22 December 2019

One holiday puzzle

One of those letters for digits… with a twist.

Look at the long multiplication below. As you see, a three digit number DEB is being multiplied by a two digit number DG to give a four digit number AECE. Each letter stands for a digit.

Here is the twist though: A letter above the black line (in red color) if also found below the black line (blue color) is not going to have the same value but will be off by one from each other. Of course, above the black line, any letter, if found twice will have the exact same value. Likewise below the black line. The twist comes only if the same letter comes both above and below the line.

As an example, the two D’s will have exactly the same value since they are both red. But the red G and the blue G are going to be off from each other by one since they have different colors. (If one is 6, the other can be 5 or 7).

The only digits used in this problem are 0,2,3,5,6,8 and 9.

Can you find out what the letters stand for above the black line and below the black line?

20 December 2019

Nothing beats a Friday evening like this…

First time I heard this song was about 20 years back. I was mesmerized by the tune as well the voice of the singer. Initially, I had the impression that this was a Kashmiri song. Much later I realized that the language is mostly Punjabi with some mixture of Dogri words, I believe. The voice of Hadiqa Kiani – from Pakistan – is absolutely sterling. The depth of her voice as well as her ability to move thru the notes is captivating. I will be remiss if I did not mention that the use of flute in this song is wonderful. The flute is the most appropriate instrument to emphasize the melancholic tune.

“Boohey barian
Ena lee kanda tap key,
Awa gi hawa ban key,
Boohey barian… hayee,
Boohey barian

Chand charayaan tey,
Saray looki pey takday,
Dongay paniyaan chey fer,
Deeway pae jalday”

I am not sure of all the words… but I believe she is referring to doors and the windows in the first sentence and telling her lover to come thru doors, windows and walls. Waft in like the wind to my presence, I believe is what she is saying. The last part is completely beyond me. I know Chand means moon. Is Dongay a boat? Paniyaan is water, I am fairly sure. I will leave you to reconstruct the meaning in your imagination…

Maybe somebody who understands Punjabi or Dogri can help out?

20 December 2019

Book Review: “The Geography of Genius”

Eric Weiner starts with an interesting observation: Different parts of the world have had short intervals of time (about fifty years or so) during which, that area produced a lot of geniuses in a burst mode. And then completely stopped. Never did again (with one exception). He gives examples of Athens, Hangzhou, Florence, Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna (twice) and the Silicon Valley.

This book chronicles his journeys to those places in quest of analyzing if there are common threads among them. Or at least understand what made those bursts of time happen and then end. Perhaps to get a clue into where it might happen again or even try to artificially create one.

Net net, there is no one formulaic way. Different places had different agents of catalysis. If it was simplicity for Athens, it was chaos for Calcutta, practicality for Edinburgh and so on.

Overall, a great read if you think of it as a journey for Eric where he has put together a lot of interesting thoughts, research quotes and conversations. If you are looking for a scientific analysis into correlation of variables to predict genius, this is not the book you are looking for.

Some interesting things I learnt:

1. Language not only determines how we describe the world but it shapes how we perceive the world. Russians can detect more shades of blue than Americans in a spectrum,. Their language has more words to describe various shades of blue.
2. Humor and creative thinking use the same cognitive muscles (bisociative shock). We find something funny if it is unexpected yet still logically airtight.
3. We recall information associated with incomplete tasks much more readily than other types of information. Something about an unsolved problem boosts our memory and sharpens our thinking. This is why waiters can remember customer orders so well till the food hits the table. Then they have very poor recollection.
4. Ary Goldberger discovered something unexpected about the human heart: a healthy heartbeat is not regular and rhymes but chaotic and irregular. He also showed that extreme regularity, not irregularity, predicted imminent cardiac arrest.

And some interesting quotes:

1. Picasso – “Computers are stupid. They only give you answers.”
2. Einstein – “If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t call it research”
3. David Hume – Treatise of Human Nature – “Human beings are not, and never have been, governed by their rational capacities. Passion determines what we want; reason determines how we obtain it”
4. Steve Jobs – “When the lightbulb was invented, no one complained it was too dim”

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19 December 2019

Lessons learnt as a CEO – part one of three

Compared to most veteran CEOs, I am still green behind the ears. Six years, two different companies and two different industries is still not enough experience to reflect on for wisdom. However, as the year draws to an end, I am forced to ask myself “What has been the three big learnings once the aperture to the world changed to be that of a CEO”

Lesson 1: Don’t forget how you enjoyed the see-saw as a child

The first lesson, I reckon, as I look back, is “it is all about balance”. No idea is purely good or purely bad. No one decision is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. No opinion is guaranteed to succeed or guaranteed to fail. You have to figure out how to balance out things. Competing points of views is good. Lack of opposing points of views is what you have to guard against.

Every individual’s bias is going to make the see-saw push towards one end. But you have to let it go. There will be conflicting interests. You have to protect investors’ interests, employees’ interests and customers’ interests. You have to figure out how to balance. You have to balance the need to have an environment that employees love to work in and then increase medical insurance costs on their paychecks given the realities of the world.

The strive for balance will ensure that the see-saw is not permanently stuck with one in the air and one in the ground. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a lot of conflicting pulls, restrain yourself from taking a position immediately. Remind yourself that it is a see-saw. You want the forces pulling you in different directions. Find out how to balance things.

If that is not hard enough, wait for this: perfect balance is a terrible thing too. Imagine two of you – absolutely equal in weight, at the exact same distance from the fulcrum on the see-saw. Both of you are going to sit up in the air with no movement. That is not how you enjoy a see-saw. Similarly, as a CEO, once you feel you are reaching balance, introduce some chaos.

I realize that is confusing. Balance or not? My answer is – just remember your childhood see-saw. Having somebody much lighter or heavier than you never got you anywhere. And when you two were reasonably similar and the see-saw was not swinging enough to give you fun, one of you heaved hard to the ground to give it some momentum.

That is exactly what you want when you are in a CEO position. Strive for balance. Till it starts getting balanced. Then you introduce some chaos. Growth in a business is much like the thrill of a see-saw – the fun is in the movement – not in the static end state – either completely unbalanced or completely balanced.

That journey – that swinging on either side of the see-saw – is what business is all about.

(second part will be coming next Thursday)

18 December 2019

Speaking of odd sleeping habits…

… actually nobody was talking about sleeping habits. I just realized that this has been one of those weeks for me…

Sunday – slept in Eastern Time Zone (Atlanta)
Monday – slept in Pacific Time Zone (San Francisco)
Tuesday – slept in Mountain Time Zone (Denver)
Wednesday – going to bed in Central Time Zone (Chicago)

At this rate, I am afraid, I might find myself tomorrow in Alaska or Guam since I am running out of time zones…

15 December 2019

Great words from Tolkien

My friend Stephen and I were having an email exchange (about his passion and such). He reminded me of a couple of Tolkien’s stanzas that I had almost forgotten… Wonderful words…

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”