Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Family tradition

Somehow my family has never believed in the power of the written word over the spoken word. I would be quite surprised if I learnt that my father had a letter writing phase in his life. He would much rather use the phone. Fair enough in the good old days it was a heck of a lot faster to call than to write now with the advent of email ,that excuse no longer exists. So we have conveniently evolved a new family tradition. My dad tells my mom to send me an email, and then calls me to make sure I got it. Who said that email wasn't guaranteed. Now this wouldn't be quite as fun, if I didn't do the same. So as per family tradition , when I write an email , I wait for 3 days and then call.

Oh! Adidas

Its amazing how many things you learn about ourselves day to day. My sister had sent over shorts for me form India. This was nearly a year back. It was left by the person who brought it over at a relatives place in NJ. Now I never got myself to make the trip to collect my prize. On Christmas day however I was invited to the same house by my friend who was staying there. She had mentioned earlier that she had seen the shorts and put it
away. So before I was to leave , she took me over to the shelf where it was placed at the very top. I reached to get it. My initial reaction was , "How ugly" . It was shiny dark blue with a bright yellow trim. However as soon as the whole thing came into view my feelings were assuaged somewhat and a I said "Oh! Adidas" . The implication being that I don't mind the ugly shorts as long as they were adidas.
I never realised that I was as much a devotee to brand image as the next guy. Oh Well.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Man of the year? Amitabh Bachan

For anyone who visits India , the one name and face that's inescable is that of Amitabh Bachan, Arguably the biggest super star to ever grace the silver screen. He is in the twilight of his life and his career is at a fresh pinnacle. Loved and admired by both young and old, he is an advertisers dream in terms of face and brand recall. He has been raking in the moolah through endorsements the way no other celebrity has. He is considered wise humble and grounded by most. So am I making a case for him to be Man of the year?
Far from it. I am drawing a parallel between him and Bono the lead singer of my favorite band U2. Bono was named as the Times Man of the Year along with Bill and Melinda Gates, all of whom in my opinion richly deserve the award. Few amongst us can match the Gates wealth or Bono's celebrity status. What's impressive to me is the unflinching manner that Bono has pursued his objective of obtaining debt relief for poorer nations. Most celebs including Bachan have leant their names to good causes, few have run with a cause the way Bono has.
Mr. Bachan your various movie roles have left an impact on a number of generation of Indians. Isn't it time that you impact their lives in more real ways?
More people as a whole can say they are your fans than ca say they are Bono's.
Is it not time to use that to generate a lasting impact that lasts beyond the fleeting moments of a movie?
You have what you could have asked for. Time to answer a hire calling.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Harrowing Commute

The MTA that runs the subways in New York, struck work yesterday over a pay dispute.
I had seen water taxi's at a spot not far from the Brooklyn Bridge and about 20 mins walk from my place. I was quite excited to have an alternative means to get to Manhattan, and everybody I made the suggestion to seemed to like the idea. So I left my house at 7:40 to trudge all the way to the water taxi. When I got there I was met by a group of women who told me that the water taxi's were'nt running today. So I decided to follow them across the Brooklyn Bridge. As cold and windy as it was , the sight of so many more people enduring the same conditions as me made the walk more bearable. I finally got across the bridge and walked a few blocks. The destination was 560 Washington st where I hoped to find a company shuttle. There were cops virtually at every intersection. But no one seemed to be able to definitely tell me where my destination was. The result I circled around for close to an hour before I could find the shuttle. By the time I found it I was frozen to the bone.
The ride back home was much better. I was able to take a company bus preety much 20-20 mins walk from my place. A distance of maybe 4-6 miles took approximately 2 hrs.
I was lucky however to make friends with a colleage whose husband would be driving in the next day. That besides meeting an entirely delightful person. So today I and another colleague (Again a bus acquaintance) landed up at her place for the lift. There we met the most adorablke 7-8 year olds you can find. Overall a good end to a horrendous beginning.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Whew dodged a bullet there

A couple of days back when I tried to turn on my laptop, it just refused to start.
I began fearing the worst when I connected it to the power adapter and there was no blinking, indicating that the laptop was charging. I checked for lose connections. Everything else connected to the extension board that the adapter was connected to seemed to work fine. This could mean only that my laptop or adapter had gone kaput. I was hoping it was the adapter for obvious reasons. I had a to test the laptop with another adapter, which i did yesterday. Running out of options I plugged the adapter directly to a wall outlet and voila it started working. A colleague had suggested the same but I brushed it off thinking that no way was the solution going to be that simple. So my $800 stays in my pocket.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Celebrity spotting

This weekend on saturday, I had gone to the Time Square AMC to watch the new George clooney starrer Syriana. While waiting for my friend to turn up, I saw a bunch of Indians walk in. Amongst them I could recognise from the screen, Karan Johar (hindi movie director) and Rani Mukherjee(actress). I should have asked for an autgraph to prove that I saw them, but then I thought that It would be better to let them enjoy their anonymity. This would in no way have been possible in India. I found it amazing how ordinary these celebs looked. I guess we expect them to dazzle us the way they do on screen, but when that does'nt quite happen it tends to surprise.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hilarious website

If you thought u can dance , visit this site. Only 2 things are possible, you abandon all pretensions to being a dancer, or you realise you are actually good. A good yardstick would be if there are any moves u recognise as those belonging to your repetoire.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

How safe is a monopoly

I am going to spin an argument about something most would agree on, using a bad sports analogy and a Pulitzer prize winning book.
The book I am talking about is Gun, Germs and Steel. One of the very interesting insights is as follows. At the beginning of the evolutionary process, the ancestors of modern man were very inefficient hunters with niether superior intelligence nor the tools to threaten the survival of most animal life they co-habitted with. Without getting too technical, early man started out in Africa moving over a period of hundreds of thousands of years into first Eurasia then Australia and finally onto North and South America. Coinciding with the arrival of modern man in Australia and North America , was the near extinction of large mammals very similar to the kind now found in Africa. A very convincing case can be made for the hunting down of these large mammals by early man. So how did large mammals in Africa and to some extent Eurasia survive, while those in Australia/North America did'nt make it?
Animals in Africa had a chance to evolve alongside clumsy, lacking in hunting skills early man. whereas the animals in Australia had to deal with a shrewd adversery they had never encounterd before. The monoploy they held on those continents(Aus, NA) actually meant that they were ill euipped to deal with a superior and smarter adversary when they emerged thousands of centuries into their evolution.
How does this apply to the monopolies we see in businesses today? Most monopolies are a result of prevailing market conditions, and when you do have a monopoly, its often hard to see anothe ralternative for all stakeolders, but when an alternative does emerge it takes everyone by surprise most of all the monopoly holder itself.
Now for the bad sports analogy. The blitz that the quater back does'nt see hurts the most and does most damage. So monopoly holders breathe easy at your own risk.

What I am reading

A colleague of mine forwarded this reading list from the site Joel on Software. Its for an MBA program they have in mind. Its not as if these books are unknown gems, but its nice to have them all in one place.
The books I am reading currently are Direct from Dell
and Guns, Germs and Steel.
Both books are quite fascinating in different ways. Interesting titbit, in High school Michael Dell filed an income tax return of $18,000 more money at that time than his teacher. Where did the money come from? Selling magazine subscriptions.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Its all politics says Bush

You can credit President Bush with one specific quality. When he picks up a theme he rides it into the ground. Well his latest theme is that he will not yield to political pressure to withdraw from Iraq. Not yielding to political pressure in support of your beliefs is not necessarily a bad thing. But when u put things in perspective it does strike you. Was is not politics that led Bush into Iraq in the first place? So why is not a good enough reason to withdraw from there. President Bush has put the United States in the posiition of heads I win tails you lose.
Yes the people of this country were by and large behind him when he entered Iraq , but that support was mostly secured on the back of the tragic events of 911 and Bush and co drawing tenous links between Iraq and Al Qeuada. False eveidence was placed in front of the UN no less. This administration used every means fair and foul to influence public opinion in its favor.
So now when public opinion has turned against them they take a moral high ground. We wont leave a job unfinished. A withdrawl will be disrespecting those lives already lost. So whats the solution, more bullets and more bodies. A mess has been created and someone's got to take the rap for it. But it sure ain't gonna be Bush, he does'nt have a 3rd term anyway.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fixing Bihar

This was an article that I had submitted to Indian Express in response to an invitation to its readers. For the unintiated Bihar is one of the most backward states in India.
Here is my contribution, I am not sure wether it was ever looked at but by posting it here hopefully it gets noticd.
By and large most in the media have hailed the end of
Laloo’s 15 year reign. Now Bihar’s problems hasn’t
been blessed with good governance prior to Laloo
either. However Laloo took over just as the rest of
India was entering a high growth phase.
Even a 15 year old will be able to list out Nitish
Kumar’s priorities. Law and Order,
Infrastructure and related development. None of which
will be easy since each is linked. You can’t have
development when businessmen don’t feel safe. Crime
follows from poverty. A very simplistic analysis no
doubt but it does contain a grain of truth.
The Bahubali’s have been used by either side in equal
measure so one cannot expect them to disappear. But
Nitish will have to prevail on those on his side while
cracking down on the ones on Laloo’s. A demoralized
police force has to be re-equipped and retrained. Once
the police realize that they will be allowed to
function without political interference , they can
actually serve as a deterrent to crime instead of
being mere bystanders. Nitish will have to go the
whole hog in attracting investments from high profile
industrialists since this is what will draw others. To
do this there has to be an increase in the
availability of water, power and roads. None of which
will happen overnight. Bihar with sufficient natural
resources(coal can be sourced from Jharkhand) should
encourage captive power plants and also be willing to
buy excess power from the same. Rural infrastructure
should be given priority so that agricultural products
can reach the market and with some value addition.
Education and health care must receive their due as
well. Whereas the bihari urban middle class have
proved that they can stick it out with the best in
their respective fields , the rural masses have gotten
left behind in the education stakes.
Now Bihar will also be imporant for one other reason.
For the last decade and a half the BJP has been the
only principal opponent to the Congress. BJP itself is
however racked by an ideological struggle , will
hindutva + socialism(read populism) + caste equations
fetch votes or is it devlopment and good governance.
They fought an election on the governance plank in
MP but since then they have lost the plot. A bihar
that makes vast strides in the coming years will serve
as a big plus for the rationalists in the BJP. And if
things go to script the BJP becomes a much milder
version of itself and actually builds bonds with the
muslims and becomes a genuine representative of the
people of India.