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Showing posts from May, 2010

Changing Pace

This blog has been a big part of my life for the last five years. Besides giving me the opportunity to connect with a number of interesting people and share my thoughts and ideas with them, it has been a form of daily meditation for me. No matter what the day threw my way, I made a very deliberate effort to find a little quiet time to write.The process of thinking about what to write and then the act of writing itself worked as an antidote to aggravations big and small. Five and half years ago, when I started Heartcrossings both my personal and professional lives left a lot to be desired for. The only real happiness I had was in being J's mother. While that was often enough to make me forget what I did not have, I sorely needed a third place to call my own and shape in the likeness of my dreams. This blog has been where there were no limits or constraints and that was absolutely exhilarating - it is the reason I have been able to nurture it for as long and as much as I have. A lot h…

The Immortals

I tried to read Amit Chaudhuri's The Immortals and my head hurt from the sheer volume of confusion in the story. Maybe I don't know to read fiction anymore or maybe this is Chaudhuri trying to pull off a Rushdie on his readers. At any rate, the harder I tried to keep up with the ballooning cast of characters and the incoherent storyline the more resoundingly I failed. The last book I read by Chaudhuri was The Strange and Sublime Address. I don't recall being wowed but it was certainly not a difficult book to read. I was able to stay with the plot and the story flowed smoothly. Whatever it is that the author has attempted to do with The Immortals, it makes for impossible reading. Yet, the central theme of the story is a one that would draw a reader in - who wins the war between materialism and art. The characters are sketched deftly - it is easy to visualize Apurba Sengupta as the successful executive, Mallika, his wife as the woman who chooses to give up her art in order to…

Lean Kaizen Amulet

I had the fascinating experience of being part of a Lean/Kaizen event recently where the facilitator bulldozed a group of fifty people over the course of a week to create a workplan for a couple of months. The idea was for these folks to head off as five different teams to work in concert on delivering the first piece of functionality in a large, complex product. The traditional waterfall method of software delivery has fallen to as much discredit and ridicule as it has because there was nothing to show for the project team's efforts until the very end and the world could have changed completely by then. More often than not by when strategy and vision got translated to reality, it bore very little resemblance to what  the powers that be had in mind - not to mention that the market and competition had transformed enough to make the product obsolete. Then there was the whole business of scope bloat, cost and time overruns. Lean/Agile is supposed to fix all that and help teams to recov…

Maximum Pain Point

A few years ago, a marketing guy I worked with tried to explain to me how the theory of maximum pain applies in retail pricing. Being that both subject areas are largely unfamiliar to me, I was not able to appreciate the finer details of the explanation I was given but I came away with a rudimentary understanding of the concept.
If two parties are involved in any kind of transaction with one being the position to gain at the cost of the other's pain, there is a threshold beyond which increasing the pain to increase gain no longer works. For the would be gainer, it is important to know how far to go and when to stop so they can turn in the most profit. Even if how I interpreted what my co-worker told me completely wrong, I found good use for this potentially fallacious theory elsewhere. To that end, I believe the woes of employment based immigrants in America is  related to the notion of maximum pain. Depending on where your home country is you will have different levels of tolerance…

Relationship Stalemate

My friend K has been in the single and mingling state for a bit now. The last time we chatted, she told me about someone who was "at least 90%" right for her. Before I could get too excited about it she added "but it's not going anywhere - hasn't for months". When I asked her why so she explained she was also only 90% right for him and for this man that was not good enough. He refused to "settle" no matter how long it took him to find exactly what he was looking for. "So you are saying that he acknowledges that you are 90% of what he is looking for and yet that does not close the deal ?" I asked incredulously and K confirmed my understanding of the situation to be correct. As we talked some more, it turned out that the offending 10% that had put their relationship in stalemate mode and even threatened to end it had to do with the one thing that was non-negotiable for both of them . Whatever it was ( I thought it imprudent to probe for any…

Language Barrier

I couple who are friends of my parents are visiting their son and daughter-in-law in the US. The gentleman was kind enough to mail me a present for J that my parents had sent with him. One would imagine, it would be a fairly simple matter for me to call him and say thank you. I called the number from which he had called me when he first reached here and it was answered by a young woman with a distinct Bengali accent. Without further ado, I introduced myself in Bengali. Clearly, that was a very dumb move. The woman was grievously offended and asked "What did you say ?" in a decidedly rude tone of voice. I figured this was the daughter-in-law. Duly chastised, I reintroduced myself and in English this time and hoped for the best. At this point, the woman said "I don't know who you are" and hung up on me. She had not allowed me the opportunity to say that I was looking to speak to her father-in-law Mr D. There is no other way I know to reach him now. He won't k…

Terror Of Anonymity

An essay titled The End of Solitude by William Deresiewicz is one of my favorites. Each time I read it, there is something new to ponder over. I have blogged about certain themes he discusses in it. In my most recent reading, I found myself thinking about  Deresiewicz's analysis on how connectivity and creativity converge at the our modern desire for visibility at some level. "The great contemporary terror is anonymity". If you search someone's name online and nothing comes up, it is as if this person does not exist. Whether or not that is terrifying for the person being sought, it is certainty disquieting for the seeker. I find the author's characterization of MySpace particularly easy to relate to : "The MySpace page, with its shrieking typography and clamorous imagery, has replaced the journal and the letter as a way of creating and communicating one's sense of self. The suggestion is not only that such communication is to be made to the world at large…

Divafication

Waiting my turn at the community microwave at work a few days ago, I leafed through the pages of an old Newsweek. A line in an article on the pre-mature diva-fication of little girls made me pause. The author quotes a mother  : "My daughter is 8, and she's like, so into this stuff it's unbelievable," says Anna Solomon, a Brooklyn social worker. "From the clothes to the hair to the nails, school is like No. 10 on the list of priorities." No matter how hard you try to pin the blame on media and society at large , the problem clearly lies with the parent and not with the child who has placed education number 10 in their list of priorities.I know mothers who take their kinderg√§rtners out to get pedicures and manicure to say nothing of professional hair styling on a regular basis. The kids are not begging their parents for any of this. They are quite happy being kids. It is the parent that is not allowing them to do so. It seems that it is the vanity of the parents…

Flashback

Flashbacks are strangely inexplicable things. The memories of an incredibly difficult time from the past can come to me in the happiest of times for reasons I would never expect. Parallels that don't mean anything at all, can ruin a moment of joy. It takes a concerted effort to force myself from then to now, shake off the the weight of baggage I thought had been shed many years ago.

When this happened recently, I tried a slightly different approach than I have in the past. Instead of self-recrimination and regret for ruining now for then, I allowed myself to slide a little more into deja vu until I was able to find a place in the past where I had been similarly happy. It turned out to be a easier transition to make - suddenly the dread flashback was not a debilitating thing that could not be dealt with, instead it help me return to where I wanted to be - now.

Third Place

My mother taught me the importance of gratitude for what has been blessed with in life as early as I was able to appreciate what that meant. She has always been the kind of person that will confront their own negativity and not give up until they have overcome it. She is a source of energy that replenishes itself and gives generously to those who wish to draw form it.  Any time I am feeling low, I just need to call and talk to her for bit and I experience a world of difference. How she does this without draining her own reserves of strength and optimism, I don't know but it is something I have always depended on. J takes after my mother in temperament and it takes a lot to get her down. But when on occassion she does feel bummed out, it is well beyond my capacity to get her to snap out of it. As she grows older, I find her seeking refuge in books - she loves reading and reads voraciously. Sometimes, I might suggest a movie she may enjoy watching and that could be her escape too. It…

Prediction Snare

Predicting the future with data is usually considered a science unless stars or planets are involved in the mix and we are talking astrology. Art, science or something in between, the very idea of Facebook being able to predict from your on-line behavior who you might date a few weeks out is creepy. Facebook seems to have a complicated relationship with the user's data privacy to begin with and now this. The more I read about this stuff, the gladder I am to be and remain off the grid as far as social networking is concerned. Clearly, there are businesses that would love to see this model work for obvious reasons as the article points out : This kind of predictive capacity could be used for some pretty creepy targeted advertising opportunities: flower delivery, restaurant reservations, advice books, sexual products of various sorts

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid for J to read a couple of years ago, just after reading a few random pages from it. We both loved it - I got to read it only after J was done reading it about five times over. So when the book was made into a movie, J and I had to watch it. I liked the opening credits - it brought the book to life. The key characters were cast well enough. And that's about all that was to like about the movie for anyone who has read the book and came in with expectations. The film adaptation takes out the best parts of the story and replaces it with random stuff that is an unnecessary and it is unappealing. There was enough and excellent material in the book to make a movie so this slicing, dicing and splicing did not make a whole lot of sense.  What was appealing about this book to an adult reader was that the characters were entirely believable.Geoff Heffley is possessed of more pizazz, wit and intelligence than the average fifth grader, it makes sense when you conside…

Imagining India

Reading Nandan Nilekani's Imagining India is like have dinner at a lavish Indian wedding. Each course is tempting, rich and flavorful but with so much to choose from, even a diner with keenest appetite is unable to justice to the complete repast. Such was my experience with Nilekani's book. He covers an unbelievable amount of ground in a three hundred something page book and attempts to tackle the hydra headed monster that the task of understanding India is. There is historical perspective, the concerns of the present and the ideas that will shape the future. Nilekani's tone is pragmatic, empathetic and even keeled. He does not subscribe either to the India Shining rhetoric or any of the doomsday prophesying. In Nilekani's view, the truth lies somewhere in between those extreme world views and the purpose of Imagining India is to get the reader to think about the many variables and forces at play that will determine where that truth might end up being. Whether you are f…

The Lost Girls

Read this Interesting observation on why the more affluent and educated families in India are more likely to have fewer daughters. This is something I had heard anecdotally from a friend in India who is involved in the production of social awareness documentaries. Whereas he just stated it as a matter of fact, here is an explanation of the phenomenon :

..wealthier and more educated women face this same imperative to have boys as uneducated poor women — but they have smaller families, thus increasing the felt urgency of each birth. In a family that expects to have seven children, the birth of a girl is a disappointment; in a family that anticipates only two or three children, it is a tragedy.

The article mentions advertisement for ultrasound in India “pay 5,000 rupees today and save 500,000 rupees tomorrow.” that I don't recall ever having seen - but it is entirely possible that they exist. The argument is therefore development in a country with deep seated gender bias and discrimin…

Colored In Dress

Being able to color the fabric of your dress would be a gift for the artistically inclined. They can given free reign to their imagination and create something truly unique. The idea behind this is to allow women to match their party dress to their accessories, complexion, or even the occasion. A template with lighter outlines and more diversity in the textile coloring inks would give women even wider creative latitude.

The paint by numbers like this dress in this article while cute, is not likely to be nearly as satisfying. Being able to pick a dress, create the fabric and then color it would be as close to the ideal shopping experience as it gets for those who don't always like what they can pick off the shelf.

Chocolate and Boxes

Having been part of IT organizations in a diverse mix of American companies for close to ten years now, I have seen a representative sampling of the “benefits” of indiscriminate outsourcing, In my experience, the only shops who have their information technology act together are staffed almost entirely by local programming talent with most of them being full time employees rather than contractors. The contractors that these shops do have on board, tend to be senior level and expensive. Clearly, they are not participating in the race to the bottom economics that is the driver for most outsourcing decisions and are thriving despite that.

Most importantly, they have a workforce that enjoys the work they are doing, take pride in it, feel a strong sense of ownership of the work product and are happy to stay on with the company. For an outsider such as myself, the difference in project outcomes is quite remarkable. I always tell clients looking to add contract staff for a project that they wi…

Coveting

Having coveted diamonds in the past and an iPhone now, reading this Guardian story on how chemicals involved in the manufacture of the Apple devices makes me wonder about the nature coveting in general. To gratify the impulse of some, many must suffer untold miseries - blood diamonds or n-hexane iPhones, it is not that different in the end. Once you become aware of the what goes into creating the object of your desire, you have one of two ways to possess it - have it weigh on your conscience but feel incapable of resisting the urge to possess or agree to feel nonchalant about another's suffering and a little less human in the process. I remember feeling this way about wearing glass bangles in my teens. As much as I loved them, I could not in good conscience buy or wear them. Yet, I did own several dozen, brightly colored glass bangles, succumbed to occasional temptation to buy something that caught my fancy. It was always a difficult experience always wearing them. I did not submit…

Safe Place

This observation about the nature of blogosphere seems to explain why I have found it very hard to follow some of the better known blogs out there.  Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the blogosphere abhors a neutral and nonpartisan blog. For whatever reasons, cultural or historical, participants expect partisanship. They want to know if you’re with them or against them; the dedicated communities at various blogs can be pretty defensive of their space, and sometimes stream like lemmings through the aether to attack a blogger that they perceive as threatening. While the material in the blogs I try to follow is worth reading, the space in which the writing and the exchange of ideas is talking place, as the author points out is quite a hostile one. I find that the ambiance does not encourage me to return too often - I content myself with reading short excerpts of the posts via Google Reader. That way, I remain in safe, neutral ground and enjoy the content without the strident (and all too oft…

Seeing Change

Miss W was one of J's first care-givers at the daycare center when we moved here over five years ago. Day care was still a new idea for J at the time as she had spend most of her time at home with my parents. Miss W made the transition easier than anything I had dared to hope to for and we became good friends. J and I have attended Buddhist prayer meetings with her, had her over to our place for dinner, been over to hers for lunch. She introduced me to Japanese food I would have never known to try on my own. Her warm smile and the sparkle in her eyes were her most attractive features and they made her more than just another pretty young woman. J and I were ran into Miss W after nearly five years a few days ago. We were shopping at the same store. I kept looking at this woman with three kids in tow - she looked ever so familiar and yet I was not able to put a name to the face. When I finally connected it to W, I asked J to walk over and ask her if she was Miss W. And so she did and …

Captive Audience

Waiting in a car dealership for a couple of hours with a supremely bored eight year old in tow while your vehicle is being serviced is not fun. In fact, it is the farthest possible thing from fun. Add to that an advertised free WiFi connection that does not work and finally a TV tuned permanently to some kind of food channel. Everyone around me is trying not to look at the luscious  food porn that is streaming relentlessly in our range of vision. One woman is making an effort to have a conversation on her cell phone, another is trying to read (as are J and I). A couple of guys are latched to their laptops and iPhones but the food porn is well beyond our collective ability to resist. By when this woman reached the climactic stages of preparing eggs in a basket (a decadent recipe calling for eggs, shredded potato, butter, maple syrup, provolone cheese and prosciutto) we were all looking up to watch - nearly enraptured by the vision. This Frederick Kaufman essay discusses the remarkable pa…

Passage Of Time

It is interesting to listen to the non-work sidebar conversations that take place when a bunch of people arrive for a meeting before the organizer does. A few weeks ago, I caught a couple snippets as we waited for time to pass. One woman was telling her neighbor that ever since she got herself a smartphone - the device is no longer "just a phone". Her addiction to it is evident. She is typing away on it furiously at all times and when she is not, her eyes are glued on the screen checking stuff out completely indifferent to those around her. She went to to say she could not imagine life without it because it would be no different than missing a limb. When the iPhone was first released, a lot of people I know felt pretty passionately about it and were quick to get one for themselves but even they stopped short of likening it to a body part. Two guys compared the apps they had installed on their iPhones and the discussions were not unlike those between J and her buddies about wh…

Talking Perfection

A few months ago, I ran into a girl I went to high school with at the mall. I was amazed that she was even able to recognize me after all these years. Once she told me who she was, I was able to as well but would have not done so otherwise. Her son is a year younger than J and was there along with her husband. After introductions were made, we found a place to sit and chat while the husband watched the kids. She and I were acquaintances at best back then and the passage of time had certainly not done anything to either of us to be able to turn that to real friendship. Since she is plugged and connected via Facebook, Orkut and the like, she brought me up to speed on our former classmates - who lived and worked where, who they were married to, how many kids they had and more. We exchanged emails and phone number and promised to stay in touch. One evening, a few days ago she called me and I have to admit I was surprised. The status update had already happened - she knew my co-ordinates a…

Mother's Day

Each Mother's Day, J has made me a gift of some kind - usually a hand-made card and some objet d'art to accompany it. In her pre-school days, these productions were supervised and indeed orchestrated by the instructors at daycare - the importance of the day was impressed upon the kids and J never felt like she had quite done justice to the love she felt for me. To that end, I would receive many tokens of affection for a week preceding and days following Mother's Day. 
As much as I cherish them all and feel humbled to be loved as much as I am, I always thought it was particularly wrong to get children to feel like they had to do something to demonstrate their feelings for their mother (and father). J is now eight and a veteran of Mother's Day gift making and gift giving. Even with all that experience she is never sure she is able to translate her feelings well and that leaves her somewhat anxious and disappointed. When I tell her, all I need is a big hug, she is not conv…

Gravy Train

One of the most commonplace workplace complaints is about A doing the work B is too lazy, incompetent, unwilling or some combination thereof to do. It would be tolerable if it ended at that even if A was not officially expected to do any of this and instead B was. But rarely if ever is the story that simple. Someone higher up (C) that both A and B report to will make it seem it it was really A's job to begin with and that B was expected merely to provide direction and commentary. B's deficiencies end up working as their advantage.
In effect, C is implying that B is supervising A's work. The ineffective and incompetent peer is being at least symbolically promoted over the deserving one. Unless A challenges this narrative and refuses to have reality spoken out loud and acknowledged, that becomes the official version. In six months, B will get promoted over A for having provided leadership. The obvious irony of the situation would have escaped everyone except A.
I used to ima…

Being Free

It starts with seeing a face, a certain light of smile and a tenor of voice that speaks of an inexplicable, unknown connection. It is an attraction strong enough to overcome that inner voice of caution that urges you to resist, to desist. You feel it the first time and every time.This is a charge that does not fade over time, it only grows stronger. This person is not your type in more ways than you can count. It is the relationship you get into fully prepared to be hurt and also know it will lead absolutely nowhere.

And yet, against your better judgment you allow your heart and soul into it, sometime rushing headlong in a state of euphoria or slowly, dreamlike almost unaware of what is happening to you. The magic lasts for a while and then suddenly the spell is broken, you begin to hurt past the threshold of pain. Your preparedness for disappointment is not nearly enough for what comes when the end comes as it inevitably must. You remain in denial as you try to cope, regain the life y…

Twitdress

I have no idea who Imogen Heap is but she is definitely with the program as far as her Twitter-savvy. A Twitdress that streams tweets in real-time to her dress."images tweeted with the hashtag #twitdress supposedly appeared in real-time on a small screen she was wearing." Having then displayed on the dress itself would have wowed people a lot more but Heap deserves kudos just for the concept.
The Mobile Behavior article says "Not only is this an instance of the "Internet of Things" i.e. connecting an object to the web, it's a great example of portable technology being used to connect people and share experiences in real-time." This is the kind of technology that makes room for those who are creative and artistic though not necessarily geeks - creating fertile ground for unusual ideas to germinate and thrive.

In the past, it was not nearly as simple to be creative and a geek at the same time. The opportunities to bring the two inherently different facul…

Lost Wallets

Lost wallets are apparently their own literary genre - according this Slate article. The author has an interesting hypothesis on why stories such as this have come to prominence in the age of the web :
In the past, these kinds of oddities occasionally became national news, but they generally stayed local and were eventually forgotten. Within the cloistered little villages of local media, every return of a long-lost wallet could stand unchallenged as a breathtakingly singular event. But in age of the Web, these lesser miracles are now aggregated, archived, and searchable. With a little persistence, you can spend a whole afternoon reading long-lost-wallet stories. But the more long-lost-wallet stories you read—the further your perspective zooms out from that of the people actually living them—the more you see the themes and details repeating themselves.
An otherwise odd or trivial things when aggregated, archived and rendered searchable become imbued with significance that is quite differ…

Data Grab

J and her friend B had a Build A Bear gift card each to redeem so us moms took them over to the store the first Saturday after the holiday season when the weather was nice. This was my first time at Build A Bear and I came away fascinated by the experience. The idea is customers will pay for the experience and the stage craft of the store and return for more. The hooks and inducements certainly seemed to be doing the trick. There are many repeat customers and first timers are certainly tempted to return. You select the "bear" you want to build, take it to the stuffing station and have it stuffed to your liking (soft or firm or in-between) but the neatest trick is the heart you get to thrown into it for free with a cute wish making ceremony that appeared to be hit with the girls. You wash the bear, outfit it , get a birth certificate made and check out. The birth certificate stage is the data collection point - a kid could virtually give all their demographic data away in less…

Creating Memories

There are special memories from childhood and youth that I want to share with J but cannot translate their signifance for me to her. For instance, there was the time when I first heard the song Jodi Kichu Amare Shudhao by Debabrata Biswas and a long time after than when I first understood the lyrics. So many ways and reasons to love the same piece of music. 

When I play that song for J, she grows wisful for reasons she cannot understand or explain yet. "Sometimes I feel that way when I listen to beautiful music" she says. It is how I used to feel once and still do. That and other music will mean entirely different things to us, evoke entirely different memories ten or twenty years out. It makes me happy to know that some of them will be the ones we made together - mother and child.

Escape Hatch

Instead of drinking, binging or shopping Sheila found a full season DVD set of Gossip Girl, ideal for shutting her brain down for several hours. The characters and their convoluted lives served as the perfect escape. A bowl of strawberry yogurt with fresh blueberries and chopped walnuts was Sheila's version of the large tub of ice-cream that often keeps solitary movie watchers company. She wondered what about this series made it perfect for tuning out of her own life for a bit. 

As much as she wanted to get over MJ, it was still easier for her to brood over him than not, obsess instead of let go. She had said to Vibha one day "If you have this kind of connection with someone, it feels easier to hack off a limb than let go of it". Many characters in Gossip Girl seemed to have a problem like her and suffered for it. While nothing else about the series remotely resembled her own life, the off and on relationship she and MJ had shared for years became easier to understand thr…

Getting Desis

Every once in a while an non-desi co-worker has asked me to corroborate something they had heard from another desi. The matter in question more often than not has to do with desi culture, Hinduism (which is frequently referred to as the Hindi religion whereas the language Hindi is called Hindu) and of course the perennial favorites - curry, bindi, caste system, dowry and arranged marriages.

In the early days, I would be bewildered when called upon to opine on matters that until that minute I had no opinion on. Depending on their source and the particular ax the desi in question had to grind, their information ranged from incomplete to incorrect to decidedly bizarre. So I would take it upon myself to set the record straight to the best of my ability and the reaction would  range between surprise and suspicion. For the most part, I was concerned about my professional credibility and did not want my views on say the meaning of Karma to imperil that because it was at complete odds with wha…