Life and Times

Affairs of the defense

Two pieces of seemingly unrelated news came in through the news today, late on a Friday evening.

Or are they?

Decorated General, CIA director David Petraeus resigned after admitting to an extra-marital affair. Why did he admit? Anybody’s guess …

Christopher Kubasik, incumbent CEO of Lockheed Martin resigned after admitting to an improper relationship with a subordinate.

Let’s see. Lockheed Martin is one of the biggest contractor of the Pentagon. CIA is the clandestine organization within the Department of Defense. Somehow both these chiefs resigned on the very same day, due to eerily similar reasons, after admitting to their failings, not caught red-handed or accused by someone else.

How coincidental is that?!

Categories: Life and Times, News, WTF | Leave a comment

Inspirational

A couple of stories that I found to be profoundly inspirational.

The first piece is about Dawn Loggins, a teenager who was abandoned by her parents; homeless; endured extreme poverty and abuse; worked her way through and came out with a scholarship to Harvard! How absolutely incredible is that?!

The second story is about LeBron James’ standout performance against the Boston Celtics in game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Now I’ve never been a basketball fan. I only start (and stop soon) following it around the conference semi-final/final. I was introduced to King James in 2007 when I went to Cleveland. This was when James was still a Cleveland Cavaliers guy. My cousin, who was 10 years old then, was an ardent follower of the game and I guess, more than an ardent follower of James. I still remember his incredulous face, when I said,  “I don’t know who LeBron James is”! I have since then followed his career – his alleged “treachery” in moving to Miami, the decidedly absurd announcement on ESPN, the subsequent commercial showing his human side, the heart-break last year against Dallas.

Throughout everything, one thing remained quite apparent to me: LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players. I cannot comment on his greatness with respect to past and future eras, but currently he’s a colossus. Another thing, which might not be that apparent to many, about him that I find true of a champion is the measured, and sometime pretty humble, words that he has to say. Having watched live interviews, read printed article on him, he seems to be guy who just wants to play. And win. Badly.

Dispatching off the Celtics in seven games, Miami Heat are currently leading the Oklahoma City Thunders 2-1. Two more games, and 2 more wins, and LeBron James will surely join the ranks of all time greats.

Categories: Life and Times, Loves, Sports | 3 Comments

Indians in American prime-time television

I watch certain shows on TV on a regular basis and they are predominantly comedies. A lot of these shows feature Indians, or rather, persons of South Asian descent.

Here’s the list. Now this is certainly not an exhaustive list of ALL people of South Asian descent in American prime-time television, just the shows that I watch.

How I Met Your Mother – Mondays on CBS 7 pm Central

Kal Penn started featuring from season 7 (the current one) in the role of Robin’s therapist, Kevin, and they eventually start dating. Born Kalpen Suresh Modi, to Gujrati parents in New Jersey, Penn has started in a slew of movies. Since early 2009, he has been the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, which he left temporarily to shoot for the latest Harold and Kumar movie.

Though I like Penn a lot, I think he truly does justice to his potential in serious roles, as a drama actor, like in The Namesake.

The Big Bang Theory – Thursdays on CBS 7 pm Central

Kunal Nayyar stars as Rajesh Koothrapalli (Raj), a Ph.D. holder who works as particle astrophysicist at Caltech. Nayyar was born to Punjabi parents in London and moved to US to pursue higher studies.

Easily the best of the lot in this list, his comic sense and timing are excellent. As is true to all roles in all sit-coms, his role (as an innocent Indian genius not able to talk to girls) doesn’t offer him great variance, he still manages to bring about a cheery demeanor in his screen time.

Rules of Engagement – Thursdays on CBS 7:30 pm Central

Adhir Kalyan, as Timmy – Russell Dunbar’s MBA-holding, slick-talking personal assistant, became a regular cast member from season 4 (currently in season 6). Kalyan’s parents are South African citizens (his mom a sitting member of the South African national Parliament) of Indian origin. He was born in Dunbar, SA and moved to London to pursue his acting career after his schooling.

Kalyan’s British accent is a music to the ears. Being the underdog (Russell Dunbar is a bumbling, rich, inept boss) Timmy shows great resolve to overcome his situation and make the most of it.

Community – Thursdays on NBC 7 pm Central

Danny Pudi plays Abed Nadir, a “pop-culture-obsessed film student with an evident developmental disorder” [wikipedia]. Half-Indian and half-Polish, Pudi was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago.

Probably my least favourite in this list.

Parks and Recreation – Thursdays on NBC 7:30 pm Central

Aziz Ansari shlam-glams you as the glib and ambitious (though more talk than substance) Tom Haverford, working in the department. Born in Columbia, South Carolina to Indian-Muslim parent who immigrated from Tamil Nadu.

Ansari’s character espouses non-existent economic and managerial diktats in such convincing fashion, you would be fooled into believing that he has great business acumen. He’s world-weary and wants to make a mark. You cannot but help loving his character.

The Office – Thursdays on NBC 8 pm Central

Mindy Kaling portrays the chatty, bubbly and celebrity obsessed Kelly Kapoor [NBC]. She also is a writer and co-executive producer for The Office.  With an official name of Vera Chokalingam, Kaling was born to Tamil parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As with the rest of the cast of The Office, she is peculiar to say the least, but in a good way. She’s a chatterbox and the ideas and thoughts she proclaims are essentially commentaries on the stereotype she represents (she’s one of the writers so that gives her the added advantage of the best lines!). Though I find it mildly irritating when her character talks for more than 30 seconds!

Whitney – Thursdays on NBC 8:30 pm Central

Maulik Navin Pancholy gives life to Neal –  a real modern-day Renaissance man, who is sensitive, cool and knows a little bit about everything [NBC]. He is born to Indian  parents who immigrated to the US.

I like his character, but the main character of the show (Whitney) and her boyfriend gets the lion share of screen time.

Categories: Life and Times | Leave a comment

First among equals?

Steve Jobs was probably among the top 5 most influential technological pioneers in the last 30 years or so. But was he the greatest among them all? How does he compare to inventors and visionaries of the past?

To answer question 1, he wasn’t. He doesn’t come close to Thomas Alva Edison, let alone Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. Heck, he doesn’t even come close to contemporaries such as Dennis Ritchie – the principal designer of the C programming language and co-developer of the Unix operating system – who died last week.

But have you heard of Mr. Ritchie or even his death? Chances are, you haven’t. But Mr. Jobs – his aura seems to transcend the very world he used to live in! Why? Because Mr. Jobs made inventions sexy. That’s his sum total contribution to the technological development – make products sexy, so that owning one becomes THE in-thing.

Don’t get me wrong here. Steve Jobs was a great man. But a great inventor or profound visionary, he wasn’t. You can argue that he was a visionary in the sense that he could package products which were seemingly cool to a lot of people, but he did little to improve the lives of people  or figuring out some profound truth of the universe. So to compare him to Da Vinci, as this article here has done, is as close it gets to blasphemy to an apatheist like me.

A man with acute business acumen, certainly. A visionary, to an extent. But a great inventor? A good one, but I have great reservations on the ‘great inventor’ moniker.

A great inventor possesses ideas and brings them to reality that are hard to conceive, emulate and which have long-lasting (if not ever-lasting) effects on the general populace. When compared to epoch changing inventions like the steam engine (James Watt), light bulb and a host of other inventions (Edison), flight (Wright brothers) even cars (Henry Ford), what Jobs churned out (from poorly maintained Chinese factories, which is another story) were merely toys for the rich, though granted Apple products have formed a cult following which now transcends the wealthy. $600 for a phone (without a contract that is) IS a very expensive piece of 4.35″ by 2.31″ metal/plastic.

Let’s take a look at the conceive part. Most Apple products are not the first ones of their type. The personal computer existed since at least 1968, and the first Apple computer, Apple I, came out in 1976. Neither the mp3 player nor the tablet (the concept, that is) were babies of Apple, though, again, they gained popularity when iPod and iPad were introduced in the market. The iPhone is probably the only path breaker.

Emulate – For any Apple products out in the market, there are 10 available alternative, and some with better specifications and usability.

Long lasting effect – The only thing that recent Apple products have done is to make technology incredibly available on the go, courtesy the iPhone and iPad. But how much has these devices increased actual productivity? Very little, in my opinion! In fact, I believe they have actually decreased productivity, for most users! Most people who I know, primarily use these devices for content consumption or leisure (e.g. games, music, video, social media interaction) and some good-to-have-but-nothing-lost-if-I-don’t-have-it information (e.g. weather, maps, stock market). Not a whole lot of content is created using these devices apart from taking photographs and videos.

And if the iPhone were truly such a game changing product why the necessity to have 4 or 5 version in the same number of years?

General population – How many people outside the first world countries can afford any Apple products? Even in the rich countries, an Apple product cost almost twice as much as the nearest competitor, with comparable specs, thereby limiting the potential consumers. To say nothing about the fact that the Mac still does not run certain very common softwares.

This article gives the (over the top) obituaries and remembrance some perspective.

First among equals? Not quite so.

Clarifying point, if it is not already clear: In this post I’m just talking about Steve Jobs as the founder/leader of Apple and NOT about (or comparing) how he was as a person, how he treated his co-workers, how much he gave to charity or any of his personal life.

[This post was developed from the comment I left on this article]

Categories: Culture, Life and Times | 2 Comments

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