Delft Diaries – 5

February 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

Finally the rubber hits the road. Groups have been allotted and work has been divided. And it’s fun cool nice.

Mood swings are lower now, and I am surprised how much that depends on the weather. When the sun is out, it’s impossible not to feel good about the day, about life, about everything. And when it’s rainy and cold, things are opposite.

Day 13

Valentine’s day was nothing special – we don’t celebrate it very much anyway. But as the days pass, I miss the mornings with my wife Swati. The cup of tea in bed, and the discussions on life, and the breakfast.

Aah, back to Delft.

I went to the huge IKEA store.

 

Though smaller than a Big Bazaar and Sarvana Bhawan in Chennai, it was pretty huge, and for the first time I saw kids playing around. It felt good to think about having a family here with all the warm, cozy stuff.

Design, even on sets of knives they have the designer’s name written. I wonder regularly at the thoughtful design of everyday things.

It was a cold and rainy day, but I got good and important stuff.

After coming back from the store, I wasted a lot of time on the new edition of my favorite 3D game – Infinity Blade. Enjoy the screenshots !

Day 14

A bit adventurous.

I took an elective which seemed fun – 3D design. But as I sat through the class, I was nervous. This was way out of my depth. Materials, Splines,.. buzz. I like taking challenges, but of a certain type. This was like flying an airplane when you like taking challenges on the road.

 

See what I mean?

So, during the class break I was talking to a friend and told him I can’t do this, and he told his friend and he told his friend – who was the academic associate for another course, and bang I walked right in the middle of class in another course. Everyone looked at me odd, but things got under control soon.

Day 15

Today the sun was out – the pics from the start of this post. Just one class, and I spent a a few hours in this place (it’s called a library, but it’s unlike any I have seen).

 

It feels good to be there. In the night, I took some more pics.

‘Industrieel Ontwerpen’ is Dutch for ‘Industrial Design Engineering’. And yes, that car is right at the entrance.

Day 16

Nothing much, apart from seeing that – startup thinking is everywhere. And I want to remain a part of it.

 

Day 17

Got selected for a project with KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines here. First project outside core academics. Let’s see what happens. Worked on an assignment on Van Moof bicycles. Had no idea electric bicycles existed and they were part of a sharing system.

Also, a Van Moof Electric bike costs ~ 3,000 Euros. That’s 2.3 Lac INR.

And yes, these are again, incredibly well-designed. Wish to get one, some-day.

Day 18

Another day with work – classes and group assignments. Had a misunderstanding with a friend. Cleared it.

Got awesome news in the morning. My sister had a son. She has a daughter – Navya. And Navya really wanted a younger brother. She has one now :).

Day 19

Mostly boring day – no classes. Had a nice chat session with a friend from Engineering College who lives in a nearby city. Lot of pros and cons about Europe, the situation in India. Hope to get to his place soon for Biriyani.

This has been a long one – for I don’t plan to write day-wise stuff now. Things are getting into a settled mode with work getting more intense. Will update in case of special events.

Hope you enjoyed it 🙂

 

Delft Diaries – 4

February 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Well, can’t trust WordPress. I wrote a long post and set it to auto-publish at a given date. And now it’s just gone. Anyway, we shall re-build.

Day 8

Visual Communication Class. Monotonous. But had a lot of fun with colors. Made this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 4.04.51 PM

I know it looks ugly. But well this is version 1.0 and that’s all we were given time for. I felt very nervous seeing plain breathtaking painting and drawing around me, but in the end, I did fairly well. This was meant to be a visualization of our journey as a designer.

Evening was better – found a supermarket 5 mins walk from my home and got a lot of things to eat. Also, spent some time ‘strategizing’ about time here. I need to learn Dutch to experience this place better. Don’t know how though.

Day 9 

Lot of time was classroom and group work. While the topic was very interesting – blockchain technology – it was not presented as such. Or maybe I have an aversion to classrooms. I want to do stuff. I like to listen to interesting stuff, but not to lectures.

After out group work, I gave half of our presentation. Was comfortable speaking to a crowd of mostly Dutch students. While working, I found the Dutch to be much less rigorous than the Germans. People from Germany have an insane work ethic, but I expected the Dutch to be at least 70% of that. Probably further experience will refine my opinion. Other side – Dutch people seem more friendly and fun-oriented.

Day 10

Today was off, so I cooked my first meal here. Just some potato curry with ‘khakra’. It tasted good, and felt awesome. Room-mate also liked it.

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In the evening, we had to meet our ‘buddies’ and go for a party. I finally realized that parties are not for me. It’s good to turn up for attendance, but since I don’t drink and do not prefer dancing to loud music between strangers, there is no point wasting time like this. Better to explore new places (like at Rotterdam).

Day 11

A very nice day – good weather, good friends, a museum and coffee.

During first half, felt humbled when I saw the design portfolios of my Korean and Taiwanese friends. The Taiwanese guy has designed a 3-D scooter ! (he was a product manager at SYM). All I have are some logos. And it is not just a scooter, it is a scooter which has removable seats and can double as a table-chair thing and it was not just the idea but the actual 3-D design of the thing and it was god so awesome.

I am better than most people I see here at communication and language skills. But core product design, these people knock me out. And that’s mission accomplished. I came here to learn and be inspired from awesome design and their work did that.

Next half of the day was spent at Museum Prinsenhof. Again, I was wrong. While I saw Delft as ok types developed with some history, I did not know it had such an awesome historical tradition. The founder of Netherlands, William of Orange, was killed in Delft – the museum still has the bullet marks – he was also the 1st person to be killed with a handgun.

The painter Vermeer, which you never heard of, lived here. But maybe you have seen his painting:

Meisje_met_de_parel

And the Museum was an awesome experience. 2 hours were not enough to explore it. There were advanced HCI devices, plays, and touch-screens.

After the Museum, we sat having coffee and it was what EU has meant for me – exploring culture, relaxed evening in a coffeehouse near a canal, having good conversation with friends. I learned a lot during this conversation too.

Day 12

The intense pangs of loneliness are gone now. Same with the few nightmares. Though I still have some random, not-understood dreams. I reflect more on the awesomeness of EU and how I have been able to make it after such a long effort. As I learn more about the surroundings and make more and deeper friendships, I guess things will become much better.

Today being a Saturday, I just lazed around in the first half. Then cooked potatoes (that’s all I cook for now) and read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s work ‘Fooled by Randomness’ in between.

I thought I wouldn’t get time for reading here but I am – have been able to cover ~300 pages in the last 10 days (not a big number, but bigger than my expectations). Also, reading Taleb is just fun.

Tried to find a compelling documentary on Dutch history on YouTube. Failed. Do let me know if you can.

Until next week !

Delft Diaries – 3

February 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Day 6

After doing some work for the classes tomorrow, I had 2 choices:

  • Clean up my room, organize my stuff
  • Go to Rotterdam !

I chose the latter simply out of principle – was feeling lazy but but part of the idea of coming to EU was to expose myself to more people and experiences, and it worked well ! I feel more energized now after the trip.

The ‘Rotterdam’ team’s idea was to visit the iconic buildings we had researched for a design competition (which we did not win). The idea we selected bored us indeed and the idea we rejected turned out to be way more interesting.

Here are some pics from the day:
I also learned that I know very less about a lot of things. I am fairly well-read and it’s not usual to feel lost in a conversation. Yet I found myself clueless many times when talking with friends on the trip. I know nothing about chair design, almost nothing about Australian or New Zealand history, and apparently very little about Netherlands too. But again, that’s what I am here for – exploring 🙂

Day 7
Today was the first class, which covered an important topic – self management. But I found it pretty boring. First, I have thought a *lot* already about this, and I am not a big fan of an academic approach. The year with a startup has really changed my views/working style. It’s all about experimentation and data.

But I enjoyed the classroom with a smartphone and Wi-Fi access. We can browse the net and of course chat on WhatsApp while the class is going on. Gone are the days of students passing notes or reading novels in boring classes. The students of the future will have such a good time – I am jealous.

The weather has been cruel today though. Behold wind speeds of ~ 50 km/h. Which make it very tough to walk in any direction – except that of the wind. And this again made me question why I am here ! But thank heavens, good food offered by room-mate and a glass of hot milk made life much better.
Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 8.56.31 PM
First week at Delft is complete – it has been quite a ride.
From now on, I plan to update this blog every week.

Delft Diaries – 2

February 6, 2016 § 2 Comments

See here for days 1 and 2.

Day 3

I was much less tired – one, I wore woolen inners (finally!) and two, I ate a lot and walked lesser and three, the weather was not that cold – so it was back to feeling awesome about Europe.
Sometimes I deeply question my decision to be here.. so I am glad I relied on hard facts and not just emotions.. like – health effects of great weather and silence – already seem to be working (though of course it is crazy to start evaluating a life decision in 3 days !).
Also, the people here have a good work ethic – we worked on a design project today and did a commendable job.
Rotterdam Poster

Poster for a building in Rotterdam

I have done similar exercises with guys in India and most would just not take it seriously – as it was only a team building exercise.
Tangent –> There is this Swiss guy who looks at me as if deeply interested – he looks at everyone that way – and that makes him interesting. He comes from Zurich. Must be a bummer to be a native there – what will you dream about if you already live in the perfect city?
In general, there is an environment of not judging people. Dutch people look different from the chiseled Germans, and they are more approachable. When I sit with a group at a party- only guy without a drink, people notice it, but never mind it. Very few even ask about it. If I say no to an offer of a drink, it is not forced – it’s quite easy to say no. So I hang out with people more. And yes, Dutch girls look beautiful – some of them have blue eyes, and it feels like you are talking to a moving statue.
I have not done a lot of necessary shopping yet as I want to spend more time with more people. It pinches the pocket, but I have learned that people matter more than money, so I go out, explore new places and food, and have a good time with friends.
I regularly wonder at how developed this place is. On the project about Rotterdam we found it had so many awesome buildings and museums and universities and wow. I imagined it to be a quaint little place. But it seemed way more futuristic and advanced than any metropolis back in India. I had assumed Amsterdam was the only major city in Netherlands. Rest was just.. tulips & windmills. I was very, very wrong.
I feel very thankful to the technology around now. The net speed is an awesome 30 mbps and I can talk to any of my friends anytime on WhatsApp. This was tough the last time I came here in 2010. We had to spend a lot of Euros in calls, and there was no easy way to share pictures. There were no smartphones – none with people like me at least. Being connected to family and friends this way makes me feel very good and optimistic about life ahead.

Day 4

From Male (age 35) to Male (age 27). That’s what my camera says (on a Xiaomi Mi4i).

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I walk around 3-5 kms everyday, and sometimes I run to catch the tram, and thus there are dramatic effects in a few days. I knew Europe would boost my health, but feels so much better when it actually happens.

Results of the design competition were announced in the evening – we didn’t win  but it was fun to dance in the after-party and just hang out with a lot of new people. I have met at least 30 by now. Most people were bad at dancing, but great at enjoying a party.

For dinner, there was a beef burger which I felt conflicted about. I feel uncomfortable eating beef just because I am not used to it – just like sea-food. It didn’t taste so great either so I left it mid-way. Chicken is my comfort zone.

In the day time, we had ‘faculty introduction’ – this is when I saw my department from the inside for the first time.

06-22

IDE (or IO, in Dutch) Department from the outside – simple, boring.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 9.27.48 PM.png

And now we are inside !

We got introduced the huge place with interesting design, got the schedule of our classes and met Academic Counsellors and also saw the actual ambulance drone. I discovered that I was the only Indian guy joining this semester (bummer), though there are a few Indian girls. But good to know some of the senior students are Indian. I came here to explore cultures but I admit, I do love to speak a bit of Hindi.

Made me happy to see some German guys in the program. I know a bit of German and have always admired their work ethic.


 

Day 5

Morning began with me feeling lonely and questioning life for around an hour. But soon I checked out my Wi-fi router – and words can’t explain the beauty of this image:

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 3.03.22 PM

Had a lot of fun chatting with friends and family. SO GLAD for WhatsApp calling/ FaceTime/Smartphones. Whole evening went chatting. It’s not just about saving money on calls. You just feel so free and relaxed – that you can call a loved one anytime,  anywhere – it’s immensely empowering.

Finally went out for shopping and got some food. This reminded me of all the good things I loved Europe. So much awesome food, nice, respectful people. Indian people are great but everything is so rushed – it’s tough to be nice when too many people are fighting for too little space and food.

And since I got some time today (a Saturday) – did some good ol’ 2×2 thinking:

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 10.26.13 PM.pngAs I get – ‘set up’ here, there will be lesser daily updates – will try to document interesting events though.

 

 

Delft Diaries

February 3, 2016 § 3 Comments

So, I am now in Netherlands.

Alone in my room in a very silent place. Got used to the noise back home. There is SO MUCH to write and say, and I am missing my family bad.

Room-mate here is a helpful guy.

Last night was extraordinarily lonely. But then, I was *very* tired too.

Let’s see what today brings (So far it’s just been – lounging in my room trying to make sense of my luggage).

Some pics from Day 1 at Delft:


 

Day 2:

I was better prepared – with more familiarity with the tram stops and my residence. Also, carried less stuff around.

I marveled again at how ‘developed’ Delft is. I imagined it to be a quaint little university town (like Oestrich Winkel) – but this is more like a mini-city. The canals resemble those at Amsterdam and the market places cover a large area – hell, this seems bigger than the parts of Amsterdam I explored. The University too has a well designed layout and gives a breathtaking view in the night.

Met mostly exchange students here – the introduction program aligns towards them as few regular students join in the winter semester. One of them was an Australian Black Muslim – talk about diversity ! And he seemed the best well-read among all I met.

My roomie (rooms are separate but connected in a bigger ‘hall’) is nine years younger – so of course I feel what the hell am I doing with my life. My nephews and nieces are older than that. I don’t know how it will be with the people I study with. At least our life concerns do not match. Marriage and partnership dominate emotions at this age. But I think more about my wife and parents.

Going around the city, sometimes I stop and think – Oh my God, I have actually made it to Europe! I dreamed about this for so long ! The beautiful and clean roads, canals, trees, the green grass – everything is like I imagined and better than any pictures can show. And yet, as soon as I have it, I have discounted it, and I think being with my family is very important. Mixed feelings, friends.

But it is satisfying to get a very good room here. Very silent, well-furnished with a wide table to read and write and think – happy thing 🙂

Students here are telling me that the program is very grueling. I have already met people taking 4 years to complete their Master’s degree ! They say it’s tough to graduate. I didn’t bother about it (because IIM), but too many people saying it has alerted me now.

I don’t have clear answers regarding where to push my career, but I console myself – made it to here – will make it further too.

Bangalore Summary

January 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

WC 3

A simple hand-made word cloud to summarize ~ 900 days at Bangalore.

All the Self-Help ideas from my life till now and then some

April 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have read a lot of generic self-help ideas over the years. It’s all over the net – blogs, Quora, business articles. So to save time on such content, I am summarizing the most common and useful ideas I have found over the years.
  • Some interesting ones which gave me good results are marked with a star (*)
  • Underlines indicate helpful links

At the end, I have shared ideas and methods from my own experiences.

Read on !
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Advice I can recall from various books and blogs

Body
  • Food – Eat more veggies. Avoid red meat. Stop when you are less than full. Drink lot of water. No smoking. Alcohol in limits
  • Exercise – Everyday at least 20 minutes. Push all parts of the body. Walk around in nature
  • Sleep – Get a good 8-9 hours everyday. Quality matters. No screens in bedroom. Eat 2 hours before sleeping. Wake up early
Mind
  • *Read – Non-fiction books. Read everyday. Read biographies of famous people. Avoid blogs, minimize social networking. Avoid mainstream media, and most of all, TV
  • *10 ideas – Be an idea machine and come up with 10 ideas everyday on something, anything
  • Skills – learn a new skill every year. Learn a language. To learn, practice everyday before going to sleep and just after waking up for 20 minutes
  • *Write – Learn to express ideas clearly. Keep a personal journal. Write a summary of every book or important article you read – this helps make the material concrete in your mind. Use the Flesch-Kincaid Index to check grade-level of your writing
Soul/Emotions
  • Meditate – sit straight, observe your breath. If attention wanders, bring it back gently. Duration – 2 minutes is good, 20 minutes is better
  • *Spiritual Books – Bhagwad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Bible – anything, everyday
  • Gratitude – Everyday, give a prayer of thanks for all the good things in your life
  • *Positive Mindset – Every evening write down 3 good things which happened and why
  • *ABCDE Technique – Interpret events in a positive way
Relationships & Conversations
  • *Gratitude Letter – Send this to someone to mend the relationship
  • Thank you notes – Send them to everyone after meeting them first time
  • Listen. Smile. Praise. Don’t point out faults
  • Look at other person’s point of view
  • *Apologize for your faults up front. Be ready to admit you may be wrong
  • Connect people who can help each other
  • Create mail account for your kid/spouse and send pictures and notes to it
Career
  • Focus on your strengths, focus on doing one thing very well
  • Do your research on the company you are applying to
  • Dress well for interviews. Be organized and courteous
Work and Productivity
  • *Sketch our ideas first. Use post-it notes
  • *Pomodoro – Do work in 25 minute chunks in which you shut out all distractions. Take 5 min breaks between chunks
  • Eat the Frog – Do the hardest task of the day first
  • Kanban method – don’t do new tasks until old ones are completed
  • Use Tools – Like Evernote to keep track of ideas. Use headphones to focus on work.
  • No meeting Wednesdays – Have a day of week at work when there are no meetings
  • Look at your To-Do list the night before
  • Write top 3 priorities on a post-it note everyday and focus on them
General Tricks & Gyan
  • Habits – Do the minimum needed (e.g., 1 push-up) everyday to get energy flowing
  • *Failure/Foolishness diary – Keep a record of your foolishnesses and failures. This makes you realize your infallibility. Gives tremendous humility
  • Intuition – Do stuff on hunches, follow your gut, try out new things and be a little crazy
  • Travel – Visit different parts of the world and understand the people there
  • Don’t be afraid of failing. Double your failure rate. Crank out that 1st version real fast.
  • Don’t be a spectator, get in the ring. Act within 3 seconds of the impulse to act (otherwise your defensive mind will stop you)
  • Avoid Debt. Cut the credit cards. Don’t invest in something you don’t understand
  • Fake it till you make it. Act confident and happy even when you are not
  • Be around positive and intelligent people
  • Savor every moment. Live in the present. Focus on fixing this day and future will take care of itself
  • Be a giver. Add value to every workplace, relationship, project
  • Take challenges and be uncomfortable
  • You can learn a lot just by watching
  • Have a system, not goals

Quite a mouthful? I know. Have a look at the inspiring Nike of Samothrace before the next round.
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What I can add from my life experiences

  • Study History – this is the best way to realize how lucky you are. You can start here or here
  • Read older books – at least 30 years old – thoughts and ideas follow fashions. They were different 30+ years ago
  • Big Minds – Read books or listen to Videos of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Read works of Plato. Read The Fountainhead  and Catch-22. Looking for something still tougher and more awesome? Read Nietzsche. Read these books again & again
  • Things change, so focus on core skills – analyzing ideas, writing, data analysis, relationships are mine. Identify yours. Try to find those which will be useful no matter what career you choose
  • Teach children – will teach patience and give insights into the learning process. Spend time with children in general. They have a lot to teach
  • Go for Quality when you consume, Quantity when you create – One great book teaches more than 50 average ones. One intelligent guy comes up with better ideas and insights than 50 average guys. When you create, create multiple samples for your work; multiple iterations improve quality drastically. Generate multiple solutions for every problem until you come up with the most elegant or lose all your energy
  • Keep in touch – Keep close friends informed about life plans and strategies. E-mail, blogs, or a newsletter work well. Meet and call frequently. Keep it personal
  • Learn new tools – they expand the scope of your skills. WordPress, Evernote, MS Excel, Adobe Illustrator, Picasa. Free tutorials are everywhere. Learn shortcuts keys and tricks
  • Discover books – Go to a bookshop and just browse. Find the books you find captivating. A good book is one which holds you
  • Draw – Anything and everything. It can release pent-up emotions. You don’t need to show it to anyone
  • Never hit below the belt – You can be angry or even rude, but never go under a certain level. People will treat you with dignity
  • Apologize right away – The very next second you realize that you could be wrong
  • The right industry & career role – It should fit with your values. Not excited by money? Don’t go into Finance & Banking. Also, work in the core function of a company. In FMCG, work in Marketing, not IT.  Programmer? Work at Google. Designer? Work at Apple. Sales guy? I guess you can work anywhere
  • Make others the hero – Congratulate people in public. Write on their FaceBook wall wishing them the best. Engage in ‘positive gossip’
  • Come back to now – List 10 things happening around you at a given moment to focus your attention back to this exact moment
  • Five years from today – To put problems in perspective, ask yourself – will this matter to me five years from now? Then you will stop sweating over little problems
  • Move to the right city – Life is like real estate business. It’s all about location, location, location. Has tremendous impact on everything you do
  • Pray – If you need to. Sometimes you need to
  • Listen to great Music – It lifts you up like nothing else. And dance, always dance. Even when alone. Especially when alone
  • Watch documentaries on Space – Looking at wonders of the Universe is an awesome experience. Watch Interstellar
  • Exhaust Yourself – When in distress, tire yourself out by doing mental or physical labor. Solve difficult puzzles. Calculate powers of 2 mentally, see how far you can go. Go for a very long walk
  • Keep your surrounding clean and organized – No need to be obsessive, but have a general sense of order & cleanliness
  • Speaking in Public – A very useful skill. Learnt best from observing TED talks and Steve Jobs presentations and of course, practice
  • Make friends from other cultures and countries – Helps you in knowing yourself better
  • Themed Reading – Read 3 to 5 books on a single subject one after the other. Will deepen your understanding drastically – another example of compounding effects
  • Learn new languages – Even bits and pieces. It’s fun 🙂
  • Learn to Cook – Nothing beats the taste of your own food and the happiness of serving others
  • Skills take time – Don’t expect to see solid results in anything without at least a 100 days of daily effort. If you do give that time, results will surely come. Key word is ‘daily’
  • Keep the door open – go to that party, that wedding, that startup event in the city. Put yourself in places where you interact with new people. You learn a lot and make friends

This has been a long and hopefully worthwhile post. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me. Have an awesome life !