Thursday, February 23, 2006

Countries that I've visited

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(create your own!)

A Paradox? Puzzle #6

A law student (no not my wife) promises to pay his law professor when he wins his first case. He then decides not to practice law and takes no cases. The professor sues the student for his fees. Here are the arguments:

Professor's argument
* If I win, my student must pay, by the court's decision
* If he wins, the student must pay, by our agreement
* Either way, he must pay me

Student's argument
* If I win, I need not pay, by the court's decision
* If my professor wins, I need not pay, by our agreement
* Either way, he must pay me

Who is wrong?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pictures of my work

Tour of Googleplex: The Kirkland office is missing a few of these benefits, including the blue sky.

It's really made of cheese

I was looking at the moon today. But I was surprised after I zoomed in all the way.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Puzzle #5

A father and his son were driving to a game when their cars stalled on the railroad tracks. In the distance, a train whistle blew. The father tried to the start the engine, but in his panic, he couldn't turn the key, and the car was hit by the train. An ambulance sped to the scene and picked them up. The father died on the way to the hospital. The son's condition was very serious. So they rush him to the emergency room. The surgeon, on seeing the boy, said "I can't operate on this boy -- he's my son".

How could it be? The surgeon was not lying or mistaken. No time travel, adopted child, etc.

(This puzzle comes from here)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My friend published a novel

My friend Kate Perry published a novel called Project Daddy. Her web site even has a little preview. She's a funny person, and her writing reflects that too.

I was looking for a book for the long flight to Spain. So it just works out.

We're proud of you Kathia and hope this is just the beginning!

Finally found time to paint again

After a few months, I made time again to paint. It was a blast. I didn't use any brushes for the finish paint.

Other Googlers who paint (all much much better than me):
- Lilly
- Min
- Radmila

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An easy puzzle for the long weekend

Puzzle #4
You have three baskets. One only contains apples. One only contains oranges. And the last one is an even mix of apples and oranges. The three boxes are labeled. But all labels are placed incorrectly. Your job is to fix the three labels. You can reach in any basket, take one fruit out, examine it, and put it back. There is no other way to examine or look at the baskets. You want to minimize the number of fruits that you take out to examine. What do you do?

The answer posted for Puzzle #3 is correct. But that's based on algebra and that's not fun. I like this proof more as it's philosophical. Two real numbers are different if and only if there exists another real number between them. There is nothing between .99999... and 1. QED.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fun math puzzle

Puzzle #3:
Is .999999... = 1? If so prove it. This has a few proofs, and some are simple enough to show someone in junior high.

Most software companies are bad at innovating

A couple of my past employers were organized and managed like a typical software company. They were either marketing or sales oriented. The overall vision of the company, product road maps, etc were set by people who had little to do with building the product. Some folks from engineering were often involved, but it was a very top-down approach: CEO/board identified a new market, buz dev considered buy-vs-build, product marketing wrote PRDs by doing a competitive landscape analysis (basically a spreadsheet with a list of features), PMs or engineering managers/architects wrote functional specs, and finally someone started coding. There is no room for innovation here. That's why markets are so crowded with very similar offerings.

The actual engineer building the product had little control in the overall direction of the company, but had flexibility to decide which technologies to use. Often the technology decision was also influenced by marketing as industry buzz words like ASP, J2EE, AOP, SOA, etc can help sell a product for reasons not yet clear to me. At times, management would throw bodies at the problem to speed up a schedule despite engineers calling it a futile attempt.

For execs, it's scary to give up control. After all, their careers often depend on the success of the venture. It's scary to trust a bunch of engineers to build something amazing. However, it's this actual fear that causes many companies to fail. Wisdom of the Crowds shows many examples where a group can make a better decision than even the smartest person in the group (and that assumes that the execs are the smartest folks in the group). So why do CEOs or VPs often try to force their opinions? Why not foster a more democratic approach where good ideas can come from anyone in the organization and somehow these ideas can get aggregated. Why not give everyone a chance to contribute? Why not empower the people building the product with the necessary freedom to do something amazing? A company's culture facilitates the mechanisms for innovating. And in the world of software, innovation is everything. There are hardly any barriers to entry and little capital is needed.

I'm so happy that my current employer is different.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Answer to the puzzle and the next one

Ario explained it correctly.

Puzzle #2:
Divide a circle into 12 congruent pieces, with equal size and same shape, such that all pieces never meet. It's ok for pieces to be next to each other. But all of them cannot meet at the same point. So you cannot cut the circle in 12 pizza slices as they all meet at the center. This is more visual. Have fun. I first tried doing this with paper. But I was able to get it very quickly after deciding to close my eyes.

BTW, we have posted a very small collection of tech talks given here at Google on, you guessed it, Google Video.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Favorite puzzles

I'm going to start posting some of my favorite puzzles.

Puzzle 1:
Let's say you have a cup of cream and a cup of coffee (same volume). You take a spoon full of cream and mix it in with the coffee. Now, you take a spoon full of the mixed coffee/cream and and mix it with the cream. Is there more coffee in the cream cup or is there more cream in the coffee cup?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Amazing co-workers

I met TV Raman at Cornell. His PhD thesis was to make LaTeX talk -- which won the ACM award for the best thesis! He's actually visually impaired. But he is able to solve the Rubik's Cube in about 30 seconds.

This past weekend, I saw him again in the ski trip! It's such an honor and so humbling to work with such gifted individuals.

Another work project launched

It's live now: Integration of Google Talk and GMail. You can now chat directly from GMail. To learn more, go here or read this article.

I really enjoy working on products that help people communicate. In fact, the reasoning behind this deserves its own long post.

Read news or blogs.

More later.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Thoughts on early retirement

David's post about early retirement validates my own experience. Whenever I batch-forward an interesting or a funny email to a large group, it's always the young retired friends who respond in less than a minute with "good one"! Are they just sitting in front of their computer surfing the web and waiting for email? It's fun to be active, to build things, to be part of a team, to tackle challenges, to learn, to help others, and to improve the world. And in our society, you can't do this by sitting at home.

In fact, a good way to live life is to imagine you have enough money to retire but only have a few years left to live.

Make sure you read Greenspun's entertaining notes.

Trip to south of Spain and my ski trip in Tahoe

Last week, I called an old friend after a long time. During the conversation, I found out that they were also going to Spain in March. And she also mentioned a cool Fire Festival (Las Fallas) in Valencia during our trip. It sounds a little fun and crazy.

I was in Tahoe this weekend for our ski trip. It was a lot of fun. I tried snowboarding for the first time, but the parties at night were really the highlight. A funny part of the trip was the shuttle ride from the Reno airport to Squaw. Our shuttle's door was not working, so the driver used duck tape to shut the door. But he was smart enough to not allow any of us to take a picture. Personally, I was happy that we were on our way. I never mind a little excitement; at least this wasn't as bad as putting a car in reverse while going 50mph.