Wednesday, December 03, 2008

progress or no progress?

Sometimes, I wonder if I was transported back 5 to 6 thousands years and with none of the technology we see today, would it have been a happier place? So many of our problems these days like pollution, wars, materialism etc can be argued to be because of the progress humans have made. So, would it have been better if we had remained as a very primitive tribe living off the land? Would you give up what you have now, cars, tv, computer, airplanes for a life in the forest where you will be spared all modern travails?

The following video on Chenchus in Andhra pradesh gives us a look into what that could be like in these times in our own country! I am not taking a position either way. Just posting it as food for thought!

Children of the forest

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama Era

Elections are over and I can finally stop ranting about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc. They are soon out of the door and Obama will take over. Feels good.

A US presidential term is a challenge for anybody under normal circumstances and it is doubly so for Obama now. Iraq, Economy, Environment, Health Care, Al-Queda are few of the many problems he faces following a very inept and ideologically driven administration. Adding to that are the raised expectations from his millions of admirers and the intense scrutiny and criticism he will face from all his detractors not just for being a liberal but also as the first African American president.

I just want to wish him good luck and success. Hopefully he will stay true to his ideals and not get side tracked. I truly feel he was the best choice to lead America in these trying times.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Just 2 more days!

I thought I need to put down at least a few words before the much awaited and significant election in the past few decades in America officially draws to a close. Internet gave me a chance to follow it quite closely from India via msnbc, salon, washingtonpost. I could even catch the campaign videos and the funnier bits of SNL and late night comedy. We are indeed a very connected world now.

Well, its all pointing to a Obama victory and hopefully there will be no surprises. It would be a catastrophe if indeed that happens. McCain has shown his true colors during the course of this campaign, changing positions, picking a horribly unqualified VP Sarah Palin, parroting the right wing policies against his own long held beliefs to just win votes. He does not look stable enough to be a president, enough said! Barack is showing the potential to be a very special leader indeed and has set the expectations quite high on his goals. If he does even 25% of those it will be great.
Lets hold hands, pray and hope the American voters do whats required on election night!

Good Luck Obama, Biden!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Praying for?

This is a topic I had wished to put down my thoughts on for sometime. Today I witnessed a scene during our Diwali Visit to the famous Ganesha Temple on Bull Temple Road in Basavanagudi that prompted me to finally do it.

The aarthi had taken place and the Poojari was going around showing the lamp and giving blessings. One person, called out urgently to his wife who was moving around to come for the aarthi and take the Poojari's blessings. The wife was clearly annoyed at being called but came over anyway. As they were bowing to the Poojari to take his blessings the lady's cell phone rang. So there was this scene with the lady talking on the phone with her head bent and the poojari giving his blessings by placing his hand on her head while looking elsewhere! I wondered about the point of all this? Did the lady expect to be blessed even while talking on the cell? Was the Poojari so detached that he was giving blessings without any awareness of what his recipients were doing? or maybe he just did not care. They then continued on with their next task with only me left to scratch my head....

Now to my long delayed "think aloud". I have always wondered what is it that we as human beings want when we pray to God? When I was young and being the son of a fairly religious mother, I would do my praying dutifully every day morning and visit temples regularly. At that age our most important prayer was to do well in studies. After further education, marriage, job, children and a lot more worldly knowledge, I began to wonder if somebody really heard our prayers and acted on it. All my logical thinking said that it was utterly impossible. So I just stopped other than a reflexive request for the good health of our family and peace to the world whenever I stand in our prayer room or at a temple. That's where I am at now. Others? I always wonder about that.

It is obvious that those who pray and believe in a higher power do expect deliverance of some kind to their request. Does it happen? I think generally that prayer is for something whose outcome is unknown or not in the persons control for example a job application. If it is successful, then credit is promptly given to God. If it fails there are so many ways to rationalize it that we need not question the existence of this "higher benefactor". It could be because the prayer was not sincere or God gave the job to somebody who required it more or you did something stupid like post the application during a bad time "rahu kalam". But such a reasoner will never arrive at the more possible conclusion which might be that he/she did not interview well or was just not suitable for that job. Same reasoning could be applied for other prayers such as for exams, operations, business deals, etc., I think that's why its so comforting to place all pressure onto a "higher power". This keeps the person confident to face the next hurdle and not getting depressed. For this to work, you have to truly believe in the existence of a higher power. Else it wont work!

So, I always feel, that for those who truly believe, prayer is a good way to relieve tension and pressure in all challenges we face in our lives. For others like me who find it difficult to believe we are on our own to succeed or fail and face the consequences. Is either one the correct way or wrong? I think both are fine as long we don't try to force one to think like the other!

Now where does that leave the lady who takes blessings from an uninterested Poojari while talking on the cell phone? Maybe she does not believe in a God so just did not care or she feels that the call is important enough that "God" will understand and not punish her? Something to chew on... I wish I could have asked her!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Indian Olympics Swimming performance and media coverage

India rightly celebrated its 3 medallists from the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Abhinav Bhindra in shooting, Vijendra Kumar in boxing and Sushil Kumar in wrestling. There was also some excitement on good performance of few other athletes like Akhil Kumar, Saina Nehwal, etc. However, I couldn't bear to listen and read negative reports in news channels and various editorials and opinions on other Indian athletes at Beijing Olympics. True some deserve it for delivering very much below par performance such as Sania Mirza, Anju Bobby George. But a large number of others did as well as could be expected, if not better, and got little encouragement from the Indian media. These are folks who have put it hard work for many many years since childhood to be able to achieve what they did. Most media commentators showed little knowledge about the sports they were talking about and just chose to criticize the fact that they did not bring home a medal! This type of uninformed opinions is bad and damaging for the morale of current and other aspiring athletes. Here I highlight one sport, swimming, which took the brunt of such harsh commentary.

The Indian swimming squad for Beijing Olympics was represented by the following along with the results they achieved in their respective events. Results data are given in the following sequence:
Event : Personal best before Olympics : Time obtained in Olympics : Placing / Out of Total participants

Virdhawal Khade (17):
50m Freestyle : 22.69 : 22.73 : 40th / 97
100m Freestyle: 50.49 : 50.07 : 42nd / 64
200m Freestyle: 1:50.35 : 1:51.86 : 48th / 57

Rehan Poncha (23):
200m Butterfly : 2:01.40 : 2:01.89 : 40th / 44

Sandeep Sejwal (19):
100m Breast : 1:03.58 : 1:02.19 : 32nd / 63
200m Breast : 2:18.23 : 2:15.24 : 36th / 52

Ankur Poseria, US based (21):
100m Butterfly: 53.68 : 54.74 : 57th / 65th

Swimming is a very difficult sport. Of the 7 events, I believe only Khade had hopes for making the semi-finals in his 50m freestyle event. All others were aware that they were only going for getting experience. In 3 of the 7 events (50m freestyle, 100m, 200m breast) the athletes have bettered their personal best, 2 more (200m butterfly, 100m freestyle) they were fairly close and in only 2 (100m butterfly, 200m freestyle) they were more than a second below their best. Though Khade failed to make the grade for semifinals he did finish 40th out of the 97 who participated which is quite good. Overall it was good achievement for the largest ever Indian Olympic swimming contingent. The swimmers were poised and showed they belonged at the highest levels of the sport. This can only mean more and better things to come as long as they continue their training and get all the required encouragement and support from the sports bodies.

I hope the media also does its part and highlights the achievements instead of just negative criticism on misplaced goals. All 4 above have trained for more than 10 yrs and some have moved their families to find better facilities and coaches. They deserve our kudos and appreciation for taking Indian swimming to a new high!

Timing sources: Beijing Olympics Official website, Yahoo sports Olympics coverage, GoSports SwimBlog

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama mania

Just now finished watching the Democratic nomination acceptance speech of Barack Obama. As he has done always, it was delivered to perfection, inspired the crowd and laid out the points very clearly. I cannot imagine how Obama wont be the next president of America. Other than the hard core 20% Bush backers, everybody else can agree unequivocally that the last 8 years has been a disaster with very few positive things to pick from. So, how can anybody vote for McCain/Palin instead of the Obama/Biden ticket which in spite of their assurances will only give four more years of the same type of approach and policies? This is especially true with regards to foreign policy where there is a lot of right winged vested interests in maintaining the status quo.

But for some reason the American people seem to be not sure about this as the polls as of now (end Aug) indicate a virtual tie. How can this be? Is it really because of Obamas inexperience or is the deeply ingrained racial prejudice of playing a part here? It cannot be the policies for sure because what Obama is proposing is far more attractive and energetic than McCains. Results either way is going to cause interesting dynamics in America.

If Obama wins, it will be the first black President with many many challenges. How will he perform will be the main question as the expectations are so high. He will be under a very very large microscope for all of his term, that is for sure.

If Obama loses, America has to face its own racial prejudice. No amount of trying to analyze why McCain won will suffice as the big bear in the room will always be racial intolerance. The only way Obama loses is because of Americans inability to accept a black president.

Its going to be one interesting election year in 2008! and in my opinion very very critical for America's future.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

IPL experience

The IPL (Indian Premier League) for cricket has been launched India this year. It features 8 teams with players from all over the cricketing world. They play the new and exciting 20-20 format. Teams are based in the Indian towns/states of Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Punjab, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Obscene amounts of money is being paid to the players and also invested by the promoters and owners.

Now that we know what IPL is, the fun is in predicting where it will be 5 years hence. The games certainly are good, exciting and entertaining. It has been a win-win situation in that players are getting a lot of money for their talent while the fans are getting a highly competitive game for a reasonable ticket price and time invested. For now, it looks to be a success and in 5 years it is quite possible we will have very loyal fans for all teams thereby driving interest further high. The thing to watch out for are the pitfalls when too much money is at stake. Betting, leading to game fixing is probably the most dangerous and could hurt the league badly. Others are players sacrificing national interests, too much glitz and marketing, too high ticket prices, etc.,

I finally got a chance to check out one game in person at Bangalore between the Royal Challengers and Deccan Chargers on May 3rd. Ticket price at 500Rs was too high I thought. The location of the seat was not so bad and the stand was full. We got an exciting game going to the final ball for the result with home team winning. Facilities were bad. Narrow entrance. Not much option with food. Wasting 30Min's to get some questionable chat or samosa would be stupid. Chips and drinks were being sold by wandering vendors. However, since the drinks cups were sloshing all over and the vendors were putting their hands inside them, it was best given a miss! Cheerleaders looked pathetic, in my opinion. I feel they don't fit the cricket format. Music and songs on the loud speaker were good and added to the excitement. Fans even got a Mexican wave going for more than 10 rounds!

That's it. Lets see if this is a flash in the pan phenomenon or how cricket is going to be in the future....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trekking and hiking reports

I have moved our reports on trekking and hiking around Bangalore to another blog. Please check

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bangalore Bird Race (Jan 20 2008)

It was exciting to take part in the bird race. Initially I was hesitant to be part of the team having little experience in identifying anything beyond about 20 common birds but when offered the chance by Sridhar, it was just too good not to take it up. With 3 other experienced birders in the team my job was just to sit back, enjoy and learn! How can I pass it up?

The plan was to drive up the previous evening to Arun's Purushanahalli farm and camp out. This was so that we could get an early start in the race which was to begin at 6am. Arun picked me up from my house at 4pm with Balesh, his colleague, a first time birder who was going to join as the 5th person. So, I wasn't going to be the greenest of the team after all! We drove to Aruns house in Sultan palya and waited for Harish and Sridhar to join us. We left from there at about 5pm and headed out over the Hebbal flyover. On the way there was much talk about conservation and decline of lakes in Bangalore. Learnt that all kere's that we have in Bangalore are man made! That is people of a village get together and create a bund to store water. That becomes a kere. Close to sunset we reached kakolu kere and stopped to evaluate the place as a potential habitat for the next days bird race. It turned out to be a great stop. Saw lots of Rosy Pastors (my first time) returning in the evening. Spotted a Marsh Harrier also.

Proceeded on to Aruns Farm, setup the tent and had a nice dinner. Later, we went out for a walk around the farm and got some impromptu astronomy lessons from Harish. Sky was clear and we spotted the Big Bear, Orion constellations easily.

Morning we were up at 6am and promptly set out to go around the farm and get our early morning spotting's. As soon as we got out, we were greeted by the so many calls that for an amateur like me it was amazing. The red wattled lapwing was very conspicuous with its "did we do it" call. Coucal, Junglefowl, and many more were all active and made our initial lists for the Birdrace. Coming around we also spotted Paradise flycatcher, Bulbuls and the greater flameback Woodpecker. It was time now to take down the tent, have some breakfast and head out to other habitats. In the farm got an nice shot of a spider web, Gastrocantha (Gastro=Stomach, Cantha=thorn). Opposite to the farm was a semi-wooded area and we spent some time there spotting shrike, Indian robin and some raptors. Arun played some pink panther style stalking to get the ID for a "hard to get a good look" at bird. We started out in the car after that to madhure kere for our water habitat. On the way stopped at a grassy area to get swallow, oriole and babbler added to our list.

At Madhure kere, an Egyptian vultures was quickly sighted. Stopped the car and trekked close to the lake. Arun and Sridhar spent some time IDing a flock of migratory birds. We got as close to the lake as possible without disturbing the Painted storks, Asian Open Bill storks and a solitary Woolly necked stork. Getting back it was already 2pm so we stopped at a village for lunch and did some more spotting from the road on the tank bund. Yellow wagtail, Medium Egret and others were added to the list.

It was getting late and was time to head back if we wanted to make it before the official end time of 6pm. On the way we stopped at various places to add owl, pipit, moorhen, coot to our list. After stopping at Aruns house, we got to the Hotel in time for the race end function. Found out that we had tallied about 80+ birds. Winner got 120+, but then they drove up to Nandi hills in the morning while we had the excitement and adventure of camping! :) Our pick of House Swift as the most common bird missed made the Dip of the day!

Overall, great experience. Learnt a lot and enjoyed at the same time. What can be better than that?

More images can be found on Picasa.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

All still the same...

Oh Boy, how time flies. I meant to become active posting something or other when I started this but it is now over an year since my last one. Oh well. Maybe this time around I will do better.
First, a quick look at the status of Iraq war and American political climate since the last time I commented on it. It appears that all optimism at that time was unfounded. Nothing much has changed in spite of the election results apparently sending warning signals to the war supporters. The same rhetoric is being uttered by the culprits who took America to war but the new legislature is walking around as if on a leash. :( . Too bad. Now, if the electorate changes the executive branch also (to either Clinton or Obama at this time) in the 08 elections and moves it left, can we hope for some progress in cleaning up the Iraq mess? Who knows. I am going to avoid predicting anything and just hope for the best.
Well, that's that. No more on this until something good does happen.
I will post something totally different soon.