The Spaniard

Who was that sitting at the foot of my three-year-old brother’s bed? He wore robes and an old hat—somewhat like a sombrero. His beard was long, grey, thin, and wispy. His fingernails had grown out to the point that they had started to curl. His right hand slowly beckoned to me. It was the “fortnight of the ancestors”, Pitru Paksha. I never knew much about the festival, other than that it was the time when spirits roamed between “the now” and “the afterlife”.

Effective Communication?

When people begin the study of communication, their attitudes vary anywhere from “I think this would be a very important class: it is important to understand the communication process if I want to improve the effectiveness of my communication,” to “What a waste of time. I’ve been communicating all my life. Do I really need to take a course to understand communication?”

Whether or not we take a course in communication, there is considerable value in trying to refine our understanding of communication. To demonstrate, I will present two class exercises. In describing the exercises, hopefully some of the jargon common in the communications discipline (for example, encoding, decoding, channel, and congruence) will become clearer, and you will be at least a little more sensitive to trying to verify the effectiveness of your everyday communication approaches.

The (unbutchered) retreat report

I just came back from my first DHAN Foundation retreat (which I plan to write about later) and I also got two books filled with “retreat reports” from other DHANites. The retreat reports range from extremely dull to pretty fun to almost instructional. By design, they are meant to highlight the best and worst parts of your year, share what’s on your mind about work, introduce yourself to other DHANites, and be something personal. At least that was my understanding.

An interview with Ananda Mahto

Every year, pretty much everyone available from DHAN Foundation and its family of “themes” gets a chance to attend the “DHAN Retreat.” The retreat takes place in different places each year. There are also different themes each year.

Because of my surgery, I wasn’t able to attend this last retreat, which was somewhat unfortunate since I really like the place that the retreat was being held. (You can see some pictures of the location here; I visited some students back in 2007. It was pretty great.)

Although I wasn’t able to attend, I was asked to write a “retreat report” which gets published along with reports from some 350 or more colleagues of mine. I think I’ll have to bring the reports along with me for my long flights that I’m trying to book for the end of this month.

Anyway, I enjoyed writing my “report,” and figured some of you might be interested in reading it, so here it is:

A flashback to 15 years ago....

I’m getting old. I must be. I was just sorting some of my random files on my computer, and I remembered that I had downloaded Ryan Gratzer’s post of the Jeberrekenelle/Rugburn split LP. While the Jeberrekenelle songs were already available, Ryan went ahead and also included the Rugburn songs (so you hear the songs in the same order that you would hear them from the record—alternating between each band), the silly start-up samples, and the nice big booklet that we stuffed in the packaging. I downloaded his booklet, straightened it up a bit, and re-posted it at Issuu so that you can all check it out without having to download the whole zip file (unless you want the Rugburn stuff too, which is also worth hearing).

Six new old stories....

I was ego-surfing the internet archives the other day, and I realized that some of the posts that I had made before my old server went down had actually been archived there and not simply lost to the digital graveyard. I’ve decided to pre-date them to match the dates they were originally posted, so you can either jump to the end of the archives and poke around or you can

Compassion and Empathy and Sticks and Stones

For people in a country that is supposed to be based on Gandhian principles of tolerance and pacifism and where people won’t eat meat because all animals are God’s creatures or whatever, most Indians I’ve observed sure seem to have a strange way of showing compassion for animals.

It looks like a special kind of hatred found only in people who may actually be too stupid to know better.

Maybe that’s cruel and exaggerated. After all, they decorate their godly cows so beautifully, right? And worship them at Pongal and paint them in fantastic colors. So how can I say that they’re hateful?

The disappointing autorickshaw cartels...

…and my decision to hold my own auto strike….

Chennai is somewhat famous for their autorickshaws, but not necessarily in a good way. The drivers here are notorious for overcharging for the shortest of rides, so, Amy and I have been doing some research into the situation. It has been a process that has been going on the entire time that we have been in Chennai and one that has been recently affected by a change in the price of petrol.

When Amy first moved into our apartment, she was paying the men at the auto stand near our house Rs. 20 for a ride to work. After doing this for a little while, she tried getting a ride from the street and found that Rs. 15 was the “normal price” and that it was usually quite easy to get an auto to take her at that rate. Still, the men at the auto stand, perhaps accustomed to the Rs. 20 that he had been paying all along, refused to budge on their price.


A little over nine years ago, Amy gave me a kiss on my neck while I was saying goodbye to her on the front porch at 729 De La Vina street after our first date. I wanted to kiss her back, but my body reacted by running away quickly—but not nearly as quickly as my heart was racing….

And now, we’re here in India, well-established in the most recent stage of our adventures together… Adventures that have taken us throughout Asia and across many of the American states…. Adventures which remind me every day why I’ve been so lucky to have Amy by my side over these years….

Attack of the white ants

Part 1: “Aieee! Get the camera! Ewww…. What are they?!?”

When I first walked into my new home in Chennai, I was happy to find myself walking into a nice spacious two-bedroom apartment. Amy hadn’t really told me too much about the place before I came—just that it was big and that it was across the street from one of the most famous sweets-shop (Shree Mithai) in Chennai.