Monday, February 27, 2017

Your Umbrella Personality

What is your Umbrella Personality Type ?

I like rainy days.

It is a wonderful time to slow down and an opportunity to get in sync with the flow of life. As every child did, I remember watching the dance of the rain drops down the glass window panes. Some times two drops come together to merge and form one; and after some time they get bogged down by their own weight and split; and yet some other times they are so near and yet they don't even mingle. As a thoroughly trained Indian movie goer, my favorite was the one where they come from two different paths, merge some where midway and go all the way together till the bottom of the window and disappear at once !

In my adult life, this hobby extended to being a little more reflective during rains and at times - engage in people watching. I am impressed at how people use their umbrellas. There is a whole gamut of scenarios that is unfolded here.

Starting with the most usual type - some one walking at a steady pace with a reasonably-sized black umbrella to cover themselves while in rain - Sure, you see several of these. But, nothing fascinating. Some carry an umbrella that is probably enough just to cover their head - but do let their bags over their shoulders get wet. A few other slender looking types carry something too big to accommodate some one else comfortably in.

Most are black. A few bold types venture out now and then with flamboyant colors. I occasionally see the transparent ones which are a pleasing thing to watch. On the other hand, nature scores a goal against man when the umbrella is being torn or ripped apart by a stronger wind.

It is fascinating to see how people behave without their umbrellas while raining. A few walk confidently and slowly down the road as though they are entering the stage to perform in the role of a king. A few others run as fast as they can splashing water along the way, and probably getting wetter from the splash below than the rain above ! The best sight to watch is when a group of kids enjoy their dance in the rain when parents are not around. I have to admit I do occasionally stick out my tongue in the rain and blame it on the kids :)

I have seen a few who struggle to open their car trunk in the parking lot, while getting wet - only to realize - Surprise ! There is no umbrella inside. A few others, who run in rain carrying their umbrella (without opening it) because it is just a short distance to get to the building. Others who enter the building, fold it properly put it in their own umbrella bag while a few others use the throw-away bag at the building entrances.

I know of a friend who is so meticulous that he keeps one in the car and the other in his office so he is always covered. And sometimes the planner/lazy types who brought his umbrella to the office that morning (knowing that it was going to rain in the afternoon), comes out of the building during lunch without his umbrella , yet lazy enough to go back and pick it up and thus decides to get wet any way.

In Seattle where it is a surprise when it doesn't rain, I have seen a "community umbrella" concept in some malls/buildings where stores and offices keep a reserve of umbrellas in a bucket at their front door. Anyone picks it up while exiting, uses it for a short distance and drops at the next "drop off point".

Umbrellas in Disney World are a painful scene to watch - Kids are oblivious to the weather and are having a great time while the parents have to keep one more thing together in addition to their truck load of things for the day.

It gets more interesting when you see a person to umbrella relation is not one to one.
We have all seen a group of folks coming together from lunch where there is just one person short of it and squeezes between two umbrellas either to get his head or butt in - but not both. And sometimes, the private person who really doesn't like to share his and yet grudgingly accommodates - but takes the lion share of his own umbrella, practically providing very little coverage to the other. Some times it feels bad to watch two people walking out of the same building at the same time, walking in the same direction - one of whom is fully covered by his umbrella and the other walking right next to him without.

A few other memorable ones that caught my attention over the years:

An elderly couple during their morning walk in Atlanta - both carried their respective umbrellas in their hands and strangely - they were unopened even though it was raining. May be they were too engrossed in their conversation.

A man walking with his dog and both had their respective umbrellas.

My personal favorite - A dad and his daughter (may be 5 year old) walking some where around Times Square with only one umbrella between the two of them while it was drizzling. Dad was carrying a backpack on his shoulders, a shopping bag in his left hand, no umbrella for himself and holding a kid's umbrella for his daughter on his right hand - all while letting her walk at her pace. I ran to him, patted on his back and said.."Nice job buddy. That's what Dads do" !

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The President has 6 Buttons

In this election, before we focus on whom to vote for, can we talk about what we want in the first place ?

--- In response to my above statement - the discussion kept going in a whatsapp group , and finally I had to get to a long-form article, and here we are on the blog. Hope to revise this draft soon, but you get the gist in the meanwhile. I will probably leave the casual language as it is .. to keep the original intent of convincing a friend.---

You made me think a little more on what I want.

It was long time pending, to pen this article..
I used to say every President has 6 buttons on their desk. They don't have time to play with all of them at any time. Sometimes, one-term is not even enough to press one button. And, what they press on - shapes us for ever.
I got home as fast as I could today from work - thanks to a button that Eisenhower pressed in the 50s.. more than 65 years ago !

Finally, put the detailed thought in categorization. Here is an easy way to remember. The six buttons are IBCDEF - Immigration, Benefits, Culture, Defense, Economy/Energy, and Future.

1) Immigration
Having started as a country of Immigrants, this is uniquely differentiating factor for this country. That is the reason I put this on the front. It is the DNA of the country. We can never afford to be anti-immigrant.

For more facts.. A few notable ones..
immigrants’ share of total output was about 14.7 percent over 2009–2011. Note that this is actually larger than immigrants’ 13 percent share of the population.
Unauthorized immigrants are a net positive for public budgets because they contribute more to the system than they take out. (Not saying this is a reason to keep unauth.. just the facts on their impact)

Inc. said .. The most entrepreneurial group in America wasn't born in America

2) Benefits

This is the safety net. Another way to look at it is.. this is the Cost of Progress or I would even say - Cost of Civilization.

In the Jungle or the animal world - there are only two choices - life or death.. The law of survival of the fittest dictates that the unfortunate and the attacked have no choice.

Even in the human world - in the game of life that we all play - everyone is NOT going to be a winner. And, since we have "progressed" through the civilization - we take care of the "losers". I don't intend to use the word "Loser" with a demeaning context at all. This includes all those who never had a chance, who are caught blindsided, who played a fair game and lost (because there will always be winners and losers in a game - as long as you play)

Social Security, Education, Health Care, Minimum Wage on labor - all these policy issues come here. As civilizations progress, the "risk" we take would be reduced through these safety nets.

If you lose a job - would you need easier access to health insurance ?
If you have been in an industry all your life that you lose a job after 30 years - would you need some help in re-tooling yourself ? That is also part of education.

3) Culture
This set defines who we are and how we want to conduct life. We tend to ignore this when there are bigger issues. This keeps re-surfacing generally when other problems are solved.

No Racial discrimination, Abortion, Legalization of Drugs, LGBT/Human Rights, Right to Privacy, Democratic Elections etc.
In another way - these are kind of "rich world problems" as some tend to think of. But again, these define who we are as put in the Constitution.

4) Defense
Regardless of what Aristotle said - Man is NOT a rational animal. We tend to do stupid things. When others do it, we have to stop them. We have to make sure we don't do stupid things.

Military spending, fighting the right wars are part of this category.
Sometimes, we even get crazy enough to shoot our own selves - That is where Guns become a problem too.

Similarly, Foreign Policy shapes who our friends and foes are.

5) Economy and Energy
This is what makes life possible in the modern world - Taxes and Trade on the "Revenue" Side. Energy on the "cost" side and Regulation as a "control valve".

Taxes - source of revenue - how much to collect, whom to collect from - Individual vs. Corporations ? Should rich pay more than those who are not ? Will taxing corporations screw up the creation of jobs?

Trade has been happening for years. This is where the "losers" we talked about earlier are impacted where there needs to be a safety net.

Energy - What sources, how much to depend on internal vs. external sources etc are part of this discussion.

Regulation is like a valve. You open too much and you make a mess with an overflow. You open too little and you constrain the flow. So, this tap needs to be "regulated" depending on market timing.

6) Future

Finally, this section is to think of Future - beyond the current generation that has elected the current government.

Environmental issues like Climate change, Carbon tax etc. and Investments on Infrastructure, Science and technology are a big part of shaping our future.

Tim Berners Lee was working at a government facility - CERN when he created the www. If the government hadn't funded institutions like DARPA - a Department of Defense initiative - I wouldn't be sending this article to you in less than a second after I finished typing. If NASA were not there - SpaceX would NOT be worth $12 Billion today.

This is an area where credit is not given for the government.
Government should have the deep pockets to make long term funding. That is how it is supposed to work. Some bets will be right, some will not.

Now, you decide how you want to press the six buttons and decide who is the best to get to the destination you want.

The buttons to press
1) Immigration - No Wall

2) Benefits - Keep ObamaCare, protect those that are dis-enfranchised by trade with support on education (as I said - not just limited to 4 yr colleges), Also AI/Machine age is coming soon. So, education all the more important.

3) Culture - Keep as is - Try to resolve issues like BlackLives matter amicably and without getting into "rich world problems" - Bathroom laws. The issues will be there, but not too much time to focus on now..

4) Defense - Fight ISIS only on global coalition including the Arabs.
As Bertrand Russell said - War does not determine who is right - only who is left !
More Americans are killed by guns since 1968 than ALL WARS in the HISTORY of AMERICA. Read that statement again. If you don't believe, check out
So, NRA has to be weakened. I am not talking about violating 2nd amendment.
Just that we got to have more common sense laws to take away guns from those who shouldn't be having it in the first place.

5) On Economy and Energy -
Keep it buzzing. Got to do financial transaction tax as source of revenue. Just remember that High Frequency trading is a game played by machines for which the humans pay the cost ! Check out here for more on this..
Nothing crazy on trade. Use the Regulatory Valve appropriately depending on the market !

6) And, as much as climate change is real, this is likely ignored again - at least in the short term. I think we will be busy solving the others that we need another term to get to this fight ! The earth will last another 4 years !

Now, remember - I did NOT talk about the candidates. I just talked about what my destination should be. Now, you tell me if you agree with my destination and who the driver should be !

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Friday, December 25, 2015

Timeless problems

After a late night Christmas party and the usual early morning presents by the tree, this Christmas was slightly different.

My wife’s cousin, who just came to US a couple of days ago, is with us for the weekend before heading to Florida on Sunday for his Masters in Aeronautics. I happened to notice his book on “Flight Stability and Automatic Control” and was drawn to the calculus - derivatives and integration used in the text book. And, it soon lead to reminiscing about some math problems.

I am usually intrigued by Math problems that younger students ask as it allows me an opportunity to indulge in a common language despite the age difference! He posed the following.
  1. Is it possible for velocity of an object to be 0 and acceleration to be non-zero ?
  2. What is larger - x or 1/x ?
  3. A vehicle moves 1Km at 30 Kmph from A to B. What velocity would it have to move from B to C (another 1km distance) so the average velocity from A to C is 60 Kmph ?
  4. What is the derivative of Sqrt(2+sqrt(2+sqrt(2+sqrt(2+..…  infinite series
  5. And then, once he assessed me with that, he got on to the real one.. derivative of Sqrt(x+sqrt(x+sqrt(x+sqrt(x+..… infinite series

I don’t consider myself a math whiz, but take pride in my interest in basic math and like solving problems like these from time to time. After answering all of them, I must have gained the right to ask and it was my turn.

I am not particularly good at recalling problems from my memory, with the exception of this one below. That was because I created this problem myself, as I was learning Integration around 12th grade – almost a quarter century ago!

I asked him - which of the following, if any,  is/are integrable ? And, if they are, solve them.
  1. 1/(1+x^4)
  2. x/(1+x^4)
  3. x^2/(1+x^4)
  4. x^3/(1+x^4)
  5. x^4/(1+x^4)
  6. x^5/(1+x^4)

As soon as I said that, my 7 year old daughter who is still struggling in getting her 2 digit additions right – accidentally blurted out the correct answer – “All of them”. She probably figured the pattern in how I quiz her already J. I told her she was the first one who ever answered that question correctly. (and definitely the one to answer without even solving them !)

And, after a good discussion in solving all of them with the 21 year old student, he told me – “You created this problem even before I was born”. That was a profound observation. And, one of the reasons why I love Math problems – the timeless nature of the problems and more importantly – their solutions. Strangely, the solutions provide a sense of stability in this day and age where everything changes at a frantic pace. I cannot say how many other solutions remain the same over such a long period of time!

I look forward to asking the same question in about a decade when my daughter learns calculus. I am sure I will remind her she got it right her first time :)

After writing this article, I prod her – “how did she answer it correctly when I asked her about the “integrable” question?. She says - All of those are “Incredible” – the word she heard !  Math problems and solutions are incredible indeed– with their unvarying answers in this ever-changing world!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Don't get SMACked like "The Martian" !

In the movie – The Martian, Matt Damon gets “smacked” by flying debris from an intense storm leaving him stranded on the planet. After watching the movie (a very good one BTW), my daughter and I started playing the “What if” game – what would be doing if we were in his shoes. Somewhere along the way, a thought occurred – What such event could hit us in the ever-changing technological storm that we always seem to be in middle of? Thus, the seeds for this article were sown from another planet. :)
SMAC, an acronym coined by Cognizant in 2011 - seems to be the storm brewing recently. It has made its presence felt in the technologies that enterprises are working on today. It stands for Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud Computing. 
Considered the fifth wave in computing, SMAC’s solution market is expected to hold 80% of all total enterprise IT investment in the next 5 years, generating about $225 Billion of revenue for IT service firms.

This article explores trends in each of these areas and ways to train yourself and learn more about the technologies of this wave. Most, if not all, of these courses share a few common traits.
  • Available as online courses, certification programs or just DIY links.
  • Can be learnt for free or for a nominal cost.
  • Many of these take no more than a couple of hours per week – and more importantly - on one’s own schedule(of course, the time varies based on the technical depth of these courses and individual background )
Course Delivery Platforms
Many of these courses are available in three distinct environments.
  1. Enterprise Environment: Companies like IBM, Google, Hubspot, Cloudera and many others offer several learning opportunities on their websites. These lessons and certification programs are generally found in sections listed under Training/Developers/University.
  2. Academic Environment: Universities like Stanford, MIT (Open Courseware), Harvard (Extension School) and others offer courses in academic and online setting. Not all of these courses are free, especially if you require credit hours towards a degree or specialization.
  3. Hybrid Environment: Many venture-backed, for-profit Companies like Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, etc. and non-profits like edX, and Khan Academy generally fall under the category of MOOCs – Massively Open Online Courses. There are various distinctions within this category. Many of these courses are free if you just want access to content. If you need a link to certification at the end of the course (after passing the exam), most of these cost about $50 to $100 per course. If you need access to additional help like Udacity’s Coaches – it could cost about $200 per month.
Now, let’s look at how these sectors are evolving and how to be prepared in each of the SMAC categories.
Social Media
Hubspot offers a comprehensive marketing course that covers the Inbound Marketing methodology. It gives you enough breadth to cover the new age of marketing – especially in the B2B world.
  • How do you get visitors to your site and get them interested in your products?
  • How do you track, nurture, and convert those leads into prospects and customers?
  • How can Sales and Marketing work together on inter-dependent and aligned goals?
During a recent CMO Argyle event I attended, it was not uncommon to hear many B2B marketers generating at least one-third of their sales from Inbound Marketing.
If you want to get a quick overview of best practices in Search Engine Optimization, Blogging, Email Marketing, Social Media Distribution, Content Analysis, etc., this Hubspot course is for you.
As much as there seems to be an app for everything we ever want to do, the tipping point of Mobile Media time being greater than Desktop media did indeed happen for the first time in the last year- as shown in this comScore’s graph.
10 great courses to learn Mobile App Development is a great starting point to view courses in each of the three categories of course delivery platforms discussed earlier. Both Android and iOS courses are listed. All of these would require a decent amount of programming experience.
This is my favorite one. Though “islands of Microsoft Excel culture” are scattered in many parts of the enterprise, 43% of organizations are restructuring and reorganizing their organizations to exploit big data opportunities and 2/3rds of them either already have or are planning to appoint a C-Level role (ex: Chief Data Officer)– as summarized in this CapGemini and EMC study.
There is an EXCELLENT metro-map that outlines the path to get on the Analytics train. It can feel overwhelming, just like any of the metro maps in a foreign country – especially if you don’t know where you are and where you want to go.
  • If you think you are the right-brain kind of person and are generally scared of numbers, I would encourage you to start by browsing a few chapters of the book - Naked Statistics.
  • If you can calculate tip at a restaurant without pulling your calculator, comfortable with basic math, vaguely recall that PDF meant Probability Density Function (in the pre-Adobe world), and are willing to learn on your own, I would start with what you may have already done years ago - An excellent introduction to AP – Statistics Course. (I also use this while I tutor 10th grade students. The best comprehensive statistics material all in one place).
  • If you already know the difference between Descriptive and Predictive Statistics, and slowly want to get into the programming/tools side of statistics- a good place to start is with a programming language like R. Coursera’s data science specialization track is helpful – especially R Programming.
  • If you are comfortable with doing basic data analysis for yourself – either in Excel or R and want to get into more sophisticated tools and concepts, you can start indulging in Machine Learning and Data Visualization. All the MOOCs have great courses on this. Stanford’s course on Machine Learning by Andrew Ng is generally considered the rite of passage into the Machine world. Udacity also allows you to access for free their Machine Learning course, part of their Nanodegree offering.
  • When your data analysis skills start to crash your laptop(because you can no longer open large files in Excel locally), it may be time to jump into Distributed computing technologies - Map Reduce and Hadoop – also referred to as Big Data Technologies. And, here is where it could get a little hazy – on the Analytical vs. Cloud nature of these technologies. Both IBM’s Big Data University and Coursera offer several courses in these areas.
If you want to get the sexiest job of the 21st century – as deemed by Harvard Business Review, here is a terrific infographic detailing the roadmap to become a Data Scientist.
Cloud Computing
Globally, cloud apps will account for 90% of total mobile traffic in 4 years, compared to an astonishing 81% at the end of last year. 57% of IT Architects and tech professionals are running apps on AWS today, as summarized in this Forbes article.
Rackspace eases you into the terminology of Cloud with a basic/free 10-chapter CloudU Certification course elaborating the differences between public, private and hybrid cloud.
Cloud Academy offers multiple learning paths to traverse the cloud platforms from Amazon, Azure (Microsoft) and Google.
There are several paths to start the SMAC journey. We barely scratched the surface. Many of these technologies usually converge in many real-world enterprise projects. For instance: Analyzing (A) social network (S) data using Big Data technologies on the Cloud(C) combines three of these technologies.
The key is to start somewhere closer to the world you are familiar with in one of these areas, and without getting stranded, step by step, expand into others and get Home to the field of your interest.. Just like the Martian did !!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What is Freedom?

Class Notes - Sep 20 2015

In the last class - we discussed the roadmap of the course and a multi-disciplinary outline of the various aspects - Philosophy, Science, History, Art etc.. of the Self.

In this class, we shall review one of the terms - Freedom, which would fall under the Philosophical side first - as we try to understand the theory in class. Once we understand the theory/concept behind this term(download in this class), each one of us will have to (install => Homework) in order to experience it.
Download and Install are part of the framework used in last class.

We started with a discussion of 
- what we thought Freedom meant
- how none of us are as free as we want to be
- how rules constrain our freedom

There were 17 students in the class and I did a quick survey based on three questions answered by them.
Q1) Write down any word you want to
Q2) Write down words that start with the letter "S"
Q3) Write down the maximum number of words starting with the letter "T" in under a minute.

Both Questions 1 and 2 were also answered in 1 minute (where I asked them to stop at the end of 1 minute). Prior to Question 3, the students were not aware that they took one minute to answer those two questions.
In other words, all three questions were answered in exactly one minute.

After the 3rd question was completed, I asked them to count the number of words written under each question. Each student then, reported three numbers.

After collecting the individual responses from each one of them, here is the average number of words in each case - to generalize across the entire sample of 17 students.
Q1) 5.12 words on average
Q2) 7.9 words on average
Q3) 16.1 words on average

Though they had the exact same time for each question (Q1 and Q2 unknowingly and Q3 knowingly)
- Most, if not all, of them were able to write more words in Q2 compared to Q1.
- All of them wrote more words in Q3 compared to Q2 and Q1

We talked about why that was the case. A couple of insights that they uncovered during the discussion.

- The ability to express was limited when they perceived no limitation(rules) in Q1
- Adding a constraint(rule to follow) in Q2 (starting with a particular letter) helped them to express more freely
- A time pressure added to better performance in Q3

Though, the time given for their "freedom of expression" was the same across all three questions, there are key differences amongst these questions
- Q2 had a "constraint" or a rule to follow - a starting letter
- Q3 had a "constraint" and a "goal" - finding the maximum words in a minute
- Q1 had neither a constraint nor a goal - in other words a perception of unlimited freedom.

The freedom to express was more when a constraint was followed (Q2), and the most when a goal was pursued (Q3). Though we perceive that our freedom is more without any goals and constraints, the actual freedom we experience is the most when we practice intelligent self-restraint in pursuit of our goals.

Back to Real World
1) A constraint allows us to establish that we will NOT go below whatever the lower limit we have identified for ourselves. That is the floor on which we will stand and continue to improve from there with time. In no time, shall we go below the constraint that we establish for ourselves.

A goal allows us to pursue our personal best higher and higher till we get to the ultimate goal.

2) A constraint is something that we have to STOP ourselves from doing. These are things that we are currently doing or that we have easy access to. When we tell ourselves that we will never hit below the floor we establish for ourselves, we program it in our brains. When our parents or elders ask us (provide feedback) to stop doing something, we will have to analyze for ourselves and establish those as the floors below which we won't go.

A goal is something that we have to START doing, that we are not currently capable of - in which case we have to start building the capability to reach our goal.

With time...
The following visual is just an example of how we can progress with time. In class, we discussed the lowest scale (the minus infinity) is Murder. Similarly, the highest scale (positive infinity goal) is the maximum happiness for not only ourselves, but for everyone around us.

On the constraints we will have to impose on ourselves - it may be "sleeping/eating more" for some of us, while it may be "sleeping/eating less" for others. In other words, the rules we want to follow will be different for each one of us depending on where we currently are.

As we see in the visual below, 
though it may "appear" (=> we just perceive) that we have unlimited freedom when there are no rules and goals
we will actually continue to experience increasing freedom as we start practicing intelligent self-restraint in pursuit of our goals

Define your personal goals and self-imposed constraints that you want to follow to experience maximum freedom.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What do we study in Self-Unfoldment

Class Notes - Sep 13 2015

In the last class - we saw an introduction into the book - Self-Unfoldment.
In this class, we discussed how this book shall be used in the context of this course.

There are two things that we have with us always, if not most of the time.
  • One we are aware of - The Cell Phone.
  • The other we are unaware of - Our self fun :)
Before we jump into the topic of Self and understand what we are going to do in this course , let us look at the more familiar world of cell phones first.

What we do in the world of Cell Phones

1) Most of our beloved apps that are available on the app store are first downloaded onto our phone.
2) These apps are then installed on our phone before we try them out.
3) Once installed, we start play/interacting with it

Summarized by the picture below that we saw in class.

What we do in this Course of Self-Unfoldment

What we do in this course of self-unfoldment is not much different from the world we are familiar with.

1) We download the various topics related to Self. For instance-  Understanding the History, Science, Philosophy of self . This happens in the class when you come to learn about these various topics.
2) The act of installation- happens only when you start using these principles to work on your own self. We will get into the various practices that are part of this process - like Introspection, Reflection, Meditation, Pranayama etc..
3) Once installed, you get to use these new techniques and behaviors while interacting with the world around you. Over a period of time, these interactions will happen with the new behaviors you start to develop.

Summarized by the picture below that we saw in class.

Home Work:
We talked about the various combinations of doing and not doing these three activities and assess where we particularly are at this stage of the course. Across the three combinations of Download (Learning/Studying), Install (Practicing/experimenting on your self) and Play (Interacting with the real world), the following eight combinations serve as a guide to assess where we are and what we intend to do with this class.