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Showing posts from August, 2007

Smart Kid

My reaction to the news of a seventeen year old kid hacking the iPhone to where it can operate with any wireless service provider was one of unabashed admiration. More power to you, kid ! I'm sure a lot of folks shared that sentiment. People usually like a David versus Goliath style contests and to root for the underdog.

I am no Apple acolyte but I love the aesthetics of the iPhone. To find out that it only works with AT&T - a provider I would go to great lengths to avoid, was very disappointing. It may be a matter of time before the kid and others like him are able to set up shop to sell unlocked iPhones for a price. For a generation that has come to view their right to all things open source as self-evident, enforcing intellectual property would need considerable imagination. Unleashing a crack legal team upon violators may be one of the worst ways to do it.

Old Friend

While clearing up my mailbox last evening, I found this note sent to myself with a poem by e.e cummings. The date is Jan 26 2001. I am no longer able to recall why this poem felt specially significant at the time. I do remember having found out about a week earlier that I was pregnant and feeling delirious with joy. The mail is sent from my work address at 11:51 A.M which would be my lunch hour.

As I read this again after six years, I love it just as much. It is like meeting an old friend after a long time. At first you awkwardly seek the comfort zone you once shared and can't seem to find now. After a while, habit takes over and the time that you spent away from each other turns immaterial. You are able to find the person you were when you last met.

not even the rain, has such small hands.somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
y…

Best Sites

There are some nice new discoveries for me in Time's list of the 50 best web sites for 2007.

GrandCentral is a great idea for managing the three of four phone numbers many of us have. A "free one-number-ringing-multiple-phones routing service" presents the perfect solution for the confusion we are faced while deciding which number to give whom.

SimpleWeather is nice just for reason the name suggests - simplicity. There is way too much clutter in typical weather reports for a common person trying to make some simple decisions based on what the day may be like outside.

My favorites LastFm and Etsymade the list. Joost might be what I can tune into on those rare occasions when I miss having a TV at home to watch the news. All the advantages, little to none of the nuisance that the boob-tube is about. My favorite has to be CellSwapper. They should have something along these lines for people to get out of all sorts of onerous contracts - apartment leases come to mind easily bu…

Life In A..Metro

Watched Life In A..Metro . My expectations were set high as it came recommended by an assortment of people as "not your typical Bollywood flick". With that said, I was quite unprepared for the on-screen Jatra as this turned out to be. What's up with the shaggy haired dudes that break into song willy-nilly and completely drown the dialog with their noise ?

I had to turn on the subtitles so I could follow the story-line. Not a big loss really when I think about it being that the essence of the story is "In metro India, people are sleeping around in daisy chain formations" The sleep deprived call center workers are in the thick of this action and family units around them are collapsing like so many packs of cards. Up until this point, you bear with Anurag Basu, even with that cacophonic band that breaks into "song" whenever. You hope he will have something useful to say by closing credit time.

That expectation turns out to be somewhat misplaced. The sub-pl…

Lite And Heavy

I am more fanatic than fan when it comes to Spielberg. The possibility of an objective review coming from me is distinctly remote so I won't even try. I loved Catch Me If You Can for all the reasons that make any Spielberg movie so special. The story is of course fascinating. With the title score, John Williams introduces an ear bug that will stay with you for days afterwards - it is the kind of music you remember and instantly recall. Just the music and the Pink Panther-esuque opening credits makes this a movie to remember (it features among the twenty five best typographical title sequences). Everything thereafter is a bonus.

Then a few days later, I watched Million Dollar Baby thinking it would be a hard movie for me to like because of the theme. I have neither any interest nor understanding of boxing. How completely wrong I was ! Though so overtly about boxers and boxing, it is quite astonishingly not about any of that at all. It could be the story about a woman who has nothing…

Death By Toys

A child playing with toys and a man hanging himself to death are possibly the most unrelated actions and yet recently the two met briefly in the wake of Leo Mattel recalling some toys manufactured in China. It would not be impossible to see this event as a act of God. Maybe it is time for adults to stop plying children with endless number of toys that become their first acquaintance with conspicuous consumerism.

Maybe if the fear of lead based paints grows widespread colorful toys will be shunned and imagination will get a chance to thrive again in the lives of children. Children have such an amazing capacity to amuse themselves without any help from adults or toys. It is a shame that we choose to stunt this inborn faculty instead of allowing it to blossom. We take away from them their ability to be happy without anything material when we suffocate them in material excess in the form of a roomful of toys.

The Disneyfication Of J

Back in the day wild horses could not drag J to watch a Disney flick. She totally detested Shrek. Lion King fared only marginally better. The general theme was one of disinterest and boredom. Those were the days when she listened to Brahms and could recognize Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

J was the also the one who made me listen to jazz and swing and start enjoying it. But for her I would have never known the music of John Coltrane. We watched Paper Clips together and for days afterwards she asked me questions about the Holocaust and tried to imagine the number of people measured by a paper clip for each victim. The idea of reducing a human life to so trivial an object was unconscionable to her. That was then and this is now.

A combination of factors including but not limited to a stint at a below par day care center, friends with Disney themed bedrooms and DVD collections to match have been the undoing of J's musical tastes and much more. She no longer perks up at the sound of good…

Seeking Balance

You know that balance has been wanting in your life when you have gone from eating out seven to eight times a week to once in seven to eight weeks, for having airport lounges being an extension of your living room to not being on a plane for close to three years. Yet the lack of balance does not disturb you in ways that you might expect to, there are no forces of adjustment at play and that creates the illusion of equilibrium.

The signs of unrest and discontent are so subtle that you almost miss them. You are routinely disappointed by the food when you do eat out and your own cooking is death by ennui. You tell yourself you would have traveled more if vacation time was more abundant and airfares were not so ridiculously high.

You look at the picture of a peddler pouring tamarind syrup from an urn with a spigot on a Cairo street in Mediterranean Cookery by Claudia Roden. It fills you with wanderlust and longing for soul food at the same time. It is a sign perhaps of wanting to root for c…

Bought Out

The irony in this Herald Tribune article about fears of overseas funds buying up America, is undeniable. For a country that has played big brother pretty unabashedly for the longest time, it is naturally distressing to have other countries usurp that role. If not anything, the new order will take some getting used. The story reads quite a bit like a Michael Moore diatribe minus the histrionics. The scenarios being considered are :

...what would happen if China took over a U.S. pharmaceutical company and pressed for changes in prescription drug programs. Likewise, what would the reaction be if an Arab government demanded a bailout or tax break for its company in return for supporting peace talks in Iraq or Israel?'

You have to wonder if this "buyout" of America will generate the kind of backlash outsourcing of manufacturing and technology services jobs have. The only difference is the blame cannot be shifted to a nameless, faceless foreign workers in a third world country w…

Clean And Uncluttered

A jumbled mass of wires and cables sprout in my living room. I have tried to obscure them the best I can but it is still quite an eyesore. One of these hubs that look like a stylized potted plant would be just the remedy I seek. This combined with a pair of slippers that mops and cleans as I go (a carpet cleaning function would be a perfect addition), and the feng shui of my apartment would greatly improve.

Ofcouse, the toys and artwork (random pieces of colored paper) will not pick themselves up and J's friends will ask to eat five different things in the span of fifteen minutes or less leaving bowls of uneaten and half eaten food all around the house. But then I wouldn't be earning much "good Mommy karma" if I was not constantly cleaning up after brats - mine as well as the ones she brings home.

Dead Weight

In the story Town Car from the collection Wall Street Noir ( a nice collection of short stories exploring the dark side of how business gets done on Wall Street - in many ways the opposite of the CNBC edition) , David Noonan writes.

The last thing he wanted was a girlfriend with nothing to do, calling him six times a day, sitting in front of the TV all night wondering why he couldn't spend more time with her,carefully watering her boredom until it bloomed into glorious hysteria. Heather was too busy for that shit.

These are the thoughts of a man who has a trophy wife at home and all the trappings of a normal life. Heather is his mistress and he compares making love with her to working out a couple of hours at the gym. This also happens to be his alibi for when he is visiting her.

While Heather's being too busy to turn hysterical for love and attention works great for this married man, the sentiments would find resonance with a lot of others who are emotionally unavailable in thei…

Shampoo Blues

I feel the sharpest pangs of homesickness whenever I am buying a bottle of shampoo. This is what coming to America has reduced me to - using shampoo for my hair regularly. Back at home it was always soapnut for the rinse and the pulp of fresh hibiscus leaves for conditioning. That was the perfect combination for my hair.

The only time the regimen changed was while traveling - I would have to make do with Sunsilk. How I miss the abundance of soapnut shells stored in a large red container in the pantry and the verdant hibiscus trees in the garden. What used to be a very inexpensive hair-care routine in India costs too much here for one thing, besides what it takes is not readily available in my neck of the woods.

Having used shampoo only in emergency for most of my life, I tend it view it with a great deal of suspicion. The ingredients read like a list of reagents in a chemistry lab that you would handle with care and caution. Definitely not what you would want to bring in contact with yo…

Imagining God

I was a child when I first started to imagine God as an infinite living organism. The universe was the body, the planets cells and human beings sub-cellular and smaller structures. It made things easier to grasp and make sense of. Part of me has never relinquished this idea. I still find it a good way to make sense of my own life and the world that I live in. When someone said Tat Tvam Asi before, it never quite registered. With God modeled after an organism in my head it became an obvious conclusion.

It now made sense that a butterfly fluttering its wings in the Chile could start or stop a tornado in Japan, that you could control your fate and fortunes by wearing gem stones that channeled planetary vibrations to your benefit. The laws of Karma fit in perfectly as well. It would have helped enormously if I had a good foundation in biology, the analogies could have been much more meaningful. I had to make do with the woefully little I knew.

When God sighed, everyone felt depressed, stoc…

Wireless Electricity

The proliferation of wireless consumer electronic goods has intensified our need for unfettered mobility. The last tether that holds us back to the post is the power outlet. You still need to charge your fancy mobile devices. With wireless electrcity, we may have our wish for unlimited freedom to roam with our gizmos before long.

Imagine never having a battery die at an inconvenient time again. Even better being able to take a mini fridge and stove to a camping trip so you don't have to compromise on food just because you are several hundred miles from civilization. As long as you are within the wireless electricity network, the quality of your life will never suffer again.

Meal Ticket

I know quite a few single mother on the edge of despair and destitution because their ex-husbands refuse to pay child support. Your heart aches for them as you see them struggle to make ends meet, see that smile on their child's face that only an unexpected surprise can bring. There is a price tag attached to everything in their lives including that coveted angel smile. You want for them to be able to let go and relax for a while, enjoy the childhoods they nurture with their sweat and blood yet never really particapte in.

The passport renewal law that enforces payment of overdue child support is wonderful news for at least some women. According to the news article, there are several other instruments to make sure that the payments are made but as with any law there are loop-holes and men manage to escape their parental obligations for the price of a shrewd attorney.

Women just tire of fighting tooth and nail for what is rightfully due to her children and give up. They end up making…

Cheese Making

I never fail to remind J that there is a time and place for everything. It is possibly the line she will remember me by when I am dead and gone given how frequently she hears it. Instead of having her breakfast she will break into a song and dance number from High School Musical well past eight on Monday morning. She will insist that I watch and applaud the performance instead of screaming at her to finish her milk and cereal.

Her sense of occasion is seriously lacking but then so is mine. Consider for example, a person walks into the grocery store with the express purpose of buying detergent because they are fresh out of it and laundry is only half way done. However instead of heading straight for detergent, they wander over to the natural foods aisle and go berserk upon finding goat milk on sale for a dollar a gallon. They at once proceed to stock pile so they can turn it to huge quantities home-made feta cheese. That person would be me.

It would not concern me in the least that I h…

It Was Like This

The words of this poem have not left my mind since I heard it read by Nancy Pearl on NPR yesterday. So profound yet so simply stated, so beautiful yet not in the least ornate. The remarkable lucidity of her expression must mirror the intensity of Hirshfield's feelings. Nothing less could produce such sparkling clarity of thought.

It Was Like This: You Were Happy
By Jane Hirshfield


It was like this:you were happy,
then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent - what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness -
between you, there is nothing to forgive -
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: the…

Taking On Bollywood

Like some other readers who have commented on Tyler Cowen' s take on Hollywood's attempt to take on Bollywood on its own turf, I disagree with Cowen's reasoning. The slicker, better made movies coming out of Bollywood these days have modern (westernized) themes.


The cast speaks Hinglish for the most part and the audience is not complaining. At the confluence of American and Indian culture lies the improbable yet appropriate McDonald's lamb burger with curry that Cowen refers to. The desire to westernize is strong enough to reach such odd compromises and that might by key to Hollywood making a successful foray into the highly lucrative Indian movie industry.

Mainstream Bollywood has always been about hyperbole and not any realistic or accurate depiction of Indian society. There used to be parallel cinema for all of that artsy nonsense. A family oriented crowd pleaser has a formula that is varied upon but rarely abandoned. How hard is it for Hollywood to put that time-test…

Four Birthdays And A Lesson - Part 1

In response to my comment that I prefer to stay away from the mainstream desi because they don't know how to mind their own business, a friend forwarded me this speech by Narayan Murthy, highlighting a quote : A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly. This speech is essential reading for any desi who wonders what ails desidom at large. As for the Kipling quote that Murthy refers to and corroborates by his own experience, I could not agree more. I should know having been at the receiving end of much unsolicited intimacy from desis both here and in India.

I was working in Bangalore at the time, my parents with me to take care of J. I had bailed out of my marriage with a four month old and was back home trying to start life over. That was easier said than done. There was not a moment's respite for me or my family from reminders of what I did not have - namely a marriage and a husband. The vegetable seller was…

Miracle Bra - Naina and Pradeeps' Story

Miracle Unvisited

"Us Indians are a marriage happy people. There is religious, social and the parental sanction to copulate with a perfect stranger on the wedding night. The elaborate rituals and the furious pace of events leading up to marriage makes the couple delirious. What under normal circumstances would be unthinkable seems perfectly reasonable in that condition. A truck load of jasmines and tuberoses were used to decorate my sister's bridal bed. These flowers are supposed to be aphrodisiac and are standard issue for weddings" Naina wrote to her friend Ginger in the wake of her sister Rajani's marriage.

She recalled the hickies on her neck and the sindoor smudged across her face as she emerged briefly from the room to go to the bathroom in what seemed a state of stupor. She had met her husband for the first time just a week earlier. The next morning Rajani changed colors like a chameleon to become the shy and demure daughter-in-law helping in the kitchen. The r…

Bottled From Tap

Those of us who with withstood the withering looks of bottled water drinkers as we fill our cups and bottles at the community faucet can now feel vindicated. It is a good thing that Aquafina is disabusing its customers of their illusions about the source of their water but more likely than not, their customers will not care.

Aquafina tastes different than tap water and taste is an acquired thing. If people like it enough, they won't mind paying for it.Despite the "full disclosure" chances are customers will stick with what they have grown to like or move on to better things like Evian and Perrier if they are passionate about not drinking tap water.

Bottled water is mostly about convenience - sometimes it is just hard to come by a faucet just when you are dying of thirst. When grabbing a bite on the go (for cheap) you will need to pay for water or go thirsty. Unless more public water faucets are made easily available, Aquafina and the like will continue to make their sale…

On Gratitude

I had chance to browse through Celebrating Silence while waiting on J to finish her music lesson. The quote on Gratitude really got me thinking. The concept of saying thank you was alien to me until convent school teachers made sure I learnt my manners.

Thereafter, I have said (and felt) thankful in the world outside but cannot recall any time I have formally thanked my closest family. I used to wonder why "Thank You" feels so contrived and awkward at home with those I loved most when it comes spontaneously for perfect strangers. I may have found the answer I was looking for.

Gratitude

To thank someone implies separation. Thanking means there are two. If you are deeply thankful, it means you deeply feel the separation. Deep within there is no need to thank because there is oneness. But you can thank superficially. Thanks are like ripples on the surface of water.

When you say "thank you," you complete something. You are finishing a transaction, a relationship, a proc…

Dark Chocolate

Up until recently, I fought my chocoholism by avoidance. Avoidance of candy aisles in stores, of cubicles with come-hither candy jars at work. When on occasion, I succumbed I could go through half a pound of chocolate fast enough to scare myself. J has watched me transfixed as I've made a gigantic slice of Black Forest cake my dinner. When you abstain from your vice of choice for eight months in a row, such catastrophes are almost inevitable.

I rarely bought lacking both self-control and portion-control that it takes to make a chocolate a harmless indulgence for sensible adults. In fact, my utter helplessness in the face of a full bowl of candy often made me question my general competence as a parent. J will squirrel her supply of Halloween candy to last her for the rest of the year and still have plenty left over.

Then a few months ago, I discovered 90% premium dark chocolate and life has not been the same since. Much smaller portions satisfy my intense craving for a cocoa and I …

A Cruel Joke

I am quite sure the supply chain and vendor management types had read the buzz about their would be strategic partner before making them one. Closer to the ground where the action is and the account manager places her four "on-site development bodies" for one fiscal year the picture is not nearly as rosy.

We get to deal with the said bodies ( a distinctly macabre term that I find hard to get used to even after so many years in the industry) every day and often wonder what we may done to deserve such punishment. Give them the simplest problem and they can turn it into a two hundred hour effort. "That is besides integration and end to end testing" is the standard disclaimer that applies with all level of effort estimates. We analyst and project management types freak out and hit the roof in choreographed unison which is met with ill concealed contempt. To placate us the "lead" development body offers "We can reduce that by fifty hours if no documentatio…

Favorites Blogs

There are still a lot of folks who are not into blogs and don't get what the fuss is all about. WSJ has a great reading list culled from the favorites of twelve commentators that might interest this kind of person enough to check it out.

There are some blogs you visit regularly just for the links to other interesting blogs. I usually start my day with Kottke and love his new dynamic list of recently visited sites. I used to like his content when I first discovered him some years ago but increasingly it is his reading list that keeps me returning - maybe it is the only draw at this point.

Washington Post has a list of reader's picks - many of which are plugs by individuals for their own blogs and in as such not very credible. The Forbes top ten includes the who’s who of blogosphere which renders the list predictable and boring. Guardian's is a little more interesting. Cataloging the vast and constantly expanding blogosphere is difficult if not impossible - everyone who reads…

People Power

In the late seventies and early eightees, clusters of "uemployed youth" shooting the breeze was a common site on the Indian roadside culvert. Though they did not bother us kids, adults found them very annonying. I had once overheard a conversation in our living room that went "Someone should come up with a way to harness the energy of these louts. If not anything they could pour water from the sea to a human powered turbine to generate electricty"

While I was not quite able to picture this fantastic operation, I caught the general drift. It was all about making this idling sea of humanity expend their calories to some productive end. The gentleman's wish has now come true thanks to the efforts of MIT.

A Crowd Farm in Boston's South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station's main lobby. The slippage of the b…

Kissing

Apropos of what had seemed like a strong emotional connection at the time, I had meant to send someone this link on the therapeutic effects of a good kiss but desisted. This was to become a pattern between us - his response to something I had done or said spontaneously would be completely rehearsed and several days in coming. In response, I stopped being natural. I had sought this man out while still hurting from an emotionally intense relationship that had every sign of being "the one" but (inexplicably) had not worked out.

So here I was with someone who was totally the wrong type for me - cold, dispassionate, withdrawn to the point of being emotionally comatose. That was all I had capacity for while the wounds were still raw. He never realized that my heart was elsewhere. For me, it was just perfect to have him around to talk for a bit a few times a week and not need to get involved in the conversation or with the person. He provided no more than ambient noise and distract…

Atypical Hero

Many have bemoaned the lack of strong role models for young people these days and that there are no real heroes anymore. Reading about Charles Simic made me wonder we should teach our children to think of this poet laureate as a hero. Not simply because of the honor that was bestowed upon him. He was born in 1954 making him as old as some of their grandmothers.

Compared to the demanding pace of success where dot-com millionaires were made at twenty five and under, this achievement would not even qualify to be called one - to arrive late is to have not arrived at all. Yet some things in life are worth waiting for. Children need to be told that instant gratification is for Ramen noodles and Snickers bars from the vending machine. It does not a poet laureate make. What you don't spend the best part of your life achieving and earning is not likely to bring real or lasting happiness. Simic says of his poetry :

My poems (in the beginning) are like a table on which one places interesting …

Faked Brands

My mother and I often trade used bags when we visit each other. It is an easy way to alleviate "bag boredom" without having to go shopping for new ones all the time. This time she gave me a fabric and leather one in tan and brown. It is very roomy but chic and ideal for taking to work. A designer knock-off bought for really cheap from some roadside stall in India, it looks like a cross between a Chanel and a Gucci number.

From a distance it is hard to recognize the pattern on the fabric. Up close you can tell that it looks like neither and is a fake that is not even trying too hard to pass for the real thing. There are no brand labels anywhere. This could pass for an inspired by thing rather than a faithful imitation. Its amusing when women stop to ask me if it is a Gucci or a Chanel and then that priceless look on their face when I tell them it is neither. Used to be that reproducing famous brands was difficult and fake could be spotted a mile away, not any more.

J needs a …

As You Like It

The exotic location and multi-ethnic cast of Keneth Branagh's excellent adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It bears testimony to the timeless quality of the play. It is hard to watch this film and not be reminded of Peter Brook's Mahabharata. The epic is about the eternal conflict between good and evil. It made perfect sense therefore to use a cast from around to the world to convey the universality of the theme.

Love and romance is as independent of geographic location as it is of time. By taking the play out of the rigid confines of both, Branagh makes it more accessible to a much larger audience including those who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare. Even if the lines don't ring familiar to everyone the theme of love and romance surely will.

The characters seem very comfortable in their rendition of Shakespeare in unfamiliar surroundings and context. There is a distinctly modern sensibility and a casual vibe about the film despite the florid language. The scene celebr…