600 Hours of Edward.

A significant characteristic of short stories or, short pieces of fiction is what is called শেষ হইয়াও হইল না শেষ or, in spite of the story reaching the end you’d not just close the book and move on with life. The refrain continues.

The kind of celebration of life’s emotions which were present in The Summer Son are present in abundance in 600 Hours of Edward. The writing is deliberately and artfully contrived to be repressed and surging with emotional upheaval through the pages. You simply cannot rush through Edward Stanton’s plans for himself and his ‘management’ of the plans. The book ends with the orbit but you remain hooked about Edward. What happens to him.

Recommended read. If you are interested in reading a review before reading it – here’s one.

Job hunting should qualify as a sport for the lonely.

It should start with the question that matters – why would anyone want to change. And while there could be many reasons that provide reasonable answers to it, most candidates don’t distill it down to something that they can tell their interviewers or, the head-hunters who pose this question. I’ve sat through enough interview sessions where the candidate starts off hesitatingly with a reason and thereafter meanders into the safe territories of “trying to build my career”, “looking for new opportunities” etc.

This is of course followed by the painful job of explaining to all and sundry, including the methods and systems you choose to locate a suitable job, about your expectations. This generally follows two trends – at your current set up it tends to veer towards a discussion of what could have been. At your probable future employers this leads to an up-sell of the brand, the processes and the workflows.

In the midst of all this, which is, by the way a very nervous time, you’ll have a group of naysayers – friends, family and others, who would try and tell you how a bird in hand is worth than two in the bush. Never mind if the bird that you are apparently holding is way past its keep_alive date. And if all this was not enough you get the sadistic pleasure of looking back on your career, as if you wanted to do that in the first place, and then analyze in every possible detail what you gained out of each assignment and experience. You have to take time to figure all of this out because you’ll be asked about it. And, you’ll be asked to explain bits where sometimes you didn’t have much control over the situation enough to undertake an informed call.

If you are doing all of this while being committed to the task at hand then it becomes double fun – you are always introspecting a moving target, refining and repolishing your own analysis and sometimes probably being unfair and unjust to yourself. All the time you are looking out and trying to figure if there’s indeed something out there that catches your fancy and makes you wistfully long for it. Or, are you just going to do what you do now, and derive a lesser degree of joy from it.

Why is job hunting like this ? Why can’t it be a better experience ?

Or why you should be wary of purchasing Imation USB HDDs

Sometime at the end of March this year my USB HDD started throwing out mysterious errors which soon revealed themselves as disk blocks turning bad. I wasn’t too surprised. This was a need-of-the-hour purchase from Supreme Computers opposite Chandni Chowk Metro Station (at the Air India building) at Kolkata around 3 years ago. A 160 GB HDD at around 3000 INR. It had served well and there was no reason to feel unhappy.

At about the same time I noticed that the Staples store at SGS Mall, Camp, Pune had an offer on Imation HDDs. 320 GB for around 2000 INR. Not really a bad deal. I got myself one and then mounted it. Most of these drives contain a bunch of Windows specific stuff and, surprisingly enough this also had a folder called ‘Recycled‘ (link to a zip archive on dropbox) which contained images like these (link to a file on dropbox). This was surprising because it isn’t something that is mine and it was on a HDD that was nicely shrink-wrapped.

So I sent in an email to Imation – they make it nicely difficult to find an email/tech support to write in to. That was on the 6th of April. On April 12, Imation Singapore Support (bumped via the US tech/sales support) suggests that I contact the India office. On April 18 they can only provide a telephone number of the board and no email or, tech support detail in order to figure out how a folder like this can be present inside a shrink wrapped box. Till now no one has actually stated that they have looked at the issue and figured out whom I should contact. All that has happened is geographical ping pong with the probable assumption that this is consumer goods and hence probably not to be bothered much about.

John Poelstra’s blog post reminded me that I shouldn’t really accept this stupidity.

Tiger parenting and all that.

Amy Chua’s Battle Hym of The Tiger Mother gets the following summary on Flipkart.

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what Chinese parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it… 

Amy Chua’s daughters, Sophia and Louisa (Lulu) were polite, interesting and helpful, they had perfect school marks and exceptional musical abilities. The Chinese-parenting model certainly seemed to produce results. But what happens when you do not tolerate disobedience and are confronted by a screaming child who would sooner freeze outside in the cold than be forced to play the piano? Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how you can be humbled by a thirteen-year-old. Witty, entertaining and provocative, this is a unique and important book that will transform your perspective of parenting forever.

And Amazon has interesting reviews.

I have that curious position of reading a book, this book, which is obviously on ‘parenting’ rather than ‘culture’ and, observing other parents within the friend and family circle. A large part of the blogospheric comments that bordered on hysterical rejection and aggression had issues with the methods that Amy Chua talks about. Alternatively, I find that are expectations from her children are something that parents and would-be parents should think deeply about. Of late I’ve started to notice a kind of ‘soft parenting’ which, while shying away from hard expectations, also puts in place a feeling of ‘being entitled’. Kids whose parents can afford it tend to get a bit more pampered, getting things and material comforts easily (there’s sometimes a guilt trip “We never could afford this when we were young”) and that sometimes has the side effect of taking away the sense of being responsible and of learning accountablity. Kids, however much the parents try, cannot be “made to be best” ie. manufacturing excellent kids is perhaps an impossible aim. Parents don’t shy away from attempting that though 🙂

The problem with the book is that it would creatively pigeon-hole/stereotype the author as the dysfunctional Asian mother. And yet for me, the underlying area where parents set expectations in the areas of life that aren’t usually neatly talked about as excelling in academics in sports/academics – those areas of being responsible, understanding responsiblity, need for self-discipline, a need to be morally upright – those are interesting aspects. I am not surprised at the polarity of the reactions that the book generated – the writing/content is aimed to be that. Just that it hasn’t actually spurred the mommy/daddy/parent bloggers to start discussing how to help their kids be righteous – especially in these times when smaller acts of corruption happen in everyday life. Sometimes in front of the children themselves.

Of dreams. Of hopes.

Everyone has at least a couple of dreams that verge on the sinful or, totter on the edge of being ridiculous. One of mine that can neatly fit into the latter category is the one where I think about an uninterrupted stretch of 20 days where I can read a few books which languish and demand that they be read again.

A rather pragmatic aspiration, strangely enough, also revolves around books – or, that of a bookshelf. For some time now I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a bookshelf that would be best designed to hold the books and yet be aesthetically fitting into a home. And, the more posts land up on this blog, the more I start to put a serious thought to this entire thing. Books on interior designs are filled with pictures of bookshelves and what not. Sadly, most shelves are a perfect fit in that room they were photographed in. And, I am yet to meet someone who is capable of sitting down with me to understand what I require and what it takes to come up with a design and make that shelf. Headboards make for nice niches to store books, but they aren’t a permanent solution to anything.

I wonder why is it so difficult to get down to designing a shelf that lights up a room without overpowering it and yet is functionally top-notch.