All posts by harinder

A peeve about Linkedin

When I search for a name on Google the linkedin profile does come often as a first option. Which is great. But I hate that when I click on that link, linkedin only shows me a short summary of the profile even when I am logged in to linkedin.
The Googlebot I am sure sees the entire profile of the user in all its’ glory because that information is indexed and retrieved by Google for it to show the right result.

So it is just Linkedin that decides to show a page of partial information to the logged in user making them click an extra button, possibly upgrade them to a premium plan or whatever it is their super smart product managers think is worthy.

It is my peeve as a user of linkedin though and I hope they provide information to me who is a user in the fastest way and in a way that the Googlebot sees.

The ‘S’ in Sports mode

Many cars with automatic gear boxes have an S position. This is commonly referred to as the Sports mode and drivers are told their car would become more well, sporty. In other cars like the Honda it is marketed as a way to help you tow a trailer or to overtake another car quickly.

Sporty probably means to some of you that the car will accelerate faster. That is not true. The top speed or the acceleration of the car is whatever it was in the normal D mode. No laws of physics change by putting the gearbox into S.

What happens actually is that the rpm at which the engine operates is bumped up (usually by 1000 rpm). What this does is:

a) the car delivers greater torque
Movements become jerkier, epecially at lower gears. And since more power is delivered in a short period of time, you feel it is *sporty*.

b) consumes more fuel

If you didn’t use S and instead stuck to D for everything:

a) The top speed at which the car can operate does not change and you can achieve that by continuing to accelerate anyway

b) You can still achieve the jerky acceleration of S mode by just pressing the acceleration pedal harder, more earnestly.

That’s all.

#100happydays

From Rhea Malvai (link) I learnt the meaning of the hashtag #100happydays. Matt Cutts too, in his TED Talk (link) speaks of a way to form habits by repeatedly doing things for 30 days. His point is that if you can sustain a good habit for 30 days, your chances of holding to it are much higher after that.

One of the important and regular things I want to add in my life is the feeling of gratitude and happiness. Many people and events have inspired me to do so but one that stands out is the episode of This American Life (link). This one was narrate by Michael Lewis and tells the story of a guy who has a story about how he got in to college which is quite a romantic story and is one that re-inforces your faith humanity. Except that it is not true — all of it. He has this way of adding his perspective on regular events that make the world around him look much brighter. That episode is a life changer to me.

So I started this little experiment some time back.

I spend a few minutes every day thinking of at least one thing in the day that is a reason to be happy. Not a lot, just one thing. Even on a shitty day when you have a lot of things not going the way you want, you can always look for one thing to be happy about.

This is the 21st day and I can tell you that it is a good idea and has changed my thinking if not at all times at least for some time in the day.

Now on to making this a habit – Should be easy.

Resilience /1

I like to think that Resilience is more a function of attitude than skill. This definition allows room for nurture to make a person rather than just leaving to nature (or the DNA you are born with). Of course, I acknowledge that many people whom we call resilient are naturally so. They, due to their bringing up or life experiences present a particular attitude to life’s challenges. But it hardly means it isn’t learn-able.

See: Resilience is the ability to continue when you’re in the dumps. It is a conviction so strong that it sounds irrational to others.

I think it stems from the underlying belief that the current (low) moment is just a small detour in the much longer journey of life. I learnt in a Radiolab episode once of a tribe that has exceptional navigational skills. Their language has a few hundred terms to refer to the cardinal directions. Think of a word for slightly east of north, another word for slightly *more* east of north. Get the drift ? They did an experiment where they blindfolded one of them inside a closed room and revolved them quite a few times and asked them which direction their nose pointed to. They were simply too accurate ! Turns out in their minds they always have a map with themselves as a dot on it. It helps them re-anchor whenever they are lost. And people who’ve lived with them and learnt their language also start doing the same.

It is learnable, you see – the ability to view the larger story with the current time as a marker on it, guiding you to the larger goal.

More important to everyday life, you can make some of your own practise assignments that will help you behave more resilient.

I like to think so.

Colonialism, 2014

The other day I was at the embassy area when the auto passed near the very long queues outside the US embassy. Intelligent, smart and well-to-do people (their clothes told me so) were sitting on the pavement. I don’t know why they were all waiting there instead of the nearby market. I mean it is not like the guards would call out their names across the street. Perhaps the importance that visa application or green card approval carries in their life plans made them sit there, uncomplaining in the heat of Delhi. Vendors make a good business out of selling them snacks and water.

I was looking at the crowd as we passed by them in the auto rickshaw when the driver said: ‘angrez log ab bhi raaj kar rahe hain’.

Incumbency

Exhibit 1: Clayton Christensen. His book The Innovator’s Dilemma is a celebrated one. He talks about how companies lose out on great opportunities because they stay focussed on where they earn most of their profits from today and hence sidestep what is new, promising but perhaps too small today.

Exhibit 2: Jonathan Ive, in many interviews and in his tribute speech to Steve Jobs explains that Steve had a lot of respect for fledgling ideas. He knew that “while ideas ultimately can be so powerful they begin as fragile barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily dismissed.

I could several stories about how large, incumbent companies have been overcome by new, smaller ones but I will skip that part because what I would like to do is extend this to our lives as well.

Most of us have an idea of what we want to do when asked to define a no-holds-barred ambition. I, for instance, want to a) make a product that is used by millions of people everyday b) want to make the world smaller by being able to travel with the same kind of planning that we do for making coffee c) want to learn programming again and experience the joy of building something that others use.

I am sure you have your ideas too, perhaps even more fun than the above 🙂 But the one thing I often hear myself (and also others) say is that they are too invested in their current lifestyle, commitments and they have responsibilities they must respect and a combination of these greatly affects their ability to pursue their dream.

I believe the reality of how we operate is totally different. I say so because while we all have stuff to pursue, the action really happens on a microscopic, everyday level when we wake up and make a decision to work on X or Y. Let’s say you want to learn gardening (or programming for that matter, in my case). The time you invest in learning the new skill doesn’t give returns right away and your mind sub-consciously continues to fight the low probabilities of success of this new venture against the assuredness of the current. We’re conservative beings, risk-averse and wanna maximise on what we know. I think this is what our brains do because of how they’ve evolved. Self-preservation, if nothing else for a fancy word.

The fact however is that you change your probabilities of success by sheer hard work and perseverance. You have to,  you *must* fool your brain at those giving-up moments to somehow circumvent the doubts during this transition from low-success probability to a higher-success one.

Fight the incumbent thoughts in your mind that tell you to hold on to what you have instead of embracing the change. And tell yourself that you will put in the hours to do what is required without even thinking of results for a fixed time every day.

PS: I’m trying to do this these days to learn programming. I’ll let you guys know how far I reach 🙂

The story that Betelgeuse will tell

I got curious about stars when I could first see a lot of them in the sky. This happened when I lived away from  Delhi for the first time. We urban sissies hardly see 20 stars on a good cloudless night while at least 100 are visible at a good star viewing site within the circle you can make with your thumb and index finger.

Star gazing is the most humbling hobby. Every time I walk at night when I can see some stars, I can’t help noticing the familiar ones. They’ve remained there as I have changed cities, grown up, gone through the ups and downs of life. Most of these stars are so far away that what we observe today is where the star was tens, hundreds or thousands of years ago.

In the northern hemisphere (where most people live anyway), you can’t miss Orion that looks like this in citylight:orion-city

 

In rural areas, it might look like this:
orion-2

 

The shape and the star names are in this image:
orion-full

 

I like to think of stars as witness to our world, and they actually see what our world was like back then and even now! Consider the top left star on Orion,  Betelgeuse – which is pretty bright and is slightly red-ish. It is 427 light years away. That star, when you see it today was at that spot back in 1587. In that time, Delhi looked *very* different. It was when Akbar was the 45 year old ruler of pretty much most of what is India and Pakistan today.

Think about what Betelgeuse will tell a future generation about you in 2441 AD, 427 years from now.

What do you think will remain of you then ?

The Car UI

The cars of olden days were all born with manual gear change. The Ambassador as I remember also had a pedal to the right that dimmed the headlights. The dipper, you know.

The four foot pedals were ABCD, that is:
Accelerator
Brake
Clutch
Dipper

In that order. Makes it easy to remember no?

I wonder if the current cars have any such smarts and simplicity…