Monday, March 31, 2008

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? (video)

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. With ample anecdotes and witty asides, Robinson points out the many ways our schools fail to recognize -- much less cultivate -- the talents of many brilliant people. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. The universality of his message is evidenced by its rampant popularity online. A typical review: "If you have not yet seen Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, please stop whatever you're doing and watch it now."

Source: TED | Talks | Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? (video)

Arthur Benjamin: "Mathemagician", reminds India's own Sakuntala Devi

I love mathematics. And I love magic too. What about combining both of them and present as the genius mathemagician, like Arthur Benjamin did in this presentation. It reminds me of India's own Sakuntala Devi, one of the best known wizards of Mathematics and lightning calculations.

For those who know little or nothing about Sakuntala Devi, here is a brief introduction from wiki:

Shakuntala Devi is a calculating prodigy who was born on November 4, 1939 in Bangalore, India. Her father worked in a circus as a trapeze and tightrope performer, and later as a human cannonball. Her calculating gifts first demonstrated themselves while she was doing card tricks with her father when she was three. They report she "beat" them by memorization of cards rather than by sleight of hand. By age six she demonstrated her calculation and memorization abilities at the University of Mysore. At the age of eight she had success at Annamalai University by doing the same.

Unlike many other calculating prodigies, for example Truman Henry Safford, her abilities did not wane in adulthood. In 1977 she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. On June 18, 1980 she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779 picked at random by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She answered the question in 28 seconds. However, this time is more likely the time for dictating the answer (a 26-digit number) than the time for the mental calculation (the time of 28 seconds was quoted on her own website). Her correct answer was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730. This event is mentioned on page 26 of the 1995 Guinness Book of Records ISBN 0-553-56942-2.

Source: TED | Talks | Arthur Benjamin: Lightning calculation and other "Mathemagic" (video)

Notable Thoughts : Monday Edition

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all” - Anonymous. Few notable thoughts that are worth sharing and spreading.


How Web2.0 has almost killed the pageview?
look at our pageviews number, but with a pinch of salt. Other indicators like unique visitors, time spent on site per visit, no of clicks per visit etc in my opinion are better metrics to drive your business goals. As this post indicates, the internet world as started taking note of this anomaly. This post on Gigaom theorizes that the pageview should be replaced by engagement oriented metrics; AC Nielson apparently has stopped using pageviews as a metric for video sites, preferring ‘time spent on site‘.


On the Road to Highly Available EC2 Applications
Today Amazon Web Services launched two new features in Amazon EC2 that are essential tools in building highly resilient applications: Elastic IP addresses and Availability Zones.


A WiMax breakthrough in India - very interesting ..
On March 4, India's Tata Communications, an emerging broadband player, announced the countrywide rollout of a commercial WiMax network, the largest anywhere in the world of the high-speed, wireless broadband technology. Already 10 Indian cities and 5,000 retail and business customers use the product, and by next year Tata will offer service in 115 cities nationwide


Web Conferences: Where's the outrage?
If anyone wants to set up a conference or special event let us know. We’ll take the side of the “self-funded small business that encourages people to stay away from the VCs, says you don’t need to live in San Francisco to be successful, suggests that charging for your products is a good thing, espouses the advantages of small teams, applauds shorter work weeks with more reasonable hours, rejects the notion of traditional ‘seriousness business stuff,’ and believes keeping it simple is the way to success.”


Design process at Apple
An interesting write-up of the contribution by Michael Lopp (senior engineering manager at Apple) at SXSW2008 describes some aspects of Apple design process


Study: Carriers losing grip on mobile content
Subscribers are increasingly reliant on a mix of mobile content obtained via the web, their personal collections and wireless operators according to a new consumer study conducted by market analysis firm ABI Research. According to ABI, mobile consumers are more likely to watch a YouTube clip than a video obtained from their carrier, but are more than twice as likely to purchase a ringtone from the operator than any other source


The Paradox of Learning (example of Time Management)
The paradox of learning is beautifully explained in the context of time management. The people who attend a time management course are exactly those people who “find” the time to attend the time management course and hence may not really need that course. And, on the other hand, people who don’t attend a time management course can’t find the time to attend one and may be those are the ones that really need the time management course


Software carving
Just a quick observation: writing software is like carving. You start with the computer and all of its potential, and you whittle away the possibilities, constraining the program until you get what you envisioned


If You are a Startup, Who’s That?
someone who is a two member team, bootstrapping and whipping out a prototype and calling themselves a startup. Then I have a seven year old company with 24 clients, about 250,000$ in annual revenue and about 30 employees calling themselves a startup.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why Doctors Bill Insurance Companies at 200%?

I recently reviewed an insurance settlement of a claim my friend received. The claim says, Doctor billed the Insurance company for $4500. Insurance company adjustments/discounts were shown as $2400.  Finally insurance company paid the doctor $2100. I don't understand. I went back and reviewed all the claims I have. The original claim is always more than 200% of the amount that insurance company actually paid.

Does all insurance companies get this hefty discount from the doctors? How does this claim work? Quite baffled at the numbers and the way finally everybody gets settled.

I looked it up on Google and found a page on wiki that almost explained why that insurance company received such a benefit. The PPO.

The idea of a preferred provider organization is that the providers will provide the insured members of the group a substantial discount below their regularly-charged rates. This will be mutually beneficial in theory, as the insurer will be billed at a reduced rate when its insured utilize the services of the "preferred" provider and the provider will see an increase in its business as almost all insureds in the organization will use only providers who are members. Even the insured should benefit, as lower costs to the insurer should result in lower rates of increase in premiums. Preferred provider organizations themselves earn money by charging an access fee to the insurance company for the use of their network. They negotiate with providers to set fee schedules, and handle disputes between insurers and providers. PPOs can also contract with one another to strengthen their position in certain geographic areas without forming new relationships directly with providers.

But isn't almost 50% discount a very hefty discount? I am wondering who had to pay the full amounts billed to them!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thought Garage Tops Google Search for H1B 2009 - Encore!

Last year, Thought Garage topped Google Search for "H1B 2008". And this year, Thought Garage did it again. Thought Garage topped Google results for H1B 2009.

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When you search for H1B 2009 on Google, Thought Garage appears on the top with the post I have written on 24th January

Thought Garage » H1B 2009: Will ‘2007 H1B Rush’ repeat in 2008?

In this post, I have analyzed whether the same rush continue in 2008 for H1B 2009 and many readers sent emails thanking for a great analysis without distorting or exaggerating the whole H1B story.

As I mentioned last year, there is no reason for my blog to appear at the top of Google search results for information regarding H1B visas, without your turning to my blog to get the updates and sharing your experiences for the benefit of other guests. I understand for some of you, getting a H1B and working in US will be a turning point in your careers and I am quite thrilled that you considered Thought Garage as one of your sources of information

A Big Thank You to all my readers.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, I could not answer all questions asked by you on posts concerned with H1B 2009 Visa process, particularly certain legal aspects.  But I am sure that I shared my experiences that might provide you with some pointers.

I understand that many of you are still considering the option of H1B to come to US to work despite the tough economy,  I wish all of you All the Best. I will post any updates as and when available.

Thank you all, once again.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

USCIS amends H-1B 2009 Rules (File by 1st April 2008)

USCIS announced yesterday, 19th March 2008 a few changes to the H1B 2009 selection process.

1.  No duplicate petitions for the same worker by the same firm

To ensure a fair and orderly distribution of available H-1B visas, USCIS will deny or revoke multiple petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker and will not refund the filing fees submitted with multiple or duplicative petitions.

2.  Applications will be accepted for 5 days, even if the cap is reached on day 1.

April 1, 2008 is the first day petitions may be received for an October 1, 2008 start date.  When it is determined that the numerical limitations have been reached, USCIS employs a random selection process to choose among the petitions received on the “final receipt date.”  If the “final receipt date” falls within any one of the first five business days, the random selection will be run using all the cap-subject petitions received on those five days.

3. For 20,000 limit for Advanced degree holders, if cap is reached within the first five days, random selection will be carried out in two phases. Lottery will be first conducted ONLY for advanced degree holders first (for 20000 applications). And include all those that are not selected in the lottery for the 65000 cap along with regular applicants.

If the 20,000 advanced degree limit is reached during the first five business days, USCIS will randomly select from those petitions ahead of conducting the random selection for the 65,000 limit.  Petitions subject to the 20,000 limit that are not selected in that random selection will be considered with the other H-1B petitions in the random selection for the 65,000 limit.

Source: USCIS Announces Interim Rule on H-1B Visas Rule Modifies Selection Process and Prohibits Multiple Filings

Also read Fact Sheet: Changes to the FY2009 H-1B Program for more details.

Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union' (Full Speech)

One of the Best Speeches I have ever heard. Read the transcript here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nokia's Vintage Ad Marketing

Aha!!

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Via textually.org: Modern Products in Vintage Ads

Why Do You Need A Resume

Read this provoking thought at Seth's Blog: Why bother having a resume?

I think if you're remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn't have a resume at all.

....

If you don't have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, "well, that's fine, but I don't have those."

Yeah, that's my point. If you don't have those, why do you think you are  remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don't have those, you've been brainwashed into acting like you're sort of ordinary.

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Well, not quite delete your resumes yet. What this thought means is more about the format of your resume. Everybody agrees that we don't want just plain vanilla word document that lists out all your achievements, that nobody have time to read through. But look for a unique way to convey the message to your potential employer what you can do to the organization.  More about the presentation of your current resume, rather than getting rid of it.

Sending in a nice cover letter or letters of recommendation or your previous work profile, I still think, is more like a resume. Just in a different format. And assume, everybody follows this approach, (everybody have a blog, everybody have a nice web site to showcase, and everybody get a reference from someone bojo A listers)  you will find another post on Seth's blog itself talking how nonsensical and banal this approach is. Its not a matter of getting rid of a resume, but finding your own unique way of presenting it, the 101 of marketing.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Notable Thoughts : Weekend Edition

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all” - Anonymous. Few notable thoughts that are worth sharing and spreading.


Is daylight-saving time costing us money?
A year ago, we covered the newly extended daylight-saving time (DST), which, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was expected to generate energy savings nationwide. But a recent Wall Street Journal article reported that the extra month of daylight time might actually be costing us money, not saving it as planned.


Thirsting for Energy in India’s Boomtowns and Beyond
A beacon of India’s red-hot economy, the new suburb of Gurgaon on the edge of the capital, New Delhi, is also a symbol of India’s fast-growing hunger for energy.


Startups do fail. What’s New?
Birds fly. Fishes Swim. Deals Fall through and Startups Fail. This is the natural order of things. The only thing we can do is alleviate the chances of success for a startup by a small degree. We do not, neither can anyone assure anyone of success and failures totally. Heck, the Silicon valley, which is considered to be this rich ecosystem, has its fair share of failures. What are we going to do about that?


You’re Better Off Working at Starbucks Than Running a Social Network
“The CPMs are so low it’s really hard to build a real business unless you have several billion page views and your own sales team. Social networks get 5 to 10 cent CPMs, and less outside the U.S. At one point we were averaging 3 cent CPMs. We figured out if we all got up and worked at Starbucks instead we would make more money as a company than selling 300 million impressions a month of ad space.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Finally, Dallas gets little snowy...!

Finally Dallas gets little snow too. Not just enough to go out and play. But good enough to feel snowy ... after a long time.

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