Friday, February 26, 2016

How to read more and faster?

Whenever you get time, spend that wise by reading. For instance, you are waiting for your connecting flight or a train or a bus. You could read while you are waiting. If you are wondering if this is my calling to turn into voracious readers, then you are mistaken. I was at the receiving end of this advice. Please be forewarned that I have taken a writer's liberty to meddle with the words while I took enough care not to muddle the meaning.

A few months back, I experienced a sense of deja vu when two distinguished gentlemen advise me on how to utilise my time in a better way to read as much as possible. The advice, although sounded so alike to be suspected as rehearsed, was dispersed on two different occasions separated by time and distance. One happened over the email where the sender was in Bengaluru. The other happened here in the Queen's country and was delivered in person. Interestingly, they both signed off their advice in the same way. You should get a Kindle. It will help you read more.

Now let me step back even further. I had been interacting with this gentlemen when I noticed the shared interest in the non-fiction books. They were quoting a lot of facts from books that I have either read or marked for reading which clearly demonstrated the fact they have read more books than me. So I popped the question. How do you get time to read so much? For a simple mind like mine, the question is an open-ended one which will start a nice conversation. Now you know the context well and the resulting answer.

I listened to these gentlemen. I held myself back and didn't reveal that I had switched to Kindle in 2010. To be precise, Kindle on iPhone. I haven't got a Kindle device yet. Every day on my birthday, I wait for someone to fulfil my wishes. In case you are wondering, the Kindle device is still an unfulfilled birthday wish among many other things. I try to read everywhere. To name a few, Vayu Vajra, Kallada Travels, Metro, SNCF, RER, First Great Western (now Great Wester Railway), Overground, Underground, BLR, DXB, CDG and LHR. So I have taken care of both the key points of reading everywhere and Kindle.

I was not very happy with the guidelines and advice received in response to my questions. Now, I realize these distinguished gentlemen forgot to mention two important criteria which make a big difference to your reading capabilities. Both of these criteria relates to speed, the speed at which one can read and speed at which one can comprehend. The first one is an easier problem to solve. If you check the internet, you will find many articles which will help you in reading at a faster rate. After trying out various plug-ins to quicken the pace of the reading, I am not comfortable as it slows down the comprehension. There is an easier way. Place your finger under the text you are reading and let eyes follow the movement of the finger. In effect, the finger acts as a cursor and helps you focus. As for increasing the comprehension rate, this is still an open question. Do you have any secret sauce for increasing understanding?

Photo Courtesy: Kamil PorembiƄski

Tags: Musings, Reading

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Books: The Everything Store

Starting from the earth's biggest bookstore, Amazon has transformed itself into a technology company. To be correct, has transformed itself into Amazon. If you were buying books from Amazon in the "dot com" era, would you have thought Amazon would be revolutionising the way we read? Could you predict they would change we store data, harness the power of remote computing and storage and pioneer in cloud computing? At that time, was a good place to buy book cheaper. Later we would have changed the term books into products. When eBay joined the fray with a business model, we would have wondered the fate of Amazon. Now years later, Amazon is standing tall, outgrown the birth script and metamorphosed into a juggernaut with different capabilities.

In this book, Brad Stone narrates the journey of Jeff Bezos from a school boy to the CEO of Amazon. Being a journalist and having done many cover stories on technology giants, Brad is the right person to write about the rise, the slump and the rise of Amazon. We might have heard many things in disjointed articles about the empty chair representing the customer in Jeff's meeting and leadership quotes which have been labeled under Jeffisms. If you are interested or associated with technology companies, the chances are you have already read these stories from multiple sources. But there are many things which haven't heard too. What Brad does is to package neatly all these into a story thereby making it easy for anyone to read it.

Jeff Bezos took a small idea and expanded it to make Amazon. He didn't undersell the idea even at the start. It wasn't about books alone although it was the first products featured on the websites. They have worked on the selection of the books and also on the logistics to get it delivered to you as soon as possible. Though Jeff is a brilliant visionary, his management style is not collaborative but authoritative. But his heart is in the right place. He believes the customer is the king. As a result, Amazon has adapted quickly to serve its customers. They have reworked the concept of fulfilment centers to reduce manual errors and predict the delivery time for the customer. They have been resilient despite having many issues in the formative years. Amazon has changed the way we read with Kindle. There are lots and lots of good stuff from Amazon.

I moved to Kindle (on smartphones and web) a long while ago. It has helped in reading lot more compared to pre-Kindle days. So I was naturally interested in knowing about this company. If you are like me whose life has been changed by Amazon even in a minor way, then this is a good book for you.

Tags: Books,Brad Stone,Jeff Bezos,Amazon

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Three fingers back at you

When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you. This saying forms one of the early lessons against complaining. It also tells you to re-evaluate the situation from a different perspective. What did Jesus say on this topic? "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement. This constant yearning to become a better person forms the crux of the narrative today.

My friend was going through articles on relationship advice. I understand his predicament. It 's hard to understand the fairer sex. They think something and say something else. Now that I have let the cat out of the bag, I wonder if this is the reason which makes women better managers. They can drop subtle and obvious hints which can be used to motivate people. Unfortuthese hints which could be a motivating factor was not working well in my friend's case. So he was going through the various articles on the topic when he came across on an interesting one.

The title jumped out of the page to catch his attention. It sounded perfect antidote for the recent showdown. So he started reading it. The article contains ten subheadings. As he went through the first two, he couldn't believe his luck. So he bookmarked the page and read the rest. After reading the whole article, he deleted the bookmark and decided against sharing it with his wife. At this point, I was curious and couldn't contain myself. So I asked why didn't he share the article. He explained with a sheepish grin. The rest of the eight subheadings sounded like him. Apparently, he has to work on the relationship more than his wife. So, what did I tell you about the fingers pointing at yourself while complaining?

Photo Courtesy: US Embassy New Delhi

Tags: Musings, Relationship

Monday, February 8, 2016

Who lives with you?

Who lives with you? It is a prying question. Imagine if you are asked this question in front of your spouse. You confidently say your spouse's name. But the interrogator says that it is not the correct answer. What happens next? You are likely to sweat. You nervously steal glances at your spouse. You start praying your partner has heard neither the question nor the response to the question. You would also have run through the permutations and combinations of this answer in your mind in a flash, reliving your life and relationships. No doubt it is an embarrassing situation. Even though our closets might be empty, we might still fear what might tumble out of it. One of my friends underwent this situation recently.

Before I tell you the story of my friend, I want to bring your attention to another phenomenon in our lives. Passwords. On a typical day, we use passwords in countless ways. We use them to log into our laptops, our work emails, personal emails, bank accounts, social media accounts and what not. Although companies are trying to minimise the number of time we enter passwords in the name of unified login or a seamless experience, we are still far from this projected simple future. In the meantime, we have software serving as a locker for all our passwords and the key memorable phrase to be used to reset our passwords if all other measures fail. The key memorable phrases have evolved from the mother's maiden name to other questions. One such question posed a threat to my friend on that fateful day. The question was simple. Who lives with you? I am not sure why it becomes a critical question to establish the identity of a person. These days, the warm confines of privacy are rapidly disappearing with the rise of social media and the sharing culture. So no question is impossible to crack for anyone with evil intent. 

So my friend was holding on to the phone trying to think what was the right answer to the question to establish the identity. According to my friend's account of the events unfolding, the ears of the spouse had already perked up to catch the answer. While my friend spent a lot of time describing the intrusive nature of the partner, there was no mention of my friend's mental state. Was my friend's heart beating too fast? Was my friend sweating? Then it dawned on my friend. My friend said the name of their child. My friend had recorded the name of their child as the answer to that question. Technically, my friend is correct. I am sure the resourceful hackers will not be able to decipher the answer quickly.

Photo Courtesy: Ognian Mladenov

Tags: Musings, Memorable Phrase, Password

Monday, February 1, 2016

35 feeling 21

A 21-year-old boy is trapped in the body of a 35-year-old man. This dilemma forms the crux of my friend's problem. If you ponder on this problem, it is, in fact, a preferable situation. All of us grows up and end up boring. So what if you can stay younger? When it comes to aging, the key lies in your mind. My friend has a the mind of 21-year-old-boy. So he has unlocked the anti-aging mechanism. Then why is he worried about this blessed state?

On paper, this scenario is a win-win. But does a 21-year-old mind translates into a winning criterion in the real world. We all had our blunders in this age. The unadulterated mindset during this stage brings a fresh perspective by always questioning everything around you and the drive to prove oneself. At the same, the impatience during this phase brings our downfall too. For this reason, I stated the win-win on paper. 

Now with 35 years of learning, has my friend learnt to control the disadvantages associated with his 21-year-old mind? If he has, then he shouldn't worry. Can his body run as fast as with his 21-year-old mind? If he can accomplish this, then there is nothing to worry. The dilemma is a desirable one to have. What is the point of medicating your overactive fertile mind to tone it down? It is always good to have an younger mind inside our older body.

Photo Courtesy: Maurits Verbiest

Tags: Musings, Mind
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