[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Blogs for opinions

Monday, July 25th, 2005

I am reading a lot these days about how blogs have become mainstream media. But I believe blogs, due to their very nature of ad-hoc, decentralized, individual publishing will never become “mainstream”. Just becoz a mainstream folks such as CNN, WashingtonPost and Forbes have blogs on their website does not make general medium of blogs as mainstream. Besides, the vast majority of bloggers in the world are not anywhere close to be mainstream publishers. By staying away from mainstream, blogs gain their uniqueness and in some cases, authenticity and truthfulness.

It is interesting to note how I have come to use blogs to form my own opinions. I do read mainstream media magazines (mainly, Google news, followed by BBC, NYTimes, NDTV and ChennaiOnline) and newspapers, most of them online. At the same time, I subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds (using Firefox’s Sage) from a whole lot of blogs. Outside of these feeds, I scavenge the web randomly to read. All this consolidated, I form my own opinions about things happening around me. I believe this process is helping me get to close to the true value of any information.

As a simple example, I was reading this Anil Dash’s post about Barack Obama. Barack is a upcoming african american senator from Illinois and he came to limelight ( at least to me ) when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention during the last election supporting democratic presidential candidate. His speech was appealing and he seemed to be genuine politician with his personality and profile. The media was all praise for him and showered all the attention he ever wanted, even as far as claiming that he might be the president of US soon! He even released a book, his autobiagraphy, that I saw on the front shelves of bookstores, at least for few days – ‘Make hay/money while Sun Shines!’

Anil, in his blog, pointed to this article by Barack in CNN’s Time magaine. Since I am already impressed with Barack in general, I read it and thought it was a good article. I read thru the part where he was comparing himself with Abraham Lincoln, but didn’t give enough importance to it. For all I knew, Barack could have had an equally tough life growing up before making it as a popular politician. He perhaps aspires for being a President someday, so who else than Lincoln to take for inspiration.

But…I didn’t stop there, I seriously wanted to know what the blogosphere ( the internet world of blogs) had to say about this article by Barack. I searched Technorati, a popular search engine that searches only blogs [just paste the URL/Link to the article in the search text box and search and it will list all blogs referring to it]. I have this strange habit always checking the first and last items in any list! When I moved to the last blog in the search results that was referring to Barack’s article, I had found something different. I found this blog whose author found the Barack’s own self-comparison with Lincoln, undeserving

This author preferred to link to another op-ed article by peggy noonan (my earlier post on peggy’s writing) who clearly brought forth some facts about Barrack :

Transcript from Peggy’s article : (emphasis mine) Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.

Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency.

You see the similarities!

Hmm…at first thought, it seems to be not a big deal But isn’t that a good information for me to better evaluate Barrack’s own views of the world. I still like him for what he is and what he has accompolished, but he could have been better and I am sure he knows better than this, as I would have to agree with Ms. Peggy. He is perhaps using this strategy of not sharing key facts and hence associating himself more with a common ‘minority’ man, than otherwise.

Just a few years ago I would have simply read just the Time article and it would have reinforced by strong opinions on Barrack. Today, with blogs, and internet and open modern media, my opinions are not simply shaped by mainstream media alone!

BMW ends up in Chennai

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

A while ago I had whined about how Chennai is not cajoling BMW enough to make them set up a plant in Chennai, of course for the jobs and related prospects, but also for the sheer prestige of it. I stand corrected now, BMW’s India plant finally (almost) ends in Chennai.

BMW likely to set up shop near Chennai

Can we expect something like this picture below, in Chennai?

BMW Headquarters
[Src: http://www.boldts.net]A splendor of modern architecture: BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany. Lets not be deluded by the ‘coffee cup’ infront of the building, its the BMW Museum ]

An early monday morning

Monday, July 18th, 2005

I was supposed to do my regular blood test on friday and I missed it. I called up to find out what time they open on Monday so I could drop in before I come in to work. “Walk in anytime after 7.30 AM”, the guy on the phone assured. That sounds good to me since I can drop off harini at the station around 7.15 and get this thing done and still reach work around 8 or 8.15.

It is a foggy and dry Monday morning today. The visibility at the Somerville Station was close to zero. And it was already 75 degrees, sultry and humid. As planned, I was driving into the strip mall in Bridgewater where Quest Diagnostics is located. I could smell the aroma of fresh coffee. ‘Bagel Smith’, the shop next to Quest read ‘Brewing fresh for you”…I wonder if it was indeed the flavor of coffee from the brewing pot or if they have a coffee-scented air freshner sprayed around from behind the store. Anyhow, they got what they wanted, there were atleast 25-30 people in line infront of Bagel Smith. That was impressive for a 7.20 AM Monday morning, no matter what their tactics was.

Parking at the closest spot to Quest, I started walking over thinking if I should grab a small coffee myself from smith. I decided not to, considering not even an hour has passed since my last 16 Oz Indian-style Nescafe Taster’s Choice.

Approaching close to the corridors, I noticed something that didn’t make any sense. The damn line was indeed infront of BagelSmith but lead into Quest doors! 30 people lined up for blood test? on an early misty morning, when half of America is still fast asleep dreaming for a better President? There must be something wrong; This must be a special discount day or something …

“Free Blood Test”1                                                                                          1 With fully paid blood-test for two adults. Nothing is free is America baby!

So I gave up; instead of breaking my heads figuring out a reason for the long line. After a moments contemplation, I decided to stay in line and take the test anyway. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much longer for my turn. In exactly 18 mts of wait, I got called in by a lady, who I suspected to be of Indian origin. I usually don’t care and never ask-None of my business.

We exchaned greetings and as soon as I gave in my prescription, she read it in a jiff and exclaimed “Are you from South India?”.

With my groomed and parted hair style, a deceptively studious look and my brown skin, her question seemed like a slam dunk. With a tiny little smile on my lips, I said “Yes :)”.

I didn’t ask but she responded “I am from Gujarat”. She went right to work and was pretty quick in taking the blood samples. Done, in less than 5 mts.

Now that we have established a mother-land bond, I figured I will ask her. “So whats the big deal with so many people showing up so early on this monday morning?”.

Looking baffled, she said “excuse me, what?”.

I figured I overdid my language skills so I corrected myself and asked “Why long queue on monday morning?”.

She smiled “Oh! its not monday, its everyday. Fasting, you know?”

“Fasting?” I didnt quite understand that.

“Did you eat?”

“Oh yeah! I just had my breakfast, is that ok?”

“Yes, for your test, you are ok, don’t worry. For them, you know, they got special tests so they have to be empty stomach”

Oh! that fasting. Got it. Great, that makes sense.

“You know, lot of people go to work and must eat, so they come early. Its like this every day”

I suppose I was uninformed. Thanks to that lady, I now know whats not a good time for me to visit Quest the next time.

10 minute American history

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

A quick and simple history of America using animation. If you are like me, you would certainly learn a thing or two.

Animated american history in 10 mts or less!

Remember to turn the sounds ON for narration. There is more to it than narration though. Click around for details.

Being Happy

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

We search for happiness in eager anticipation and joyful memories, but it may be life’s simple and everyday gifts that sustain our contentment.

This Psychology Today article, though a bit lenghthy read, has some insightful arguments, specifically from a nobel prize winning professor of psychology at Princeton, on how we can be more happier than we think we actually are.

Very early in my boyhood, i had chosen a principle to live my life by. I didnt consciously chose it to be so, but an often seen advertisement on television and newspapers for the “Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC)” had a simple tag line that sunk very deep in my heart and soul. At some point during my early adulthood, I was lucky enough to understand what that meant and I chose to call that as one of the key principles to live my life by. Ever since, I keep saying that as often as I could to remind and reinforce it. And that principle is : “Life is too wonderful to be spent worrying”


Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

Don’t…Don’t click this

Russian astrologist rocks

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

“A Russian astrologist who says NASA has altered her horoscope by crashing a spacecraft into a comet is suing the U.S. space agency for damages of $300 million, local media has reported.” – CNN News.
reminds me of this :

“Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Insights on Pitching an Idea

Tuesday, July 5th, 2005

Scott Berkun has a nice essay on “How to pitch an idea”. While the whole essay is pretty good, I like these insights which I sure will find extremely useful “…until the concepts and hard parts are fleshed out enough to demonstrate that the spirit of an idea is matched with specifics, the idea doesn’t have much of a foundation. People can dismiss it quickly just by asking 2 or 3 basic questions. Always remember that moving from an interesting but vague idea, to specific and actionable is the difficult part of creation and invention.”

On one of his other good essay he writes “Maturity, in part, means accepting things that truly can not be changed for what they are. Wasting time being angry at the ground for being dirty, or the ocean for being wet is absurd, right? “

His observations on work and life and the balance is very true based on my own experience “work does not have to define life. Work can be at the center of everything if you choose, but there are many other ways to live happy, fulfilling, meaningful lives. ….I had never thought about it, but for much of my adult life most of my pride came through the workplace. But then in this one particular experience, the workplace became so uncomfortable, so depressing, so frustrating, that I found I couldn’t be happy until I found ways to invest *less* of myself at work. It took me a long time, and lots of suffering, to figure this out (I’m quite stubborn), but when I did I discovered a new kind of solution. I needed to depend more on my life outside of work, with friends, family, community and interests, to make myself feel complete and happy. Then no matter how bad things got at work I had a place to go where I was safe. My self-esteem began to come from places other than the workplace and I became a better person for it.”

July 4th

Monday, July 4th, 2005

I can hear the fireworks feebly past the windows. They remind me of the incident the other day when I was in my weekly Toastmaster’s meeting where I was given a table topic : ‘What does July 4th mean to you?’…I thought for a few seconds and said ‘fireworks!’ and then went on to speak for less than 2 minutes on why July 4th meant colorful firework shows, driving to visit friends and having fun shopping and so on. Towards the end of my short oration, I did remember to mention that since I ain’t an American citizen, July 4th has been more of a happy long weekend holiday to me than a reminder of American Independence! I walked back hoping I hadn’t offended anyone. Thankfully, at least 2 others (Americans) seconded me by saying July 4th meant exactly the same things I had mentioned and more. I felt lot happier.

to think

Friday, July 1st, 2005

“A paradox: You need a great team of people with diverse skills to perform a symphony well, but no team has ever written a great symphony! … While cross-functional teams are key players in defining and implementing incremental innovation projects, cross-functional disruptive individuals tend to be key players in defining radical innovation projects.” – from Radical Innovation: How Mature Companies Can Outsmart Upstarts.

Read it a few times and lets put it at the back of our minds and churn it…something should emerge…