Friday, September 28, 2007

Can you tame your mind?

Solve the following puzzles and see how many you can crack. Answers need not match exactly, but if you have a logical answer that matches the situation, you can consider that as a correct answer.

  1. A man and his son were on a tour of an atomic power plant. In the control room, the boy asked if he could see the controls for the reactor core. The head physicist said yes, and explained how the controls worked. After the boy left, the head physicist turned to an assistant and said, "That was my son." How could that be?
  2. Three kids from Bristol went for a walk. About a mile into the walk, they came to a deep, wide river. There was no bridge. They didn’t have a boat or raft, or any materials to make one. None of them could swim. How did they get across?
  3. Jane walked out the back door of her farmhouse on a Thursday afternoon and found a man’s pipe, a scarf and three lumps of coal lying on the wet grass near the barn. The nearest neighbours lived a mile away, and no-one had visited that day. Where did the objects come from?
  4. A true story: a white horse jumped over a castle and landed on a bishop, who immediately disappeared from the landscape. Where did this take place?

I came across these puzzles during one of my stumbling sessions. All of them have very logical common sense answers, but chances are high that you couldn’t find any explanations for them. Especially the second and third puzzles.

Check answers to the puzzles here.

Now that you know what the answers are it would be quite clear to you why you could nail the 1st and the 4th one, but the 2nd and 3rd were beyond reach. To state the obvious – it’s simply because we generally don’t encounter such situations in our lives. Frozen river and snowmen aren’t something we are used to in most parts of India.

When I asked my friends and family to solve these puzzles, (was curious and wanted to test their reactions) almost all of them got the answers to 1 and 2 (yeah, we are a smart bunch). For the second one I got very weird answers that are too long to mention here. And for 4th, the most common answer was that it could be a dry summer and the river had no water in it. (But then, can you call a river a river, when there’s no water in it?) But that’s what we see in India right? No one could even imagine a frozen river – sure, we read it about it books, but it's difficult to think of one when you are given a real life situation.

I just want to highlight here that drawing only from our experiences might not be a good idea always. We cease to think of other possibilities simply because our mind refuses to admit them as ‘possibilities’.

Every MBA student will have at least one experience of solving a case study, that appeared to be highly complex one and had no straight solution and yet, when the professor points you in a direction that you had never thought could be possible, you would end up wondering why such a simple thing never occurred to you.

The older we grow, more grey hairs, more experience - the lesser our mind lets us wander to admit things beyond our world. Next time you have a problem to solve, tame your mind! They say 'think out of the box', but I say 'think out of your mind'.

But I am OK, as my memory sucks and I am a Capricorn and we reverse-age!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Digs that make you go OUCH!

Hey, call me when your life expectancy catches up with your inflation rate.

Cape Verde
Millions visit your island nation... to refuel their planes!

Czech Republic
The country that explains why Kafka never wrote a happy story.

Too bad you can't build a warm sunny day out of Legos.

The only nation brave enough to say "Let those offshore oil reserves wait. We've got a good thing going with these peanuts and palm kernels."

Where Europe meets Asia and says "Hey, why don't we both dump our crap here?"

Come visit our country, but make sure you also have an afternoon activity.

Home to eight of the world's highest peaks; nine if you count your unemployment rate.

A nation so richly diverse, you can walk into a single neighbourhood and find cholera, dengue fever, malaria, typhoid, and plague.

More digs here from Conan O'Brien Hates My Homeland. It’s interesting to note why Conan came up with the list in the first place.

Monday, September 17, 2007

He & She

She: Am so excited about our trip to India. Let's plan for the trip.

He: Well, we have 9 days to laze at home. So what say 5 at my place and 4 at yours?

She: How about the exact opposite bozo?

He: Boo to you!

She: Ha! What a great argument.

And so the great debate continues.....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Where's the web going?

Or maybe you should be asking where is the web taking you?

If your first thought after seeing this picture is its uncanny resemblence to the London tube map, you are not too far away. The web trend map has been 'derived' from the Tokyo Metro map.

The web trend map is a pictorial representation of the 200 most successful websites on the web today. If you have not heard of some of these sites and are feeling a little outdated, use this clickable version here to quickly travel to these sites and find out what makes them so popular. Most of us on the Internet are travelling on these lines, so you might as well give them a shot too! There are also some Japanese, Chinese and German websites featured here - nerds don't panic if you haven't heard of them before. You are still a nerd!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Kilogram seems to be on a diet!

How else do you explain this from Good Morning Silicon Valley?

You may not have known it, but there is one "official kilogram," a cylinder cast in 1889 from a platinum and iridium alloy, measuring 1.54 inches in diameter and height. There are dozens of copies, but the reference kilo is kept in a triple-locked safe at a French chateau and is only brought out for periodic comparison with its brethren. And now, that comparison has produced a mystery. In comparison to an average of the copies, the reference kilo has lost weight -- about 50 micrograms, the equivalent of a fingerprint.

"The mystery is that they were all made of the same material, and many were made at the same time and kept under the same conditions, and yet the masses among them are slowly drifting apart," said physicist Richard Davis of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. "We don't really have a good hypothesis for it." Whatever the cause, the apparent fluctuation may push along a move to base our measurement standards on something more precise than a 19th century chunk of metal.

I am sure a handful of people would have lost a lot of sleep and weight over this!

But let us be glad that our local milk-men, vegetable vendors and the lot haven't realised this yet!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

London Underground Tips & Tricks

The tube strike made me sit up and appreciate the London Underground that I use to commute everyday to work and back. Now that I've learned my lesson, it's less painful even if I don't get a place to sit and read my book, or if a person next to me eats smelly chips or if I have to hang on to my husband for want of a place to hold on to because of the rush!

But you gotta be smart if you want to make the tube work for you. If you don't know much about it, you will end up walking miles (OK, I am exaggerating!) inside the tube station crossing between different lines and ending up at the butt of a long escalator queue. Nobody wants these on a work-day morning. So here are some tips and tricks that I have picked up in the last 2 months that have really worked for me. These are mostly time-saving tips.

1. Way-outs!
These are the exits to a different line or to a street and they are clearly marked on all platforms. But if you board a carriage that is far way from the 'way-out' you might have to plan an extra 5 minutes into you travel time everyday. The solution? The way-out tube map! It's worth the £1.95 if you haven't already worked out which carriage to get into so that when you reach your destination you are bang opposite the exit and no one can beat you to it or the escalator wait at the end of the way-out tunnel!
This could be your way to Mind the Gap between the carriage and the exit! :)

2. For the walker in you!
When I first came to London I was advised by someone that I could easily walk from Waterloo to Charing Cross. That someone entered directly into my not-to-take-seriously list of people. But after burning precious pounds on the tube travel, one day I found out that it was indeed a pleasant walk from Waterloo to Charing Cross. The official tube map does not give one a good idea of the geographical distances between the stations, if you were to walk. Here's the solution. An accurate geographical tube map. It will help you decide when to walk and when not to. Very handy, especially if you have only a couple of minutes before your play/meeting starts!

3. For the tourist
This book - Going Underground - can tell you which London attraction is close to which tube. If you happen to pass through a particular station, you might as well visit all the attractions close to it!

4. Get the cheapest fare
Public transport in London is the most expensive in the world. Or so I heard. It makes sense to make your travel choices wisely. If you work and/or live in London, you might already have an Oyster card. But you still need to decide whether you should go for a pay-as-you-go (pre-paid) or a travelcard (season ticket). You can find out at the Oyster Card Calculator.

5. For the bookworm
This is not related to the tube, but if you are a bookworm you will pardon me for that. If you miss your book collection back home and the affordable paperback prices back in India, you should visit one of these places - Oxfam, Cancer-Research UK (do you know any other?) - over the weekend. Satiate your need and also do a good thing! I bought 6 books for £3.5 last weekend and I am still beaming about it.
On second thoughts, you could read these books in the tube. So there!
A warning though - you have to be lucky like me to get the books that you want to read!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Tea-shops in Gulfland. Too much tea?

You may be able to take the Gelf out of Mallus, but don't even think of taking the Mallus out of the Gelf.

In a state of 32 million where unemployment approaches 20 percent, one Keralite worker in six now works overseas. Without migrant earnings, critics say, the state’s luster could not be sustained. The $5 billion that Keralite migrants send home augment the state’s economic output by nearly 25 percent.

.....“The literacy rate here is great,” she said, “and unemployment is much greater.”

...the economic forces that lead people to migrate were beyond the state’s control. “But what’s unique about Kerala is that the benefits are likely to be shared in a more fair and just way".

...But the Kerala model is under attack, one outbound worker at a time.
I've grown seeing family members and friends slowly move on to Gulf. It was and is still considered as an express ticket to all the good things in life. But too much of this unemployment medicine seems to be harming the people and their lives. Read on over here (NY Times free subscription) for more. If you are in a hurry, catch the slideshow here.

Never in India...

A student who was controversially prosecuted for putting her feet on a train seat walked free from court with an absolute discharge. Kathleen Jennings wept and hugged her parents as magistrates cleared her of "wilfully interfering with the comfort or convenience of other rail passengers."

The Manchester University maths student was challenged by a Merseyrail enforcement officer for placing her feet on a train seat. She took her feet off the seat immediately and apologised, but was still prosecuted. The company has a zero tolerance policy for feet on seats and has prosecuted 250 people since February.

I reckon the enforcement officer will resign on accounts of burn-out if he had to do the same in India!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dishoom dishoom over IIMK

If you are part of the IIM fraternity, I am sure you must have already come across these articles published in LiveMint. If not, you might want to read them to get a crash course on the amazing shortcut to increase your readership in one day!

Does IIM’s location matter?

IIM-K’s past still points to trouble at Shillong IIM

Now that you know the tricks of the trade, you might want to read this ('Problems needn’t cloud efforts and performance of IIM-K’) just to find out what IIMK has to say about all this.

It’s surprising that the author of the first article conveniently forgot to consider placement track records, industry appreciations, the knowledge base, the alumni who have reached places and so many more factors that are important to someone who wants to do an MBA. Can IIMK's achievements on these factors be pure luck inspite of the location disadvantage?

And oh, there’s another trick to increase readership. Bschool surveys. How can people who fail miserably at analysing something as simple as this be trusted to do something as complex as B-school rankings?

One question. You wrote CAT. You got calls from IIMK and from a second rung B-school in a metropolitan city. Which one would you join?

I joined IIMK after turning down XLRI and then some more. And I did not even apply to the so called second rung Bschools. And, no regrets at all!

So my dear MBA/IIM aspirants, please don’t fall prey to these surveys and articles which have their own invisible agenda. If you want to make an informed decision talk to the alumni of the Bschools in your consideration set, talk to the faculty and if possible, visit the school. It’s going to be home for you for 2 years and will most probably have a deep impact on you and your life and you wouldn’t want a newspaper riding on readership-adrenaline-boost to make that decision for you, would you?

Would you go to a less exciting amusement park, just because EsselWorld is so far away from the city?
Would you miss EsselWorld just because a newspaper printed a blown-up advertisement about the second-rung Bschool?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Labour Strike and Game Theory

If you have lived around 25 years in Malluland, you might not bat an eyelid when you read in the morning newspaper that there is going to be yet another strike. It’s part of our culture. But over here in London, I did not expect these ‘strike’ traits to be so prominent.

Within 2 months of my arrival here there have been 2 strikes that affected almost everyone in London in someway or the other.

First was the Royal Mail strike. The snail mail service in UK came to a complete halt last month. One might think that in this e-savvy era, would we miss the snail mail for a couple of days? Looks like we do! Discontent was very visible among the public. I was affected too and had to shell out credit card late payment charges.

Then came the massive London underground tube strike. The strike is still on as I write this. It has inflicted direct pain into the lives of everyone in London. If you are use the tube, you would have lost your money spent on the season ticket for this week. No one is gonna reimburse that to you now, are they? On top of that you have to spend an extra two hours (in my case) commuting to work everyday. Even if you don’t use the tube, you are not spared. Your transport option, be it bus or car or cycle; you will be invaded with the 3 million people on the roads who would otherwise have been inside the tube.

So many strikes! What really goes beneath all that we read on the newspaper and see on TV?

Your local economist might be able to throw more light into it than the trade union who called for the strike in the first place. It’s all explained by the much celebrated Nobel Prize winning discovery in the field of Economics called Game Theory.

If you have not heard of Game theory before this might be a good time to get enlightened about it here. And read about the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma here. If not, then read on.

So what's game theory got to do with labour strikes?

In the case of a labour strike we have a non-zero-sum game. In this, the strategies that can be adopted could lead to a variety of different outcomes - you could stand to gain or lose or adopt a strategy of 'best case' or 'worse case' scenario. The union therefore could adopt an aggressive negotiating policy - if it succeeds its members could end up gaining a significant wage increase and/or an improvement in working conditions. There will be a temptation for the union to behave in this way if it thinks it is more powerful than the management.

Equally the management could behave in that way also if it feels it has the strength. Both, however, might feel that such a 'go-all-out' strategy is risky and as such they might prefer to adopt a compromise approach whereby they gain something but may have to give something in return - representing a potential 'loss'.

The game is made more complex by the fact that we have a number of examples of such behaviour in the past upon which to draw and to influence our decision making processes! If other unions have successfully confronted management then maybe the time is right for a bold approach now rather than a conciliatory one? The game goes on….

What makes this so called game so challenging is that, just like poker – which is a classic game theory scenario – your decision depends on the actions by the other party and you can only take a good guess about his strategy and pray to God that you don’t end up on the wrong side at the end of the game.

Our own Mahatma Gandhiji brilliantly played the game-theory-card to give us independence. His Salt Satyagraha or the Dhandi March is an example of game theory. And we all know who won the game at the end, though it looked otherwise just after the march!

I just wish that these people would stop playing their I-strike-Whachyugonnado game soon so that the rest us can get on with our lives.

Monday, September 03, 2007

London Eye ahoy!

London Eye

Towering 135 meters above London, the London Eye is the world's tallest observation wheel, but the not world's largest Ferris wheel. More pictures from GWBE's camera here.

On clear and sunny days one can get 40 Km panoramic views from the London eye. But you have to be very lucky to see such a day in London in the first place!

The 32 capsules, which take around 30 minutes for a full circle turn, represent the 32 boroughs of London.

That's David Blaine on the London Eye pod. We get into it. He gets ON it. That's the difference between us and maverick magicians like Mr. Blaine.

So, if you have £14.50 to spare on a sunny day (work out the combined probabilities yourself!) and you were about to throw it all into a wishing well or maybe buy a wad of lottery tickets, you are better off buying a ticket for a trip aboard the London Eye. If not, you are better off spending some of it on some snacks and coffee while you walk around the London Eye. I say this because, I was not very impressed with the panoramic view from the London eye.