Sunday, July 29, 2007

The world is flat (Thomas L. Friedman)

Started reading this book with completely wrong expectation. I thought this would give me a glimpse of the future just like Future Shock. But none of that stuff. I was always impressed by the vision of Alvin Toffler and how he predicted the future almost 40 years ago. How some of those theories must have sounded down right stupid or exaggerated in late 60's.

Tough Luck. This cliched book talks about a theme that has been beaten to death. Every Indian working in IT for the last 10 years or so understands it as good as the dollar rupee conversion rate. Out sourcing, offshoring, supply chain, all of these were born more than 10 years back and are bread and butter to a million Indians, millions of Chinese and hundreds of companies.

Talking of these in 2004/5 is like Bolly wood making an Angry young man movie, a cop fighting against the goodaraj in 2007. Ram Gopal Verma's Siva for example.

I might be completely wrong here. I've only labored through 200 pages in hope of vision unfolding somewhere, but it does not seem like the Author would go beyond quoting Indian IT icons' most banal statements and dressing them up in prophetic garbs. e.g. "The playing field is being leveled" as stated by Nandan Nilekani and "The world is Flat" as understood by the Author.

Also there is a contradiction here. Round world actually brings people closer. The farthest points in a Flat world are in fact close neighbours in a round world.

Columbus would have turned a few times in his grave as Mr. Friedman compares himself to the greatest discoverer of all times. Especially when his discovery comes after millions of Indians, Chinese and Americans were doing business that way for about a decade. Some cheek eh!

May be the average American was still not aware this phenomenon till Mr Friedman finally cracked the mystery open. Though that would be hard to imagine given that America is at the cutting edge of this transformation and is actually shaping this revolution. Also I guess most Americans speak to Indian Customer Service Agents for most of their queries and complaints.

I really could not understand the cause for the runaway success of this book. But may be there is a treasure at the end of the rainbow. And so I shall wade through to the other side in search of a vision.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

An enjoyable evening with friends

We aren't really the most socialable family in town. Inviting friends over and cooking for them is not our idea of an ideal weekend. Yet we did that today and to our amazement we actually loved it.

This managed property has several ppl from my company living here, most of whom I don't even know. It was my wife who befriended some residents. As they got talking they realized that their men, they all worked for the same company. And so we got introduced through our wives. Since, we have had a couple of parties (pot lucks) and they all have been quite enjoyable.

Today was our turn and while my wife did most of the preparations, I was made incharge of my daughter. I took her out to the market and fed her lunch. In the evening the couples came over and we played Dumb Charade with Hindi movies. It was a lot of fun after a long time. We were transported to our college days. We debated the rules and the signs and established the code. Had a laugh guessing the movies. The one word ones the the toughest to guess. Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hai is a standard 7 word movie and one of the easiest ones to guess as our opponents figured out.

The kids, they all had a blast. They laughed, they fought and cried and became friends again, all in the same evening. Some of these families will be moving out as their projects are coming to an end. But the fond memories will remain...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Boom Boom Becker

How I idolezed him. What a swagger! At times his swagger reminded me of Viv Richards. He walked upon the court as if he owned it. Hell he did own it. I remember we had just bought our first TV when I watched him defeat Kevin Curren at the age of 17 to become the youngest player ever to win Wimbeldon. Our entire family fell in love with this kid. My mother, who is not much of a tennis enthusiast would never miss a Becker game. She remembers him as the kid who made his parents proud.

Here is an unbelievable clip. Looks all concocted but for the fact that the players are real and so is the match. The King of Comeback. Poor Andrei Medvediv looks so hapless against the blaze of Becker's Aces. Imagine trailing 0-40 and then coming back to win the game with 5 consecutive aces. Awesome!

Talking of Tennis I admired Pete Sampras very much. I'd say Sampras could break any player at the top of one's game. I've seen Ivanisevic at his best being tamed by Sampras in straight sets(1994) Wimbledon Finals. I've seen Becker being tormented by this great player. Though when ever these two played, I'd cheer for Becker as Sampras made him look real underdog. Aaaah! the excrutiating pain of watching your idol being clinically decimated. Inspite of all the heroic dives Becker could hardly ever match Sampras cool precision. BUT FOR THIS OCCASION. I Looooved it. Becker getting better of Sampras. Its a rare clip :) Hail Becker!

Real Moments, Real people, Real Heros

Fact is stranger than fiction. If it was the reel world I'd give it a thumbs down for over dramaticizing. But what do you do when you see it in the real world? You bask in the glory of it and soak in its impact. These are moments history is made of.

The clip calls it the best goal ever. I saw it about 15 years ago on doordarshan once, as a build up to a world cup and it stayed with me. Today, I looked it up in youTube and was thrilled as a boy to find it there. View this and get inspired. This is no movie and the opponents are no dummies, as George makes them out to be. I agree THIS is the Greatest Goal Ever.

Its such a pity that such a great man should die so pathetically as an alcohol addict. The price of greatness I guess. In memory of George Best

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hi Fi Discussion Forum

I was trying to weigh options for a Hi-Fi system. Not surprisingly, the choices in India are limited and prohibitively expensive. I happened to walk into Bose store in Pyramid and was awed by the equipment on display. Bose stores are great at marketing their products. After I was treated to a well scripted demo I was sold to the idea of owing those tiny jewels (I guess the satellites are actually called so) . Eventually the conversation drifted from the sound and fury to the price tag and one could hear the jaw and spirits fall to the lower end of sonic spectrum. I scuttled off suddenly remembering a phantom appointment and returned home crest fallen.

Upon googling the topic a bit I discovered a new world. A world of Audioholics. In this world there are only bose bashers and no takers. Bose is for sissies they say. Well that kind of hurt my sentiments. But I took a deep dive into their world and discovered I was swimming with Dolphins.

I guess the forum is one of its kind for Indian Audioholics and ironically its hosted on a german domain. Thats kind of weird I thought but then so long as the contributors are desi bhai log, the .de domain is just a minor technicality.

These guys know what they are talking about. They know which good brands are available in India, and for each cities who are the dealers, where the shops are and how they compare to each other. Also, the threads taught me how to describe music in its own lingo. Whats sound stage, what are upfront / laid back / transparent / colored / rolled off speakers and how to navigate through the myriad choices to pick whats best for you. Also, they would tell you whats the bargain and how much to pay.

A bunch of music romantics amongst tone deafs like me. Quite heroic. Through them I could learn to appreciate the sound of music. Check this out hi-fi forum Pick the stereo track. Most other tracks are in german if you fancy the language.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bloggers Block

True bloggers dont worry abt following too much. They plug their keyboards to their thoughts and the bytes flow. Then there is a Bloggers Block. You gotta build the momentum to get over that hump and from then on its nice and easy as if its part of your daily chores.

Here is an example. Someone I'm following lately on the net. See the first 2 years... They are patchy but then as if by a miracle the person found the rythum. You dig till you hit the eternal fountain and from it you draw your thoughts. Here is to OfTravelAndTravails...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

List of my favorite Soundtracks

Spent the whole day listening to Soundtracks from various movies... Here is a short list of my favorites

Road to Perdition - Thomas Newman
Forrest gump - Thomas Newman
Summer of 42 - Michel Legrand
Scent Of a Woman - Thomas Newman
The Phenomenon
Once Upon a time in America - Childhood memories (Zamfir Pan flute) Ennio
American Beauty - Thomas Newman
The Godfather - Larry Kusic and Nino Rota
Picnic at Hanging Rock - Zamfir Flute
Il Postino

Discovering Thomas Newman

In my growing up years, I guess I was in college when Al pachino won Oscar for Scent of a Woman. In my small town there were handful Video Libraries and I scourged through them to get the Video Cassette as I had loved Micheal in God father so much.

I fell in love with the movie right from the starting moment when the boy Charles looks up
baby sitting assignment. I did not realize then but the music stuck in my mind. It was couple of years later, I had graduated and joined a computer company as a salesman. Forrest Gump had swept the Oscars that year. I was bunking office to watch Forrest Gump at Chanakya when once again I felt the same exhileration as the feather swooned and floated across the screen.

Once again time past and I stumbled upon Road to Perdition. This time curiosity got better of me and I looked up the internet to figure out composer and there was this name, Thomas Newman and listing of his work. Both above movies featured there along with American Beauty, Shawshank Redemption.

I think he is one of the finest composers of our times. Certainly my favorite.

Alas! my Yahoo Music subscription does not have these soundtracks. What a shame!

Geneva NY US

Driving thru NY state was one of the most beautiful experiences I've had. The untouched forests and vast lakes surrounded by hills are breathtakingly exotic. I loved the fields merging into forests heaving gently with the slopes of the hills.

On our way back to New York from Buffalo, we passed through the sleepy town of Geneva, yes there is a Geneva in NY state. We had our breakfast in one of the local joints. As we entered the place all eyes turned towards us as if we were from some other planet. There was a momentary pause and then every one went about their business. Not surprisingly almost every one know every one else. The family that runs the business was at first name basis with most customers. and the Hot Chocolate they served me was miles ahead of Starbucks Chocolate.

As we exited the city I drove by Seneca Lake. The road hugged the lake from north to south serving up a delicious visual dessert after meals. There were so many houses that had the lake as their back yard pool that I felt jealous of people living there. I'm sure these folks have internet, electricity and all the modern day amenities along with the scenic and peaceful life of the country side.

I'm a small town boy and will always remain so. This life appeals to me more than the sky scrapers of NY.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

NYC vs Mumbai

Its uncanny. The two cities can be so culturally similar. Honestly, I'm not a very well traveled person. I have seen very few megapolis but last week when I hit nyc I felt a dejavu I guess mostly because its so similar to Mumbai.

Things that are similar
A melting pot- NYC is global melting pot while Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city in desh. So may diff kinds of ppl living together harmoniously
Energy - The moment I stepped into NYC I felt as if I had entered an energy field. I get the same feeling in Mumbai. Everyone has an aggressive schedule to keep. Every twitch of a muscle is for a purpose, to achieve some goal. I step out at a busy station in Mumbai I get carried away by the crowd even if I was a reluctant walker.
The Subway - NYC Subway appeared old and tethering on brink of collapse. Mumbai feels the same yet its the lifeline of the city. I think in US there is New york and then there is rest of US. Very different pulse. Very different ppl.
Direct Talk - If they are pissed it'll come out, if they are happy it'll show. No apologies, don't come in my way if you dont want to get hurt. I have no time to explain, if you didn't get what I said, too bad.
Out doors- hawkers on the street, streets overflowing with ppl. I want to get across the road. Whats signal got to do with it? There is 2 and a quarter inch of space between two cars, can I squeeze in and pass through. Hey, the other lane is empty, lemme rush and fill up the vacuum. How dare you try get into my lane, ok get in after I've passed. 1 mile = 45 min
Night life - City never sleeps.
So much indifference, and yet, every now and then you'll find some one who would find time to help you, touch your life in a soothing way.

I loved NYC. I'm home!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NYC trip has been a strangely redeeming experience. All my life I'd heard abt the great city and blessed are the ones who get a chance to set foot in heaven...
So assuming a favorable planetary alignment and that this was our calling we planned our maiden trip to the east coast two months ahead. We even got a great deal at Travelocity and were set to dig into the big apple.

On the d-day, we stepped into winding check in line at American Airlines counter at the airport wondering how popular AA is amongst travelers. While other check in counters wore a deserted look, we had about 100 passengers ahead of us in AA check in queue. One look at the departures screen and mystery of AA's popularity was unraveled. 3 AA flights were cancelled and guess what, ours was one of them. Ouch!

Travelocity 1-800 numbers landed me in the hands of a eager representative in India. I explained my predicament and pleaded for help. The lady confirmed that mine was indeed a precarious situation with hotel and car bookings likely to go down the drain. The best she said she could offer were her prayers that I got onto the very next flight.

In the mean time AA circulated another 1-800 number to all the hapless passengers to call and negotiate the passage to their destinations based on availability on other AA flights. The 1-800 lady I narrated my misfortune to, put me on hold for 30 min before confirming that the earliest she could plant us on a flight to NYC was 2 days later. Well at least our assumption of AA's popularity was right!

Next step, call the hotels and plead with them. Last remember I pleaded my case this way was when I proposed to my wife. At least I was rewarded for the hardwork, but this time I just could not break the ice. The hotels refused to relent. Well two days rent down the drain. Boohoo!

But I get thats when I hit the bottom. From that point on I started bouncing back and the clouds started to lift...

Note: To be continued...