Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Mobile Phone Subscriber base in India – Increasing or Decreasing?

December 21, 2010

LiveMint – one of the leading business newspaper in India carried an editorial article on December 10, 2010 titled – “Dialling the Wrong Numbers” which concluded or implied that India’s Cell Phone subscriber base may be on decline. Their inference on this seem to have been drawn from the recent press release from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Telecom Subscriber Data (PDF link). LiveMint writes and I quote the following paragraph from the article -

According to Visitor Location Register data published by TRAI, only 70% of mobile phone connections were active at the end of September; i.e. out of 688 million subscribers, only 482 million were live on 30 September (2010).

When I read this – I instinctively felt that something was not right with this reporting from LiveMint. A drop of 30% decline in active subscribers (and that too within a month) should have started fire alarm bells ringing in the Mobile Service Providers – especially considering that they are currently getting challenged from the perspective of extracting more $/subscriber. So I took upon myself to decipher the data from the TRAI press release. My suspicions of misleading reporting from LiveMint came to be true.

Per the TRAI press release the news in terms of count of subscriber base seems to be quite contrary. The wireless subscriber base in India  increased by the routine 2.39%. India at the end of November 2010 had 688M wireless subscribers. The number 482M which LiveMint quotes is about Visitor Location Register (VLR) – this number is about tracking the user in a particular coverage area. This however is not about whether the subscriber is permanently active or not. (I have sent an email to the Editors of LiveMint for the clarification. Hopefully they will respond to that)

While we are on this topic – I just feel that the way TRAI calculates the tele-density seems to be very misleading. At the end of September 2010, the wireless tele-density in India seemed to be at 61%. For me this means that for 100 individuals, 61 of them would have access to wireless device. This just seems to be incorrect. Indians have a very unique habit of carrying multiple cell phones and with the advent dual/multiple SIM handsets - the whole definition of tele-density from a wireless perspective does not make any sense to me. (The same LiveMint article linked above mentioned that a report from KPMG indicates that 40% of all new cell phones sold in India would be Dual-SIM card phones. Not too sure if this is a correct number. Did not see a validation of the same anywhere else)

Thoughts and/or comments are welcome.

Time Bomb of Longer Lives & Magic by Numbers

October 20, 2010

Few very interesting and thought-provoking articles appeared in New York Times over the last few days

The Financial Time Bomb of Longer Lives -

Talks about the good and bad news. The good news is that “we are all living longer and healthier lives than ever before” and then comes the bad news “at this rate we also cannot afford to live so long!”.

Source of this article as been the Global Aging report from Standard and Poor’s (S&P) titled – “Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth

Few thought provoking points from this article -

  • For the first time in human history, people aged 65 and over are about to outnumber children under 5.
  • The average life expectancy of human beings around the world has nearly doubled since the start of the Nineteenth century (around 47 in 1900 to about 80-82 in 2010)
  • However, in the same period the retirement age across the globe has merely increased from about 58 to about 62-63 years.
  • As the article says – no other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances, and policymaking as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.

On the side note – the way NY Times reported this concept of imbalance in age group across the world in a pictorial format is commendable. I am linking it to the same below.

 

The Financial Time Bomb of Longer Lives

The Financial Time Bomb of Longer Lives (NY Times)

 

Magic by Numbers -

Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard describes nicely how certain numbers (he calls them as the magic numbers) don’t just dominate our thoughts and dictates our words; but also drive our most important decisions.

For example -

  • Weekly or the 10 day medicine prescription dose given by the doctors are most of the times not driven by any scientific or medical evidence – but more from the psychology around the comfortableness around certain numbers.
  • Stock prices typically tended to be clustered around numbers around 5 or 0.
  • Sound of how the numbers sound to the ear can influence our decisions many a times.

Kickstarting Organization’s Centers of Excellence (CoE) Strategy – Part I

October 19, 2010

[This is the first in a series of blogs which I am writing to capture some of my thoughts and associated work which went through in providing my expertise around streamlining my current Organization's Centers of Excellence (CoE) Strategy. The content in these blog posts are my views/observations/thoughts; and may or may not reflect the views or implementation strategy of my past or current employers]

Kickstarting CoE Strategy

Unless you are working for a  IBM or a SAP or GE or Keizer – who have done and dusted their organization’s Center of Excellence (CoE) Strategy – chances are that you are possibly working for an organization which fervently supports the CoE idea; have had several flings in defining and rolling out it out operationally; and yet find the strategy of CoE still sputtering to give them the desired results. I have had a chance to work for few of the organizations like that, including my current one. Over the last few years, I have been part of a team responsible to rekindle this CoE efforts within the organization. This (and the next few ones on this topic) is a summary of my thoughts/learnings about how to run a CoE within the organization.

Before I start jotting down my thoughts – it is important to understand what drives organizations towards CoEs. First, considering the published success of many bigger Fortune 100 organizations of using CoEs to manage complex organizational changes has encouraged many other organization to see if they can replicate the same success. Second, today’s business issues requires a more collaboratively determined solutions. Here again, the concept of CoEs is becoming an important strategic tool for managing such complex issues.

Step 0 – Understand what Center of Excellence (CoE) means?

Notice that I have given this step a count of 0. In order to build a robust CoE framework within an organization the need for understanding what CoE means to the organization is very important. I have sat across important members of the organizations and have heard incoherent answers from many of them about CoE means. They could answer what HR does in the organization; but could not do the same for CoE. Here are some of answers which I have heard about what CoE means from the important stakeholders in the organization. To which I have typically followed up with a question to test their answers.

  • “CoE is a group which builds expertise in a technology or domain or process in a Organization.” – How is this different from what Training Group does?
  • “CoE is a group which helps Sales in selling to the prospects” – Then is this the pre-sales group or the advisory group as many companies typically have?
  • “CoE is a group which looks at newer/future expertise over the horizon” – Why is there a need to do that? (the answer here would again point to the first two points. Hence I did not like this answer)
  • “CoE is the group which would have all answers or could get the answer” – Really?
  • “CoE is a group of like-minded people with common expertise/interests working together or CoE is a group which gives our smart people something exciting to work upon so that they stick with us.” – For this my follow-up question would typically get replaced by a silence. This silence is then followed by the question – Do you have a better answer than this?

Needless to say Center of Excellence is about many of the things above collectively and many more.  But the important part here is to go through such responses to understand and bring together a set of common assumptions and purposes associated with CoEs. Do not try to search for a perfect definition for CoE used in the industry. It is hard to find one. However, from the above Q&A types, try to create one for your organization.

Step 1 – Create a Mission/Charter for the CoEs. The Do’s and Don’ts!

Typically CoEs are created as an horizontal group within the organization which means it needs to serve a multi-departmental purpose. In my experience, creating the right mission/charter for CoEs in a multi-department organization is one of the biggest challenge considering that each departments has a different way to deliver to their goals. Also the key is not to have the charter of the CoEs to be very abstract. For example – charter such as “helping to drive products faster to the market” can be too broad.

Here are some of the standard charters which I have seen being used for the CoE along with my opinions on the same.

Charter My thoughts
Establish and drive successful deployment of best practices (standards, procedures, governance, etc.) supporting … Very operational charter
Provide thought leadership in the company in the area of … Too abstract; needs to drill down to next level
Serve as the single point of contact for .. Seriously, this cannot be the charter!
Responsible for Knowledge Management and Continuous Improvements for .. Good, but charter has to be bigger
Drive training, mentoring, and consulting for .. Good, but charter has to be bigger
Manage complex change initiatives within the organization … Good
Help organization to transform information and knowledge about a utility/emerging trends/technology/best practices to a competitive asset. I like this one

While the charter/focus of CoEs may change from organization to organization – IMO, the best charter which I personally like about CoEs is the following -

Centers of Excellence (CoE) exist to bring about an enterprise focus to anything which seems to be important for the business – from the perspective of data integration, marketing and sales, communication, project management, enterprise architecture, business and IT optimization, and enterprise-wide access to information.

In the next part in this series, I will talk about areas where CoE creation makes sense and where it does not; how to measure CoEs; and how to drive multiple Center of Excellences in the Organization.

In the meanwhile, I look forward to hearing your experiences in the area of CoE along with thoughts and comments about this particular post.

Recession getting over – may be we can unbuckle now – but what have we learnt?

November 4, 2009

More than a year back, I had blogged about buckling up for a rough ride when the so-called recession of the lifetime had started showing its ugly face.

Recession is Over! (Courtesy - Newsweek)

Recession is Over!

While the expectations of many was that it was there to stay for a long period, but the recent days indicators are all pointing towards things normalizing back. A lot of credit for this, IMO, goes to the coordinated and collaborative efforts amongst the nations.

I would be hoping and praying that most of you would have weathered this recession without much strain and now are looking forward to the better times. There may be very few of you who might have felt the heat of this recession more severely than others; but again I would be hoping that you would now have emerged much stronger with the experience.

As many who might have experienced recessions in the past would tell you – recessions are cyclic and we are going to see many more in our life time. IMO, it is going to be the fact of life especially when majority of the businesses today around the world are driven by the supply-and-demand kind of a model. The key now is how well we (as businesses or individuals) learn to make use of the good times and adjust in the challenging times. More importantly how well we anticipate and adapt to the changes – again be it from a business perspective or even from an individual perspective.

In my conversations with many – I am now very interested in knowing what has that particular individual learnt for his/her own individual self while going through this recession cycle. The learnings could be from the perspective of individuality or work or career or even from family perspective. My assumption here is that these learnings would vary from individual to individual. Also, my belief is that if the individual can abstract their lessons-learnt at this moment – better they would be prepared to adapt to these cyclic nature of business cycles in future.

What have I learnt? (img src - flickr)

What have I learnt from the Recession?

So if you have not done it already, I would strongly urge all of you to take few minutes and capture your thoughts about what you have learnt as an individual over the last year or two in these recessionary times. May be the following questions guideline to evaluate your learnings might help -

  1. Did the recession affect you in some way that now you feel that you are well prepared for the better times and even for the next cycle? (Yes/No)
  2. Some of your strengths which you think helped you in this recessionary phase? (e.g. skills, family support, good bank balance, etc.)
  3. Some of your weaknesses which you think came to the fore during this recessionary phase? (e.g. inadequate skills, wrong job, expensive habits, etc.)

Hopefully while you are thinking about the above questions, you would also be thinking about how you would strengthen your attributes in Point (2) and work on your weaknesses in Point (3).

So as you prepare to take a big sigh of relief and make plans to use the better time to the fullest – I would also encourage you to retrospect. There are going to be pundits who are going to analyze the lessons learnt at a national or a business or a corporate level. But as an individual, you owe it to yourself to do this short exercise for your own sake.

And if you can share the results of your retrospection exercise with others (paste it in the comments section) – may be many others can learn from you too.

So do you have it in you to be an Entrepreneur?

July 9, 2009

Entrepreneurs for many of us have typically been cool yet mystical figures! There are typical curiosities which many think about them when they hear or read about them – “What did they have in them that they could become an Entrepreneur?“, “What drives them?“, “Do they do this for money or glory?“, etc. And ofcourse the million-dollar self-introspecting question which many have – “Do I have it in me to become an Entrepreneur?

An interesting new study titled “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur – Family Background and Motivation“, just published this month by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation demystifies a lot of that. It is an interesting read. The study certainly seems to be debunking lots of common perceptions out there. No, you don’t have to be a college-drop-out or a revolt in a family or be in your twenties to be a successful entrepreneur. Sigh!

Some interesting findings/thoughts/questions which I had after reading the survey which the study conducted -

  • Average or median age of the entrepreneurs seem to be around 40 i. e. many of them are around the peak of their career age-wise. (Hence majority of them were married and with children). A while back I had read a particular VC had created some flutter when he mentioned that the prime age of becoming an entrepreneur today was in the 30s. This finding in some sense may invalidate that.
  • It may not be an accurate statement when some one says that entrepreneurship typically runs in the family. The study found that about 52% of the entrepreneurs interviewed were the first in their family to take that step.
  • One thing which I always had perceived is that majority of the ventures by the entrepreneurs were typically motivated by certain challenges they themselves faced in their life and thire urge to resolve the same. This study seems to have missed covering that aspect when they listed out the prime motivations for becoming an entrepreneur.  Would have loved to see how many of them started their ventures because of “want to change the world” factor!
  • Also, does the motivation factors change from males vs. females?
  • While reading the paper, I got a feeling that the study seems to be considering the entrepreneurial venture more from the perspective of factory/start-up/company setting. However, I think there is yet another sub-section of entrepreneurs – who are typically not the Bill Gates kinds – but still are running their own individual setups. Example – a Medical Practitioner who sets up his/her own private clinic; an artist who sells his/her art on the Ebay, etc. I would consider these also as a form of entrepreneurs. If these forms of entrepreneurs were also considered in this study,  my gut assumption is that a lot of findings could have been substantially different.

I understand that this is the first finding report and few more future ones are going to come out. Looking forward to reading those too.

Happy Reading!

How fast can your money disappear?

October 13, 2008

There are possibly few ways you can loose your money. Either you make some bad investments or someone steals that from you or you decide to smoke it away. At least these are the ways most of us are aware of. Until now!

Last week a report came out about Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate.  An astonishing 2 Trillion%! If you are wondering how much that number is – hold on! Let me spell that out for you. 2 Trillion% == 2,000,000,000,000%. (Compare that with the typical inflation rates between 8 – 12 % in countries like US, China, India, etc.).

This blog post from Coyote Blog tries to put this nicely in perspective. So if you were in Zimbabwe and went to bed with $1000 in Zimbabwean currency under your pillow, by the time you woke up it would have been halved in its value. And the end of the day, your previous day $1000 would be worth about $150. So looks like you are much better off spending that money as soon as you have that in your hands.

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It is time to buckle up!

October 12, 2008

When you start seeing the stocks market going beyond the bears and the bulls and the basic rationality; when you start to even doubt about your money in the financial institutions; and when you start seeing companies disappearing as if it was a trick from a magician – it is clear that we are on for some turbulent weather ahead of us. Without a doubt, it is time for all of us to buckle up!

No doubt this is going to be a start of tough time for all of us – regardless where we are located and what our day-to-day responsibilities are.  Whether we are responsible for running the organization machinery or simply part of this machinery!

While many of us have gone through these rides 2-3 times in the past (during the past slowdowns), when I look around I see that this may be the first time for many of the folks out there. I can say from my past experience that these times can be tough and trying. Some of us may be able to weather this out without much harm, but some amongst us may not. However, the most positive and encouraging point in all this would be that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.

Survivability and patience in all this is the key.  I am saying this from an all round perspective – whether it is an organization or a product or even as individuals. This is the time when our strengths would have to come to the fore and our weaknesses may become our biggest liability.  If you ever wanted to see how the “survival of the fittest” theory gets applied in real world, this is the most perfect time.

So as I said at the start of the post – buckle up! We are set for a helluva ride of our life time!

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Complexities associated with Job Titles..

September 7, 2008

Over the last couple of months, there has been many incidences which has made me to think a lot of advantages/dis-advantages of modern day job-titles; what aspects of the job titles do employees crave for; and the needs and its impacts on the modern-day organization. In theory, the main purpose of having a Job Title is to identify one to the other and second to quickly and in short describe the work one does. However, in practicality, it is very difficult to come up with Job Titles which does both.

The purpose of this blog is put some of my thoughts together on this topic based on my experience and what I have read. I do not think, however, that I am as yet qualified to provide any solutions on this topic.

The Ground Reality -

In general, based on several experiences I have come to a conclusion that correlation between reality and Titles is typically very weak. I will take my own case in my current organization. Over the last few years my Title in the organization – or let me say my HR Title – has had a very little correlation with my operational title or the responsibility. (To be very honest even today I have difficulty in remembering what my title is. I know at what grade I am in, however for my title I always have to refer to my HR records. Two or three times, I recollect even my boss asking me – ‘What is your title again?‘). Looking back, I would say that this poor correlation and my indifference to the same has worked out to my advantage. It made me flexible and enabled me to take up various different responsibilities – all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Titles can box one up which sometimes can become suffocating. Flip side of poor correlation can be that it can confuse others about yourself. However, IMO, that is okay. Confusion is a temporary thing and can be overcome.

Having said the above, I also realize that the effect of having one Title vs. the another can be very strong when you are in the job market. This, IMO, becomes true when you are standing in a crowded market of people of very similar abilities. Titles may help one to differentiate one from the other.

Title vs. Role -

Are they same? Are they different? I have seen many knowingly/unknowingly confuse between the two. You ask an unknown person – what do you do? Eight of the ten times you would hear “I am a Project Manager” or “I am a Software Engineer” or similar. To think about it, does this answer say anything about your work? IMO, it does not. It is just a Title. Proper answer to the question could have been “I manage a Project wherein we are building a bridge” or “I write software programs in Java“, etc. This is what you do.

Now, coming to Title vs. Role. IMO, the main purpose of Title is outward interfacing to identify one to others, and describes the level of authority and/or skill. Now what a person does in comparision with others in a group is a Role. The words “in comparision with others” is important here. Role helps to sort out who is responsible for what. In a collaborative work environment and from an individual’s perspective, Role is more important than the Title. Because in a constrained environment of a project – the Role may sometimes encompass more or sometimes less than what is prescribed in a Title.

HR Title vs. Operational Title -

As the organization size increases, there is typically a push for standardizing Title categories to facilitate human resources and operations management. This is an internal facet. However, as businesses grows more dynamic, people tend to operate in a continuously changing environment and pick up activities as is needed. This is what I meant by Role above. Driven by the Role, people tend to take up an Operational Title as is required.

“Progress Up” factor associated with Titles -

I came across this interesting article by Tamara J. Erickson (she has authored books on employee values) titled “Do we need Titles?” in Harvard Business Publishing Online. Tamara feels that the aspect of Titles which signifies our progress-up in the organization needs to be thought through again. According to Tamara, this “progress-up” factor in the Title inherently challenges the “numerical pyramid” structure on which today’s organizations are built upon. Here is what she has to say -

Many of the employee-related principles in today’s organizations are predicated on the assumption that the employee population is a numerical pyramid – a small number of older people, a medium number of middle-age people, and a large number of younger people. This was an accurate description of the workforce throughout the Twentieth Century. But, the shape is changing rapidly, moving toward a rectangle – an almost equal number of older and younger people in the workforce. As this change occurs, it will become increasingly impossible to move people “up” often enough to provide enough variety and opportunity for increased compensation.

Do Titles signify progress? -

My quick answer to this is no. Changing Titles do not signify progress, the breadth of your Role does. Unfortunately, I have seen some who consider this as a yardstick of their progress. This, IMHO, is an extremely one-dimensional thinking and can be constraining to an individual’s career. Challenge and variety should be considered as a measure of progress and success. Once again, to quote Tamara from her above article -

What is “progress?” Today many people want to define that for themselves – in terms of what they are learning, how much they’re enjoying the journey, or the vision they have for where they’d like to end up. A path of “progress” defined by the organization is a presumption that everyone would like to follow a similar route.

Linear aspects of Titles -

This seems to be an unfortunate limitation of how the current industry has structured the Title system. One can only go up if your Title has to change or only move laterally. There is an inadequate flexibility or motivation for people to move up or step back or even to move sideways to try out new things.

I would love to hear your thoughts. In my mind the industry has reached to a stage where some of the older practices needs to be “hacked into” as Tamara puts it.

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iPhone Launch in India

August 26, 2008

Well, if you were in India last week you could not have missed the big news – the famous Apple iPhone has finally made its debut in India. Well, I mean atleast officially. This came after years of its debut worldwide. This after half the Indian population had already sneaked in the iPhone from all the surrounding countries. And this after even the endangered guerrillas in the Congo basin may have started owning one. So, Mr. Steve Jobs, welcome to India! Glad that you could finally find this country on the map.

Before I delve more into this post – please don’t get me wrong here. I like Apple and have always admired their products. There may be two thoughts about the quality of their products, however no one can deny they have always been different from their peers and have always stretched the boundaries of innovation. I own some of their products and long to own some more too. My only challenge with them is that I have always believed that Apple has always made suckers out of the consumers. And as consumers the unfortunate thing is that we have allowed Apple to do that honor on us!

To prove my point – take a look at the price range of the iPhones which were rolled out in India. It is somewhere around 35,000 Indian Rupees (this is nearly about 800 USD) with a forced service plan. The same phone in US, if I am not wrong, costs around 200 USD. I am assuming that most of the iPhones are manufactured somewhere in and around China. So it should be relatively cheaper to transport iPhones from there to India.

My argument here is not about India (or any other similar country) can afford it or not from an economic sense. (I personally believe that the count of people in India who can afford iPhone is much bigger than the population of United States). Also, I believe a lot in Capitalism where the seller should be able to decide their own price. Same thing holds true for the Consumers who can decide for themselves if they want to accept or reject the same price. However, my argument here is about what kind of view does Apple (and its associated business partners) have about Consumers in countries like India.

Here is my simple anology. I tried comparing the ‘affordability factor‘ of iPhone in US and India. A fresh under-graduate software engineer typically makes about 4500 USD/month in United States. (I am being location agnostic here). If he/she were to buy iPhone in US today that would be about 5% of his/her monthly salary – assuming the cost of iPhone to be around 200 USD. Counter-part of the same software engineer in India typically makes about 50000 Indian rupees. If he/she were to buy the same iPhone in India today at the cost of 35000 Indian rupees, that would be about 70% of his/her monthly salary. The difference between 5% and 70% is very telling here.

Now, if iPhones were to sell at the same price as it is sold in US and even if Apple (or its partners) decided to make a 20% markup on that – the same iPhone would be 20% of the monthly salary of the Indian Software Engineer. The difference between 5% and 20% between the two counterparts is reasonable IMO. However, difference between 5% and 70% says a lot on how Apple views the same consumer segment in two different geographies.

Once again, I am not trying to be a populist out here to say that Apple should do concessions. Indian consumers, IMHO, have a powerful buying capacity. However, my opinion is that they are getting sucked in a big scam here.

On the day of the launch, the providers who launched iPhone in India proudly published the photograph of a smiling young lady who they claimed to be the proud first owner of the iPhone. If I were in the shoes of that young lady today, I am not sure if I would be feeling good about getting duped as a ‘sucker’.

Thoughts and fires are most welcome!

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Probably the best invention after sliced bread… Square Watermelon

July 2, 2008

Came across this on snopes.com. The story of square watermelons invented by smart Japanese farmers to solve the space problem. I am not surprised this came from the Japanese! They are the best to come up with brilliant ideas when it is about coming up with solutions associated with the space crunch problem.

Probably this is the best invention after someone figured out to slice the bread and sell it :-) .  I like my watermelon cold and chilled. However, the storage part of it has always been the main challenge. You have slice and dice it to keep it in the refrigerator for consumption over few days.

The price tag on these watermelons seems to be hefty right now. However, I am sure with demand it can be brought down. Other than the Japanese market, it seems that the square watermelons are also making its way to Canada this year.

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Fascinating African Wild Dogs

June 1, 2008

African Wild Dog at Bronx Zoo.Image via WikipediaAlthough I have never seen them in the wild and I have never touched the African continent as yet, I have always been fascinated by the African Wild Dogs (biological name: Lycaon pictus) (wikipedia link) whenever I have heard or read about them. Although they may not give the most soothing view to the eyes, may not be majestic, and have plenty of ill-founded myths going against them, there are many amazing things about them. IMO, some of them can be translated into some real practices in our real life especially in Software Project Management. But more about that in some future posts.

Follow the link to the wikipedia to read more about these African dogs. Quite different from many of their other cousins – these dogs live in packs in wilderness, are hunters by nature, and come very close to modern dogs. All types of wolves also fall in this category. Also, with whatever I have read about Australian Dingos, they also come close to the African dogs. However there are certain characteristics that are still unique to the African Dogs.

Some of the things which are certainly fascinating about these African dogs -

  • Ability of each of the dog to live and survive in a pack while maintaining a unique role for themselves.
  • Understanding the roles and strengths/limitations of others in the pack. These animals play to other’s strengths and complement wherever required for other’s weaknesses. For example, their ability to regurgitate to feed other pack members such as the sick, injured or very old is certainly unique.
  • They do not seem to be instinctive hunters as many other wild animals. They have evolved their hunting tactics with learnings over the years.
  • They have the highest success rate in their hunt missions probably because of the attribute mentioned in the above bullet point. More than 75-80% of their hunts translate into successful kills. Compare that with the big cats like lions whose success rate is less than 50%.
  • Cursorial hunting ability – ability to run long distance to get their hunt.
  • Recursive divide and capture style of hunting – ability to continuously break and capture their target hunt to maximize their success rate in their hunt.

Take some time to read more about this beautiful animal by googling around on the internet. It is sad that this intelligent specie is on an endangered list now. By the latest what I have read, less than 5000 of them are remaining. With a mortality rate of more than 50% and life expectancy of around 10 years only, that surviving count is not that much.

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8 reasons why this is the dumbest generation

May 10, 2008

Before anyone gets offended by this, let me say I am not saying this.

Boston Globe carries an interesting photo essay on author Mark Bauerlein’s new book “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future“. It looks like Mark’s definition of current generation is the current age-group of thirty years and less. Pooof, that leaves me out!

Needless to say, Mark was keen in trying to create some flutters (possibly for his self-interest) and looks like it certainly evoked that (refer to the message board associated with the article).

So what is my opinion? I certainly don’t see the current generation the way Mark is seeing. Ofcourse, I do have a big wish list that the current generation should be doing certain things different and better, however I personally have a very positive opinion of this generation compared to the times when I was possibly in their category. The current generation’s spelling skills may have taken a beating, however they are now communicating to more number of people than what I did in my time. Mark assumes that they are reading less books. That may or may not be true. Even if it is true, this generation is now interacting with so many other channels of information broadcast (Web, TV, Podcasts, etc.). Probably I can point to many other similar points. But then I may be given too much value to Mark’s viewpoints.

Read the essay for the fun of it. If any of you belonging to the so-called ‘dumbest generation’ pointed by Mark feel offended – I would just say to chill out and relax. You guys are doing good!

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Simple facts about toys

April 1, 2008

More than a month back, I had written my views on how I felt regarding the campaign for commercial-free childhood.

In line with the above blog, I came across this nice interview (“The Parent Trap“) of Pamela Paul, author of Parenting, Inc. (This interview appeared on Salon.com). The reason I say ‘nice’ is because her views matches with mine. The interview certainly is worth a read. Jason Kottke also has blogged summarizing this article in his blog – “The business of parenting“.

Often around the lunch tables, me and my colleagues have wondered how the childhood of our kids have changed in comparision with ours – for better or for worse. I am sure that we are not the only ones who have had such conversation amongst themselves. I have always wondered what drives the over-anxious parenting or the growing exposure or needs of a child today? Pamela Paul takes an example of toy-business today and describes how ‘manipulative’ this industry has become.

Some interesting facts/tit-bits from this interview -

  • An average American child today gets an astonishing 80 new toys/year. (While I know that the number of toys/child have increased dramatically in this generation, but this number certainly blew me off)
  • While on an average individual toys are becoming cheaper and cheaper, however on an average we are spending more because we are buying many of those.
  • Also as the average number of toys with the kids today are increasing, they are also loosing interest in them fast as they are becoming less and less special.
  • More and more toys are getting bought more from the needs of making a fashion statement than its actual purpose.
  • The current rush amongst parents is towards ‘interactive toys’. Pamela makes a point that it is not important how the toys are interacting with the kids. More important is how kids interact with the toys. Got my vote on this one!
  • The best toys are 90 percent kid, 10 percent toy, the kind of thing that you can use 20 different ways and not just that it has 20 bells and whistles.

[While we are talking about the commercialization of childhood, you would certainly find this article a worth read - "The Outsourced Parents".]

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Perceptions vs. realities of GDPs across countries..

March 18, 2008

I should confess here that I am very poor in understanding the economic theories out there. So for a novice like me in this area, I found this published article in The Economist (“The Grossly Distorted Picture“) to be a very interesting read. It compares how looking at the same data across a different dimension can give you a completely different view. (For example – economy of Japan suddenly seems to be looking much better than USA – contrary to the popular current belief)

Again, I am not an economist so may not be able to debate about the pros and cons of this method. However, it makes me wonder if it was all about looking at GDP as a function of head count, why weren’t we doing this measurement before?

This article also has an interesting discussion thread which is worth a read.

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Obsolete Skills

March 2, 2008

Came across this interesting & funny wiki – list of obsolete skills. I am sure this list is going to increase but here are some of my top choices.

8. Letter Writing
7. Cursive Writing
6. Knowing what part of town someone lives by their phone number
5. Loading a camera roll
4. Sharpening a pencil
3. Map Reading
2. Playing Marbles
and my personal fav. -
1. Common Sense

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