Saturday, March 28, 2009

How do you feel?

When I was about 19-20, on the day of Vinayaka Chaturthi, my father was performing the pooja. My brother and I wanted to go to our uncle's place - some 15 kilometers from where we were, to watch a cricket match on TV.  We didn't have TV at that time.  We were rushing our father to finish the pooja fast so that we don't miss even a minute of the game.  My mom was quite upset that we preferred a game over God.  I asked my father - "What would you do when you were my age and got a chance to play/watch cricket?".  Sounded like a good question at that time.  My father didn't say anything, but finished the pooja quickly and we went off to watch the game.

Apart from this, I've asked my mom and other elders on a number of occasions on why should we do this or that - to justify my actions and inactions.  The responses can be broadly classified as follows:
  • Some science  (often supported by statistics) that no one understood were behind  the rituals.  An example would be scientific backing of (Hatha) Yoga.
  • Intangible benefits - like punya, better concentration etc.  Example: Benefits of meditation as told by practitioners.
  • Elders said so - I don't know and wouldn't question that.
But, never once I got that answer like - "Try it - you might feel good."   It is as if, no one wanted to talk about the subjective feeling, but always try to reason it.  The reasons, over a period of time, were misunderstood and had become foolish rituals.  

I'd attribute this is to a couple of things.
  • People didn't have any authentic experience in support of these theories.  Even if they had had, they don't value it and use as a supporting fact.
  • The Western mind and the education system insists too much on the objectives to a level that a subjective experience is distrusted and seen as a lie.
The rituals are not restricted to the religious practices.   There are jokes like processes designed for certifications like ISO, CMM and modern research on physiology and psychology that rely heavily on statistics.

In effect, we don't even trust how we feel fever, instead need a thermometer to prove that there is fever.

Let me see if I can play the "feel" factor with my developers - expect them to produce good quality software that they would be feel proud of.  There are a lot of steps involved, but I think it would definitely be a step forward in their quality of work.

A few years down the line, I foresee the situation narrated in the beginning happen again.  That time, I would find myself playing a different role - that of a father.  When that happens, I might tell my son, "Try staying in the pooja - you might feel good."  I'd still try to finish the pooja fast and would make my son feel happy - just as my father did!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The drama over IPL

I find myself aligned with the Commie view over the drama called IPL.  That's a bit embarrasing.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D.Raja said: "We are in the election process, the home ministry tried to explain to the organisers whether the IPL management was aware of the elections or not. I never knew that the IPL leadership would be so apolitical."

He added: "The IPL is doing this for profit and when you do something for profit, you cannot expect a country to change its elections. They cannot take the country for granted. People in India have feelings for cricket, but they (IPL managers) should not exploit these feelings for profit."

The election commission, being fully aware of the security requirements for election chose to conduct in multiple phases.  

It is obvious to the common man that it would be impossible for the government to provide security for the games when the elections are on.  It is pathetic to see the major political parties giving out stupid or non-commital comments about the security situation and IPL's decision to shift the venue.

"This will send a wrong signal to the outside world that India cannot handle the security of cricket matches, which are such a huge public draw," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told IANS.

Another BJP guy said that India is not Pakistan.  I wonder where was he on 26th November or when Akshardam or the Parliament were attacked.  November 26th showed us that we are just as vulnerable as the Pakistanis.

Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said: "It is a private tournament organised by private organisers, it is their decision (to take out the tournament)."

"How can I comment on whether their decision is correct or not?" Mrs. Natarajan said to IANS.

Another weak comment that doesn't find anything wrong with the media or IPL's arm twisting the government.  And it also ignores the fact that the country doesn't have a better security with the UPA at the helm.

Overall the entire episode shows that:

  • Our election process can be free of violence only with large deployment of security forces.  This explains our democratic tradition.
  • The government - be it the UPA or NDA haven't figured out governance.
  • The corporate India is self-centered and cares a damn for anything other than their profits.
  • The media will play to the tune of the corporate India and cares little for ground realities.
  • People like me have blog as the only sane platform to vent out our frustration.

Nano, People, Economics and Tata's Vision

Yesterday Prakash blogged about sentiments on Nano. On the points that Prakash had mentioned:

1. Bridge the status for many people
Are we looking at a more or less equal status of people because all of them can have a car? Is this the end of all differences and do we start treating people equally? Nano is just a product that would attempt to cash in on the small segment of city people that can afford a bike but can't afford a Maruti 800 or such a car.  

Status differences are there and will be there. There will always be a comparison.

2. Allow people to convert their dreams in reality
The one who managed to buy a Nano would want to sell it the next year and move up to a bigger better car. So, if someone can dream of a Nano, the next dream would be an i10 or Getz or Maruti 800.

3. Ensure safe travel
Agreed. A car is safer than a bike just because you can't drive a bigger vehicle as crazily as you would drive a bike. But sir, what about the safety of the poor souls that happen to walk and cycle on the same road. Yesterday, I stopped for letting a pedestrian cross the road. She was shocked that someone could do that and stood like a moose in front of the headlights. In the meantime, I was honked and yelled for stopping!

BTW, I use my car as rarely as possible - maintaining a balance between social responsibility and need for luxury.

4. How a good segment of population will take a cautious approach before buying? They will wait and watch till the official verdict is on.
1 lakh (or advertised as Rs 99,999 + taxes) is just a marketing figure. I wonder what would be the cost of driving it that includes fuel, maintenance and insurance. Tata cars aren't known for their ease of maintenance and roads aren't designed for a maintenance free driving either. At this state of economy when the money flow is not guaranteed, people would obviously think a hundred times before committing on an ongoing spend.

My concern is, as the number of cars keep increasing, we have limited road-space in all the cities. We just can't afford to have more cars without causing major problems in environment, physical and mental health and lastly economy. In these conditions, it would be foolish to expect an expensive product to make life better for the masses.

Here are the specific comments about the timing of Nano.

Was it a good idea of Mohammed bin Thuglaq to shift the capital city? Was it a good idea to mint leather currency? Definitely yes! But every decision for a country or organization must be backed up by time.
  • To me, Tata's Nano and their acquiring of Jaguar, Land Rover or Corus lack the vision Tatas are known for.
  • If building a car from ground-up is an achievement, they have done it with Indica. 
  • Instead of improving its quality and being cost effective in the production, Tata chose the 1-lakh car. Though the idea sounds good, it seems to be driven by ego - that we can do it. 
  • That has an adverse impact in making fair judgment of the present conditions. I feel the opposition at Nandigram should have been seen as a bad omen for the 1-lakh car. We usually do not see resistance as a warning and Tatas are no exception.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Customer Support: Airtel, BSNL and Netgear

On the economic slowdown, we decided to cut back some of our expenses. BSNL offered a flat 20% discount for government employees. My wife, being a government employee chose to switch our land line and broadband from Airtel to BSNL.

She applied, got the connection in about a week. Then we went onto cancel the account with Airtel. The day after I submitted the request for cancellation, Airtel guys called up to make an offer - a cheaper deal so that we continue to keep their connection and not worry about change in the number. I politely declined saying that I'm fine with the small effort needed in keeping people informed of the new number.

A week after we got the BSNL line, the JTO from BSNL informed us that the broadband connection is through too. He offered to help setup the connection. He didn't care to understand our current configuration and insisted that we follow what said. I decided to give it a shot - reset the router-ADSL combo (Netgear DG834G-v3) and began doing the setup. As expected it didn't work. I searched for the installation CD and tried reinstalling the router software.

Now comes the pain point. The installer indicated that the line doesn't have ADSL signals. We called up BSNL for support; they came with their own modem, tested the line and said it is fine and concluded the problem is with the router. I struggled for a couple of days with the power-off-reset-change socket-change cable cycles and decided to go for a new router. Technical intuition told me that we might be missing something and shouldn't need to get a router. Luckily we decided to hold back on buying a new ADSL+router as the price quoted in open market was almost double that of what BSNL was quoting.

After so much efforts, the techie in me had given up and decided to cry for help. I called up NetGear support this morning. Surprisingly, there were support engineers available to help outside of the standard office hours of 9-5. The support person understood that I'm reasonably technical and didn't dumb me down like the BSNL JTO. She patiently walked me through the series of steps including resetting the modem, reconfiguring a few parameters to get it to working.