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Hardest thing for me to do is, reading the mind that is not there – Al Koran, the mind reader

How often are we really there?

Imagine yourself at the coffee shop with your dear friend at the table sitting next to you. Assume it is one of those odd hours when the shop is practically empty. So technically it is just the two of you. And yet he / she waves his or her hand in your face or snap the fingers just to get your attention. Then you realize, for a short while, you were not there.

The culprit is the conscious mind.

So any practice that would promote silencing the constant chatter of the conscious mind or ‘being in the moment’ is welcome.

For that

  1. A New Age guru would recommend you to do meditation or yoga
  2. A therapist would recommend you to lose yourself in an activity that you love most say, swimming, dancing, workout … in order to regain yourself.

But how about an activity that dates back to prehistoric times, and yet universally appealing. An activity that is so old that, in its time even language was not evolved.

I didn’t mean Sex. Sorry to have disappointed you. I meant drawing.

doodleYou don’t have to go in search of caves to do your paintings. In the comfort of your home, on the couch, with just a paper and pencil you can start to doodle. When you doodle there is no purpose, no standards to gauge by and no critic looking over your shoulder to judge it to be right or wrong.

What can be easier than that? And it costs very little.

Surprising that this advice comes from me who considers himself a practical man, who thinks any form of human activity should be directed towards a purpose. I even wrote a post earlier titled ‘Why are we doing this anyway?

While a modern art or graffiti on the wall would drive me crazy, a civil construction drawing, or machine assembly drawing, a part drawing would always look elegant to me. For they have a purpose. I used to think such creations of Pablo Picasso as a sheer waste of time. Even more frustrating for me is to see art critics giving several interpretations for one abstract painting.

All that was until I saw Picasso in action, making sketches in real time; in one of those BBC documentaries titled ‘All in the mind’ (Secret of Drawing, Episode 3).

Picking up a sketch pen, he walks towards the easel like a robot or a man under a spell. With a blank sheet of paper staring him in the face, he starts to draw. First it starts with a dot or a single line and a few lines later (before you know it) the sketch is ready.

I said to myself, “Oh my God!”

It was one of those divine moments when creation takes place. You can sense the sub-conscious mind expressing itself freely and directly on paper, keeping the conscious mind out of the loop. 

If seeing Picasso in action is too much trouble for you, (I would highly recommend you see all the four episodes of the BBC documentary the Secret of Drawing ) you can choose to see your five year old at home or the kid in the neighborhood totally immersed in drawing.

I remember once there was a discussion about why those UPS white board ads are so mesmerizing. The powers of the narrative, the white background, the uncertainty as to what happens next were all offered as reasons. But I think basically it is the drawing that binds the narrator and the audience. You can see one on the right. Click on play to see what I mean.

Now that I have become a convert, on my deathbed if someone were to ask me, “What would you like to do before you die?”

I would say, “Can you please get me a tablet PC with the stylus. I would like to make a few sketches and etch them for all eternity in the digital world” 

If that someone were to reply, “I am sorry. We don’t have that kind of budget here”

I cry out, “Then for god’s sake, please get me paper and pencil or at least a piece of charcoal and move me closer to the wall”

Recently I came across a job advertisement that seemed almost perfect for me, given my qualifications, skill level and more importantly my schedule. But there was one catch. I am giving an excerpt of the ad and my reasoning for applying for this job, so that you will be in sync with what I am talking about.


Our company is looking for people experienced in writing essays. Essential qualifications include: 1) must be University educated with at least an M.A. and/or a professional degree, ie. LL.B., B.Ed, etc; 2) must be able to adhere to strict deadlines; 3) must have extensive research/writing experience; 4) sense of humour, this is non-negotiable and we can tell if you’re funny or not. Please send us your C.V. and cover letter in confidence and we will contact you if you meet our criteria for an interview. This is not a scam and we are looking for some hard working individuals to join our team.

Here is my logic:

  • As many of you (readers) might have noticed by now that I have been blogging for nearly two years and I thought writing essays is just a product extension that would help put some extra cash in my wallet.
  • As for doing research on the Internet, I thought I can always copy and paste from whichever site that comes on top in my Google search given the keywords of the topic.
  • As for qualifications, tell me who is an exact match to an employer’s expectations. There is always a more or less of the requirements. So it didn’t bother me much.
  • As for work timing, the ad said I can telecommute. That was perfect for me and got me hooked in the first place.
  • But here is the catch: I have to be humorous and it’s non-negotiable. They will find out if I am funny or not.

I know my resume is a drab and they may probably look at it, laugh and promptly direct it to the recycle bin.

So I decided it has to be the cover letter that should do the trick. So I typed the following cover letter and sent my resume as an attachment. Please tell me what you think of it.

Dear Sir / Madam,

Ref: Your requirement of Essay Writers.

I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra cash in my wallet. So I looked around to do something I love, and make it pay. I came across your ad for Essay Writers. I have a degree in Engineering and I love writing.

You may think, “What! We are looking for someone with a degree in arts and / or a professional degree in a related line say, law. But this guy with engineering, hum….” You shake your head and say to yourself, “What has this world come to. It must be the recession.”

While it is true that my family members are in the habit of eating, and someone has to put food on the table. But that’s not why I applied for this job. As I said earlier, I am looking to do something I love.

OK, I probably have answered your question, “Will he do the job?”

“Yes, motivation is there. After all this guy is hungry.” you say to yourself.

Now for your second question, “Can he do the job?”

Now there is a lingering doubt, “Those engineers with their rigid mind set, can they be humorous?”

When I say, I am an engineer. I may remind you of the Germans who lack a sense of humor.

Remember while the Germans may lack a sense of humor and the British are blessed with a lot of it, when it comes to World Cup Soccer, it is always the Germans who quietly advance to the Finals or semi-Finals while the boisterous British fall by the wayside often struggling to reach the quarter-Finals.

While I am not a German, I would love to own a Porsche and can make do with a BMW for the time being. I mean I am inspired by the Germans for their commitment to quality and precision.

I have a wealth of experience dealing with people, things and concepts. You can see that in my resume.

And I am definitely serious about humor. So I posted some articles on my web site that are supposedly humorous. If those make you serious or sad and some of my other serious articles make you laugh, still I have won your trust to be humorous and qualify for an interview.

Be warned though, that if you don’t call me for an interview at the very least, I would turn my disappointment in to an interesting post on my blog for my readers to evaluate. And if you happen to read that later, you will regret that you missed me.

Hoping to hear from you soon,

Thanking you,
Yours truly,

It’s almost a week since I applied, and I haven’t heard from them so far. If you think this post is anywhere close to being funny, can you please put in a good word for me? Thank you.

“Max, grownups sometimes tell lies to make a living” – Fletcher (Jim Carrey) in the movie Liar Liar to his son Max (Justin Cooper).

Remember Fletcher, a habitual liar, the lawyer in the movie Liar Liar, pleading with his son Max on his birthday, to ‘unwish’ so that, going forward his father can tell lies. That would relieve him (Fletcher) from the obligation to tell the truth under all circumstances. Fletcher goes at length to explain to his son that he has a case to win; his career is at stake and so requests his son to permit him to lie.

So while it appears reasonable that lawyers, politicians, priests and even doctors and the rest of us to lie sometimes to make a living, is it ok for that one group, Scientists; to lie?

The answer is no.

Our survival instincts condone our lies for practical reasons. But, exactly for practical reasons, if not for idealism, scientists cannot lie.


I am referring to an article titled “Liar! Liar!” in the recent edition of Economist detailing how some researchers bend truth to suit their purpose. I was disappointed to know that some of our venerable scientists alter results to suit their hypothesis, doctor their data to get their papers pass their peers’ review and get published, tinker with their presentation to conform or reinforce their point of view.

One may argue ‘to err is human’ and scientists are human. Scientists are under time pressure like anyone else to produce results: results that are tangible before their research grant runs out. Having invested years of study in frontier science to accept that their theory was wrong, is demoralizing to say the least.

This was a form of insurance policy for me. I have done a lot of work on black holes, and it would all be wasted if it turned out that black holes do not exist. But in that case, I would have the consolation of winning my bet, which would win me four years of the magazine Private Eye. If black holes do exist, Kip will get one year of Penthouse. When we made the bet in 1975, we were 80% certain that Cygnus was a black hole. By now, I would say that we are about 95% certain, but the bet has yet to be settled.
—Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (1988)

Even the renowned Steven Hawking conceded that there is a flaw in his findings that matter and information is forever lost in black holes. It runs counter to the currently accepted law of conservation of mass and energy. So Steven Hawking who proposed and proved his theory one way, declared later that he stands corrected and will soon publish a paper proving his new findings which goes another way. And the scientific community is eagerly waiting to see if that too will stand its scrutiny.

Here is an article on ‘cold fusion’ in Read it and then read the discussion about the current status of the article. There will see a To-do list with 7 steps for Cold fusion. Reading and dwelling upon it you will see how rigorous the scientific community is in validating a theory before accepting it.

So you see Science is dispassionate and it is neutral. It is immaterial who proposes the theory. It is more concerned with the process or the method than with the end results. The repeatability of the results, anywhere in the world, under the specified conditions, subject to intense scrutiny, for all time to come; is what validates the theory and makes it into a law.

It better be that way, because our survival as a race depends on it.

There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it and when he can.
- Mark Twain

Looks like Mark Twain’s fellow Americans routinely ignore his advice. And that sets them apart. Just a decade ago they invested in companies hoping that it is the next big thing to get rich quick.

And their speculation in the housing market in the recent past (that real estate prices will forever go up), is known all too well. Now all of us (including the Americans) speculate as to when the world economy will start looking up again or whether we have seen the bottom of it or not.


But as is always their wont, we notice that no matter how deep they dig themselves in to a hole, Americans don’t just sit around and brood over their misfortune. Instead they find a way to claw their way up.

They actively search for alternatives and pursue the best option as their counsel or wisdom dictates. They would do it even if it means assuming further risks to their careers or financial standing or gaining expertise in a hitherto unknown but promising field.

A case in point is an article titled ‘The New Internet Start-Up Boom: Get Rich Slow‘ that appeared in the Time magazine last week.

It caught my attention for two phrases in the title:

  1. The New Internet Start-Up Boom
  2. Get Rich Slow

‘Getting rich slow’ is something new to them and given their bad experience with the Internet Start-Ups they should think twice going that way. More importantly, investing in any business in these difficult times will be perceived as risky by the rest of us, the ‘normal’ guys. But they are not normal.

So I said to my friend, “We must give credit to the Americans for one thing. They always find a way to salvage a situation if not finding a way to come out on top”

Before I could finish, he cut me short, “When you say Americans, do you mean Whites, Blacks, Hispanic, Asian Americans, or Native Indians?”

Then he continued, “I don’t think it is right to generalize and say all Americans are resourceful and entrepreneurial. Those are traits that we find in individuals and they can be anywhere.”

Maybe he has a point. But I still think U.S.A as a whole is more entrepreneurial (by that I mean being creative, solving problems, taking risks) than say a country like France.

Now coming back to the question posed in the title of this post, it appears that any time is a good time to start a business provided we are not guided just by our passion or intuition alone but realize that a would be entrepreneur needs adequate coaching.

It’s good to remind ourselves that we are bound to fail whenever we undertake something new. Something we haven’t done before in our life.

Imagine a toddler attempting to stand for the first time or trying to walk for that matter. If we had observed we would have noticed the number of times it attempts to stand and fall on its back.

“Ouch! That must be hurting”, we say to ourselves. And we don’t discourage the toddler as to not attempt such ‘foolish’ things in its life. We know with a little help, it not only stands on its own feet and soon runs ahead of us.

If are an American you know this intuitively and the rest of us stand inspired by you.

God bless America.


I bet you had been looking at the lady on the left far longer than necessary. I would even go so far as to say that you clicked on it to see an enlarged version. You ignored my writing here for a moment and then came back. If that be so, I can’t blame you my friend. And you don’t have to feel guilty either. It’s not sinful and it’s biological. Continue reading »

Last week I happened to read two articles, on a famous science fiction TV serial / movies, in two leading magazines. If you guessed it to be Star Trek you are right and have set the premise for this post. While Newsweek chose to put it on its cover and Time gave decent two-page coverage on Star Trek and its influence on a generation (that includes President Obama) that grew up on it and in making science fiction as a welcome genre. There was just a passing reference about my favorite program Battlestar Gallactica (BSG) and that too in only one of the two articles.

While the President grew up on Star Trek, I grew up on Battlestar Gallactica. In all these years, while Star Trek got more than its share of coverage, my favorite program BSG was left in its shadow. So I decided: it is time to put things into perspective, to right the wrongs as they say. I know that the odds are not in my favour but I will try anyway. That’s very much in the spirit of the Gallactica’s crew. Isn’t it?


While Star Trek made it possible to visualize hitherto unknown concepts like black holes, moving at the speed of light, travel back in time etc.; to me it appeared that, Star Trek could only inspire a 6 year old who is trigger happy with his toy gun. That is, in spite of all its special effects or may be because of them.

It was too predictable. We know before the end of each episode, that there will always be someone who rises to the occasion: may be in the form of Data, the humanoid or the Doctor the hologram. If none is at hand, the rescue is always explained away by some hitherto unknown, not proven theory, new; even to the Star Trek crew.

I agree Star Trek was a pioneer, and made many theories (that were till then the exclusive preserve of scientists) as household topics and some of the real tech toys that we use today may have been inspired by the tech toys that we saw on screen. But it was too far into the future, divorced from reality. It took the original and two sequels to mature to Voyager, get it right and become interesting to watch.

Whereas BSG got it right from the beginning. BSG was spot on when it recognizes that it doesn’t need ugly looking alien life forms to pose a threat. No matter how far we go into the future or past, or how far advanced we become technologically, we carry our human nature with us. That’s enough to bring the human race close to extinction and subsequent redemption. This concept formed its core.

So there was a credible story line and there was continuity from episode to episode. The BSG crew fought a real fight with a formidable enemy, with limited resources and an unknown future. Leadership, decision making, team spirit, technology, science, ethics, relationships, diplomacy, negotiations, democracy and sex. They are all there in the right proportions. At the end of each episode, you get the feeling: OMG! Why did it end so soon? What’s going to happen to next? There was always suspense at the end of each episode and we were kept guessing.

You don’t agree with me, do you?

If you don’t, you must be the Cylon.

“I am not a Cylon. I am just a Star Trek fan “, you protest.

Oh, yes. I forgot that you are a part of the Borg collective.

Haunting EyesAll along I had been trying my best to steer clear of topics that relate to religion. That was until now. I happened to read an article in Newsweek titled As American as Apple Pie that set me up to write this post. To be exact, the words, “It depends on how you view my head scarf ” that got me thinking. In it, I see only a desperation to being accepted by the rest of the society (given one’s religious beliefs), rather than a quiet conviction in living by them.

I must confess at the outset that I don’t know much about my own religion. That being so it is foolish for me to comment about my neighbor’s. When I was young I was brought up very religiously and was prescribed to follow some strict rules before I can be admitted to my place of worship. Once I was there, I must conform to a set protocol to be accepted in His place of abode. I was told that only certain times of the day one is permitted to offer prayers while at other times He is off limits. That it is more appropriate to offer my prayers in certain garbs than others. Since I was young I took matters such as these on faith.

But as I grew older, I tend to see such strict religious orders as superfluous or too limiting to relate to one another; much less relating to God. Today if someone were to tell me that I should grow a beard to feel religious or to be seen religious, I would first question the practical use of growing a beard or the inconvenience thereof. Matter of fact, for practical reasons, recently I removed even my moustache (You may want to read my other post: To sport a moustache or not? ).

The saffron cloth worn by a Guru, the ceremonial robe of the Pope are more like special effects that we insist that they wear to deserve our worship. It is no different than a Judge wearing a black robe in a court of law. Minus the robe, they are no less worthy of our worship or respect or that they are any less knowledgeable, less pious, or less moral.

To me it appears wearing a garb, covering one’s head, growing a beard are only methods by which we give ourselves a distinct identity and they are counterproductive. By adding one more layer between us and the rest of the humanity, we create a divide, a need to defend ourselves or plead for acceptance. While distancing ourselves from the rest of the humanity, how can we be closer to God?

These days I very rarely visit my place of worship and yet I feel much closer to Him then when I was visiting Him religiously. If you ask me to prove it, I don’t find the need for it. To me, relating to God is deeply personal and the experience cannot be quantifiable in words. It need neither be defended by words nor by a sword.

I remember the time I wore my first wristwatch. It was a simple analog watch, tied to my wrist with a leather strap, with hands for hour, minute and second. At that time it was one of my precious possessions. Whenever I was alone, I used to look at the second-hand for minutes on end, marveling at its beauty. What’s more, there was a very tiny airplane attached to the second-hand which kept circling at the periphery endlessly. It nearly had me mesmerized whenever I looked at it long enough. Sometimes I used to take it close to my ear and hear it ‘tick, tick, tick’. It was one of those moments in my life when time stood still. Continue reading »

One (Poor Dad) believed, “Our home is our largest investment and our greatest asset.” The other (Rich Dad) believed, “My house is a liability, and if your house is your largest investment, you’re in trouble.” – From the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

houseatwhatcostTwo articles last week: one worries whether how long the free fall of home prices to continue and the other worries what if they don’t bounce back after hitting the bottom. Both made me wonder if home ownership is not such a good thing after all. That house is not an asset, and is in fact a liability. Through fall in valuation, interest on mortgage, property taxes, maintenance expenses, depreciation we pay month after month. It drains our cash flow in all the years of ownership. It precludes us from looking for other, better investment opportunities. It neither rewards us financially nor emotionally.

I couldn’t agree more with the author of this book when he says for most people buying a nice home is an emotional thing and I can also vouch for it from personal experience. I put all my savings and took on some debt to buy my spanking new apartment when I was young. Subsequently I had to let go of so many better investment opportunities as well as sacrificing even some simple pleasures of life like taking vacations, going for movies, etc just so I can service this debt and give myself the emotional high of home ownership. I even skimped on clothes to save a few dollars.

What is worse, you may not believe this, pursuing my career, I moved from city to city and never once, (I repeat, not even once) did I get an opportunity to sleep in my own apartment. As soon as the apartment was finished and the builder handed over the keys to me, I gave them to my new tenant collecting the rental deposit, and off I was on my way. I thought to myself, while I am paying the mortgage, the tenant builds up part of my home equity month after month. I patted myself on being such a genius.

I never took into consideration the risks involved:

  1. What if my tenant doesn’t pay the rent just for a month?
  2. Or skips paying rent for months in a row and vacates without notice?
  3. While vacating, if he does any damage to the property, how much would it to cost to fix?
  4. Or worse still what if he refuses to pay and refuses to vacate either?
  5. What would be the legal costs of vacating the errant tenant?
  6. And how long would it take?

Luckily for me no such thing happened. And I got out of this debt by selling my apartment in the boom time at nearly 4 times the price I bought. Still the real price I paid in terms of missed opportunities, and the enormous stress I underwent month after month paying my mortgage wouldn’t compare for the fleeting pride of home ownership.

Just having bought once only and sold it a few years later doesn’t qualify me as a real estate consultant. However believe me this one experience of having bought and sold a piece of real estate will stand me a lifetime. I believe I am qualified to ask you a few questions:

  • While it is reasonable to expect to have a roof over our heads, do you really have to own the roof?
  • If you decide to own your house are you willing to take on a mortgage for the next 30 years? I remember in one of the episodes (Office Olympics, Season2, Episode3 of the TV Sitcom Office(US)) when Michael buys his condo his assistant Dwight Schrute reminds us that Michael is really buying an expensive coffin.
  • Are you willing to stay tied to your house and let go of other lucrative investment opportunities.
  • Or are you willing to let go of many brilliant career moves that may be rewarding many times over in the long run just because you can’t move out of your house or city.
  • If after all this you decide to own it, should it really be new? Can’t you settle for an old or refurbished house in a good neighborhood that comes at a bargain or throwaway price?

When someone buys a house for just $101/- at an auction (as the second article says), then the price is right for me.

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