Friday, January 22, 2010

Workshop Woes

Taught another workshop today where I went overtime. I know that time management is definitely an area for me to improve upon. However today I strongly re-considered reducing the workshop contents. I am definitely greedy with the contents, trying very hard to squeeze in as much as possible within those limited 60- 90 minutes. I always face a time-crunch whenever the class gets interesting. No matter how hard I try to stick to just the relevant questions (and save the rest for later) I always get too many questions to ignore during an interesting session. Of course I also have to cater to the "takes-longer-to-get-it" attendees especially since I get a real diverse group for most workshops.

Actually this had been on my mind for a while. As a result, this quarter, I decided to re-order some of the contents. Although I still save the "best" for the end, I included a sneak peek of it at the very beginning so that even those who have to leave a little early would have an idea of what they are missing (like a movie where you see the ending at the very beginning; so even if you miss out on the last few minutes you can guess what you missed).

Anyways, after all the re-thinking, I finally decided to retain the "excess" contents - at least for the time being. What convinced me was going over my past feedback (again). If 69% say that the workshop duration was "just right" and 24% feel that it was "too short", then may be I am not doing a bad job by including those extra stuff. Also, considering over 93% rate the effectiveness of the sessions "Good / Excellent", I probably shouldn't try something drastic anyways.

I sometimes wish I had a full course to handle instead of these workshops. That would give me a lot more control and flexibility over the contents - I could always push stuff over for the next class if necessary! I also think it would be a nice change and offer fresh challenges. I wish the college were more open to allowing grad students to teach classes.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trusting Reviews

Looks like Internet is probably the best/easiest way to get back at any bad customer service you may have received. Of course there have been several instances with my recent favorite being "United breaks guitars". Just about everything (and everyone) from this Friday's new releases, to your college Professors are being rated, with the comments and results out in the public.

(I probably can't deny this point considering I keep track of movies I like and the books I read and "rate" them! Even though I do it more as a "bookkeeping" exercise I still end up with my "rants" on random stuff, which essentially are reviews.)

Getting back to the point I was trying to make, this is indeed a scary proposition for many (and I dont just mean the "big-companies"). Service providers must be extra careful about potential customer fallouts that may result in the next viral video (UA breaks guitars) or a negative mention in the next bestseller (French Roast in Freaknomics)! It is also important from the POV of a consumer - considering you rely on such reviews to make several decisions (and/or get influenced by them) how much "trust" can you actually place on the reviews / ratings? Consider that unhappy customers are more likely to write a negative review than happy customers are to  write a positive one. It may be easy to weed out odd/spurious reviews but add in factors such as "paid reviews" and biased reviewers. "Internet anonymity" has a lot to do with it too. There is a lot to ponder about one's (related) online habits --- both writing reviews as well as reading (and trusting) them.

May be I will ramble more on this sometime later.
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The last time I finished a book "at-one-stretch" would be Potter's final adventures (although the first time had to do with finishing it before I chanced upon any spoilers, I read it again "at-one-stretch" months afterwards as well). In fact I had just mentioned last week to a friend that I have too many books "in progress", in parallel, which is very unlike how I used to be. So it does feel nice to note that I am done with "Freakanomics" in a single day. Of course, it did help that the book was small and interesting, but going along with the theme of the book, I should probably ponder a bit more on the "why" of it.

I may not get down to "Superfreakanomics" just yet, definitely not with the pile of books on my table. But I will most likely follow up in few months.  Some interesting notes I remember from the book.
- Incentives & cheating
- Roe vs Wade: Decrease in crime rate
- Hidden agendas of Real Estate Agents
- Spring 1987, IRS require SSN results in 7 million Dependants disappearing!
- Sumo Wrestlers & Chicago school teachers: Incentives to cheat
- Paul Feldman's Bagels
- Information asymmetry
- Using fear to advantage
- Lying to hide bias
- Klu Klux Klan and Real Estate agents
- Job Pay: # ppl willing to do the job, unpleasantness of job, specialization skills, demand for services
- Risks that scare vs. Risks that kill
- How "smart names" trickle down the "success pyramid"
- Being skeptical about conventional wisdom
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Never Ending ToDos

As compensation for over-sleeping the other day, have been getting up before 6AM for the past few days. I usually end up sleeping late on weekends to catch up with "lost sleep" but the getting-up-early trend continued today (thankfully, I must add).

Writing is really a time-consuming process. I give myself an hour to finish something and end up needing at least a couple more before I am satisfied. Worked on the CTS '10 paper all morning and finally managed to finish it even though I wasn't completely satisfied. I still have two more days to re-work it but I at least have a "near-final" draft on hand.

I was starving by then and with amazing coincidence Athreya called up with "whats for lunch?". I ended up making my "north-south-fusion". The only interesting side note being my "eggplant sambhar" turned out quite well, exceeding my expectations. Of course, it also means that I am getting more successful at eating Brinjal.

The bad surprise of the day was the realization that I am quite out-of-touch with Matlab. Because of that Athreya had to suffer more delay on his research front. However I think I was a lot more frustrated about the whole thing. Hmm. I also managed to be more productive on the housekeeping front; did my laundry and weekend-cleaning which actually gives me two days and few hours (till I crash tonight) to work on the To Dos list.

Looking forward to the day I wont have to go over the ToDos, the minute I wake up. Unfortunately I dont see it in the near horizon!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Objects Disappearing on a Bad Day

Not a very productive day, so far. I was late to work in the morning due to lamest of reasons - oversleeping. It has been a while since I needed an alarm to get up on time but today turned out to be an exception. After a busy few hours at work, came home and finally decided to do some grocery shopping that I had been avoiding. Turns out, although my cooking skills have actually gone up in the past few months, a bad mood doesn't really help. A so-so lunch later started to semi-work on stuff; couldn't get much done. May be I should have just taken the nap. Throw in some card-games and roommate-bonding, and several of today's "ToDos" still remain on the list. SKA makes a nice cup to tea for everyone (to get back to work) and then it happens. The sugar box's lid goes missing. I still can't figure out where these things disappear. This is the third time (second time this week) that I have searched *everywhere* in the house for something that just doesn't want to be found. Had to give up the search just so I could get back to work. I check my emails and that email still hasn't arrived. Grrr. Looks like tonight is going to be another "work-night", which reminds me, I should probably set the alarm.
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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Unwanted tickets

I keep getting email confirmations to pick up theater tickets I never purchased. And the emails are genuine, not spam; someone must have just used the wrong email address while creating their account online. And based on my email address, I am guessing that that someone and I share the same name.

Now every time he decides to watch a movie at his favorite theater, I am immediately informed about which film he is planning to watch and with how many people, the showtimes, and even the assigned seat numbers. I guess I could go to the theater early and get the tickets using the confirmation email. If only he went to movies that I could actually sit through. May be I could give off the tickets to someone else.

"Vettaikaran" anyone?
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