Sunday, November 26, 2006


I am happy that I finally got my ticket to India. This is special because none of my travel agents could get tickets and the only one to get cheated me on the itinerary. Its a market in itself and I was taken for a fool just like an investment bank would have but instead it was a travel agency.

Instead, I found a ticket for myself using my own methods, close to my budget ( this is the most expensive ticket I have ever paid to India) and on my own terms. I am excited either way because I am looking forward eagerly to it.

On another front I am happy to hear the words "Lets Party!"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving and all that horror!

Come to think of Thanksgiving as a holiday, it is virtually unknown outside of US. Originally founded as a way to thank god and the Indians for giving the land, now it retains a scope far bigger than it was et to be. And after 7 years of my stay, I was finally invited to a true turkey and ham lunch. The week before was quite rocky with a customer handing over my ass to me in my hands, a good relaxation session with folks in the east coast followed up by a friendly reunion with my old employer. The last week was even outrageous considering I picked up a fight in the bar and drank myself to glory. Co-workers tell me my cuss word frequency has increased and that I was displaying aggression uncharacteristic of me.

All in all, it took me an year to my current stint to earn a respect as a "man" enough in the firm that I am now on the invite list to 2 of the celebrated parties in the bay area. Previously, I was a supposed to be a geek (literal definition a carnival performer who does disgusting acts) whose job was to turn shit into something sellable and once you had enough produce turned into gold, I presume you naturally get invited. My thanksgiving lunch was supposed to be a warm-up for the upcoming christmas and other parties.

Where do I start? The even kickstarted at 2:00 pm when my gracious host enquired about my poison of choice to which I responded Beer. We then deep fried a duck (in a nice stainless steel canister fueled by a propane gas tank) while we waited for other guests to arrive. One was a wealthy old man who changed his houses more often than his cars. Then a lady in VW Eos appeared. As a conversation starter I enquired as to where she worked, to which, promptly came the response that she was laid off. Err.Umm. She also bought a condo and this new car just 15 days before. I moved on to other topics.

Later, we were followed by a true blue American couple, call then D and T. Now T was an admirable personality who always complimented his wife D and seemed like the party was on its way to start. The view from my hosts' deck was fabulous with Mountains (and Mountain Lions, I was to discover) and the city traffic flowing like blood corpuscles to and fro. Overall, it was a nice view to soak yourself into with a Martini (which is what I promptly did).

We were ushered into this dining room shortly where the lunch was supposed to commence and I was struck by the formality of the process. Silverware and table laid out for a 4 course meal. The background was a huge painting of Eiffel Tower with photographs at its different phases of construction. The other end was a transparent view of the hillocks and the lake nearby. Absolutely perfect to be lunching in such a nice ambient "french-looking" room. We sliced our ham and ate our turkey with rejoice. Finished the meal with a nice cognac and some cigars in the lounge. Now, comes the dreadful talk of civilized men. Well, after such a hearty lunch its easy to forgive most things in the world and probably T knew this because he brought up the distasteful subject of politics . We politely nullified him by hijacking the subject to that of Wines and opening the cork of a 1995 Silver Oak Cab. Very nice I must say. The wining and chatting continued and more progressively the subjects grew distasteful.

By 8:00 pm I knew the precise psychological moment when I should be hitting the hay and lied down on the couch without much ado. I woke up around 9:40 pm when I heard a strange sound thats was polluting the nice background streaming music being rendered out of an iPod. I saw this VW Eos woman sobbing right next to my couch. Instead of asking whats wrong, I asked her if she cared for smoke. She said yea and we headed to the deck to get our nicotine fixed. Then she started sobbing more and I pointed this would dilute the nicotine fix. I wanted to know her sob story in exactly one sentence. She said she broke up this Monday, lost a job on Tuesday and has bills to pay. Phew! Straight out of a horror movie. Also seemed to have a insecurities regarding her age as she tried cover it up by saying "there is no such thing as too old" to which I retorted, "No, There is.." The the conversation went something like this

She: Shut Up. You are the youngest one here and its better you keep
Me: Okay.
She: Smoking is very bad for your health.
Me: Uh Oh!
S: My mother died of lung cancer even without smoking
M: Too bad, Just as one prefers to be loved and lost than to be lost
forever, so I would prefer to be smoking and then getting a cancer rather simply
contract the wretched disease

[she stubs out the cigarette as she isnt in a morally superior position
lecturing about the ill while doing the same herself]

S: I stubbed it so that I can resume my anti-smoking spiel.
M: Pray Continue (while I finish my stub..)
S: Its disgusting that you choose to smoke first thing after you wake
M: Your pont being..
S: [Blah Blah..Yadda Yadda]
M: Okay, if I were to do this waking up routing differently what should be
a normal person be sayin to you after he wakes up?
S: For one, have sex with me
M: [Ogling for the lack of better expression]
S: Then the second best thing would be to have coffee
M: Ok. I saw a fine Italian made espresso machine thats glinting by the side of
the kitchen. Let me make you some while I make one for myself.

So the caffeine fixed one awkward part of this party and I joined the mainstream audience at the same dinner table. People were more visibly agitated, drunk and were quite having fun. In a party there are never good or bad people, simply charming or boring folks. I steered my way to my appointed place and started sipping my steaming coffee. Remember the american couple T and D, of which the woman D started speaking about mountain lions and boars in the area. Her hubbie T narrates an incident when they were swimming naked and a wild boar was in the way to their home from the shore. I steered clear of comments (trust me, I know these moments where one needs to be silent) and chatted heartily with the old fella about things indian (like the taj mahal, lack of white lane markers on the road and other standard issue things) . D stares at me and starts the following conversation

D: So you are from India
Me: Proudly So.
D: I like your accent
Me: Thanks
D: How long is your [beep]

I was stultified at this question being asked across a dinner table in the presence of her drunk husband along with other inebriated folks who were trying to do their best to reduce the number of bottles in the cellar. Luckily, my host understood my aggravated situation and mediated to change the subject to more palatable topics. But then, he underestimated the persistence of this woman. She claimed curiosity to be the driving factor at which point I wanted to tell her that for normally distributed population these are the confidence intervals for this mean but that would be too much.

Later, after another round quick turkey burgers to fill up our tummies, D decided to launch the second attack on a different front this time.

D: Are you a virgin?
D: Great! I respect your for that and Trust me its gonna be a lot of
M: Duh! Err! Umm! TaaDaa!

Now D's husband takes an active interest in the future direction this talk should bear and makes this comment that he was playing with GI Joes when D was getting bored and decided to do something for fun. Then, I decided was the right time to call it a day. Thanked my host for having me and treating to some of the best wines. I drove off, thinking about a lot many things with the way these guys defined their lives. There used to be something that the jewish called "covenant" between folks that guided them to do some decent things be it in their marriage,co-worker or friend. Its very easy to break one and I see that guys who break one can easily break another whereas guys who keep one tend to keep most of theirs. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fame's Penny-Trumpet

Blow, blow your trumpets till they crack,
Ye little men of little souls!
And bid them huddle at your back -
Gold-sucking leeches, shoals on shoals!

Fill all the air with hungry wails -
"Reward us, ere we think or write!
Without your Gold mere Knowledge fails
To sate the swinish appetite!"

And, where great Plato paced serene,
Or Newton paused with wistful eye,
Rush to the chace with hoofs unclean
And Babel-clamour of the sty

Be yours the pay: be theirs the praise:
We will not rob them of their due,
Nor vex the ghosts of other days
By naming them along with you.

They sought and found undying fame:
They toiled not for reward nor thanks:
Their cheeks are hot with honest shame
For you, the modern mountebanks!

Who preach of Justice - plead with tears
That Love and Mercy should abound -
While marking with complacent ears
The moaning of some tortured hound:

Who prate of Wisdom - nay, forbear,
Lest Wisdom turn on you in wrath,
Trampling, with heel that will not spare,
The vermin that beset her path!

Go, throng each other's drawing-rooms,
Ye idols of a petty clique:
Strut your brief hour in borrowed plumes,
And make your penny-trumpets squeak.

Deck your dull talk with pilfered shreds
Of learning from a nobler time,
And oil each other's little heads
With mutual Flattery's golden slime:

And when the topmost height ye gain,
And stand in Glory's ether clear,
And grasp the prize of all your pain -
So many hundred pounds a year -

Then let Fame's banner be unfurled!
Sing Paeans for a victory won!
Ye tapers, that would light the world,
And cast a shadow on the Sun -

Who still shall pour His rays sublime,
One crystal flood, from East to West,
When YE have burned your little time
And feebly flickered into rest!

-Lewis Carroll

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Recruit

I have been on a hunt to recruit the best fella I can find for my team. I have been on the other side of the fence but never realized that hiring someone was such a hard thing. Its hard because its not simply like selling a product or asking to team up with us, its hard because I am asking some individual to bet some of his life years in my organization. Scary type of an evangelism if you are a like me where you have your own doubts.Finally I hired a person who started today.

I always had a philosophy that if you recruit someone who isnt a fit its always a mistake of the folks who employs the person, not the person himself. This was the first recruitment I have done in my career and it took me 6 months to find this new candidate. The upside was for the first time I got a thumbs up from all 9 people I had him interview with.

Its interesting that this fellow has his bachelors' in environmental affairs but yet I voted him to know enough abour internet performance analytics given. I am betting on "diamond in the rough" philo here but then bets can go either way and the blame would be on me. My pipeline was almost empty for weeks and the qualifications I was looking for were rare enough that not enough people were in the pipeline to be interviewed and the right ones were already working. If I have such a hard time hiring in the valley, I wonder how folks back in India are hiring in droves while maintaining some semblance of quality/relevance.

Mostly the recruiters dont have a clue and try to make their number by sending in unwashed masses.Once ina while you get lucky and get a good one. I usually dont look too deep into resumes or ask them trivia questions like syntax or features based on a version. Similarly I dont like companies that ask them because it tells me about their standards.I usually ask my prospects to describe whats cool, why things work they way they are now, how they envision the future and finally the limitations of the well known tools (if you dont know the limitations of a popular tool you havent worked extensively enough). I am looking for signs of acuity, insight and understanding.Then I look for qualities like passion and integrity. Passion is neccesary because majority of folks at companies other than startups dont care about their work and it shows on the product (if you dont believe me take the counter example of Apple) plus it is easy to motivate people with passion. Integrity is important because your investment in the candidate would be well worth it apart from it being an infectious quality of making things right.

This exerscise tells me that I have to be on the lookout for the top talent all the time and not neccesarily when I have a vacancy because they are not neccesarily in the market when I want them, so I have to be hiring them when they want to move. In fact, I was literally begging a UC Berkeley grad working for another monster company to join us.

My final objective with this person is that I can take a long vacation and no one in my firm should remember my name in any context when I am on my vacation. We shall see if that happens for this christmas...