Sunday, April 20, 2014

Birds of Feathers

Spring time is fun time to watch the avian wildlife start making an appearance in Northern California suburbs.

Below are a few samples..
Great Blue Heron

Mourning Dove

(Red - top,  Yellow - bottom)


20% battery remaining

I am a fan of the Charlie Rose show on American Public Television.  I record all of them and then selectively watch them as I vegetate.

On couple of recent interviews with the accomplished citizenry that he invites to talk, I heard a lot about resumes vs. eulogies.  The thought is that people often work hard at building an image of who they are when they are alive but often forget to think beyond.

Now truth be told that the very accomplished end up in an ideal spot where they effectively give away all that they made when living, which sets them up for a nice eulogy.  But the message was clear.  We need to pay attention to more Living and less Chasing.

When our electronic devices remind us that there is only critical amount of juice left to perform critical tasks (not text your latest hobby to your thousand friends but make that all important phone call you have been putting off), we seem to go on a panic attack and want to find the nearest charging temple (wonder if that is a business idea for all the Indian Shrines - donate to Ganesha and get 15 min of iphone charging free - but I digress).

Likewise we need to focus on when we are reaching our limit of endurance in the modern day rat race for accomplishments.  Each one of us tries to define success for ourselves and many times it takes the form of one-upmanship; in our day job to the street we live on.  It almost becomes second nature where we do not recognize that it is happening.  We keep doing more and pushing our children to do the same with the available time because we think it is the modern way.

A lot of American success stories (fame, power, wealth generation) including everyday folks that aspire and seek higher office everywhere you look, seem to also have some collateral damage embedded in them in the form of broken marriages, children that fell into disrepair due to poor or absent parenting or worse.

I think it is critical to do some internalizing of what we really want to achieve and how we can best use our time on the planet, especially to ensure our children learn something worth while till we are around.  Their candid reaction about their dead parent would be the ultimate eulogy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Your Stool is Outstanding

This is not a report on Swedish furniture.  Nor is it admiration of someone's feces.

This is one of the opening remarks a doctor makes to the protagonist of a film called 'Philomena'.    The hero of the film appears to find this remark as curious praise until he realizes that the doctor meant he has not yet submitted a stool sample as part of his physical exam.

A mildly humrous yet rather serious film about a mother's quest to search for her son taken away from her for adoption 50 years ago.

This story like some recent productions is "based on real events" and could mean anything but the film version is positively entertaining.  Co produced by BBC films this one got some nominations from the Motion Picture Academy aka Oscars.  It did not win but I think that is only an opinion.

Judi Dench plays the distraught yet firm of mind mother who certainly deserves a lot of credit for the role she played.  I have enjoyed her other roles including the stern and matronly 'M' who is 007's boss; as well as a retired Brit looking for a change of pace in Rajasthan, India in the movie 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'.

This movie was largely a dialog between two people as they go searching for her son to the US (from Ireland) only to find (Spoiler Alert!) he died of AIDS and was buried in the Irish abbey where they began their search in the first place.

Sometimes intense with grief and insights about people and their short comings it ends with a quote from T.S. Eliot -

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Road Trip - San Diego

Named for a Spanish saint, San Diego is the birth place of modern state of California on the western coast of the United States.  This spring break we took the highway (I-5) paralleling the old King's Highway or El Camino Real to visit this wonderful piece of real estate along the Pacific.  Back in the late 1700's it was considered New Spain.

Those Europeans knew how to spend their time during the 1500 - 1800s setting out on long voyages to "discover new worlds".  Now we go to the moon or something boring.

On one such discovery voyage a Portuguese called Juan Cabrillo took off from the Mexican west coast and sailed up to discover new lands and ports.  He found San Diego and continued up to discover Monterey and then Point Reyes north of the Golden Gate.  They missed  finding San Francisco in their travels.

After a few centuries another Spaniard called Gaspar Portola took a bunch of soldiers and set out from the south west coast of Mexico to subsequently also hit on San Diego and establish a fort there.

This visit we skipped the usual hot spots like the San Diego zoo but instead spent some time in the area surrounding it that contains the zoo as one of the attractions.  This 1,200 acre park is called Balboa Park.  Located in the heart of the city it encompasses a number of museums, an open air organ (this term has always fascinated me - I thought of it as someone's lung or pancreas on display) which is a wind instrument made of pipes and keys to push air through them.

We took in vast botanical gardens and enjoyed the sounds of this so called Organ, which happens to be second largest in the world (for the number of pipes).  The largest rightfully sits in Vienna someplace. 

Other attractions were beach bound - this one of a regular seal with an albino version chilling out...

Notice the bum on the bottom right - also immitating the seals in the earlier pic..some life!

Bottom pic is Hermosa Beach closer to LA.

New foods were discovered as part of this adventure from more fusion Japanese to fresh Mexican with a twist - a good twist - the cactus and fish tacos we had were delish.

Also found a Cuban bakery on the drive back, closer to L.A and feasted on variety of baked treats that lasted us the remainder of the week.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Where are you from?

Not in an existential type of way but it is probably the third or fourth question I get asked in a social or work setting when I run into someone I have not met before.

So I thought about the blog I recently penned around 'identity' and it hit me that people are always trying to figure out a social connection when they ask this question.  Sometimes it appears they are reaching even if there is none. 

The 'where' in the question is really about 'who', as in who are you?  Can I feel comfortable around you?  Are you someone I could trust (if it is a long term deal they are looking at)?  Can I perhaps leverage our new formed relation to parlay for something else?

I suppose its natural to some more than others to probe thusly.  It is a matter of what their social upbringing has taught them.  It might well set the stage of how someone perceives you from that point forward.

I often think of various possible responses that may include -
  • I am from the ghetto (as a minority in a land that is foreign)
  • I am from a legacy of brilliant minds that once occupied a seat at the king's table in ancient India
  • I am from all over
  • I am a citizen of the world
Of course this question is responded to differently depending on which part of the world I find myself in and who the askor of the said question itself is.

In America there is also a phrase oft heard - knowing where he was coming from.  To me it first sounded like an intruder tiptoeing into a venue where the occupant was bound to react suddenly.

But that phrase merely attempts to define the source of someone's comment or question.  Much like where does the Nile come from?  Or, where does the chick come from?

Now that you know where I am coming from perhaps you can go away and do something more fruitful.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


The opposite of ironclad is not ironies (ease).

You run after money when you don't have it. You run to keep in shape when you have too much of it.

A prenup for a breakup is now common place even in places like India where the whole premise of getting married is to have and to hold (much like a car reservation).

A chemically induced high is often followed by a non chemically induced low.

Boeing built a much cheaper commercial 777 jet that did a more amazing job of vanishing (with 300 people) without a trace and staying hidden for a month compared to a $2B Lockheed stealth fighter that only carries two people.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Is it a Game?

Life?  I think it is.  I mean there are so many metaphors we see used that it would be a shame to not think of it as such.   In the ballpark to out of left field to getting dealt a poor hand.

It is a game made up of the bookends called Birth and Death.  First you arrive, then you live and finally you die.  Trick is in figuring out how you live.  Birth and Death are both accidents with really no way to predict - at least for yourself.

You can sort of tweak the end but ultimately you cannot predict it.  So best case - try and live.

Now on the matter of living - there are unwritten rules that one has to follow.  How does one go about figuring out the unwritten?  I mean its not exactly some hieroglyph somewhere that one could decipher.

You use your smarts.  That is the genetic stuff you arrive with.  As you grow you learn.  More you learn the more you know.  So grow to know.  The unwritten rules that is.

Some people become successful in the eyes of others, who may or may not be.  But that is one man made notion that has gained huge traction - success.  No one actually can define it but it has come to define civilization since the beginning of the beginning.

The philanthropes to me are the ones who help the less endowed with smarts get smart.  So they too can figure out the rules.  Level the playing field (again for the game that is being played).

Figuring out what you want to be is one of them.  There is no right answer.  There is no help.  Everyone does it in the end.  They make choices.  Those are based on unwritten rules.

These rules take you through the hills and vales of the road in the game of life.  Until the Dead End.