“Hope over Fear” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

I was diagnosed having ulcerative colitis in 1995. Despite diet control and medicines including occasional use of steroids, I kept on bleeding, sometimes profusely resulting in a severe weight loss. God granted me the serenity to accept the things I couldn’t change. But my condition started worsening. Many of my friends and acquaintances started showing concerns over my deteriorating health. I never revealed having ulcerative colitis to either my friends or my employer. I decided to choose hope over desperation, fight over flight. I got the entire colon removed and a J-pouch built from my own body tissues in place of the colon. That was in 2004.

After a few years, the J-pouch started malfunctioning giving me incessant cramps, stomach aches, diarrhea and urgency to go. Doctors told me that there was no way out except replacing the inner pouch (j-pouch) with ileostomy (wearing an external pouch through my stomach). I had to decide between living with the present condition confined in home or go for ileostomy. I still kept working and socializing with constant fear and insecurity of losing control. After all, “When God gives you lemons, take a bow.” (Dale Carnegie).

On October 5, 2019 my original surgeon at Cleveland Clinic took a chance. She opened me and found that the J-pouch she had created was choking under massive scar tissues that I had developed in my stomach over the years. Fortunately, she was able to correct the problem. Consequently, I got rid of unyielding misery and sinking feelings. I got a new life.

The purpose of the above story is not singing the blues. I am not trying to declare valiance of any kind either. I simply realized that I had now the capability to make an effort towards accomplishing many things. I don’t believe in the saying, “You can accomplish anything, if you have life and health,” but we, certainly, can make an effort to achieve anything.

We become quite adaptable to any condition when we are forced into a do or die situation. I came across many people around me struggling and going through more intense situation than mine. Their courage gave me something to aspire to, something to emulate.

During the many tedious hospital visits that were part of my life, I came across hundreds of people with afflictions worse than mine, young patients going through painful therapies, patients too weak living with bouts of pain. Many had spent much more time in the dreaded hallways of hospitals than I did. Their struggles opened my eyes.

I now have the ability to maintain a daily routine, learn new languages, and acquire knowledge about new technologies. And a chance that I will maintain my health removes that gut-wrenching feeling in me (no pun intended).

I’ll leave you with the lines of Longfellow to ponder:

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal; …

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.jan 20 hope

Book Review: “Capitalism in America”​ and “Women Who Hate Other Women”​

Jan 20 Book Review

“Capitalism in America” Authors: Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge

Capitalism in America is an excellent book for everyone who wants to understand the reasons for American economic might and what causes economic ups and downs with a historical perspective. The authors, a past Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan and an economist, Adrian Wooldridge also consider whether America will retain its economic superiority or will fade into mediocracy.

The most important reasons for America’s unprecedented economic superiority, according to the authors, are innovation, creative destruction and encouragement provided to the entrepreneurs.

Creative destruction is described as the dismantling of long-standing practices in order to make way for innovation. Creative destruction was first coined by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942. Thus, creative destruction is also called Schumpeterian process

The authors give credit for America’s economic growth to Laissez-faire. Further on, the authors suggest that entitlements reform and more pragmatic reserves ratios at big banks are essential to maintaining our economic superiority.

Entitlement reform is making changes in government programs such as Social Security and Medicare so that they are less expensive. Cash Reserve Ratio is the percentage of deposits which commercial banks are required to keep as cash.

Capitalism in America is a must read for a clear understanding of capitalism vis-à-vis democracy.

women

“Women Who Hate Other Women” Author: Heather Hodsden

I came across Women Who Hate Other Women by Heather Hodsden while browsing Linkedin.com. The introduction of this book states, “My goal is to shed light on the problems they (women) face and to tell women’s workplace horror stories.” This subject, which is extremely close to my heart, has been overlooked, ignored, and ill-addressed.”…” The goal of this book is to let other women who have been verbally assaulted, fired for no reason of their own, and gossiped about by another female coworker know that they aren’t alone.”

The book’s Chapter One starts with Heather’s own experience at Sayreville War Memorial High School where she was employed as a French language teacher. There she was bullied, ostracized and humiliated by none other than her female co-workers. To add insult to injury, the school administration fired her at the end of the 2003 school year without taking any steps to act on Heather’s complaints. The other teachers were jealous of her superior pedagogy. Later, a male teacher gave her the shocking news that her own mentor (a female) felt insecure due to her (Heather’s) teaching abilities.

Heather suggests that women should fight against this malaise. She reveals that “The “history” of women in the workplace is to pretend that “hating” doesn’t exist.” She gives facts and figures about women’s abuses at the workplace and provides the needed suggestions about the remedies and resources to get help.

The book is easy to read and very interesting. The problem is that the book’s title and the first chapter, “Sayreville- My Story” gives the impression that Women Who Hate Other Women may just be a sob story. In fact, it’s not so.

“Lies, Deception and Distortion” by Anil Shrivastava “Musafir”

thomas jefferson aron burr

Recently I read a story about the Greek philosopher, Diogenes (4th century) who traveled thousands of miles to find a truthful man. Sadly, he couldn’t find one. What was true then is true now also. Lies, deceits and distortions are predominantly evident in our daily lives and politics. Seems like these are the essential tools for becoming a profession politician. LOL, Lie or lose! Unfortunately, public and media don’t like to hear or speak truth either. As most of us are not independent thinkers, we like to hear only the stories that fit our preconceived notions. The most vulnerable are those who have put some kind of label on themselves. Thus, their labels guide them to action instead of their faculty.

We have found Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Eric Holder, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and everyone else caught in a web of lies. The worst thing is that all of them support their untruthfulness with passion. Statements like, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, (Bill Clinton)” “Read my lips-no new taxes (George H W Bush),” “I am not a crook, (Richard Nixon),” “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it (Barack Obama)’ still haunt our ears.

Lying, deception and distortion are not the traits of the present-day politicians only. Let’s look at history. Lyndon B. Johnson, who repeatedly promised during the 1964 presidential campaign, “We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” At the very same time and with Johnson’s approval, the Pentagon was drawing up plans to send the first wave of more than 100,000 American servicemen to Vietnam.

The election campaign between presidential candidates John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was nasty and bitter and involved extreme lies and accusations. Adams’ campaign said Jackson was an adulterer for having a relationship with a married woman (his own wife). And they said Rachel (Andrew Jackson’s wife) was a bigamist for having two husbands and thus she was declared an adulterer too. Jackson believed that those attacks had hastened his wife’s death.

Campaign war between Thomas Jefferson and his VP Aron Burr got down-and-dirty. The campaign of 1800 between the two is supposed to be the nastiest in the history of presidential elections. This was the only election in history where a vice president had run against the president he was currently serving under. Jefferson hired a writer to pen insults rather than dirty his own hands. One of his nasty lines said that Adams was a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Considering that our elected politicians are our own reflection, we shouldn’t blame them wholly for their dishonesties. Just think of all the small, petty untruths we engage in our daily lives. When we are asked a very basic question like how old we are, a lie is often used in lieu of the truth. We also tell a lie to avoid conflict or avoid hurting someone’s feelings. For example, when we know we are inconvenienced when someone asks for our help, we are often not honest with our answers, saying instead that we will be happy to help even when we know very well this isn’t true; or we even make up a story based on a falsehood to get out of the situation.

We don’t speak the truth because we don’t want to hurt or offend the other person. When someone confronts us for derogatory statements, we often respond by saying: “I didn’t quite say that,” or “You didn’t understand me.” We lie on income- tax and expense accounts. We often engage ourselves in one-upmanship to impress others by making false stories about expensive vacations or about our heritage.  We, very often, do not regard these lies as a serious offences because for us they are actually quite harmless. In fact, we are often led to believe that engaging in these kinds of lies actually benefits us. Our politicians being personification of the time we live in (past, present and future) indulge in cover-up lies, conspiratorial lies and so on. So, if we need honest politicians, we need to change ourselves first.

This widespread cultural acceptance of lying is one of the main reasons why we don’t have honest politicians. The very categories of truth versus falsehood, facts versus lies seem to have been obliterated. Consequently, the possibility of lying has become boundless and are met with little or no resistance when we lie. Therefore, lies, deceptions and distortions have become mandatory in politics all over the world. First step we should take against this is rid ourselves of any kind of labeling and start thinking independently.

“But liars we can never trust,

Even when they say what is true.

And he who does one fault at first

And lies to hide it, makes it two.” –Isaac Watts

“Trump’s Exit Strategy” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Seems like everyone has a conspiracy theory, so why shouldn’t I have one? There is no certainty that my theory will come true, but others are also in the same boat as I am. No sooner had it became obvious that Mr. Trump’s impeachment was inevitable due to his soliciting Ukraine’s interference to reveal dirt on Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, than he asked China and Australia to look for more dirt on Biden and his son.

Mr. Trump did great things for this country such as getting rid of ISIS, Let NATO countries pay their dues, initiate policies to boost economy, struggle to stop illegal immigrants, ask China and Europe to do business on equal playing fields, withdraw from unending and wasteful tribal wars in Syria (and Afghanistan which is in progress) contrary to the prediction that he couldn’t have been trusted with Gold Code (the nuclear code that presidents always carry). So, why is he behaving erratically to devastate Joe Biden and Hunter now?

I think he has gotten irrational due to constant irritant from the Democrats. Now with his back to the wall he, feels frustrated and helpless. No doubt that Mr. Biden is senile and incoherent. Hunter Biden was involved in drawing on investments from the Chinese government-owned Bank of China and had similar deals from Ukraine. The Chinese fund was announced in 2013, days after Hunter Biden and one of his daughters flew to China from Japan aboard Air Force Two with the Vice-President.

But why is Trump doing all this now? Two reasons. First, his business empire is losing money as he is not paying attention to it (also, he donates his salary to the veterans) and secondly, he cannot take the heat of Washington politics. He not only has a thin skin and a foul mouth, he lacks the temperament a president ought to have. Trump is losing three to five billion dollars a year because he is not able to manage his business personally. He can’t afford this to continue.

Mr. Trump also knows that the Democrats will not let him live in peace after he leaves the presidency. The Democrats are already borrowing a page from Trump’s own playbook, “Lock him up.” The only thing that can save him is a pardon from President Pence. You may be thinking how? Well, my theory is that Mr. Trump will certainly win the 2020 election. He will resign in the middle of the next term which will make Mike Pence our 46th president. The condition for the transfer of power will be that Mr. Pence provide complete absolution to Mr. Trump for the charges brought upon him by the Democrats.

Like my theory? Hate it? Not sure? Please post your feedback.

Friday Fun: “Parking Lost”​ By Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafi’

jan 20 humor

Dork Dunce is very particular about his workout regimen. He never misses out on walking in shopping malls to save his sweat. One day I accompanied him to the mall because I needed to buy a melon slicer.

“There is one,” I shouted pointing to an empty parking space, but he kept on driving to find a more convenient spot.

“Why don’t you park over there?” I asked pointing to the space on the other side of the median.

“Oh, sure, you want me to park there so that I never see my car again?” Asked Dork.

“Buddy, do you realize that you are driving an old clunker whose tailgate is held up with bungee cords and the side-view mirrors are just hanging there on life support?”

Suddenly, he put pedal to the metal snapping my neck like a slinky. He noticed an old lady coming with loaded shopping bags towards her car. She then made a vigorous search for keys in her purse.

Finally after locating her key ring, she stuck a key in the car door slowly as if she was anticipating ketchup to drip from the bottle – “slow and good.” She jiggled the key left and right not realizing that it was the wrong key. She found another key in the key ring. After fidgeting forever, she was able to open her car door. Having dropped her keys in back in her purse, the old lady started digging her purse again like a gofer.

Next she started the pre-flight inspection. She locked doors. Buckled seat belt. Adjusted radio. Checked makeup in the rearview mirror. She checked makeup again.

Finally her brake lights blinked and she started pulling out of her parking space. Dork immediately put his car in the first and revved the engine like a tiger jumping toward its prey. The woman stopped and looked both ways.

Suddenly the old lady slammed on her brakes and started adjusting her side mirrors. At this point Dork lost his patience. He started beating on the steering wheel in rage. The car behind him started honking at Dork. Dork honked too in retaliation. The driver of the other car showed finger to Dork. Dork made the same gesticulation in return. Meanwhile, a red car came around the corner and made a sling shot into old lady’s parking space.

“Why did you come to the mall? I asked.

“To walk,” Dork answered dismayed.

Current Affairs: “Vulnerability of the US Defense System-It’s Not Good” by Anil Shrivastava “Musafir”

jan 20 current 1

The US defense budget for the fiscal year 2019 is a whopping $693 billion. That is more than the budget of the next seven highest spenders combined. I don’t think that the massive dollar amount tells us the entire story. The question is “Are we getting our money’s worth?” Unfortunately, most of the money allocated for defense is pocketed by the defense contractors. As an example, General Dynamics, where I worked from 1983 till 1985, sold toilet seats to the US Air Force for $10,000 a piece. You can imagine the magnitude of the abuse. Their biggest contractor, Boeing couldn’t design 737 Max correctly destroying hundreds of innocent lives. Six months have passed to those tragedies. Their planes are still grounded in planes’ graveyard. Again, question comes to mind, “How cost effective and reliable is our defense system?” A food for thought: India’s unmanned mission to Mars costed 66 million dollars which is only 11% of what it costs the United States for a similar mission

It’s especially scary in the light of USA’s recent system’s failure in detecting and defending drone strike by low tech Yemeni’s (Houthi rebels) drone that knocked out Saudi Arabia’s major oil facility on September 14, 2019 crippling 5% of world’s oil production. Saudi Arabia recently spent billions of dollars in building six battalions of US made Patriot surface to air missiles and radars. The system failed to detect and intercept the Yemeni drone. And it was not the first time that the US defense system failed. Patriot failed five times before when Saudi Arabia tried to stop a barrage of rocket strikes in March of 2018. The customers too have limits to their patience. Do not be surprised if Saudi Arabia, just like Turkey and India, would choose the Russian built S-400 system soon (according to the latest report by Bloomberg that I read while writing this article, The Saudis are already negotiating with Russia to obtain their S-400 system). It reminds me of the Japanese auto giants almost annihilating US car manufacturers in the 1980s. I was working for General Motors at that time.

The videos have shown that Patriots exploded on their way and veered off its course. “It’s nothing but an unbroken trail of disasters with the weapon system,” said Theodore Postol of MIT. As an American, I am not happy to report this to you, but I can’t do anything but write to our Senators and Congressmen/women to put our country ahead of their personal interest. What is happening is not good for America.

Commentary: “Global Warming Is Real No Matter What Anyone Says” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Jan 20 commentary 2

I don’t know, if the global warming is totally man made or not, but I know this much that it is real. It is obvious by increase in average global temperature, forest fires in the United States and recently in the Amazon rain forest. The fire in Amazon happened because of deforestation activities. It is no secret that natural calamities are occurring more frequently. Such disasters are rooted in climate change. It has been reported that Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, is sinking and so is New Orleans. Ice caps over Arctic are melting giving way to new sea routes. We don’t need any more evidence to realize that global warming is real. This exploitation of the earth’s resources will impact the future generation and that is exactly what is happening now.

Any new structure that we build must be part of nature and not exploit nature. As an evidence, the temperature in cities is higher than the periphery of cities where large green areas are available. This allows the heat to reflect from buildings and roads to dissipate, whereas in dense cities 70 per cent of the area is covered with buildings which re-radiate heat after absorbing solar heat and there is very little green area for the heat to dissipate. The frequent floods in Houston and Mumbai are the result of disappearing green space replaced with concrete. Whenever the earth is excavated for any construction and development, the flora and fauna and the remaining open area of the excavated soil around the building and structures must be restored to its original position.

Another warning: electric cars are not going to reduce global warning as long as we keep generating electricity using fossil fuels. Think about it. Go to the root cause of the problem.

Non-degradable plastic containers have become one of the major polluters of the environment; they choke the surface and underground sewers, water channels, sea beds and coral reef. There is need to reduce the use of plastics in the form of plastic bottles, carry bags and containers. Instead, glass, laminated cloth and jute bags and earthen containers are preferable. I for one have stopped using plastic and take reusable bags to buy groceries.

Man must take urgent action to restore whatever is destroyed in nature. The earth must be restored to its original state so that the next generation can inherit a sustainable living environment. It’s time to act, otherwise we won’t have much left to save.

Book Review

october 19 black swan
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Publisher: Random House (400 pp)
📷Prediction is that our universe will come to an end in ten billion years. China will surpass the USA economically by the year 2030. Arctic will become ice free in another 25 years from now.
What if those predictions don’t happen? Yes, improbable is possible and this is the theme of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “The Black Swan.” People used to think that all swans are white until they found a black swan swims by in Australia. The improbable happened. At the same breath, Taleb gives the example of stock market predictions. According to him, stock market predictions are useless because no one can say accurately where the stocks are headed.
What experts predict are liable to be wrong because experts usually use bell curves where most distributions gravitate towards the center. In real life, this doesn’t always happen increasing the chances of improbable happening.
The book cites examples of events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall that very few foresaw. Taleb wants the readers to expect what may be unlikely to happen such an s asteroids colliding with earth. Taleb’s mistrust in academicians’ forecasts is obvious from his ridicule of economists like Harry M. Markowitz and William F. Sharpe, winners of the 1990 Nobel Prize. He states that they are nothing more than quacks and swindlers.
The Black Swan is not an easy read. It systematically goes through examples and situations that are complex and sometimes difficult to comprehend. Taleb is painstaking, almost encyclopedic, in his enumeration of ways in which our understanding of information breaks down. He draws on ideas from Greek, Roman, Arab, French, and English thinkers spanning more than two millennia.
After reading “The Black Swan,” I started feeling extremely skeptical of anybody who makes any prediction about the future. I don’t know that’s good or bad.  Reviewed by Musafir
The Art of Racing
Author: Garth Stein
Publisher: Harper Collins (338 pp)
📷“This was a good read… not in an ebullient way that I suspected at first when I picked it up, but on a different level. A bitter sweet story.
I loved the perspicacious dog Enzo, the true protagonist of the book, who tells the story and ruminates on the meaning of life, who longs to be a human being in his next life (“Here is why I will be a good person. Because I listen….”) – ha!…; even though he wonders “…how difficult it must be to be a person. To constantly subvert your desires. To worry about doing the right thing, rather than doing what is most expedient” (hmm… indeed!); who discerns so well what people are all about: that “be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves”…; who likes “to live every day as if it were stolen from death, that is how I would love to live”… (much agree!); a dog who loves to eat pancakes and bananas!… And I truly don’t think that the idea for this book is too uncanny – in my own experience dogs are extremely sensitive and intelligent creatures.

What I didn’t care for was the “car racing” metaphor for “life”, or, rather, I didn’t care for the technicalities and history of car racing itself (I really felt like skipping those parts…). Even though it is so interconnected with everything that’s going on in the book – Enzo’s master being a car race driver… But for me, it didn’t take away much from the novel. A case in point is this quote: “There is no dishonor in losing the race… There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose” (even though it’s a bit of a cliché).

This is not a book where you rapturously re-read this or that sentence, just for the beauty of expression. The characters are at times over-simplified in their description. But it’s nevertheless, a good, fast, and even poignant read.”  -Reviewed by Clara

 

Short Essay: “Victim of His Own” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

October 19 Essay“When you victimize yourself, you rid yourself of responsibility”

The other day I got reminded of a story that I heard years ago. It goes something like this:

A man moved to a new town and asked an old neighbor, “How are the folks in this subdivision?”

The old man replied, “How were the folks where you lived before?”

The new neighbor replied, “They were kind, friendly and compassionate.”

“You’ll find similar people in this subdivision also,” replied the old neighbor.

After a few years another person moved to the same neighborhood and asked the same old neighbor, “How are the folks in this subdivision?”

The old man asked, “How were the folks where you lived before?”

The new neighbor replied, “They were cruel, selfish and unkind.”

“You’ll find similar people in this subdivision also,” replied the old neighbor.

The moral of the story is that we are the makers of our own world and today if the world is an ugly and nasty place, it’s because that’s what we are.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t complain, criticize, blame, gossip or compare ourselves to other people. Many of us live with a victim mentality which comes from the idea that we are not responsible for our actions and circumstances. Today, thanks to the internet and social media, this disease has taken the proportion of a pandemic. The so called victims portray themselves as unfortunates who demand to be rescued. My typical question to them is, “So what are you doing about this?”

The fact remains that most of us are not fighting to survive genocide, poverty, or daily street violence from an insurgent militia. We just have the gift of time to surmount negative emotions.

The Japanese are ingenious and hardworking folks. They rebuilt their country into an economic powerhouse after they were ruined in World War II. On the contrary, many countries in the Middle East are in a pitiable condition because they cannot rise above the victim mentality.

As a society, we are so quick to assign blame and pull out all the excuses as to why something did or did not happen. All the “He made me, she made me….” finger pointing are signs of victim mentality. Stephen Covey writes in his famous book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort.”

Independent people work on things that can change their situation using positive energy whereas dependent people focus on concerns only without doing anything about it. They spend their time in blaming and accusing others with increased feeling of victimization.

It does us no good to shield ourselves from our own inertness and inability. Unfortunately, it is convenient to be lazy and blame others for our own plight. There are reasons why people do that. That way they avoid responsibility. They like it when others feel sorry for them and society feels compelled to help in getting what they want.

In fact, the world owes us nothing, so the folks with victim mentality should stop crying about entitlement and get out there and work for getting what they want. This will give them a push and will show them the reality of existence.

“You saw what was coming,

You could have resisted everything,

It was our time to get up,

And that was our day to win,

You are victims of your own.” –Rotten Sound