Archive for the ‘A day in my life’ Category

It’s been nine years. Nine long years thaththi. Nine years since you departed. There isn’t a single day that I didn’t wish you were here. It would have been fun thathithi. And you would have been real proud too. Both of me and Malli and our wives and little ones too.

Everything you taught us comes handy. The lessons you explicitly taught as well the lessons that you taught us by example. Some lessons which we didn’t get then but which we now get when we look back I retrospect.

Somehow I get the feeling that you have left us. That you are still looking down upon us. In a strange way that you are still keeping us on course. Not letting us veer away.

Thank you thaththi for all that you have done. For making us what we are today. For giving us the foundation through education, to lead our lives. To feed our families with respect.

You will always be in our hearts thaththi.

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It has been raining since this morning. It has now healed a bit but still the drizzle is on. I am forced to write blog posts in offline mode as my broadband is also not working.

I made use of this offline time to rearrange my desk. I raised both my LCD and my laptop using two plastic low-stools. Now the monitors of them both are slightly above my eye level. I am going to give this arrangement a try for a little while. At least it will make me lean back on my chair rather than an leaned forward hunched position that I am usually in all the time.

I have been looking at some lifehacker posts of featured workspaces with raised monitors. Some of them have the monitors raised even more. But I am not entirely convinced of the ergonomics of those arrangements. But in the process of typing this what I realized is that with my current raised monitors I can easily lean back on my chair and rest my head against the head rest and type. Which is something that I was unable to do with the level the monitors were in earlier.

My workspace is my never ending project. I get inspired to do something with it every once in a while. But with the absence of an Ikea or a Staples in Sri Lanka, most of the tweaks are out of reach unless I attempt to do them DIY. I have been thinking about investing in some power tools for me to attempt the DIY. But have been putting it off as I can think of better uses for money. Therefore I am making to do with what I have.

The other reason that prevents me from spending a lot on my workspace is a conversation that I had with my client. When I told him that I finally got a U shaped work area he congratulated me and then said that he is working with two small desks one enough to fit his laptop and another for the mouse. That point made me wonder whether I was on an overkill!

But I want to create a workspace that is both practical as well as inspiring. I want to have a workspace that makes me want to spend time in it rather than something that would make me want to get out of it every few minutes.

A few things that are pending: need to fix the speakers on the walls. And I need to hang some fun/inspirational artwork on the walls!

Ever since I started working from home, one of my biggest challenges had been being productive. When you are working from another room in the house, the opportunities for distractions have been far greater. Whether it is to satisfy an urge to get something to munch from the refridgerator, or to go play with the kids, or to get a quick update on match on TV, etc, the list can be endless.

Over the past few months I have found a few things that worked for me and I thought of sharing them. The motivation for sharing is partly because some of these tips I picked up from a variety of blogs on freelancing and work@home.

I had to adopt some strategies as some attributes that help successful freelancing do not come naturally for me. One of the worst being I used to be a champion on procastinating.

Practice some sort of GTD:
You don’t have to be a champion on GTD. But it helps to have some sort o a workflow that you follow. GTD proposes a great workflow and I use a slimmed down version of that.

One of my main challenges has been in finding the tools. I am yet to find my ideal tool. But between a notebook (the paper type, not a computer), my iPhone with a few free task applications, Google tasks, I make an attempt to record all the stuff that needs to get done.

I also a great fan of unfuddle for managing software projects. It provides a tool that is more geared toward software projects without the overkill or the complications of major project management tools, which is ideal for small projects with small teams and short timelines.

Find the times that work for you best:
All of us have times that we are more productive than the other times. These are the times when our energy levels are highest and our concentration is sharpest.

For me these times are the morning and the night. So I have planned my work day in such a way that I can make use of these times.

I schedule other activities such as meetings that requires me to go out and meet clients to those times that my energy I low. Having to go out and meet people is better option when you’re energy is low rather than trying to work on your own.

But I am not always able to dedicate these times for doing paid work. Go instance some mornings I have to drop and pick my daughter to school. An sometimes there are other errands or family matters that need to be done at those times. If that happens I shift my work hours to other time slots.

Stick to a schedule as much as possible:
One of the first things I tried to do when I started out was to get rid of all schedules. And that was the biggest mistake I made. Nothing hardly got done without crunching everything at deadlines.

Set targets:
This is something that helped me to get things done and also to keep my income in check. I target to do a cetain amount of work everyday. There is a monthly target and a weekly target and a daily target. Sometimes I may exceed the daily target but sometimes due to other tasks that I have to attend to, the weekly paid time target may go off target. I try todo my best to cover the weekly target. If I fail to meet my weekly targets, I know that it will result in a dent in my monthly income.

Time box:
This is something that has worked out for me really well and help me deal with procastinating and meeting targets as well. When I work I try to work in a chunk. Spend a chunk of time like 2 hours on a task. I reward myself with a small break after the specified time was spent on the task.

This also helps me meet my targets without getting burned out. This also helpse pace out my day.

Be flexible:
The greatest of plans go off th track. So the key is being flexible and having th ability to adopt the changes and disruptions. I still get irritate when my work plan gets disrupted. But I am trying my best efforts to be flexible. One of the advantages of freelancing is it gives greater freedom to become flexible.

These techniques and this work flow has helped me keep my productivity at a higher level. This also helped me to keep my income in check. One of the great worries of freelancing is the fluctuating income. While getting work is the primary fact in meeting this, once you land work, getting things done will ensure that you deliver on the work that you have taken up.

Powercuts have been a common occurance the past few days. Everynight ther seems to be a powercut of at least half an hour. And to add pain to the misery there was a full day powercut yesterday. Not only did it make getting through the day extremely uncomfortable with the prevailing heat and humidity, it alo made me miss my work.

Since excuses such as those are not acceptable to people in the USA, I ended up working till 4 AM. And now I am trying to get through today like a zombie. I can tell you this, neither my kids nor my wife are impressed. No who said life was all rosy?

I am getting the vibes that things are not in my favour. I have seen the things that happened and can spot a trend. I have seen how people were recruited and then shown the door once they were milked.

If you were looking to fill up short term positions with specific outcomes, then it would be really great of they were told that up front. That would have helped the persons concerned to make an informed decision. It would have set the expectations straight.

But when you get people in, promising them long term employment, and then getting your immediate pains solved through them, and then showing them the door is a pretty bad way of running a company. It should have opened my eyes then, but then I kept telling my self, “no it wont happen to me”. But now, it is happening to me.

When I took up this job I knew that the risks were higher. They were offering me an employment contract enforceable in the US. That meant I would have little or no legal protection in Sri Lanka. I also knew that since the company was not established in Sri Lanka, I had to shoulder a large responsibility of setting it up and stabilizing it. These were challenges I knowingly undertook.

I am a trusting person by nature. I don’t set out with a suspicion. So I believed i the rosy picture that my boss painted. What I did not count for was all the games and the politics that I would have had to put up with.

The first few months were great. I set up the operations, recruited the people, set up the infrastructure and did this all by my self. I went and paid the bills, ran the errands and had the work done. I never got any negative feedback regarding the work that I did. Then my probation period was over. I asked to be confirmed in my job. He said that he woudl issue a letter.

When I took up the job, I agreed to a lower salary than what I was asking for during the probation period. I was made to understand that my expected salary will be paid upon my confirmation. So I asked for the salary increment.

Then the flood gates got opened. I was told of a long list of areas that I needed to improve on. I took them positively. Then started the witch hunting. None of the good work I did were not appreciated. But even the smallest mistakes were taken to town! I kept putting up, all the times that I was being hunted.

Now it has come to the stage where I can hardly take it any longer. I know I am still not shown the door as there are still a few things the rest of them cannot handle. And I can see the pressure being put on others to learn those things from me. They are being pushed to learn the things that I am doing as part of my daily tasks. That’s fine. When a company is trying to make a person redundant, they need the remaining employees to pick up his work. I am asked to document all the work that I am doing, so another can do it in my absence (if I was sick, etc – yup that’s what they told me).

And the hunting for my head continued. I was held responsible for everything that went wrong. The funniest was then I was blamed for mistakes done by a person who was not even reporting to me. The respective manager was left scott free and I was the one blamed.

Enough was enough. I tendered my resignation. I was not ready to be made a scape goat. And I wanted to work, when there is professional freedom to perform out duties. So come end of March, I will be blissfully jobless.

We are experiencing an interesting time these days. Our little girl is starting to speak English and has come to a stage where she is picking up everything that is being said around her. She also seems to understand the meaning of what has been said. Accordingly, she has also learned to express her desires and needs in English.

It is amazing to see how fast children pick up what is going around them. They do all of this naturally without any concept of learning. When you grow, you tend to think about the concept of learning more and more. In your younger days learning comes to you naturally.

I remember when I was doing my Ordinary Level exams, I had a major dileama on the concept of learning. When my parents were telling me to study, I had no idea what studying was. I just kept reading my notes, sometimes without much of an effect.

Anyway, now I am enticed and thrilled at the opportunity to watch my daughter learn to speak. It is amazing to watch a child learn and grow!

Had a peaceful weekend. This was one of the weekends recently where I spent the least amount of time in front of my Laptop. I spent quite a lot of time with Dinara, playing with her, talking with her (she in her own language and me in my language), watched some TV and read papers. This weekend being the 4th of July weekend also helped a great deal as my headoffice in US was closed for business and everyone over there was enjoying their holidays. It was also the last weekend without Lushi’s parents. They are returning to the country from their European vacation early tomorrow morning. As I write this post they must be on a flight back home.

Talking about them being away, everyone seems to be missing them a lot more than anyone expected. They are also missing home and specially our little baby. They are so used tobeing around her, and she is more used to being with them than with us. She also has been missing them quite a bit. There were instances where she kept walking all around the house, looking in every nook and corner, calling out for them. I guess she’ll be one of the happiest people to see her grandparents back at home.

So with everyone returning to work tomorrow, after a vacation in US, and a peaceful weekend over here I have a feeling this coming week is going to be pretty hectic for me. I have two new recruits starting off tomorrow. So from tomorrow onwards I will have two direct reports to manage. Since I am the person who recruited them as well, I am directly responsible for their performance. I am quite confident about them. Just need to wait and see how fast they are going to pick up the work.

So with new recruits starting off at office my work from home days will come to a standstill as now I will have to be at work, setting a good example for them. Eventually I hope to get all the people to work from home sometime, with the rising fuel costs, I think that will be one of the best ways to be productive and to cut down the costs as well. The good news is my boss is all for telecommuting. So as long as my two new employees are still being productive from home, I will have no problem to allow them to work from their homes. I am in the process of setting up the necessary infrastructure to allow people to work from home. Once the VPN is setup, everyone can log into the VPN, download the source codes, access the required systems and securely work from virtually anywhere from the world.

So let me take that task to my weekly task list: ‘Complete the setting up of the VPN’.

Today a bus crashed in to the side of my car. It was no fault of mine. I followed all the traffic rules to the dot and then a bus comes along, unable to brake because it is overladed and travelling at a speed it cannot bear, brakes, brakes, but still keeps coming and BANG!

I was watching the bus coming towards the leftside of my car but I was helpless. I was hoping the bus would stop any minute, inches away from the car, but it didnt. It came and BANG!

Then came the war. People on the bus were trying to prove that it was my fault, which got my blood also heated up. Then the conductor of the bus was trying to teach me how to drive. That took the lid off my anger. Eventaully the driver came to me, obviously realizing that it was his fault and that he was in trouble if this ever went to a court of law, started to plead! A two sided attack on me. On one side total aggression and on the other they were playing the pity game.

But I got the Police to come, told them that I didnt want to press charges but only wanted them to advise the bus conductor on how to behave, gave him a piece of my mind and got my insurance to come and asses my damage!

I would have defintely wanted to go to courts, not to claim the damage, it was negligible, but to teach those b******s a lesson. But the driver seemed innocent and with his pleadings, my heart also melted a bit. So hopefully I will be able to get some of the existing scratches also painted with the insurance money 🙂

I was expecting glass shattering and major upheavals, but my car being the german tank that it is was just scraped with two minor dents on a door! Man both I and all the by standers

I discovered this morning that my mobile was disconnected due to my bill exceeding the credit limit. Since I had some things to be done in the office and had no time to go out to make a payment, I chose to pay online through www.dialog.lk web site.

So I made a payment that was adequatete and was waiting for my phone to be reconnected. Since it was taking way too long, I decided to check up with Dialog’s online customer support. (I had no way of calling the hotline as well).

To my horror they told me that they cannot see the payment I have made. It had been about two hours by then and I had recieved a payment confirmation from the dialog website. But unfortunately I had not written down the transaction id nor had I taken a printout.

But since getting my connection up was really critical for me, I made another payment online. Same story, they could not see it on their side. This time I had the transaction id, but still they could not trace it! And guess what, they told me it’ll take 24 hours for the line to get connected!!! 24 Hours??? C’mon, online payments are meant to be instantaneous.

But I guess in our part of the world, online means 24 hours! Man, was I disappointed to hear this from a company touting to be on the cutting edge of technology. But yet, their systems seem to be operating offline!

A word has to be said about the Sampath Bank Payment Gateway that they are using. It is too damn slow! And once after I paid the confirm button to make the payment, there was a time out on the server. So I was lost and had no idea whether my payment had gone through or not. But in any case I went back and made the payment again. Sampath Banks online banking solution is another story. It shows me credit card transactions as of last evening and even in that list, some transactions that I had made days ago are missing. At some point they will suddenly appear on it! You cannot really rely on it for an accuratete picture either!

So now I don’t know whether I have ended up making three payments instead of one. I guess these companies and banks that claim they are on the cutting edge and connected and online, need to look at their systems and their integrations to see whether they are as good as they claim.

Lately, all my blogging had been related to moBlog. This blog was supposed to be my personal blog, but for the past month or so, it was more like the official blog of moBlog. It’s time to re-claim my blog! I am thinking about getting moBlog its own blog!

Anyways, on the personal side, the past few weeks been a bit hectic with work. Been spending quite a lot of time at client sites. A lot of my projects have come to the implementation stages, so there’s a bit of running around to do.

Lushi has been having a hectic time too. She seems to be getting landed with a lot of work, some of which I feel are outside her scope of work. But then, that’s what you get when you prove your capability! So goes the saying, if you want something done, give it to the busiest person! That’s exactly what’s been happening on her work front.

Little Dinara is amazing. She has started to walk and she just can’t seem to get enough of it. As much as it is an exercise to all the rest of us, she doesn’t seem to be getting fed up of walking and running about. The thing is, she is so fast and agile, it is very difficult to keep up with her.

My week days has been a bit hectic and that has resulted in the time spent with Lushi and Dinara coming to a minimum. I am trying to carve out some time exclusively for them, and more than that, to spend the little time spent with them, completely on them. I know I still have not perfected this art, but that’s what I am trying to get to. Quality over Quantity!

Other than that, I have had this craze to buy a Ford Capri MK1. Went and saw one, seems to be in a pretty good condition but the price is absurd. Then there is one which seems to be of a reasonable price, but it is minus its wheels. Now I know I wont find a Capri for the price I have in mind which is in perfect condition. I am still trying to make up my mind whether I want to wrestle with an old car. I like the idea of getting an old car. I just dont like the idea of spending my tille free time in garages!

In another transit in Dubai. I been here for about two and a half hours now and I am feeling pretty tired. Specially since I had no proper sleep last night as my first flight was at an un-godly hour of 2.30 in the morning.

Air travel can be pretty tiring if you are flying economy class and have long transits of a few hours. You have to spend your transit time on air port corridors. Dubai air port is packed with people. Busiest I have seen (ok, I haven’t seen many) and you hardly get a seat to rest your weiry legs. My legs are paining now as I have been on my feet most of this time

I am on my way to Tanzania to conduct a training to one of our clientd there. It’s been almost an year since we has deployed the system there and the client has had staff turnover and the new staff needs a fresh training to use the system effectively. As I have not done many trainings before this is a bit of a learning experience for me as well. Specially since I am doing the training away from home and help, if I need any, is far away. But with the help of the Internet, help is just a IM away! The world is truly a global village! If there was no IM or Skype I wound’nt have dared taking this trip on my own!

I am happy for Affno. With projects like these we are transforming ourselves to a global software company. I am hoping to make a few new business contacts for Affno as well as to renew an existing relashionship as well. If this trip can also create a few new business opportunities I think my trip would be a resounding success.

Personally for me it would be a big personal development as I would be playing a marketing role in this trip. Marketing is an area that I percieve weak in me. I have always shied away from any marketing activity. But as you progress up in your career, it is one of the key skills that you need, specially if you want to head a company someday!

Well, I have been ranting away so much it will be difficult to give this posta topic! I should stop now and go check to which gate I need to go to for my next flight.

PS: I am typing this on my PDA phone.

PPS: I am posting this from the hotel in Tanzania as I heard the final call for boarding before I could post it from Dubai and had to make a dash!

Yesterday was a heart-breaking day. Some junkies had broken into our ancestral home which had been closed down for some time. They had broken down a door and entered the house. As the house was empty, they have removed all the brass fittings from the windows.

It was heart-breaking to see the house being violated like that. That house has a lot of memories of us growing up and going through the ups and downs and of our younger days, when my father was around. It was specially hard for my mother. She always wanted to go back to live in that house. It broke her heart to see the house vacant and in a neglected state, and now seeing it being broken into was even harder.

You feel violated when you are robbed. Part of it stems from the fact that you are helpless. The Police was not much of a help either. Their main question was why we kept the house closed. And their advice was to give it out on rent fast. They were clearly not interested in finding the culprits. Maybe this was a too small for them to spend their time on.

When such an incident occurs you tend to questions your Karma. When you live your life without causing harm to others, why are others causing harm to you? It is because of something that you have done in one of your previous births. That maybe the easiest explanation to give, but it doesn’t cut out for me. It has to be some in-congruence on in the way you live.