Monday Dec 24, 2007

The Fast ... and Furious ...

Things seem to be getting faster, swifter and more quicker ... agreed, all of those words tend to mean similar things, yet i can't help mouth these words given the way things are shaping up ! Oh well, i'm referring to the practice of singing Christmas carols. Usually around Christmas day, a bunch of youngsters (generally members of the choir) from our Church tend to troop in to each house and sing carols. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just that the carol session at my house this time around, set me thinking about the way things seem to be getting mindlessly fast ! For instance, recently, one evening when I was standing outside my house admiring the peace and quiet, out of the blue, i heard the roar of nearly a half-dozen motorcycles and soon enough a bunch of motorcycles and couple of cars screeched to a halt right in front of me. Even before the dust had settled, a bunch of teenagers stormed into the house and sang a few carols in quick succession and without pausing to even breathe!, they left at the same speed at which they arrived. It was not until a few moments later that i realized that it was our Church choir that was visiting all the member houses and trying to spread some good cheer, all at warp speed!

I'm amazed at the way times have changed ! I remember how a few years ago, I used to participate in these carol sessions ... we would start singing practice several weeks prior to Christmas and during the Xmas season, we'd visit almost all of the member houses over a period of about a week, there were many members whose houses we needed to cover ... yet we planned our visits to ensure we spent a little time at each house, sang whole-heartedly, interacted with the members of the household & involved them in the session, wished everyone good cheer and partook of the treats that were offered (cakes, pastries and some piping hot coffee ! ... our visits were generally during late evening / mid-night times and we needed to keep warm) ... although we had to visit many houses, we did'nt go about scurrying like scared mice ... anyways, just a few years have passed and we seem to have already become too busy to even pause a while to truly spread some cheer ! Anyways, here's wishing everyone the season's choicest and best ... have a great time.

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."

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Sunday Dec 23, 2007

nothing special ...

Its been quite a while since i've posted anything ... hold on, i'm trying to think of an excuse ... lemme see ... aha! the oft repeated phrase ... frankly i've been busy lately ... thought i'd simply post a quick update on my recent activities and so here's an update on a recent short trip to Chennai ....

So, whats special about this trip ? Absolutely nothing and thats probably of interest ... i'd say its time we rejoiced in the ordinary rather than wait for something extra-ordinary to happen.

Chennai is at a distance of about 360+ kilometers from Bangalore. Boarded a train (Sanghamitra Express) that goes to Patna via Chennai, from the Bangalore City Railway Station at 9AM last Thursday. The coach was'nt too full, which is a good thing. I like the idea of traveling during the day and having a window seat is a bonus ! Was wondering who my fellow passengers would be ... my wait ended shortly when an elderly husband-wife duo perched on the seat opposite mine. They seemed like nice folks and there were just two instances when they communicated with me - the first instance was a request from the lady asking to borrow my copy of the day's newspaper for her to solve the daily cross-word puzzle and the second instance was actually a high-pitched squeal directed at me ... i'll explain the squeal bit shortly.

Its been ages since i've traveled by train and i must admit its truly a fine experience ... there's always something interesting happening if you keep looking around ... anyways, there was a steady stream of vendors traversing the length and breadth of the coach selling bottled water, breakfast, soup, beverages, snacks and hawking their wares pretty loudly. Close to lunch time, a railway attendant arrived to take our meal order. Lunch was delivered at about 1 PM. Just as i was about to dutifully complete my task of polishing off the contents of the lunch tray ... the lady sitting opposite my seat let out that high-pitched squeal which i alluded to earlier in this post. Although taken by surprise, i retained my grip on the spoon and looked up at the source of the noise only to see her looking at me and pointing a finger ... apparently trying to communicate something. And, she did look a wee bit uncomfortable as she gestured towards the side of my right hand.  Looking to my right i noticed  that  we had another fellow passenger (probably hungry too) ... it was a fairly cute looking rat ! I soon realized that the ticklish feeling that i felt couple of times earlier on was probably this rodent trying to grab my attention and share some of the food with it. Anyways, the rat soon realized that it was the center of all the attention and probably being a tad too introverted, it scampered out of sight ... leaving behind some not very comfortable passengers  ... this was one of the times i missed all those cats of mine ...

The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful and we reached Chennai at about 3:30 PM.  Took one of the famed Auto-rickshaws of Chennai to my destination (needless to state the obvious - we had a short haggling session to decide the fare). Anyway, this was a short trip and my plan was to leave to Bangalore the same day after finishing some personal work at Chennai. I returned back to the Chennai central railway station by about 6:30 PM. Before entering the railway station, took a leisurely walk on the streets outside and gorged on some very tasty street food. As darkness set in, slowly trudged back to the railway station and looked for the return train to Bangalore. The train was due at 9:30 PM and i had close to three hours to spend in the railway station, which seems like eternity when there's not much to keep you occupied. The station is truly a sprawling place teeming with humanity ... its so easy to get lost in the crowd here and after walking around for a while, in a slightly less crowded area, found an interesting place to sit, where i could spend some time quietly observing the crowds & activities at the station ... the seat was a large unused railway trolley which is generally used to ferry luggage ... hey there's a  bit of the kid within ! After about half-hour of watching people watch me, I wanted some solitude and paradoxical as it may sound, sometimes the best way to get alone is to be part of the crowd. So, went ahead and joined the milling crowds; walked past various platforms and watched trains from different parts of the country arrive and depart ... and finally the time came when the Mysore Express (thats my train to Bangalore) chugged into the platform and before i knew it, a whole sea of humanity converged on the train and even before the train stopped there were hordes of people scrambling to get in. Thankfully i had reserved my seat and could take it a little easier.

The train left on time and all that was left to do was to catch some shut eye. My fellow passengers were again an elderly couple (don't ask me why !) .. who after a while, woke me up from my beauty sleep to ask me my seat number ... apparently they seemed a little confused about their seat numbers and soon figured that they were in the wrong seat numbers. They soon left and suddenly i had the entire area to myself ... just as i drifted back to sleep, an entire family with tonnes of luggage packed in innumerable boxes of all shapes and sizes, landed next to me and occupied every inch of free space. Their banter made it hard to get back to sleep. After an hour or so, they seemed to have gotten tired with their vocal exercises and settled down to take a nap which afforded me another chance to sleep. This time i was terribly tired and simply slept like a log until about 4 AM in the morning whence a couple of excited little girls ran down the aisle shouting that their station had arrived. I realized that in the next half hour we would be reaching the Bangalore City station. As the train chugged into the City railway station in the wee hours of dawn, it felt good to be back after a pretty interesting trip. That, was a short quick update from my side.

Happiness is a journey not a destination, work like you don't need money, love like you never been hurt, and dance like no ones looking ...

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Sunday Oct 28, 2007

Its been a while ...

Just a short note to say that i've been caught up in the busy-ness of everyday business and have found little time to get down to blogging.

Currently making sure that posts come out at-least on weekends - hopefully can get back to writing more often, whenever the urge strikes ! Until the next post ... here's an interesting quote about working "half-a-day" by Kammons Wilson, which i think could do wonders for productivity !  ... " I like to work half a day. I don't care if it is the first 12 hours or the second 12 hours" ...

Saturday Oct 13, 2007

Are cutting edge Technical innovations really important ?

This is a good example of the kind of question to ask in a Technology company that has the potential for some fire-works (and probably getting fired)!

Anyways, there's always been the quest to find out if technological superiority truly translated into increased market share & revenues or would it just remain useful as part of a marketing spiel which may or may not cut much ice with the customer ... do products featuring cutting edge innovations truly lend significant competitive advantage ? Do buyers with decision making authority truly care as much about technological innovation as the folks working on creating these innovations ? Do market leaders and best sellers really hold technical superiority over their trailing competitors ? Does having the latest and greatest technological bells and whistles ensure a product's success in the market place over their comparitively less-technically-endowed competition ? Do investments in bleeding edge technological innovations truly generate tangible ROI or do they end up bleeding the company instead?

While some amount of thought has been given to this topic and these questions at various points in time, what triggered this post was a chance encounter with similar thoughts in a book while engaging in one of my favorite activities ... browsing books at the bookstore! Although i don't recollect the title of the book, some of the thoughts in there struck a chord and led to this post.

In many cases technical superiority that remains beneath the hood so to speak, essentially remains as a black box to the end user. The purpose of this post is not to discount the fact that technical innovations are important, its to remind that at the end of the day, as the cliche goes .. the proof of the pudding is in the eating ! ... all the innovations mean nothing if they do not meet the customer's needs adequately ... commonly expected attributes tend to also include, ease of use, intuitive interfaces, simple and clean design, doing what is intended / expected to perform correctly ... think of today's market leading products and see if many of them (if not all) incorporate & emphasize these elements.

While on this topic, one of the books on a very related subject of hi-tech marketing which merits reading is Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore.  I'll borrow a Zen quote from Moore's book which relates to the stages in hi-tech market development  ...

First there is a mountain,
Then there is no mountain,
Then there is.

For those of you whose curiosity has been piqued, go explore ! 

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Sunday Sep 16, 2007

Need for Speed Underground 2

After a long time, decided to unwind over the weekend and do something I have not done for sometime now ... the idea was to go back in time and indulge in a long forgotten pastime ... gaming !

Visited a computer store and while browsing the games on display, stumbled upon the Need for Speed series (NFS) ... i recall having last played Need for Speed 3 about 8-9 years ago and then it was my former boss at work, who introduced me to the game (Here I must admit i've had some real good bosses all through my career ... honest!)  ... turns out he liked gaming a lot and spent a small fortune on his gaming systems at home.

Weekends would be spent in long gaming sessions and sometimes we even had his boss pitch in too ! ... must admit these hyper-competitive, informal sessions were great fun ! Seeing the NFS game CDs triggered a wave of nostalgia ... I picked up Need For Speed Underground 2 (decided to try U2 before moving to Carbon) and felt almost a decade younger :)

Frankly, liked the game's story line, loved customizing cars, enjoyed playing all the racing modes ... especially Drift became my favorite followed by Sprint, URL and Circuit racing .. Outrun racing was great fun too ... another thing i soon realized was the addictive nature of the game ... i ended up spending almost all of the weekend on this and managed to "complete" the game ... "beat Caleb" ! Phew ! that was fun and a good change from "usual" weekend activities.

I find Leo Rosten's words pretty interesting in this context ... "You can understand and relate to most people better if you look at them - no matter how old or impressive they may be - as if they are children. For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much - we simply grow taller. O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales."

Thursday Aug 30, 2007

Am having "attrition" troubles at home than in the office !

If you're wondering what i'm blabbing about here ... well, i know attrition is an issue that we need to and are tackling at our workplace ... with significant amount of success i must say. But that same success eludes me on the home front ... ok, before you start off on tangential imaginary voyages, let me clarify ... i'm talking of attrition related to members of the four-legged variety.

I'm fond of cats ... so much so that last year i had close to eleven cats (ok, several kittens were part of that number) ... anyways, the fact remains ... I had eleven cats. As in the corporate world, there was a fair degree of poaching / head-hunting .. by some of my neighbors who developed a liking for these furry bundles of joy ... nett result of their activities was that some of the cool cats decided that the grass (er.. milk and food) was greener on the other side and left. There were also a few that wanted to explore the big bad world on their own ... these adventurous cats set out on their explorations never to return. In the course of time I've ended up with just two cats that call my house ... home.

The rest of them make occasional pilgrimages to their birth-place a.k.a. my home. Since the past couple days, these two cats have'nt called in yet ... i'm already missing them ... they usually come fairly early in the day /night when the rooster's still fast asleep (some where around 2 AM or so) and then need to feed them their share of warm milk, fish / meat and after they've had their fill, wait to see if they want to go out for a walk or stay in the house for a quick cat-nap ! Some nights, they might wake me up a couple of times (probably their idea of fun !)... the past couple nights have been way too silent and quiet making me worry if the spectre of attrition has come to haunt me again.

I'll wait another day or two, after which i plan to open a req and start the hiring process ... Meanwhile, am still looking for some ideas to improve retention ... would setting up a committee to study the problem help ?

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John Morrison


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