Sunday, January 23, 2011

Super Sad True Love Story- Gary Shteyngart

Interesting title and an interesting author and an interesting canvas- I was intrigued by its title, read its review at Amazon and picked it up instantly. The author of this book is Gary Shteyngart-His other popular works are Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s handbook.

The story revolves around multiple themes but it is predominantly a combination of satire and love story set up in future- Gary spins a satire on the future of our world by taking what is happening currently (capitalism, US dominance, US functional literacy/illiteracy, social networking, gadgets, live-streaming, manual books etc) and elaborating it to a future dystopian state. In that mix, he has cleverly interspersed a love story in an unique manner. I had a feeling that some parts of this book were auto-biographical but cannot validate that with Gary!

We can call this book in whatever genre as I am unable to slot it - That’s what makes it more curious and fun to read! I can call this as a futuristic book, as a romantic book in a different age or a simple satire that extends the current trends in a bizarre manner! The whole story revolves around Lenny Abrahmov and Eunice Park who are the chief protoganists. Lenny, aged 39 works in ‘Post Human Services’ that sells immortality to High Net Worth Individuals and Eunice, aged 24 is a Korean immigrant in the US who has graduated with a major in ‘Images’ and minor in ‘Assertiveness’. Lenny falls for Eunice’s youth and tries everything to ensure that he gets her love. Eunice at the same time, quite aware of Lenny’s age takes him for purely transactional reasons- basically to get a space in his apartment in NY city. Gary has also portrayed a different picture of America in the future where there is an impending war at Venezuela, ARA (American Restorative Authority) taking control and the Chinese Yuan taking over the dollar. Saudi Arabia, Norway and China are the potential takers of America [!]- This was well emphasized in the beginning of the book when Lenny, an American citizen enters US and is being questioned by the Otter!

The whole story is narrated between Lenny’s dairies and Eunice’s IM or social emails to her set of people- So it is almost all the events unfolding from the lens of Lenny and Eunice with two extremes of communication. Lenny on the normal manual diary manner and Eunice on the social networking platform. This style was different and I loved it! Lenny speaks through his dairies which are philosophical or auto-biographical- His point based methodology on life is dreadful and funny; For instance, his Point 3 on ‘loving Eunice’ ,Point 1 on ‘working hard’ for his boss, Joshie and Point 5 on ‘being nice to parents’ bring back the nerd mentality and lack of social maturity in which the world is heading at! Some of the abbreviations used by Eunice in regular conversations are again hilarious viz., TIMATOV (Think I am about to openly vomit), JK (just kidding), TMS (temp motion sickness). There is a clear tinge of immigrant mentality strewn across both Lenny and Eunice character- The part where both of them meet their parents are written very well. The way different cultures especially in a different country collides are clearly seen.

There is also this device called, “apparat” that streams real time data about everything right from credit rating, ranking, worthiness, social interactions with others, likeability etc. This apparat has got a “Rate Me Plus” feature which can rate on multiple parameters on a real-time basis [***-ability 700/800, personality 800/800, */*/* preference 1/3/2]. I was really scared to enter in the dystopian world of Gary but at the time could not resist the fact that there are certain aspects aligning in that manner if you look at the current trends. Personality score depends on how ‘extro’ the person is- and the apparat streams images, multimedia thingy on your childhood, runs on the stuff that the person has downloaded and comes with a score. This is going to be reality for sure- I am sure Mark Zuckerberg must be thinking of it already and we will be using it in the near future!

Lenny and Eunice conversations are really funny- How they respect their families? The old carrot and stick method of parenting? The aspect of Lenny liking ‘physical’ books (I use the term physical here) in a world where your social group thinks that you are ‘nerd’ if you read physical books. Lenny likes to read ‘physical’ books and his rendering/reading of Tolstoy is made fun by Eunice to her friend, Precious Pony. It is not just the fact about Lenny reading the books but the SMELL of the books that irritate the next generation! I don’t know what can Tuna-brain and nerd face, Lenny do to avoid the smell! The conversations between Eunice and her friend Grillbitch a.k.a Precious Pony are page turners- It typically happens in the Global Teens account (facebook in future!)! The way Eunice starts loving Lenny and her ambiguities with Lenny start coming out clearly in her conversations- The satire is visibly coming out there! Fashion Trends are moving in a different direction in the future; (Onionskin jeans)- I don’t want to give a sneak peek here as it will spoil the party when you read the book.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book even though I did not like the ending that much- It could have been better! I loved Gary’s style of writing! Folks who are in social media and are closely following the trends will love this book and the satire!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

MEE-ROI (Meeting ROI)

One of my “tangential” ideas- I hope I can patent this. If anyone has directions on how to patent an idea, please it to me over email. Okay here is the idea for the product!

In the IT services industry, there is a term called, “Global Delivery Model” which is basically doing the IT services in delivery locations which are cost optimal (leveraging the labor arbitrage) and giving a seamless support services for the customer in a 24x7 model. This is also called, “follow the sun” approach. So in a global delivery model, IT service firms will have teams located at multiple locations across the globe servicing the customer. In this context, communication and collaboration are of paramount importance. So how do we communicate? There is a conference bridge number and there is a calendar- We send the invite based on everyone’s convenient time, join the call, discuss things (it can be anything related to customer services or the firm), jot down MOM (minutes of the meeting) and associate action items with respective owners. Every day, millions of conference calls happen across the globe between customers, vendors and suppliers.

Given this backdrop, here comes my idea- It is actually a product. I have named it as MEEROI in short for Meeting-ROI. This product features are as follows:
• Speech to Text conversion
• Jot down Action items and owners
• Automated email to the group based on the bridge id or passcode
• Calculate the number of people who have joined the call based on the beep and their names
• Populate their base compensation rate by the hour and calculate the burn rate in $$ for that particular meeting/conference call
• Finally give the figure for the “$$” value of the meetings/conference calls

Of course this is the tangible part and there are intangible aspects for a conference call for a meeting. Purists will argue that this will defy the purpose of a meeting or a conference call. That is beyond the scope of this product on how and where to use it. I think, it is important to understand how much we “spend” on meetings. I am not advocating actions or decisions based on this data- I am just talking purely from a base-lining perspective as today we spend insane amount of time on “meetings”.

This product can also capture “value added” time and “non value added” time based on how we define value and an associated cost. The cool thing is the fact that we know before-hand how much we are going to burn and that’s a great part!

The target market for this product to begin with would be the IT services firm which engage in servicing off-shoring and outsourcing work. Over time, it can be combined with big telecommunication majors as one of the freebie. This product is also good for all firms that are looking at cutting costs on just meetings!

I don’t know whether this product exists today but this idea occurred to me and I am blogging it. If it does not exist, this blog post is my copy right!  If it does exist, please ignore this post.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Running and Chasing your Goals!

There is an inherent philosophy in RUNNING and lot of people have written books around it [ quite notable is the one written by Haruki Murakami which is more of a memoir and the title of the book is, “what I talk about when I talk about RUNNING”]. Somerset Maugham has told that in every shave, there is a philosophy and so does Haruki Murakami, who says that there is a philosophy in doing mundane activity in a diligent manner. (On a side note, Haruki Murakami sold his own jazz bar lock, stock and barrel and took to serious writing; to keep himself fit, he took to active running- He is author of several books that have been translated in to 42 languages and he has participated in almost all of the international marathons across the world )

I don’t have the courage or the diligence to write a book on “running” but I certainly wanted to write a blogpost on this for a while- So here it is! In my usual style, I love, “connecting the dots” and “associating” things- My association right now for this blog post will be on “running” and “chasing our goals” in life, career choices/decisions!!

Haruki Murakami says that a serious runner ought to cover 6 miles a week, 6 days a week- This amounts to around 36 miles a week or 156 miles a month which is apparently his standard for serious running. I definitely don’t fit in the category of a “serious runner” today but certainly will be able to do it someday as I am aspiring for a marathon sometime. It is definitely there in my “bucket list” to cover atleast 10-15 world marathons in my life time and my inspiration is Haruki Murakami quite naturally!

I have been running for around a year for at least 45 minutes to 60 minutes on alternate days - Going by the standard for serious runners which is around 156 miles a month; any normal kid will tell that I am nowhere near serious running. I will reach this golden standard someday.

Coming to the central theme of this blogpost, when you run in a treadmill say for 1 hour or more, you get these mind-related breaks at 10 mins, 20 mins, 30 mins and at 45 mins respectively. It can vary from individuals to individuals but I do get these mind-breaks at every variation.

What I mean by mind-breaks are the following:
  • Stop the treadmill and walk…
  • Decrease the speed?
  • This music sucks and why don’t we have separate musicians for runners!!
  • Why are you taking this pain?
  • What do I need to do in work differently?
  • Void thoughts- Blank vaccum state
  • I need to change my shoes- Nike air is not that great!
  • I can spend this time in something meaningful?
  • This is really boring as running does not make you cool?
  • Depending on the day, some other “weird” thoughts comeby which I cannot categorize here but definitely valid ones! :-)

These mind-breaks take a cyclical route every 10 mins, 20 mins, 30 mins and 45 mins- The urge to stop the treadmill is very serious and most of the times, I stop around 48-50 minutes. There have been somedays where I have pushed beyond 1 hour.

As anyone who has ran, the key to running is the synchronization between lung, heart, mind and your legs- This synchronization can be broken very easily by mind-breaks. Mind plays a major role in running and after 45 minutes, you tend to become a sort of “robot” where you will have the pain; but still you can go on and on without much of hassles. You will be sort of robotized and You will be in the “zone” during that time and your mind will be in a sort of blank state but you got to keep at it to close it. I think this is where I draw the parallel between “chasing your goals”- Most of the times, we tend to chase like how we tend to run. Before we reach the “zone” state in running, we give up and the same state more or less applies to our goals as well. I am not generalizing this for everything but most of the time, this is similar. The goals then fizzle out because reaching 90% of your goals is actually easy; it’s the last 10% that will kill you. For finishing the last 10%, you have to be in the “zone” state. The urge to stop or break away before reaching the “zone” is tremendous. You can actually correlate this to some goal that you had in mind and have actually completed to your satisfaction [you don’t need to be a runner to visualize the parallel]. Do you agree?

There have been numerous occasions where I have been pushed by my mind to stop after 1 hour of continual running [even after reaching the zone]. I feel the same is applicable for all of our goals; big or small. We reach to around 90% of our goals but have been pushed by mind either to abort it or sort of half-close it and call it as full closure. This does not give you the full satisfaction as you know internally that you have not achieved it to the fullest satisfaction. The joy of completing a goal to your satisfaction is awesome and this feeling will never keep your goals open-ended. Similarly, I am sure the joy of completing a marathon or a half marathon is a great feeling or even a run for fixed amount of time (based on your capability)- And it’s like talking with your mind and taking control of it.

I have always found that we complete 90% of a goal that has been set by ourselves and then in the last 10%, we give up. This is exactly the scenario in running which is amply evident than any other sport because in running, you set the goals for yourself. You are never in competition in running- The competition is yourself! The same is applicable for your goals!

Think about it?

Disclaimer PS: If a serious runner reads my blog, s/he will sure have different perspective. This is a perspective of a rookie runner who is aspiring for serious running!