July 30, 2018


...the time when the average (average being the key word) life expectancy of human was 35 years! 

Okay, let me start from the start. So the NaBloPoMo theme for December is Zeitgeist, which according to Oxford dictionary means, the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. Well, I didn't know that. While searching for the meaning of the word, I somehow ended up reading about the variation of life expectancy over the time. And as it turns out, up until the medieval age, the average life expectancy of the human being didn't exceed 35 years. Some site even quote the life expectancy to be about 18 years in stone age

18 years! Well, child marriage makes sense now though its continuation in this era doesn't (just like most of the traditions of that era). But imagine the norm of living till the age of 18 or, even 35. I mean, almost all our life decision are based on the fact that most probably we will live for at least 60 years. I would have never done a PhD, if I was going to die at 35 now, would I?  

Life would have been so different and would have gone by so fast. 

P.S.: Talking statistically, the average life expectancy of 35 years didn't mean that none of them ever turned 80, but most of them had an average life span of 35 years. I, personally, don't like the means or averages because they are greatly affected by extremes. For example, in this case, it is possible that high infant mortality rate during child birth (about 75% before industrial revolution) could have driven the average life expectancy to a lower value. I am not sure how did they calculate these averages. I would have preferred the median life expectancy but I couldn't find it anywhere. But its fun to speculate nevertheless.

July 17, 2018

A quick question

Ever wondered when you see one slipper/shoe lying in the middle of the road - whatever happened to the other one? Did they went all the way home in one slipper never realizing they have lost it? Oh well...many mysteries of life.

July 12, 2018

Ivy League

Let me start by saying that no matter how hard I have tried over the years, I have acquired some of that ivy league pride. I try to keep it in check but whenever people try to take advantage of me or try to put me down, it kicks in. A voice protest, vehemently, saying

"How dare they? I am from Stanford. Forget it, I am a straight A student from Stanford. I belong to the 1% (or is it 0.1%?) of the population. They can't treat me like that!"

It happened when US embassy took five months to process my visa and I got stuck in Canada for five months. And quiet a few occasions before and after that as well. In my defense, I did work really hard to achieve that (straight As). Also, I usually don't show off my Stanford degree. Unless someone specifically ask which university I went to, I don't mention it. Instead, I mention my time in California or San Francisco Bay area.

The reason behind doing so is fairly simple. I usually get pretty strong reaction whenever I (or someone else) mention that I did my PhD from Stanford. Most of them are usually impressed and there is an obvious change in the attitude. A small fraction have change in attitude in a negative way. Somehow they get offended or rather annoyed by the fact that I have a degree from Stanford. I can literally see them rolling their eyes in their mind. And I kind of know the reason behind such a reaction. Almost everyone who graduates from Stanford have a big attitude. Their pride of being from Stanford overtakes everything else in their life. The first thing they will mention to anyone they meet will be the fact that they are from Stanford as if that is the only thing that defines them. I abhor such people.

My problem is with either kind of people: people who gets impressed by me because I am from Stanford and people who gets annoyed by me for the same reason (needless to say the second category bothers me more). Neither of these people take time to know me, see what I know, what I am capable of doing, how I am. The only fact important for them as well is that I am from Stanford. It annoys me to no end.

You see, I did my B.Sc. from Dabba college (DAV college) in Chuchu university (Ch Charan Singh University, Meerut). I will hate it if people judge me by that. Same way as I hate when people judge me by Stanford. I have always been a good student, no matter which university I went to. Judge me by that instead of judging me by the university I got my degree from. But again, I don't like to be put down. Somehow, being from Stanford has given me a kind of confidence/self-esteem.

There is, however, a subtle difference between British and American approach to this, which I have discovered over the years. When in US someone realized I am from Stanford, their response were more on the line of "You are good. Of course, you went to Stanford". While in Britain the response I mostly get: "You went to Stanford, you must be good." Guess that's the subtle difference of culture. 

July 11, 2018

The Philosophy

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
           -- Gustave Flaubert

The other day I was talking to a friend and described to him how I was shaken after witnessing the wreckage of a car accident the previous evening. The friend, who is an Indian but was born and brought up abroad, has certain amount of fascination with yoga, meditation and of course, Indian Philosophy. His response was on the line: "You have to control your emotion. The accident was beyond your control so what's the point of being stressed about it. You can't get emotionally involved in everything around you. You should do more meditation and let the stress go." 

I am not sure I agree with this philosophy. Of course, the accident was beyond my control but not to be shaken by wreckage of car accident will be quite inhuman, numb. It is but natural for a human to be moved by other human's suffering. What will happen to this world if all of us stop caring about others? Feeling sad, angry or any other negative emotion is also part of life. To deny that or to say that we shouldn't stress about it is negating those feelings. We all can't be happy at all time. The key is not to be consumed by such emotions at all time -there are a lot of problems in the world not to be. 

Years back, I read an HT editorial titled why Anger is better than Love. The author argued unless people get angry about issues, no changes will happen in the world - we will become stagnant as a society. Love is one of the most selfish emotion as it pertains to only you. We usually become quite selfish when we are in love as that one person or people are the only one that matters - even at expense of others (paraphrasing the editorial as I remember it). 

Point being - negative emotions are not necessarily a bad thing. We just need to have balance between the positive and negative emotions - like everything else. Extreme of anything is never good (अति सर्वत्र वर्जयते - extreme should always be avoided). There always has to be a balance like yin and yang.

This also leads to idea of being focused on task at hand at all time with no digressions, no distractions. Imagine Newton not getting digressed by falling of an apple but simply focused on eating the apple instead or Archimedes not getting digresed while taking bath - what happens in those scenarios? Thinking outside the box requires people to digress, to be curious, to get distracted. Focus and digression are part of same yin and yang - two faces of same coin. They both are useful. 

July 10, 2018

Changing Landscape

Rearden did not believe that the bill (Equalization of Opportunity) would pass. He was incapable of believing it. Having dealt with the clean reality of metals, technology, production all his life, he had acquired the conviction that one had to concern oneself with the rational, not the insane-that one had to seek that which was right, because the right answer always won-that the senseless, the wrong, the monstrously unjust could not work, could not succeed, could do nothing but defeat itself. A battle against a thing such as that bill seemed preposterous and faintly embarrassing to him, as if he were suddenly asked to compete with a man who calculated steel mixtures by the formula of numerology.

...and yet all these battles still exist - to be actually fought - the mind bogglingly obvious unfairness. Something that shouldn’t, by any logic, exist in first place. Even more infuriating is the indifference of people toward them.

Two human being working the same job and have similar performance on their job should get same salary- its that simple. Then how is that not true? For some reason, one of them have to go extra mile, perform even more and yet not get the same salary, same promotions because there is misconception in people in charge - I am not even sure what their bias is? Living in this century they can't really think that perfomance differs with gender, race, age, or sexual orientation. That should be the only criteria a person's salary or promotions should be judged, shouldn't it? Why is it appropriate to say, in that case, "You are too young (curse of looking young than being young)" or "You are too ambitious (Seriously, just because I wanted to work in strategy?)".

Why do we even have to ask for gender pay gap statistics? It shouldn't exist in first place. Any business should promote their best talents, reward them, support them and respect their work-life balance. Guess, one of the culprit being quoted is the work-life balance - at least when we think about gender pay gap - although if that's true then other pay gaps should not exist at all. There is no work-life balance differences when we are talking about race based or sexual orientation based biases. This makes me wonder if that's only an excuse?

But let's talk about work-life balance. One of the best talk on the topic I have attended was by Eve Sprunt. It was part of SPE distinguished lecture (don't get me started on the reaction from others who attended the talk - apparently it was not a "technical" talk so shouldn't have been part of distinguished lecture because evidently technical community is not part of society and shouldn't be bothered by such issues!). The talk was about rising proportion of Dual-career couples and how this is changing the dynamics of work force in oil sector (it was a SPE talk, afterall but the issue will be relevant to any sector). This is especially relevant when the older generation do not understand the reluctance of dual-career couple's reluctance to take an expatriate role (unlike older generation, employees no longer have their spouses follow them anywhere at their whim) or their reaction when they take paterinity leaves (yep, this is not just regarding "women's issue" anymore - its a changing family dynamics issue). They usually deal with this by employing the couple and then asking whose career will take precedence (in subtle ways, of course). Not sure if this is a way of promoting work-life balance - they are asking couples to chose who will sacrifice their career for the other. The resentment of such a decision can't be healthy for a relationship. 

Let me digress a bit to define the problem fully. A recet report from ILO regarding care work and care jobs puts 42% of women who are currently out of job are doing unpaid care work while 6% of men are doing the same (I am fairly sure the percentage of men have been increasing in recent years- again changing family dynamics). A rise in dual-career couples mean these percentages will decrease in future, especially for women. By ILO's estimate, we will need 189 millions of extra care workers by 2030. 

Understanding this changing dynamics in workforce, is one of the key requirement for businesses if they want to engage the best talents. The work-life balance concepts and stereotypes like work-life balance only pertains to women employee or they are the only one who wants to work part-time or work from home (for some reason when men work from home or work part-time its not seen as a work-life issue or family issue), need to be challenged and changed. Families are no longer only women's responsibility. The new generation do understand this (may be not all but quite a lot of them do: for all we get blamed for -social media addiction, selife generation, gadget savvy - we have got this concept better than rest) - the older one has to catch up to this fact because like it or not the older generation is still running the show in most places. Assuming archaic policies that worked in their time and trying to teach the next generation these archaic concepts will not work. So get used to paternity leaves, part-time workers and work from home concepts. They are going to become more common. Design the policies around them. And for God's sake, do not ask them to chose one career over the other. Even if this is unavoidable at the moment - it is none of your business. It's their family decision. If they can make it work with both of them having successful career, who are you to say that they can't, that they have to chose. Instead let us design policies that they don't have to chose. Encourage them both to take equal responsibillities of family - balance the responsibilities of family - and let them both have a good work-life balance. Why should one have a better career while the other better family life? - let them both have both.