Posts Tagged Musings

Inequality for All: Robert Reich’s Documentary – Movie Review

The film “Inequality for All” premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking.  Huffington Post calls it a “must-see movie” and according to Variety, this film “does for income disparity what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for Climate Change”; a deeper understanding of the issues and meaningful conversations around some action.  How cool that our local community college hosted the screening and fabulous panel discussion, following the film!  DeAnza College at Cupertino is a model in providing top notch all-rounded education experience, with opportunity for civic and community engagement.  Economic disparity is a very real problem in our society and here is a link to my previous blog on this issue and the huge fragmenting impact of economic disparity on the fabric of our families and communities – .

In “Inequality for All”, economist, author, professor and former labor secretary, Robert Reich examines the widening income disparity in the US, and discusses its impact on our society, and on our democracy.  So how wide is the gap?  In 2011 broadcast of “The Daily Show”, Jon Stewart cited a CIA Gini Index in which the United States ranked 64th in income inequality (worse than Cameron, but just above Uraguay).  Later CIA revised the figures, but as Robert Reich explains in the film, 400 people in the US have more wealth than half the population of the USReich examines the years leading up to the crash in 1928, and in 2007, and finds striking parallels.

President Reagan’s economic policy was based on reducing growth of government spending, reducing federal income tax, reducing capital gains tax, reducing government regulation, and tightening the money supply to reduce inflation.  The very wealthy often made their money in capital gains, and at 15% rate, frequently pay less in taxes than the average Americans.  When wealthy do not pay higher taxes, the middle class gets stagnated.  When middle class is squeezed, it stops spending, stops buying, and there is less revenue for states, for public institutions.  This results in cost of higher education going up, higher school dropout rate, less skilled workforce, more jobs going abroad, higher unemployment and so on.

It is a misnomer to believe that when the very wealthy have more money, they would spend more and hire more.  They may buy 3 more cars or 5 more pairs of jeans.  But in the end, there is only so much they can buy, compared to a mass of middle class people.  The more wealth they accumulate, the very wealthy invest in speculative assets, in gold, housing, and/or invest it abroad.  That is exactly what happened in the years preceding the crash in 2007.  The financial sector ballooned and greater deregulations helped the speculative assets to grow.

Meanwhile, the average American worker was struggling to keep up.  Not wanting to get locked out of the American dream, middle class families too were buying homes.   While middle class salaries had stagnated, two income families grew, and many people were working two and three jobs, in addition to borrowing heavily (often against the equity in their homes), just to make ends meet.  With greater deregulations, union bashing, and union squashing, increasingly their voices were not heard.  In 1992, President Bill Clinton promised to cut taxes for the middle classes, and make the very wealthy pay their fair share.  He also promised to contain outrageous executive pay.  Many executives then began to get paid in stock options which further fueled the growth of speculative assets.  Government sets the rules by which the markets function, says Reich.

Robert Reich of the Roosevelt National Advisor...

Robert Reich of the Roosevelt National Advisory board, as Secretary of Labor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Big corporations are simply not designed to generate jobs.  They operate with focused objectives of making profit and delivering value to the shareholders.  Technology and globalization enable big corporations to take the jobs away from average American workers and go to the regions of the world, where labor supply is cheaper.  Who looks out for the average American worker?  The answer is “nobody”, says Reich.  President Clinton’s policies did nothing to stop the downward spiral of the middle class.  The eventual economic crash further harmed the middle class families.  Many of them cannot afford to stay in their homes and resulting pressure often fragmented or broke up families.  Please do check out my previous blog on its devastating impact on our families – .  The very wealthy do not benefit when things get so dire for the majority. Reich makes the points emphatically, citing data and sources to bolster his perspectives and with appropriate amount of humor.

Panel Discussion

This much is clear from the film that this growing income disparity is lethal for a society and for the democracy.  People are polarized and on edge.  No one benefits from it.  In the end, it also hurts the very wealthy.  What communities would they live in when the teachers, the grocery store clerks and others cannot afford to live in the same communities?  But how can average Americans take back their voice and get heard?  What can they do?  The panel discussion that followed the film was enlightening and heart warming.  The panelists included Professor Ben Pacho, Professor Jim Nguyen, President of De Anza College, Dr. Brian Murphy, Dr. Crystallee Crain, and Dr. Cynthia Kaufman.

Dr. Murphy advised that we not just focus on marginal shifts but focus on the big picture and reclaim public institutions.  He suggested we learn about power and leverage the capacity to build coalitions by forging connections across diversity of race, gender, and cultures, to focus on the true cause.  It might be a long struggle but with unity, we can counterbalance the power of money.  Dr. Kaufman (author of “Ideas for Action” and “Getting Past Capitalism”, added that we need to focus on building deep, authentic relationships with each other and with “stuff” so that we end up requiring less stuff.  According to Dr. Crain, we need to overcome apathy and Professors Pacho and Nguyen emphasized the need to get involved in the community.  All panelists emphasized they would not want to see the students getting burnt out.  In fact, Dr. Murphy talked about the power of “random episodic silent thinking” or rest!  He said, no one can do any kind of community or activist work, if they do not deeply love.  This love may be for someone or something but deep affection anchors the values and purposefulness and provides the drive to be involved in things one cares about.  It may not be everything that we all can take on.  But apathy just won’t do.  Each of us can take on and contribute to something we deeply care about so we can leave the world a better place.

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JPM 2014: Keynote by General Michael Hayden, Former Director, NSA & CIA

Three days before President Mr. Obama announced changes in NSA and limitations to Government access to phone data, participants at 32nd Annual J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in SF, had an opportunity to listen to the luncheon keynote address given by General Michael Hayden, former director of National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency. See below some highlights from the talk.

Traditionally lunch keynotes at JPM conference have been given by conservative political figures. Hayden is known to have headed the super secret agency from 1995 to 2005 and oversaw some of the controversial programs that followed 9/11.  He has always defended them as effective and proper.  At JPM keynote however, Hayden did not give his opinions but mostly discuss the increasing complexity in the world, where the choices are limited and equally complex, with varying ramifications.

Hayden painted a realistic, complex, and scary picture of the world.  In the new hyper connected world, the boundaries are less defined, said Hayden.  Previously, it was easy to classify the world into domestic and foreign; intelligence and law enforcement.  However, geographical and other boundaries are not that well marked, in this new world.  Today, a security establishment tries to defend the nation against threats that do not neatly fit into domestic or foreign, said Hayden.  To bolster his argument, he quoted the example of Edward Snowden’s actions and its wide ranging implications.

Hayden also said that US has parted ways with its allies a while back.  For instance, while US believes in the use of force, our allies believe that its usefulness is limited.  In the US, law is not concerned with privacy issues of an individual who is not a US citizen.  Whereas in Europe, there is a broader sense of expectation of privacy as a sacred human right, said Hayden.  “Values matter and we have fundamental value differences with our allies”, said Hayden.

Speaking of China, he said, China does not present any major threat to the us because our economies are deeply integrated, with the Chinese economy more dependent on the US than the other way around.  In the coming years, China will face huge labor shortages, due to its one child policy.

Speaking about Al Qaeda, Hayden said, it is not a group, but a movement, focused on scaling “a leaderless jihad”.  Al Qaeda represents some of the toughest choices.  If the US is too tough, too soon then it may be able to squash trouble, before it becomes bigger, but on the other hand, an early use of force can turn people against the US, said Hayden.  In some regions, Al Qaeda only focuses on local grievances and not on the US.  If the US goes there to squash the group in its infancy then it can snuff out the trouble before it begins or it might end up focusing the groups efforts on the US as its new enemy.  Also how the US defines a problem can affect the adoption of the strategy.

Hayden also gave his opinions on his former boss, President Mr. Bush as well as on President Obama.  President Bush’s style was Wilsonian and Jacksonian, said Hayden.  When it came to dealing with external threats, President Bush was an idealist and aggressive and he tended to be rhetorical.  President Obama is also Wilsonian, in that he is idealist and rhetorical.  But additionally, he is Jeffersonian, a thinker, said Hayden.  Hayden is believed to have said before that it is important to understand the scary world we live in and keep a focus on safety, while also protecting civil liberties.  I would have loved to hear his perspectives on how these competing issues would be balanced.   Instead, Hayden focused on sharing his thoughts on the complex set of challenges that the government or the government security agencies like the NSA and the CIA face on a daily basis and discussing how any choice they make could put them on a path of novel set of choices and challenges.

Michael Hayden, director of the CIA.

Michael Hayden, director of the CIA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency. The first use was in September 1966, replacing an older seal which was used briefly. For more information, see here and here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Will Durst’s Big Fat Year-End Kiss Off Comedy Show

Bay Area’s Premiere Off-Broadway “San Jose Stage Theater” hosted 2013 year-end and 2014 New Year celebration with Will Durst’s Big Fat Year-end Kiss Off Comedy Show on December 31st, 2013.  Will Durst and his friends Mari Magaloni, Johnny Steele, Michael Bossier, Debi Durst and Arthur Gaus offered a night of comedy and satire with a collection of political jokes, stand-up comedy, quizzes, and hilarious skits.  The night ended with a balloon drop and champagne celebration at the stroke of mid-night to welcome the new year.showpic_willdurst6

The show was delightful.  Will Durst began with Snowden’s taking refuge in Russia, “it’s like you joining the army because you are tired of people telling you what to do”.  Debi Durst was hilarious in the little skit with Michael Bossier, as a toilet room attendant.  The entire cast performed a short family X’mas celebration skit, replete with all family members hooked to their mobile devices and Arthur Gaus tweeting that he was enjoying a great family time.  Arthur is new kid who joined the Durst comedy show circuit and his one act stand up comedy was witty and hilarious.

The audience was in fits of laughter over Will and Debi’s Government shutdown skit.  Debi as Yosemite attendant insisted that Will, a tourist had to leave and cannot see the Yosemite, due to the shutdown.  Will insisted that Yosemite was there and he was only going to look and Debi insisted that he cannot look because then he has to be charged and he cannot be charged because she cannot process payment due to shutdown and she would have to arrest him, if he looked.  Johnny Steele performed a skit on complicated healthcare laws.  Michael Bossier and Mari Magaloni’s skit on the new affordable healthcare was absolutely the best.  With a straight face, Mari played the role of automated voicemail system that kept throwing Mike into loops of endless messages.  By the time he got to the operator (again played by Mari), the audience was in fits of laughter.

The show ended with one act stand up comedy by political satirist Will Durst, with brilliant quips of humor.  “People keep referring to Mr. Putin as ex-KGB, but there is no such thing as ex-KGB.  You know, what is an ex-KGB?  It’s someone who is DEAD”.  And “why blame Mr. Obama for things?  He did not do anything”.  Silicon Valley was also target of jokes.  “If you go to Radio Shack in Silicon Valley, reps ask customers for help”.  And on affordable healthcare – “if you do not sign up, you get fined, and if you don’t pay the fine, you go to prison where you get free healthcare”.  New year is a reminder of years gone by and when Will talked of how things were, the days when “we had no caller ID and if the phone rang, we picked it up”, and “moving the antenna on the TV to get perfect reception, took up an entire hour”, the audience was in throes of laughter and ready to welcome the new year.


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Happy New Year – 2014!!

Happy New Year!

Happy Peaceful Year to all World!

Happy Peaceful Year to all World! (Photo credit: Viola & Cats =^..^=)Wish you many blessings in the coming year

Wish you many many blessings in the coming year!
Lots of love, having near all who are dear
Oodles of joyous odes and Pinch of prosperity
For all hard work done with passion & integrity
Dash of hope and tons of heart tugging moments
For those sprinklings of sorrows and laments
May you have many gains with littlest pain
Lots of sunshine, just the right amount of rain
Bunch of blessings, hardy health, and good cheer
All the good things to last all year!
Here’s link to my year-end review –


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2013 Year-in-Review – Year about expanding perspectives & moving out of comfort zones

Previous years’ turmoil continued in 2013 with debates around healthcare, privacy, race, gun control, weather and more, coming to a boiling point.  Everyone was persuaded to move out of their comfort zones, from Paula Dean (on race remarks) to those shocked by Sandy Hook shooting and Boston bombings (would gun control have an impact on curbing mass violent acts) to Obamacare (so many mishaps and jury is still out in terms of long term impact) to Pope St. Francis of Assisi (if Pope is sounding more like Jesus and embracing humanity, how are those entrenched in the church’s doctrine and dogma to make sense with any of it) to archaic “stand your ground” laws.  World events also compelled national leaders to expand their perspectives and confront moral issues around Syria (as the world sits by helplessly, a country of 21M has created 2M refugees and 120,000+ have died), China (flush with economic power, flexing its muscle), enormous legacy and impact of Nelson Mandela (lesson to insist on justice and then follow it with compassion and forgiveness).  And Mr. Obama has communicated that US delegation for upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia will include America’s openly gay athletes.  If storms and typhoons are any indication of winds of change, they were blowing stronger than ever, towards the year’s end.  Nearly 4000 people lost their lives and 4.4M people were displaced by super typhoon Haiyan, in Philippines.  In the US, tornados, thunder storms, black ice, freezing rain, and power outages, briefly turned the concern over from global warming to global freezing.  Winds of change are felt by many, as the job market has gotten stronger, housing market has markedly improved, stock market has rallied, hiring has continued to pick up pace and unemployment has fallen to 7%.  Yeaaaaaa!!!!

As the year draws to a close, as a recruiter (focused on life science, biotech, and medical device companies that were lagging behind in the recovery), the pace of hiring is making me very busy and quite happy.  Please see my opportunities in JOBS category of my blog and send resume to wd_darshana at hot mail dot com.  The year was anything but uneventful, for me.  I saw nearly two dozen plays (check out my reviews in the Play category), countless movies, read many books, attended book clubs, attended many conferences and talks (many of which I have written about on my blog), and attended many wonderful Gujarati music events (on which I have written in Gujarati). As a certified blogger, as member of the “press”, with my complementary tickets to live theater, conferences, and other events, it has been a great pleasure to spread the love and introduce many friends to the joys of quality entertainment and other events and I have interacted or have gotten mentioned by actors, directors, authors, and got mentioned in ads.  It’s been a fun ride.

Both of us, my daughter, Neesha and I traveled.  Neesha completed the last semester of this year, in a study abroad program, at Glasgow, Scotland.  California girl absolutely loved Scotland, despite the weather!  She also traveled to London and met the huge Kothari clan and many cousins (my mom’s side of the family), and traveled to Ireland (also loved it) and greatly enjoyed learning Scottish dancing.  Neil is busy and IT is his life, so he says.  My mom is doing well and I am grateful to the angels watching over her.  I took absolutely delightful Mediterranean cruise and visited gorgeous islands of Greece (Athens, Mytilini, Mykonos, Heraklion) and mystical Turkey (Istanbul and Kusadasi).  And then I went on yet another fantastic tour and visited amazing China!  While the Mediterranean cruise tickled the senses, the trip to China, at the year’s end, expanded the senses.  (Do check out my travel writeups on my blog, – a new category that I started this year).

Wish you a wonderful holiday season at the year’s end, and an absolutely fabulous journey and many blessings in 2014.

Glasgow bid logo

Neesha was in Scotland Glasgow bid logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neesha was in Scoland and D in Forbidden City, Beijing, China




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Forgiveness & Justice – Tribute to Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela

There are many tributes going on as the world celebrates Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela’s life and joins in the mourning of the passing away of this giant of a man.  The huge enormous story of his many accomplishments is based on a corner stone of forgiveness and reconciliation.  I am using the loving name his country gave him, as we bid our fond farewell.

Madiba spent 27 years, nearly one third of his long life, in a prison cell.  That is an enormous length of time to nurture the wounds, stew in venom and rage, and vow for revenge.  But Madiba forgave, in the prison and out of the prison and he reconciled with his enemies.  In prison, he converted several guards.  (I would not have believed it to be possible – remember the famous Stanford Prison Experiments by Zimbardo)!  But Madiba managed it.  In the prison, children were not allowed.  But once Winnie, Madiba’s wife, visited with their grand daughter, Zaziwe.  A guard, Christo Brand helped cover the child with a blanket and smuggle her in, so Madiba can see her (Brand has written a book “Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend” and the story also appears in the movie, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”).  There is a similar story of his guard, James Gregory (and another movie “Goodbye Bafana” about it). In 1995, Madiba used the game of Rugby to send his country, his message of reconciliation.  Rugby was an all white sport in South Africa, with an all white team.  Often the black people rooted for New Zealand’s “All Blacks” team.  Madiba donned Afrikaans Springbok team shirt and gave personal message to each player, wishing him good luck.  It was magical.  The energy in the team soared and they won.  A nation teetering on the brink of a civil war had something else to strive for, peace and unity.  Today, both teams, the All Blacks and the Springboks are mourning the loss of Madiba and will observe moments of silence.

And let us not forget that Madiba insisted on justice.  Forgiveness cannot come if injustice continues to occur and perpetrators continue to abuse power.  Forgiveness can only occur after the balance of power is restored and then one makes a conscious choice to give up revenge and thus refuse to be held hostage to the past and to the perpetrators, and chooses instead to reconcile, in favor of peace and for future. Forgiveness is not an act that comes from cowardice.  It is an act of courage that follows the previous act of courage to pursue and seek justice and fairness.

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Syria Conundrum and the US response

Syria has presented an interesting conundrum for the US.  For over 2 years, charming Syrian dictator who is also a ruthless murderer, Bashar al Assad has laid siege upon his own people and has systematically massacred over 100,000 civilians, and millions have become refuges.  World watches helplessly.  What is a US president to do?  Welcome to the 21st century, where American mindset will prove lacking, unless we embrace complexity and uncertainty.

We in the US, like clear problems that have clear solutions.  We do not like shades of gray.  We like our leaders to be decisive, not reflective.  And we just do not understand the complexities that exist in many parts of the world, except in a perfunctory manner.  For instance, we can rattle off statistics about how many languages are spoken in certain parts of the world; we can talk about gender differences in parts of the world; we can speak about class dynamics.  What we do not understand are the underlying reasons that make it so; the stakeholders who want to preserve the status quo and why; those who clamor for change and how they are in no way different from any of us in the US, in terms of their tech savvyness, their English speaking skills, and who may be more savvy in terms of their cultural insights.  

President Obama has been criticized for the “zig-zag” nature of his policy, in response to Syria.  I will however, go out on a limb, and say that this is exactly what we need from our leader in the new, global, multicultural world fraught with enormous complexities and serious challenges; a world that does not present clear problems and one that is much less ready for clear, decisive solutions.  This is not a world where one sentence rhetoric that says, let us capture Bin Laden “dead or alive” will work.

In fact just to make my point with clarity that the Americans so love, I am going to quote some Bushisms below.
“Removing Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency, it is the right decision now, and it will be the right decision ever.” –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., March 12, 2008
“Wait a minute. What did you just say? You’re predicting $4-a-gallon gas? … That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that.” –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Feb. 28, 2008
“Let’s make sure that there is certainty during uncertain times in our economy.” — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., June 2, 2008
“Oftentimes people ask me, ‘Why is it that you’re so focused on helping the hungry and diseased in strange parts of the world?'” –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 18, 2008

The thing is that world is not so strange to a lot of people who not only have stepped out of their homes and their comfort zones and traveled places and mingled with people vastly different from them.  Additionally, with technology people can make little google guy on street view walk and go places for them and people do research on wikipedia and they use skype, telepresene, go to meeting, webex and other technologies to bring the world closer and there are no far-away, “strange” places.  The thing is that removing any dictator or an abuser of human rights is neither a fully right decision and nor is it a completely wrong one.                                                                                                             

Consider the competing priorities that the President of the US must manage.  In this new world, the US cannot act as a cop and neither can the US remain a helpless bystander.  The US President, commander-in-chief of the armed forces cannot simply ignore Assad’s blatant refusal to follow the rules previously agreed upon by 190 odd countries, regarding the ban of chemical weapons.  But neither can the President of the US ignore the fact that Americans are tired with war and they do not want their leader calling them to make sacrifices, especially in the face of so much uncertainty.  The US cannot ignore the moral imperative to intervene; if the US does not escort the moderates now than it is less likely we will find them later.  Nor can the US ignore the national interest argument of Assad gone mad and his people pouring into the neighboring regions; more countries and groups may stockpile such weapons and use them and someday they could be used against the US.

President Obama’s considered response – actually responses, his willingness to come forth and present the argument to the American people, his reluctance to jump into war, his willingness to get support from the Congress, his flexibility to change the course of military action, all this is precisely what we need in a leader who must weigh the competing complexities, not just once, but on a daily and hourly basis.  And despite this, the President is neither waffling, nor has run out of options. 

President Obama has warned the Syrian dictator, over and over that the world is watching and keeping track of his human rights abuses.  Assad was warned regarding the use of chemical weapons.  The president has gone and discussed with the world leaders; though the countries do not want to intervene, there is tremendous tacit support in the world, and huge disapproval of Assad’s actions.  The president has gotten solid evidence of use of chemical weapons by Assad, has sought approval from the Congress for military strike, and the president has explained to American people and ensured us that there will be no boots on the ground, that we will not be called upon to make significant sacrifices, when we have our own priorities and challenges to deal with.  And now, another dictator, Vladimir Putin has come forth, to help the process of negotiation and Mr. Obama has also entertained that.  At this point Mr. Obama has built the most solid case that if he uses military might, it will only be after he has tried every other option and the objective will be to strike strategically Assad’s control and command posts, with an objective to weaken him, without putting boots on the ground.

Now let us also answer those who say that military strike to weaken Assad is an action that is too little, too late.  Middle East is a complex region.  There are many voices, many stakeholders; there are many who suffer deeply and there are many who bestow deep suffering onto others.  Going into that region with an idea to fix something, to take a dictator out, to support a friend, to hurt a foe, to broker a peace, will never have intended consequence because every action from outside, generates equal and opposite reaction from inside.  However, what we can do is to give a blow to anyone flaunting violating an agreed upon treaty, a few precise air strikes that send a strong message that you can get away with only so much before the world will take notice of your actions and send a punishing message.  This action, while conveying a message to Assad, also would convey a message to the rebels that if they stay focused and disciplined than the world will not completely forget them and they have friends outside who are committed to seeing the atrocities stopped.  It is nice to have moderate friends in that region.  It would give a psychological boost to the rebels and we would hope that some of them are moderate.  Strategically, it would keep the situation from spiraling completely out of balance, a situation where Assad’s side could get so powerful that they may completely wipe out the other side from every raising its head.

We know what happens in situations that spiral out of balance.  The examples are many and they are heartbreaking – Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks, after World War I; rape of Nanking, China, by the Japanese in 1937; atrocities against the Jews in Nazi Germany, before the end of world war II; civil war that wiped out its entire educated population, in Cambodia, in 1970s by Pol Pot led Khmer Rouge; Muslim genocide in Kosovo in 1990s, under the leadership of all too powerful Slobodan Milosevic; genocide and slaughter of the Tutsis by the powerful Hutus in Rawanda, in mid-1990s.  Atrocities committed by Assad regime are nearing that kind of epic proportions.  And he has one chance now to deliver and destroy his chemical weapons.

Vladimir Putin has also made a mockery of human rights in Russia.  And now he has an opportunity to emerge as a politician of some stature, not just by sending in an op-ed piece, obviously written by someone else; but by bringing value to the table in getting Syria to hand over its chemical weapons stockpiles over to the international community.  Syria, better pay heed, that the country that cherishes democracy, seeks to stop human rights abuses, embraces the weak, and the children, is not soft at its core; it has mettle and is committed to its principles and it will not sit idly watching this ruthless man massacre innocent children.  And as for us, to operate more effectively in the complex, smaller, new world, we better learn to become comfortable with lack of certainty, fuzziness and shades of gray; we’d better learn some flexibility and adaptability; and we’d better understand that we live in a global community.  If TB and Bird Flu can travel across countries with great speed, so can chemical and biological weapons, and there is a reason that most of the world has made a pact to banish such weapons of mass destruction. 

An enlargeable map of the Syrian Arab Republic

An enlargeable map of the Syrian Arab Republic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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On Writing a Blog Part II – Why you should write a blog

This blog is part ii of series or 3 blogs.  In part I, focused on “When NOT to Write A Blog” –   In this part II, I will focus on When to write a blog and what you gain from blogging, and in part III I will focus on “How to Market A Blog” and will be posting it in few days.

Top 10 reasons, you must start blogging.

No. 10 – You have ongoingly information to share that will resolve a pain point for consumers/ buyers/ sellers etc.
If you are knowledgeable about some technical aspects that could help people make better decisions for the products they want to buy, or regarding food choices, regarding their health etc. then you should blog.  If you have technical information that can help people solve their technical challenges and you are able to demonstrate that effectively with step by step directions then you should blog.  Similarly, if you have information about cars, cameras and more that can help people and you can clearly write about it then please consider writing a blog.

No. 9 – You absolutely cannot help yourself.
If your need for self-expression is so strong, you absolutely need to share, then you should become a blogger because this is an easiest medium to share your perspectives.  For instance, one day early in the morning, I had put on some music and was dancing, rather vigorously and I bashed into my living room wall, and broke my toe.  The pain was immediate and intense.  I sat down and then crawled to my desk and with the support stood up and sat on the chair.  Then I was thinking if I should call a friend, yell to wake up my daughter, hobble to get ice and through it all the humor of how it happened struck me.  Instantly, I though of a poem and I had to write it and post it on the blog. The urge to write and share a poem became stronger than the impending need to alleviate the pain and stop the swelling that was fast ballooning.  You may not be world’s best writer, but if you must share then blog is the best medium J and you can ignore everything else said in part 1 about When NOT to write a blog.

No. 8 – Your urge to share your perspectives is consistent and frequent.
Sometimes, you see a wonderful movie and you want to share how absolutely delightful the movie was or you visit a gorgeous site and you want to share with others and tell them that they must visit the site and that may make you feel that you need to blog about it.  For instance, I had to share about #lifeofpi – or #BhaagMilkhaBhaag – .  However, if this only happened once in a while, then blog may not be the best medium.  Or, you might be delighted but you may express it lamely in writing then writing may not be the best channel.  But for the most part, if you are yearning to share your experience, then you should consider writing a blog.

No. 7 – Your access to materials worth sharing is frequent.
For instance, if you love to write movie reviews and want to blogg about it then you should be watching a lot of movies.  If you want to write book reviews on your blog then you should be reading a lot of books; if you want to write about technology, then should be constantly accessing/ researching newer technologies and so on.  I attend a lot of conferences and talks and write previews of upcoming talks or reviews of the events and talks at,,, and so on.  I also love live theater and write a lot of play reviews and attend shows at,,,,, and so on.  You might focus exclusively on sharing your own perspectives but share them with creativity and originality.

No. 6 – You are not targeting your friends to be your primary blog audience.
You have to target more broadly, outside of the circle of your friends.  Even if you are a great blogger, all your friends will not have the same interests as you do.  Although, your good friends will read, comment, give feedback, and will encourage you, so do share with your friends, but without pestering them, where they feel compelled to read your blog.  I am forever indebted to my friends for bringing so much joy in my life that enables me to create a space for writing and here is my gratitude blog – .

No. 5 – You have plans to market your blog.
I will write more on this in the last segment on how to market your blog.  But remember that writing a blog is not like writing a diary.  You want people to read and take interest in what you have to say.  And only way people can do that is if they have access to what you have to say.  As I have already said earlier, targeting your friends solely as your blog audience, is not a good strategy for long term health and vitality of your blog.  (By the way, if you wish to follow me, my twitter handle is @DarshanaN and tweet the links to all my blogs).

No. 4 – You are actively accessing/ researching wide range of information.
One engaging discussion about some political topic and a perspective you want to share, may not make a good reason for starting a blog.  Yes, people do that sometimes.  But good blogs with wide viewership, come from bloggers who are doing wider research and share perspectives with more depth and value.  For instance, I felt strongly about the declining status of education in the US and finally I put in time to do some research, before I wrote the blog – .  You must enjoy reading and hearing different perspectives to be able to share your own thoughts effectively and authentically.

No. 3 – You are religious about not compromising on content and quality.
You can compromise on frequency but never on content.  If you provide sloppy content, wrong facts, or poor quality material then eventually your readership will diminish and disappear.  To keep up frequency, you can invite guest bloggers who can provide equally good content, as you.

No. 2 – You are not obsessive about privacy
Privacy violations are scary in the digital age.  And we all need to take appropriate steps to protect our privacy.  However, as I said earlier, if you want to reach a broader audience for your blog then you have to allow them a way to reach you.  You need to decide the channel and the boundaries that work for you to manage your more visible public profile.

No. 1 – You want to focus on intentional living and self-development
It is my belief that blog writing gives clarity in thinking and brings greater intentionality and purposefulness to life.  My writing has enabled me to pursue my disparate love for theater and for conferences on new technologies.  I read books with greater focus, listen to speakers without ever falling asleep, and see little rhymes in life’s adversities and challenges.  Writing a blog has helped me to prioritize my lifestyle, cut down activities that suck a great deal of time and bring little pleasure, and has enabled me to create more time, with minimal lifestyle.  I credit my blog writing for enabling me to have a wonderfully engaged life, as an emptynester.  I am generally a happy person but writing makes me happier.  It is at once a social activity and yet a private activity.  It helps you to retreat from people for some personal meditation space and it helps you to more meaningfully engage with the world.

So now go ahead and start your blog, give it a go, and in next part I will discuss how you can market it.

Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired

Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired (Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog)

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On writing a blog Part 1 – When NOT to Write a Blog

I hear frequently from friends and acquaintances that they want to write a blog but they are not sure and they often ask for my advice.  So I decided to write an article on when to write a blog, how to blog efficiently, how to determine the target population and how to market the blog.  However, before I get to that part, I felt I must share first about when NOT to write a blog.  This is the first part of a 3 part series on blog writing.  In the next post, I will blog about top 10 reasons when you want to seriously consider writing a blog and in the third part, I will share about how to market your blog and reach a broader base of readers.

Here are top 10 reasons when you may want to consider options other than a blog, for self expression.

No. 10 – You feel you have lots of opinions and you should express them
Guess what, 85%+ of us, humans are highly opinioned and most of them use family or friends gatherings and FB to express their opinions.  But just because you played doctor-patient as a child, you can’t be a good doctor.  Similarly, you hear many parents of a teen saying that that their child loves to argue and will make a good attorney and it can’t be further from the truth.  So also, because you have opinions when you are talking with your friends, does not make necessarily for a good blog, unless you have cutting edge, sharp way of expressing your different opinions that room goes silent, when you start to speak.  In any case, how your friends perceive you is not the best measure of your ability or lack of ability to write (more on that later in part 3).  Sometimes, I blog to express my opinions (e.g. on Occupy Wall Street movement) but that is not solely the focus of my blog.

No. 9 – Do not have a blog to lament or whine about social ills or popular views
Now you can do this if you are able to notice things from a completely different perspective and express your views extremely sarcastically, wittily, clearly or distinctively.  You may have enjoyed some engaging debates with your friends around some social topics, but in general, lame laments, lamely expressed, do not make good blog topics.  (Sometimes I blog about strong feelings I have for instance, against the easy availability of guns there is my blog poem after Newtown, CT tragedy – and there is my blog poem after the rape of a woman in a public bus in India –,  but that is when I had something specific to say; it was not just to voice a lame general lament).

No. 8 – Almost all of your focus is on one social topic.
For instance, I have a friend who says she loves to write poetry and for years, she has written and submitted a love poem, during Valentine’s day.  This narrow focus not only impacts the breadth of her poetry writing but also lacks the depth.  If your poems have substance then you will have written on a broader range than that (also frequency is important but more on that later).  In writing blogs, if your focus is technical, political etc., you can focus more narrowly.  However, if you are focusing on social issues then you cannot write on a very narrow range e.g. a single topic like romance, or dating, unless you are highly respected and regarded in the field, you have strong credibility, you have deeply researched the area and you are sharing a lot of substance.  Else, it gets boring too fast.  (My blog is too broadly focused and I have been advised to write separate blogs focusing on professional and personal matters, but that would increase administrative time and I cannot spare that kind of time on blogging, so I have continued with many categories on one blog. But at least it is not too narrowly focused).

No. 7 – You are targeting solely your friends as your blog audience.
Your friends care for you but may be poor judges of your abilities or lack of them.  First, remember your friends may not have interest in the topics that interest you.  Your friends may not even look at your blog, unless your viewership increases dramatically and then curiosity will pull them.  Do not take the lack of interest from your friends, personally.  They know your shortcomings and sometimes it may even be hard for them to acknowledge your smartness.  You do the same.  For instance, your friend becomes a CEO of a company and you still think of him as a slouch, someone who shows up late at get-togethers and parties and so on.  When someone asked my friend if I wrote well, she said, “well, English is her second language and she often forgets to put her commas”. (It shook my confidence a bit but it is restored with 30,000 plus views, in 3 years of blogging).  However, your friends are likely to give you honest advice, so pay heed; it can only help you improve whatever you aim to do.  Many friends have been kind enough to look at my blog and add their generous and kind comments, which show up nicely on my blog 🙂 and I am ever so thankful for their feedback.  But you cannot rely solely upon your friends to be the target audience of your blog and I will share more about that in part 3 on how to market your blog.

No. 6 – You really want to write a memoir
If your life story makes for a compelling read, then write a memoir; a book.  Unless you have amazing life experiences, AND they do not have to be read in a continuing series, AND they are inspirational events, 3 little stories that you want to share about your life, do not qualify for a long-term blog.  They are 2-3 little stories.  (e.g. here are mine summed up in my year-end reviews – 2012, and 2011

No. 5 – You have written a book
If you have written and published a book, it proves, you write well.  But still writing a blog is different from writing a book.  Some book writers also write excellent blogs and some do not.  I have started at least 6 different books at different times and finally concluded, I do not have the tenacity and discipline required in writing a book, and vice versa applies too.

No. 4 – You spend 2 hours or more on one blog entry
You will not make significant money as a blogger.  When you start blogging, you will not make any money.  If you are spending enormous amount of time on writing blogs, in additional to doing your day job then it will soon start taking a toll on you.  In my case, sometimes I compromise best sentence structure and absolutely full proof grammar, in favor of frequency of blog posts because I keep aside a finite amount of time on blog writing  and then focus on my day job.  However, I never short change the content, I check and double check its accuracy and that is a big time commitment, as it is.  (e.g here is one of my blogs on review of the movie “Lincoln”, where I spent almost an entire day to write – .  However, that was extremely unusual and it was because I was enjoying doing the historical research and then wanted to share that information.  If I write a movie review for instance, generally, I spend not more than 20 minutes to write). Consider the commitment of time that a blog will require, before starting a blog.

No. 3 – Overriding objective of your blog is to sell something
This should be fairly self evident.  We are bombarded by people trying to sell on phone, on FB, on Linkedin, and all the emails that go into our junk folder.  No one is yearning for more sales pitches to seek out a blog geared to sell.  One of my objectives is to share my open JOB OPPORTUNITIES, as I do recruiting.  But this is not a sole or primary objective of my blog.

No. 2 – You want to make money through blogging by allowing ads
Same as above.  In any case, you will have to build viewership with great, regular content before you can make money.

No. 1 – You dread writing after your first two posts, in which you were yearning to share something
You may have started a blog because you had some perspectives on some specific social topic that you were yearning to share.  However, after the writing about them, your ideas have dried up and now you dread the chore blogging has become.  In this case, you may be better of discontinuing sooner rather than later.  Regular blogging takes time, commitment, discipline, and constant access to material that is not only of interest to you, but is of broader interest.  If you do not have the time, material or discipline to post regularly, and blog writing becomes a chore that you dread, then blogging is not for you.  It is a labor of love and you must enjoy it.

At any time, I have 4 things in the pipeline that I want to write about and I only end up writing about 1 or 2, due to lack of time.  My work and social activities ensure a plentiful supply of material, in addition to my random perspectives and poems, which are under “Musings and Poems” categories on my blog.  I post regularly with a frequency of 2-4 posts, per week.  I look forward to writing as a stress release and as a reward for focusing on my work.  People often ask me why I write.  Sometimes they say they understand why I write play reviews because I get complementary tickets and why I write book reviews because I get complementary books, but they can’t understand why I write about technologies.  Sometimes they say they can understand why I write about conferences because that is how I get to meet people professionally and generate business, but they can’t understand why I write book reviews and so on.  But I do not write because of extrinsic rewards.  Rewards started coming as my blog generated significant viewers and followers.  But I write because I love to write.  I write because I love many forms of live entertainment and I feel compelled to do my bit to share the information and create enthusiasm (e.g. play “Disconnect” – ).  I write because I love to hear about new and emerging technologies and impressive accomplishments and like to share about them (e.g. Dave Farrucci on IBM’s Watson Deep QA – ) .  I write because I love to read books and love to share about good books (e.g “Minefields of the Heart by Sue Diez – ).  If writing is an intrinsic reward for you, then ignore all of the above advice and write and I will look forward to seeing you in the bloggosphere.

Next part will focus on “When you should consider writing a blog” and the last part with focus on “How to market your blog” and will be posted in the next few days.


BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

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Gratitude Journal —– May-2013

Today when we are all expressing our deep gratitude to the veterans who stay on the front lines so we can all be safe and secure and our values preserved, I am also taking to heart the advice given by these two articles posted on .

"Lawn sculpture" of a woman, framed ...

“Lawn sculpture” of a woman, framed against the Eden Project biomes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1)       The first article asks us to identify and be grateful to ourselves.  I am thankful to myself for having the will power to hit the gym daily, for having the courage to initiate the endings when needed (based on Sara Lawrence Lightfoot’s “Endings that set us free”), for having the courage to not waste my gift of expression and (albeit respectfully) express myself on this blog, for being persistent but more importantly optimistic in my steadfast belief in face of all adversities that if I am happy today then tomorrow will always be better because it will add one more happy memory (after all life is about creating a string of happy memories), and for having enormous love in my heart for my children, for family and friends that allows me to appreciate their uniqueness, forgive the faults, and share life and life’s rich rewards in this journey on earth.

2)       Second article asks us to identify “why” we are grateful to others.  I am grateful to my mother for her being there for us in every possible way to take on life’s blows, so that my siblings and I were shielded and our dreams were preserved and came to fruition; everything we became and we have, we owe to her and my late father.  I am grateful to my children for who they are, for the generosity of their hearts in forgiving the flaws in parenting, for their deep love, for their friendship, for their humor and wit, for their support, encouragement and just filling my life and my heart with love. I am grateful for my friends for so much – and though I am quite clear about the contributions of each of them, it is enormous to list here.  Some have been there at the right time with the right type of support; some have been there during celebrations making each of them memorable; some have shared views and perspectives, forging a deep bond; some have disagreed with views and perspectives, thus expanding horizons; and so much much more.  Together, friends have woven the life’s journey into a rich tapestry of colors and hues that reflect their individuality and that has made life infinitely more exciting and adventurous.

Hope my sharing inspires you to do your gratitude journal today.  Will love your comments.

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