Category Archives: Rants and Raves

Cultural Differences Between the East and the West (of the world)

I came to the United States back in 1994 as a student and have not left since, except for short vacations. I try to assimilate myself into whatever situation that I get into and this country, now my country, is no exception. I tried my best to become an American. However hard I have tried to look, sound and behave like an American, there is still of a lot of Desi in me. I was even referred to as “an International Experience” by someone very close to me at some time in my dotted past.

My wife Jennifer is painfully aware of my “Indian Standard Time” and gets more than just exasperated at me because of it. I still cannot say laboratory properly, no matter how hard I try to remember the pronunciation. I hate spelling color that way. Aluminum rubs me the wrong way whenever I see it. I refer to my boss as “sir” often and fluster him, and I can never seem to give directions well. All of these fun differences were bought to the forefront last week when I read about Yang Liu’s book on Quartz. I loved the pictures and posted the link on Facebook. I have since thought that it would be fun to post about each of these in more detail and explain the pictures that are illustrated on Quartz. I am not reproducing them here for copyright purposes. Please refer to the article above for my inspiration. Here we go.

Indian Standard Time – Perhaps the most obvious and the most controversial of all idiosyncrasies that I exhibit is referred to as Indian Standard Time by my wife and others. When I am expected to be somewhere at a certain time, say to meet my wife at a party at 7:00 PM, I will almost certainly be quite tardy. I leave time for myself to get ready and get to the party at 7:00 just like everyone else. However, more important things show up in the hours before the actual party or the location is farther than I have given myself time to get to or some other non-trivial event will occur that will result in me being late. I cannot explain it but it does happen. My wife has resorted to subtracting an extra hour from the real time to see if she can get me to be at the party on time.

Loud Speech – I speak loudly. I am actually less louder than other Indians and Asians. It is what we do. Our language requires loud pronunciation or something like that. Liu has a nice image to represent this. You can visit a restaurant in India, even a five star place and it will be many tens of decibels louder than an American or Western establishment. We do not like eating quietly. Now my wife says I am deaf but quiet whispers at the table, or for that matter anywhere, is just irritating to me. I like to be spoken clearly to and you should expect a clearly spoken answer.

Convoluted Explanations – Speaking of clear answers. You will never get a concise answer from an Indian. That is why I hate giving directions. I remember roads by signs and visible entities and do not remember names or keep track of directions by watching a compass. I often do not know which direction is North or East, because I do not care. When I give directions, they are by what appears on the way and thus are very convoluted and often complex for people seeking directions. My explanations for most things are the same way. I do not take anything for granted or imbibe anything mentally without first understanding it my way. When I understand it my way, I look for evidence and markers along the way of that discovery. If asked to explain it, I go back through my personal journey, explaining each of the markers as I remember and understood them. I make sense to me but take winding roads to get to the answer.

High Power Distance – Indians (and most Asians) consider their bosses, parents and older people to be at a higher level of being than themselves. This is also referred to as high power distance. An American might be really open with their boss, make fun of him or her to their face and even argue with them openly. Indians will not do that. They will take their boss’ or their parents’ word for it instead of arguing. They will not show disrespect of any kind. I have noticed that this baffles Americans and might even make them think that Indians are old world or backwards. Know for sure that this is cultural and not evolutionary.

Humble to a fault – It is considered bad manners to think too highly of oneself in India. People tend to be humble and compete with each other on their humility. So when thinking about oneself, people from the East will, in general think of themselves to be smaller or weaker or less prepared than the rest of the world. The western world is taught to be proud and sure of themselves and so the opposite view of the self is often the result. The mistake many westerners make is to assume humility to be weakness or lack of credibility.

I am running out of time. So there will be an episode 2 of these. I know I have a few more to talk about, including the last few from Liu’s book. I hope these are useful in understanding the quirks of Asian people that baffle you.

What quirk would you like to know more about?

Is Everyday Corporate America ready for modern Management Practices?

Either Corporate America is not ready for modern management techniques, or it is me and everyone that I speak with or explain modern techniques to dislike me and consider my advice unwanted.

ClkerFreeVectorImages / Pixabay

I am an avid reader and leaner and read/listen to a lot of books. This is advice that I was given a long time ago when I first started on my management career. I like to listen to books as often as I can, during my commute, during my walks and during lunch.Many of the books that I have read have significant impact on my ideas and my design for my workplace. I have learned to manage employees that are difficult to communicate with, I have learned  how to encourage the most effective work from your team, I have learned how to deal with conflict, help team members work through their own conflicts, how to build effective teams of people who are self motivated, how to find the right candidate for your team, how to let the team make decisions on their own and mostly how to be a flexible leader.

I firmly believe that the best leader is a flexible leader. There are times when a leader needs to back away and let the team make their own decisions. At other times, the leader needs to help facilitate decision making. At yet other times, a leader needs to make a decision and pass it on to their team despite negative feedback from his or her employees. All of this is part of being a leader. It is not a simple task of supervising employees.

So as part of my daily interaction at my job and elsewhere, I have had discussions and provided feedback/advice or answered questions on certain aspects of leadership. Here are what I consider to be some of the most controversial answers from my audiences’ perspective. I still consider all of them to be sound because i have thought through the outcomes of each.

I like to be a benevolent dictator. I strongly feel that a team, no matter new or inherited, need a strong rudder and a strong set of goals that they have to reach towards. I have led multiple agile (and Agile) teams successfully and have always had great success with making sure that the team has some catalyst to form and rally around. Without strong goal setting and leadership direction, the teams seem to form around prevailing norms and attitudes which are difficult habits to break once the teams are mature. I like to make sure that my team has enough information from me to know what and how I would make the most critical decisions and then let them learn how to come to those conclusions themselves by allowing them the opportunities to fail and then learn where the differences lie and make the right choice going forward. This seems to concern the leaders who are Agile focused and want the teams to have a scrum master and no reporting structure. Agile thinks that team running is an organic activity and cannot be enforced through an HR reporting structure. Agile success is dependent on storming and forming with equal voice for all on the team. I often find it hard to explain why certain decisions are not team decisions and why others are and have difference of opinion with those managers who say that almost all decisions lie with the team.

One of my most controversial opinions, one that has gotten me into (and out of) a lot of situations is that I believe a manager should focus on the highest performers and let the weak performers alone. If the team is focused on their own initiative and the support and attention of the manager is sought by the team, the better performers will produce more work than you could ever get out of the weaker ones if you focused on them. It is also my belief that if you leave the weak performers alone, one of two good things will happen. The poor performers will realize that they are not getting your attention because they are not doing a good enough job and they will try harder to get back into your good graces. The other good thing that might happen is that the poor performer realizes that they are not fit for the position within this team and move on somewhere else. This answer confounds managers and executives and they seem to get immediately concerned that I am going to make things worse. They get worries that poor performers are not going to be dealt with and performance will fall across the team as people are not held accountable for their delivery.

The other controversial opinion that I have is that you can never say enough good things about people. I believe that praise and thanks do not come naturally to us and criticism does. So we should praise as much as possible and thank as often as possible for good work and accomplishments. I believe that we criticize without knowing what we are doing and cannot avoid that in our daily work lives. So they should balance themselves out with the praises being a higher count.

I have been snubbed so often on these and others that I am worried about me. I am convinced that my opinions are not wrong and are sound from a corporate perspective. So th eonly two conclusions that I can come up with are that either middle Corporate America is not ready for modern management or there is something wrong with me.

So you thought Ionic Air Purifiers were good for you? Think Again!

So you thought Ionic Air Purifiers were good for you? Think Again! We were going to buy a Brookstone Pure-Ion Advanced Air purifier, but after this, I am having second thoughts. Though the Consumer Reports article does not address the “new” Ozone reducing qualities of the new Brookstone, I would still need to find some more reading material on this. I am thinking of getting the Friedrich C-90A or the Friedrich C-90B instead. Much better air movement, much cleaner air, cheap filters and a great product overall.

There are two others in the market that I would also like to know more about. The first is the Biofresh Air Purifier from Mitsubishi and the second is from a company called Air Oasis, the Air Oasis 1000. I wish I could just buy all of them and return the ones that I don’t like. But since that is not possible, I will have to settle for one. From everything I have read so far, I am still leaning towards the Friedrich because of its solid construction, but the Biofresh does have its benefits.

Google GLAT – Are you the next Google Idol??

I tried, with some apathy, and then decided I did not stand a chance. Try your hand at Google’s new Game Show. I understand trying to recruit over achievers. I understand trying to grab the cream of the crop. I understand wanting to employ geniuses. I understand someone wanting to be the best and grabbing the brains to do so from a crop of computers nerds willing to jump through fire to get there. I understand the theory that clever people will make a clever company more successful. I had WANTED to work for Google myself, dazzled and confuzzled by the glitz, glory and the Roasted Eggplant Medallions on the lunch menu. But I have to say that Google is a little misguided. If everyone is a genius, if every employee has an IQ of 125 or above, if every employee has to be Ivy League educated or has to have invented Cold Fusion (not the scripting language either) or written the “primary resource textbook you used in graduate school” to be qualified, Google must be a “fun” place to work. Sour grapes (from Aesop’s Fables), I know.

But, to be really honest, I would rather work for a company TO make it successful than work for a company that IS successful (this idea comes from a thread at /.). Then again, this kind of crap gives them publicity (like I am giving them right now) and maybe thats what they were after. Who knows what those genius people think?

I f…ing hate Micro$oft!

My desktop was running just fine with Windows XP and the normal crud of software. Nothing changed on it, nothing was replaced, nothing was taken out or added. All I did was reboot the computer after Windows XP did its ritualistic upgrade day before yesterday. Ever since then I have had the computer freeze after a few hours of inactivity. My mistake was to try and fix the damn error. I looked through the event viewer to find some SCSI timeout errors from my Ultra100tx Promise controlled for my 160GB drive. It had started occurring right after the latest set of updates.
Well, I figured that if the updates are the cause of the problem, I will back them out and life will be good again. I was wrong. No backing out of these updates, heck the accounting of these upgrades are shoddy within the OS. “Thank God for the System Restore”, I thought to myself. I had of course, counted my chickens before they hatched! System Restore did exactly nothing to solve the problem.
Hmmm. So, the code problem is not reversible. I will have to do something drastic. I looked through the driver database on my computer and noticed that the driver for the card was over three years old. I decided to look through Promises’ website for updates and Googled the problem. Apparently, a bunch of other people have had the same issue with a Win2ksp3 upgrade. Maybe this is a driver incompatibility with a Windows Upgrade? But Promises’ website is down, for two days!! I find an older (older than the latest, newer than mine) driver and install it on my computer with my fingers crossed. Reboot.
Long story short, I my desktop will not boot now, not even in safe mode, not even in safe mode command prompt. Now I am faced with the dillemma that either the card, or the physical drive, or the card and the drive, or the driver, or the windows update or ALL of these things are bad. Do i spend two hours reinstalling Windows XP and copying hundreds of gigs of data around only to find that the problem was not solvable with the present hardware anyways? Do I go and buy a new motherboard/processor (with an onboard IDE that can handle > 130GB) and get around the driver issue? There goes my freakin weekend!!

My laptop will save the day (again!) for the time being. Is the extra dough for the 1MB cache on the Pentium 4 worth it? Any mobo suggestions?

Those little bathroom paper towels

I feel like I have to vent about this stupidity that takes place everyday.

You know those small folded over bathroom paper towels that you use everyday? Those are folded over for a reason. If you patiently unfold them and THEN use them to wipe your hands (face and anything else) you will not need to take a hundred of them and lather your hands (and finally the waste basket) with them. If your hands and your face get wet enough and are big enough to require any more than 10 such peices of paper, you might want to consider carrying your own beach towel to work!

While I am on the subject, if you feel the need to bring a toilette kit to work and bathe yourself in the office sink after work everyday, you too must consider seeking some professional help. A tinkle does not require a bubble bath (especially for men) and cleanliness does not mean ten pumps from the soap dispenser and a complete rinse down of all your exposed parts. This is especially true for those that sneak off without a wash when no-one is looking; either extreme is uncouth. Plus, as an addendum, shaving in the office sink is just not done. Period. I know I keep rambling, but if you also happen to spray everywhere (by any excretion means), clean up your crap. The next poor sap that wants to use the bathroom might not like the sh*t stains on his ass nor does he want to be smelled suspiciously by his dog when he gets home.

Oh, and courtesy flushes are nice.


I received an email a couple of days ago from someone called “Ajay Rao”. His name told me that he was Indian and his English comprehension completely gave it away. Unlike the Nigerian scams, this I thought was a little more legitimate. He said that if I would send him an Orkut invitation, he would send me a Gmail invitation in exchange. Even if I am turned off from Gmail and really dont care for one anymore, I agreed to send him an Orkut invite. He accepted my invitation.

That was the last I heard of and from him. I have sent him two emails since our first exchange. The first email was to let him know that the orkut invite has been sent and the second email was sent three days later. You can imagine what the second email was about.

Instead of making deals that he could not complete, he should have just asked me for an Orkut invite and I would have gladly sent one his way. No biggie. But instead, he decided to use deception.

So if you hear from someone called Ajay Rao from , ignore his sorry a**. *To all of you would be adulterers*, quit trying to fool people into giving you crap. If you dont have it and really want it, ask for it instead of trying to steal it. This is not candy in your mom’s hamper anymore. This kind of tomfoolery *will* come back and bite you where the sun dont shine!

Movie theatres too loud?

Is it just me or are movie theatres turning on the volume recently? Jennifer and I, along with my parents and a bunch of other people went to see Shrek 2 last night. The theatre was relatively empty (which might have added to the loudness) but we sat down in about the center of the theatre. The first few ads were *incredibly* loud. I do not like loud noises and tend to get panic attacks. It almost felt like I was getting one (at Shrek, nonetheless!!) Once the movie started, either they reduced the volume or the movie itself was more condusive to softer noises, but I settled down for a little. It did, however, take away from my movie experience. I wonder if this is a problem that a lot of other people face? Am I just one in the crowd?

PS: Shrek 2 is a relatively fun movie. I think the addition of contemporary imagery reduced the appeal of the movie a little, but I give it an 8

Reasons for Oldsmobile’s Demise

Jennifer, my girlfriend, owns a 2003 Oldsmobile Alero which was a steal. The car looked nice and compact, it was nice and responsive and came with a lot of bells and whistles. When she had purchased the car, Oldsmobile was touting low prices and low interest rates to compnesate for their eventual demise. However, they had mentioned something in their commercials over and over again which did not strike me as strange at that time. They kept (and still do) talking about how they would provide service and parts for their vehicles well after Oldsmobile is officially no more. I now understand why parts and service are so important.

That is because the latest Oldsmobiles are very poorly made. Period. As a simple example, here is what is happening with Jennifer’s car right now. I had (stupidly) pulled out the bench rear seats to put on a seat cover and had expected the seats to fit back in their slots once I was done with the covers (just like any other car that I have ever removed the seats on). Alas, that was not to be. I got one side to fit in snugly and the other side clip was just way too comlicated for a rocket scientist like moi. I tried many many different combinations for the clip and the rung that fits inside it. After failing miserably, I tried to pull up the side of the seat that had seemed to fit and in doing that, I broke off the other clip. I was left with one broken plastic clip, a loose seat and a sweat on my brow.

After resigning from the effort, I decided to invest in some literature on the car. However, I found out that Haynes has stopped making service manuals for Oldsmobiles that are built after 2000. That was not surprising in some ways. Next I decided that I should probably purchase the clip that I broke. No surprise that I cannot get that clip anywhere else but at the dealers’ or at a junkyard. I am dreading to think how much a couple of plastic clips are going to cost me, but that is news for another day.

Moral of the story is that before you buy an Oldsmobile, without taking my word for it, do yourself a favor and ask around. Ask Oldsmobile owners what they think of their cars and how well they have lasted. Even better yet, check out some reviews for Oldsmobiles on the web. You just might change your decision to purchase that particular brand of cars.

Blogroll the world

How many people do you have in your BlogRoll? How many of those people also show up in 20,000 other blogs from around the world?

I am sick and tired of everone using BlogRolls to list the same group of 20 people. I am sick of my own Blogroll. What is the point of seeing the same Simon Wilson, the Mark Pilgrim and the Dave Winer on every blog that everyone visits? Does a link on a blogroll (that everyone already seen, 20,000 times over) make you well read? Quit with the famous people. Start putting stuff (and removing old, crappy, extremely cliche’d ones) in there that no-one else has visited before or at least has not heard about yet. I want to add special interest blogs in my blogroll. I wish more people would do the same so a blogroll becomes an actual source of browsing direction rather than being a loooooonnnngg and booooring list of links that no-one ever looks at.

I am about to modify this design as soon as the new version of WordPress is out and I promise that I will only put the most unpopular blogs in my roll! I will make it so that
– the blogroll is NOT the longest part of my blog
– the blogroll is a browsing tool and not a useless bunch of junk
– expresses my eclectic tastes in blog browsing
– increases readership for the people on my blogroll (and they actually care)

Microsoft Word sucks dirty donkey balls!!!

Microsoft Word fucking sucks ass!! I am so sick and tired of trying to coax this fucking program to do simple word processing tasks. I cannot believe that microsoft word makes it so difficult to have different page number formats for different pages, and does not fucking allow the modification of footnote formats beyond a certain point!! There is simply now way to have different footnote formats. Period. You COULD break down your 200 page document into itty bitty (and buggy) sections to TRY to change the page numbering schema, but good luck when you do that (and save everything) because your document might suddenly become 400 pages long without any warning!!

I cannot believe that a billion dollar company like Microsoft, putting out “top of the line word processing software” makes such a shitty product and everyone continues to use the damn thing!!

I dont like Latex that much either and now that I have come this far in writing my thesis, I really cannot turn back. A word of advice to all that are trying to write some serious documentation (anything greater than 20 pages) using Microsoft Word, Fucking Forget It!!! Start using some other word processor right from the beginning and you will be saved a LOT of frustration later on!!

Things I hate about Microsoft Word (not listing everything, that would take up all day!):

    Page number formatting
    Lack of referencing schemas
    Lack of control over “automatic features”
    Twenty thousand temporary copies of your document
    Page break mechanism
    The built-in drawing package
    The lack of a good equation editor
    Lack of contemporary formatting ideologies
    The twenty thousand “viewing modes”
    Exceptionally bad inter-Microsoft Office collaboration
    HUGE file sizes (my 200 page thesis is 3 MB!!)
    I HATE the auto-correct feature!!
    Auto-page formatting is sucky!
    Heck, Auto-EVERYTHING is sucky!!!

Among other things…

I am SO getting rid of Word when I am done with my thesis!!!

Forum BB Email-List Etiquette

I have long had a pet peeve with forums and discussion boards. People simply do not pay attention!!

There are a few simple rules that should be adhered to with every forum/BB posting (if you want your questions looked at/answered)

Numero Uno: Please search the forum first to see if your question has already been answered. Many people that want to answer your question will simply ignore it if your question has been answered succintly and the problem solved in the recent past. Almost every (caveat) forum has a stupid search button for just that purpose! The same questions appear over and over again, albeit with ridculous disclaimers like “Sorry if this is a repeat post, I was too lazy to look it up so I am posting again and again and again. Sorry again, please forgive me. I am new to all of this.” Who cares? It is common sense to look for a search and see if you can find what you need. About 7 calories…TOPS!

Numero Dos: Provide ALL, I repeat, ALL information about your problem. This has been said over and over again but does not seem to sink in. If you are getting a “Run Time Error”, simply mentioning that there is a run time error gives people no clue. (of course, if you are using Windows as a Desktop OS, try changing that first!) Give supporting information, people. If this is a web app, say you are using Internet Explorer, this is the URL of your app, the version number, what created the problem, what you think the problem might be. A single line post like “freaky error, very interesting, HELP HELP HELP” reminds me of my physics advisor in college. If you expect someone to spend time reading your post and find some more time to help you out, your one liner will get ignored. You dont care enough to type some words, people dont care enough to answer your questions! Please post code, links to stuff, information, browser, OS, server and anything else you deem pertinent. There can never be too much information in a BB question.

Numero Tres: If you are seeking help, or “participating in the community” in any way (such as submitting bugs, providing feedback, announcing your engagement to Elmo) QUIT BEING A FREAKING TROLL! Any community that you feel that strongly against, you should not be visiting anyways! In real life, that kind of action would land you in jail and worse, land you a job as someone’s princess! Come on. If you dislike something or someone that much, move on, go somewhere else. If you kick someone in the nuts, how do you expect them to turn around and help you get off your lazy ass? Trolls are unappreciated. Period.
PS: And if you think posting as anonymous is protecting you, think again. If you are connected to the Internet and are not posting “telepathically”, you are traceable and quite vulnerable (unless of course, you use an Amiga, then I give up!)

Numero Quatro: If you dont like an answer, instead of being a jackass, be respectful. Ignore it if the answer was a troll. That is hard to do, I concede. But that behaviour is necessary. Trolling is an occupation for many people (spammers). Your retort, however, can poison the discussion and the end result is that you dont get the answer you obviously wanted.

Numero Canc: Unless you are going to add ANYTHING to the dicussion, dont add to it! Sounds obvious doesn’t it? One liners that say “me too! I wish this would work!” are useless. Leave them out! They add traffic and confusion and people that want to help, are turned off by them. So if you want an answer to your question (and no-one has answered yet), leave it alone and check back in a few. Give it a few days. Rest your hiney. If there is no answer in a few days, then try your 2 bits. In extreme cases when you just cannot wait (not because you are itching to get your porn dialer working before you roommate, but more pressing reasons such as your pet rock dieing!!) find an IRC channel or email one of the people from the forum asking for quick help.

Numero Six: “Thank you” or “worked great, thanks for the response” are, on the other hand, welcome and greatly appreciated. Even people that help out on forums, BBs and email lists need feedback and a good pat on the back is always welcomed! Give some thanks for heaven’s sake. If you got your little doodad to work, go back to the forum that helped you and tell them that it worked well. Threads and emails that are left hanging add to the traffic of the forum but never authenticate the solution, leading to redundant posts (see Numero Uno). Spend another 7 calories, hit your back arrow a couple of time, and tell people that the solution suggested worked (or failed as the case may be, failed ones come back though) Dont be selfish. People are spending their time helping you, give some back.

Oh Yes. And PLEASE READ THROUGH THE POSTS THOROUGHLY. The answer is, many times, ignored and the question posted again and again.

Forums are like P2P (Kazaa, Bearshare etc. Free for all file sharing). If you dont give, dont expect a lot in return!