Random Thoughts, Cricket, Movies, Music ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

'Blog' Tops Dictionary's Words of the Year

A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year.

Merriam-Webster Inc. said on Tuesday that blog, defined as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks," was one of the most looked-up words on its Internet sites this year.

Eight entries on the publisher's top-10 list related to major news events, from the presidential election -- represented by words such as incumbent and partisan -- to natural phenomena such as hurricane and cicada.

Click here to read the whole news ...

Keep Blogging !

Thanksgiving - Movie Marathon

I shall have some wonderful memories of this year's Thanksgiving holiday. This was one of the rare times when we had a lonnngggg vacation and we didn't go and visit a place. We stayed at home, relaxed, caught up with friends and studied a bit too :). A related thing which happened as a result of all this was that we ended up seeing quite a few movies and luckily all of them were very good. Here is the list:

(1). The Incredibles - What do I say about this movie ? - it is, well, INCREDIBLE. The makers of Finding Nemo, Pixar (and Disney) are back with their latest offering. Pixar has raised the bar on animation movies - in this movie, they have displayed all possible emotions of a human, car chases, press conferences etc and etc. Sometimes, it was difficult to imagine that it was all animation. Truly, a superbly made film and of course, it has a poignant story line.

(2). National Treasure - I am not a very big fan of Nicholas Cage : so, I wasn't too enthusiastic on seeing this movie. But it turned out to be surprisingly good. It belongs to the same genre as an Indiana Jones movie - hunt for treasure, adventure, puzzles, clues, romance etc. It is a racy movie and the director maintains the pace all throughout the movie. It is definitely a one-time must-see.

(3). Veer Zaara - Another classic from the master of romance, Yash Chopra. I always believed that Shahrukh Khan was a bigger star than an actor and that his biggest strength was that he carred his star status in movies quite well. But in this movie, his acting as an aged army officer was what surprised me. Also, the story line was good and powerful. The songs, composed out of some of the unpublished tunes of the late Madan Mohan and penned to Javed Akhtar's lyrics are just wonderfully pleasant. It is a touching movie and of course, very romantic.
[Caution : you might come out of the theatre a little wet-eyed :)]

I shall end with an excerpt from a song in Veer Zaara:

Tum chhupa na sakogi main woh raaz hoon
Tum bhoola na sakogi woh andaaz hoon
Goonjta hoon jo dil mein toh hairaan ho kyun
Main tumhaare hi dil ki toh awaaz hoon
Sun sako, toh suno, dhadkanon ki zabaan
Main yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan
Kaisi, sarhadein, kaisi majbooriyaan
Main yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan

Happy movie watching !


Friday, November 26, 2004

Changes Needed

The 2nd test match between India and South Africa starts tomorrow at the halo gounds of Eden Gardens, Kolkata. I want to take this moment and reflect at some of the actions of the ICC during the last couple of weeks:

(1). After the India-Pakistan 1-day match at Kolkata, the ICC slapped a 2 match-ban on Saurav Ganguly for not being to force a faster over-rate. What is surprising is that the match refree (Clive Lloyd) was present at the venue and he could clearly see that this was caused as a result of the sogginess in the field, which was making the ball wet and so constant replacements were called for (7 in all). All this just caused the time to extend well beyond the normal hours.

(2). Talking of penalizing for slow over-rate for fielding, what can't ICC issue a similar rule for batting? During the Kanpur test match, the South Africans batted slowly (reminding us of the 80s) and bored us to death. The game of Test Cricket has changed so much over the years and it is no longer considered healthy to score below 3 runs an over (2.2 was totally unacceptable). This carries even more significance because of the growing popularity of Pajama cricket and also the newer 20-20 and the decreasing popularity of the classical Test match cricket. Scoring at 2.2 runs an over only pushes test cricket in a backward direction. It is time for ICC to have a rule to penalize teams scoring less than say 3 runs an over (give/take some other covenant).

(3). ICC released new rules and laws for Chucking and under the new laws, even great bowlers such as Wasim Akram, Glenn Mcgrath are all chukcers. No wonder, this has created so much of ridicule all around the world. This is what Akram had to say about this about the whole controversy. I thought that the ICC handled this issue really sluggishly.

(4). Another instance of bad management was the ICC's handling of the England-Zimababwe tour, which has been so mired with controversy. Just before the English journalists could enter the land, they were disallowed VISAs. If this was going to happen, then the ICC should have made prior arrangements to tackle this situation. The only statement ICC released was that the English team could withdraw if they wanted to. The English journalists have since been granted VISAs into Zimbabwe.

ICC really has to tighten it's socks and get is act together, at least for the benefit of the game of the cricket, if not for its own benefit.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Leavey Leadership Leacture - Bob Corcoran

Last week, I attended the Leavey Leadership Lecture by Bob Corcoran, the Chief Learning Officer of GE. The lecture was quite short and it was followed by a brief questionaire round with the audience. What is normally good about these types of lectures is that one gets an insight into the lives of industry leaders and people, who have grown up in close proximity of other great leaders (in this case, Jack Welch). As it turned out, the evening was indeed quite fruitful. I have otted down some of the salient points from the lecture:

(1). Growth versus Time is a S-curve, the same as performance versus Time. As time goes by, we need to Grow and Learn more to Perform more. To perform better and better, one needs to keep raising the bar on the performance.

(2). One should always look at what value he/she is creating for the company. In the long run, that is what matters. Creating value for the company can be any of "More", "Better", "Faster" and "Cheaper". Similarly, in the personal life, creating value can be in terms of "Profession","Family" and "Community".

(3). In the general case, Real Leaders actually look for the best person to promote and the best person is normally the one who can create the maximum value for the company.

(4). Rewards can be in terms of Promotion, more of the same work (most common) or making the person head of another division or startup of the company.

(5). If you get more work, always Priotize the work. A good executive always : (a). Prioritizes, (b) Decides what he or she is NOT going to do, (c). Focuses ONLY on the issue at hand and (d) Disciplines not to get wayward

(6). (Office) Politics is all about Power - the bigger the job, the authority actually goes down. You don't have much power on laterally and upward. So, you have to use influence. The best way to GET POWER is to GIVE AWAY POWER.

(7). Never go for a Job Interview in a half-hearted manner. If you do not want the Job, then DON'T GO for it If you have already interviewed, then withdraw your name before the manager makes the offer. This is especially true if you are interviewing internally within the same company in another group.

(8). Going higher up in the corporate ladder requires sacrifice. (Bob gave up his volleyball and friends and concentrated solely on his career and FAMILY).

(9). Always know the bigger picture of your organization. It is definitely important to be very good at your work, but it is equally important to know your company's technology and business.

(10). In general, you should not stop a person leaving the organization by offering more money. A person who stays for money will definitely leave again for money.

(11). When you reward a person, please make sure that unequal people are not equally rewarded.

(12). Before you start leading a team, make sure you evaulate your team, understand your team and that the team understands you. Make sure you sit on 1-on-1 with each of the team members to know them a bit more personally too.

Cheers !


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Diwali Party - 2004

Last Sunday, on the 14th of November, we had organized a Diwali Party. This was a Potluck Diwali Party and there was a significant number of people invited. Hence, we decided to host the party at our Aparment Complex's Card and Clipper room. These rooms were well furnished with sofas, couches, tables, chairs, TV, fridge, Oven, a Bar and even a piano for the musically inclined.
The dress code for the party was traditional Indian attire and so, it was promising to be fun.

Although the party was supposed to start at 4:00 pm, people started showing up (excepting Sujata, Roopam and Surelia, who had come over early to help in the preparations) around 6:00 pm and by 6:45 pm, the rooms were full of people. It was great meeting so many people and more importantly, seeing some of my always_jeans_clad friends dressed in traditional Indian clothes. It was indeed quite a sight.

We had organized prizes for the best dressed male (Shyam Mundhra) and best dressed female (Ritika - the outright winner). We played Bingo, had a fashion parade for males and females. One quick word about the food though. This time the bachelors were thrust a lot of cooking responsibilities and they came out with flying colors ! - Kudos to them.

Once the party ended in the Card/Clipper Rooms, the scene shifted to our Apartment. We played Passing the Parcel (Sujata was the winner) and then had some wonderful tea made by Shyam Mundhra. In the end, it was time to call it a day and we were left with some wonderful moments to cherish. You can enjoy some of those moments here.

Till then !

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Management Simulation Program

Yesterday, we had the Management Simulation Program at the Leavey School. In this exercise, we are divided into a number of "pseudo" organizations and each of us is assigned a designated management role, such as, President, VP, Director or a Manager. The idea was that we had all met at an off-shore meeting place to discuss issues and we had to come to some conclusive results and take some decisions. The objective of the exercise is to be able to identify problems, communicate efficiently, effectively manage your boss and of course, take correct decisions. Obviously, the time is at a scarcity - so, once you are given your exercise packet and you know what the problems/issues are in your group, you will be spending your time talking to your "boss","subordinates","peers" or researching about issues in the "corporate library" to come up with a decision.

The name of the organization in this exercise was Silicon Valley Technologies. It had 3 units - Wire (core business), Utility Products (decent market share) and Advanced Products (video projection and sound suppression). I was assigned the role of Director of Product Development, Advanced Products for Team X. Susmita was the Director of Sales and Marketing, Utility Products for Team VII. I had 2 managers reporting to me - 1 for Video products and the other for Sound Suppression. I had to report to my VP and I had the Director of Sales and Marketing, Advanced Products as my peer.

After going through the packet, I could understand that the Sound Suppression was doing well and there was an enormous potential for this product. So, the upper level management was trying to have aggressive sales target for that group. My goal was to determine whether it was possible to meet that and also to determine what were the additonal problems that were being faced in that group. I also realized that the Video Unit was not doing all that great, although it had quite a bit of potential. The upper level management had anticipated a 14% increase in sales target. Once again, my goal was to talk to the manager of that division and then determine whether it was possible to meet that and also to determine what were the additonal problems that were being faced in that group.

My initial conversations with the managers of the 2 groups did not reveal any new information. Both had issues to deal with but both were confident of meeting the sales target(probably a little lesser than the forecasted one). It was at the meeting with my VP that I got the first "googly" - the upper management was actually trying to sell the unit or tie up with another unit for some kind of licensing. Of course, this was extremely "hush-hush". So obviously, the idea was to focus more on the Sound Suppression unit.

At the end, the President addressed all the groups together and informed us of the decisions taken. There were quite a few actually (spanning across other sectors). For my group, they had decided to sell-off the Video Unit to get some cash flow going. I felt that the communication could have been better because I was informed about this only half-way through the exercise. If I had known about this, then probably, we could have given a stronger case for keeping that group :).

Lessons to learn

(1). Communication within an organization is really really important. Of course, everyone knows about this hard truth - this simulation exercise just shows that in practise.

(2). Being prepared for a meeting - a couple of times, I went into discussions with my peers and subordinates without knowing about the issues that were being talked about. Obviously, I couldn't contribute much at that time - I had to tell them that I would get back to them soon : a waste of my time as well as theirs.

(3). Manage your boss well - if your boss does well, you do well. In our case, I couldn't do much because we couldn't hold on to the Video unit that got sold off. Probably, I could have given more information (sales numbers, potential for growth etc) to my VP, who could have then communicated it to the higher level management.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Diwali Legend ...

For years now I have celebrated Diwali, without really knowing what it signifies. Of course, I did have vague ideas about it - some said that it was the supposed to celebrate Lord Rama's coronation, in Bengal it marked Kali Puja, for some it was also Lakshmi Puja and incidentally, and incidentally, tied to Diwali was also Bhai Dooj (or Bhai Pota in Bengal). Growing up in Kolkata with so many Bengali & Marwari friends, I never bothered to question why this was celebrated. For me, Diwali meant crackers, sweets, new clothes and hordes of fun. Also Diwali for me was a 2-day festival compared to others for whom it was just for 1 day. I used to celebrate Kali Puja the previous day (the day in which South Indians celebrate their Diwali) with my Bengali friends and Diwali the next day with my North Indian friends !

I did a bit of research today and found out that there indeed are various legends that are tied to Diwali - but all of them mention the defeat of the evil or darkness on this day and so, it should be celebrated by lights to signify the triumph. Among the various sites, I found the following sites quite useful :

http://www.diwalimela.com/festivaloflights/ and http://www.amritapuri.org/cultural/bharat/deepavali.htm (this one is a little bit more technical but still quite useful).

Whatever be the legend, just have a BLAST during DIWALI ! Have a great Diwali and may the world be rid of all evil !

Happy Diwali !

Cheers !

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Silicon Valley Half Marathon, 2004

Last weekend, I ran the Silicon Valley Half Marathon, 2004. I had pretty happy memories of this half-marathon, since this was my first official race that I had run in 2001. However, times had changed - the route was now different (it now goes through the Los Gatos creek trail), I had not run an official race in a long time and more importantly, I didn't think I was at my peak fitness. Nevertheless, a wonderful Sunday morning along with bands and whistles greeted us when Susmita and I landed up at the starting point at the intersection of Park Avenue & Almaden at the heart of San Jose downtown.

There was an early morning chill which was making me more anxious and eager to get along with the proceedings. My target was to complete the race at 10 min/mile pace (that would have been better than my previous run here). When the race started off, the first 20 minutes or so were spent in adjusting myself to the surroundings and also, getting my rhythm in place. For some reason, it took me longer than normal to get my rhythm in place. However, I realized that I was doing well on time - I was doing a 9 min/mile till the 6 mile mark.

Around the 6 mile mark, we entered the Los Gatos creek trail and this had quite a few uphills. Of course, this did slow me down and I realized that my timings were slipping. But I was always ahead of my intented target (or "Aspiration Point", as they teach in B-schools). The fact that we had to run by a lake with ducks swimming and also under the shades of trees really helped. The organization of the race was good too - they had good water/nutrition drink supplies at the end of every mile or so. Not that I used much of that, but it was nevertheless useful to know that I could always use it if need be.

Once you are near the end of the race, one does find that extra bit of energy to complete it strongly. I always believe that running is like writing a document - you should start and finish strongly : the middle can be all fluff :). Also, seeing my wife waving and cheering near the finish line definitely helped - you want to look good and confident while ending. In the end, the timing was good - I clocked 9:59 mins/mile, which was just perfect and was even better than my previous timing. We lapped the race up by going to Jamba Juice and having my favorite "Mango-ago-go". Susmita cooked some really delicious lunch and I just had energy left to tuck into bed and go off to sleep !

Check out some of the snaps and relive the experience by clicking

You can check the results here (Search for "Thyaga Vasudevan")

Keep running !

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Leavey School MBA, Fall Quarter 2004 - Mid Terms

The MBA Fall Quarter 2004 mid-terms got over just a week ago and it was quite an interesting and unique experience. It had been a long time since we had sat for any class exam. Also, it was the first time that we were attending school in USA and so, we were a little nervous about our exams. Last but not the least, the exams themselves were different from the conventional exams that we were so used to.

The Management class mid-term was a take-home - now, that sounds good but believe me, it doesn't make the job any simpler. We were given 3 case studies (MBA is mostly full of case studies) to analyze. One could choose between 1 or 2 case studies to write about. If you write 2, then your score would be the average of the scores in the 2 case studies. After spending quite a bit of time analyzing and then applying the concepts that were taught, we managed to get a decent A grade in the exam.

The Accounting exam was quite easy on the other hand. Most of the questions were multiple-choice type and well, they were quite simple too. Of course, the fact that you do well does not necessarily guarantee you a A+ :) - they do relative gradings here and well, we got an A ! - no, I am not cribbing - I am definitely glad that the mid-terms went off well. Now, we can get back to life !

In the meantime, quite a few things have been happening in the Business school - lots of networking events (we don't find time for it), Bob Dylan performed a while ago and lastly, I still need to check out the gym there - I have heard that it is truly fantastic.

Keep smiling :) - Adios !