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tales from the woods

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The real Opus Dei

I came across a nice article in Newsweek about the real Opus Dei, as opposed to Dan Brown's dramatized version of this organization. Very often, we tend to throw the baby along with the bathwater when it comes to secretive cults like the Opus Dei, the Freemasons, or the Osho movement. However, there's a lot to be learnt from the basic philosophies of these groups, due to which they attract members in such large numbers. For example:-

So there's no "Opus Dei plan," as some speculate, to infiltrate the European Parliament in Brussels?
Based on my experience, moving around in this world, I just don't think it works like that. I just don't think there's an Opus Dei plan for European politics or anything else. I think there's a sociological reality, that the kind of people attracted to Opus Dei tend to be extremely hard working, tend to be pretty smart and pretty talented, and tend to be conservative, theologically and politically. Put these together and it's no surprise.

Why is work so important to them?
The prime directive of Opus Dei is the sanctification of work … they’ll use that work as a means of redeeming the world, bringing a distinctively Christian approach to law or politics. Part of what that means in their approach to things is a real emphasis on meeting the highest standards of excellence in whatever occupation they’re in because you can’t redeem a work if, in the first place, you don’t do it well.
Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7288539/site/newsweek/page/2/

Now, how many modern Hindu cults or organizations have you come across that lay such a strong emphasis on plain old hard work, eh?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Our sensitive lives

You know, the more i read stuff on the internet, the more i feel that we've become i little too "sensitive" or "politically correct" for our own good. We elect our presidents over issues like gay marriage or foreign-origin. We worry about weighty issues such as giving spare change to beggars as if we're "aiding and abetting" the beggar Mafia.

Perhaps, just perhaps, in the name of being sensitive and tolerant to all possible cultures, genders, and religions, we've become over-sensitive to the extent that we self-sensor every word that we utter. The basic assumption that i'm challenging here is the underlying thought that by default, we're all predjudiced and hateful towards each other. After all, this is why we feel the need to watch what we say or do, isn't it? I simply don't buy that!

In my opinion, the average common man or woman will have a certain reluctance towards anything that is different. This can mean the reluctance that a Hindu feels when bringing home a non-Hindu (heck, even from a different caste) or a white American bringing home a person of a different colour. The discomfort we feel is because we do not completly share our social rituals with the person, due to his/her belonging to a different religion, skin colour, or social strata. Make a conscious effort to deemphasise these social rituals, and we begin to tear down the walls of our predjudices.

Think also for a moment of the fundamental reasons why you chose your "friend" or your "lifemate". Did it have anything to do with your religion? Did it have anything to do with your monetary position? While it's understandable that most of your friends will belong to the same social segment as you, the only reason for this is that bonding and friendship is a probability game. Due to your reliance on your social rituals, you will naturally be surrounded by others who share the same rituals. What we forget is that this social compatibility is only a peripheral requirement for any kind of relationship.

Given this fact, why do we really need to be so careful in what we say or do in front of others? An innate dislike for an entire segment of society is a patently illogical idea, for there is no cause and effect. If we really don't dislike a religion, skin colour, or gender, why the need to be politically correct in the first place? Is it simply because of our stupid habit to bitch behind people's back just so we can get some brownie points with the bitch-session group? Is this some kind of an alpha-male contest where the leader of a group is defined not by his/her real power, but by their capacity to hate and to be snooty, even if there's no logical basis for this hatred?

Monday, July 12, 2004

the girl who laughs like a telephone ring *

* direct translation of a Mani Ratnam song title

a.k.a. Why oh why...

1. do Indian techies bend over a multi-directional mike in a conference room when it really doesn't improve the sound quality one bit? The importance of a call can often be judged by the distance of the cranium from that ubiquitous starfish lying around in most meeting rooms.

2. does the volume of a telephone conversation in India vary with the distance of a call? Local calls merit a dignified bellow, inter-city calls are awarded with a sonic boom, and trans-continental calls require the calling parties to replace their vocal cords with a Queen Elizabethesque foghorn. Of course, this also increases social bonding as all neigh-boors get instant status updates on little Johnnie K's herpes zoster problem, when poor old green-card holder Janakiraman Kuppuswami starts bawling his guts out to his momma. Sordid, and way too much information, you say? Believe you me, this is the lifeblood of Indian matrons in co-operative societies. God is in the details.

3. do Indians never ever switch off their cell phones in a movie theater or even in a meeting? To add insult to injury, most people:-
a. Pretend as if it's someone else's phone that's ringing. This usually happens others can't pinpoint the origin of the ring.
b. Shamelessly start talking, albeit with a hand covering the cellphone.
c. Walk out of the meeting/theater to attend the call! In movie halls, this would be the person sitting farthest away from the aisle or the exit.

One incident that epitomizes this was when this training instructor asked us all to switch off our cell phones, and ceremoniously proceeded to switch off his own. Halfway through the meeting, his phone started ringing! Turns out that he had only pretended to switch off his phone!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

latrine detail

or the graveyard shift. Same difference. It's 4 am here and i'm still at work trying to resolve issues. sigh..

Today has also been a slow news day. Wired, slashdot, k5, yahoo, and google-news don't really have too much to say. Looks like the whole world is taking it easy today. Except me and my latrine duty, of course. I'm tired of polishing these turds, i tell you!

The urinals beckon me, and off i go to my calling.

until the next flush,

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

old whine in a new bottle

Not content with my erstwhile hand-hacked site design, i decided to embrace populism and a mass produced blogger template. One welcome feature of the new blogger templates is built-in support for comments. However, since i've been using enetation comments since the not-so-user-friendly blogger days, i'll be maintaining both enetation and blogger comments for some time. Hey, the enetation comment template is also hand-hacked by yours truly.

Geek talk aside, i shall be resuming blogging from now on. Lots of change during this hiatus. Moving to a different (and hopefully, more kickass) department in the same company. 2 month trip to the U-Ass on the cards. Buying a new hatch. Planning to learn aikido in 'lyons fronsay (yes, i insist on writing french the way it's supposed to frickin sound)

More updates later.

Monday, May 03, 2004

gmail, here i come!

To my amazement, google considers me a frequent user of blogspot and has decided to give me a luscious 1GB gmail account! Whoooppeeeee!!

Just for that, i shall have to blog more frequently ;-)

First impressions for now: Gmail's look and feel, especially the colour scheme reminds me vaguely of yahoo mail. Gmail has a fairly clutter-free layout. Most importantly, it doesn't have ANY annoying banners or popups. A very cool feature is that e-mail chains are represented as "conversations", not unlike a message board thread. Although it's too early for me to comment on the usability of this feature, it is a refreshing change from the other e-mail services. I tried baiting gmail's "ad-sense" program to display text ads that has generated so much controversy on a product that has not yet been launched. Here's my bait:-

Reading the DaVinci Code, i realized that it was better than popping Viagra, coding in .NET, or even opening a bank account! Manic depressive that i am, little do i remember to switch on my XBox or operate my Nokia. This is not a time for grief but a time to do some online shopping. E-Commerce and M-Commerce being the catch-phrases of the day, i shall have to throw in the towel and jump in the bandwagon too. This ad-sense bait shall hopefully beat google's famed AI and generate some funky links on the right. There's a time for theory and a time for action. Action, it is.

Unfortunately, google's AI has me beat and no ads were displayed for the above e-mail content. However, i shall make more valiant atempts to crack the system. Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


As i punch in these words, i realize that i'm no longer whiling away my time, waiting for my US counterparts to come in. Instead, i'm now waiting to "touch base" with them. Of course, to do this, i have to setup a "one-on-one" meeting with them to discuss my "deliverables" and "thrash out" the "opens". There is a chance that the issue might get "escalated", in which case, a "tiger team" would have to be formed and would "brainstorm" on the "burning" "showstoppers". Have i become a jargon spewing machine, you ask? Am i on the "fast lane" to managerial stardom, might you argue? Sadly, no. Has this global fetish for verbing nouns, nouning verbs, and using "action phrases" taken over the Indian corporate work place? YES!

Little do people realize that this pestilence can only be rivaled by that other glorious import: congress grass. Nowadays, a meeting is rarely concluded without the cameo appearence of several such catch phrases. I'm not even getting into TLAs here (Three Letter Acronyms), only phrases and bastardized words. Is this what they don't teach you at Harvard Business School, i wonder.

The funny thing is that this can prove to be quite a weapon, if wielded correctly. Many a useless document have i filled and many a customer have i placated with this jargon dump (demonic laughter ensues). "At the end of the day", however, i hark for the simpler daze when a lunch was a verb, and did not have anything to do with "power" or a "brown bag". "Communication" and "Customer" were not the holy grails to which you had to spend half your life, whoring away. Is the advent of this jargon an urban meme that has evolved to provide "suits" and "techies" with an identity, an "exclusivity", if you will? Is this instead the result of an evolutionary defence mechanism, a shield with which to ward off the evils of over-work, daily pressures, and job threats? Or is it simply a sign of creeping dementia on the part of yours truly?

Since these questions take us back to the more basic argument of form vs substance, let us define (defile?) our work ethic today. A modern employee is now expected to be more productive, sacrifice his/her personal life, demonstrate loyalty towards one's company, AND pander to the management fad of the day. Another well known fact of today is that one's work output mostly does NOT speak for itself. One has to speak for it, trumpet it around, and generally wake one's managers by sending electronic mails to them with Carbon Copies to sufficiently important people. "Techies" have to keep throwing sufficient amounts of technical-speak at one's managers and customers. "Suits" have to verb sufficient nouns and keep abreast with the hot and crisp management fads to keep sounding like a suit. These deliberate obfuscations work in a very subtle way. If the receiving party of the communication deciphers the basic message, it suddenly feels a sense of acheivement. Not at the message itself, but at the ability to decipher it. One suddenly feels included to the "inner circle", so as to speak. The real message has already been forgotten. This talent really keeps our job secure, and brings food to our table, dammit!

As i see my snarkiness and my posting evergy levels dissipate, i realize that this malaise has no cure. To repeat another aphorism, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

Hope you had enough of a "take home" from this post. If not, "shoot" me a "note", and i'll get back to you "yesterday".

Thursday, March 25, 2004

back to the digital pseudo-literary landfill

Surprisingly, i didn't feel like blogging until today. It's not because i'm bored out of my wits, nor is it because i had a sudden urge to spew verbiage on a reader posse of probably 5 (yes, that includes YOU). I am simply trying to key in the first thing that come to my head. Yes, action without reason or motive. Isn't it delicious and oh so zen like?

Trolling being my favourite pastime, i can't help but feel that it can truly become an art form, as long as the "rules of engagement" are maintained. I'm not trying to compete or compare with the (in)famous troll gods of Usenet, but trying to formulate a strategy for the lesser brethren: blog trolls. First the categorization:-

1. Clueless neandrathals: This troll category typically comes armed with an IQ slightly higher than asphyxiated lichen, and a lot lower than an inverted mollusc (look ma, i remember my chemistry). Steeped in mindset, and hidebound in it's conservative beliefs, this category becomes the rally point for all other categories to rail against. One mainstream comment, and off the radicals go. Don't these primates feel out of place in this blogspace full of nature loving, progressive thinking evolved beings? Do they not see the light? Even if it is the headlamp of the onrushing train?? O tempora, O mores.

2. Clueless chameleons: This section of blog-not-so-rati is the glowing product of the prime moving force our our times: peer pressure. This is the "in" crowd, the "connected", the "happening", the "insert your verb here" specie. Unlike the neandrathal, this category has cracked the Darwininan code for survival. Throw them in sub-Sahara and they'll evolve a hump. Throw them in a destitutes' asylum, and they'll grow a bleeding conscience. This category has a lot more to be said, but that happens tomorrow, if i happen to think about it some more.

Friday, November 21, 2003

more timepass

Many folks have heard about the internationally famous arm wrestling championships regularly held in Petaluma, but there is another chap who lived in relative obscurity in a small, nameless town, yet who has a unique claim to fame nonetheless. He was the perennial arm wrestling champion year after year until one fateful day when he lost his wrestling arm in a terrible accident. This put the man into a deep depression, forlorn at the prospect of never again competing at the sport he deeply loved.

A world-class surgeon in a nearby town heard of his plight. Moved with compassion he offered to perform restorative surgery, but with an unusual twist. He reasoned that if a pig's or baboon's heart could so successfully be transplanted into humans, he would transplant a huge grizzly bear foreleg to our poor arm wrestling champ, giving him another chance to complete.

The surgery was a huge success and the man soon re-entered competition, soundly beating anyone who dared to challenge him. He so quickly and bruisingly dispatched his opponents that they banded together and appealed to the United States Arm Wrestling Committee, claiming that this man's transplanted arm gave him an unfair advantage. They wanted him disqualified and barred from any further competition.

The committee's answer was swift and brief. They noted that it would be a gross violation of this man's civil liberties to forbid him from competing. They called particular attention to the fact that every American citizen clearly has the constitutional right to bear arms.

[By Chris Cole]

Friday, November 14, 2003

The perils of religion

can be summarized by this shaggy dog:-

[unknown author]

A new young monk arrives at the monastery.

He is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript. So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up. In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son."

So, the abbot goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscript is held in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years. Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot.

The young monk gets worried and goes downstairs to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall. His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.

The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?"

With a choking voice, the old abbot replies, "The word is 'celebrate'."