Sunday, November 23, 2014

Books: Think Like a Freak

For most of us, Freakonomics is the book that made us look at numbers and their interpretation in a different way. The books also happen to be an excellent example of Lateral Thinking. Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, the authors of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics and self-proclaimed freaks, plans to show us how to think like a freak. In the ever-changing professional fields, thinking like a freak will get you into the hall of fame. So it is not only the right time but also very essential to share this knowledge.

Steven and Stephen are good story tellers. Like their previous books, this one also has a lot of stories. There are tireless doctors who crusade against the scientific community and also an unassuming Japanese guy who become a champion by wolfing down hot dogs. No doubt these are interesting stories told in a captivating way. Unfortunately, the stories are the upside of the book. The rest of the book is a series of mantras that will help you think different, think outside the box or think like a freak. These mantras are an amalgamation of the popular self-help books.

Except the interesting stories and the style of writing, there isn't nothing much you can get from this book. You may want to pick up this book while waiting for the next flight. Easily read and more easily forgotten.

Tags: Books,Steven D Levitt,Stephen J Dubner,Freak

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Doctors and Daddies

A father is always protective of his children, but he is overly protective of his daughter. A daughter always brings the best in a father. You may be toughest person on earth. But when you daughter describes the world, you might want that to be the truth even though your intelligence might point to the opposite direction. I had an interesting conversation with my daughter the other day. When I was talking about paying consultation fees for a doctor, my daughter was surprised.

Daughter: *quizzing* Why do you have to pay a doctor?

Me: *patiently* They need money for various things.

Daughter: *pausing for a second to digest this fact* But I thought doctors were sweet. That is why they are doctors, and they don't money.

At this point, I realize I have to break another fragment of the perfect world my daughter has created in her mind. So I carefully think on how to approach it. Once I have formulated my line of reasoning; I resume.

Me: *slowly* They do accept money. Haven't you seen me paying at the hospital before going to see a doctor? *mentally heaves a sigh, thinking it is going to take some time for my daughter to digest it*

Daughter: *instantly* Yes. But that is because you are sweet and so you pay the doctor.

To be frank, everything after the word "sweet" was a blur. I was flying high after that. Who am I kidding? I am still flying high.

Tags: Parenthood,Doctor,Payment

Monday, November 17, 2014

Restaurants, Accents and Jobs

Over the weekend, I visited a local restaurant serving a potpourri of Asian food. If you been to a Chinese buffet already, then you know what I am talking. The restaurant has a similar theme; the difference is in the spread that belongs to a couple of regions in Asia instead of sticking to Chinese items alone. The wait times are long in this restaurant, but they turn their tables very quickly. They can turn tables quickly because they have a lot of tables. The restaurant has a seating capacity like a stadium. Even though it I am exaggerating with the similarity to a stadium, it is a dining hall and not a restaurant. Keeping aside the food, it is the waiters and waitresses that caught my eyes.

For an Asian restaurant, I expected a lot of Asian faces among the crew. You may call me prejudiced. Although I scanned the crew, I could see very few locals; the few locals carried the tag displaying "Trainee". The trainees looked like a rush job. Most of the other names and also accents indicated they were from Eastern side of Europe. This finding was amusing for me because a couple of days back we went on a team lunch to an Italian restaurant. Diwali is long past, but the pain of organizing a Diwali lunch fell on my overburdened shoulders. Based on everyone's calendar, last week was the only time when all of us are not on vacation or training. Why Italian for an Indian occasion? If that is your question, don't you know Indians and Italians go a long way? 1972 to be exact; Godfather released in 1972 and we all are ardent fans of this movie. That is our Italian connection.

I called up a highly rated Italian restaurant near my work. I was happy to hear an accent at the other end. I was happier to find the accent wrapped in a beautiful voice. Like a naive person, I assumed the restaurant was run and managed by Italian immigrants who will provide authentic Italian food. All is well that ends well. The food was good. All of us had fun. The beautiful voice also turned out to be more beautiful in person with a great and perfect teeth. But she was not Italian. She was from Spain living in England because she wanted to learn English. To my Indian friends, please don't bother asking the name of the restaurant in order to teach her English. She wants to learn English and not Hinglish. To my British friends, if I had denied the pleasure to my brethren, why would I reveal the name of the restaurant to you?

If you analyze further, both the cities - where I live and where I work - are so small that I call them villages. There are still many jobs out in these small places. Then why is immigration a problem? 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Photos: Trafalgar Square

This is another shot of Trafalgar Square taken at night.

Tags: Photos

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Photos: Green Lantern at Trafalgar Square

The reality is different from the perception. Here I was in self-imposed exile, mostly involved, in a self-flagellation, about my lack of interest in photography. After two consecutive moves from Paris and in the process of adjusting to a new environment, I doubted my photography skills because I couldn't either find time or was not happy with the end results. Then comes a day when you go through the treasure trove and finds pictures that are worthy of sharing.

I had taken this picture at Trafalgar Square a year ago. These days, I don't carry the tripod around. This picture motivates me to take my tripod again. I like the fountain lit in green and felt it would be interesting to try out using long exposure. You can see the result below, and I hope you like it.

Tags: Photos

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Delivering the unspeakable

What is the differentiating factor of your company? Recently when engaged in a discussion with a group of professionals, the question arose. The group of professional were all working as system integrators in the IT world. For this particular question, there are many answers that is vague and is hard to quantify. So I was surprised when someone came with an answer. "We deliver shit."

I was taken aback by the bold statement. It is one thing you are providing unusable services, but it is altogether another thing to blatantly admit it. When the speaker saw the shocked look on our faces, he explained. "No, we don't delivery shit. We deliver SHIT". All of us were still baffled. "SHIT as in S, H, I, T." Although the speaker was spelling out each character, we already knew the spellings. "SHIT is acronym for somehow in time." As it made perfect sense, we all smiled.

To think about it, delivering somehow in time is not success. This method is best to meet timelines. It is a defeatist approach to ensure a green status in your report for the most items. On the flip side, this approach doesn't guarantee the usability of what you are providing. Then what is the point in delivering somehow in time?

Tags: Musings,Delivery,In Time

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pappettan teaches to drive

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

Pappettan, being a good samaritan, agreed to the experienced driver for a common friend who intended to appear for the driving test. Teaching driving is a tricky business. A few decades ago, my driving instructor in Kochi used to shout at the top of the lungs for even a silly mistake. Years later in US, I found a very calm person as a driving instructor. I was curious to find which category Pappettan belonged to. I should have known better. He belongs to the cool-as-cucumber category. I learned other lessons on top of this obvious fact.

Our friend was driving on the left side of the road which incidentally is the right side of the road for UK and India. He was following the lane discipline religiously when a car from the opposite direction slowly swerved into our side of the road. The other car had evidently crossed the median and was in our part of the road. My friend was in total control of the car when Pappettan instructed him. 

Pappettan: *calmly* Please move to your left.

Common Friend: *puzzled* Should I?

Pappettan: *explains* Yes, you should. Please move to your left and give that car space to pass safely.

Common Friend: *obeys but is not happy*

Pappettan: *no expression on his face, watching traffic and judging my friend's driving skills*

Common Friend: *unwilling to let go* But... the other car was wrong. They were not following the rules.

Pappettan: *lets out a laugh* Our duty is to drive safely and save lives. Is it right or wrong? That is for a judge to decide.

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