Friday, March 26, 2010

Biking for health and money

Most recently I started biking to work. To get it out in the open, I didn't do this for environmental reasons. I did because I am on a new work out routine and I wanted to save money by not having to buy a 3rd car. It definitely helped since I live 3 miles from work and the bike path is fairly flat.

We are family of four and an au pair. My wife drives one car to work and au pair needs the other to drop and pickup our older one from preschool. So that left us in a bind. Do we buy a car, specially since the au pair is not a long term solution?

We started this as an experiment by having our au pair drop me off at work, then do her daily routine and pick me up end of the day. It was a little inconvenient. Once the weather got better, I tried biking to work. That was the tipping point. The 1st day, my legs hurt a lot and I totally felt out of shape. Within days, I had more energy, felt alert, full of life and vibrant.

All in all, I am in better shape, saving money, and loving it.

iPad or no iPad...iPad

I am technology enthusiast. Most recently I struggled with the idea of wanting to purchase an iPad. I know I don't need it, but it was hard to satisfy the enthusiast in me. In the end I gave up and bought one.

I hated the feeling of having to make a trade off and struggled with the idea of what a sustainable choice would have been in this case. In hindsight, I will donate a laptop and other items to charity and buy carbon offset from terrapass. Does doing all this justify my purchasing behavior?

My electricity bill is too high

We recently bought a home and I didn't pay close attention to our electricity usage as we are were in process of settling in. I noticed that our usage jumped to ~1000 KwH on a monthly basis. This was a huge spike for us as we previously maintained our usage within Tier 1 & 2 allocation by PG&E, our utility company. In short, we were freely using heat and leaving lights on all the time (the previous owner had installed flood light bulbs through out the house). Few steps I have taken since then:
1) Reduce heat to 65 degrees
2) Remove half the bulbs in the house
3) Educate and consistently remind everyone in the house to turn lights off
4) Put on more clothing if you are cold instead of turning the heat on
5) Open blinds in winter to trap sunlight and use it as natural source to heat the house

The usage dipped to less than 800Kwh. I still have a long way to go, but these were some quick wins.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Product lifecycle vs. Life development

Life is created in 9 months, that is 36 weeks. This includes full quality assurance with over 99.999% accuracy that the product will function within specifications. It's taken thousands of years with little incremental modification to create a perfect product, the product of human life. It's the incremental changes, released every so often that make sure we survive as human beings. We call this the survival of fittest, the term coined by Herbert Spenser and Charles Darwin. Also, the reason the changes are incremental is because the product works well. So the old saying goes, why fix it when it's working.

Software product development is no different. If we cannot build and get a product to market within 9 months, then something is obviously wrong. To be precise, the human body takes 6 months to develop and 3 months to QA and fine tune. In similar terms, the survival of the fittest in product development is the methodology adapted by the company. If a wrong or over-complicated methodology is adopted, then we might as well say good-bye to the product even before building it.

The concept of incremental changes and visibility to product development is an important one. Toyota invented the concept called Kaizen, which is about making small incremental changes. This makes sure we pick the right problem to solve first. The problem that will result the highest yield or return. Life development does something similar. It just doesn't develop for 6 months. It incrementally checks to make sure that it is developing correctly. If there is a mistake, the body either self-corrects or aborts.

All in all, develop a product within 6 months or less and give 3 months or less for QA. During this time, continue to check on your progress and make incremental changes.