Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bringing Copenhagen closer

I'm always tickled pink when I get to learn something from my two little smartie pant kids. The other day, as I cleaned out a glass jar and prepared to toss it into the Recycle bin, Saanya came running from where she was putting her doll baby to bed and snatched the jar out of my hand, "Mommy, don't recycle, reuse." Arjun joined the crime scene with a concerned look on his face and then he proceeded to tell me about how the planet was being choked by landfills.
"We need to make less trash, Mommy," they both sermonized and humbled, I tucked the jar away, vowing to find something to put in it.
While this little exchange warmed my heart and gave me a little boost at the political awareness of the next generation, I will admit that I have not been following Copenhagen so closely. I'm not un-jaded enough to have high hopes from a political summit. However, this piece here caught my eye today - it details the art installations around Copenhagen and whether you beleive in taking action against climate change or not, this is worth a look.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/starre-vartan/art-in-copenhagen-helping_b_393846.html

And then, if you are itching for a healthy dose of reality, click over to this section about the forces that are gearing up to derail any progress that **might** be made at the Summit.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-taylormiesle/the-politics-back-home_b_393910.html

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lessons from Boston's City Hall and from David Plouffe

Just came across this story this morning about how the city of Boston is empowering its citizens using the iPhone. Not only is the app itself cool - you take a picture of a pothole and it recognizes and enters coordinates - that is cool! - but also, refreshing to see city officials keeping up with the times and using a technology to connect with and simplify lives of citizens! I'm already a huge fan of the Wi-Fi option available on some Seattle buses - here's to hoping there's more coming!

On another note, I'm currently reading the memoir of David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. The book itself is rather dry - no literary flourishes there - but I'm rather surprised at the detailed use of metrics & intelligence within the campaign. I'd heard all the stories about the tech savviness of Obama's campaign and I expected to read about how they used the Internet and social media. More than that though, I've been struck by a few other things that any business could learn from as well
1. Early strategy setting and then sticking to the plan - Only about a 100 pages in so far but he hammers on the point of how they devised a clear strategy early on and then stuck to it with a strict discipline. The strategy itself was based very clearly on a detailed analysis of the playing field - the candidates strengths, electorate profiles, a gap analysis and a clear recommendation of what was needed. Again and again, he gives himself and Obama credit for sticking to the plan even when there was tremendous pressure to buckle and be diverted.

2. Great CRM (Customer relationship management) - I was amazed that they managed and cross referenced detailed voter lists against various sources. Matching Internet sign up lists with volunteers showing up at events and then against contributors to the campaign allowed them to paint an incredibly detailed picture of the kind of support base they were building and get an extremely accurate pulse on their campaign supporters. This is what I mean when I am preaching a 360 degree view of the customer.

3.Metrics - good ones - Even as the media and the country at large went nuts over every which poll that came out during the intense campaign period, he describes that they set their own, internal, more reflective metrics and measured themselves by those more than anything else. One specific instance is where the press reported total money raised by campaigns during the Primaries. However, there is apparently, a distinction between money that can be used during the primary itself and money that has to go to the General Election spending. By drawing this distinction internally and externally, they kept their own team focused on what mattered most at the moment and also probably highlighted their planning & strategy externally. Again, a great example of prescient strategy, great discipline and rock solid grasp of true metrics. As a business analyst, it made me think whether I had the right metrics to track progress against.

Great examples of innovative uses of technology and just clear headed and with-the-times thinking in American politics. Would love to see more examples!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sarah, have you considered Bollywood?

Pop quiz time - What politician is the following remark (scraped from a friend's Facebook page) about?
"I am so sick of that woman - have been for months now. What did she do now?"
OK, so you really should not gloat about getting that one right. (If you did not get that one, however, then ..ahem.. well, living under a rock is not for everyone, but more power to you). So of course, I'm talking bout Sarah Palin and yes, following in the footsteps of most national news magazines and cable channels, I am devoting an entire post on my blog to her.

Despite the amazing success of her book, there is the real danger that Palin is close to jumping the shark. Like the Gosselins and Octomom and Sanford, once the book is replaced on the bestseller list or the next lying/cheating politician/sports star is discovered, she could find herself looking for ways to prolong those 15 seconds of fickle fame.

And that, actually, is the purpose of this article. To suggest a plausible, lucrative avenue of fame and fortune for Sarah Palin, which, as we say in the corporate world, would be a great fit for her strengths and talents. The question is simple - "Sarah, have you considered Bollywood?" Yes, Bollywood - the Indian movie industry, for the benefit of the under-rock dwellers that are reading this. Even as I write this, I cannot believe that there is not a proposal to the same effect being considered in the Palin household right now. Remember you heard it here first - remember that because it is going to happen and when you hear the news, I want you to recall where you first heard the genius plan. In case you doubt the logic of the plan, let me lay out for you why this makes perfect sense.

1. Alternate reality, no problem! - The problem that most people (the ones I know, at least) have with poor Palin is the sheer ridiculousness of her statements and assertions. You know, the Bridge to Nowhere, the Troopergate explanations, blah, blah. All those issues where people demand a sane, reasoned explanation of facts, like that other guy - the President of the USA, likes to present. So just because she does not do that, people tend to dismiss her, call her ...well, names and mock her. None of this, NONE of this will be a problem in Bollywood. We Hindi movie watchers have grown used to a world where inconvenient realities are simply dismissed and replaced with fantastical notions. We suspend rational thought and objective questioning everytime we walk into a darkened theater for our next dose of dream sequences, song and dance routines, 40 year olds playing college students and our beloved heroes bashing a team of muscled bad guys - while having a few bullets in their bodies. All we ask of our lead actors is for them to look good (check), invoke mass hysteria (check) and stay in the news (check). So, does it not sound like the perfect situation for Ms Palin? She would fit right in - she could go right on being the star - swooping in and saving the masses from the cruel excesses of....well, I'm sure the script writers will find something to plagiarize and "adapt".

2. Irrelevant - no problem! - As Denise Richards, Kylie Minogue and Sylvester Stallone have discovered, when you become irrelevant in the Western world, you pack your bags and flash some white skin and your foreign accent on the desi scene - voila, instant moolah and adulation. The Indian movie industry will open its arms to any white "has-been" or "wants to be" and luckily for Sarah, she could be either or both!
Bearing out the truth of points 1 &2 above, here is a video of Kylie Minogue in a recent Bollywood production proclaiming she wants to "Chiggy Wiggy with you boy". Hey, I don't know what that means either - it's not going to stop me from watching the movie and buying the song on iTunes.
More logical reasoning in the Sarah for Bollywood campaign after the jump


3. International relations - President Obama just hosted the first state dinner for Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The entire world is scrambling to get in on a piece of India's rapid growth. Wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity for the possible future Presidential candidate to get some valuable experience on foreign shores? Ones that, in fact, she cannot see from her front porch? Think about it, she could also be inspiring her most rabid supporters to opening up their minds to other cultures. She could be building a bridge - this time it would lead somewhere. A bridge from Minnesota to Mumbai, from Kansas to Kolkata. The horizons that it would expand, the people it would connect! It could be a beautiful thing - you betcha! And as Barack has already proved, being an international rock star only helps political careers these days.

So there it is - it all makes perfect sense to me. I hope you are listening Sarah. And, no - its not a ploy to get you off the national news circuit here in America. This is an earnest appeal for you to expand your horizons and add to your list of blockbuster achievements - Going Rogue would make a good foundation for Bollywood's first female superhero thriller. Consider it, please!

In case you decide to pursue this, I'll leave you with a helpful guide to Bollywood, courtesy of IFC.com
http://www.ifc.com/news/bollywood/starter-kit.php

Monday, November 9, 2009

To New York and back.

Last week, I went on a business trip to New York. I was attending a conference there - and I think its fair to say that I have never awaited ANY conference as eagerly as I did this one. While I am excited and passionate about Digital Marketing, the prospect of heading to New York was equally (ok, a little more - oh all right, it was a lot more) exciting than the conference itself.

The day before I was supposed to leave though, I started to have this nasty sinking feeling I get anytime I am getting on a plane without my kids. "How," I wondered, "will they cope without me?" ignoring the fact that they would have the undivided attention of their Dadddy - unimaginable luxury!! "But I am the constant in their routines, with Dad travelling so much. It will be worse for me to be gone," I couldn't stop torturing myself.

I went - and sulked some more - at myself, for being so far away. But then, I was in Manhattan. I checked into the hotel and stepped outside. The hotel was a few blocks from Time & LIfe building - my former workplace. So there I was, back in my old neck of the woods. Very soon, I was part of the crowd, merrily jostling away - hurrying to get wherever it was I was going - even if, that particualr day, it was nowhere in particular. I crossed the street as soon as I spotted a gap in the traffic - never mind the stop hand sign - I squeezed in the narrowest opening between crowds of people and shook my head in loud impatience when the two ladies in front of me paused to admire Rockerfeller center. "Tourists" - I almost, just **almost** muttered under my breath.

The next few days were great. The kids did miss me and it was hard for me to hear thier voices and imagine them being home without me. But then, I figured, "I'm here - I better make it worth it." The conference was great - a new perspective on how the world is thinking about what I do, catching up with trends, listening to the experts and chatting with new people I met. It reaffirmed my faith in what I do, reassured me that my skills were current and reenergized me to shore up on the areas I wasn't too familiar with. In the evening, I went to dinner with friends or even by myself - choosing from the fabulous array of cuisines and styles that only New York has to offer. I walked everywhere - taking in the sights, the smells - I had forgotten the smell of street food and the undescribable blend of metal, trash and god knows what else that combines in the subway stations. I soaked in the sheer excitement and energy while also at times, watching from afar - I had been here a few years ago, running like the crowds now were, falling asleep on the train, exhausted from my crazy commute and insane schedule. I had been here and it took me about 30 minutes to get adjusted. How dramatic all this must seem to someone who came here as a tourist. I understtod, for the first time, all the things people always said when I told them I lived in New York and loved it. At times, I felt sorry I had left. I had broken from the constantly surging crowd - Now, I felt, I was out of the game - my life felt staid, composed and frankly, a little boring.

The morning when I was supposed to leave, I spent a tad too much time shopping with friends and was running behind as we ran to the subway. "Hey, just get on the next flight if you miss this one - more time in NY!" laughed a friend. The mere thought made me tense up. I made it on time - to the airport and to the plane. A long flight later, as we touched down in Seattle, I broke into a run as I exited the plane. I couldn't wait to see my family again.

So, of course, home is where the heart is. Amazing how profound these cliches feel when you arrive at the realization yourself. Good friends, a great job, a warm house and yes, no sprinkler for the lawn. Seattle is home for now - dont know how long. Permanent migrants is the term P has coined for us - always looking ahead to what's next. Maybe back to New York, maybe even further back to India, maybe we'll head forward somewhere completely new. Who knows - I thought as I spotted the two heads bobbing up and down in excitement as they saw me exiting the airport. "What did you get for us, Mommy? What did you get?" "I brought myself back," I grinned at them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ambiguous times call for firm measures

"Must be able to deal with ambiguity"....almost all job descriptions at Microsoft have that pre-qualification clause. I've never paid much attention to it - of course, I can deal with ambiguity.... for the right job. I mean, c'mon..what does that even mean?

Once I interviewed for a job where they asked me, "Are you comfortable with change?"
"Well, considering I have never lived in a place longer than 3 years for my entire life, I would say - Yes, I am quite comfortable with change." What I didn't say was, "I'm working on getting more comfortable with non-change." When things stay the same and nothing is changing, THAT is what drives me a little nuts. So maybe, by nature, some of us are more tuned to thriving in chaos..I've always enjoyed the novelty of a new setting and the challenge of creating order out of craziness. I do realize its not everyone's cup of tea..just had a conversation with a friend who was pulling his hair out in the midst of such a situation. Made me think - when things are a mess..stuff is happening and you don't know what to do or how it's all going to play out, what do you do? How do you take things in stride and keep doing your thing? How do you not let stuff drive you crazy? Here are some things that have worked for me in the past

1. Work in the universe I control - there are things you can influence and things you cannot. Staying within the realm of controllable and doing the best you can do there is the first thing to do. Actually, before you can stay in that universe, you identify that space. at work, especially, I have a tendency to get carried away and imagine doomsday scenarios. Everytime I find myself going there, I rein in the thoughts and ask myself - What about this, can I control? Can I do a better job in that sphere?" And then I redouble my efforts in that area, fortify myself against all eventualities and then let life (and upper management) do its thing. Sounds fair - right?

2. GGet all the information - Faced with the prospect of a re-org at work, I'm talking to a lot of people - including up and down my direct chain of command. They don't have all the answers - or perhaps they just want to share just yet, but having done my research - putting my questions, my preferences and my fears out there helps me relax. I'm also looking at other groups and observing what they do. In my spare time, I write out how I could work with X group - what would I be able to add to them, what skills could I apply?

3.Build Lists- I love lists...I plan and dream in lists. So when I am not sure what I am supposed to do next or I have a million things in my head, I write stuff down in a list. We're planning to trip soon - its going to cost a lot of money but there has been a new development in the family which means we might not be able to take the trip. We talked about it everyday and tried to move forward but every time we talked, we left it off somewhere unresolved because there was so much we don't know yet. So at night, before falling asleep, I wrote in my little notebook. What are the all the things I need to do if we are going - Buy tickets, Get Vacation time, Inform the kids Schools, Get work projects done by a certain date, Inform a friend that we would not be able to go their wedding. I marked each item on the list with what was "reversible" - if I informed my boss I needed time off and told him there was a chance I wouldn't go, that would be OK. Same for the kids' school and so on. Nothing really changes but having that written down and having drop dead dates for getting everything done in either case gives me a plan and a plan gives me comfort. I know - I'm a little neurotic that way.

5. Write The Plan - One step up from the list is the plan - the roadmap. Its a work tool that I shamefacedly admit, I have used for home - but I have not yet created a PowerPoint deck for a family presentation. I am,however, creating a powerpoint deck for work. As I expand my scope of work and take on more things to do, it sometimes get distracting to know exactly what I need to focus on and what I am missing. So I'm creating a step by step look at what I do, how I do it , who will help me and what I need to get done in the next month, quarter and so on. Just starting the work on that already helps calm the feeling of not being sure where I am supposed to be next.

6. One step at a time - The day tight compartment thing is the hardest for me to do - I am constantly drifting between wallowing in the past or creating future castles in the air. Not knowing what the future looks like can be a shaky foundation for those castles - and when I can't dream, I am miserable. In such time, I focus myself on building smaller castles. When we moved from New Jersey to Seattle and lived in corporate housing for a while, it was hard not knowing where we would be living, how our lives were going to fall in place. I focused then on small conquests - my goal each day was to do a little research on a town or neighborhood, another day it was to explore the area where we were living, another day I focused on getting something done at work - all small victories that I could check off my list and feel like I was in control

7. Treat myself - After I've used all my mind control to make sense of nonsense, I love to get a cup of coffee or whatever your guilty pleasure is and watch something fun/silly/absorbing on TV. Mad Men makes me forget the chaos of life - works every time - I promise!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The postracial world of .....TV Commercials?

Racism...its not a topic I had thought of too much before I came to America. Once here, of course, it has become central to my life. The fact that I am different was obvious and also thrust on me from multiple sources. Nothing is black and white (well, actuallty it is - and that's the point of this - but I really wasn't going there - just a bad pun!) anymore. For every action and reaction, I wonder - how much of this was spurred by the fact that I am Indian?

Early days in New York, I remember going to a salon on Long Island to get my hair blown out. The ladies at the salon raved about my "thick, dark, beautiful" hair. It had been no cause for celebration in India where thick, dark hair abounded and was mroe of a nuisance than an asset. Innocent remarks were sometimes funny as in when an older colleague at IBM asked me, "So, how do you celebrate birthdays in India?". "We cut a cake and sing Happy Birthday," I responded, unable to suppress a sarcastic smile. Once I moved to New York City, things were a little better - or maybe we just got used to being a minority. 9/11 was hard - not just because it was a traumatizing experience to watch as I walked the streets of New York while the planes were flying into the towers - but more because people actually suggested that we didn't feel the sadness and horror of the act because we were not the "targets" of the attack.

The move to Seattle has brought a fresh perspective to this ongoing debate in my head. Microsoft is a virtual microcosm of the world - not even in New York did I work with people from so many countries and backgrounds. But home is different - I live in an affluent suburb which still means - a mostly white suburb. While we definitely have made some very good friends in our neighborhood, there have been very ugly incidents which have made me think long and hard about what it means to live as a brown person in this society.

For a lot of the reasons above, I hailed and rejoiced in the election of President Obama. " What a great difference for all the balck people in this country," I remember thinking to myself, "to have a role model. To see this family in the White House." No matter what else happens, there is this person of color in the highest office of the land and that is something that has the power to inspire and motivate millions of young people, previously excluded from this conversation. I was exultant every time I watched the President and his family being fawned over. " I think we will apply to be citizens now," I emailed a friend as I watched the new first family on my TV.

Since then, I have heard lots of commentary on why the election of President Obama has not meant a post racial America. I agree, whole heartedly. However, there are subtle shifts - which is how, I think, change starts to brew. One trend I have noticed in that central pillar of the American capitalist structure - TV advertising. Commercials for household items like Tide, Cheerios, Campbell and NetFlix have been featuring black people - kids, fathers, grandfathers - as normal people with normal lives in normal houses. Just like the rest of the world. The Netflix guy even rides a bike in his leafy suburb. Of course, that has always been true - there is nothing new about the lives being depicted here. But, at least to me, the newness and power is in these images of normalcy finally being beamed down from TV sets across the country. These are normal people, folks - our neighbors. Nothing to fear. And that is a trend that I am celebrating and hoping to see more of. Now, if we could only stop seeing Indian characters with horribly pronounced accents. That would be a victory closer to home.

Watch the Cheerios ad below and click on over to youtube to watch the Tide Commercial. Tell me if there are others you see.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting it done...at what cost?

Wow! Whew! Repeat that a few times. What a few weeks this has been! Got done with the surgery and recovery and there I was, back in the wringer, being whipped around in a few different directions - simultaneously, for the most part. School started - A. is now in second grade - which means homework every night and questions - not necessarily academic - that are getting harder to handle and even harder to answer. At work, Windows 7 launch is right around the corner. Working at Microsoft in Windows is always fast paced but right about now, everything is stepped up a notch - make that 10 notches. Everytime I want to stop and take a breath - I remember a few things that need to get done. "Right after that," I tell myself, "right after that, I'll stop and put my feet up for a second." For instance, yesterday I was supposed to be at A.'s school for their walkathon fund raiser. I was up at 6AM to get work done so I could make the fundraiser. I made it there at 2 to walk laps around the school campus - but I had no time to eat lunch before then and felt faint after the first 3 rounds. I made it through - but barely. And then, at night, when I logged into Facebook - I saw this link posted by a friend.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/opinion/20dowd.html

I felt vindicated and sad at the same time as I read this through - everything that this article says about women and their position in soceity today, I said that about a 100 times to my husband and some friends. "Why did we have the feminism movement?" I keep asking him. Now, he just ignores the question since he knows what's coming right after that. But it is true - we created new areas for ourselves to judge ourselves and other women in, so we could do a better job of feeling bad about what we don't do. As my husband so eloquently marvelled the other day,"Wow! You feel guilty about so many things. It doesn't even enter my mind to think about half these things - let alone feel guilty." Hmmm.

I've thought this through a million times ..and counting. Where I always end up is here - As exhausting as my life is - it is also exhilirating and exciting. I love what I do - I have the grandest kids and husband in the world, bar none and all said and done, I like having a few balls in the air to juggle. Keeps me off the gossip! So then, I've asked myself the question which several people ask me - either with pity or with admiration - "How do you do it?" Here are the top things I could think of that keep things going and keep me sane - most of the time!
1. Be proud – First things first. I have to come out and say it – there is just too much guilt and working mommy bashing going around. I work really hard at keeping up with my job abd my family and I’m not about to let anyone make me feel bad about it. Actually, I’m proud of my life and that helps me to keep going every day. Whether you work for necessity, to pay the bills or or simply because you like to work, be proud of it. There is nothing wrong and everything right about showing your children that Mommy is contributing to the food they eat, the roof over their head, their college funds and that trip to DisneyLand. Or to show them that you can follow your passions and dreams and going to work every day at a job you love is a wonderful thing. There are a hundred different reasons why you work and instead of feeling guilty about it, celebrate those with your family every day. I’ve taken my kids to work, and I share with them my work events – nervousness around a big presentation, frustration that a project was not going well and we celebrate Mommy & Daddy’s successes at work – just like we celebrate their achievements at school or extracurricular activities.
2. Use your chores – The chronic complaint of time starved Moms is that they have no time to themselves. There is no time to relax or to sit back and take a breath. One of my close friends who is also a high level executive had this plaque on her desk – “2 things to do today – Breathe In, Breathe Out.” Sounds about right, doesn’t it? I’ve decided to not wait anymore for that perfect time when I will make arrangements for the kids to be cared for, find a time that works with my husband’s and my schedules, get dressed and get out of the house. Instead, I build in my relax time into chores I have to do. Once a week or so, after the kids are in bed, I bring down the laundry baskets, switch on the TV and settle down for a hour or two of laundry time while I catch up on some shows on TV. Similarly, when I’m going grocery shopping, I’ll get my iPod, if the weather is nice, I’ll roll down my car windows and make it a 45 minute getaway from the stuff that needs to get done at home. The Starbucks within the local QFC helps too – sometimes, I’ll grab a cup, buy a paper and get some reading done after I’m done with the shopping.
3. Give up on perfection – Being bombarded by ads and movies portraying idyllic families with hearty, healthy meals around the table, supermoms who have a solution to every family crisis and beautiful skin to top it all has left most of us feeling frustrated at the mundane nature of our imperfect lives. I made several plans and timetables to put the kids to bed and rouse them by a strict schedule so we could all sit around the table and have a family breakfast before we all headed to our destinations – with bright cheery smiles and pretty clothes. The reality is that most mornings, we are scrambling to get out of the house on time, I have to forcibly strap my daughter into her seat and I have a headache before I even get to work. But I’ve settled - I’ve settled for the fact that I get my kids to school on time and in one piece – my son had no tardies on his report card this semester - that’s enough for me to deserve a pat on the back. I’ve let the idea of a perfect morning go. My Achilles heel is the weekday morning – it could be any time of the day or week for you. If you can let go of that mental image of what bedtime or family time should look like, you might be able to breathe a bit and enjoy the time you do have together, imperfect as it may be. I have friends who have not been on vacation in years because they are scared to travel with babies on a plane – they stress over every detail. Why not just pack and go and take things as they come? Doesn’t stressing out so much over the planning sort of ruin the point of a stress free “perfect” time? Why not just accept that here we are – with a busy, full life and so much to be grateful for – if the kid throws a tantrum at a hotel, it will not be the end of the world. The world will deal with it, and so should we.
4. Lists are your friend – My husband likes to joke about my lists – he finds them everywhere around the house. On little scraps of paper or at the back of notebooks, even scribbled in the margins of calendars. There are the grocery lists, packing lists and shopping lists. But besides that, I make lists for tasks I need to do , bills I need to pay, people I need to call – even a list of things I need to make lists for. The feeling of checking things off as they get done gives me satisfaction and a sense that I’ve achieved something. Going down the list gives me a feeling of control over my usually chaotic day. When the kids are lethargic in getting their tasks done (everyday!), I quickly write out a list of tasks they need to do and that seems to spur them right along. My four year old cannot read yet but she asks me to read out each task to her and then loves to check it off as soon as she is done. I recommend lists to everyone – for getting a grasp on everything happening, for making sure things get done and just for the vindication of checking of the first or last item on any list.
5. Cultivate your network – This piece of advice is more personal and depends on your personality. Having grown up in a very social environment, I’ve always been used to having people around our house. Luckily, my husband and I both like to entertain, so almost every other weekend, we have a family or two over for dinner. It sounds like more work to spend your free time planning dinner parties, but for us, it really energizes us to see friends and spend a relaxed evening with them. Since most of our friends have children of similar ages as ours, it is a good time for them as well and helps them to build their friendships. When we are in need, it is these friends we turn to – if I am running late for a school pick up, if I need an emergency play date or a weekend evening out, these are the people that step in. So while we don’t make friends with an eye to using them, it’s definitely a more fulfilling and pleasant life with an active social calendar.

Above all the tricks of the trade, the biggest to-do is to slow down, relax and enjoy the many opportunities and blessings you have. It came to me one day as I was rushing to work after having a crazed morning getting the kids ready and dropped off. My husband too, had an early meeting, so we were both running as soon as we woke. As I walked along the office parking lot, I was resentful and fuming as I pitied myself over all that I had to do. And then I realized how lucky I was to be in a job where I was needed and wanted, to have these kids and to have a husband who was busy in a job he enjoyed. Just walking along the parking lot, I suddenly feeling lighter and happier and so can you . All it needs is a little shift in perspective and some good old lists.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A reasonable discussion - on Healthcare?

I found this video today on a political site I love and reference often, the DailyKos. I've been following the HealthCare debate and discussion and I don't profess to getting it all. More than the technicalities of any sort of plan, what has baffled me more is the objections that have surfaced along the way - I dont get how healthcare for all is a choice people would choose not to have and I dont understand the comparisons to Hitler. There is much more that I dont get but coming back to this video, I posted it here because of the way Sen Franken handles and turns around a hostle crowd through reasonable discussion and dialog. Its masterful to watch. What rankled me was this comment that one person in the audience made about McAllen which Sen Franken quotes as having high healthcare costs. "isn't that where the immigrants are?" the man in the audience says. Of course, I object to the insinuation that immigrants are responsible for all that is wrong, everywhere that it is wrong. Over the past few months, this disturbing trend of racism going overt rather than covert has made me cringe and think hard about my place in this nation.


Al Franken counters that by saying that McAllen has a similar demographic makeup as El Paso where healthcare costs are half what they are in McAllen. This whole discussion is based on an article written by Atul Gawande for the New Yorker. I read that artcle too and like anything written by Atul Gawande, it is an excellent piece - well researched and thoughtfully documented. Here is a link to the article
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_gawande

Off topic again - but I am a fan of Atul's writing and have enjoyed everything that he has written. His book Better is a great look at the healthcare system - its challenges and wins - in America and other place around the world. If you are looking for an intelligent, abosrbing read, get this book.

Finally, here is a less nuanced and more straightforward pitch for President Obama to address the issues and objections around healthcare - this is from Bill Moyer's journal
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/09042009/watch3.html

Sometimes you have to call it like you see it - a crackpot is a crackpot - diplomacy be damned!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Media Consumption

As a proponent of balance in all aspects of life, I was amused to read this article from Wired magazine about balancing out your media consumption. I turned up my nose at first - 9 hours a day of media consumption? What are you talking about - I dont watch that much TV or play that many games. Then I quickly came to my senses and realized the amount of time I spend on my computer - reading the news, microblogging (yes - Facebook & Twitter count). So, whatever your media diet - here's a quick read for balancing it out. Just one more food pyramid

http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/magazine/17-08/by_media_diet

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Career Skills

My work is mainly around analytics - making sense of data and numbers and presenting it to folks who can then use that information. Since I work in Digital Marketing, one of the blogs I follow is Avinash Kaushik's Occam's Razor. This is a great post that I just read and it encapsulates a lot of my personal beliefs about work and building your career. It is a long post and devoted to web analytics, so in case you're not a web data junkie, I'm distilling here the 3 general principles that I think have been helpful to my career so far.

Here, in a nutshell, are my core beliefs about building a career and interviewing for positions - a vital part of building a successful career.
1. Think broad - Its great to be a specialist but its more important to ground your specialty into the bigger context. What does your skill and knowledge mean for your colleagues, for the company and for the industry? How is what you do relevant? Asking those questions and making sure you have an answer is a good way to know you're relevant and adding value. It makes a great pitch to be able to tell a potential employer exactly how your job and work tied in to the company's business.

2. Be interested - My personal curiosity just forces me to do this a lot - its come in handy when I talk to other people since I always have a good idea of what is happening around me. I borrow ideas for my work, retro fitting projects or ideas that I hear in "What do you do conversation?" to my world. Hearing people talk about their work also gives me ideas on what I want to do next. That way, I can plan a path to the job that interests me - I ask about experiences, skills, education needed for a job that interests me and plan to acquire that set of knowledge. It keeps me ahead of the game so I am not forced to do the next crappy job that opens up. It's also a great way to meet people and build networks.

3. Take Charge - One advice repeated by various mentors to me is "Act like you're in the job you want. If you want to be GM, start to think, act and be like the GM." Ask what she would do in a given situation and do the same. Avinash, in his post talks about getting around company and policy limitations. In the online analytics world, he talks about getting your own blog, your own analytics account and playing around with it. Creating and managing a blog will provide expertise in every area - strategy, creative, content, marketing and so on. You want to be a project manager - why not volunteer to manage the next fundraiser at your kid's school? Nothing better than jumping in and getting your hands dirty. There is a confidence that you'll get from having done the job that no amount of reading can provide you.

So, in summary, look around, ask questions and then take charge. It will add to your basket of skills and that shows when you walk into an interview. I have lots more to share on successful interviewing - but more on that topic later.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Politically Correct...OR... Who gives a ***

Enough of the "taking it slow" - saw the doctor for my post surgical visit today. Clean bill - no cancer, no nothing, everything is great - for now (see, I can't help it - the cautious one in me rises every time I whoop with glee about anything). Wish my credit card bill would come in so clean. Anyway, "taking it slow" has never been my style.

So back to work this week and I've been faced with an interesting challenge - delivering bad news to Executives is never easy, even when you're not the one to cause the bad news. I think of my job as close to journalism - I watch, monitor and report. So would you blame the news reporter for reading out the bad news? I wouldn't - but I would certainly hope that the reporter had checked their facts and made sure the news was accurate and relevant for the audience. That's sort of what I do and sometimes, the news is not so good and I know its not what people want to hear. But where do you draw the line between doing the right thing and being savvy about it? Luckily, I have some great people I work with who helped me think this through and arrive at the right conclusion. In case you find yourself in a similar situation ever, here is my wisdom
1. Pay a nod to the politics but let it not be your north star - you're likely headed for the cliff if you do.
2. Always, always verify and check your news, facts, numbers - whatever you are reporting
3. To the best of your ability, have a point of view about the situation
4. But, don't be afraid to say " I Don't Know" - sometimes you really don't. Fabricating is worse - believe me.
5. Finally, have a solution - or at least some proposals for remedying the situation.

This was top of mind for me when I watched video of Barney Frank confronting a woman at a Town Hall meeting - chops to both for having the courage to speak their minds but if there ever was a moment when political correctness was thrown to the wind, it was this.


A different kind of political correctness was also thrown out the window by Mrs Obama as she stepped out of Air Force One wearing shorts. I didn't realize this was a big deal until I read about some people wondering if it was appropriate for her to do so. Hmm, I wonder if it's appropriate for people to be stuck in time and to not see that that people have moved on - in shorts?
Whether it was a good look or not is another story but seriously, do people really sit around pondering the propriety of what the first lady should wear to a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon?


On the topic of fashion - that's one area where I happily toe the line - so I am always glad for these helpful little tit bits from the people who know these things. The folks at Instyle ( I used to work there, you know! I know I've said that before, it just always begs to be said again) compiled the style guidelines for Fall - I'm probably going to be getting more cardigans than motorcycle jackets, but hey, to each their own. And NO JUDGING - remember.
http://www.instyle.com/instyle/package/falltrends/photos/0,,20297053_20297775_20657223,00.html

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fitness

This week has been one of forced relaxation - occasionally, I've had guilt pangs about doing nothing but eating, watching TV and sleeping - but hey, that's what I'm supposed to be doing. It does not come easy to me. However, I was surprised this morning when I weighed myself and I've been pretty much at the same weight as usual when I try to get to the gym a few times a week, watch what I eat and run around like a chicken with it's head cut off. I mentioned this to my husband and he took the credit for feeding me healthy food this entire week. What I have not shared with him yet, since I've been forcing him to go running at least once or twice a week, is this article from the NY Times.

While neither of us, my husband or me, can claim to be any sort of fitness freak, maybe for once, he can be part of the "coolio trend" - ugh!! Apparently, the hottest accessory the hipsters of Brooklyn are flashing these days is a cute little belly. Double ugh!! Just as Puneet was getting into the whole running thing too :-((

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/fashion/13POTBELLY.html?_r=1&ref=fashion

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rest & Recovery

On Friday, August 7th, I had surgery to remove part of my thyroid. There were some nodules in there that the doctors thought were better out than in. So here I am, day 3 after the surgery, trying hard to stay in bed, give my body some rest and allow it to recover. In the crazy routine that is my regular life, I, like all busy working parents, crave for this - uninterrupted rest time. But now that it's here - thrust upon me, its so hard to just lay in bed and relax. I'm seeing a million chores around me that need to be done, I'm thinking of tasks I can accomplish without walking around too much. But for once, I'm trying to banish those thoughts as soon as they spring up in my head. Its not fair to me or to my family, I realize, for me not to rest and recover so I can be back a 100% when it is time to swing back into things. I'm going to take the time I need to feel better - things will wait, all the paperwork, all the cleaning, all the phone calls - everything will be there when I am back up. So for now, I'm putting away the computer, the notebook and the pen. I'm drinking plenty of water, taking my medicine and just relaxing - its hard work, after all!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Motivation

Here, in America, we all work so hard - well, most of us, anyway. So what is it that keeps us going? I've thought about this for various professional exercises where they made me think about the great days I've had at work. What were the most stimulating & challenging times I had. Again and again, I come back to this - I am happy when I am working hard and achieving something. For the past 2-3 weeks, work has been a complete grind. I've been up well past midnight on most nights and then constantly busy in the office from 9-5. Had a great presentation yesterday and even though I got home only around 8, it felt good. It actually felt great - I had been working hard on this presentation and it went off great and that made it all worth it.

7 year old's probably have a different perspective on work & enjoyment. Arjun, my 7 year old, can whip through his math problems pretty easily. But the writing part has him stuck like glue. He dawdles and sits there - yesterday, he went an hour and wrote 2 words - seriously, 2 words on the page. We've bullied and threatened him and of course, that doesn't work. When does it ever? As I was losing my patience with him again last night - as he drank his 4th glass of water in 10 minutes - while I was supervising his writing, it struck me. Maybe its just too big of a body of work for him to grasp. I had asked him to write 2 pages on a wedding we just went to. I changed that and asked him to do 2 sentences instead.
"2 sentences?" he was incredulous.
"Yes, just 2."
"I can do more - I can do 3, no 4. Actually, I'll keep writing till I run out of sentences." He literally transformed before my eyes and attacked his work. He ended up writing a half page but I'm happy with that. We're going to do that more regularly till he masters the half page and then move on to more.
So, of course, it's all about knowing your audience and positioning accordingly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Awwww!

For all you diehard romantics out there, check this propoposal out - at the World Record Appreciation Soceity event in New York, Jake Bronstein set a world record by starting a whisper chain that went through 59 people before it reached his girlfriend and she heard the words "Kristina, will you marry me?"



Check out the full story from Swiss Miss here
http://www.swiss-miss.com/2009/07/most-unusual-proposal-ever.html

What was your proposal story? As my friends all know - my dear husband proposed within a week of meeting me. We ended up hooking up only a year later but as he says, "When you know, you know!"

Wishing you lots of love & appreciation in your day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Structure - how much is enough?

As Indian parents raising American kids in suburban Seattle, there are numerous issues we grapple with. Chief among those is the issue of a schedule and structure for the kids days. Growing up in India, I do not remember a strict bedtime - my parents lugged me and my sister along to parties and gatherings. Often times, we would fall asleep at the hosts house with all the other children there - a forced sleepover. We had a great time! It was my favorite thing to do.

Here of course, things are different. When I first had kids and started to surf some parenting sites and boards, I was baffled by sleep times of 5:30 PM, 6:00 PM and so on. The kids were in bed at the middle of the day. Suffice it to say, my co-sleeping kids never went to bed at 6PM, unless it was a late nap.

7 years later, I still have angst around schedules. We have a rough one and we stick to it more closely during school days but on summer vacation, we've let things slide. Arjun loves to read and sometimes he is up at 10:30PM, still reading. I've gone in and switched off his nightlight even though I hate that being done to me. I know he needs his sleep and I know kids in his class are asleep at 8PM. Today, we stuck to the 9PM bedtime - OK, 9:15 PM but it has been a nice and quiet house with the kids in bed. I hope we can keep this up! Now I need to see if they hop out of bed by themselves tomorrow morning - that would make the schedule so worth it.
Wish me luck in keeping this up - a little structure is good for all of us. Even I can see that now - all my crazy sleeping arrangements as a kids, not withstanding.
In turn, can I ask that my friends not drive me out of the house as soon as the clock strikes 6:30PM so that the kids can get in the bath? Please??

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Memoirs and various books

My biggest panic attack onset starts when I realize I have nothing to read...or let me put it this way, nothing I want to read. With a full wall of books in my study, I can always find something to read, but that's not the point. That something has to be perfect - something that matches my mood and desire at that particular moment. These days, I am on the search for a good memoir. As a few of my friends know, I am working on a memoir of my own. Progress is slow - mainly because I spend most of my time reading "for inspiration" rather than writing. Anyhow, here are a few that seem intriguing. The first one is a memoir, the second is not - but it is a book-documentary. Being a "reality-based" book, it seems close enough and I might be picking up one of these soon. Do you have suggestions for a really, good, well written book?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/17/AR2009071701096.html?wprss=rss_print/bookworld


http://www.amazon.com/Random-Family-Drugs-Trouble-Coming/dp/0684863871
Here also, is an NPR interview about the book.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1254225

Keep reading - it can change the world!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things to teach your kids

Calling all parents - check out this list from My Super-Charged Life, print it, stick it on your fridge and return to it often to find things your kids really need to learn. No really, they will use grocery shopping tips more often than the martial arts lessons you're shuttling them to twice a week. A list after my own heart - so mnay mornings, I've scrambled to heat up the iron because I could NOT send the kids out in a wrinkled T-Shirt; never mind that half the school shows up that way.
When I worked in New York, taking the bus or train into the city was one of the favorite activities of my two year old son. I miss public transportation!
So read on - Enjoy & Apply!

http://mysuperchargedlife.com/blog/guest-posts/

Thursday, July 16, 2009

All things bright & beautiful

Cute Lunch Bags, Backpacks and more - As I pack lunch for my two young 'uns, I was thinking that Arjun needs a new lunchbox. Actually, he needs a lunch bag, period, since he's left the last two we've bought at school on different occasions. With that thought in miond, I jumped for joy when I saw this post from Cool Mom Picks
http://www.coolmompicks.com/2009/07/rolling_with_dante_beatrix.php
I followed it through to the Dante Beatrix website looking for lunch bags and more. Once there, I realized though that my little one, at 7, is probably a little too old for bunny and ladybug themed lunchbags. I'm still getting one for Saanya too - we picked out the pink Bunny bag. Have a look and get the cute stuff while you still can.

Mall Architecture - Never thought the two words belong together? Well, read on. If you're a Mom in the burbs like me, trips to the Mall are probably a fixture on your shopping and social calendar. Wouldn't it be cool if our malls could look a little bit more like this one in South Korea? It's a "Theme Park & Shop" area called Dalki and its so amazingly gorgeous. Check out the full post on Design-Milk.
http://design-milk.com/dalki-theme-park-and-shop-korea-by-slade-architecture/

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ladies that rock!

Listening to the play by play of Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing on my drive back from work, I was inspired as I always am by any high achieving woman. Add to that her background rising from the projects to Princeton and Yale and now these hearings, it fuels me and yes, inspires me. Besides, her repudiation of her "wise Latina" remarks, I was also struck by her deft handling of the comments of President Obama about how a judge's heart would influence cases where the law does not lead to a decision. Breaking from the statement of the man who nominated her, yet being true to herself and preserving, hopefully, that relationship of respect - I thought it was a brilliant answer. Coverage is all over but the piece below on politico also has good video clips, one of which I post below.
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/24909.html


After CNN's charismatic, Dr. Sanjay Gupta took himself out from the running, the latest choice for Surgeon General is Dr. Regina Benjamin. From the details mentioned in this newsday.com post, she has faced flood, famine and hurricanes as she has provided care to families in rural Alabama. Besides caring for people through these traversities, she has suffered very personal losses as she described in her speech. Perhaps not for a judge but I certainly think a doctor can benefit from empathy.
http://www.newsday.com/news/politics/wire/sns-ap-us-surgeon-general,0,3292211.story


And if you are looking for ways to shine and if business is your chosen path to fame, here is some help from one of my favorite sites - design*sponge. The site known for beautiful design and interiors has an article on writing business plans. No more excuses - here is solid advice in a beautiful package. What's not to like? Get cracking - fame and fortune await!

http://www.designspongeonline.com/2009/07/biz-ladies-09-advice-from-design-bloggers.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biz-ladies-09-advice-from-design-bloggers

And finally, if you're looking to conquer the more contained but but no less important world of your own family, check out this compilation of tips and tricks from parenthacks.com

http://www.parenthacks.com/2009/07/best-of-parent-hacks-summer-tips-and-ideas.html

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sound advice

Happy Monday everyone! Summer celebrations in my little town this weekend - Saturday was HOT, in the sense of the weather, I mean. We spent the entire morning watching the town parade where the local elected officials marched along with my daughter's Montessori school, my son's Martial Arts school and the local Boys & Girls Scouts. Then the kids bounced on about 10 bouncy rides in the park - that were pay to play, of course. The day ended with a spontaneous gathering of friends at our house - we had dinner and watched a movie. Great time! So again, urging you to try the spontaneity thing if you haven't so far. It makes for a good time without the stress of planning.

I'm on a bit of a high horse here today, so here goes. I've had this discussion with so many friends. All charitable souls looking for something to do but not quite sure how. Check out his story -hope this provides some inspiration
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/opinion/12kristof.html?_r=1&em

And finally, leaving on a note of style and subtlety, check out this image on the Sartorialist. Usually, I admire the images but they are out of my style league but this one, perhaps because it is not directly applicable to me, seems very achievable and low key. This is one for the guys - check it out.
http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/2009/07/on-streetamerican-classics-paris.html

Have a great week everyone - think good thoughts and have fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama checking out rear end, GM emerges from bankruptcy



Here are the latest pictures doing the rounds, apparently President Obama was photographed checking out some ahem, views at the G8 summit in Italy. Obviously, the comments are different depending on where you look - but before you move on to the sites to read the comments, what do you think? What is he really looking at? And if it is what it looks like, ummm, so what?



In other boring updates, if you didn't already know that time flies, GM has already emerged from bankruptcy - it even has a shiny new logo to show for it. Its going to need much more than that, that's for sure. Besides all the usual blah about making cars and trucks that people want, they also plan to be more environmentally focussed (hence the green logo), launch a website called Tell Fritz for people to go online and complain about issues with management and finally a deal with eBay to test online auctioning. I'm wishing them the best - I'm all for second chances.
http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-07-10-gm-bankruptcy-friday_N.htm

Finally, in case you were looking for something a little fancier than your folding chair to bring to the next outdoor movie or bbq, check out this inflatable furniture from blofield.com. Pretty darn cute!
http://blofield.com/default2.aspx

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Evian ad - skating toddlers

This ad by Evian is doing the rounds right now...I can't make up my mind if its cute or not. All I know is, if I had toddlers, I wouldn't be letting them go anywhere near this stuff.


Here's what some other sites are saying about the video
Entertainment Weekly - http://popwatch.ew.com/popwatch/2009/07/babies-on-skates-evian-commercial-.html
NY Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2009/07/09/2009-07-09_creepy_or_cool_evian_babies_on_skates_commercial.html

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Changes at Microsoft

Just got back from a big meeting about a big change at work. Since I dont want to speculate or post inaccurate news, here are the Bing search results for Sinofsky who is new uber-boss for anyone who works at Windows.
http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=3278
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/microsoftpri0/2009433872_stevesinofskypromotedtoheadofwindowsatmicrosoft.html
http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/djf500/200907081622DOWJONESDJONLINE000871_FORTUNE5.htm

You can embrace it, chase it or be chased by it - the truth is - Change is right around the corner, whether you like it or not.

Happy Times - we'll see what this change means for all of us in Windows.

I tried explaining the re-org to Arjun who asked if we held elections to choose who got to be President. Interesting concept - there. Hmmm!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spoiled by Beauty


Warning - In this post, I might sound like one of those spoiled, over-privileged brats from NYC Prep, however, the only thing I am boasting about is the absolute natural beauty I am surrounded by here in the Pacific Northwest. Spent July 4th weekend over on the San Juan islands - Friday Harbor specifically. So gorgeous! The sights at every step - starting right after at the ferry and then al along the island - beautiful, majestic beaches, wide open shimmering waters and lush, lush landscapes - were incredible. The whole trip came together at the umpteenth minute - even as two families were driving to the ferry, we were calling the third family that ended up meeting us there. We did all the fun, touristy stuff like whale watching, renting bikes and riding around the island, watching the July 4th fireworks and came back blissed out and happy. The kids had a blast too - they ran around the yard from sunrise to sunset, watched TV after that and in general, were very sad to leave. So what's the lesson in all of this
1. Go with the flow - vacations don't really need to be planned weeks in advance - last minute stuff is fun too
2. Don't knock the touristy stuff until you've tried it
3. If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, come on out here.
4. If you do live here, hope you appreciate the gorgeousness of it all




Cool Phones - Part of the fun was the fact that our house had no wireless capabilities whatsoever - no internet, no cell phones. The minute we were back in civilization though, the iPhone owning crowd among us were on their phones - browsing, clicking, Facebook-ing. So to those devotees who worship at the altar of their iPhone's beauty, I present this feature from WebUrbanist on the coolest phones ever. Concept phones, anyone? Now this is beauty!
http://weburbanist.com/2009/06/29/your-future-is-calling-15-creative-cool-cell-phone-concepts/

Thursday, July 2, 2009

After a few days off from the blog - because I was completely wiped out from work - I couldn't help but come back and share this absolutely absurd video from Fox News. I have no words to describe the content or the people featured here


I was going o stay away from the entire Sanford saga - I mean, what's new about a politician- a right wing politician defending the sanctity of marriage and upholding moral values while "crossing lines" - sexual, international and what not, with no concern for the people they are supposed to govern and lead - but this video below is classic. I certainly didn't mean for today's post to turn into sarcastic but hilarious video edition - but hey, its the long weekend. You have time on your hands


Since I've already set the sparring tone, I'm going to finish up with venting about a pet peeve of mine. People who make a living out of digging up dubious arcane statistics, recycling crap as parenting advice and make the rest of us feel like idiots. I saw a link for "Put safety first on July 4th" This is the first year that we've actually bought fireworks for the kids. We did it for Diwali - so that on the day of the festival, the kids could have a few sparklers. So I clicked on the link and came to this article
http://www.parentdish.com/2009/07/01/avoid-the-emergency-room-put-safety-first-on-the-fourth/
Maybe there are people out there who get so caught up in the day that they forget to drink water, or apply sunscreen when they are out in the sun or who let their kids run around with dangerous fireworks. But let's face it - those people are probably not reading the "Family Manager" articles. So its the rest of us who are already panicked over the well being of our extremely well cared for and protected kids who will read this and end up being the freak parents chasing their kids on July 4th with a bottle of water and a tube of sunscreen.
I'm no parenting expert but here's my advice - relax, have a good time. Enjoy the kids and the time off - let the computer & blackberry stay at home. Nothing is burning! Happy July 4th everyone!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Marriage, Motherhood and ...skateboards?


A placid, laid back summer weekend turned into a moment of reckoning for me today, One moment we were swimming at ProClub, shopping for pink lacy dresses and then suddenly, I was confronting issues like my fidelity to gender equality, my maturity as a mother, my kids' maturity and my ability to let my kids get the winds beneath their wings...or whatever the heck that song was. And finally, there I was pondering the meaning and relevance of marriage - the institution, which brought me full circle debating the gender issue. We were, like a nice yuppie couple, shopping for overpriced kids' clothes at Nordstrom's. And then suddenly, there we were, at Zumiez, browsing skull and crossbones motif skateboards. Yes, skateboards - for my 7 and 4.5 year olds. Our neighbor, my daughter's classmate, just got one. So I knew this was coming. But as I said to the teenager helping us in the store, "This is all happening too fast for me."

Arjun has mentioned a few friends who had cool boards or were learning with the older boys, but we managed to completely block it from our radar. But now that we were in the shop and he was definitely getting one, I debated if li'l Saanya should get one too. I went back and forth between, "Why can't she have one - who says the broken bones from a skateboard are a boys' prerogative?" to "She just bought silver ballet shoes - what does she want with a skateboard?" Anyway, they both got one and, I have to say, they are pretty cool. I just decided to sit back and resisted the urge to bribe them out of the store with a trip to Build-A-Bear - something told me, they weren't going for that today. We came home and I sat on the front porch watching Arjun tentatively try out his moves. Once he fell and scraped his leg - I almost leaped up and scooped him up but he beat me to it. He rubbed his leg and got right back on the skateboard. This would NOT have happened even yesterday - yesterday, he would have come to me for comfort and consoling. Today, there he was blinking back his tears and rubbing his scraped leg, resolutely. I could see he was trying to live up to the responsibility of getting a skateboard. I squished the sorry feeling that rose in me and gave a thumbs up to him, "Way to go, Arjun. You're doing great!"

While the kids were watching their boards being prepped in the store, I did what I always do when I have a spare moment - I whipped out my phone and browsed over to nytimes.com and salon.com. On one of the two, or between the two of them, what caught my eye was an articles talking about an article..and a book. Between the two, I spent a good deal of time pondering marriage (or the end of it) and love (or the end of it).

The byline (or whatever its called) for this article by Sandra Tsing Loh reads The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same? It talks about the author's decision to end her marriage, how she struggles and finally gives in to the massive and by her implication, impossible task of sustaining a household, kids and a marriage. I've been fascinated by the western openness to discussing private but still universal issues. I read this article with fascination and mulled over it at some length today - does marriage turn us into monotonous drudges?

Lamenting the same fact with a bit more wistful longing for that unadulterated passionate love of Harlequin novels or Mills & Boon romances, as I knew them, growing up, is this book "A Vindication of Love" by Cristina Nehring. I have not read the book and probably will not but I did read the review in the New York times last Sunday. It sounds exciting, if not completely practical.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The One and Only - remembering Michael from India to New York


Of course, it's all about Michael Jackson today. Like him, love him, hate him ...you couldn't ignore him. In the remote army cantonments where my Dad was posted in India, Michael was my first connection to American pop culture. We laughed nervously at his weird appearance but still put up posters in our bedroom and couldn't stop tapping and dancing to "Beat It". Boys in school walked around with the fingers cut off from the wool gloves their moms lovingly knot for them. I know Puneet permed his hair (he's going to kill me for this) and although he might not admit it, I definitely see the Jacko influence there. MJ came to India throwing the teens and parents of India into passionate frenzies - on opposing ends of the passion spectrum, but still. You couldn't just ignore it. I of course, could not even dream of going. But Puneet did and his Dad refused and prevailed. Oneof the first songs I remember watching when MTV came to India was Black or White. I loved the montage at the end - it was the height of artistic philosophy for me at that time.

In 2001, we finally got to attend a MJ concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. Puneet's cousin called and left us a mysterious message "I have good news. Call Me!" We speculated he had gotten engaged - but the news was better, much better. We had tickets to the sold out Michael Jackson concert. We had the worst seats in the hall - right BEHIND the stage where Michael was performing Eventually, we did make our way to the better areas and ended up having an AMAZING, UNFORGETTABLE night.
The next day, we planned to go to work and gloat in the fact that we were there - at Madison Square Garden in front of all colleagues, friends - anyone who would listen. our plans were thwarted - the next day was Sept 11, 2001.

Whatever else may have happened, Michael created some great music and for those of us that grew up on that music, this is a sad day.

Tributes and pictures are everywhere - I thought this slide show detailing Michael's life in People covers is interesting
http://www.people.com/people/archive/covers/gallery/0,,20213399_20356285,00.html

Salon.com essay - When Michael was cool


Also on Salon is the catalog of celeb tweets in response to the news of Michael's passing.

Rest in Peace..Michael.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Backstory on Mir Hossein Mousavi and a cheeky take on Parenthood.

So much going on in Iran, if you're like me and want to peel the onion a bit, here is a good piece by Laura Secor on the Washington Note about the history between Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Ali Khamenei. There is also a link here to a more expanded piece.

Because I can't make myself read through any more depressing news about Iran or the Health Care Plan or about the train crash in DC, I will not subject you to it either. There's always CNN.com or if you must, Foxnews.com for that kind of stuff. Instead - let's panic about babies. Yes, you read that right. One of my biggest peeves with being a parent in America is the general hyper-anxiety that is supposed to come with it. Overall, I do not stress about my kids - I get mad, but I do not stress. It actually drives me a little crazy to see that the more a kid has, the more the parents worry about the kid. Look at us, look at our kids - I honestly have never believed that any kid in my social circle will starve or go without an education or be brain damaged due to sleep deprivation. I truly do not worry about kids skipping a meal or scratching the wood floors or staying up till (gasp) 10PM. So, needless to say, I'm a little annoyed in the company of supermoms who get worked up over nap schedules or will spend hours talking about meal planning for toddlers. I do, sometimes, feel pressurd to worry - as in, "Is something wrong with me? Am I not a good mother? Why do I not worry about my kids? So what if they are good kids in a generally healthy home going to great schools? I should find something wrong!!!"
So with all the above said, I want to introduce everyone to ...drumroll, please...my new favorite site "Let's Panic About Babies" Its hilarious, witty, more than tongue-in-cheek and the best part is, it makes me feel vindicated! Hurray for that.

And to finish off in the catty vein, here's a nice little ditty for you to enjoy

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day


We've had a good start to Father's Day..I end up projecting my perfect day onto birthdays and Father's Day for Puneet. He got coffee in bed with some fresh fruit and the newspaper..the actual NY Times in paper. That thing is $6....wow, I had no idea. Anyway, he's reading in bed now while we prep for breakfast. We have a few more things planned ..hope he enjoys. He deserves it.

I read this great essay on Salon.com about Father's Day. Its called feminism meets Father's Day & it is a great read.
http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/06/20/dads/

And finally for today, if you find yourself in an emergency, run for your life and DO NOT STOP TO TWITTER FIRST - check this out on buzzfeed.com
http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/do-not-use-twitter-cci

Friday, June 19, 2009

Career

Short post for today..I'm exhausted from the week. It's annual review time at work - time for high intrigue and drama! My manager stopped by after a meeting where he discussed me and my performance and he looked very tired...encouraging or not, hmmm...I..am...not..sure. There is so much advice out there about managing your career and some of it is downright conflicting, cancelling out. ending up in zero - you get the point. For instance, people have told me "You are responsible for your own career, no one else will manage it for you. Everyday, you need to be thinking about your career." And then others who say."Dont focus too much on your career, it will distract from your work." I was incredulous when I heard that last piece of advice, but slowly I'm coming to see the wisdom of it. Here is my takeaway - You need to be thinking and planning your career, aware of the direction you're taking, the skills you're adding and where you're headed in a year, 2 years or 5. But on a day to day basis, do the best you can and dont stress over things you cant control. Things like how well others are doing and what they are getting credit for.

And on that piece of advice, here is a nice post from the Brazen Careerist - it talks about perceptions and how you create them to your advantage. You've probably read that good looking people do better in interviews (now you know!). Read on for some good advice on creating impressions of tallness (they say it helps)

http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2009/06/16/how-to-be-a-tall-person-at-work/

Have a great weekend. Happy Father's Day!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Vacation...Foxy times & Jimmy Choo shoes

Last day of school today...summer vacation started. Hard to believe first grade is over. Arjun brought home a great report card- so proud of him! The only area he needs to practice is on time management...the kid's a dreamer and a perfectionist. Not a good combination when you need to get stuff done on a timeline. I'm going to be investing in a loud egg timer this summer - hope that helps.

Had our usual diner time argument with Saanya who refused to eat the stir fry I made, which was quite good, if I do say so myself.
The conversation went something like this
Me - "Saanya, you like baby corn. Eat the baby corn."
Saanya - "No mommy, I used to like it. I don't anymore."
Me - "OK, well, you still have to eat it."
Saanya - "Mommy, you're not the boss of me."
Me - "Yes, I am."
Arjun pitches in - "Yes, Saanya, she is. She really is."
Saanya - "Mommy, and you're being mean."
Me - "Bosses are supposed to be mean."
Saanya - "No, Mommy. No one is supposed to be mean. It makes other people sad."
As usual, I ran out of stuff to say after that.

On to bigger stories, check out the DailyKos site for coverage of Fox News crying foul at the fact that ABC will be inside the White House broadcasting a special prime time report on the health care reform plan. They are upset because it is one channel getting this access...and its not them. DailyKos has this amusing clip about Fox being caught with its pants down - guess what, they had the same access and more, to the Bush White House. Watch them crying foul below - and then being exposed. Not that it matters to Fox or it's watchers. Read the article on dailykos.com too.


Jimmy Choo and budget..words not typically belonging in the same sentence. But its a brave new world we live in. None other than the WSJ report that Jimmy Choo will design a special line for H&M. Check out the story here and then get in line.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124522785484222715.html

Sorry to end on a depressing note but I found this great blog called the The Big Picture - its part of the Boston Globe now and has an amazing series of photojournalsm stories. The latest one is on West Bank and the Jewish settlements there. You have to check it out.
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coat Hooks


It all started with this post from Cool Mom Picks talking about this cool little Robot Coat Hook. My curiosity was piqued and I decided to do some research into other cool, interesting coat hooks. Seems like a lot of people had the same question.

Check out this post from ApartmentTherapy.com - responding to a user question about.."cool coat hooks."
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/good-questions/good-questions-cool-coat-rack-for-picky-people-008144

If your taste is a little bit more wacky and out there, I loved some of these in this post on weburbanist.com
http://weburbanist.com/2008/11/03/coat-racks-and-modern-hat-rack-designs/

Although I couldn't find a picture on the site, my local favorite is Kasala and I remember seeing some nice coat hooks there.
Finally, I need to confess that on my last trip to Vancouver, BC, we stumbled upon this shop - NOOD (it stands for New Objects of Desire) and I ended up buying a few of their Hangmen coat hooks, mostly because I thought the name was cute. The hooks themselves are pretty cute but they are sitting in the cabinet, waiting to be put up and actually be of use in the house. So browse, enjoy and if you end up getting some stuff, hang it up right away!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Growing Up



Mom and Dad left for India after 3 months with us in Seattle - time to grow up and take charge of my life again. Magical, how responsibility has a way of spurring action. When I knew Mom would take care of breakfast and lunches for the kids, I struggled to wake at 7:30 AM, today I was up at 5:30 AM - we'll see how long this lasts.
Before they left, we snuck in a trip to Mt Rainier - awesome, in the literal sense of the word. Every time I venture out to explore, I am awed at the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and wonder why I don't get out more. Check out some pics of the trip.

The Middle East has dominated the news for the weekend. Of course the elections in Iran are top of mind. I saw a small group of people gathered near the Bellevue Square Mall, protesting the elections. I honked in support but would like to do more. As the protests get louder, the crackdown gets harsher. What's more fascinating is watching the events play out in the social media. Check out the photos on Flickr. There are also Twitter updates and Facebook pages devoted to the issue. Go to Salon.com for a first hand, on the ground account of the post election reality in Iran. Here is a protest video on Youtube


In case you were heralding the speech of Israeli President Netanyahu recognizing the two state solution, here is an analysis of why the statements leave a lot to be desired before we can recognize a maturity in the Israel-Palestine relations.

Happy Monday everyone!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tingle Stools and Sno-Cone Cocktails


It is HOT in Seattle these days and no, I am NOT going to complain. Even though there is no air conditioning at most homes and my car is usually burning up after I return to it from shopping or work or anything, I will still not complain about the glorious, wondrous heat. With the hot weather come (hopefully) outdoor BBQs, deck parties and summery cocktails. So here is the daily round up for summery days ahead.

Head over to Design*Sponge today to check out these tingle stools by luxxbox. She provides a full rundown of why she likes them - all valid reasons. I love the colors - very cute and modern. I went to the luxxbox site and found other interesting stuff too.

Stay on design*sponge and check out the Before and After Makeover of this bedroom. I couldn't do this if Puneet took a yearlong business trip, forget 2 weeks. But if you are artistically inclined, get inspired and get going.

Check out the Gourmet magazine site to find the recipe for Madras cocktail. It looks like a snocone & you can tell me how it tastes.

Next stop - Apartment Therapy. I loved this article on summer drinks and lovely dispensers for them.

Hope you have fun enjoying these summer finds. I'm off to a training today and then helping out at Arjun's school for "Taste of Japan" They have octopus on the menu - hopefully my kids will be more adventurous eaters than me. Have a sunny, warm weekend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Charity & Empathy

My parents are visiting from India and in the true fashion of grandparents everywhere, they have done all they can to spoil the kids in the 3 months they have spent with us. Not too long ago, Dad gave Arjun, my year old (6 and 3 quarters, actually) $20, ostensibly so he could buy more toys to add to his overflowing closet or more candy for his plaque-ridden teeth. Anyway, Arjun came back from school a week later and informed everyone that he had donated the entire amount, plus a few dollars from his 4 year old sister's savings (with her permission, of course) to "Pennies for Peace", a charity his school is running to support schools and education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mom, seeing her $20 or close to Rs 1000, go down the drain, threw a fit and told Arjun that money was for him. She further advised him that you donate minimal amounts to charity - a dollar or two. Arjun promptly, and indignantly, responded, "Nani, is it more important for me to have stuff or for the kids in Afghanistan to get an education? If I donated a dollar, only kid would get an education, now 20 kids can."
So, understandably, Mom had nothing to say and is now bragging to one and all about her grandson's benevolence. I have to admit, my first reaction when I heard of his magnanimity, was also to say, "What, the entire $20?" But I came to see the wisdom of his ways and had to pat his back and admire his clarity and prioritization.

Saanya, last night, told me she watched a movie in school about a magic school bus. She said some kid went to space and rather, misguidedly, removed his helmet in space and his head froze "like a popsicle". She went on to say,"It was very sad, Mommy."
"Really, Saanya? What did you do when you felt sad?" She looked at me puzzled and then said,"Nothing. It was a movie, Mom."
Lesson #2 - Do not get involved in a movie. The sad scene is, just ...a...movie.