Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Octopus: The Secret Government and Death of Danny Casolaro (Hardcover) by Kenn Thomas, Jim Keith

The Octopus: The Secret Government and Death of Danny Casolaro (Hardcover)
by Kenn Thomas, Jim Keith

If you have heard about Daniel Pearl, WSJ journalist who was murdered by Islamic militants in Karachi, after learning about Danny Casolaro, you may wonder if Daniel is a common name of journalists whose life are shorted because they ventured into bad men's land.

Danny Casolaro was a freelancing journalist who, everybody feels today,  was on something really very sensational. The forces behind the mask that he was going to uncover were very powerful and had seen many such people come and go. They took care of Danny as well as they had taken care of many such venturesome people entering their dark world. Danny Casolaro was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in Martinsburg, West Virginia. His death looked  like a suicide. Both of his wrists were slashed multiple times to puncture his veins. Suicide note was also found.

But, a lot of stories emerged later. Danny was not someone who did some small time investigative journalism. He was after what he called 'Octopus', a group of extremely high powered government officials who were running a parallel world. If you have to go by what is written in the book, group's active involvement has been found in JFK's assassination and Nixon's impeachment to many recent political arm twistings.

Danny bumped into this investigative lead when he started investigating about PROMIS (PROsecutors Management Information System) a software written to collect large chunks of data, aggregate them, slice and dice them and present in variety of useful ways to let people draw intelligent inferences. Even today, after 20 years since inception, PROMIS is considered to be a landmark software. It is  highly configurable and can be trained (like an expert system) as it ages. It has been used by spy agencies and other organizations to effectively tie many disparate pieces of data to generate many useful information. For example, PROMIS may look at different databases such as water consumption in a city, telephone calls in a city etc. and may shed some interesting observations on people. Say for example, a person under surveillance, suddenly starts showing sudden increase in the consumption of water, electricity or phone calls and at the same time some other person thought to be his cohort shows significant decrease in the consumption of these, PROMIS can take cue from such observations and move on to investigate additional details to draw if any kind of theory can be built which can be pursued by intelligence people.

This software was a really effective tool for many agencies. It was a developed by  Bill Hamilton who worked for government and then went private. DOJ and Hamilton got into a dispute on the ownership of PROMIS. DOJ's point was it was developed while Hamilton worked for them. Hamilton's point was his newer version had many advanced features which were developed independently and did not make use of DOJ's resources or time. Anyway, it was a long drawn legal battle, inquiry commissions and what not.

While all this legal drama was going on, few enterprising individuals from "Octopus" group got hold of a copy of PROMIS software and started selling it to customers all over the world. Robert Maxwell's front company was heavily involved in actual selling. Since Maxwell was a known front man for many spy agencies, it is clear who were involved in selling the software. Spy agencies!!

Bigger point was that the software being sold by "Octopus" was modified to have a secret trap door which allowed "Octopus" to clandestinely tap into the data of the customers once installed at customer sites. There have been a lot of differing opinions and arguments about the trap door. Some computer scientists have called it  purely fictional. Other computer scientists and people close to all the fishy stuff have given plausible explanations. Explanations of  a trap door ranges from a simple malicious piece of software which harnessed sensitive information and uploaded it wherever "Octopus" wanted to highly sophisticated custom made IC chips which tapped into information directly and transmitted to satellites using listening posts planted by intelligence agencies at strategic locations. Both are reasonable explanations. But, it is not clear how it was achieved.

PROMIS is also described in great detail in Ben Ari Menashe's "Profits of War" and Gordon Thomas' "Robert Maxwell...." and "Gideon spies".

Danny Casolaro was developing a solid story around the whole PROMIS episode by meeting right sources and connecting dots. Mysterious deaths of Amiram Nir, a confirmed Israeli agent who worked with Ari Ben Menashe,  the death of powerful US senator John Towers in a plane crash, deaths of certain sources of Casolaro, crash of BCCI bank known to have many people such as terrorist Abu Nidal, arms deal such Adnan Khasoggi as its customers, all point to a sensational conspiracy theory. "Octopus" had to protect itself from many such secrets. PROMIS was only one of them.

As said before, PROMIS was sold to many intelligence agencies all over the world. Both to friends and foes. Secret trap door opened up rich intelligence to "Octopus".

This book is based on the notes made by Danny Casolaro and extensive additional investigation by the authors. Extensive foot notes and abundant references make it a really credible read. If you believe all the exploits attributed to "Octopus", you can not help but wonder if the world is run a by a very small group of very powerful men who are a government of their own. Even the assassination of Olaf Palme of Sweden is said to be the handiwork of "Octopus" as he was against certain arm deals and arm dealers. If you can connect dots, even Rajiv Gandhi's assassination is attributed to something similar by people like Subramanian Swamy who believe that Rajiv Gandhi was eliminated because he was becoming a thorn preventing powerful people from pushing arms to India. Anyway, too complex web of "Octopus"

Good book especially if you have read Gordon Thomas' and Ari Ben Menashe's book.


Ads by

Ads by

Powered by Qumana

My people shall live: Autobiography of a revolutionary by Leila Khaled

My people shall live: Autobiography of a revolutionary
by Leila Khaled

Leila Khaled - One of the few women who became very famous by being Palestinian revolutionaries. Over the years many such people have surfaced. However, way back in 1969, it was certainly a new phenomenon. On the other hand, if you look at recent acts of violence in Israel, good number of suicide bombers are women.

This book was published way back in 1973......way too old. From 1969-1972, Leila Khaled participated in at least 2 daring hijackings of Israeli airliners. She was not apprehended by Israelis but by British in the second incident.

This book his her memoirs to that date written for her by a canadian George Hajjar.

Khaled was part of Ahmed Jibrils''s PFLP (People's front for the liberation of Palestine). PFLP is one among the many organization borne out of conflict with Arafat's Fatah. PFLP has always taken violent stand and has never been in the mainstream negotiations. They did some spectacular hijacks and also give Israel an opportunity to showcase their commando prowess. Another group of PFLP hijackers had hijacked an Sabena airliner into Israel in 1969 and were subdued by Israeli commandos. Incidentally, Ehud Barak who lead many such operations and went on to become Israel's PM in 90s.

The book traces her childhood in Haifa, being driven out of Haifa, life as a refugee in Lebanon, college years in Beirut, work life in Kuwait, working as a revolutionary etc.

One interesting point of passing reference is about what Khaled has to say about Gandhi. She writes that she developed respect for his moral integrity. But, she also felt he was born a slave and never outgrew his slave mentality. Not sure what made her think that way. But, seems like an interesting observation. It should not be surprising if hot blooded young people thought Gandhi's passive resistance as acts of slavery. But, what has created any lasting peace is such methods only.

After her capture in Britain, she was not assigned to any ostensive projects because she had received way too much publicity with her photos flashing everywhere. She got into more of an organizing and management roles and continued her work.

Some more info at


Ads by
Ads by

Powered by Qumana

HR tips

I don't know the original source for this, but I think there's a lot of wisdom in it:

  • The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake."

  • The five most important words: "You did a good job."

  • The four most important words: "What is your opinion?"

  • The three most important words: "I love you."

  • The two most important words: "Thank you."

  • The one most important word: "We." (or as mentioned in certain versions - You)

  • The least important word: "I"

Ads by

Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Reputation v/s honor

Some famous musician said "If I do not practice for a month, my audience notice it in my performance. If I do not practice for a week, my family notices. If I  do not practice for a day, I notice."

"If you do not manage your reputation, someone else will."

"You have to blow your horn from time to time. Lest someone will use it as a spittoon."

First quote by Bujold is a truth. If we are looking for honor, self respect etc., it better come from within. Otherwise, we will only become more and more insecure trying to find stability on something that is always changing.

Second quote by famous musician is a good quote to remember why things, which we know we must do but do not do, force us to feel guilty. There is no need for your audience to notice. You yourself will notice and feel miserable for having avoided what you should have done. Just imagine the sense of relief that follows once you do the task that you despise.

"You do not dislike things because they are boring. They become boring because you dislike them." "When you change the way you look at things, things you look at change." So, it is a matter of trying our best to change our attitude towards things we naturally do not like to do. Nothing to feel bad about it. Everyone has a list of things they love to do and excel and also have a list of things they do not like to do. If you are a rare lucky person, your vocation is your vacation. For rest of us, we need to plug along on things that we don't like to do. One way to escape from the drudgery is to become so good at something that people do not think of anyone else when they think of the tasks you are good at. That way, you are always busy with what you love to do. "Specialists know more and more about less and less." Choice of specialist v/s generalist is up to you. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Third quote about having to manage the reputation fearing that someone else will do that for you is more from insecurity. James Carville Democratic strategist wrote a book titled as such. You do not have to take slander without reaction but a lot of mud thrown is not worth comments or dignifying. Biggest dilemma of people just coming into limelight is how should they react to criticism in the media. Reaction should be proportional to worth of the criticism. No point in reacting to tabloid trash. People who read them read for mere sensationalism and do not care about the validity or they do not care about you. If criticism appears in a reputable media, then it is worth reacting to. They do not publish something without validation and if proven wrong they will make it up to you. If you find it is a valid criticism, then confessing it up and making sure that it appears in that same reputable media goes a long long way in establishing your reputation. Although you are confessing up, people excuse a genuine mistake. If you have problems with dishonesty etc. then hard luck. Confessing up does not help much. Then you hire lobbyists such as Carville, Dick Morris and have them put spins on your side.

Fourth quote about spittoon is funny if not anything. Yeah, you have toot your horn from time to time. Otherwise people who really matter are way to busy to care for you. Old culture of mentoring and taking responsibility for your career development are more or less gone or are there in companies which are dying anyway. So, even if you do not toot your horn, do not become so careless about your reputation that someone will have chutzpah to spit in  it.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


When we are argue, how often do we argue over facts? More often than not, we try to argue on our dear opinions. After a while we totally tune out and we are no more arguing on anything. We are totally focused on the person with whom we were arguing. Tthe person becomes the object of all our attention. This is one of the reasons why problems get only worse when immature people try to solve them by discussion.

First of all, it is most important to realize and affirm that the problem that you are trying to solve is the common enemy and not each of you. We are on the same side. Problem is on the other side. As soon as we recognize this fact, so many things change. Even if one of the parties realizes and acknowledges this, we are that much closer to resolving the problem. This is because the person who develops such an insight tries and many times succeeds in building consensus and solving the problem. More this is done, people slowly notice and absorb best practices.

Problem solving should never be a win lose situation. It should be a win win situation  or lose lose situation. If  both parties have to sacrifice to solve a problem, it is worth  it. Problem is solved but we lost something in the process. When Gandhi and others yielded to the partition of India and Pakistan, it was intended as something to solve the problem even if it meant both countries losing something in the process. Unfortunately things did not go as planned but and we lost and also problem was never solved.

Many times people of later generations put a blanket blame on leaders of those time for all the problems of today. I think the movie 'Sardar' starring Paresh Rawal (as Sardar Vallbh Bhai Patel) depicts the situation at time very well. It goes into details as under what circumstances decisions were taken and how they felt utterly optionless. It is really touching when Sardar Patel anticipates the criticism of today and hope people take time to review their decisions.

"Separate people from the problem."

"Problem is one side and people trying to solve it are on the other."


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Sunday, July 23, 2006


"No me. No fun. Know me. Know fun."

Certainly a piece of creativity. What a way to toot your own horn when you have to :) !!!


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Saturday, July 15, 2006


You can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough. You must want it with an inner exuberance that erupts through the skin and joins the energy that created the world.

Sheila Graham

"If you can dream it, you can do it."

"God won't let us dream without giving everything we need to realize it."

"Growing is mandatory. But, growing up is optional."

Many such quotes. Beauty of growing is that  if you manage to grow 'up' even a bit, you feel so good to face every challenge that comes on your way. It's just not possible not develop at least some traces of improved confidence in oneself as we age. This has nothing to do with what we may have achieved and what all failures we have had. Experience is such a solid teacher that what you learn from it, you never forget. Life teaches only those lessons that come handy. We better hope that the tuition we end up paying for those lessons at UHK (University of Hard Knocks aka life) is not too steep.

Before you experience fair amount of life (say at least 30 years of varied experiences), there is always quite a bit of anxiety about the uncertainty. Life is uncertain. It is really a criminal waste that a good deal of our energy at the prime of youth is drained in worrying and anxiety solely because we have not had required experiences to assure us that there is a day break even after a very long and dark night. Every small setback pushes us into varying degrees of depression and causes varying degrees of diffidence. Lucky are those who are blessed to be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on. It is really a tragedy if someone gets into self destroying spiral due to some pretty serious failures early in life. It is good if life delivers a fairly average returns in the beginning. It just does not help to have everything rosy that one starts thinking life is utopia. Such people just crumble at the very first setback. Unfortunately for many decent people who come from highly principled and secure homes, this can be a serious problems. People growing up in  secured and protected homes are sort of disadvantaged to enter UHK. If parents let you 'swim or sink', it probably is for your own good. Kids who are over protected think life is linear and only possible change is it can only  become  more and more comfortable. If it gets that way, good for them. But, to have any meaningful life, it just is not possible to have such a linear life.

So, if we can not develop that kind of confidence to face everything before really going thru our share of trials and tribulations, what can we do to reduce the pain? "We do not have to learn every lesson from our own lives." Developing interest about the lives of great souls is a great way to learn from others' experience. Great souls have undergone so much in their lives that we can probably think that as good 100% of all possible scenarios. How they faced life's challenges, how they won some and lost many more, what are all the lessons learnt from them, most importantly what can we learn from their experiences? "Life is too short to learn everything from the scratch." "Leverage the most from great people."

Another sure way to help reduce the pains of learning from inevitable experiences is to develop or rekindle spiritual interest. We can develop it by reading classics such as Bhagvadgita or Bible or simply learn to develop unshakable belief and faith in some higher power. Unmovable faith that there is some higher power and it  takes care of our best interests even if it gives some short term pains goes a long way in reducing anxiety and stress. As our intellect develops over the years, that innocent but immovable faith diminishes and we become suspicious of everything using our analytical intellect. Flaw of intellect is that it has to categorize everything into  life's dichotomy - good and bad, black and white and so on. When this division starts, belief in unity loosens and disappears slowly. That's why we feel so helpless when we are faced with challenges. Look at an unsophisticated simple man, who just says 'God is there to take care of every thing.' and continues do what he is supposed  to and is so much more happy and stress free. We do not have to take such fatalistic attitude. Using our trained intellect, we can develop some sort of moderation and even improvise on the faith that we need to overcome obstacles. "If we do not stand for something, we will fall for everything."


Ads by

Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Thursday, July 13, 2006

On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follet

On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follet

In 1978, during the uprising that led to the fall of Shah of Iran and put Khomeini in power, EDS corporation which was doing business in Iran got into some problems with Iranian government or certain people in the government. Two EDS employees were arrested and thrown into jail with no proper judicial process in the sight. The bail amount set was 13 million US dollars. That itself was an indication that there was no hope for  real justice.

All efforts to secure the release of these two employees failed. Even the US state department under Carter presidency could not and did not do much as US was busy in sorting out a messy political situation. Shah stayed in power that long mainly due to US support. Even that did not stop people from staging a revolution. US was buys in ensuring safe passage to Shah and his close circle. Two common citizens thrown into jail did not become a priority. Also, there was always suspicion that EDS people may have been thrown into jail due to some irregularities.

When all regular avenues to secure their release failed, Ross Perot founder and then CEO of EDS took the challenge to secure the release into his own hands. He used one of his old military contact who had the experience of conducting daring commando operations in Vietnam to rescue his people from Iran. Bull Simons, a decorated army veteran, was asked to help and Simon was ever ready. Commandos were not from any elite unit of US armed forces. They were chosen from rank and file of EDS. They were trained and managed by Simons.

This book narrates the entire story starting with EDS in Iran, their life, how they landed into problem, agonizing days for the affected people and families, grit of Ross Perot and his commitment to take care of his loyal employees, preparations for commando operation, many near fatal incidents, how local Iranians helped out and how the operation took altogether a different form and ultimately how it all ended well.

Great book. After having seen many avatars of Ross Perot this book shows another avatar which makes you really admire and respect him. It is not unlikely if everyone feels that they will give their life to someone like Perot. It is also a good lesson for modern day managers who have totally forgotten to treat employees anything more than disposables.


Ads by
Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Use What You've Got, and Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom -- by Barbara Corcoran

Use What You've Got, and Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom -- by Barbara Corcoran

This is a really nice book. A lot of useful insight from a very successful entrepreneur sprinkled with many hilarious examples.

One of the quotes from the book is as follows.
"If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails "

The author  later came out with a book titled as above :)

If you have lived in an apartment  community especially in the Northeast, chances are you probably have had some association with Corcoran. Corcoran group manages many apartment communities all over Northeast. The author is the Corcoran behind Corcoran properties.

Corcoran  stands out because she probably is one of the first women entrepreneurs to make it really big in real estate and that too in big apple (NY city). For a person who scraped a hard living working many odd jobs, achieving all that success before she turned 50 is amazing. She sold her company for 70 million dollars a few years back. Although the author does not seem to be associated with the company anymore, her name which became a big brand continues to thrive.

The author who grew up in a big family of 10 children quotes many funny quotes, anecdotes she heard from her mother while growing up and then describes a real life business challenge she faced and how she successfully solved it and how her mother's simple advice was as effective as it was in running a household as it was to solve a business problem.

Audio book packs a lot of punch. It is read by the author herself and she does a fabulous job of creating a very realistic experience of her childhood and business life with her very well modulated voice and histrionics.

Excellent book.


Ads by
Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Spies, Inc.: Business Innovation from Israel's Masters of Espionage (Hardcover) by Stacy Perman

Spies, Inc.: Business Innovation from Israel's Masters of Espionage (Hardcover)
by Stacy Perman

Do not pick this book up thinking it is another thriller from Israeli intelligence community whose exploits beat any fictional thriller hands down.

Read this book if you want to pick up some entrepreneur sparks. This is also a good book for entrepreneurs who are feeling down. It can certainly uplift the spirits of such people when they realize the adversity against which Israeli entrepreneurs triumph on daily basis.

We do not have to go too far to find out the proof for success of Israeli entrepreneurship. Israel ranks number three for the number of companies listed on NASDAQ after US and Canada. Many spectacularly successful companies such as Checkpoint software came out Israel.

The author has a done a superb job of showing that side of Israel which is not shown many times. People read about Israeli military activities either with awe or hate and that's about it. Of course, violence in that region dominates all sorts of media.

Due to security concerns Israelis do not wish to buy sensitive technology. They either develop in internally or steal it from out side and modify it to make it unique. The incidence where Israeli intelligence  had influenced an Iraqi pilot to defect with Russian built MiG fighter jet  got a lot of publicity.

Israeli entrepreneurs mainly come from military background. After having been thru several years of innovating under huge pressure they are far more hardened than regular entrepreneurs. Israelis have mastered the art of getting best of entrepreneurs even when they are part of military. Who says discipline kills creativity? On the other hand, entrepreneurs thrive in well organized environment. It may be fatal to ask such smart people to follow process, organize, keep everything meticulous but if they are provided such  support they excel. That's  the reason behind putting an outstandingly well organized project manager to help manage a very creative team.

This book is full of many successful entrepreneurial stories from Israeli military, how innovations are encouraged and fostered, how people are allowed to carry on their ideas after they complete their military service etc. are well described.

Great book to get a totally difference perspective on entrepreneurship. After reading this if any entrepreneur complains about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur, ask him/ her take a job, at least for a while.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Getting work done

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

George S. Patton (1885 - 1945)

Valid quote. But, it has to be used with a lot of caution unless you do not have to get anything done within limited time and budget. This quote has to be applied to different people with different levels of moderation. For people who you are certain that far better than you in all respects, don't even waste your time telling them how to do what you want to get done. You may antagonize them and that may reduce the quality of their output. If you have observed someone delivering quality goods, just tell them what to do and come back at the time given by them. Chances are your stuff is ready to go. Even if you strongly feel to tell such brilliant people how to do things, hold it back. Such people appreciate feedback only when they know they need it. Unsolicited feedback normally does not go well with most of the people.

For your bulldozers (i.e. most resourceful people), you just need to give a broad outline of how they may approach the job. Although bulldozer will succeed in moving a mountain regardless of how it approaches, there may be certain effective ways to get a thing done which will increase the effectiveness of bulldozers. Remember your most resourceful people normally tend to be very efficient and not necessarily very effective. You need to help them to be effective by offering timely hints and advice on what may be a good idea to get something done. Efficiency = doing things right. Effectiveness = doing right things.

Bottom rung people- just give them step by step instructions and get the work done. Ample supervision is necessary. As long as people are producing good quality work it does not matter even if you have to give them detailed instructions. It is very likely that people will move to the next rung if you mentor them well. If they are not moving to the next rung, it may indicate their unwillingness to learn and improve. Then you may have some serious decisions to make. If a person who requires detailed instructions is delivering good quality, no need to worry. They will move up. If the output is shoddy despite detailed instructions, it is a big red flag. Just because someone requires detailed instructions does not make them a poor performer. It may make them an average performer. But imagine the leverage you can get by having some such people. These people are a bang for the buck when you have right mentors to train them and tune them. They cost at least 20-30% less than stellar performers. They are good. They work hard. They are thankful. For every good mentor you have, you can make some 4-5 such people really productive and get the work done at a fraction of cost. Economics may seem little fuzzy but think thru it and you will get it. Having all "A" players is going to be disaster in several ways. First of all it is going to cost hell more. Top performers do not want to do mundane jobs. Good amount of work in commercial endeavors is mundane but important. People costing 30% less normally do not mind such work as they are good at whatever you ask them to do once you are willing to tell them what to do. Balance is important in a team like it is in everything.

Following the quote blindly is a sure way to screw things up.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Monday, July 10, 2006


"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives."

Abba Eban (1915 - 2002)

Abba Eban served as Israel's foreign minister (I think) among many other positions. I think he was one of the best diplomats from Israel. He was also probably the one who had decided to behave "wisely" as he was advocating more peace than other means that both Israeli and Palestinians have tried so unsuccessfully over such a long time - that is violence.

If not anything, try to get hold of 2 or 3 video tape series that he produced. It is probably one of the best historical documentaries you can see about Israel and all the conflict around it.

With recent escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine in the light of kidnapped soldier, Abba Eban and his advice is very timely. It's high time both sides start to realize that long lasting peace has never been achieved with violence. Gandhi said "wrong means can never result in right end." All that they are pursuing are wrong means. So, how can there be a right end. I think Gandhi's grandson who heads Gandhian center in Tennessee had tried to initiate some peace formula based on non-violence but apparently it did not get any good response. Moreover, for everything there is timing. Gandhi did not happen in India any time other when it was the right time.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Brothers Bulger : How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century (Hardcover) by Howie Carr

The Brothers Bulger : How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century (Hardcover)
by Howie Carr

After having lived in Boston area for some time, this book rings many bells. Many familiar names heard on the radio and seen in news papers umpteen number of times, come to life in this book.

Bulger brothers are an interesting lot. One brother is a very famous politician and academic. Second one is absconding for more than 10 years now and has been featured on 'America's most wanted' few times.

Remaining material is about the mafia, their exploits and how they corrupted bureaucracy including state, FBI etc.

Howie Carr writes a real fast reading book. Packed with good material. Facts are tied together very nicely. For example, some one is fighting in the court for some family assets saying that they are poor. The author writes that after the court session they leave in a Lexus SUV.

Decent book if you have some understanding of Boston area and local politics. Even otherwise, it should be interesting some one who feasts on mafia, politicians, cops and unholy alliances between them.

Bill O'Reilly of Fox has written a note in appreciation which appears along with others on the back cover.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana


Fana- Hindi movie- starring Amir Khan, Kajol etc.

Does not deserve the hype that has been generated around this. May that's how it got to the top of list. Anyway, there was some similar movie with Sunny Deol and Tabu in which Tabu a Paki terrorist seduces Sunny Deol and puts him into all sorts of problem and at the end Sunny demolishes the terrorist ring. Ok, now replace Sunny with Kajol and Tabu with Amir, you get Fana. Terrorist in the facade of a tourist guide, a blind girl falls for him, then he vanishes. After many years, he lands right at her house. Their tumult and what not makes the movie.

Kajol acts better as a blind person than one who has got the eyes. Amir does not have the punch that he normally packs into other movies. Tabu's role kinda hurried.

2 stars.

Ads by

Powered by Qumana


"I am never afraid of what I know."

Anna Sewell (1820 - 1878)

Get to know more and more about more and more things, you will be less and less afraid of less and less things. Biggest fear is fear of uncertainty. Fear of unknown. Fear generated by speculation.

First thing to do is to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible. We imagine lot more uncertainty than that is really there. We do not ask questions when we can. Instead we speculate and there is no end to imaginations especially when it comes to worst case scenarios. Mind is hyperactive in churning out all doomsday scenarios.

Fear of unknown is much easier to handle. Today, with information about everything available mostly for free on the Internet, there is no excuse not to be able to research and learn what we do not know but need to know. For example, a friend learnt most of the chores of home maintenance such as repairing appliances, understanding jargon of plumbers etc. by going thru material on the net, books etc. It was not his intention to perform those repairs by himself. He wanted to understand and be in control while dealing with professionals doing those jobs. Being able to ask right questions goes a long way to help reduce the stress from unknown. Ask one right question and the person answering invariably educates you more than you had hoped for.

One more important point regarding dealing with uncertainty is to reduce the probability of uncertainty. Typical risk management. Four ways to deal with a risk - accept and move on, mitigate, transfer and avoid. All these are valuable depending on the risk and what is at stake. It is not true that you have to deal with the risk all the time yourself. Why do we buy insurance? Insurance is the best example of 'transferring' risk.

Some of the examples here can help understand general strategy to reduce uncertainty. Many smart people go to the place of their interview well in advance and figure out everything so that they can reach right in time and free of stress so that they can do their best in the interview. They drive to the place under similar conditions that will be on the day of interview, deal with traffic, deal with parking, deal with security and so on. Basically a mock run. They add contingencies for traffic jams, programming required contact numbers on the speed dial so that if you are stuck in the traffic you can call easily without having to take away too much attention from driving. This is a very smart thing to do. Once you have done the mock run, you would feel so relieved that you feel it and your prep goes very well.

Another example a friend had quoted is also very educational. His wife was appearing for the bar exam which was being held in some downtown area. In order to reduce the time required to commute and the risk, they took a room in a hotel right opposite to the place where bar exam was being held and stayed there for 3-4 days. They had a great stress free time. She could study at peace and relax as needed and do best in the exams. This was a very smart thing to do when stakes are really high. You miss bar exam and probably you have to wait good number of months before the next chance. Think of the opportunity cost of being without licence for a budding lawyer.

If you are traveling to other cities for interview, always ask to be flown in at least a day in advance. As such you have a lot to figure out and last thing you want is to land on the day of interview after a long exhausting flight, getting lost in a new city and managing to show up good 2-3 hours after the interview. This is not all uncommon. Ask people who went to cities such as LA, NY, Boston etc. and sometimes they got lost so bad that there was no point in showing up at all because it was time to return when they had found the place. Also, investing in a good GPS is a very smart thing. Program your route in advance and let GPS take care of directions. Since technology is always prone to failure, paper maps are still required for back up.

There are so many things we can do proactively many times with only little extra money which go a long way in reducing uncertainty and unknown. Accordingly our fear goes down and our mind does not dwell on things that are of no good use.


Ads by

Saturday, July 08, 2006


"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards."

Vernon Sanders Law

Should we be willing to forego experiences for anything else? Certainly not. There is nothing like "been there, done that". Of course, we want to be discriminatory in going after experiences. There is no point in bragging about certain experiences which are better not experienced at all. But, for other valid experiences, go by all means.

It is funny that many of us muster all the courage and energy to go after experiences which serve no purpose than satisfying curiosity and may be temporary urge. You can name quite a few such things. Some can lead to harmful addictions and irrecoverable situations. But, when it comes to trying to go after experiences that are really worth just for their own value, we back off. Why not? Is it the fear of failure or something else that holds us back? It's hard to tell.

Moreover some amount of timing is also necessary to have right experiences at right time. We are not always ready for all experiences. If we look back for a few years of our own lives, many significant experiences happened just at the right time. You may have tried very hard to have that experience but unless the timing was right either you were unable to have it or experience was less than complete. Such timing is written on every cell of our being like a precise time bomb which goes off unfailingly and when it happens, it's the real experience.

After developing some insight into human psyche, meditation and how it affects mental balance etc., whether you look at from scientific perspective or from age old philosophical perspective, explanations make perfect sense. After some sincere involvement with any valid form of meditation, it is very likely that you would experience some sort of internal calmness which lasts for quite good time. Regular you are with the practice, you prolong the calmness. Have you observed that you hit a ceiling (or a limit) after sometime and it takes quite sometime before you move the next level. This can be easily observed by how resilient you are to day-to-day challenges. May be before taking into mediation, you got angry with little or no provocation. May be after practicing mediation for, say 3 months regularly, you probably can remain patient little longer. But, you would soon realize that you are not able to hold back say after certain amount of provocation. You would really want to be able to not get angry at all but regardless of how well and how sincerely you meditate you do not seem to make any progress. Assuming that you continue to meditate without giving up, after some time and when time is perfectly right, you break the ceiling and move to the next level. You feel a certain difference. Now,your ability to control anger certainly has increased. But, a lot more steps to go.

How's is the ceiling enforced and why? It's the same principle as pressure cooker. When the pressure builds up beyond what the whistle can take, it lets out the steam and cooker does not explode. Same with human mind and body, meditation and related spiritual disciplines release a lot of positive energy which is capable of having tremendous impact on our personality. Uncontrolled and inappropriate release of such energy is similar to incorrect weight  holding back too much steam which will cause cooker to burst. Unless our mind and body are ready to absorb tremendous energy being released from spiritual practices, body and mind have their own safety mechanism to get rid of excess energy. Unless we engage in activities that make the world better, body has a way of releasing the energy by forcing things such as depression, anxiety, frustration on us which will eat up any and every energy we may have.

Another way to explain why and how ceilings operate is by using the analogy of how water is pumped up to the summit of a very high mountain. Can you pump up the water from the very bottom of the mountain to the very top in one shot right from the bottom? Possibly yes. But, amount of energy needed to pump the water up by Hundreds of feet is very large and you can not achieve that with normal pumps. How can we achieve the same with normal pumps? There comes the common practice of building sub-stations all along the way to top of the hill,say at every 500 feet, and pumping the water from one sub station to the next using regular pumps. If we use the hypothesis of ancient yogic science, this is how the spiritual power of 'kundalini' which is at the very bottom of the spine rises up through the spine to the top most part called 'brahma randhra' (divine hole). The temporary ceilings that we experience is the time when a substation is being filled. When the substation is filled and pump is ready to pump to the next substation, we are on the next level of the spiritual journey.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana


"Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed."

Michael Pritchard

What a witty and meaningful quotation? The author has very nicely used darkroom and negatives in their original sense to convey a very powerful message. As negatives of photos developed in the darkroom to real pictures, when are possessed by fear, we develop negative tendencies.

If we look back and trace some of the negative tendencies that we have or had, it many times goes back to some or the other fear (real or perceived).

Fear of people results in negatives such shyness, inferiority complex, general disinterest in people.

Fear of failure results in lack of motivation, lack of enthusiasm, general apathy.

Fear of unknown results in anxiety.

Fear of death results in inability to enjoy the life.

Fear of life results in suicidal tendencies.

Fear of injury results in not trying many fun activities.

Fear of rejection results in not approaching people and new experiences.

Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Knowledge v/s ignorance

"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge."

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914 - )

I would say obstacles are lack of optimism, demotivating people around you, nay-sayers and what not. Overcoming all this to discover something lasting can feel so difficult that you would think all that there is to discover has already been discovered and nothing is left.

First and foremost and most irritating obstacle I can think of is people saying 'it won't work.' This is just intolerable when they say it when there are no better ideas from anyone. They just do not want to go with your idea so they try their best to demotivate you. Other people who also take comfort in status quo join them and there you have formidable obstacle to overcome before you can even start discovering something. So much energy is wasted in overcoming such attitudes that there is hardly anything left for discovery.

Management gurus warn against having all yes sayers. That is true. But, to have a devil's advocate just for the sake of it is worse than any kind of torture you can imagine. Dream team to work with is a bunch of smart, opinionated and independent thinkers. Who understand the meaning of making some decision in a given time with the best information at hand and then putting their best to see if it works. If it does not work, we will have learnt one way that does not work. There are only so many more ways and one of them is bound to work. We pick ourselves up and move on try to next alternative with renewed enthusiasm.

Sometimes it is hard to make people see your way of doing things. This is especially true when they have another way to do things. In such cases, it makes sense to let the person try his or her way and then discover for themselves if that works. It may seem to be an extra step and time consuming. But, it will go a long way in securing their buy in next time without much opposition. They will have respect for your insight and appreciation for your letting them try their way.

However, we have to be very careful when we let people to purse their way over what we would have liked them to do. You have to have an informal contract about how long you are going to allow the person to try their way of doing something, what will be the success criteria and how and when do you revisit to review. If you come to a common understanding on all this, it won't be too hard to bring them back to your track later on. It is certainly a challenge to dissuade people when they say "I am 90% complete". Last 10% takes another 300% of the time already spent. One way to retort is to ask how many more days they will need for next review. This is a very reasonable question. If you are 90% complete, I think you should have a very good sense of how much more time you need for remaining 10%. This will make people rethink how far they have progressed. If they tell some very high number, you can say tell that what they would need is far more than what can be allowed per your original discussion and it is time to move on. If they need only a small amount of additional time, it is fine to allow that.

Bottom line is you want people to want to follow you. You can not force them. In order to do that, you have to give them ample room to experiment and see things for themselves. If not, they may follow you but you will never be able to lead. With flat organizations with loose hierarchy we have to pay this price to foster team work. Command and control style of leadership does not work in new product development and it is not good either.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana