Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Early bird gets the worm

I have never been an early riser because I sleep late at night, and I am used to working into the night. I always considered myself nocturnal. Then, I read this blog by Steve Pavlina about rising early, and tried to follow it in vain.

I always wondered about the benefits of rising early, and being able to accomplish a lot even before my colleagues got to the office. But, I never had a chance to experience it first hand.

Now that I am in Bangalore (several timezones away from home) with my daughter who refuses to come out of her jet lag, I am forced to wake up early. I have been waking up at around 4 AM daily. Of course, I am not able to go late into the night partially due to jet lag. But, I am able to notice the things I am doing, and how they are different from what I used to do when I wake up later (around 6:30AM).

I can now read the news at leisure. I even read the paper newspaper, and have time to complete the sudoku in it too. I get a lot more quite time before everyone wakes up. Of course, my daughter gives me company, at present. I can do my exercises and be energised for the whole day. Living in the West coast, I can utilize this opportunity to work with my colleagues on the East coast or even the 'better' coast. By the time others are awake and getting ready to go to work, I have already accomplished a lot.

I will report more in the next week and jot down my experience in getting up early.

Singapore tourism

OK, I have not been able to blog as much as I promised due to a variety of reasons. So, here I go with my first post from Bangalore.

We flew to India on Singapore Airlines, and had a stopover of over 8 hours in Singapore. Since I had never been to Singapore, I took the free Singapore tour offered by the Singapore tourism. It was a good 1.5 hr long tour which takes you around the city (downtown, Chinatown, little India, etc.). What a great way to promote tourism. I was amazed by what they do for transit passengers passing through Singapore.

One thing I would have done to make it an even better tour was to add variety to let people taste Singapore with all their senses. I feel that they should offer a variety of packages (based on the transit time) so tourists can choose from these and enjoy Singapore to the fullest. For people with 5 hrs or more of transit time, they should offer a longer version of the tour which could include a boat ride in the river or the harbour area. For people with even more time, they could offer a tour that allows the passengers to get down at one of the shopping complexes, and shop as well as taste the local food offerings. They could also provide a tour with stops at the beach.

The variety is endless. The opportunities to promote tourism are limitless. Of course, there will be some challenges in implementing all these, but none are insurmountable.

The benefits to Singapore are enormous.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

India, here I come...

I will be visiting India in the month of December, and will mostly be in South India. I plan on blogging my experiences in India. The current plan is to blog daily, and capture all aspects of life in India in both words as well as pictures.

So, visit this page often for updates from India.

Monday, November 20, 2006

welches zweite Sprache?

I grew up in a place where I was exposed to a [central] official language (Hindi), a regional language (Kannada) and an [regional] official language (English, in case of Karnataka). So, it made sense to learn a second language in school. English was useful since it was the main official language, and Kannada was useful since it was the spoken language as well as official in some places.

Now that I am in an English speaking country, I started wondering why our children should learn a second language. There is no specific business need to learn another language, as long as you are in the US.

The only reason I could think of was that it would help broaden one's mind. Learning another language allows you to read literature in that language which in turn exposes you to a different culture and thought processes. You get to have a deeper understanding of your own as well as other cultures. I recently read that research has shown that studying another language actually improves your math and verbal abilities. Maybe, this is attributed to the additional neurons and connections made..

Of course, knowing another foreign language will expand your growth and job opportunities. With today's global economy, it makes a lot of sense to be multi-lingual.

Second language is just relative. What is a first language? Is it your mother tongue? Is it your dominant language? I used to think that my first language, as a kid, was Kannada. But, ever since I started schooling in English, and once I started thinking (and dreaming) in English, my first language became English. The dominant language shifted from Kannada to English. So, Kannada is my second language now.

So, which second language should one learn?

According to this site, the most practical second language is French. Hmm, makes a good case.

What do you think would be a good second language for kids growing up in the US to learn?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blogs, blogs, blogs...

Why do I blog?
Why do I read blogs?

These are some of the questions I had to answer when I was trying to introduce a friend of mine to blogs (believe me, there are still a few who are yet to be exposed to blogging). I had to think a bit before answering these questions.

Why do I blog?

First of all, let's define a "blog". Blog stands for 'weB LOG'. An online dairy of sorts. As per Webster, it is "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer". Wikipedia says "a blog is a website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order".

Blogs have come a long way from the initial online personal diary. I got introduced to the 'online diary' concept by Philip Greenspun of and Joel Spolsky of JoelOnSoftware. Philip is a great photographer and my interest in photography drew me in. His Travels with Samantha series captivated me as well as his other entries on technology. Joel wrote about the business of software, and related technology topics. Of course, there are many more who had online public journals even before 'blogging' was officially recognized. I was fascinated by their thought process as well as writing style. I always wanted to, one day, have my own blog and publish it.

With the advent of technology and tools/services that made blogging so easy, I got my chance to publish my own content.

I started blogging for the primary reason of sharing my thoughts with like-minded people. It also served as a daily/weekly/monthly assignment which helped improve my writing ability. It has now morphed into a showcase for some of my art. It has helped me connect with like-minded people from all over the world.

Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. There are blogs that share ideas, thoughts, commentaries, opinions, etc. Blogs that give a face to a (faceless) company. Blogs that just plain try to get hits (see Blog Pimping) in order to make money. Blogs that report the latest news, be it politics, happenings, technology or gadgets. Due partly to citizen journalism, blogs are becoming a source of news (and rumors?).

People blog for a variety of reasons, some of which are:
- Just because you can do it (there is nobody editing your content before publishing)
- To spread useful (or useless) information
- To share ideas
- To teach
- To make money
- To connect with like-minded people
- To get exposure (I blog, therefore I am)
- To expose one's mind (via sharing thoughts and commentary)

Why do I read blogs?

The answer to the previous question partly answered this question too. I read blogs to get information, learn new things, to connect with people, to get into another person's head. Blogs have been a great source of information as long as you know what to read. Where would a school kid sitting in a remote corner of Srirangapatna get a chance to get into the head of a CEO on an almost daily basis? Thanks to blogging, this has become a reality.

There are millions of blogs and there are only a handful that have any useful content. In today's world of Ads where every pageview counts, there is tremendous competition to get new content into blogs and keep it interesting. It is a lot easier to start a blog than to maintain one.

Once you start following a few blogs, you will discover that there are a lot more that are interesting, and that some of them are very active. How do you know if a blog content has changed? Do you visit them daily to check for changes? That is almost impossible. Here comes RSS and the feed readers. Feed readers help you subscribe to blogs and get notified whenever the content of a particular blog changes.

The fact that you are reading this blog means that you are familiar with blogging. Go ahead, and explore the wonderful world of blogs.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Work-life balance

A friend of mine mentioned that his company offers great work-life balance, and hence is a great place to work. This got me thinking as to how a company can 'offer' great work-life balance.

The first question that came to my mind was: what is work-life balance?

It is the ability of an individual to decide when, where and how they work. Work-life balance is achieved when an individual's right to life inside as well as outside of the workplace is accepted, and respected.

The ideal work-life balance varies from individual to individual. It also varies from time to time. It is upon every individual to define and achieve the balance. For some individuals (whom we lovingly label 'workoholics'), spending lots of time at work is what they want to do. For others, this may not be the case. Organizations need to understand this first in order to institute an acceptable program to achieve work-life balance.

Good work-life balance leads to (among other things):
- Reduction in absenteeism
- Improvement in morale (leading to satisfied employees)
- Reduced stress among employees (flex time to take care of sick kids)
- Increase in productivity (happy employees are productive employees)
- Decrease in turnover (happy employees want to stay!)
- Reduced sickness (flex time to stay home and not spread the germs at work)

Optimal work-life balance is a variable. This needs to be well understood. A young person out of school may love to spend lots of time at work. But, once that person gets married or has children, the balance shifts (either way). And, other changes in one's personal life could again shift the balance. Organizations need to understand this and respect it. They should not be biased towards employees whose work-life balance tilts more towards the work zone. There is this notion that workoholics are favored in organizations. Of course, they will be more productive. But, that doesn't mean that an organization should encourage it. They are also more prone to burnout.

Most organizations have this policy of use or lose vacation every year. Lots of people lose their vacation (at least part of it) because they don't want to (or can't, due to various reasons) take it. This leads to frequent burnout, leading to productivity loss and decrease in employee morale. Some organizations force people to 'use' their yearly vacation by offering incentives (Leave Travel Allowance: I pay you $x if you take your vacation and produce travel receipts). This will force most employees to use their vacation and recharge.

Work-life balance is a way for organizations to recognize that everyone works in different ways. Orgs should recognize that working 'long' hours is not the only way to be productive. Everyone has their own ways of being productive. Take the example of telecommuting. Not everyone will be productive working from home (distractions, kids, etc.). So, orgs should leave the choice to the individual. Provide employees options and let them choose what suits their style most. Empowering the individual thus will improve the employee morale and make them more productive and loyal to the organization.

This is one of the ways organizations can make employees to fall in love with them!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"I don't like it"

said my toddler daughter when I offered her a new (for her) vegetable to eat. I wondered how she could make a decision that she doesn't like it? Especially since she had never tasted this vegetable before.

We are all guilty of doing this. Be it a new vegetable, a new dish, a new religion, a new belief system, a new sport, or a new 'thing'. Is it a pre-conceived notion? Is it our gut instinct? To make such a hard choice at such a young age is very surprising. It is understandable for adults to have pre-conceived ideas, but for a kid with limited experience..

I remember a friend of mine stating that he doesn't like skiing. I asked what it was that he doesn't like specifically. He could not answer that. In fact, he had never been skiing and he had already made up his mind that he isn't going to like it! Wow. Only if we could make up our minds on positive things that easily ("I am going to try this AND I am going to love it").

The moment we utter the words "I don't like it", especially without experiencing it, we close our minds. We close our minds to new experiences, new joys, new possibilities and new frontiers. We should always be open to anything that comes our way. I agree that you have all the right to not like something once you have experienced it. How will you know that you are a gifted piano player if you never expose yourself to the piano? My philosophy has always been that you expose a person at an young age to a variety of experiences. See how that person reacts to each and make training decisions based on that.

Let's open up our minds to everything that comes our way, experience them, and then make a decision as to whether we like them or not.