One hundredth post

This post, apart from being a self referential metaclog, is like the following picture in more ways than one.

Reasons for not hiring

Hiring is an extremely complicated problem. It is extremely difficult to judge a candidate's success in a given setting given it is a function of infinite things, a lot of which are things that the candidate doesn't control like the work environment, co-workers etc.

I have often thought about how majority of people would hire or not hire people in software companies. Some of the common reasons for people in technology industry would look like [they might not admit it ;-) ]
  • He wasn't non technical enough to be a software engineer
  • He didn't use words "scalable" and "business value" enough in the interview
  • He knows about Data Structures and algorithms
  • In cases where he didn't know the answer he just said "I don't know" instead of trying to justify that knowing those things is not required and isn't helping deliver business value. I would have loved if someone had gone one step further and claimed that not knowing them would bring valuable "layman's perspective" in the system which no other person in the team would have.
  • He didn't think our company was the greatest place on earth to work for and we were just an option.
  • Instead of agreeing to something wrong that I said, he tried to correct me. Didn't help that he did it politely.
  • Didn't know enough American politics and sitcoms.
  • He was smarter than me.
1. This is not a reflection on my past, present and future employers, is written as a non serious comment.

2. Using only he in the post is not because of any gender prejudice but just for the ease of writing.

PAN IIT Global Conference 2008

Just when I thought I couldn't take any more of the "talks" or jargon, I decided to attend PAN-IIT Global Conference 2008. As surprising as it may sound, the talks didn't bother so much this time. I went with the intention of bunking most of the sessions save the really good ones.; ended up spending all my time in sessions. There goes the Go-karting trip.

The theme of the event was Inspire, Innovate, Transform, a much better expansion of IIT than the ones we created while studying - Indian Institute of Torture or Institute of Infinite Torture.

Here is a starter on what IITs (courtesy Dilbert) are for the uninitiated (if there are any)

and I particularly like this quote ;-)

"Per capita, IIT has produced more millionaires than any other undergraduate institution." (Salon Magazine)

This is not meant to be a coverage of the whole program, there is plenty of that on internet. I have attached some of them at the end of the post. Here, I am trying to recall things that stuck after a marathon of talks. Here is my list of the top 10 at PAN IIT 08.

10. Prasad Ram (Head R&D, Google India) talking about social entrepreneurship. The way to move ahead is to take everyone with you.

9. Rajiv Grover talking about the need to have more open book exams. As such IITs have a culture of open book exams and contrary to what common sense suggests, they used to be brutal. But, he emphasized that moving away from rote learning is important, after all life is not a closed book exam.

He also had a comment or two about the recent trend of coaching institutes becoming an assembly line for churning iitians. IITs now, instead of getting smart people, get people trained by smart people. Food for thought?

8. One of the speakers (won't disclose the name here), who went on length about some facts and figures, got applause at awkward points which he duly acknowledged. After a few such instances one after the other, he got the drift and was quick to get away. No matter how old you get, some things just won't change.

7. Watching Viswanathan Anand play against 14 teams. He is the greatest sports icon I have seen live. He is the only player in the world to have won the world chess championship in all the three formats (Knockout, Tournament, and Match).

While traveling, once an intrusive stranger asked Vishy, what he did for living. When he got "playing chess" as the reply, he rephrased the question multiple times and got the same answer. Exasperated, he told him to be practical and start doing something worthwhile because everyone is not Viswanathan Anand who can earn money playing chess.

6. Innovators vs Ideators: The panelists, instead of putting innovation on a pedestal, demystified it to be anything that improves. Pointing out difference between ideators who bring out great ideas and innovators, who can take an existing idea and turn it around a bit to make it better. Taking example of Japan that seems to be doing a great job delivering great stuff using ideas originated in the US.

5. Amartya Sen: If you hear him talking, it would appear he is reading stuff out of a book. Went on length talking about the issue of Neeti and Nyay in India that struck a chord with one of my pet peeves - Process vs Execution. He was trying to point out that our issues, not so much lie in the Neeti part as much as in the Nyay (the application). An interesting piece of trivia I got to know was that he got appointed as the head of department, Economics at Jadavpur University at the age of 23.

4. Stephen Cohen and K Mahbubani on India Pakistan issue: This session was eye opening because of the way they conveyed that the crisis between India and Pakistan needs a span of 40 years to resolve starting now. And, how the conventional knee jerk reactions may not help. Some of the suggestions they had were to improve trade and education in Pakistan and try and make the moderates strong. Once empowered, they will fight the battle against terrorism from within and will be more effective.

An interesting point that was mentioned was the fact that the nuclear weapons in some convoluted way have ended up restoring peace in the world for the fear of collateral damage.

3. Raghuram Rajan: As economic adviser to PM, watching him speak added some confidence to our government. He was extremely articulate talking about primary education and about the cyclical nature of capitalism. He mentioned that capital markets are crisis prone and have a tendency to move ahead a bit and come back some, but the net result is usually positive. He indicated pumping money in infrastructure and try to somehow keep the growth wheel churning. Good news for market watchers?

2. Tata CEOs doing India's swot analysis with C K Prahlad

1. The Hospitality: The arrangements for delegates were awesome to say the least. I had the best South Indian breakfast ever. Every day ended with parties or musical nights.

Cocktail party was reminiscent of the days of yore. IITs are like gurkuls, take the old Indian ones or the new one run by Amitabh. The common theme between the three is lack of girls. The cocktail party had a 1000 odd people. DJ in his excitement called on all the girls in the room to get together. Some 12 people in the room responded to the call. The only one who came forward to dance was a kid still in her school. And you know you are in an IIT party.

There was some shouting also by different IITs to mark their presence. Overall it was fun, the next one will be held in Chicago.

News Coverage:

MP3 Manager in Perl

I am not a really great fan of music, much less a fan of organizing music on my computer. A recent encounter with a friend who uses an mp3 player that displays only "titles" (and not file names) gave me a chance to do a bit of coding. I don't remember the last time I did it and yes, I am a software developer ;-)

It isn't something totally new and not something that can't be found anywhere else. However, just for the kicks, ended up writing this Perl code to traverse a music directory recursively, list down the song details (meta data details like album, artist, track etc) and copy the file names to the title if you want to. Also, as was the need of the hour, I added a part that lists down empty directories in the tree as well.

Here is the code, check it out. To run it on your machine, you will need a Perl interpreter and MP3:Tag module along with it. Any constructive feedback is welcome, any snide remarks will be summarily ignored deleted.

PS: The information is written as a pipe delimited file to facilitate easy transformation to an excel


Nostalgia has been a strange phenomenon for me all my life. I often think about my past, in fact, to put it in software lingo there is a daemon thread running in my mind thinking and relating things to my past.

However, unlike most people who fondly reminisce their past and feel like going back, I would never ever trade my present to be in past. I don't intend to sound like the eternal happy go lucky, living in the present kind of guy. That is the last thing I am.

But, I would be happier prefer being anywhere (even future, with the possibility that it may not be bright) but in my past (don't get me wrong, I have had my share of those delectable "fursat ke raat din" or those "purani jeans and guitar" days). Of course, like everyone, being in present is my choice by default.

I write this because I think I will be a visiting a very small part of my past soon. By that I mean, I will meet some folks who I have known only in a certain period of time in past and then lost connection, more or less. But with friends, your past and present have a way of quick reconciliation, you pick from wherever you left without any excuses or pretenses and soon those oldies from past will become a part of your new present. And that is how I would prefer it to be.

I am looking forward to it!

PS: I searched for any phobia for "fear of past" but couldn't find any. Am I the only one in this species?

IIT 08 Global Alumni Conference

Any iitians reading this blog, here is your chance to listen to the movers and shakers and possibly a great networking opportunity.

To give you an idea, some of the speakers are:

PM Manmohan Singh
L N Mittal
P Chidambaram
Amartya Sen
Orkut Buyukkokten

Here is the link to register

The classic triangle: People, Process, Tools

Process is one of those holy grails or holy cows that are sacrosanct in software development not open to questioning. A question posed is enough to label a person heretic, rebel, bad influence or any such thing.

There are three fundamental parts to the execution of a project. The classic trio of people, process and tools/technology. Any failure can be attributed to one of them and fixed appropriately ensuring it doesn't repeat itself.

The most common response to a broken process, causing issues downstream, is an additional process introduced to check it. Seldom have I seen people looking at the real cause before applying the fix on the process part. Isn't that the part project managers love most.

The right way out would be to first analyze why the process was broken, adding a process to avoid breakage of another is a self serving cycle with no gain for anyone but the process itself.

The people part in this triangle can offset the other two, but not vice-versa. Hence, it is extremely important to identify people failures and then treat them as such. A process cannot offset for a person not doing his job right.

In most of the cases, adding processes to offset for incompetent people(team) ends up in a bureaucratic team. And an over-process environment _slows_ everything down giving an impression of number of mistakes going down. Processes become tools for assigning blames in case of failures rather than being tools to stop them.

If you ever face issues in this trio, fix the people issues first and rest will fall in place in time.

Are we done yet?

Prem Panicker is pissed off with the terror attacks like everyone else. Here is a rant post that he wrote asking for comments. Since you need to register to comment on his site, instead I am choosing to write my comment here. So here it goes.

What pisses me off most is:

"The talk" - any kind; including the one in his blog and the comment I am writing in this post.

No matter how intelligent a debate is, it doesn't solve any problem. I hope for people (all of us) to get into the mode of "Stop talking, Start doing" (those who are already doing it, thank you and keep going) and doing whatever we can without any self promotion or any show of self righteousness.

After Obama's landslide victory much of which is attributed to his oratory skills, debating would be lauded even more. It always appears, you are right only if you can prove it, which is the point of any debate. But when it comes to real results, a lot of decisions that may be inexplicable or lot of people who won't be great at explaining stuff will prove far more useful than the windbags. Having said that, there is no other way than to debate for weighing the options of a decision but the ability to explain should not become paramount. People will end up providing "explainable" solutions not the best solutions. We may end up with just talkers everywhere.

Moving your cheese:Job Change: Selection

Now that the decision is made, let’s move to the next step in the job change process which is to identify a target profile (company and role).

The two factors are: the company and the role.

Kind of Company: Here are some factors I found important while making a selection. Figure out which of these are important for you and how.

- Compensation Philosophy
- Kind of Work of the company does. It is important to see if you are getting into company's main line of business or support operation.
- Growth Path
- On Site Chances
- Brand: This is good especially you are at the start of your career. Having proven yourself in reputed firms will sit pretty in your resume.
- Temporary Relocation: Is this company open to let you stay in some other place if need arises. It can be another city in the country or may be abroad. The company should have enough offices to take care of this.
- Hiring Process (Exclusivity): This has direct bearing on the kind of people you would be working with.
- Work Life Balance
- Benefits/Asides: Some companies have perquisites which cannot be compensated monetarily, like having a door to door cab service. Having a cafeteria seems an extremely important factor to me and so is for lot of people who cannot carry lunch from home.
- Company Performance: If going is good, everyone behaves nicely, but as Joker said - "when chips are down...". So be careful if the company isn't doing well, unless you plan to go and turn things around and get credit for it
- Hierarchy: This sounds unimportant, but please make sure you understand all the claims made by the potential employers. It is usually fashionable to say that the company follows a flat hierarchy. Two points here, a- Having a flat hierarchy may not necessarily be a great thing. b - While everyone claims hierarchy is flat, it may not be so.

Kind of Roles
Don't confuse roles with titles. Depending on how a company is structured there can be wide disparity between the two. Make sure you know which one is more important for you and decide accordingly.

Scouting Channels:

Job sites are good (, are the ones I have personal experience with). However, the job results they email you are not really useful because of exceptionally poor filtering done to provide you a job that suits your profile. But out of the piles of useless results will lie some good ones that you need to find out. The day you open your resume, take a day off work. I received more than 25 calls the day I opened it and then the number kept going down.

Referrals are very effective. You will have a much better idea of what you are getting yourself into. You also have a ready made contact in the organization to see you through the teething period.

So that concludes my thoughts on selection of your next job. I will come back with my thoughts on preparation in future.

A constructive media at last?

As India is reeling under the impact of terror attacks and all those involved in rescue operations are trying their best, the last thing anyone would want is a painful, non-cooperative, intrusive and complaining media. For a change, the reporting has been uncharacteristically mature on all the major news channels. It seemed completely sensible until Shobha De and Barkha Dutt, two ladies who sensationalize everything, came on the screen chatting on phone. All the cliched talks of taxes and government apathy were repeated. One moment Ms De was not happy as there wasn't enough political presence on the scene, next moment she felt Manmohan Singh and Advani flying there was meaningless and then urged all the politicians to stay away. I am appalled at the logic and more so at the timing of these rants. Well, I guess I will end my meta-rant with this.

Can it get bigger than this?

Citigroup gets ready to cut 52,000 jobs

'Derived' comments on investing

Investing is more about character than talent.

Someone said this and raised the hopes of thousands of people with two digit IQs to dream of big buck. Clearly the statement above does not imply that having low IQ has any particular advantage. However, it also implies that off the chart IQ is not the only thing that determines your long term success. Your character has a part of play and albeit an important one.

The whole bust that happened was like thousands of extremely smart MBAs playing poker with blind bets. And with complex derivatives, the structure of second (and nth) order products became so complex and tiered that the blindfold just kept on getting thicker and thicker. In such a blind situation, IQ counted for nothing other than being able to comprehend those products that lesser mortals like me have trouble making any sense of. Well, enough of pointing follies of the super smart bunch [don’t we all just love that ;-)], as that is not the point here.

Most of us judge the stocks the way we judge people or vice-versa. Traders are like people who have short term memory and can only remember the last encounter with a person, good or bad. They keep marking people up or down fast, going long (becoming friends) or short (making enemies) fickle-mindedly. Even with this approach sometimes such people end up winners for the simple reason that they get lucky. And that is the problem; there is just too much riding on luck for them.

Value investors on the other hand are like people who can separate behaviors from people. They look at people as potential and gauge if they would be able to take care of their negative behaviors in time. More often than not, they are placing their bets on a stabilized viewpoint. The difference between the traders and investors is about time frame and context. Traders have no allegiances other than their immediate gains (friends for benefit); investors forge ties with worthy stocks.

Time has a way of leveling things out and sooner or later, having a sound character pays off in investing and otherwise.

Disclaimer: Most or all of what is said above is my interpretation of stuff that I have read on investment. Follow it at your own risk. Claiming that my investment track record is horrible would be a gross understatement; so much so that I am the benchmark of lousy investing in my circle. In the pink of my short investing career, I have seen an unrealized gain of 20% and from then on it has been a journey downhill with my losses snowballing.

Also, contrary to what I wrote above seemingly making investing superior to trading, I think the times now are for trading. Book your profits and enter a position again if needed. Swings are giving ample opportunities to enter markets at any levels.

Moving your cheese:Job Change: Decision: Part 2

This is continuation from the last post where I was talking about reasons why people look for job changes. I also want to add a quick note; you might find things are more applicable to IT than other professions because of the author’s nature of work. Hopefully, most of the stuff is still generic enough. Here comes the second part of the list:

My company sucks: This is such an overarching reason that it doesn’t even count as a valid reason rather a combination of one or more of the others defined in the list. Figure out which of the reasons combine to give rise to this one and then think about them.

I need better work/I am bored in my current job: This is a reason I would like to warn you against. It is possible to like or dislike anything depending on your attitude. Unless you completely want to change your line which can happen by doing an MBA that opens up a wide range of playing field. Ask anyone and you would get a million and one reason of why his/her job sucks. Jobs are meant to suck, high paying ones more so. So as one of my readers pointed, jobs are not meant to provide satisfaction. This reason needs to be dealt with caution. I am not ruling it out for the simple reason that there are blacks swans in this world.

I am not getting promoted: If you haven’t gotten promoted even after staying long enough in the current role, you got to do two things – figure out why it happened and go for a change. But when you do so, be careful that you specifically go for a role change. But the catch here is that, if you haven’t played that role earlier, chances are you will struggle in the new role in a new organization. There are just too many variables to take care of, so this is a significant risk as you don’t want to start your new job on a wrong footing. It might just push you back to negate the jump you just got.

I need more personal time: This is quite a noble reason. If you don’t have enough time for yourself, and mind it, enough is subjective and personal, then there is every reason you should look for a change.

Wildcard Reasons:
  • Relocation
  • Too much commute
  • I need more flexible time (For ladies especially)
  • Higher Studies
  • Start -up
Joining a startup or starting your company and higher studies all are beyond the analysis. All those reasons are quite loaded and bigger decisions. They should be left to personal choice and preferences. Similarly, other wildcard reasons have lot of subjectivity and personal element associated with them.

Conclusion: These things are all meant for people who are serious about their work and don’t want to take hasty un-meditated reasons. For job-hoppers, won’t even care to look for a blog while making a change. Overall, figure out the real reason that gave rise to your thought of quitting and analyze it to ensure that it holds water before acting on it.

Moving your cheese:Job Change:Decision

This is a blog long overdue, and since I have been thinking about it for quite some time now, it’s getting lengthier. So, two things – since it’s been a while, I won’t delay it any longer, but I might make it longer, i.e. into a series. I am generally worried about the length of blog entries and prefer them short rather than long. I am willing to make an exception for this series.

When I started my job change process, I searched for any blog related to job change. I was highly disappointed that I couldn’t find the kind I wanted to read. There were short ones, the kinds that would be enough to just fill up a coffee break conversation. I wanted to read more and in more detail, since it was serious. My first draft looked something like the coffee break talk and I was unhappy. Over time I have managed to create a structure around the process that I went through which forms the basis of this series.

The process of job change starts with a thought – “I want to quit” except in cases where someone else does that for you which is “lay-off”. If that thought crosses your mind, my advice is similar to what a meditation practitioner would tell you, watch yourself. Question your thoughts; get to the root to figure out why?

What is more important, quitting the current position or acquiring a better position? If it is former, I would advise you to be very careful. That is the phase 1 of job change process – Weigh you reasons!

I have compiled a list of reasons for job change, mostly gathered over coffee break talks and have
  • My manager sucks: That is one of the most common reasons for job change as Mr. Narayanmurthy mentioned in his famous love-your-job-but-not-your-company email. People leave managers and not companies. In this case here are the questions you should ask:

    - Is it possible to change my manager without changing the company? In most cases, if you work for a service company, the answer is a yes. If that is the answer for you, your process stops right here.

    - Is there a possibility of the manager moving on from the company, thereby making point # 1 possible? In lot of cases, these things are not so apparent but processes are running in the background. If you and most of the others have problems with the manager, there is a good chance his superiors will have problems too. It helps it further if (s)he is incompetent. Sooner or later you will see her out of your way.

    However, if only you have a problem and she is competent, then you should think about it more. Analyze “why”! It may be a better idea to correct yourself if you are wrong on some account. In such a case if you leave because of something that you need to correct in yourself, you will see a re-hash of your current situation in near future in your next company and next to next company and so on.
  • My peers/reportees suck: This is related to the one discussed above, but usually this comes out as a result of more balanced analysis. Usually if someone has this reason, it is more often valid than the “manager sucks” reason. If the general population around you isn’t what you thought you would be working with, it’s usually a good idea to leave. But at the same time, it becomes more important for you to choose your next company with utmost care.
  • I “need” more money: I have come across a few cases with this as a reason. Sometimes it is a disguised reason. But let’s assume it is the real one. There is not much you need to think other than going for it. However, a word of caution, look at your need and see if a job change is really going to help. If your need is quite big then even a change may not really help and in longer it might hurt your career in case you are doing well in your current position. In such a case think of alternative ways of meeting your financial needs. Think of getting more education if required, that may be a bigger catalyst than a job switch. For folks in IT, onsite can always help you cover a lot of lost ground if required. Uprooting yourself from a place where you are otherwise happy for petty raise is a bad bargain.
  • My friends are making more: Envy is one of the seven deadly sins for nothing. This is one of the most improper reasons for a change. You should do what is right for you and not what is better than what someone else is doing. There may be other things that may not be as apparent as the fatter pay cheque when thinking of others. Of course, if you are really grossly underpaid (rather than friends being overpaid), go for it.
One important point, however that needs to be understood is, all these factors work in your subconscious and you need to make sure you understand the right and compelling reason.

There are a few more which I will continue in the next entry since this is already way too long for one reading.


Came across this really stale joke, but it resonates my view of how sometimes we tend to exaggerate the issues we are dealing with. As I mentioned earlier that IT people take themselves and their work too seriously. I would not rule out the possibility that sometimes we manage to reach the level this joke talks about.

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband. Suddenly her husband burst into the kitchen. "Careful ... CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOD! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my GOD! HERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful ... CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when u're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"

And most of the times, when fried eggs are done, there will be congratulatory stuff about doing a great job sticking it out when it was required ;-)

Teach India, but what?

Like most of us, armchair patriots, I too have thought a lot (and done nothing) about helping our country grow. I have been involved in discussions about how corruption should end, rogue politicians be killed and lot of other equally unreasonable ideas. That makes me one among the lakhs who would have thought and discussed this same stuff over and over (I do it much less now, and with much lesser intensity, not sure if it's a good thing or bad).

The one idea, however, that I have always felt sincerely about is education being the key. This "innovative" comment, probably makes me one among the millions who would have said this earlier. Let me try and elaborate a bit on this cliche though.

For almost everything that we do (especially to do with things related to analysis), there are two approaches to look at something - the bottom up and the top down. A lot of solutions about changing the system, getting honest people in right places, punishing crooks, start voting seem like a top down approach at solving our problems. Like all other ideas, we can poke holes in most of such suggestions, because those just cannot be implemented. You always get to choose between two crooks in elections, even if there are rare good people elected, they are few in number or enterprise to count. However, that is not the point. If all this is tried out, it will be refreshing and it is, whenever some such things are seen.

The other way of thinking is to 'enable' all of what is said above without actually doing it explicitly.

I believe there was a generation of India who by the force of circumstances turned out to be extremely pragmatic but wily at the same time. People of that generation would be roughly in the age group of 40+ now. This generation has a very strong survival instinct and a tendency of self preservation which often makes them corrupt or too selfish so to speak. I believe the generation below 40 (and above 15) is a tad better in terms of morality, capability and ethics but is far too indifferent towards the nation to make a difference.

My hope lies with our next generation (below 15). If our generation is not a willing participant in the process of improvement, but acknowledges this fact, at least, we can try and build a generation that does it. Herein lies education as my silver bullet.

Education as I have known all my life has been about capability development. Little thought is given to developing a character. In effect our education makes most of us capable of doing good work for us and the nation but not necessarily willing to do so. We limit it to us. This "willingness" development can be the key differentiator now. And this is how I think the bottom up fix will work.

If I am indoctrinated to grow up as an honest, hard working person, sensible enough to keep the greater good above personal interest if it makes sense, I believe rest everything will fall in place. Most of the top down fixes will start "happening" by themselves.

So, here is your chance to participate in the process.

Profile of a President?

I was extremely disappointed when Pratibha Patil took over as the President of India. I don't feel so bad any more realizing how bad it can get.

Sarah Palin Meets ***** Pakistan President Zardari

3 stages of learning

There is an old and defunct(not completely though) rule of job security. Keep your skills to yourself and you will be indispensable. However, I have realized, better things will happen to you if you pass along your skills.

Someone once told me that the best way to learn is teach. I have taken that advice quite seriously, not by turning myself into a teacher, of course, but trying to teach others what I know. Here is a more elaborate explanation.

There are three stages to learning any new stuff and learning is just one of them. Here are all the three

- Learning
- Doing
- Teaching

Until these three stages are not done, the learning isn't yet complete. You start by knowing it for the first time, gain confidence by doing it. Then you try and see how you see others when you have gotten around the fence yourself. So, my advice, if you are learning something, keep these three stages in mind and better things will happen to you.

Choose it or lose it

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (-Albus Dumbledore)

This must be the millionth blog about choice being important. That, however, doesn't stop me from publishing it.

It has been very wisely said by Albus Dumbledore, that its our choices that determine who we truly are more than our capabilities. I would take it a step further, they also determine what happens to us more than our talents at times. 

Oftentimes between easy and right, I am finding myself increasingly getting inclined towards choosing easy. Not blogging for some time was one of the manifestations, as it seems blogging is hard work too. The path of least resistance is what I am taking as opposed to the path less travelled as Robert Frost would have liked me to.

It might be that my work has been wearing me out (customary disclaimer: This isn't meant to be a reflection on my past, present or future employers), I hope that is it, and not any permanent setback to my road selecting capabilities. I hope this fatigue wears out soon. When I started I didn't intend to make it a personal post, but now that it has turned out that way, will leave it at that.

Q&A for Americans

Came across this funny video that tests the general knowledge of Americans. I am quite sure that a simpleton on an Indian road would have done equally bad if not worse (that is kinda impossible). Anyways watch it for fun and not for any sadistic pleasure.

Quiz in America

Some gems if you still have second thoughts about watching it:

1. Name a country that starts with a U (no answers for this one)
2. Religion of Buddhist monks is Islam
3. Number of sides in a triangle - 4,0, 1

I won't spoil it further by revealing any more. Do explain me the "collateral damage" explanation if you get it.

it sucks

Being in IT industry for more than half a decade has sure taught me a lot of things. Not the least of them is that I just don't like it. Well, this is quite an unqualified statement and I intend to qualify it later in some other post. For now, lets take it literally to preserve its sting. There are many reasons for it, trying to list a few of them. Now, the reasons might as well apply to other professions, but I won't worry about it now. No more disclaimers, here is the list:

1. Java developers are so common in India, that we should declare Java as our national language.
2. No-one seems happy or satisfied with his work
3. Almost everyone has already attempted or intends to attempt CAT [that doesn't include me ;-)], so most (not all) of the people in technology are those who were lazy (to attempt cat) or incompetent (to qualify for an mba)
4. We all take ourselves (and our work) too seriously
5. All of us want to settle in the US or some foreign nation as long as it is not Zimbabwe.
6. White skin is always revered, because either they are clients or the revenue earners (people on client side) or the owners of the company
7. We are always worried about our next change
8. Most of us have a dim opinion about others in the community as is evident in this post
9. Most of us are ppp - poop producing programmers and we claim so, only that we exclude ourselves while making this comment
10. The maximum time spent by us in the office is on outlook

Gone with the wind

(*******Spoiler warning*******)
Finally I finished this extremely lengthy book around eight years after I first picked it up. The popularity of the book is so high that I always wanted to read it but the sheer size discouraged me every single time. The movie based on this book with the same name was released in 1939 and adjusted for inflation is the biggest ever money spinner in the history of Hollywood. Equally popular is the dialog that features in every top x dialog list - "Frankly dear, I don't give a damn".

In fact, this dialog has a wiki page dedicated to it.

This is not a full fledged review, not even sure if its a review. However, I was a little let down by the bulk and the excessive details painted in the book. But on the positive side, since it is so detailed the characters and settings are just too real for you to feel.

The story revolves around two main characters Rhett and Scarlett. The bland, self assured, composed, calculated and shrewd Rhett Butler and earthy, vivacious, stubborn, insensitive, selfish yet strong Scarlett. I would have liked to see Rhett being more present in the book. He goes off again and again only to reappear a couple of hundred pages later.

The characters are shown in an honest light. The reactions/thoughts of Scarlett are so selfish that you can't help but hate her. Deep down, however, I think a lot of us think as perversely as she does.

The book is no love story as they would like to call it. Usually love stories end with happy or sad endings but the lovers generally keep loving each other till the end. Not this one, interestingly the book ends with them (one of them) falling out of love and parting their ways even though they remain married.

Overall, if you have a really long journey on the cards, you can keep this book handy.

Work "life" balance?

Only if he could have taken his work a little less seriously.

MSPM: Smart-n-ass

Some smart people want to seize every moment and every opportunity to show that they have a point, no matter how banal it is. They feel cheated if they are not the first one to correct someone on a very obvious mistake made. Like saying we will check this tomorrow on a Friday will get smart asses all worked up (assuming its not a working weekend). Hope you got the drift. Making a point is extremely important for them, even if almost everyone except imbeciles could have made it. The race is about being the first one to point it out. Also, in the process making a point becomes more important than making it count. That explains why meeting are considered an utter waste of time, because all the smart-asses end up making points in order to get heard not really focusing on making those points count.

So, the summary of this argument is that, if at the back of our minds, we can keep the objectives clear and focus on them, rather than focusing on getting yourself brownies, which are useless for the objective, all of us at the end should be better off. This is in line with the aphorism, that if people stop caring about who gets the credit, they will do much better as a team. And if you are working with good people, in the end they should be able to give everyone his/her deserved due. However, I am not entirely sure if this is a practical thing to do. It sounds quite Utopian thing to do and may work only if there is a cooperative (as in cooperative game theory) environment.

Things can turn ugly in places where things are really cut-throat and the benign ones might just end up getting all the flak at the end without getting any credit for good things they did. In a non-benign environment there is no single objective, there are objectives and invariably most of them are in conflict with each other, so this may not really work out. However, if the smartass is in a leadership capability, then to reach to a smarter level, (s)he needs to ensure the smart-asses in his(er) team (that includes him/her also) are free from this kind of competition and thinking.

In the end, someone has to think of the forest over trees, and that is the kind of fella I would like to be and work with.

Movie Review: Unforgiven


Watch this for the climax and the after taste. This is a movie I watched 16 years too late, or may be not. It is quite possible that I would have hated this movie when it came out, partly because I wouldn't have understood it, thanks to my limited exposure to English during my growing years :-)

If someone is bored of watching the new movies or has exhausted everything else around, here is one movie you can try out.

Its a movie about a killer and it is as unglamorous as it could get for an assassin. Usually hit-man movies glorify the killer, show him as an agile, kick-ass and powerful shooter who goes on killing men like no other.

This one is different. This is about a weak and old killer well beyond his prime, who comes out of retirement because he needs money and sees a cause justified enough to kill. The most of the movie seemed like a drag until it reaches the climax. The movie labors on the point that being a good killer isn't about being faster, but about keeping your head steady in the face of a life-death situation.

The setting is old American, cowboy era with a brown and dusty look. The characters are all realistic, to the extent that the protagonist is shown to have difficulty riding his horse, and falls many times. He had a bout of illness and then a sound beating to boast of.

The last fifteen minutes of the movie however makes up for the lack of excitement throughout. What makes this movie is the memorable role by Clint Eastwood, as a killer who doesn't glorify killing a bit and goes about it as casually as you would go to your office. The complete disregard for everything else (things like not killing an unarmed man) when he is going for the kill is what gives it a realistic air.

It has a certain heaviness throughout that may stay with you even after it's over and don't miss the last 5 minutes when the credits roll for you will miss the superb, simple and serene background score.

PQRs: Platitude Quoting Rascals

I was thinking of how would corporate life be if there were no platitudes. Every time you have a gathering, things tend to circle around platitudes.

The positive ones:
  • We have done a great job
  • Things are looking up
  • We are a bunch of extremely talented people
  • What we do is extremely critical
The ones hinting on a need to improve things:
  • We need to be more creative
  • We need to know our customer better
  • We need to work as a team
  • We are extremely open and suggestions from anyone are welcome
When used out of context, they really mean nothing and that's how they are most often used. I often wonder, after a certain point, shouldn't the ones quoting them again and again should start feeling guilty for the wastage of words and time they are indulged in.

I have often found myself switched off the moment any of these kind of things are mentioned. I am in no position to claim if I don't do these things, but being aware I will try not to if I can help.

Stillness in motion

Some pictures of locals taken in Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh

A Swing trader's market?


The Dark Knight is the best movie ever

as per imdb rating as of today.

Link of the movie on IMDB

I liked the movie a lot and looks like so did everyone else. I think my wait was well worth it :-)

Harry Potter: The magic will never end

It's exactly an year since we first saw the last of Harry Potter (in books). Without doubt it is the most amazing book series I have ever read, I haven't read too many but have read LOTR, Bourne, to name a few.

It all started on a train journey when J K Rowling conceived the idea of a boy wizard. Little did she know that her stories will become the one of the most sold/read books in the history of mankind.

Well, it was a 24 hour train journey for me as well when I picked the second installment of Harry Potter series (first HP book for me). It wasn't bad, wasn't great either. It seemed a lot like a pot-boiler, the kind you won't regret going through once but that's just about it. Sometime later I picked the first one since I couldn't find anything better to read and then I read the third one. And as they say third time is the charm, this time I became a complete convert. It no longer seemed an ordinary series to me and I started waiting for the release of the next ones with quite eagerness until last last year.

There are countless fans of Harry Potter and a good number of detractors. Some of the arguments that I hear to justify the hate are:

1. It is regressive
2. Harry Potter is gifted, a trailblazer of sorts in everything and just cannot go wrong
3. It is childish
4. The series is dark! (Indeed it is)

I don't intend to blame any of those people to have that point of view. What I have noticed in most of the cases is that those guys have read 'about' the books but not the books themselves, may be because they never considered them worthy to be read. However, reading about them may actually give some of the ideas mentioned above as central to the book's theme. But stopping at that will be an injustice to yourself if you enjoy good story telling.

I took my time to start appreciating the series and its characters and mind it, the sum of parts is indeed greater than the whole. Even though each book can be enjoyed as an independent piece, the difference in the scale of enjoyment will be huge when they are all read. To an outsider the book may seem kiddish, they are not. Some of the gems in the book are age old wisdom and are so clearly enacted that it makes them permanent in your mind. Some of my favorite ones are:

- Power should not be given to those who seek it.
- It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
~Professor Albus Dumbledore

This is the central theme of what makes Harry Potter what he is. He isn't the most powerful character, isn't the smartest, may be one of the bravest but with his own share of doubts. He may be the best flier, for sure one of the best. But these are not his defining characteristics. This isn't why he is the hero. He is hero because when it comes to choosing, his natural instinct is to 'not harm' and protect whoever is involved. Sacrifice isn't something that comes naturally to him, but given a situation, if that is something that can make everyone else' life easier, he would do it willingly or unwillingly.

To sum it up, he is essentially a good guy and that is his biggest strength.

- He could not use a dark spell effectively against his godfather's killer because for dark curses to be effective you need to mean them
- He didn't kill the guy responsible for his parents' death even when he had a chance (that paid in the end)
- In his final showdown with Voldermort, Voldermort casts the death spell on him whereas he casts only the disarming spell.
- He chooses to die since that was the only way to stop Voldermort.

Therein lies the difference between the one who won and the one who lost. It is not the most powerful one (Voldermort) who won, it was the good one. That I think is the defining part.

Voldermort, probably the most gifted wizard in terms of capabilities (may not be in terms of knowledge, Dumbledore was far more intelligent and knowledgeable than anyone else) had one mortal fear, of death. He sought throughout a way of being immortal where Harry embraces his death for 'the greater good' and becomes the master of death (and the possessor of Deathly hallows - you will need more context to understand what they are)

There were many times when Harry was saved by his friends and there were times when Harry was responsible for the death of his well-wishers. All because he is normal and makes as many mistakes as anyone else.

Coming to the second most important character in the series, the character is one of the purest villains, interestingly, for no fault of his. For he was conceived under temporary love induced by magic and hence was incapable of love. Barring this he was exceptional in his capabilities magical or otherwise. However, in the final showdown, it wasn't his power that fell short, and caused his downfall. It was Harry's goodness that caused Malfoy's mom to cheat him in the end and something unknown to Voldermort and knows as love caused Snape to do the same throughout. Combined this with his lack of knowledge caused his downfall.

There is a whole bunch of characters equally interesting and with a lot of history in the series that makes it such a compelling read. It has its own parallel world with different rules and laws.

Each book opens up a layer of understanding about what is going on. Remarkably there are references in the books early in the series which get clarified when you move further down and that is what makes the sum much greater than the parts.

It's exactly an year since I last picked a Potter book and now writing this post brings out my withdrawal symptoms. For those of you haven't read the series, try it. As Jeffrey Archer said while he was in India this year, every now and then he discovers a remarkable new author to read. I consider JKR to be as remarkable as the best ones I have ever read, so if you are looking to expand your options, go for it.

(To know more information on the series and characters, you can visit HP Lexicon)


Its been two years since the inception of twitter. I have never been a great fan but recently a friend of mine started twittering. Sounds like another one bites the dust.

New trends, more often than not, come at the cost of old ones at least partially. TV damaged newspapers and reading in general to some extent (but not completely), so did Internet for almost everything around. I wonder, if twittering is taking share off blogging. Blogging is content with connection to audience/friends, twitter sounds like plain connection.

For now, I am not convinced enough to switch to (or start) twitter. Even if I have to do something like it, I intend to keep it to my clog. I wonder, what would I call it, if it happens. No prizes for guessing as I gave it away even before I started!

Brain Magic

Here is an interesting talk (performance) by Keith Barry on

Brain Magic

Kamasutra and Controversies

This is inspired by(in response to) an article written by Shashi Tharoor in his regular column in Times of India. He hailed the court verdict acquitting M F Husain of all the accusations related to his painting nude pictures of Hindu goddesses. Here are a few 'gems' of his articles.

Why is Indias Picasso staying away
Its time to stop harassing M F Husain

First off, I don't agree to the point he made but that is not the point of this blog. He made a reference to Kamasutra as traditional Hindu text and using it as a defense to drawing pictures of goddesses in nude.

Transporting ourselves to Bollywood, "Mumbai Salsa", a C-grade movie (IMDB rating 3.7) about Mumbai's urban life. There is a foreign character who 'kind of' defends one night stands because we have a history that features Kamasutra and Khajuraho in it.

Looks like, Kamasutra can justify almost anything remotely related to sex or nudity or even pornography. I have nothing against these things, if it were not for the context in which these things are done.

Now, personally I have nothing against one night stands, but I took exception to the reasoning behind justifying it. They are justified in their own right - Kamasutra or no Kamasutra. Just because some sage wrote about sex doesn't mean you use it as a justification/reason for having one night stands or painting gods without clothes. It is akin to saying that it's ok to kill your siblings because we have had some serious sibling rivalry in Mahabharata.

Kamasutra may have been written as a book that touches all the aspects of relationships centered around sex, It wouldn't be prudent to use it to decide about extra-marital affairs or one night stands. Also, I am not entirely sure of the contents anyways.

To Tharoor,
I expected better reasoning from you. May be you are extremely liberal, may be even to the point of letting your family members get painted in nude or caught up in acts which most of the less-liberal people intend to keep indoors, but it is harsh to impose your own sense of values on a society as a whole just because someone decided to write a book about sex centuries ago. It was anybody's guess as to what the reaction would have been to those paintings.

To Husain,
You have done very well so far in not painting anything absurd for your own religion, that would have probably put a full stop to your career and life (and a lot of people will find it justified after all India has a great tradition not only sex but violence as well). Next time when you put your brush to use, do the same with your common sense else as a not-so-liberal art admirer, I will be inclined to think of it as a gimmick for cheap publicity, which I know it is.

To a blogger,
who swears by the line "opinions are like assholes, everyone has one". Most of his opinions certainly are. He has written way too many controversial posts with a good number devoted to the Husain controversy, feeding on his controversy for his own publicity?

To All,

Use your common sense before doing something controversial or reacting to it.

Disclaimer: I don't approve of the acts of vandalism that happened against the artist in the wake of this controversy.

MSPM: Super-structured

(To know what is MSPM - Read the opening post here)

Here is the first of the list of things that I think smart people don't do well until they get smarter.

Most of the not-so-smart people are unstructured in their approach towards things, but not all unstructured people can be classified as not-so-smart. For, I know quite a few smart but haphazard people.

The smart ones tend to have a structure to everything they do, but sometimes they go overboard.

A particular example that comes to my mind is a module lead with whom I worked once. He was one of the better folks I have worked with so far in my career. However, his documents would only have numbered points and he wanted me to do the same. On one frustrated night at 2 AM, I made a comment, that if I remove the filter that controls the level of "table of contents", every single thing in this document will be in it. Is that how you intend it to be?

I am not taking it out against him here to prove I was right and he was wrong. But I felt he suffered from over-structure.

A lot of times I am accused of the same, it makes me feel happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I can classify myself as smart in my own post but then that rules me out for consideration as 'smarter'.

Most of the times, people are aware and tend to improve if their feedback loops are strong. So, the critical part that takes them from smart to smarter is being open to foreign opinion and internalize it's valid parts.

Benefiting from the enemy

I have been a great follower of superhero series', not always, but now certainly. Unlike a lot of people who start with comic books and then move on to movies about superheroes, my real exposure started with the movies (discounting the light doses of Spiderman, He-man and Aladdin on Doordarshan) and I don't think I will go back to comic books.

However, I don't intend to talk about superheroes (not in this post at least), but about super villains. Superheroes is what people think they go to watch, but, the reason why people wait for the next movie or the comic book is because of the uniqueness of the villains. So, I think in sustaining a series it is equally, if not more, important to have good super villains.

To draw an analogy, there is this concept of Freebie marketing where you sell a product for marginal profit or even loss to generate sustained revenues in long run on the basis of re-fills. Gillette is an excellent example of this. The super villains, I believe should be counted as the real bread-earners for their respective superhero franchise.

Talking of the villains, one of the most famous villains of all time, Joker, will be seen in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" this July. I wouldn't miss it for anything, would recommend you the same.

Bangalore to Savandurga: Cheat Sheet

Recently I visited Savandurga hill near Bangalore for a day of trekking. Before starting for the trip I was looking for some information to help me plan my trip. I got a few blogs but not what I was looking for. Most of the blogs are high on experience but what I wanted was a cheat sheet. So here is an attempt at creating one.

  • Buy food that can be carried like fruits, biscuits.
  • You should have a supply of 4 liters of water per person for the trip
  • First Aid kit (nice to have)
  • Take a knife with you
  • Sunscreen if you are the kind who cares about getting tanned
  • Shoes/trainers should be well fitting and very very comfortable
  • Abandon the trip if there is a possibility of rain.
  • Start early, consider 3 hours of travel time each side.
  • Afternoons, if sunny can be extremely painful while trekking.
  • Cut your toe nails.
  • Carry a cap.
  • Carry a backpack, anything in your hand will be a hassle
  • Carrying a camera may be a hassle, mobile phone with camera will be a good idea
  • This is quite obvious but I will still say this, don't wear uncomfortable clothing especially ladies. Sarees or skirts are absolute No-Nos. It is quite windy and they can be dangerous for you or even your fellow climbers.

We tried to mark the exact landmarks on the way but couldn't do it very well so I am giving only a general idea here. For more details do more search, however few tips here won't hurt you.
  • Two possible routes - Magadi Road/Mysore Road. Look at the picture for better idea.
  • Most of the people on the way will be able to help you out. It would be a good idea to keep checking whenever in doubt.
  • If you go through Mysore Road, there will be a very small yellow board on the other side (please note we are traveling from Bangalore to Savandurga) of the road indicating Savandurga - 27 KM. We were very lucky to have spotted it accidentally and then made a U to take it.
  • Carry at least 2 liters of water per person
  • There are no shops at the top of the hill, so whatever you need should be with you before you start climbing
  • I will highly recommend you to follow the white arrows (see picture)
  • Pace yourself, the hill is quite high and don't be foolhardy to rush in the beginning only to come back mid way. Lots of people do that but I can't imagine myself doing it.
  • Keep eating and hydrating. If well fed and drunk ;-) (water), you will reach the top in good shape and will be able to enjoy it much better.
  • Keep enough time in your trip to spend on the top of the hill (we kept 1 hour)
  • Thumb rule for the time required is, Ascent:Descent::3:1 and Ascent will vary between 1.5 to 3 hours based on your stamina and speed.
  • Make sure you enjoy the scenery periodically.

  • Ascent is tough, but descent is risky.
  • If its slippery, it will be even more risky
  • Chances of making a mistake are high, partially because you may get overconfident ;-)
  • Its even more important in descent to follow arrows, because if not done so, you might end up on a path that you could climb down but is too steep for coming back up
  • Toes will hurt like hell, even worse if you have long nails.
  • Try moving down sideways or reverse but be careful.
  • Don't run, unless you are quite sure of yourself.
  • Make sure you enjoy the scenery periodically
  • Many people have warned that it is very risky as will be clear if you read the scary blogs linked at the end. But if you are cautious and prepared, its a 'breeze' and literally so when you reach the top.
  • There is a dam on the way (Manchanabele dam) which can be included in the trip if you have more time.
  • Be prepared to pee in the open, there are no toilets on the way up :-)
Other Blogs
Final piece of advice

Do go for trekking, for acts of endurance tend to bring out your character.

That's me on my way uphill

Heisenberg, Murti and Oil

The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.
--Heisenberg, uncertainty paper, 1927

To paraphrase this statement, the current state and movement of something cannot be determined precisely and more precise the tool of observation (read high frequency radiation), the greater would be its impact on the particle's current position/momentum thereby changing it.

Mapping this to predictions; Predictions (can) impact what they predict.

Goldman Sachs analyst Arjun Murti predicts that oil will trade at 200$ in a year or two time frame. Having successfully predicted the oil spike that took it beyond $100 from a meager 40 a year before, Mr Murti is no longer a regular guy but carries a lot of weight.

Since its him, would market take heed to what he is saying and react to it thereby creating a self serving cycle of spikes and super spikes making his predictions come true.

Or on the contrary, would it make the consumers wiser since they can sense further strengthening of prices and hence start cutting their demands, and in the process making the prediction wrong?

While there are can be several possible reactions to Mr Murti's statements which are as difficult to predict as the oil price, I wonder if he should start taking into account the effect of his predictions while coming up with them. Or who knows, being the smart cookie he is, he may already be doing it!

Terrific Traffic

This post is six months late pointing an accusing finger at the state of affairs of clog :-)

A friend of mine used to like driving in Gurgaon. It was because he considered it a mental exercise and truly it is. So, by the way of driving he was getting the much needed mental exercise which he could never manage during his full day in office. I believe driving in metros would account for a good portion of stress we have.

There are lot of factors that contribute to the bumpy state of affairs of our traffic like
1) poor roads (quality and quantity)
2) bad traffic discipline
3) Ineffective enforcement of rules.

In any situation we will always have a people factor contributing and I believe it has the maximum impact and can be fixed easily if we all decide to. However, before we go there, I have tried and categorize the ones who contribute to our traffic nightmares. Here goes the list of top offenders.

Misleaders: Our life puts us through a lot of choices/crossroads, sometimes it happens in the middle of the road. Which way should I turn, and these dilemmas create disruptive twists on the road. Indicating left and turning right isn't an uncommon sight to the extent when we see a signal only thing you can be certain is that the vehicle will not go straight and can turn either ways. On second thoughts I am not sure of even that part.

Headless Chickens: Acts of great risks are done by people who are either extremely courageous OR utterly naive (naive enough to ignore the danger). When faced with a challenge of crossing a busy road, some people get desperate and just jump into it assuming others will take care of them by not hitting them. They are completely oblivious of things going around them which are vehicles in this case.

Self Appointed traffic police(wo)men: The mantra of headless chickens would sound like "I would rather be dead than be on this side of the road". These guys are no headless chickens for they know that getting run over by a vehicle can kill you and it isn't worth risking your life for crossing the road. They come in cautiously and then try and manage the traffic around them. They would let some of them pass, ask some of them to stop and wait or others to go around them from their fronts or backs as would be prudent.

Communicators: I think I have taken a fancy on communicators because this is not the first time they have found a place in my writings. Here I think there are some sub-categories.
  • Sudden Slowers: Cars suddenly slowing down on the middle of roads apparently for no reasons form the first category. They are people who fiddle around with their headsets/phones in an attempt to take all those urgent calls they need to take.
  • Rajesh Khannas: They are people on two wheelers with their heads strategically tilted to support a mobile phone. It also, implies that they don't wear helmets. The ones with helmets are mellowed down RKs needing a lesser tilt for the cushion of helmets makes it easier to support phones.
  • Loosely coupled cars: This is a pair of two two-wheelers going parallel like Jai and Veeru would have done if their bike didn't have a sidecar.
  • Head Turners: This happens when the pillion rider is a girl. Not willing to lose even a moment of conversation with the pretty girl at the back the rider would perilously turn his head to listen to her every syllable. Love knows no fear.
The Foreigners: I have read about foreigners complaining of sad state of affairs of Indian traffic. Its about time I take the war back to them. They are the ones who contribute to the worst of it. Look at all these Bangladeshi rickshaw pullers. In Gurgaon traffic, travelling in a rickshaw pulled by a Bangladeshi is akin to riding Yamraj's buffalo. These vehicles with zero turning radius have the capability to 'turn' any traffic situation on its head and more often than not they do so.

If I stop at this post, I will have to accept myself as a complete whiner which I am not ;-) and hence I will be writing a post to put a simple plan that we can use to improve the situation.

Delhi-NCR celebrates Road safety weeks sometimes in the year, I guess the need of the hour is to celebrate Road Safety Years.

We like playing games

This post is inspired by a book I read many years ago on a bus journey. I hope I remember it well enough to quote its content correctly. The book was called "The Science of Getting Rich" and was about principles for getting rich. (Ok Ok, I read this kind of books also!, for that matter I would read anything readable if I have time at my disposal and nothing else to do). Well, since I am not blessed with an exceptional memory I could remember only one big message from the book and everything else got eroded over years.

The message is simple, "there is more than enough in this world for the population that it supports". I remember this, partly because, this is quite a contrary statement to what is common knowledge. Starting with the definition of economics in simplest terms as the study of limited resources to fulfill unlimited desires; to the fact, that very soon we might run out of all the oil in the world.

So, the point that there is enough in this world for all of us remained with me since then. Having this perspective and my (limited) knowledge of Game Theory, I related the two.

Game Theory defines many kind of games (and classifications). In one of the classifications we have zero and non zero sum games. For this post, I have put them in three different categories.

Zero sum games: The net profit of the "system" is always zero. In short the amount of "reward" (for the lack of any better generic word) is constant and by taking more than your average share you are depriving someone else of its average share. Gambling/betting and even trading in derivatives falls in this category.

Positive Sum games: The overall outcome of the system is positive. They can be called win-win scenarios also. Trade by definition is one such case.

Negative sum games: The system's outcome is dwindling and as a group its getting worse. Some people might still gain thereby causing some others to lose more than the average.

The Game
Having set these definitions in my mind, even though I never wrote them down before this entry, I try and analyze any situation using these parameters. If the pie to be had is constant or shrinking, you are in a wrong situation. It is already a sinking ship and you will need to work much harder to get the same returns as in a Positive sum game.

The Play
It's not only about choosing a situation (game) but also about what you make of it. You can play in any situation assuming it to be a zero or a negative sum game. If you play with that assumption you are guilty of making the world a worse place than it could/should be.

As kids, we are all born with a zero sum game mindset. Most of the times siblings compete for affection, toys, space and practically everything. However, thanks to our parents, they try to make us more agreeable as we grow, but do we really grow? Sometimes, the opposite may also happen based on where and how we grow up.

In negative and zero sum games, your gaining profit has a very high correlation to others incurring losses; to the extent that it may appear to be one and the same thing - "others loss is my gain". With this we may start focusing on just increasing the losses to others because that might seem easier than working harder to increase your own advantage.

Having all the kinds of games at hand, and applying the principle from the book, it isn't unlikely that almost every game can be played as a positive sum game thereby converting it into one.

The Mismatch Problem!

An interesting talk by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" about hiring processes in various professions. The one about University of Michigan lawyers is the one that surprised me most!

A little long, so watch it when you have time at your hand. Enjoy!

Doing the right thing for the right reason?

An year back at a Mother Dairy in Gurgaon, I witnessed an incident. A kid was taking some fruit from the shop while he was leaving with his mother. The mother asked him to put it back telling him that if uncle spots him, he will get scolded. Well, the kid put it back and they left. Now, what happened was right, the kid didn't take something he shouldn't have. But was it for the right reason? Apparently if the kid can fix the "uncle spotting him" problem, her mother sees no problem in stealing the fruit. I am quite sure that this is not the case, but the messaging sure gave that impression. I would have let this incident pass as just an aberration had I not witnessed the same over and over at my workplaces and otherwise.

Is right deed right even if it is done for the wrong reason?

While talking about compliance or about "donts" in the workplace, most of the people talk about the monitoring systems and their ability to generate implicating statistics as the factor. I think, the systems should be in place as safety nets to handle aberrations. The norm should be that people should not do "donts" because they understand they are wrong. Now, relating the two incidents, I am wondering if our nurturing during our formative years actually led to this mindset.

Mistakes smart people make: Opening Post

The intended title of the post was "The mistakes smart people make and smarter people avoid".

I have read too many blogs about how incompetent and less smart people are a bane to software industry. I fully agree with all of them, for if I disagree, it might mean I am one of them. Well, I may be, but I am not willing to admit it, that too in public on my own blog, no way :-)

Before I started writing it, I thought I will do a google search on "incompetent developers" (wanted to have blog in the search string as well which got missed) and got some real estate company websites on the first page that have 15-20 years of experience in Real Estate Development. Little did they know, this is how the 15 year old world wide web will treat them.

So, to all those smart people who have been suffering because of the scum of the earth working in the cubicle next to theirs, here is a series which aims at bringing out some of the follies of your ilk [OR as Kapil Dev would have said in the boost ad "our ilk" ;-) ]. The smarter ones soon start seeing the pattern of those follies and overcome them, by the time they have good exposure in the industry and get into positions of power, they turn into gods whom people idolize.

For this series (calling it MSPM based on the title) I am planning to put up one folly per post.