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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Constitution as a creature of Parliament – ‘India in the Shadows of Empire’

"The relatively easy process of amendment to the Constitution also reveals that the Congress did not see the Constitution as a permanent sovereign text that would endure through the ages. 'No Supreme Court and no judiciary,' declared Nehru 'can stand in judgment over the sovereign will of the Parliament, representing the will of the entire community… Ultimately the whole Constitution is a creature of Parliament.' By designating the Constitution as 'a creature of Parliament' what Nehru did in effect was to put the Parliament both above the Supreme Court and the Constitution itself. This understanding effectively abolished any notion of the sovereignty of the Constitution as a unique document that anchored the entire polity, and reduced it to the status of a regular act of legislation. For the text of the Constitution to acquire the aura of sovereignty – and by implication for the Supreme Court to acquire autonomy as its final interpreter – it was essential that the moment of constitution framing be symbolised as an extraordinary moment, distinct from routine acts of legislation. For example, the American Constitution, coming in the train of the revolutionary struggle for independence, became a sovereign document marking not just the independent existence of America as a nation separate from the British Empire, but also a fundamentally new relationship between the people and the state. This fact is also borne out by the rarity of amendments to the United States Constitution."

(Mithi Mukerjee in 'India in the Shadows of Empire,' p. 197 OUP)

Co-creation on steroids – ‘Leadershift’

"My guess is that we have all experienced what Harvard Law School Professor Yochai Benkler describes when he talks about the mobile phone having abolished the need to plan. As soon as you got your first mobile phone you started to say things like 'I tell you what, how about I call you when I'm done here and then we can see what we'll do.' Prior to mobile communication you would have had to make a plan and aim to stick to it. 'I tell you what, I will meet you tonight at the station by the newspaper stand at half past six when I come out of the office' would have been the exchange you had in the morning prior to setting off for work. If a deadline had emerged, the plan would have evaporated and with it the goodwill of the person you were supposed to meet and had not been able to contact. This kind of flexibility in business is priceless. This lack of 'need to plan' also means that you need less managerial time to coordinate. The requirements for a leader to complete the coordination task start to look a bit shaky. The talent, managerial and structure costs suddenly disappear almost as fast as the opportunities appear."

"Today's technology is putting the world of co-creation on steroids. What has become known as 'distributed co-creation' – the bringing together of talent from numerous sources outside the organisational boundaries – is only in its infancy but growing at an exponential rate."

(Emmanuel Gobillot in 'Leadershift,' p. 35 Viva)

Shempa Logic - ‘Buddha: 9 to 5’

"As intelligent, capable, accomplished leaders, why do we get so stuck? How do we create our own misery? We usually design our own roadblocks to happiness and success through attachment to an identity, such as the title or position we hold, or to our attachment to a specific outcome. In Buddhism, this attachment is referred to as 'Shempa.'"

"When we experience Shempa, we generally will tighten around a thought or concept and eventually we are hooked to that idea. We are stuck. The attachment paralyses us from seeing issues in any context that is different from our own view of the situation at hand. We are unable to act from a perspective that is open to the creativity of a new approach. As we continue to push the envelope and fixate on the outcome, we are actually building momentum toward attachment. This very inflexible mind is referred to as 'Shempa Logic.'"

(Nancy Spears in 'Buddha: 9 to 5,' p. 73 Viva)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Microsoft Silverlight 3: A beginner’s guide

"As the Web has evolved over the years, businesses and developers have adopted the Web as a primary development platform. A term was coined to describe the new era of web applications: Web 2.0. Web 2.0 specifies that web applications should be composed of original developer efforts and should consume services offered by other companies and developers. Web 2.0 applications are partially designed on the publisher-subscriber paradigm and integrate media and animation."

"Over the years, web developers began to look at ways to improve web application performance. The Web is composed of millions of interlinked computers, again, with the bulk of processing occurring on servers. Web 2.0 indicates that networks, including the Internet, should be powered by a conglomeration of distributed computing power. The vast majority of computers on the Web, client computers, have been acting as dumb terminals for years. Developers have looked at methods for utilising the untapped computing power available in client computers attached to the Web. Several methods, such as ASP.NET AJAX, have been developed that perform more processing on the client's computer than standard web applications. ASP.NET AJAX uses JavaScript to asynchronously pass data to a server in XML format, thus delivering a user-perceived improvement in performance and a better user experience. Web applications that work to improve performance to deliver a better user experience are referred to as rich interactive applications (RIAs)."

"The downside to standard RIA solutions is that they perform client-side processing using JavaScript. JavaScript is powerful but is executed directly by the user's browser and is therefore at the mercy of the browser's capacity to correctly execute the script."

"Microsoft began experimenting to extend ASP.NET AJAX to further gain control over the client-side computing environment to improve the technology…"

(Shannon Horn in 'Microsoft Silverlight 3: A beginner's guide,' p. 43 TMH)

Agricultural Growth in India: Role of technology, incentives, and institutions

"Given wide variations in climate, soil characteristics, and in the extent and quality of irrigation facilities available, 'area' is a rather poor indicator of the productivity of land. We know that, other things being the same, regions with higher rainfall tend to have higher productivity. There is evidence that soil quality as well access to irrigation varies, with smaller holdings in general having better quality land and a higher proportion of their area under irrigation. Why should there be a systematic inverse relation between land quality and holding size is an interesting and as yet an unresolved question."

"The incidence of tenancy – measured both by the proportion of households which lease in land and that of operated area which is leased in – is very low. Tenancy clearly is not playing much of a role in correcting the mismatch between the distribution of land and that of labour power across households. Because of this, and the high proportion of those who do not operate any land on their own, wage labour plays a significant role in agriculture. According to the 2001 Census, nearly 40 per cent of workers engaged in agriculture were wage labourers."

"Dependence on wage labour is widespread: there are few purely wage labour-dependent farmers or wholly family labour-dependent farms. Large landowners depend more on wage labour; but even small cultivators use some wage labour even as they contribute a sizeable part of the wage labour supply for agriculture. The relative importance of the two sources of labour is a function of holding size, the caste composition of the population and of landowners; incidence of wage labour tends to be higher in regions with relatively high proportion of scheduled castes which have traditionally been excluded from land ownership."

"These features of Indian agrarian organisation stand in sharp contrast to those of other heavily populated, land-scarce countries of East Asia such as China and Japan. Pre-war Japan and pre-revolutionary China had low land-man ratios and unequal distribution of land ownership…"

(A. Vaidyanathan in 'Agricultural Growth in India: Role of technology, incentives, and institutions,' p. 140 OUP)

Hotel Front Office: Operations and management

"A night auditor is the person who audits the hotel accounts daily at night or at a time when the business is relatively slow. The audit team generally comprises members of the accounts department. The number of people in the audit team depends upon the size, location, and products of the hotel. Since most of the activities of the night auditor are concentrated in the front office, the front office manager (FOM) may provide the necessary inputs for the night audit process. So the members of the night audit team generally report to the accounts department as well as the FOM. As a night auditor has to work in the night, the position doesn't find many takers, so most of the hotels do not have a permanent team of night auditors."

"A night auditor should be a skilled bookkeeper as he is required to track all the financial transactions between the hotel and its guests and to calculate the total revenue generated during the day. A night auditor should also possess the skills of a receptionist, as in many small and medium hotels, he may be required to carry out the check-in/ check-out function at night."

"Night auditors monitor the current status of guest accounts vis-à-vis the credit limits, and verify discounts, allowances, and promotional programmes that are offered to guests. They prepare reports about the front office operation for the management. Fully automated hotels may not require a team of night auditors as most of the functions (known as system updates) that a night auditor performs are carried out automatically by the computerised system, but a person is still required to physically verify the accounts and vouchers."

(Jatashankar R. Tewari in 'Hotel Front Office: Operations and management,' p. 303 OUP)

Why My Horse Doesn’t Smile: Learn to serve your customer

"While listening to a customer's viewpoint/ complaint it is important to confirm that whatever you heard and understood was the message he/ she wanted to communicate. Besides enabling you to understand the message/ complaint correctly, it will also give you an opportunity to rephrase your answer so as to satisfy your customer. As opposed to rephrasing your own message, whenever you rephrase the customer's words you need to be cautious. The use of inappropriate words can anger the customer and aggravate the situation. For example, saying 'You do not understand me. Let me rephrase…,' may amount to disgracing the customer. This is threatening in nature as it indirectly conveys that you are trying to say that the customer is stupid. This can spoil the entire flow of the communication. Instead you may say 'I feel I am not able to communicate the point properly. Let me rephrase it for you.' This will generate a positive feeling. Instead of doubting the customer's understanding, put the blame on yourself. You will find the customer more attentive/ receptive to your second approach, and will help you to communicate your viewpoint/ message as intended."

(Vivek Mehrotra and Neelesh Kapoor in 'Why My Horse Doesn't Smile: Learn to serve your customer,' p. 74 Viva)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Paris Vendetta

"Ashby loved the chase."

"He was always amused by books and movies that depicted treasure hunters as swashbucklers. In reality, most of the time was spent poring through old writings, whether they be books, wills, correspondence, personal notes, private diaries, or public records. Bits and pieces, here and there. Never some singular piece of proof that solved the puzzle in one quick swoop. Clues were generally either barely existent or undecipherable, and there were far more disappointments than successes."

"This chase was a perfect example."

"Yet they may actually be on to something this time."

"hard to say for sure until they examined The Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751 A.D., which should be waiting for them a few metres ahead."

"Eliza Larocque had advised him that today would be a perfect opportunity to sneak into this part of the museum. No construction crews should be on the job. Likewise, the Invalides staff would be anxious to be done with the day and go home for Christmas. Tomorrow was one of the few days the museum was closed."

"Mr. Guildhall led the way through the cluttered gallery."

"The tepid air smelled of paint and turpentine, further evidence of the obvious ongoing renovations."

(Steve Berry in 'The Paris Vendetta,' p. 196 Hachette)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Roadrunner: An Indian quest in America

"Ecological problems probably also caused the Chaco people to abandon this valley. But had they survived and thrived and multiplied, would the Chacos and Hohokams and others like them have been the ancestors of today's Americans, instead of it being the immigrant nation it is today?"

"On the way out of Chaco, my rental Toyota's GPS device keeps telling me, in its metallic GPS way, to turn left here, or right there. Except that there's nowhere to turn; the instructions suggest paths that are non-existent. I mean, the contraption shows them on its display, and indicates I should turn, and says so loudly, but at those points where it urges me to do so, there is simply nothing to turn on to. Just bushes. Again, I am glad to later read People of Chaco, because Frazier explains that various aerial photography techniques have suggested that there was once a complex network of roads between the ruins and outliers in this area. Yet, he writes, it's impossible to locate some of those roads on the ground. Is this GPS thingie suffering from a similar problem, or in its case, delusions? After all, this is the only spot, through several thousand miles of driving, where it has offered me such oddball advice."

"Is it also responding to aerial views of ancient ancestral roads?"

(Dilip D'Souza in 'Roadrunner: An Indian quest in America,' p. 251 Harper)