has been better for the other drivers, as they are able to drive faster than usual, with less crowded roads.

i am sure that this is one of the reasons for this protest and reluctance.

i have some solutions for this issue:

make the speed limiting device active during peak hours only
have special drag races for these drivers who are forced to drive with limitations; these races to be held over the weekends in specially designated roads that have the normal number of potholes, cross traffic etc
like slow cycle races, have a slow-sumo race
offices should reward the drivers [and the employees, consequently] who come in late to work, due to slow driving
i shudder to think how long it would take to get to the new airport with a maximum speed of 15 kmph..

p.s. no idea mentioned above to be construed as the author directly or indirectly promoting rash driving!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


or Chinese innovation.

i visited a friend recently.
he had returned from a trip to the US, and was showing some of his shopping there.

these were Chinese products, LED based lamps.
of was a stick on - that could be put inside cupboards.
another was a hand charged torch light.
a third was a candle [wax] lamp.

the candle lamp had real was [vanilla fragrance] and an LED lamp.
the lamp would flicker and also create the illusion of a normal wick burning. if you did not know that it was electrically operated, you cannot tell the difference.

three interesting aspects of this:
1. the finish was very good. no ragged edges, pleasant colors and very low power consumption - LED lamps.
2. they were all Chinese made designs
3. they were very cheap. the candle lamp was about Rs. 20, the cupboard lamp was about Rs. 40. [USD 1.00]

i had read the book Tigers at your doorstep on Chinese innovation going beyond the cost / price based competition alone.

this was very interesting - to see that simple applications of simple technology. no risks on either front. but creating immediately appealing products and making them affordable.

consider this with the sharper image products..

something to think about.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The driving genes?

of late, due to business travel, i have not been driving as much myself, but rather been in chauffeur driven cabs.
in Chennai and noida as well as in bangalore, for the drive to and from the airport

one thing that struck me recently was the whole 'driving culture' that seems to have evolved very distinctly, not only in the context of cities, but also within localities in the same city.

In Bangalore, most junctions have their own implicit conventions. when you are expected to cut the central circle and when not. at some junctions, the conventions vary with the time of the day as well as the presence of a traffic regulator [policeman or a home guard].

irrespective of signals, some junctions have their own right of way conventions - as to which roads get the preference etc. added to this is the 'might of way' conventions, resembling the Darwinian survival of the fittest [genes] theory. the bigger, faster your vehicle is, the mightier and rightier you are considered.

recently, what i noticed - both in chennai and bangalore was that when the culture code of - flashing headlights to signal that you claim the right of way, or honking to indicate that you are unhappy with the world in general - is broken, the affected party, or whoever considers that offensive, starts pumping adrenaline and has to show that the offence is not taken slightly.

on my way home from the airport a couple of days ago, a truck that was also turning right [obviously he was not on the rightmost lane to make the turn] made a deep swerve and was almost cutting my cab off. natural protective instinct led the driver to honk. surely, the truck driver was not amused.

with a wanton swing, he came very close to the cab to threaten and say that he could anytime just touch the cab and not even be affected by it.

this was enough for my driver to literally shift gears in the cold war. normally a very calm and composed driver, he stepped on the pedal, surged ahead, moved swiftly to the left - to get ahead of the truck ... and, slowed down, forcing the truck also to slow down!

having done that, a quick look at the rear view mirror he sped ahead, and resumed his normal, composed driving.

i see similar acts of aggression - the seeds of road rage? - in every city.

when i reflected, i realize that my own driving style has 'evolved' in the 17 years that i have been in Bangalore. i have become more aggressive that what i used to be.

do you think that driving needs a special set of genes and that these have their own social conventions?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Previous day's newspaper

i like reading the newspaper.
if i cannot do it in the morning, i prefer to read it the next day, rather than in the evening.

when i travel out of town for a few days, i like to read the papers after my return.
helps me catch up with the local, national and international stories.

reading the previous day's paper is interesting.
you most likely know the main stories already - from TV or through someone else. so there is no element of surprise.
but, at the same time, it is a good source to quench your curiosity. you can get the details of the stories that are of interest.

in that sense, it is better value for time spent with the paper.

another advantage with the previous day's paper is that there are unlikely to be other contenders - so you can read in peace - as long as you wish, wherever you wish!

when i travel to a new place, i like to read the local - more local, the better - paper.
many of the local papers are tabloids.

they want to ensure that you - as a reader - can empathize with the neighborhood in times of distress such as a cat that climbed a tree and caused a lot of mental agony for the caretaker as well as the neighbor.

with this habit acquired in India, i sorely used to miss the daily paper in the morning [no. i usually do not drink coffee, so that is not a necessity]. on one occasion, when i was visiting the USA [in California, to be more precise], i picked up the free local Daily News during lunch time. my co-worker commented that it was my daily dose of depression.

i have thought about it many times. and still cannot find a simpler, clearer and correct definition or reason for the newspaper habit.

i need my daily fix of news and views.

the e-paper versions do not hold the same charm for me. while they have matured in the recent times, and provide the page turning effects, i still cannot fold the image to the size of, say, the crossword!

why talk about old newspapers in the new year - you may wonder.

almost every paper has a recap of the year that was - the top / bottom list, whose logic nobody would know - as it varies from paper to paper.
in effect, they are compressing all that happened in the year to a page or two.

i hope that one day we will have our own paper - with the look and feel of the texture and size of paper, customized to our preferences, that is completely electronic.

what the iPod did to music and now videos, this newsPod would be the next killer product idea.