Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: As far as my feet will carry me

It never rains but it pours... Must be my character trait... The dry spell has been broken and the reading habit is back.. with a vengeance.

The latest object of my affection is this one...

German officer captured towards war'e end. Sentenced to 25 years in East Cape, Siberia (eastern most part of Russia). Really bad conditions. Escapes and walks to Iran.

Comparisons are inevitable with "The Long Walk". Not as captivating as the Long Walk... But still good. If The Long Walk is 5 stars, this is 4.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Review: The long walk

God it has been ages since I read a dead-tree book.

The first mention I saw of this book was on reading about the controversy surrounding the author in the Readers Digest. This is the story of a Polish officer imprisoned by the Soviets in the Siberian gulag in 1941 after the invasion of Poland by Germany and USSR. He escaped from the Gulag with 6 friends and walked all the way to India in 11 months...

The Readers Digest says the essence of the story is true. But the pilgrimage was undertaken by some other polish officer who was later debriefed by the author after his escape...

Anyway a pretty good read...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thoughts on insider trading charges against McKinsey, Intel, IBM'ers

"A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad"

~~ Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Information design done right

Making sense of the Galleon ring...
From the WSJ

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bagger Vance and the Bhagvad Gita

Watched "Legend of the Bagger Vance" after a long time... This is one movie I can watch again and again... On the same day!!

Winston Churchill said that "golf is a more expensive way of playing marbles". I agree. Yet I love this movie.

Bagger Vance is as much about golf as "Gone with the Wind" is about the Civil War. Golf is merely a backdrop to the story.

The movie is actually a modern day interpretation of the Bhagvad Gita. Will Smith (Bagger Vance) as a caddy plays the role of Krishna advising the confused Batt Damon (Randolf Junnah - R Junnah - Arjuna!!) about discovering himself, pulling himself backup and moving on with his life.

Charlize Theron, Will Smith and Damon have given performances which I dont think will be repeated in their career..

Run, don't walk, to get this movie. Something worth adding to a collection if you have on

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Paul Tudor Jones on Failure



June 10, 2009

When I was asked to give the commencement address to a graduating class of 9th graders, I jumped at the chance. You see, I have four teenagers of my own and I feel like this is the point in my life when I am supposed to tell them something profound. So thank you Buckley community for giving me this opportunity. I tried this speech out on them last night and am happy to report that none of them fell asleep until I was three quarters done.

When composing this message I searched my memory for my same experience back in 1969 when I was sitting right where you are. I realized that I could hardly remember one single speaker from my junior high or high school days. Now that could be my age. I’m old enough now that some days I can’t remember how old I am. But it could also have been a sign of the times. Remember, I was part of the student rebellion, and we did not listen to anything that someone over 30 said because they were just too clueless. Or so we thought.

Anyway, as I sat there considering this speech further, I suddenly had a flashback of the one speaker who I actually did remember from youthful days. He was a Shakespearean actor who came to our school to extol the virtues of Shakespeare. He started out by telling us that Shakespeare was not about poetry or romance or love, but instead, was all about battle, and fighting and death and war. Then he pulled out a huge sword which he began waving over the top of his head as he described various bloody conflicts that were all part and parcel of Shakespeare’s plays. Now being a 15-year old testosterone laden student at an all boys school, I thought this was pretty cool. I remember thinking, “Yea, this guy gets it. Forget about the deep meaning and messages in the words, let’s talk about who’s getting the blade.”

As you can see, I have a similar sword which I am going to stop waving over my head now, because A) I think you are permanently scarred, and B) the headmaster looks like he is about to tackle me and C) some of you, I can tell, are way too excited about this sword, and you’re scaring me a little.

I’m here with you young men today because your parents wanted me to speak to you about service—that is, serving others and giving back to the broader community for the blessings that you have received in your life. But that is a speech for a later time in your life. Don’t get me wrong, serving others is really, really important. It truly is the secret to happiness in life. I swear to God. Money won’t do it. Fame won’t do it. Nor will sex, drugs, homeruns or high achievement. But now I am getting preachy.

Today, I want to talk to you about the dirtiest word that any of you 9th graders know. It’s a word that is so terrible that your parents won’t talk about it; your teachers won’t talk about it; and you certainly don’t ever want to dwell on it. But this is a preparatory school, and you need to be prepared to deal with this phenomenon because you will experience it. That is a guarantee. Every single one of you will experience it not once but multiple times, and every adult in this room has had to deal with this in its many forms and manifestations. It’s the “F” word.

FAILURE. Failure that is so mortifying and so devastating that it makes you try to become invisible. It makes you want to hide your face, your soul, your being from everyone else because of the shame. Trust me, boys—if you haven’t already tasted that, you will. I am sure most of you here already have. AND IT IS HARD. I know this firsthand, but I also know that failure was a key element to my life’s journey.

My first real failure was in 1966 in the 6th grade. I played on our basketball team, and I was the smallest and youngest kid on the team. It was the last game of the season and I was the only player on the squad that had not scored a point all season. So in the second half the coach directed all the kids to throw me the ball when I went in, and for me to shoot so that I would score. The problem was that Coach Clark said it loud enough that every person in the stands could hear it as well as every member of the opposing team. Going into the fourth quarter, our team was well ahead, Coach Clark inserted me and thus, began the worst eight minutes of my life up until that point. Every time I got the ball, the entire other team would rush towards me, and on top of that, that afternoon I was the greatest brick layer the world had ever seen. The game ended. I had missed five shots, and the other team erupted in jubilation that I had not scored. I ran out of the gym as fast as I could only to bump into two of the opposing team’s players who proceeded to laugh and tease and ridicule me. I cried and hid in the bathroom. Well, that passed, and I kept trying team sports, but I was just too small to really compete. So in the 10th grade, I took up boxing where suddenly everyone was my size and weight. I nearly won the Memphis Golden Gloves my senior year in high school and did win the collegiate championship when I was 19. Standing in the middle of that ring and getting that trophy, I still remember looking around for those two little kids who had run me into that bathroom back in the 6th grade, because I was going to knock their blocks off. That’s one problem with failure. It can stay with you for a very long time.

The next time the dragon of failure reared his ugly head was in 1978. I was working in New Orleans for one of the greatest cotton traders of all time, Eli Tullis. Now, New Orleans is an unbelievable city. It has the Strawberry Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras, and just about every other excuse for a party that you can ever imagine. Heck, in that town, waking up was an excuse to party. I was still pretty fresh out of college, and my mentality, unfortunately, was still firmly set on fraternity row. It was a Friday morning in June, and I had been out literally all night with a bunch of my friends. My job was to man the phone all day during trading hours and call cotton prices quotes from New York into Mr. Tullis’ office. Around noon, things got quiet on the New York floor, and I got overly drowsy. The next thing I remember was a ruler prying my chin off my chest, and Mr. Tullis calling to me, “Paul. Paul.” My eyes fluttered opened and as I came to my senses, he said to me, “Son, you are fired.” I’d never been so shocked or hurt in my life. I literally thought I was going to die for I had just been sacked by an iconic figure in my business.

My shame turned into anger. I was not angry at Mr. Tullis for he was right. I was angry at myself. But I knew I was not a failure, and I swore that I was going to prove to myself that I could be a success. I called a friend and secured a job on the floor of the New York Cotton Exchange and moved to the City. Today, I will put my work ethic up against anybody’s on Wall Street. Failure will give you a tattoo that will stay with you your whole life, and sometimes it’s a really good thing. One other side note, to this day, I’ve never told my parents that I got fired. I told them I just wanted to try something different. Shame can be a lifetime companion for which you better prepare yourself.

Now, there are two types of failure you will experience in life. The first type is what I just described and comes from things you can control. That is the worst kind. But there is another form of failure that will be equally devastating to you, and that is the kind beyond your control. This happened to me in 1982. I had met a very lovely young Harvard student from Connecticut, dated her for two years then asked her to marry me right after she graduated from college. We set a date; we sent out the invitations; and all was fantastic until one month before the wedding when her father called me. He said, “Paul, my daughter sat me down this afternoon, and she doesn’t know how to tell you this, but she is really unhappy and thinks it’s time for you two to take a break.” At first I thought he was joking because he was a very funny guy. Then he said, “No, she is serious about this.” I thought to myself, “Oh, my God, I am being dumped at the altar.” I’m from Tennessee. Getting dumped at the altar was the supreme social embarrassment of that time. It was a big deal. When all my family and friends found out, they were ready to re-start the Civil War on the spot. I had to remind them that the last Civil War didn’t go so well for our side, and I didn’t like our chances in a rematch. The reality was that I was a 26-year old knucklehead, and since all my friends were getting married, I kind of felt it was time for me to do the same thing. And that was the worst reason in the world to get married. I actually think she understood that and to a certain extent spared me what would have been a very tough marriage. Instead, I’ve had an incredible marriage for twenty years to a wonderful wife, and we have four kids that I love more than anything on Earth. Some things happen to you that at the time will make you feel like the world is coming to an end, but in actuality, there is a very good reason for it. You just can’t see it and don’t know it. When one door closes, another will open, but standing in that hallway can be hell. You just have to persevere. Quite often that dragon of failure is really chasing you off the wrong road and on to the right one.

By now you are thinking, how much longer is this loser going to keep on talking. My kids are all teenagers, and whenever I’m telling them something I think is important, they often wonder the same thing. But the main point I want you to take away today is that some of your greatest successes are going to be the children of failure. This touches upon the original reason I was invited here today. In 1986, I adopted a class of Bedford Stuyvesant 6th graders and promised them if they graduated from high school, I would pay for their college. For those of you who don’t know, Bed-Stuy is one of New York City’s toughest neighborhoods. Even the rats are scared to go there at night. Statistically about 8% of the class I adopted would graduate from high school, so my intervention was designed to get them all into college. For the next six years, I did everything I could for them. I spent about $5,000 annually per student taking them on ski trips, taking them to Africa, taking them to my home in Virginia on the weekends, having report card night, hiring a counselor to help coordinate afternoon activities and doing my heartfelt best to get them ready for college. Six years later, a researcher from Harvard contacted me and asked if he could study my kids as part of an overall assessment of what then was called the “I Have a Dream” Program. I said sure. He came back to me a few months later and shared some really disturbing statistics. 86 kids that I had poured my heart and soul into for six years were statistically no different than kids from a nearby school that did not have the services our afterschool program provided. There was no difference in graduation rates, dropout rates, academic scores, teenage pregnancies, and the list went on. The only thing that we managed to do was get three times as many of our kids into college because we were offering scholarships whereas the other schools were not. But in terms of preparing these kids for college, we completely and totally failed. Boy, did this open my eyes. That was the first real-time example for me of how intellectual capital will always trump financial capital. In other words, I had the money to help these kids, but it was useless because I didn’t have the brains to help them. I had tried to succeed with sheer force of will and energy and financial resources. I learned that this was not enough. What I needed were better defined goals, better metrics, and most importantly, more efficient technologies that would enable me to achieve those goals. What that whole experience taught me was that starting with kids at age 12 was 12 years too late. An afterschool program was actually putting a band-aid on a much deeper structural issue, and that was that our public education system was failing us. So in 2000, along with the greatest educator I knew, a young man named Norman Atkins, we started the Excellence Charter School in Bedford Stuyvesant for boys. We set the explicit goal of hiring the best teachers with the greatest set of skills to be the top performing school in the city. Now that was an ambitious goal but last year in 2008, Excellence ranked #1 out of 543 public schools in New York City for reading and math proficiency for any third and fourth grade cohort, and our school was 98% African American boys. We never would have done that had I not failed almost 15 years earlier.

So here is the point: you are going to meet the dragon of failure in your life. You may not get into the school you want or you may get kicked out of the school you are in. You may get your heart broken by the girl of your dreams or God forbid, get into an accident beyond your control. But the point is that everything happens for a reason. At the time it may not be clear. And certainly the pain and the shame are going to be overwhelming and devastating. But just as sure as the sun comes up, there will come a time on the next day or the next week or the next year, when you will grab that sword and point it at that dragon and tell him, “Be gone, dragon. Tarry with me and I will cut your head off. For I must find the destination God and life hold in store for me!” Young men of Buckley, good luck on your journey…..

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TO: vpostusa AT vpost DOT com DOT sg



I had the following 4 items meant to be delivered today
No.Shipment No.MerchantSub MerchantProduct DescriptionProduct ValueItem Status
9 VSXXXUS WOOT, INC DVDS USD 64.97 Allocated to Couriers
10 VSXXXUS AMAZON DVD, WATCH USD 192.99 Allocated to Couriers
12 VSXXXUS WOOT.COM ROBOTIC VACUUM USD 154.99 Allocated to Couriers

However, the Singpost postman delivered only 2. He claimed that the other 2 were stolen from him when he went to the toilet while the van door was left open while delivering. Apparently he HAD TO GO.

The STOLEN items are
9 VSXXXUS WOOT, INC DVDS USD 64.97 Allocated to Couriers
12 VSXXXUS WOOT.COM ROBOTIC VACUUM USD 154.99 Allocated to Couriers

Pls investigate and provide a refund on the item as well as shipping charges paid. I would really appreciate if a replacement item is provided by Singpost for item#12 as I got it at a huge discount when I bought it.

For verification, the postman is:
Delivery vehicle: XXXXXX
Mobile#: XXXXXX


Monday, May 18, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

India broadband observations

We get 1.4 Mbps download speed on average. DSL technology. Cost is Rs. 1000/month around SGD 32/month.

Youtube is blazing fast. Google might be having some special India caching servers.

BBC is dead slow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Don't become irrelevant

It has become ages since I have read CNN. The BBC gets a boit more slack as they tend to publish slightly more interesting point-of-view. Once in a while...

Readers no longer see value in hearing news. News reportin has become a commodity. CNN was not a commodity in '91 during the gulf war. Because nobody else could cover it.. 

But the internet has changed all that. You dont need reporters all over the world and a fancy global center in Atlanta to provide global news. The internet makes it easy to pick up news from local organisations...

Readers want solid expertise and analysis behind the news. And that comes from individual blogs...

The “Monty Hall dilemma”

"Marilyn vos Savant’s column gained national notoriety in the early 1990s, thanks to her response to the “Monty Hall dilemma”: the make-or-break decision facing contestants on the game show Let’s Make a Deal that was then hosted by Hall. The question was posed by Craig Whitaker, of Columbia, Marinaland, on September 9 1990. “Dear Marilyn,” wrote Whitaker. “Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors. Behind one door is a car, behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say #1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say #3, which has a goat. He says to you: ‘Do you want to pick door #2?’ Is it to your advantage to switch your choice of doors?”

Savant’s answer, that it was better to switch doors, provoked an extraordinary response: thousands of letters of complaint, many of them from science teachers and academics. “There is enough mathematical illiteracy in this country, and we don’t need the world’s highest IQ propagating more. Shame!” wrote one reader from the University of Florida. “You are the goat!” said another. “You made a mistake, but look at the positive side,” wrote Everett Harman, of the US Army Research Institute. “If all those PhDs were wrong, the country would be in some very serious trouble.”

But Savant had not made a mistake. In the end it took her four columns, hundreds of newspaper stories and a challenge to children to test the options in classroom experiments, to convince her readers that she was right. “Oh, that was so much fun. I just enjoyed these nasty letters I got,” she said. “The audacity of people! I just loved them.”

The key to the solution lies in the role of the host, who will always pick a door which does not have a prize behind it. Statistics from the game show, in which those who switched won about twice as often as those who did not, bear out Savant’s explanation from her third column: “When you first choose door #1 from three, there’s a 1/3 chance that the prize is behind that one and a 2/3 chance that it’s behind one of the others. But then the host steps in and gives you a clue. If the prize is behind #2, the host shows you #3, and if the prize is behind #3, the host shows you #2. So when you switch, you win if the prize is behind #2 or #3. You win either way! But if you don’t switch, you win only if the prize is behind door #1.”

Band Of Horses - The Funeral

Inspired Bicycles - Danny MacAskill April 2009

This is called leverage...


This should be a primary weapon when I do some product reviews...

MLM and developing countries

It must be the desperation to escape from the shackles... I have observed that MLM scams become huge only in developing countries... 

I remember a relative trying to persuade me to sign up for a gold coin MLM scheme in 2003. I went to a huge mass rally just to please him.. He was a bigshot in that MLM organisation.. In that rally they were boasting how that MLM was so popular in Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritria etc.. And I was going WTF!!.

There is a behavioral economics PhD thesis hidden somewhere in this...

The killer - EVERYBODY in India who signed up for that gold-coin MLM came out ahead... Because the price of gold appreciated 300%!!! Haha...

PS22 Chorus "Eye Of The Tiger" by SURVIVOR


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

At work, all PC's are typically locked down.... Meaning you have very limited rights as a Windows user... Nobody can install any new programs, the only writeable location is "My Documents" etc etc.. Any program installation have to be done by IT Helpdesk...

For technology employees esp those who do coding, this is a serious issue. So there is a way for developers to get admin rights on the work PC... It is called DevAccess. DevAccess is a program that allows you to request for admin rights.. The request will be reviewed, and after approval the developer's user-id will get admin rights on that particular PC...

When you open DevAccess, at the bottom of the window is the quote... "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Being the curious sort, I did some research on this phrase...
"Quis custōdiet ipsōs custōdēs? is a Latin phrase from the Roman poet Juvenal, which literally translates to "Who will guard the guards themselves?", and is variously translated in colloquial English as "Who watches the watchmen?", "Who watches the watchers?", "Who will guard the guards?", "Who shall watch the watchers?", "Who polices the police?" or other similar translations."


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good security pattern: Remote key

With Web 2.o, it is very likely that your browser UI functionality will also need to be exposed programmatically via an API with 3rd party software. Just like twitter can be used via tweetdeck, twhirl etc.

The user will still need to login to your site for the API call. In such cases, it is a good idea to have a separate password ("remote key") for 3rd-party tools, and a main password for the online login. What you should also do is to restrict the kind of activities that can be done after a remote-key login.

While you may be fully able to control the security of your site and your user's password, you cannot guarantee the behavior and security of 3rd party apps. With a separate remote key, the remote key can be easily changed if it has been compromised. In the interim, the compromised key can only be used for a restricted set of activities by the attacker.

We used this pattern in an Adobe AIR app we developed internally at work. Just noticed the same concept when I signed up for Friendfeed.

Google streetview coming to Singapore

Checked the news after spotting their camera car outside the condo. You can find me when searching for Park West condo...

Advice for tough times

1.) Life is not about being liked. It is about being effective.

2.) Dont speak about who you are, but what you have can do and what you have achieved. Remember this when creating your resume...

Late night thought of the day: Shipping inconveniences

Ordering stuff from the US used to be such a pain. No longer with on-demand movies and the Kindle... 

PS: I don't have a kindle.. But just expanding the possibilities
More PS: KPMG/PWC are going to grow in all markets by examining cross-border taxation issues...

RAM as the new disk

I have been reading on some extreme scaling solutions being used by FriendFeed, LinkedIn etc... Some links to share for your reading pleasure (though I doubt how many of the readers to this site actually are in hardcore tech anymore...)

At the heart of all this is a concept of using in-memory caches as the primary data retrieval layer instead of just being a cache. This is a big shift in thinking about application server tier design. 

"The more things change.. the more they remain the same". In 2003, when I started my first job, we used to make fun of former C++ devs coming to Java server design and caching the entire database into memory on Weblogic startup so that they could write familar code. Indeed my 2nd project was undoing all this to make a system scalable. Now the clock is back to 12.


IBM Websphere Extreme Scale!! [Good luck with the licensing]

Singapore tax: Some interesting credit

If you are filing tax in Singapore, then here is an interesting factoid - Any money/prize that you receive for innovation is non-taxable.

See [Point 3]. This has been a concession for a few years already. Also referred in this KPMG newsletter (Page 2).

Yours truly will be saving some 3k in tax due to this :-) Interestingly I was not even aware of this. Was browsing thru their site in Feb to research some withholding tax issues for a huge contract we signed at work and bitching as to why I was the one to do this work. A 3k payday is not bad.

Now all I need to do is get HR to correct the figures they submitted to IRAS regarding my income..

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Adobe AIR's fatal flaw

If Adobe AIR is to gain traction in the "Enterprise", AIR applications should not require admin rights to install. In this day and age when Google Chrome can be completely installed into user space, this is a gaping major flaw.

This is what happens when people who have used Macs and Solaris all their life write installers for Windows...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Starhub home zone using femtocell

Interesting technology being marketed by Starhub in Singapore.

To follow the McK model of presentation (heh)...
What you get: For 16$ a month, free local calls and SMS for 4 mobile phone lines when you are physically in your house
Who might benefit the most:
- Those who use their mobile phones a lot at home paying 15cents/min
- Those who take a lot of conf. calls from home on their mobile
- Families who always cannot share the single fixed-line with the teen yakking away all the time on it

Basically a femtocell is a 3G to internet gateway. You will need a starhub mobile line and broadbank internet connection
Mobile phone<---3G--->Femotcell<---tcp/ip--->Broadband router<---tcp/ip--->cable modem

This basically ties into my >earlier post on Skype on iPhone... Mobile carriers are slowly becoming funnelers of internet protocol data over their network protocol (3G/4G). 

Monday, March 30, 2009

This is huge.. Mobile carriers become just data pipe companies

Skype will be launching the app on the Apple appstore tomorrow.

"Are you prepared to have your mind blown? As expected, Skype for iPhone will appear “sometime Tuesday” and allow you to make VoIP calls to friends and family all over the world, a move that at once blows a great waft of flatulence in the face of the carriers and, in one smooth motion, high fives the international community of Skype users.

It should be available from the App Store for free.

You obviously cannot make a Skype call over 3G or EDGE but you can make VoIP calls over Wi-Fi. The system also meshes with your iPhone contacts and allows you to filter and search based on users who already have Skype accounts and even make SkypeOut calls, again under Wi-Fi."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday morning rant

Called delifrance home delivery in the morn, and was greeted by a clammy "Bonjour Monsieur". 

I hate this foreign love. You are in Singapore.. Speak in English motherf...

Same goes to Audi. When selling overpriced cars in Singapore don't end your commercials with "Vorsprung durch Technik"

Stay hungry, stay foolish

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ramblings for 2009-02-23

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ramblings for 2009-02-18

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ramblings for 2009-02-17

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ramblings for 2009-02-16

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ramblings for 2009-02-15

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ramblings for 2009-02-14