Monday, June 23, 2008

Track Your Goals

I came across a nice little website today - Joe's Goals - that lets you track your short term goals on a daily basis. You can add as many goals as you want and assign points to them. For example, one of the goals can be Workout with +4. Another one - Work Late with -5. If you end up working late and exercising, you end up with -1 on the day. I love this concept and I want to make this a daily habit.

Goals that I started off with:
- Update Blog +5
- 40 pushups +3
- Google Reader +1
- Read a book +1
- Compliment someone and mean it +1
- Watch a movie +10
- Out of office before 6PM +6
- Bite Nails -4
- In office after 7PM -4

I am +1 on the day so far. Check it out and improve your life.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Zen # 2

..."That attitude is not hard to come to. You go through a heavy industrial area of a large city and there it all is, the technology. In front of it are high barbed-wire fences, locked gates, signs saying NO TRESPASSING, and beyond, through sooty air, you see ugly strange shapes of metal and brick whose purpose is unknown, and whose masters you will never see. What it's for you don't know, and why it's there, there's no one to tell, and so all you can feel is alienated, estranged, as though you didn't belong there. Who owns and understands this doesn't want you around. All this technology has somehow made you a stranger in your own land. Its very shape and appearance and mysteriousness say, "Get out." You know there's an explanation for all this somewhere and what it's doing undoubtedly serves mankind in some indirect way but that isn't what you see. What you see is the NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT signs and not anything serving people but little people, like ants, serving these strange, incomprehensible shapes. And you think, even if I were a part of this, even if I were not a stranger, I would be just another ant serving the shapes. So the final feeling is hostile"...

I have felt this way!

Crack the GMAT - 770

This is a post I made on beatthegmat forum last year (after receiving my GMAT score). I have had some friends ask me questions about preparation, strategy etc ... so I am reposting it here. Please remember that this is a strategy that worked for me, you need to come up with your own plan to crack the GMAT. Here it goes:

Percentile: 99%
Quant: 50
Verbal: 46
AWA: 5.0

Needless to say, I am thrilled about my score. My prep was based entirely on material that I downloaded online from Beat the GMAT as well as few other places. I did a diagnostic test in the beginning of April and scored a 680 on it. I realized that the majority of the mistakes that I committed were in Sentence Correction and Data Sufficiency. There is this rumor that your exam score will be 10% less than the score on your practice tests (due to nerves etc). I realized it is bullshit :)

I used Sahil, Spidey SC notes which did wonders. I think the biggest single leap that I took towards a better score came when I read about the 2/3 split. It simplified things a lot for me. I used the Gmatter software to complete the SC bin from the OG. I rarely made mistakes in CR and RC, so I did not spend much time on those sections. Practice was the key to improving my accuracy in Sentence Correction.

I have a background in engineering and I always considered math to be one of my strengths. However, I was not used to Data Sufficiency questions. The "AD or BCE" strategy helped minimize my errors in that section. Most of the time that I spent preparing was spent on verbal.

I did not practice this one at all. I just hope to get something close to a 5 on it. I ran out of time while analyzing the issue. I felt good about my response to the argument section. In retrospect, I must have written at least one timed essay prior to test day.

Test Day:
I scheduled my appointment for 12:30 and got to the center at 12. I began my test almost immediately. I have read a few posts in this forum complaining about the scratch pad, but I had no problems with it. I timed the AWA-Argument part perfectly. I ran out of time while analyzing the Issue and that led to a shaky conclusion paragraph. I cant wait to find out what I scored.
I took advantage of all the breaks available. I walked out of the test room, drank some water and relaxed for a few minutes before going back in.

My advice to test takers:
- Identify your weaknesses ASAP. It was not enough for me to realize that I had trouble with SC. I analyzed my mistakes and found the exact format of questions that were confounding me.
- Print out the flash cards available on this site and make sure you know them at the back of your head. I cant tell you how much they helped.
- Have fun while preparing.
- Stay relaxed during the test.
- Figure out what works for you and don't change a thing during the test. In the practice tests, I always finished the math section with 10+ minutes to spare. I did the same during the test.

I did not buy a single GMAT book. All my preparation was based off of downloads from beatthegmat forum.

My Scores during Prep:
Gmatprep 1: 740
Gmatprep 2: 740
Retired Test 1: 680
Retired Test 2: 710
Retired Test 3: 740
Retired Test 4: 730
Retired Test 5: 720
GMAT Score: 770

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zen #1

...."You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness." ....

It is so true - all of it. When I think back, there have been plenty of places that I have been to in a car but I do not have any recollection of the journey. This does not happen when you are on a motorcycle. One of my favorite trips in the last few years is Goa in Jul 2007. What made it so special was that I rented a bike and went around all of Coastal Goa. We drove those bikes for abt 300kms in a couple of days. Now, almost one year later, I still remember the whole journey - the narrow roads that wind through lush fields, the tea stalls where we hid from the rain, the abandoned forts that we drove by, the markets, everything.

While booking a vacation, my friends prefer to have a detailed itinerary and be chauffeured from place to place. What they don't realize is that a vacation is not meant to be like a visit to an art gallery - see Exhibit A and move on to Exhibit B and record your memories in snapshots. I would advice them to create vague itineraries and improvise as they go along. A vacation is meant to provide you with a moving reel of fond memories of not only the destinations, but also of the journey - because sometimes it is better to travel, than to arrive.

Note to self - Travel on a bike whenever possible.

Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance

While waiting for a delayed flight at the airport, I picked up a copy of "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. I had listened to the audio version of this book a couple of years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and it made my drive to and from work the highlight of many of my days. On some occasions, I was glad I lived in Los Angeles, so that I can be stuck in the crazy traffic and listen to this book. However, the problem with audio books is that you are forced to go at the pace of the narrator.

I have started marking down my favorite passages from his "Chautauqua" - a traveling tale. I will try to post them here ... along with my thoughts on them in the coming days/ weeks :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Links of the day

1) Am I on MySpace? extension for Firefox - Alerts you if you accidently stumble onto, and take you back to the site you came from.

2) Consulting Wisdom - Something for my friends in various consulting companies. It actually has some good points.

3) Google News - Good News - Too good to be true - quite literally. Eg: "China withdraws from Tibet, with Apologies"

4) Mind blowing Photographs of the world - Now I am waiting for technology that will enable me to jump into them. One of my favorite sites really.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cool Links

Here are some of the pages I came across today that I found interesting:

1) Why do men have breasts? Turns out there is more to it than "coz we can"

2) Where do I find the most beautiful girls in the world? Turns out it is in Sweden. This article needs way more pics. A slide show will be a lot more effective than boring text.

3) College Life - I am convinced that sketch in the gif is ME!

4) Airfare adjusted according to your weight - Great concept! (at least till I get fat). Too bad it will never take off.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Future of this blog

I have spent portions of the last couple of days imagining the future of this blog. I see this as not just a medium for me to inform the readers about my ideas, but I want to learn from every one in my audience, however big or small. So, I want to present my thoughts and get your feedback/ comments on them. This is a common thread across all of the most successful blogs ... and for very good reasons.

I think a good exercise for new bloggers on the block is visit the archives of the highly successful blogs that we encounter today. They hold a wealth of information and ideas about the evolution of a blog. The archives of Kottke, Marginal Revolution etc are excellent resources at the disposal of bloggers.

Oil Pricing in India

The Govt. of India increased the price of gasoline and diesel by 10%. This was met with protests across the country that hampered the normal life. The Government controls the price of oil in India as a means to control the inflation in the economy (which currently stands close to 8%).

The Govt. was losing close to Rs.20,000 crores ($50 bil) due to the subsidy in gas prices. The increase of 10% will help cut the loss by Rs.4,000 crores ($10 bil). When the price of gas is set to a certain amount and the global price of oil increases, the subsidy amount rises with it. Hence, the loss incurred by the Govt. fluctuates with the changes in global gas price.

I propose that the Govt. should decide how much it wants to spend in subsidizing oil in a year and stick to that amount. This amount can be adjusted for inflation in a timely manner. Transfer any changes in the global oil prices to the consumers instead of absorbing them. For example, if the Govt. decides to allocate Rs. 15k crores ($40 bil) towards subsidy and the global oil price rises, do not alter this subsidy amount and transfer the hike to the consumers. Do the same when the prices dip. Let this pricing be handled by the oil companies with minimum intervention from the Government at any level. There should be oversight to ensure that the interests of the people are protected, but the intervention should be limited to a minimum. What is the big deal in letting prices fluctuate daily?

I see many advantages in taking up this approach. Firstly, the incentive/ punishment is shifted more closely to where it belongs. After all, it is the consumption by the people that is causing this fluctuation in global price of oil and with this change, they will be the first ones to experience the result of their own habits. It will increase awareness about the global supply of oil in Indian consumers, which I find is sorely lacking. It will reduce the "Bandhs" that are called upon whenever the Govt. increases the oil prices. I could not find the total economic cost of these bandhs, but I would estimate it to be quite high. This approach will curb the losses of the Government and also keep the National deficit in check.

There are some drawbacks to this approach. The Govt. will lose a significant weapon that it uses to control inflation in the economy - price of oil. However, I am convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Incredibly Beautiful Sikkim

Rivers flow at my feet
A cool mist engulfs my chest
I stand, surrounded by breathtaking beauty
With my eyes focussed on mountains that reach for the sky

Sikkim in general and North Sikkim in particular is a land of incredible natural beauty. As you are driving towards your destination, you see a gorgeous waterfall at every turn. A pristine lake wherever there is space for water to gather. Wherever you turn, every inch of the available land is covered by trees and brush. You can see clouds rolling into the valleys through the passes in the mountains. It was every bit the paradise that I imagined it would be.

The sight of Lake Gurudongmar is one of the most amazing sights that I have seen till date. A crystal blue lake located in the middle of a high desert at an altitude of 17800 feet above sea level. A place so queit, so tranquil, that you can hear yourself breathing and your heart beating. It is truly a landscape from a dream. On three sides, it is surrounded by barren land of high desert. On the fourth, it has two snow-covered peaks (named Raja and Rani) with a glacier that feeds into the lake. I stand corrected, even dreams are not this beautiful. It was sheer bliss.

The cattle sheds in little towns of Lachen and Lachung have better views than million dollar penthouses in the metros of India. I was standing at the base of towering peaks in Yumthang valley when I asked a local for the names of the mountains that I see around me. I was surprised to find out that most of them did not have any names. Only the tallest ones did. The parallel to our life ... only the most successful get noticed.

My description of Sikkim would not be complete without mentioning the people that inhabit this paradise. I have not met a population that is nicer or more peaceful. There was a genuine niceness in these folks that could not be missed. It was apparent in our driver/ guide who took care of us like he was our dad. It was in the little kid who walked me to the local phone in Lachen. The people were a lot more courteous and genuine. Most of us believe that quality of life lies in the material possessions that we have which make our tasks simpler, but does it really? I believe the people around you are the biggest determinant in assessing your quality of life. For this reason, I honestly believe that the quality of life in Sikkim is far superior to the one I lead in Hyderabad.

Sikkim is easily missed on a larger map of India. However if measured in terms of beauty per square kilometer (if it is possible to rate), I doubt there is a place on Earth that is better. In the 5 days that I spent there, it felt like I was barely scraping the surface in terms of what is to be seen. Yet, I have returned with memories that will last a lifetime.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Good luck to me

It has been my intention to start a blog for quite sometime now. You know what they say - The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.
So here I am with my own blog. At this moment I don't have a clear idea of what this blog will be like, but I can promise one thing - Just like I do, it will also change with time.