Tuesday, March 31, 2009


At my work place (and probably yours too) we are constantly encouraged to conduct meetings using teleconferencing. It took a while for my clients (all Government officials) to get used to this, but after a while they realized the merits of it and now ask proactively if it is indeed necessary to be physically present whenever I schedule meetings with them. There are pros and cons to both the approaches - meeting in person and meeting via phone. However, given the current economic environment, teleconferencing in most cases makes a lot of sense. So today, when the G20 summit begins in London, where world leaders from all the major countries converge to discuss the global economy and other issues, "A" posed a question : "Why can't they conduct this summit via teleconferencing?" Very valid question!! While, I cannot imagine Presidents & Prime-Ministers speaking into star shaped phones with each other given the differences in languages, accents etc.; the idea cannot be completely ruled out. Afterall, even at offices around the world we have a diverse workforce communicating virtually via different media. A sampling from a team that I work with: Americans (white and black), Indians (Southerners and Northerners), Chinese, East Europeans, British, Iranian, Pakistani, Koreans, Jamaicans, Mexicans, Brazilians, French etc.

I agree that all of us who are part of these meetings are in most cases in the same time zones and have a similar work background. The point is, with some thought and planning and a whole lot of technology, it is doable. In the current format all the leaders fly to one city and meet for a couple of days. Tremendous amount of resources expended in making this happen: flights, security, food, lodging, conferencing facilities, the arrangements for the entourage of each world leader (sometimes in the hundreds) and other things which you and me cannot fathom. This leaves a huge carbon footprint and is an economic burden (especially now).

Now imagine this: A world class virtual conferencing setup, with the latest in virtual conferencing (remember Bill Gates being beamed at an IT summit in Malaysia), streaming video which is closed captioned in local languages and the best in IT security enveloping all of this. This need not be a a temporary setup, but a permanent one. To start with it could be in some strategic locations around the world. E.g. Washington DC (for North America), London (for Western Europe), New Delhi (for South East Asia), Moscow (for Eastern Europe), Seoul (for the Orient), Canberra (for Asia-Pacific), Brasilia (for South America), Nairobi (for Northern Africa), Dubai (for the Middle East) and Pretoria (for Southern Africa). Slowly, and steadily, most world capitals will have this set up so that the leaders need not travel across oceans to "discuss" global issues. I know, it sounds too idealistic and too futuristic and the issue of time zones is still there, but the idea of the world being connected by some cables under the sea and some inanimate objects wandering in space sounded equally "futuristic" at some point in time. It is a concept and idea and the technical and geographic issues can be addressed if the creative brains around the world put their minds to work. If the world is flattening for the common man, why should these "uncommon" men be left behind? There is one group who might not be too thrilled about this: The protestors who stand outside the locations of these summits. But then that's what facebook is for, innit?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Suntrust National Half Marathon - Washington DC

This was my third half and my target was to beat the 2 hours barrier. The day started with 28F, clear skies, no breeze. Got to the start line at a decent time so that I had time to stretch and warm up (unlike the last minute scramble at Richmond). I was debating whether to wear the long under armor tights or shorts - eventually went with the shorts, the key body parts to cover were hands and ears and the nike gloves and the headphones worked out just fine. Anyway, the race started at 7 AM and it was still dark. The Sun rose at about 7:10 AM slightly after the first mile. I was feeling a slight pain in my right foot at the start of the race, but it eventually went away by mile 2. The course was mostly flat and went through many key DC landmarks and neighborhoods- Capitol Hill, the monuments on Constitution, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Children's National Hospital, Armory etc. The crowd support was fantastic - loved the fresh orange slices that people were offering (not from race organizers) and of course - beer!! Anyway, I was completely at ease by mile 4, the pace was set, heart rate steady and was overall feeling great and the 2 hours target seemed completely doable. The last mile was brutal (as usual) and crossed the finish line with the race clock showing 2:01. The overall net time was 1:58:09 and I couldn't have been happier. All eyes on Chicago now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Remember Minority Report?

There was a time when I was not much into the movies from the sci-fi or alternate reality genre. It all changed when I watched "Gattaca" sometime in 2000 (the movie deserves a post for itself...forthcoming) and since then, sci-fi or alternate reality has grabbed my attention. Anyway, for those who saw Speilberg's "Minority Report", might remember the cool UI that Tom Cruise's character uses in the police station. Well, not Fiction anymore, check this out. Another example that yesterday's sci-fi is tomorrow's reality:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Writer's Almanac & the best way to spend 5 minutes

If you did not already know, I am a sucker for NPR (National Public Radio). The days when I would drive to or from work, I would look forward to spending time with Steve Inskeep, Melissa Block, Michele Norris, Robert Siegel, Terri Gross and the others. There were times, when I would just sit in the car even after reaching my destination, waiting for a story to finish. There were times when I had completely missed my exit listening to Fresh Air with Terri Gross. Anyway, the five minutes that I would crave the most and would time my drive home around these five minutes was the "Writer's Almanac" by Garrison Keillor. It's a 5 minutes daily episode about writers, or poets or other literary fellas who were born that day, or died that day or did something of importance on that date. Sounds dull, innit? Only until you hear it! Garrison Keillor usually narrates a poem at the end of the opening narration of the historical account of writers from that date and then ends the episode with his registered trademark line:
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®
In Harrisburg, the Writer's Almanac would be aired at 7 PM and it would mostly coincide with my drive home on weekdays. Now, I walk to work and the timing of the show does not match. I end up reading the script at the show's website, but it's not the same, is it? The voice in my head when I read it does not sound remotely like Garrison Keillor. His rendition of "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch" line is just what I need to end my work day, any work day. It instills the right dose of hope and goodness to all that we do in a day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


What a monumental effort!! Here goes the ones I could identify:

3/12/2009: Updated: Thanks to Aravind and Paul.

3/14/2009: Updates: Thanks to Gina



98: Cadillac man

97: Blade Runner


95: Ocean's Eleven

94: Star Wars

93: Midnight Run

92: The Stranger

91: The Right Stuff

90: The Fugitive

89: The French Connection

88: Back to the Future


86: Quiz Show

85: Silence of the Lambs

84: Titanic



81: Galaxy Quest

80: Harold and Maude

79: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead


77: The Apartment


75: The Hustler

74: Ed Wood

73: The Jerk

72: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

71: When Harry Met Sally

70: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
69: Cape Fear

68: The Breakfast Club

67: The King and I

66: Gentlemen’s agreement

65: The princess bride

64:Yellow Submarine?

63: Network



60: Gone with the wind

59: Philadelphia story

58: Gold finger

57: Manchurian candidate

56:Its a wonderful life

55: The Blues Brothers

54: Remains of the day

53: Midnight Express

52:Waking Ned Devine

51:Roman Holiday

50: Cool Hand Luke

49:The Taking of Pelham One Two Three


47: The Big Sleep


45: The Hudsucker Proxy

44: Dirty Harry

43: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

42: Finding Nemo

41: Ben Hur


39: The 39 Steps


37: Men in Black?

36: Clerks

35: Harvey

34: Marty


32:All About Eve

31:Ferris Bueller's Day Off

30: 3:10 to Yuma (old one)

29: Young Frankenstein

28: The Bridge on River Kwai

27: The Usual Suspects

26: North by Northwest

25: Sunset Blvd.

24: Escape from New York

23: The Wizard of Oz

22: Casablanca

21: Lion in winter

20:Boogie Nights

19:Shawshank Redemption

18:Almost Famous?

17: The Maltese Falcon

16: The Natural

15:Being John Malkovich


13:Lawrence of Arabia


11: This Is Spinal Tap

10: Citizen Kane

9: 12 Angry Men

8: Office Space


6:Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

5: Godfather


3: The Big Kahuna

2:C'era una volta il West

1: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring?


Movies is LIFE. Can you all help me identify the rest?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Movies for a lifetime - 3

The Sandlot (1993)

All of us have memories of the summers from our growing up years - from that carefree age of about 7 to 8 through mid-teens. It does not matter what city or country you are from: we all have done utterly stupid, ridiculous things in these years, have had friendships that you thought would last forever and days and nights that you thought would never end. If you have forgotten those years, go watch "The Sandlot"....those years will come back to you in vivid details.
It's a simple movie about a summer in the life of the narrator Scotty Smalls. It's about the friendships he forms playing baseball with the neighborhood kids and a particular incident about a much dreaded dog. The script is the standard protagonist narrating his past life to the audience and thus it is always his perspective that we get to see and is a bit exagerrated where required (just like a 10 year old would remember it). The rest of kids of the sandlot are a motley bunch with character traits that will remind you of the bunch you hung out with at the soccer field, cricket field or just spending late nights talking about absolutely nothing in particular.

The movie's success lies in the way it evokes just the right nostalgic feelings of what it was like being a child. If I come across this movie while channel surfing, this is where my search ends and the 101 minutes of this movie transport me right into the hot summer days spent on the cricket field and the warm nights spent with friends on each other's terraces. I sleep with a smile on my face and wake up having lived through those magical summers yet another time.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

20 minutes of flying time

An airport worker was inspecting the fans of the turbo-prop plane I was about to board at the Sacramento airport. I had a nervous feeling, looking at the size of the plane and the flimsy staircase leading me inside that asparagus shaped aircraft. I climbed aboard while stepping inside it with ever loosing confidence. There were about 16 seats and I got into mine - 2A by the window. A middle aged woman in blue jeans, a red sweater and auburn hair boarded the aircraft and settled in 2B next to me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries while the only cabin attendant did her bit on oxygen masks, exits and floatation devices in case of a water landing. She announced that it will be a short flight with a total flying time of 20 minutes. I planned to take a quick nap before we landed in SFO. Planned to have some dinner at the SFO airport and continue working for a little bit on the flight back to Washington DC from there. I was about to close my eyes when I overheard the lady next to me talk to the attendant about the ring she was wearing.

Lady - "I know that symbol on your ring, I have a tattoo on my ankle with the same symbol."
Attendant (who by now had revealed her name to be Alexis) - "Ohh really....can i see?"
Me (in my head) - "There goes my 20 minute nap!! Now I have to listen to this tattoo crap.....come on lady bring it on"
So the lady goes - "Sure" and with tremendous zeal unzips a boot from her left leg and removes her sock. Alexis goes - "Awww...it's so cute". Me - "Ok, now that the tattoos are out in the open, the conversation will end." Nope, they had other intentions:
Lady - "My three daughters also have the same tattoo, but the color of the heart in their tattoos is different than mine"
Alexis - "Ohh, that's cuter, what colors did they get"

And then the lady went on a description of the colors and why a certain color and the names of the daughters and on and on and on. I was seriously craving for a water landing at that time and was looking out the window to beckon a flock of wild geese to play with the propellor fans. No such luck, all I saw was the lights of the bay area. I resigned to my fate and took a deep breath. Alexis had to now attend to the landing procedures and the lady stopped talking. I was hoping she wouldn't turn to me and well we all now how hopes are shattered etc.
Lady - "So do you live in San Francisco?"
Me - "No, Washington DC"
Lady - "Ohh, what brings you to Sacramento?"
Me - "Work"
Lady - "What kind of work?"
Me - "We help State Governments do their jobs better"
Lady - "Ohh Yeah! they do need a lot of help...what a mess the CA budget is in!"
Me - Just an understanding vague smile.

We were now about to land and I was ready to leap out of the plane. We landed, I heard the lady in 2B say "have a good flight", without looking back I muttered "You too!", deboarded with tremendous alacrity and sprinted towards the first open walkway I saw. I had about an hour to kill, so grabbed a soup from the San Francisco Soup company, enjoyed it in perfect solitude in a crowded food court. As I was approaching the gate for my connecting flight, I saw the lady in 2B sitting on a chair right outside my gate and my heart sank to my tattooless ankles. I was hoping she doesn't see me, but you know the drill with hopes. So she saw me and smiled at me. I smiled back and naturally walked towards her - "Hey...you again! So you are also on the same flight to DC?" I was impatiently waiting for a response. Lady - "No my flight's not in another 2 hours, from the same gate though. I am going to Grand Rapids, Michigan". I must say, I was relieved, I felt like hugging every stranger there. With this light headed feeling, I asked the lady with a wide grin on my face- "So Grand Rapids, visiting family is it? Not a good time to leave sunny California for a cold wintry Michigan".
Lady - "Yeah, you can say that, my only family there was my mother, she died today. Going there to arrange for her funeral and take care of other things. Her second husband and her step sons have pretty much abandoned her since the cancer took hold of her." It was like I was slammed on the ground from a thousand feet. There, right there, I was put in my place. I hugged the lady "So sorry for your loss, have a safe flight and may she rest in peace". The lady smiled - "Thank you and I know she is peaceful, she is with the only man who really truly loved her and cared for her - my dad".

All along my flight back I kept thinking, I used to be a compassionate and a completely non-judgmental person. Was it the stress of the last few weeks that had made me so callous? Whatever it was, note to self: Be more compassionate, non-judgmental and kind to all, no matter what my mental/physical condition.