Monday, December 05, 2005

Unlimited sick leave

I have seen that different companies have different sick leave policies. The number of days of sick leave offered is based on the employee's number of years of service at the company, or it is based on the employee's total work experience, or it is accrued every year, or it is unlimited. Some even offer no sick leave at all!

Each offers its own pros and cons (for both the employer as well as the employee), but I feel that unlimited sick leave policy is the best, in the tech sector. Note the italicized text.

Consider a company with no sick leave. This increases the chance of spread of infection, which costs the company more in the long run. You won't want to use a personal day for a cold, however bad it is, do you? So, you end up going to work, and sneezing on everyone in the meetings/halls, and potentially spreading whatever is brewing inside you. This decreases employee morale tremendously.

Same holds good for limited sick leave. What if I fall really sick, and I am left with no sick leave? So, better not call in sick for simple illnesses. The definition of simple illness varies from employee to employee. Again, the germ factory arrives at work and makes more people sick.

What if you have been really sick this year and you run out of sick leave? Use your personal leave. But, I have already made reservations to go to Hawaii this winter. Take leave without pay. But, I need the money.

What if I have sick leave left over? Can I carry it over to next year? If not, I might as well use all my sick leave. This leads employees to start thinking creatively.

Unlimited sick leave offers the employee an opportunity to make a judgment call based on how they really feel. There are no strings attached. So, the honest employee weighs the situation and decides whether to go to work or not. Even if this employee thinks that she is not sick enough to take a day off, her boss/colleagues are now empowered to send the employee home, if they feel that this person needs to be at home.

On an average, employees take around 10 days sick leave per year. Just because the company offers unlimited sick leave, people are not going to call in sick every nice Friday. If they do, investigate them and fire them. This is a bell curve, with some people falling sick more often than others. So, in the long run, things even out for the company's and employee's benefit. This increases the employee morale tremendously.

What if employees abuse unlimited sick leave? This is a common concern in the HR department, and that is the reason why they concoct all kinds of sick leave policies. It is a beautiful day, and you are driving to work and you pass your favorite golf links, and you just make yourself sick and play golf for the rest of the day. These are dishonest employees who do not take responsibilities seriously, and they don't belong in your company. If an employee is not challenged or excited about coming to work, their productivity will be low, and there are other things for HR to worry about, than sick leave abuse.

In an organization where employees are challenged sufficiently, and the workplace atmosphere is inviting, there need not be any worries of sick leave abuse. With flexible working hours so prevalent in the industry, unlimited sick leave will boost employee morale, productivity, and benefit both the employee and the employer.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Where do you get time to read fiction?

So did a friend of mine remark at noticing a novel on the coffee table during a recent visit to our home. To which I said that one should always read, and choose books from diverse subjects so as to fuel our imagination as well as learn something new. Of course, we do read a lot of non-fiction in order to satisfy our daily life in general, and work life in particular. Reading fiction takes your imagination for a ride. You can visit far off places, meet people from different walks of life as well as different societies, feel the emotions, be it pain or joy, of the characters in the books.

This got me thinking about why we read and especially why we should read a good mix of fiction as well as non-fiction. Of course, almost everyone reads news, opinions and views on the current events in magazines and newspapers. We read technical literature pertaining to our work. We should also cultivate a habit of regularly reading fiction in order to get into the minds of others. Reading fiction sparks one's imagination, It tickles the right side of the brain. Of course, any exercise to our gray matter is a good thing in itself. Fiction provides an escape from our day-to-day life and its problems. One of the reasons Bollywood movies always follow the formula of injecting a lot of pain and suffering into the movies is to provide a means for the suffering masses to see someone else suffering more than them. Thus the audience will go back home glad that they are a lot better off than the characters in the movie. Thank god, the characters on the silver screen and their problems are fictional. Well, that is my theory, anyway.

Fiction lets you discover things that you might not have thought of, it lets you visit places that you did not even dream of visiting, it lets you get into the minds of the President of a corporation or an army general or a serial killer or .. You get the point. Where would you get a glimpse of the mind of a corporate mogul? Fiction is entertaining. It evokes all kinds of emotions in you. It lets your imagination run wild. I hated seeing movies that are based on famous novels. I used to imagine the characters to look a certain way, to speak in a certain manner, etc. and most of the times, the movies did not stand up to my imagination. That's why I don't see such movies anymore. I want to cherish the pictures I have painted of my favorite characters and I am not going to let a Hollywood director steal it from me.

We used to read fairy tales and imagine the characters and the places the tales were set in. Everyone had their own imaginary wonderland. It gave us an opportunity to exercise our brain and picturize the things that were described to us using words. Today, with the advent of video technology and animation, kids sit and watch their favorite fairy tales even before they get a chance to read (or have someone read to them) them. Of course, the directors do a fantastic job of representing the tales, but we are still taking away the opportunity for a child to imagine things on her own. TV numbs your mind because it thinks for you. You just sit and watch for things to unfold (most of the time).

Most important of all is that reading lets you escape. You escape from everything around you. You are in a special world all by yourself, with your characters. Of course, this is assuming that you read by yourself. This gives you time for yourself. Fiction reading can be relaxing as well as rejuvenating. I have made a plan to read at least one fiction book and a book on a subject that is unknown to me, every month. This will help me relax (fiction) and expand my horizon (new subject). Let's see how well I can implement this plan. Of course, there will always be things to be taken care of, but it is up to us to make time for the finer things in life.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why are we so?

Last weekend was beautiful, sunny and cool with not a cloud in sight. So, we decided to go for a drive through all the port cities west of Seattle. The first city we visited was Port Gamble. It is a cute little port city with a nice small downtown and its own house-converted-family-owned restaurants and shops. We were strolling through the main street of the city and one of the houses had a garage sale. Garage sale suckers that we are, we stopped by to check the loot. The main reason we went in was that the sign said everything was $1 each. That was enough motivation for us to peek in. To my surprise I saw an old SLR with a few lenses lying around on a table. I quickly snatched them all up, and to my amazement, I had found myself a Minolta SR-T101 with a 58mm prime and a 200mm prime. Along with them was a 2X and a 3X teleconverter. Boy, was I lucky. I think the lady hosting the sale must have been real unhappy with her husband, and was getting rid of everything of his, and I bagged the whole kit for $2! I was not even thinking of bargaining (who wants to bargain in a dollar store?), and she just said, 'give me $2 for all of it'. I wasn't in a mood to argue with her.

I came home grinning ear to ear, and got out my lens cleaning kits, a dozen ear buds, rubbing alcohol and some tissues, and got to work. I painstakingly cleaned each element of the camera. I rubbed out all the gunk on the body with alcohol, and I cleaned each external element of the lenses with lens cleaning tissue, and brought the camera back to almost mint condition. The whole procedure took me over an hour.

Now, it was calibration time! I took out my good old Canon Elan with its 28-105mm zoom lens and attached it to a tripod. Adjusted the focal length to 58mm and focused it onto a brightly lit object. Then, I mounted the "new" Minolta onto another tripod and focused it on the same scene and started the calibration process at different f-stops.

This is when it struck me that I had not cleaned my $1000+ electronic camera (and accessories) for over 2 years, and I had just spent more than an hour cleaning a $2 camera! What is it that made me clean this Minolta so pain-stakingly, while ignoring my old faithful? At this point I didn't even know if this camera was in good condition. Of course, the shutter cocked and fired well. The lenses had working aperture. Apart from this, I didn't know if the camera leaked light. I didn't know if the shutter had a hole in it. I didn't know if the meter worked right. I didn't know if the shutter was calibrated. So, what was it that made me take such good care of this new entity?

Maybe it is the glamour that new things bring. Maybe it was because I always dreamed of owning a fully manual SLR, and here I was holding this heavy metallic manual camera built like a tank. Or, maybe it was the value of the camera. Even though this is an inexpensive camera, it has great value for me. I paid $2 for something which someone else may be paying more than $200. It is the value it brings for the money I have paid. Or, maybe it is the feel of the mechanical marvel. Being a mechanical engineer, everything that is made up of complex mechanisms always excites me. It was joy to my ears to hear the heavy metallic click of the shutter. Maybe, it was because I now had a new toy to play with.

We will never know. That is the way some things are. You just have to leave them that way and go with the flow.

Maybe, this weekend, I will clean my Canon.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Child psychology

Call me stupid or call me naive, I have rarely read a book on child rearing or child psychology.

I have been watching our daughter's growth with a lot of interest, making notes, wondering why she does things one way or the other, wondering why she does not do certain things, etc. I was trying to teach her to kick a ball at an age she could not even stand on one leg. At that time, I was wondering how I could get her to kick instead of wondering how to get her to balance on one foot (even for a second). Later on, when she started balancing on one foot, I realized the pattern and how kids grow. Maybe, if I had read a book on child development, it could have spared me the trouble. The same with fear. I always thought that if I don't teach her 'fear', then she will not know what fear is. I later learnt that it is one of the instincts that human beings develop as they grow. Upto a point, I could keep her bold about anything, but one day she did develop fear for one thing or the other. There are two ways to raise a child: the textbook way, figuring out everything that is going to happen and having a plan for shaping the growth, or taking life as it comes and enjoying it and shaping things based on your instinct and values. I have a feeling the latter is better in a lot of ways.

Or, maybe I will go pick a book on child psychology/rearing and read it tonight, and channel my energy on more important things than learning things the hard way...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mt. Rainier's tease

Everyday, when I drive to work on lake Sammamish parkway, I see Mt. Rainier, at least the glaciers. OK, not everyday, but most of the days when the weather is good, and the air is clear. Its majestic glaciers are an awe inspiring and breathtaking sight.

The mountain is about 2-2.5 hrs drive from our house. So, whenever we plan on visiting it, we look for it while driving on lake Sammamish parkway, and if we can see it clearly, we go ahead with our plans. Everytime, we did that, we ended up hitting clouds when we arrive at Paradise or Sunrise. That got me thinking. Is it our luck or some kind of phenomenon in action. I noticed that even if the sky is clear with no clouds in sight, and we can see the Rainier glaciers from miles away, once we get close to the mountain, we hit low lying clouds around the mountain obscuring our view from the closer vista points. Dang. This got me to do some research in basic geography and precipitation, and here is what I found.

The process of formation of clouds on and around mountains is known as orographic lifting. This is the process of cloud formation due to the topological changes, and the movement of air. Air gets lifted due to the topological changes and as it rises, it drops in temperature which spurs condensation, thus forming clouds. Simple, huh. Now that I understand this, I have a special interest in the clouds around Rainier. The next time I visit Rainier, I will be looking forward to clouds rather than their absence.

Stop and smell the roses....

As we grow up, many simple things cease to amaze us. The daily grind takes away the amazement that we once had as kids. Our daughter reminds us, almost everyday, of all the wonderful things around us.

Both e and my wife love the outdoors, and the Puget sound area offers a lot of it. Ever since we moved to the North West region, we have been trying to get our daughter into hiking and nature appreciation. We go out on hikes almost every weekend, which is made easy by the abundance of trails within a half hour drive from our house. While hiking, as with everything in life, we take a macro-perspective of things. We get excited by the mountains around us, we get excited by the huge evergreens lining our corridor. Our daughter was getting excited by the slugs on the ground, the small insects on the leaves, the moss on the bark or the twigs lying around. Maybe, it is because of her perspective (literally, since she is a small person), or maybe it is her curiosity about everything around her. Everything is new for her, and she wants to explore them all. We should make an effort to maintain the curiosity into our old ages.

Another interesting observation I made was that we, grownups, are aiming at the end, be it a lake or waterfall at the end of the trail, the summit of a mountain, or a magnificent vista point. Kids, especially 3 year olds, do not care as long as they are having a good time. Yes, we do talk about the "it is the journey, not the end goal" philosophy, we should reinforce it in all aspects of our life.

It is time to take my daughter out for a walk and smell the roses.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Tour de France

Who is not captured by the events of Tour de France these days. It feels like almost everybody is monitoring the race, and how Team Discovery is faring. Seattle metropolitan area (aka, puget sound) is very bicycle friendly. I have a few colleagues who ride their bike to work. Everyday, during my drive to work, I encounter several riders, hopefully on their way to/from work. I am getting inspired by all this to go buy a road bike and start negotiating the hills of puget sound. One day, I might even think of riding the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day!). Looking at the list of riders who accomplish this every year, I feel there is hope for me someday. Yeah, someday.

I stumbled upon a fellow Sammamish resident who pens this hilarious blog. I love his writing style. Don't miss the interview with Lance, and the personality test.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Survival of the cutest...?

Sometimes I think God made babies cute and beautiful so that they survive the initial years. Nobody feels like harming anything that is beautiful. Beauty evokes a sense of admiration and drives away all other negative emotions.

When I was a kid, I found out that one of my friends had an old violin in his attic. My interest in musical instruments persuaded him to get it out of the attic. The case was dirty with all the dust from years of neglect. We took it outside to dust it off. As soon as I opened the case, a couple of small eggs fell out. These were lizard eggs. As soon as the eggs hit the ground, they broke and two tiny lizards came out. The lizards immediately ran and hid behind nearby bushes. I was amazed. How could an animal, a few seconds after birth, know what is dangerous and what is safe? The lizards must have that information imprinted in their genes, so that they instinctively know these things. I have seen day old or even minutes old off springs of several animals, and the lizard was the only one with these instincts. Of course, others had different basic instincts, but not this advanced. The lizard may not be advanced compared to us, but it does come into this world far more advanced than many other beings (including humans).

Human beings are the most vulnerable when born. They do not have the basic instinct, but for sucking. They are so fragile, they would not survive in the wild even for a day. No wonder mortality rate was so high in the primitive world. It takes humans almost close to a year before they are capable of anything that is self-preserving. Of course, they do have an annoying cry that can drive anyone crazy (no wonder military is experimenting with the sound of a baby cry as a weapon), but not enough to defend themselves from preying animals.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Acquired taste

As a kid, I had never tasted custard until I was 5 years old. I think it was vanilla flavored custard that I tasted first, and when I did, it tasted like one of those growth syrup that are given to kids! Yucky. I almost threw up. The reason, I had tasted vanilla flavored syrup before I tasted custard. So, my mind had made up its mind that the syrup is yucky and I was forced to drink it for its good qualities. Later on in life, when I tasted the REAL thing, my brain registered it as yucky.

So, I concluded that the order, in which you expose your kids to things, is very important in setting the right perceptions. I was never exposed to fish as a kid, and when I smelt it first, it felt horrible. My brain equated that particular smell to cow dung (that is what fresh cow dung smells like, for those of you farm environment deprived), which was already programmed into the yucky category.

Whenever our daughter's daycare is serving fish, I feel uncomfortable walking in. Since, the smell makes me uncomfortable, I used to think that she also felt the same. Actually, she did not. The very first time she registered the smell, she saw her classmates eating the source with joy. So, her brain programmed the smell as a good tasting snack smell. This is how the culture barrier is broken!

Sometimes, grownups acquire tastes to certain things even though it is repulsive at first. These are acquired tastes. Children can also acquire tastes as long as they are exposed to positive thoughts.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hello from Seattle

Thought I will start blogging some of my thoughts since the time we moved to Seattle.

Moved to Seattle two weeks ago. The move has been hectic since we handled all the logistics: selecting a shipper, shipping our HHGs and one car, finding a storage space and making sure that everything gets here in one piece, driving cross-country (well, almost) and settling down in a temporary place.

Both me and my wife love driving. We decided to drive from Cincinnati rather than fly since we always wanted to drive across the whole country. Well, this is not really a cross-country trip since we are starting from Ohio, but it was pretty close to one. Also, what made our decision easy was the fact that we were driving (a long way) to a new and exciting place, AND we didn't have to worry about driving back! Initially had reservations about the drive, since we were traveling with a 3 year old. But, our philosophy was that since our daughter is going to be with us for another 15 odd years, she might as well get used to our way of life;-) One day, while shopping at Target, we stumbled upon a portable DVD player, with a LCD panel that mounts behind the driver's headrest. The moment we saw the player, we were convinced that we could make the trip. Picked up a few SpongeBobSquarePants and Dora DVDs and we were on our adventure.

It took us 3 days to drive from Cincinnati to Seattle. We had originally planned on taking a break at Yellowstone NP, but hit bad weather near Montana, and cancelled the detour. Also, since ours was the last load in his truck, the van driver was way ahead of us and had already reached Seattle and waiting for us to pick our stuff! After reading all the horror stories at I was relieved that my stuff was already in Seattle.

Driving with a toddler can be difficult. Here are a few things that one can do to keep things in control. Drive a mini-van or an SUV, install a DVD player, get a few of her favorite movies (don't worry about getting a lot of DVDs, because toddlers can watch the same program/movie several times in a row without batting an eyelid), print outlines of some of her favorite characters for coloring, bring along her teddy bear, lots of food and last but not the least, a porta-potty. You won't believe how barren some of the mid-west places are. We could not find a gas station or a rest area for hours on end in N.Dakota.

Well, Seattle offers us a lots of things to see and do. We are slowly exploring the natural beauty of this place. The weather has been pleasant so far. Will fill in on our adventure and discoveries as we go along.