Sunday, April 27, 2008

UPS -- I want my stuff now

Not sure if you have ever used UPS' 'I want my stuff now' feature. It's  pretty neat.  If you are like many, most of the times when  UPS tries to deliver your package, you are away  at work. They a leave a note and then make few more attempts to deliver. In the mean time, you can call them, ask them to hold your package at their facility, then you go and pick up your package when it is convenient to you. That's the normal process. There is another nice feature that I discovered recently.

When you get that note from UPS informing you that they tried to deliver and missed you, you can normally go online and when trying to arrange for alternate pick up method, you  see a small hyperlink 'I want my stuff today (now)'. Once you click that, you can pick up your stuff on the same day as long as you are making that request within their time window. What happens is that when you select 'I want my stuff now' option, you can go to the nearest UPS center at the end of the day and pick up your package. This is especially convenient if you miss your package on a Friday. You do not have to wait till Monday to pick up the package. After you select 'I want my stuff now' option, UPS arranges to take out your package when the driver returns at the end of the day and they open their center for a short time at the end of the day (normally after 8 PM) and you can go and collect the package. UPS is pretty good about making sure that they can really hold the package for you on the same day. That's why they ask you to expect a phone call from UPS after you have placed the request. Normally within an hour after you place the request, they call you and tell you the time and place where to come and pick it up. You go there, follow the same process by showing your missed-delivery notice and ID and collect your stuff.

I was very impressed. I had missed the first delivery attempt on Friday. It was not going to be possible to be at home on Monday or visit UPS office to collect on Monday. I was preparing to wait for next week end to collect the package. Then I came across this nice feature and thought why not use it. I clicked 'I want my stuff now' link, provided my phone number. As expected, got a call from UPS within one hour and was asked to come to their facility at 9 PM sharp and that they would be open only for 15 minutes and I should collect it within that time. I went there around that time and there were quite a few people already. Looks like people like this feature very much. No wonder. Collected my stuff and was back in no time.

It is because of this kind of convenience features that UPS has continued to excel. I will certainly consider buying some UPS stock in the future. If a company can execute so efficiently, it is worth my business and investment. I liked their process very much. They want to make sure that they can really hold the package for you on the same day. That's why they ask you to wait for their call and only after they confirm, they ask you to come and pick it up.

Good job UPS.


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B - Believe

L - Listen

A - Apologize

S - Satisfy

T - Thank

BLAST, in the words of David Novak, CEO of Yum Brands (which owns Pizza Hut, KFC etc.), sums up the customer management philosophy at Yum brands.


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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Honest man's secret pillow

"Honest man's secret to sound sleep is his pillow. His conscience is that pillow."

If you have this pillow, you won't need chillow. By the way, chillow is not a bad product. It does seem to address the problem of pillow heating up during the sleep. I tried chillow sometime ago and it does feel really nice to put your head on a chilled pillow. Recommended for hot headed people :) Not kidding...check it for yourself...Chillow.


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Simply happy

"It is simple to be happy. It is difficult to be simple."

"Simple is better than complex. Complex is better than complicated."

"Creativity is making complex things simple."

So, be simple and be happy. Start off with your house. Get rid of all necessary junk. The day you are able to pack your all absolutely needed belongings in 2 suitcases and leave, you are almost there. So, rent what you can own. Keep all your assets in real liquid. That does not mean you have to stuff all your money in your mattress. Stocks and other forms of investments are pretty liquid as long markets exist. You may think real estate, gold etc. appreciate much better. But, if history is any indicator, stocks have out performed real estate, gold etc. You can refer to Prof. Seigals 'Stocks for the long run' and many other books. If you still want real estate component in your portfolio, buy REITs which are investment companies which specialize in real estate.


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Good online source for genuine Toyota accessories

If you are in the market for accessories for your Toyota,  you may want to consider looking at You may find their prices much cheaper than what you find at your local Toyota dealer. Since is also a Toyota dealer, they ship only Toyota or Toyota approved OEM parts. Service is fast and reliable. Parts come properly packed.

I do not know what is the thinking these days at Toyota but most of the new cars they make do not come with body side moldings. Those simple stripes which you stick to the doors of the car and which help protect from minor dents and dings to your car such as while some inconsiderate person opens their door next to yours or shopping carts moving helter skelter in parking lots etc. May be Toyota wants to give additional business to body shops by not installing such moldings. No moldings. So more such dents and dings. You feel annoyed when the first ding happens which could have been easily avoided if these moldings were present in the first place. Another theory is that Toyota thinks their new curvy designs loose their looks due to these moldings. I do not see how. Look at the nice formal look with these moldings.

Anyway, I checked with local Toyota dealers in the bay area. Half of them did not carry these on hand and said they have to order them. A few who had quoted at least $25 more than what quoted. So, it was a easy decision to go and buy from Local dealer quoted $60 to install. I was not comfortable going to local dealers to have the parts installed when I did not buy from them. Who knows how they would treat me or my car? So I went to some independent body shop and had them installed. You can Google for instructions which provide exact measurements at which moldings have to be pasted. They come with prefixed adhesive tapes. With time and patience, it is easy to do it by yourself. But, I did not want to regret later by either installing them wrongly or wasting one-time adhesive. Local body shop charged $25. Total savings more than $50.

I still like those boxy styled old cars with sturdy bodies. These days with all these curves etc. it is such a worry to drive them freely, park them where ever you like. Cars should come with body armor :)


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I use Qumana to edit and post my blogs. Noticed some problems recently with it when it starts. The splash screen comes up and that's it. Nothing happens beyond that. There is no toolbar icon. I was kind a puzzled. This is how I fixed it. May help you if you also Qumana for blogging.

OK, whenever software gives problems, pattern to use is 'Log files'. This pattern did not let me down. I went to the directory where Qumana is installed. There it was - qumana.txt. The log file. When I opened it, there was all the info I needed to find out what the problem was. As you can well imagine, Qumana stores blog entries and others in its local database at C:\Users\mahesh\Application Data\Qumana\db. It seems that the database file was corrupted and it was not able to open the database file. So, Qumana was aborting on start up.

I just deleted the and restarted Qumana editor and voila it started working. Of course, since I deleted the database file, all settings etc. are gone. So you have to go through adding your blogs by providing user name and passwords etc and it has to set them up again. Any unposted posts are probably gone. So, do not leave unposted important posts. Blogs the rule of the game is to post it ASAP.


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Buying air tickets

For a long time, I have been using ticket aggregators such as, etc. to look for best deals on air tickets. They seemed to work very well for domestic travel. Even international fares started looking good. However, today I was looking for tickets to India in July. It seems July is a peak season and fares seemed quite high even after making adjustments. During non-peak season, round trip ticket should be around $1200. Add a couple of hundred for peak season and I expected to get something around $1500. But, the fares generated by all these aggregators were very high. More than $1800. I was about buy one such ticket. Luckily I thought of going to some airlines web sites direct and check out fares. I am so glad I did. I got tickets at much cheaper price. For example, Singapore Airlines did not figure for the dates I was looking for. When I went to their web site, found SFO-BLR round trip for $1551 from July 17-Aug 1. That's a good deal. Cathy Pacific showed in some searches and the price quoted on was around $1700. On Cathy Pacific web site the fare was around $1500. Same thing with American Airlines web site. showed around $1900. AA web site quoted around $1700.

Something to keep in mind before buying tickets from aggregators. I do not know if this is true even for domestic fares. I will start checking airline web sites even for domestic fares now on.

Biggest disappointment was which I thought was a great source for cheap tickets to India. Not this time at least. Their tickets were in the range of $1900. That too on British and some other European airlines.

Ticket buying experience from Singapore Airlines was very smooth. You can choose seats, meals etc. You can even do electronic check in and print your boarding card before you leave. Electronic tickets only. That is even better.

Some good lessons learnt.


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Friday, April 11, 2008

Computers & Productivity

""Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done." - Andy Rooney

I have started believing in this after my own habit of spending way too many hours in front of my laptop doing things like collecting this kind of quotations. :)

"It was said that million monkey banging at million keyboards would produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Internet has proved it wrong."

Have we become computer monkeys (like grease monkey)? For those who do not know, 'grease monkey' is an inept mechanic.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008


"Doing things you need to do changes things you need to do."

I had not come across a better quote to illustrate the nature of evolutionary (or incremental) activity than this. We do not need to know everything to get started. As such we know  very little to begin with. Only way to know more is to do something based on what we know and that alone will open up what else we need to do. It is like starting the journey as and when the first light is green. Worrying about all the lights that may be red down the road is not going to help. On the contrary, it may get us some honks from angry people :)


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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Donating old glasses

If you are thinking about what to do with your old eye glasses, you may want to consider dropping them off at your eye glass store. Most of the eye glass stores have a bin to drop off old glasses. Such glasses are used to provide glasses to the poor worldwide. It is a different story as how much of them really gets used well and how much gets simply trashed. But, at least I do not have go through the feeling of wasting glasses and frames by trashing them directly. I normally drop off my old glasses at Lens Crafter stores. They seem to be pretty well organized in terms of collecting old glasses. Considering how much frames cost, I think there is some real value in donating old glasses. With even very low end frames costing like 30-40 bucks, I hope they reuse frames and glasses well. Anyway, where possible donate and recycle to your best.


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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Great Kannada Website

A lot of great Kannada audio stuff is available at -

Best part of (at least for me) the site is an excellent collection of Kannada dramas. Nice dramas from legendary artistes like Master Heerannayya, Dhirendra Gopal are too good. Dhirendra Gopal is my all time favorite. It is very unfortunate that he passed away a few years back. He was too good. His dialogs are simply superb - witty, funny and hard hitting.


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Monday, April 07, 2008

Funny v/s interesting

"If you can't be funny, be interesting." - Harold Ross

Most of the time, funniness is inherent. You are born with some amount. You are lucky if you can be funny, not only to you but also to others, most of the time. Being funny to others is important because we all think we are  funny. Danger is others should not find us as a pain in the neck. So, let's not confuse being funny. Perspectives of others matter.

So, if we can not be funny, we can try to be interesting. Easiest way to become interesting is to know as much as possible about as diverse topics as possible. You can probably relate to this experience. You are talking about something. You hesitate for a moment because you know what you are talking about is some sort of a specialty topic (say 'theory of constraints' (TOC). how many would know what it is.) How do you feel if the person you are talking to  says 'TOC is interesting. Elli Goldratt pioneered it. I got learn a bit about TOC. Tell me more about it.'? Does it not light you up? How would have felt if the other person were to put a blank face? Not that we can know everything every time. But, people who read widely can become interesting without much effort. Being interesting will carry us much farther than being funny. Even serious people are impressed by interesting people. Moreover, funniness is very subjective. Chances are one or the other time funny people end up rubbing people wrong way even if they did not mean any offense.How others perceive our humor depends on their mood, personality etc.

Read widely. Watch interesting movies and shows. Most importantly listen with full attention. Good listening skills go a long way in making you interesting to other people.


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“Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining.” - Judge Judy (

This is bound to shut anyone up. Nothing less is expected from judicial queen judge Judy. God! wasn't she entertaining!!! Not sure if she still presides on those TV court shows. But, when she was doing those shows, they used to so entertaining. Wish all court proceedings were that comical. Anyway, I do not watch TV anymore. Happy to run to such quotes once in a while.


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Saturday, April 05, 2008


"If you seek vengeance, then dig two graves."

Seeking vengeance is like trying to throw hot coal on someone. Whether it burns him or not, it is sure to burn your hand. If you seek vengeance, then dig two graves. One for your victim and other for yourself. Regardless of what happens to the one you are after, you are surely going to need one.

Instead of vengeance, try forgiveness. 'Forgiveness is the best revenge.'


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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Frogs and Prince(ss)

"You will have to kiss many frogs before you find your prince(ss)."  So goes the saying. Holds good for many other endeavors in life as well. You will have to work at several places before you find your ideal job, partner etc.

Best joke around this quote I heard was -' you will have to kiss many asses before you find the right boss.' Friend who told this mutilation of the original quote was referring to his boss. His point was - he had to bear through many shabby bosses before he found a boss who really helped him. That's true. Bosses come and go but mentors are the ones who remain in your mind. May be for every 5 bosses you work for you  may find one mentor. If other 4 are not tormentors, be happy and move on. Mentor and tormentor - so close. Bosses can be either of the two.

Zero based thinking (I hope I got the term right) says that every situational dilemma can be resolved by asking one simple question. That question is 'knowing everything I know now, would I have done what I have done'? If answer is yes, follow the current path. If answer is no, change it without a second thought. If the frog you kisses is not your princes(ss), move on in the search of next frog.


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