Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Defence of the Developers

I have seen myself and other Developers I have worked with miss on obvious silly things - may be an obvious typo - or a mis programmed checkbox etc. Really obviously silly things which will make me kick myself  ( or my pair ).


Well here is psychology to the rescue.

Invisible Gorilla

A study was commissioned by a psychologist long back.

He played a video of  a basketball game between a team wearing white shirts and team wearing black shirts. The participants where asked to count the number of passes made by the white team.



Most of the participants got the total number of passes correct.

Here is the twist. In the middle of the game, a girl dressed in a gorilla suite, walks across the floor. And most of the participants who were busy counting the passes - totally missed it. When the video was played back to them they were shocked at how they could have missed the gorilla.

The logic behind is that our brain operates in 2 modes - the Analytic mode and the Intuitive mode. When the Analytic mode has been turned on and is in full swing ( counting the number of passes ), the Intuitive mode switches off or is suppressed ( which watches out for such oddities as a gorilla enter a basketball game ).

The Gorilla Bugs 

When we developers work on a feature - the analytical brain is fully fuelled and does not stop till the feature is complete. We have to watch for syntax, potential bugs, unit tests, failing tests, code beauty, backward & forward compatibility - apart from developing the functionality.

The obvious things ( in the eyes of the world ) get ignored when we are immersed in dishing out the functionality.

This is my defence - to the questions - "Did you not see it", "How can you miss it" - for most of the simple cosmetic things - that we developers miss out at times.

Now to myself, and you my brothers ( and sister ) developers

After we finish our coding session - we have to switch off our analytic brain and switch on our intuition.

Shut down the editor window, fire up the app, think you are a user - and see it through their eyes. I bet we can find a few Gorillas chilling out while we were writing code.

That is how we grow from being a Code Monkey to a Zen Master Coder.







Sunday, October 20, 2013

Buddhism.

I picked up Deepak Chopra's Buddha.

It was more of a fiction - of how Siddharta became Gautama and then Buddha. The story dwelt more on the love and war during Siddharta,Gautama period and dwelt little time on the really interesting part - how Buddha attained enlightenment and the aftermath.

I was more curious and upset that what I wanted to know was covered little - perhaps the book wouldn't have sold if it was all sermons - the enlightenment part would have been boring.

This man attained enlightenment at the age of 40 or so - and lived till 80 years. Daily he gave a sermon to his disciples. He answered any question thrown at him - and these have been captured and compiled as the Buddhist Philosophy.

Taking a step back - my quest on what is God has been running for more than 4 years. Ever since I started reading Paulo Coelho's books I had this nagging feeling - something more is there to this life of ours. Then I picked up Conversations with God - and after some inner turmoils later became completely disillusioned.

Change in Lifestyle

Whatever the religion demands of us - to pray and follow customs - are totally meaningless.

Why should I pray? - for a good comfortable life ( or more money ) and good health?

If I don't work smart and hard - money will not follow - how much ever I pray. I pray in the temple and go out and binge eat - whatever disease has to come will certainly come.

So what is the point of praying if my work-life and lifestyle is not tuned correctly.

During the same time I was reading ( actually listening as an audio book ) Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. He made a case for not eating meat. As it is detrimental to recovery and burning fat during long runs. A doubt had already got planted in my head about the love for all living beings - how I can love all beings if i am still eating the flesh of a defenceless bird? The only reason I was clinging on to eating meat - so I can run better - was now trashed - and I gave up meat.

Religion ( or spirituality ) is not just a matter of praying - it is actually practising the Right Action and Thought. Telling a mantra a million times is not going to give us enlightenment. We have to first tune our life to know and receive the unknown.

The more I try to imbibe Buddhism in my life - the more I find my lifestyle is changing.

Eating plants, being more kind, being gentle, helping those not lucky as I am.

Death

Alexander the Great during his conquests met many Sages. One of the sages refused to meet Alexander, and Alexander went to his cave. The Sage said you are very unhappy  and you will be unhappy the day you die. He was right.

The man who conquered the world was extremely unhappy the day he died. To his aides he said when you carry me in the coffin - let both my hands hang out - let the masses see that even the great Alexander when he died - could not take with him even a single fistful of earth he had conquered.

Buddhism looks from the outside as a very depressing religion - they talk about death at all instances. However I find that it orients us to the big picture. If we remind ourselves about death at every decision point - the decision we will take will be more gentle and kind - and not for a short term gain.

Tamilians wear sacred ash daily after taking bath. The sacred ash is to remind them - this is what will happen to you in the end - ash - so take good decisions through this day. Alas - this has been turned a ritual and no one thinks of the deeper meaning in the sacred ash.

The Path

To become a Buddha - or a better human being - there are only 3 things or the Path - we should know and follow.

1. Right Thoughts.
2. Right Actions.
3. Meditation.

Meditation is the glue between Right Thoughts and Right Actions.

No mantra, no praying, no religious holidays and customs to follow - just practice the above 3. Need not even brand myself a Buddhist to become a Buddha.

I will add one more.

4. Running.

And this Ladies and Gentlemen - is my path and hopefully push me to attaining enlightenment - whatever it means.

Finally about the question of God - interestingly Buddha refused to answer this question - Is there a God? There are a set of 16 or so questions which Buddha refused to answer during his lifetime.

It is for us to discover what is God - perhaps knowing really what God is enlightenment. I don't know.

















Monday, September 30, 2013

Mumbai Barcamp 12 Roundup

Attended my first Mumbai Barcamp ( http://www.barcampmumbai.org/index.php/BCM12 ) yesterday. Reached there at 10:00 am on the dot and the orientation session was going on.  Do not take off your shirt - one of the rule items had. Moving on..



Picked up a sticky and put my session ( 3 Running Myths busted ) on the wiki. I had to move it around so I could attend another Running talk.

Went to the first session - it was on Meditation by Kiran. He showed a simple technique and asked the audience to try it out. Folks had mixed experience. Interestingly half already knew some kind of technique or the other.

Each session was 20 minutes with a 10 min break in between for any discussions and change over time. The volunteers cut off precisely after 20 minutes and did a great job in keeping the sessions contained.

I moved on to the next session - How an average runner can run the toughest foot race in the world and you can too! - this was a paisa wasool session for me.



I have read so much on Ultra Marathon ( especially my last book - Eat and Run by Scott Jurek ) and had not heard of any Indian from my gene pool who has run it - and here was this gentleman - Girish Mallya ( http://twitter.com/GirishMallya ) who has done it - and that too the toughest ultra marathon.

The run was 250kms over 6 days in the Sahara Desert and the runners had to carry their own backpack of 10kg weight. They had to run a full marathon daily and were burning almost 6k calories a day. Their daily intake was 2k calories. The muscle mass was being burnt to make up for the calories being burnt. In his words - this is very unhealthy.

He trained 4 years in preparation. He ran with his office backpack, going to and fro from work. Slept on floor for a year - as he had to sleep on the desert sand.  He ran 15 half marathons consecutively.

Every year more than 1000 runners register. There is a country wise quota and there is a waiting list of 2 years for Europe and USA. 95% of the participants completed. There were 2 blind men, one obese man and they completed it. It is more mental than physical - and anyone can do it.

Snapped a photo with Girish. I am an un-apologetic hero worshipper.


Then it was my turn on 3 Running Myths busted.




Actually I had planned for more Myths - thought 20 minutes wont be sufficient so threw away a few slides. My talk was over in 12 minutes. Luckily Girish and Kunal -the cycling hero had come to the session and we had a nice discussion going.

1. Running around a 400 meter track on the same direction will damage one leg. So keep changing direction if they allow. Some joggers park do not allow that.

2. Running on roads is also bad for the legs as towards the sides of the road it slopes to drain water - and if we keep running on the same side over long distances it will injure the ankles. By alternatively running on either side of the road - this can be prevented.

3. When I said I have started substituting milk with Soy-milk ( I went from a Meat eater to Vegetarian and now going towards a vegan diet ) - someone in the audience said that he has heard that Sperm count will go down. Bhagwan - now when I think back my response is this - heard that the polluted air we breathe will reduce the Sperm Count.

Anyway - it was satisfying. Hope I would have inspired a few to get out and run.

Next session I attended was by Kaushtubh Shirdikar, a 2nd year Electronics student from VJTI.

He spoke about his philosophy on how technology should be simple. He has created an e-bag which can charge your laptop, phone, keep coffee hot and water cold. It is still in prototype stage and has used arduino controller and weighs 5kg. I loved the idea. Had a chat with him and gave my requirements. I travel often in trains and I am always tied to my laptop bag on the fear of losing it - I can't fully doze off with my bag on the top shelf. Imagine if the bag could alert my phone that it is moving out of my range and/or the bag can sound a loud alarm too. And if it is little light, I will happily pick one up.

Also learnt about Eklavya at VJTI ( http://sra.vjti.info/eklavya ) - they have free training sessions on arduino, raspberry pi. He gave some tips on where to procure these things, programming languages you will need etc. Time to make time for this - an adventure is waiting here.



Then lunch - had to pay for my own food. I liked it! But wish the organizers had made arrangements for coffee at a minimum. If they are against sponsors I would suggest for anonymous donations.

Post lunch attended Kunal ( https://www.facebook.com/kunalmithrill - ) - our cycling hero's session - on travelling around the world on a cycle. My knowledge on cycles is nil - and this session was an eye opener.



The above photo is a typical touring cycle - and Kunal showed all the parts. The back wheel has 36 spokes. I guess it varies for different types - commuter, racing etc.

Here are some tidbits I noted :

70 pedals per minute is a good average.

A brand called shwalbe - the tyre lasts 30k kilometers and is tough

Learn to fix puncture - takes 5 minutes. Learn to change spoke, even if 1 spoke breaks in the next 1 hour all spokes will break.

Travel with Bungee cords and duct tape - they are so useful.

Bike lock - kryptonite. He also morphs his cycle with stickers trying to make it look like a bhaiyya cycle and not reveal the brand - to discourage thieves.

7 to 10 litters of water a day when you bike 70-100kms… otherwise you will get cramps - which is not at all nice.

Helmets don't protect.. above 30kms you are gone.. but it makes people think this guy is serious - atleast in india. In a few countries helmet is banned.

marino wool - sheeps wool - expensive. underpant costs 2.5k...highly recommended.

1 soft fibre trek towel - only product to buy from decathlon - small and soaks nicely and dries in 20 mins

Note to self : have to checkout this book Kunal was reading - hitchhiking across ireland with a fridge.




He can easily do 100 to 130 kms a day.

In night - dont cycle at night. Europe is pretty safe. UP Faridabad are really bad. Gujjus fed him cashews and gave sumptuous lunch dinner wherever he went.

Then went into a session - The Rational Thinkers - forgot to note down the name of the presenter - will update once I find it.

Was an interesting concept - He wants to create an online debate group, 1 topic each week that directly or indirectly affects you, no judgements and they will publish the discussions every week. He will keep the debaters limited to 100 or 150. The comments from the audience was enlightening. Hope he carries on with the idea. Today all the opinions we hear are only from people with an agenda ( You : Paid Media ). If this project of his succeeds, will make us more aware and educated. Hats off to a great idea.

When I came out saw Kunal had gathered a crowd and was continuing a session on the corridor.



Kunal was talking about the interesting characters he met during the tours. And topic went into tips and how to do cycling - he doesnt get bored talking of cycling!

My body reminded that there was no more caffeine in the system ( organizers, next I time I will sponsor  just coffee / tea anonymously if you will allow me to ) - and also I had to get home to prepare my kid for the school next day as Sangeeta was on a day trip to Pune. Missed the last hour of session and got back after a well spent day.












Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Today I complete 5 Years on ApartmentADDA



Sep 18th, 2008.

You might have forgotten - this is the day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. The world came to know about Sub Prime Derivatives and economies around the world started collapsing one after the other.

And this is the day I started my journey as an Entrepreneur.

And just like that I have travelled 5 years of my life.

If I look back - was it easy, was it fun, what did I learn? - let me take one at a time.

Was it easy?

Hell No. I am totally out of my comfort zone. I hate talking to strangers, hate small talk, I am an introvert to the core. But I was pushed to deal with prospects, vendors, investors, partners - day in and day out.

I have to sell - and have to speak a lot - to strangers. I have tricked myself into enjoying this but inwardly I prefer the comfort of a keyboard and a good Editor.

I have to speak in Hindi ( thank you for nothing Tamil politicians ).

I have to say No ( mostly fancy requirements or things which I know will set them up for a failure ) and have to defend it while saying an Yes would have been easy

For the most part I had to manage an economic downturn within the family. And dealt with shifting from Bangalore to Mumbai - and have to deal with expenses of various kinds with a thin wallet.

Zero vacations. In fact I dread vacations - when anyone core in the team takes off, I become the backup by default.

I work 7 days a week. Continuously till my brain melts, and I force myself to take half a day off.

Even though the above looks like Cribs - each one has its own upside to it.

Initially the economic downturn was hard - having been spoilt being on a double income household - but we got smarter, and learnt to maximise on any luxuries we indulged. I started valuing money and quality of service more. Realised "less" is actually "more".

Speaking and interacting with strangers - I learn a lot from each and every one of them. My Hindi has got better - ( passed Madhyama just in border - other than that knew hindi only from watching movies ).


Was it fun?

Of course.  The first year was fantastic - I call it the honeymoon period - could do whatever I felt like developing - not many customers, not many competitors.

There is always a kick I get when a new customer signs up - its very intoxicating. Each win is a culmination of lot of effort and thought - and years of planning and execution. Little things which have gone into making a well rounded product and service culminates in a sale. And if the customer picks us after a thorough evaluation - its doubly satisfying. This is much like the runners high - which cannot really be described unless you experience it.

Small nice perks - Can go for a hair cut when the crowd is less on a weekday. Am there for my kid whenever he has a performance or an event.

Did I learn anything?

Lots. Much like the equivalent of a Double MBA.

The last 5 years has been an all round growth for me.


I started running and meditating to become sane. The chatter in my head - always scheming, reacting to angry customer calls or analysing long past it had subsided - all started giving me sleepless nights. I found that as I ran more and meditated more I became calmer and could handle crisis situations better.


I crunched a truck load of books on various subjects - marketing to project management to business.

I might have never picked up these books - and would have remained confined to technology or philosophy. There is an ocean of ideas out there waiting to be harvested.

I have created my own theory on Sales - drawn from various books and my experience through trial and error.

I met an interesting gentleman during one of my sales meetings - and he put me onto a spiritual journey by suggesting a few good books.

So thats my brief round up.

This is very much a journey to be experienced from within.  I have started writing a book ( with some spice of course ) on my spare time - you can read it all some day!

Don't know where the next 5 years will take me. But I am sure of a few things -

I can handle it.
It will not be easy.
And it will be fun :)

See you in 2018.






Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mindfully eating a Masala Dosa



I tried mindfully eating the other day.

Ordered a Masala Dosa in the canteen in a hospital last week.

Was alone. By habit I pulled out my phone to read or browse something while eating.

Then I stopped and put the phone back - had been reading Awakening the Buddha within - thought let me try mindful eating - a practice as suggested in the book.

Tore off a small part of the dosa - dipped it in sambhar and chutney and ate it. Chewed it trying to discern the contents - the dal, rice, coconut, onion - thought from where all the ingredients would have travelled. Relished the taste of different ingredients - it was just like listening to a symphony and trying to identify the music instruments.

Then my mind drifted away - don't remember what it started analysing - and after sometime realised I should be mindfully eating - and again started focusing on the food and the moment.

Man it is tough. The mind keeps drifting.

After that day, have tried a lot of times when I eat alone to remind myself to eat mindfully - no phone, no ipad, no book, no TV while eating. To think of only the food and trying to keep my mind around food and eating - and not let it go on its journey on work, or judge people or the billion things it can think at any moment.

There is another advantage of mindful eating.

I am paying more attention to nutrition, the flavour, the taste, the texture - food never tasted this good. Even a simple preparation is tasty now. I have taken a new interest on Rasam - it is so simple but has got some amazing taste if you just close your eyes and take just a sip. If I drink Coke mindfully, I will think of all the harmful chemicals in it or the 10 spoons of sugar they have put - will not be able to continue drinking coke anymore.

If I eat mindfully - the food I pick automatically becomes healthy and wholesome and in tune with the earth. And as a bonus my daily quota of meditation also is met or exceeded - because mindful eating is also a form of meditation. We get 3 or 4 times a day to eat - these are beautiful opportunities to practice meditation.











Monday, August 05, 2013

Rest Easy Chickens

Rest Easy Chickens.

I am not going to eat you.

And also you - the Baby Goat, Goat, Fish, Prawn.

And this time I think its for real.

Here is the path to reducing consumption and finally zeroing it out - if you are a carnivore who is in doubt you can continue reading this post. If you are a carnivore who doesn't care - you need not read any further - but if you want to amuse yourself - go ahead and read it :)

2000

Went to LSU to do my masters. I figured out that chicken was cheaper than Veggies. Also cooking chicken was much much easier - drop in some masala and within 30 minutes a tasty preparation would be ready. No brainer.  Also in US everyone ate meat - 3 times a day. The poor Veggie FOBs all suffered - some converted. I did not have any 2nd thoughts ( not that I had ) that eating Meat had any issues in it and it was totally fine.

2006

Got back to India - and had to visit Chicken shops - as there was no pre packaged meat like in US. I would say 1/2 a kg - if the vendor doesnt have stock, he will take one chicken from the cage, go behind the counter, slit its throat and will drop it into a drum. There will be a commotion and slowly it will subside. He will give me 1/2 kg in a black plastic bag - and it will be warm. It disturbed me - but only till the time I dropped it in the kitchen. My mother ( an ex-carnivore herself ) would cook some delicious dishes - and all was forgotten.

2009

Reliance Fresh opened a Meat section near our home. It was back to good old US days - it was all packaged - and zero guilt. Also this time I started running - thought I needed protein and started getting meat almost on a weekly basis.

2011

This is when I read Born to Run - ( http://kvrlogs.blogspot.in/2011/10/three-running-myths-busted.html ). Learnt that you don't need to be a carnivore to run better.

And I was reading more and more spiritual books. Had lot of questions in my mind - every time I tasted a meat preparation - always a doubt will come in my mind.

2012

We moved to Mumbai. The area we moved in - Kandivali - did not have any meat shops. There was only frozen stuff and we completely stopped cooking chicken at home. Fish continued but I was getting weary of eating fish - too cumbersome. However we checked out lot of famous foodie joints - Bade Miyaan, BBC, Candies..and meat eating continued.

At the same time - Mumbai gave lot many good veggie options. Banana Leaf, Cream Center.. we liked visiting often - so when we went out as a family ( my mother being veggie ), we always went out to the veggie joints.

2013

Sangeeta tried to spring a surprise on me in June - by taking me to Meating joint in Colaba - not a single veggie item in the menu. Actually the variety was fantastic and would be a delight for any meat eater. In my weird conflicted mind - I could not enjoy the food like before.

Few weeks back I had to go to Navi Mumbai for a demo. At lunch I went to a food court in a mall nearby. I ordered hummus. Next to me someone brought a chicken sizzler - I didnt feel jealous or wanted that. Was very much at peace with the hummus dish I got.

Then I picked up Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.  It was an eye-opener.

For those of you who don't know Scott Jurek - he is an Ultra Marathoner.

Marathon is where people run 42Kms under 6 hours. Ultra Marathoners run 24 to 48 hours at a stretch and cover crazy distances - 100,150.. even 300 Kms, on hills and rocks, through deserts and snow. Totally ridiculous inhuman race.

Guess what? - Scott Jurek was born and brought up in Minnesota - his dad presented him a Gun in his 10th birthday - so he can go hunt rabbits, deer and fowls. The family will eat these animals - they were big meat eaters.

Scott Jurek started running - and like any new runner got injured. He figured out that eating plants helped him recover very quickly. Also the plant based fat burnt faster than animal based fat - he was leaner and stronger. He started doing lot of research and found that eating Animals are bad for the running form.

He turned vegan - not vegetarian - vegan - absolutely no animal products. He won ultra marathon after ultra marathon - inspite of eating just plants. He is the most accomplished and distinguished Ultra Marathoner of all - and has won every race in the world.

Combined with this book - I started reading on Buddhism - which abhors violence to humans and animals alike.  I also remember reading a quote somewhere.

"You can eat meat. There is absolutely no problem in it. However if you are in the path of awakening you will question this habit."

And this was a question in my mind the past few years - is it alright to eat meat?

Am I missing something? - Maybe.

I have not yet visited Taj and had some fantastic signature meat dish by a renowned chef.

I havent visited Ponnusamy or Anjappar in more than 4 or 5 years.

I will probably not have the Bade Miyaan Bheja Fry - and the weird taste texture it had.

I was joking to Sangeeta - when Cigarette smokers quit they would smoke 2 3 packs and quit in style.

I did not do any of that. The transition just happened smoothly. Don't even remember the last meat dish I ate.

So - dear Chicken and all animals of all kinds - relax. You are safe in my presence.










Sunday, July 07, 2013

What is Born Lucky

This week, after working for almost a month without a break ( except for a sunday when we went to Lonavalla but the drive to and fro was more stressful than a work day) - my body just slammed on the brake - by picking up a nasty cold. I had to stop and slow down.

This led me to think - what is Born Lucky.

At one point while growing up - I wanted my Dad to own a motor bike like other Dads instead of the bi-cycle - a vehicle that was also showing its age. After some time I saw my class mates who rode around in a car. Some wore fancy "jerkins" with multiple pockets and zips. I wore a sweater - served the purpose though - for the Coimbatorean chill. I thought they were born lucky - to be born in a rich family.

Then went to College. Saw folks who were gifted. They had amazing memory and analytical skills. They could solve complex mathematical problems and seemingly knew the answer to any problem in any subject. They could easily ace the exams while I had to work hard to understand the concepts. That time I thought they were born lucky - who are gifted with such good memory and IQ.

Couple of years later, work life started - and would admire those who speak fluently, articulate complex thoughts really well, who can put across their points of view firmly and influence an entire team, who will walk into a party and everyone would take notice - who are charismatic and are born leaders - being born lucky.

And so on - the definition of being born lucky kept getting updated as I see more and more "lucky people" in my life!

I thought being born lucky was to be born rich, or to be born with high IQ or to be born with lots of charisma.

I was so wrong.

To be born lucky is simply to be born healthy - without any defects ( reminds me of the Avaiyar poem -  translation is at the end of the post ) - that is truly being born lucky. We get a body - which has been honed to perfection through evolution over millions of years.

Yet - we throw away our luck. By over working ( like what I was doing ), or smoking or eating junk or having a sedentary lifestyle.

And being Healthy is complete in itself.

If I have a Honda City, I yearn for an Audi, someone having an Audi yearns for a Lamborghini.

Someone who is gifted with prodigal IQ - may perhaps be not satisfied - and may want to get famous by cracking a complex Mathematical puzzle or find cure for Cancer and win a Nobel Prize.

And for the person with oodles of Charisma - perhaps will think - wish I was like King Khan - and for King Khan - perhaps he is thinking how can I get to be the next Bachchan.

There are no levels in Being Healthy - much like running - I do not compete against anyone else but I am a happy content runner.

If we are having the gift of a healthy life - we should work hard to protect the gift and keep it with us as long as possible.

Getting rich or intelligent or becoming charismatic - all take lot of effort and hard work.

Protecting good health is quite simple - just need to live a stress free, simple, active life style. Sounds lot easier than the other 3.

Also just being healthy - all the above 3 can be achieved - the reverse is simply not possible.

Here is Avaiyar's poem which makes sense now. And the great sage has suggested a path when you are born human and luckier to be born healthy and luckier to get educated..

"It is rare to be born as a human being,
It is still rarer to be born without any deformity.
Even if you are born without any deformity,
It is rare to acquire knowledge and education.
Even if one could acquire knowledge and education,
It is still rare to offer service to the mankind and contemplate on the higher self.
If one leads such a selfless divine life,
The gates of heaven open to greet such an evolved soul."


[Above Translation is from  http://risingabhijeet.blogspot.in/2011/09/avvaiyars-favorite-poem-rare-to-be-born.html ]

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Draw String Bag!


The above is a Draw String Bag and what you are going to read is its story! 

In 2007, Sangeeta got involved in a Green Initiative called "Show We Care" in SAP GD. They got allotted a budget, volunteers were called and Sangeeta joined the team and brainstormed multiple ideas. 

One of the ideas Sangeeta conceptualised was this nice solid cloth bag with the following written on it ( by a creative guy from their marketing team ).

Plastic is Harmful! - Look what it did to Michael Jackson.

Every employee was handed one and were asked to use this instead of plastic packets ( Bangalore had not banned plastic bags yet - ban came in 2011 I guess ). Sangeeta brought one home and I took a liking to it. 

While I loved the bag ( perfect for going shopping on a bike ), I hated the Michael Jackson reference - because I respected him a lot and also after a few months he died.  I always wore the bag in such a way that words are not facing the world. 

Also in 2007, "Show We Care" arranged for a Tree planting drive in SJR Redwoods Apartment Complex in Sarjapur Road. I accompanied Sangeeta on a fine Saturday morning and helped plant trees around the compound wall - around 100 of them. Store this in your register for a while - will revisit this. 

Today, in June 2013, I took it for my morning run - and still the bag is in perfect condition and the Michael Jackson words are still intact unfortunately.

Wondering where the story is? Patience my friend - coming to that. 

In 2008 - a year after the Show we care Initiative -  we were in the process of launching ApartmentADDA. Towards that we wanted a logo and a website. Sangeeta called the Creative guy who designed the Draw String bag. He connected us to the Digital Media company - Cicada Media in Koramangala who printed the nice bag. Also we thought showing her SAP credentials we can get a discount! She even carried the Draw String bag to show it to them for the first meeting. 

We went to Cicada Media one fine morning and met Mr.Deviah - its founder. He saw what we had created and liked it. His team created our first logo and our website design. He introduced us in 2 places. 

He was part of the earlier committees where he lived - in Greenwood Regency, Sarjapur Road - and introduced us to the Management Committee there. Their treasurer saw the potential and signed the cheque and they became our first paying customer. Allelujah!  Mr.Deviah was also part of the core committee of another property still under construction in Whitefield and introduced us there too. They started using us, but will turn paying customers much later. 

One of the members, who later became President, had a brother in a landmark Villa community in Whitefield. He gave us a call and invited us for a demo, we went there on a Saturday and after a nerve wracking demo + wait - they signed us up and also paid for 3 years upfront - it was like seed money for us! 

The initial few customers all came to us because of one person. Sangeeta and I were just 2 years into Bangalore and our network was very limited. We were really fortunate for the initial breaks we got. 

Taking a step back - had Sangeeta not volunteered for the "Show We Care" project and the draw string bag not been conceptualized - ApartmentADDA might have still happened - but we would have gone to any of the web design firms and would not have got the opportunity to meet Cicada's founder. 

Remember the tree planting drive we did. In 2009 December we organized our first Workshop - on Conserving Water in association with Biome - the Water Experts. We were bootstrapped and revenues were just trickling in. We were burning our Fixed Deposits to keep ApartmentADDA running. We needed a hall - and you don't get anything less than Rs.5000. Subha from Biome's team, happened to live in SJR Redwoods and she talked to their Management Committee, who allowed the usage of their party hall for just Rs.500. 

Coincidence? Or it was the good Karma paying us back what we had earned in 2007 - planting trees in SJR Redwood.


Steve Jobs in his famous Graduation Ceremony speech talks of Connecting the Dots. We can always look back and figure out how it all worked out.  But we simply cannot plan these connections. It all happens by itself. 

Sangeeta could not have foreseen that some day her hubby will quit job and start a website - which will be a tool for Management Committees - so let me get involved in this Green Initiative - and that company that printed the cloth bags - their owner - has experienced the pains of being in the Management Committee......and so on - you get the drift. 

Fast forward a few years -This Saturday, June 15th 2013, we are organising an open house on Self Sufficient Apartment Communities - we believe we are doing the right thing - bringing eco warriors and the eco apprentices together under one roof. We are helping spread the eco-virus :)

Some day somewhere down the line - it will all get connected. We are just laying the dots. 









Sunday, June 09, 2013

MBP is now on SSD

Once gizmos run out of warranty I get excited. Time to try out a few things it was not originally designed for ( definition of hacking )

My Early 2011, Mac Book Pro (MBP) 13" is soon turning 2 years.  And it was getting slow. Painfully slow. [ Tried Taming Lion but was not enough ]

Meanwhile I was slowly burning in envy ( envy is good. jealousy is bad :) ) - looking at @sanban's  Mac Book Air (MBA) - which was so light and ran amazingly fast. All thanks to the SSD - Solid State Drive in it vs the HDD - Hard Disk Drive on my MBP.

Twitterverse advised me to upgrade to SSD. Spoke to @b_hari who advised me - its a no brainer.  And you won't regret it - the difference is humungous.

I did a search on the local flipkart and ebay.in but could not find any SSDs.  This was some 6 months back I guess.

A few days back I was planning to do a re-install - things had gone painfully slow. This time I went to ebay.in and searched for SSDs and got a few hits.

There were lot of options and I zeroed in on Samsung 840 SSD ( 250GB ). There was a Pro but more expensive. I snagged the non-Pro 840 SSD at Rs.11,500. Took 4 days to reach - felt like I was back in US ordering stuff from newegg!

Here are the steps. Took 4 hours end to end - to get the same setup back on SSD.

1. Moved music and other unnecessary files to the external Hard Disk - have to now fit things from a 3BHK into a 2BHK.

2. Took a time machine backup to an external hard disk. What a time saver this time machine backup was.

3. Burnt the Mountain Lion Installation file to a 8GB USB Stick.

4. Bought a 31 in 1 Screw kit, Chinese made from a fancy store for Rs.110. The DiY blogs,youtube videos specify some Philips Screw Driver, Torc screw driver etc - good luck finding those in India. This Chinese one had it all.



5. All set. Popped open the bottom lid. Tried removing the battery connector ( some of the youtube videos advised doing this ) - but the connector was not coming out - decided not to do something stupid by damaging the connector. So let it stay there.

The Hard disk drive came out easily. The SATA connector also did not give any problems.




6. I spent some time admiring at a cool piece of technology in the MBP - which is now getting obsolete. The HDD rests on a sensor - and when the laptop is moved fast or is dropped - it detects the fall and stops the HDD's needle from touching the spindle - this prevents any bad sectors / physical damages to the hard disk. You would hear a small cracking noise whenever the motion detection happened. But with SSD there are no movable parts and this piece of hardware is not needed anymore.



7. Then fitted the SSD, bolted it nicely. Put the lid back ( didnt screw it ) and powered the laptop. Heard the Apple chime and the screen just froze white for an eternity. I had a mild panick attack - but then a folder with a question mark showed up. Phoo - thats good. The SSD is windows formatted so it was not detected.

8. Now I put the screws back - thanked the Chinese Screw driver. Plugged in the 8GB USB stick.

9. Powered it on, choose Disk Utility and formatted the SSD - into 3 partitions - Jobs, Gates and Linus.

Screenshot taken after the installation was complete. 


10. Continued with the installation ( remember to make a username which is different from the one you used to have. Time machine when it tries to restore it will ask for a different username if its already taken ). I made this mistake ( not a big deal though )

11. Once installation was over,  connected my external Hard drive, chose Migration Assistant and restored from the Time Machine backup. Forums recommend Carbon Copy Cloner - not needed if you have a Time machine backup.

12. A few things I had to do from what I gathered from the forums.

a. Installed TrimEnabler - this will optimize the writes and will not spoil the SSD ( ahemm. I never really understood the whole file storage and sector concept)

b. Turned off the Hard drive motion sensor - can be disabled from command line.

c. Turned off Last Access time for file - seems the OS will thrash the SSD a lot. Again a command line setting.

You can google for these. Simple ones.

13.  Finally it was done. All the Mail was restored, all applications ( except Microsoft Office which had to be activated once again ), settings, wallpaper - just like before. And it is blazing fast. If you are drooling at the new Retina MBPs or planning to get an MBA - try out the SSD route - for lot less you can breathe another couple of years into your favorite MBP.

I dont see any difference in weight. Its still heavy. I didnt see any significant change in Battery life.

Next : Have to install Windows 7 and Ubuntu. The rEFIt bootloader I had put is still intact ( actually I was worried if I would run into problems because of this - searched in forums if anyone having rEFIt had done SSD swap - could not find any - but thankfully it all went smooth ).

After a couple of months - will either put one more SSD inplace of the DVD Drive ( another piece of technology fast becoming obsolete ) - or remove the DVD Drive itself to reduce the weight a bit.

And friends - if anyone needs any help on how to swap an SSD sitting in India with all parts procured locally - now you know who to talk to!



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation

Earlier I used to think Meditation is 'Focus'. Focus on light, or some sound or an image of a God. I learnt Transcendental Meditation from a Thermodynamics professor in CEG during my 2nd year. Don't remember his name, but remember his teaching still. His focus was on a Mantra.

I thought I have to focus on the Mantra during meditation. But later realised the Mantra is just a vehicle to go into "Thoughtlessness".

Actually once I realised the goal of Meditation is to get into Thoughtlessness it became easy as I did not have to fight to focus or control the mind. I just let it loose. When I sit for Meditation a ton of thoughts come to my mind - much like a jelly lorry emptying its load on a road side - the mind is very excited now - finally it is getting a piece of time to analyze everything. I let the mind analyze everything and once in a while remind the mind ( by recalling the Mantra ) that I am here to meditate and not for a psychiatric session.

But some where I drift into Thoughtlessness - do not know how much time I go into this state - I know I have gone into this state as when I get out of my 30 minutes session I cannot remember much of the analysis the mind was doing. I feel fresh and calm - and a kind of happiness and love sets in. Something like the runner's high.


Meditation puts the mind to rest. This allows the subconscious / soul to surface. The soul gets a chance to come out of the cave - as this mind is like a dog barking all the time outside this cave - and the soul never dares to peep out. When the soul peeps out brilliant things happen - as it is pure and is full of love. The soul/heart is pure intuition and if we let this drive our life wonders will happen as it is not weighed down by ego or the mind.


Mindfulness

Of late I am discovering one more style of Meditation - Mindfulness. This is even tougher to practice but this is the next logical step.

Right now, this very minute - as I am writing this blog - my ego is jumping like a mad monkey from one tree of thought to another - how will the person who is reading judge me, will I get enough Facebook likes etc. I am not completely immersed into this post and writing with my heart and soul.

But when I write being mindful of just this post - I automatically get enough Facebook likes or people call me to appreciate that was a good post. At times after I finish writing I know - this is a good post - I was mindful only about this Post, and the ego was forgotten.

I am noticing this "not being in the moment" during many instances of my waking life. Yesterday I was in Juhu beach standing on the shore with my niece Charu - a 12 year old. She was jumping and talking to the waves and was fully drenched in the moment. I was standing there not drinking in the moment but thinking of work or the thousand things my mind likes to chew upon.

Now and then I get into a "flow" like state when I am immersed in the moment. While coding or while writing some emails or such blog posts - words or code just flow. I get into this meditative state - and I would have dished out ton of good stuff in a short span of time - and yet feel refreshed and energized to produce more.

I should try to get more into the "being in the moment". When I write code or blog or eating or shaving or cleaning my laptop - should just be mindful of this task. When I am singing or dancing with kids - be there with them - in the moment. This sounds much easier than meditation but it is quite tough.

I have to keep reminding myself to be mindful. Much like the mantra I use during my meditation session to break the train of thoughts and remind myself that I am here to meditate.

When I am doing a task - and if my mind starts drifting - should bring it back to the task at hand. Then I am in a meditative state all day and the very thought is intoxicating!

Mindfulness is Meditation.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Now a Mumbaikar

Life is much like a train that takes you through many Cities.

It has taken me from Coimbatore to Madurai to Chennai to Baton Rouge to Madison to Chicago to Bangalore and now in Mumbai.

Coimbatore is very special to me. The monsoon drizzle in June/July, then the Puja and Diwali rains, the chill in December,  Pongal time visit to a village temple from where my father came from and the summer holidays - visiting the Annual Exhibition - the highlight of the city once. Lot of sweet simple memories - all intertwined among school friends, street friends, relatives and festivals.

Madurai was hot. Super hot. Got Jaundice and Chicken pox. This city lives and breathes Tamil. I still remember one Sugarcane vendor's rhyming statement when he had to go attend nature's call after handing over the juice ( thankfully ) "Aatharathai adaku mudiyum aana mootharathai adaku mudiyuma" [ You can control Anger - aatharam, but you cannot control nature's call - mootharam ]. All the streets, places had beautiful names - Anupaanadi, Thallakulam - and each has a story which the Tamil Miss will tell. Then the school I attended where except me all were somehow related to each other - and at times during marriage season half the class will be gone to attend a wedding!

Chennai was magical. The beach, the crowd, the super hot summers and movies. I tasted freedom. Had my own pocket money to spend between movies, food or books. Life in CEG was even more awesome. Techofes, Waves, Student Union Elections, running a stall during Techofes, the "study" tours, the labs, late night chat parties, editing a magazine, horrible hostel food, the cricket matches in TV room with some 200 people crammed into a 20x20 room - that too in that chennai summer - each day was new and un-predicatable. Then the second phase of Chennai life where I worked in TCS - had lot of money now - could go places where I could never go before - Residency buffet or Ponnuswamy or Anjappar and could buy any book or CD when I wanted. I once blew a months salary on a VCD system and watched umpteen movies week after week from a VCD rental shop in Velacherry who did door delivery. But got bored quickly with this life.

Was once again broke as a student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I went for my Masters. It was Super hot in summer when I landed. I thought USA was a cold place. This was year 2000 - did not know of Google or a website to go check for Weather. And it was a place with warm hearts and down to earth people and had a unique culture  Cajun culture. Learnt to cook  and got addicted to American Football, Baseball and Basketball. It was a lazy laid back place with a huge river - Mississippi - and God Awesome hurricanes.

Then shifted from Hottest place in USA to the Coldest place - Madison - another college town. And then to Chicago - a fairy tale place with museums and sky scrapers and parks and lakes and plays and all kinds of restaurants from around the world - so much to do - cycling,trekking - or just walking near the lakes late nights. If I ever go back to live in USA, here is where I will drop my anchor.

Then Bangalore. I actually feel sorry for this nice little city. In the 6 years that I was there, could see the city turn into a concrete jungle. Do not know how the old timers feel. But this city feels young and vibrant.  Here is where the New India ( India 2.0 ) is being forged. Barcamps, Devcamps, cycle commuters, car poolers, Tree planting drives, New Age Politicians, Wasteland turned into a meeting cum work place cum garage sale place, Eco Conservationists...its a long list of new age thinkers and doers. Then the MG Road, Brigade Road, Church Street, Cubbon Park and now Metro - loved to just hang out.  335E Volvo - thanks to traffic will take 1 hour to reach my office - a distance of 8 kms - and I crunched book after book - Leo Tolstoy, Paulo Coelho, Ayn Rand, Robert Pirsig - thanks to Justbooks - a library startup from Bangalore. And Startups - cart loads of them.

Finally since last year - moored in Mumbai. Started on the wrong foot - bike got towed, got hit with a fine next day for jumping signal. Discovered public transport, most are super hard working people, folks who respect and value money, auto drivers who return 1 Rupee, parks everywhere, dirty roads and pan spits everywhere, and Rains that keep going on and on and all festivals celebrated with lot of food, music and dance. This is one crazy city. Folks here do 2 3 jobs and are always looking for new opportunities and to make things work. 200 sqft shops where some 10 people work in this space thanks to the concept of a "mezzanine floor" - like the new office we are to move shortly ( will post photos next week after we move ). Its amazing how Mumbai uses space.

Yet to fully discover Mumbai. It has so many layers which I keep peeling as I continue my journey here. But the thing I have come to appreciate the most are Drinkable Tap Water ( felt guilty drinking bisleri water in Bangalore ), zero power cuts and a Public Transport that is so reliable.

Where next? No idea - I live in the present :)








Sunday, April 21, 2013

Choice : Easy or Hard


I am noticing this dichotomy everywhere. From life to love to design to coding.

It is easy to eat junk food. But hard to eat healthy stuff.

It is easy to watch TV. But hard to read a book.

It is easy to veg out in the couch. But hard to get out and run.

It is easy to hate someone we despise. But hard to love the same person.

It is easy to create something with lot of code. But hard to create the same functionality with minimal code.

It is easy to get stressed out and feel down. But hard to keep cool and spirits high.

Guess what? - in all cases - the hard part is the most rewarding.

Yet - we all choose the easy part. Again and Again and Again. Even though we know that taking the hard part will be more rewarding and beautiful.

I think this is a test being conducted - and if we have to pass in this we have to keep taking the hard path at every fork.

Eat Healthy.
Read Books.
Run.
Love everyone.
Write beautiful code.
Stay cool & Keep Spirits high.

& Drink coffee / red wine :)

ps : some vices are Ok I guess. We need not aim for a 100. An 80 will do!







Sunday, April 07, 2013

Spiritual but not Religious

You never know when something deep inside you gets triggered.

Could be a near miss with death, losing a close friend/family - or a chance meeting with a stranger.

4 years back - I had a chance meeting with a retired Bank Manager in Bangalore. He suggested I read Conversations with God.

I then read all of Paulo Coelho's works - my favourite Brazilian author. Then Steve Jobs died - and read all about him and the spiritual side of him.


I have been trying to figure out Who I am and Why I am here - and I am nowhere close to the truth.

I am confused and clearer at the same time - just like light - which is both a wave and a particle at the same time.

I am not an Atheist

I am clear on one thing. I do believe in God as some mysterious supreme power or light or energy. Earth and Humans are not here by chance. I did briefly stray into being an atheist when my father passed away. Did shake me up and for sometime went around not being bothered about God or Religion or any customs.

I dont practice any Religion

Religion does not make any sense - so I dont pray to any God form anymore. However I like the philosophy that is present in all Religions. I like the meanings hidden in Bible and Hinduism. Love the sufi songs and Quawwali. Yet to read Quran. I don't believe in the shortcuts in the form of Sanskrit Verses and rituals present in Hinduism to attain Enlightenment.


I am not an Apatheist Either

Though I don't follow any religion - I am not an Apatheist - one who does not care if God Exists or Not. I believe in God, but not in Religion.

What am I to be classified?

If someone asks me - are you an atheist, or an apatheist, or are you a Hindu/Christian/Muslim?

My answer is none of the above.

It is quite simple. I am in a journey to discover by my self what this is all about. More like my running - I don't run with any group - I do my own research and discover new techniques and find what works and doesn't work through trial and error.

I am unravelling the mystery one day at a time - through books, through songs, through movies - keeping my eyes and ears open for any interesting tid bit that helps forming my mental model about God, Life & Death and Love.

Buddha figured it out. Dalai Lama figured it out. Many Saadhus have figured it out.

I know I am not going to run in the Olympics - but I can still run a full marathon ( 42 kms ) some day. Working towards it one run at a time.

Likewise - I am not sure if I will get the enlightenment in this lifetime's journey. Unlike the sequential model we are so used to - in the next lifetime I will be born in the past like in 10th Century BC or in the future like in 30th Century AD- I might be a wiser man than what I am now and I am sure I will be continuing this journey.

Signing off as someone who is Spiritual but not Religious.













Bong Secrets Revealed!

Alright here it goes - the best kept bong secrets are all revealed.

All these from the observation I made during a Bong wedding I attended in February.


Fish is a vegetarian dish

This is an open secret - but I will not get full marks if I do not list it here. I am yet to figure out this mystery.

Wedding doesn't get over on the same day

On the night of the wedding day, the boy and girl are kept awake by the 2 sides. There is a mythology where Lakhinder of the Behula Lakhinder legend has to stay awake on their wedding night or he dies. This turned out to be lot of fun - and we all became deep and spiritual ( after 3 am ).


Groom's Mom should not attend wedding

If this comes up in any of the Tamil TV Serials - all the heads watching the TVs will just explode in unison. I don't know the reason behind this tradition.

Bongs hate Rosogolla

I am not kidding. Try giving Rosogolloas to them and they will all go - ohh.. eeh.. and if they are pushed to eat and they realise there is no way out - they will take the rasogolla and squeeze all the syrup out of it before putting it in their mouth. Perhaps the bongs living outside Kolkata might not exhibit this behaviour. The only ones who were stuffing ourselves with Rosogollas where the Tams.

Some more enlightenment

Mark my words - My in-law race will take over this world for sure  - and that time most of the words that you know will be replaced. Here is preparing you for the future.

Punjaabi - Its the Kurta as you all know it
Puchhka - Paani Puri
Loochi -  Poori
Shingaada - Samosa

Jokes Apart - I am in total admiration of Bengalis.

They are very deep and spiritual. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Paramhansa Yogananda ( Autobiography of a Yogi - very interesting book - the only book Steve Jobs had in his iPad and he read it once every year) - all are Bengalis.

Bengalis are forward thinking in lot of ways. Birthplace of Indian Freedom movement, Music, Art and Literature, Movies and now there are many Rock Bands. Their songs ( once translated to me of course ) are deep and spiritual in many ways.

They are very brave when it comes to naming their kids - the wife's cousin kids names are based on Currencies for instance ( Rouble, Ringgit and Lira )

Bengalis never give up a fight for whats right - and are an impractical but passionate lot.

Someday I will write a book on just Bengalis - from a 3/4 Tam + 1/4 Kannadiga's view point.















Friday, February 08, 2013

Case for an Indian SaaS App Store

 
In 2008 when we started ApartmentADDA we were faced with a myriad of questions / objections.

You have all the data with you. What if you close down.
I can build my own.
I want to buy your software and put it on my computer. 
Why can't I pay onetime and use it lifelong?
I want a backup of all my data, emailed to me every day.

The questions haven't stopped, and new ones keep getting added.

I look around and see so many Indian SaaS Startups fighting similar battles. Educating the populace on SaaS and its benefits.

We also market our product through SEO, Videos, Posters and a few lucky days when media bothers to write about these interesting SaaS products.

Imagine. If there was a single site which does all the marketing and brings people to its site. It educates the visitors on the advantages of SaaS, lists all the SaaS apps that are available and also lists prices and user reviews. How cool will that be?

Advantages of a SaaS App Store

1. Startups like mine and others need not repeat the same argument over and over to educate customers.

2. Customers will not feel that they are dealing with only one "unique" idea - but lot others are there and will give them confidence - This is where the world is going.

3. Increases Discoverability - I come here looking for a Personal Finance Solution and I stumble upon this interesting Apartment Management Portal or a Telephony App or a Site that helps you find a good guitarist.

4. Customer Reviews. Before I purchase a mobile app ( including the free ones ) I always read the reviews. These reviews have become an important decision point. This will also help in deciding between similar offerings.

5. Single point of invoicing and billing - each portal now has to run its own billing invoicing workflow. I will happily pay to get listed on this site - as this opens a new Sales Channel and I can direct my customers to this site to complete the purchase.

6. The Site also sends reminders for renewals and can also earn when a customer renews.

7. We can focus on building a kickass SaaS product and delight customers - while the Sales, Marketing, Billing, Invoicing, Renewal tracking are all taken care of - even if not 100%, a percentage of it will take away some load off us.


That's it - go ahead and create this nice SaaS Portal for SaaS products to get listed. I will be your customer - will get listed and also shop for other SaaS products.

Friday, February 01, 2013

The New India.

On 16th December, 2012 Nirbhaya / Jyoti Singh Pandey was tortured and murdered by 6 humans ( sorry cannot use the word animals as animals are much too nobler ). The country woke up to a cold hard truth - this country is going down fast - and without any control.

The establishment has thrown its hands up - we have laws but they are of no use to prevent such atrocities or we cannot enforce it effectively anymore.

Recently saw a video where someone from the audience asked a question to Rahul Gandhi - when kids cannot even read what is the use getting internet in schools?

Rahul Gandhi just asked back - what do you think the answer to the question is.

This video is being circulated and being laughed at - but actually - I am not laughing. Rahul Gandhi has a point - the establishment has given up. They cannot solve the myriad problems facing this country.

Acute Water shortage. Electricity disruptions. Economy in a mess. Movies being banned. India earning just 4 medals from Olympics. Women and Children exploited. Talented Meritorious students not getting a seat they deserve. Media not portraying the truth. Neighbouring country beheading our Jawans.

I can go on and on.

We can point the fingers at the Establishment - the Bureaucrats, the Politicians and write long blog posts, or on Facebook or Tweet gyan - saying fix it.

But like the profound statement Rahul Gandhi has said - it is up to us to fix it. The situation has gone out of control and it has gone beyond the grasp of the establishment.

There are many people who have the answers and are willing to fix it - if they are voted to the position of power. It is upto us to find them and vote them to power.

In the next election - I will do my research and when I find a good candidate I will go campaign. I will do my part to spread awareness. Will do my best to send the right person to the Legislation.

You may ask - but there are no clean candidates? Well - not any more. There are 3 good organisations which are promoting clean politics.

LokSatta - http://www.loksatta.org/leaders.php

I know of Mr.Ashwin Mahesh who is part of LokSatta - he contested the Graduate MLC election ( but lost unfortunately ) in Bangalore. He educated everyone about Graduate MLC post - which I did not know about in the 5 years I had lived in Bangalore. This is a special MLA post where the voters can only be graduates. Till now no one bothered about this as some dummy candidate will get elected by a few votes - but this time lot of awareness was created, Mr.Ashwin Mahesh met lot of Apartment Communities - first explaining about this whole Voter Registration process for this election and also spreading awareness on how Educated Elite should participate in politics. The turn out on election day was not that fantastic but its a start.

Not only that Mr.Ashwin Mahesh has helped Bangalore's Traffic situation improve a bit and also was instrumental in introducing Big 10 buses all around Bangalore. He is constantly on the news - saving lakes, supporting anti corruption rallies etc.

He is part of LokSatta party - an answer to but there are no good candidates to vote for. He is contesting the Bangalore MLA election now from Bommanahalli. His second attempt - and he he will win this time.

Nav Bharathttp://www.nav-bharat.org

One of the founders of Nav Bharat is R.K.Misra - renowned entrepreneur and winner of Lead India initiative by Times of India in 2007. The concept of Nav Bharat is to back clean candidates - whichever party they belong to - and put them in power by helping them through campaigns, funds etc. This is the essence I have derived - but there is more to their philosophy.

Watch Nav Bharat during Election time - they would have done the background checks for you to go out and vote for the right man or woman.

Aam Aadmi  - http://aamaadmiparty.org

Like him or Hate him - the Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal is a force to be reckoned with. His party has set its sight on one thing - Corruption free governance - and this focus is what will make them win. Many are skeptical on Aam Aadmi party- corruption is not the only issue we are facing. But I am with Arvind Kejriwal on this.

Roll back to December 16th. The joy riders of the ill fated bus had just bribed the policeman so they will not be stopped anywhere. The horrible deed would have not happened if there was no corruption.

Mr.Manivannan - Bescom MD - https://www.facebook.com/md.bescom?group_id=0

Just a couple of days back one Mr.Manivannan - Bescom MD - has become the darling of Social Media. Using a public facebook page  he interacts with customers and shows the working of his team - how they are trying hard to give continuous power. Hats off to an innovative and honest bureaucrat - you give us tremendous hope.

Well - there are many more such people / ideas / organizations that are rising up to the task to answer Mr.Rahul Gandhi's question.

Also these might seem too little but remember in 1984 BJP won 2 seats. In 1999 a BJP Prime Minister came to power.

Now lets fast forward to the future.

This is what will happen - in the New India.

In the 2014 election - 2 or 3 of these good candidates will go to the Parliament. They might be independents or from LokSatta or AamAadmi and if its a hung assembly ( in all probability ) - these good candidates will get pulled into the winning party as Cabinet Ministers.

They will get the "useless" ministries - could be Sports ( I may be wrong ), could be water, could be health - and they will run these brilliantly.

Media and the world will take notice. Finance Ministry, Home ministry will get pushed out of the lime light and these small ministries will be spoken everywhere.

The good governance will start spreading through the length and breadth of the Government.

I have tremendous hope on this New India. It is going to be awesome!








Sunday, January 06, 2013

2012 Books Roundup

I do this yearly look back of books I have read. [ Here is the 2011 list and 2010 list ]

Following is my 2012 list of books I read or came in touch with

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 

Love this man or hate him - do read this book. The phone, tablet or laptop you are reading this post right now has Steve Job's hand in it somehow. [ Oh Steve Jobs! ]

Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

If you are responsible for a toddler, at times does it send a chill down your spine - gosh I am responsible for this kid now and how am I ever going to bring up to be a good citizen of the world - wish there was a manual! - Well there is - highly recommend this! [ Nurtureshock ]

4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

I am a productivity hacker. I keep looking for new ways of doing more with the limited time I have. 2012 has been very demanding. I tried pomodoro, 3 focus areas a week, even GTD - but will drift off to my bad habits.

However this book made me rethink how I look at the chores I am doing - and how I can effectively blaze through my work day. It gave me new ideas to prioritise tasks on 80/20 rule and also helped me cut off all work distractions - news, twitter,fb.

Highly recommend this one [ 4Hour Work Week! ]

Paulo Coelho - A Warrior's Life

Biography of my favourite writer - Paulo Coelho. If you don't know him - dont read this book - instead read his books - Life changing! You will fall in love with his books and then you can read his biography [ Paulo Coelho - A Warrior's life ]

Isn't it Obvious - Eliyahu Goldratt

Another favorite author of mine - Author of Goal 1 and Goal 2. I was stuck in a train with this book - so had to finish it. Avoid this.

Necessary but not sufficient - Eliyahu Goldratt

This was good. I recommend this for all Project Managers - has similar out of box thinking present in Goal 1 and Goal 2

Wind up Bird Chronicle - by Haruki Murakami

What a fertile brain this man has. What a story teller. This was one weird ride. Highly recommend this.

Open - An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

Even if you don't read this book - just read the first chapter. It is the best part of the book and will transport you into Agassi's mind and body for that duration. I love Tennis - and enjoyed this book thoroughly ( even though I am not a fan of Agassi and rooted for Pete Sampras )

Special Mention : Autobiography of an Yogi

I have started reading an interesting spiritual book - Autobiography of an Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda - it is available for free on Kindle. It is very funny in the beginning where he will keep running away from home to Himalayas to become an Yogi - and also has interesting stories on miracles and stories on various Yogis. Then it gets very deep and explains even christianity, the science findings ( book was written in mid-20th century ), his own spiritual experiences etc. In fact I am planning to visit Serampore when I go to Kolkatta next month - where this Yogi lived in an ashram.

Now I follow a little bit of Tim Ferris's very bad philosophy when it comes to reading books -  he recommends scanning stuff and not diving deep into something in order to do more. I scanned a few books based on this philosophy.

Here is the list of half eaten apples! 

What to do when there's too much to do - Laura Stack : Avoidable
Business Stripped Bare - Richard Branson - lot of expectation but a dud
Work Less, Achieve More - Fergus O'Connell - 4HWW is much much better.  Nothing of significance
80/20 principle by Richard Koch - If already know about the title you can avoid the book.

I gave up on these

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Started reading this and saw the trailer. Also the book was going on and on about a sloth. So gave up. After seeing the movie I realized it has got a spiritual bent to it - now I regret not having read this book.

Hermit in Himalayas by Paul Brunton : It was interesting - but I have kept it aside for now.

Dark Tower - Gunslinger - 1st book in the mega series and The Green Mile by Stephen King : I don't seem to have a taste for Stephen King. Had read a few of his short stories but could not sustain interest and dropped both these books

The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama - It was a nice book but lost interest mid way.

Tibetan Book of Living and Death - Very good book. I started reading this in beginning of 2012 but gave up. Now when I look back I wish I had not given up - would have helped me later when I had to console myself and my family. Will pick this up again sometime.


I am planning to embark on a 52 books goal this year - 1  per week. [ Inspired by this guy who finished 366 books last year - one per day ]

Wish me luck!


Thursday, January 03, 2013

iPhoned.

When the whole world is going androidy, I - an early adopter and still a fan of Android - switched to the iOS world.

If you have already made up your mind to get a Samsung Galaxy S3 ( kickass phone ) or an iPhone5 read no further - go ahead and buy it. Don't break your head trying to decide which one is best - both are great choices - its a win win situation!

If you are trying to make up your mind - here is what made me switch from Android to iOS. And actually it has got something to do with the Business Philosophy of Samsung.

First - my disappointment with Samsung Galaxy S : my first Android phone I got in 2010.

In the initial days there was a noticeable lag. Some problem with the file system. I put a Voodoo Lag Fix which solved the problem. The phone came with Eclairs.

Then I waited and waited to upgrade to Froyo - the next version of Android. Kies - the amazing piece of software ever written - never showed me the magic upgrade button. So I was sitting with Eclair while the world was Froyoing.

Then came Gingerbread - and Samsung refused to release Gingerbread for SGS - as they were peddling Galaxy S2 ( which I recommended my Brother in Law and now I am not so sure )

Then I read about Cyanogenmod and these hackers had released a Gingerbread version for SGS - I started the whole effort of "jailbreaking" the phone - and after one disastrous attempt ( http://venkat2.blogspot.com/2011/09/android-adventures-how-i-bricked-my.html ) I finally managed to upgrade the phone to Gingerbread ( CyanogenMod on Samsung Galaxy S and 3 Button fix ).

Then later I could upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. Life was good but not ok.

The phone will hang intermittently. It would at times just die randomly. At times I will call some number by mistake and will try to cancel - but the phone will not respond - the call will go through. It was never consistent. And no good music player. Sigh.

Samsung is to be blamed - SGS is a nice handset - but Samsung is interested in profits and they refuse to give the latest Android OS - so we will throw their handsets in a landfill and go purchase their latest phone. I will not blame the nice hackers at Cyanogenmod - they are God Sent to us - reverse engineering and trying to make old handsets work so they don't go to landfills unnecessarily.

iPhone envy

In April 2012, the wife - a long time Blackberry user - decided to join the touch revolution and we went to Croma in Bangalore. She played with the Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy S3 - and decided on the Note - she has a bigger screen to browse and also it came with a Stylus - good choice we thought.

And if I remember correctly she even asked the Croma sales store person to bill the Note.

Then I said lets try out these Windows phone and iPhone - and she tried Windows phone. It was mediocre. Then she took the iPhone in hand - said it snuggly fit in her hand - and started typing.  That was the decision point for her - typing was perfect. It was 10k more than Note, she wanted the iPhone but did not want to put in that much money as we were shifting to Mumbai that month and had no clue how the financial situation was going to be.

After almost an hour of deliberation during which she even called a friend of hers who was a long time iPhone user - and finally we got the iPhone.

The more I started playing with the iPhone - the more I liked it. It had the right amount of things - and it all worked well. No fancy widgets, no fancy lock screens - simple straight and consistent. It just did the job and let you get on with your life / work. The phone upgraded itself wirelessly. Apple makes stuff which simply works.


iPhone5

Then I read about iPhone5 being released. Lot of expectations and everyone was disappointed. I was actually quite happy as the phone was not a revolution but just another iteration of the previous iPhone.

First few versions of Apple products tend to be buggy - either poor hardware specs or faults ( eg. antennagate ) - but as the products mature it becomes really refined and almost perfect.

MacBook Pros ( the ones prior to the Retinas ) - are at that stage. The keyboard, battery life, screen adjustment, touchpad, the fit and finish - everything is inch perfect. You just need to reinstall the OS once a year to have the same experience.

I knew iPhone5 is going to be like the MacBook Pro - as Apple Engineers would have ironed out all the chinks - and also this phone will live with me for the next 3 to 4 years - as Apple always supports their old hardware. At home we have an iMac purchased in 2005 - still chugging along fine.

I was eagerly waiting to feel the iPhone5. The day it got released went to Croma and played with it. Liked the feel and responsiveness. Placed the order and got it on my Birthday!

Life with iPhone5

Initially Maps was missing and was a major handicap. Since I am still discovering Mumbai I rely on Maps a lot and Apple Maps is useless.

Google released Maps and that completed the migration. I don't miss anything from the Android world anymore.

iOS is fast responsive and consistent. It never hangs or hesitates. Here is a list of things that I got out of the box without any hacking around.

iTunes Wireless Sync
iTunes Remote App
Photo Stream Sync to iPhoto
Contacts Sync
Podcasts
iTunes U
Do not Disturb ( love this one as I am a light sleeper and ICICI typically sends NEFT SMS notifications at 2 AM )
Nice keyboard that autocorrects ( I have horrible butter fingers - and have tried swype, swiftkey but nothing comes close to the iOS keyboard in its guesses and letter touch accuracy).

And icing on the cake - Apple released iTunes Store to India. Purchased AR Rahman's "Kadal" the day it was released - it wirelessly synced to my iPhone and was able to play immediately - it was magical.

All of the above can be done in an Android phone - but needs some tinkering and searching for the correct App.

Will I recommend an iPhone to non geeks - Absolutely.

Will I recommend an iPhone to a geek - not so sure.

I am in this cross roads of my life. Nowadays I find less time to hack things - perhaps my next phone might be an Android Phone or an Ubuntu Phone.






TiE Summit @ Mumbai

Sharing a few thoughts / observations on the TiE Summit held on Dec 20,21 at Goregoan, Mumbai.

Also these are not exactly their words - I am looking at my notes and I only have a few phrases. This is a venkatised version of it - essence is the same.

Kunal Shah of Freecharge : We are all engineers. We are good at solving problems. But where we suck at is defining the problem. Brilliant!

Kunal/Vijayanand of Proto and another Gentleman - didnt note his name : They discussed on traction and finally someone gave a nice sound byte : Traction is when you get customers without spending. That was a superb definition!

Ronnie Screwala, Founder UTV Group : First step to start something is big. But don't sit there basking on it. So many first steps have to be still taken  - getting funded, forming a bigger team.. it never ends. [ Perhaps thats why we call them as a Startup!  ]

He gave more tips

  • Invest in Teams
  • Get a good vision / mission - this gives clarity more than anything else.
  • Timing is important at every step - including Exits
  •  Scale > Control 
  •  1 good trait of an entrepreneur - he is a good listener
  •  Attract good talent - spend time on hiring the right team - even if it takes 6 months and multiple coffee shop visits. [ So true - keep reading about this courting process in Silicon valley ]

Ajay Piramal - has a pharmaceutical company and others - and is one of the top 50 Richest people in India [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajay_Piramal ]

  •  Stressed on the importance of Values. He gave a great definition of Integrity - Integrity is the alignment of thought, speech and action. [ Simple and straight. ]
  •  1 good trait of an entrepreneur - courage to take a decision. 
  •   Convert challenges to opportunities
  •   Be passionate but also be dispassionate from results. Focus on action and leave results out. He gave a supporting story on how they dealt with their acquisition.
  •  Associate with people of high value
  • Avoid "slippery slope" - I will do a bit of this small short cut or concession - and this will begin small but will become big in the end.
Ganesh Natarajan, CEO Zansar technologies

  • Innovation is destroying paradigms
  • Dont assume that you have a great solution for today. It will change and your solution will become invalid ( explained how Aptech was no longer relevant when colleges started having IT in their curriculum )
  • Scale quickly - that is what entrepreneurship is all about [ huh.. hate that word scale ]

Alque Padamsee [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alyque_Padamsee ]

He gave the best talk of the entire event.

Leadership through Innovation
  • Innovate
  • Enthuse not enforce
  • Vision Statement

There were 2 more sessions I attended.

One was Mahesh Murthy, Poonam Pandey and Ramesh Srivats - all Twitter superstars.

They brought Poonam Pandey just for the crowd? Boo - the time could have been well spent with another twitter celebrity.
  • Poonam Pandey earns 80,000 per sponsored tweet. She does one such tweet per day - and a 17 member team manages her account - so what did the bunch of hard working entrepreneurs learn from it?
  • All 3 have everything to gain from their twitter presence - so if the other two tried to make you believe that twitter is a good addiction etc.. - don't listen to them.
 There was one more session where Alok Kejriwal, Vishal Gondal, PK Gulati and an IAN member came on stage. It was good - nice sound bytes but I got distracted in an email/sms chat with a customer.


Overall the event was good. Met lot of unsung entrepreneurs - fighting their own battles. I am sure 10 years from now most of these unsung heroes will be on stage - inspiring the next batch of entrepreneurs.