Archive: 2006

Benefits of being unemployed – #1

I finally feel unemployed. Even though I left work in June, I had a crazy six months, jammed with a whole bunch of things.


But now, I am free. After ten years of never going on vacation for more than a week or two, I am finally on a real vacation.

Actually, here’s the true benefit of being unemployed — being on a mini-vacation from my vacation. What joy!

This view (which I just photographed 5 minutes ago), has me thanking my stars that I have no job.

Blog Tag – 5 things you don’t know about me

My super-connected friend Dave McClure tagged me — “The basic idea of this game is to tell people 5 things about yourself that they didn’t likely know, then tag 5 other people (or in this case, 5 bloggers) and see how far the meme progresses.”

Ok then, here you go.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

  1. I was incredibly shy as a child. I was so shy, I was scared to perform with other classmates. One day, when I was about seven, I proudly told my mother that I had joined the dance class and every day from then on, I would show her what I learned. She was very pleased that her shy child had emerged from her shell. When she came in to speak to the teachers on Parent-Teacher day, she discovered that I did not actually participate in the class, but instead peeked at the students from outside the door. All of the teacher’s pleading could not get me to actually dance, but by clinging to the door frame and observing the entire class, I was learning just fine by watching!
  2. I sent my first email in 1993 using CompuServe. The only way to connect was to a dialup number in the UK. Because an international call was so expensive, I’d write all my emails, dial up, send and receive and then disconnect immediately. The process usually lasted about a minute and a half, at most once a week.
  3. I have a black belt in Karate (Shito-Ryu) and won a national championship in 1994 in India.
  4. I almost died in 1997. I was in Singapore and had an infection that affected my kidneys. I had a 105 temperature, and at the time, I thought I was drifting off to sleep as people spoke to me, but I was going in and out of consciousness. I was taken to hospital in an ambulance. When I got there, the doctor said I had to go on intravenous antibiotics immediately. Being afraid of needles, I said I’d prefer not to. His pithy reply “Intravenous antibiotics now or you will die” pretty much cured me of my fear of needles.
  5. I cry at movies. I even cry when watching some ads. Kind of ridiculous, but there it is.

My turn, my turn, my turn (this is the best part) — I tag:

Can’t wait to hear your stuff!

Six with attitude

This is so funny, it is worth watching.

For background, India won a test match in South Africa for the first time ever (since South Africa was re-admitted into world sports). It was truly a blowout performance, especially after how they were whitewashed 4-0 in the one-dayers. The funniest moment though was from the Man of the Match, Sreesanth.

Note to the non-cricket followers: In general, the Indian team is a well-behaved if somewhat meek team. This guy though is all attitude. Sreesanth is a bowler and often has a word or two to say to the batsman when he’s bowling.

Here he’s batting. Right before the clip starts, the bowler, Andre Nel (who sets the gold standard for goading the batsman), tells Sreesanth that he doesn’t have heart. Sreesanth promptly tonks him for a six.

This is innovation

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Google is innovative. The innovation is usually in the product space, but today they announced a really cool innovation in the HR/stock option space. You can read all about the Transferable Stock Options here.

What a great idea! They are staying ahead of the curve in managing their employees’ upside (or potential lack thereof). As a company matures, usual wisdom states that the stock ceases to rise at the same rate and adopts a more gentle curve. What that means is that employees who join later in a company’s maturity have less upside. And that’s the way it should be since they assume less risk.

However, to feed the hungry beast of innovation, Google is still hiring in vast numbers. And with this little innovation, they are addressing the issue of employees whose strike price is near or below the market price and solving for it — even if your options are underwater, you can trade them and realize value today (instead of waiting). They’ve significantly reduced the risk that employees with underwater stock will leave for greener pastures.

Usually HR is super-conservative. When times are good, they won’t give anything away that they don’t have to. In fact, they can go so far as to imply it is an honor of an employee to be employed at the company. But times change (they always do) and in these situations, most HR departments can’t adapt – they have to be pushed to recognize that there need to be other ways to motivate the newer employees.

What Google has done is dramatic. What makes it more impressive to me is that they have made this innovation when times are good. They’ve been proactive in setting up a program that has significant complexity. That is very, very rare.

Other tech companies need to catch up. Hopefully, for their sakes, soon.

Ah, California!

It’s been busy. Crazily so. Was working to a deadline where I pulled an all-nighter (I think the last time I did that was in undergrad). Then I headed out west and I feel I am on the verge of falling sick again. I wonder how I can be so busy when I am technically unemployed at the moment.

But, the best part is that I am back in California for a few days. It has been wonderful, seeing friends and catching up.

California will always have the most special place in my heart. The first few years of my life in the US were spent in Boston and they were the roughest years of my life. Then I moved to California. New city, new job, new life. I loved San Francisco — I overcame my fears of driving on the insane inclines, learned to sail, made wonderful friends. I loved my job in product management/marketing. As I moved from the city to the peninsula, the better weather and the most spectacular views on 280 made me love the Bay Area even more.

It will always feel like home in some ways. This was where I was happy in the US for the first time. This was where I found myself.

Finally, some analysis

Amidst all the brouhaha about the performance of the Indian cricket team, finally, Rediff has done some analysis. Amazing stuff, analysis – actually gives you facts to talk about!

Ganguly vis-a-vis Dravid as captain in ODIs

Captaincy record

Mts Won Lost NR Won% Lost%
Ganguly 146 76 65 5 52.05 44.52
Dravid 53 27 23 3 50.94 43.39
Ganguly after 53 matches 53 27 26 0 50.94 49.06

Hmm… seems to me they are *exactly tied* at this stage in their captaincy careers. So I guess the moral of the story is that the Indian team has in fact been this pathetic before. Hopefully, this too shall pass.

Here’s the full analysis.

London cabs win hands down

London Black CabI was in London last week and often ended up taking a black cab. The cabs are expensive – more expensive than the Tube (London’s subway, which in itself is �3!), and about 30-40% more expensive than a NYC cab, but that’s about the only downside.

Compared to New York City taxi cabs, these black cabs are better in every single way.

  • The cab drivers actually know where they are going. You tell them once what the address is and that’s it. In New York, if your address is not on the grid (x street, between y and z avenue), there is a huge possibility your driver won’t know where it is. Isn’t knowing the city part of the job??
  • You never need to repeat yourself. Ever. They didn’t once say “Er, did you say 37th street and Broadway?”. I told them once what the address was and the next time I spoke to them was when I got off. Amazing. NYC cab drivers apparently can’t remember an address for longer than 3 minutes.
  • They never talk on the phone and if they do, it is very quiet and very quick. Off all the cab drives only one driver got on his cell phone. And I could barely hear him over the engine noise and he was off the phone in about 20 seconds. They take their jobs seriously – like jobs. Not like vacations where they are doing you a favor by driving you while they talk. In NYC, almost 90% of my cab rides involve the driver being on his cell phone. And loudly. I’ve been privy to everything from lunch menus to home repairs. Ridiculous. And rude.
  • They are polite. They say please and thank you and have a good evening. Considering London cabs are so expensive, apparently it is the norm to just round up. So, after the first couple of days of tipping 20%, I adjusted to London norms and for a cab ride that was �7.60, I gave the guy �8 and felt cheap doing so. He was still gracious and polite.
  • The taxis are clean. They are comfortable and spotless. No grime, no left over tissues, nothing. In NYC, you feel like taking a shower after riding in some cabs. Some of them stink. Of course this could be a reflection on the taxi riding public in both cities too!
  • The taxi configuration is so much better. London cabs are spacious on the inside. And they seat 6! In New York, if your driver is tall and has pushed his seat back, forget it, you are going to be scrunched in with no leg room. And the maximum NYC passenger limit is 4.
  • Finally, London cabs have evolved from boring black and come in multiple colors including hot pink. NYC cabs are only yellow.

Apparently, the London cab drivers need to attend a two year plus training course called The Knowledge to learn the streets of London perfectly and in order to be allowed to become a cab driver. With another fare increase coming to NYC cabs, maybe passengers need to get something for the extra money. The list above seems like a good starting point!