Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Random Thoughts

Into the Wild is a biography of Chris McCandless who comes from a well-to-do family but chooses a life of tramping, he hitchhikes across US and finally walks alone into the wilderness of Alaska never to return. Thought I would share this piece from the book .

"I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, comformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."

Personally i don't subscribe to McCandless' principle of leading a solitary life in the confines of wild. Neither does his wilderness doctrine ring a chord with me. However i do believe that for most parts we do tend to lead a life of confirmity. I am not arguing the merits of conformity, just that we got to stop every once in a while, and do things which i believe in and are more fulfilling to me when i look back.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

For all the Souls who were craving - Its finally Here ...

Vodafone to Offer Apple’s iPhone in Ten Markets
06 May 2008

Vodafone today announced it has signed an agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in ten of its markets around the globe. Later this year, Vodafone customers in Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey will be able to purchase the iPhone for use on the Vodafone network.

Friday, May 02, 2008

An Absolut Goof-up

"In an Absolut World" is a series of print ads that invite the consumers to percieve a world that appeals to them. As part of this campaign Absolut featured this ad recently in a mexican magazine. Essentially the ad message is simple (primarily to mexican audience) "In an Absolut world, one third of US is under mexican control".

Its anybody's guess that the ad only fuels the rapidly growing seperatist movement in the US between the natives and the immigrants specially the illegal ones. Absolut claims that the ad was not politically motivated and it was truly a brand excercise at a targeted segment. Infact i wouldn't imagine that the ad had any political bent at all, however this ad has particularly received lot of flak and there are consumer groups calling for boycott on Absolut.

In all earnesty the ad must be aimed to increase Pernods Ricard's (makers of Absolut) market share in Mexico. I wonder how much of an impact has it had on its market share in US. I am just curious to know whats the net gain over all.

Friday, December 07, 2007


These days you have a reality show for everything. It all started with singing, dancing, racing and dating. Catching the craze (rather cashing on the craze) our desi channels are being flooded with one to many ‘me-toos’ reality show of their American counterparts.

American Idol – Indian Idol
Dancing with the Stars – Jhalak Dikhlaja
Big Brother – Big Boss
Who wants to be a millionaire – KBC
Apprentice – Business Baazigar

The list just goes on… But here is one show that really stands out, it’s probably indigenous, I don’t remember seeing anything of this sorts on the tube so far.
I am talking about Lead India, a times group venture which aims to select a promising young leader. The winner probably gets to contest for loksabha, I still don’t know if the winner would qualify for a ticket with a major political party or times group would assist his candidature as an independent.

A reality show of this kind will nevertheless make interesting viewing. With high octane drama, heated discussion and debate it can make for a good viewing. For all its good will and intent TV shows are all about entertaining viewers. Would you imagine prime Manmohan Singhji emerge as a leader out of one of the TV shows. I doubt it. It would not be in the interest of the media company to put a visionary and still make money of it.

Its drama which sells…I have seen mediocre candidates qualify for the finale riding on popularity wave alone.You cant sometimes eliminate candidate who are public favorites. Sanjaya in America Idol is a classic case.

At the end of the day the media company has to make money. And you need people who can entertain, people who can create drama, people who can be nasty. The show itself would be clichéd if these ingredients are missing. In whose interest would the media company want to generate a leader? Besides with the sms ratings the results would be skewed with regionalism overtaking credentials. Given these circumstance I would have serious reservations on the kind leader emerging out of the show and the impact he would have on the society at large.If the show aims to realistically pull out a leader of this exercise it can only culminate as faux pas.

Not for a second I doubt the credentials of any of the contestants. They are individuals who have done extremely well in their fields; however to take center stage of Indian politics you need to have a different set of skills altogether. In India politics are feed through grass roots or political lineage. Anyway the show is off air this weekend it would be interesting to see how it fares.

On a passing note, I wish if some one can come up with parallel shows for ‘Simple Life’ – Paris and Nicole being replaced with Rakhi Sawant and Mallika Sherawat. Even better would be a desi version of ‘Flavor of Love’.

Beautiful Weather

Weather is at its pristine best !!
I think that its an understatement, I don’t remember seeing something like this in ages. Apparently it’s around 15 C, but feels much much colder.

All this outside and I am sitting inside this climate regulated cubicle, my 2 dollar thermometer from Bath & Body Works reads 20 C.

KT Tunstall sings in the backdrop…

The fire fades away
Most of everyday
Is full of tired excuses
But it's to hard to say
I wish it were simple

Thats my plight today. Totally jobless waiting for someone to drop in a mail requesting - perhaps request a document a spreadsheet or even a reply back mail. Incorrigible !! when you are busy you get loads of spasm tons of forwards…hundreds of updates on blogs to read.

All I seek is to be driving a top down convertible around the freeway, clear skies, blue sea, some beer and cold play.

Can you help me?

Monday, September 17, 2007

No stopping Federer

"If life deals you lemon, go make lemonade...."

It isn't much of a surprise that Federer won the US Open without breaking
a sweat,nor the fact that he won it for the forth time taking his over all tally to 12 grandslam wins is any surprising. It's only a matter of time before Federer evens the all time record of 14 titles held by Pistol Pete.

At 26 Federer has atleast 2-3 years of competitive tennis left in him unless he decides otherwise. With no clear competition emerging he is guaranteed of atleast 6-8 grandslams in the coming years. And yes i think Nadal doesn't have the chance to break this amazing run, Djokovic is probably the only player who can come close to stopping Federer. The French ofcourse would be something elusive, Nadal or one of the obscure clay bread spanish crusader will be blocking Federer while he still come in terms with the crimson surface.

Coming back to US Open, enroute his amazing streak Federer pocketed a cool 1.4 million USD in prize money just for winning the open. Federer also went to win the US Open series - a cluster of Tier II events spread across US which finally run into the showdown at Flushing Meadows. Here Federer pocketed another million dollar, taking the total to a modest 2.4 million, this apparently is the highest prize money for a single event won by an tennis professional. Wow !!

If you think this is all, Lexus the main sponsor of the event presented a brand new Lexus IS series coupe, taking the grand total to just over 3 million dollars.

Wow ...& Wow..!!

I wonder if there has been a sports person who has ever made this kind of money in a single event. Tiger Woods ... Michael Schumi ... I honestly dont know..

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Digital Camera ?

I have a Canon Powershot SD400, as a basic camera it serves my purpose more or less. I am ok with the picture quality but the night shots suck big time. Even without the flash mode i get lot of haze, specially if i were to take a skyline in the night. Besides it time for an upgrade., with the basic criterion of improving the nightshots i am on lookout for a non-DSLR camera. I could almost afford to buy a DSLR like a REBEL or something but then as a photographer i am not there yet..besides i would have to invest as much on a lens - and hence i would be looking at a price range of $1000. Not now...!!

After some research i have now narrowed on two cameras.
1. Fujifilm FinePix S6000 6.3-Megapixel
2. Canon S3 IS

Having already experienced a canon i am real skeptical about S3, but i think now a days there are more S3's selling than any other in the market. The S3 has a slightly bigger zoom at 12x opti v/s finepix's 10.7x. The ISO of finepix is heads above rest hovering around 100 - 3200, while the S3 runs around 80-800. The best thing about Canon is i wouldnt need to upgrade my SD card (i already have an 1 GB SD) while finepix works on a xD card.

I am looking for a camera which gives me
* Good photographs at Low light - Decent ISO, good shutter speed
* Decent Zoom - Just enough to capture Rafa from the last stand in Cinci Master
* Fast Start ups - Dont want to loose the moment while i switch the camera & zoom
* Price - Around $300 bucks..

With this in mind could you throw some thoughts on these two cameras ?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Meetings and Taxes..

Sometime back I expressed my frustration about being being excessively taxed.But to think of it...you dont pay taxes all through the year..you just realise the pain only when you are parting with dear money. So,i crib, i wine at the prospect of loosing money but not more than a month after submitting returns.

I paid returns this time but i din't do it online via taxact, a friend suggested desi accountants in US can help you save more buck by bringing lots of addendums which you dont even know. With great hope i went to this gulti tax accountant...immediately after seeing this shabbily dressed guy with a very rotound belly, i thought my odds of saving money increased significantly. I will tell u i could have hit the million that day in DEAL or NO DEAL had i participated. I was deeply contented that i have found the sage who is going to help save all my hard earned dollars.

After an hours debate..herez what i get...
Me: How about my travel expenses... I travelled to india on my expenses ..can i make any claims.
TC: You can but did you attend any training ?
Me: No
TC: Then forget it you cant make claims.
Me: I am being double tax, b'cause part of my salary is paid here
TC: Oh u see your company should issues a statement to federal govt, and the saving will be only 200 bucks..i wouldn't take that effort for 200 bucks
Me: Ok how about my city council tax
TC: Oh your county they dont allow anything of that sort
Me: I have run out of any ideas do you suggest me something ?
TC: You have one option..."Marrying"
Me: Why
TC: If you marry your tax slab would change and you get huge deductable tax receives a huge jump...so at this rate you will get a refund of 2500 dollars. (Now i owe 1000 dollars)
Me: You know what i have a better idea.. i'll go back to INDIA.

This moron not only charged me 100 dollars but preached me stuff about civic social responsibility. If you want to save money i am not the one i can send you to a guy in india who will just about do any dirty thing to save your penny. Do you want to do this or be a good citizen ? Well needless to say i became a good citizen.

Incidentally that was not why i started writing the post... i really wanted to underlie the utility of having meetings. Let me make it clear upfront - i am not saying we shouldn't be having any meetings at all. Infact if used constructively in a very structured way it is the most effective problem solving mechanism that human kind knows. For all the pros its has i suspect there are even bigger cons. Meetings can be as simple as giving status updates, trying to solve a problem, handle a crisis ...(pls note - meeting your girlfriend is out of scope of this discussion) and the list goes on...Now a days i have seen myself participating in as many as 4 meetings per day...almost daily. You might say Voila ... Finally he has arrived.

Well a lot of us are made believe attending meeting is really important and think that we have climbed that seemingly tall corporate ladder...but sorry i beg to differ here.I have had very bitter experiences with meetings, in most meeting i am usually made the scape goat. Meetings are used as protective shield from where the managers throw garbage onto your table. I am sure many of you are cornered in meeting ala me. Well people like to have meeting, talk and assign tasks to other - unfortunately i have not reached that stage where i can do this yet. So its not really enriching an experience.

One of the most important task of a manager is delegation and the most primitive management technique is assinging tasks - It amounts to finding a scape goat and assigning him a job. Getting task assigned is not bad, but expecting the assignee to work on the issues, give you constant updates, harass him - specially in matrix organization is cardinal. Between attending 4 meetings almost all running to 1 hr each. The expectation, some times unrealistic would be to resolve issues, provide updates, send out email communications in remaining available time.

Herez my list for effective meeting
Too many cooks spoil the broth
Effectiveness of a meeting is determined by the number of participants, smaller the number of participants more effective the out come.

Identify the right Stakeholder
Rght stakeholder really determines the end result, the participants should really be the key personnel towards resolving the issues, missing any party or adding substitutes by no measure helps the cause. I am pretty low in the org pyramid - i think too much of participation from senior management is a deterrent to the meeting. Unless a key decision involving huge approvals and risks it help have senior management. Management will be interested in things which really matters. Wind up summaries or abstract really help this cause.

Right Agenda
Not all things can be discussed in a single city, have an agenda, stick to the agenda.Set realistic objectives for the meeting. Prioritize the items in your agenda... you may want to start with the most critical issue and end with the most minor issue. S Just in case you run out of time it better to miss the least critical one. Ensure that the meeting is concluded in the fixed time, even if you miss couple of items.

Lack of preparation, coming to the meeting without understanding the issue really doesnt help. Its good not to attend a meeting without knowing what is expected out of you. Always expect the know be prepared for the unknown. An unprepared participant is a negative value add, he can at best help waste others time.

Based on the my experience anything between 30-60mins would be ideal. Anything over an hour is long and the participants looses interest.

Anything in the first hour of the day helps. Having said that we work in flat world it would be very difficult to accomodate all the time zones. But as things evolve EST 8-10 is really good, i think we indians prefers call in the evening or later in the night. Pls avoid friday evening calls.

Good to have a windup mail, summarise the key points..nothing elaborate very crispy. Schedule follow-up meetings for pending tasks see through that these meetings are not prolonged. Those are my 2 cents amigos...any best practices you can think to make meeting less painful??