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Showing posts from October, 2005

Uber Premium

Reading about uber-premium makes me think of certain interesting niches. Consider for instance that a villager in the Indus Valley region comes upon some ancient seeds of cotton from the time of the Harappan civilization. That she germinates them and harvests cotton. That yarn is spun by hand, dyed using rare Himalayan flowers and woven in handloom and the fabric is sewn entirely by hand -embellished only by a dozen natural pearl buttons.Now that could easily cost an arm and leg and by the most exacting standards qualify to be uber-premium. I also think about the long string of brokers who would come between the first flush of an idea and the finished product itself. About how the actual makers of uber-premium consumables would remain uber-penurious - unable to afford anything more exclusive than cheap synthetic hand-me-downs from better-heeled city dwellers.

Dream Vending Machine

I am rarely near a vending machine - the choices leave me with a feeling of scarcity amidst plenty. The rare occasions that I have had a snack attack I have studied my choices for several minutes and left empty-handed and hungrier. The pizza vending machine seems like a good deal to me. My wish list would include a variety of vegetable toppings, whole wheat pizza base and of course low fat cheese. It could then be an indulgence without the guilt.
If the machine could vend paninis and gyro sandwiches it would not hurt at all. A cream cheese Danish or a baklava for dessert should not be hard. That's the thing with easy availability - one starts with the best intent and ends up being needlessly decadent. On second thoughts, I probably like the current vending machine technology - it keeps me from harm and gratuitous calories.

Shower Time

For the faucet operation challenged like me, changing colors to indicate water temperature is the perfect solution. Add to that some dermal display to get caught up on work, check vital signs and news around the world and the morning shower experience will become quite unlike anything it is today.For those of us who can't wait to get out of the toilet to check our mail and such help is already at hand.

The Science Of Being Stared At

You can tell when you're being stared at is a self-evident fact to me. I was not aware of any scientific basis for it. I love Rupert Sheldrake's position on skepticism in scientific discovery. He says :

"There are several different kinds of skeptics. Some have a healthy skepticism which involves questioning new ideas, looking critically at evidence, but includes an open-mindedness and willingness to accept new ideas or evidence if the case is persuasive. I have no problem with skeptics of this kind, and this healthy skepticism is an essential part of scientific discovery. However, there is another kind of skeptic, the dogmatic skeptic or scientific fundamentalist, who is more concerned to defend a materialist ideology than to pursue scientific inquiry in an open-minded manner.Such skeptics tend to oppose the kind of research I'm doing on principle, on the grounds that these questions should not be asked in a scientific way, and that subjects like the sense of being sta…

Data Guardian Angel

Tech support folk sometimes give up in despair over unexplained PC glitches. Now there is a guardian angel to the rescue. It is analogous to a child who breaks apart a favorite toy and turns petulant because she does not know how to put it back together. The parent is supposed to turn it magically whole. The child reposes absolute faith in their ability to do so.

Maybe we've gone so far with technology that it's complexity overwhelms us. We would rather have God save us from harm. With the USB angel science and faith have converged far less contentiously than the intelligent design versus evolution debate.

Coerced Appreciation

The director at J's daycare had organized a teacher appreciation day today. About two weeks ago I saw a sign-up sheet pasted to the door of J's class requesting parents to bring in some food for a teacher's luncheon. It remained pristine and unsigned for a week. She then set it at the front desk where parents clock in and out. Nothing changed. Two days ago, Ms P was on the edge of despair. She accosted parents on their way in and out and cajoled them to sign up to bring in something.

Yesterday was my turn. There were quite a few names and a variety of food as well - there was clearly no need for more. She seemed determined not to let anyone off the hook. I was running late for work already and would have said anything to be able to leave. I had committed to mashed potatoes and forgot all about it as soon as I was out the door. This morning, I showed up empty handed. There was silent reproach, but no questions were asked.

On the way to work I wondered if Ms P had not come out…

Underage Consumers

This article about toddlers bring turned into avaricious consumers is downright scary.
"... rising incidence of mental illness among the young, with anxiety and depression linked to the pressure to buy, to own, to consume. The data shows today's children are unhappier than any generation of the postwar era."
As a village that it takes to raise a child, we have collectively failed and worse robbed our children of their fundamental right to a carefree, uncomplicated childhood.
"Can we really protect children from consumerism run wild without changing the way the rest of us live? Is this a problem of the young - or a problem for all of us?"

Starting At Magnum Opus

I haven't read anything else by Yann Martel after Life of Pi. When younger, I could not distinguish Margaret Mitchell from Gone With The Wind or James Hilton from The Lost Horizon - it is much the same with Pi and Martel. Reading about Life After Pi is naturally interesting, but I doubt if I will want to associate Yann Martel with anything other than Pi. It would almost deface his identity not to mention the memories of a very beautiful story.

Authors who are not overpowered by their work - and specially by their debut are lucky in a way. They get opportunities to reinvent themselves, open up new and mysterious worlds to their readers time after time. Some writers who have made me want to read more of their work include John Irving, Milan Kundera and A.S. Byatt.

As much as I have enjoyed reading any one of their books, I have always felt the best is yet to come and even it hasn't ,it has not been any disappointment. I am happy to wait for more because I am enraptured by Kundera …

Well Reasoned Endings

Quite a few people in my acquaintance are amicably divorced and keep in touch with the ex's extended family and friends. I have to agree among others things it makes good business sense. There are obviously practical benefits in not taking things to a bitter, expensive and ugly end just because two people cannot remain married. The lessons learnt from mistakes of the older generation are invaluable too - something that people of my social and cultural milieu are largely bereft of. Divorces were almost unknown in our parents' generation - we have no role models positive or negative to base our decisions on. I am always impressed by a divorced couple that remains good friends and yet have completely independent lives.

The children continue to have the approximate cocoon of what their real home would have been. Two people who were once in love would not regret the wasted years quite as much if there was atleast friendship left. Everyone wins a little.

Loving Strangers

Reading "Unclaimed" by Seth after a long time, got me thinking how he would eulogize the day after - when strangers part in body and spirit after their torrid encounter ?
How would he describe the immense emptiness that follows from making love without being in love. When after innumerable "strangers" faces, voices and personalities fade to oblivion despite two bodies having known each other so intimately - even if briefly.
While beautifully written, I can't agree with Seth's premise. Then there is the more utilitarian, prosaic world view from those who have been there and done that. Unclaimed - Vikram Seth

To make love with a stranger is the best.
There is no riddle and there is no test. --

To lie and love, not aching to make sense
Of this night in the mesh of reference.

To touch, unclaimed by fear of imminent day,
And understand, as only strangers may.

To feel the beat of foreign heart to heart
Preferring neither to prolong nor part.

To rest within the unknown arms …

Disposable Dolly

J has had a doll she named "Junie" for over a year now. The doll is of indeterminate sex and I have to watch my step before I refer to Junie as he or she, because J will almost always disagree and chide me for making a mistake so fundamental. I cannot refer to Junie as a doll because J will point out "Junie is a person, not a doll"The USP of this doll was in that it would cry "Mamma, Mamma" and when presented with a bottle of milk that came with it, the crying would stop. J's mothering of Junie has ranged from solicitous to lackadaisical depending on what else is on her horizon. For the most part Junie is dressed appropriate for the season and lies in her crib next to J's bed. I have often wondered if J's treatment of Junie is a reflection of my mothering.

Recently, the battery that made Junie cry died. The way the doll is designed, the battery cannot be replaced. Now, J is someone who is always in a rush to put things into trash. I have recent…

Card Stacking And Sand Mandalas

Seeing the galleries of this incredible cardstacker took me back to my own childhood. Though nowhere near this scale, card stacking was my favorite afternoon activity during vacations. I had just two stacks to work with.I remembered how my back felt sore from my exertions, how I would sweat in the fan-less heat of Indian summer, how I lost track of time, how my mind was completely focused on keeping the hundred and four cards in precarious balance through the end. Most of all the feeling of immense satisfaction in having built my house of cards that could tumbling down any moment.Card stacking became a leitmotifof my life. It was the same kind of energy I expended into my marriage trying to perfect what was inherently flawed. I would not give up until I had my brief moment of glory before the calamitous end as is the fate of every house of cards. Card stacking literally at first and figuratively later is the closest I have come to sand mandala painting - a concept I deeply admire.

Decking Out Barbie

My manager wants me to do a cost benefit analysis of five or six content management products that work with Vignette (yes, they sold us this rather expensive little Barbie and now want to talk us into some nifty scuba-gear for her as well aka the Vignette Content Management solution) The business users are whining en-masse about all that they cannot do because of us retards in IT even as we scramble to pick the right tool.

There are tons of open-source products out there that would serve our purpose equally well and save us a neat pile of money to boot. The techie on my team has done good amount of legwork and narrowed to the field to about ten products.

Reading around this afternoon , I ran into something Philip Greenspun had written in 1997 which is still a fair summary of our gripes with Vignette. My experience dealing with their technical support was "surreal" too.

"Vignette's StoryServer product does not do any of the things that their marketing literature claims …

Disgruntled Patients

When it comes to selecting a pediatrician for J, I ask around for a while and go with whoever gets the maximum votes. When I relocated the last time around, the daycare needed a physical on file immediately and I had to cut corners on my "reputation research". Anyone who knows me knows how her doctor's negligence resulted in J getting delirious with a 105 degree fever that refused to come down with medication. To say I was panic-stricken would be an understatement. Needless to say I am in the market for a new pediatrician.I could have easily vented my anger on-line like many others and think it's unfair that those voices should be silenced by law. Bad news can find a lot of other ways to travel, people will just get more creative about getting the word out. Reputation is the stock in trade of any self-employed professional. There is no reason why doctors should be shielded by law to preserve theirs.

Inorganic Woman

Taking the "very beautiful and very dumb" paradigm that is the stuff of "ideal wife material" to some men to its extreme possibly yields the real doll

The article is enough to make the skin crawl but that is nothing compared to the images of the inorganic objects of love and lust. There is however some merit in the argument that

... if Real Dolls were cheap and accessible to Everyman, they would be championed: "then practically every guy in the USA would want and get one for his 18th birthday. It would then suddenly be considered a 'healthy' part of one's 'normal' sexual development. Adolescent psychologists would be recommending them, anti-abortion groups would be saying that they were a wonderful way to prevent unwanted pregnancies that had to be aborted, and the law enforcement experts would claim that they would drastically cut down on sex crimes."

Between Boondocked And Bangalored

My friend A, has an MBA from a decent Indian business school, worked in string of Fortune 100 companies until one day he decided on a career change. Given his line of work, he could get easily outsourced and has been in the past. He reasoned therefore that he needed to get into a profession that was geographically bound and therefore cannot be globally traded.

A is now a trained and licensed heavy equipment operator and works in an oil rig in Alberta. The money he makes overtime and all is equal or more than what he made on his desk job as a business analyst. He feels comforted knowing that he cannot be Bangalored anytime soon. Last we spoke, he sounded excited about his life changing decision despite the nine hour drive into "real" civilization.

There is a little problem though. A is looking to date and mate. Given the nature of his work and his physical location the chances of meeting up anyone are negligible. He is therefore online. Most Indian girls of his social milieu ca…

Poetry At Work

The power of poetry in the workplace is a persuasive argument. A reasoning is similar to how taking dance lessons as a child gives one a graceful gait even into adulthood - the aim is not to be a dancer but to be graceful. Likewise, the love of poetry is a thing of the early, impressionable years that stays for life.

Making a poetry lover of an "untuned" adult could be difficult but not impossible. Any non-dancer who has signed up for Salsa lessons in their thirties would appreciate the seriousness of the challenge. Just like greater physical grace , higher emotional intelligence could never hurt.

I look forward to the time when CXOs consider reading Neruda, Eliot and Yeats de-rigueur when they address the troops. The workplace will becoming infinitely more interesting not to mention humane. Until then there is business-ese.

A Year Later

Every once in a very long while, I organize my bookmarks. Earlier this evening I did and stopped by at Malhar's online album wondering if there any reason to hang on this relic from the past - we broke up exactly a year ago.
Saw some new pictures there. He is married. Nothing remarkable about that. When we met he was more than ready for marriage until he got cold feet at the eleventh hour. Suddenly I was no longer the woman he could not live or breathe without. I was no longer called in the middle of the night because I was missed, or send flowers to "just because".

I was just this "wonderful person" he had met and cherished every moment of our short time together - every last e-mail, phone conversation, the sound of my laughter, the feel of my skin. When we made love, he said he felt loved and wanted like he had not since the early years of dating Shivani - the woman he married later. She was his first love and possibly the deepest ever. I made him feel like he …

Desert Island

Back in the day people were limited even in what they imagined they could bring with them to a desert island - a tiny fraction of their most beloved music and literature made it to the list. In the future, we should be able carry every last thing we read, heard and watched in our lives in our souped-up cell phones. Armed with a cellular and a hand-crank cell phone charger one could in theory be as connected on the island as in the biggest metropolis while food was at hand. Desert islands of the future will obviate the need for selectivity, we will likely be less consumed by thoughts of that one book or one piece of music that we can't live without. In that things of the most spectacular beauty will appear less so in our eyes - they would just mingle with mediocrity to form a larger aggregate of pleasantness.

Meeting Of Messengers

While interoperability in itself is great stuff, as a consumer of the Yahoo product, I can't say I am too excited about the MSN and YM hook up.

You like one or the other and if a lot of the people you want to instant message with use IM-ware what you don't you either pick a new crowd to hang out and chat with or switch your IM software - depending on what you are less passionate about.

In either event the coming together of Microsoft and Yahoo over a problem so trivial does not bode well for the end-user. I would hate to see YM loose any of its character and worse acquire a pronounced MS vibe. That would be such a shame.

If in time all IM software turned interoperable, that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Push a product into the market to best the competition, don't spend any time to develop standards within the industry. Realize a few years later that your product and the bested competitor's product could both benefit form talking to each other.Return to the blackboard…

Bird Scream

Apparently, we are making nightingales sing at higher decibels to be heard by their mates over the din of the city. Maybe with time, they will have to adapt their repertoire of verses to be more city-friendly - nightingale rap maybe. There is something desperately tragic about a bird's singing having potential to cause hearing loss. Any pre-industrial age poet who waxed eloquent on the nightingale's songs would turn in his grave to know what the minstrel bird has been reduced to. A generation that grows up to bird-scream instead of bird-song has got to be singularly unfortunate.

Two Questions

J's current fascination is around two questions "What is X made of ?" and "What does X come from ?" where X could be a carton of milk, a bag of candy, Mommy, her friend, a house, a tree, broccoli, her hand, the rain - it is not exactly a finite universe. What is broccoli made of ?I haven't the least idea. It is not something I have ever thought of I guess. However, since J has and there shall be no peace in the household until I get her some semblance of an answer, I Google the question. Nothing turns up that will satisfy J. I tell her about the nutrients in broccoli and why it's good for her. She has a whole host of questions about those facts now. Again I am stumped. J's line of questioning will change based on my response and will typically drill down to more detail. I always start off saying "Mommy does not know, but she will try to find out". I find myself reading up about things that did not interest or concern me until J made it her…

Gated In Bangalore

The media often carries stories of the returned native and their gated community lifestyle in Bangalore and elsewhere in India. The more I read about the perspectives of the individuals who have made this choice, the more confused I get. While moving back to India at this time makes perfect sense from a career growth perspective, every other aspect of the "return to India" deal seems fraught with angst and confusion.

To begin with, the ideal of being close to ones roots and having children immerse in one's own culture is severely compromised by choosing to breathe in the rarefied atmosphere of an NRI enclave. When parents persist in celebrating Halloween and the like in India, they confound the problem manifold. Needless to say, the locals would be totally out of their depth. Presumably then, social interactions would need be limited to the similarly foreign returned with total years spent in the US, citizenship status of family members and the like forming key indicators…

Without Bending Back

My friend E is fifty, recently downsized, without any meaningful medical insurance coverage and a herniated vertebrae. The catch-22 situation at hand is that she needs to get her back functional so she can get a job and work at it forty hours a week as she would need to so she stays out of debt.

However, without a job and a medical insurance that is more than window dressing she cannot get her back fixed. I hope for a miracle to happen so the situation remedies itself magically - that she has work and a working back to be able to sustain it. I worry for her.

It is the irony of fate that in the same space and time as E, there are those who would like to star-gaze without having to bend back to do so. There is help at hand for them but none for E.

Floating Homes

When you can't fight nature, get a home that floats in water and rises with the tide. The homes look beautiful and the technology is quite amazing - maybe the costs will be too. I don't foresee arks of floating homes dot the third world coasts that get pounded by hurricanes, typhoons and the like so routinely that it is no longer newsworthy.

With due respect to the architectural smarts that goes into the creation of stuff like this, the solution is reminiscent of ad-hoc patches that product companies dole out grudgingly for software they no longer support. You fix the symptoms the best you can, wait for your customers to whine en-masse when something else breaks, scotch-tape it and so on. You no longer have the resources to go after root cause analysis.

It is the same with the increasingly feral intensity of natural disasters. While generally attributed to global warming, the powers that be would rather not remedy that and attempt to assuage nature but tempt her with more arroga…

Business Trips With Kids

It makes so much sense to be able to take children on business trips

The article does not pay any attention to the key premise in being able to do so - a grandparent who is able and willing to accompany the parent on the trip and baby-sit while they are at work.

The only alternative that comes to mind is professional baby sitting services that cater specifically to the road-warrior parents of young children. It would take some special skills to bond with an unknown child instantaneously and keep them suitably engaged for hours after that.

The child is likely to feel nervous and unhappy the first few times but will eventually accept this as a repeatable pattern in their lives even if somewhat at variance with their regular daycare experience.

Blocked Reader

Non paying readers are now blocked out at NYT's Times Select. For years we have been faithful readers but loyalty alone does not make you welcome anymore. I miss my Sunday morning fix of the Op-ed. As much as I am dying to know Maureen Dowd's take on the President's women, I am not convinced that subscribing to NYT is the best way.There are many other popular publications that are of interest and similarly behind a payment wall. There is scope for aggregation with the ability for individuals to select a combination that works for them. A model similar to buying music online - you pay only for the songs that you care about and not entire albums.

Isn't it as much columnist's loss that they will now be read by a small fraction of their readership ? Their loss will likely be a blogger's gain - someone equally astute and willing to provide intelligent commentary for free.

Miswanting

I am acquainted with the feeling only too well, just did not know the word that described it - miswanting (Desiring something that one erroneously believes will make one happy)

I have indulged in affective forecasting too - preparing emotionally for a relationship to break up when the signs started to line up. Wanting to depart with grace and without amorphous debris. Yet, time after time ends have taken me by surprise and I wished I had instead etched in memory the beautiful beginnings.

First Day by Christina Rossetti
I wish I could remember the first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me;
If bright or dim the season it might be;
Summer or winter for aught I can say.
So, unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom, yet, for many a May.

If only I could recollect it! Such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow.
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much!
If only now I c…

Collaborating On Verbiage

I could really use the Writeboard. I am nearing the twilight zone of the technical track of my career. Have been there for ten years now, learnt mostly from observation and less from application. Back in the day I was excited to apply now I couldn't care less about the latest killer-app.

That said, I am finding it harder to get the words just right when I report out to management. They don't want to be dragged through the weeds and yet need to know the key specifics.

I always have someone technical proof read what I write. Depending on the problem at hand techies of various persuasion may be required until I get the verbiage straight. A couple of business analysts could get in the mix pretty quickly.

It's a lot of everyone's time wasted. If I could post my draft out there and invite a bunch of folks to review it. I would be done a lot faster and a lot better. Maybe we will all learn a few things along the way.

Godless Societies

Not a big fan or organized religion or religious rituals myself, I squirm in the presence of orthodox religionists of any stripe. Sometimes, I have felt irrational fear as well. A Times article on religious states and dysfunctional societies provides the rationale for my fears.

Maybe I am spiritually challenged, but a simple prayer I learnt while in kindergarten has been good enough for me. Around the same time I was taught to work hard, to be grateful for all that I have and to be a good human being. I have in time learnt to be grateful for all that I do not have as well and that being good does not have to equal being a doormat. Never have I doubted the virtues of hard work.

There is a simplicity about my primitive world view that I am reluctant to trade for more sophisticated philosophical discourse - it would be an overkill for me.

Designer Toilet Paper

Conspicuous consumerism takes on a whole new meaning with designer toilet paper. Totally loved the comments on Gizmodo's post on black toilet paper

Turns out that the bringing imagination and innovation to bear on TP is not altogether novel or even new - and there is such a thing as the "Just Married" style

It would be a Miss Manners question if TP even if monogrammed in gold lettering is considered an appropriate gift or a Tasteless Present for a gracious hostess who has everything that money could buy.