Bridging the Creativity Strategic Divide

Francophile | MBA | Googler | Zombie Apocalypse Survivor

Oh well this is a first…

I’m blogging from a phone. I think the appropriate format here is to micro-blog. That is what is expected from a phone is it not? A careless thoughtless process by which you tweet about how your day is going and show off that new selfie or do up your nails and instagram them.
I jest of course. I love twitter and instagram. Its only tumblr and pinterest that I take real issue with because while I do like them as time sinks browsing an endless stream… But I always feel incomplete after doing so.

1. Its endless and
2. Maybe 5% is original and the rest is just reblogs and reshares.

They are our cultures greatest enablers of plagiarism. And twitter? Oh that is just as bad.

But getting back to where I started from… I’m blogging from a phone. A Nexus 5 currently playing the new, well, the new-ish ‘She & Him’ album while I try and decide if Zooey Deschanel has a perpetual sore throat or is this her signature sound. I feel I’m transported to the 60s listening to her album and that makes this entire process of using a smart phone to blog so surreal.

Be that as it may… I still need to talk about what has been going down and up and anything significant to report in my life… Of which there is unfortunately nothing. Yea I did recently binge watch downtown abbey again and that was a happy weekend.

But lets get this out of the way…

Summary is… My work is good. Exploring android on my phone is good. Reading books has stopped and this is not good. Haven’t really watched any interesting movie, TV show or even documentary that has engaged me which is kinda bad. And finally my blog has been ignored which is unforgivable!!

Let’s not do this again… This listing down things. It reminds me that I in fact do not have it all..
And that is just depressing!

Okay… Heading back to my self directed and starring role of ‘day dreaming presents… the fabulous life’.
Uff that sounded awful. Need to come up with a better title for this movie always playing in my head.

3 months later at the best place to work.

It has been an exciting 3 months since I Joined Google on the 2nd of September 2013. During the arduous interview phase, I had researched Google well enough to write a book. I knew the history, i had read all the important articles (and research papers), I knew about the products and the vision behind it. I had watched Larry Page talk about Moonshots and read Eric Schmidt inspiring book about the digital future (the New Digital Age) I was excited about adding to all of this awesomeness… I was going to be part of Google! But… i did worry that it would be very hard to have an impact. Well, I am happy to report that so far it has been a dream come true. And this is one of those good dreams, the type where you try and go back to sleep just to prolong the dream and hence turn up late for work… not that you could turn up late to work at Google… because there is no designated start time or end time…

And while it is true that having an impact here is going to be a challenge, the scope of my work and the immediate feedback  or connection I have makes this a role like no other. Where else can I directly influence millions if not billions of users? Where else can I have conversations about the future of the internet with the very people who are designing those systems? A day at Google is unlike any other.

Google has been named as the best workplace in Australia.

Work  (if you want to call it that) has given me great opportunities to learn technologies and tools that are easily the best of breed. The engineering talent at Google is second to none and the infrastructure.. more on that later. What I can tell you is that I have seen the sheer scale of Google’s operations and my expression was a lot like that of the cat below when i first realised what I had gotten myself into.

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(you know you have failed as a writer when you need to resort to an image of a cat to get cheap laughs)

The elaborate scientist analogy that will make no sense

I think I should compare myself to a scientist for whom Google is NASA. And this Scientist formerly worked at a high school science lab where he built a model of a solar system to impress students. But now the Scientist is being asked to plan the manned space mission to Neptune. The Scientist knows what Neptune is, but he has no idea how big or how far it is. He also has no idea why everyone else thinks its a piece of cake. SCALE. That’s the hardest thing to get your head around. And you are expected to launch an iterate… ie improve your design after you have launched to Neptune. Famously, Google Search and most early Google products used the same format. Your skills are suddenly meaningless. Your tiny scientist brain (even if you had a Phd) can start to get overwhelmed…  and the talent level of your peers gives you the shivers. You are called… a ‘noogler‘.

You wear a funny hat with a beanie on top. A propellor cap. It is funny. It’s a ritual. It is fun.

Oh btw, I am not a scientist. Also, I don’t have a Phd.

In those first days, you try and get the jargon right. ‘Excuse me, is the BigTable the one in the cafeteria by the window? How am I supposed to flush the BigTable then?’ or better yet, ‘So, if I run MapReduce, I can access Google Maps faster huh?’ Luckily no one laughs at you though I am sure they wonder how I got in. But here I am, jotting down all sorts of commands and hyperlinks that get through the day. At some point you realise that you are the only guy who says, ‘eh. sorry? I didn’t get that’ – a lot. But its OKAY! I’m a Noogler!

While all this talk about work has been great and the people extremely friendly and accomodating, I must confess I have been lucky. Work has not yet taken over my life. Despite my attempts to work my ass off, Google’s distractions have helped kept things engaging and fun. My friends will know that I am committed to learning things really fast and this could very easily be misdiagnosed as a borderline obsession- but… I am also finding time to take breaks and enjoy the distractions that Google throws at you

Distractions

And those distractions are: a million cool projects, a great games room, amazing video’s about all the tech, talented and smart people that lead to interesting conversations, the great free food, the micro-kitchens, the schwag, the massages, the gym and… did i mention the food?

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(this cab mysteriously showed up at work today. No one knows why.)

Here is a list of the top 10 most important things I did once i started….

  • Migrated to Google Apps.
  • Attended TGIF with Larry and Sergey!
  • Learnt some fancy new terms like MapReduce, Big Table… also, uploaded some code to a Google Data Center.
  • Sampled all the free food.
  • Got the Noogler Cap!
  • Set my personal moonshot and 10x goal and am working hard to achieve it.
  • Met all the managers and leads- this is called networking during the MBA… but I think for a change I had fun in those conversations.
  • Presented something to the engineers at MTV- this was a high point.
  • Dogfooded some amazing new products.
  • Changed my email signature to say -Sr. Strategist at Google. And the feeling was EPIC.

So, what is the plan for the next 90 days?

For starters to master my role as fast as possible. I am on the right trajectory, but I want to be nimble and ready to make a course correction when required. I need to also take the feedback fast and often to ensure I have a meaningful impact soon. I also need to work on that new trick shot I have been developing on the foos ball table. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, I need to make time to read, to write and to blog.

But that should change now. (i hope)

TED Talk – Envy, Jealousy and…?

So in my random searches on TED and YouTube, i came across this great TED talk. Funny, deserving of multiple views..

In this talk, Editor for the New York Times book review compares how envy is portrayed in fiction. While we do not seem to fully understand why we feel jealous- in fiction, we see different variations of it. We also see the same in social media- why people share etc.

This talk may make you think a lot about why you covet and why you dislike somebody for what they have. But here is the catch- you only feel envious about someone you can relate it to…  people of the same social economic background. Ie… you feel jealous of your work mates, your neighbors, your (yes!) friends. And this is because you feel entitled to the same prize as your friend because you came so close!! You do not feel jealous that someone won a Noble Prize, but if your neighbor wins an award for the best lawn, you will go on ebay and look for a lawnmower.
So how to be jealous and not be a dick?

Alain de Botton to the rescue. In this talk, Alain describes how to be kinder of your own and other people’s success. He also gives you important tips like 1) dont dislike someone who has a ferrari and 2) never go to your school reunion.

There… so now you have two nice talks to see you through the weekend and hopefully they will get you thinking.

Naturally I have been thinking long and hard about what is it that exists past this realization that we are unfortunately wired to be envious. You could take the routes Parul suggests- ie, become Tom Ripley, murder people and take over their lives OR- the more reasonable suggestion- to read literature where envy plays a central role, to understand it and rejoice that we are in good company.

Or- take the nobler route that Alain de Botton has laid out- which is to not be a snob.

I personally am a fan of the Ripley method, but for now… while my plans are still in their infancy… my enemies are safe.

Dance like nobody’s watching

Right, so when video’s based on this idea started showing up on YouTube- I was hooked. They were dumb. Dumb fun!

In case you are unfamiliar with dance like nobody’s watching, then watch these…

Now I have been kind to you and posted the best ones. Some of the video’s posted on YouTube are best left unwatched.

When this movement started- (yes, it was a movement)… it was limited to a few bloggers. But now, pop music artist Sara Barailles has released a (wonderfu!)l track ‘brave’, where the video uses the same concept. It is as if ‘Dance like nobody’s watching’ suddenly hit mainstream.

This is a good thing.. while I am no dancer, I do like people making a foll of themselves. Arguably, the finished product is actually hilarious and well worth the momentary, if any, embarrassment… but since my sole purpose in life is to judge everyone… I feel my task is fulfilled.

Incidentally, the video is directed by Rashida Jones, the actress from Parks and Recreation which is currently on my ‘to-watch-before=I-die’ list. This is different from a bucket list because that may involve things to do other than watching stuff.

Anyhoo.
Watch those videos. Listen to all the great music and feel free to spaz out and start dancing in a public space.

How to re-imagine Spider Man

To me, Spider Man 2 was, and still remains the best super hero movie of all time. And I have watched the dark knight (a movie which was barely about batman) and the avengers, thor, iron man… you name it. Spider Man 2 wins in my books because Peter Parker is struggling to be the hero he has to be. While many movies talk about a ‘character driven story’, the special effects and explosions seem to drown the impact of that story, but in the case of Spider Man 2, everything was perfect. Alfred Molina as Dock Ock was BRILLIANT. And yes, I pretty much adore that movie.

spider-man 2

Now, we don’t talk about Spider Man 3. We all agree that director Sam Raimi lost the plot on that one. So I was genuinely interested in ‘The Amazing Spider Man’ reboot from last year. I had my worries seeing as the last Spider Man trilogy was barely 10 years old- what was the point of a new origins story? A number of my friends and well, the general media seemed to think the movie was a cash grab and a deliberate attempt to just put something out there so that Sony does not lose the Spider Man license. The story was generic, Emma Stone was wasted… and the entire movie failed to impress. Oh, incase you haven’t determined it as yet… i disliked it.

Now, I watched the movie a while back… but over the course of the last few days, I have been thinking why ‘the amazing spider man’ was so bad. See, the problem is, we now know the story of Spider Man. We know Peter enters a lab and is bit by a spider, we know that his uncle ben is killed and he is indirectly responsible for it… we know that Martin Sheen was trying to say, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ when he said ‘ if anyone’s destined for greatness, it’s you, son. You owe the world your gifts. You just have to figure out how to use them’ …. alright… that was a terrible quote.

spider-man-martin-sheen-sally-field-andrew-garfield

But see what the problem is? We know who Spider Man is too well. Technology hasn’t exactly advanced so much that a new movie is going to blow the audiences away. And all this 3D nonsense, the lesser said about it, the better it is.

So, I was trying to come up with a way to change Spider Man. To hack into Stan Lee’s brain and basically change everything we know about him… but keep the essence. We know Spider Man has to be cool and interesting. You can’t do that by giving him a skateboard and a stutter. The Amazing Spider Man did that and suffers greatly for it! So here is my idea.

1) Ditch New York.

Oh I know, How can you do that? Its New York City! All those sky scrapers are perfect for Spider Man! Well… I’d say move him to the west coast. LA. You Still have sky scrapers and a new setting makes for a fresh start.

2) Ditch the photography

In case you didn’t know… Peter Parker is a photographer when he is not Spider Man. Well, if he is in Hollywood… can’t he be a stunt person? All those super human abilities will make him perfect for it! There you go! New job, and a cool lifestyle. This means you can have a mean director, an agent… the cast of characters expands exponentially!

A stunt job also can explain how Peter can make gadgets and suits for himself.

3) Ditch the radio-active spider

Well, not really. But at least we can now change how he get’s bitten. A movie set, spiders are part of it. There is a small accident. Peter ends up in the hospital… wakes up with super powers. It’s different from the tried and tested format of get bitten, go home, wake up and throw away your glasses.

So… Hollywood. I am not a script writer who gets paid millions of dollars for churning out crappy sequels… but hey, this idea shows promise! So… uh… just call me and we can negotiate the price for Spider Man: Miami or something.

On picking hobbies (Part 3)

Ah, a trilogy of posts… Anyway, this is the conclusion to my epic journey on how I settled on my ultimate hobby. For the uninitiated, the search is documented in part 1 and part 2.

In this final part I discuss the hobby of ‘learning’. Sounds like a ruddy awful thing doesn’t it? The kind of things they lock you up in schools and try and make you do? Well, I was always a bit odd in that sense. I liked to ask questions in class and engage the teachers in a dialogue.

hermione-1

I also, raised my hand a lot, to ask questions and well, because I liked having the answer… A very entertaining moment was in my recent MBA class when I asked my strategy professor a question about  a case study we were discussing. I debated the merits of my argument with great enthusiasm… but, little did my professor know, I had never read the case. (or maybe he did know that) Anyway, the point of that is, I like to learn and discuss new topics. So why not make it a hobby.

See, I didn’t magically arrive at that conclusion after having thought about the previous options in such great detail. If anything, the idea was nurtured organically. Over a period of time while I read about Japanese Shoguns, Astronomy, Philosophy, Ethics, Evolution of Search Engines and programming languages like python… what I was doing when I randomly picked one of these topics was simple- I had decided I wanted to know learn more about this subject area.

astronomy

I do not aspire to master any one of these fields. Sure, i pour hours of my life into Quora and iTunesU… but the purpose is to be a traveller. To get the basics so I may explore any topic I wish to in detail… at a later date. If that sounds vague and uninteresting, well, it is. But reading a wide variety of topics is my substitute for gaining experiences. I wanted to learn about Astronomy because I had spent a few weekends listening to all the TED conferences about space travel and followed that with a course on basic astronomy from iTunesU. I never wanted to go out and buy a Telescope and gaze at the heavens, but the knowledge would fuel my imagination in other ways. Would I be able to think of a new sci-fi book? Would I be able to use what I had been reading about the future of ‘inter-continental’ internet and build new products at my workplace?

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In short, the reason for all this reading is that it could make me a creative thinker. I do not for a moment think that this is easily done. On no! It would take work. it would take all of my spare time and more. There would be sleepless nights when I would hastily finish reading a book and then watch a video summary about some random topic that I wanted to learn about… Maybe I would write about it next and then take a course in coursera to delve deeper. Finally at the end of a weekend, I may sit down and write a program or network with someone who is working in the same space. Reading research papers is not a stupid hobby any more, it could lead to a new role, a new product… This really could be something where time invested gave astounding returns.

And yes, so this ad-hoc approach to learning… won.

Here are some of the sources I would recommend to anyone:

1) Quora, 2) TED, 3) Brain Pickings, 4) iTunes U, 5) Mental Floss, 6) Khan Academy, 7) Hack Design, 8) Coursera, 9) The Atlantic

Making learning the ultimate hobby, the lifetime hobby is perhaps the most sensible decision I ever made. I have noticed improvements in my conversations with others- where I can make insightful observations and humorous anecdotes. But more importantly, It also has made me an excellent ad-hoc researcher and a Google Search expert. I can locate documents I need and try and find information quickly. I can expand both the complexity of my ideas and the scale of their impact. A little imagination can go a long way!

In some ways of course, I cheated. But putting learning as my hobby, I have integrated watching movies/YouTube and reading together. Weren’t they the strong contenders for my free time anyway? Essentially what I have done then, is to curate the content that I read. I have created a system around the chaos that was all of my internet searches and streamlined what I watch, what I read and what I put aside as unimportant. Sure my bookmarks jumped to a whopping 183 links, but they are categorized and it makes my search easier.

Anyway- that’s my hobby- to learn. Right now I am spending time on learning R, a statistical programming language and everything I can about microfinance industry. And, I continue to write!! So… yay!

On picking hobbies (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my epic journey on picking the ultimate hobby. You know, the thing you do in your spare time… and derive satisfaction from… like reading wordpress posts! In Part 1 of the post which can be read here, i discuss how and why I devised a system to rate possible hobbies. They had to meet the tests of 1) regularity and 2) spare time. I then proceeded with rating photography (0/2), Movies (0.5/2) and Reading (0/2) effectively narrowing the race down to 2 contenders- writing & learning. In this post, I will discuss writing and come closer to the epic conclusion to my journey.

Writing:

My take on this: We learn to write at a young age. Oh and I mean write write… you know, past the basic alphabet. Picture a 10 year old. Now picture him/her in english class where they are taught how to write a letter. Well, I don’t have any kids and young people these days probably don’t learn that anymore. Maybe they are taught to write emails. I wouldn’t know- I am not good at interacting with children…

would you look at that? barely 100 words in and I have already gone off track!

But that little piece of writing tells you more about my style than any explanation I can provide. I frequently go off on a tangent and make a remark that bears little relevance to the topic at hand. Is it planned? No. Do I try and change it? No. I merely write without a script. Even when I have a general plan of what a story is going to be like, I prefer to let ideas flow through rather than structure them. (This is likely why my papers at college could easily exceed the word count)

So… I am not a big believer in structure in my writing. Why is this important? Well, the lack of a structure means I can write whenever even if i barely have a topic in mind. The narrative will flow. I am confident! This is literally the opposite of writer’s block.

Writing-My-Novel-Word-Count1

Back when I was little however, I was very fomulaic in my approach. I would do what the teacher said and fail miserably. Write a letter, follow the format. Write and essay… follow a format. All of this was boring- and the few times i excelled was when I went off script. I vividly remember this time in school when I was competing for a speaking competition. Sure I had a paper with a structured response, but when I went up on stage, my mind drew a blank. I had forgotten what I had written. Instead of reading my essay however, I just went through instinct and spoke my mind. I managed to get through the time limit and snag a prize… i also learnt- my lack of structure could be an asset.

In university, I wrote my first ‘story’. I was horrible. Really Horrible! Sorry friends who read it and said it was great. 10 years later, the wiser, more mature me thanks you for not bursting my bubble… but my writing back then was atrocious. It was cliche ridden and had a heap of grammatical errors. It was also never edited… draft number one was the only draft ever! What is impressive however was that I always wrote in short bursts… this is important. I wrote in a span of a weekend… and sometimes just overnight.

As a hobby then, I needn’t really consider writing. I have an active blog, I never have to plan or worry about my content… and in my personal life, i write letters to friends (thanks for suffering through them) that certainly qualify as regular and spare time activities. All my other activities, the searches I do on the internet, the learning, the reading, the music or movies I watch… all of them provide ideas that I later write about. See where this is going?

Writing is already my hobby!

Is Writing the ultimate hobby I was looking for?

Well, this is a point where my 2 tests seem to fail me. Clearly writing scores a 2/2. What could do better? Should I have abandoned my search or abandoned my test?

Note that in my rationale, picking the ultimate hobby was akin to doing the impossible. In my spare time I had to achieve nothing short of a miracle. I wanted success and glory… and fame. Why not dream for the impossible? What was holding me back? And so… if I was to invest in writing… I had to put in the effort. I had to build my characters, think about plotlines… really improve my grammar and perfect my art of story-telling. I wasn’t going to call writing my ‘ultimate hobby’ and then do a half-assed job of it. This was going to be my claim to fame.

Yeah, so the bar was set pretty damn high. Would writing have won? You have probably worked out my answer already. No.

Why writing did not win… right now

Have you all watched the TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert? The link is below… A talk that like really is problem for me. Not that I think Elizabeth Gilbert is ‘creative’ or ‘a genius’… Well, her talk actually asks us to separate the myth from the reality… to accept that creativity is something ineffable. But, deep down, the process that good and great writers go through to achieve that brilliance is daunting. Imagine the effort that writing an excellent novel takes? Months of writing drafts, editing, living your characters? And I don’t even mean epic’s like Game of Thrones or a complex novel like ‘Cloud Atlas’… If you ignore the successful books… how hard is it to write a book that in the end no one reads? How many wannbe writers and script writers are there? Can I, with my write-without-thinking-attitude ever hope to compare?

I certainly do try… there are many failed start’s of what I would consider my best works… where the idea of the story is brilliant  (even if i do say so myself!) and yet the stories have been abandoned. The reason for this has been that I felt I was faking it. There was no way I could write a story of a 9 yr old girl who writes a book called ‘Damn Theory’ and then goes on a road trip across America with her editor- a national hero who saved a plane from a terrorist attack. I feel like a fake because 1) I have never travelled across America and 2) I barely know what a 9 yr old thinks like. Oh, yes, I was 9 once, but i didn’t keep a very good record of what my thoughts were like. Pity I was never a diarist.

travel-the-world-go-somewhere

The answer lies in experiences. In the past 2 years, while I was in Melbourne, Australia pursuing my masters degree in business… a few things happened. 1) I met awesome people from all walks of life I wouldn’t have run into before. 2) I exposed myself to new types of reading and writing. I might say the answer lies in travel, and to an extent that is true… but it also means just meet more people and grow the hell up. I call the years I spent playing video games… ‘my lost decade’ for a reason. I could have done so much more with my life.

This transformed the way I approach my writing now. I still do not need to ‘plan’ my work… a basic concept can easily result in a 100 word essay… but I audit and I do refine my work. I have also decided that this thing that Elizabeth Gilbert calls, the ‘elusive genius’, you can’t fake it. But you can learn to harness it by absorbing the right experiences and living life.

Am I saying writing isn’t my ultimate hobby? Yes.
Someday however, I think I will be able to revisit that and say- I am ready now… let’s take a vacation, got to Paris and work on putting together… a novel. Until then, short bursts of creativity will keep this blog alive… but the search for the ultimate hobby… continues.

Thank’s for reading. The concluding part… tomorrow.

On picking hobbies (Part 1)

Late last year I embarked on a quest to find the ultimate hobby. After rapidly exhausting the options that came to mind, I decided to formulate a system to pick a winner. Here is what I was up to…

I wanted to develop a hobby because people do extra-ordinary things outside of work, some programmers write open source code, others sail across the atlantic… the possibilities are immense. But, you cant just pick something… anything. You need a system You need to start by understanding what a hobby is.

Let’s start by defining the term hobby:

Taken from wikipedia - A hobby is a regularly undertaken activity that is done for pleasure, typically, during one’s leisure time. 

Oxford Dictionary: hobby an activity that you do for pleasure in your spare time

The keywords here are ‘regularly’, ‘spare time’. This actually makes it easy to test and experiment with the candidates. Will I be able to do them in regularity? Will I want to use my spare time doing this? and finally, What will be the impact of that activity on my life? Will it for eg. make me a recluse? (i’m not saying this is a problem btw)

So, I created a short list of stuff I would consider doing. Things like playing sports and collecting stuff never made it to the list. The list was actually, short. 1) Photography, 2) Movies, 3) Reading, 4) Writing, 5) Learning.

Next, I went through these one by one to decide why they would or would not be… my ultimate hobby.

1) Photography:

My take on it: Well, photography lost before I even seriously considered it. This is a time specific skill. You have to be in the moment, have the right camera, the right lighting… its science and art. I love it, but maybe my skills are a little too ad-hoc to really take this on.

My ADHD brain would never be satisfied perfecting this one skill.

bokeh_photography_03

The Tests:

Regularity – No. To take pictures I would want to keep, I would have to travel. I do not see a major change in lifestyle happening anytime soon.

Spare time – No. I wouldn’t feel involved.

Score 0/2

2) Movies:

My take on it: Ah! Movies. The perfect choice? For hours on end I can easily be lost in a mysterious world. And some movies, I could watch again and again. Do not question me as to why I watched ‘Dan in Real Life’, ‘Garden State’, ‘Jerry Maguire” and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ over 20 times. It’s not that these are perfect movies, far from it. Iconic movies may have a line of dialogue, a scene, maybe even a motif that sticks in you mind. This stickyness is probably why so many people like ‘The Godfather’ when I really didn’t get into it… but I digress. While these movies I watched and searched for were by no means perfect, they were right for me.

watching-movies

But in my opinion… movies are an impersonal artform. Watching movies is no hobby just as watching sports isn’t. Apart from eating popcorn and sipping a diet coke, what are you really doing? Stimulating the mind? Eh…

See, for a hobby to be a legitimate and worthy of my spare time… I need to immerse myself in it. I would want to make my own movies, learn about the history of film and find out what technicolor actually means.  But if I simply watch a movie but do not contribute to the art form in any way, what is the point?

The Tests:

Regularity: No – I eventually get around to watching the top rated movies on imdb. The most recent movie I watched however was… ‘The Avengers’, so I may be a little behind

Spare TIme: Yes/No.. I dont know! I can easily spend time on this. I may not want to because I don’t want to just absorb stories and never create anything… but I can surely kill time on movies.

Score 0.5/2

3) Reading:

My take on it: This is a difficult choice. A brainless one on first look, but tricky.

Sometimes, I read a lot and other times, for long periods, I don’t read anything. I read over 24 books within the scope of 3 months between April and June this year. So there, we have a winner right? Let’s pack up and go home… but- wait. Why do I go extended periods without reading?

Let’s start by seeing what I was reading… the books includedincluded- ‘The Autograph Man’, ‘White Teeth’, ‘Rumo’, ‘Blackberry Wine’, ‘Chocolat,’ ‘Mortal Engines’, ‘In the Plex’, ‘The Google way’, ‘Oryx and Crake’, ‘The Blind Assassin’… among others. While reading, I follow my instinct in picking up books. Some were old favourites, others were award winning novels picked solely because of accolades like ‘Booker prize shortlist’ or ‘#1 New York Times Bestseller’… Do not judge a book by the cover they said, but I am usually fooled by marketing and tempted by award winning authors. I do not know what I think this will do… elevate my level of prose? That is after all why i read don’t I? So I may eventually write better.

Reading-a-book-001

Reading as a hobby then, was by far the biggest success. Though it is true that far too many of the books I read this past summer were in fact re-reads… returning to these books after a gap of 1-2 years was like being reacquainted to an old friend. I knew what was coming, but I was surprised and shocked nonetheless. In some cases, like in ‘White Teeth’, the reread meant I enjoyed and understood the novel better. Surely this is the hobby that would win! Here I could uncover the various layers within a book, later research the author and join forums and newsgroups and read what others were talking about. I could contribute to that discussion and I write my own reviews.

I do feel like we have somehow de-romanticized reading by replacing books with kindles. While a kindle may hold many many books and may be a blessing for those who (like me) are separated from their library for extended periods of time… a kindle also makes you miss out on the smell of paper, the hunt for a book in a store and visiting libraries to discover popular books on account of them being the most heavily borrowed. No, the Kindle has simplified all of that…

Okay, back to the point… Reading will not do either I am afraid. My ADHD like desire to read so many things and the (please excuse the use of the acronym) FOMO (fear of missing out) with social media meant I abandon books that do not hold my attention. The book has to earn my time… even my spare time!

The Tests:

Regularity: No.

Spare Time- No. Books really have to fight for my attention.

Score: 0/2 (Surprisingly Zero!)

this concludes part 1 of this post.  I will discuss writing and Learning in part 2….

To be continued.

What I want from Wearable Technology – Star Trek. Of course.

There is Pebble and Google Glass - the two most talked about pieces of wearable tech that I have come across in the past year. The demo for glass simply blows you away as you imagine the possibilities of true hands free communication, collaboration and entertainment. Pebble on the other hand is a neat little gadget that simply puts a smile on your face. With easily downloadable apps for it, Pebble is cute and very ‘in’. And then there is also the next generation wearable tech for your dog. I don’t want to talk about that one. It’s more than a little absurd. But the world is really missing out on what would/could have been the perfect combination of technology aids inspired by none other than… Star trek!

What do you mean Star Trek?

I am of course speaking about Seven of Nine, the borg/human… android/human… okay, i better not try and classify her because Trekkies are going to be up in arms if i get it wrong. For the uninitiated, Seven of Nine was the tertiary adjunct to unimatrix zero one. That’s fancy Star Trek jargon for- ‘she was a robot chic’. During the series Star Trek Voyager, she was converted back to human, but a few parts of her tech remained- making her a prime candidate for inspiration when thinking about wearable tech. And we must admit, she looks rather cool as well.

So, what exactly about Seven of Nine do I want?

1) What’s on her eye? Is it Google Glass – Star Trek Enterprise Edition?

Seven_of_nine

2) The hand. All powerful and cool looking.

Jeri-Ryan-Seven-of-Nine-7-of-9-star-trek-voyager-hand-borg

3) Maybe even the blue eyes- no, that one doesn’t need fancy  technology. Disregard the last.

The bigger picture?

Wearable technology is cool, but we are just starting. Don’t think of it just as a gadgets in isolation, but as an ecosystem. What can Google Glass and Pebble do together? How can my car integrate with Glass? How can my phone, my house security system and gaming console integrate with Glass? Can I have a security camera outside my apartment so I can use glass to view a visitor when I am not at home and let him in? Can I use pebble to send messages to my friends when I am in their vicinity and then use Glass to find them?

Right now, the idea of star trek inspired gadgetry that you wear seems childish. But maybe not so in a few years time. We already have motion controlled gaming devices and 3d devices. Is the Star Trek Holodeck really that far off? The holodeck is a room in Star Trek where you can experience another time, another city and interact with the programmed inhabitants in a hologram.

What would be the impact of the holodeck for education? When children can experience the building of the Eiffel Tower first hand? If people can actually take part in novels and learn about great literature through living them. As absurd as science fiction is… maybe it will all come true one day.

And then there are other uses…

While wearable tech has been seen as a commercial device- its impact in fields like medicine and sports are simply amazing.

Imagine a watch that is able to tell you when you are having a heart attack and sends an email/sms to your doctor?

Or

Imagine clothing that detects when you have pushed your system too far and is able to inform you to not strain your body?

The Ecosystem

For sure in the next few years we will see consumer devices like the watches and spectacles. Clones for Glass are already in the making. But if the iPhone has taught us anything, it is that the owner of the ecosystem for apps that really steals the prize.

The interface for apps on such devices will likely be voice based. We already know Apple is rumored to be working on a watch like device. And with Siri, they may have gathered a lot of data on speech recognition to ensure quality operations. Likewise Google too has the capability (and some would argue) first mover advantage in having gotten Glass out there (in a small scale) It is worrying to note that other companies are still playing catch-up. We have not heard of anything like this from Microsoft for example. Could the next decade then belong to the same two companies who owned the last? Google and Apple? And if so, the million dollar question… who will bag the Star trek license and give me the Seven of Nine hand?!!

Can’t wait.

 

edit: Just read this morning that Microsoft is in fact a player

http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/15/4524286/microsoft-surface-watch-smartwatch-testing-rumors

A Micorsoft Surface Watch. This should be interesting.

Diagon Alley, no longer safe!!

We all know I would be in Slytherin. Lets not be weird about it.

I merely wanted to point out my article in the Daily prophet yesterday. It relates to the recent mapping of Diagon alley on Google Streetview.

http://mashable.com/2013/07/04/diagon-alley-harry-potter-google-maps/?amp%3Butm_source=newsletter

Diagon Alley is no longer safe!!

The wizarding world has been in a right state of uproar these last few days when it came to our notice that a Muggles have managed to breach the previously impenetrable charms placed upon Diagon Alley and posted a unique view of it on their mass communication network called- the internet. The ministry of magic was at first reluctant to provide details, but the sordid state of affairs seems to have left them with egg on their face! With one of our secrets so easily unraveled, the wizarding community is asking- are we ever going to be safe from the muggles?

The first sign of trouble was when earlier last month there were hushed reports that the Accidental Magical reversal Squad being dispatched to Diagon Alley to handle a suspected breach when a group of Muggles wearing what was described as ‘very muggle’ clothing with the words ‘Google’ inscribed on them had chanced upon the Leaky Cauldron. It was later revealed that they had also entered Diagon Alley and taken several pictures. While the barman Tom remains unavailable for questioning, the Daily Prophet was able to gather details from respected citizen Mundungus Fletcher.

‘Yes, came right in they did! Had strange equipment and kept smiling at everyone. I think it was Tom that had let em in in Diagon Alley you know. And these ‘Google’ guys just seemed to be taking pictures’

Mr. Fletcher later recalls he became suspicious when he noticed that the Googler’s didn’t seem to carry wands and the pictures they took had no moving characters. A sure sign that they were muggles.

‘Put me in a right state that did! I suspected they were muggles right from the start see? And then all this nonsense! And now Diagon Alley can be seen by all the Muggles on this internet thing! It should be right off to Azkaban for poor old Tom, betraying our secrets like that. Poor bloke. He was the decent sort. A bit thick in the head if you ask me.”

Muggle expert and the retired head of the department for the misuse of Muggle artifacts office Arthur Weasley commented that the memory charm placed on the Muggle Googlers when they were escorted from the leaky cauldron failed as they were wearing ‘Ray-Bans’ He also said that while the devices they used to take pictures were indeed wiped clean, the pictures were already on the cloud! We have been lax with our security measures! We must not underestimate the Muggles! We must not underestimate Google!’

Ministry officials declined to comment on Mr. Weasley’s accusations. They instead released a comment stating that every precaution shall be taken to prevent such breaches in the future and has urged the public to remain calm.

‘It is our opinion that this is an isolated incident and that the activities of ‘these Google guys’ will not bring about any harm to our way of life’

Are the ministry being naïve? Are they covering something up? The daily prophet, and I, your correspondent Rahul Mishra will continue to investigate!

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