Monday, November 3, 2008

Google's Adi-sense


All of you must be familiar Google's AdSense - an advertisement application. The Wikipedia article says:
AdSense has become a popular method of placing advertising on a website because the advertisements are less intrusive* than most banners.
I beg to differ. In a recent correspondence I had with a friend over Gmail, I was shocked to notice that the first sponsored link on the right was
Dumped?
Instant relief to break-up pain and fastest plan to get your ex back
GetYourExBackNow.com
Now, I think, I must confess that the 'friend' was a one-time (and a long-time) crush of mine. Nothing more, unfortunately. But how the hell did Google know that? Nothing in the mail itself suggests anything on those lines. Unless the mere presence of words like - 'arrogance, incompetence.... dick.... bitch' - imply a broken-up relationship.

Even though the mail was not exaclty from an ex of mine, but i wonder what kind of key words sparks the AdWords program to show a link to GetYourExBackNow.com

*emphasis added

Friday, August 8, 2008

Feedback

Going ahead with my penchant for adapting management principles in life outside the corporate world, my next source of inspiration are feedback forms. To the uninitiated, they are a medium for gauging and improving standards in any organization. Actually, it’s a questionnaire that one has to fill after attending each training session with child-like questions. After filling as many as I have, you run out of new and innovative adjectives to describe the dull and dreary set of questions.

Imagine their utility in relationships. A sample form might go like this :

Relationship evaluation form

Name of participant:
Type of relationship:
Length of relationship:

For those currently in a relationship:

  • What aspects of the relationship do you find most useful?
  • What aspects of the relationship are least helpful to you and why? (if any)
  • What were your objectives when beginning the relationship?
  • To what extent have they been fulfilled?
  • Suggestions/ideas for improvement

For those exiting a relationship:
  • What aspects of the relationship did you find most useful and why? (if any)
  • What aspects of the relationship are least helpful to you?
  • What were your expectations when beginning the relationship?
  • To what extent have you been disappointed?
  • How do you plan to operationalise the learning in the next six months?
  • Suggestions/ideas for improvement
* Feedback on this post is welcome !!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Guidelines to find a partner

I was reading Jack Welch's book Winning, Welch is ex-CEO with General Electric and has 40 plus years of experience in managing people. I have always thought management principles could be applied to real life as well. So from his chapter on 'Hiring the right people', I conceived and adapted my own guidelines to 'Finding the right girl':

Test for Integrity

People with integrity tell the truth. They keep their word. They take responsibility for past actions, admit mistakes and give their best to fix them. Now there is no fool-proof way of testing integrity and hence your gut instinct is very important. More on instinct later.

Look for Intelligence

Intelligence need not mean her educational qualifications. She should be able to hold your attention with her words, with an uncanny ability to surprise you and force you to alter your previous judgments about her. Education is just part of the pie, not the whole.

Does she show Maturity?

As Welch says, "Mature people have a good sense of humor, especially about themselves"

Is she Authentic?

She knows what she is good at and who she is not. The 'realness' shows in the way she communicates. There is no phoniness, no trying to be cooler, prettier, sexier, or in more control than she actually is.

Does she value Candor?

If she does not like something you did, she should be able to give it straight between your eyes. No holding back. No bullshit like long periods of not talking to you when you don't even know what went wrong. At the same time, if she likes something appreciation should be ready and unreserved. While Welch advocates monetary perks, I suggest something more 'physical' in nature.

Is she an epitome of Resilience?

If she has faced some extreme hardships in the past, she will be more appreciative of your love and affection - instead of always seeking more. Generally, people who have had more than their share of suffering and can still retain a smile on their face are great to hang out with.

Of course each of us will have our own unique parameters based on which we make the decision. The above points are aids to decision making, not intended as quantifiable values that the girl must have.  They can be equally applicable to guys. 

The different values mentioned need to be looked for at different stages of your initial salvos. While Authenticity and Maturity can be very visible to the keen eye at the very beginning, one might get to know about Resilience and Integrity only later.

When in front of an attentive attractive woman, reason might fail you. But your instinct will not. Instinct is nothing but pattern recognition developed through experience. If you don't act on it, all your past experience is worthless. If your gut tells you she's comfortably lying, or faking, or hiding, get out immediately. Stop waiting for more data or proof.

So even though I have given some general pointers, Instinct is paramount. Nourish it and use it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Break-up fever

3rd May 2008 Saturday 2130 hrs

I am running a temperature of 101F degrees. My brother says he's got a 100.5 himself. Of course he's lying. There is no way he could still be that active. Though come to think of it, I had fever on and off throughout the day and I hardly took any rest. Fever always has this weird way of giving an illusion of recovery before it returns with redoubled vigour.

Its been a while since I had such a 'high' fever. Whenever I felt feverish, nothing I did would convince the thermometer to go beyond a 100. So today I looked at it with dull self-congratulation as the mercury rose to a 100.9. I'm calling it a 101, I don't care.

I always aimed high as a kid. When my mother would put the stick in my mouth I would pray that the temperature be above 105. At least. All the other kids had had malaria and hay fever. Compared to them, my health chart seemed to be bereft of any excitement. Clearly, I was fiercely competitive as well. Now with time, and better sense (lesser imagination), the target has come down to a lowly 100.

I have been thinking (during the more contemplative and languid phases of my illness) of a break up. Its always a tough ask. My principle is to do it face to face. The idea being - if you can't tell her to the face, 'I don't want to go out with you anymore,' there is still hope. But a logical idea is hardly ever the correct one when it comes to relationships. It can go terribly wrong.

One thing I cannot stand is a girl crying. I am a picture of utter discomfort and helplessness. The break up can cause a break-down which can avalanche into a melt-down of the illogical heart.

But picturing it in your my own head, it can be cool-personified:

A: 'Hi! Long time... You must have been really busy. Hardly answered any of my calls'
P: 'Yeah.. you know I was just home lazing around. Didn't feel like putting in the effort to move my thumb to answer them'
A: 'Well that happens. A month into a relationship... '
P: 'Pity though.. you were really hot and romantic'
A: 'Hey, I still am! Let all your friends know about that'
P: 'Sure will'
A: 'Hey, can I have my DVD back?'.....

The fever lasted for 3 weeks, one of which I spent in hospital. It was diagnosed and treated as Typhoid. But none of the tests ever came out positive

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Of Culture differences and Insults

Since I am a native of Andhra Pradesh, I know a bit of Telugu. Having stayed in Delhi all my life, I come across people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds: Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Oriya, Tamil, Malayali, etc. When I was in primary school, it was a fun passtime of some of us to learn words of the other's native language. Keshav was a particularly keen one. He had not only learnt counting to ten in Tamil, but also in French and used to flaunt his superior knowledge to all the rest of us jealous beings. There were many Hindi speaking friends of mine who wanted to learn how to say 'Hi' or 'Thank You' in Telugu. Nighi (Punjabi) – who was my neighbor new the Telugu word for 'water' when she was 3.

But that was when all of us were little. Now everyone wants to know how to swear in a language foriegn to theirs. Though I get a lot of requests to learn curses in Telugu, I can do little to help out. As I learnt all my Telugu from my parents, I had little to go about. And this was a handicap that left me disappointed in my knowledge of 'my people' several times.

It gives you an unreasonable pleasure if you can curse in other's languages. There is also the occasional multiple meanings to the same phrase heard by people of different cultural backgrounds, causing much amusement.

Shitiz (from Rajasthan) did a part of his schooling in Hyderabad. A few of his classmates – who were also from a Hindi background – latched on to the Telugu word 'Randi' (meaning 'Please come in' in Telugu and 'whore' in Hindi) and used it to beckon their teachers: “Madam Randi... Madam Randi...” to raucous laughter. Of course the teachers had no clue what was going on.

Someone, on his trip abroad, met a girl called Marit. Though there is not much of a literal double meaning in Hindi, it had enough for any hostel dwelling Engineering student to crack up at the name and repeat it just for kicks. Typically and inevitably ungracious remarks like, "So, did you 'Maar-it'?" followed by chuckling became the norm.

When in a dull mood, one can remember the current UN Secretary general. Not that he's an inspiring figure or anything. In fact, I have on good authority (my father) that he's the dullest chap to head that dull institution. But his name is Ban Ki Moon. Now, if you don't know why its amusing, then I suggest you ask Debasish, who uses this name as his pet swear word.

Of course, all such cultural faux pas don't end up in general amusement. Take, for example, the recent controversy involving Harbhajan and Symonds over racist remarks. Symonds saw Bhajji tap his bat on Brett Lee's back, and immediately unloaded some foul Aussie abuse on him. Bhajji reacted with his own native curses starting off with a “Teri Maan Ki...”. Unfortunately, due to Bhajji's Punjabi accent, Teri was reduced to Tree, and Maanki coming together was heard by Symonds as 'Tree Monkey'.

Now that was clearly a racist slur. Though both Harbhajan and Symonds have monkeys as ancestors, Harbhajan's remark was thought to have implied connotations to Symonds' tree-dwelling forefathers as opposed to Bhajji's more sophisticated ground dwelling ones.

I blame Sachin for the whole misunderstanding. He should have called a Press Conference to assure us that all Bhajji said was 'Teri Maan Ki'. This he did not do, as he had too much respect for the mothers of the press fraternity. Of course things would have been different if it had been Sourav.

*Clarification: 'Someone' does not agree with whatever has been written and claims they are 'lies and offensive'. While I do not pretend that everything I write on my blog is true, I do not intend to offend anyone either. My sincerest and unqualified apologies to him for unintentionally causing pain and suffering.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ex-tra flirtatious

The following is an email sent to Ms. X by Mr. Y.
Y is an ex of Ms. X and she moved to a different city soon after breaking up. They haven't been touch for years till a couple of days back X and Y chat on Gtalk. Then X gets this mail:

Hey Sexy !
Hey X watsaa ! hows life ? how are u yaar , long time naa ! so where are u , someplace naa ? hows da place , i hope its nice ! im missing u alot yaar ( as a friend not more ) . just so you knoe ive broken up with my girlfriend . a long time backactually , sometime in september . so how are you , wen are u comin back to india?

You have any new boyfriend or sumin , i mean i gues u shud by now ! a chick like u can easily get a rockstar . i know no1 can match me and after me uve got high expectations but its okay , you ve gotta give oder guys a chance u knoe . im so sure dere are tonnes of guys who are dying to talk to you and have a crush on you !

So temme , do u miss me or have u just forgotten me ? you shudnt have left and gone to delhi yaar , we both wud have been so good together ! and i swear i wudnt have been shy and wudve spoken to you ! you know what , i think we should stay in touch via e-mails. i mean i can try to check my mails atlest once in a week you know ! for you anything ! chal neways ive gotta go now , need to study you know . so well ill hopefully talk to you soon okay . bye X ! reply jaldi okay .

Your ex-boyfriend ,
Y !

Now many of you might be interested to know the reply. But suffice to say that the above did not succeed, though X noted the point that she was 'Sexy' and repeatedly mentioned the point in our discourse. Of course she refuses to rule him out of contention in the conceivable future. And yes, she is going out with someone - as Y apprehends. But he can hardly be described as a 'Rockstar' in any sense of the term. Nor can Himesh Reshammiyya.

Apocalypse Now - A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived Handsome Prince who left The Capital to go to The Far Far South. Though his friends laughed at his prospects there, he did not lose hope. He was duly rewarded for his optimism and confidence in the form of Beautiful Maiden who fell in 'like' with him.

It was the calmest of nights. Prince and Maiden were walking alone when he (being a daring fellow) thought it will be really adventurous to check out a damp and abandoned shed, whose thatched roof had caved in. Once inside the two shared deep personal feelings (the ambience brought it out) and comforted each other. Maiden, quite overcome, put her head on Prince's lap.

Prince was immediately struck by a strong feeling of deja vu. He recalled another intimate incident when Hot Maiden had put her head on his shoulder. Being quite young at the time and having a rather reserved upbringing, he had no clue what was to be done and all that resulted for Prince was a backache. That was the one high point of poor Prince's life and, together with his friends, he had long lamented his naivety.

And lo! There he was staring at another opportunity. Armed with intensive research into the subject (he is now a known authority in his kingdom), he made his move. Everything went smoothly and Prince's happiness knew no bounds when the theory translated into practice so effortlessly. He was now a step closer to salvation. He went back to tell his disbelieving friends (even making a couple of long distance calls in the process) he had conquered what they still aspired for. By the end of next day, he had gone even further - with the shining moon witness to his beaming face.

Soon, Prince and Maiden returned to their respective dwellings. Life turned difficult as they stayed quite away from each other. But for Prince it did not matter much. He met Maiden occasionally, and on those occassions, osculated frequently. He was basking in the glory of his Cool*-ness and was making waves everywhere the word of his conquest spread. Congratulations poured in. His success was unimaginable. He was drowned in suggestions to write a book on his conquest. He was invited to give talks. His model was used in endless case studies. Needless to say had Prince died at that point he would have died a very content man.

One day, Maiden called Prince for advice. She was undecided on going for a College Trip to The Far North as none of her friends were going. Prince strongly recommended that she does, and while she was gone, he immersed himself in the amusement of flirting with Other Maidens.

When Maiden came back, Prince was horrified to hear from her that she no longer wished to do him lip service. He blamed himself for letting the bird fly out of hand. He tried devious means to cajole her back, but to no avail. As the Elders had said before him -

A Maiden who has made up her mind
Is better left alone than defied

For months and months, Prince showed remarkable strength of will and character. He was proud of himself. His friends were amazed at his continence. Again his model was used in endless case studies. And he was pleased to notice that he was rapidly falling in something more than 'like' with Maiden. The signs were all there - He was worried when she talked to Other Princes. He was worried when she did not answer his calls. And he wanted to meet more often.

When his worries got a bit too much for him, Prince decided to tell Maiden 'Where he is' and ask her 'Where she was' and discuss 'Where they were going' – the three pillars of any successful relationship. Maiden summed up the situation in a terse verse (she fancied herself a poetess) -

You wanted it Cool, and I wanted it Close
Now you want it Close, but I want it Cool

Prince thought this was plagiarised from a rhyme about porridges he had learnt as a child:

Some want it Cool (oooh)
Some want it Close (aaah)
Some want it in the Sack
Till they grow Old

At least that was what he remembered. But Maiden burst upon his wandering mind. As long as they were telling things, she had a confession.

Prince held his breath.

While she had been in the jungles of The Far North, she had met a Big Ugly Toad, she said. She had read as a child how a Princess would turn a Toad into a Handsome Prince by kissing him. Now the Maiden really missed Handsome Prince. So she kissed Big Ugly Toad. When nothing happened (after all not all fairy tales are as true as this one), she kissed again while the Big Ugly Toad (clearly enjoying himself) pawed her about.

Maiden was ashamed at what had happened. Prince aghast. He could see his life unravelling. This model will be used in endless case studies. What would happen when his overawed friends heard of this disaster. They will realise that Prince is just as much a loser as a commoner like one of them. Maybe a bigger one. This was all too much to take in as he was busy taking his breaths in huge gulps (on account of holding his breath too long).

He went through the first two of the Five Stages of Grief: Denial (it can't be happening) and Anger (why me? its not fair). So he sat down to write an entry for his Royal Blog. At least his friends will get valuable lessons from his tragedy, he mused (Third Stage – Bargaining). Actually he didn't feel like doing anything else anyway (Fourth – Depression). By the end of his typing efforts Prince was already feeling a lot better and reckoned everything was going to be just fine (Acceptance). Prince published his post.

Oh, and then of course, they all lived happily ever after...

*"But at that age - heck most of the time - it all boils down to cool.
Cool don't ask no questions.
Cool don't want nothing from nobody.
Cool is self-suffiecient.
Cool waits for things to happen because things happen to Cool.

Love is the ultimate loss of Cool as it brings rejection in its wake."

- from Surviving Women by Jerry Pinto

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Its time for some Perspective

Now that the ICC has acquisced to the Indian team's demand of replacing Bucknor and the procedure for the appeal against Harbhajan is underway, it is time for Cricket to come to the forefront again. The emotional outbursts against the Australian team's behavior while understandable should be transient. Lets recapitulate what all they have done to so upset us and unite the whole nation behind the team:
  1. Ricky Ponting, the Aussie captain, after entering into a gentleman's agreement with Anil Kumble chose to use it as and when it suited his advantage
  2. Ponting, Symonds, Clarke, Hussey were guilty of not walking when clearly out
  3. Gilchrist appealed for a catch that he must have known to be non-existent
  4. Excessive appealing and harassing the umpires
  5. Celebrating like a group of 15 year olds and not giving credit to the deserving opposition
  6. Accusing Harbhajan Singh of racial abuse after deliberately taunting and provoking him
It is quite clear that to make an issue out of 2, 3, 5 and walking out of the series is out of question. After having called the Aussies 'cry-babies' for taking the Bhajji issue out of the cricket field, we can't and should not take hypocrisy to new levels by using trivial issues like these.

The point no. 4 can be dealt with greater strictness from the umpires and match referee. After the criticism cutting across nationalities, the officials will only be more careful. Stung by the harsh comments, the Aussie cricketers will also lie low for a while, as they did after the Sarwan-McGrath incident in 2003.

The point no. 6 is under appeal, and the Indians have sufficiently retaliated by throwing a counter charge against Brad Hogg. Besides, after the accusation Bhajji got Ponting for the fifth time off the very first ball he bowled to him in 8 tests and we all heartily enjoyed the moment.

What remains is the biggest problem of all. In fact there is precedent where the captain of a team was banned for the highest possible punishment - banned for five ODI's - when he tried to cheat on a catch. Read about the Rashid Latif incident here.

While Ponting could not get Dhoni out, and there is no way to prove that he knew about Clarke's claim being false against Ganguly, he cannot really be equated with Rashid Latif. There is definite case against him and Clarke, and possibly Gilchrist, but it will be impossible to prove. Especially so now that His Excellency Mr. Proctor thinks only Aussies can be truthful. So it is pointless for the Indians to go down that road and distract themselves further.

Then how do we deal with these arrogant snots? By beating them on the field. By screwing them in full public view in their own backyard at something they think they are the best at. Sounds good? The record that India has when charged up is phenomenal. Zaheer Khan gave an example on the England tour recently.

On the other hand, what will happen if we pull out? We will lose all the credibility that we have gained from our dignified Captain. Ponting and his boys will gloat over their success and get more pompous. It will be years before they are challenged again.
So lets go for the kill. Perth chalo...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Different Standards

The Indian cricket team suffered at the hands of an establishment which has repeatedly shown itself to have a separate set of standards for non-white teams. Here are some of them that immediately spring to mind:
  • The preposterous decision to just fine Mark Waugh and Shane Warne after their self-confessed encounters with bookmakers while banning Ajay Jadeja for a similar crime
  • The Mike Denness shocker, who incidentally shares his first name with Mike Proctor (the match referee for the Sydney test), where Indians players including Sachin and Sourav were fined and banned for 'ball tampering' and 'excessive appealing' without any complaints from the umpires themselves
  • Darryl Hair's accusing Pakistan of ball tampering and consequently calling off the test match when the offended Pak team walked off the ground
  • Muralitharan's elbow flex was deemed to be way over the prescribed 5 degrees and censure was imminent before the ICC found that many bowlers including Brett Lee had abnormally high flex angles. So they conveniently changed the rules to make it 15 degrees (Brett's was 11 degrees)
The most disturbing part of the Harbhajan episode seems to be how there was no 'evidence' whatsoever in the words of the match referee himself. Only one's word against another. Now who would you rather trust: the ultimate gentlemen of the game - Sachin and Kumble; or the guys who have been shown on live television how they lie and defraud - Symonds, Clarke and Ponting? These were the people presenting their respective sides of the story. Clearly Mike Proctor had already made up his mind. Especially after the public dressing down he received from ICC boss Malcolm Speed (another Aussie) for not penalising Yuvraj in the first test. The match referee then actually goes ahead and says he 'regretted' his decision. Meanwhile, Ponting did a la-Yuvi in Sydney and there has hardly been a mutter.

The harassing and haranguing of umpires is common practice with the Australians. McGrath and Warne were great exponents of this deplorable way of coercing decisions and influencing umpires. I don't entirely blame the umpires for their mistakes. They are also human as are the players. Batsmen and bowlers also make mistakes. But they can get dropped for repeated mistakes and they train hard to play each match. I can't see why the umpires should not do the same. Maybe take a few 'mental toughening' lessons too. It is obvious from the sheer number of decisions that have gone against visiting teams Down Under among their 'human' errors that they need a psychologist of some kind.

It was also very admirable of Kumble to conduct himself with so much dignity after the match(video). While many of us were screaming daylight robbery, he was busy telling Harsha Bhogle how certain 'things' went against the Indian team. And used a line which must be one of the biggest understatements of dispeasure -
"Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that's all I can say", while at the same time the Australians were rolling on the ground mocking Harbhajan. Not one Aussie cared to give credit to the Indian team for their spirit and fight in the only test of their last 16 that went into the penultimate over. I quote Peter Roebuck

Kumble trooped forlornly from the field and reached the boundary before any Australian thought to shake his hand.


Given the atmosphere of disillusionment in the Indian dressing room and the erosion of mutual trust and respect between the teams, I fail to see why the tour should be continued. If the ICC is calling Sachin a liar and Symonds an epitome of fair play and honesty, it is time the BCCI and the nation backed up our team when everyone else seems to be bent on breaking their courage to dare to stand up to the Aussies.

As Martin Williamson says on the Cricinfo Magazine:

Not walking is not cheating. Claiming a catch you know you have not caught cleanly is; the same goes for claiming a bat-pad catch when you know it was nowhere near the edge. The difference is that in one you are leaving the umpire to make his decision, in the other you are openly trying to deceive him.
Deception is clearly a trait the Australian team has mastered. Though one is not allowed to question its 'intergrity'.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Writer’s Block*

It is not because I have nothing to write that I pick my pen up so sparingly. It is because I have so much to write. Not events. My life remains as devoid of them as ever. But thoughts. And there is an unlimited amount of these for an idle mind like mine...
Its funny how right upto opening the diary and writing the few opening lines, I will have incredible ideas and remarkable remarks. But now there is nothing. Its like that incredible pulp of amassed thoughts is trying to makes its way through an orifice as big as this pen's nib has.

* from my journal, dated 2nd January 2007. The situation is not very different a year on.