Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ah....the power of relaxation.

I have heard this adage over and over again....those who don't learn from the past are bound to repeat it. However, it fails to register itself in the mind until we actually reach a juncture where one feels that one has been there before...and learnt the lesson before and yet failed to put it into practice.

Quite similarly, I am at the same juncture that I was more than a year back. In the early spring of 2005, I came back brimming with confidence, rejuvenated and happy that I had learnt the way to a happy work life...I had just come out of my first outing in 5 years and it was relaxing as it could get. However, being the first such outing, I failed to understand how NOT to slip back into the mode of being overpowered by the urge to work...and more than a year later, I was back to being the high strung string of the guitar that is sounding so shrill, it could snap any moment. And this time, I knew I was in real danger.

When people say that one should have a healthy work-life balance, I have always brushed it aside on two counts. First, saying that the balance was not required for me and second, that even if it were required, I was doing enough justice to it. If anyone reading this piece thinks that way themselves, I would dare to suggest that your introspection is overdue as well. I was nowhere close to the balance...rather, I was steps away from slipping off the cliff.

What does it take to understand this balance? Why, and once again, I dare call myself a workaholic, can we not work for long hours and yet see that sanity in work itself? Why does the mind reach suffocation levels and yet, does not gasp like our body does....and instead works harder in the pursuit of this mirage-like concept of finding solace in the work we drown into? I don't have answers for them....but I am happy I am asking those questions because for the first time, I feel like I am interested in the answers...and not just writing some lines in the other mirage-like concept I have...that someone is actually reading this piece!

I am starting to appreciate the ability to people who know to walk out of a situation to solve it. One of my close friends does that...he tells me he does that...and he encourages me to do it at every chance he can get. I am not there yet...but for sure, I now understand what he means. A successful mind is not one that knows how to work harder or better...it is one that knows how to start work, resume work and to stop to work to rejuvenate itself...and once we understand how to do it...we get easily to where we always wanted to go....where we were working so hard to go...and where we were finding it difficult to go the harder we worked...the success that we covet.

I am seeing it clearer now...and the first sign that I am really seeing it is this post that is the most introspective post I have written and I really wish folks read it...and I hope I don't lose my way all over again!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Does anything else matter...even remotely?

At the outset, when I take a long break and then return to write, it usually means I have gotten extremely excited about the happenings that I want to write my feelings out. It is a good and a bad thing for me. Good, because I love writing and I am back to doing what I love. Bad, because, if the event is the World Cup Football (or Soccer) - then I worry if it takes a world event once in four years to get me into writing. Of course, this article is not about me...so moving to what the world is fixated on, today and for roughly a month more - the World Cup. And although I would like to say World Cup Football, let's call it World Cup Soccer...just so that I don't confuse the tiny small number of people who read this as to whether I am talking of the Seattle Seahawks or the Brazilian team.

World Cup Soccer is a festival. Soccer is a religion that takes over 200 countries in the world into its nailbiting climaxes through an entire month until the world discovers the true world champion. And while the title is glorious, the defeat is as unforgiving - for there is only one measure - you are either the world champion OR just one of 200 countries that plays the game!

Brazil is always the team everyone expects to win the game. And that is because of their mystic power with the ball. I have always thought that everyone in Brazil is a great forward - everyone can score a goal. And then, they use straws to decide who should be in defence. It is as if the ball listens to them OR vice-versa....and they captivate every mind in their love and dance with the ball. For one, it is inspiring to see them play. When they play, it is not about two countries playing...it is about human finesse with a ball. And we all are winners. Alas, if that, by itself, was enough!

5 championships and a visit to the World Cup ever since it was started is both unparalleled and fascinatingly daunting. That said, I am hoping that this year, it is the chance of another team to take that title home. And so comes into focus, the English team. While they do have a nagging headache with the injuries to Wayne Rooney, I think this is the time for the English team to take the crown home - 40 years has been a long time for this wonderful team. I would have wished it going to England on Gary Lineker's shoulders...however, a win is a win and 40 years is too long to wait for one.

So as the World Cup progresses, and the emotions rise and fall with every goal being scored - I hope there is no 'Hand of God' that throws the game into a shadowy light. And here's for a worthy winner that will take home the glorious title of World Champion because nothing else matters - even remotely.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What happened to the Yankees?

Every game gives its players their moment of introspection, their moment of triumph, of agony, of glory and yet is an unforgiving master when it comes to being a champion. And while every player of every game will say his/her sport is the most demanding, there is actually no difference. And that is how sport decides her champions. The lion-hearted, the hard-working, the talented, the gritty, the yearn for glory, the self-demanding player(s) become champions. And that is a common factor in every sport. Baseball is a typical sport, by that definition. We see the grit, the emotion, the glorious and the vanquished in a way that only sports can offer us. And when the post-season opens up, the entire country tunes in to watch the superlative efforts that define champions from the good teams. No one professes to know this better than the New York Yankees.

Yet, the crude reality is that the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim are going to the ALCS while the New York Yankees are just another ballclub with a long off-season.

Money buys almost everything...and success is not one of them. The Yankees have been given this bitter pill everytime since 2001 when they lost to Arizona Diamondbacks as they saw the Diamondbacks, the Angels, the Marlins and the Red Sox walk past them and take the championship while they were relegated to mute spectators. This year was supposed to be different. It just did not turn out to be one!

For a team that boasts of players like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and the richest player in the league, Alex Rodriguez...anything less than the championship was not worth it. To think that yesterday, they were painfully shown their seats in the stands for the American League Championship, let alone the World Series, has to trigger a soul-searching that must radically change the team.

I am not a believer in lofty words. This morning, as every newspaper criticized the Yankees, there were wonderful introspective words from A-Rod on how he played like a dog in the playoffs and from other players as well. They amount to nothing. And I think George Steinbrenner and Joe Torre know that too well now...they have been hearing this post-game interview for the fifth year now...and not once has this post-game interview been given as the World Series Champions...always as a losing team...and that must be stinging them every moment during the long off-season that the Yankees just ordered, for themselves.

All-Star teams have been very successful in the past. The most prominent example is the cricket team of the West Indies in the mid-70s and early 80s. The team was headed by Clive Lloyd and every member of this team was cricket's best. And they steamrolled every opponent down with some hiccups like the 1975-76 Frank Worrell Series in Australia and the 1983 World Cup loss to India...but they remained champions throughout. One of the critical reasons for their success was everyone's ego was parked outside the stadium while they played the game. And that might just be the answer to what happened to the Yankees.

As the players carried their egos into the locker room and into the game, the painful conflict between delivering to the team and fanbase versus delivering to their personal egos raged on....and the rage ended in dust...where the Yankees find themselves now, out of contention from the World Series rings that everyone of them dearly sought. It is time that the Yankees answer this question for themselves, find a leader like Clive Lloyd who will demand the best and the humility in one package and deliver the victory to their fans in 2006. It is already overdue and they have a huge debt that just adds up by 200+ million dollars every year for the victory they owe to their fans. And the next time around, lofty words at post-game interviews might just not cut it!

It is time to see the New Yankees...will they be any better is for them to work out!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

August 9, 2005 8:11:22 AM EDT - DISCOVERY IS HOME!!!

Only few moments in history could be so satisfying, relieving and emotional as that moment was, when the wheels of Discovery were down and it touched down safely carrying the precious seven lives - the astronauts who went to Space and returned to Earth to prove to the world that human travel into space is not yet history.

As they moved the landing sites from Florida to California, I was bleary-eyed as I hoped I would remain awake to see the shuttle come through its descent and land safely at Edwards Air Force Base. Thankfully I was...and as I saw the shuttle get out of the peak heat zone and the visible relief on the tone and faces of the astronauts on the ground (with CNN which I was watching), I could only fathom how big a milestone was passed with every passing moment. And typical of the thoroughness of the wonderful folks involved in the space program, they were never too quick to get excited over it and always reminded us that it is not over until the space shuttle lands and comes to a stop safely. With Commander Eileen Collins at the helm, everything moved as per plan and it is time to stretch back and be amazed at how a band of brilliant minds in NASA brought about the space program from its depths of despair to this moment of glory.

Human success is a celebration of the undying spirit to achieve new heights, to reach beyond the dreams and shape the future. However, success comes with a heavy price. And the burden of this price weighs heavily on our minds as we celebrate the success of the Discovery mission. The loss of astronauts in the Apollo 1, Soyuz 1, Soyuz 11, Challenger and most recently, in the Columbia disaster is a painful reminder that every step that man takes into this final frontier is wrought with risk and the grief of losing some of the most precious human lives. But to stop would be to abruptly halt those souls in their walk of glory. To stop would be a disservice not only to them but to the next generation who will look to us for inspiration...and it is our duty to hand the baton over in a better shape than how we received it. And so, the quest for knowledge will march on, in full power. As we reach newer goals in space exploration, we will remember those souls lost, attribute our success to their supreme sacrifice and promise the younger generation that the horizon of the human mind will keep expanding as long as we can. There could be nothing better that we can do, for our future...and the sweet success may come long after we have gone. But I am sure they would look back on this day and say that a daunting challenge was faced and overcome...and that is something to be proud of!

Thank you, NASA...if anyone thought that they just do space exploration, that would need correction. They inspire success, and that in a spectacular fashion that only the brilliant minds in NASA can accomplish!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

At the going down of the sun and in the morning...We will remember them.

As Discovery shuttle commander Eileen Collins concluded the lovely tribute paid by the crew members of STS-114 and the ISS, I was absolutely amazed at the wonderful tribute paid to the fallen heroes of man's space exploration endeavors.

As the shuttle circled the earth with the International Space Station and with the earth on view, the tribute from Space was every bit fitting the heroic efforts and ultimate sacrifice done by the crew members of Apollo 1, Soyuz 1, Soyuz 11, Challenger and Columbia space missions to help us explore into space and learn more about this vast expanse that we are such a tiny part of. And as astronaut Wendy Lawrence quoted President Kennedy, 'We choose to do these things not 'because they are easy, but because they are hard', it put everything in perspective. This is serious work with the highest risk. Mistakes are unforgiving and success is hard-earned. But that in no way has deterred us from pushing ahead in our missions and the wonderful people at NASA are a standing example of such admirable qualities.

What strikes me the most in this mission is the ability of NASA to be so thorough and quite so open about any issues that have come about. I am finding it hardpressed to think of another organization that is in such focus of the entire world, where everyone is looking at every move and the future is at stake - and yet, the culture has changed to be openly critical about any issues or problems and the resilience is equally high to go behind such issues and find solutions.

Be it the spacewalk to the belly of the shuttle or the open critique about the falling foam issue, NASA has, in this expedition, taught every one of us a wonderful lesson...that it is right to be critical of onself, that it is imperative we go behind issues and find resolutions and it is important that we build a strong work-ethic...one that is focused completely on deriving better results.

When the Discovery mission began, I thought I would be spending a lot of time blogging about the mission. There was no thought that I would devote quite such space to NASA and its exemplery performance. It is to their glorious credit that a novice like me can see and appreciate what they have done and continue to do. It is amazing to see an entire organization working so well and being so open about what it does. And then, it struck me...the space mission itself is equally about the people who work for it - the astronauts and the people on the ground, as it is about Space itself. And it is quite befitting and admirable that we are led into this critical, breathtaking and challenging journey into space and beyond by the wonderful minds at NASA.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

And they make it look so easy!

The beauty about Space exploration, as seen by a novice like me who can only imagine the depth of the science, is that all that hard work and extensive research culminates in a move by an astronaut that looks like a simple day-to-day activity. From the moment that man landed on the moon, the astronauts in space and the engineers on the grounds have put their beuatiful minds at work and let us see what seems so simple yet speaks volumes about the sheer brilliance of the minds at work. Today was no different.

As astronaut Stephen Robinson moved into position and removed the gap fillers from the belly of the shuttle, what is an unprecedented effort and a wonderful display of human excellence, seemed as simple as pulling out a metal from a hinge. It is a true testament to the approach by NASA to be thorough, to think openly and freely and to go after solutions than speculate the possibilities. And while it might just be as simple as pulling the gap fillers out, this is something we will talk for quite some time now...and inspire new heights in human excellence.

To think that excellence is limited to Space exploration is obviously not a complete picture. It happens down here as well. And an equally wonderful feat was completed just yesterday - this time by the brave crew of an aircraft that landed on a wet runway. As Air France Flight 358 landed on a rainy day in Toronto, it should have been a normal landing - in fact, it appeared to be better than normal (per one of the passengers) and the passengers applauded the great landing when things quickly went awry and the plane skidded past the runway and into a gully where it broke and broke into flames.

To the quick thinking minds of the crew, what seemed like just 90 seconds or less was enough for them to evacuate the nearly 300 passengers and themselves out safely. A heroic effort and they saved hundreds of lives in their own quiet way.

The next time I look up into the sky or fly in an airplane, I cannot but not think of the wonderful minds at work helping us explore the final frontier AND about the brave and calm folks who smile and make our journey easy and yet, never seem to gloat over the fact that they have the potential to save our lives when the situation arises.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

All that euphoria and then the return of the Falling Foam issue!

First, it is important not to miss the fact that the Discovery mission is very heartening in its success. For all the hardwork by those fine minds in NASA, this mission is a return to their rightful place in the limelight of being an epitome of human success and limits.

The news however does not stop there...and the falling debris that everyone saw through those newly positioned cameras brought back frightening reminders of what happened in 2003. As now we know that it was foam falling through and has rendered all the work done on developing a new form of foam that would not do just that- I think we should still focus on the relief that the falling debris did not damage the shuttle and the precious lives that are now aboard the ISS are safe with no imminent danger.

I am no expert here and am trying hard not to sound any fragment of advice on how things should be done (since i am least qualified to do it) - though I think that falling foam may have to be accepted as an inevitable occurance in such a flight and the focus shift to see how we can protect the shuttle from such falling debris.

I have a genuine doubt...the falling foam has not posed a risk this time due to the way it came apart. Does that have to do with the new foam? Is the new foam coming apart late into the ascent and when it does, does it dissipate in a different way? For a ride that is supersonic, did it hold off pretty well for the scientists to take that as the threshold and look for answers at other places or to see that such a harmless discharge should be the norm?

In any case, as we wait for the shuttle Discovery crew to return home safely, let us spend a few moments appreciating the work done by the team on the ground and the perseverance of this team to carry on and find answers to difficult questions - falling foam or not, what the wonderful minds in NASA do IS rocket science and they do a pretty great job at pushing the limits on the final frontier for the human race.