Monthly Archives: September 2015

Of destinations and feeds

In An Ambient Future, I had written about how Google was potentially poised for something really interesting because technically, it had things in place to harness mobile, social and sensor data and overlay it with machine learning and AI. An early version of how this data could be surfaced contextually and be shown in an interface would be Google Now, as Christian Hernandez had pointed out. And that was why I was quite surprised and dismayed when I read that most of the team that had been working on Google Now had left!

The larger context though is about content discovery and two possible approaches to it – destination (platform?) and feed. I remember reading Neil Perkin’s post on the subject last year (it’s a fascinating rabbit hole of related reads, you’ve been warned!) and it has had me thinking ever since, especially in recent times, with apps increasingly replacing the traditional website as a destination. So far, the feed largely served as a distribution method to destination, but I believe it is no longer that simple on the web, let alone mobile.  More

The Bungalow

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Whitefield is slowly but surely trying to carve a piece for itself in the eatery map of Bangalore, and one of the latest contributions is The Bungalow Bar & Kitchen. (map, valet parking soon)  Let me take that up one by one. A classy white door leads into a space that totally lives up to the name. A huge hall with a high ceiling and an eclectic mix of seating is what one first notices. Plush leather sofas, bar seating, and high chairs, all of which represent different dining styles, make up the ground floor. A couple of stairways lead to more seating options, including a balcony that overlooks the bar counter. Speaking of the bar, it isn’t open yet, but will be soon. The overall ambiance pretty much demands spirits, (that should have happened by now) and we could immediately imagine two kinds of crowds. The first is the one that will chug down beer, hang around the pool table and be devoted to the gigantic TV screen that can be seen from almost all the tables. The second is the kind that will listen to the soulful jazz and classics that made up the playlist when we visited. Lastly, the kitchen. The spread is not overwhelmingly huge, but the interesting fusion attempts and the seemingly handpicked dishes from various cuisines give one the feeling that it might require several visits to do justice to the menu. That completes the dissection of the name, but the sum of the parts in this case is indeed greater than the whole. The courteous staff, the little technology that allows you to press a button to activate the service staff’s watch and tell him that the table needs attention, the way the space has been done up, all promise to provide an experience that goes beyond the food. Judging by the crowd, Whitefield seems to have taken notice.

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The immortality of time

Thoughts on immortality and its implications on personal and societal aspects of life have long been a favourite subject here. It has also been an area of interest from a philosophical standpoint. For instance, if we could live forever, what would be the relevance of time? Would our current existential questions be rendered irrelevant?  There is also an understanding that it is a process – our lifespans would progressively increase – as we replace our bodies (and later, minds) with mechanisms (augmented human) even more robust than the ones nature gave us.

I found an excellent post on Quartz which dwells on the evolution of time management and makes the point that time management is actually making our lives worse. It also brings up something I had written about recently in the context of work, money and AI – the never ending race for efficiency. The article argues that the idea that managing time would get one back in control is a fantasy that only works in a finite world and that our to-do list is actually like the mythological Hydra!  More


 Jeet Thayil

What a trip! Right from the single sentence prologue that lasts 7 pages which, to me, also gives a clue on how to consume this book – “Do I take a single continuous drag? You can, but then you have to recycle it inside your lungs, better to take short pulls, “How long should I hold it in?… it depends how much nasha you want” In essence, I could have read it in one shot and deconstructed it in my head, or I could consume it languorously and let the author take me through it at his own pace. I chose the latter, trying to keep up with his lucidity and fantasy. I honestly don’t know if I got it all right.

The narrator Dom leaves us soon after the book begins – to Rashid, the owner of an opium den, Dimple, the eunuch who is his ‘kaamvali’, and to a small extent Rumi. (no, just a shortened form of Ramesh) The networks of stories are like waves, probably matching opium induced undulations of the mind. They are continuous, and have similarities – of pain, and a need for belonging and love. But they are unique too, as we watch time pass by – backward and forward – through the perspectives of different characters. The Stoneman references give us an indication of the timeframe the novel is set, but we also get a glimpse of the socio-political scene of China in the 1940s thanks to Mr.Lee. More

The case against cosmic justice

Evolution, as I have already stated sometime back on this blog, is a fascination these days. Fundamentally, I see it as a gigantic A/B testing mechanism operating over large swathes of time, with only one seeming agenda – moving on. A lot of things make immense sense when I accept that as the only framework. Including the idea of God, which has several key roles. e.g. to provide the impetus to move on even when things are not going well (faith), explain the things that science cannot (yet) and so on. If it helps someone, it is a great idea, though as a species we have been consistently been stupid enough to let the practitioners of organised faith take advantage of us for their own needs.


But that’s not what this post is about. One of the offshoots of faith (God/Cosmos/insert whatever works for you) is the related idea of cosmic/divine justice. I used to believe in that until very recently, and it was one of the attributes of being what I called myself – a spiritual person. But at this point, I don’t think it exists. There are at least two perspectives that brought me to it. More


First published in Bangalore Mirror

Under normal circumstances, 7.30PM is a safe time to walk into a restaurant without a reservation – experience suggests that it’s too early for the twenty-somethings to have started their Saturday nocturnal agenda. But then one comes across places like Onesta that completely defy this logic. Onesta is on the Ooty Chocolates road off 100 feet Road Koramangala. (map) Best of luck on the parking. We barely managed to get a table, and in the two hours we spent there, there was hardly a moment when a whippersnapper wasn’t waltzing in and asking for a table, seemingly oblivious of folks who were already waiting. Having landed a table right at the entrance, we were at the receiving end of a ton of evil eyes, all of which were questioning the legitimate amount of time one should be allowed to spend with pizzas. This is amazing for an outlet which has been around for only a month, and it immediately raised hopes of some fantastic food. But, according to the menu, you need to wait for 25 minutes before the food reaches you. So let me attempt to distract you with the ambiance. Imagine walking off a Koramangala road straight into a cobbled street in Europe, complete with a tiny fountain, white walls and shutter doors. In the first ten minutes, we even had a two-girl band crooning to lyrics sourced real time on a mobile phone! Music reminds me, there’s a heavy metal fan right next to the fountain, and while the idea (coolness in summer) is indeed sound, it does result in water sprays every five minutes if you’re seated anywhere near it. That notwithstanding, the yellow flower pots, red and black chairs, the quaint lampshades and glass bottles, and paneled wood tables all contribute to a bright yet chic elegance that’s warm and charming.

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Re-framing employment

For untold generations work was simply a matter of maintaining the status quo.

Across the world, the debates on productivity, reduced work hours, 4 day work weeks, DND after work hours etc are intensifying. Add to this the narratives of “the end of employment” and the “gig economy”, (and therefore the case against full time employment) and the signs of an upheaval of our concept of work seems imminent. I can vouch for that from my own experience as well – expressed to a certain extent in earlier posts –  The Entrepreneur & the Professional, and Re-skill. My posts on AI and its impact on employment are also related to this in a “bigger picture” way.

It is personal in a different way too, because it’s increasingly an application of a broader life framework and worldview. In fact, I was accusing myself of over thinking this, until I read this fantastic piece – How Not to Let Work Explode Your Life. That’s where the quote at the start has been taken from. It traces the origin of the clashes we are facing in our work-life environments now to trends that have been forming for centuries. Long, fascinating read, and a confirmation of many of my complicated thoughts! More

The Lowland

Jhumpa Lahiri

The good part is that the usual characters are all present – Kolkata, Boston, melancholy, wistfulness. The better part is that Jhumpa Lahiri is in top form. I was a bit disappointed with the last book so I started this with a skeptical mindset, but am extremely glad to have been proved wrong.
The story spans about four generations, beginning in the 1950s and ending in contemporary times. What is interesting is that, though at least a couple of the characters seem easy enough to slot into standard stereotypes – a Naxalite moved by his milieu into embracing a fiery ideology, and his brother who moves to the US and becomes the immigrant absorbed in scientific research building a new life in an alien country, the author takes them beyond that in the story arc, giving them depth and layers.

One wonders whether it is the story of Udayan whose influence in the lives of the characters extend far beyond his death, or that of Subhash and the women in his life – a mother disappointed by his choice, a wife who never loved him as he wished she would, and a daughter whom he raised but is not his own. Or is it really the story of Gauri, and her journey which seems to be played out in a real as well as philosophical level? “Plato says that the purpose of philosophy is to teach us how to die.” Between these three, the author travels the spectrum of human nature – from its most benevolent to its most selfish. The Lowland is the stretch of land between two ponds – probably also symbolising the two brothers and Gauri. More

Adaptability & Actualisation

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change“, Darwin had said, in a more long-winded form. I have been in awe of evolution as a concept for a while now, and have rather prided myself on being adaptive, specially in my work context. In terms of hard skills, I still believe that’s the way to go. However, when dealing with people, both in personal and professional settings, I have realised that it is possible to go overboard on being adaptive.

A meta prequel before I get to that. On hindsight, I am seeing an evolution in my thinking on this subject. Back in April of last year, I figured out that I am happier when I don’t judge myself.  Later, in October, I realised that there is a correlation, and probably even a causation, between my happiness and the way I treat others. I decided to fix my happiness as my compass. But when I read this post from a couple of months ago, it seems as though I had wandered off the track I had decided on.  More