Magic Quadrant

Back in 1998, I visited Mumbai with my college band Krossbreedz. We were participating in the rock competition at Mood-Indigo, IIT Bombay’s cultural festival. The organizers put us up at one of the IIT hostels. We got a unique chance to experience their hostel life and mess food which otherwise we would never have. None of us were inclined to appear for IIT-JEE. As a matter of fact I had filled out the application form, but chose to bunk the exam as it would have been a waste of time in addition to the money that was already wasted.

Krossbreedz at IIT Powai (Bombay)

Krossbreedz at IIT Powai (Bombay)

Someone had engraved these words on one of the walls of our hostel room – ‘Never consider yourself superior or inferior to anyone.’ These are wise words indeed, however not easy for many people to follow. Ego has a way of coming in the way. A superiority or an inferiority complex, even if small in magnitude, can affect the best of us from time to time. Humility, as some say, is itself a form of pride. The problem is not about which side you are on, rather how you internalize and project your own situation.

A couple of months ago, our CEO Arun wrote a blog post (Lonesome On Top) that led me to penning these thoughts. If you haven’t already, you can go to read that blog post for the context, and come back to read my views below.

——
Welcome back. There are three aspects:

1) Materialistically speaking – more often than not, the commoner is more intrigued by the lifestyle of the rich and famous instead of the other way round. This disparity causes mismatched levels of mutual interest in wanting to connect in the first place. Even if there is interest, vastly different means can lead to vastly different lifestyles, leaving less common ground for the two sides to connect on. The gap itself is a byproduct of our capitalistic economies to a great extent.

2) Spiritually speaking – going back to my IIT stint (yes I can say that), never consider yourself superior or inferior to anyone. Krishna knew this better than Sudama. The same ego that can make you feel superior due to your high net worth, can also make you feel inferior in another setting. If people on both sides can shed the ego aside, there in is your ability to connect with the other. This is where I will insert an original quote by yours truly, “Bigger the ego, smaller the person”.

3) Statistically speaking – now there are far more steel and wooden spoons on the planet as compared to diamond ones. There are only a certain number of meaningful relationships a person can have, irrespective of the type of spoon he or she is. Even if all diamonds were to mingle and connect with the commodity level spoons, they would still cover only so many spoons. They cannot have time for all the spoons anyway, yet another case of demand-supply mismatch.

It is the imbalance between your materialistic quotient (net worth) and spiritual quotient (real worth) which creates a turmoil with your emotional quotient. To explain visually, all the people in the world can be divided into four categories.

Chirag's magic quadrant

Finally, a quadrant of my own.

Observations:

  1. Most people like to believe, me included, that their spiritual quotient is high.
  2. Most people would like to graduate from low to high materialistic quotient.
  3. Pseudo kings and real kings can enjoy superficial relationships with each other.
  4. Pseudo kings can have deep relationships, for whatever it is worth, only with people from their category.
  5. Pseudo kings do not like to be around commoners or monks, unless it is for a selfie.
  6. Real kings and monks have the ability to connect with people in most categories. Their spiritual quotient tends to outshine their materialistic quotient. They don’t mind the lower level of spiritual evolution of the commoners or the pseudo kings. They understand nature.
  7. Commoners connect best with commoners. They give more importance to kings and may not think much of monks. They do not care to differentiate between pseudo kings and real kings.
  8. Commoners like to be around kings, mainly for selfies.

History must have examples of people, in their lifespan, moving from one quadrant to another, with one exception. People can move from bottom to top, top to bottom, and from left to right, but not from right to left. Spiritual awakening does not go away, once you have it at whatever level. Materialistic belongings can come and go.

Please use the comments field to share your thoughts, and cite examples of famous people moving from one quadrant to another.

Posted in Cosmos, Health and wellness, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Go

Go. Amazon Go. The online retail giant’s recent announcement of the checkout-lineless store has caught the fancy of many. Nothing extraordinary about the technology itself, everyone has been talking about deep learning, computer vision and the likes for some time now, especially in context of how these technologies are being leveraged to build self-driving cars. What is extraordinary is the innovative application of these new-age technologies to traditional retail. Again retail has not been out of technological touch rather it has seen many advancements over the years in various operational aspects including 1) supply chain – knowing inventory, expected fulfillment dates, ship to store options, buy online – return in store; 2) merchandising – analytics for product placement; 3) store operations – IOT applications to check freezer temperatures as an example; 4) customer experience – loyalty programs, targeted mailers based on behavior patterns, price-checks, self-checkout lanes; 5) and the list can go on.

I see Amazon Go as an extension of self-checkout lanes. Now you no longer even need to scan the barcodes on the items you are purchasing. The technology will watch you and decipher what you are placing in your shopping cart.  As these stores become more popular, there is our natural societal tendency to recite the ‘sky is falling’ story that we read to our kids and may have been read to as kids. In this case, the story wears a veil of the retail jobs that will cease to exist. Amazon Go on its own will probably have close to zero impact on retail jobs. However, if Amazon decides to license its technology to other retail chains – which I suspect it will and more about it further below – then the threat of loss in these retail jobs comprising of routine manual tasks is real.

I also see a couple of underlying themes in Amazon’s business strategy –

  • Monetize your innovation instead of clinging on to it as a differentiator.

Amazon started off as an online bookseller in the nineties and gradually utilized its ecommerce infrastructure to expand the merchandise sold via its website. Then came the marketplace which allowed other merchants to leverage Amazon’s ecommerce and supply chain infrastructure to sell their goods. Even the horizontal technology backbone was monetized and spun off as AWS for satisfying data center needs of any industry. When Amazon started Prime Now, it quickly expanded its reach to allow onboarding of other stores for similar delivery capabilities. In multiple cases, we have seen Amazon productizing its innovation which was initially meant to be a differentiator.  This is a win-win strategy – the new customers won’t need to reinvent the wheel, and Amazon gets to monetize its innovation by creating a new market which didn’t exist before.  I therefore suspect that in the future not very far away, you could visit a Target or a Safeway which will be ‘Powered by Amazon Go’.

  • Go where the customers are – a subset of their true ‘customer first’ philosophy.

Another pattern I have observed as a mere Amazon customer is Amazon’s desire to be where the customers are. Look at Amazon Dash for example. It made the ability to reorder a supply available exactly at the time and place where the need occurred. Marketplace again is another example under this category – if customers are going to other websites, bring those merchants under Amazon’s fold. Similarly, many customers continue to shop at traditional retail chains and convenience stores. Amazon wants a piece of that pie. Amazon Go on its own will only let it have a small piece of the pie, however by licensing the technology to other stores, Amazon will be able to apply its Marketplace model to the world of offline retail as well.

It will be interesting to watch where Go ends up as a technology, whether limited to Amazon Go stores or indeed it gets rolled out to other chains. Meanwhile I do not believe we need to worry only about the impact on retail jobs, which is a smaller problem to worry about given perpetual displacement of industries by technology advancement. The bigger issue that automation seems to be bringing about is the increase in socio-economic gap.  The primary reason businesses invest in automation technologies is to impact the bottom line. By converting recurring labor costs to one-time capital investment and lower ongoing sustenance costs, the overall operational efficiency increases. Arguably, in the long run, it is the capitalist and not the consumer or the employee who ends up getting the better side of the bargain. On the contrary, the argument in favor of automation is a more delightful customer experience at a lower price point, with the accumulated savings resulting in an incrementally improved standard of living.

Posted in Computer and Internet, Organizations | Leave a comment

From Ambassador to…

This is a story based on real life events that I have been fortunate enough to witness firsthand. This is a story about a childhood friend who I have known since 1988. Twenty-eight years (as of 2016)! Now that seems like a long time to have known someone.

We had just graduated to the fifth grade, and were new receivers of the privilege to use fountain pens. The teachers appeared to have become stricter. We had even moved to a new building in the school campus. This new kid joined our school. He used to live in East of Kailash, and until then, his parents had chosen to send him to an elementary school by the name of Tiny Tots, which must have been convenient being closer to his home. He would have probably continued at the same school but for the fact that the school went only until fourth grade. So here he was, braving our bigger and relatively rougher school campus.

Mohit stood out of the crowd, not just because he was new and not just because he was tall, but because he carried himself with a poise that was not very commonly seen in our age group and certainly not in our school. He was a polite young boy with a polished speech, always well-mannered and always well-dressed. Relatively speaking, I was myself a newcomer as I had joined the school in second grade, by when others around me had already forged deeper friendships in the first grade or prior. Partly due to this reason, and partly due to my kindness to help another newcomer, I took it upon me to welcome Mohit to the school, show him around and implicitly offer him my friendship. The fact that we took the same school bus – Route No. 4 – helped. Over the years we became very good friends, sharing everything from excitement for Maggi Club, strategies to be adopted for teenage crushes, high school gossip and physics notes, beers on his rooftop, and on an occasion or two, bunking school.

There are a couple of memories that are very clearly etched in my mind. Ever since I had known Mohit, he knew he wanted to become a pilot and fly planes when he grew up. So much so, that when we had the sports period at school, he would lean by the railings along the basketball court, look up at planes flying high and declare that he will be a pilot when he grew up. While there was no reason for any of us to take a fellow fifth grader making such declarations seriously, there was something about Mohit that made his pronouncements seemed less than a passing fancy of the IFOs (not UFOs). I am sure I was not the only one to have witnessed his proclamations. He was not just infatuated but was indeed in love with airplanes.

Had it been a tractor, he could have driven it too!

Had it been a tractor, he could have driven it too!

Another incident I reminisce from those days took place when school was out between fifth and sixth grades.  I had gone to Mohit’s home for a night stay, in spite of the fact that he had a pet dog – Rambo, and later also Ninja – both of who I was shit scared of. We slept in the living room and got up early the next morning, probably to maximize the time we were going to spend together.  Mohit’s family used to live in an apartment on the fourth floor. It must have been around 7am. Mohit took me downstairs to the parking lot. He was carrying the keys to their car – an off white Ambassador. He opened the door and sat inside on the driver’s seat.  I also sat on the passenger side. I was amused at his act. Being very vocal at the time, I quipped, “Mohit, agreed we are young kids but we are not that young that we are going to do pretend play in the car.” By the time I had completed the sentence, I could hear the car engine and the reverse gear was being engaged. My amusement had immediately turned into fear. Had this yet-to-be-sixth-grader gone out of his mind? I was being used to driven around by parents, uncles, aunties, or drivers – people who looked much older than we did.  I had never imagined that someone in my age group – and that age group was 10 years – could be sitting behind the steering wheel of an Ambassador car and actually starting to drive it! Mohit acted as if it was something very normal. He said he had been driving for a while and in fact had been tasked to buy milk from the Mother Dairy store every morning. Off we were, two ten-year-olds, driving around in the narrow lanes of East of Kailash on a Delhi spring morning. Mohit repeated the stunt for me that evening, before our driver came to pick me up. This episode changed my mindset and I started to believe that anyone could drive. Age certainly did not appear to be a barrier! Within two years, even I had learnt to drive. Certainly your experiences shape your beliefs, and you can do whatever you believe you can.

Mohit's early flying days

Mohit’s early flying days

After we passed out of school, I remained in regular touch with Mohit. Those were pre-Internet days and we used to exchange letters. Mohit had joined a flying club in Kanpur and was pursuing his dream of flying. Years went by and he finally acquired his flying license.  Now all he needed was his first break. An opportunity presented itself. There was a job advertisement in the front page of newspapers – Air India was looking for pilots.  Mohit applied. More ads appeared.  He applied again, and again. He even appeared for and cleared the flying tests not once, not twice but three times. Those were the days when you needed political connections for such breakthroughs. In spite of an apparently elusive flying career, Mohit did not waste his time. He joined his family’s outdoor advertising business and got busy decorating Delhi roads with billboards. All this while, he never gave up on his disciplined approach to persistence. They say, when you want something really badly, the universe conspires to make it happen for you. Could that work for Mohit too?

Every year I make an official trip to India, mainly Pune.  I combine the work trip with a little vacation to spend some time with my folks, and I was booked on an Air India flight from Pune to Delhi. I fly a lot for work and the excitement of flying has but long vanished in the air. However, this flight was different. I found myself excitedly scurrying towards the aircraft, even peering my gaze through the transparent jetway trying to catch a glimpse of the cockpit. When I entered the plane, I told the flight attendant my name. And the moment of truth dawned when the flight attendant said, “The Captain is waiting for you”. I stepped into the cockpit of the plane and with a sense of belonging there. There was Flight Captain Mohit Saxena reading a newspaper. He turned around with the same poise he has carried for years, and greeted me with a warm smile. This was not an everyday event for either of us. I was there, and my childhood buddy was going to fly me on a real plane! I needed to remember this forever, and I needed to show off!  Boastful selfies were shared with the NGFS Lazybones group on WhatsApp. Mohit then showed me some of the key components of the aircraft. I was introduced with his co-pilot Captain Simran, a jovial Sardarji who happened to be his senior.  Mohit coordinated with ‘commercial’ and even upgraded me to a business class seat – just a simple perk of being childhood friends with a commercial pilot!

Mohit has now been flying with Air India for more than a decade which clearly exemplifies his loyalty. He is officially ‘Captain Mohit Saxena’ and the title matches with the email id he had created for himself long before becoming a pilot. This year – after two failed attempts previously – Mohit was able to schedule himself on this 7:30pm AI 850. Mohit’s childhood dream of becoming a pilot had finally come true. I never remain short of amazed with how somebody can find their calling at such a young age, and then work towards making it happen.  Most people I know are like me…their calling remains gravely elusive.

As the plane was taxiing towards the runway, the flight attendant’s announcement was music to my ears, “Aaj ki udaan mein hamare vimaan ke pilot hain Captain Mohit Saxena” – in their signature flight announcement tone.  Then the engines revved up, and the plane sped up on the runway. It was a touching moment as I looked out of the window trying to soak it in. I was on a large airplane – a massive complicated machine – being flown by my childhood friend! The flight to Delhi was as smooth as it could get with only a minor weather related turbulence when our in-house captain turned on the fasten seatbelt signs. The landing was even smoother. Mohit had indeed graduated from being Duggi (the nickname I used to call him) driving an Ambassador to Captain Mohit Saxena flying an Airbus A320.

Trip to Leavenworth

Trip to Leavenworth

This summer, Mohit visited us in Seattle along with his loving wife and lovable kids, twins who had just turned one. We spent a great time together as families, which I consider to be a rare treat. I also learnt that there was a pair of small folding scissors that I had gifted him back in the sixth grade which he still used. I was surprised at first, but perhaps that was just another example of his love, loyalty and discipline.

Posted in Cosmos, Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Data pollution

When plastic was invented, the invention was considered such a boon.  After several decades, we realized we overdid the usage that led to polluted dumping grounds and oceans.  When coal and other fossil fuels were discovered, we again overdid the usage that led to air pollution and global warming.  When email was invented, we thought it was helping us to save paper and trees. The infrastructure needed to run an email service still needs power – somewhere trees must be indirectly being harmed. Then we realized that coal was not good, and we started to move towards renewables.  Based on the past patterns – where something looks good but turns out to be not so good later – I suspect that we may see problems with renewables also in the future. Perhaps solar panels will cover too much of the earth’s surface and with no sunlight directly touching the earth, new side effects and phenomenon would be discovered.  The fundamental underlying problem being that too much of anything is bad.

Data tax?

Data tax?

Applying this to the amount of data we have started to generate, which at present stands at more than 5 exabytes (or 1mn TB or 1bn GB) per ten minutes!  This is the amount which earlier got generated over a period of 10 years (from 2003 to 2013). Now the same amount of data gets produced every ten minutes!  Obviously you need to store the data and also transmit it. So far the storage infrastructure has been able to keep pace with the data, however at one point it could possibly peak out and struggle. The Internet highways get choked up at times, similar to the freeways which have seen the same fate within a hundred years of invention of the assembly line.  We are already building data centers under the oceans and exploring the potential of using DNA as a data store. We know that data has proven to be very advantageous as a scientific method that can be applied to any problem space.  However we are not applying the same principles to understand the patterns of challenges we have faced in the past. At one point, there will be so much data that we may have new undata or data recycling disciplines. Possibly concepts of data pooling coming in. We might see liberals advocating a data footprint tax similar to the carbon tax.

Do you think this is a far-fetched thought?

Posted in Computer and Internet, Organizations | Leave a comment

Fly, don’t die

Everyone dies. Some day it is bound to happen. No one who has ever lived has not not died. If they haven’t yet, they will some day.  But then nobody likes to die, not most people.  And under most circumstances, we don’t want others to die either.  Human deaths occurring due to an external event become news.  These events could be natural (hurricanes, earthquakes and the like) or man-made (war, guns, road accidents, plane crashes and the like).  If you die of an internal natural cause (cancer, old age, etc.), then the only way for your death to become news is if you are / were some sort of a celebrity.

Now humanity as a whole is very concerned about preventing different types of deaths occurring due to natural as well as unnatural causes.  We develop technology to predict earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis to allow for advance warnings and timely evacuations.  We spend our collective intellectual capital to research and find causes and cures for life threatening diseases.  We make laws and hope they will act as deterrent for careless or intended acts that lead to people dying.  When plane crashes happen, we spend a lot of energy to find out the cause to prevent a similar crash in future.

Talking about plane crashes. Each time you get on a plane, you hear the safety instructions that are announced as the plane taxis towards the runway.  Some airlines try to be innovative with their safety announcements and make them funny so people pay attention.  There is however one particular piece of information that they share which I believe deserves much emphasis.  When the air-hostesses demonstrate the usage of the life jacket – the one under your seat – they blurt out an important piece of advice without giving it the due importance it deserves.  In the event of an emergency water landing, they mention that the life jacket must be inflated ‘after’ exiting the aircraft.

The ‘after’ carries such a huge importance but it is just mentioned in a passing note. A childhood friend who is a pilot, recently told me that during an emergency water landing, the only people who die are those who get panicky and inflate their life jackets even before they have exited the aircraft.  The aircraft starts to fill with water, and if the life jacket is already inflated, buoyancy pushes you to the aircraft ceiling.  At that point, there is no way you can reach for the exit door pushing down against the force of water while wearing the life jacket which will most definitely cost you your life. I found more details on this post.

I hope the airlines make it a point to educate people about the reason that the life jacket must be inflated after exiting the aircraft and not before.  You don’t want it to become your death jacket.

Posted in Health and wellness, Travel | 1 Comment

Windows Phone and OS X El Capitan

Thanks to this person who researched and provided a fix for the Windows Phone and OS X El Captain issue.  Hope someone can do so for the M-Audio FastTrack Ultra issue as well, where the audio interface is not recognized by El Captain anymore :-(.


In Mac OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”, Microsoft’s Windows Phone app does no longer work. If you don’t want to wait for an official update, here’s how you can fix the problem by updating the “libusb” library the app uses. Of course, I cannot guarantee that these instructions will work for you. You’re doing this at your own risk.

I am not associated with Microsoft in any way, and they have not endorsed this solution (or provided any help).

  1. Check if you have version 3.1.1 of the Windows Phone app. Unfortunately, Microsoft has removed the Windows Phone app from the Mac App Store, so you cannot download the app if you don’t have it already. I cannot help you in this case.
  2. Launch the Windows Phone app and close it again.
  3. Create a backup copy of the Windows Phone app. If something goes wrong, you can restore the backup and try it again.
  4. These instructions will only fix the 64-bit version of the app. Should you have activated the “Open in 32-bit mode” checkbox in the Get Info dialog, uncheck it again.
  5. Download this file, unpack the zip file, select the two dylib files (libusb.dylib and libusb-standard.dylib) and press Cmd-C to copy them. (You can find the LGPL-licensed source code here.)
  6. Ctrl-click the Windows Phone app and choose “Show Package Contents”. Open the “Contents” folder and then the “Frameworks” folder.
  7. Now paste the two dylib files by pressing Cmd-V. Confirm that you want to replace the existing file. The Finder will probably need your administrator password.
  8. That’s it. You will now be able to sync your WP 8 phone with El Capitan. It’s probably a good idea to backup the new El Capitan-compatible Windows Phone app. If you still have a WP 7 phone, you need to follow these instructions as well if you haven’t done so already.
  9. By the way, if you don’t see your iTunes music in the Windows Phone app, enable the iTunes Library XML file.
  10. If you’d like to support this work, feel free to donate a small amount:
     
Posted in Computer and Internet | Leave a comment

Innovation has no limits

Amazon is an action company. That is my perspective as an Amazon customer. When Jeff Bezos phrases the company’s core philosophy as ‘customer first’, it clearly is not lip service. I am amazed by the amount of customer-centric innovation that this company has fructified into groundbreaking realities of today.

Being in a field customer facing role, I have to be away from my office a lot, traveling within and outside Seattle for customer and prospect meetings. In the process, my single person office remains locked, and the UPS / FedEx courier guys must be mentally cursing me every time they place a delivery exception notice on my front door. I am not sure if Amazon considered this as a use case, but their Amazon Locker system works seamlessly to avoid heartaches to people like me and the couriers for missing to receive and deliver packages respectively.

Last week I ordered a couple of business card holders to arrange and store business cards of people I meet at various conferences. I very well knew that I will likely not be in office when the package arrives, which will result in another delivery exception. I decided to try the Amazon Locker option for the first time. There was one right outside of a 7-11 near my office, and I selected it as the delivery location while placing my online order. The locker even had a name – Jane. After I received the delivery notification, I simply went to the locker and scanned the barcode from my email. The locker opened up with my package inside and the whole process seemed as simple as an ‘open sesame’ story.

Amazon Locker

The Amazon Locker is a free service

This is just a very small example of the customer-centric innovation that Amazon seems to be hell-bent on continuing to work towards. From the mobile app that works flawlessly, from Prime, Prime Now, Amazon Fresh programs, Amazon Smile that donates 0.5% of the purchase price to your favorite charity (for applicable items), products like Kindle, Fire TV and much more, to advanced warehouses and future drone delivery plans, I get a sense that an action packed culture must exist at all levels in the organization. Ideation is one thing and bringing it to seamless reality in a short period of time is quite another. The innovation is now shooting past the bounds of our earthly atmosphere, and Bezos is taking it to outer space with Blue Origin’s reusable rocket that will make space travel cheaper.

It is not surprising when I hear (sometimes overhear) about people being overworked at Amazon. Whatever sacrificing they are putting in, is a choice they have made for their tenure at Amazon. But in the process, they are also helping the rest of humanity. A pure spiritualist’s arguments notwithstanding, Amazon deserves all the credit for what it is out to do.

Posted in Computer and Internet, Organizations, Travel | Leave a comment

Not an ordinary Monday

It was a Monday. But not an ordinary Monday. Not from the vantage point of a relatively junior employee in the 250 people organization. The year was 2002. Cybage had recently implemented Formal Mondays. The reason mentioned in the policy announcement email was, ‘everyone deserves to look good once in a while :-)’, smiley included. I walked into the Cybage bungalows (our older campus) wearing my favorite blue tie over a white shirt. In those bachelor days, there were no family-centric morning routines to slow you down. I used to get into the office early, and it must have been about 8 am.

Arun (our CEO) was standing near the Cybage entrance, and it looked like he was waiting for someone. After a quick customary exchange of the morning greeting, I proceeded to the reception to sign myself in. Back in the day, we used to log in our arrival time in a register – on a real, hard bound paper register, with a ballpoint pen. As I was walking back towards the Altiris room where my workstation was located, Arun, who was still standing there, asked me if I had a busy morning and whether I would like to join him for a leadership training session he was going to attend that morning.

I was naturally quite excited at the prospect of accompanying our CEO for some offsite event and immediately indicated my interest. The other person who was expected to join (Cybage’s QA Manager at the time) also arrived and we hopped into Arun’s maroon Honda City. The destination was not far. The training session was taking place at Hotel Sun and Sands (which I believe is now the Holiday Inn).

The session itself was part of a series of sessions and the topic that day revolved around stress management and work-life balance. Most of the people seemed like senior executives. Their respective organizations had nominated them for this training, and I felt excited to be part of this elite group of about sixteen people. The trainer randomly called upon the attendees to share their de-stressing techniques. I was also called upon to share my de-stressing formula with the audience.

That is where it got momentarily tricky for me. What was I going to say? In spite of working long hours and sometimes weekends on many occasions, I had never felt stressed. It must have been the love for coding, the colleagues many of who were friends first, the even friendlier clients, the Cybage bungalows campus that always felt like a picnic spot or a combination of all of these. I found myself facing these senior executives, who were expecting some de-stressing wisdom from a twenty-three year old who had yet not experienced work-life imbalance. My life had happily revolved around work. And
that day in front of an eager and wiser crowd, I knew I had to find something more intelligent to say than a simple “I have never been stressed”. (In hindsight, that spotlight was probably one of the first stressful moments of my professional life until then!)

Anyhow, what I said was both funny and true. I said I enjoyed cooking for myself, and then proudly elaborated on how I had prepared that morning’s omelet breakfast. I saw that the audience was smiling. There were even a few chuckles. The trainer attempted to qualify my statement by deriving deeper meaning. He explained that I tried to enjoy whatever I did, and that I was focused on the present moment. Perhaps he was right. At that time, I did not even realize why I felt cooking was a de-stresser for me. Certainly it was not in a way that it really is for most people. In retrospect today, I think it reinforced for me the fact that I was living independently, away from the family cocoon where I had always been taken care of by parents and older siblings, but that is beside the point.

So what are the morals of this story? I guess they are:
a. When the boss invites you in for a joy ride, be prepared there will be more than you expect! (smiley please)
b. Stress is an invention of the mind, and luckily the mind is our own baby. We really can de-stress by focusing on the lessons of our achievements, howsoever small they are, rather than worry constantly about the unknown tomorrow.
c. Sharing in the cooking chores at home, is like a Cybage team with its various moving parts, all working to make a stress-free release, and deliver a quality product.

Happy cooking and happy coding / working everyone!

(This is the original unedited version of my article that was published in Cybage’s Monday & Beyond series in July 2015)

Posted in Health and wellness, Organizations | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hero

“You are my Hero, Papa”, said my almost 4 year old daughter last evening. Her statement triggered various emotions and questions in my mind. Did she mean what she said? Did she know what those words meant? Where did she even pick up that phrase from? Some TV cartoon probably. Irrespective of the associated sincerity of her claim, my heart swelled with pride and a weird kind of happiness. No one ever said those words to me before. The words kept lingering around in my mind for a while, as I served dinner – bread and omelet – to both my daughters.

A little later in the evening, still occupied with that sweet thought – I decided to seek clarification from Palakh, “What did you say to me a while ago?”

“I want to have my birthday at Paint Away”, she replied.

“No, a little before that?”. She looked confused, so I added, “You said – You are my Hero, Papa. Why did you say it?”

“Because you are my Hero and you saved me.”

“Saved you? When?”

“You saved me from falling…when I was sitting in the kitchen”

Hmm.. now it was clear. She had wanted to sit on the kitchen counter when I was preparing dinner. Afterwards, I had lifted her and put her down on the floor safely. This little action seemed to have left some kind of a feeling in her mind and she decided I was her hero. And it was at least fifteen minutes later that she then thought of mentioning it to me.

I had only put her down on the floor.

She totally floored me.

Powerpuff Girls

Further probing revealed the source

Posted in Health and wellness | Leave a comment

Save Money. Live Better.

Stories like those of Walmart and Southwest Airlines never cease to amaze. What were smaller companies once, by focusing on execution, and culture, were able to overtake well-established and gigantic competitors of their times and transform themselves into undisputed market leaders. It takes a generation – about thirty or forty years – to get there, quite like the monarch butterflies that migrate from Mexico to Canada across multiple generations.

Of course, these successful organizations that were once underdogs themselves, start to face alternate reality of now being considered evil by the rest of the world. Even when they do something good, the action is scrutinized as a selfish move. A case in point is Walmart’s Feb 2015 decision to increase the pay rate of its workers to $10 / hour, 38% higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. Given the retail behemoth employs more than a million US workers, the cost of this decision is north of $1 billion to the Walmart exchequer. Did Walmart shareholders suddenly become too kind to dole out that kind of money to its employees? Likely not. Decisions such as these are calculated moves to retain employees, reduce costs associated with labor turnover, and especially in the case of Walmart, even effect the industry and the US and in turn the world economy.

I for one am all for minimum wage increase, especially if you are a business above a certain threshold. The 1% debate is a sad situation indeed. The lower rung of the society can/must have a better standard of living while the society still embraces capitalism. The average US household income is less than $50,000 per annum. Most of us in the tech or financial industries make way above this average, and still we feel we have less. That is the catch 22 situation with money itself. Our lifestyles, and even definition of basic needs, are dictated by how much we earn. We are mostly on the brink, living on the edge.

It is definitely refreshing to note the possibility of minimum wage increases by the corporates, driven by the forces of the same economy which helps them thrive, even though the politicians, the people representatives, haven’t been able to do much about it yet. Everyone deserves to live better. Even the 1%, though in the opposite way.

Posted in News and politics, Organizations | Leave a comment