Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chinese Finger Trap

After a hiatus, I am back to divulge how a Chinese trick helped me in opening a ketchup bottle. Yesterday, as my cook was on leave, I, accredited with a decent level of proficiency in cooking, decided to cook a sumptuous dinner - bread omelets :-). Except a bit of tussle with the onions which made me weep for chopping them, it was a cakewalk. And finally it was done. All my roommates were quite hungry and ready to grab their piece. But we thought a scoop of ketchup would add more to its taste. Fortunately there was an unopened bottle of ketchup in the house. "How to open it ?" was the question in all our minds. I remembered K having an opener in his nail cutter. Luckily K was aware of its place but the tragedy was it got struck horizontally in a coffee mug. K, wary of not breaking the mug and ready to compromise the ketchup, was quite confident that it's impossible to take the opener out. But D, with marked enthusiasm, tried pulling the opener hard but in vain. I, busy with cooking, paid no attention at that point of time. As hunger pangs was on the rise, we three decided to go without the ketchup!

After sometime, when I, in some totally unrelated context, was surfing the net, came across Dexter's Lab - one of my my favorite cartoon series. Suddenly one particular episode - even now I don't know why I thought of it - came to my mind in which Dexter and his sister will get their fingers struck in a Chinese finger trap. The trick is simple; If you pull your fingers apart the trap contracts and holds tight but when you bring your fingers close it expands and let your fingers free. Eureka! eureka! and that's what I exactly need to take the opener out. If the opener had been in complete horizontal it would have come out of the mug when pulled, but the opener was not exactly horizontal and slightly inclined downwards. Thinking in mind, I rushed to my roomies house. I took the mug and pushed the opened inside. And it got free!

Is this what we call serendipity? or Does our brains cease to function when we are hungry ?

Friday, September 14, 2007

On The Bench

I am on the bench
With some snacks to munch
Growing my tummy as I work on nothing
Waiting for the day, that brings an end to everything

I am on the bench
Along with some pathetic bunch
Worrying about my future,
As Idleness evades me and causes torture

Any software engineer on the bench would have this common apprehension. But fortunately I was never benched before, for none of my employers had the concept of free resource pool. Every dog has its day. I too had that day. It was in my go-plus (global orientation) program held at ICRISAT resorts. It was a two day out-bound programme where we had some interesting management games. Every game had some values to teach like evolving a strategy, prototyping, collaboration etc. And on the final day we were given a real time project management scenario. We were divided into three teams with a team lead for each. Also a project manager to coordinate the three teams. Our task was simple (appeared at first). Each team must construct a similar kind of arrangement as shown in fig1 sequentially in the stipulated time(120 seconds). We were given time to analyze and practice and there were also progress reviews before the final demo.

My team developed a good strategy using modular approach. And in the reviews we were able to do in 26 seconds. The next team didn't have any such strategy in hand, yet they were able to produce the output in 35 seconds. The third team were in a pathetic situation as they were no closer to completion. Our PM sucked big time. He had the faintest idea about shuffling the teams and knowledge transfer. He brought external trainers to impart the new technology which was already in place in my team, at the cost of all our hikes for the next two years. After training the third team were able to do it successfully in 16 seconds.

With everything set we were ready for the final demo. We were given three chances of which we were asked to perform the demo without a fault at least once. The first demo ended in a fault as my team didn't notice the small gap shown in fig 2. We placed a plank in the reverse order. This fault never occurred in the initial reviews lest we would have been careful. Once we confirmed with the reviewer that it was the only fault made by us, we gave the second demo. As our team got tensed we took a little longer, so the we were not able to complete the entire demo in the stipulated time. We were left with one more chance.

"It was a Do or Die situation. Our team lead encouraged us by his powerful speech. And we all gathered our momentum and performed exceptionally well in the third round". This would have been a possible ending for a movie. But the rules are very much different for the real life. Considering our team's track record the PM asked us to step aside for the third and the final demo. And the team which got external training were asked to do the demo twice. We had no choice, but to sit on the bench over there and watch the other teams perform.

At first we got angry on our PM but after giving a deep thought we realized that it was the only good decision made by him in the entire project life cycle. In the postmortem analysis our facilitator argued about the fairness of our team. We contributed to the success of our project by not participating in it. In other words we never stood as a hurdle to the success. Though these soothing words comforted me, yet it failed to expunge this unhappy memory : on the bench.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Big Confusion At The Brand Factory

It was quarter past seven. The daylight was not completely down. I was in a auto with my face completely out, not minding about my safety and with vigilant eyes reading the name boards of each and every building for I was never been there before. "There it is", i said to myself. The building stood five stories high with glazed windows, prominently divided into three fairly equal phases with ads painted on randomly selected locations. And the name and the logo embossed centrally in Impact font which read
"The Brand Factory - Best Brands Smart Prizes"

Asked the driver to stop and alighted from the auto. Then i climbed the staircase attached to the central phase that took me to the lobby, which had a little walking space that ended in an escalator. As i ascended the escalator, i noticed the central atrium quite deserted. Though Lumbini mall is situated on the highway connecting hitec city and Hyderabad not many seems to be acquainted with this place. Unlike a typical mall there is no necessity to elbow your way through the teeming crowd for it had none.

Before I could explore the mall any further,my mobile rang. It was my friend B on call. He said "I am on the way, will be there soon" and I gave my usual rejoinder "ok". B is one my very good childhood friend. He came to Hyderabad for a vacation. As my schedules were tight and my weekends got blocked by cat coaching, all I could offer him is accommodation for four days and accompany him for a shopping in the evening. But one of his close friend took off from office and offered him full day company. So I was safe. We decided that day morning to meet at the brand factory in the evening.

I placed my mobile back into my pant pockets and searched for the mens apparel section, one of my favorite past time. It didn't have a direct path. One must necessarily pass through the beauty and cosmetics section to reach there. The men section had all leading brands from Pepe to Wrangler arranged in no particular order, in an ambiance that befits the brand. And that they give more importance to the brands was conspicuous as the raiments were not segregated based on type like ethnic, sports, casual etc. The collections were huge. That comforted me; I brought my friend to some good place. But his delay worried me more.

B called me for the second time. I felt a pang of guilt in his voice. "We got struck in traffic and will be there in few minutes" he said plainly and cut the call. "What else can I expect from a guy who is roaming with a girl for girls never keep up time except a very few" I said to myself and went back to my business. I spent my time by doing some trials with the jeans. Added few to my wish list. Yet it all got over very soon. I decided to explore the other sections of the mall. Also attempts to spot some one noteworthy in this already meager crowd proved futile. I felt quite bored.

It was 8:30 when I got another call from B.
"No more excuses" I thought and picked the call.
"Reached" said B
"Oh good, where are you ?"
"Right in front of the entrance"
"Ok. I am coming down"

After few minutes I called him and asked
"I am at the entrance but I couldn't spot you. Come near the steps"
"I am near the steps"
"How can that be ? There is only one staircase over there. How can I not spot you ?"
"I am near the steps" he said impatiently.
"Ok. Is there an escalator in front of you ?"
"What does the caption board in front of you say ?"
"Best Brands Smart Prizes"
"Fine. We are not more than 5m away. yet why none of us can see the other ?"
"How do I know ?"
"Are you at Lumbini mall ?"
"Where is that ?"
"Hey one second. Which place are you in ?"
"I don't know."
"Ask someone near by"

After some time I heard the word

Only at that time I came to know that there are 2 Brand factory in Hyderabad. Then I apologized him about my ignorance and we decided to do our shopping in central which is in the midway between the two brand factories.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Business with Books...

As we all know, the indiaplaza offer for harry potter and the dethaly hallows attracted the attention of quite a large number of readers. And around 15k copies have been preordered and successfully delivered. For those who have dipped too much into the book here is the recap of the offer.
  • 35% discount
  • Delivery on the same day
  • Free shipment
  • 6 months book club membership in indiaplaza
  • Gift vouchers
  • Game CDs and many more...
As their website hits were quite high they want to make hay while the sun shines. In order to promote their sales they started to give offers for other bestsellers as well. A typical bestseller would have an offer something like
  • 24 hours shipment
  • Free of shipment charges
  • 20-30% discount
Not only me any bibliophile would have been happy looking at these offers. Buying books via this portal comforted to a much larger extent. As I bought new books at discount prize without the slightest repentance of promoting piracy. But that didn't last long. After completing harry potter I took my list of 'whats next ?' and picked a few for ordering it at Indiaplaza. But there was not even a trace of such an offer. Its all vanished like magic. Every book had this note "ships between 3-16 days and shipment and handling charges Rs25 additional !!"

But thank god, i got the free book club membership for the next 6 months. I still have an assured discount of 25% on any book I buy.