Monday, July 26, 2010

No Short Cuts

Dom Testa's post Short Cuts is just the kind of thing kids should read or if they are too young to understand have a parent help them. This article also resonates with Testa's goal for his organization :
He founded The Big Brain Club, a community project of The Big Brain Foundation, to help kids overcome the peer pressure they feel to dumb down. Young people often believe that they have to choose between being cool and using their brains. Dom’s message is simple: You can do both!
He cites the example of Michael Phelps and Conan O'Brien to make his case about years of blood, sweat and tears resulting in huge payouts in later life. They would both fit the cool bill and clearly have had to use their brains to get where they are in their lives.

Realizing the importance of "coolness" in a kid's social standing, I always try to impress upon J the importance of having a distinctive personal style - not only in what one wears but in how they conduct themselves. Cool does not get any cooler than that I tell her.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Negotiating Traffic

I have never driven in India and don't plan on attempting to either. That said, I am in awe of drivers who can weave in and out of the maze that city traffic is and deliver passengers like myself to their destinations all in day's work. If they feel stressed - it is none too evident. An expat in Delhi (I have published an interview with Dave and Jenny before on this blog) writes about his experience negotiating traffic on behalf of his autorickshaw driver. The problem is all too familiar to us desis but the positive approach to solving it and the thought process is more than a little remarkable :

"I exited my auto and surveyed the situation. Possibilities materialized in my head. I mapped out moves like a game of chess—“If this car goes here, and that car goes there…”—and then I took action, standing in front of this car and pointing him that way, then standing in the hole he left until my auto driver could slip into it. Around me, other heads had appeared in the traffic, and the hole one of them created for their own car cascaded back to me. Using my gestures to move some cars and my body to block others, I worked us through the jam—me grinning, my driver grinning, other drivers staring, and still other drivers following behind my auto as he followed the path I blazed out of the jam."

The sense of joy and accomplishment is palpable. It is as if Abhimanyu had figured how to exit the Chakravyuha - sometimes even the impossible can happen. Now here is a man who has both the chops and attitude to make India his home. A lesser man would have fumed and steamed in the auto bemoaning the state of Delhi roads. Though one commenter tempers that enthusiasm with this observation :

Wow…this is very impressive Dave. Though understand, only a white boy can pull this off in Delhi. No disrespect meant. We both know that if an Indian tried that, he’d get run over within a minute.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Recently, my friend D found herself stuck with the unpleasant job of phone screening candidates for a position her team was under some pressure fill. According to D, even in the best circumstances, interviewing job applicants is not her favorite thing to do - screening them is that much worse. Being part of the group conducting interviews and as such a point of view among several others is what is she more used to and comfortable with. In these tough times, being put in the position of the "screener" is clearly quite painful to her. 
Yet, it is something she is almost required to do. To confound her moral dilemma, her good friend T has been unemployed for months now and is desperate for work. T's resume might qualify her for the position but D is concerned about T's ability to handle the work load. So she has not mentioned the job to T let alone the fact she is screening candidates for it. That makes her feel like a horrible friend. D and T have worked together in the past - and while they became good friends, D was not professionally impressed by T. D would love to give away her "screener" position to anyone but apparently there are not many takers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Unintended Use

It is always interesting when people put technology to unintended use - using Foursquare to escape into a fantasy vacation is definitely one of them. The author writes with obvious relish about his make believe travels which a cheat mode would completely ruin for him. What is harmless fun in one context for one person could be quite a different thing under other circumstances. As one commentor points out - allowing fake checkins on Foursquare makes it completely irrelevant.

While that may be true for now, if fake checkins became commonplace enough, a business model would likely evolve that took advantage of it. This is a perfect example of creating an artificial need, fulfilling it and generating in the process secondary and tertiary needs that are still less real. Every step of the convoluted way, someone could stand to make good money if they were smart enough to connect these conjured "needs" to a certain demographic that can be convinced that the quality of their life will vastly improve with this new thing.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Learning By Example

For the last eight years that I have raised J alone, I craved an adult couterpoint to my parenting worldview. When in doubt, I had to second guess myself or ask another parent who knew close to nothing about J's temperament or our domestic dynamic. Advice I realized quickly cannot be provided in vaccuum. It is of limited value and cannot be applied as is to the situation at hand.

With the coming of DB into our household,  I now have the much desired second opinion  and I find myself feeling a myraid of less than positive emotions in reaction to anything he has to say on the subject of J. To my prejudiced ears, a lot of what DB says sounds straight out of parenting coaching manuals am prompt to reject it. Had he rasied any kids of his own, I would have felt different.

As with any offhand rejection there is more than a little bathwaterism involved in the process. On several occassions, DB draws from his own life experience - growing up without the kind of parental support and supervision he wanted, he has an unique vantage point. He knows what did not work for him as a child. I struggle to parse out of DB's commentary on my parenting style, anything that I can accept without prejudice, assign it the necessary importance and most importantly bring about the change in myself that would influence J's life positively. While I am not able to do that immediately, I find it easier to observe his interactions with J and compare the differences between how each of us operates. By observing J's reaction, I am sometimes able to find a flaw in my way.