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Am I an iPhonetard?

Every Fall, the tech world starts to get excited about the arrival of the new iPhones. Loyal Apple fans gather on one side of the ring and the Apple haters on the other side, ready to fight with gloves off. At this time, I often wonder if I am an iPhone-tard or just someone who is hooked into the Apple ecosystem, unable to get out. This year, I was particularly excited about the new lineup because there were rumors of the new screen sizes including a 5.5 inch phablet. I was reading all the rumor-mills, waiting for all the key dates and generally very excited about this new iPhone. I then started to wonder, have I become an iPhonetard? As I reflect back, I think I was unknowingly put through a series of tests that would help me determine if I was an iPhonetard or not.

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Technology and the Tendulkar Era

Technology and the Tendulkar Era

With Sachin Tendulkar having turned 40 (the big 4 O) a few days ago and, numerous articles have been written about his remarkable career. I am a fan of this great cricketer but perhaps not a super-fan like many others who know every statistic and nitty gritty detail. Having lived in Bombay, I was able follow his career from early on due his records set in the Harris Sheild and Giles Shield tournaments. He made his debut back in 1989 at the young age of 16 years and 205 days against India's arch-rival Pakistan in Karachi and announced his retirement from ODI at the end of 2012.

As I was reminiscing about his career, I felt the desire to write something but any article on his stats, career, style and achievements had already been written. Perhaps it in the geek in me that felt I should write an article about how technological advancements in the 24 years since his international debut back, helped me follow his career. So here is my geeky look back at technology and the Tendulkar era.

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Pet Peeves : Wear Your Seat Belts and Helmets Please

We were not done with our New Year's wishes, when we were confronted with the news that my 14 year old cousin had died from head injuries resulting from a bike accident in India. 14 years old, alive and bubbly one day and gone the next. Could a helmet have saved his life? Probably yes. One of my pet peeves is around the use of seat belts and helmets. There are so many people I come across every day who are so callous about their use (or non-use) of seat belts and helmets, its quite shameful. One of my earliest memories was the death of a friend, who died from head injuries at 18. The image of a dead body covered in a white cloth with blood stains on the head is an image that still gives me the goodbumps.

The bottom line is that seat belts and helmets save lives and I was fortunate enough to have first-hand experience where a seat belt saved my father's life. In 1990, there was a plane crash of an Airbus A320 in Bangalore, when an Indian Airlines flight crashed into a swamp just as it approached the runway. The plane caught fire and roughly 100 of the 130 people on board died. My father was on that flight and survived that crash. Yes, he was able to live only because of this little thing called the Seat Belt. The seat belt saved his life and he only got bruised because he hit hit face and legs with the seat in-front. He went on to live a normal life for another 8 years before he passed away. 8 years that made a huge difference to our family and 8 years that I am very thankful for.  

I really find it strange when people refuse to wear seat belts especially for situations belows
  • This is such a common trend in India where many people remove their seat belts seconds after the plane touches the ground. This is one of the most dangerous times because if the plane hits the brakes, you will get tossed. Also, where are you going? Can you not wait till the plane stops? Is the seat belt so uncomfortable?
  • Another trend is to remove the seat belt the moment the "Wear Seat Belts" sign is taken off. There are cases where the plane can hit air pockets and drop several meters if if you are not wearing your belts, you can get tossed up and hit your head among other things.
  • Another common practice is for people sitting in the back seat not to wear seats. I don't understand why? I often get asked "Does that law in your state require you to wear a seat belt at the back?". If there is an accident at 70 miles an hour, everyone is in equal danger whether you are in the front or back. The same with helmets, if you are riding at the back, wear a helmet. 
  • Not wearing helmets or seat belts for short distances. Many people think, "Oh, I am just going to the next street...what can happen"? .....well you never know.

If you are still not convinced, take a look at this video and do it for the ones who care for you. If this does not move you and convince you to wear a seat belt then probably not will.



Video is copyright by Susses Safer Roads

If reading this article helps you change you mind and wear a seat belt or helmet, I would feel like I made a difference. Please do wear your seat belt and helmets at all times. If not for yourself, do it for the ones who love you. Wearing your seat belt or helmet is one thing you can control while getting into a vehicle.

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Best Buy's Black Friday Presale Fiasco

 

Best Buy's Black Friday Presale Fiasco      Internet commerce has been around for over a decade and Thanksgiving sales have been around for many years. So, one would have figured that a technology company like Best Buy would be prepared to handle a little something called a pre-sale for its Silver Rewards member. Wrrrrrrrooooooooonggggggg. On Monday, November 19th, just days before Black Friday in the US, Best Buy had a special pre-sale event for its Silver Rewards members. These are loyal members of Best Buy who spend at least $2000/year. These are your high spending VIP customers who you really wanted to impress with a good experience so they would come back on Black Friday and shop some more. Unfortunately for Best Buy, this pre-sale turned out to be quite a disaster especially for customers like me who may not want to shop on their site or even deal with their phone lines.

 

Best Buy had been hyping this sale over the past week with a number of emails about the upcoming pre-sale. They even had a preview on Sunday. With all the preview traffic and email, they should have had an idea of the amount of traffic to expect. The sale kicked off exactly at 11 AM EST. Thanks to the preview, I knew that I wanted to get 3 DVD sets of the Big Bang Theory (yes, I am a geek). I quickly found the items and started adding them to my shopping cart. I must have added 2 items reltively quickly but by the time I got to the 3rd item, the site had slowed down to a crawl. This was all within the first 5 minutes of the pre-sale event starting. I tried to Checkout but the system hung for a while and returned back with an empty cart. Within about 10 minutes the site had crashed and I got the "We were expecting Snow but we got a Blizzard" screen. Awwww, so cute, if this were my child's website but this is Best Buy. You should not only be expecting a Blizzard, you should expect Superstorm Sandy and be prepared for that. Bestbuy.com went down faster than any of the the Kardashian sisters.

They had provided a Silver Member hotline so I decided to call that. After navigating through the phone tree, I was put in the queue only to be rudely disconnected. Seems like the Blizzard hit the phone lines too. I tried calling back but never made it. At this point, I checked Twitter and the FB page and realized that there were many irate customers like me. I tried loading the page every few minutes but kept running into the same "Blizzard" message. About an hour later, the site came back up to some extent but I had trouble adding to my cart. Eventually, I was able to add my 3 DVDs and started checking out when it hit another snag with their tax software. Fortunately, it allowed me to make the payment. It took me about 90 minutes to complete something that I should have been able to do in 5 minutes. I am still unsure the DVDs will arrive in the mail in the next two weeks.

Best Buy is one of the few businesses in the US that sells electronics and has a retail front. In the last few years, with Circuit City and Comp USA shutting down, Best Buy probably survives only because consumers do not have too many options to go to a store and purchase electronic items. They are having a hard time making profits and should do anything to avoid a black-eye or turn away loyal customers. In the age of Cloud Computing and Big Data, is it that hard for a technology company to figure out capacity? After all they have trends for the last so many years on their big sale days.

In the age of social media, they should take advantage and do any damage control, but unfortunately that did not happen either. There was no apology on the Best Buy Facebook page, there was no email from Best Buy and neither a tweet. Ironically, they were promoting Rihanna's new album aptly titled Unapologetic. The reality must be that the Marketing team that handles social media, probably reports to another part of the company and have no idea of this disaster.

They have three days to prepare for Black Friday. If they have the same issues, Black Friday may well turn in Red 2012. Now I understand why folks start camping out 4-5 days in advance, they just don't trust bestbuy.com. I still think they are morons but now perhaps give them some benefit of the doubt.

*On a somewhat funny and related note, there was a headline today that Best Buy provided Romney technology for his campaign. #Winning

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Learning is a Journey, Not a Race

 

Learning is a Journey, Not a Race     

The new school year has just begun in the US and with a few weeks gone by, its time for their first round of evaluations. As a parent of child from the Indian sub-continent, the question that is asked most often by other Desi parents is "How is your kid doing academically?". Its not about how your child is doing overall, its mostly about the academic aspect. I fortunately, have been blessed with a child who demonstrates intelligence at a slightly higher level than most of the students in his school and attends some extra classes called the "Challenge Program". When other parents find that out, their first question is "Will you get him tested and pushed to a higher grade?". My reaction always has been and will continue to be a BIG No!.

 

As someone from the Indian subcontinent, I have found that a large number of my friends and colleagues have falsified birth certificates just so that they could attend school early. I never made much of it but now I wonder Why? What is the mad rush to get your child into school early? Should education be treated as a race? Is it really about intellectual maturity or is there more we should consider before pushing our child to a higher grade? All the questions spin in my head.

If you are parent, you would have realized that a child will change tremendously over the course of 1 year, especially at younger age. A child at 4 is much more mature than at 3 and even when they hit their teens, the maturity year over year is noticable.  In my opinion, a child's maturity needs to be considered in the following  3 areas.

  • Physical Maturity - Physical maturity among young kids changes a lot over the period of 1 year. At age 4 and 5, kids learn to write, kick and throw a ball, swing a bat. Within the period of 1 year, you will see significant improvements in their physical ability. Kids will be bigger and stronger in the space of 1 year. According to the US CDC growth chart, an average boy will grow about 2 inches taller and 4 lbs heavier between the ages of 4 and 5.  Why then would you want to push your child to a higher grade with kids that are physically more mature?
  • Emotional Maturity - Similar to physical maturity is emotional maturity. A child will show great improvement in their emotional maturity in the space of 1 year. A child at age 4 is more attached to their parents, tends to cry more for small reasons, has a hard time separating from their parents. As they reach age 5 & 6, the emotional maturity is much higher. Another aspect of emotional maturity is their ability to think before they act. Younger kids are typically more impulsive and do not have an understanding of their actions. Why then would you want to send your child early to school, when its unlikely they can adjust emotionally?
  • Intellectual Maturity - Last but not the least, the child must demonstrate intellectual maturity. Your child may be a prodigy in one or more areas, perhaps its reading, mathematics or something else. One needs to evaluate if the child is performing at a level higher than just their peers or performing at a level of the next grade. Keeping in mind that there are other kids in the higher grade that also have above average intelligence, your child could fit in the average group for that class. Would you like your child to be average in a higher grade or above average in his or her grade?

If you child is perhaps above average in their class, they may end up being just average in the next grade. In the long run, this may impact the child negatively. They could have been at the front of the pack in their assigned grade but may end of being in the middle of the pack in the grade above. If your child is showing higher levels of maturity in all the areas above and you truly believe that the child needs to move to a higher grade then you should speak to your school.

I am sure many parents may disagree with my views and thats fine. I do see value in pushing the child and driving that sense of competition. I have seen him push himself harder when he does activities (swimming in his case) with bigger kids but I also see him feel a bit down about it when he is unable to compete. He does go through ups and downs but its only in his swim school. I would much rather he undergoes those emotions in a controlled environment for a limited time during the week than to go through it every day at school. The worst thing I would want to ever hear from him is "I hate going to school".

With every passing year, I see so much growth in all levels of maturity in my child that I would never consider pushing him to a higher grade. While he demonstrates a higher intellectual maturity and could perhaps do well in a higher grade, he is very much on average in his physical and emotional maturity. At the end of the day, he is just a regular 6 year old. This reminds me of something someone said to me that always rings true - Learning is a Journey, Not a Race. My journey was slowing down but now that I have a little partner with me, I am back on that journey. Sometimes its down the same old roads, sometimes its down new roads but the journey still remains gratifying. Hope this journey never ends.  

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