The lonely traveller

I stood parched in a desert.
My travels brought me here.
I determined to endure the travails
of crossing the cruel desert,
to move on before the harsh sun burnt me down.

The fates conspired to lead me out.
I ran into a flower bed.
The desert winds struck me senseless,
the fragrant flower bed carried the whiff of life.

I opened my eyes and in my gaze lay
all kinds of beautiful flowers.
Some were plain and simple
and there, spread in the center,
were some exquisite roses.

I thought of gathering them all,
my heart craved for this gentle sea of beauty.
This fragrant balm to soothe the burn of the desert.
But a voice rang out:
'Choose but one! Choose wisely & well!
Choose one that suits you most,
one that'll make you happy & bring you serenity,
And that its fragrance constantly remind you, that you are blessed
For you have emerged from the desert, scathed yet stronger!'

I stand humbled by this gift,
I stand pondering,
How should I choose?

For I must pick my rose and move on
to chart a new course of discovery.
For it is the rose that makes me stronger, fills my heart with love,
colours my dreams with meaning.

So how do I choose?
Do I choose the red one,
It brings me the crimson rush of vitality.

Do I choose the blue one,
It bathes my weary mind in a sea of peace and tranquility.

Or maybe the pink one,
For it lifts my spirits in a dance of joy!


QBQ - The Question Behind the Question. By John G. Miller

Every now and then you come across a book that makes its point really well. QBQ (2005, Penguin) is one such book every organisation should gift each employee.

I've often fallen trap to feeling helpless and blaming circumstances for things gone wrong. Here's a readable & racy book that makes a case for stopping the 'victim' mentality and provides insights to 'fly the plane differently' when the engine shuts down on you.

It's all about asking the right questions and personal accountability! ''What can I do today to solve the problem?"

One of my favorite anecdotes from the book is about beating the ref. In sports as in life we often have situations where things seemingly out of our control prevent us from achieving our goals. Like a match referee who makes a couple of questionable calls against you. ''It doesn't matter how close the match is... If you want to win, you must be good enough to beat the ref". You must work to become so good that you succeed in the face of all odds - be the unquestionable victor, not the victim!

Miller exhorts you to be a leader, a person with integrity, and an agent of change. And above all, start with yourself.


The fail-safe cow & other modern day wonders

I just moved to a one-bedroom apartment in the western sububs.
Hand in hand with the thrill came the fatigue and a 'too lazy to start the day' feeling!
You know, the kind of thing that makes you switch off the alarm at 6.30 am and say 'a few minutes more...' :)
On day one, that's what happened.
In that half-asleep state, I was jolted awake at exactly 6.50 am by the loud moo-ing of a cow right in front of my building.
I stepped through the morning with an ironic feeling: a rooster to start the day - okay. A cow - wow!

What's more - it happened again on day 2! Dot 6.50 am. I thought to myself: wow, a failsafe cow! Its better than keeping an alarm in the next room.


Knowing me, knowing you

Watched Ashutosh Gowariker's Jodhaa-Akbar on tv today. It was beautiful, well directed and acted. Let down by film editing in parts, but worth watching.
In one scene, Jodhaa tells a remorseful Jalaaluddin he knows to conquer but not to rule. You may conquer a person's body but to rule their heart you have to peek into their soul through the window of their mind. When you understand the little thoughts, likes and dislikes that make a person who they truly are, only then do you show true respect and win their heart.
Isn't that striking in our times of instant gratification. Today we implicitly expect an instant connection between two hearts, our own and whoever else catches our fancy. We try to find out and do little things to catch that person's attention, like gifting, being cool and all that, but do we take the trouble of knowing them really well. I want to connect with you and I want it to happen now baby, otherwise you can go take a walk! Is an instant, or 15 minutes, or a few hours enough to gauge a person? I don't know, it's hard to tell.
First impressions often make or mar a relationship. And getting to know someone better can either grow your respect for them or scare you away altogether. Sometimes people project themselves as one thing & turn out very different, and you realise they are keeping secrets or being manipulative.
Either way I think true respect and love can only grow where there is trust, no secrets, and complete understanding. That's one thing I want to work on - understanding - and by that I mean respecting enough not to deride, another person's wishes and desires, however incongruent I might consider them with my own thoughts.
Understanding - such a simple word, with so much meaning. Getting to know a person's thoughts, likes and dislikes. Not shooting down their proposals because they seem so unlike what you believe in, staying open to someone else.
Maybe that's one reason I like the movie so much.


The Keymaker & The Gatekeeper

Was reading John Battelle's 'The Search' and couldn't help thinking about Keanu starrer: 'The Matrix'.

Fitting that a movie on machines grown self-aware and intelligent enough to control the world, draws parallels to some amazing stories from the real world.

The Matrix trilogy featured a Key Maker. A grand master who could make all the keys to unlock the mysterious passages of the Matrix.

And back in the nascent days of the web, (which imho is the closest thing we have to the foundation that could lead to anything remotely like the Matrix), DEC created the Gatekeeper!

The Gatekeeper was a machine with vast amounts of storage and (for its time) an incredibly fat pipe to the Internet.

DEC created the Gatekeeper in the spirit of the public good, and it served as a place for anyone to store and share their files.

Kind of the thing that would have made people's spine tingle in those days. Just like the Matrix. :)


Spare a thought

you see an image.
a squirrel in the grip of a cat.
you think, how heartless!
but its just food.

you see another image.
nurses triaging the wounded
at Pearl Harbor,
marking a chalk cross
on the helmet of a bleeding soldier
with little chance of survival.

you think how could this be happening.
but its only survival of the fittest.

yet you see so much more
and scarcely spare a thought.

the greed of ruthless contractors
-- who cares to stop them,

the moral corruption of politicians
-- who could be moved to replace them.

you see so much more.
but you don't feel...
So you don't think,
so you don't do.

You make do.


Information overload!

When I was a kid I read these stories of people swamped by email and other aspects of i-overload. I probably dismissed it contemptuously as a case of geezers out of their league.

But now I'd either have to admit I was wrong, or I've been outpaced by the growth rate of i-overload.

On my current project I hold a fairly 'responsible' role. And I've been feeling the pressure of a daily stream of mails from different aspects of engineering operations and business teams (apart from the regular trickle of non-project mails).

But I couldn't put a handle on it until I came back from a four-day absence.

My Inbox had 300 emails - an average of 75 emails per day. Just thinking about it drives me nuts. Personally I think it's quite impossible to do justice to volumes like that unless you can quickly develop a policy of prioritizing the senders on a relevancy scale and junk irrelevant senders / threads.


Apocalypse of the two elephants

That's what David Clark of MIT named his theory about the timing of standards. When a new subject is discovered it is accompanied by a flurry of research activity. Time goes by, interest wanes and the activity drops off. Until there is a renewed surge of activity due to industry funding & adoption of the subject.
The theory claims, a standard should be timed right in the middle of the trough between these two peaks of activity. Released too soon, the standards flirt with inadequacy as they could miss out on the benefits from significant research. Timed too late, and the industry funding would have led to adoption of first-mover technology making it hard to topple the defacto standard in the market.

This was in the context of the defacto tcp/ip derailing the de-jure iso-osi standard.

I can't help relating to the world of management. Stuff like BPR came and was adopted by industry immediately. Many burnt their fingers on it.
In that context it seems that industry rushes to adopt new management concepts even before they are thoroughly researched or understood.

Is it that leaders love fads? Or is it that the pressure to deliver forces them to grasp the next best ray of hope that comes their way?


Seven Day Weekend

Started 'The Seven Day Weekend' today after a recommendation from an American consultant and an Indian CEO.
Opening thoughts: Semler transformed Semco using the power of 'why?'
Ask (anyone) one question and you get a pre-pondered answer. Ask a second and they'll give you another thought out answer. Ask a third and a fourth relentlessly and you start probing the walls of assumptions that most of us build our lives around.
How often do we question why we assume something. Why we think something is possible and something else isn't. Why we do things in a particular way.
The models and paradigms we build, simplify our lives but often can lead to automatic responses and blocked opportunities.
Semler suggests an almost anarchic way of running a company by questioning everything.
The only 'tenets' I came across so far:
* only enter a business if it has a high 'complexity' entry barrier. Why? If its easy to do it'll probably turn out a rat-race.
* be a 'premium' player. Provide the extra for which the customer is willing to stretch his pocket.



Got a 19'' wide-aspect LCD monitor night 'n eagerly unpacked and set it up.
Darn thing didn't even power on. I looked around for a power button on the LCD body but there was none.
Since turning the mains on did not make the lone LED blink, I presumed it was defective and took it back to the store this morning.
Apparently in the night-light I failed to notice the feather-touch LCD controls inscribed in a faint grey at the base of the frame.
They're so faint they're virtually invisible - especially when the monitor is switched on. I had to use a pen -torch to adjust the contrast ratio once I did get the monitor working.
In the effort of designing a sleek looking LCD, Samsung has completely missed the concept of usability!

A side-track on usability:
Wore a batch memorabilia tee today. Has an overly boastful piece of (pseudo-) software code at the back (written by one of the smart-asses in the batch).
Was standing at a photocopier shop waiting for my job to complete when one of the staff walked in.
Bear in mind, the setting I'm talking about, typically employs uneducated adults with very rural antecedents.
He obviously noticed the code fragment on my Tee and wasted no time in asking me: 'Do you know computers?'
Apparently another staff member had inadvertently shifted the Windows taskbar from its customary location and resized it so it occupied half the screen on the right causing great distress to one & all :)


love is...

what we make of it.

its not a big fuss.
not a peacock dance.
but a feeling.
you could bask in its warm glow
or roast in its fiery flames,

it could wing you to the heights of heaven,
or damn you to the depths of hell.

you don't need no quartet playing love songs
ringing inside your head.
when you're in love.
you just know it.


A Story: An Ending...

Couldn't get any work done yesterday as I was filled with thoughts of her. Sat up at midnight for an hour studying a wiki for tips. Resolved to do what I could...

Woke up real late today & that eventually messed my plan. But as things turned out, I was more at ease. Two tips stuck:
- be comfortable in your own skin (its hard to get someone to like you if you are uncomfortable with yourself and the best way to achieve this is to know who you are - valid for success in any social setting).
- actively take an interest in social activities and in other people.

Knowing who I am... a long time ago I used to be more at peace with myself. Could relate with others (esp. younger folks) remarkably easily. People would open up in friendship, as if I had a gift of bonding. I think I took interest in people more. Or maybe I was more approachable because I didn't brood.
Met a lad in a lift while running an errand this morning. We were headed the same way. Chatted, took an interest in him, and it was surprising how easily we struck a bond. Like reliving younger days.
Realized once again that bonding with others and being at peace with oneself have a common thread: both need you to understand who you are inside of yourself and for you to accept yourself (warts and all) -- something which of late I have had increasing reluctance in doing and which has in no small measure added to my agony in life.

Back at my station, dug up a mail eliciting cooperation for a project. Reached out with a suggestion--an idea that excited me--and realised once again, the more you withdraw into a shell the heavier you make of life's burdens.
The simple pleasures of interacting joyfully or intellectually with a few like-minded souls far outweigh any excuse for distancing yourself from the real world. As someone once said, man is a social animal. Starve yourself of that, and you slowly choke...

A third tip that stuck: if after all the initiatives you still get a no-go, means its 'just friends' and you should accept it and move on. And as I could observe from her demeanor, that does appear to be the case. And so my story ends. I feel sad at losing what could have been a good thing. She seemed perfect - crazy yet warm and loving.
As they say, 'Get over it!', and sooner than later so will I ;)


The day before you walked up and asked if I was upset.
You said it felt so.
I denied, but it was true.
you could sense it:
the way i stayed away, and my eyes refused to connect with yours,
where till now my gaze had always seemed to lock
like a ship in search of a beacon!

its funny, i was angry, suspicious, nay I believed,
that this constant companion of yours was now more
than a friend. that you chose him over me. i couldn't
confront you, for i had never told you i loved you,
in words or in deeds (though i fancy my eyes betrayed me often).

yet i always longed for your love, and before my jealous fears
conquered me, my eyes always searched for you bright sunshine.
perhaps i was a fool:
to not say how i felt,
or to not know my feelings well. ( Aye, at times
to me that seems my greatest failing, whence I cannot
fathom an answer to the questions: Who Am I? What do I want? )

For by when I decided to let you know, you seemed far gone.
Was it the missed chance to frolic in the sands of beauty,
to let the swaying fronds bear testimony to the growing winds of love.
A costly miss, a lost kiss. Alas. But nothing stands on the quicksand of regret.
And so perchance it sucked me under.

And then you walked up the day before, and asked if i was upset.
it certainly felt so. i denied it but it was true.

and yet by even time i was quaking with feelings for you.
i resolved to tell you the next morning that I loved you.

i often think i don't know who i am. but i seem to know my shortcomings all too well.
they handicap me. they seem to have grown larger than life in my thoughts, rendering my
self-image tamed and torn. i don't believe i know how to tame lady love. nay i never have.

yet i resolved to tell you the next morning that I loved you.

the day came, but always the moment seemed inopportune.
too many people around, no space to talk, you running off into meetings.

I gazed at you but I sensed that my gaze had started to offend you,
maybe i was a fool to not say it for so long, maybe you saw my gaze of love
as an invasion of your space. who's to tell. but i could sense its too late.

Even your smile is not the warm smile it used to be,
replaced now with a artificial one, as if my sight irritates you.

ah but it seems i lost you.
its funny, how it seems like you are the one, how my day was spent in trepidation of the thought of
losing you. I was driven to desperation, wanting to grab the chance to catch you and tell you right then. But that would have been pointless too.

For i can see from your eyes that you no longer favour me.
A lost cause.

Found anew, and lost in the space of one day.


Guzzling Bytes

Sat up till 3am last morning and finally managed to set up a fully functional WiFi network at home! I guess that tells you, I'm a geek.
Felt a great 'rush', at finally having gotten Wi Fi to work on my new (3 month) Pocket PC. That tells me, I'm a geek!

Why do I make such a big deal out of it at 3 in the morning? It's the freedom of holding a pc in your palm (HTC Touch, powered by Windows Mobile 6). I'm no fan of Microsoft, mind. But I live in Windows world.
And so I celebrated by using Live Messenger to chat with an old friend (the only one online at 3am :D ), used the browser to check my webmail at the corporate MS Exchange server & surprised my client in America by replying to a couple of mails at that unearthly hour.
Yea, nothing noble in that, I know. I was just thrilled to have Wi Fi on my phone.

Even did a test call on skype. So now, as long as long as I'm on wiFi, I have a skype phone.

And today I got the vpn settings right and did a Remote Desktop session to my office PC! that was really cool.

And this is my first blog entry written entirely from my phone!

this is fun! I've become a techno-guzzler.


Hot swap your brain

I love the Net! can't live without it. there are times when you face a complete dead end. there's this config problem or issue that's killing you and you can't get around it. what do i do. wring my hands in frustration and hit the search engine (yea its always google).

my htc touch was refusing to show up (no longer being recognized) on my vista laptop. after wasting a whole evening, i was finally saved by modernnomads.info/wiki .

Realised that the device somehow got disabled (prob some other installation messed it up?... dunno).

ah but now i'm back. Its nice to have a hot swap brain like that. To all those people who take the trouble of logging their tech woes and solutions on the net:
Thank you!


Couch potato

I think the Americans invented the term. or the concept at any rate.

Sure enough, cable has a vast variety of channels. I liked the music channels here the most. They don't force you to be couch potatoes - no flashy music videos.
There's a vast variety of music channels, one for every genre you can imagine -- music sans videos.

The channels themselves seem to be using a broadcasting software that stores, for each song, tidbits of information on the artistes, which appear inconspicuously on the screen while the song is playing. And of course a picture or two of the artistes themselves. So you're not forced to stare at your TV all the time.
But whenever you choose to look, you find interesting info on the song/artiste you like.
Pretty cool. Pretty not couch potato. I like it.



The amazing thing about courier service in America. You know you can track the progress of your shipment, cos of the barcode scanning they use at every step, from receiving the order to shipment from warehouse and all the stops and checkouts enroute to the final delivery.

Anyway, so i was tracking my shipment, as it originated on 1st Feb from TigerDirect.com's warehouse in Hodgkins, IL to San Pablo, CA, and finally this morning to Sunnyvale, CA, where it was signed out for delivery.

I was thinking to myself (the expected delivery date was tomorrow), no courier service delivers before the expected date, one day later maybe but never one day before.
And lo and behold, this morning, a sweet UPS lady, comes up with the package and asks me to sign on their electronic monitor.
What I didn't realise when she asked me my last name, is that the same machine, also has a mic, that records your name, and automatically stores it as the person who took delivery, in the UPS tracking system.
Admittedly its not foolproof though, as it broke down my name as... uh... shudder...

Type: Package
Status: Delivered
Delivered On: 02/06/2008
10:20 A.M.
Delivered To: LOS ALTOS, CA, US
Signed By: SULVIA
Service: GROUND


food tips

My initial days here were a little nervous. never cooked before, never bothered with grocery shopping, and now I've gotta do everything for myself rather than have everything done for me.

My client Cyril, and another colleague from India, took me grocery shopping and I would have found it hard to survive without their help.

Well, for the benefit of any lost souls like me who come to the bay area, and fret in search of food:

India cash and curry in Sunnyvale: good for:
- Pavel's Lowfat Russian yogurt -- equivalent to our Indian curd -- almost the same really.
though personally i prefer, Yoplait's fruit yogurt - my favorite comfort food.
- vegetables and apples (cheaper here according to her, as they don't charge for the 'presentation effects' of Safeway) - carry small sachets of haldi, mirchi, jeera/ajwain, salt from home, chop and dice, slapdash with spice and cook. worked for me.
- Parampara chicken / fish masala mixes (buy the meats from Safeway, cut, and follow the instructions on the masala packs) -- worked well for me, both fish n chicken
- comfort foods : maggi soups and noodles
- Roti packs (quite thick, but they tend to fluff up like 'foolkas' if you do it right, though i only managed it with one or two :P )
- berkeley farms milk (vitamin d)
- Grimmway Farms cut & Peeled Baby Carrot packs (1$ each)

Safeways (miramonte and everywhere really): good for:
- deals on hershey's kisses and nuggets (chox)
- breakfast cereal (Post - Honey bunches of oats : delicately flavored), though I also liked a berry flavored mix from Trader Joe's
- eggs
- nestle nesquik chocolate flavored milk (Very good)
- Safeway's butter top bread
- frozen meats (chicken breasts and fish)
- fruits (bananas, apples, purple grapes -- really yum)
- veggies (quite a range)

Trader Joe's: good for organic produce (non genetically enhanced stuff)
- milk
- juices, etc...

good for all stuff in bulk and cheap,

I found (confirmed by cousin lancy), the cost of groceries for two weeks, per person comes to roughly about 100 USD... that's if you don't want to starve yourself.

And yea, Safeway's has something called a Safeway card, that earns you fair discounts on shopping (some products not all). So on a bill of 103 USD, I saved about 18 USD. not bad... Apparently, filling out a form gets you the card for free. I just used my colleague's card though.


Easy living...

Someone once told me the American way of life is geared for speed. Appliances, food, everything is designed to save time... (with the notable exception of public transport, but we'll come that later).

Take the kitchen in my apartment (branded an essentials aptt, ie, includes kitchenware etc). As this is my first experience at living alone, without food cooked for me, it served me as a good instruction on things a home kitchen should have...

Oh btw, I made my first cup of coffee today. Yea I know a coffee maker is simple enough, esp if you're using a pre measured filter. Still its kinda fun the first time... :D But I digress...

Right, so I found these steel pans which have metal handles riveted on, but the key thing is the handles are heat resistant so you can hold them without burning your hand. Even the lids work that way, special riveted handles that don't burn you as you pull the lid off. That was neat...
Was kinda interesting to note though that the pans were made in Brazil or at least from their steel (Tramontina/Inox 24 cm). It looks like half of America is made in China (including the toaster in my aptt, and a very nice forged cutlery set -- 11 kitchen knives of all sizes, scissor, and a metal stick for stoking stuff in an oven - go figure... all housed in a neat wooden block with slots for each piece -- another essential). The other half is probably spread between America and the rest of the world. But I digress again...

Also found the electric stove interesting. i was kinda lost the first day, but figured it out quickly and contrary to my reservations, it works as well as a gas stove back home. the only problem being spills on the heating mat, which applies to gas as well...

The other neat thing, is this big roll of paper towels (12" wide, with perforations every 10"). Every American kitchen seems to have them, easy for wiping tables, washed dishes, whatever, its pretty cool... don't have to go hunting for dirty cotton rugs. Use and throw... Makes a lot of sense.
This might sound very funny to you, but I admire it cos of the little brainwaves of thought that go into making life so much simpler and faster here... You don't have to labour over minute details, cos products are so well thought out. Even if its a small thing like a big roll of paper towels, imagine how much hassle it saves ya in running after rugs that easily rot when wet... the comfort of using pans whose handles don't heat up with the rest of the pan... A knife set that's always at hand - no misplaced knives-- they always goes back to the wooden housing, like a sword in its sheathing... Liquid detergent that's not harsh on the hands... That's the point. Products designed with thought, minor things that make a lot of sense... and that we take for granted once we have them... but its hard to imagine how we could live without them in the first place.

Since we're on the kitchen, there's this habit that's new to me. Coffee after lunch! My sis-in-law tells me its just another course in the Western world. Well I must admit I'm getting used to it. Am just about to have... what would you know it... Coffee after Lunch!

The American mind...

One of the first things you notice when you start living here is the effect of lawsuits on society!

When I checked into my apartment, the guest representative at the reception talked me through a host of mandatory 'disclosures' - information that they are legally required to give to every new tenant.

So he runs me through this series (4 or 5) of disclosures and asks me to initial my name on a sheet, as acknowledgement that the apartment company has made the disclosures as it is legally bound to.

In the list:
- the EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency) brochure on lead based paint and how it can affect the health of people (esp young children). From the size of the brochure you can tell that the US State department has been a defendant in and lost at least one MAJOR multi-million dollar lawsuit, by a family claiming that lead-paint has damaged the health of their kids! So you have this brochure that warns you against all the possible effects, and how to guard against them (watch out for signs such as scraped paint, etc). On the potential defendant's side, it appears that the act of having informed you about the use of lead-based paint in their apartment, limits or absolves them of, further liabilities, in case somebody sues...
- there was also stuff on mold formation in apartments, asbestos used in construction, and something on sexual predator behavior against teenagers...

Its not all bad! The good side is, it serves to protect society against blasé, purely profit-oriented manufacturers, who left to themselves wouldn't care about the effects of harmful substances on people.

I think we need a little of that kind of awareness back home too. Plaintiffs being awarded BIG compensations against potentially damaging and irresponsibly applied materials. A kick in the behind, gets the government and industry moving like nothing else... Sad but true? dunno...


stepping out...

My first international trip. Mumbai to SFO, with a 5 hour stopover at Taipei (island territory of Taiwan).
Taipei airport: any comparison with Mumbai's Intntl Airport leaves our desi airport's reputation in tatters.
Clean! (i saw at least 3 batches of housekeeping personnel in different parts, working away)
Fully carpetted walkway, so long it takes close to an hour to walk end to end. there are conveyor belts too. and of course a monorail.

Amazing shopping: liquor, chocolates, delicacies, electronics (laptops, digicams), just about anything you could want actually. except cars i think.

Separate seating areas before every boarding gate (plane bay), lined all along its looong corridor. Orchid garden, prayer room, cultural heritage, poof...

Apart from the airport, couldn't help noticing,... I had no idea Chinese girls were so pretty.
From the air-hostesses in EVA Air, to the rather fashionable lassies sashaying along the corridors. The cute thing about women at Taipei airport was this apparent preference for boots and fur-lined coats, seemed to be 'the in-thing'. Like an MTV affliction! I figure they must have trend-setting veejays on their music channels promoting the doll'-ed up look :)

snaps at flickr (airport only, i was too busy gaping at the lassies to snap them, hehe).

Silicon Valley Jokes

extracted from 'Silicon Valley Handbook' by Martin Cheek, published by Moon Travel Handbooks:

Here's one about Bill Gates and the prostitute. At the end, she tells him, now I know why they call it 'Microsoft'. :))

Oracle folks: (context : LE's fabled arrogance) :
What's the difference between Larry Ellison and God?
* God doesn't think he's Larry Ellison.... :))

and the last, one, god, this brought to mind the, err... alleged preferences of some folks in a certain region (don't think it was the same one either), as alleged by a friend! oh. how I laughed...
This has to do with April Fool's pranks (mind the prank is apparently a true story, though I'm just putting 2 n 2 together about the context):

at Hewlett-packard, once, visitors from HP's Boise facility were greeted at Palo Alto HQ by a live sheep wearing sexy lingerie and black stockings -- local employees had rented the bewildered animal, they said, in an effort to make the Boise employees "feel at home".