A Night in Sønderborg

I’ve been to small towns before. Quite a lot of European cities, and Melbourne, can be explored on foot (maybe, some tram). But last week, I visited the smallest of them all – a town named Sønderborg in East Denmark.

Sonderborg, like many other towns in Europe, is the home of a manufacturing giant, for which it is best known. Corporate presence helps create employment opportunities and develop local infrastructure of these smaller towns that would otherwise be neglected. A local airline, Alsie Express, operates a few flights to Copenhagen everyday with their ATR aircraft in jet-black livery.

Hriday: finally comfortable
Hriday: finally comfortable

Shortly after takeoff the hostess came out of the front door to serve coffee, chocolate or nachos. We initially thought it was the pilot making good use of the auto-pilot, but later realized it was the ATRs cargo hold. The aircraft is an all business class configuration with the kind of leg-space that my friend Hriday needs, but hardly gets. Each seat stretching two window panes speaks for itself.

The approach served us a beautiful view of the area – lush green islands in the sea. The airport was a tiny little building – the size of a petrol pump (or smaller actually). The bags were loaded on a cart and then pushed into a gutter in the building. The 4 table cafeteria was empty, and there was free coffee and WiFi in the 8 seat waiting area.

There was a single, large common washroom. In the time that my friend took a smoke, people had moved out in their cars and the airport door was locked. The few taxis that were there had gone and we kept waiting. A lady realized we were new here Continue reading

5 benefits of indulging yourself in pet projects

You have every right to question my proposal – haven’t projects at work already tamed our lives for the worst? Well, yes definitely. But I’m not talking about work-related projects, or even the side projects that your cool workplace encourages. I’m talking about every other little project that needn’t advance your career or make you money (at least to begin with). The reason I’m distinguishing this from hobbies is because a hobby can keep you amused for an entire life-time – like numismatics for me. Projects on the other hand will usually have an end-result.

Courtesy: drrajivdesaimd.com
Staying the grey zone

The result is what is crucial to creating a sense of achievement & satisfaction. It is only one of the benefits you would you see while engaging yourself in a pet project. Here are some more:

1. Sense passion and purpose

The monotony or stress at work takes a hit on passion. A project with the right amount of challenge can bring you back in the grey zone and you will experience passion. Additionally,
Continue reading

Crackerjack Popcorn Fail

A year I tried this recipe for Homemade Cracker Jack and it turned out great! Crunchy peanuts glued to caramel pop-corn making for a nice sweet-and-salty snack. Just a few days back, I bumped into a question on Quora that asked ‘When do you realise that you are good at something?‘ to which I said: When repeating ‘it’ no longer worries you. Or when You dont need revision or preparation, and when others seek your opinion or value you experience.

In an attempt to get good at Crackerjack (and to satisfy my craving on a slow Sunday evening) I went ahead and tried it again. Only to realize that I still need to improve. The peanuts just didn’t glue with the pop-corn because my caramel sauce should’ve had more butter & water. But I’m glad that I attempted to perfect it, traced the cause of my failure and that I’m still eager to perfect it.

The caramel topping
Putting it together

10 learnings from Japan

I’ve learned some fascinating & exemplary stories about discipline & honesty in Japan through Quora. When the time came to visit Tokyo, I felt that I should familiarize myself with some Japanese etiquette. And I must say that a few minutes of reading came in very handy during the trip. Here is what I’ll keep with me forever:

1. Respect everything

Courtesy: Hobotraveler.com
Cash tray besides the register

Handle everything with both hands, especially money. Most counters will have a tray next to the ledger where you are expected to place money & pick your change. I guess the practice of receiving business cards with both hands comes from here.

2. Avoid 4 & 9 in every way

The Japanese word for “four” sounds like the word for “death” whereas ‘nine’ is sometimes pronounced ‘ku’, which can mean suffering. Its a superstitious piss-off; I don’t know how many follow, but I would avoid a 4 piece gift or a sales offer with too many nines.

3. Go with the group

Generally, the Japanese believe in group decision making that is focused on the larger good. This avoid favorism and blocks in-ways in an integral group – possibly why Japan was never colonized. This could slow down the process, but that’s how it is.

4. Genuine customer focus

Here’s my story: I went to the information counter at HND airport around 7:25 asking for a bus to my destination. The lady said the next one is at 10am. I had read about one at 7:45 and asked her to check; when she realized there was one, she apologized at least thrice for the possible misguide. She then realized that there was very little time left and I possibly couldn’t make it to the bus stop after getting my bus & train tickets. She, in her kimono and modified geta, ran to help me with tickets and brought me all the way to the bus stop around 7:38am. That was perhaps one of the happiest moments of her life Continue reading

The Top 5 Deterents to Agile

The beauty of Agile is the fact that its just about a few principles. – which we also summarized in a few words. Everything else is under your control. And on your way from classic waterfall practices to adopting those principles, you are likely to encounter some serious blockers. I’m attempting to list out the top 5 along with the Agile principles that they block.

1. Large teams

Blocks: Velocity, Working together

Scales of Agile (Courtesy: ebizq.net)
Scales of Agile (Courtesy: ebizq.net)

It is uncommon to have a cross-functional team of teams with 30-50 folks working on the same product. While the Agile deliverable is a few days of work, large teams working on a single release will generate a huge deliverable that is more coupled, has wider impact and demands extensive testing.

2. Fixed-scope planning

Blocks: Working software, Simplicity, Accepting change

Courtesy: 352inc.com

Teams that have a fixed-scope mental block start off by committing a scope for the next release, and then estimate a future release date. Since estimates are often incorrect, the release is delayed to deliver the committed scope – which is just not Agile. Forget about changing requirements, folks won’t even drop a few stories or acceptance criteria at the very end, to meet the committed date (time-box) – at the cost of Continue reading

For objects to appear closer than they are