Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eating better

Keeping it simple in 2012. No Chips. No Cookies. Workout 4 times a week.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The cupcake fiasco...

...or how the TSA thinks a cupcake is a threat to National Security.

Talk about an epic waste of my tax $$

Why should I switch off my tablet and headphones during take-off?

Planes now have WiFi and DirecTV service, and the cockpit is constantly communicating with a tower. How is my phone connecting to a Cellular/3G tower going to cause an issue?

Let's say that the attempt to connect to a Cellular tower does bad things. What's the problem with the following devices being switched on during take-off and landing:
- noise-canceling headphones
- DVD player playing a movie
- iPod playing music

Do these devices create a harmful electromagnetic field only during take-off and landing? Airlines and rules need to update themselves to be relevant in the 21st century.

Update: Airline pilots can use iPads in the cockpit for the duration of the flight. Read this followup for some EMT findings:

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Microsoft futuristic videos remind me of some dark days at MS

Gruber at Daring Fireball says about the Microsoft futuristic videos that went viral:
The designs in these concept videos are free from real-world constraints — technical, logical, fiscal. Dealing with constraints is what real design is all about. Institutional attention on the present day — on getting innovative industry-leading products out the door and creating consumer demand for them — requires relentless company-wide focus.
These videos remind me of the time when Windows codename Longhorn was being conceptualized. The successor to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 was going to ring the death knell for Mac OSX; be the proverbial knockout punch that KO'ed "Apple Computer". The employees bought into a grand vision depicted that told a futuristic story full of glitz, but the program managers could not speak to specific design details. For the six months that ensued, none of us questioned where the project was going, whether the interaction models depicted were realistic or possible, and whether we could ship in time.

That year at Microsoft's PDC, a build of Longhorn was demo'ed to the world. Only insiders know how much wrangling was needed to get the build into a state to be demonstrated at the conference. The build was riddled with hacks and one-time fixes to show the world that the vision was indeed possible. We all know what happened next: Dave Cutler happened to Longhorn. The project got a royal dressing down, its wings got clipped, a more realistic set of features was decided upon, and the final product was the turd we all grew to love called Windows Vista.

Long story short - futuristic videos skew customer expectations, let program managers think they have rope to design unrealistic features (ergo hanging themselves with the rope), and lead developers into designing and re-designing frameworks and modules.

A wise company knows not to take an axe to its feet.

The 500 Greatest Songs of all time

Added an item on my bucket list to listen to all of these songs, at least once. Some of these I have already memorized. The rest? In good time...

Monday, October 31, 2011

HSJDI: How Steve Jobs Did It

Walter Isaacson for the New York Times:
He told me he began to appreciate the power of intuition, in contrast to what he called “Western rational thought,” when he wandered around India after dropping out of college. “The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do,” he said. “They use their intuition instead ... Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”
If there was a stronger endorsement of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, I haven't read or heard it.

Filed Under: The Steve Jobs Way

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nokia Lumia 800 US availability

Read at BGR:
Sadly, Nokia has confirmed that the Lumia 800 will not launch in the U.S. this year. 2012 may be a different story but in the meantime, the phone will launch this month across several European countries and in additional markets by the end of the year for €420 before taxes and subsidies.

Truly sad because this is a phone worth coveting. The script isn't written to the end, but this might be the turning point for Nokia and Microsoft. Still many acts in this story...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

thisismynext: Exclusive insight into the philosophy of Android ICS

Joshua Topolsky got an exclusive sit-down interview the head of design at Android. This excerpt from the interview talks about some of the key user interface changes. As I read these, I realized that Android has adopted ideas from other platforms, ideas that are potentially patented. "Favorites Tray" is a synonym for the iOS Dock, the swipe gesture to dismiss an app is a keystone of interacting with webOS, etc. Keep an eye open for news on handset makers (Samsung to begin with) being sued anew by Apple and/or HP.
Along the bottom of the homescreen you have a “favorites tray,” which can be customized, in the center is a button to get to your applications. Google search is always present on homescreens in the launcher, kind of like “Just Type” in webOS. When you want to create a folder now, you simply drag an icon onto another icon, similar to iOS. Inside folders, app icons will rearrange themselves, also like Apple’s software. Widgets can scroll and be resized, as in Honeycomb. Everything is smooth and fluid; new animations have been added throughout the system.

The multi-tasking icon pulls up a list of app snapshots similar to Honeycomb, but those applications can now be killed by swiping them to the right — like vertical cards. Gestures are all over ICS. “Gestures are much more fun than hitting buttons. Touching and moving things; way better than buttons,” Matias says while moving around the device. Even the calendar app didn’t escape the touch treatment; you’re now able to pinch-to-zoom on your schedule to expand or contract the view, which seems incredibly helpful.

The notification window is now slightly translucent with a glowing dot when you pull it downward. Notifications can be swiped away one at a time, mirroring webOS 3.0 behavior. You can access your notifications on the lock screen if you’re not using a passcode, and you can jump quickly to your settings through the window shade.

Monday, October 17, 2011

iCloud snafus point to the darker side of consumer cloud

iCloud was launched with much fanfare but has run into issues that can be directly attributed to volume and scale. Other salient observations made in this article that we have discussed in the past for are:

1. Getting consumer-grade Software as a Service right is a challenge
2. Moving data from traditional data stores to the cloud is difficult and error-prone
3. Data privacy/protection is still an issue with cloud services (also refer Facebook privacy nightmares)

Restoring consumer confidence is not a perfect science; AWS customers seemed happy with a public post from the company detailing the reasons (technical and infrastructural) for the outage they experienced about 6 months ago. The past week has not been good for consumer-centric cloud services, what with the Blackberry outage and the iCloud issues. Both these companies can restore consumer confidence by explaining what went wrong and the adjustments made to provide virtually uninterrupted service in the future.

Windows Explorer getting it wrong

"this is Microsoft’s own research, cited in the same post: nobody — almost literally 0% of users — uses the menu bar, and only 10% of users use the command bar. Nearly everybody is using the context menu or hotkeys. So the solution, obviously, is to make both the menu bar and the command bar bigger and more prominent. Right?
LOL. Microsoft cannot design UI, except maybe the Windows Phone team!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The World is Ending? Yes and No.

Two master narratives — one threat-based, one opportunity-based, but both involving seismic changes. Gilding is actually an optimist at heart. He believes that while the Great Disruption is inevitable, humanity is best in a crisis, and, once it all hits, we will rise to the occasion and produce transformational economic and social change (using tools of the Big Shift). Hagel is also an optimist. He knows the Great Disruption may be barreling down on us, but he believes that the Big Shift has also created a world where more people than ever have the tools, talents and potential to head it off. My heart is with Hagel, but my head says that you ignore Gilding at your peril.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to live the rest of your life

Words to live by.
I hope the message that people really take, really internalize is that being yourself, as hard as you can, is the way to have important and lasting impact on our world. That might be in the context of technology. It might be in the context of technology, or the arts, or sports, or government, or social justice — or even in the context of your family and close friends.

It almost doesn’t matter. The thing that matters most is to figure out what’s important to you, what’s core to you, and do that. Be that. And do it as well as you possibly can, every single day.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs passes away. An era ends...

I can't think of another person who I have followed with fervor bordering on the fanatical as I have Steven P. Jobs. Last night, for reasons I can't explain, I decided to see his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. What started as scribblings on a W postcard is now in the mailbox headed home as a cheat sheet for how I should lead my life. Not only was Steve a visionary and a genius, he also had a way with words that made you stop and listen.

The seer is no more; he lives on in our hearts and in Apple's products - present and future. Thank you Steve: You found your own dogma and shared it with the rest of us. For that, we are forever grateful.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Android tablet problem, nicely summarized by one review’s conclusion

This, not how closely a manufacturer can mimic the iPad’s hardware, is what reviewers should be asking about each new tablet: Why would a significant number of buyers choose this instead of an iPad?
I asked a similar question to the Zune pricing strategy team when we were about to launch Zune v2. The iPod was (and is) the King of the MP3 player market, and the social features of the Zune weren't features that would compel a customer to buy it over the iPod. The product needed further differentiation, and in my mind a lower price point would be the nudge that customers needed to try it.

My idea was summarily panned and the Zune launched at the same price as the iPod; when the price drop was eventually announced by Microsoft, the race was ever. The Zune was a great music player that didn't make it because it never reached critical mass. There is no point in being able to share a song with another Zune if there isn't another one within sharing range. Mimicking hardware isn't sufficient; it's selling the mimicked hardware to a sufficiently large group of people that's key.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The commoditization of the American lifestyle

Strongest argument made in this article IMO. Emphasis is mine.
Its first line of defense is to commodify its enemy. You can all supply your own favorite, most nauseating examples of the commodification of love. Mine include the wedding industry, TV ads that feature cute young children or the giving of automobiles as Christmas presents, and the particularly grotesque equation of diamond jewelry with everlasting devotion. The message, in each case, is that if you love somebody you should buy stuff.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rafa looks very vulnerable

To return back to his form of yore, Rafa needs to make slight adjustments and corrections to his current game. His game of 2010 might be a good one to revert to as well, but that might not be possible; people don't have Time Machine-esque features. In my opinion, here are some things that worked for him in the past:

1. The lefty kick serve out wide, especially on the ad-side.
2. Pinpoint precision ground strokes that jumped after hitting the lines
3. Deep balls, especially down the line
4. Impenetrable service games - in 2010, he held the ATP Tour record for being broken the fewest times

Something he needs to add to his game is the ability to take the ball early and from inside the court. Djokovic has been beating him by stepping into the court and taking the ball early. The long grinding matches he is playing aren't really doing him any favors.

The next two weeks will dictate the rest of his year. Vamos RAFA!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Apple botched my laptop's repairs

This weekend and today has been quite an ordeal. I found out that the great deal that Apple had about out-of-service warranty can, for people with luck like mine, become quite an ordeal. Here are my grievances with the process:

1. I took the Macbook Pro into the Apple store about two weeks ago because the battery was draining faster than it did a few months ago.
2. After about a day of running diagnostic tests, I was asked to come by to pick up the machine because it had no battery issues whatsoever.
3. It was at this point that I was told that there are other things wrong with the machine that would all be fixed if I availed of the out-of-warranty service/repair.
4. I went back to the Apple store last week to avail of said service.
5. The technicians at the Apple repair facility found that the battery was indeed draining faster than it should. They ran the same diagnostic test as the one run in the store; why did the 2 tests produce conflicting results?
6. I was asked to come in to pick up the repaired laptop on Saturday, but two of the issues they were supposed to fix (documented in the original work-order and communicated over the phone to the repair facility) weren't fixed.
Mind you that by this point, I had been to the Apple store 4 times to have my laptop fixed. That's a lot of time commuting and extreme inconvenience; I haven't had a laptop for about a week now!
7. I got an email today that my machine is ready for pick-up. During my conversation with Brooke, an Apple Store Genius, on Saturday afternoon I was told that the machine would be shipped via FedEx-overnight the instant it was ready. I am hoping I don't have to make another trip to the store because that is going to *really* suck!

Let's wait and see how this unfolds.

Update: They are waiting for another part to come in. ETA: Saturday, the 28th of May. Time spent at Apple: 14 days.

Update 2: A trip to the local FedEx office was needed to get my laptop back; to Apple's credit, the repairs were thorough and my machine is working like new!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Road Runner Sports - missed revenue opportunity

Running, though one of the most boring athletic activities, is one of the easiest to get into. All you need is a good pair of shoes, and you're ready to conquer the miles and miles of asphalt paved all around you. Wait, did I say *good* pair of shoes? How does one differentiate good from bad? This is where a store dedicated to runners comes in - Road Runner Sports.

Road Runner has a wide selection of shoes, but before you buy a pair, you can get a complimentary gait evaluation. Often times something sounds nifty but is a scam; not this gait evaluation, not one bit. Using sensors and cameras, your foot's stability and strength, and your gait's form are evaluated. This evaluation is used as input into determining the shoe that maximizes your endurance on the road without compromising your performance. Road Runner goes one step farther - no puns intended - and builds a custom pair of orthotics so that the shoes you buy fit you perfectly. Sadly, the asking price on this custom pair breaks the bank for too many buyers.

While I was at the store this past week, I saw a number of these pairs made for customers who decided against buying them. Running shoes go for upwards of $75 these days. The orthotics are priced at $80, and they have a life of about 6 months. Based on my non-scientific observations, there were 5 pairs of orthotics that were consigned to the trash can the evening I was at the store. That's cold-hard revenue that  Road Runner is letting go to waste.

A basic study of the American consumer's psyche indicates that the sweet spot for discretionary and frivolous spending is $19.99. Spend one night watching late-night TV and you will be bombarded with promotions for all manner of products that bring comfort and utility to your life that is already so comfortable. The one gimmick used by all these products is their $19.99 price-point. In this recession, infomercial sales have skyrocketed so much so that legitimate companies are piloting new products using this marketing and sales channel. Some back of the envelope math tells me that if Road Runner priced their custom orthotics at $19.99, the product will be a more attractive value proposition than it is today. Given that every customer that gets an evaluation has these made regardless of whether they are eventually purchased, they fixed costs accrued by Road Runner don't increase. The company can gather data on the sell-through rate by offering a 2-week promotion on the orthotics at $19.99; I can bet, with some confidence, that they sell more than 4 pairs of orthotics on promotion for every pair they sell today. Let's say they don't ever get to this blog post or promotion; if you were the one swiping your credit card at Road Runner, would you be more inclined to spend $20 or $80?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Dealing with the unknown

When we were younger, almost every situation we encountered was one we had no prior experience with. We hit an inflection point at a certain age, and most of what we do or experience from that point on is more of the same. If enough time passes without a new experience, the part of the brain that responds to the unknown begins to atrophy. This is when panic sets in...

Our initial reaction to the unknown is panic; the heart rate increases, the ability to think clearly vanishes and breathing gets labored. In such a situation, the key is to take a step back and regain a measure of control over your surroundings. Often times, the onset of panic is triggered as a para-sympathetic reaction to humiliation or embarrassment. The social beings that we are, how we are perceived by other people drives a lot of what we do. The feeling is fresh in my system; I experienced it when getting on the bus with my bike today.

Buses in Seattle have a bike rack up front; riders secure their bikes on the rack prior to hopping onto the bus. Last weekend, I learned how to secure my bike onto the rack thanks to a bus driver's timely intervention. Today, I figured would be a cinch now that I knew how to use the clasps. When I walked up to the front of the bus though, the rack needed to be opened up before I could put my bike onto it. My brain froze...

As the seconds ticked by, the paralysis spread from my brain to my limbs. As I floundered, I heard the driver mention a handle that needed to be pulled, and by some inexplicable instinct, I looked at the middle of the rack. The yellow handle was like the rip-cord that broke my free-fall. I pulled the rack down, regained my composure, fastened my bike securely, and took a seat on the bus.

The rush of blood to my head was invigorating, and it taught me not just how to deal with this situation in the future, but how to handle new and unforeseen circumstances in the future. With a new job and a new role on the horizon, I am going to face a plethora of unknowns. How I react and handle these situations will underscore my future. As the synapses fire in my head, I must remember to stay calm, not worry about being embarrassed because I don't know something, and use my experience to figure out a solution. Net result: profit!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mantra for success in any job you do

2 words: Manage expectations. How?
  1. Set them appropriately
  2. Schedule time correctly
  3. Deliver on stated expectations
  4. If anything requires resetting, report it immediately
  5. Never get out of sync with your boss

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Panties in a bunch over Bin Laden raid

Everyone that has their panties all bunched up because of either the specifics of the Bin Laden raid, or the unilateral nature of the US Navy's action, or for any other reason kindly take a chill pill and unbunch them under-wares. The guy was responsible for one of the most heinous crimes inflicted on innocent civilians. The retaliatory action of the US military wasn't without fault, but really, if you put your hand in a lion's mouth, there is a good chance he will bite it off.

Please, celebrate the death of the figure-head of International terror.

Unemployed - Day 2

A typical unemployed person's story doesn't start at 4:45 in the morning. Well, this one does and it's atypical for any other story in my life; I never wake up that early, not even when I am jet-lagged. As some friends have already pointed out, there is a lot of irony in this statement - I used to struggle to wake up before 8 when I was working at Amazon, and couldn't get out of bed before 9 when I was at Microsoft. That I went to bed before 10pm last night has something to do with why I woke up as early as I did, but it can't be just that. It's more because a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and a stress-free Manoj is a better sleeper.

I veered between torpor and hyperactivity yesterday. I had a few things on my list of things to do, one of which was having my laptop looked at. Instead of lazing at home, I started my day with a trip to the Apple store to have them investigate "the case of the draining battery". Yes, all batteries drain eventually, but my relatively new battery was relieving itself of its charge even before the obligatory two hours I expected it to last. After a long chat with the Apple Store Genius, I was told that more extensive tests were needed to ascertain the cause of said mysterious drainage, and that I would hear from them once they had more information. My Mac is 5 years old now, so it's a Vintage. I was informed by the Genius that Apple has a great deal for out-of-warranty Mac owners like myself; bring your old Mac in and for a flat $310, Apple will fix and replace anything that is wrong with it. In effect, you walk into the store with a problem-Mac, and you walk out with an almost refurbished one, complete with a 90-day warranty. If the technicians find a lot of things busted in my Mac, I'm going to avail of this killer deal. No sub-500$ PC is going to be as good as my 5-year old Macbook Pro!

Leafing through The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest at the Barnes & Noble in the U Village was utterly relaxing; I needed it after my hour at the Apple Store (rolls eyes). Justin and I had planned to workout a little after lunch, so I headed over to the gym for a workout at 2pm with the self-proclaimed workout machine. It was a bust! He was eating lunch as I walked into the club, and am glad I didn't wait for him to be limber again - he hadn't started his workout even after I left the facility two hours later. For my own part, I interval trained for twenty minutes on the bike, and followed it up with a solid chest workout. The soreness is beginning to kick in right about now.

The evenings are hard to pass without having a real objective, so I am open to suggestions from you on what would be a meaningful way to spend the hours post a workout. I experimented with lying on the couch and intermittently reading, watching TV and reading the news online. Two problems with the couch setting - it's sleep inducing and leads to binge eating. Help an unemployed person be productive, please...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Unemployed - day 1

There used to be a time when I couldn't wake up before 9am. These days, I sleep before midnight and I am up by 7:30. One of these days, summer will rear its head in Seattle and I will be able to actually go out for a run in the morning. For now, I am up and ready a little before 9am, but without an office to go to, I am going to have to become creative about how to spend my days.

You read that right: I am unemployed. And already, I feel the batteries recharging! It's my first weekday since my emancipation from the clutches of drudgery, so my words might be colored by ephemeral euphoria. Regardless of how long the happiness lasts, damn it feels good to be happy again. I plan to use my time off to read, rejuvenated and recuperate. The adult version of the 3Rs...

Drop me a line if you have interesting things to do or read this summer. I will most likely join you in your endeavor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Multiple black eyes to software as a service this past week

1. The AWS outage: written about, discussed, and dissected to the nth degree.
2. The PSN outage and corresponding theft of data by an "unauthorized" individual.

Which is the next service to suffer a similar catastrophe?

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is what I will miss...

We create things because we want to delight, entertain, and empower our users. While the specifics of how they did it may be interesting from an academic point of view, the important part is that they did. People really seem to like this app. I can be a jerk about it and point out the trap doors, but then I’m just that guy who awkwardly ruins the show for his increasingly disinterested date.

In design, opinion is currency. But being negative is a cheap trick, too. And if I can get past that, maybe humility isn’t the only lesson this app has to offer me.
Eloquently captures the reason why we build not just software, but why we build everything.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What EC2 and S3 do so well - manage abstractions

Today we’re the driving force behind NodeJS, which sits on a very different place on the abstraction curve than Smart did. We’ve pulled lots of ideas and lessons from Smart into our hosted NodeJS offering,, but we did drop as much of the magic as possible. The end result is a service that’s tremendously simpler and in many ways less feature rich, but it doesn’t make promises we can’t fulfill and our customers can understand it.

In fact, when something goes wrong they can log right in with a shell and see exactly exactly what’s going on. We’ve paired the transparency with ground-breaking observability tools. NodeJS and are huge successes, largely, I think, because we walked the fine line of abstraction level better this time. It’s only a black box when you want it to be. When you need to look inside, you can. You can evaluate the risk level of the technology and approach yourself.
Great read for anyone interested in technology and how to architect a mission-critical service.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

10 years, 8 teams, 2 companies

And I finally am where I want to be. I gave my 2-week notice to Amazon today, and the future is looking good. What's my next job going to be? Whatever it is, it's going to be something I really and truly cherish and want to do. No more settling for a job or a city or a ...

This time, I'm going to do it right. I've learned a lot about what I want to do and who I want to become in the 10 years since I graduated. I know I don't want to write code for a living. I have known that for a few years now, and I was told that I'd accomplish the goal of switching to another role before I started on my last team. That it didn't happen is now in the past. I have a great future to look forward to. First up though, I'm going to recharge my batteries.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Microsoft Windows Phone 7

Karan and I often end up talking about technology trends as they pertain to Microsoft. Here is a snippet of a conversation we had this morning on Windows Phone 7. They in the context of this conversation is the Windows Phone 7 team. Enjoy!

Manoj (7:45 AM): problem is, they need a wild card
Manoj (7:45 AM): maybe Nokia is that WC
donna (7:45 AM): i think you will also be able to write your own agents that run in the background
Manoj (7:45 AM): but at this point, there is a very high switching barrier (inertia, investment in apps, etc) and no real incentive to switch to WP7
donna (7:45 AM): true true
Manoj (7:46 AM): WWKD?
donna (7:46 AM): the untapped market world wide is still larger than the existing base
donna (7:46 AM): by far, no?
Manoj (7:47 AM): yes by far
Manoj (7:47 AM): But, the untapped world market cannot afford 100$ phones
donna (7:47 AM): how many people buy _a lot_ of apps you think?
donna (7:47 AM): so much so that it would be a barrier
Manoj (7:48 AM): ok ready? if people aren't going to buy apps, then the massive investment in an app store isn't justified. The idea isn't how many apps people buy. The idea is that they have a choice to buy.
Manoj (7:48 AM): remember, people like the idea of choice. whether they exercise said choices is their call.
Manoj (7:49 AM): they must feel like they are in control, even if they aren't.
donna (7:49 AM): agreed completely. but the question is if my i want to switch from apple and i have bought $20 worth of apps or $500?
Manoj (7:49 AM): Circling back to my opening argument. The apps need to be there, all of them, so that every segment's needs are served.
donna (7:50 AM): the apps need to be there. yes. no argument against that.
Manoj (7:50 AM): it's about knowing that if i want to spend my next $ on an app I covet, will I find it in the joe schmo store.
Manoj (7:51 AM): you know it's going to be in the iTunes store. The only set of apps that gets advertising,word of mouth or viral publicity is the App store.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stress and haste make waste

This post is dedicated to mtenpow.

The last few weeks have been very stressful. Unforeseen issues have cropped up every day. I'll have accomplished something important when all is said and done, but it has extracted a very heavy price. Everything seems to have conspired against my best laid plans, and executing under pressure has made reaching the destination that much harder.

I'm not writing this because I want to complain about the stress. Instead, I want to talk about how dealing with stress is more important than succumbing to it. Stress has gotten the better of all of us at some point or the other; how does one deal with it effectively?

I'm no expert on the matter; I needed a reminder today to slow down, because being harried was messing me up. The stress was making me hurry, clouding my judgment, and not letting me find the cure of the symptoms I was observing. Spinning around in circles incessantly, I couldn't see some obvious problems with the environment I was working in.

How do I plan to counter future stressful situations? Take a deep breath, slow down, write out the causes of the issues, and separate and clarify concerns. Tackle one problem before going on to the next one, and then the next one. The end goal: Avoid getting frazzled, stay focused and find the thorns in my side. If all else fails, take a walk and clear my head.

Let me know what works for you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fighting to shut out the real India

More often than in years past, I get to read a piece about India in the NYTimes or the Economist. More often than not, these articles talk about the huge economic disparity in the world's most populous country, and how the minorities are exploited for more than just monetary gain. This piece by Manu Joseph for the NYTimes starts out with the premise that affluent Indians find every way possible to isolate themselves from their less privileged kin.
In fact, daily life in India is a fierce contest between the affluent and the educated on the one side, and the brooding impoverished on the other.

The pursuit of India’s elite is to protect themselves from India — from its crowds, dust, heat, poverty, politics, governance and everything else that is in plain sight. To achieve this, they embed themselves in their private islands that the forces and the odors of the republic cannot easily penetrate.
The article goes on to back this hypothesis up with examples of people seeking refuge in their air-conditioned homes, their cars with windows raised, their exclusive clubs, etc. Having lived in the US for more than 10 years, I don't see how this is different from American society. Let me back my claim up with some data points:

1. The affluent live in the suburbs. The poor live in the inner city projects. This division brings itself to bear all over the country with a few exceptions. There is little to no inter-mingling between the 2 strata of society.
2. The affluent send their children to private schools if they can afford the exorbitant tuition. The public school system is broken in ways that doesn't really educate the poor. The public schools in the suburbs are among the best in the country, but accept pupils only from nearby localities, not from the inner-cities. The city public schools are under-funded and are in municipal regions that don't receive too much help from tax-payers (poor people don't pay high taxes, which means there is less tax money to go around, which means ...)
3. The rich live in gated communities or by the water-front and hire the poor as nannies or butlers or gardeners. I don't think the immigrant or blue-collar population in America can dream of being affluent. They dream of meeting their daily needs and not being caught into the debt trap that has ensnared so many Americans.
4. This leaves the upwardly-mobile middle-class: people like you reading this post and me, its author. There is an entire population of Indians just like you and me - not living on the fringes, yet not living in the lap of luxury; making a little more than we need, using some of it and putting the rest of it away for a rainy day.

Social structures exist everywhere, for reasons that can't be dissected or fully comprehended. It grinds my gears when authors present just one side of a story, especially when they are being critical.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

New age doctors have short attention spans too

In a separate interview, Dr. Kate Dewar said that treating chronic conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol — a huge part of her father’s daily life — was not that interesting. She likened primary care to the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the same boring problems recur endlessly. Needing constant stimulus — she e-mails while watching TV — she realized she could not practice the medicine of her forebears.

“I like it when people get better, but I’d rather it happen right in front of my eyes and not years later,” she said. “I like to fix stuff and then move on.”
Short attention span disorder is endemic in modern society; yes, I just made that disorder up. Unfortunately, no amount of Ritalin can cure this disorder. I wish there was a way to infuse our humdrum routines with a dose of adrenaline, but then, like what we consider mundane today, the infused humdrum will become the new routine.

In short, don't have boring diseases and expect to get good treatment!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recommended reading

A must-read piece on Sachin Tendulkar, cricket, India, and everything in between.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Team India, dismantled and analyzed

Update: Dhoni said this in his post-match interview, but I was seething after the game so didn't stick around to watch it. Listening to the water while walking around the shore aimlessly cooled me down and let me reflect on the games to come. India has one thing going for it: its batting. A batting effort can only go so far to hide the inefficacy of the other 2 departments: bowling and fielding. Being unable to defend 338 runs sends a message to both India's batsmen and the opponents. The batsmen psyche themselves into taking undue risks because they know they have to score a lot of runs at better than a run-a-ball - an unsustainable feat even for the likes of Sachin and Viru. The opponents believe that they are always in the game regardless of the enormity of their target; if England could do it, so can they. Both messages are detrimental to India's chances of holding the Cup aloft. The captain, team (bowlers, I am talking to you), coach and selectors best get their heads together and devise a plan. Or, kiss the Cup goodbye.

V Sehwag
- Nothing to add about Viru. He sticks to his game-plan, which is a rarity in this motley crue of cricketers.
SR Tendulkar
- For some reason, his centuries are almost always in vain. India loses because hubris sets in after a huge score has been posted on the board. He walks out with his head held high, gives it his best, and walks off with his head - and ours - held higher.
G Gambhir
- Great foil to the aggression of Sehwag. Only thing he needs to work on is his fielding.
Yuvraj Singh
- Mercurial. Inconsistent. Sublime and ridiculous. The mood of the team derives from his mood, so he needs to be upbeat, always!
MS Dhoni
- Winningest Indian captain, so can't really call him out for his decisions, but his bowling changes today were rubbish.
YK Pathan
- All-rounder and great fielder, so the only thing I'd ask off him is to work on his bowling in the death. He tends to bowl short and stray on the leg-side. As a bowling strategy, this isn't really one to write home about.
V Kohli
- Touted as the best fielder on the Indian team, but hasn't lived up to this billing. Needs to lose the sunglasses, hunker down, and inspire his teammates with his dives and jumps on the field. A treat to watch as a batsman, but in today's game, that isn't enough.
Harbhajan Singh
- The 2nd Indian spearhead. Bhajji bhai, you need to reach out to the junior bowlers in a manner they can digest, and dispel wisdom on how to deal with batsmen that aim to dominate. Piyush Chawla really needs this guidance.
Zaheer Khan
- The spearhead. The thinker's bowler. Enough said.
PP Chawla
- Has turned in a run of mediocre performances but he takes wickets. Tends to be inconsistent, too short, and bowls the wrong line. To let tail-enders hit 2 sixes off your last bowler, the 49th of a massive run chase, is plain unacceptable. You need to aspire to the greatness of Shane Warne, not the mediocrity of the last bowler you replaced on the Indian squad.
MM Patel
- Refer notes for Piyush Chawla. Good in sparks, but there aren't enough sparks to warrant praise.
Suresh Raina
- 12th man, young kid who isn't doing his due diligence to merit inclusion in the playing 11. When you're a substitute, you need to pull back runs, latch on to impossible catches, and make the 11 uncertain of their position on the team. With you waiting in the wings and playing the way you are, there is no fear in any of the 11 that their position is in jeopardy.

To summarize:
- Inconsistent performances need to be penalized.
- Bowling is sub-par, but there are simple things that can address the issues. First thing to do: have a plan. Second: stick to the plan. And don't forget, bowling short and/or bowling on middle and leg is a bad idea regardless of the conditions.
- Hubris is entrenched; it needs to be eviscerated. There is no place for hubris in modern sports. You're not the anointed champions; you can earn the right to be called champions, but nothing is ordained.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

What I shipped in 2010

In the Corporate world, you are what you ship. Here is who I am:

1. The AWS SDK for .NET updates for EC2, CloudFront and S3
2. AWS S3 Console:
a. Large Objects support
b. Usability improvements
c. RRS Bucket notifications

Though small, each item on that list had big implications for AWS developers and customers alike. Nailing the user experience, defining the API, determining which interactions to simplify and which to further flesh-out took a lot of research and hard-work.

Here's to 2011 being another year of features, both small and large, that improve the AWS customer experience.