Much Improved

Go. Profit from exile. To see, listen, walk, pause beside wisemen; question savages and madmen; and listen to stories. It is always pleasant and, sometimes, improves you.

I have neglected the blog for most of the last few weeks because I have been busy. I have listened, walked, and paused beside the wise. Though I did not question savages and madmen, I did have an experience which I can only term as transformational. I had glimpses of instant satori. Putting that in words is obviously impossible. So I will not even try to do so here. Perhaps some other time. Now it is time to get back into the fray.
Continue reading “Much Improved”

Boston in the Spring Time

Whenever I come to Boston, I recall the song by Dave Loggins (I like the Joan Baez version best)

Please come to Boston for the springtime
I’m stayin’ here with some friends and they’ve got lots of room
You can sell your paintings on the sidewalk
By a café where I hope to be workin’ soon

The weather is rainy and cloudy. I am staying with friends in Acton, MA.

What else? Read the commencement address by PJ O’Rourke, “Fairness, idealism and other atrocities: Commencement advice you’re unlikely to hear elsewhere” from the LA Times of May 4th. (Hat tip: Sushant.)

PJ makes four excellent points. Of course I think they are excellent because I believe in them precisely. The short version:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money
2. Don’t be an idealist
3. Get politically uninvolved
4. Forget about fairness

The other two points I only partially agree with.

A bit of Chicago

A few pictures from Chicago. I was there 30th April — May 3rd.

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

Mouse-over the picture to see the controls. Clicking on the second icon from the left at the bottom shows the picture captions. Note especially the Art Institute of Chicago building where Swami Vivekanand gave his famous talk in 1893. What looks like a huge drop of mercury is The Cloud Gate:

Cloud Gate is British artist Anish Kapoor’s first public outdoor work installed in the United States. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city’s famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a “gate” to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.

A Place where Indians Thrive

Hi all from JP’s place.

No sooner do I arrive in Edison, NJ that the NY Times calls it a place where Indians (now New Jerseyans) thrive. [Hat tip: Maria]

Oak Tree Road [in Edison, NJ], which runs through this sprawling town of 100,000 people and into neighboring Woodbridge Township, may be America’s liveliest Little India, with 400 Indian businesses that attract Indian immigrants from across the region. But the impact is more than just commercial. Indians make up from 20 to 25 percent of the population, and they have spearheaded the transformation of Edison — an overwhelmingly blue-collar and middle-class white community a generation ago — into a town with a decidedly Asian flavor.

Edison is next door to New Brunswick where my old alma mater Rutgers is located. On Saturday afternoon I drove briefly through Rutgers. Those were the days my friend, we thought would never end . . .

The weather is cold and rainy.

So that’s the story. I am alive though not totally well. I got a bad stomach ailment and was laid up most of Sunday and today. I hope to get well enough to travel to Chicago tomorrow. More later.

Mumbai, Delhi, Patna

If you have been wondering whatever happened to yours truly, wonder no more. The last few days I have been in Mumbai, attending the Sun Technovate ’07 — “INDIA — the Next Big Idea.” Got a chance to see Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Scott and three others students at Stanford University, including our very own Vinod Khosla, started Sun. (SUN — Stanford University Network!)
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Hola

Hola! from Mexico City. I arrived here last evening.

Apologies for not keeping in touch. Having too much fun in Mexico City visiting the Instituto Thomas Jefferson:

Based on the principles of self esteem, respect, and academic excellence, our mission is to develop educated leaders for the 21st Century who can compete, succeed, and be role models in this high tech world while maintaining a commitment to family and moral values.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute is located in the northwestern part of Mexico City in the State of Mexico. The school has a total population of 1,850 students, 130 teachers and 70 administrative staff members. The Thomas Jefferson Institute has developed into one of the most prestigious schools in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area.

Continue reading “Hola”

Even Hell has its Standards

They call themselves Kiwis (a flightless bird and also a fruit), have a wicked sense of humor, and they like to take the mickey out of each other. Taking themselves too seriously is not part of the national character.

We’re now approaching Auckland international airport, and will land in a few minutes if we can get these sheep off the runway. Please set your watches back 25 years.

They do have sheep. 40 million of them. The sheep outnumber the human population 10 to 1. In an area about the size of Japan, or the US state of Colorado, they have 4 million people. The economy is based on grassland agriculture and is one of the most egalitarian in the world. Instead of setting your watch back 25 years, you would be better advised to set it forward when it comes to schooling and dealing with problems national as well as international.

My primary motive in visiting New Zealand was to learn about their educational system. My guide was one of New Zealand’s favorite sons who is world famous in New Zealand (as he likes put it) — my friend, Mr. Gordon Dryden: journalist, radio and TV host, co-author of the best-selling book The Learning Revolution, a brilliant raconteur, an able and indefatigable tour guide, a man who knows his Pinot Gries, a legend in his own mind, and a bit of a bullshit artist. Gordon will soon celebrate 50 years of being married to Margaret. You have to know Gordon to fully appreciate why she is called St. Margaret.

(OK, Dryden, I have kept my part of the deal and said nothing that would embarrass your first wife St. Margaret of Auckland. Now go ahead and ship that case of Pinot Noir to me.)

As I was telling you, they like to take the mickey out of every one. Here is a simple billboard advertising — guess what — pizza!

Hell Pizza

Another billboard again with George W Bush’s picture in Auckland downtown simply declared:

Hell.
Even it has its standards.

They evidently say it like they see it. Just this past weekend, David Lange, the former prime minister of NZ, passed away at the age of 63. His wit was legendary. He is supposed to have told the US Ambassador H. Monroe Browne, who owned a racehorse called Lacka Reason: “You are the only ambassador in the world to race a horse named after your country’s foreign policy.”

Now I will take a break and go read the entry on David Lange in the wikipedia. After the break I will continue on what I learnt on my recent visit to NZ and Singapore. So don’t go away.

——

Post Script: For an update on the “Hell Pizza” billboards, see “Hell and Censorship” (Feb 2007.)

A Letter from America

Hi from the Big Apple. Brilliant day outside with snow from yesterday’s blizzard blanketing the city. I am visiting with my friend Reuben who lives on 116th and Broadway (Columbia U.)

I have been wandering around the world for the past couple of weeks. Which partly explains why I have been neglecting this blog. Then there is the acute case of writer’s block that I am suffering from. It is with some trepidation that I am pushing against that block. So here goes nothing.

~~~~~~~~

My journey began on the 16th of February when I left Mumbai for New Delhi. After a bunch of notable meetings, I headed south to Nagpur, my home town. A few days there and then I went to Bangalore. It had been donkey’s years since I had last been there. Things had changed. It was the center of India’s information technology storm. The city appeared to have hit puberty and grown big overnight and was too big for its boots. I had been warned about the vehicular exhaust pollution but it was still a shock to be actually immersed in it in the city center. In any event, I had a bunch of good meetings and visited with my friends. I arrived back in Mumbai on the evening of the 28th.

This one is turning out to be a real web log: an account of where I have been. Boring stuff but I think this will get me out of the fear of writing.

Anyway, the next day, March 1st, I had a bit of bureaucracy to take care of. I had overstayed my 180-day visitor’s visa by a few days and it appeared that I will not be allowed to leave India without having my visa extended. So off I went to the Foreigner Registration section at the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office. It took about 3 hours to pay a penalty of $30 and get a piece of paper that extended by visa by a few days.

It had been a long time since my last encounter with the Indian government bureaucracy. I had to fill in a few forms, wait for a long time to meet with the appropriate official and witness first-hand antiquated processes which appeared to serve no apparent purpose other than to employ people and fill numerous registers with handwritten notes. The main official I met was courteous and helpful. Why had I overstayed? Circumstances I could not avoid, I replied. He filled in a few forms, walked over to various parts of the office where he pulled out other various registers and wrote in them. Then he went to another part of the office and brought with him a rubber stamp and stamped one of the registers. Went back to put away the rubber stamp and then moved the register to another part of the office.

After about 15 minutes of this, he finally declared that I will have to pay a penalty of $30. I reached for my wallet. No, he said. I had to go to another section and pay the fine and then I have to bring him back a receipt and we will continue with the process. So off I went and waited for about 20 minutes at the other section. When my turn came, the man filled in three different registers with the same details that had already been entered several times in various registers earlier: name, date of birth, father’s name, passport number, etc. In each case he would carefully pick up carbon papers, carefully insert them in to the registers, then enter things in triplicate. Another 15 minutes and I was all done with paying my fine and getting a receipt. Back to the other guy. He now gave me a piece of paper which extended my stay till March 2nd. And then he got up and went to another part of his office, found a rubber stamp, and stamped my passport with it. I was about to thank him profusely when he said, “Please collect your passport after 6 PM.”

He explained that they only take in the cases between 10 AM and 2 PM, and after processing, returned the passport in the evening. Could I please have my case expedited? Well, since you are leaving in less than a day, perhaps an exception could be made, he said. He handed me the passport and I left.

~~~~~~~

Information technology tools are great for handling information. Computers are useful things for pretty much any application which deal with information processing, storage, and retrieval. At that Foreign Registration office, I am sure that a bit of IT hardware and software would not be out of place. But it would of little utility unless the processes that run in that office are rationalized. The need for rational processes is greater than the need for hardware. Buying hardware is easy; rationalizing processes is hard.

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Later that night (early morning of 2nd March, actually), I took an Air France flight from Mumbai to New York’s JFK via Paris. Same awful Air France food. Why do they serve icy-cold hard rolls with the food? In any event, I met my friend Courtenay in Paris during my 5 hour layover and had lunch with her. It was snowing and cold in Paris, the coldest March they have had in 30 years.

OK, writer’s block cleared. I guess from now on, I will be writing regularly. Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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