Saturday, September 27, 2008


Washington Mutual - WAMU - a leading bank folded recently. Writing was on the wall that WAMU would fold soon. When the financials reached dangerous levels, the government took over and passed on the assets to JP Morgan Chase bank. Thus went WAMU down the drains of history.

It's truly sad that WAMU which was once considered as an example of prudent lending got into indiscriminate lending and lent money to everyone and anyone. Those people who got free money, bought houses and when things got tough defaulted on the loans. Then what happened is WAMU became a 'mamu' holding the bag.

Sometimes funny things happen during the course of such incidents. It is reported that WAMU's senior officials had gone to Washington, DC or New York to discuss with Feds about the fate of the bank. They were packed off and they were on the way back. When they were still in mid flight, government acted on it, took over the bank and passed on the assets to JPM. So, the CEO who was still a CEO when he boarded the flight had become ex-CEO when he landed. This where CEO of WAMU became 'mamu'.

'WAMU ka mamu ho gaya' was the joke of the day.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hunters, skinners and diners

Read a piece somewhere recently which put the corporate people into three categories - hunters, skinners and diners

Hunters - should be quite obvious. Our beloved sales people. They are after the prey. Hunting. Hunting for deals and making a killing.

Skinners - Finance people. It is one thing to hunt and a different thing to skin, flesh the meat out, dress it and prepare the stuff for consumption. Finance people are good at that. They can take what has been hunted and prepare it for consumption.( Revenue recognition is an art. Window dressing is a super-art. Profit smoothening is a divine-art.)

Diners - marketing and advertising people. At least the piece I read put only marketing and advertising people in 'diners' category. May be IT folks also fall in this category. Diners spend what's been hunted and skinned.

Many studies have shown that it is the hunters who make it to the top. Many CEOs are from sales background. Hunters are able to make golden rules - men with gold make golden rules.

Knowing that hunters make it to the top, we all need to cultivate the mentality of hunters if we want to rise up. We need to be able to sell something that's useful to hunters - at the least. Then we can probably get close hunters and become their allies. What does that mean to IT people? Get to know your business partners well. Even when you think their demands are unreasonable, try to put on their shoes and walk  a mile. May be you will understand. Drop your puritanical and ivory-tower academic attitude and do what is needed now and necessary for hunters to be successful. If hunters come empty handed, we are all headed home empty handed. Hunters are needed regardless of skinners and diners.

IT people can position themselves as people who make hunters more effective. Like those artisans who used to make best quality bows and arrows. We can provide IT edge to our hunting brethren so that they can hunt more effectively and thank us for helping them.

Keeping everything aside, IT is a cost to the corporation. So, it is only natural that people think it should be cut as much as possible like any other cost. When we are diners, we can  enjoy sumptuous dinner only if we help create enough ingredients for the dinner. So, help create the meat.

Long live hunters. May skinners give us good chops. May other diners spare us some good ribs.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

What a week....(Sep 15 - 19)

Pretty interesting week on Wall Street. At least in the US. From what news reports says, the capitalism in US has changed for good. God, knows what that means. I am sure they must have said similar things every time something significant rattled the economy whether it is the collapse of banks in 1929 or black Monday in 1987 or Savings & Loans debacle (very similar to housing and mortgage mess of now) in 80's.

Last weekend was real busy. Was constantly looking for fresh news to keep track of what they were going to do with Lehman Brothers, investment banking firm. Feds (aka government) did not give anything. Pan handling Lehman folks who had gone to beg Feds came with a empty bowl. With empty bowl, no one was ready to buy the beggar with the empty bowl. All interested suitors were interested only if Feds put some lose change in the bowl of Lehman. When they did not see any such change, they made their way how. Both BOA and Barclays said 'right' and left. So, having lost proverbial shirt, Lehman declared bankruptcy. Why do they call bankruptcy. Rupturing bank? May be.

At the same Merrill Lynch's pant was getting wet. Before, it got completely soaked and started stinking, CEO Thain engineered its sale to BOA. Smart guy. Persevered some value. If he had remained adamant, I am sure fate would not have been any different for Merrill. Bank of America scalped Merrill for a decent sum. It's altogether a different question what would happen to BoA after sometime. After seeing the collapse of behemoths, nothing will surprise anyone anytime in the future. All these guys are capable of wielding powerful begging bowl any time.

Then to come with begging bowl was insurance giant AIG. AIG's height of financial meltdown. Those guys do not even know what they have insured, what's their worth and what they owe and what they want. They said we insured some debts which are packaged into some weird financial instruments. We can not even value them because formulas are so arcane we do not know how to figure out. Looks like equations without solutions. God help them who employed geniuses who devised such debt securities which AIG insured. What was AIG thinking? Their eyes, I am sure, were on the steady stream of insurance premiums they were going to get. They never bothered to think about the fact that one day you may have to pay for what you are taking the money to insure.

Now Feds took note and said we will bail you out. If not, you guys will sink everything. So, AIG got 80 odd billions to tap into. In return, public got 80% equity in AIG. Hey, we all own AIG now because 80 billions is our tax money.

Then came another news. Government is going to set aside close to 600 billion to buy distressed debt from all banks so that banks can write them off from their books. This is proverbial 'left holding the bag' for general public. We will be paying for years to come to own some junk that nobody wanted.

Why are 'we' doing this? I say we because government is just representing us. We could have done two things. First, let banks collapse and lose all money. Second, bail these buggers out and hold on to useless piece of paper with no value. On the face, both situations seem alike because money with no value is no money. But, letting banks collapse would totally evaporate the wealth and you can not reverse it. By bailing out these banks, we are at least holding the paper so that we can hope when we get out of this mess, we will still have some paper which we can pass off to some other gullible entity. So, it is better  to have prevented the total collapse of banking system.

Root cause - greed. Period. Greed is good but does not come free. It comes with pain even when it delivers. What's the alternative? Be like a sage and have no greed at all? That's fine if you live in isolation. When we live as part of society, greed is required for general advancement of society. Without wealth creation, society won't survive. So, we need to pursue wealth. Whether we take a slow and steady route which is slower but safer or whether we try to make a big splash is up to you. I would prefer slow and steady. It is less glamorous. Days and months and years may go by without much happening. But, in the end we all will be better off. Or you can do the way we have been doing off late. Put greed in overdrive. You will enjoy the heady ride while your vehicle lasts but driving in overdrive for long is going to burn your engine up and you will have to take a break. We are in that proverbial break now. Not bad. Even with such mentality we will do well but not in a steady way but with many ups and downs. It is up to you.

Next item is knee jerk reaction from Feds to ban short selling of selected financial market securities. I am not convinced it is the right thing to do. Yes, it does seem cruel to benefit from falling stock prices - i.e. that's what short selling is. You first borrow the share, sell the share, collect the money, hope that share price will fall, when it falls, you buy back the share and return it to owner. You made a nice profit. What is wrong with that? If one can buy shares with a hope that it will go up and make profit, what's wrong with someone borrowing the share from you, selling it off, buying it back when it falls in price and returning it back to you? Other than the fact that the person is betting on negative sentiment, there does not seem to be anything wrong at all. But, Feds in their wisdom thinks some people have been driving down the  share price of selected companies by spreading false rumors and artificially creating bad news. May be true to some extent. If a company is worth the salt, its books should be sparkling clean to quell off any such rumors which can depress the stock price. If a company's stock price goes down because of rumors and if the company is not able to do anything to hit back at those rumors, rumors must be correct. If you look at the companies which are crying now that their prices were depressed by short sellers did not disclose everything they knew about their own books. Do you think if these begging bowl banks were to come clean with all the mess they had on their book, stock prices have stayed where they did? No chance. We as general public would have done the same thing - i.e. bringing the stock price to ground. These companies did not come clean. They continued to paint a rosy picture and fooled the public for as long as they could. But, they should have understood you can not fool everyone all the time. There are smart short sellers who can read between lines and read your lips. When these smart people could sense something was wrong, they increased short positions and stock started falling because general public started seeing short position going up and that's a sure sign to start dumping the stock. If people know something I do not know they would not have betted on short positions. History  has told us that Enron, Worldcom kind of sleaze balls would have lived longer if not for astute short sellers. Now by banning these corporate vigilantes we are letting unscrupulous companies to screw us for longer so that they can take their sweet time to screw us and also prepare nice exit strategy. Bring back short sellers. Our guiding beacons.

Should this dampen our spirits and stop us from investing? I do not think so. What options do you have? Stuff your money under mattress? That is no good. Put in fixed deposits. That's ok if you are happy with interest rates which are less than inflation. If you want to build wealth, then knowing what we can know from history, there is no other way than to stay put in the markets. Once you decide to be in the market, choice is up to you. You can chart a slow, steady but safer course to wealth or rash zig-zag route. Both will get you to your destination. Not necessarily in the same condition. Choice is yours.

Happy investing. Happy wealth building.


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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wisdom - it's everywhere - just look around

They say - wisdom is nothing but common sense in uncommon amount. How true! More wisdom can be observed right around ourselves in some of the most common activities. We just need to tune our antennas correctly to receive the faint signals of wisdom. As they say - best humor is found amongst people and their routines. So is best wisdom.

'Barber always lathers before shaving.' What possible wisdom can be there in this? For the person who observed this closely enough to come up with this quote, there is tonnes. Barber, his act of lathering before (not after) shaving and then the act of shaving itself can teach us a lot about how to communicate.

Here barber is someone who has to communicate something difficult to get the desired results. Shaving is like the act of communicating something difficult. If you look closely, shaving when not done correctly, can be very rough and dangerous. Output of poor shaving can be seen in our daily lives. Typical examples include when you have to shave in a hurry that too when you have run out of sharp new razor blade and less than a dollop of shaving cream mocks you at the edge of  a almost squeezed out tube. What you get is not a clean shaven face but few hairs removed with a lot of cuts and blood streaks as  witness to the tragedy.

Coming out of gory and bloody details of shaving gone awry. Let's see if this analogy can be used in our communications. Lathering is a metaphor for smoothening the situation. If you say something good before breaking the bad news, it prepares the ground well. The person who has to listen to what is important is prepared well to receive your feedback which may not be received well if you blurt it out just like that. Straight shooters - take note. Realize that shortest path between two points may not always be a straight line, it can be a curve as well. So do not always shoot straight.

They say best way to give feedback (especially on something) you would like to see changed is to first say something good about the person on a related topic then tack on the negative feedback to the positive. Person get's it. He is not going to miss your important feedback because you have praised him a bit in the beginning. Since you have lathered with good words to begin with, he is going to last your shaving session even if your blades are not the sharpest. If you have a really sharp blade (i.e. good at giving constructive criticism), lathering is only going to make that so much easier. God help you if you have a blunt blade. Then you need all the lathering you can give before beginning your shaving session with your blunt blade. End result is what you want or hope for- clean shaven face (i.e. transformed person who incorporates your feedback and lives up to your expectations.)


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Bailing out.....

One of things that is praised often about USA is that anyone can start off afresh after screwing up - however badly. In other societies, if one screws up badly enough, he or she is branded as a failure and is not given another chance. It seems in USA, you can screw up, raise both of your hands, show your back, declare bankruptcy and walk away from all your problems and worries. Nobody can come after you. You are free to retreat for a while, after things have settled  and cooled down, you are free to come back and start your act all over again. I hope when you start all over again, you use the lessons learnt from previous episode, do not repeat the same mistakes and try to make the best of use of the second opportunity given.

Some people may not agree that it is a good thing to do. People or organizations should not be let go so easily when they  screw up. What's the alternative? Punish them? That's post-screw up. Does not serve much purpose. On the contrary, not picking up a person when he has bitten dust will kill the risk taking in that person for life. Once risk taking quality dies in enough people, as a society we become extremely risk averse and without taking risk nothing significant can be achieved.

You know, banking and financial sector is not doing very well off late. Like many, they got suckered into real estate boom. Financed all sort of real estate deals and carried a lot bad loans on their books. With real estate doing badly, assets on their books are worth nothing. This is what happened with banks like Bear & Sterns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and now with Lehman Brothers. US government, which nothing but society in general, bailed off Bear & Sterns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Society may not bail off Lehman Brothers as easily as it did others but help may be on the way.

Pure capitalists may say that nobody other than pure-play market should ever intervene when such things happen. It is easier said than done. Although banks must have been stupid to take so much risk, their risk taking created wealth somewhere. Some people have certainly benefited from their risk taking. Quite a few people made tonnes of money. Now, if we mercilessly put these banks down, in the future, we reduce opportunities for creating further wealth. Same thing can be said about dot com boom and bust of 90's. There were indeed excesses but wealth was created and some of which was lost - or shifted. But, did it do good for the society? Yes. In many ways. As in many cases, what we  paid for great experience is probably pennies on dollars. We really learnt some lessons about IT business. Let's think that what we may have paid in terms of financial loss as the tuition paid to learn that lesson. Similarly in the case of banks, what we paid is for the lessons learnt in terms of better banking standards and processes.

As an individual, it is easy to feel bitter about your tax dollars being used to bail out these banks for their mistakes. If you do not do that, who else will? Don't we want the society to progress? Progress comes only from experimentation. There is nothing called failure to an experiment. There are only outcomes. Some outcomes are what we want and some are not what we want. Chances are every outcome has some lesson for us to learn. We just need to become more objective about learning from the experiences than scoffing at the people who do all sorts of experiments.

As a society, if we want to do better we need to assure members of our society that it is okay to take risks and we are there to back them up. If society fails to do that, such enterprising individuals will look elsewhere and go to those places where people are more welcoming and encourage their experimentation. Till now USA has remained as the place to experiment because society here is known to give more than one chance for people to succeed. If US starts becoming risk averse, as it is becoming by adding more rules and regulations, we are going to lose out. Let the people make mistakes with a firm knowledge that there is a safety net. Let's get better at how we organize the safety net. Let's put more reasonable checks and balances so that we do not encourage large scale negative outcomes. Let's get better at identifying anomalies and doing better course corrections.

It may be painful when you  have to fork out  hard earned money to bail these people out. But, only such enterprising companies and individuals have created wealth. Least we can do is to suffer occasional little discomfort in the hope that giving these people another chance will pay off  bigger rewards. People with this mentality have been seldom proven wrong.

Long live sensible capitalism - fastest vehicle to wealth creation.


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Gene pool

"Your genes must have  come a from a gene pool when a life guard was off duty." - Can there be a more scientific way of saying you are an idiot?

I am no fan of quotes which can be insulting or hurting someone's sentiments. This one falls in that category. It may be funny to note it down and appreciate the creativity of the person who came up but it is better not used to describe anyone. First, chances are half the people do not understand what gene pool is. Who is the life guard of the gene pool? God?


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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Heated argument....Lighted debate

Heated argument - is there any use? May be if it produces  'light' in proportion to the heat generated. Light here means  some new information or insight that is generated from the argument. As soon as we hear the word 'argument', it is better to closely examine that. Because arguments, which are normally  clouded by emotions, are good for nothing. They just generate hot air. Debates are better. Debates tend to bring together logical people with different views to present individual points of views. People then look at each other's presentation of ideas with an open mind and then decide to take away merits in each other's points. One person may be able to convince the other or they may choose agree to disagree. Debates are always civil if they are to be called debates. Can not say that about arguments. With emotions thrown in, arguments tend to become uncivil and get worse every minute.

Read somewhere - 'heated arguments should be replaced by lighted debates.' Actual quotation may be different but the point it made is so compelling that I had to write it down so that we can refer to it all the time. It is so sickening that even in professional world people tend to argue without much merit. Just heat, heat and more heat with no light. It seems like complete darkness at the end of a heated argument. It is like an incandescent bulb burned off. What a waste of energy and time!

We must encourage debate. If everyone agrees, then most of them are not needed. Accomplishments come from differing views. As long as debate or dialog is generating a lot of light and minimal or no heat, it is a good one. If it is generating heat alone, cut it out and get out of it.

Many times, it seems like people get sucked into heated arguments because they want to be proven right. This especially true when you know that you are right. If you are not sure if you are absolutely right, chances are sensible people stay away from arguments. Of course, there are enough bone heads who argue for the sake of arguing even if it is  just to prove their pet point even if it is wrong. We better stay away from such people and god help those who have to butt it out with such people day in day out.

Interesting paradox is why do we care to prove ourselves right when we know in our heart that we are right. Is it absolutely necessary all the time? Of course, if you are required to correct someone, please do so by all means but why bother to get into an argument when who is right or what  is right does not matter. It happens with smart people all the time. Many smart people know a lot. It bugs them when someone who is half smart as them makes a false claim and just because he or she is loud mouthed gets enough attention so that he or she is able to convince even less smarter group to believe something as right when it is not really right. This infuriates our smart person. He knows what is right, he has all the information, he can even drive to conclusion using logical steps. Should he always bother do that? Probably not. If it bothers you so much to put up with crap, just make your point with precede details quickly and stop. Do not get obsessed about making sure that everybody understands your point and on top of it see that you are right. Trying to be always right even when you know you are right saps a lot of energy from smart people. Passion is not meant to convince everyone. Passion is so precious that it should be preserved to do things that really matter.

Another interesting point is we end up wasting too much time and effort proving ourselves or our point right with people who really do not matter. With people who really matter, it is much easier. Even if some of the people who matter are idiots and can not see logic, most of the people who matter are not like that. They matter because they are comparably smarter. Such people will allow you an opportunity to prove yourself right. For such audience, make your best case with all the passion you have. If you are an expert in some field and if somebody makes a totally false claim or point in your area of expertise in a party, is it worth your time and energy to prove yourself right then and there? Most of the people in that party do not care about your field of expertise. Somehow a point in your field has come up in their idle chit-chat and some dumb ass is making false claims and everyone else is listening to him. If you feel getting irritated, interject, make your point and stop. Then enjoy the comedy with a sense of humor. Do not spoil your mood. Enjoy the party. This experience will prepare you well when you have to make the case before some real audience.

Best example I can remember is something a relative of mine told me. He grew up in a village. Then went on get a lot of good education. It was around 1965 and man had landed on the moon for the first time. So, when this man went to his village, he happened to meet his family priest and the topic of man having landed on the moon came up. The priest with his limited knowledge of science and external world and more importantly conservative beliefs did not agree that it was possible for anybody to land on moon. Priest kept insisting that moon is God and per our religion, it is impossible for anyone to land on or reach God while alive. Is there any point wasting your breath trying to convince such a person? It is also important not to hate people when you can not convince them. They are unable to be convinced for a reason. It is not important to you. Just leave it. Change the topic. Talk about something else. As it is hard to convince a conservative priest that man landed on moon, it may be equally hard to convince a well educated person about reincarnation. Bottom line is - save your breath for the occasion that matters.

"For believers, no explanation is necessary. For non-believers, no explanation is possible." Let's just leave at that and focus on more important things than being right every time. It is enough if you are right at the right time. Right times are few and far between.


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Monday, September 08, 2008


Beware so long as you live, of judging people by appearances. - La Fontaine

It is hard  not to judge others. Ask yourself - if you are quick to judge others, if you also like to judged equally fast? Don't you think people should give you more time or they should get to know you better before they judge you. Judging others properly has to start somewhere. Why not you start it with yourself?

It is sad that even after knowing so much about psychology, organization behavior, human behavior etc., we still tend to judge people too soon. This is despite making the same mistake over and over again. People we judge to be good end up disappointing us and people who manage to survive our poor judgment many times deliver fantastic results.

It is said that people make first and probably last (ing) impression of somebody within 30 seconds. How ridiculous? What can you really know about someone in 30 seconds? May be after you have fine tuned your instincts in judging people, you may be able to do that. Do we know how much experience we will need to get to that level of accuracy so that we can judge someone so quickly and correctly? Possibly not in this life. Some people are generally good readers of human character. They are a  minority. Majority of us are simply poor judges of people.

Best managers I have known and worked for are those who have been slow to judge people. In most cases, they have been able to judge people well because they start off with a very positive note. You get a new person to your team. Why not start off with a trust that the person is a competent and good professional? Tell him or her  that and chances are extremely good that they live up to or exceed your expectations. On the contrary, if you treat that  person without much warmth just because you judged him or her to be not good, chances are they will live up to that expectation as  well. People normally deliver what you expect out of them.

Sometimes we get infatuated with someone after they deliver some good results for us. Then they suddenly stop living up to our expectations. That's the time to go back and see if the problem is ad hoc or systemic. Once you know someone's capacity, it is safer to assume that the person will deliver at say 75% of his peak capacity. You better be happy with that. There is hardly anyone who can crank out at their best all the time. They will have their own ups and downs and their overall performance comes close to 75% of their capacity. This is not something I am preaching. Learnt it from a very seasoned manager who told me to use this during interview. Everyone is fired up and certainly wants to do his best at the interview. If we assume the energy level they bring to the interview is the energy level they can bring to work day in and day out, you will be wrong and disappointed. So, cut people some slack.

So, what do you use to judge people so quickly? Their external appearance? Of course, people who are easy on eyes are lucky in a way that they normally get a favorable judgment. Then if they can speak well also, they almost have you bagged. On top of it, if they also know how to please you or agree with you, that's the end of your judgment. Judgment passed - great guy or gal. 30 seconds flat.  Fast forward 6 months and then see how right or wrong you were

If you have to judge someone so quickly, it is better err on the side of safety and judge everyone favorably. Then  you pass the onus to the other person to live up to your judgment which is favorable. It is for them to prove you wrong. If they are really good, they will be very positively impressed by your judgment and encouragement and exceed your expectations. Even if they are not that good, chances are they sense your trust and live up to your expectations. If they are not good at all, sooner or later you will see it for yourself and at that time you can change your judgment without much problem as you would have better data to make such a judgment.

They say ' don't judge the book by its cover.' It applies to people as well. At least skim through the book before judging. If people do not exercise caution, then they will be inflicting pain on themselves as in most of our lives we can alone hardly accomplish anything. It is with the people we surround ourselves with that we are able to achieve anything. So, allow others to cling to you by deferring judgment as late as possible. Let the other person have the complete benefit of your unconditional trust to begin with. After that, it is for him to keep it or lose it.


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Sunday, September 07, 2008


"Laziness is the habit of taking rest before you feel tired."

Easiest way to overcome laziness is to start doing without thinking much. Once you start, momentum easily builds up. Inertia is what requires the most energy to shake off. Once you overcome the inertia, things get better. With some tasks, it is not easy to overcome laziness. In that case, set yourself a target that  you will work for 25 minutes on that task and then take 5 minutes break to review if you want to further continue on that task or not. Chances are most of the tasks get done in those 25 minutes and you feel good.

I do not know if laziness is a bigger problem or procrastination. Sometimes, the difference between them is so blurred. These techniques work for both. For action oriented people, it is easier to overcome these tendencies. For thinkers, things get harder. That's why they say it is no good to be a mere thinker. It is good to be a thinking person who acts as well. You can easily validate - action oriented people generally do better in all walks of life than thinkers. Thinking has its place but unrestrained thinking for too long deprives time and energy from doing something useful and we will remain mere thinkers when action oriented people steal the show even if their action was poor compared to what it would be if we were to put in action even a fraction of our thinking.

There are very few people who have action and thinking in a perfectly balanced proportion. Each of us are skewed in one way or the other. Sometimes I think it is better to pair up with someone who makes up for our lack of action or thinking. It can work well if you choose right partner and manage the relationship well.

"Act now. Think later." (on the lines of famous pop song - Love now. Hurt later.)


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Thursday, September 04, 2008 index fund tracking entire world market

Vanguard introduced a index mutual fund tracking the entire world's stock market. I do not know if any other company had introduced such  a fund a before.

Having been a very satisfied customer / investor of Vanguard, it came as a great news for me. Great opportunity to invest in one fund and ride (or fall) the entire world market. As usual, expense ratio is very nominal. Helps to keep most of your money in your own pocket. No fancy fund managers nibbling away at your hard earned money.

Looking at recent stock market performance, it is easy and natural to feel like taking away all money from market and think of doing something else. Of course, that is a good strategy if and only if you have a better investment opportunity. Otherwise, pulling out money when market is not doing well is the worst thing one can do. This is even more true if you are invested in a highly diversified portfolio. Highly diversified portfolios with long investment horizon (say 10 years or more) have done well regardless of intermittent market downturns. Unless history proves us all wrong, this time should be no different. Sit tight and very soon you will be sitting on a pot ( that is pot of gold).


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Wednesday, September 03, 2008


The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. - Muhammad Ali

If someone says, he or she has 10 years of experience, you may want to think about it. Is it 1 year of experience repeated 10 times or 10 years of varied experience? What do you want if you have to hire someone?

Going back to the quote - I am not even sure if anyone can be that frozen-in-time enough to see life the same way year over year. But, it does seem to be possible, if one does not open himself or herself to new experiences. Or if new experiences do not come their way at all.

I think many of us do not experience richness of life because we do not welcome new experiences in our lives. In the era of crazy paranoia, when parents are drilling in to the heads of their kids that every stranger is a potential assaulter, do you expect those kids to open up and experience varied things in life? They expect life to be a straight line. One miss, that's it. They are lost and parents have to come back to set the line straight again. Things were much better earlier. May be situations permitted as well. Kids back then were much less protected. Of course, parents did take care of kids but this height of caution or madness was not there. You skinned your knee while playing. That's fine. Wash it with dettol, put some bandage if you like and forget it. Only if it got infected, parents took note. In a way, it was good. Made us learn that 'if an experience does not kill you, it only makes you stronger.' If it kills you, no worries. You are not going to be there to regret it anyway. Not to say that one should go after looking for experiences which may kill him or her. But, the point is not deny  an opportunity by always obsessing what may happen. How many have been able to prevent what had to happen? If it has to, it will. 'Your will and not my will shall be done'. Who said that? Jesus?

Experiences are free in life. Game is free. Players wanted? Are you game?


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Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of natural resources to the benefit of man.  - Ralph J. Smith

"Scientists build to learn. Engineers learn to build."

Applies to software engineers as well? Not sure. May be to some. But, certainly not to the majority of people who would like to call themselves as 'software engineers'. Software engineers creating resumeware (i.e. software written using latest fads just so that your resume looks good) 'learn to learn'. That's about it. XP has a term called 'technical debt'. Resumeware is probably the worst form of technical debt. Resumeware is over engineered solution. It's like using sledge hammer when a small wooden or rubber hammer would do the work.

Steve McConnell, popular author, writes passionately about the profession of software engineering and why it has not matured like other engineering disciplines. If you get a chance, read his book 'gold rush'. Fantastic read. He has touched upon this subject in other books as well. Software engineering has been aptly described like this - ' if we were to build buildings as we build software, first woodpecker that made rounds would have resulted in the building collapsing to the ground.' Not always. There is always good software written but a lot is fragile enough for one wood pecker of a change to push it down to ground.

Steve McConnell makes a compelling case in his books that people are taught computer science in schools and then pushed to become software engineers. Go back and see what scientists and engineers do differently. Computer science programs are extremely light on rigor and discipline that it takes to develop commercial software. Some people learn engineering aspect of software engineering in good companies under the mentoring of some veterans and some may go entire career without having that opportunity. Universities should have computer science programs but also should have a separate software engineering program where after learning basics of computer science, students are trained in software engineering so that when they join industry, they can start writing some commercial strength software. People who want to be computer scientists can take theoretical courses and can go to graduate school  and get advance degrees to become computer scientists. Software engineers, good ones, are a different breed altogether.

It is good that a lot of schools (at least in the US) have started offering graduate degrees in software engineering. Of course, many times, courses offered are still tilted heavily towards science than engineering but it is a good start

Of course, if you are smart, you can learn anything, anywhere, anytime. Question is at what expense and at whose expense.

More on Steve McConnell's books later.


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Sticks, stones and dictionary

He who says, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," has not been hit by a dictionary. - Leo Pennworks

I like quotations. I like them even more when someone takes a nice quotation and mangles it in such a way as to sound funny. Oh, yeah! being hit by a dictionary can be fatal. Especially, by those old ones with hard covers. So, keep only paper back dictionaries :)

"People living in  glass houses should change clothes in the basement." - mangled version of "People living in the glass houses should not throw stones."


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