Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thought of the day - 31st July 2007

The best way to predict the future is to create it
- Peter Drucker

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ban mobiles

I am very much against the use of mobile phones while driving. It's a
dangerous practice, very risky and not worth the risk I am sure.
On the other hand, I am, almost as vehemently, against a ban on this
practice. I have my reasons.

Conceding that the cellphone is a major source of distraction while
driving, it is not the first, the last or the most distracting thing in
a car. There are other things like CD players, radio, a passenger, food,
drink, mirrors, falling objects (from seat to the floor, not from the
sky), open map...a number of things. A kid in the backseat can be much
more distracting than any cellphone.

Since we are not proposing to ban on each and every one of them then why
the cellphone?

An idiot not looking where he's going can be just as dangerous as an
idiot on the cellphone not looking where he's going.

Ultimately, driving carefully and safely is the responsibility of the
individual and there's no amount of prohibitive laws that can replace
that individual. Until we have robot drivers.

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to
fill the world with fools.
- Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903

So, when you are trying to save men from the results of their own
mistakes, you are going too far. There are people who can operate a
vehicle and carry on a conversation. There are people who know their own
limits and do not attempt this. There are a lot of other variety of
people. A law is applied uniformally across the whole spectrum but no
law can make all men equal in this regard.

So, by imposing bans like this we are just taking away some part of
personal freedom, nothing more than that.

I'd really like to hear what my readers think about it. Do drop me a
line.

Thought of the day - 30th July 2007

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is
Doomsday.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thought of the day - 27th July 2007

'Tis better to buy a small bouquet
And give to your friend this very day,
Than a bushel of roses white and red
To lay on his coffin after he's dead.
-Author Unknown

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Two Faces of Life

I was stationed in Germany. It was a bad summer, very hot. And we got
the orders to....no,no, don't get me wrong, this is not the beginning of
a World War II spy story..lol.

I was 'stationed' as in I was working in Germany and I and my colleague
were asked to pick up another colleague who was coming from India. So we
went to the Frankfurt Airport, walked about a couple of miles to find
the right terminal and then waited...

It was a long wait and I got interested in the human drama going on all
around me. Every few minutes some plane unloaded and people came walking
through the door pushing the luggage trolley, looking around for a
familiar face. Most people had someone to receive them and the meetings
were really interesting to watch. They were always happy, always
excited, sometimes teary and definitely noisy. A grandma came out and
was greeted by excited, jumping grandkids. Kissing round all around.
Boyfriends receiving girlfriends, wives welcoming husbands, the hugs,
the kisses. You could really read the emotion behind the hug like
rediscovering something wonderful, a fresh, overwhelming re-start of a
beautiful relationship.

Cut to 2007. The place: Heathrow Airport, London. Terminal: Departure.
I had some time to kill before my boarding call and since there was no
proper place to sit I was again busy watching the human drama. This was
the other side of the picture. I saw a guy kiss his girl, (I wasn't
staring, silly. I was just passing by!) and then kissed her again, and
then one more time...I knew exactly what was going on in his mind. He
knew that every kiss was their last and yet, he didn't want to let go
until the last possible moment. Been there. I think we have all been
there!

Here too, there were tears all around, but accompanied by sad faces not
smiles. Pensive silences rather than joyful excited cheers.

The funny thing is no matter how much we hate the 'departure' thing,
without it we will not enjoy the 'arrival' thing.

A small joke to explain the same two-faced side of life:

Husband and wife on railway platform.
Wife: Listen, why are you so dry and boring, look at that couple, he is
hugging her and kissing her and talking all sweet and nice. And all you
can talk about is suitcases and my ticket.

Husband replied in a gruff voice: Well, if figures, he has come to see
her off, I have come to pick you up!

:-)

Thought of the day - 26th July 2007

Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient
premises.
- Samuel Butler

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The ultimate source of motivation

Most people need someone or something to motivate them. I mentioned in
one post that I am engaged in writing 3 books currently. And right now
all 3 are at a standstill. Because I ran out of volunteer editors.
Writing a book is a much bigger project than a single story and I need
someone who can read the work so far and say, "Hmmm, alright so far,
keep going"... and then I can shoot the next chapter at them. I don't
care if the feedback is positive or negative, as long as it keeps me
going and keeps me on the right track.

Unfortunately, you can't always have someone to push you along and if
you keep sitting there waiting for that someone or something you will be
leaving an assprint for the world to see not your footprints to follow.
I am not a motivational speaker and by no means an expert in psychology.
I am just talking about what works for me in the hope that it might work
for others and also that my readers may share what works for them.

1. I find that quotations are a good source of motivation. When I read
things like

"A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for." -John
A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

Or,

"Aim not for what you are, but for what you could be." -Lucas Hellmer

And,

"Don't go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and
leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

They fire me up with energy.

2. Another good source is music. The music that makes you want to dance
also makes you want to wrestle a wild tiger (or something more
appropriate that you have been wanting to take on but never got around
to). My playlists usually contain Hindi songs from Indian (Bollywood)
movies or rarely from a Hindi album, but for each his own. You will find
your own selection that doesn't put you to sleep but makes you feel
bursting with enthusiasm.

3. This one may only be relevant to writing but I feel quite inspired if
I read my own finished or unfinished work.
a) If I read what I have written and still don't puke, it gives me the
confidence that I can actually write.
b) Even as I am reading my own work, I feel this overwhelming desire to
do one better on myself. I am thinking, "I bet I can write better than I
did when I wrote this last week."

4. People also provide inspiration, those who say, "Yeah, I am sure you
can do it.", but also the ones who say (or usually imply), that you
can't do it - "Oh, writing a book is such a big project! One just can't
handle that with the pressures of a regular job." I have found that it
becomes easy for me to do something if I hear anyone doubt me or if it's
something which is beyond my perceived capabilities.

5. And sometimes, just sitting down to write, even when there is no
thought, no plan, just sitting down, fingers on the keyboard, gets me
going.

Well, enough about me, what motivates you?

Thought of the day - 25th July 2007

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end
of it,
and others do just the same with their time.
-Johann von Goethe

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thought of the day - 24th July 2007

There are but three events in a man's life: birth, life, and death.
He is not conscious of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live.
-Jean de la Bruyère



This is so late today that it'll have to the thought of the night for the UK/Europe people. :) But as my friend in US just reminded me, it'll be useful in US in day.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


This link is for a poem by Maya Angelou,
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings/

The poem in itself is great, but what I found more astonishing was my
own thoughts generated from it. I automatically identified myself with
the free bird. And then I looked out the window and then I thought how
much I don't want to be sitting in this chair, at this desk, in this
office and suddenly realized that I am NOT the free bird.

Then I remembered Robert Kiyasaki's book "Rich Dad Poor Dad" where he
talks at length about financial freedom and that convinced me that I
want to be a free bird but I am not; not yet.

I would like my readers to take 2 minutes and read this poem, I can't
post it here, not having the copyrights. I'd really appreciate it if you
share your thoughts about it here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Addiction

I think I am getting addicted to this blogging thing. I do have a lot of topics I want to write about but I don't want to make this one too long - I am trying to practice the early-to-bed thing these days, not with much success, I must say.

So what's happening is that I spent my entire Saturday this last weekend to change the look and feel of my blog, as you can, of course, see. I'd really like feedback on it, positive or negative.

Thought of the day - 23rd July 2007

No matter how old you are, there's always something good to look forward
to.
- Lynn Johnston, For Better or For Worse, 01-04-04

Friday, July 20, 2007

Making money online

There are several popular Google searches like "Making money online",
"Making money blogging", "Earn from blogging", "Work from home", "Get
paid to write", it seems that I am not the only one with the romantic
notion of making a living from writing.

For each such query there are 1000s of search results with information
ranging from websites that pay you to write to people who have written
about these sites on their blogs (such as this post).

So, this morning I shot off my own search and did some re-search on
these. Well, I like money too, you know. And as I said in my yesterday's
post, I am a writer. So how to make money writing?

Helium - I found it from an adsense ad on my own blog. Followed it, like
it enough to sign up. But didn't write anything. Then finally a friend
of mine, she was able to motivate me to write. So, I have written 3
articles on it now, 2 I think are good, one ok-ok. My combined earnings
from Helium till today are at a staggering $0.05. 5 cents! In a month I
can expect maybe 20 cents. Big, big money. I wonder if I'll need to take
2 hefty guys with me to the bank to carry it all away? (I am not giving
here a link to my Helium articles for you to click, because I don't
care!)

Also found a lot of people complaining about their unfair, dictatorial
administrative behavior and censorship. Also the moronic rating of
articles by other "writers". Yes, not everybody who thinks himself a
writer is one, and I myself found several poor-quality yet highly-rated
aricles on it. So, no more Helium for me.

Associated Content - This is one service that is praised by most people
and I can see the difference that they pay for your article up-front and
not based on ratings. Then as your article is viewed you get some
performance bonus per view. Fair enough. Their rates are also advertised
upfront $3-$20 per article. Not buried deep in some complicated
calculation like Helium. The only problem is they can pay only US
citizens or residents. Another reason for me to move to US. Till then I
am not going to submit any "non-paying" content to them.

Triond - Based in Israel, first time I am seeing a web-based enterprise
from there. They do accept anyone from anywhere and pay for articles by
sharing revenue with their writers. I liked this but learnt from my
Helium experience and did the research before and not after the fact.
Nobody called it names like Helium but still the earnings reported are
pretty low considering the time and effort spent. Still, I might write a
couple of articles just to test the waters.

Then there's payperpost.com which I am yet to try. Somehow I am not too
tuned into the idea of writing content on my blog for sponsors, though I
will not mind writing ad copies for money. But both separately. Wonder
if I am a puritan. Don't want to be.

BlogCharm.com is also based on the revenue sharing theory and the
policies seem quite fair but it is going to start from March 1st. And
no, I am not going to start now to "establish readership".

While I was doing all this research I could not help comparing these to
my Second Life business. One of them - my fashion line - Bollywood
Fashions. If I sell one dress it earns me 750 linden dollars. This would
mean around $3 in USD, give or take a few cents for currency exchange
rate. That's any day better than 20 cents a month, ain't it?

And for this I don't have to do anything after I put the dress on for
sale. I can actually go back to blogging for my personal pleasure. :-)

Thought of the day - 20th July 2007

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.

- Robert F. Kennedy

Thursday, July 19, 2007

To write or not to write

I wonder if I am a writer. I mean a real author. What would qualify me
as an author?

Long time back when I still lived in India, my sister asked me, "Bhaiya,
what makes a software engineer?". Her question was valid, it's not a
degree or a certificate that you get. Never having been to engineering
college, I didn't know if I was a software engineer or not. (Now I know.
I filled Software Engineer as my profession in my last passport
application and the High Commission didn't object, so I guess, I am
now!)

But now the same question is in my mind about being an author. What
marks a man as an author? An easy answer would be - Money. I am quoting,
"Anyone who writes for anything other than money is a fool!" Makes
sense. Writing for money your work has to be up to a certain standard,
so the quality improves.

I don't think that really answers the question though. Then what?
Publication? If you are published, you are an author, otherwise not.
What about those who write a book but never get it published for fear of
rejection? Or if a person gets his book published on his own expense and
it never sells? Is he still a writer?

I don't know.

I have had my stuff published, only online so far, and I have been
fortunate enough that people read what I write and come back with kind
remarks. Does that make me a writer?

Possibly!

Several years ago, I was in my room in Delhi. I and my friend Fazil (my
closest friend, so his name will come up in everything), we were
watching a movie on cable and thinking of going to sleep as soon as we
could bring ourselves to turn off the TV. The movie was Anil Kapoor
starrer "Nayak", very good movie, different perspective on things,
excellent direction, so we could not turn it off that easy.

Suddenly an idea struck in my mind, the plot for a story, completely
unrelated to the movie we were watching. I turned my PC back on and sat
down to write. I had the whole plot in my mind and yet I could only
write the first two scenes, one page. I always start writing when the
first scene strikes me.

In the years that followed, I looked at the unfinished story several
times, read that one page, but could not add anything to it.

Yesterday, in the bus, I was reading Heinlein's "To Sail Beyond the
Sunset" and an action-based scene suddenly moved me emotionally. It was
an action-based scene but it was written to have that effect. Good
writing always makes you think, feel and experience the kind of emotions
that only real life can make you feel. I closed the book to savour that
feeling and followed the emotions without trying to analyze them.
Following the chain of thoughts I was surprised to find myself thinking
of the next scene of that story. That story which was nowhere in my
mind!

In 2 minutes I knew how to proceed. In 2 hours I knew how to end it!

That's what I think makes me a writer. I write to get the idea out, to
record it on paper, rather than for money or to please anyone else.

I am therefore, I write. It's as simple as that!

Thought of the day - 19th July 2007

If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair.
We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd
be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all
the time and build your wings on the way down.
-Annie Dillard

Er..word of warning..she's talking figuratively, please do not
follow this advice literally!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thought of the day - 18th July 2007

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark;
professionals built the Titanic.
-Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Review - Tunnel in the Sky

I was not likely to go to London without my insurance viz. a book to
read on the train. The book I was reading currently, "To Sail Beyond The
Sunset" was too heavy for my pocket and I didn't want to take a bag just
to carry a book. So I picked up another unread Heinlein novel from my
shelf - "Tunnel in the Sky".

It turned out to be the thriller kind which grips you right from the
start and you keep thinking about it when you are not reading it and you
can't stop reading it as soon as you get time to see how it turns out.
And when it ends you are happy to know the outcome but you are sorry
that it ended.

In that way, finishing a really good book is like breaking up with a
great girlfriend/boyfriend. You still stay friends with them though, and
think about them and when enough time has passed to heal the wounds
(meaning that you have forgotten the story details) you can still get
together and enjoy! I find that writing a book review gives me the
needed "closure" for this breakup! :-)

About this book. The story line is simplicity itself. In future time, a
group of students is sent to an unknown planet for their survival test.
Typical school assignment lasting 2-10 days, the only difference is you
don't have to look at the notice board for your result when you get
back. If you come back alive, you pass!

Only this time something goes wrong and there's no recall. Nobody comes
to say "Hey, test over, come on back!". These students, story focuses on
our hero, a highschool student, Rod Walker, learn to survive. Not all of
them but quite a few. And as Heinlein puts it, "He was not interested in
survival tests, he was interested in survival!"

Heinlein's hero is always a good character, very heroic without being
Superman. He is smart enough to be a hero and silly enough to be human.
If you cut him, he bleeds! When he hurts, he cries!

These students survive the perils long enough to pass the test but then
what? They were not planning to spend a lifetime here. But they will
have to. It is interesting to see how their focus changes from surviving
to living. How the things that seem so small in our lives, seem to
matter most in theirs.

The book is full of very well thought-out characters like survival
course teacher "Deacon" Matson and Rod's elder sister, Captain Helen
Walker. You can feel the warmth towards them that Rod feels.

You can feel the dangers and the conflict of emotions as the hero goes
through each of them. And you also feel the sense of pride when he does
something admirable.

As Heinlein says through Deacon - "The most dangerous animal is the one
that walks on two legs. The one who hunts even when he is not hungry."
This is very well depicted in the book without going the Hollywood drama
route.

One thing that I admire in Heinlein's heroes is that they are very human
and very understandable. They might not always act prudently or even
sensibly but their actions are understandable and you can't deny that
you'd most probably act the same way in their place.

I absolutely loved the ending of this one. Heinlein has a knack for
perfect endings - not too long, not too short. There is no shortage of
twists in the story but it doesn't feel like the author is manipulating
the story, it all fits in naturally.

The journey of Rod walker from boy to a responsible man is fascinating
and intriguing to say the least. We, all of us, are acted upon by
cirumstances and situations every moment of our lives and each moment
changes us. This same sequence of change you can see in Rod as the story
progresses and yet without the monotony of a documentary film. The
psychological content is the strong backbone of the story but then,
that's Heinlein's speciality.

I loved the climax. As usual, the very last scene of the story is the
very best! Very touching!

It's a small book about 200 pages, but the canvas of the story is quite
big and Heinlein has done it justice.

Thought of the day - 17th July 2007

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
-Wayne Gretzky

Monday, July 16, 2007

Carry on the name

Last Saturday I got into an argument with my mother about the necessity
of having a son to "carry on the name of his father". It's a common
concept in India. It's not hard to find a family, families actually, (no
need to search even) where you see a long string of girl children
followed by a son or sometimes no son, just a long line of girls
signifying the parents' futile attempts to get an "heir".

This must be thing that I loathe most. I can understand the desire of a
couple to have variety in their offspring - to try for a son when they
have a girl and trying for a girl when they have a son. But to have 5,
6, 7 girls just so you could have a son, that's inhuman in my mind!
Inhuman and absolutely stupid!

First, the fact is not secret, the girls, as they grow up, will
understand why there are 7 sisters in the family. This will kill their
self-esteem and you can't seriously expect them to be ambitious, strong
and shining lights in the world when you make them realize that they are
second-class citizens right from childhood. Doesn't matter if the
parents finally got a son or not, the girls are still made to feel
unwanted and unwelcome. (The fact that they do somtimes go against the
odds and break the barriers is no credit to the parents. You did your
best to squash them. If they overcame it, it's not you, it's them!)

Then, if they do have a younger brother, he's the youngest and usually
favourite of his sisters, by being the youngest and the only brother.
Then he would grow up spoiled rotten and a brat to boot. Hardly the one
who would 'carry the name', not respectfully at least. I have seen
examples. More than one. Sometimes the name is carried in the "Father's
name" column on police charge sheets.

A man who grows up protected, coddled, spoiled and bossed by 6 sisters,
is hardly expected to stand on his own two feet and build up and empire.
A topic worth researching for sure.

The second part of this idea is the need for carrying the name. What
have you done that you deserve your name to be carried? Posterity should
know you and remember you merely because you lived, married, bred like
rabbits and left a son or sons behind you? Are you worth the ink to mark
your place in history?

Thomas Edison left a mark on history that is still fresh and alive. I
don't know if he had any children. Same for Benjamin Franklin. Or
Rudyard Kipling, P. G. Wodehouse, Alexander Graham Bell, Leonardo da
Vinci, Bertrand Russel, Sigmund Freud and so many others. Each
unforgettable and well-respected name. By what? Their sons? No! Their
daughters? No! Their work and their contribution to the world! That's
their real worth!

On the other hand, any highschool kid in India can tell you the names of
Indira Gandhi's parents. And do you think Marie Curie's parents were
proud of her or not? What about Florence Nightingale, Sarojini Naidu,
Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc, Rani Laxmibai and countless other women who
changed the world with their honest effort and left a mark on history
that the tide of time could not erase? When you say, "I want a son to
carry on my name" - with one sweeping statement you are discounting the
work of each one of these numerous women without whom the world would
not be the same!

We have come a long way in our civilization, we have taken giant leaps
in technology, economy, education, agriculture...you name it, we have
done it! Must we live by the 200 year old values when it comes to
family?

Reproduction is part of man's survival instincts but not his best
characteristic. Breeding a son. Think about it, you are doing something
even a rabbit can do! And that's what you are proud of?

Roo-ba-roo roshneeeee

Dog-tired and sore all over is no way to start a fresh week. To give you
a summary of my weekend, I went to London, only on the insistence of my
friend who was visiting me. His first time in UK and no wonder he wanted
to see London. Come to think of it, it was my first time in UK too,
about a year back, how come I have never wanted to see London? I think I
have an instinct about these things.

So, how was London? Just as I expected it to be.

Was it too confusing? Yes.
Was it too warm/too cold/too wet? All of the above.
Was it tiring? Yes.

Was it boring? Oh God, yes!
Did I enjoy myself? Yes!

I know the last two are contradictory but both true - I was bored,
immensely. And yet, I was enjoying myself very much. I don't know how to
explain that. What I do know is that as we walked around looking for a
particular bus stop there was a song on my lips and I was not humming, I
was singing - off-key, out-of-tune but still singing that one line from
"Rang De Basanti" - "Roo-ba-rooo Roshneeeee". Not loud like the hero of
a musical comedy but like a man who's happy where he is even if he can't
find the bus to take him to Tower Bridge.

We must have walked miles. In circles. Finally, we went to Waterloo
station and rode the London Eye. I'll post more about that later in a
separate post. With photos.

There will be several more posts about this trip, from different angles.
And maybe photos with a dissertation accompanying each photo.

The outcome of the day was that I was right in not wanting to visit
London. I am too old to pull the tourist bit. I learnt some about
London. And I just might go there again. It's fun reading on the train!

Thought of the day - 16th July 2007

The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to
sacrifice what we are for what we could become.
-Charles DuBois

Friday, July 13, 2007

A slice of my life

Ok, so here I am running through the lunch-hour rush of Town Center and
thinking, "Man, you should be in better shape if you want to do this!"
but still I made it almost to the Post Office without collapsing and
still had spare breath to talk. So far, so good.

I managed to get my envelope back before they could send it down into
the huge pile in the back from where it'd impossible to find. Just in
the nick of time though. I did so tell them real reason for taking it
back and if they thought it stupid of me to forget putting the passport
in with the form, who cares? I did not even lower my voice, let everyone
know I goofed! Osho says that's the medium kind of humor when you laugh
at yourself. The lowest is when you laugh at others and the best when
you laugh at life. Hey, I must be growing!

And then the run back to the bus stop. I did not have the consolation
that the bus might be late, it's the company bus, it leaves right on the
dot. So, one eye on the watch and one on the road, except when I crossed
the road, still running. Hey, I am growing, I don't care what people
think when they see me running when everyone else is walking, I know
when not to take a risk and I don't give up!

Judging by time alone, it was touch and go, I might make it or not.
Should I give up and let my tired legs rest? But giving up is so
easy...just stop running, just stop trying...close your eyes and let the
darkness envelope you...but the struggle is both physical and
mental...at every step your mind is giving you the alternates, telling
you the advantages of giving up, the risks, the changing odds, defeat is
almost certain...and yet you keep going, one step at a time, adamant to
give it your best no matter what the odds...

I made it to the bus with 1 minute to spare. Completely out of breath
and sweating all over. But happy!

Thought of the day - 13th July 2007

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily.
To not dare is to lose oneself.
- Soren Kierkegaard

Happy Friday the 13th to everyone. The last one of this year.

Life may not be perfect...

Still reading that fat volume by Robert Heinlein "To Sail into the
Sunset", I struck a phase where everything is fine, and realized that he
does that kind of euphoric phase in almost all of his books. A phase
where everything is hunky-dory, sex is good, partners, multiple mostly,
love each other, no misunderstandings, the plot is at a point where they
have conquered the last problem and not yet jumped into the next one. He
does it in almost every book and I hate it every time he does that.

It's not just Heinlein, in a movie also, when you run into such
interludes when everything is all right with the world, it gets boring.
Well, the sex you can watch (I am joking!) but otherwise it's pretty
sleep-inducing stuff. But seriously, think about this plot....

You are born, nice parents, you go to school, get straight A's....have a
nice girlfriend, go to college, get all straight A's, get a good job,
marry your girlfriend, get promotions one after the other...do you see
Robert Deniro jumping up "I want to play this guy in the movie!"?

Problems are what makes life interesting. Problems give you something to
do, to grow, to get better in every way. Win or lose every problem adds
something to your character, makes you more of a man (or woman, I don't
want to be a sexist here :) )

One quote that I remebered again and again when I was just about to go
to US (a long time dream, an impossible one). "Everywhere on the way,
was somewhere you had to be, in order to be here."

So true! Every point in your life you had to live in order to learn what
you have learnt, in order to be what you have become and can become, in
order to achieve what this person can achieve, this person that you are!


Do you guys also think I should take Bill Clinton's place in
motivational seminars? :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Price of Progress(?)

Last Sunday I had reason to suspect that I had a spyware in my system.
My personal laptop, that is. Since I bought this used laptop, couple of
months back, I have not done a proper housecleaning, I was still running
the same OS that the previous owner had, it was XP that looked like
Vista, some kind of bastardization of XP, I suspected. Plus the
numerous, uselss utilities (paradox?), an unmanageable Start menu and
other junk. So I decided to do a clean sweep of it all and since Windows
Vista DVD was all I had at hand, I decided to install that. (When you
move to a foriegn land, you have to make some tough choices in selecting
what to take and my XP Pro CD was one that didn't make the cut! [No pun
intended!])

So, I installed it, all nice and fancy like most MicroSoft products.
And, like most Microsoft products, utterly useless! Too many prompts,
incompatibilities with programs I needed. And any time I tried the
shortcuts and my fast style of doing things, I kept stumbling over
Vista's so-called "features". But I was telling myself, "Sunil, don't be
like a grumpy old man too set in your ways, embrace change for a
change!" [No pun intended!] . Well, I did keep trying to embrace the
bloody change despite the Blue screens of Death, cryptic, recurrent
error messages and various other nuisances.

Ever since I installed Vista I had been having problem with my internet,
the speed was unbearably slow. NTL being what it is, I had been doing
the shut-down-modem-restart-in-30-seconds-reboot-computer exercises
quite frequently. But yesterday, before trying to upload the website I
called up NTL to properly take care of it. The NTL rep told me their
connection was absolutely fine!! Imagine that!! Since the OS was new,
firewalled, with Windows Defender reporting no spyware, I suspected
something else. Using that extremely slow connection I checked on the
net and found that Vista does not peacefully co-exist with Wifi. I
connected it directly. That helped, a little, but it helped. Then I read
more and found that it doesn't like Mozilla Firefox, only IE. Bloody
Hell!

Considering that I practically live on the Net, this is unacceptable!

I mentioned something about this to Vinayak in one of the emails about
the website and he came back saying he is still using Win2K Pro and
doesn't even remember in which year he installed it!

Now, I am looking to go back to Windows XP Pro or Windows 2000 Pro.

Another new project

Alright, so there is a bee in my bonnet that makes me start yet another
project even when none of the previous ones are finished or profitable
yet.

Yesterday I finally acted on the idea that had been in my mind for a
long time i.e. 2 days - to start a Second Life related website. I think
I am past the kid-in-the-candy-store phase in SL but still retaining
some business interest as the market is there and despite my feeble
attempt at marketing I do make some, a little, tiny amount of money from
there.

So, about my idea, it was to start a website where SL residents can
display their well-crafted, well-attired avatars and ask others to rate
them. And vice versa. Yesterday, in the afternoon, I decided to go ahead
with it and by midnight GMT the site was up and running. A big share of
the blame goes to my friend Vinayak, who provides hosting services. This
guy is amazing, but not because he provides the best and most economical
hosting and domain naming service but in his personality. This man never
sleeps, is always online, replies like lightening, acts very fast and
it's because of him that from asking 'can such a site be made' to
logging in first time it took only a few hours.

You can check it out at www.secondlifehotornot.com

Thought of the day - 11th July 2007

If you care at all,you'll get some results.If you care enough, you'll
get incredible results.
- Jim Rohn <http://www.achievementlibrary.com/jim-rohn.htm>

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Waqt rukta nahin kisi ke liye

I don't have a commentary or 'sermon' prepared for these lines, I just
came across these and loved them instantly. Very good advice and in
simple language yet so beautiful. I don't even know the poet's name.

naa muhabbat naa dostii ke liye
vaqt rukataa nahii.n kisii ke liye

dil ko apane sazaa na de yuu.N hii
soch le aaj do gha.Dii ke liye

har ko_ii pyaar Dhuu.NDhataa hai yahaa.N
apanii tanhaa sii zindagii ke liye

vaqt ke saath saath chalataa rahe
yahii behatar hai aadamii ke liye

[I will translate it but I can't make it sound as beautiful as the
original:

Neither love nor for friendship,
Time doesn't stand for anything,

Don't go on punishing your heart,
Stop and think today for a couple of minutes,

Here everyone is searching for love,
To fill their empty life,

To keep walking in tune with Time,
That's the best that Man can do.
]

I am absolutely in love with Urdu shayri and I will post some more even
when I can't start a philosophical discussion from them.

Thought of the day - 10th July 2007

Buy one get one free offer today, two thoughts as they represent the
same idea.

Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could
not stand being laughed at. -Author Unknown


The fear of being laughed at makes cowards of us all. -Mignon
McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Monday, July 09, 2007

The need for validation

Recently I received an email from someone asking me to Vote 4 Taj so
that Taj can be included in the new 7 Wonders of the World. Searching
Google provided the answer I was looking for, it's a large-scale,
well-organized, marketing hoax. Supposing that it isn't, and supposing
that Taj can really win only by sending the premium-rate SMS messages, I
still wouldn't do it.

Does a wonderful monument like Taj Mahal need validation from a bunch of
self-appointed judges in order to be admired and cherished by millions
and billions of people? What is the qualification of the judges, who
validated them to speak for the billions?

And if it is to be decided by the world's populace then, quoting from
another guy, "soon all the wonders of the world will be in India or
China". :)

But the need for validation lives in each and everyone of us. That's why
the man asks his friends, "So what do you think of her?" and the girl
giggles to her friends, "Isn't he wonderful?". It's not enough that we
think he/she is wonderful, we need validation from our friends and then,
our families. I won't even comment on the ones who let their parents
shortlist the candidates for them, I have no respect for them.

It's not just partners, it's everything, any work of art, any invention,
house, car, airplane, cellphone, we buy, build and get things that we
think others would like. And yet...

And yet, if you think about the real geniuses, the best and the greatest
of the world who got the validation of the world in truckloads, they
never tried to get it. The really great poets wrote because they felt
like it, the really great composer composed music for their souls and
not for the applause of the common men. And that's the best art of all
and receives the most approval from the populace.

But these are the people who went through (go through) a long period of
disapproval also. The world is not smart enough to recognize their
genius at once but they do not re-shape their thinking to suit the
world. Ultimately the world has to come around to their way of thinking.


I remember a story from Asimov, (Sorry, too long back, I don't remember
the name), in that society every one goes through education, fast-paced,
electronically imparted education based on their aptitude and brains.
Based on that they are put into a profession. This one boy, the hero, is
told he is not fit for any profession and will not be given any course.
Crestfallen. Follows a long series of chase and escapes as the boy
refuses to accept his fate and finally when the long arm of the
authority catches him, they tell him - "We need people like you to make
the courses!".

More recently, from Heinlein's book - "To sail into the sunset", his
character Brian Smith says, "If a thousand men think one way and I think
otherwise then it's a thousand to one that they are wrong!"

In other words "who validates the validators?"

Life may not be perfect, but it is interesting!

Last Monday something funny happened. I woke up with a number of things
weighing on my mind, all issues, problems to reckon with or wait for
resolution.

Insecurity, fear, worrying thoughts, negative nagging notions! All of
them to be waited out other than making a nominal effort.

As I walked into office, I had a choice to make - I could let all of
these show into my manner and give them the respect they deserved by
being sad, depressed and frustrated.

OR

I could ignore all of these, other than making the efforts required, and
be happy and cheerful even as I was dealing with all these problems.

I chose the second!

It worked!

Later I realized that this was the first time ever that I had made this
choice. Over the years, I have transformed from the
nothing-works-life-sucks-and-mine-the-most kind of normal person to a
more happy-go-lucky kind of person that irritates everyone simply by
being happy when there is no call to be, but this was the first time I
made this choice consciously!

This makes me wonder if there is something more to life than chasing
problems, finding solutions and complaining in-between?

I think I am at the point where I should be thinking about starting the
journey to "find myself" or going on a "search for the truth". Well,
we'll see about that! :-)

Thought of the day - 9th July 2007

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of
progress.

- Thomas A. Edison

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thought of the day - 6th July 2007

The worst bankrupt in the world is the man who has lost his enthusiasm.
Let a man lose everything else in the world but his enthusiasm
and he will come through again to success.
- H.W. Arnold

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Peace of mind

I have been blamed again and again for writing thought-provoking posts.
This post might prove to be provoking also. (I do like to argue as my
readers (all 6 of them) know very well :) )

People say quite often, religious people, or
self-proclaimed-intellectuals-but-still-trapped-in-religion-people that
sitting in a temple gives them an unexplained, mysterious feeling of
peace. There is nothing mysterious about it, the feeling comes from the
expectation and the environment. The feeling of peace and tranquility
comes from within not from without. You can get the same feeling sitting
in a forest, on a riverbank, on a raft in the middle of the sea and when
you have learnt the real source of the feeling, you can have it in the
middle of a busy thoroughfare like Times Square.

As Basheer Badr has said,
Apna gham le ke kaheeN door na jaaya jaaye,
Ghar mein bikhari hui cheezoN ko sajaaya jaaye
[Let us not travel without with our sorrow, let us rearrange the things
strewn about in the house.]

The source of this peace and happiness is within us and we don't need to
take a single step to find it.

There are a lot of things that add to the feeling. Keertan is a popular
way of worship in Hinduism, music, songs, dance all brought together to
worship God. Other religions have similar practices, Islam the qawwali
and Chritianism their hymn-singing. It is the power of music that turns
your thought in a particular direction, it has nothing to do with God.
You can use anything to connect yourself to God and you can use the same
media to connect to anything.

Remember Hitler's songs of the Third Reich?

My point is that it's not neccessary to worship God in any one way or
any particular style.

Ghar se masjid hai bahut door chalo yoon kar lein,
Kisi rote hue bachche ko hansaya jaaye.
[The mosque is very far from home lets do this instead, help a crying
child to find his smile again.]

I seriously dislike the people who think themselves righteous and God's
favorite because they "go to church every Sunday", there are similar
equivalents in all religions, people who spend 4 hours in keertan every
week or perform namaaz 5 times a day. They are all fine practices, IF it
does not give you a superiority complex. I have met people who have the
holier-than-thou attitude because they have a direct hotline to God and
a suite reserved in heaven. On the other hand, rarely, but I have met
people, who serve God and humanity equally and as part of their very
being rather than as a habit or an attempt to earn brownie points with
the Big Guy.

I like Osho because he does not use any of the gimmicks and he does not
do anything that is supposedly mysterious or unexplained. His discourses
are not accompanied by music or background sounds. His langauge, tone
and style is not professional. He never raises his voice like a
professional speaker and he definitely is not an orator. Still, when he
talks, people listen. Simply because what he says makes sense. In
answering a question from someone about going to the temple he explains
at length why the person himself is the source of all that is good and
pure, even though all the religions preach otherwise. Osho finishes with,
"The day you understand this one thing, you will not go to the temple,
you will BE the temple."
["Phir tum mandir nahin jaaoge, tum khud mandir ho jaaoge.]

Happy 4th of July

Continuing from my post on Patriotism
<http://sunilgoswami.blogspot.com/2007/07/love-thy-country.html> and
Independence
<http://sunilgoswami.blogspot.com/2007/07/independence.html> , here is
another chance for me to discuss both. Bad though it is for a country to
be ruled by foreigners, some good comes out of every bad thing. When you
lose the freedom, you learn the real value of freedom, and then when you
regain that freedom, you have learnt to take care of it and cherish it.

A point that I mention quite a lot when comparing US and Indian cultures
is that US has been independent for much longer than India, hence they
have more regard for individual freedom. Possibly in another 50 years,
India will have the same. Shorter time for India because of the much
advanced communication systems now.

On any 4th of July that I am not in US, I feel like I am missing
something. Maybe a piece of cake? :-)

Well, any excuse to have fun, get drunk and enjoy is a good excuse. So a
Happy 4th of July to everyone and not just the Americans. Have fun!

Thought of the day - 4th July 2007

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be
wise.
-Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Independence



This post is almost a month late. Last month, 9th June to be exact, I
bought a car. It's a used car, it's an old model, doesn't have all the
frills of newer models but still a great car. The main reason this
update got delayed was for want of pictures. And I still can't post a
picture, but I will add that as an update.

As you would see from the photo, it's a Ford Mondeo 2488cc, powerful and
good looking. It does have a lot of good features, like power-streering,
power windows, power-mirrors, electrict sunroof-moonroof. Even though I
got a great deal on it, it stil burnt a big hole in my monthly budget.
And yet, I bought it because of one feature - Independence. Now, I am
independent of bus schedules and all that that implied.

I used to have to run from the house to the bus stop in the morning and
then again from office in the evening. 1 minute delay in getting
ready/wrapping up meant a 20 minute delay in reaching my destination.
Considering the pleasant weather of England, it was either a long wait
in biting wind or a pleasant long wait in soggy rain. Buying grocery was
a project to be planned in advance and needed good weather.

I am glad to be free of all that but the main purpose in acquiring this
white elephant was to broaden my horizons, to go where I can't go by
buses. And, my main motto, to enjoy life. I am finding that since I
started driving to work, I don't mind getting up in the morning and
don't hate the UK that much. :-)

I hope to be able to log many new updates that result from this one
event. I already have some from the period so far.

A waste of time

Sometimes when I get up from in front of the computer taking a minute
out to either fix something to eat or visit the bathroom, I think about
the hours I have wasted. Now, I have thought about it so many times that
the next question was inevitable - what should I be doing that will not
be a waste of time?

After I get home from work, usually around 6PM, I have about 5 or 6
hours to myself without going into overtime and cutting into my sleep
time. What is a good use of this time and what should be categorized as
waste?

Society has conditioned us such that any activitiy that is related to
money making, anything that has even a remote possibility of bringing in
money, is not a waste. It's utilization of time. Even if I spent 24
hours in that, they'll not be considered waste. Overwork, maybe, but not
time wasted. But is that right? There is just so much you can do with
money, that so much is a lot, I give you that, but if you spend all your
time making money then also you are wasting time. Time that could be
utilized in other things like fun, like living for pleasure, like
cherishing the moment, like savouring the sucesses and enjoying the
challenges!

If I had to decide I'd say, any time spent in order to feed yourself,
cooking or eating or driving to a feeding place, is a good use of time.
Plus time spent taking care of the body, gym, swimming, aerobics,
whatever is your deal. Other than that it's the question of your
personal preference. "One man's music is another man's noise" principle
applies here.

One principle I'd like to mention is from a famous Urdu shayar,
Kar leejiye uska bhi jehannum mein shumaar,
Wo umr ke jo haay-haay karte guzri!

[The age that has been spent in complaining and crying, should be
counted as Hell.]

Thought of the day - 3rd July 2007

There is no security on this earth. Only opportunity.

- Douglas MacArthur

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thought of the day - 2nd July 2007

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more
useful than a life spent in doing nothing.
- George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Love thy country?



Patriotism, let's talk about it today. What is patriotism? In simple words it is the willingness of a person to love, respect, defend and sacrifice for his country.

Have you heard the derogatory use of the word "Provincial"? It means that a person who differentiates among people based on which city or state they come from is narrow-minded. In India the term is "regionalism" with common regions being North India - South India, Hindi-Regions-Non-Hindi-speaking-regions, etc. It's not considered a good thing. No intellectual will ever consent to having or respecting region bias. Yet, the same intellectual will not only declare it with pride but will risk his life for his country. I don't need to quote examples because everybody can think of numerous examples from their own country.

What is the difference between regionalism and patriotism? Just a matter of degree, I think. A patriot fights for the bigger boundary - the country. Country is the biggest boundary we have right now, if we merged those borders, we will have one Earth. I have read the term "Vasudhaiv kutumbakam" in Sanskrit, but I have only seen it on emblems of Universities and such, never in practice. If we did dissolve the national boundaries we will have only one Earth, no way to separate one person from another and therefore no reasons to fight. Somehow, I don't think we want that. We actually want the boundaries. And as long as they are at the highest level we feel noble and righteous in defending them.

Before I proceed, I would like to clarify that I do consider myself a patriot and I too feel a surge of pride and emotion when I read poems or songs like this one. [It talks about the Indian flag called Tiranga in Hindi and Tricolor in English].

Given the fact that I am a patriot and hold immense respect for my motherland India, would that be the only fact to consider in my decisions in life?

When 9/11 happened I was in the US. In the post-9/11 days there was a shortage of American flags, factories ran out and could not keep up production to meet the demand. I went to considerable trouble to print a colored Stars and Stripes and paste it on my car's front and back windshields. Almost every car at that time sported a US flag but my purpose was not to blend with the crowd, my decision came from my strong conviction. When it was time to pick sides between democracy and terrorism I chose democracy. It did not matter to me that it was not my own country. My act was very minor, very small, there have been greater examples, people who really fought for another country's freedom, several of such examples can be found in the history of India's Struggle for Independence where people of British origin actively supported the War of Independence, at considerable risk to themselves.

That, apparently, is not called Patriotism it's called Idealism. To fight for one's ideals. [source: Wikipedia]

Another example is from a novel I read long time back when I used to read Ved Prakash Sharma's fantasy-based novels. In this novel (don't ask me the name), two of his main heroes Vijay and Vikas come against each other in a fantastic situation where India is doing something to another country that is inhuman. In this situation, if I remember right, his older hero Vijay supports India and his young protege Vikas, fights him at every corner defending humanity even against his own country. That was the first time I had a doubt about patriotism being the greatest thing ever invented. I honestly could not make up my mind who was right in this situation.

Take another situation. Generation 1, a man or a man and his wife, leave their country, let's say India, and move to another country, let's say USA, and settle down there. Suppose they have a son. As far as legal status is concerned, this child is a born American, he acquires the US citizenship (an enviable intangible in some circles), simply by being born in USA. Let's suppose he's a very patriotic individual. What country should be the recipient of his noble emotion?

The main pro-patriotism argument being, "you are born here, this country has fed you and brought you up, it's your duty to give every drop of your blood to defend her", I'd say his allegiance should be to the country of his birth. But someone might disagree.
Taking the same argument, the same country has fed and supported his parents, whom should they support and defend?

And if you are going to bring up the point of "roots" then I will feel compelled to ask the criteria for choosing the country where your "roots" belong? How far back should you go for "roots", how many generations/miles/years/decades/centuries? If you look far enough you'll find that Americans are not really Americans their roots are elsewhere, same for Indians, same for many other races. So?

On the other side of this, let's take someone who is living in Germany, but is American. Suppose a war breaks out between the countries, whose side he should take? Where he lives or where he was born? Does the duration of his living in Germany count in this decision? Erhm..how about his legal status - visitor visa, work visa, citizenship? How about his accommodation status - is he living in a hotel, renting an apartment or has his own house with mortgage? What should be the proper criteria for assigning his loyalty to a country?

People who are born in a country with oppressive living conditions and their "migration" to another country is actually an "escape", should their patriotism still attach to the country where they were born? Or the one that gave them asylum?

I have no experience of it, but I believe every country would require taking an oath when giving citizenship to one who is not a born citizen, part of naturalization. But is that oath really anything more than the lessons learnt in school, "never tell a lie"? Would you really ignore humanity in order to stay loyal to a flag?

As usual, I have more questions than answers and I can't really define patriotism for you. The best I can do is, define it for myself, and for me patriotism is a word without meaning. Yes, I will love, honor and cherish my motherland as long as I live but if it ever happens, I will not turn my back on humanity to respect a flag!

I have about a thousand more things to say, but I don't want to spend the whole night on this one post and I would really like to go back to writing my book. I hope someone starts an argument...:-)

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