Monday, September 21, 2009

The Boring Picture...

Is it almost midnight...this past week seemed like a marathon run both work wise and otherwise...K1 seems to be hitting up East Coast a lot more leaving this lone warrior to manage (just barely) on both the home and office front....
I have mentally checked off my list of Things to Do in the evenings, all the critical work items - done (yeah!), K2 all fed and in bed by 10.00 PM ( this is a good day...his normal bedtime is 11.00 PM)...I just bugged a hapless someone across the pond about schedules and am ready to call it a night...yet the past couple days, I have had this picture flash in my mind....the picture that my Psychology 101 teacher had started her first lecture with titled...the Boring Picture...well it was anything but....and truth be told it was called the boring picture because of the two psychologists who gave it so much visibility and credibility - Boring & Leeper. The picture also defined "Perceptual Ambiguity" either see a young woman or an old woman...look a little bit closer ...give your senses some time to adjust and you see both...or maybe you just don't want to and just prefer the picture to be one-dimensional...
Perception is the process of becoming aware...gaining understanding...and then basing a judgement on that understanding...perception is driven by the senses say most psychologists. I agree with them BUT I also believe that at the most basic level we are animals (albeit advanced ones) and we very much start off operating at the "gut level" or with instincts...and slowly condition ourselves (like Pavlovian Dogs) to stop listening to our gut. I think a lot of us undervalue instincts and try and go with logical,rationale, fact-based way of reaching conclusions, making decisions...what has been accumulated on past experiences, cultural influences and socialization....yet going back to my point from before -- at the most basic level we are animals with the "survival instinct" (Fight or Flight) and sometimes its very valuable to trust your gut on deals, decisions and people...back it up with logic later....but if your gut is sending out "a red flag" listen to it...irrational- yes! ; no logical or sequential thinking - yes!; not backed by facts - yes! BUT I have found that in most cases those gut reactions point you in the right direction...
I will give you a simple example -- Charles Shobraj, a serial killer in India was a self effacing, pleasing to look at...wonderfully articulate person...he came across as very well educated...we had poured over his TV interviews in the course of our Psychology courses, with a focus on understanding how his mind worked...and by listening to him and looking at him I know 50% of our class was getting sympathetic towards him...what's my point is the perceptual ambiguity...your senses are telling you he is alright...yet you know he is a serial killer.
Anyway I life what I have realized is it is so easy to cloak our "instinct" in the heavy veils of Cultural Propriety, Socialization and past experiences (which in some cases are not even relavent)...we allow ourselves to see things differently from the way they actually are...layering in our arrogance ( for eg. - you know I am so good, everyone just goes with what I have to say); our complexes ( for eg. - no one is listening to me because I have a soft voice and am a woman); our perception of self (for eg. - I am too good to be boxed)...and we treat life like a chess game...waiting for someone to play the next move...the reality is there might not be another player and we are getting played by our own "Perceptual Ambiguity"...
So tell me what you see in the boring picture....feel any sense of ambiguity yet...really...are you sure? Want to Check Again?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Good Eats...Part 1

This post is for my baby sister who treads softly in a new world...the strange lands called Ohio State University .She is an Oriya born and brought up in West does she like food...Hell Yeah! Is she picky about her food...umm you could definitely say that...Can she cook? I am not holding my breath and I suggest you don't either...

Blundering in the forests of Kroeger, trying to find her way around what tastes good and what's is a phone conversation with I added a lot of Oil and then Jeera and the frozen vegetables...umm and then lots of tasted ok (yeah!yeah! Liar Liar...Pants on Fire...) here are my tips for my brilliant sister on meandering her way to "Good Eats". I can't blow up all my words of wisdom in one I will try and update my blog in parts to update her (if you like my updates do add my blog to your follow list...makes me feel important ;-) )
The first rule of thumb is find a grocery store that works for you -- over the last dozen years with Trial and lotsa error I found the two grocery stores that work for me - Trader Joes (3888 Townsfair Way, Columbus, Ohio ) and the generic Indian Store. Let me start with some of my favorite foods from Trader Joes -

  1. Raw Almond Butter with British Style Cinnamon Crumpets -The slight sweetness of the crumpets slathered with the Almond Butter drizzled with some Clover heaven. The only thing that could make it more perfect is a hot cuppa tea. I sometimes add a thinly sliced apple from the farmer's market in it to make it a balanced breakfast.

  2. Blueberry Waffles with Maple Syrup blended with Agave Nectar - There are 8 waffles and they have a wonderful blueberry taste - toast them in your oven and have them slightly warm drizzled with the Maple Syrup. Drink the Organic Mango Acai Juice from Trader Joes to give you the boost to kickstart you day

  3. I am not a Cereal person but the Quakers Oats Natural Granola with Oats & Honey & Raisins is a favorite with me that I either top off with cold fat-free milk and eat...or I just eat it straight from the can't find this at TJ's but should be in your regular grocery store

  4. Luna Bars are inexpensive at TJ's at 99 cents a pop and good to keep a couple of these favorite flavors are Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Toasted Nuts and Cranberries, Chai Tea

  5. My absolute favorite breakfast of all time is a home made Egg McMuffin - Fat-Free English Muffin ($1.69 for 6 muffins a steal) ; Organic Eggs ($2.49 for 6 brown organic eggs); Havarati Cheese ($3.49 for the packet of 10 Slices). I lightly fork cut the muffin and toast in the oven (I break the slice of cheese into two parts and put one on each side of the muffin while it's toasting...this makes the cheese go melty and yummy). I fry the egg in a non stick pan with Olive Oil spray ( Over Hard is my preference). I put the fried egg, a dash of salt and pepper in the muffin and it is portable comfort on the go for me...
That's all in this edition of the blog kiddo...more in the next one. May you find Comfort & Good Eats in TJ's.
Pssst....sneak peek at a partial grocery list while K1 & K2 were busy playing in the park ( Organic Milk, Organic Carrot, Organic Arugula Salad Blend, Blackberry & Orange Blossom Honey, Reeds Ginger Brew, Organic Greek Yogurt (Honey Flavored) )
Pssssst...K2 is happily munching a very healthy Energy Bar and calling it candy...both he and I are happy Campers...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My most unforgettable meal

It was a hot summer in 2004...I had a whirlwind "court the customer" tour in Copenhagen and then Bonn and after an unfruitful visit to a nameless operator customer in Navi Bombay and fighting the remnants of a bad laryngitis attack, I made a lightening decision to postpone my trip back to the US by a couple days and take a detour to Bhubaneshwar and rest awhile with my parents. I am a native of Orissa (yeah! I know most people don't know the state) when I am asked what my ultimate comfort food is...I say "Dalma"...a hot bowl of Dalma with a steaming hot bowl of rice liberally adding some home-made idea of heaven (no I am not counting calories here). Dalma is a dish made with lentils, mixed vegetables (pumpkin, green banana, potatoes, brinjal) and paanch phutan...and yes I do believe my mother makes the best "Dalma" I have ever had. However, on this 2 day trip to Bhubaneshwar, I did not want my mother slaving in the kitchen...Oriya food is a labor of prepare a home style meal takes half a day...

My research showed me that there was a home-style restaurant "Dalma" serving "tasteful Orissan cuisine" (their words not mine) and I was sold. I told my parents, no cooking at home...let's go down to Dalma and have Dalma...I made a detour to my old B-School, dredged up some old memories and a good appetite and at 2.00 PM we made our way to Dalma. My dad and I had the non-veggie thali while Ma had the vegetarian thali. Here are the dishes on my thali with descriptions -
(A) Hot White Rice with ghee (aka clarified butter)
(B) Dalma
(C) Aloo Bhorta - Smashed potato fry seasoned with green chillies and mustard oil
(D) Santula - A medley of vegetables (papaya, pumpkin, Brinjal, Ridgegourd) cooked in very little mustard oil and seasoned with paanch phuton
(E) Raita - made from banana stem
(F) A mutton curry
We had also ordered Badi Chura (fritters crushed and seasoned with garlic and chillies)...AMAZING...Pumpkin Flower Pakoras (fritters made tempura style with Pumpkin Flowers)...and Mangsho Kasha (a dry goat curry preparation)
Why was this meal reminded me of my mother's cooking minus the hard work...every dish was perfectly executed....a symphony truly at the same level of brilliance and genius as the maestros of music. It has been five years since I ate that meal and yet remember it with a great deal of fondness. When we were young...Ma made sure we were exposed to a variety of cuisines - south indian, north indian, indian chinese, fast food but took us back to our roots with typical Oriya food...I am unsure I will be able to do that for K2...I can't really cook many Oriya mantra with food is quick and fast on the table...
I chilled out Saturday, went to Whole Foods and got 3 different kinds of rice (Forbidden/Black Rice, Bhutanese Red Rice and Jade Pearl Rice). I am looking forward to cooking with these three rices with different flavor profiles. K1 and I went out for a movie "Kaminey" and lunch at PF Changs. Plans are to take K2 to the Aquarium tomorrow. ....How was your weekend?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Good Leader...

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people...
Gandhi (yes our very own Bapu) was on to something when he quipped -
This point is brought home time and again in the work place, where we have to get people to believe in us, trust us, respect us...I guess my job would be a whole lot more difficult if I had to convince Engineering of every feature decision I made without them questioning my every decisions and trusting that I am making the right decision based on business and market indicators...or Sales questioned every licensing/pricing model that I put point being that to be effective - You need to be a team player...but beyond that you need to be a person who has some or most of the qualities discussed below-
(A) Passion - Whatever we undertake, we need to feel passion for that that a product, a service...we need to believe to make an impact
(B) Be Principled - I think values are built on the fundamental principle - that you respect your team's ability and grow it as you grow...the whole is greater than the sum of the parts...and is black or white...we have a built in ethical system which will guide us through this sense of right or true to your conscience and you are probably ok
(C) Vision and yet the understanding that there is more to learn - In this ever evolving world of constant change what was true today won't hold water tomorrow...what is key is going beyond the fads and understanding what the market really wants (it might be something stupid simple...but sometime the simplest solutions are the killer ones)
(D) Confidence and Decision Making - It's not all about planning, its about planning, strategizing and executing...and it is about having confidence in your decisions and seeing them through
(E) Humility tinged with Humor - Laugh at yourself...sometimes admitting that you are not always right and being humble and open to criticisms and ideas makes you a better leader...Arrogance usually leads to over confidence which leads us back to the "Peter Principle" of getting obnoxious, people not wanting to work with us and incompetence (a vicious cycle)
(F) Communication - It's not about how great a communicator you are...think of Mahatma wasn't how he communicated but the message that resonated...if you can get your team to believe, stand behind and support your cause...whether a product or a service or a start up are a great communicator...
I absolutely love what Peter Drucker said in an HBR (what makes an effective executive) that I had read eons back, but which stayed with me - The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done
Do share your views on - What being a good leader means?