The O-O-O Syndrome

Often, when I send emails to my colleague Ooonuj, I get a O-O-O (Out of Office) message with text like:

-Out of Office-

Hi –

I am travelling to Hongkong, Malaysia, and China and will be out of office till 1st December 2013.
I will have no access to my India handphone number. I shall respond to your mail, albeit a bit late.

In case of urgent matters which require immediate attention, please call / text me
@ +86 13602696490 or Contact VVSS ( on the following numbers:
Tel: 91-22- 421666xx / 2880 73xx /  2880 73xx / 2880 73xx


Ooonuj Anar

[Digression: I personally avoid setting any O-O-O messages. I normally am able to read my messages with a gap of no more than 6-7 hours. Also, I do not think I do anything is so time critical. And mainly I am afraid that my autoresponder with battle with Ooonuj’s autoresponder and rapidly choke the cyberspace in endless exchange of OOO messages :-)]

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Henlon’s Razor: Sound Principle for Processing Interpersonal Interactions

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Here is the statement, attributed to Robert J. Henlon:

  • "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

Though the origin is not too clear, there are others who have been credited with similar statements/ quotes. Here are a few of them.

Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein in his short story Logic of Empire:

  • “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in The Sorrows of Young Werther:

  • “…misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.”

Jane West’s The Loyalists states something similar in a more sincere (less cynical/ insulting) manner:

  • “Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives. Do we not often afflict others undesignedly, and, from mere carelessness, neglect to relieve distress?”

All of the above can be applied to actions, situations, and interactions that cause inconvenience, hurt and pain, for many reasons:

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Financial Instruments with Musical Properties (like ‘tenor’)

Once in a while, I invest in bonds, fixed deposits, and mutual funds.

Though I normally do not read the verbiage (I read just the salient features), I have noticed in the last few years, a new term creeping into the jargon – ‘tenor’. At first I dismissed it as one of the typos (attributable to the printer’s devil – a special devil that haunted every print shop, performing mischief such as inverting type, misspelling words or removing entire lines of completed type).

For the benefit of those who have not noticed the use of the word ‘tenor’ in financial jargon, you can see examples by searching for “loan tenor” or “bond tenor” or “deposit tenor”.  The usage seems widespread – all across the world.

And the usage denotes some kind of duration, or term, or period, or tenure (could tenor be just a distortion of tenure with origins in poor spelling used in combination with spell-check/ auto-correction?)

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Occam’s Razor for Design of Systems and Processes

Occam’s (or Ockham’s) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham (does this profession  still exist? I am yet to meet a “logician” :-)).

Occam’s razor states that “one should minimize the assumptions to the minimum necessary to solve any problem”. It is a minimalistic principle (often called principle of parsimony) and can be used as a heuristic while doing scientific modelling and building theories.

Though the principle has been found in the writings of earlier medieval philosophers, William of Occam has been credited with it because he was its most prolific proponent.

Occam is attributed to have said something like “Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate” (as expected, he did not say these things in any modern language :-))- which means “plurality must never be posited without necessity” [if this was how people promoting simplicity spoke, I really don’t want to know how others spoke]

Various versions/ derivations of the Occam’s razor include:

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Sent “on the move”/ “from my iphone” and things like that

Now-a-days, I often get messages from my colleague Ooonuj that end with:

  • “Sent on the move from my iphone. Please excuse typos and brevity.”

Most of the time, the actual message is shorter than the signature line, something like “OK” or “Will Get back to you” or “On Dec 6”, so I am not sure what kind of typos to account for (is it really Dec 6? or Jan 6? or Dec 7?)

If I did not know Ooonuj well enough, I may have seen hidden messages in his signature line. Here are a few of them:

  1. I own an iphone, and I want everyone to know about it!
  2. I am on the move most of the time
  3. I work while I am moving
  4. I have sent you a message (or responded to you). Therefore, I have met my response time service level. The fact that I have not answered any of your questions should not be held against me
  5. Now that I have sent some response, the ball is in your court
  6. I know how to use the word “brevity”
  7. If I typed something wrong/ stupid, I will blame it on “typos” (I am covered)

However, knowing Ooonuj, here is the real explanation:

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Cheating at a Petrol Pump – is this a common ruse?

Petrol PumpOne day while driving from Bangalore to Mysore, we stopped somewhere near Maddur to pick up some petrol. Looking at the fuel gauge, I thought it will be good to top up petrol worth Rs 800/-..
As we drove to the first accessible petrol station without a crowd, the attendant smiled, opened the lid to the petrol tank and asked “How much, sir?”
“Petrol of 800 rupees”, I said.
He reset the pump counter and asked me to ‘check zero’.

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There are no dead ends in Bangalore

Dead End Image
“When you reach a dead end, turn right” was the baffling instruction I got, when I asked for directions to some place in Jayanagar. We had just moved to Bangalore (from Delhi) in mid-2004, and I was trying to get used to the roads and places in Bangalore.

To me a ‘dead end’ meant an end (as of a street) without an exit, a cul-de-sac, or a blind alley, so how could I turn right?

Eventually as I drove to the alleged ‘dead end’, I figured that I was approaching a T-junction (where I could turn right or left). In the next few weeks, it became clear to me that T-junctions are also called ‘dead ends’ in Bangalore.

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