A hole in the bucket

During my recent visit to India, I was looking to take a bath. So I ran the tap to fill a plastic bucket for a bucket bath (only bath from a bucket is possible at my parents house in Pilani – there is not enough water pressure for showers). After 5 minutes I noticed that the bucket was not filling up despite good flow of water from the tap. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the reason was that there was a hole in the base of the bucket.

“Ma, the purpose of the bucket is to hold water. Now if there is a hole in the bucket, why do you still keep it in the bathroom. I ended up wasting a lot of water because I did not see the hole in the bottom”, I complained to my mother.

“It was a new bucket and one of the workers, working on a recent home project, made the hole. I did not want to throw it. So I figured out a way to use it”, my mother said.

“Use a bucket with a hole in it? How?”, I was truly mystified.

“I use it to drain water from wet clothes, after a wash. The water drains by itself and so I have to wring the clothes less”, my mother said with a victorious look.

This is when it stuck me how different the mindsets toward conservation and being green are in India compared to the US. In India people of my parents generation use everything to the fullest extent possible – sometimes even beyond that. They are loathe to throwing anything even a bucket with a hole in it. Perhaps we can still learn something about being green and being conscientious consumers from our parents…

Amazon & Whole foods

Amazon.com’s recent acquisition of Whole foods has set off a round of chatter about what they are really trying to accomplish with this move. Following are my thoughts:

I am really curious to see how it plays out but I would not bet against Amazon. Executives at Walmart, Kroger’s, Target etc. are right to be losing their sleep over this – they should be looking at ways to partner or invest in tech to compete with Alexa, Prime, supply chain technologies and other Amazon.com assets for engaging customers/delivering great value to customers.

Politics by Socrates

Image resultSocrates explains in his Ship Analogy, comparing the state to a complicated and large ship. In order for the ship to make safe passage it must have an experienced navigator who has knowledge of capacities of the ship, meteorology, water currents, navigational astronomy and the like. An ignorant person would not be able to guarantee safe voyage of the ship, the people in side, and its cargo.

“Imagine then a ship or a fleet in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but who is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and whose knowledge of navigation is not much better. The sailors are quarreling with one another about the steering–every one is of the opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation.”

“[The sailors] throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble captain’s senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores, thus eating and drinking. They proceed on their voyage in such a manner as can be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain’s hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the good pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like it or not–the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer’s art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling.” (488c)

Still applicable today!!!


I recently finished reading “Nonsense”. A fascinating read about how human mind struggles with things that make no sense at all.



A key dimension of emotional intelligence, according to the book, is the ability to handle ambiguity. A strong need for closure which leads to a desire to resolve ambiguity. But as Nonsense reveals, our need for closure has its own dangers. It makes us stick to our first answer, which is not always the best, and it makes us search for meaning in the wrong places. When we latch onto fast and easy truths, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective.

In other words, confusion–that uncomfortable mental place–has a hidden upside. We just need to know how to use it. This lively and original book points the way. The book talks about cults, espionage, hostage negotiations, Ducati, Zara and a lot of other interesting stories.

Ambiguity leads to people closing their minds and stick to preconceived notions. So if you want people to not be open to your ideas, flash them something that causes them to reconsider things – such as a red spade (An experiment from the book). On the other hand, if you want people to be open to your ideas, meet them in a place that is really comfortable for them like their homes.

One of my favorite sections of the book was about teaching. It talks about how lectures that just transfer information do a great disservice to the students. A better approach is to engage students in solving some problems that forces students to learn and apply.  The book also talks about how puzzles that require lateral thinking can teach kids to keep an open mind and to consider alternative scenarios.

Overall five stars to Jamie Holmes for a very engaging and easy to read book with a heavy dose of insight and through provoking ideas.

Here is one of the puzzles from the book (rewritten):

Don was driving his semi under an overpass when suddenly he came to a screeching halt. Don wasn’t paying enough attention and inadvertently drove under the overpass that was just barely as high as his truck. The semi was wedged so tightly that he could not go forward or backward. A fellow trucker came by and told him how he could easily get the semi out from under the bridge. What did he suggest?

(Leave comment for an answer)

Retail apps are cool again

I saw an interesting security update this week in NYTimes. Check it out here:

Beware, iPhone Users: Fake Retail Apps Are Surging Before Holidays

Here is the summary – Scammers are realizing that more and more consumers are looking for branded retail apps. They are looking for brands that don’t have an app, create a phishing app for the brand and release it in the wild. The consumer downloads the app and gets their data stolen by these fraudulent apps.

The solution is simple – brands should create/claim their apps ASAP to make sure that scammers are not able to defraud consumers looking to connect with them.


Apple down under

Interesting battle brewing in Australia where a consortium of large banks is demanding that Apple open up its limited access to the NFC components on the iPhone in order the level the playing field for other wallets.

Apple is pushing back hard citing security.

As you can imagine the stakes are high and the outcome could have a significant impact world-wide.

Read a great rundown and analysis here: Is the debate over Mobile payments in Australia rotten to the core?

Mobeam – cool scanning tech

Change doesn’t always have to be huge, small changes like improvement in scanning of phones by laser scanners can have huge upside.

Check out this new technology called Mobeam

From a technology perspective, Mobeam enables POS laser scanners to read barcodes on mobile devices. Light-based beaming technology pulses the phone’s proximity sensor LED to emulate the reflection of a barcode, which the laser scanner interprets as “reading” the barcode. Thus, beaming enables a mobile payment app to effectively process all barcoded promotion and non-cash payment types. In many ways beaming is like Bluetooth, NFC or Wi-Fi, a new method of contactless communication between a smartphone and a receiver, in this case, a laser scanner.

Really cool and promising because it enables phones to transmit coupon and payment information to existing hardware – laser scanner. Challenge as always is scale. There are still too few phones (Galaxy only) that have this tech…