Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Very busy over next few days

Your truly has just realized a couple of things...
1.) He has to send 3 separate presentations to some very senior people by Monday morning CET as his boss is on vacation; But he has realized it just now after doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on Saturday lazing around watching entire series of "Allo Allo" and "Boomtown" with his house mate. Sunday is gone now...
2.) One of the products he runs has a "hotfix" release. Normally support staff will take care of this themselves. But this being a fix affecting a HUGE customer, his business-counterparts and operations staff will be doing testing on Sunday before the customer starts on Monday. So naturally, being the "face of the product" (heh!), yours truly has to front hourly calls from morning CET to probably night CET (his early morning) to provide status reports.

Net result: Sunday and Monday are completely fscked. I won't even have time to go to the gym...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Silver Threads and Golden Needles

Better than the original I daresay.... Perfect voice for the song...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fHW5a3EKpE

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How do you know that finance has taken over the country?

When everybody knows what a basis point is...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God and Larry Ellison

Q: What's the difference between God and Larry Ellison?
A: God doesn't think he is Larry Ellison

Afternoon thought of the day: Genius

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits"
-- Einstein (?)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wait for me...

Yours truly has been stuck sick at home for the last 2 days. Used the time to watch 26 episodes of "The World at War" non-stop for 13 hours each day... One of the best historical documentary series on WW2...

The most moving moment occurred in the episode - "The Red Star" - that narrates the war in Russia, where Hitler was broken, but with 20 million Russian dead. Sir Laurence Olivier narrates this poignant poem that was written by a Russian soldier to his wife in the dark winter of 1941, when everything seemed lost and the fall of Moscow seemed imminent...


"Wait for me and I'll return, only wait very hard.
Wait when you are filled with sorrow as you watch the yellow rain.
Wait when the wind sweeps the snowdrifts.
Wait in the sweltering heat.
Wait when others have stopped waiting, forgetting their yesterdays.
Wait even when from afar no letters come for you.
Wait even when others are tired of waiting.

Wait for me and I'll return, but wait patiently.
Wait even when you are told that you should forget.
Wait even when my mother and son think I am no more.
And when friends sit around the fire drinking to my memory
Wait and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.

Wait for me and I'll return, defying every death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They will never understand that in the midst of death
You with your waiting saved me.
Only you and I will know how I survived:
It was because you waited as no one else did."


The poem was written by Konstantin Simonov. It was published in Pravda, the Soviet communist mouthpiece. Almost every soldier had torn out the page with the poem and had it in his breastpocket.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Barbarossa

I have always had a keen interest in history. This is coming from a guy who scored 94% in history/geography in the public school exams, and that was achieved by not mugging up the texts but actually reading up even more on the events. Yes, I am the guy who can pinpoint Smolensk on the map and tell you about the Caucasus and the history behind "And Quiet Flows the Don".

Regarding WW2, most people are under the impression that the D-Day landings on Normandy where the turning point in the war. Natural to think that way since that is the most publicized and celebrated event by the western media.

But Hitler was broken in the east, in the -40 degree cold of the Russian winter and the disorienting never-ending melancholic horizon of the land in the winter of 1941 and 1942. These defeats offered a glimmer of hope for the first time that the German army was not invincible. After those defeats it was a retreat all the way to the last stand at Berlin.

To know the full history, you can watch the following 3 free episodes... The full episodes can be seen after downloading the software from Veoh.com. The below clips are excerpts.

Btw Barbarossa was Hitler's codename for the Russian invasion.











Ramblings for 2008-06-22

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ramblings for 2008-06-21

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ramblings for 2008-06-20

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ramblings for 2008-06-18

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ramblings for 2008-06-17

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What I Learned Today: Dunning-Kruger effect

Finally a scientific study proving what we have known all along...

The Dunning-Kruger effect proves that people who know very little think they know everything, while people who are very competent are not very confident in their abilities.

See the wikipedia article.

Ramblings for 2008-06-16

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ramblings for 2008-06-15


Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I learned today: Surreal helicopter medevac experiences in Korea


The Korean war saw the first widespread usage of helicopters. They were mainly used for medevac. For the first time ever, it was possible to move wounded soldiers quickly to a hospital for emergency treatment. The Bell 47 was the first helicopter pressed into service for this. It's rotors made a distinctive chop-chop sound - leading to the slang "chopper" for helicopters.

All this of course entered pop culture thru M.A.S.H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).

However, there was a problem.

The Bell 47 normally had only space for a pilot in its bubble canopy. The wounded soldier was placed alone in a stretcher in a small confined dark space made at the back, with noone to tend to him until the helicopter landed.

Now imagine this scene. The soldier gets hit. Usually he would pass out right there on the battlefield from the shock before the medevac happened. He would be placed on a sretcher while unconscious, and loaded onto a Bell 47. Sometimes the chap would regain consciousness in the middle of the flight. As he came to his senses, he would realize that he was alone. And it was dark, and cold, and he was flying in the sky somewhere. The poor fellow in most cases thought he had died and was flying to heaven or hell.




DIY UAV's

UAV technology has become so cheap that you can build a proper UAV yourself. A proper UAV with sensors, not just a remote controlled planes. See this video by Wired's Chris Anderson...



Ramblings for 2008-06-14

Some more thoughts on unpilotted commerical planes

Right now, UAV's are doing a huge role in Iraq and Afghanistan. From some of the military research I have read, they have been phenomenally successful in bringing down IED casualty rates in Iraq. The US basically run a UAV 24 hours over patrol routes, with pattern recognition software to identify if somebody is planting an IED on the roadside.

What was expected to be possible by 2015 is already possible now due to the enormous research motivated by the necessity of war.

The next step is commercial aviation. Already commercial planes can land using instrument landing techniques. And landing is the toughest part of commercial flying. Taking off is relatively simple. The marginal research needed to have fully automated commercial flights is less than what is required for military aviation.

But I guess this is never going to happen. Because passengers will always want the comfort of having a human in the cockpit as a backstop. There is a joke I read once -

"Some day, instead of two pilots in the cockpit, they say, there will be a pilot and a dog.

The pilot's assignment will be feeding the dog.


And the dog? Well, it's there to bite the pilot if he or she dares to touch the controls."


Afternoon thought of the day

“It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.”
--Upton Sinclair

Applies well to Wall Street and the Housing Crisis...


On jogging endlessly

For those of you who think jogging for an hour a day will trim down the fat and tone up your physique, you are very much mistaken. You will only lose muscle.

To get a good physique you need...
1. Correct nutrition
2. Muscle building workouts
3. High intensity short duration cardio

Will expand on this in a later blog post...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The most brilliant idea ever

Make a Rubic's cube where you are able to cycle the colors of the each cell by pressing on it. You should be able to impress a lot of people after that.


Ramblings for 2008-06-13

Friday, June 13, 2008

Soon, this is how the various banks will have to raise capital

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1RRu1DRtXg

Get what you deserve

My thoughts on the US housing crisis...
"Why are they doing these stupid inflationary things to solve the problem? Who said every clown deserves a house?"

Ramblings for 2008-06-12

Ramblings for 2008-06-11

Religion, Royalty, Sex, Mystery

An English university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing the following elements:
1) Religion 2) Royalty 3) Sex 4) Mystery

And……

The prize-winner wrote:
"My God," said the Queen, "I'm pregnant. I wonder who the father is."


Source: An email forward

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Can somebody create this application

Here's an interesting new application idea - An application that can take Google Reader shared items and post them to a del.icio.us account.

I save a lot of my shared links using the Google Reader shared items feature. But I would also like to post them as a "daily post" onto my blog, automatically. The blog is the central repository for all my online activity. This auto-posting is possible if the links are in del.icio.us, as there are lots of services (like feedburner) that will summarise my del.icio.us posts for the day into a blog post.

So the missing link here is a service to take my shared items from google reader once a day and post them to a del.icio.us account, along with my comments (if any provided in Google reader).

So,
INPUT ---> Google Reader shared items feed url, del.icio.us username/pwd, Time when this posting should be done
OUTPUT ---> Postings to del.icio.us

I am sure there are lots of people like me wanting this kind of service. So if you build this application, it could be a way to get some publicity for your coding skills (or your own company) among the blogging population.





Ramblings for 2008-06-10

The free electric band

Wed and Thurs are the worst days in the week for me. On Wed, I create 4-5 status reports and send them out. On Thu I am engaged in conf calls all day, taking clients thru the reports.

Today, this is what I am listening to currently to get me thru the status reports.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lep0Fzq6omM




"My father is a doctor, he's a familiy man
My mother works for charity whenever she can

They're both good clean Americans who abide by the law

They both stick up for liberty and they both support the war.

My happiness was paid for when they laid their money down

For summers in a summercamp and winters in the town

My future in the system was talked about and planned

But I gave it up for music and the Free Electric Band.


I went to school in handwashed shirts with neatly oiled hair

And the school was big and newly built and filled with light and air

And the teacher taught us values that we had to learn to keep

And they clipped the ear of many idle kid who went to sleep.

Till my father organised for me a college in the east

But I went to California for the sunshine and the beach

My parents and my lecturers could never understand

Why I gave it up for music and the Free electric band.


Well they used to sit and speculated upon their son's career

A lawyer or a docter or a civil engineer

Just give me bread and water, put a guitar in my hand

'Cos all I need is music and the Free Electric Band.


My father sent me money and I spent it pretty fast

On a girl I met in Berkley in a social science class

Yes and we learned about her body but her mind we did not know

Until deep routed attitudes and morals began to show

She wanted to get married even though she never said

And I knew her well enough by now to see inside her head

She'd settle for suburbia and a little patch of land

So I gave her up for music and the Free Electric Band"


Screw up so that you can shout and get more visibility and a promotion

This looks like some of the applications at work

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The best corporate slogan ever?

Has to be "The network is the computer" for Sun Micro.

I first read this in PCQuest or one of the other computer magazines in India around '96. I didn't get it at that time. Growing up in a world of GWBasic and MS-DOS 6.0, I always used to wonder what was special about the hardware that SUN provided. Why do they have to charge Rs. 10 lakhs (1 million) for a server (in those days)? What did these servers do anyway that a PC could not do? What is different about a SUN workstation?

But oh man... this slogan encapsulates EVERYTHING about the information age. Everything about the internet. It is heartbreaking to see a company that can see the future, but cannot do anything to make money off it.

O Sarajevo...

“The Balkans produce more history than they can consume.”
-- Winston Churchill

“Sarajevans will not be counting the dead. They will be counting the living.”
-- Radovan Karadzic, Bosnian Serb leader



Sarajevo has been rebuilt in the last 3 years. See this great travelogue by Michael Totten who specialises in going to former warzones...

"Sarajevo can be startling for first-time visitors. Shattered buildings, walls riddled with bullet holes, and mass graveyards are shocking things to see in a European capital in the 21st Century. The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was more violent than the others in the former Yugoslavia, and it shows. If I believed in ghosts I'd say Sarajevo must be one haunted place. At the same time, the reconstruction and cleanup work is impressive. The destruction gave me a jolt, but at the same time I was slightly surprised I didn't see more of it.

Bosnia is a troubled country with a dark recent past, but it is no longer the war-torn disaster it was. Sarajevo was under siege for almost four years by Bosnian Serb forces on the surrounding hilltops who fired mortar and artillery shells and sniper rounds at civilians, but it’s over and it has been over for more than a decade. Most damaged buildings have been repaired, and many neighborhoods look almost as though nothing bad ever happened to them.
........................
......................."

Give and Take

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."
-- Winston Churchill

Ramblings for 2008-06-09


International symbol of marriage approved

The UN Human Rights Commission has approved the new international symbol of marriage... Also note the subtle signs of the fall in prestige of the US dollar. The smart wife demands Euros now...




Monday, June 9, 2008

Rambllings for 2008-06-08


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Grassroots Leadership

FastCompany is typically known for hyping fad management techniques, methodologies and processes. Typically my BS filter is very high when reading anything from them.

But this article in FastCompany about "Grassroots Leadership" is hand-down one of the best I have ever read on management. When I read this for the first time 3 years back, it changed the way I ran my projects at work.

Grassroots leadership, as the name would suggest, is about real empowerment. Empowering ground-level people to make decisions in what they do everyday, and allowing them to innovate. People on the ground are in the best position to know what is the right thing to do. From a leadership point-of-view, the difference here that a leader needs to have is to understand that everybody is talented. If you make people feel that they can make decisions and carry them out on their own, as well as listen to their feedback, they will do wonders for you. Ultimately, hand out responsibility, not orders or directions.

The other things highlighted -
-- Allow people to enjoy their work. If people don't enjoy their work, find a way to remove the boredom. People who enjoy their work make fewer mistakes.
-- Understand the intent of a process rather than the various steps in the process. This understanding will lead to better decisions. Usually processes are there because something went wrong when doing this particular thing in the past. If you understand the purpose of the process, you can bypass standard operating procedure and stand out.

But personally the real message I took away from reading this was about authenticity. Quoting from the article -
"All I ever wanted to do in the navy was to command a ship. I don't care if I ever get promoted again. And that attitude has enabled me to do the right things for my people instead of doing the right things for my career. In the process, I ended up with the best ship in the navy -- and I got the best evaluation of my career"

I'm lucky to be working in something that I am really passionate about. So it was easy for me to get to the next level, and focus only on the quality of my work, and weeding out the distractions and the politics. I stopped worrying about promotions, and what all I needed to do to get to the next level in the org chart. And this has got me very quickly to where I am today. Nowadays, if there is some innovative project that needs to be done, I get the call first to see whether I want to take it up.


Ramblings for 2008-06-07


The opposite of every instinct you ever had

This is one of my fav Seinfeld episodes ever. George tries the opposite of every instinct he gets, and changes his whole life...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bslpmwFlJoA

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ramblings for 2008-06-06

Idea for a fun new application - George's answering machine

I am a huge fan of Seinfeld. Best TV series ever!

Had this idea when watching some episodes a few days back. There is this episode where George Costanza has a really super answering machine/voicemail message. Check out this youtube clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhhzwjt2AG0



I can't get it out of my head now. It permeates every sense of my being. I keep humming it to myself in the train, in the office, at home, in the gym...

I am sure there are lots of people who would like to set this song as their answering machine/voicemail message. So the application I am thinking about is one where I can go to a website, type in a name in a textbox, click on submit, and an mp3 is generated with my name in the message instead of George's. Then I can use this mp3 with my phone company's voicemail.

Yeah, this does not sound easy. But with somebody experienced in audio programming, it should be pretty simple to write a program to splice together a pre-recorded track and a name pronunciation track. I guess a library of naming pronunciations is needed which would be the tough part.


Ramblings for 2008-06-05