Thursday, June 30, 2011

The young entrepreneur

IMG_2471People flock in numbers to the Monkey Temple in Katmandu, make a wish and toss a coin into the bowl kept in front of the statue. They believe that if the coin falls into the bowl the wish they had in mind will work out. This is a very popular belief and I have seen the practice happen at many places.

But at this place something that impressed me was the business acumen skill of this little kid, while people are making the wish and praying for divine intervention he has seized a business opportunity. He collects up the coins and sells coins at a premium rate! Who said you need an MBA to start a business ;)Then you sell coins

Read my earlier post on another strange 'business model'

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pitawala pathana

When you travel through Sri Lanka something that would never fail to impress is the variety of landscapes that unfolds in front of the eye. Within the variety on exhibition in the central hills the pathana plains stand out, this place in the knuckles ranges is a grass plane with spectacular views.

The picture below is a panorama shot of the pathana.


On the Map and getting there,

View Larger Map

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Four Golden Rules for any Presenter

Thanks to the training program I started to conduct today, I was reminded about my very first drama experience at school. I was picked to play the role of a messenger and my appearance on stage was between 30 to 60 seconds on stage. I was supposed to just announce the arrival of the message, hand it over to the King and disappear from the sight. While playing this role during one of the practice sessions I earned the wrath of our legendary Mrs. Dissanayake.

I was called up, she warned me and told that unless I do it properly I will be kicked out of the drama and she gave me a lesson covering four simple rules when doing any performance.

1. Rule Number One: Never show your back to the audience - She said even when handing over the message to the King I had to create a body angle so that I am still facing the audience.

2. Rule Number Two: Make your self loud and clear

3. Rule Number Three: Make eye contact. Since I am scared to make eye contact, she asked me to look at the forehead of the person - Now that's one of the best tricks, I have ever heard. It gives an illusion to the spectator that you are making eye contact, since the forehead is slightly above the eyeliner.

4. Rule Number Four: The ping pong rule - She asked me imagine the voice to be like a ping pong ball and as if I am trying to throw it to the last person in the audience. She explained the concept of voice projection  in most simplest forms. She said, when you speak you should make sure even the last person in the audience could hear it, so if you look at the floor and talk, its like bouncing the ping pong ball on the ground since the ping pong ball will not reach them with the same force.

The following is the best possible art work that I could do to show how the ping pong rule works,

Figure 1: Voice been properly thrownFigure 2: Speaker looking down when speaking

She told these in the best possible way a 10 year old would understand. This is a lesson that I never forgot. The sweetest part was the following year we moved into the upper school and we had the auditions for the years drama,this time I applied the above 4 rules, got the main role, then played the role and won the competition. The icing on the cake was to see her as one of the main invitees seated in the first row for our final performance!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Borrowed Knowledge

I am planning to do a training session on presentation skills. I am no expert in this discipline but I would call an ardent student of this subject. I have wrote a few blogs on this topics but still always thought that I need to do some reading from the texts and when I searched amazon books for "presentations" it returned "Showing 1 - 12 of 27,068 Results".

After skimming the reviews I picked the following books, each of which are absolute gems, refreshing, reflecting and makes me criticize the presentations that I had done in the past.

If you want to improve your presentation skill I suggest you read at least one of this,

Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your StoryThe Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any AudienceOwn the Room: Business Presentations that Persuade, Engage, and Get ResultsConfessions of a Public Speaker (English and English Edition)

So my training session will be mostly on borrowed knowledge and I will try to post my slide deck some here tomorrow.

read my earlier posts on presentations

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Boid formations and Software Process

At the stroke of sunset laying on an old wooden bench, gazing at the sky and admiring the performances the fleets of birds roll out is a beautiful experience. The general fleet flights, flock splitting formations, obstacle avoidance structures are all done with such smoothness, sync and elegance. Its one of natures treats meted out to the human eye at no cost!

boids law
boids formation captured at Pinang, Malaysia

Craig Reynolds in his published work tries to bring this stimulation to computer graphics. In its most simplest form he defines three rules for each bird object, namely, separation (to avoid crowding to the flockmates), alignment (to head in the average direction of the flock mate)and cohesion(to head towards the center of the mass of the flock mates). Interestingly when the above three rules are applied by each bird object within its scope of bird view, hence each bird takes into consideration only the behavior of the birds close to it within a small range. When the above characteristics are applied to a simulation you could generate something similar to the natural experience.

To do a bit of bird watching online goto,
and do the following so that you would understand the rules,
1. Set all the effects to 0% and then make one of the effects at 100% and observe the effect of each rule.
2. Then set the rules to hundred in pairs.
3. Set all rules to 100% and see the change.
4. To complicate things you can try the same but setting the debug with birds view or all.

Interestingly in boids formations individual birds individually exhibit limited or no intelligence at all; what they do is follow the defined process of following the three rules. As a result of that discipline they manage to give an illusion of being an intelligent flock! You would observe that they do not have a leader and the speed of the flock is set by each individuals need to reach the destination by night fall.

So the lesson learnt for me is when individual objects are non-intelligent, they are to repeat the same task over and over again and has individually the same goal to achieve; you don't need even a leader or control measures, but still the work group would achieve the expected productivity. Now that's where 100% process adherence should be applied and expected!


1. Craig Reynolds publication on Boids formations -
2. Simulator
3. Craig Reynold's page

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Love thyself

தன்னைத் தான் காதலன் ஆயின் எனைத்து ஒன்றும்
துன்னற்க தீவினைப் பால்

The above is a a piece of wisdom from thirukkural, when loosely translated, it says "One who loves thyself will not commit evil deeds  even in its smallest form". Some experts also interpret is as along with karma and almost make it sound as an interpretation of preempting "what goes around, comes around". Others tread a more controversial path in interpretation where they say one who is selfish in an ideal world should keep away from evil deeds even in it smallest form and the reason they being good is not that they have any feeling for common good of everyone but love for themselves.

Come to think of it, who is not selfish and doesn't selflessness actually originate from a selfishness. Issues is we pick half the message from this and take the part which says "Love thyself" or in its extreme form "be selfish" and forget the second stanza.  Did someone say we hear what we like to hear!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The first current

Once upon a time there was a 5 yeary old kid who used to sit at a side and watch his elder siblings play/learn electronics by creating small circuits. They didn't involve the little man, since he was too small and was adviced to keep away from this stuff till he grows up. He observed his elder siblings light up LED bulbs and other pen light bulbs using small batteries. He always wanted to lay his hands on this and do his own experimentation. He didn't have any intention of waiting years to grow up and then learn it. So he watched them finish their stuff and put it away and get involved in some other activity. Then picked the light bulb circuit and decided to be smarter than his siblings and decided to use a better electricity source. He inserted the two wire ends, usually kept to connect to the batteries, in to the plug point and switched on the electricity! The bulb burst out and the spark left a big scar on the wall but miraculously the kid didn't get hurt.

Parents came home found the chaos in the room and decided to disable all plug points at the ground level and mother who was about buy a gas cooker the following week said, I will not buy it till this culprit grows up. (Wonder whether she has a gas cooker

This is one of those stories doing the rounds with yours truly's name tag, so I opted to put it up before someone else mentions about the 'rumour'

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Playing with MySQL Datatypes - TimeStamp

MySQL time stamp at times exhibits some strange behaviors and at sometimes confuses people.

1. Create a table with two timestamp columns,
create table aa(i int, t1 timestamp, t2 timestamp);

2. Do an insert into the non timestamp column only
insert into aa(i) values(1);

3. Now what do you expect from a select * from the table?
mysql> select * from aa;
| i | t1 | t2 |
| 1 | 2011-06-23 22:50:02 | 0000-00-00 00:00:00 |
1 row in set (0.07 sec)

interestingly the table has values not specified and that's also only in the first timestamp column.

** If you want to explore further do an update to the value i and again observe the value in column t1!

4. How did this happen? How did the unspecified column get updated?
show create table aa;
| aa | CREATE TABLE `aa` (
`i` int(11) DEFAULT NULL,

`t2` timestamp NOT NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00'

observe the part I have emphasized in bold.

Remember the trick is MySQL always adds the current timestamp during insert and update into the first timestamp column.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tips for preparing for presentations

Have a Story to tell
We had grown up listening to stories in different forms, fairy tails, history, folk lore, legends etc. So the human mind is trained to easily remember when conveyed as a story. Usually great presenters arrange the facts into a story and then present it.

When a presentation is due, the biggest task at hand is to come up with the story to tell. Usually when given time the story brews well, what I mean by "giving time" is the time tothink about it and let your subconscious mind to do some work before you sit down to do a mind map or a listing of the objectives and the facts to be conveyed.

Starting from Dale Carnegie's Art of Public speaking, written in the early 19th century, to Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs , written during the last few years, list "Practicing" as the secret success factor for any presentation. You cannot replace the time spent on practicing with any other factor. Although for the audience great presentations just happens by itself, in reality the presenters make it happen by the sheer amount of preparation and practice they do. Practicing is different from memorizing, when practiced, you would know the content, you would know the flow, you would have planned when to crack a certain joke and what are the punch lines, but you wouldn't know each word you would say, if you repeat the presentation again it again you would explain using a different set of words.

Best way to practice is to imagine that you have your audience in front, hit the record button on the computer and do the presentation. Finish it and then play and see how it sounds. 9 out of 10 times you wouldn't have thought that you sound so bad during presentation, but don't worry it was just that your expectation and delivery didn't match, but with practice you can match them.

On the day of the presentation
If you think a shirt is too baggy, or if you think that a particular jeans is too flashy don't wear it. If you wear it with reluctance in mind, during the whole session part of your mind will be thinking about, how to cover it up. So the trick is to be dressed in what you are most comfortable with.

On the day of the presentation, arrive early, make sure you check the equipment (if any) like projector, mic, etc are working and compatible with your presentation. Also remember that its a cardinal sin to turn up late for a presentation, its a nightmare to go in late and having to make an apology right at the start of the presentation.

When Presenting
Every presenter will go through a tensed time before starting the presentation, its a very natural human thing to feel the butterflies in the stomach irrespective of the number of times you had presented before. Take a deep breath and if your hands are trembling hide it by clasping them together and if you are presenting to total strangers, look above the eye level of the people in the audience and start your first words. Then move your eye down when you feel comfortable to make eye contact by finding "your friend" in the audience.

Show alot of passion on the topic you are speaking about. Remember if you are 100% passionate about what you are presenting you might be able to transfer 10% of the excitement on the listeners, importantly the more passionate or enthusiastic you are, the more you can rub on the audience.

Click here to read by earlier post about how to manage the inactive listeners when you present.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mobile Network Architecture- High level elements

Mobile Network Architecture is a complex thing and its hard to figure out what fits in where. I at times try to explain it to different people and I tried to plot the below diagram as a basis for explanation. Its not perfect and each network has its own deviations, but I hope it would explain the main elements of the mobile network ignoring the GPRS/Data part to a beginner.

High Level Mobile Network Architecture

BTS – Base Transceiver Station
BSC – Base Station Controller
MSC- Mobile Switching Center
HLR – Home Location Register
VLR – Visitor Location Register
AUC – Authentication Center
LBS – Location Based Server
SMSC – Short Messaging Service Center
USSDC – Unstructured Supplementary Service Data Center
MMSC – Multimedia Messaging Service Center

As show in the diagram, a mobile subscriber at a given time will be associated with a single BTS. In turn many such BTSs shall be associated with a BSC. Many BSC will be associated with a MSC. The MSC in some networks are associated with a VLR. The VLR is a temporary database which will have the cell IDs of the subscribers associated with the associated MSC.

A network might have multiple MSCs which eventually get attached to the GMSC - Which acts as the gateway to the rest. The GMSC will be in turn connected via STPs to network capabilities. One such element is the HLR, which is the central database with a record for each IMSI number ( unique identifier for the SIM number ). HLR will have information like MSISDN, enabled services, the associated MSC of the subscriber, etc. HLR can be considered as the primary database in the network. So when a message is to be delivered to a given person, as the first step the HLR will be queried to find the MSC and then using that information the relevant VLR will be queried to find the relevant cell to eventually route the message to the right BTS for delivery.

The rest of the elements in the box are network services. They enable billing, authentication, MMS, MMS, USSD, Location Based Services, etc.

Monday, June 20, 2011

CSE Right Issues - Can someone explain ?

One of the things that I have never been able to rationalize is the stock behavior and the pricing patterns by the companies on the CSE. From my limited finance knowledge, what I know is usually right issues are attractively priced so that the existing share holders will be offered the option to buy the shares at a below market rate.

But in the CSE I find this strange trend where the right issue price is above the market price of the share, which means instead of exercising the right the buyer is better off when purchasing the shares in the market. Thus making the right issue irrelevant for at least the minor share holders if not for all.

The latest kid on the right issue block is strangely HNB which for decades been a very attractive share. Unfortunately it seems it has faltered here. The right is priced around 219 bucks but the share is currently trading around the 216 Rupee mark. Unless you are looking for a block of shares for control its more profitable to buy the stock on the market than to subscribe for the right issue.So wonder whether any minority share holders will take it up? If yes why? Anyway to add to the confusion HNB has also priced each stock at a minimum Rs 235 price in a parallel private placing of shares.

Earlier I think the same happened with Seylan bank and a few other shares, can some learnt individual explain what was the thinking from the decision makers when they price like this and how can this phenomenon be explained?! Correct me If I am wrong.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Something good about Colombo

I work in Colombo, which means unless I am travelling out, I spend five days of  any week here, but still most importantly I don't like the place. I usually tell any visitor to get out of Colombo if you want to see the real Sri Lanka! Today we had a set of visitors, since they had limited time to spend here we were forced to show them a bit of Colombo.

We ended up taking a stroll along the Galle face. For me it was too crowded to enjoy the sea or the views, the beach didn't have the usual magic other Sri Lankan beaches present, probably due to the urbanization around. But on the contrary my visitors were pleased with the place, they said that they could feel a vibe around the place, they were surprised to see it being like a family hang out place and most importantly the absence of public boozing. They were even more surprised to see a lot of little children being wide awake and playing around there even late after the sun set and one of them remarked "Its amazing apart from Cairo this is probably the only place in the world where you find kids on the roads in the nights"! I don't know whether if it was a coincidence but I couldn't come up with a counter argument for that statement.

I was glad that the visitors did enjoy themselves, but still I couldn't stop thinking how they would have felt if they had a real taste outside Colombo. Anyway to the people of Colombo who always find fault with me for being critical about Colombo , look now I have written something good about your City so be happy and also be happy since there are people who like your City :P

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ordering Enum in MySQL - Playing with data types

Its been a day where I had to answer two MySQL string manipulation related questions. One question was from a frustrated guy who had written an application and as per him MySQL was misbehaving.

Issue was he had a table but when he tried to order an enumerated field, the result was not in alphabetical order. Try this if you haven't come across this.

1. Create a table with an enumerated column like
 CREATE table en(i INT, col ENUM('RED','YELLOW','BLUE'));

2. Insert some values into it,
insert into en values(1,'RED'), (2, 'BLUE'),(3,'RED'), (4, 'YELLOW');

3. Now try to retrieve the values ordered by the col values,
mysql> select * from en order by col asc;
| i    | col    |
|    1 | RED    |
|    3 | RED    |
|    4 | YELLOW |
|    2 | BLUE   |

He expected the ordering to be in alphabetical order - BLUE, RED, RED and YELLOW. For him mysql had let him down. :(

So I asked him to tinker his query a bit,
mysql> select * from en order by cast(col as char);
| i    | col    |
|    2 | BLUE   |
|    1 | RED    |
|    3 | RED    |
|    4 | YELLOW |

This forces the values from the enumerated column to be casted as characters so that the result from the operation can be sorted in alphabetical order.

We got the original result since when we define a column as enum the exact characters are not stored instead a corresponding integer value is used for storage thus optimizing the storage. You can see the corresponding integer values used by writing the following query,

mysql> select cast(col as unsigned ) from en order by col;
| cast(col as unsigned ) |
|                      1 |
|                      1 |
|                      2 |
|                      3 |

Friday, June 17, 2011

If Mahatma lived today

Mahathma Gandhi is one of my childhood heroes. One of the first non-fiction books I read was his autobiography "sathya sothanai" - The story of my experiences with truth! Things we read as children usually have a profound impact for the rest of our lives and this is a book which helped me in crafting my values and beliefs. His experiences and lessons show clearly how he was a usual human being who did unusual things due to his will power, vision and truthfulness.

Some of the things that fascinated me was his simplicity, honesty, non-violence and not trying to portray himself as a god or godmen instead accepting him of being a human being who did commit mistakes. As a child when I faced a lot of criticism and sarcasm for being a vegetarian, his life and book was a great source of inspiration for me to hold on to that as a value. When people pulled my leg on this topic, I used to think - "ah even the great Mahathma faced it!". Another lesson that I learnt from his book was "A reformer cannot afford to have close intimacy with him whom he seeks to reform" and how an attachment of a bad cell could lead you to bad! If you had not read his autobiography try to at least read the chapter and the following one click here to read it

With all respects to the great man, I cannot stop thinking how it would have been if he had lived in this era of youtube, 24X7 news channels, social networking sites and dedicated professional gossip mongering services. For the type of controversies he had and faced they would have duped him "Disgraced Indian politician" , his stenographer who resigned over "the" controversy would have been enticed to sell the story to a tabloid for a fortune. Then to add insult to injury he would have to stand the facebook trials, which gives the opportunity for every Tom, Dick and Harry to exhibit their ignorance on a public stage! Thank god the great man didn't have to face all the above and get caught to the modern media which is at all times starved for stories and in need of a scoop to fill their air time with a sensationalized news item to get their ratings up! I feel he was lucky, so that he was ahead of time and deservingly would always be fondly and respectfully referred as Mahatma and for nothing else!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On the peak

In recent years I have been observing the different strategies adopted by people who make a parachute landing to top posts in an unfamiliar organisation. In my terminology I find that these people fit into the following categorizations,

1. Pinch hitters
2. Test openers
3. Night watchmen/Passengers

Pinch hitters: For me they are the people who try to hit the very first ball out of the park. You could quickly identify them. They want to quickly seal their authority. They have a feeling of insecurity and hence want to exhibit their know how on what ever opportunity that is presented to them. Usually this eagerness is very much similar to the pinch hitters in cricket they wouldn't even consider the merit of the ball but would just go for a hit with all their might and hope that it connects. Just like pinch hitters in cricket they succeed on luck. Anyway there are some intelligent pinch hitters change their style in the process and start to play a longer innings, but this self realization happens only once in a blue moon.

Test openers: They are the most intelligent ones, they have a clear vision, they put their head down, get a good feel of the pitch and the bowlers and then slowly prove them selves by stamping their class. Just like test batsmen they  plan to play a long and authoritative innings. They will have a better understanding of the co-operate, the culture, the people and products and by the time they open up and start scoring they already have settled in well and seeing things from their own eyes and not through a borrowed or guided vision.

Night watchmen/Passengers: These are the people who are like the transit passengers, they are looking for a break and grab onto a chance but will show little or no concern about their current tasks. Will be more than happy to fight the present day, knowing well that its just a passing station. Sometimes organizations also tend to send in these night watchmen to be there during transient periods.

Out of the three the Test openers for me understand the mechanics of change management and tries to skillfully manage the usually delicate and extremely sensitive process. These people usually exhibit a higher probability of becoming a successful leader!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Caribbean cricket

Today I stumbled on the trailer of a new movie named, Fire of Babylon. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to see that it was about cricket and more than anything else it was a movie about West Indian Cricket! I badly want to watch the movie now!

The video clip bought some nostalgic  memories to me. When I was a kid I got an interest about cricket by listening, reading and watching about West Indian cricket. I loved to see the West Indian team play and I was a die hard fan of the brand of cricket they played. All people around me those days used to support either, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan or Australia, I was the lone man who supported the West Indian cricket and I was at the but end of jokes and theories. They used to tell me that I like that team since my color is similar to theirs so I had an emotional attachment with them, but then I took that as a complement!

In my earliest memories of cricket, I am talking about an era in which I haven't seen a computer, cricinfo was not existent, a TV was a luxury, wisden was the richest source of cricketing data,  I used to sit and listen on Mr. Alexander's receiver and then I learnt from father how to tune SW on the radio to listen to commentaries of the West Indian matches so that I can listen at home itself. During those days we didn't have a TV at home and at the shop also we didnt't have the relevant channels, so to get a glimpse of the test matches I used to go to the Muthalib's shop and watch it. To read about them I used to go and dig all the wisden almanacs at the British council and to keep me updated on a monthly basis I used to borrow the cricketer magazine.

More you got to know about the team the more I started to like them, they enjoyed the game, always had a huge smile at the end of it, they played with such flair and flamboyance incomparable at that time. Although I hate to call it like this I think what I used to watch was the sun setting period of Careabean cricket. I would do anything to watch an innings played by Lara, Haynes, Viv Richards ( I only watched recordings of his playing at the British council ) or the bowling of Walsh, Ambrose and fielding by the likes of Kieth Atherton!

Out of all the favorite who stood out is Lara. For me he was the best batsman the world has seen, he played in the same era in which cricket saw some of the greatest spinners ever, Murali, Warne, Kumble but he conquered them all and at most test matches he treated them with disdain and literally they were left to plead for mercy from him. When people called the Aussie team an all conquering team he took up the responsibility to demolish them single handed in more than one occasions. His style of batting with that extravagant bat lift was a treat to watch, simply the most stylish batsmen ever! Look at this video below, it shows the 15 year old Lara batting and anybody who had seen him bat in a test match will accept the style has been the same even after 20 years. Watch him break the 400 barrier in the other video!

What really worries me today is the quality of cricket the current team plays, which for me is an absolute insult they could do to the legendary West Indian brand of cricket. I wish that era was longer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interesting African Murals

I captured the following set of murals at the crocodile farm in Nairobi. Each mural depicts a deep meaning connected with the history of Kenya and the atrocities/challenges the local communities had faced  over the years.

Mural 1: Human crocodile conflict

human croc conflict

The picture talks about the flooding and as a result crocodiles intruding into human territory and the fatalities which occurred due to this. It depicted as if the flood has a head of a crocodile.

Mural 2: Slavery


One of the greatest insults in the history of human beings is the slavery. History says African's were used as slaves and the mural shows them being captured by Arabs and being taken to be sold. The scars of slavery and discrimination has left a bad taste on the minds of those communities. They claim that in modern day too slavery exists but it has taken different forms and its not spoken about since most if it is not done publicly now.

Mural 3: gun and love


An ironic portrait showing a preacher with the holy text in one hand and the gun on the other trying to preach the holy text to ancient people.

Mural 4: The Tsavo Lions


During the English era, they built the railway line from Uganda to Kenya to be used for easier trade related transport. For this purpose they had to clear miles of dense jungles. Inorder to get this done they brought down people from India to employ their labor. During that period two mail lions reportedly attacked and killed scores of workers (mostly Indian). These lions were supposedly Tsavo lions and they have distinct differences from usual lions. Most are said to be really good at hunting, bigger in size and sometimes the male lions are maneless.

Monday, June 13, 2011

profile picture

In the cyber world having a profile picture has almost become a must. Knowing my inherent weakness whenever I posted a profile picture I made sure that the portrait picture didn't show my face ;) (now that's a patented trick so don't use it without paying royalty to yours truly)

reflections and shadowson the look outThe pictures on the left were my earlier attempts of having a profile picture. In the economy of facebook the 1st picture on the left was up for about two months and earned 2 likes and the 2nd picture on the left earned a solitary like and 2 sarcastic comments.

Last weekend JK passed to me a picture posted below. This took at Demodara and I made it the profile picture. To go by the facebook economic indicators it got 19 likes and 8 comments within two days!

friend and me

I guess JK should take up a career in photography, specially for taking a picture of me and make it earn so many likes. :P.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The right name

~ Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language ~ Dale Carnegie.

What I am about to write may sound as if I am encouraging the people who are full of themselves, but then deep inside who isn't? Unless you tell me that you are close to Nirvana. I believe that each of us would have searched our name in google at least 10 times, would have read any write up mentioning good about us at least twice and  at a  gathering where merits are announced listen attentively to hear our own name. When the US released video of Osama watching TV and switching channels to see himself being mentioned, it just proved the point again, it was indeed a natural human tendency irrespective who you are to have a liking to hear your own name!

From childhood we had been trained to respond when our name is called and its one of those things that get stick with the mind for life.One of the easiest way to make a child angry is to twist his name and do a bit of name calling. This is one of the popular forms of taunting among any set of children since it generates quick results by making the other angry and disturbed. Name is one of the first attributes that get close to the heart of any individual!

The purpose of this explanation is not to make people go search for their name or  become full of themselves, but to remind the importance of calling a person by the right name. If you want to win over person, call their name in the way they like. If you are doing customer communication make it a point to remember the customers name. If you are writing a mail to someone and if you write the name wrong or with a spelling mistake its a cardinal sin! I actually missed to include this point in the tips for writing official mails post so thought that it deserves a post by it self. Click here to read the earlier post.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Great Comeback!

An eight point deficit from the home leg, loosing the following weeks game to Pathana, pitted against the only unbeaten team of the season in their home territory and the looming threat of loosing the Bradby Shield for the third time on the trot, this was the context in which the Trinity team walked in to this game. Being a Trinity fan heart said "Trinity" but the head said "given the context, its the epitome of optimism".

The boys in the red, yellow and blue jersey had other ideas, from the kick off they stormed the Royal den with one of the finest exhibitions of open rugby ever by a Trinity team at a Bradby Shield encounter, at least for me it was the finest display by a Trinity team from all the Bradby shield matches I had watched over the last 22 years ( damn it! I am old). It was epic to beat a high riding team by 40 points to 5 in a come back game! Its one of those days which comes very rarely, where everything a team touches turns into gold. The script was perfect, Trinity team was all over the park, the line was not afraid to spin the ball wide with cut out passes, instead of the butter the guys had in their fingers during the first leg this time around they seemed to have glue,  the jumpers were stealing the Royal throw ins, the pack was bringing down the heavy Royal forwards without much ado, the Trinity kicker was suddenly looking like Jonny Wilkinson and on the other hand the ever reliable Royal kicker for once seemed to have left his kicking boots at home! While watching the match I was pinching myself a few times it was indeed a dream match and Haren articulated the feeling perfectly on facebook  when his status read "is living the sweetest Bradby dream...!!!"

Credit should be given where its due, the captain, the team and the support staff should be showered with accolades for making the boys believe in the Trinity Spirit to make the greatest comeback in the history of Bradby! You guys had just created history and added a new chapter to the rich Trinity folk lore. Anyway lets not take anything away from the Royalist, both teams played clean rugby and in both legs there wasn't even a single yellow card shown!  Message to the Royalists, you guys are a good team but sorry it was not your day. Although you guys lost the Bradby to its rightful owners, make sure you guys win the next league games and take the league championship!

In case you are wondering who I am and what my rugby "credentials" are click here to read my earlier post ;)

Friday, June 10, 2011

MySQL - Playing with Data types

Try this on your MySQL server.
1.  create table money(trx_id int, trx_value float)engine=innodb;
2.  insert into money values(1,0.99);
3.  mysql> select * from money where trx_value=0.99;
Empty set (0.00 sec)

Now how did that happen?

ok now try this,
1.  create table money2(trx_id int, trx_value dec(4,3))engine=innodb;
2. insert into money2 values(1,0.99);
3. mysql> select * from money2 where trx_value=0.99;
| trx_id | trx_value |
|      1 |     0.990 |
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Any answers still?

Ok now lets go and extra step and try this,

mysql> select * from money where trx_value between 0.99-0.005 and 0.99+0.005;
| trx_id | trx_value |
|      1 |      0.99 |
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

The explanation is pretty simple, float is an approximate data type and it doesn't store precise values. On the other hand decimal is a exact value data type. On the flip side float takes less storage where as the exact value data type takes more space. So the trick is to remember that you should never use float if you are using the column to store monetary value - You might unknowingly induce teeming and lading!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Best of youtube!

The following are the pick of the videos I have watched on youtube! If you are a Hindu it will be worth to watch all 4 or else watch at least the first three!

1. Last Lecture - Obviously the most inspirational video I have watched and I am sure the life will no longer be the same after you watch this!

2. Battle at Kruger - One rare video capturing the beauty of nature. A mothers love, power of a heard and the contest amoung predators all bundled in 8 minutes!

3. The prophetic last speech of Martin Luther King! A great orator and visionary!

4. Swami Vivekananda's address in Chicago - A great orator and philosopher! The man who had greatly influenced my value system.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Knowledge can be imparted on others but not wisdom

I used to think that all knowledge can be gained and if you have the knowledge you can be sailing. Its just in recent times I really understood whats meant by wisdom and why its different from knowledge. Wisdom is more a quality which is intangible and derived from experience (it doesn't mean age). The value of wisdom and the fact that it cannot be imparted on someone else is something that I have learnt the hard way.

When I started on my job I tried a lot of different tools and techniques out of which some were successful and others failures. Today after a few years of practice I guess I have a wee bit of wisdom on what I do and when I observe a fresher going along the same path of failure I took, I used to think that I need to tell them and save them from falling in to the same trap. I tried it a few times and I failed to convince them in most cases, I used to kick my heal and wonder why I cannot stop them from repeating the same mistake.

Then recently I was reading Siddhratha by Hermann Hesse, where in a beautiful scene where the mentality of a worried father when his child is making the same mistakes father made years back is discussed. A ferry man explains to the worried parent that "Would you actually believe that you had commited your foolish acts in order to spare your son from committing them too? And could you in anyway protect your son from Sansara? How could you?"" This made me realize that wisdom gained cannot be imparted and what I should do is let them also realize some hard learnt facts by experiencing it themselves by trying the options! Its been a lesson for life.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Haven't mobile intruded my life?

The other day I was seated at a public place without having anything to do and was observing the people around. I was surprised to see that about 80% of the people were pre-occupied with their phones and it seemed dangerously contagious , each new person who walked in sat down and within a few minutes pulled out the phone and was plucking away the keys on it.

Irrespective of the type or model of the phone they carried, all had something to do on it, calling, texting, gaming, surfing, mailing etc. I am sure most people didn't even notice who was next to them or what was going around them and fully absorbed into the mobile. Then I realized the reason for my boredom was because my mobile had run out of charge and I was going through bit of a withdrawal symptoms. When I get isolated it has become a natural progression to take the mobile out and just pointlessly do something on it. It just dawned on me that by staring on a 2X1.5 inch screen I had been missing a lot of things happening around in a full 360 degree space around. The self realization made it easier for me to come out of the initial withdrawal symptoms. My phone which went out of charge at that time never recovered and now officially pronounced dead, for a change I am enjoying life without my personal phone, no calls to attend, not texting to do and I have more time for myself and enjoy whats around!

I challenge you guys to try it for a day and see the effect. Switch off your phone for a day and make sure you don't touch it at least once. Initial few minutes/hours might be a challenge (like in trying to come out of any addiction) there after you would enjoy a "blissful"(as one of my friends put on facebook) life.

Please note that all posts in this forum are my own and doesn't necessarily reflect the stance of the organisation that I am employed by :D

Monday, June 6, 2011

Victoria Dam - A different angle

I had one big reason to not to write about this place, but unfortunately its one of the days in which I had run out of ideas, so left without an option. The reason why I hate to write about it is that, their are few who claim that Teldeniya as "Kandy 7" and keeps on boasting, I cannot unfortunately write everything about the place in public since it will be insulting for the whole of Kandy too. Anyway one thing that I cannot deny is that the place is beautiful and the crown jewel of the town is the Dam.

The dam is the largest hydro electric power plan in the country and the sight of it with the flood gates fully opened during the monsoon seasons is quiet a treat to watch! Since its an arch shaped dam usual pictures you  would have seen would clear show the curve. The picture below is a bit different and taken from a face on angle from a hill near the golf course near by. It show the damn nicely nested within the mountain range.

Victoria dam

Below is a picture of sun setting over the picturesque dam.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Green story!

Today is the world environment day (5th of June). Today is the day in which media channels picks up stories about environment, the celebrities would get out of their usual routine and show support for environmental awareness and school children will be asked to plant trees. I am not complaining about it, I am happy about this happening at least once a year and wish and pray that out of what is spoken about today at least a fraction is implemented to help the cause.

green school service
Living the green way - A picture from Dhaka

From a cooperate perspective the green story was a fad during the recession, where each company wanted to champion the cause. When you looked at the news papers at that time it was clear how every cooperate suddenly started to care about being green. I wish and pray it really happens even now.

One of the best green initiatives that I had seen was at a hotel, where at every switch they had put up a notice about the damage we do the environment when we waste electricity, near the tap it details the impact caused by each liter of water wasted, it made me more cautious whenever I use all those. Out of curiosity I asked them whether they are making any real savings from the campaign and I was told that particular hotels bills are are almost 1/3rd when compared to another hotel of the same scale! It actually goes to show how you can be green and make a realistic saving instead of making a fad and marketing hype.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Is moral cleansing a government responsibility?

Over centuries pundits had been arguing over "which is the righteous way of living" and which religious teaching is better than the other, but still there is no agreement on this and I don't expect to see an agreement in foreseeable future too. There is a popular saying that there had been more wars fought in the name of religion than any other! Some may argue on this but if you read between the lines, in some cases where religion might not be the primary reason but it at least makes it as a secondary factor for the war. My issue is when these are the credentials righteousnesses of morality can boast of, how can anyone decide what is right!

I for one believe that if the government wants to morally cleanse the society first they need to go find out which it the rightmost way of living and get an agreement on it. People who run countries can have their own values and beliefs but they should understand that it doesn't necessarily mean that others agree. Being part of a government doesn't mean that the society at large has entrusted them with the duty of morally cleanse them. I believe if a person wants to get moral cleansing they him or her self would goto a teacher of choice and get the learnings. The governments anyway have too many other things to focus on like infrastructure, debt, education etc etc which are the usual things a citizen like me want them to focus and don't expect them to waste time on moral cleaning.

There are governments ( some designated by constitution itself) have entrusted upon themselves the responsibility of upholding the cultural and religious interests and as a result having moral cleansing as the primary objective of governance.  Recently a friend of mine observed something nice, he said look at all the countries which boast about moral cleansing, culture and civilization are in dire straights, they are not even being able to feed their own people but want the people to live as per the holy texts!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bring back undisturbed hours

One of the things I never compromise on is my sleep. I always make sure that I get my daily quota of sleep ( I know few people are jealous about this ). There are days in which I have to travel and my sleep gets scattered. I would get to sleep for an hour or two and then woken up by an announcement or switch or because the guy seated next want to take a walk. On days when sleep gets scattered, when I add up to see the total time I would have spent on sleeping, it is higher than the usual sleeping time. Importantly on days on which, I had got disturbed very often even after spending more time sleeping I feel tired and drained. This apparently happens due to the absence of deep sleep.

Similarly now I have come to realize why most of us are more productive when we work from home, morning hours and weekends. Most of the office hours are like my days of scattered sleep, its made up of calls, unplanned chit chats, someone else on messenger suddenly gossiping, email on some other topic, then the lunch break, tea break, roll break, eclair break, followed by wanting to get home on time, ah then I almost forgot the most important thing, the need to know what others had said on facebook or buzz.

Each of this is a distraction from task at hand, it prevents us from going deep into the problem, after each distraction we start fresh and when we are still scratching the surface the next distraction will arrive in fully packaged format looking very attractive than the work at hand. Just like sleep these distractions impact on the productiity levels and as a consequence end up spending more time. As usual the human mind forgets the reason for the rut we have got into and blames it on too much work!

I wish that someone brings back the undisturbed hour slots back! This time I am all for it. Specially after recording my own time for the last month and analysing it, I have started to believe in the importance of undisturbed hours to get submerged in deep thought period of time to succesfully get the task done in optimal time!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What career to choose?

For some people this might be surprising, but there are people (seriously insane) who had asked for "advice" from me on what career they should choose?!

Advice is THE most dangerous thing to give anyone. But then at times when I am asked to add my few cents, self pride takes over, succumb to it and try my hand at giving "career (un)guidance". Usually what I try to do is, I ask them to go and find what they want to do instead of letting people around them choose what they want to do (easy isn't it, I pass the ball back to them, some talent ;) )

I try to give them some guidelines and avoid any specifics, I usually tell them that there are now more professions than the stereotypical jobs like doctor, lawyer, engineer and teacher. You wouldn't believe that even in this age there are parents(let me not name the community) who wouldn't accept the above point).

Then I ask them to tell me things that they enjoy doing. I try to define "enjoy" as follows, its some task or job you would spend hours and hours on and still wouldn't feel tired about it. These are things you do with your heart. I guess this is a good cue to find what you like, deciding on a career is crucial since this is something you might end up doing for years and if you don't enjoy doing it you would be wasting major part of your life doing things that you are don't enjoy and at some point would begin to say "life suck". The trick here is to understand is that each of us are different, I wouldn't necessarily enjoy doing someone else is enjoying. Find your own passion and not try to copy, but you might find inspiration from someone else. For example if you enjoy singing and feel you are good at it, it might be worth pursuing it or think of a job which has a connection with music. If you are good in art and enjoy art, think of a career revolving around art, doesn't mean you need to become a painter, you might even consider, graphics design, interior design, etc etc, the world is a large enough place to carve out your own niche. Its just that you need to get out of your preconceived mind set to see a bigger world.

I usually ask them to go and find out more about different career options and talk to people and find out what are the skills needed to do that role. Compare the need of the career with your strengths. For example a sales person should have skills like, people skills, excellent communication, liking to be with people than machines, natural flair to get a conversation going with a complete stranger in a few minutes etc etc. If your inherent likings fits the bill then think of learning the skills the profession needs and then the chances of being successful will be more than to find a career and then create an artificial flair or liking (now for god sake don't start comparing this with marriage.)

I am still wondering whether if I would have a better "advice" which I can give next time around. Please share your own thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Economy of car pooling!

In Jakarta there was something which puzzled me, it was to see a lot of people standing at the road side and signaling to the driver with either one or two of their fingers. Earlier I used to think that they were hitch hikers or some street sellers.

I got curious and asked a local for explanation. I  was told since Jakarta is known for its notorious traffic jams, the authorities have a rule on the minimum number of people who should be in a vehicle during busy hours. If the number in the vehicle is less than three the driver might gets a ticket(fined). The best part of this legislation is that it has "created" an unintended "economy". People come and stay at the road side in the morning and take a ride along the highway stretch and get paid for travelling (a value less than the fine). They are referred as car pooling jockeys.You would see even women carrying little children, they would signal two to show that, you get two passengers, which will satisfy the minimum three passenger quota in a vehicle. Drivers happily take them since its like a two in one offer.

Intially I was thinking what a sin, then my local friend explained that these people if not for this might have been doing something worse to make money, when compared to those this is a better way of earning a living, Then he asked who wouldn't like to be chauffer driven around the city and get paid for it! I couldn't put up any argument for that. What fascinates me is the legislative intent and how a section of the society had adopted it!