Archives for January 2012

Another Nail in Dravidian Race Myth

Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate, while investigating origins of his chromosome, stumbles upon genetic footprints that speak of evolution of modern man and the early migrations.

That man originated in Africa and migrated out is well known, what does not get spoken about is which other continent has the greatest genetic diversity. I produce the relevant quote of Sir Paul.

Outside of Africa, we see more variation in India than anywhere else which tells use we’ve been living in India for longer than any other place outside Africa. The question is, how many waves of migration out of Africa were there, and what were the timings of those events? – Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate

So think about implications of that statement. More pertinently, the so-called Dravidian race theory is a sham. And if anything, the so-called Aryans should feel trampled over by the genetic markers people from the sub-continent have passed on. But guess what, it does not matter because you cannot wake people to a fact that would make their cherished opinions so blatantly false.

(via DNA Unlocks Secret of Early Humans. FYI, some NSFW content on that site)

Alphabets – By Google

I wondered, what if Algorithm and Commerce alone were to instruct our future. Using Google as a proxy, I typed the letters of the English alphabet to see what was returned. Results below. My thoughts at end of list.

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A for Amazon

A for Amazon

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B for Best Buy

B for Best Buy

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[clear]

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C for Craigslist

C for Craigslist

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D for Dictonary

D for Dictonary

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[clear]

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E for ESPN

E for ESPN

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F for Facebook

F for Facebook

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[clear]

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G for Google

G for Google

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H for Hotmail

H for Hotmail

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[clear]

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i for iPhone5

i for iPhone5

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J for JC Penny

J for JC Penny

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[clear]

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K for Kohl's

K for Kohl's

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[col_1_2 style=””]

L for Lowes

L for Lowes

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[clear]

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M for MapQuest

M for MapQuest

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N for Netflix

N for Netflix

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[clear]

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O for Old Navy

O for Old Navy

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P for Pandora

P for Pandora

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[clear]

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Q for Quotes

Q for Quotes

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R for RedBox

R for RedBox

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[clear]

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S for Sears

S for Sears

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T for Target

T for Target

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[clear]

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U for USPS

U for USPS

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V for Verizon

V for Verizon

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[clear]

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W for Walmart

W for Walmart

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X for X-Factor

X for X-Factor

[/col_1_2]

[clear]

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Y for YouTube

Y for YouTube

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Z for Zillow

Z for Zillow

[/col_1_2]

[clear]

Highlights

  • All entries for letter G are Google properties
  • iPhone is the only product on entire list
  • Dictionary at D is either insatiable curiosity or utter ignorance
  • Love at L is 4th, after Louis Vuitton at 3rd
  • And A for Amazon?! WTF?

Three Principals of the Ramayana

The world is like the impression left by the telling of a story – Yoga Vashista.

Storytellers

Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman stumbled by today.

They walked by the office, singing loud and clear their ancient tale. In an era of YouTube and Facebook, this is a welcome anachronism.

I can only imagine folk-artists like these, dressed in character, performing the tales of gods and dharma for many hundred years. My modern concerns of technology, business models and strategy slinked away at the simplicity and directness of their being.

A Priceless Lesson For Rs.10

I wondered if it was the smoking. Yes, the climb was steep and I had no shoes. But 30 odd steps is all it took to break me. Panting as if my lungs had never taken a decent gulp of breath. Every pore in my body crying out sweat. My feet, calves feeling as if they had walked all the miles in a year within those 30 odd steps. You know the wall that sportspersons keep talking about? I did not stumble into the wall, the wall rammed into me with a ferocity I was not familiar with.

And that was just what happened to the body. The mind was another story altogether. Questions crawled out like ants, furious and relentless. What the heck is happening here? What was I being weighed down by? What could break me so? All the vice, all the indulgence paraded before my mind’s eye. I thought I used to be better, there was strength and grace to support, perhaps the Divine has abandoned me? But, but are the vices so unforgivable? Am sure you get the drift. I wondered, agonized and went through a mini version of Dante’s hell or perhaps the lower worlds illustrated by the Buddha.[quote_right]I wondered, agonized and went through a mini version of Dante’s hell or perhaps the lower worlds illustrated by the Buddha.[/quote_right]

I said yes, almost 2 weeks back when my cousin asked if I would to the ritual required to visit Sabari Mala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa. I did not think much, having visited the temple almost 18years back, I was familiar with the process. A period of austerity(abstinence from meat, alcohol and hanky panky), two time visit to temple, curbing of dodgy thoughts, wear the characteristic black dhothi, a t-shirt perhaps and no footwear. I managed to do okay even with the dodgy thoughts, the rest were tricky but doable.

As I stood there on Sabari Mala, with almost 80% left to cover, I did think seriously of going back. It was physically and mentally impossible. The devotion of fellow pilgrims helped egg me a little.

As I went the next 30 odd steps my eyes opened a little. The pilgrims who had seen the deity were on the way back. I caught the eye of one of them, a lad of 20years perhaps. Walking down, he came closer to the lane I was in and made a fanning motion with a piece of cloth to cool my body sweltering from the strain and heat. I still do not know how to receive that act of compassion. This stuff is easy for nobody and yet here was a guy who offered help, without asking.

Once I saw that, I could see there were more people acting thus. Small acts of compassion from strangers to strangers. Each act rendered as an offering to the Lord, each an offering to the immanent Deity. There was glucose powder being handed out, some gave out water and more. I was no longer alone with my crumbled mental and physical self. I felt as if the Lord was manifesting himself in every instrument available, who could do just that little bit to help take another step.

As you can guess, it took another 30 steps to break down again. The story repeated itself. The body wondering if it would last the climb, the mind wondering what the hell made me descend into samsara![quote_right]The body wondering if it would last the climb, the mind wondering what the hell made me descend into samsara![/quote_right]

At this break I stopped by a vendor selling slices of pineapple. Standing close to the vendor I noticed someone trying to step close from my right-side. I turned and saw an old man, perhaps around 60 years old, definitely not wealthy and almost positively poor or even very poor. He seemed hesitant for some reason. Thinking I was blocking his way I thought and stepped aside to make way. The old man came a little closer and asked the vendor the price of a slice.

The vendor was busy dishing out slices, he gave a damn about pilgrims, this was business and he conducted himself that way. He threw out the price, without looking at the old man, “Five rupees”. He even translated the number into couple of languages, after all people from nearby states visit this deity in large numbers. I kept watching as the man was about to step away. He was panting just like me and I could only wonder about the extent of breakdown that would happen to people at that age.

I almost instantly knew what to do. Having observed many acts of compassion thus far in the climb, I thought it was time for me to do something. I called the old man, more in signs than in speech. I asked the vendor to give the old man a slice. Old man hesitated, I reassured him in signs that it was okay. Taking the slice from the vendor, the old man started moving. Half way through turning away I saw the old man hand over the slice to a boy of 7 or 8 years old and kept moving.

It hit me like a bolt even in my broken down state, the mind awoke to an unexpected clarity. The old man might not last the climb up, yet, the one slice he got he gave the boy. He did not stand there expecting a repeat generosity from a stranger, though offered out of compassion and under the eye of the Lord.

This was not philanthropy of the rich, cheques written out over aged mahogany wood. This was not the generosity of bleeding heart liberals saving the downtrodden. Nor was it generosity looking to barter your religion for material things. This was sacrifice in the truest sense, giving what is essential to yourself and not a handout from excess.

This was the dictum of the Gita about intent of the act being more important demonstrated.

And yes, if you are wondering why the title says Rs.10 and not Rs.5, I called the old man back and insisted he take a slice for himself, which he did with some reluctance.

There are distances I have to travel within to get anywhere close to that type of selfless action. The thorn of inadequacy is still lodged within.

How to become susceptible to creativity

My post on a Frost quote about ‘right reader of good poetry‘ helped me understand that ‘susceptibility’ to the ‘immortal wound’ of receiving poetry is key.

Can creativity be taught?

Thinking on the same lines, I asked myself, can creativity be taught? But what would one teach? Would it be the Kubrick-ian ability to conjure up and frame human dramas? Would we teach the mechanics of cognition and the roots of thinking itself? Or would we learn about human failure fueling study and reinterpretation of epics? Or should we do the in thing and do a Freud on Steve Jobs?

The methods seem to be many. The question remains – can one be made susceptible to creativity? My answer would be yes, creativity can be taught. But teaching is just one part of the equation, the learning side is often skewed with difficulties. There is a curious mixture of tenacity, focus and some unknown alchemy that goes into creating and creativity. I have attempted to capture some basic principles that should help get someone be more creative.

Disassemble

Learning from what has been done before is the quickest way to seed your head with basic ideas. It could be a piece of software code, a toy or a poem. Dissect it into its components and learn what role is played by every component, how it interacts with other components and how it all fits together to become a whole.

Better it

Once you are done dissecting and understanding now try to better it. What would you improve? Which aspect would you change? What consequences would it have on realizing the end goal? It does not matter if you don’t actually do it. Imagine you will and work out the details. This stage is all about possibilities. Capture these possibilities as UX mockups, design sketches or scribbles in a diary. It does not matter if you do not pursue it. What matters is that you churn out possibilities.

Seek feedback

After possibility generation is the crucial step of gathering feedback. Choose the right judge, do not ask a poet to critique your proposal to revolutionize fuel consumption in turbo engines. In this step you will realize the awesomeness of the human mind. What you mulled about for ages and thought it impossible to add or remove from, another mind will pick apart in seconds. This assumes you have a competent circle of acquaintances. While disappointment is inevitable, what should not be done is to self-critique yourself. The journey you took is essential for yourself.

Continue producing possibilities and getting feedback. At a certain point in time you will find the feedback being restricted to superficialities or turning into admiration. That is when you realize you need a bigger goal and/or a better judge.

Seek diversity

There comes a point in time when you can create but it does not have that something unique which makes people admire or want it. That is when you know you have been focussed too long. Diversity or variety of topics is essential for a healthy creative mind. If you are a programmer, wander around the philosophy aisle of your library. If a poet, stick around in a mechanic’s shop for a day. Walk around your neighborhood, observe everything. Think about why things are so and not otherwise.

Slowly you will see similarities between the most divergent of topics, patterns will emerge. Translating or extrapolating patterns from one domain into another always yields new insights. This way you could raise your game without being bored ever.

Allow conflict

Creativity is not just a function of the skills acquired. The worldview of the creator plays a very big role. A very popular example is that influence of Zen on Steve Jobs and his design aesthetic. But a firm worldview does not usually allow for other views to seep in. This must go. Allow conflict. You need not be steamrolled by every opinion that passes you way. Consider a conflicting view, assess it for its merits. Take what seems appropriate for your goals and leave the rest. Handling conflict is a key trait that will make you a better person and help grow character.

Nurture Angst

The one I don’t know how to explain! Angst to me is that inexplicable thorn that propels all creative individuals. This is a thorn that eggs them to create and change the world. To mould the world into something it is not. If you do not have this angst perhaps you have not thought enough. If you do have it, then good. Nurture this angst, foster it. From that fire will emerge all that you would spew out in this world.

That is a brief list. Now its up to you, what would you add to this list?

Immortal Wound

It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound — that he will never get over it. – Robert Frost

What struck me about the quote’s perspective was the notion of ‘right reader’. I thought about it for a while and have come to some understanding. The right reader is someone susceptible to the immortal wound. Someone who consciously opens himself to the pain of receiving the beauty of poetry.

Meera with her Divine Beloved

Perhaps it is this same susceptibility, or perhaps a naiveté, that makes the adventurer head out into unchartered seas, makes the devotee lose herself pining for the Divine Beloved or makes a creator stake his all into building something. Perhaps each was, and is, aware that it might all come to naught.

There seems to be one trait that links adventurer, devotee and entrepreneur types, each is a dreamer. Someone who overlooks what is, in pursuit of what can be. Someone who has to courage to be open to a wound.

We started with that sublime phrase ‘immortal wound’. Our little tangent seems to have gathered a potential oxymoron, susceptible + courageous.

What is the point you ask? Well, nothing really..just savor that phrase ‘immortal wound’, forget the rest.

Where will you be swept off to?

I stepped outside the door last week of August 2011. After 15 odd years of relentless running I had the opportunity to step back and consider the runner, the running and the race.

The Hobbit

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Am yet to be ‘swept off’ but the journey so far has been exhilarating, surprising and challenging. Below I share a little of what I have realized and learnt so far.

  • Context changes everything. Including what you know of yourself and others.
  • What remains after labels are stripped away is character.
  • Not every relationship sprouts.
  • Serendipity does happen!
  • Full-time employment or startup is a question of which challenges you wish to take on.
  • Power unveils character.
  • There is generosity in unexpected places, seek it.
  • Conventional wisdom on anything breaks down at the fine-print.
  • Complete freedom is harder to handle than it appears. Empathize with men who elect to be constrained.
  • What you do when you can do anything is driven by character.

All considered, I feel I should have walked out the door sooner. And yes I do have things other than aphorisms to talk about 🙂 I shall do another update on my startup, progress so far and thoughts on next steps.

And am curious, what did you learn last year about the world and yourself?

Note: The picture above is of The Hobbit.

Thus Spake Sri Krishna

Chariot

[dropcap2]All[/dropcap2] this personal effort and self-discipline will not in the end be needed, all following and limitation of rule and dharma can at last be thrown away as hampering encumbrances if thou canst make a complete surrender to Me, depend alone on the Spirit and Godhead within thee and all things and trust to his sole guidance.

Turn all thy mind to me and fill it with the thought of me and my presence. Turn all thy heart to me, make thy every action, whatever it be, a sacrifice and offering to me.

That done, leave me to do my will with thy life and soul and action; do not be grieved or perplexed by my dealings with thy mind and heart and life and works or troubled because they do not seem to follow the laws and dharmas man imposes on himself to guide his limited will and intelligence.

My ways are the ways of a perfect wisdom and power and love that knows all things and combines all its movements in view of a perfect eventual result; for it is refining and weaving together the many threads of an integral perfection.

I am here with thee in thy chariot of battle revealed as the Master of Existence within and without thee and I repeat the absolute assurance, the infallible promise that I will lead thee to myself through and beyond all sorrow and evil.

Whatever difficulties and perplexities arise, be sure of this that I am leading thee to a complete divine life in the universal and an immortal existence in the transcendent Spirit.

Sri Krishna (Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo)