Sunday, November 30, 2008

Band Aid Covers the Bullet Hole

The title of the previous post seems half appropriate for this post about the latest terror siege that occurred in Bombay. Scars are rampant on all who experienced this first-hand and I am not sure if any souvenirs will emerge out of this, but the hope remains, this story could qualify.

The internet is aghast at the audacity of the attack, demanding action and with a scathing attack on the governance. Facebook communities have been formed and while I will not be joining any of them or vouch for the purpose they would serve, I will be wearing white tomorrow in allegiance to the country which has suffered the maximum brunt of terrorism, be it from external elements or from the in-grown factor.

It was a Wednesday morning, the day before thanksgiving and while I was browsing through TOI, I came upon the main story of a terror attack in Mumbai, I almost dismissed the story, casting it aside as yet another attack, what's new about it? Unfortunate is the situation wherein the citizens of a country can put aside news about a terror strike! I realized the enormity of the attack and the scale when news flash tweets started pouring in through my twitterfox popup.

Ever since, I've followed first hand updates on twitter, live streaming, joined the discussion on CNN (Wednesday's AC360 telecast was 2 hours long and saw a huge presence of the Indian diaspora joining in the live conversation on the 360 blog), have commented on various blog posts and have constantly been amazed at the response of emergency personnel to the disaster. When the fire was blazing at the Taj, I was almost hoping for a chopper to appear loaded with fire suppressing materials, but I guess India does not have one.

Yesterday, here in Seattle I watched while a paramedic team arrived in response to a 911 call in aid of a pregnant woman who was feeling faintish, all in under 5 minutes. The hope is for such a response time in India from any of the essential services, be it fire, paramedics or the police. India has a strong urban presence and despite the fact that a majority of the population still lives in rural areas, a service similar to 911 has to emerge. A question at this point, are roads the only projects covered by our taxes?

A few months ago, a colleague of mine was tracked down and interviewed by the federal bureau, all because he had hired a couple of boats for a ride through Lake Washington, this was his birthday bash(I could not attend due to unavoidable circumstances :)) and it seemed like someone allegedly reported the group for clicking excessive pictures. I can't say aloud or write about the nature of the allegations, however guys in a boat, clicking pictures of an important floating bridge, a vital link between two land masses, I leave it to you to piece it together. You might call it going overboard, but that is how serious security can sometimes be in this country, not always of course.

'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing', is a quote attributed to Edmund Burke, though I'm learning it may not really be his quote, anyway it does not matter who said it at this point! When Mangalore happened, there was a general complaint that very few good men (or women) took a stand to highlight the incident, it did happen eventually. Today, a number of good men and women have taken a stand, the attention of world media is on India (not so much on Nigeria, where more than 400 people have died) and it will take much more than band-aids to cover the gaping holes in our security, in our emergency response time. Has a lesson been learnt? Maybe, maybe not.

The title of this post is also the title of a Scarling song.

Scars and Souveniers

I've mastered the art of dodging the bullet! literally but from the over-eager, over enthusiastic kiosk employees who are constantly in your face, trying to sell you something, be it a hair extension (seriously!), a nail set to make your nails all shiny without applying nail polish, wind chime thingies, aromatherapy packs, pro-activ, crystal souvenirs for every relative you could dream of while the above mentioned over eager, over enthusiastic salesperson badgers you into submission. And if you are the kind who finds it hard to say 'No thanks', then good luck. Don't forget, these kiosk/cart stores have no return policy either.

I remember a particular incident in a Houston Mall when three of us were walking down the mall and this Seacret Sea salesgirl pops, almost out of nowhere and practically took our hands and started polishing one nail each. Thank God for small mercies that I had painted my nails so she let me get away! The remaining two, were not spared, they emerged with shiny nails (one of them male!) and were badgered into buying 100$ worth of nail products and some other stuff all allegedly made with ingredients from the dead sea!

Our local Southcenter Mall has an umpteen number of kiosks/carts and has fallen prey to the cart culture. Nothing against this culture and considering that I come from a country where the cart culture business thrives. In fact it's just possible that you find some unique item you were looking for, from halfway across the world. It is the harassment and badgering that I condone, Isn't the retail tagline 'Customer is king', they will come to you, wait for it!

Dodging the bullet is nevertheless easy, my strategy is to ignore the kiosks completely, no eye contact and I even act as if I am deaf and blind too, it may be rude, but it works.

I was in Southcenter yesterday and noticed this cart with beautiful wood carvings of nativity scenes, rosary hands, last supper scenes all intricately and exquisitely carved. The owner seemed to be of Middle Eastern descent, Israelite possibly or could be Egyptian too. He explained that the statues were all hand carved out of Olive wood from Bethlehem and considering my interest in the Nativity scenes offered a 10% discount while querying if I was buying it as a gift!

I told him I wanted to buy it for myself at which he acted pleasantly surprised and seemed almost to be searching for a telltale sign that I was a Christian and no, I was not wearing my little cross pendant. He asked if I was from India and on my affirmative answer, said he did not know Christians lived in India!

My being a Christian from India surprises many, from the Ethiopian cab driver, my Russian neighbor, the midwest programmer who even asked me if it was tough being a Christian in India to the Vietnamese parishioner and the Middle Eastern kiosk owner. I told him there are 20 million Christians in India with an evil smile to the almost shocked look on his face and then told him that we make up 2% of the population, it seemed to make him happy!

I believed the hand-carved bit but was doubtful about the Olive wood from Bethlehem part, anyway I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and ended up with a carved set of a nativity scene. The discount was nullified by the 9% sales tax! Nevertheless a pretty nativity set to start the advent season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ask Annie?

Okay, my name's not Annie! but how weird is it that I get approached for relationship advice not once or twice but thrice in one day and to think that I consider myself to be the last person to be handing out such advice to anyone! Not to mention the almost 10 minute conversation with a Comcast support person, talking about how she spent her weekend, her plans for thanksgiving and her woes and pros of buying gifts for Christmas.

Back to the drawing board, that's the terminal where all sorts of requests come in, including a few to start writing a book! I tell myself, don't flatter yourself! and considering my recent work, my supposed publisher has decided to abscond and ignore my calls, but then since I am getting pretty chummy (my definition of chummy, not yours) with one Associate Producer of AC360, I could have a shot at something!. Maybe its time to start with a relationship column, How does 'Dear Annie' sound?

The point of the above rambling was to linkback to an interesting post Cupid makes a few Mrs. I do like the title, Enjoy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Déjà vu

I almost get that foreboding sense of paramecia; no it’s not a kind of amnesia… though I wish it were. ‘Mark all as read’, is the only option in Google reader right now, except for the new items from friends and they sure are scarce to come by.

I remember logging into work during my thanksgiving vacation last year and actually making some code changes to handle a CR! This year seems no different, except for the fact that I can’t possibly code in the current situation! (Read can’t possibly with some dramatic effect :’))

I could be a workaholic, having a lot to do keeps me more sane than not having anything to do. Clearly that is not my problem, my concern is when the credits start to roll and I find my name missing. All those late nights and successful deployments seem to count for nothing if you choose to leave the project for an uncertain future (read bench!).

This plane must fly! Of course I don’t expect credit when it does.

On a side note, I ended up with two quarters of Hawaii yesterday, was presently surprised considering that it was only released 20 days ago, almost makes me want to go back to collecting state quarters again, but no, no way.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yes, we did

It has been a historic week for the US and the world too. Of course, I am glad the election and the debates are done, no more interruptions for my favorite TV shows! Today's episode of The Amazing Race like the previous one had India as the pit-stop. It's great to see India in popular shows like this, but unfortunately the nastier side of India seems to be dominant, hilarious moments nevertheless.

In my attempt to to catch up on the backlog of movies, it was Body of lies and Nights in Rodanthe this week. Both the movies are miles apart however good in their own little ways. Surprisingly Quantum of Solace was released in a number of international locations and including India before the US release...wonder why the week's delay?

It's already that time of the year, shopping malls are decorated in red and green, supermarkets have created a special holiday section and people are changing their ringtones to 'Deck the Halls'!. This year is going to be unlike the past two years, I've already made sure of that! Thanksgiving 2006 was midnight shopping in LA, while 2007 was Lake Tahoe, 2008 is going to be brilliant!

Bulldozing the bully

My approach to dealing with the bully at work so far has been pretty much one of indifference than action. I guess it does not work too well in all situations. Yesterday I decided to bulldoze the bully into submission! literally only, not figuratively before you imagine me with a bulldozer swallowing that poor chap!

Of course, me being me... I did not feel good after the deed, dwelling on how I could have dealt with it differently, maybe I could have added a bit of humor in my reply! looked for a resolution rather than revenge! Somehow being so outright...that's just not me as they would say! Looking back, I think, I had to reply, to free myself from the tangles of any mis-doing, after all I was in the right.

I've come across my fair share of bullies at work and elsewhere, be it the know-it-all colleague, or the colleague who takes credit for your work, nit-picks on every aspect of your work, portrays his resentment by being bitter, obfuscates your emails or even that demanding friend who makes you feel guilty every time you disagree with a suggestion.

Matthew 5:5 says 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth'.

Not in this case! I believe, we make our own bullies. A bully will follow you only as long as you allow them, stop showing your left cheek ever so often. Advice of course that is tough to follow.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I'll take that hour back

It's that time of the year...again, only this time its time to turn back the clocks for that extra hour and I'll take it gladly, and no I am not glad because the bars can serve for an extra hour! Of course, I am not going to set the time before I sleep, what fun would that be? the best part is waking up at 8 AM and realizing that it's only 7 AM, how awesome is that!

If you must know, I was not pleased at all on March 9th! I wish they would turn the clocks back on a Monday, there's nothing like getting an extra hour of sleep on a working day but then I dread to think of the reverse scenario!

Is it possible to lose time? As it is traveling through time zones can be really weird and confusing. India to the US is not so bad, but consider traveling from New Zealand to the US, you will infact be arriving at your destination before you left the source. I remember a trip when I was flying from Nevada (PST) to Utah (MST) and on to my final destination Seattle (PST). I go one hour ahead and then go back one hour, the flying time did not make much sense and I didn't think about it too much then, coz I was practically running to the plane to avoid getting stuck in Utah.

Consider a case where you have traveled to a daylight saving country such as the US before they advanced their clocks (if it was 2008, before march 9th), so essentially you've lost one hour, however you don't need to fret if you would continue to stay in a daylight saving country (US or Europe) until they turn back their clocks(Nov 2nd). But what if you traveled to a non-daylight saving country such as India or a state such as Arizona say in October?, where is that all important one hour? beats me!

Glad I have my hour back, thank you!