Posts Tagged California

Year-end Review & Greetings: December, 2017 — Theme: Silence Breakers & Truth Tellers

This year has been a year of too much noise and everyone accusing others of spreading lies. Sometimes we have shouted louder for our truth to be heard and at times, we have spread deliberate and willful lies, all of it leading to great drama and divisiveness. World also witnessed Mugabe’s outster in Zimbabwe, Rohingya crisis on the border of Myanmar, Crown Prince Salman remaking Saudi Arabia, twitter war between leaders of N Korea and US, new daily revelations on #TrumpRussia scandal and more. In the US, as we focus inward and on “winning”, on “not being taken advantage of”, on frequent ritual of sycophantic praise of the head honcho, on taking care of the poor “wealthy” folks among us, perhaps we forget the cost of winning; winning at the expense of ignoring #ClimateChange (the impact of which will be felt for generations to come), winning small temporary #taxcut while giving the “poor” wealthy folks and corporations huge and permanent tax cuts (it may trickle down for a bit but will never ever be enough to offset and overcome the widening disparity), increasing deficit and leaving behind a humongus challenge for the next generation, with unnecessary stress on DACA dreamers and CHIP kids, questioning the very future that will have to be our savior some day.
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This has also been a funny year with our finances. On one hand, economy continues to soar, on the other hand, we are looking into the abyss with absolute lack of clarity on long term impact of the largest tax overhaul in history;  and this year has also cost us enormous money with weather related disasters. (By the way, India also had largest financial change with demonetization and as far as I know, the impact is still uncertain). With innocent sounding guests like Harvey, Irma and Maria bringing $200 billion in damage, 2017 hurricane season also became the most expensive hurricane season in history. Our forgotten brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico suffered most devastation. In a showdown of water and fire, in October, a series of 250 wild fires started burning across California and also proved to be most destructive, causing $9.4 billion in insured damages. Fires continued into November and engulfed Southern California in flames, later in the year.

Image result for silence breakersThis year however, was also a year of unity and hope, of people coming together with courage and having their voices heard (Colin Kaepernick), refusing to give on #ObamacareRepeal (and we learned that one voice, one vote can make a difference) . If we heard story after story of sexual harassment, if we felt a pervading sense of powerlessness, we also stood up to take our voices back. When I shared my story as #MeToo victim of harassment, I wasn’t just speaking for myself, I was also speaking for my sisters and daughters. The voices of the #SilenceBreakers were celebrated on the cover of Time magazine. But journey continues. There are more victims and more goals. Since the senseless and deadliest massacre in Las Vegas through barbaric semi automatic rifles, nearly 1000 more people have been killed and 2000 wounded in American gun violence.  Journey continues into discerning between truth and lies. Who are the truth tellers? Perhaps there is deep debt of gratitude we’ll have to pay some day to those on the front lines taking the blows, being dubbed fake, just for bringing to the surface facts from a barrage of lies, with no personal gains.  There are many who are trying to keep the focus on facts, in the midst of all the din, including late night hosts at Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Noah, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee and others and many brave souls at CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, KEQD, NPR, and  major newspaper & magazine publications.
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We sailed through all the drama of 2017 because of unity in the midst of diversity, courage when faced with powerlessness, hope that we can and we will leave the planet a better place for our children, and coming together in celebration that makes #America such a vibrant #democracy . Nothing brings us #Americans together like a shadow of darkness. Total solar eclipse in August brought us together in unimagined ways, as we hugged total strangers, with a feeling of glee. Here’s link to my eclipse poem .

At the end of last year, I was overwhelmed with grief. I lost my mother in December and before that I grieved with many the loss of Hillary Clinton in the elections.  I continue to be inspired by my mother and all the powerful women who have been my friends and role models, as I charted new territories this year.  I am inspired by men in my life as well but uniquely influenced by my wonderful women friends, this year. Also this year, I broke my own silence, in speaking up for integrity, fairness, transparency, and justice; in speaking up with courage, but also compassion. Earlier in the year, I visited four beautiful cities in Europe (here’s link to my blog post, made a trip to Ashland Oregon Shakespeare Festival and enjoyed four incredible plays in three days, and later in the year, I went to India, with a goal larger than myself. I sought to bring together my extended family so we can put aside the differences and solve pending issues with integrity and fairness. Here’s link to my blog .  I am enormously proud and thrilled with the achievements of my son Neil, daughter Neesha and my nieces Ria and Nika — little blessings like these remind us that future  holds so much promise.

In looking back, 2017 has been a year of many “downs” and then some “ups” that vastly superseded the downs, made us stronger, more courageous, more focused, more united, more determined. I wish my readers, friends, and fans a wonderful holiday season and many blessings in the coming year.

Ending with this quote by Pamela Meyer: “Lying is a cooperative act. Think about it. A lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie”.    



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Tale of two Americas influencing #Election2016 & Open Letter to Hillary Campaign

Here’s something to think about… the country is soooo divided that Americans are living two distinctively different realities; it is almost like they are living in two different nations.

America 1

Imagine that you live in the Appalachian mountains off of Virginia or Ohio.  Jobs in mining and manufacturing that were once plentiful are gone and no one has offered you re-training to operate in a different reality that has been emerging.  Opioids & alcohol are easily available to dull your pain (in fact, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes).  You see yourself as having no future; the best is behind you. You are enormously proud of your heritage, hard work ethic, and your religious values.

Church used to be your anchor but now church attendance has fallen; you have no anchor. You just want someone new at helm in this country, to shake things up – you don’t care how or who it is as long as the person talks to you in a language you understand and holds someone; an outsider responsible for your plight. Your current reality is so painful that you believe you once lived in a phenomenal nation, and you are losing it to outsiders who steal your jobs. Perhaps you don’t see many immigrants where you live, but you hear statistics of jobs being offshored, terrorists rarely target your geographical areas and you don’t often see women in hijabs but you hear about terror attacks when they happen and it scares the s*&^ out of you. Lowering or raising federal minimum wage has no impact here because there is no economy, no jobs. If someone tells you they will build a wall to keep immigrants out then it resonates with you.  If someone promises to bring back outdated mining jobs back, you are filled with hope.

America 2

Now imagine  you are living in a place like Silicon Valley in California, a place on the cutting edge of innovation.  There is a different social and economic reality.  You work with Muslim engineer, Chinese American scientist, Mexican American patent attorney, Iranian American realtor and your child’s teacher is lesbian.  These people are not aliens but your next door neighbors and share similar interests and values, as you.  Price for 2 BR condo in newly built (and fraught with problems), millennium towers in San Francisco costs around $2M and when economy tanked in 2009 (right after George Bush left office), California was hit harder than Ohio and Indiana.  The number of people filing for bankruptcy protection in the first quarter of 2010 ranked California at number one for bankruptcy protection. Right after Florida and Nevada, California also had one of the highest foreclosure rates with 1 in every 192 houses being foreclosed.

I can personally vouch to the impact of extremely high unemployment, while living in a state where everything is more expensive.  Both my businesses died.  I offered recruitment and soft skills training, but no one was hiring and no one had budget for soft skills training.  In 2009, I made less than $10,000.  I sold my house and while my business continued to remain in a nearly dead mode, in 2010 and 2011, I pounded the pavement for hourly jobs at Starbucks etc. for which I was always considered overqualified.  But California is back in business and so am I; better than ever before.

How did California do it?  I think California did it by leveraging the global trends and with a unique blend of cutthroat captialistic competition and compassionate socialism.  Corporations may not be people but both companies and people in CA exhibit this blend of competition and compassion.  I have some more thoughts on this and if I am not distracted by other things, I may study this more and write another blog.  But for this post, I want to focus on what is required of a political leader to bring the two Americas together. 

Open letter to Clinton Campaign

Henceforth, Ms. Clinton must maintain a laser sharp focus on issues that matter in the swing states.  All focus should be solely on large percentage of undecided voters who swing back and forth between Trump and Hillary.  Stop talking about how racist Trump is or that he is adhering to Alt-Right.   More people learn how racist he is, more votes it is getting him. Trump’s entire candidacy is based on inciting hate and division and taking his message to the masses is only enabling him.  Besides, he has so much air time, everything he does and says is covered.

While American women would largely care for issues like equal pay for equal work, do not focus on sexism in Trump campaign.  In California, I saw ads targeting women, with mention of Trump’s abominable remarks denigrating women.  But California is tuned in already,  In the swing states, there are likely to be more women in committed relationships and more than right to choose and equal pay, they care more for jobs for their husbands.  Still for many, it is a man’s serious and primary responsibility to earn a living.

Do not mention immigration.  Trump has made entire immigration dialog in the country about sound bites (big wall, beautiful wall, Mexico will pay for it, deporting etc.) and more confident and more racist his sound bites, more they are striking a chord.  He effectively created an environment of fear where soundbite solutions are very appealing.  I don’t believe Ms. Clinton can give any effective soundbites on immigration.  That is simply not her style and people are not in the mood to listen to logic on this issue.

Do not mention environmental issues.  While this has been President Obama’s crowning achievement, it does not figure in top 10 priorities when you put it on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Americans are generally more present oriented but are certainly focusing squarely on short term and immediate benefits during this election season.  The more Trump talks about how things will change on November 8, less concerned people are about benefits to future generations.  

Also, do not focus in the debate on Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience.  Americans often care little about foreign relations.  President GHW Bush made great strides in foreign relations and he got little credit for it.  Besides Trump scored a victory looking Presidential in Mexico.  More than that, no one cares.

Image result for maslow's hierarchy of needsThink of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that goes from fulfillment of basic needs and only after they are satisfied, it progresses to focus on social needs.  When people’s basic needs of healthy food, clean water, and safety are not satisfied, focusing on social issues like women’s rights, race relations, immigration, pay equality, and equal rights for LGBTQ, are a luxury they can’t afford.  While Trump may be trigger happy to get access to the nuke button, for America 1, it does not feel like a looming disaster; instead, it enhances their feeling of safety.

Here are the issues that Clinton campaign should singularly focus on.  

Focus on JOBS

Image result for jobsForget all incredible and horrific things said and done by Trump that make him unfit to be the President. Stay singularly focused on jobs and the economy and his lack of concrete plan to create jobs.  In his post convention interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump was questioned about jobs.  See clip below at 11 minutes, where Trump when asked why he brings in people from overseas to work at Mara Lago resort in Florida, he tried to duck the question by taking talking about other companies offshoring jobs and Stephanopoulos keeps bringing the discussion back to his issuing almost 500 offshore visas since 2010 and Trump deflects it again saying everyone does it because they can’t find American workers.  Hummm, they can’t be re-trained for low level jobs then how is he going to pressure Samsung and Apple to bring skilled jobs outsourced to Indian and Chinese engineers at fraction of the cost, back to America?  Use this clip with Clinton’s concrete plan to continue to create job growth in America.  This is not a sensational piece of news that elite media (largely favored by America 2) will play over and over but you must capitalize on.

Respect & concrete benefits to America’s Veterans

Image result for war veteransAmerica owes to our veterans.  But that sincerity must be expressed with something more tangible than “America loves you and is deeply grateful to you for your service”.  If one vet feels strongly enough to give away his purple heart to Trump then that is one too many vets disillusioned, and whom we must re-engage with.  Our vets must have certain level of job security, access to constant retraining, access to healthcare, including easy access to mental healthcare.  There must be early intervention before PTSD takes an enormous toll on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Talk about how Obamacare has enabled easier access to healthcare for so many people.

Access to mental healthcare and PTSD treatment

Image result for PTSDTrauma has become a significant part of modern life.  It is not only our vets who need access to treatment for PTSD, but also foster care children who are often shuttled around from family to family, from one location to another.  Children who witness domestic violence, often suffer from PTSD, while their needs may be completely ignored at home and outside.

Concrete plan to deal with opioids and other drugs

 Image result for opioid addictionAs mentioned above, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes.  Obama administration and FDA has been deeply concerned about escalating use of opioids and other drugs but how frequently do we hear from Hillary campaign about the plan that is in process?  For instance, the Obama administration is making it easier for doctors and law enforcement to use anti-addiction drugs.  FDA is putting in place steps so that companies seeking approval of any new opioids, must include abuse-deterrent properties and appropriate labeling. But more importantly, there are concrete steps in place to deal with current trends of opioid abuse, including additional training to prescribers on pain management and safe prescribing, encouragement for abuse deterrent formulations, make naloxone more easily available to treat opioid overdose, and encouraging new class of pain medicines without the same risks as opioids.  Ms. Clinton must relentlessly address opioid abuse and significant strides being made under Obama administration to counter that.  

Finally, I humbly suggest that Hillary campaign and the media stop playing over and over and over Trump soundbites that show his racial, gender and other biases – contrary to people being turned off by such bigotry, in the climate of fear he has created and the foundation of hate he has laid, his bigotry gives people a feeling of safety and hope. Considered dialog detailing the history of events and people as done by Rachel Maddow and others and late night shows (Colbert, Noah, Bee, Oliver and others) that point out ridiculous aspects of Trump messages with humor, are however excellent.

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JOBS – February, 2015

Please see below opportunities and send resume as an attachment to wd_darshana at hotmail dot.  My imminent openings are for Quality Engineering and for Software Engineering (both for medical devices).  Please also notice contract opportunities at the end.  All US opportunities are for US based and local candidates.  Opportunities exist in China that are open to all and you can see description in my previous blog at specific one is for Director of Analytical R&D in Suzhou. When sending a resume, please mention job you are interested in, in the subject line and in the email include a brief summary of how best the job description matches your background and where the gaps are.

Senior Electrical Engineer – Austin/ San Antonio – TX

A company working on innovative range of products, has an immediate opening for senior electrical engineer with class III device experience.  Experience with closed loop, analog design hardware, microcontrollers, actuators  and ultra low power consumption circuit design highly desired.  More details will follow soon but if interested, please send resume as an attachment (with some details in email) at wd_darshana at hotmail dot com.

Senior Software/ Algorithm Engineer – Fremont, CA

A company providing innovative diagnostic & therapeutic products &  services to enable interventionalists in providing superior patient care, has an immediate opening for Senior Software Engineer, in Fremont, CA.  Position Summary: This position will be responsible for developing the next generation of image processing algorithms for company’s revolutionary medical devices for cardiovascular business. Individual will participate in object-oriented software development projects using C++ and Qt for a Linux environment. Communicate effectively, as well as to present information to a group in a professional manner. Work cooperatively as part of a team with people from various facilities and technical backgrounds.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities:
Design, develop, and optimize next generation image processing algorithms
Perform lab research and algorithm testing
Develop multi-threaded software for desktop applications
Design code for maintainability and unit tests
Identify, evaluate and mitigate technical project risks
Support formal verification and validation process and participates in transfer of products from R&D to manufacturing
Team player working in a geographically distributed team
Accurately estimate time and resources for completion of specific features/project
Assist in maintaining ISO certification and 510(k) submission requirements

Qualifications & Required Skills:
Minimum BS degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Applied Math, Biomedical Engineering, or related field; Strong background in image processing; 5+ years of software development experience; Excellent coding skills in C/C++; Proficiency in MATLAB; Experience designing object-oriented and distributed software; System level architecture design experienc; Experience with source code management systems like GIT, SVN, Clear Case

Experience developing software for medical device applications for user interaction and control
Experience with medical imaging algorithms like segmentation, co-registration, 3d reconstruction
Experience with python, DICOM, OpenGL graphics
Other: * Travel requirements are moderate. Travel to facilities would be about 2 – 3 days duration each trip with total travel expected to be less than 20%.

Please submit resume at wd_darshana at hotmail dot com, with answers to following questions in the email.  This is client HR’s requirement. 
Please provide information on your formal education:
Please describe your software engineering experience as it relates to design, proof-of concept, detailed design, code, unit and integration testing:
Please describe your experience utilizing UML modeling language, DiCom, MFC, BOOST, STL and C++ :
Do you have experience working Linux OS environment? If yes, provide more detailed information:

Senior Design Engineer with Embedded Hardware & Firmware Skills – Santa Clara, CA

A reputed contract engineering company has an immediate full time opportunity for  a Senior Design Engineer with Embedded Hardware & Firmware Skills.  A rounded individual is desired who has an interest and ability in a wide range of technologies.  The successful candidate will lead a group of engineers from time-to-time and may be required to act as the primary interface to the customers at times.  The company designs devices, firmware, and software for other companies and has a reputation for quick response with high quality work.  The person must enjoy working with customers and have good communication skills.  The person must work well on a team of high performing engineers.  The person needs to be organized.  The person must work well with others and be flexible as schedules and priorities change.

Technical requirements: Ten years of experience in embedded system design engineering is required.  Ability to supervise others is highly desired.  The person should have experience designing circuits with microprocessors from PIC to ARM, FPGAs, Bluetooth, and WiFi as well as experience with programming in C or C++ on these devices.  The person must enjoy learning and be able to learn quickly.  The ability to design and program FPGAs is desired.
This could be a work-at-home job, or work at the company site, in Santa Clara, CA.


Summary:  Medical device design and manufacturing company, located near Santa Cruz, CA, focusing on custom injection molded plastic parts, has an immediate opening for Quality Engineer.  Position focus is on providing support in the development and maintenance of company’s quality systems, support activities related to the development and qualification of new product development for medical device components and assemblies as well as supporting existing products.
* Write FMEAs, review and write protocols and reports for new products
* Ability to multitask on a variety of Quality System compliance and improvement initiatives in a hands-on dynamic environment and be involved with the design, procurement, validation and qualification activities including test, inspection and medical device contract manufacturing service processes.
* Responsible for the facility measurement equipment calibration and maintenance program.
* Collects, collates and analyzes manufacturing data for warranty and nonconformance to determine and report product quality trends.
* Conducts analysis of inspection and tests of a routine degree of complexity and provides recommendations accordingly. Develops quality control inspection requirements and techniques to achieve measured improvement. * Implements the Failure Analysis Process for internal and external nonconforming product to determine appropriate corrective action.
* Support Receiving, In- process and Final Inspection of various components and subassemblies for medical device products to support quality compliance and shipment goals as workload requires.
* Assist in the development and implementation of Quality System processes.
* Attend various product meetings with Engineering, Sales, Support, Marketing, and customers to address product requirements, customer concerns and training issues. Work toward and support Company/Department/Team goals including; QSR and ISO compliance, revenues, training utilization, customer satisfaction, and others as appropriate.
* Qualify and implement document changes involving product or process changes
* Coordinate the reporting, analysis, and resolution of material non-conformance incidences
* Provide support in the timely resolution of product complaints and/or safety issues
* Conduct quality audits and develop subsequent preventive action programs
* Assist Regulatory Affairs Department in the preparation of audits and reports for regulatory agencies.
* Perform Supplier Quality Audits and, as appropriate, Internal Quality System Audits; identify root cause of non-compliance and ensure timely/effective corrections and lor corrective preventative actions are implemented
* Drive effective root cause corrective action through internal and supplier surveillance and corrective action requests.
* Report MRB performance metrics and maintain corrective action database.
* Review and report in-process data from manufacturing processes and facilitate corrective and preventive actions

Requirements: 5 – 7 years’ experience in Quality, medical device, regulatory, and or a medical device manufacturing environment; BS in Bachelor of Science in Quality, Business, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering or related field; Certification, CQE, CQA a plus; Experience as an ISO Lead Auditor desirable; Must be able to communicate effectively at varying technical levels with a customer audience; Hands-on manufacturing experience in mechanical or medical device assemblies. CMM, MicroVu, Vision Systems Programming experience; Working knowledge of U.S. and international medical device regulations is desirable Working knowledge of desktop computer office software, Visio Tools, CAD software and e-mail is required; Excellent verbal and written communication skills; Flexibility to handle multiple tasks and meet timelines; Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills combined with a strong technical presence.

Senior Quality Engineer – Austin/ San Antonio – TX

A company working on innovative drug delivery technology has an immediate opening for senior quality engineer. Great opportunity to work at grounds level and grow into leadership role, in addition to the upside of stocks.

Key Responsibilities:
* Lead QA for: R&D- design, development, V&V phases including hazard/risk analysis and mitigation, DOE and related statistical design and analyses, GDT, design reviews, audits/compliance; Manufacturing including process development, qualification and validation, IQ, OQ, PQ, part/component selection, sterilization and packaging development and validation
* Develop and implement QA systems to be compliant with applicable international and national standards such as ISO 13485 and regulatory requirements of FDA CFR 820 and other bodies for Class III implantables
* Implement productive relationships with R&D and manufacturing suppliers and partners
* Work in a matrixed organizational structure to support company’s facilities, including the respective incubated companies, projects and technologies with an appropriate QA system for each segment
* Educate colleagues and support in-house uptake & implementation of these systems organization-wide* Support the following functions: Regulatory Affairs: provide appropriate documentation and materials to support filings for US and international trials and approvals; Intellectual Property: supporting documentation; Business and Commercialization, including due diligence documentation
* Develop & implement documentation systems for these business functions, including electronic systems, with help of to –be-hired Documentation Specialist

Key Qualifications
* Designed and implemented QA systems for implantable medical devices and drugs. Combinatorial device and Class III experience desirable. At least 10 years experience, >15 years desirable*
* Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or in an equivalent field required, with ASQ certification (CQE, CRE, CQM, CSSBB) desirable
* Led and grown QA organizations with a hands-on, leadership- by-example approach
* Demonstrated working experience with electronics hardware and software, biomaterials, drugs, drug delivery, and mechanical technologies while supporting multidisciplinary teams: engineering, biological, manufacturing, regulatory, intellectual property, clinical and business.
* Excellent and demonstrated grasp and use of statistics in R&D and manufacturing including DOE
* Supported multiple complex projects and start-ups: able to prioritize.
* Developed and implemented design controls, documentation, and design procedures, protocols
* Developed and implemented manufacturability, and related process flows and controls, and selected qualified vendors to manufacture Class III implantable devices
* Strong technical skills with demonstrated ability to provide solutions to a variety of technical problems of varying scope and complexity
* Analytical data-driven problem solver and team player, organized and an excellent communicator

Key Job Parameters
* Full-time position located in Austin/ San Antonio, Texas
* Some travel (~10%) may be necessary to meet job responsibilities
* Report to VP, Product Development

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2 Pianos 4 Hands – Play Review

wpid-20150117_223023.jpgSemi-autobiographical play, co-written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, “2 Pianos 4 Hands”, spotlights the agony and the ecstasy, in the pursuit of excellence.  With two grand pianos the stage is set for two superb actors, who are just slightly less superb piano players.  The production directed by Tom Frey, is a work of creative genius.  Darren Dunstan and Christopher Tocco as Dykstra and Greenblat respectively, are funny, smart, and witty and play various other roles with great aplomb.

If you’ve ever pursued a creative activity then there must be times when you wanted to quit and perhaps someone might have told you these exact same words, “If you want to quit, you are free to do so.  I am your father, I will always love you” and you must be quite aware that these words are really not meant as a permission to quit.  On the other hand, when you decided to give your chosen creative activity, all you got, you might have also heard these words, “I am a little concerned you are so cooped up, you don’t have many friends.  You need to get outside more.”  Or perhaps heard this? “You are being obsessive and it isn’t healthy.  The point is your grades are slipping.  You used to be an honors student”.

The keyboard of a Steinway

The keyboard of a Steinway grand piano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This talented duo performs musical pieces from children’s renditions to adult performances of concert pieces and sonatas, as they take us through the trials and tribulations of pursuing creative excellence.  They seamlessly weave various characters in this funny rendition, where two young pianists pursue big dreams.  As they grow in the talent, they require different teachers, each teacher comes with different styles and different philosophies.  The duo performs, they pass exams, they excel, they fail at some, they get deflated, they pick themselves up and on they go.

In the last part of the second half of the play, they come to the final reality check point.  In the pursuit of creative excellence, there is a major gulf between the best and those who are just slightly less so.  The best perform on the world stage, in concert halls; the slightly less so get to perform in bars.  Greenblat acknowledges, “I feel guilty, when I am not performing, and I feel inadequate, when I do”.  Moments of inadequacy also bring deeper soul searching around meaning of life, “I want to change the world.  How am I going to do it, playing piano”?  In the end, the two piano players give a fabulous world class performance; at least that is what it seems like, to some of us, slightly less discerning musical audience.

It is in the last performance piece that redemption comes.  These two piano players are filled with joy and they give it their best and sometimes pursuit of creative excellence is its own reward, not to mention, sometimes you get to be the “best in the neighborhood” and in this neighborhood of the community theater, the audience revelled in their performance.  The play is running at in Mountain View, CA.


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“Cesar Chavez” – Movie Review

Today is Cesar Chavez day, a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas.  This holiday is in honor of one of the greatest community activists, in recent history, and it is intended to promote community service.  Here is the review on the movie recently released on Chavez’s life and work.

The movie chronicles the civil rights struggle of Chavez, and his steadfast commitment to securing fair living wages and decent work conditions for farm workers, through civil disobedience, and other non-violent means.  The story begins in 1962, in Delano, CA.  Chavez worked in the fields until 1952 and then became an organizer for the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group.  In 1962, Chavez left the CSO and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), later called the United Farm Workers (UFW).  Very early in the struggle, Chavez insisted that they would challenge the growers and rich lobbyists strictly through non-violent means.  Despite the boycotters facing many challenges, including arrested under false pretext, getting beat up by the police, getting shot at by the growers, and being doused by pesticides, Chavez insisted that under his leadership, they will not resort to violent means.  “You always have a choice”, he said.  And yet when people resorted to violence, he went on a fast, insisting that he would only break his fast, if every single member would sign a pledge of non-violence.  He also realized the strength in numbers and says, “we need an army of boycotters”.  Chavez also realized that if divided the farm workers will succumb to the growers, but with collaboration and unity, they will succeed.  He supported Filipino American farm workers and won their support.

This is a beautiful movie that chronicles his struggles that inspired millions of Americans to stand up and fight for social justice.  When the growers decided to bypass the American market and sell to England and countries in Europe, Chavez traveled to Europe and made his case directly to the people there and won their support in boycotting grapes from the US.  Chavez’ ultimate triumph in getting growers to the table and get them to accept the demands from the workers, for social justice and fairness, is indeed a heartwarming testament to the tenacity, commitment, and power of one individual to change the world.

Michael Pena is fabulous in his role as Cesar Chavez.  America Ferrera in her role as Cesar’s wife, Helen Chavez, packs quite a punch.  Helen Chavez supported her husband’s struggles but she was also torn between this struggle and her role as a mother.  When her son, Fernando (Eli Vargas) was getting picked on, in the school, on account of his father’s struggles, she became a lioness, coming to the rescue of her son.  During his teen years, Fernando Chavez, alienated from his peers, due to his father’s struggles, blamed his father and turned away from him, which deeply pained Chavez.

Cesar Chavez has left a giant legacy and he has been commemorated in a number of ways.  He has been a recipient of many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and there is a portrait of Chavez in the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, D.C.  There are books on Cesar Chavez, colleges named after him, parks and roads named after him, and postage stamps and navy ships named in his honor, and more.

This movie beautifully tells the story of the intensely challenging reality of the American farm workers’ lives, during 60’s and 70’s, and Chavez’s role in getting the society to acknowledge the harshness of their life and agree to certain fair wages and living conditions.  While there is an important history lesson embedded here, there isn’t a single dull moment in the movie.  Director Diego Luna has done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of Chavez’s long civil rights struggle and balancing it with a peak into how his struggle impacted other workers and his own family.  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate this movie a 4.8 and I assert that it should be must-see movie for students of American History.

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Other Desert Cities – Play Review

The 2013-2014 season has just begun and I am declaring “Other Desert Cities” currently playing at as an absolutely “must watch” play of the season.  Playwright Jon Robin Baitz was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and received a Tony nomination for Best Play.  “On the edge of the sea”, in Palm Springs, California, in the land of “endless sunshine”, lives a patriarch of the family, a kind, affable man, Lyman, who is professionally the GOP chair, his wife Polly, the matriarch of the family who embodies Republican values in words and deeds, and is fiercely disciplined and demanding of perfection, from her family, and her sister Silda, who is a writer and a liberal.  James Sutorius, in his first Theatreworks appearance as Lyman, and Julia Brothers as Silda, are absolutely fantastic, and Kandis Chappell, who has appeared in over 30 productions, in the Bay Area, carries her role as Polly, with marvelous perfection.    They are joined during Christmas holidays, by their two children Trip and Brooke, superbly played by Rod Brogan and Kate Turnbull.

The family drama that unfolds when two extremely liberal grown children join their highly conservative parents and a liberal aunt with problems of her own, is a reflection of the broader cultural and political divide, in the country, where each side is often determined to impose its vision of America on the other, where each side fiercely believes that their vision for the country is ethically and morally superior, and any compromise would be akin to betraying these deep moral standards.  And yet, in this family, under highly contentious and razor sharp retorts, there is deep love.  The complexity of issues is so intense, depth of characters is so masterful, the dialogs are packed with so much punch, that this is a play that can be watched more than once.

Polly, the matriarch, demands a lot from her family, but also holds her family together, and is like a rock on whom everyone leans for support.  When she says, “the only way to have someone not be an invalid is to not treat them like they are invalid”, it evokes a sharp retort from her liberal sister, Silda, “and there you have it, entire GOP platform, in a nutshell”.  Her children, especially Brooke is constantly at odds with Polly.  In response to her children’s sharp retorts, Polly says in exasperation, “Why is it that children are allowed endless series of free passes in life”.  This play contains so much and offers so many thought provoking issues.  There is family drama, political divide, mystery, intrigue, cultural and ideological war, razor sharp wit, humor, tragedy, love that tugs at the heart and love that holds the family together, in its divided state.  I laughed and I cried and thought and rethought and I am ready to see the play again.

Theatreworks and Artistic Director Robert Kelley deserve the kudos for bringing the most awesome plays to the Bay Area.  Director, Richard Seer has done a superb job.  Stage Manager, Radall K. Lum, Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf, and Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge have done a masterful job in the set.  The stage reflects a multi-million dollar Californian home and the many symbolic elements on the stage include a beautiful free standing fireplace that gives the chills, when the air in the room gets too heavy, and the characters get lonely in their own home.

If you love theater, you must watch this play.  If you are not sure about the power of live theater in touching you deeply, then watch this play.  If you are a liberal, you will love the wit and the humor.  If you a conservative, you will enjoy the characters of Lyman and Pollie who despite the potshots directed at them, create a loving and supporting home.  If you enjoy unraveling the mystery, dialogs that make you laugh, dialogs that make you cry, then watch the play.  For tickets, go to


Desert Cactus flowers.  Teutonia Peak Trail ha...

Desert Cactus flowers. Teutonia Peak Trail has the best Joshua Trees Yucca brevifolia) in the country. Yucca brevifolia is a plant species belonging to the genus Yucca. It is tree-like in habit, which is reflected in its common names: Joshua tree, yucca (Photo credit: mikebaird)

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Fabulous Opportunity to hear Gavin Newsom & Moira Gunn @HealthTechForum Conf.

Health Technology Forum connects people worldwide, with an aim to make affordable and quality healthcare accessible for all people.  Recently, at Innovation Conference, under the theme of “Platforms for the Underserved”, many prominent physicians and others interested and working in this arena, gathered to discuss and advance the agenda of affordable healthcare.  Below are highlights from inspiring keynote by Gavin Newosm, Lieutenant Governor of California and panel session moderated by Dr. Moira Gunn, host of National Public Radio program, The Tech Nation.

Gavin Newsom – Keynote at Health Tech Forum Innovation Conference

“Once the campaign is over, we politicians stop listening to you”, said Gavin Newsom in his luncheon keynote address at Health Technology Forum conference.  Newsom peppered his talk with crisp sound bites, and made a case for thriving, in what is “no longer a connected world, but a hyper connected world.”  Much can be achieved if people get together with determination and commitment.  “Organized people are whole lot more powerful than organized money”, said Newsom.  Proud of his moral and ethical stand on issues, Newsom said, he voted to oppose death penalty, legalize marijuana, rescind the three strikes rule, and in support of gay marriage.  “You may not agree with me,” he said, “but I sleep well.”  He urged people to exercise their moral authority, to step up and say what they believe in, to be authentic, stand by their principles, to shake things up.  “The world demands it”, said Newsom and brought the house down.  Newsom concluded by quoting Churchill, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another, with no loss of enthusiasm”.


Gavin-newsom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Dr. Moira Gunn of NPR’s Tech Nation at Health Technology Forum Conference

Moira Gunn

Moira Gunn (Photo credit: @bdthomas)

Dr. Moira Gunn, Host of Tech Nation, moderated the luncheon panel.  Dr. Jessica Evert, Executive Director at Child Family Health International, said, humility and technology are both essential in improving health on a global scale.  Asset based community development model is based around deploying technology and coordinating around existing cultural and geographic strengths, not around deficiencies.  Dr. Gary Heit, cofounder of AMCANI, an organization that seeks to support modern neurosurgery in developing countries, concurred.  During his numerous experiences in developing countries, he has observed, that often they are not lacking in skills or intellectual capacity but in equipment and resources. Dr. Mainul Islam is COO of Medic Mobile, a company focused improving health care in challenging settings, through the utilization of technology.  Islam shared about their work in 16 countries.  Gunn applauded all these efforts to make a difference.



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