Category Archives for "Everything else"

I bet you can’t cancel your Kingfisher Red ticket!

Date: 30 June 2011

Time: 10:00 AM.

I have to fly back to Delhi from Mysore. I am taking the 1:15 PM Kingfisher Red flight (that’s the only one which flies out of Mysore I guess). I come to know of an urgent meeting and I decide to cancel my Mysore-Bangalore ticket. I quickly logon to Cleartrip where I had booked my tickets. It says that I can’t cancel it online within four hours of departure (I think it was 4 hours) and I should visit the airline website. That is acceptable. Though I am not sure what the limitation is. Technology or something else.

I immediately logon to the Kingfisher Red website and look for cancellations.  They’ve managed to hide the link brilliantly. And then I find it! Relieved. But then, life’s not so easy. I come to know that I can only cancel the ticket online if I have booked it through the Kingfisher website. So I must contact the Kingfisher customer care. Now that is disgusting.

Nevertheless, I call up the customer care. My brain is popping out now. I have to hurry to the office to attend the meeting. After pressing some 1/2/5/3 and what not, I reach the cancellations section. And then the stupid music starts. Occasionally, the lady talks about some new sectors and some enhanced Kingfisher Red experience. I think she is mentioning about the enhanced cancellation experience I am having. 10 minutes have gone by, and my brain is completely out. I cut-it there and quickly move out of the guest house to take the taxi to the office which was supposed to take me to the airport. I always have time to call-up on my way to the office.

So I am in the taxi now and I dial-in the number again. After pressing some 1/2/5/3 and what not, I reach the cancellations section. The same lady speaks the same shit. I can’t hear it properly which is good, else my brain will again pop out.  I think I fall asleep. The driver says that the office has come. The call is still on and the lady is still spitting crap. It is 11:00 AM and I rush-in for the meeting. There’s no point calling again as cancellation requests are not entertained within two hours from the scheduled departure.

Chapter closed.

Date: 1 July 2011

Time: 12:45 P.M.

As I am writing this, I am waiting for the same Kingfisher Red flight to take to me Bangalore! I can’t even say I will never fly Kingfisher Red again. That is the only flight which operates out of Mysore for now.  I don’t know what to say.



Lost in gadgets! The paradox of choice…..


Gadgets: The Paradox of Choice

It is a much awaited Sunday morning. Some respite from a really strenuous week at work. I will do ‘nothing’. Absolutely nothing. That is the idea. I want my mind to relax. I want it to recuperate so that it can work effectively in the coming week(s). At least that is the idea. But hold on! Is that possible? Hmmm…. possible but seems daunting!

But why?

  • I had bought a home theater system more than a year ago, and I am guilty of not using it enough. I think I have just tuned it 15-20 times to listen to a song to its full potential.
  • I have to catch-up on news as well. The Tata-Sky is beaming with 20 news channels. Although, all of them are showing the same news. So what? I still have to catch-up. ‘Isko laga dala, to life……ka baj gaya baja, I guess’.
  • I just opened my laptop. And I only have 4,268 unread articles in my RSS feeds. And this is when I had marked all my feeds as ‘read’ about 8 days ago. Has the world turned upside down in a week?
  • The software on my iPod touch has become old. I have to update it. And then, I haven’t browsed through Apple’s app-store for about a month now. That is like ages. I am already feeling iOld !
  • I had bought a Bluetooth 2.1 stereo headset a few months ago. And again, I am guilty of not using it. Bluetooth 3.0 is already out there. My stereo headset has become old without even going through its childhood!
  • Opps! I had to compare some iPad reading applications and see if they offer a good reading experience. Good that the iPad is discharged.  It got discharged because I was catching up on documentaries from Top Documentary Films last night.  The problem is all the documentaries seem to be a must watch! Anyways, at least I can’t think of using it for a couple of hours.
  • I just connected my Kindle to Wi-Fi, and I got my Instapaper weekly archive. There are only 41 articles of about 15 pages each, which I have marked as important to catch-up on. And then there are 3 books which I am currently reading. About 100 of them are waiting to be transferred from my PC to the Kindle.
  • My wife is not here. Otherwise I would have to update some applications on her android phone. It has been a month I guess, since I have installed a new app. on her device. Although, she may not use them that often. So what, I still have to catch-up on the android apps.
  • My wireless mouse has just run out of battery as I am typing this. I need to get an AAA battery so that it can work again. Or AA? Hmmm… let me check. Ok it is AA. Confirmed.
  • The digital photo frame has to be updated with the recent photographs. I have to configure it with wifi so that photos can be updated frequently. I hate wires.
  • The 18X mega zoom digital camera is just lying around. I haven’t really done decent photography for a while now. That’s bad.

My Nokia E series phone has given up because I have squeezed it to the last of the electrons! It can no more sustain the load of a new application. It is a different thing altogether that Nokia itself has run out of steam. Good for me. I am so relieved that I do not have an iPhone or an Android phone. I will not buy one for a while. Smart phones seem to be making people dumb. Long live Nokia!

Good that I have been able to resist the lure for a gaming console. Otherwise, it would have been a headache to catch up on various games. But sooner or later I will have to because they have become completely wireless. And that is what I was waiting for.

I hope you get my problem by now. I am sure you must be on the same boat, give or take a few gadgets. Too much of choice has actually made it difficult to cope with. Wherever I go, these gadgets follow. Or rather they await! They are literally ruling us.

Following are some interesting observations I have made over the last couple of years:

  • I’ve spent more time discovering and browsing for new apps. from these app-stores than actually using them!
  • I’ve spent more time browsing for books for my Kindle than reading them!
  • I’ve spent more time looking for *interesting* websites and feeds than actually reading them!

Don’t take the above too literally, but I guess you get the idea. There’s just too much of everything.

I am waiting for the time when there would be just 3 important gadgets:

  1. The Smart phone.
  2. The Smart phone.
  3. The Smart phone.

Yes! That’s it! The phones will be equipped with everything. A beaming projector so that you can quickly create a home theater experience (I know some phones already have, but these are still primitive). It will double up as a gaming console. It is already a super camera. Basically, it will solve over 90% of the requirements.

Now let’s get back to the Sunday morning. I won’t really get lost in all this today. I am determined. I’ve put everything down. I am just going to continue reading “The Physics of the Impossible”. I have to start the chapter on “Parallel Universes”. It is going to be fun. I have always been fascinated with the Universe since my childhood. This will make me feel a little relaxed for sure 😉

And yes, in the swarm of gadgets, the Kindle has a special place. Because I can only read on it! No non-sense. I want it to remain like that only.

Which gadget makes you relax?


What if we could read other’s mind?

I am reading  [amazon_link id=”0307278824″ target=”_blank” locale=”US” container=”” container_class=”” ]Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel[/amazon_link] these days.  I must say that I am big fan of Michio Kaku for his sheer ability to elucidate complex Science for the common people to understand. Although his books are not meant for a layman, but anyone with a little background and interest in Science would appreciate his writing style.

This particular book is all about looking at the scientific viability of certain phenomena which currently lie in the realm of science fiction and paranormal experiences. One of them is the ability to read other’s mind. While I was reading up this section from a scientific standpoint, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how would this impact us, if this were to become true. And the conclusion is nothing sort of a disaster of the highest order!

Let’s imagine for a while that this was possible. We could read what was going on in anyone’s mind. And before we discuss the effects, following are some of the points which I believe are rooted in the thought process of every human being with no exceptions:

  • All of us are selfish by nature. While we care for people around us and wish to make them happy, it is because ultimately it makes us happy. And yes, there are people who can’t see others happy, but that is not the type of selfishness I want to discuss in detail here.
  • All us have mixed opinion about every individual we know of. Haven’t you been in a situation where your boss is saying something and you are just thinking “What bullshit?”. If you don’t think so, there’s something terribly wrong with you. Stop reading and analyze yourself.
  • We all process and manipulate information between the time it arises in our minds and is expressed in words, actions or writing. We all want to make things look/sound/feel good.

Now you could question, there are people who don’t care about all this. And they straightway tell whatever comes to you mind, whether good or bad. Well, that is with everyone to some extent. But I am sure, there are enough situations, almost everyday, when you don’t speak what you mean.

Our entire social ecosystem runs very delicately on perception. You believe what you perceive and not necessarily what is true. All this is applicable to all aspects of our lives; our personal lives, our work lives and our social lives. You may be more honest with expressing your thoughts in your personal life than your official life than your social life (this order may be different for different individuals), but I can’t believe that one always speaks his/her mind and still enjoys a healthy living. Manipulations and lies are as important to our social fabric than speaking out the truth. Again, I want to stay away from the debate of motive behind the manipulation and lies. And I am not encouraging manipulations done to harm people. What I rather want to emphasize is the fact that unless we manipulate a few things, it is impossible to survive. I think it is a survival instinct we have developed. Truth will lose its meaning if lies don’t exist.

No matter how hard I think, I can’t imagine a society without lies and manipulations. Coincidently,  I am also reading the [amazon_link id=”0814720595″ target=”_blank” locale=”US” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Works of Charles Darwin, Volume 16: The Origin of Species, 1876[/amazon_link] and I can easily correlate how human beings have developed the instinct of processing our thoughts before it comes out to be able to survive in society as we know of. If this was not the case, we would still be running around in jungles, probably hunting for each other.

Combining what Darwin has inferred and how Science is headed, I think nature has imposed some inherent limitations which otherwise will become a threat to our survival. And no matter how hard we try, we can’t get beyond those limitations. It we were to get through those, it will forever change the world we know of.

We are therefore better off not reading other’s mind 🙂




On Productivity | Avoid “If I am there then I have to attend” tasks.



I usually do not write much about my work. But I thought this one deserves a mention. After a very long time, I decided to work from home today. Hold on! Actually for the very first time, I worked from home. I thought it will be a good to share how it felt.

A good start would be to first understand what made me decide to work from home for the very first time. On any given day, my work involves coordinating and interactive with a lot of people. I do not sit at my office reception, but you have to trust me that it does involve a lot of touch points. While things wouldn’t stop moving if I am not there, there are things which need my attention to progress. There are basically a few categories in which I can classify the work I do:

  • Foreground tasks: These are obvious tasks which I need to take up. It could be writing a proposal (yes, on the last day of submission),  interacting with customers, project meetings, taking interviews and what not. The idea is that these are visible tasks and require my presence absolutely. If I skip any of these, it would have an immediate impact.
  • Background tasks: These are not-so-obvious (but not unimportant!) tasks. It could be updating some tracker. Coming up with a sales plan. Feature planning for a product release. Updating some section of the company’s website. Writing a JD for a new opening etc. etc. The idea is that if these get pushed, there’s no immediate impact. They usually keep happening in the background and either have a relaxed or no deadline.  But if forgotten or ignored, they can back-fire in a significant way and make you uncomfortable.
  • If I am there then I have to attend tasks: These are very special tasks which deserve a mention. Of late, I’ve realized that I have to do certain stuff if I am there in the office. These are usually random discussions and meetings which are bound to happen as a part of everyday work. These are completely unplanned and can take up significant time. While I wouldn’t mention examples, these tasks are usually the ones which could happen without me but if I am around, I am expected to participate. Not that I do not add value, but I could skip some of these without too much of an impact. People will manage among them somehow. Recently, I noticed that about 30-40% of such tasks can move on without me with almost no significant impact.

I have been looking for ways to improve productivity for some time now. I am trying to organize and manage work accordingly. I had to put in a focused effort on writing one of the proposals (a foreground work) so I decided to take the plunge and work from home. Here are my observations:

  • Foreground tasks:  I had to work on a critical proposal and spend quality time which is a foreground task according to our classification. I was able to spend quality time. I thought I was quite productive as well.
  • Background tasks: Although I had not planned, I was surprised that I was not only able to complete my foreground task, I was able to wrap up a couple of background tasks as well with a great deal of efficiency.
  • If I am there then I have to attend tasks: You would think I could completely stay away from these tasks. Not exactly. But then, I spent significantly less time on these in comparison to what I spend on any given day.

I was super productive.. I was able to accomplish much more than I had planned. I have the energy and enthusiasm to write this post.  And I am feeling great.

Now that I think of all this, here’s what I think I’ve learnt:

  • It is important to manage your accessibility. If you are too accessible and get-go with any random work which comes up, the productivity is bound to suffer. Even a one minute digression can cost 15-20 minutes. It takes a minute to get out of context, but it takes several minutes to get it back.
  • You can’t multi-task in a literal sense. You need to slice the time effectively.
  • Those background tasks are very important. They should not be ignored. These are the ones which will take you to the next level.
  • Try to stay away from If I am there then I have to attend as much as possible. Choose the ones which actually need you.

It is good to look things from a different vantage point once in a while. I am surprised how I could analyze my own work schedule by just changing the work conditions a little.





Sophistication vs. Simplicity: Organizing emails






The great Einstein had said:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Ever since I’ve started working, the flurry of emails which I receive everyday, is increasing on an average. And this is the case with everyone else I guess. As I see myself, I’ve been quite disorganized throughout my life. When I was in class 2 and the term was ending, I vowed to maintain all my notebooks and workbooks up-to-date from class 3. And no wonder I thought the same when I was in class 11. I never planned to be organized when I was into engineering. I guess I never felt the need.

The first year of my job was also quite OK in terms of managing emails. There were only a few emails related to the project I was working on and then  a couple of ones here and there. Enter into the next phase of my career and suddenly things changed. My work not only required looking into multiple projects, but there were other non-project related stuff which were equally and sometimes more important. And were large in volumes. For a few months, or rather a couple of years, I somehow managed to work through this. This would have definitely hit my productivity. However, the problem was that I constantly had a nagging feeling of not being organized. Whenever I opened my outlook, it was all flat and uninteresting.

Let’s call this phase I. One fine Saturday morning, I decided, it was enough. I will become highly organized w.r.t. email management. I created about 30-40 odd folders like project 1, project 2….project n (all of these under a master folder called Projects), HR, Management, Accounts, Notifications, Personal, Leisure, Hiring, Processes, Sales-Mobile, Web……etc. Then  I took an arduous task of moving all my existing emails into these. What a feeling I had that night. It was such an awesome sense of accomplishment that I can’t explain. So things went smooth for a while. But then, it started hitting me slowly. The problem was that I almost never looked into the specific folder unless I had to search something. What this meant was that my email had to remain in inbox, until I felt  that it didn’t deserve to remain in the inbox. For some emails, I could immediately move into the specific folders, but some of them had to stay in the inbox for a while. And this again got me to the same point where I had started. I had lots of emails lying in my inbox. And now, the feeling of guilt was much more as it looked more disorganized (earlier I didn’t have those classified folders to make me feel so low). And because of this feeling, I always thought, I need to do something better and usually left the emails lying around in my inbox.

Move to phase II. With Gmail web and all the cool stuff of tagging etc., I found a software which could tag my emails and I could configure rules to move them into specific folders. This was what I always wanted! Wow, all sorted now. I could color code the tags, search based on the tags and what not. This went on for a while. Suddenly, I realized that the folders I had and the tags I was putting-in didn’t co-relate always (BTW, I seem to have the same problems with categories and tags on my blog). And one fine day, the tagging plugin to outlook required a mandatory update. Upon updating, all previous tagging information just disappeared. I am not sure if I checked some wrong option or if it was a bug with the upgrade process of the software itself. This left me in a big fix and made me think as to what exactly I want out of this whole process of classifying emails.

Cut to phase III. On my last Riyadh trip, I decided to dedicate a day to get through this once and for all. I thought through and came up with the following key points:

  • Emails are central to almost 90% of my work.
  • All emails which require my attention, should remain in my inbox unless they have been attended to. Mind that just reading the email through may not be enough to move it out of inbox. If the email requires certain action, it should ideally remain in the inbox until the action has been  followed through.
  • Although I had tagged my emails and moved them into different folders, whenever I had to look for a buried email, I almost always did a search on my root mail folder with keywords which didn’t always match with the keyword I had tagged the email with.
  • Almost 90% of the search was based on the from and approximate date range.
  • The gmail web interface (yes we use Google Apps) was a lot faster than the outlook search and I was using it 90% of the time to search through my emails.
  • Unless I myself had a follow-up to do on a certain email, I will invariably get that email with the trail from someone if and when it needs my atttention. So I will most likely not need to search for anything as the email trail would have all the context.

What the above meant, was that I really didn’t need to get fancy to classify and move my emails in such a  complicated fashion. I decided to just have a few folders:

  • Inbox: Well, you already have it. I now just keep any email there until it needs a follow up item on my plate.
  • Read: All read emails get into this. No strings attached. I am able to move about 80% of my emails almost instantly after reading into this folder.
  • Important: Some emails which may not require immediate follow-up, but are deemed important, go here.
  • Personal: All personal emails get in here.
  • Notifications: All those notification emails (bugs, issues etc.) go in here.
  • Recurring: There are some emails which I need to see again and again. Could be some registration information, credentials which I use once in a while etc.

That’s it. I think I made it simple. I am not sure if it can be made any simpler. But if I could, I will definitely make it. I am happy and I am relaxed. As I write this, I just have 7 emails lying in my inbox.  Now when I open my outlook, it is still flat, but it is interesting!