Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Healthy 2014

Okay so here we are at the brink of another year and another 365 days of monotony. Yawn. 2013 is gone. Welcome 2014. Make me older, make me more cynical.

Well, well jokes apart – this is the year everyone of us should keep a resolution. With spiralling healthcare costs in most countries, by the time my generation is senile (okay just too old), it would be just impossible to bear the costs of maintaining our well being. If there is something we can do now is – eat well, sleep well, be well. Yeah so here I am wishing for everyone a very healthy, active and fit 2014. We will all be in the pink of our health while welcoming 2015.

Monday, December 16, 2013


I belong to the older generation of people who still use a notepad to write down their action items (To-do lists) and then strike the items out once they are done. I tried a lot of web-based and mobile-based alternatives, but none can give me the satisfaction (or the pleasure) of physically striking out an item off the list once it is done.

Now, most of my weekends start with me writing down a huge-list of action items for the weekend and then when Sunday night comes, more than half of them are not done (there is a reason why I call myself the God of procrastination). Maybe that’s what makes me grumpy on Sunday nights.

Long time ago I had read this story of an old woman, who sits down to write a small little mail (yeah postal mail) to her grandson, and ends up taking the entire day cause that’s the only thing that she had planned for the day. The moral of the story was – work expands to take over all the time that you have.

However, I generally face a different ordeal. Small and easy things on my list I end up doing. The boring difficult ones keep getting postponed till I hit a day on which I have no option but to do them.

The To-do List

This weekend however was a surprisingly satisfying one. I ended up almost finishing my entire To-do list (yeah the most difficult item on the list was done from 2300 to 0130 on the Sunday night!). Ha, the sweet smell of success. Thought I put up a blog post to celebrate this achievement.

Anyway, I am toying with following the pomodoro technique of time management. Let’s see how it goes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lazy Training

Gyms in general and exercising in particular is a very boring and tiring activity for me. So much so that, I have managed to be a lazy bum most of my life (and I continue to do so!). Recently however, I used guanxi (with my German ex-boss) and managed to get 12 sessions of free training on a rather new kind of training regime.

So what do I mean by it’s a new kind of gym? Well to begin with – their are no weights. There is cardio equipment (like bikes, elliptical machines and tread mills) and then there is this small little device called the NMES. It’s amazing to note that NMES has been around for more than 40 years but has rarely been used outside the realms of professional sports.

A typical session consists of me gearing up in a specially designed suite that plugs into the NMES device followed by 20 minutes of floor based or cardio exercises directed by an instructor. That’s all it is. I could be in and out of the gym in less than 40 mins (yeah changing, exercising, showering – the whole nine-yards). And in those 40 mins I could burn well over 300 calories along with a nice feeling of my muscles having worked out.

PowerZeit NMES Training

So what does NMES actually do? Well like the name says – it’s neuromuscular electrical stimulation. So the NMES device makes my muscles workout the same way my body would have if I was actually doing strength training. But the cool part is – in strength training, we are only engaging targeted groups of muscles at a time. But with NMES, its possible to strengthen a bigger set of muscles at a higher intensity and in a shorter time.

So, do I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (yeah I had to Google his last name to get it right) now? Nope. But well, to be frank (and truthful) I tried quite a bit of strength training long long ago (in 2008) and what I could achieve after 3 months of dedicated strength training, I could go to the same level in less than 6 sessions! And then it seems a safer option than lifting weights wrongly and injuring yourself. And for busy (a.k.a lazy) people like me, 20 minutes of workout is easier motivation 2 times a week!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Chope Inefficiency

People in Singapore food courts generally follow a practice of holding their seats before going to buy food. In the local lingo it’s called to “Chope” seats. Now, over the last several years, I have perfected the art of chope-ing as well.

Unfortunately, I ended up being at this very popular food court the other day where people were much more efficient at the game than I ever was. I ended up waiting for more than 30 minutes just to get a seat to park my bum, before I even went to a food stall to get my food.

That’s when my empty mind, realized the extreme inefficiency of this practice. If I am a hotelier, one of my key KPIs is – table-turnaround time. In layman’s terms – it’s just the number of tables (and subsequently people) that I can serve in a given unit of time. This KPI includes the time required to take orders, serve, clean table and then get the next set of people in. If you wish to see this efficiency – go see an Udupi restaurant in India or a Ramen place in Singpaore.

Now when you chope a seat, you are effectively keeping the table empty (which could have been occupied by someone else while you were ordering your food. If you order from good stalls, on an average it takes 10+ minutes to get your food. And during lunch times, people eat for approx 15+ minutes anyway. So almost 2/3 of the turnaround time of an average lunch time patron is wasted because of the chope! If we stop this practice, the number of people eating at a seat can go up from approx. 2 an hour to 4 an hour? (Yeah my math may be way wrong out there! But I hope you get the concept!). So next time you go eat, don’t chope, just order and then take your food and scout for a place. You will be doing the food court a great service!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tradeshow booth

After having spent more than 20 “Business Days” in a year (almost a business month to be precise) manning tradeshow booths, now I have become a self-proclaimed expert at Tradeshow Booth Management (TBM). Before I start charging you guys for opening my mouth, I thought I give you all a free preview of what to expect (after all, you guys are my loyal audience!).

So what exactly is a Tradeshow?

Officially – Tradeshows are events to put the customers and suppliers in the same location so that meaningful conversations evolve naturally and you have a better prospect at forming business relationships. I know, I just made that up – but well – that is the spirit of a Tradeshow anyway.

Unofficially – It’s an event where bargain hunters and senior people with lots of free time on their hand come looking for well-made goodies and free gifts to collect from all the booths out there and eat good food. Rest of the time, try to catch up on some winks here and there in the conferences or pretend to be working hard while checking your Facebook. If nothing else, then it’s a place to court your potential employers and look for industry connections who can introduce you to those.

Now for some background. Presently I sorta earn my living by telling people how great is analytics and how everything will change the moment they start analysing stuff in their organization. I am mighty impressed by what I sell and most of the times, I do sound and am completely genuine. But, I am not pretty, handsome, attractive or anything that can make someone stop and notice me. Mediocre at best and with a smile that can even cause me problems at the remotest of places, I do not exactly qualify as a “booth” candidate.

Though my company invests in attractive goodies and we have a brightly colored (read tempting) goodie bag I only encounter goodie-bag seeking tradeshow delegates approaching me. The true “potential” customers either shy away or are too busy in pretending they are busy and not interested. So all day (and sometimes all night) I stand there waiting for the perfect customers to come, only to give away goodie bags to cheapskates.

Here is my advise to companies buying booths in Tradeshows:

  1. Don’t waste your money and your employee’s time. You might as well treat them to a spa. At least they will be happy
  2. If you still plan to waste your money, then put a good looking (read – beautiful or handsome) employee who will attract hoards of people by their killer looks
  3. Prominently display your goodies, but have a strict policy on giving it to only those people who are ready to listen to your boring 20 minute Powerpoint presentation on how amazing your product and your company is. The goodies should be “earned” not given away!

And why am I writing this? I just spent an entire day grinning into the void and listening to an irritating jingle coming from a booth next to me. Now I can’t freaking get the tune outta my mind. To top it all, my legs and back hurts because of standing in a suite for 10 hours doing absolutely nothing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Urban Forest

For over the last 5 months I have been using this device to consciously track my steps, the floors I climb and my sleep. It serves as a constant reminder of how lazy I generally am and encourages me to get my daily dose of 10K steps and 10 floors. I know it is just a glorified (read expensive!) pedometer.

Now doing 10K a day requires moderate effort like taking occasional casual walks during lunch and late in the night. However, what amazes me is – Singapore as a country is so vertical that doing 10 floors a day is absolutely effortless. Most of the times, my first 10 floors of the day are done even before I reach my office just because of the maze of stairs that I have to climb to go the train station and then change trains at the interchange and finally walk down to office.

Never before in my life do I distinctly remember having so many places that I had the option to take stairs. It is truly amazing to see how built-up this little island is and how vertical spaces have been used!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Got myself a new pair of swimming goggles. It is sort of an annual event. Whether I swim or not during the year, I always buy a new pair. However, the kind of goggles that I buy, over the period of several weeks, become increasingly foggy till one point of time I am swimming blind with goggles on my eyes. So they only serve the purpose of protecting my eyes partially from the chlorinated water.

Anyway, the new goggles now clearly show me what I actually swim in. Swimming pool waters seem to have the most disgusting things floating around. Besides all kinds of human excretions there are dead insects, band-aids and other kinda filthy objects – the less said the better.

With the new goggles now, I can clearly see where I am going and what I am headed into. This slows me down tremendously as I try to dodge, avoid or turn course to keep me away from it. Now frankly speaking, it’s the same water I have swam in for the past several years. The only thing that has changed is my vision of the reality.

This is sort of analogous to what happens to me in real life. When I have clarity of thought and a very good idea of what is gonna happen to me in the future, I am scared, and I slow down in my pursuit of happiness. But when I have no idea what I am heading into, and the future is all foggy with me running blind directly into it is the time when I perform to the best of my abilities. Yeah a philosophical post but resonates with my general fear of the future!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Who’s got the Monkey?

I am presuming most of you are already aware and actively reading the Harvard Business Review. It is a must read magazine for anyone who is gainfully employed.

Now, over its history (since 1922 or 1980 … the way you wish to look at it!) it has published quite a large number of articles. Not all of them are interesting. And it is extremely boring to actually go and read articles to figure out if they are great or not.

I asked the big bad world of the internet and managed to get two different lists of HBR Top 25 articles and HBR Top 10 articles (based on some random research done by some individuals). And then over the course of last 2 years managed to read all of them.

My favourite HBR article of all times is – Management Time: Who’s got the Monkey? This article was originally published in 1974 November – December. I am sure if you do some creative Google searching you can get the article for free. Apparently it’s one of the top 2 most re-printed articles ever (the other being – The Core Competence of the Corporation).

The Who’s got the Monkey article is light hearted but has an extremely important message on managing your time in the office. I always seem to struggle being on top of all the things I have on my plate and everyday it seems the workload keeps growing. The strategies given in the article have helped me actively control my work without getting too stressed. Being light-hearted and at 6 pages it’s a short read on a commute but it does have a super long lasting impact.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Family Soap

I belong to a generation of soap users in India that believed that 1 Soap was enough for the entire body and the entire family. We fondly loved the one green soap-bar that was purchased along with the family grocery once a month.


This was before the time that there were Aeroplanes, digital telephones and Satellite television (or at least I didn’t know of their existence). My naive self believed that this one soap could miraculously clean my hair, my face and my body and that is all that I needed for my morning bathing routine that lasted about 5 minutes (yeah, just to make myself clear – I was small then).

Hamam Soap Commercial

Somewhere along the way, there came TV (or rather I started watching and believing it). Marketers convinced us that we need a guy soap, that is different from a gal soap. Then they convinced us that we need different kinds of soaps from head to toe. I am amazed why they never taught me that I need a different soap depending on the day of the week. (Marketing 101 says – if you can’t increase your customer base, then sell more products to the same hapless customer).

Anyway, the gullible consumer I am, over the period of several years ended up buying so many soaps for so many things that at one point in time my soaps were the most expensive component of my grooming routine (I guess they are even now!).

Then I guess marketers figured that to make their shareholders happy they need to come up with more soap options. So they started consolidating the soaps back again. Now slowly and steadily we have reached a state where we get – a 3-in-1 Body + Hair + Face soap. Viola an innovation so intense that they charge me close to 10 SGD for this one (mind you the green bar was like a few cents back then!)


Of course, being the staunch believer in anything that gets marketed to me, I have been using this soap “After sport” (as if I am an athlete) and feeling good about it. Only yesterday did I realize that I have just gone back to my good old days of the Hamam.

So this is an appeal to all my marketer friends. I have got more hard earned money yearning for your attention. Please senselessly advertise more banal stuff to me. I promise, I won’t disappoint you.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Take this Metalheads!

Accidentally figured out last week that the symbol in the picture below actually stands for - “I Love You” in sign language. I was flabbergasted. Generations of heavy metal fans like me grew up believing it was the symbol of the devil or just plan 666. It was the sign of the horns all the while. It stood for anti-establishment and our rebellion against the system – till now.

And now I know. It just means – I love you.

I love you

Imagine drunk men with long hair and beard wearing t-shirts that signify they are horrible creatures and are against everything nice, cute and sweet in this world. Then they shout and scream at the top of their voice and head-bang to loud music while the guitar solo guy plays the riff from his best anti-establishment song. And then the collective crowd of burly men raise their hands high up in the air and say “I love you”. Haha, heavy metal concerts will never be the same for me again!

And just to further offend all my metal-head friends – here is Britney crooning to “I love Rock ‘N’ Roll”

I love Rock ‘N’ Roll

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Experiment

When I say Justin Bieber is the greatest entertainer in the world, I am not being sarcastic. At the tender age of 19 he has achieved more in his life than most other artists do in their entire lifetime. He is the most popular celebrity on twitter (and internet) and he has the capacity to cause widespread sorrow and joy for millions of people around the world by his actions.

But (yeah there had to be a but there!). His clientele (fan-following to be precise) seems to be uniformly distributed across the teenage girls age-group. I am sure there are middle-aged men who swing to his grooves, but I am also sure that they are statistically insignificant.

Justin in Concert 

While Formula 1 as a sport is wholly uniformly distributed across men in the older age group and the category of men listening to Justin and seeing Formula 1 should (I am presuming) be a significantly low number.

I am not exactly sure about what was going on through the Singapore Grand Prix organizer’s mind when they decided to bring in Justin for the closing concert for the F1 Grand Prix. I mean, men my age, don’t particularly mind *seeing* Rihana, Shakira or Katy Perry in concert after an exciting F1 race. But seeing Justin would not exactly be a manly thing to do.

Rihanna in Concert

As someone pointed out to me, this could very well be the organizer’s last ditch effort to get teenage girls to come see F1 (cause I have heard that generation can do anything to see Justin and also loves to spend a lot – any marketer’s dream). So to see him live, a 3 hour race with cars roaring and zipping by is not really a discomfort. And after these gals see the race, they love the excitement and become avid F1 fans.

This probably will be the most significant marketing experiment of the century and business schools all around the world will study this event as an amazing  showcase of appealing to a new segment altogether by just bringing in their most favorite celebrity to perform. Or, I guess, I am really missing something really really big here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Managed to attend a concert of a lifetime yesterday. Yup, I got to hear Metallica live on stage. In the flesh right before my eyes for 2.5 hours while I shouted, jumped and head-banged like there is no tomorrow.


Realized that at this age, things that were seemingly cool at 20 can cause severe headache, dizziness and neck pain the next day. Anyway, now I am happy, satisfied and have got that contended smile on my face and pain everywhere else. I managed to just fulfil one of my very long dreams. To listen to one of my favourite artists of all times – live!

Have been running this list through my head for several years – Artists that I would love to hear live. Unfortunately 1 of them is already no more amongst us now (yeah euphemism for Michael Jackson is dead!)

  1. U2
  2. Yanni
  3. Metallica
  4. Air Supply
  5. Black Sabbath
  6. Michael Jackson

I know my list shows my weird taste in music (or rather it makes me look like a guy who has no real taste). But well, grew up with Michael Jackson, Air Supply, U2 and Yanni and then Metallica and Black Sabbath happened during my confused Engineering years. So that’s the list. And I really hope I can see the rest of the 3 someday, very soon!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Laptop Workhorse

Its ironic. The week I was celebrating a decade of working my a$$ off, my company decided to reward me with a new work-laptop. Well, not really a reward. We have these hand-me-down laptops that are passed from ex-employees to current ones or from seniors to juniors. Depending on where you sit on the pecking order you get an extremely old one and sometimes if you are lucky enough they get replaced. And I happened to get lucky.

So for the last 2 weeks now I have been using a shiny new laptop. Its funny that in my entire career, all work laptops that I have ever had are – ThinkPads. Yeah I have used the pre-Lenovo IBM era ThinkPads as well as the Lenovo ThinkPads.

I am consistently impressed by their build quality and sturdiness. I know they look un-aesthetic and not pleasing to your senses. But they do what they are supposed to do, and can withstand a fair bit of abuse. I literally am on the road most of the time and the laptop is almost always with me – many a times running around across meeting rooms.

The ThinkPad brand has been around for more than 21 years. IBM launched the first ThinkPad way back in 1992 (apparently late 1991). Its hard to imagine something related to computers to have lasted so long with even the current designs where much following the aesthetics of the first one.

First 10 years of ThinkPad

I hope they continue making these amazing pieces of hardware with the same build quality for many years to come.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Workplace Decade

Have been overcome with a bout of nostalgia since today morning. Just happened to have completed a decade in corp-hell. I still distinctly remember 10 years ago this starry eyed college graduate walking into a big organization with big dreams in his heart. He wanted to be like his idols – Bruce Schneier and Linus Trovalds. (Now that I look back, I find it funny that I never idolized corporate tycoons like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison or Steve Jobs – though now I have a different opinion about them). As naive he was, he was completely unawares of the long thankless nights, the headaches, the customer complaints, the bosses, the menial work, the backaches and the big hidden beast called – corporate politics.

A decade from then the starry eyed graduate has now turned into a grumpy, cynical uncle. He has learnt to be a part of the big system. The system that makes sure that you perform to your complete ability while dangling the right kinds of carrots in front of you. The system that is like an addiction that you can’t get rid of.

Anyway, luckily or unluckily I am still completed related to software and data warehouses. At least, I love what I am doing irrespective of how the system treats me and what I have achieved. So here is wishing all my batch mates a happy decade and a many more happy ones to come. Amen.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wearable Tech

Every Tom, Dick, Harry and his cousin Lily is making a smart-watch. The more I read about it the more it becomes evident that a watch revolution is coming. A multi-functional thing that sits on your hand and does wonders! As of this writing I know of Sony, Apple, Dell, Motorola, LG, Qualcomm, Samsung and a host of other companies planning to make watches (or wearable-tech)

Now, now! Wake-up CASIO. You guys are the pioneers of cool and sturdy watches. Back in the days, you guys defined wearable-tech for starry eyed kids like me.

I know, I know you have a smart-watch in the market already. The Smart-watch with Bluetooth however is amazingly 19th century for what the general public is expecting from Smart-watches or (wearable-tech) in general now.

So what would I expect in a CASIO G-shock branded wearable-tech watch?

  1. Step Counter
  2. Altimeter
  3. Thermometer 
  4. Floor Counter
  5. Heart beat meter
  6. Sleep monitor
  7. Vibrating Alarm
  8. Atomic timekeeping
  9. Solar Power
  10. Tough
  11. An amazing app that syncs all this data and lets me download it for my own further analysis

I know this would take some iterations to get to ultimate reality. And we (I am shamelessly representing all wanna-be pseudo-health conscious geeks like me) are ready to wait and purchase through all those iterations. But its already late, and if you have not already started, I think you guys are mighty late to the game!

I know most competitors are going the Android way – pluck some apps into your watch, make it read your SMS, Caller ID etc. I don’t find a reason to pour 200$ down the drain to read SMS On my watch. What I need is way cooler and geeky. And I really really hope that its a G-shock!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What I am

Sometimes I wonder, is Sesame street really for kids? I mean considering that even I (the man!) have written about them two times already on this blog here and here and then significant part of most of my weekends even now is spent video-surfing Sesame street on YouTube!

For some of you who don’t know, there is this small segment in Sesame street where a celebrity comes over and either teaches the viewers (presuming they are kids) a word or if the celebrity is a singer, then they actually sing one of their famous compositions with lyrics converted to appeal kids. Over the past several years there have been numerous celebrities and even I am catching up on them every weekend.

However, I discovered a gem of a song that Will.i.am sung on Sesame street and its titled – What I am. Though it’s a kid’s song, it is amazingly inspiring and has a very catchy tune.

Hear it here … and be inspired!

Will.i.am–What I am

And if you are particularly bored, here is a compiled list of some of my favourite songs on Sesame street by celebrity singers:

Yeah, why should only kids get to have all the fun?

Sunday, July 14, 2013


One Japanese food item that gets undue attention amongst Indians (at least the ones that I know) is Sushi (and to a certain degree – Sashimi). May be it has got to do with the colourful way that Sushi is presented or may be that we can’t digest the fact that the sashimi on sushi is raw.


Anyway, like any other person determined to explore culture, I learned to eat sushi (yeah with chopsticks and wasabi) while in MBA. Later I graduated to liking it and have had a lot of sushi sojourns ever since.

Sometime last year, however I ventured out to one of the lesser known items (at least to me) of the Japanese culinary experience. The Ramen. Ramen is a huge bowl of soup with noodles, meat, flavoured egg, spring onions, bean sprouts and a broth that is amazingly flavourful. Slowly and steadily, Ramen has now climbed up to the spot of being amongst my most favourite foods of all times. Yeah right up there sitting close to the butter chicken and my mom’s dried fish chutney.

All my friends who wanna try Japanese cuisine, I strongly implore you to go treat yourself to a bowl of Ramen. The broth is amazingly flavoured and with all the herbs and spices, it is a culinary delight. And the thin piece of meat literally melts in your mouth (Sorry Vegetarians – I haven’t had veg-Ramen) Btw, if you are a calorie conscious eater – Ramen is on the heavier side and you may wish to treat yourself only occasionally.

And what do you guess, I am gonna do after posting this? You guessed right – I am going for a sumptuous meal of Ramen.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Be cool Honey Bunny

Just finished a marathon few evenings of watching movies by Quentin Tarantino. To be precise these are the movies I saw:

Now most of the people I know share a love-hate relationship with all of Quentin’s movies. Everyone agrees that the storylines are good, but many people also complain of his use of excessive violence in all of his movies.

Frankly, I don’t understand his rationale behind making his movies so gory, but probably that makes them look – “I don’t give a damn” – cool. The kinds in which you can identify the lead character as a super bad a$$.

I didn’t exactly grow up seeing his movies. I mean my conservative middle class Indian upbringing would have definitely forbade me from seeing anything of this sorts. But, over the last few years I stole a glance of a scene from here and there (mostly from YouTube I guess) till I finally succumbed to watching the whole movies. Quentin’s movies tend to grow on you and the more you see, the more you love them. I got hooked and I guess I have managed to see Pulp Fiction at least 4 times.

Pulp Fiction–Dancing Scene

Now, I have become a self confessed Quentin fan. I like his style of “cool” and I can pretend to like his gut wrenching goriness. After all, I have to live up to be a man. Anyway, just in case you are interested – What do you think is my favourite Quentin movie of all times? Well – its Inglourious Basterds. Its cool, and in his own style, Quentin manages to rewrite history in less than 3 hours.

Inglourious Basterds–Trailer

And before I end, I know I still have to watch Death Proof and Jackie Brown. I shall do that real soon.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Multi-function Personal Computing

Have always steered clear of controversial topics on my blog and shall continue to do so. So without stating an opinion, I would like to give my informed and intellectual readers some reason to ponder.

The whole fiasco with the NSA Prism controversy makes me feel that after all the hullabaloo is over and we get back to our life of cynicism, if there is one industry that should evolve or revolutionize is – Web-based storage. I use this as a generic term for all companies that maintain our data – for us by informing us (Webmail, Social Networks, Micro-blogs etc., Cloud based ERPs, Analytics, CRMs and any other Enterprise IT tool) or slyly behind our back by tracking our browsing habits (the Advertising networks).

I had already visualized a geek-nirvana where I would carry 1 device every where for pleasure as well as for work (a future smart phone). This kinda device would have an OS that would be capable of running as a Mobile, Tablet or a Desktop Machine. It would have enough solid state memory to keep my frequently used programs on it, while safe keeping rest of my data on an extended storage device in the cloud. The processor would of course be powerful enough to handle all my personal computing needs (Gaming, Video, Software etc.).  It would have off the shelf docks that would let me plug it into a Keyboard, Mouse and a Monitor to do my business applications (yeah, the OS would support my Office Mail, ERP, Documentation and Presentation software). I would carry the same device for my presentations, plug it in (or Bluetooth pair it) with the projector and won’t have to worry carrying multiple devices.

This reality was just set back by a few years because of the mere fact that we all just realized that whatever is in web-based storage is public knowledge. Some people will be increasingly weary of these providers and it might just end up stifling innovation.

Or I am just way too paranoid, and nothing will really happen and I will end up buying this device for Christmas of 2014.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I have been blindly buying this brand of eggs that had this “Lower Cholesterol” claim boldly posted on its top. Well, as you may expect, they are almost twice as expensive as the other local brands that are available. After close to a year of regularly buying these eggs, I recently decided to “investigate” how much more cholesterol do the cheaper varieties of eggs contain.


This time around when I went to replenish the eggs at home, I casually looked at the “Lower Cholesterol” eggs calorie content. It is 318mg per 100g. As for the local normal eggs? Well they are at 320mg per 100g. Considering the way this entire nutrition label mess is actually calculated, 2mg difference is not only just a negligible difference but also it could be a rounding error.

Normal Egg Packaging

I am aghast and I feel tricked. I shall be more careful reading nutrition labels going forward and not just buy fancy looking stuff in the supermarket. Aren’t we all just slaves of pretty?

Nutrition Comparison

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cheapskate ergonomics

I wanted to invest in a sit-stand computer desk but looking at the ridiculous prices and my unpredictable place of residence, I decided not to invest in one at this time.

My quest for healthy living however continues. And now I have figured out a cheaper way of adjusting the computer monitor (in my case it’s a Laptop screen) to be at a height that keeps my neck and eyesight straight without causing any strain.

The investment? Well, buy a good keyboard and mouse. I bought the Microsoft Comfort Curve (Yeah it works with Ubuntu). But I am sure any keyboard would do. Get a shoe-box or old directories (or anything that you can use to place your laptop on!). And viola, you managed to elevate your monitor. Cheap, reliable and good for a healthy living!

I got a New Balance shoe box. Yeah probably they would have never thought the box could “balance” something “new” this way. And the added advantage? You can hide all your bundles of wires inside the box to give your desk a minimalist look.

My Desktop Setup

Monday, May 27, 2013

Keep trying

Love this post by Seth again. Inspiring indeed. We don’t try half the things in our life because we set the bar impossibly high for ourselves. We wish to be perfect, give our best, and keep deprecating whatever piece of art we come up with (Yeah it may very well be the proverbial Lizard brain at work here).

May it be writing, singing, acting, painting or any other art that you wish to pursue there is a high probability that you would be very bad at it to begin with. But any art is 90% perspiration and hard work and 10% talent (yeah I made the stats up). So unless we try, suck at it and fail over and over again, we can never improve. Hardly anyone is born with a talent so good that they are amazing right out-of-the-box.

The trick is to never give up and keep trying. Someday you will improve a little notch better than yesterday and you suddenly realize, you are the best at what you are doing!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Forced self-control

The zoo in Singapore has a segment on a Sea lion's self-control. The trainer keeps a fresh juicy fish right in front of the sea lion's nose. Then she tells the audience that the Sea lion won’t eat it till she signals him to. The poor lion looks at the fish then at her and then back again at the fish. This goes on for several seconds, then she signals, he pounces on the fish and we, the audience clap! More information about this behaviour in this paper.

Sea-lion Self-control

Now for the last few days I have been consulting this Hotel. For our consulting assignment, we have been given a room to work from. And then, they serve the choicest food from the hotel (for their esteemed guests) right outside my room. Everyday morning breakfast, afternoon high-tea and evening snacks are nicely decorated and placed outside.


Then they make sure that some of that aroma comes inside so that I feel hungry. And they have put a clause in our contract which indicates “You shalt not eat whatever we serve outside”. So effectively, I see, I get enticed, but I can’t eat. And everyday when I walk past that food, I think of the sea lion. Someday, I will get my big fish too.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Neck pain saga

I take public transport everyday on my way to work. And I have been working long enough to see how people’s tastes and routines have gradually changed over time.

So I began working long long ago when MP3 players were the rage of the town. Everyone carried their own collection of personal music everywhere and entertained themselves with earphones in their ears and completely oblivious of their surroundings. Then after a few years came the handheld game consoles. People started travelling with the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP and everywhere you could see them play games. After a few years, we then got the smartphones. Initially people would Facebook and chat with their friends on the phones. But then came the games. We tried killing a lot of pigs for a while, then some of us gave up and others continued.

These days, when I travel I see everyone glued to their phone screens, maniacally playing Candy Crush Saga. In the train everyday morning, if I peek into anyone’s screen (mind you that’s just out of interest to see their progress, than anything else!) I can see them feverishly crushing candies as they tumble from above their screen.  I checked and indeed, Candy Crush Saga is the most popular game ever (May 2013). I am sure it will be superseded by some game in the future. I am also sure that if there is one disease that this generation is gonna suffer from is – chronic neck pain. We already have managed to damage our eyesight by too much eye strain and now we are complementing it by crushing candies.

Imagine if SETI could come up with a crowd sourced game that could somehow help us search for alien life forms. If it was as addictive for people, I am sure we would have met some aliens by now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Recommendation Engines

I have always been interested in how recommendation engines decide what I might like and eventually borrow or buy on a website or guess who are my friends and acquaintances and add them to my social network. My local Library recently updated its website and as a part of its new features, it also tries to recommend titles.

Recommendations are not easy. I know that Netflix and Amazon have teams of dedicated scientists working on their algorithms to tweak it all the time. Or for that matter Facebook and LinkedIn use extremely creepy measures to figure out who should be in your network. My local library however (I guess) has chosen the easier route. What it does is – it just shows what other books were borrowed by people who borrowed the book you are looking at.

Though this kind of system can work for movies, it fails miserably for books. So when I was trying to borrow the “The data warehouse toolkit” again, it ended up showing me the following:

Book recommendations

Now none of the books are even remotely connected to computing (forget data warehousing). It is just a sad reminder of the fact that everything you do anywhere these days gets tracked. 6 out of the 9 books recommended are actually what I had borrowed while I was reading the data warehouse book last time around. This just proves 2 things to me – the book that I am reading is not that popular anymore (cause no one else is reading it) and the other person ( the 3 other books) who is reading it has a kid.

As for me, I have a mom that shares my library card and she only reads fiction. So there you go. Books, unlike movies are read individually by each person in a family. So when Netflix recommends it assumes that the entire family sits together and watches the movie (along with a host of other statistical and creepy factors that it uses to determine your taste). However, library cards are shared across a family, and books that I read have no correlation with the ones that anyone else in my family reads.

I hope this data is not used any where else to determine my tastes. I do not read fiction at all. FYI only.

Monday, April 22, 2013

6 fruits that I discovered this year

Having been on this planet for more than 3 decades, I was of the opinion that I had already eaten or at least known about all the fruits that are available for human consumption. I mean come on, with the rapid deforestation and exploitation of the entire world, how much more have we left to discover?

Anyway come 2013, I decided to be a bit more adventurous with my eating habits and have been trying all the funny looking and unknown fruits that I can find in my local market. I am pleasantly surprised that I actually managed to discover (read eat) 6 new fruits in the last 4 months. I am sure most of you have heard or at least tried a few of them. But here is my list (I dropped out the infamous Durian because I have had it many times before):

  1. Pomelo
  2. Mangosteen
  3. Starfruit
  4. Kaki
  5. Longan
  6. Dragonfruit

Well nothing much to write here, other than the fact that I liked each one of them. You should probably follow the links I have provided and be jealous.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I am elated. I was struggling reverse engineering someone else's buggy code for the last 72 hours. Finally figured out what the issue was. I have been away from any form of programming for at least 5 years and it was an almost insurmountable obstacle to not only look at someone else’s code, but also in a language and an IDE that I am not at all familiar with.

Yeah, I don’t code for a living these days. I am somewhere in between. Anyway, the reason I wrote this blog post is to relive the ephemeral happiness and acknowledge the 72 hour anxiety when I was pretty much clueless of what I should be doing. I am sure I had some divine intervention, but may be that would make a blog post for another time.

I realized that I shouldn’t be seeking out happiness from other sources of entertainment while such moments of extreme happiness are such a banal everyday occurrence. I just don’t acknowledge them that often (or ever!). So if I walk around with this foolish grin, don’t look down on me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Confessions of a jilted lover

I was in a pretty serious and committed relationship with Google Reader (GR) for the last 4 years. The news of its sudden demise affected me more than I expected it to be. Suffering from a broken heart after GR decided to dump me this way, I did the obvious thing that every jilted lover worth his grain of salt does – I got into a rebound relationship.

Now for the last 5 days, I am having a rather torrid relationship with Bloglines. Since the beginning of time (I mean since the time I discovered RSS) I consumed the internet off Bloglines. Then somewhere around 2008, Bloglines was plain neglected by its owner then, and like others, I jumped ship to GR. And now after 4 years, I complete a circle and transition back to Bloglines again. However, now its not the same old product anymore. Its hosted on Netvibes.

But, jokes apart, the death of GR has had other long lasting scars that are pretty hard to heal. Here is what I would summarize about the way I feel since this betrayal:

  1. You can sign petitions, complain and whine. But if a company decides to get rid of a product, there is nothing much you can do about it. Long ago when Microsoft killed Money, I went through the same set of emotions, till GnuCash came to my rescue and I learnt Accounting.
  2. On one hand the big companies want us to move completely into the cloud. So much so that we are almost back into the era of dumb terminals and hosting everything off the cloud (Chrome OS?). At the same time, these companies can recklessly close down services that don’t make money for them. How practical is it to move all my digital life into the cloud? Do I “live” at the mercy of these companies?
  3. I was slowly consolidating all my online presence onto the Google Platform. Like I mentioned before, my everyday and my everything was being run off Google servers. Now with the sudden demise of GR, I am worried (worried is an understatement). I don’t think Google makes much money off me and sooner or later they will close other properties (read – Calendar, Contacts, Android, Drive, Blogger, Picasa, Feedburner). Whenever that happens, if I don’t have an alternate option, I will plain go through a digital assassination of me. The best option for people like me is to move my eggs from one basket (Google) and distribute it across the internet so that I don't rely on a single service provider (Who needs tight integration anyways?).
  4. Platform independent open source software continues to remain a safe bet to trust your data with. Why Open Source? Because even if the current set of product developers decide not to continue its development, the community can take over and make the product survive. And Platform independent because – you don't wish to be dependent on an operating system either.

So, now its 2013 and think hard before you cloudify your existence mere mortals.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cookie conundrum

One of the value-added activities that I do in my organization is – I occasionally buy cookies (biscuits) to be kept and shared in the common pantry area of my small office. We have a set of 4 cookie options that are already “approved” by our Admin and so we (the cookie buying volunteers) generally end up buying 3 varieties of them each time that we need to top up the 1 common cookie jar. Why one jar you ask? Well cause we are a small organization and the pantry is seriously short of real estate (for a lack of better words) to keep multiple jars. So 1 big jar it is – and each time that we buy, we put all the cookies into that jar. This also explains why we buy 3 of the 4 approved varieties.

On an average a top-up of the jar lasts the entire office’s cookie appetite for 2-3 weeks. Having volunteered to buy the last few times, I have made an interesting observation which I thought is imperative to share with my favourite audience (thyself).

So the approved varied of cookies can be classified into following 4 types

  1. Extremely unhealthy (Finger-licking good)
  2. Moderately unhealthy (Tasty)
  3. Unhealthy (Occasionally eatable)
  4. Healthy (Eaten only when no other option available)

Now the jar being tall with an opening on the top (duh – that’s why its a jar!) the order in which I put the cookies inside decides the order in which they can be consumed. For the accountants and computer nerds amongst you – it’s LIFO. The first few occasions, I put the unhealthy ones in the bottom and the nutritious ones on the top. This method, made our cookies last well over a month. People (I guess) waited for the other people to finish the healthier ones on the top so that they themselves could consume the tastier ones below later. Effectively, I ended up controlling people’s diets.

The second time when I did the same however, some smart-pants creatively reached the bottom of the jar and ate the tastier ones before. This time, the cookie jar lasted us a few days less.

And finally, during my last refill, I put the unhealthiest ones on the top. Viola, our entire cookie jar was over in 2 weeks.

So my dear friend what can we conclude? We all crave for unhealthy food. But once we eat unhealthy, then we try to console ourselves by eating healthy food too. All-in-all, I felt like God. I could control people’s eating habits. And, I have decided, from now on, I shall be the full-time volunteer. The next wicked thing I am gonna do is – (you guessed it right) – just buy the healthy biscuits for the entire jar and then observe how long the jar lasts for us.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

R.I.P Google Reader

Sad day in the history of the internet for me today. Google announced that it is shelving its much neglected Google Reader. Reader has been my gateway to the internet, my main source of consuming information on the internet and now it is going down. Internet for me will never be the same again without it.

Almost 2 years ago, when I setup my Facebook page, I sorta knew that RSS would die its natural death. But I never guessed it would come so soon. I still actively follow 170 blogs, news and portals that will suddenly be difficult for me to access. I am sure many blogs online (including mine) will now be desolate. Gone are the good old days of Web 2.0.

Social it is, and social we shall be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing helps?

After having taken a more than 1 month break from blogging, my conscience started questioning me on why do I even bother to blog. Yeah, I know I have gone through this phase before. If you look at it, everything you do in your life can be simply broken down into three things:

  1. It earns you money
  2. It helps you impress someone
  3. It makes you happy

And blogging hasn’t helped me in either. Sorry for the over simplification. I know there are other things like self-actualization and blah blah, but I don’t think I have reached that high in Maslow’s hierarchy yet.

So here are two instances in which writing here so much and for so long helped. Well … kinda .. but it did!

So I have been put onto this crazy ass super stressful project. Without getting into the details, I had to come up with this 30 something page design document overnight for people to work on.  Under normal circumstances, I would have easily taken a week. But years of blabbering about pointless things here gave me the confidence and determination to pull it off and I did!

And in another instance, I kinda managed to write a funny little story about one of my “life experiences” that managed to win me a small little prize. Nothing fancy, but well, yeah had I not been writing here, probably I wouldn’t have pulled that off.

So, all in all, you shalt continue to read me.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Feb that was!

Whoosh. Just realized that the entire month of February 2013 vanished right before my eyes.  I have had busy months in my life before, but never has a month passed since I started blabbering here that I didn’t get time to rant something. So with a lot of pain and melancholy I wave good bye to February 2013. Never will have anything to say about you, my dear month.

So what exactly was I doing last month? I thought hard and I thought deep. Technically, I didn’t do anything much. Stuck to my routine, travelled a bit and moved houses yet again. I mean, yeah, I again went through the routine of packing-trashing-moving-unpacking and rearranging my tents all over again. When I look at all my friends living the high-life on Facebook, posing in front of the Great Wall for breakfast then the Golden gate bridge for lunch and finally partying their night away in Rio, I wonder whether I should be even mentioning what I do.

Anyway, the highlight of last month was – I got to sit inside a aircraft parked on the tarmac of an airport for 2 hours in the blazing sun. After a while, once all passengers were sautéed they decided to open the aircraft exits (just in case all the steam released from cooking the passengers builds up pressure inside the cabin). With blatant regards for anyone’s safety the exit doors were left open with nothing whatsoever for safety. One of us sautéed veggies could have easily leaped off the door. Anyway, to add garnishing they also redirected my flight and a journey that would have not taken me more than 5 hours, ended up being a 12 hour nightmare. And did I mention that they also ran out of food? So much from an airline that I praise so much all the while.

The Tarmac  Open Aircraft Doors  Base jump

Monday, January 28, 2013


School kids are an important mechanism to get donations for charity. I don’t really know the reasoning behind why kids are made to go collect money, but thinking out loud it may be – to create a sense of discipline about money early in their lives or to make them feel that they contributed to a noble cause.

Anyway, I think the intention has always been very clear – it’s the children who have to go and collect the funds. It’s their sweetness and innocence that makes the donor contribute her bit to their cause.

I remember my good old days going door to door collecting funds for some charity. Not only were people extremely stingy, but at most places, I got free things to eat but not a cent in my kitty. I mean, the amount of stuff that I got to eat could have easily been valued at more than 5 times the amount that I actually collected. I learnt an important lesson – people are ready to give away non-monetary things much more easily. But now that I look back, I might very well be eating stale left overs (somehow all I ever got was cold-stuff from the friendly neighbor’s fridge).

But these days, I have found a new trend going on. Parents, bring their kids’ donation card to the office and then make all co-workers contribute. Also to make sure that we don’t set a low bar, the parents put in their first donation which is like a huge number. Then to fit in and not look like a heartless soul, every single body in the office puts in the same amount as what the parent contributed.

In the last week itself, I have spent like a week of my salary donating money to kids whom I have neither seen nor do I know they exist. My only connection with them and the charity (which I know nothing of) is their parents! Sometimes its so bad, that I don’t even know what I am contributing for!

I could very well print a card and take it to office saying it is for my kid’s charity and put some insane figure as my contribution and make others do the same. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely for donations. And if I meet school kids on the street asking me to support their cause, I do put in spare change. But what these parents do is just plain extortion.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The extra-hot coffee

As long as I have been writing this blog, I have been a caffeine junkie. Not something I am proud of, but well also not something that I am trying to abstain from. I love my coffee and if anything, I love to learn and know more about coffees.

Uncle made coffee

Now, the local coffee uncle from whom I get my daily dose of coffee makes his coffee piping hot. But every once in a while, I like to indulge myself and I go to a Starbucks or a local expensive pseudo-Italian/ American coffee shop. Not only are their coffees super expensive but also, they are fattening and not hot enough.

Kopi Uncle

To put things in perspective a visit to a Starbucks costs me worth a week of my regular street-side uncle made coffee. And then how many calories does a Starbucks have? Well, my favorite coffee – the Vanilla Latte actually contributes to 12% of my RDA. You can see the nutrition content of all of Starbucks products here. Finally, my favorite uncle makes his coffee so hot, that if I am not careful enough I can actually burn my tongue. As for the expensive coffees they are hot enough to be used as ice-packs. Yeah I know, most of you won’t agree with my rant about the degree of hotness of coffee. But lately I have noticed that Indians have a tendency to drink very hot liquids as compared to the rest of the world that I know. So if you are an Indian reading this blog post you know what I mean.

So with all these issues, how do you still splurge and feel less guilty and more happy? Well, Starbucks allows you to customize your coffee. So my order these days is super customized. I ask for a tall Vanilla Latte, non-fat, sugar-free and extra-hot. And with my funny accent most of the times the baristas don't get it. Then I have to repeat again and again and again till the whole place knows. Anyway, trying to be shameless, I don’t care as long as I get my perfect coffee. And it is less sinful with almost half the calories of their original drink.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lizard Brain

Most of us have heard and know of the “flight-or-fight” response, “amygdala hijacking” and associated behavior. Though I knew the scientific theory I was never that cognitive of its impact on my everyday life till I read Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

Before I write anymore about it, let me define the Lizard Brain the way Seth does it:

“The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.”


“The resistance [sic] is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer's block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn't stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door”.

And for the visually motivated amongst us, there is a nice little video that someone put together to explain the lizard brain and its importance:

What is the Lizard Brain?

Okay, in simple words – I find my Lizard brain to be that part of my brain that is judgemental, scared and prevents me from trying or doing anything out of the ordinary. It is that part that keeps reminding me that – people are looking, you are not supposed to do that and I should be happy with whatever I have achieved and not look for more challenges.

The advantage of knowing of its existence now is – I can rationalize my fear. Each time that I am attempting to do something different and my brain prevents me from doing it, I can actually rationalize that its not me but a little part of my brain. Then I can consciously go and do it. So may it be public speaking, helping a stranger or just writing a blog post. Acknowledging its existence has now helped me become a little less shy and more disciplined with life in general. If you are like me, may be understanding this part of your brain might really help!