And that will be a wrap

on August 30, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Methinks Bush ordered this... :)

Rove's Car Gets Wrapped
White House workers don't seem to want chief presidential political adviser Karl Rove to leave at the end of this week.
Given the torture tactics he sanctioned, maybe Gonzo's send-off* should include wrapping him up like this?

* Earlier this week: US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
resigned.. finally! Not surprising to see almost 100% thoughts from public echoing what I said --- a little too late but good riddance ...

just now saw this at the left-leaning Guardian :)

Sinking ship leaves rat: Alberto Gonzales lived up to his nickname of Fredo - the sycophantic Mafia sidekick, always trying to please the Don. ouch..the article doesn't mince words!

Nancy Pelosi celebrates
The resignation of Attorney General Gonzales is long overdue. The rampant politicization of federal law enforcement that occurred under his tenure seriously eroded public confidence in our justice system.

so does Harry Reid:
"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House."

Not going to enumerate all the Gonzales's sins... but its time for a fresh start, hopes one DailyKos writer.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice. He has resigned.

The puppet that lost its master
Alberto Gonzales had to leave the White House once his guiding hand and mentor, Karl Rove, had made a break for the exit.

More reaction here and here.

And here's what the rumor-mills had to say - even the day before the resignation - Chertoff most likely to be the replacement. If true, it would be rather sad / ironic to see him being promoted ...on the even of the 2nd anniversary of Katrina!

Did not realize that the 2007 Man Booker longlist was out. Seems like this year's nominations include a set of low-profile names that I have not heard of, with Ian McEwan being the most famous one* on the list. Previous year's winners are compiled here.

I know that the Booker is "awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or the Republic of Ireland" but it is still interesting to note that 3 of the names in this years list, highlighted by me below, sound like of Indian/Pakistani origin.

  • Darkmans by Nicola Barker (4th Estate)
  • Self Help by Edward Docx (Picador)
  • The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon)
  • The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies (Sceptre)
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (John Murray)
  • Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (Viking)
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape)
  • What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (Tindal Street)
  • Consolation by Michael Redhill (William Heinemann)
  • Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster)
  • Winnie & Wolf by A.N.Wilson (Hutchinson)
Update: Anne Enright won for The Gathering.

Booker trivia:
Beryl Bainbridge has been nominated twice in the 1970s and three times in the 1990s but has never won the Booker prize. Nobel laureate, J. M. Coetzee, on the other hand, has been nominated twice and won both times. Margaret Atwood has also been nominated five times but won in 2000, while Iris Murdoch is the only 6-time nominee, with a solitary win on her 4th nomination in 1978.

* I am a big fan of McEwan....having read couple of his books - the Booker prize winning Amsterdam and The Comfort of Strangers - in the last year. Also started but didn't read much of Saturday and Black Dogs. Will have to check out this latest nomination - On Chesil Beach - some day... but next on my to-read list is his previously Booker-nominated, Atonement. Another very good recent author whose novels I have unfortunately not read so far is Kazuo Ishiguro (though I did see the movie, Remains of the day, based on his novel of the same name.

Population pyramid

on August 29, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Like all unsustainable pyramid schemes, a scary scenario looms... and to think some people think we may live to be a 1000!

A metafilter entry reports:

Animated population pyramids project a steady increase in the median age. England and Wales. United States. Canada. China. Japan. "The number of older persons has tripled over the last 50 years; it will more than triple again over the next 50 years." [pdf] There will be a shortage of workers to support the retired and disabled. The looming crisis has been predicted for years. Proposed solutions include robots and immigration. [previously, previously]

There is NO limit to how low right wingers, aided by people like Michele Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter, will stoop to promote their agendas and viewpoints. Sad thing is there are thousands of people who believe them and in fact get their news and information from these people.

Read
this absolutely unbelievable snippet I just ran into, for example:

Coral Ridge Ministries is offering a new DVD program titled "Darwin's Deadly Legacy," which it says

... provides a chilling look at the social consequences of Darwin's theory of evolution. The documentary connects the dots between Darwin and the deeds of
Adolph Hitler.

More from elsewhere on their site:
Ann Coulter is stunned. How is it, she asks, that she could go through 12 years of public school, then college and law school, and still not know that it was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution that fueled Hitler’s ovens. “I never knew about the link between Darwin and Hitler until after reading Richard Weikart’s book,” said Coulter
Elsewhere, Rush Limbaugh cannot help himself from showing his arrogance and racist mindset...
On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats “want to get us out of Iraq, but they can’t wait to get us into Darfur.” He continued: “There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It’s black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they’re in trouble.” A caller responded, “The black population,” to which Limbaugh said, “Right.” -- from Media Matters
At least, Rush got reamed by Keith Olbermann on national TV for his stupidity.

Great article published in the NY Times last week: The Politics of God by Mark Lilla

Here is an excerpt that I found very interesting...

The revival of political theology in the modern West is a humbling story. It reminds us that this way of thinking is not the preserve of any one culture or religion, nor does it belong solely to the past. It is an age-old habit of mind that can be reacquired by anyone who begins looking to the divine nexus of God, man and world to reveal the legitimate political order. This story also reminds us how political theology can be adapted to circumstances and reassert itself, even in the face of seemingly irresistible forces like modernization, secularization and democratization. Rousseau was on to something: we seem to be theotropic creatures, yearning to connect our mundane lives, in some way, to the beyond. That urge can be suppressed, new habits learned, but the challenge of political theology will never fully disappear so long as the urge to connect survives.

So we are heirs to the Great Separation only if we wish to be, if we make a conscious effort to separate basic principles of political legitimacy from divine revelation. Yet more is required still. Since the challenge of political theology is enduring, we need to remain aware of its logic and the threat it poses. This means vigilance, but even more it means self-awareness. We must never forget that there was nothing historically inevitable about our Great Separation, that it was and remains an experiment.

Followup: An interesting article in the Times of London.

In God we doubt
This is not an intellectual game. Even if we know what is true – and we don’t – you cannot reduce life to a set of provable realities. Humanity is too complex for that. In the end, it comes down to whether the world would be a better place without religion; and that is a matter of judgment, not certainty.



..or rather, its victims, who continue to suffer from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina after the levees broke.

On the
2nd anniversary of Katrina, sadness and anger fills the people of New Orleans. Some interesting pictures here of locations around New Orleans from 2005 and today.

May these blues inspire more great music from this wonderful place. Lets hope that some day soon, like for this writer, who has written in the NY Times yesterday about a personal upheaval in her life that coincided with Katrina, "
life (can) finally started to move along again" for all natives of New Orleans.

So...what are the lessons we have learned 2 years later?

Katrina: a Reality Check for All Towns
Forbes, NY
Katrina, two years later | The view from here is heartbreaking Seattle Times
Summertime - and after Katrina, life still ain't easy Guardian Unlimited
Life After Katrina CBS News
Residents muster the will to rebuild in New Orleans Boston Globe
City with two faces: New Orleans two years after Katrina DigitalJournal.com
As New Orleans rebuilds, many think the nation no longer cares Orlando Sentinel
The long slog after Katrina Boston Globe
Progress slow in New Orleans since Katrina Baltimore Sun
Two Years Later: Katrina's Economic Impact ABC News
Power of nature, power of hope Danbury News Times
PROGRESS AND PAIN The Times-Picayune
Two years after Katrina, kids still in crisis Newsday

Editorials
Pay heed to New Orleans - a New Orleans native writes in the
Guardian
New Orleans - Two years on - Dailykos
New Orleans: Mission NOT accomplished, written by New OCouncil member Shelly Midura

...and lot more coverage in the newspapers of the country and around the globe.

But, let me end this mail on a hopeful note..

Class of 2015 envisions New Orleans' future
Fifth-graders at the newly opened Langston Hughes Academy Charter School in New Orleans, Class of 2015, described what their city will look like on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Their answers ran the gamut from hopeful to uncertain -- but all were in agreement on one thing. New Orleans does have a future.

Despite what Christopher Hitchens has to say...there are parallels to Vietnam.

First link via India Uncut, where Amit writes: "Actually, there are such conflicting views of Iraq going around that it might also be true to say that Iraq is not Iraq. Such it is."

This argument is not new. Elsewhere, where I used to compile articles about Iraq, I had compiled the following articles in August 2005:

Frank Rich in a NY Times op-ed piece talks about the quagmire in Iraq - despite many many comparisons to Vietnam being tenuous at best, the situation, Rich writes, is in some ways like Vietnam on speed!

Once-upon-a-time leftist, Christopher Hitchens, who has arguably turned pro-Bush and become a right-winger since 9-11, weighs in on a recent NY Times article titled 'Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam'.

And the Iraq war coverage also reminds John R. MacArthur of Vietnam. Rolling Stone article thinks it's beginning to look a lot like Vietnam.

Jules Witcover writes: "For all of the administration's insistence that its war in Iraq is not a rerun of Vietnam of 40 years ago, more signs are emerging that we're seeing, as eminent philosopher Yogi Berra once put it, 'deja vu all over again.'"

I find that the Hitchens response to the NYT article from August 2005 at Slate is not active. Here is another link that reproduces his opinion-piece.

Coming soon to a dealer near you

on August 26, 2007 with 0 comments » |

.. the Electric Car, Tesla... if nothing else, the car sure has oomph! Its good to see an electric car back on the road but at 98 grand, I think its going to be just a show-off toy for the rich to feel green!

More about Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) some other time but for now read the following recent news articles about the Tesla.

Also a few related recent articles:

An electric car for the common man
- aug 13, 2007
Once either expensive or slow, Miles Ruben of Miles Automotive Group is hoping to bring a $30,000, 80-mph battery-powered sedan to market by 2009

Norway's Think's zippy little Web-enabled, carbon-free electric car could help reverse 100 years of automotive history - aug 1, 2007

The Electric car opportunity - a post at Green Wombat, a great blog which focuses on "technology + environment" - july 31, 2007

Update: I just realized after compiling this post that I had already alluded to the Tesla in a previous post titled "Cars that pay", which was about a neat novel concept I had heard in July - V2G i.e. vehicle-to-grid

And
here is another unrelated but interesting snippet of news about renewable energy sources.
Cilion, the corn ethanol startup backed by Khosla Ventures and Richard Branson's Virgin Fuels, has turned to a veteran oil industry executive to lead the California company. Former BP (BP) group vice president Mark Noetzel was named Cilion's new CEO and a member of its board. While at BP in London, Noetzel ran the oil company's retail, fuels transport and wholesaling operations in Asia, Europe and the United States.

Aah...for a little whiff of genuine life!

He talked of the old college days... ...of the days of keen and blind ambitions and large intentions. Now there was left with him, at least, a philosophic acquiescence to the existing order--only a desire to be permitted to exist, with now and then a little whiff of genuine life, such as he was breathing now. - from A Respectable Woman by Kate Chopin.
Kate Chopin was a genius to write short stories that were not only ahead of her times but also to pack such a punch with so few words. Her short stories, which I am reading a collection of, are just 3-4 pages long but she packs such a wallop that the characters and the story stays with you for hours after that.

Marginal Revolution recommends a new game show, So You Think You Can Be President, which will help us be a better judge of who to vote for come next November. The show will be "a way of conveying information to uninformed, unsophisticated voters in a way that is entertaining yet produces information about politicians that is correlated with real skills."

I hope some TV exec is reading that blog and buys into the idea. Will sure beat stupid reality TV shows next summer or even this Fall.

forever the British hope... forever the British source of frustration....


Gutsy Brit Tim Henman announced his retirement on Thursday in New York, saying "I was as good as I could have been."

.... which was just not good enough to win a Grand Slam. Thanks for the good (and the frustrating) times, Tim. That's quite an emotional retrospective press conference (based on the article above!)....

Now, the British tennis fans can have their emotional upheavals based on Andy Murray's ups and downs :) Why do I get the feeling Fred Perry's record as the last Brit to win Wimbledon (in 1936!) will remain intact for quite some years to come.

Life becomes death

on August 22, 2007 with 0 comments » |

...and it is as if death has owned this life all along.

That's from the first para
of The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster.

I found it via amazon.com and
reproduce the first para through a screen-shot below.

Also, found this very interesting statement in a comment by someone called Lyn Bann at the amazon.com link.

The task of writing has no ultimate goal; life itself is full of hollow spaces, so why would we want to transcribe it into a work of art? ....... Reading, writing and living are all part of the same ludicrous, meaningless wandering.

Just finished reading the graphic novel, City of Glass, with the story by Paul Auster and artwork by Paul Karasik & D. Mazzucchelli.

The book has received some
rave reviews - both as part of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy series but also as a graphic novel.. but I did not enjoy it much at all. However, this is mostly because of my limitations in understanding it. When I picked it up, I thought it had lot of promise but it turned out to be quite a bizarre story and a bit too surreal for me. I didn't quite follow much of what was going on* but kept reading till the end hoping things would get clearer - but it only got more confusing! I understood that it was about losing yourself in trying to chase the truth.... but some of the deeper and subtler nuances were certainly lost to me. That said, I did appreciate the artwork and enjoyed it more than the story. The panels on the back of the book was what seduced me into picking this up....and that remained the best part of the book even after I was done reading it.

I have not found a link to the back panel and do not want to scan it in myself to avoid any copyright violations... but you may be able to see it via Google Books here. The words on the back panel read...

New York was a labyrinth of endless steps,

and no matter how far he walked, it always left him with the feeling of being lost.

Each time he took a walk, he felt he was leaving himself behind.

All places became equal,

and on his best walks, he was able to feel that he was nowhere.

This was all he ever asked of things:
to be nowhere.
Each line above was one panel in the 9-paneled back page. A couple of panels were completely dark black panels with no words. Like I said, I thought this had great promise and I picked it up thinking this is going to be a very intelligent book about angst, urban loneliness, and such... but it turned out to be a whole lot more (like an amazon.com commenter writes: "There are so many levels in this story you need an elevator"...and perhaps too intelligent for me!

--
* This comment b
y C. D. Murphy that I read at amazon.com just now has shed some light about the story but even so... there are probably many other nuances that didn't get to me! (Sorry.. not sure how one links to a comment at amazon.com, just the commenter)
... Campbellian march through the four phases of life......look for this as you read it: from his birth as Auster, to understanding language with Stillman, the identity crisis with the father, the mid-life crisis after meeting his namesake, the question of paths during this, the isolation of late life and finally the fading away.
Also, this essay by Bill Johnson breaks down the first few paras of the book.
This story beautifully explores the modern day terrain of what it means to live in an age where so many people appear as fragments not only to others, but to themselves. At each stage of the story, the audience is taken not only deeper to the resolution of the story's surface mystery, it's taken into an examination of the role of chance upon the formation of fragments of personality.
Wish someone would break down the whole book in more simple terms for me to enjoy! Let me know if you know of some such site or yourself have read this and understand more than I did!

Related:
Britain finally embraces the graphic novel.

It's a mad mad mad mad world - 3

on August 21, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Scott Adams has a post regarding the freaking Chinese governments intention* to "ban the reincarnation of Buddhist monks without government permission” ... (both above links were found at India Uncut.)

Also, this cartoon about the same.

Reading the comments section of Scott's post, I read about the curious case of an allegedly
horny camel!


An Australian woman was killed by a pet camel given to her as a 60th birthday present, police (in Brisbane, Australia) said Sunday. The 10-month-old male -- weighing about 330 pounds -- had knocked her to the ground then lay on top of her in what police suspect was mating behavior, Gregory said.
* What can I say.... they probably will get on the job right after they finish "cleansing" the internet!

Previously: 1, 2

Strange Fruit

on August 19, 2007 with 0 comments » |

What a haunting song....had never heard it or about it before.

Billie Holiday sings the very moving and horrific song, Strange Fruit.



Apparently,the images conjured by the song are so horrific that
Billie Holiday often performed it with her eyes closed. This piece in the Guardian traces the song's dark history.

Needed to hear this song a few times
after hearing Strange Fruit -- The Blues are Brewing, also sung by Billie Holiday, with Louis Armstrong on trumpet.

When the moon's kinda dreamy
Starry eyed and dreamy
And nights are luscious and long
If you're kinda lonely
Then nothin' but the blues are brewin'
The blues are brewin'

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include - without court approval - certain types of physical searches of U.S. citizens and the collection of their business records.

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. ~ Dick Cheney

so there you go... your liberty is slowly and systematically eroded. And we are not one iota safer than we were on 9-11. Au contraire.....

  1. I remember seeing such knife-sharpening bicycles in India - via
  2. Now that we have entered the world of CDs and miniature zip drives that can carry hundreds of floppy disks worth of data in a keychain, what do we do with all those floppy disks? Here's a bag... what else can you do? - via
  3. Monster Ass Kicking 3 yo Girl... lovely! - via
  4. At 25, compact disc faces retirement
  5. One thing leads to another - interesting things people built up. Apparently this is from a Japanese tv show - via
  6. Apoteket Orkestern. creative website - go see what its all about. Turn volume on if it is on mute - via
  7. some jaw dropping examples of next generation image manipulation, and said “I want this in PhotoShop immediately.” Well, that may be happening sooner rather than later. Co-inventor Shai Avidan has now joined Adobe and will work out of their Newtown, MA office. More info on Shai is here - via
  8. Recently I read about this whizkid - Facebook's Joe Hewitt. If nothing else, gotta say thank you to him for developing my browser of choice, Firefox. :) (Also, another audio interview from last week.)
  9. Radioactive Nanda Devi: India's second-highest peak, at 25,645 feet (7816m), sits in a "sanctuary," surrounded by 21,000-foot+ lesser mountains. This has made it even more of a challenge to climb. Among those who took up the challenge were a 1965 CIA team trying to set up a plutonium-powered device to spy on China's nuclear testing program. That expedition retreated in the face of bad weather, leaving the device on the mountain. When they returned the next spring, it was gone. The Nanda Devi Sanctuary supplies water to the Ganges River, and there were fears that the four pounds of plutonium in the device could escape into the watershed. Those fears have been confirmed. - via

Five poems this Sunday morning. Wish I could write poetry again... but the muse seems to have died these past few years.

-


In the window, the moon is hanging over the earth,

meaningless but full of messages
....
If there’s an image of the soul, I think that’s what it is.

- from Village Life, a poem by Louise Gluck, in the New Yorker.

--
Canned laughter in the empty house
Like the sound of beer cans tied to a hearse.

-- from Driving Home, a nice little poem by Charles Simic, also in the New Yorker.


Just learned that earlier this month Simic was appointed as the 15th Poet Laureate of the US. (They really should make these at least a 2 year appointment. Seems like yesterday that the esteemed poet, Donald Hall, was appointed to the post.) Incidentally, Gluck was the12th U.S. Poet Laureate from 2003-2004.

---

But see how each busy capitalist
stares serenely through an exhibit's glass
to gaze at lotus flowers, a phoenix,
or philosophers on a mountain path.

- from a poem, In the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, by Sarah Wardle, who won the Poetry Society's Geoffrey Dearmer prize in 1999.

---
Some people sell their blood. You sell your heart.
It was either that or the soul.

- in Heart by Margaret Atwood, from her book, The Door
---
If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.

If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.

If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.

If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.

——
Let us touch each other
while we still have hands,
palms, forearms, elbows . . .
Let us love each other for misery,
torture each other, torment,
disfigure, maim,
to remember better,
to part with less pain.

-- Two of the Four Poems by Vera Pavlova,
also published in the New Yorker.

Do read the other two poems also - even in translation (from the Russian), this is good stuff. And this interesting interview from 2002 with Pavlova, where she says:
"Men became so female, that women had to take on the male part themselves. How did all this resolve itself? Towards the end of the century, women poets became far more radical than men. Stylistically and spiritually."

and later...

"In art the basic distinction is not between male and female, but between dead and alive."

Post-a-Secret

on August 17, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

I cannot remember if I have blogged about this site before --Post-a-Secret. It started with a very interesting concept.. but has since become a major phenomenon on the internet.



Today, I ran into this mini-movie -- Very moving!



It provides a unique reflection of a cross-section of life at its most honest, its most frailest, its most vulnerable... for eg: loved this very poignant / vulnerable one some months back.

No wonder it is so popular and is now even out as a series of books by Frank Warren, who started the blog - My Secret | PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives | A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book | The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book


Not a book I have read but have merely found it via a review.

House of Meetings by the widely talented British author, Martin Amis.

The book, which is about the grim days of Russia under Stalin... but I won't get into the horrors that be*. Instead, I want to merely highlight this paragraph, that I found in its entirety at this blog post..

“There is a Western phenomenon called the male midlife crisis. Very often it is heralded by divorce. What history might have done to you, you bring about on purpose: separation from woman and child. Don’t tell me that such men aren’t tasting the ancient flavors of death and defeat.

In America, with divorce achieved, the midlifer can expect to be more recreational, more discretionary. He can almost design the sort of crisis he is going to have: motorbike, teenage girlfriend, vegetarianism, jogging, sports car, mature boyfriend, cocaine, crash diet, powerboat, new baby, religion, hair transplant.

Over here, now, there’s no angling around for your male midlife crisis. It is brought to you and it is always the same thing. It is death.”


* I own copies of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 and Gulag Archipelago Volume 2 but have never had the heart to read them! Some day I will stop getting books from the library and read the ones I already own - which for the most part sit in boxes in the basement!

I cannot make up my mind about what is more precious in this story...that King decides to randomly start signing his own books at a book-store without permission or the part about who bought one of the signed books :)

Of the six books that King signed, five would be given to community groups for fund-raising auctions, she said. The sixth was bought by the customer who mistook King for a vandal.

International Man of Mystery

on August 16, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Read an interesting article in Fortune magazine today while at the eye doctor..

The strange existence of Ram Charan

Fast Company had a similar article some years back titled,
Man of Mystery. Might as well as have titled it International Man of Mystery, considering his global travels (see below.)

For those that do not know,
Ram Charan is a business consultant, speaker, and writer. He has been called the guru of business by CEOs around the globe, including CEOs of Citicorp, Verizon, Dupont, and even the legendary Jack Welch of GE. (Apparently, this is his 37th year consulting for GE, his 33rd for DuPont!)

The Fortune article talks about how
Dr. Charan, 67 and never married, recently purchased his first apartment in Dallas. He still continues to spend most nights in hotel rooms around the globe or at an associate's residence. He has assistants in Dallas courier him new clothes three days a week, which he turns around as dirty laundry in a few days to keep the cycle going. He doesn't own a car because he never learned how to drive, and besides, where would he keep it? And apparently, he has no goals. Ok.. I can be a business consultant! ;) Ok... it is not that simple. Taken out of context, it trivializes all that he has accomplished. What he did say is:

Charan's weird and wonderful life is an unintended byproduct of dedication, he insists. Dedication to learning and teaching and service, to the whole set of Hindu virtues embodied by one of Charan's favorite phrases, "Purpose before self." "People used to ask me, What is your ambition?" says Charan, who turned 67 this past Christmas. "I say I have none. My dedication is going to take me where I'm going to be."
And THE lesson for all leaders.. that, I think, most leaders miss:
"A leader who does not produce leaders is not a great leader."
Tapping into the 3 "natural talents" or "God's gifts" of people is a necessary part of leadership. Interesting to read what he says about Steve Jobs's 3 natural talents.
... first thing, this human being has a talent to figure out what the consumer really wants. This is a very valuable thing! No. 2, he has the will and the talent to find - no matter where it is! - the right technology that will deliver what they want. Nobody said he invented one! And third, he has the talent to create demand at the right time.
Another gem a little later in the article:
He knew from Sanskrit teachings that "fear, anger, laziness - these are the downfalls of human beings"; that peace of mind alone is worth striving for; that dedication and mastery are their own rewards.
Almost sounds like a self-help guru... not a business guru!

Also, if you want some idea of his travel schedule...here is an illustration, as mentioned in the above article.
"I go to India on the Friday of the week before Thanksgiving. I am Sunday morning in Bombay. Monday morning I am in Delhi. Wednesday I'm in Bombay. Thursday I'm in Bangalore. Saturday I'm in Trivandrum. Wednesday I'm in Johannesburg. Friday morning, at seven, I am in New York. I have a two-hour meeting with a CEO who has flown in to see me. I have two more meetings and I fly out that night to Dubai. I am in Dubai on Sunday and Monday, then I come back here. On Thursday night I fly out to Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Then I come back here. Tuesday morning I have a whole-day schedule in New York. Tuesday night I go to Milwaukee. I came from Milwaukee last night. They diverted my plane so I had to stay in Pittsburgh. I had a meeting this morning in Philadelphia. I had three meetings here in the afternoon. And I'm here tomorrow, with GE. Then an hour-and-a-half phone call. Then I'm going out tomorrow night to West Palm Beach. Monday morning I have a breakfast meeting in New York. And then I'm flying out to Perth, Australia." At least he flies first-class.
Amazing how he can sustain such a lifestyle, especially having had triple-bypass heart surgery in 1999. Amazing how much he has achieved, considering where he started from. Which is....
His family (he is the sixth of seven children) lived on the second floor of a two-story house they shared with his uncle's family (in a small city outside Delhi in UP). Together they were 17 people under one roof. "And then a portion to keep the cows," says Charan. "I personally took the cow dung and made patties out of that for burning in Mother's stove. We cut the fodder in the fodder machine for the cows. My brothers and my uncle did the milking." While they had everything they needed to survive, they had no more than that. No plumbing, no electricity, no luxuries of any kind. The children pumped water from a well. They did their nightly homework on the floor in a flickering circle of light from a mustard-oil lamp.
--
Some of his
recent articles can be read through Yahoo! Finance. And though it is difficult to discuss any of his books here (as I have read none!), here is a good short summary of the 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don't -- from his recent book, Know-How.

The eight fundamental skills needed for success in the twenty-first century:
  • Positioning (and when necessary, repositioning) your business by zeroing in on the central idea that meets customer needs and makes money
  • Connecting the dots by pinpointing patterns of external change ahead of others
  • Shaping the way people work together by leading the social system of your business
  • Judging people by getting to the truth of a person
  • Molding high-energy, high-powered, high-ego people into a working team of leaders in which they equal more than the sum of their parts
  • Knowing the destination where you want to take your business by developing goals that balance what the business can become with what it can realistically achieve
  • Setting laser-sharp priorities that become the road map for meeting your goals
  • Dealing creatively and positively with societal pressures that go beyond the economic value creation activities of your business
Related: Another article in the same Fortune issue, that I did not read, was an interview with the legendary Lee Iacocca, who at a spritely 82, is hoping (though he avoids saying it explicitly) 90-year old Kirk Kerkorian can somehow succeed in his attempt to turn things around for Chrysler. I mention this here since Iacocca, a legendary leader in his time (and even today, perhaps), has a book out this year - Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Celebrating the imperfect

on August 15, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Interesting excerpt from this 2003 article about the author, Amit Chaudhuri...(emphasis mine):


"..it is the imperfect, the flawed, that Chaudhuri celebrates as allowing not only great creativity but the possibility of a truly liberal, open society. Talking not of Lawrence, but of Indian society today, he laments the fact that nowadays there is no place for daydreamers, for those that "yearn for the irresponsible", for what he calls "the cult of failure": "When I was growing up (in Kolkata), if you were sensitive and intelligent, basically, you must be a misfit. I used to laugh at the cult of failure, but now I do believe that there has to be a place for the misfit, for the outsider. The person who lacks ambition or is an outsider is seen to mount an implicit critique of the value systems which people live by, and is therefore looked upon with great intolerance in this society."
Also later in the article...this phrase: "a heady cocktail of outrage and despair." Now I know how to describe how I feel about India sometimes. Having said that... Jai Hind... Happy Independence Day (whatever that means!)

California ground squirrels have learned to intimidate rattlesnakes by heating their tails and shaking them aggressively. Because the snakes, which are ambush hunters, can sense infrared radiation from heat, the warming makes the tails more conspicuous to them — signaling that they have been discovered and that the squirrels may come and harass them.

Earlier this year, a "psycho-squirrel" assaulted three people before being killed by a pensioner. No.. I am NOT making that up. Go read the details.

Elsewhere, a panda joins outrage over quality of Chinese pet food :) Speaking of pandas, what's this about a sexually suspect panda giving birth! Also, Panda-monium reigns as 4 pandas are born on the same day!

Since I am on the topic of animals, see this report about
rare Persian leopard triplets at a Budapest zoo!

More about wildlife conservation at my compilation thread here. For the most part, it is not funny but a sad depressing story.

Endurance

on August 14, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Some years ago I had read The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander and later even seen a documentary about this amazing story. While the latter was so-so (I never like documentaries where they re-create scenarios using actors), Caroline Alexander's book was a great retelling and left me breathless and in awe for many days after the reading. I was totally consumed by the story - as if, I myself were on a great expedition - and the story stayed with me long after the book was returned to the library.

Seems there are other books & documentaries that also cover this expedition

- Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
- Shackleton - The Greatest Survival Story of All Time (3-Disc Collector's Edition)

Shackleton's bravery in a real tough situation seems to have spawned a few business/leadership books also:

- Leading at the edge - Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition - by Dennis N. T. Perkins, Margaret P. Holtman, Paul R. Kessler, & Catherine McCarthy

- Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell


Following up on my previous post that referred to the "Republic of apathy", comes another article that talks about how India (and Indians) has become a nation that has learned to live with lowered expectations and mediocrity.

Our nation is awash with mediocrity; we need a national campaign to induce excellence in all fields
, writes Ramesh Ramanathan.

My comment in response to the article is below. (I am Sanjeev, not the Sanjiv, who coincidentally posted a comment right below mine!). I could have written a lot more - it was not thought out to cover everything I would have liked to say but was a spontaneous outpouring.
A nation of mediocrity indeed - we have learned to live with "average expectations and even poorer delivery" despite all the "progress" made in the last 2 decades. Traveling with a western colleague of mine, I was asked why everything was so dirty. I made some lame excuse about poverty and such. He immediately cut me short - rightly making the argument that cleanliness is not related to how much money we have. It is a matter of culture. It does not take any major effort (or a nation-wide campaign or rhetoric & hollow sloganeering like "Garibi Hatao" or "India Shining") for people to use a dust-bin to throw trash. And yet, not just trash, but spit and even human waste plague many of the nation's top cities. Agreed that I have not traveled to many of the world's poorest nations but I think one will find it very difficult to find people answering nature's call on the sides of many major metropolitan cities, as one sees on Eastern Express highway (near Sion/Kurla/Chembur) in Mumbai. Does this not shame us? Have we lost all sense of shame and decency? Why do we live with this? There are many other examples one could quote to reflect this malaise that inflicts Indian society but I shall desist since merely discussing them in forums like this is as good as the suggested "national campaign" for excellence!