Monday, December 28, 2009


Enjoyed  any good drama recently? Acted in any drama recently? Yes? No?

Anyway, if you act in a drama, how long you continue to be the character? Just during the play? May be sometime after? Hopefully, you will not continue to act out your role outside of play.

Do you feel bad if you have to kill somebody as part of the drama? Do you take it personally and grieve over it if somebody treats you badly just due to his or her role in the drama? I am sure you will laugh away these questions.

Yes, I think we are all smart enough to see the absurdity of taking this drama analogy too far. We get it boss, we say. We act in a drama and we drop it off when we leave it. We do not carry that along with us rest of our working day.

How about the big drama called LIFE? Where does our so called wisdom go when we have to act out the drama called life? All of us have a role to play, it's all scripted, lines are given, scenes are written, we may not know the exact details of this one really large DRAMA but we will instinctively play our role, our dialogs, our acts whether we like it or not. Instead of understanding our role, lines and scenes well and playing the role to best of our abilities, we start brooding over the drama, our role, director, how the director is doing a shabby job. Thinking like this on everything except our role, we create misery for ourselves. In drama, if you get a role to experience a lot of suffering, just because you act the suffering does not mean that you have to go through all the pains. No, we say. We have become the role itself. If the role has to act out the suffering, for whatever reasons, we make the suffering real and grieve over it. If we are smart, we see suffering for what it is. It is the suffering that role in the drama has to act out and you are that role. You are not expected to feel that pain anything more than what is needed to bring the best in you.

Do you hate the villain of the drama? No, you don't. He is another actor like you. Since he suits the role well, that role of villain has been given to him. As part of his role, he indulges in all sorts of bad things. He blows up building, he sends suicide bombers, he hijacks planes, he fights civil wars etc.  You bear bad treatment meted out to you by the villain. If the script requires, you go and kill the villain in the drama. After all this, you will probably have a drink with the villain and rest of your crew after the drama is over.

So, the people who we think as bad people are nothing but actors like us who play that particular role. OK, if the script require, we will go and kill them as we go and kill terrorists. But, we do not hate a fellow actor for playing his role.

I do not know where I picked up this drama analogy. Probably from one of the works of Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda. But, nothing explains life better than seeing it as a drama and acting our role to the best of our abilities per the flawless direction of GOD.


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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Plenty of good books

Ever since I got my lovely Amazon Kindle, I have been reading my way to glory:) Some of the books I read and recommend are :

97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts by Davis Barbee (Author) - Excellent collection of project management wisdom from several veteran project managers.

The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality) by Eknath Easwaran - Simple yet most notable translation of great ancient epic by my spiritual teacher  Sri EE. For extensive commentary, please consider reading the three volume set (Bhagvadgita for Daily Living) by Sri Easwaran.

The Blood of Lambs: A Former Terrorist's Memoir of Death and Redemption by Kamal Saleem and Lynn Vincent - Heart touching memoir of a former Palestinian militant. Now the author (i.e. former militant) is a reformed man who is on the lecture circuit to talk about and against radical Islam. Great read for all middle eastern political junkies (like me).

The Essential Swami Ramdas by Swami Ramdas and Rebecca Manring - Collection of essays of Swami Ramdas. Great spiritual wisdom from a great guru who founded Anandashram near Mangalore.

It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life Is Making Us Sick by Greg Gibson - Nice book on latest discoveries in the field of genome and related research. Written in a way so that common people can understand the complex stuff.. Good book.

High On Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips - Pretty disturbing and unsettling autobiography from Mackenzie Phillips, a Hollywood star. This book is going to haunt the reader for a long time. Kudos to the author for daring to bare (her life).

Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded--and What We Need to Do to Remake Them by John Perkins - Nice book by the author of previously very famous 'Confessions of an Economic Hit man'. Expected much more from Perkins. Feels like the previous book redistilled. But, still Perkins does a good job of explaining how we screwed ourselves and how we are still not learning from our mistakes which lead to current economic mess.

How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali by Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood, and Patanjali - This is a true jewel. It really takes great minds to write a book that attempts to interpret the original work of Sage Patanjali. The authors have done a fabulous job. This is a real treat for anyone who wants to understand more about life in general. Sure to answer lot of nagging questions. If you approach this book with an open mind, I bet you will emerge with many good answers and refreshing perspectives. Master piece and classic.

Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation by Nandan Nilekani - Nice book by one of the founders of Indian IT giant Infosys. Reads well. Author has done a good job of collecting a lot of data and info and traces how India has gotten where it is now and what can be done to take it to the next level. Refreshing read.

JFK And Sam: The Connection Between the Giancana And Kennedy Assassinations by Antoinette Giancana, John R. Hughes, and Thomas H. - Interesting book that looks at mafia angle to JFK assassination. Pretty interesting details about JFK and his links to Chicago mobster Sam Giancana. Strong conspiracy theory emerges when we learn that Sam Giancana himself was bumped off just before he was to appear before the senate committee probing JFK assassination  in late '70s. Great read.

Karma and Reincarnation: The Wisdom of Yogananda, Volume 2 (v. 2) by Paramhansa Yogananda - Nice little book on a very complex subject.

Managing with the Power of NLP: Neurolinguistic Programming; A Model for Better Management (2nd Edition) by David Molden - Loaded book. Takes an interesting look at NLP and how it can be used to improve our daily lives. Takes a quite bit of work, time and attention to really get the stuff in this book :)

Marilyn Monroe: Murder - by Consent: A Psychologist's Journey With Death by Jack V. Hattem - Nice book by a psychologist who was part a team that  looked at Monroe's death from psychology point of view. Does not get into any of the interesting, lip smacking conspiracy theories. Sticks nicely to pure psychology and attempts to present a balanced view of Monroe's poor state of mind and how that state of mind might have been played out by people who just wanted her to go. It is like giving a gentle push to an already dilapidated wall. It was ready to fall and your push was only a pretext. Probably same thing happened with Marilyn Monroe as well. She has major  psycho problems. She was abusing medicines. She was close to self-destruction. Somebody pushed right buttons and she played into that scheme and took a her own life. Nice read although not a fast read.

My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror by Louis J. Freeh - Nice autobiography by former FBI director.

My Life and Work - An Autobiography of Henry Ford by Henry Ford - Impressive book. Ford was clearly ahead of his times. He writes very candidly about his management philosophy, profit v/s general good, people, global welfare etc.  If Ford, as a company, has survived while GM has not, it must be because there are still people at Ford who have an iota of wisdom of its founder. Great book.

On the Trail of the JFK Assassins: A Revealing Look at America's Most Infamous Unsolved Crime by Dick Russell - Another nice book on JFK assassination. Probably the first book to identify who really pulled the trigger on that fatal shot which blew JFK's head off.

The PayPal Wars: Battles With Ebay, the Media, the Mafia, And the Rest of Planet Earth by Eric M. Jackson - A book by an early Paypal veteran chronicling how Paypal got started, how it grew, how it battled with eBay, how the acquisition happened etc.

Raid on the Sun: Inside Israel's Secret Campaign that Denied Saddam the Bomb by Rodger Claire - Excellent thriller of a book on an Israeli operation. It was an audacious operation to say the least. Flying over 1200 miles without refueling, flying over several enemy countries, escaping all those radars, cleanly bombing Saddam's nuclear reactor and returning safely. Once again, dare devil Israelis succeeded. If you want to know how they went about the whole operation, their pains, their creativity, their determination and their commitment, read this book. This is sure to tell you why and how that tiny nation has survived and prospered despite all  odds. It also makes a case why it sometimes necessary to be on the offensive rather than defensive all the time. Israelis always take the fight to where terrorists are and don't give them a minute of relief to sit down and plan their next attack against Israel. That's why they have succeeded. Great book on a great operation by a great nation!

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli - Beautiful bio-epic on Marilyn Monroe. Does not get much into conspiracy theories around her death. Simply goes about chronicling her life with a lot interesting facts about her life. For example India finds two references. While Marilyn was being borne her grandmother (mother's mother) was in India. Another reference to India. When President Kennedy and Monroe spent time together for the first time, first lady Jackie Kennedy was in India and called JFK when JFK and Monroe were together in a cottage in Palm Springs, CA. Many such interesting trivia makes this large book an interesting read.

The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World by L. Fletcher Prouty - Dare to bare it all book. A lot of good info. Boring style. Kindle's text-to-speech is the savior.

See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism by Robert Baer - Excellent memoir of a former CIA agent. Baer packs a lot of anguish and frustration about how CIA became way too much focused on technology and in the process ignored human intelligence and how such attitude led to events like 9/11. Good read. A lot references to important events in the middle east in 80's and 90's as the author worked extensively there. A few interesting incidents in India too as Baer worked in India also and recruited agents who nicely gave him the stuff he wanted - stealing from Indian secret files.

Six Minutes to Freedom by Kurt Muse and John Gilstrap - one of the best books on a high voltage hostage rescue mission in Panama by US special forces. Author Kurt Muse was an American living in Panama. He was active in organizing an uprising against dictator Noriga. He got jailed. US had to rescue him carefully while they mounted the operation to remove Noriega. This book beautifully chronicles author's life in Panama, his family's courage and bravery while he was arrested and jailed, how his, then, teenage daughter escaped from the clutches of Norigea henchmen to inform her mother in the US, how the family ran from pillar to post and all power centers in Washington to get Muse rescued and how the final operation unfolded. It was a dare devil operation. The helicopter which was supposed to carry Kurt Muse and Delta forces got badly hit while taking off after the Delta forces had neutralized jail guards and rescued their hostage. So, the copter could not fly. They drove it to safety on the streets of Panama City. It may seem funny to imagine a helicopter being driven like a car on the streets. But, read the book and you will become an occupant in the helicopter with bullets going right above your head. That's how the authors have dramatized it. Great read!

Spiritual Relationships: The Wisdom of Yogananda, Volume 3 by Paramhansa Yogananda - Beautiful little book by the master. Focused on relationships. Relationships are a necessary pain. You can not escape them and the pain they inflict on every human being. Of course, there is supposed to be joy underneath all the pain that relationships bring. This book and guru Yogananda's timeless wisdom may help understand the real stuff so that we can try to see relationships for what they are and how to make most out of the relationships which are mostly preordained.

Third Class in Indian Railways by Mahatma Gandhi - Collection of essays by Mahatma Gandhi on variety of subjects. First essay is about his experiences in Indian railways. Rest of the essays are about Swadeshi, Champaran movement etc. Makes an interesting read. Kindle edition is available for free on AMZN.

Trail of the Octopus by Lester K. Coleman and Donald Goddard - One of the many books that came out after Pan Am 103 flight was destroyed by  a bomb in mid air in 1988. As usual, there are many conspiracy theories. Ultimately blame was tied to Libya and Gadaffi. Author, Coleman, was a clandestine agent working in the middle east during that time. This book is his take on the series of events that lead to the bombing of flight 103 and how what he wanted reveal became something powerful people could not swallow. After that, those powerful forces went after Coleman and he ran away from USA and is still living somewhere in Europe to escape charges pending against him in the USA. Decent book for conspiracy aficionados.

Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam by Arun Tiwari - Biography of former Indian President Abdul Kalaam. Very nicely traces his life as a scientist, technocrat and finally a president. Nice read. Free PDF versions floating on the net.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Traffic lights and wisdom behind the WAIT

Do you hate waiting at traffic lights? I think so if you are like most people. But, as mature people, we also understand that without traffic lights, it is not possible for many streets to cross each other and not possible to manage the traffic at all. So, for the greater good, authorities make us wait for our turn to cross the street and so on. This logic seems simple. Right?

But, why does this not occur to us when we have to wait at life's traffic signals? I am sure you have run into some or the other kind of waits in life too. Something is stalled at work. Things are not moving. You are frustrated. You wonder why things are not moving at the rate they should be moving. Why aren't people warming up to your ideas and embracing them? Why are not things happening, boss? You lament.

Think that you are at life's some traffic signal. You are waiting for your turn. You are not the center of this universe. There are many other things than trivial things you are worried about. You have to wait for your turn to get green light and drive on.

This perspective helps when things do not go  our way. So, what we do? Borrow the analogy from what we do while waiting at traffic lights. Be engaged. Watch the scenery around. Listen to good music. Listen to useful audio books. Do something to keep you productively occupied. But, always stay focused on the road. The moment light turns to green, you want to zip forward. So, do not get distracted.

Use the same principles when you get stuck at traffic lights of life too. Sometimes wait at a life's traffic lights seems way too long. Things do not move at all in some cases for years in a row. It can be very painful without having a bigger perspective. Know that you and your petty desires are as inconsequential as a spec of dust in the grand scheme of things. You can not and will not get any special treatment. You got to wait. So, all you can do is to make the wait a fun one and a beneficial one. Turn to things that you enjoy. Of course, harmless things only. Do not do anything foolish out of frustration or depression or anything that follows the wait in life that you can not understand.

Even while waiting at a traffic light we know that the wait is going to be only momentary. We know that very soon we are going to on the freeway and then we can cruise for miles at a stretch comfortably. Life is like that. It's all well planned. If you are stuck waiting at a traffic signal, free way is not too far way. You will very soon be on life's freeway too. Of course, at some point, you will have to get out of the freeway and get on local streets to get to where you are going. Slowing down and speeding up are both parts of life. Both are required. As nobody can enjoy day without night, same thing with halt and progress in life.

This metaphor can be taken even further. Sometimes we get stuck due to some other reasons. May be there is an accident. May be traffic is stopped for some other reason. These days we get real-time traffic advice on some GPS systems that are enabled with such capability. They can receive live traffic updates and advice you an alternative routes to take.

Even in life we get live traffic updates if we carefully listen. God sends enough live traffic updates. We are listening to damn music so loud that we fail to hear those updates. We are distracted by everything else that we forget to heed to God's advice to take alternate routes. But, if we care to listen, we sometimes can take alternate routes to reach our destination. Sometimes, things get too painful on some of the paths we take in life simply because that's not the right path for us at all. Have you found it very hard to make progress on some areas in life while you have been able to make progress in other areas with much less effort? There must be a reason for that. The area you are struggling is not the area that God wants you to progress. In God's grand scheme of things, you got a role to play and you are trying to play some other role. God has to stop you from doing that.


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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Enter the Past Tense: My Secret Life as a CIA Assassin Roland W. Haas

Are you intrigued by high-profile assassinations?After that hush hush talk about one or the other intelligence agency being behind such an assassination? Have you wondered how such things are orchestrated? Then, read this book and hear out from the mouth of a proverbial horse.

Very interesting and captivating book. The author served as a secret assassin for CIA. Of course, he is bound by rules and regulations about how much he can say about all that he did for CIA. But he has very masterfully written a great memoir which reads like a thriller. Do not expect to learn about any famous assassinations attributed to CIA or any other intelligence agency. But you can expect to learn  general information about how such things are carried out.

Little dated in the sense that events in this book take place during 1970s. So, unless you are very interested, it may bore you from time to time. The book also gives a nice overview of hippy culture back then and how hippies used to go around the world on a shoestring budget. In fact the author went around the world as hippy and carried out his hits on the way.

Risks and rewards of the profession are highlighted very well for anyone considering the profession:) Read authors plight after he was caught by Iranian authorities and faced the death squad. If not for timely intervention of his handler, the author would not been alive to write this book.

If you consider this is as the memoir of blue-collar assassin and liked it, you may also like to read memoir of a white-collar assassin in another excellent book - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins.


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The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist by Fred Jerome

Wow! what an eye opener of a book. If you thought, Einstein was welcomed into US with open arms and was accorded everything, read this book. As much as US and it's common people loved this brilliant scientist, there was a group of powerful people, under the paranoia of communist infiltration of US institutions, thought this gentle scientist was a communist spy. They did not just stop there. They spent a lot of resources and energy to see if they could nail Einstein as a communist spy.

This book is truly one of its kind. After FBI released secret files on Einstein a while back under freedom of information act, the author Jerome systematically poured over thousands and thousands of pages of documentation compiled on Einstein and came up with this nice book which is an eye-opener.

Einstein moved to US in 1930s from his native Germany after Hitler became powerful there and made life difficult for jews. Einstein was also a jew. By 1930s, Einstein was a household name in the scientific community. He had won Nobel prize in 1921. He was regularly coming to US as a guest professor at many leading universities. So, when things got hot for him and his family in the US, it was only natural that he looked at US for his next home.

Einstein was not just a brilliant scientist. He was a man of many talents and opinions. A scientist, philosopher, social scientist, economist etc. all rolled in one. He had strong opinions about socialism, war, atom bomb among many things that really made him stand out and attracted the attention of US government authorities.

Since he came from Germany and was not very much in support of USA building atom bomb, he was kept out of US atom bomb project which employed many of his peers from US and elsewhere. People also were not sure if he still kept any loyalty for his former homeland which was in war with rest of the world as part of world war II.

Einstein kept ruffling feathers with his outspoken views on every important issue. After the world war II, cold war picked up and a section of US went berserk with the paranoia about communism and how communism was going to take over US. So, a section of US society made up of powerful people including senators and government officials started vigilante movement to smoke out communists from wherever there are bring them to justice and thus protect US from being taken over by communism.

Einstein became victim of one such witch hunt. Since he was powerful in his own ways and more importantly had done nothing wrong at all, they could not inflict any harm on him but systematic persecution continued.

Makes an interesting read. Style of the book is not that interesting. Loses traction in many places due to poor narration. Make a really good read if you can hold on.


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The 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat

Beautiful novel by Indian novelist Chetan Bhagat.

Chetan Bhagat, who hit the literary scene a while ago by chronicling his IIT days into a novel, delivers another simple but nice novel. Simple but really enjoyable. He is truly a master story teller. It's amazing how he takes common things and instances like the demolition of a mosque, Indian middle class, nation's passion with cricket, communal riots, etc. and delivers a really nice novel.


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Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot

Another excellent book for John F Kennedy history junkies. Deals with many interesting stories about JFK and his brother Robert F Kennedy who was also assassinated under mysterious circumstances a few years later after JFK was assassinated.

Good read if you are looking for some captivating read on JFK, RFK, conspiracies, mafia etc. to spice up your reading.


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Barack, Inc.: Winning Business Lessons of the Obama Campaign by Barry Libert and Rick Faulk

This book examines what businesses and people running businesses can learn from the way in which Obama ran his presidential campaign successfully.

Very interesting and insightful book. You will learn how information technology and social networking, in particular, played a very important role in Obama's successful campaign. Do you know one of the Facebook's founders took time-off to lead IT efforts of Obama campaign?

The book does not just limit to Obama's focus on technology. Traditional but nevertheless very important aspects of management like soft skills, hard skills also figure prominently  in this book. There are many instances that authors bring out the best managerial qualities of Obama in terms of motivating his people, admitting the mistakes, reflecting on what went wrong and how to fix it.

Very well researched and very well written book. After (wrongly) understanding that political campaigns only meant behind-the-screen-operations, ugly mud slinging, attacks on character etc., this book is a refreshing read about probably the most successful political campaigns in recent times.

I think many of us who are always looking for bits of wisdom from anywhere will find this book interesting.


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some good books

The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists by Michael Ross (Author), Jonathan Kay (Author)

Excellent memoir by a spy who worked for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Very well written. The author, Ross, is a Canadian by birth, who went to Israel by chance, liked the country so much so that he chose to convert to Judaism, became a Israeli citizen and then chose to serve in Israeli armed forces and then in famous Mossad. In this book, the author very tactfully writes about his life in Mossad. As a former secret officer, it is not possible to write about all his work due to its sensitive nature. That's where the authors excel. It's indeed an art to write interestingly when your hands are tied by code of ethics. A great book if you like to read about real life spies and their lives.

The Company She Keeps by Georgia Durante - Simply incredible story of one gutsy woman- the author- Georgia Durante. I could not really imagine one single person could go through so many testing times, trials and tribulations in one life time. Georgia not only went through many such tests but also emerged stronger and wiser from each experience. 'That does not kill you only makes you stronger' is no more true than in Georgia's case. Georgia grew up in Rochester. She went on to become one of the top models in 1970s. She was the famous 'Kodak Girl' for several years. She worked in other show biz related stuff. However, while she was going through her life, she also ran into many interesting people and situations created by them. Can you imagine a top model getting involved with mafia characters? On top of it, getting married to someone who was a pretty big guy in mafia those days? How about being the get away driver on some heists? Georgia had all those experiences and came pretty close to death many times. Then when she thought she was finally out of mafia related mess, a psycho gets into her life and becomes totally obsessed with her. This psycho nearly killed her in his obsession for her. Police could not help much against this maniac. So, Georgia had to go back to mob to get some help to get rid of this guy. Then FBI which was after mob was after Georgia. They wanted to cut some deals too. If you do not cooperate with FBI, they can set mob against you by spreading rumors that you are working against the mob. If you do cooperate with FBI, mob will come after you. What did Georgia do and how she came out of it? Then Georgia's daughter, who grew up in such dangerous conditions, became a drug addict. Georgia really did not need this. So, she put her in some de-addiction center in Montana. In the mean time, she was having enough problems from her third husband. While she thought, she finally met a good man, he died in a plane crash. Since Georgia had trusted all her money with her last man, she does not ready access to her own money. So, she is almost destitute once again! This goes on and on again. Ordinary people would have surely given up but not this gutsy woman. Finally, things start to change for better for Georgia. She now runs a very successful movie related business employing several people. Finally her life has been back on track. This is truly an inspiring book. At the end, like anybody who has gone through so much in one life time, Georgia also gets philosophical. She delivers some good points about life and God's choices etc. All in all a great read! If you watch bollywood films, have you watched 'Chandni Bar'? You may find some similarities. That movie ends in tragedy and in this one there is some good happening at the end.

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin - Last year's financial disaster on the wall street is a great material for writers. As expected, many books have already come and many more are in the process. As expected, many writers wanted to be the first to come out with a book that chronicled those heady some 60 days in September and October of 2008 when everyone thought the world (at least the financial) has come to an end. It did seem so. With a major bank failing everyday, shotgun mergers between banks brokered by federal government, banks being nationalized. Everyone asked what's going on and nobody really knew other than what we read in news papers. No complete picture. This book, really a big one in size, systematically chronicles the disaster as seen by some of the very people who were part of it. All credit to the author who has beautifully dramatized the book. You really get a ringside seat and watch the meltdown blow by blow. Great book!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by Turner William, Jonn Christian

Recently finished reading this book. Earlier, I was reading some books on late president John F Kennedy(JFK). Did not know much about his younger brother Robert F Kennedy. Was intrigued to learn that Robert Kennedy (RFK) was the man who made JFK the president by completely owning the management of JFK's presidential campaign. JFK knew his brother was probably the only person he could rely on for anything. So, he made RFK the attorney general in JFK's government.

JFK did not live to complete his term. He was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. That's a different story. There are may conspiracy theories and what not. Just search on the net or try to search for books. There are way to many books on JFK's assassination. It is amazing that it close to 50 years since JFK's assassination, new information and books keep coming along. Anyway, RFK was devastated after his brother JFK's death. He went into shell for a while. He knew he could not continue as attorney general under Lyndon B Johnson who was vice president at the time of JFK's death and became the president afterwards. So, RFK put his life on slow gear for a while.

It always bothered RFK that he or nobody really knew who killed his brother JFK and for what. There were many theories. Cuban exiles might have done it because they were disgruntled at JFK for not supporting them enough to overthrow Castro. Mob might have killed JFK because mob helped him get elected and after becoming president he did not return favors. Soviets, Israelis and many more possibilities. RFK was always trying to find the real killers using his informal contacts and connections. Some powerful people who probably had something to do with JFK's assassination did not like RFK continuing to pursue his private investigation into finding out who assassinated JFK and for what.

RFK had presidential ambitions. But, not in 1968. Like everyone else, he thought Johnson would go for re-election. So, RFK thought he would run in 1972. But, out of the blue, to everyone's surprise, Johnson announced that he was not going to run. So, democratic ticket was wide open. Johnson had his favorite in Herbert Humprey. There was another candidate Eugene McCarthy. RFK was startled. He could not wait any longer. He had to run for the president of USA. So, he too announced his candidacy for democratic ticket. This disappointed others because he chose to do it very late after others had made plans thinking that he was not going to.

Deciding to run for democratic ticket in 1968 probably sealed RFK's fate. As said earlier, people knew that he was still investigating JFK's death on his own. He did not believe in the hogwash of Warren report  that parroted out what nobody believed about JFK's death. So, vested interests who were responsible for JFK's death were very concerned that if RFK became the president, he would go full speed and their fate might get in danger. So, it is said the powerful people started to plan a mission that would send RFK also to the place where they had sent his brother JFK for not playing well with those powerful forces.

RFK started doing well in democratic primaries. In a very short time, he got significant lead over his other democratic opponents. He had just won the all important California primary. After winning the California primary, he gave a speech to his cheering supporters at a hotel in Los Angeles. After the ceremony, he was getting out to go home. He was passing through hotel's kitchen to use the back door. Suddenly a man leapt from nowhere and pumped bullets into RFK. RFK was badly wounded. After a brief time at hospital, RFK was gone. Dead. Assassinated very much like his brother JFK was.

Well, authorities caught someone called Srihan Srihan. He was a palestinian american. They said he killed RFK because he was angry at RFK and America for supporting Israel against Palestinians. He was tried and sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to life. The man is still serving his time in some prison in California.

But, was RFK's killing that simple? This is the question the book tries to ask. It makes a case that Srihan was not the only person involved. Probably there were few more assassins. Because there were bullets fired at RFK from the front and back. Lone killer would not have been able to do so under normal circumstances. So, authors started investigating. They pursued conspiracy theories. Was Srihan programmed using hypnosis to act under the orders of his remote controller? This question gets very interesting when authors systematically explore the possibility using medical experts and some damning evidence found with Srihan. Srihan's note book and his mindless scribbling of hatred against RFK beg more questions if he was brain-washed. It is interesting that there was a novel and a movie based on the novel called 'Manchurian Candidate'. In the movie, same thing happens. A man with no motives is hypnotized  into killing the presidential candidates. Which came first? Novel or the conspiracy theory? By the way, Manchurian Candidate was re-made recently. Good movie to watch.

Lot of questions. Few answers. RFK's death did not generate as much curiosity as his brother JFK's death did. Soon after that americans got mired in Richard Nixon scandal. Nobody paid much attention to JFK and RFK assassinations.

Good book. It could have been a great political thriller if the writing style were more captivating. It reads more like a police report than a book. Gets boring at times. Thankfully, I read it on my Kindle. So, when I got bored I just asked Kindle to read it for me.


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga

This novel, after it won Brooker prize, had generated so much news that I had to read it. Time for that came recently. It's a nice novel. Light read. At least for me, it did not come across as something that is going to haunt for a long time. You know it is in the same league as one of those books you buy at the airport, read it on the plane and never think about it again.

Aravinda Adiga has been a familiar figure to me because he used to write for Money magazine. I have been a subscriber for Money magazine for long time. Always used to wonder who this guy is. Due to his last name, it was clear that he is from the same state in India as I am from - Karnataka. After he wrote this novel and won Brooker prize, many details started coming out about him. No wonder there was an India, Karnataka, Mangalore connection for this Adiga.

Novel is a pretty neat one. Story of a village boy who become a car driver of a rich boss, experiences life very differently than rest of his folks and then ultimately starts some business supporting larger outsourcing industry. That's it. This story has been told nicely. India has been described vividly especially for those who never visited or understood India and rapid changes in last few years. It seemed to me like that movie 'Slum Dog Millionaire'. Tell a simple story using raw image of India. Looks like rawness sells. May be.

Good read.


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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Amazon Kindle is not paying me anything to write this:)

Do you like to read? Then you may really like e-book reader from called Kindle.  I got this device couple of weeks back. Amount of reading I have gotten done in these two weeks is probably more than what I would  read in 2-3 months. Easily. It's a different matter about the usefulness of all that I read. But, still :) I have been reading so much on Kindle that reading has taken priority over blogging. I would probably need a few weeks to write, even briefly, about all the books I read and reading.

For me Kindle is really useful for several reasons. First, Text-To-Speech feature. Most the e-Books have this and Kindle makes use of it. When reading paper books, I get bored after a 30 minutes or so. Mind wanders. Needs a break. It is difficult to keep going. With Kindle, just ask it to read it for you. When your interest comes back, you can stop that and read it yourself. Text-To-Speech feature is well developed in Kindle. It does not sound like some Robot reading. Pretty neat.

Secondly, the regular 6" Kindle I have is excellent for speed reading. In speed reading, we are taught to scan as opposed to reading word by word. Scanning and reading in whole as opposed to reading word by word works best when your area of coverage is small. Kindle screen is best suited for it. With large fonts, there are like 10-15 short lines that fit into the screen. Very easy to scan and speed read. You can skip easily when there is not much substance.

OK, e-Books cost money. Although there are several thousand free e-Books available, if you want to read latest books, you will have to pay. Good thing is a lot of books on are $10 or less. This is like more than 50% saving over paper book price. On top of it, you will get the book instantly using free wireless connectivity that is part of the Kindle's price. itself has several old books, that are free. You can Google and you will find several sites with free e-books.

You can convert most of your standard word, PDF etc. documents to Kindle format using several free tools available. Mobipocket Creator is the tool that I use. OK, these converted documents may not be as slick as professionally crafted e-Books with features like jump to page, scanning for words etc. But, you can read them easily and comfortably. This is a great advantage if you have access to online libraries like Safari.Com. My employer provides full access to Safari.Com. My membership allows limited number of full downloads. So, I can download latest books, in full, as a PDF from, convert the PDF and transfer it to Kindle. This way, I have avoided buying some books. Connection to computer is through USB and works without any problem.

All in all a great gadget especially if you like to read. There is absolutely nothing not to like about Kindle. If you like to read a lot, get one for yourself. Of course, if you want to study seriously, then nothing beats paper book. But, if you want to read broadly for knowledge and/or entertainment, then reading on Kindle will get you more reading done in less time.

Kindle is still quite pricey. Price has come down quite a bit over last one year. Also, make sure you search for refurbished Kindles. itself sells refurbished Kindles. You can get them for like 30% less than brand new Kindle.  Refurbished ones are as good as new ones as long as they are sold by itself.  Be careful if you are planning to buy a second-hand one from a third party.

Cheers and happy reading!

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents by Minal Hajratwala

A very refreshing and interesting book about Indian diaspora spread all across the globe. I have always been very interested to hear about someone's personal account of how their near and dear ones settled all across the globe. Every family in India these days has somebody or the other in popular countries like USA, Canada or UK. But, what has always interested me is about those Indian who have made some of the most obscure countries their home. That too for decades and in some case for centuries. I have seen Gujarati traders of East Africa who have been trading there for generations. Similarly I was intrigued by cricketers of Indian origin in other countries.

This is the book that describes about author's extended family's migration from India to Fiji, USA, Hong Kong, New Zealand and South Africa. Author herself was born in the USA, spent time in New Zealand and then returned to the USA. Her parents grew up in Fiji.

If you read this book, you will understand how Indian diaspora got to where it is now. You will learn about indentured labor which was so essential for colonialism especially after the abolition of slavery. Although this reads more like one particular family's memoir, you will surely relate to it and understand a lot about the general phenomenon.

It is usually hard to keep readers interested when things become very particular to one's own family. Author does a fabulous job. She does not write pages after pages about her family alone. She just uses their names and incidents as a backdrop but tries very hard to bring out things of commonality and importance relevant to the heart of the matter - that's Indian diaspora all over the world.

This book reads more like a nice novel than somebody's family memoir. That's what got me finish this book. I must say I read it in record time as well. Fairly large book. But, the style and narration is very good. You become part of the book. Characters become very familiar. You will want to know more and more about them. Very well crafted.


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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wonderfully fair

"It is better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than buying a fair company at a wonderful price." - Warren Buffet

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Praise & Criticize

"Praise by name. But, criticize by category." - Warren Buffet

This works. Praise by name. Sometimes we fail to praise an individual because we may be concerned that praising an individual may affect the team dynamics. As long as we over do it and make our praise gets into the head of that person, that's ok.


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How often you think about death? If you are like the most, hardly ever. For many people, death becomes a familiar topic in the middle age. Parents pass away. Elderly people whom you saw while growing up pass away. Relatives pass away. I think once after you are 30 years or so, news of someone or other's death becomes all too familiar. In last 3 years alone, I got so much more familiar with death than anytime before with the passing away of close relatives, family friends etc.

Death is a reminder to 'make rest of your life best of your life.' Everyone will continue to be alive till the purpose they are born to serve is incomplete. Most of us, anyway, do not know what we are born for. Not a blame on us. Sometimes the divine force just drives us towards that purpose without us knowing about it consciously. Risk is that sometimes if the purpose becomes overtly clear, we may unnnecessarily resist and make life more painful than it has to be. As they say - 'pain is inevitable. suffering is not.'


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Secret Language of Business: How to Read Anyone in 3 Seconds or Less by Kevin Hogan

You have heard that most of the communications is non-verbal. This book will convince you of that. Excellent mix of academic studies and practical applications.

This book methodically examines non-verbal behaviors and discusses how they originate, where they originate, how to read them, how to use them effectively. The book looks at non-verbal behavior, popularly termed as body language, in day-to-day life's scenarios.

An eye opening and perspective changing landmark book. Very rarely a book achieves such a sweet balance between academic theory and practical applications. This is one such book.

Posting some of my notes as mind maps.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fearless Change: Patterns for introducing new ideas

Fearless Change: Patterns for introducing new ideas by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising

Started reading 'Fearless Change: Patterns for introducing new ideas'. Seems like an interesting book. Contains a library patterns which may be useful for introducing change.

Posting the notes (in the form of mind map) of first 3 chapters.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cool Down: Getting Further by Going Slower by Steve Prentice

Refreshing book for today's sped up world.

You got to slow down to go faster. No brainer. Right? If so, why on the earth people are getting sped up more and more. Are they achieving more and more? Hell no. Any increase in so called productivity is a total sham. People like anything else can not violate the laws of nature. Being sped up constantly may give an impression of activity but activity is not accomplishment.

Do you feel guilty when you take time off or work at a more sustainable pace? Please do not. That's your natural rhythm and keep to it. Of course, by all means, find ways to better your life by doing things more effectively. But, do not give into the fact that you need to work 10-12-16 hour days to be successful. Let alone successful, you will burn out and die (literally) if you keep such a lifestyle for too long.

This is a great book for all of us who tend to caught up with event-to-event living mind set. Take time to break that robotic lifestyle. Wake up, smell the coffee and stare at the blue-sky. In fact blue-skying is a technique advocated in this book to slow down and enjoy the life.

Also attaching some of the notes I made (as mind maps) while reading this book.


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Mind map

Mind mapping is a technique to collect, record and organize ideas. It's a very powerful tool. Now with the availability of several free and commercial software to do mind mapping, it's much easier to put this very effective technique into practice.

Mind mapping is a very simple technique. Central idea is to build around the core. For example, let's say you start reading a book. You glance through the book and record the theme of the book at the center. Then secondary ideas are recorded all around the center and connected by lines which can denote relationship.

Beauty of mind mapping is that it first lets to you collect as many ideas as possible and then lets you organize them as appropriate. 'To get the best idea, first you have to get a lot of ideas' - this is at the heart of brainstorming. Linear way of recording ideas impedes the brain because brain does not think linearly. It builds connections between ideas. When we start recording ideas linearly, we actually impede the free flow of ideas. By starting to mind map, we give the freedom that brain craves for over the artificial order that we want to follow. Once we dump all ideas randomly on a paper and look that random zig zag picture, sometimes great insights come into picture.

I always used to find that despite spending a lot of time reading on variety of subjects I did not get the return back on the time spent. When I had to refer back to something, I had to remember the book on that topic, go back, look through the contents and then refresh my knowledge and understanding. That was a good start but I still wanted better return on investment. So, I started making high level notes in the form of a mind map and I am astonished to say the least about how effective it is in terms of getting the big picture. These day I fire up 'Free mind', an open source free program, on my laptop as I read something making one or two notes about each paragraph I read. It takes little longer but I can always go back to refer to them. That's where the maximum return on investment is.

Since I learnt that liner note taking or jotting down points impedes free flow of ideas, I use mind maps to come up with presentations, long e-mails, plans etc. Once I have a mind map on any topic, I can expand or reduce it to the level I want.

You can read more about mind mapping at -

You can also search on YouTube for some excellent videos on mind mapping. Also, look for excellent books by Tony Buzan. He systematized the art of mind mapping and his books are really good.

You can download 'Free Mind' software from It's a great tool.

Below is a mind map of few chapters from the book 'The secret language of business: How to read people....". Just to illustrate that it does not take much time, I read about 80% of the book quickly in probably 4-5 hours over 3-4 sessions. Made the mind map as went along. Beauty was every time I picked up the book, I could scan the mind map for a few seconds and remember very well about the past reading and dive into the next part with complete understanding.

Free mind tool lets you export into variety of formats. You can export into a PDF and share your mind maps with people who may not have free mind.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America by William Kleinknecht

Interesting book about former president Late Ronald Regan and his legacy.

Since American society is now going through a mega transformation, no wonder it is of interest to many people to look at what brought us to this state. It is not necessarily a bad state but one that is making people really wonder if all the prosperity and wealth that we enjoyed over last 20 years was real. Whether it was real or not, how did we get here? What we lost in the process? Were the gains worth it compared to societal decline that we fail to see? Who sowed the seeds of the gradual decay? How did their choices and decision started off the decaying process?

A lot of questions. Witch hunting has to begin somewhere.

This book takes a critical look at Regan and his policies. It tries to make a case for how his policies started the process of general rot in the society. How his policies favored the rich and screwed the poor. How Regan and his cronies manipulated American population. Regan is regarded as the person who deregulated many things and gave more free hand to private enterprises. In that process how he let them make tonnes of money at the expense of common people. How he and his cronies engineered the systematic transfer of wealth from tax payers to some favored rich. It goes on and on.

Makes an interesting read. Regan was the president almost 20 years back. It is hard pin all the blame on him but one thing is sure the era of excesses began during that time. When going was good, everyone was happy. When things turned sour in 2008, no wonder we were left asking how we ever got into this stage. So, from that perspective, it does not hurt to ask tough questions of ourselves and our leaders.

Very well written book. Reads fast. Simple and lucid narration. Good book if you are interested in socio-political history over last 30 years.


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Monday, July 13, 2009

50th year anniversary of Sri Eknath Easwaran's arrival in the US

Recently Blue Mountain Center of Meditation (BMCM) ( celebrated 50th anniversary of Easwaran's arrival in the US. It was a very simple program. 150 or so close friends of BMCM gathered at the beautiful 'ashram' of BMCM in Tomales, CA to commemorate the event. Very nice event. I was lucky and fortunate to be considered as one of the friends of BMCM. So, I got to attend. Anyone who chooses to get close those great people at BMCM, is welcomed with open arms. There is nothing more to it. All you need is a friendly attitude and some sort of commitment to Easwaran and his teachings. Rest all follows. Good things.

Sri Easwaran was an accomplished English professor at the university of Nagpur. He was a successful writer, teacher and a radio personality. He was an excellent teacher of English literature. His interests were varied. He read widely and wrote widely.

He had a chance to come to the US in 1959 as Fulbright scholar. He was first allotted University of Minnesota. He dazzled academics there. Since he had come to study about Emerson, people at University of Minnesota recommended him to get transferred to University of California at Berkeley after seeing his prowess in the area of Emerson and his works. So, Easwaran landed at UC, Berkeley. What followed is history.

He was already pretty deep into spirituality. He practiced it very diligently. It did not take much time for people to notice something marvelous in him. A set of very devoted and dedicated people started hanging out with him. He was also looking for similar people. He started teaching them about spirituality and how he saw life. Having excellent command over English helped a lot to convey rich Indian spiritualism to western audience. Thus was born Blue Mountain Center for Meditation.

BMCM, which started in an apartment in Berkeley, later moved to a 250 acre ranch in Tomales where it stands now. Easwaran spent 40 odd years writing several best seller books. He wrote excellent books on Hindu classics such as Bhagvadgita, Upanishads, Dhammapada etc. He did not box himself to one school or the other. He read widely and assimilated best from anywhere and everywhere. So, he went on to write about Christian and Islamic mystics also. He also wrote about people like Gandhi and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who had impressed him a lot by their activities during Indian freedom struggle.

BMCM put together a very nice program of selected videos which chronicle the master and his accomplishments after he came to the US. You can view them at I hope you will enjoy watching them.

If you are interested, you can pick up a book or two of Easwaran and see if he appeals to you. If you like, you can then attend retreats that BMCM conducts all over the US. Retreats are a great place to get started seriously with your 'sadhana'.


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50th year anniversary of Sri Eknath Easwaran's arrival in the US

Recently Blue Mountain Center of Meditation (BMCM) ( celebrated 50th anniversary of Easwaran's arrival in the US. It was a very simple program. 150 or so close friends of BMCM gathered at the beautiful 'ashram' of BMCM in Tomales, CA to commemorate the event. Very nice event. I was lucky and fortunate to be considered as one of the friends of BMCM. So, I got to attend. Anyone who chooses to get close those great people at BMCM, is welcomed with open arms. There is nothing more to it. All you need is a friendly attitude and some sort of commitment to Easwaran and his teachings. Rest all follows. Good things.

Sri Easwaran was an accomplished English professor at the university of Nagpur. He was a successful writer, teacher and a radio personality. He was an excellent teacher of English literature. His interests were varied. He read widely and wrote widely.

He had a chance to come to the US in 1959 as Fulbright scholar. He was first allotted University of Minnesota. He dazzled academics there. Since he had come to study about Emerson, people at University of Minnesota recommended him to get transferred to University of California at Berkeley after seeing his prowess in the area of Emerson and his works. So, Easwaran landed at UC, Berkeley. What followed is history.

He was already pretty deep into spirituality. He practiced it very diligently. It did not take much time for people to notice something marvelous in him. A set of very devoted and dedicated people started hanging out with him. He was also looking for similar people. He started teaching them about spirituality and how he saw life. Having excellent command over English helped a lot to convey rich Indian spiritualism to western audience. Thus was born Blue Mountain Center for Meditation.

BMCM, which started in an apartment in Berkeley, later moved to a 250 acre ranch in Tomales where it stands now. Easwaran spent 40 odd years writing several best seller books. He wrote excellent books on Hindu classics such as Bhagvadgita, Upanishads, Dhammapada etc. He did not box himself to one school or the other. He read widely and assimilated best from anywhere and everywhere. So, he went on to write about Christian and Islamic mystics also. He also wrote about people like Gandhi and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who had impressed him a lot by their activities during Indian freedom struggle.

BMCM put together a very nice program of selected videos which chronicle the master and his accomplishments after he came to the US. You can view them at I hope you will enjoy watching them.

If you are interested, you can pick up a book or two of Easwaran and see if he appeals to you. If you like, you can then attend retreats that BMCM conducts all over the US. Retreats are a great place to get started seriously with your 'sadhana'.


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Monday, July 06, 2009

Passion & Passionate

"Without passion you can not achieve anything." "Passionate people make all the difference." "Passionate people fire up everyone around them."

We hear a lot of such stuff. Business books and business leaders (such as Jack Welch of GE) go on to say that 'it may not be fair but passionate and energetic people tend to be more successful than genuinely brilliant people.'

I have observed a few things about passion and passionate people.

Some people think they are passionate just because they are attached to their opinion so closely that  their opinions have become their second skin. Do you really call that passion? I doubt it. I call it 'uncalled for stubbornness'. Nothing convinces them to change their opinions. If something other than their opinion is thrust upon them (say from their superiors), they will half heartedly follow it or find every way to sabotage it. Is that passion? I do not think so.

I think real passion is doing whatever it takes to reach the end goal without worrying too much about the means (as long as they are legal and not immoral). That means if you have to put your own opinions aside for the sake of common good and rally behind somebody else's opinion, you just do that. You do that with all energy, enthusiasm giving your very best. That's passion. That's dedication and that's success.

I think it suffices it to say one has to be passionate about his or her goals and not passionate only about his/her opinions. If somebody makes a case to change your way which may help achieve your goals more optimally, you do so. That's passion.


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Sunday, July 05, 2009

A case of exploding magoes

A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Vintage) by Mohammed Hanif

Very interesting book. If you are from the Indian sub-continent and if you have any interest in the intriguing political scene of 1980s, you will surely enjoy this book.

What's this book about? It is supposed to be a novel. But, it is based on the real life events that led to the death of dictator Zia Ul Haq who ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988.

Except one or two characters, all other characters in this book are real. Zia Ul Haq is real. His ever powerful ISI chief Akthar is real and so are many others. Other two characters may be real too but since they are not known very well, I think they are introduced to make sure the book comes as a novel.

Book reads like fine political thriller. At times it gets comical especially if you know how politics and idiot politicians of the subcontinent operate.

After reading the book, if you still have some lingering doubts, do read more about Haq in Wikipedia at -

His assassination, conspiracy theories, who may have played part in his killing etc. are very well discussed again in Wikipedia at -

Mohammed Hanif, as the BBC head for Urdu service, I am sure, knows far more than what he could comfortably record in his book. But, it is still a good read.

Language of the book at times gets little tedious and takes away the sensational aspect away. That's one are book could have been better. Thrillers are supposed to be page turners without requiring reader to really 'read'  it.

All in all  a great read.

One thing that comes to mind after I finish reading every one of these political thrillers is, what kind of things go on at the highest levels of our society, who really rules us, what are their motives, how they choose between friends and foes, how they pull off daring conspiracies, is this world full of conspiring people who after each other.


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Friday, July 03, 2009

Kill Khalid

Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas (Hardcover)

by Paul McGeough

This book makes a very interesting reading if you are in anyway fascinated by middle eastern politics, terrorism, Israel-Palestine conflict etc.

You may have heard about 'Hamas'- Palestinian militant revolutionary organization. However, its leader Khalid Mishal (Mashal) is relatively unknown despite his popularity in the region.

In 1997, Mossad - the famed and much feared Israeli intelligence agency - launched an audacious bid on Mishal's life at Amman, the capital of neighboring country Jordan. Israel has been known for its past liquidations of Arab leaders especially Palestinian leaders which Israel found as threat to its security. If you want to know more about past state-sponsored killings of Israel, watch the movie 'Munich'.

Attempt on Khalid Mishal's life did not go as planned. The plan was to spray a secret poison into his ears and make it look like as a fumble between people walking on the road. A group of Mossad agents went to Amman posing as Canadian tourists, tracked Mishal and sprayed the poison when he was about to enter his office. But, the script did not go well. It did not look like an innocent incident like two people dashing to each other on the street. Mishal's body guard noticed something unusual, chased the assassins and caught some of them. Then Jordanian police caught some more. Overall operation was a disaster. For Mossad, it was big humiliation.

What happened after this incident is the main content of this book. It was an earth shattering incident in the middle eastern diplomatic circles. In order to understand the nature of the problem, you have to understand very delicate political details during 1997 between Israel and its neighbors. Jordan was the only country which was trying its best with utmost sincerity to improve its relationship with Israel. Late King Hussain of Jordan had gone out of his way and much against the wishes of the people of the region to renew peace efforts with Israel. While giving an impression of reciprocity from outside, Israel had taken the risk of sabotaging Jordan's goodwill, that too on Jordanian soil.

There was a flurry of diplomatic activities soon after the incident. Mishal had been sprayed with unknown poison which was going to kill him silently in 48 to 72 hours. Mossad agents had been captured. King Hussain was livid and making calls to all political leaders to put pressure on Israel. People like then president of USA Clinton and important people like many US secretaries, politicians, Canadian politicians etc. get involved and situation becomes really explosive and ugly.

King Hussain makes Israel to deliver antidote for the poison lest he walks out of peace process. He also negotiates the release of many important Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails as the condition to return captured Mossad agents and maintain relationship with Israel. USA is very disappointed with Israel for backstabbing the entire peace process which President Clinton personally oversaw. Canada is livid because Mossad agents used forged Canadian passports to arrive in Jordan as Canadian tourists. Israel is embarrassed beyond belief as people in Israel, after being used to eye popping successes of Mossad in previous operations, are baying for the blood of then prime minister Netanyahu, Mossad chief Yotom. King Hussain is in dilemma because he has to extract maximum mileage from this situation while carefully preserving his power base and maintain delicate equation with another Palestinian stalwart late Yasir Arafat and difficult neighbors such as Syria, Iraq and important Arab allies such Egypt, Iran etc.

Great read. The book written on real facts and incidents reads better than spy thriller.


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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to treat people?

"Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none." - William Shakespeare

Shakespeare tells us how to treat all in one sentence. All that you need to know how to treat others is right here.

If you do really love yourself, then you ought to be loving everyone else. That goes by default. If you find yourself hating somebody, then you are not loving yourself completely. When we feel something other than love for fellow beings, it just shows that we are not comfortable with some parts of our own selves. When we are not happy with some parts of our own personality, similar traits in others seem to come across as huge drawbacks in others. This follows from the fact that as humans we are all cut from the same fabric. Underlying core is the same. Same divinity exists in all of us.

Trust a few. Despite loving everyone, we still can not reach out to everyone  adequately. So, we need a representative sample of the population to trust and open ourselves completely. Even with trust, it is better start off trusting everyone by default and put the onus of living up to it on others. Try it and you will see that starting off on a right footing of trust makes amazing difference when you have to deal with people. By trusting people, you convey a very subtle but strong expectation that the person better live up to your expectation which in this case a really good one. People normally live up to and if one or two do not live up to, no great harm is done.

If you can not do above two, you can help yourself immensely by doing the third one at the least. That is doing wrong to none. I think this is the hardest. As long as we continue to be normal human beings, we are bound to do wrongs to others from time to time. Our previous 'karma' forces it us on us sometimes and in some cases previous 'karma' of the receipt acts as through us. Only way to minimize this is to feel sorry and repent for the wrongs we have done and do good to others. It is not necessary (not possible) to go back and do the right thing to the same person we have done wrong to. We can find anyone else and help that person and our wrongs are righted. Transitive law of mathematics hold good very well here. As they say ' the best way to pay back the good will is pass it on to somebody else.'


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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Holding onself accountable

"We should every night call ourselves to an account; What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abort of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift." - Seneca

If you lie in bed thinking before falling asleep, think on these lines rather than thinking about useless things. The answers you get by asking these questions will help you become a better person. They say you should pray before going to sleep. In addition to praying, if you can also do a quick retrospective, it will end the day with a sense of satisfaction.


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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ooma phone system

For last few years a company called Ooma has been creating a lot of buzz with the promise of unlimited phone calls within US. When it came out first, it turned out to be too good to be true. They were selling an instrument which connected to your high speed Internet connection and home phone and provided unlimited long distance within US. VoIP based system like similar services from companies like Vonage etc. Difference is that you do not pay any ongoing monthly fees. At least per the company you would get free phone service for life.

Few years back price was bit high. Like $400 for the equipment. Company also went through a lot of changes. Recently, I started seeing a lot of buzz again. Price of the equipment also had come down. Like $200 now. Vonage service which I have had for 5 years now was becoming expensive and unreliable. Thought I would check this out this time.

So, ordered Ooma from my favorite web retailer Amazon.Com. Cost around $215. Got the system in a week or so. Setting up was a breeze. First registered the device on Ooma's web site. That is the activation part. Then connected the Ooma hub to the cable modem and home phone and voila, I have a new phone system and was able to start making calls in no time. Call quality has been good so far.

Ooma seems to have gone a step further in VoIP with several enhancements which make it a superior service compared to plethora of other VoIP providers like Vonage. Vonage which was very good when started has consistently fallen down in quality with unreliability. Ooma also has built in QoS system which adjusts the bandwidth consumed by other applications on your network by prioritizing traffic. So, you should not see any drop in quality while downloading or uploading large files like using Torrents etc. This takes away the need to use Hawking broadband booster etc. which I was using to control upstream bandwidth.

Also, it makes sense economically. Vonage's limited plan was costing me like 20 bucks a month. Ooma will be paid off in less than 10 months. After that it is really free. Even if the company goes belly up or something else happens as long as you can use the service for 2-3 years, you will have made more than what you have spent.

Ooma package also comes with a device called Scout which gives another full fledged line without a new number. That's really smart. I have not had to use it but if you have a need for multiple lines, you can use it. By purchasing additional scout devices, you can expand the base system to have additional lines.

Ooma also offers premium features for a price of around $100 per year. I have not bought any yet. At this time, they are allowing Multi-Ring free of cost. This is one feature that is very nice. You can have your cell phone or other phone ring when somebody calls you on your Ooma number. If they take away this feature, that will be somewhat of a problem but with free calling you can not complain.

All in all, a very positive experience so far. I had also liked MagicJack. But, it requires that the device is always connected to a computer which needs to be always on and connected to the net. MagicJack is really useful when you travel. All you need is some broadband connection. Go online, connect your magicjack, put on your headset and you can make free calls to any number in the US. Ultimate test of this was when I was at Seoul airport last year enroute to India. Made a call from Seoul to a calling card number in US to make a call to India using free Internet service offered by the airport.

Hope your experience with Ooma will be as good or better if you choose to try it out.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Greatest mistake

"The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one." -  John Maxwell

They say that the most of the greatest discoveries are 'stumbled upon'. If that is so, we won't stumble upon anything if we do not move at all. So keeping on moving all the time is the source of all good things. Sometimes we may stumble upon on a stone, fall down and skin our knees. Thinking that we will always hurt ourselves, if we refrain from moving, there is no chance that we will stumble upon anything including anything worthwhile.

'Tortoise can move only when it sticks its neck out.' You know, tortoise is fairly immune to all sorts of external attacks when it draws itself in its hard shell. But, it can stay safe and it can not also move at the same time. In order to move forward, it has to stick its neck out. When it has its neck out, it is also vulnerable. But, that does not stop tortoise from sticking its neck out and moving forward.

'Greatest risk is not taking any risk at all.'

As long as we make it a point to factor in for some amount of mistakes, it should be fine. We start dreading  mistakes because during planning we tend to think that things will go as planned. That is very naive and stupid. If you have some experience, you always know that things that you desperately want happen always take more time than expected and things you never imagined happen from nowhere. When things that we did not want occur from nowhere, it surely leads to disappointment. The disappointment is more especially if we had not planned for it all. So, the right thing to do is to always make ample allowances for such things and then start off on our mission. With this mind set, all small irritations do not bother us that much. We just need to remind ourselves that we had not thought about this particular thing but we had put a blanket contingency for this sort of things.


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Brilliance & BS

"If you can't dazzle with brilliance, baffle with BS."

No additional explanation is necessary. Is there any? :)


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Wanna rock the boat?

'Rock the boat'- heard of this expression? Used like 'He does not rock the boat. He goes with the flow.' Used in corporate settings like - 'He puts up with a lot of senior management bullshit. He just wants to hang on to his job. He does not rock the boat. Just bidding his time.'

An idle discussion with a friend gave a new perspective on 'rock the boat' recently.

My friend, who I consider as one of the most pragmatic, practical and philosophical persons I have ever known said something on the lines like this. "You job also sucks. I have a lot of good ideas. But, I also know that with all the things going on in my place of work, it just does not make sense to rock the boat. Let me stick it out here for a while. I am outta here after that."

"I do not want to rock the boat. I know that first of all I am in a leaky boat. Leak is getting bigger and bigger day by day. To make things worse, the boat is in a crocodile infested lake. The leak is so big that actually a crocodile's snoot is sticking through it and kissing my bottom. Luckily, the croc is not able to open its mouth and grab me. That's good. To make things even worse, wind gust is picking up and boat is rocking as such. When I am in all these predicaments at the same time, you think I will rock the boat? You must be kidding."

Wow! I thought. How far one can take a simple expression like 'rock the boat' and describe the situation so nicely with a great analogy. Here crocodile infested lake is his company,which like many other companies is going through difficult times. Crocodiles are people around him who are also battling out for survival and his bosses who are eager to cut him or anyone at his level to save a lot of money. Leaky boat is his position. Winds brewing is the economy deteriorating.

He said all this in a few minutes with his inimitable touch of humor which is always so classy. So, next time when somebody challenges you to rock the boat, make sure you are in good condition before you do.


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Voting machine v/s Weighing machine

"Stock market is a voting machines in the short term. It is a weighing machine in the long term."- Warren Buffet

Gem of wisdom from one of the best investors of all time. In the short term, some stocks are so hyped that it feels as though it is a popularity contest among stocks than anything else. It's only after a long time, real value rises up to the top after the fancy has faded. This is especially true of so called new age stocks. Go back and see what has happened to many high flying stocks of  last dot com boom etc.

Buffet does not get caught up with voting contests. He weighs them. In order to weigh a stock, he would like to understand them. Because weighing a stock here means finding its intrinsic value over a long time. That's why Buffet does not invest in stocks that he does not understand. Look at his holdings. All boring companies. Soft drink company (Coke), a few insurance companies, metals, food etc. Basically bread and butter kind of stocks. Despite this,his holding company has beaten market over and again. He too has had a poor streak over last few years but his performance has not been worse than the market in general.

This is not to mean that you should stay away from new age companies. Important thing is to understand what you are trying to accomplish. If you spot a good opportunity with a fancy stock, go and buy it. But, be sure to know when to sell it as well because popularity wanes as fast as it rises.

By the way. Buffet's new biography 'Snowball' is a great read. I listened to the audio book recently. It is the first book by any author that Buffet has authorized. He has spent several hours with the author and that shows up in the authenticity of the book. Several nuggets of wisdom from this man's life. You may enjoy reading or listening to it.


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Timing & Action

Wrong time, wrong action = Disaster

Wrong time,right action = Resistance

Right time, wrong action = Mistake

Right time, right action = Success

It is just enough to do the right thing. Timing also needs to be right. If either the action is not right or if the timing is not right, desired outcome won't be success. Always examine above set of equations when you see why you are not getting what you want. Most of the time, we pay a lot of attention to action alone and try to refine the action a lot. Even when we execute the best action if the time is not right, at best, we will encounter a lot of resistance. Timing is influenced by a lot of factors. When I thought about this, this seems to apply very aptly to organizational changes. Many organizational changes fail because they are implemented at the wrong time. On the other hand, when timing is good, we should attempt to try several actions because when the timing is right even if the action is not the best, worst thing that can happen is not a disaster but just a mistake from which one can learn and recover.


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