February 22, 2008

Ultramarathon Man - Another Marathon-movie I'm raring to see

I'm sure there are a bunch of people who made it to the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles today. I missed it! Yes, its a unique opportunity to watch the premiere show of a movie like this - Ultramarathon Man - 50 Marathons, 50 States, 50 days!

Ultramarathon Man

I'm going to wait to get a copy of the DVD (whenever it gets released!)

LinkedIn - Caught in the act!

LinkedIn had been down for about 45minutes today (till about 6:45PT). But when I accessed it at about 7:15PT, I got the below screen, which helped me understand that LinkedIn runs on Apache Tomcat and uses Spring for its user interface.!

LinkedIn Error

For a bigger picture, go here.

Technology sometimes does such tricks too..!

February 21, 2008

The Oceans of Business - A Global Company

The nature has always been all powerful. The laws of nature do apply to the laws of business as well. The water bodies on planet earth are a perfect example. To maintain perfect balance in nature, water flows from one place to another. Similarly, lakes get dried faster than rivers because they are not connected to the seas.

This is the very way businesses work today. Gone are the days when companies could rely on operations based out of one geography. Today, the most talked about word in the world of business is "being a Global company".

Companies who have relied on operating in a single geography are similar to the lakes...they have high chances of drying up! The weather is similar to the economy. When the weather gets hotter and rains become scarce, lakes dry up. Similarly when the economy in a particular geography goes haywire, the company faces the real problem.

Similarly, looking at the world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), it will remind one of the rivers and oceans. Smaller companies are acquired by larger companies with a business footprint spanning across geographies. The smaller companies are like the rivers, which eventually flow into the oceans either by the process of M&A or by being a key stakeholder of the bigger company's supply chain.

Well, I was reminded of the above when I read the news about Indian companies investing $10 Bn in the United States. When the United States faces a tough economy and a talks of a possible recession is going on, Indian companies have created 30,000 jobs for Americans... Thats BIG!
India is investing twice as much in the US as the US does in India
- Amit Mitra, Secretary-General

Indian companies had invested $45 billion worldwide with the US accounting for $10.25 billion last year. India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath launched a road show here Tuesday around the theme "Investing in America: The Indian Story" under the joint leadership of the US-India Business Council and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)

The next two to three years is going to see a vast change in the way businesses operate worldwide. The early bird always gets to set the tune!

Spirit of the Marathon - I cant wait to watch this movie!

The buzz started some months ago. The D-Day has finally come and I can't wait to see this masterpiece. Unfortunately this movie is releasing ONLY in the United States. I just hope to get my hands on the DVD atleast (heard that its releasing this summer). Here is some information about what Spirit of the Marathon is all about-

Four years in the making, Spirit of the Marathon is the collaborative effort of three-time Academy Award winner Mark Jonathan Harris, Telly Award winner and marathon runner Jon Dunham and producer/marathoner Gwendolen Twist. Spirit of the Marathon is the first ever non-fiction feature film to capture the drama and essence of the famed 26.2 mile running event. Filmed on four continents, the movie brings together a diverse cast of amateur athletes and marathon luminaries.

As six unique stories unfold, each runner prepares for and ultimately faces the challenge of the Chicago Marathon. More than a sports movie, Spirit of the Marathon is an inspirational journey of perseverance and personal triumph; a spectacle that will be embraced by runners and non-runners alike.

Filmed on four continents and in five countries, the film stars legends such as Dick Beardsley, Paula Radcliffe, Bill Rodgers, Toshihiko Seko and Grete Waitz.

To drive your temptations higher, here is a list of athletes who you will see in this movie-

Ryan Bradley - Boston Hopeful As a recreational runner, Ryan Bradley completed his first marathon while living overseas with his soon-to-be wife Colleen. One child and five marathons later he has set his sights on qualifying to run Boston-A goal he previously missed by 11 seconds! But for both amateur and elite alike, training to become faster has a price. Determined to realize his goal in Chicago, a marathon known throughout the world for its flat and fast course and where runners frequently attempt to qualify, Ryan trains hard and ultimately experiences the marathon in a way never previously imagined.

Leah Caille - First-Time Marathoner Picking-up the pieces from her crumbled marriage-A period in which she subsequently lost fitness and gained weight-Leah Caille found herself at an all-time low. Now a single mother to her seven-year-old daughter Adelaide, Leah started on the path to health and happiness by joining Chicago Endurance Sports' "Learn to Run" program. After completing her first 5k, she went on to dramatically improve her fitness, which led to several more successful races before she decided to take on the ultimate challenge by training for and running the Chicago Marathon.

Deena Kastor - 2004 Olympic Bronze Medalist Deena Kastor (formally Deena Drossin) is one of distance running's biggest superstars. As a professional runner for more than a decade, Deena has set numerous American and world records. In addition to her 2004 Olympic Bronze Medal run in the women's marathon-An event in which no American has medaled in 20 years-Deena is the reigning American record holder in the 8k (set in 2005 at the LaSalle Bank Shamrock Shuffle), half marathon and the marathon. After suffering a debilitating foot injury early in the year, Deena sets her sights on the Chicago Marathon, where she hopes to capture her first ever world marathon victory.

Gerald Meyers - Four-Time Marathoner While Gerald "Jerry" Meyers has been a runner since the boom of the 1970's, at 65 he had never seriously considered training for the marathon until reading an article about the event in the Chicago Tribune. Now 70, Jerry is in training for his 5th marathon only this one is a bit more special... Along with his 40-year-old daughter Rona, who became inspired to run by watching her father break six hours for the first time, the two are preparing to run all 26.2 miles together!

Daniel Njenga - World Class Marathoner A native of Nyahururu, Kenya, 29-year-old Daniel Njenga showed promise as a world-class distance runner at a young age. Today, he lives and trains in Japan, where he receives corporate sponsorship and races worldwide. The Tokyo International Marathon Champion, has run a personal best in the marathon of 2:06:16, which ranks him as one of the all-time fastest runners in the world! He not only loves to run, but performing well means enormous financial gain, which in turn is often reinvested in homeland infrastructure. Following the Chicago Marathon, Daniel will return home to Kenya where he will be reunited with his wife Monicah.

Lori O'Connor - First-Time Marathoner Representing the latest boom in distance running, 26-year-old Lori O'Connor is a PhD student in sociology at Northwestern University. Continually setting high goals for herself, Lori has decided to take on yet another major challenge - to run her first marathon. During four months of training under the guidance of the Chicago Area Runner's Association (CARA) she reveals to us her motivations for taking on this challenge, which will include raising funds for Genesis of Pittsburgh, the non-profit adoption agency, which matched her with a family as an infant.


  • Dick Beardsley - 2nd place 1982 Boston Marathon (Duel in the Sun)
  • Joan Benoit-Samuelson - First women's Olympic Marathon Champion
  • Sara Mae Berman - Three-time Boston Marathon Champion
  • John Bingham - Author Marathoning for Mortals, Runner's World columnist
  • Amby Burfoot - 1968 Boston Marathon Champion, Executive Editor Runner's World magazine
  • Tom Derderian - Author, Coach
  • Hal Higdon - Author, Chicago Marathon coach
  • Joe Henderson - Original editor Runner's World magazine
  • Deena Kastor - Olympic Bronze Medalist, American record holder in the marathon
  • Paula Radcliffe - World record holder in the women's marathon
  • Roger Robinson - Author, Boston Marathon Master's Champion
  • Bill Rodgers - Four-time Boston and New York City Marathon Champion
  • Alberto Salazar - NYC & Boston Marathon Champion
  • Frank Shorter - Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist in the marathon
  • Kathrine Switzer - Women's running pioneer
  • Paul Tergat - Former world record holder in the men's marathon
  • Grete Waitz - Nine-time New York City Marathon Champion

I'm waiting..!

Recycling Rewards - Its an IBM built Rails App!

Seth Chisamore from IBM in Atlanta Kiosk Group built a really unique Kiosk application for RecycleBank that lets students at Columbia University recycle at a kiosk, gain points for their contribution and get rewards from places like Chipotle. This takes the RecycleBank Business Model to the next level - Earn rewards by recycling!

RecycleBank Kiosk

Direct report from Columbia TV News...

A new recycling program created by Columbia Business School alum has just been introduced to first-year students. Students earn rewards for going Green, getting points that can be exchanged at local restaurants.

RecycleBank gives Columbia students an economic incentive to be more environmentally friendly with a simple process - “recycle, record, reward.” The program is part of the University’s Go Green Initiative, and it began for first-years in Carman, Furnald, John Jay, and Wallach on Monday. If it’s successful, it will expand to the rest of the campus in the fall.

Nilda Mesa, Columbia's Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship, said, "Wherever RecycleBank’s gone in other cities, their recycling rates have increased dramatically. And that’s the kind of thing we’re looking for here.

We want to see our recycling rates just go through the roof."

Students received a bag for collecting recyclables and a key fob with their account barcode. They weigh their bag at one of the kiosks, scan their barcode, place the items in the proper receptacles, and can immediately see their earnings online.

RecycleBank Process

Barani Guttsma, RecycleBank's Director of Account Management, said, "If you put a bowling ball in, A. you’re going to feel pretty bad about it, B. you’re just going to reach your monthly cap that much faster. And I think after a while, you’ll see that it’s really not worthwhile."

A maximum of 50 points earned per month are mailed to students in the form of gift certificates for local stores, like Chipotle, Amir’s, and Pinkberry.

Mike Wymbs, SEAS 2011, said, "I like getting gift certificates to Chipotle. I’m going to actually do this instead of taking the easy way out and throwing plastic bottles in the trash."

Organizers hope other students will have a similar reaction.

A video report can be found at CTV News Online. You can also read about this in Seth's blog post.

Great work, Seth!

February 20, 2008

Remember the Time when slaves were auctioned as Gladiators?

Many years ago, there was this cruel barbaric system called slavery. Remember the movie Gladiator? Do you recall the way Russell Crowe gets auctioned as a slave to fight as a gladiator?

Today, I get a similar feeling when I read and watch the happenings in the world of cricket. The Indian Premier League (IPL) auction reminds me of this very system. World class players are being auctioned for green dollar notes!

I'm not sure how this really will work out (for the game of cricket), but I'm goocertain that the game of cricket is losing its erstwhile charm. The Twenty20 format itself, I feel, has dented the spirit of one day cricket.

SWYL: What is Web 2.0?

There has been a lot of buzz going on in the internet space, especially with Web 2.0 and the like. Recently, a friend of mine (who works for a big IT company) happened to ask me a question regarding Web 2.0 and SOA. He asked me-
Is Web 2.0 different from SOA? I've been reading about Ajax and so many other Web 2.0 stuff, but how does SOA fit here?

I did take him through a 15minute session to answer his question (hope it was useful!) But then, I thought of putting down my thoughts in the areas of Web 2.0 and SOA as a part of my SWYL articles. So, in this article I thought of touching upon Web 2.0. I know that Tim O'Reilly has the best explanation for this. An excerpt from O'Reilly goes this way-
The concept of "Web 2.0" began with a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International. Dale Dougherty, web pioneer and O'Reilly VP, noted that far from having "crashed", the web was more important than ever, with exciting new applications and sites popping up with surprising regularity. What's more, the companies that had survived the collapse seemed to have some things in common. Could it be that the dot-com collapse marked some kind of turning point for the web, such that a call to action such as "Web 2.0" might make sense? We agreed that it did, and so the Web 2.0 Conference was born.
For a detailed view, you can see the article at O'Reilly.

I however like the following way Web 2.0 was differentiated from Web 1.0 at O'Reilly-

Web 1.0 --> Web 2.0
DoubleClick --> Google AdSense
Ofoto --> Flickr
Akamai --> BitTorrent
mp3.com --> Napster
Britannica Online --> Wikipedia
personal websites --> blogging
evite --> upcoming.org and EVDB
domain name speculation --> search engine optimization
page views --> cost per click
screen scraping --> web services
publishing --> participation
content management systems --> wikis
directories (taxonomy) --> tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness --> syndication

February 18, 2008

Duel in the Sun - A must read..

A must read...

The Story of Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America's Greatest Marathon

The 1982 Boston Marathon was great theater: Two American runners, Alberto Salazar, a celebrated champion, and Dick Beardsley, a gutsy underdog, going at each other for just under 2 hours and 9 minutes. Neither man broke. The race merely came to a thrilling, shattering end, exacting such an enormous toll that neither man ever ran as well again. Beardsley, the most innocent of men, descended into felony drug addiction, and Salazar, the toughest of men, fell prey to depression. Exquisitely written and rich with human drama, Duel in the Sun brilliantly captures the mythic character of the most thrilling American marathon ever run—and the powerful forces of fate that drove these two athletes in the years afterward.

Watch the video of Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar running the final stretches of the 1982 Boston marathon-

More reading on The Marathoner speaks to his God at New York Times.

February 16, 2008

What is better - Patenting or being a little more Patient?

Here is the story of Mike and Spike. Both were extremely hardworking and creative. They worked together in a big company that was listed in the Fortune 100. Mike has been with the company for more than 10 years and has more than 25 patents to his credit. Spike has been with the company for just about 5 years and has zero patents to his credit.

The company has a policy that states that the patents filed by its employees become an intellectual property of the company, and the name of the employee filing the same will be the inventor. The company also has some rewarding scheme for every patent filed by an employee. Assuming that the patent reward is $1000 (just a rough estimate), Mike should've made about $25000 in the 10 years by just the patent filing process. Hmm...so what did Spike make in his 5 years? Read on...

Spike, on the other hand, was extremely patient. He used to jot down all his brilliant ideas in a piece of paper and work on them in his spare time and weekends. He had a personal computer back home that he used to build prototypes of his ideas and also had many of them working at beta and alpha levels. One fine day, Spike decides to quit the company and start off on his own!

In a span of less than 2 years, Spike's new company "Spikey!.com" starts to make big profits and makes it to the news. The revenues and profits of his startup has now crossed well over $500 million. Apparently, the work that Spike's new company does is in the lines of what his previous Fortune 100 employer did. One fine day, his previous employer approaches Spikey.com offering to buy his company for a very good sum (say...$2billion...Just a ballpark figure). After consulting with his board of directors and shareholders, Spike decides to sell his company for the agreed sum, and joins his old Fortune 100 company as a Vice President of the new business unit formed due to this acquisition!

At this point, we see that Mike is still working hard and patenting all his new ideas, while Spike has shot from the level of a programmer/software engineer (with zero patents!) to a Vice President (of the same company) in the matter of a half a dozen years!

How does this sound? Familiar? Oh yes! This has been going on for many years now. We've seen many millionaires growing this way. So, the moral of the story is that patience and perseverence, coupled together with hardwork and determination, always pays off rich dividends!

So, when are you submitting your next patent? Ahemm....never mind....have a great weekend!

February 15, 2008

Run alongwith the Sun...around the city

Here is something I want to do - Start running when the sun rises, and stop running when the sun sets! The intention is to spread the awareness of energy conservation and the usage of renewable energy resources like the Sun.

I plan to do this sometime in October this year. Anyone wants to run with me? We can do a relay. Interested? Write to me NOW!

And for those of you who want to sponsor, please do write to me!

February 11, 2008

Whats the next Big thing in the M&A world?

With Yahoo! rejecting Microsoft's unsolicited $44.6 billion bid, the buzz has come to an end now. After a series of meetings over the past week, Yahoo's board determined that the $31 per share offer "massively undervalues" Yahoo.

I personally was very curious on whats going to happen to this deal. But it all concluded the way I felt. The deal, if materialized, could have seriously damaged the way the software industry's future...making it more proprietary oriented. Anyway, Google is now very happy, and I assume so is the Yahoo! board.

Now that this has come to an end, whats going to be the next buzz in the world of M&A?

February 10, 2008

My first half-marathon @ Chennai Marathon 2008

Dear Reader,
If you are looking for the MARG CHENNAI MARATHON happenings, READ THIS ARTICLE!

Updated on Aug 2008

Finally, the Hero Ultra Chennai Marathon did happen! Contrary to my expectations, the marathon was far well organized. Shahid, Ramesh and I had planned to park our vehicles near Dimensions Gym in Abhiramipuram and run to the starting point at Anna Square on the beach road.Ram had the gut feeling that we should be able to park our cars near the lighthouse and easily pull out incase we decide to drop out of the run.

We parked our cars in the inner road near the lighthouse in Marina Beach and walked to the starting point (Anna Square). We, from Chennai Runners, were a sizable gang (about a dozen of us) at the race. The marathon pretty much started on time at 7AM. The half-marathon was flagged-off at about 7:15AM. The marathon was jointly sponsored by Hero Ultra, and they had their electric scooters that were plying through the course of the run.

As for me, this marathon was my first half-marathon and completed the race in 2 hours and 28 minutes. I was not too happy with the timing though. At around the 12-14th kilometer, I was desperately looking for a restroom. Not being able to find one, I was distracted and eventually had to cut down on my speed. After that I could never get back to the pace that I started with. I was averaging at 11Kmph (about 6.8mph) till the 12-13th kilometer. The brief spells of drizzle was a blessing. The last 30minutes was however very challenging as the sun was up and my legs were feeling the burn very badly.


The player version of my Motionbased trail can be found here.

After I crossed the finish line, I could feel the tiredness taking over and ended up taking a couple of bottle drinks (Limca) and treated my legs with cold mineral water. It felt like heaven.



Overall, the marathon was organized well (from what I had expected). The traffic was kept under control during the entire course of the marathon. Hero Ultra did manage to successfully advertise their new electric two-wheeler. It looks really good and also it is silent, and more importantly, its eco-friendly!

Net-Net, some points about this event -

The Good-
  • Started on time (7:05AM)
  • There were water points!
  • Emergency staff (with Ambulances) were plying all through the half-marathon event
  • Traffic was kept under control during the course of the half-marathon
The Bad-
  • No enough water points (they were present for every 5kms!)
  • No cheering from the crowd or the organizers (though the volunteers kept whizzing in the Hero Ultra scooters)
  • No ice tubs present at the finishing point
  • No refreshments present for the finishers - Not even water!
  • Only participation certificates were given (Apparently, the person distributing the certificates asked me "How many do you want?")
  • No timing on certificate (it did not even have my name!)
Special thanks to Ram for taking a lot of pictures of the team, event and me :)

My body is now sore, and I hope to recover in two days. I just hope to get back on track for the Auroville Marathon thats happening next Sunday (17th February, 2008). Will Karthik do it? Can Karthik do it? Wait for more updates..!

February 09, 2008

Chennai Marathon happening tomorrow - A "Planned" Fiasco

The Chennai Marathon is scheduled (just four days back) to happen tomorrow. I must give credit to this marathon for proving to be the world's most infamous running event (I'd not want to call this a "marathon" at all). Here are some salient points regarding this event that would qualify it to the "World's most infamous running event" -
  1. The marathon is announced exactly 4 days ahead of the D-Day.
  2. The runs are planned to begin at 7AM (or later...depending upon when the invited celebrities need to arrive to flag off the run!)
  3. The running routes are not announced in any place clearly (except for the rampant rumors)
  4. Parking space for vehicles have not been planned (I called one of the organizing team members, and was flabbergasted to see his nonchalant reply "I dont know Sir...we've planned parking for VIP vehicles only. You gotto park your vehicles at your own risk")
  5. No clear information on the number of water points available in the planned route
  6. There are three registration centers announced. But the interesting part is that one of the registration centers asks for a "fitness certificate" for half-marathon registration, while the other registers runners without one
  7. Totally inexperienced people manning the registration centers (the person in the center where I registered - Shenoy Nagar Swimming pool - said that he was new to this job, and he didn't know the formalities!)
These are just some that come to my mind. We at Chennai Runners have been taking so much pains in organizing our ECR Runs. I'm just surprised by the way the organizers (Sports Development Authority of Tamilnadu and Hero Ultra) have handled this event. It can't get any worse. Will definitely write more on this after my run tomorrow.

February 08, 2008

My IBM Redbooks - Another Mashup from the IBM shelves

What is My IBM Redbooks?

My IBM® Redbooks® is a Web 2.0 mashup that remixes IBM Redbooks. It uses many of the most popular IBM Redbooks, enabling you to create customized books based on your interests and needs.

Chapters can be merged from any of the available IBM Redbooks, allowing you to create a personalized book for anything from an end-to-end solution consisting of various chapters from multiple IBM Redbooks to a book with only a few chapters of interest.

How does it work?

From an XML file, the user interface loads the available domains, IBM Redbooks, and chapters, which are then presented to you. After you make selections, the resulting chapters are merged back into a single PDF file. This process allows you to combine only those chapters of interest into a single PDF that can be referenced or shared with others. The application uses various tools for splitting and merging PDF files, and it uses XML for defining the user interface.

You can download the kit here.

February 07, 2008

Innovation in the GPS space...

GPS is going to be one of the areas where the world is going to see a lot of innovation happening. From devices to services, being GPS-enabled is going to be eye-catching for both - utility and fad. Here is a very nice slide that one of my running mate Vigneshwaran Chandran shared. Very interesting...

Even Garmin has come out with its new Forerunner 405 now. My Forerunner 305 is forced to take the second place. This is one thing....one needs to be able to set aside a certain amount of money for just these devices...they are really tempting!

Patenting - Is this good or bad?

This question has kept repeating itself within the walls of my think tank for almost 4 years now (Prior to that, I probably didn't care to even think about it). Everytime I think of an idea that convinces me, pop comes this thought!

An average human gets about 64,000 ideas and thoughts in a day. We never realize this fact, but a little bit of training will help us tap into our brain's thinking patterns and make more out of it. Intellectual property has been a big focus for many of the companies of the world for the very sake of proving themselves and also to make money out of.

Well, thats good. I would not want to get into "why a company should get into patenting?". My question has been "does patenting and protection of IP (intellectual property) do good for the human creativity or do they hamper creativity?".

Again, this is not for the genuinely good ideas that are patented. I'm referring to some of those basic and sometimes silly ideas, so to say, that get successfully patented. A look into the USPTO website can reveal some really ridiculous patents...trust me...you might bump into ideas like "shortest way (path) to go to the loo" (there does exist a patent that is similar to this!) to "easiest method to open a chocolate box".

Here are a few negative effects of such patents-
  1. De-motivates aspiring inventors to submit patents - By ridiculing the very essence of a brilliant idea
  2. Prevents people from improvising on an existing patent - Some patents are framed in such a way that it does not easily allow people to build on top of that
  3. Encourages people and companies to find out ways to get trivial ideas to be patented (just to tell the world that they have "N" number of patents)
In my opinion, companies should make it a point to have a dedicated Invention Disclosure team that would help in thoroughly scrutinizing patent applications before filing it to the USPTO or any other country's patent office.

Where does Success come from?

Where does Success come from? "...from Failures" says Michael Jordan, the world famous basketball champ.

Photo Courtesy: George

February 06, 2008

Busting the myth about SOA and Web Services

As I've mentioned in many of my earlier posts, people have increasingly confused the terms SOA and Web Services. Though companies and people are getting aware of the Service Oriented Architecture paradigm, some misconceptions still exist. I was recently on a telephonic conversation with an executive of a company, to explore options of working jointly in some areas of business and IT. I was totally surprised when I heard him say -
Our solutions are all based on Web Services. They are all SOA-ready

I asked him if he was aware of the differences between a solution that is based on Web Services and a solution that is built based on the SOA reference architecture. I was surprised to hear his reply -
Yes, our solutions are based on Web Services, which is why I said that they are SOA-ready

Getting back to the present moment, let me take a minute to define what Service Oriented Architecture really means in simple terms -
SOA is a flexible architecture of business capabilities being supported by loosly coupled IT elements

Web Services simply means "a software system designed to support interoperable Machine to Machine interaction over a network"

To summarize, Web Services are the building blocks of SOA; Web Services is not SOA!

For a better understanding on the fundamentals, please visit this link.

February 05, 2008

Auroville Marathon on 17th February

The next big event in the world of long distance running is slated to happen very shortly - The Auroville Marathon. I'm running the half-marathon at Auroville. A big number of runners from Chennai Runners are going to be running here.

Are you interested in running the Auroville Marathon too? Do call up Chandresh NOW!

The Winner takes it All...

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going...goes the famous adage. Though it is just a one liner, the meaning it conveys is a lot lot deeper. A winner in any walk of life; be it work, sports, personal life, health; breaths and smells the world a lot different from the losers and the easy goers.

I was reading Lance Armstrong's "Its Not About The Bike - My Journey Back To Life", and the introductory lines are really worth a lifetime. Here is a excerpt from this book -
I WANT TO DIE AT A HUNDRED YEARS OLD WITH an American flag on my back and the star of Texas on my helmet, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 75 miles per hour. I want to cross one last finish line as my stud wife and my ten children applaud, and then I want to lie down in a field of those famous French sunflowers and gracefully expire, the perfect contradiction to my once-anticipated poignant early demise.

A slow death is not for me. I don't do anything slow, not even breathe. I do everything at a fast cadence: eat fast, sleep fast. It makes me crazy when my wife, Kristin, drives our car, because she brakes at all the yellow caution lights, while I squirm impatiently in the passenger seat.

"Come on, don't be a skirt," I tell her.

"Lance," she says, "marry a man."

I've spent my life racing my bike, from the back roads of Austin, Texas to the Champs-Elysees, and I always figured if I died an untimely death, it would be because some rancher in his Dodge 4x4 ran me headfirst into a ditch. Believe me, it could happen. Cyclists fight an ongoing war with guys in big trucks, and so many vehicles have hit me, so many times, in so many countries, I've lost count. I've learned how to take out my own stitches: all you need is a pair of fingernail clippers and a strong stomach.

If you saw my body underneath my racing jersey, you'd know what I'm talking about. I've got marbled scars on both arms and discolored marks up and down my legs, which I keep clean-shaven. Maybe that's why trucks are always trying to run me over; they see my sissy-boy calves and decide not to brake. But cyclists have to shave, because when the gravel gets into your skin, it's easier to clean and bandage if you have no hair.

One minute you're pedaling along a highway, and the next minute, boom, you're face-down in the dirt. A blast of hot air hits you, you taste the acrid, oily exhaust in the roof of your mouth, and all you can do is wave a fist at the disappearing taillights.

Cancer was like that. It was like being run off the road by a truck, and I've got the scars to prove it. There's a puckered wound in my upper chest just above my heart, which is where the catheter was implanted. A surgical line runs from the right side of my groin into my upper thigh, where they cut out my testicle. But the real prizes are two deep half-moons in my scalp, as if I was kicked twice in the head by a horse. Those are the leftovers from brain surgery.

When I was 25,1 got testicular cancer and nearly died. I was given less than a 40 percent chance of surviving, and frankly, some of my doctors were just being kind when they gave me those odds. Death is not exactly cocktail-party conversation, I know, and neither is cancer, or brain surgery, or matters below the waist. But I'm not here to make polite conversation. I want to tell the truth. I'm sure you'd like to hear about how Lance Armstrong became a Great American and an Inspiration To Us All, how he won the Tour de France, the 2,290-mile road race that's considered the single most grueling sporting event on the face of the earth. You want to hear about faith and mystery, and my miraculous comeback, and how I joined towering figures like Greg LeMond and Miguel Indurain in the record book. You want to hear about my lyrical climb through the Alps and my heroic conquering of the Pyrenees, and how it felt. But the Tour was the least of the story.

Some of it is not easy to tell or comfortable to hear. I'm asking you now, at the outset, to put aside your ideas about heroes and miracles, because I'm not storybook material. This is not Disneyland, or Hollywood. I'll give you an example: I've read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don't fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else.

Cancer is like that, too. Good, strong people get cancer, and they do all the right things to beat it, and they still die. That is the essential truth that you learn. People die. And after you learn it, all other matters seem irrelevant. They just seem small.

Have a great day!

February 04, 2008

2008 is going to be a 'Running Year'

This year is going to be a special year to me as far as running is concerned. I've decided to make two things happen -
  1. Burn the road everyday! - Yes, I've decided to burn the road and clock an average of 40 Kilometers (approx 25miles) a week
  2. Complete atleast one marathon - Singapore Marathon is for sure. I've still not decided the second one
  3. Complete as many half-marathons as possible (running the Chennai Runners' Classic Route itself is a half-marathon)
I've been averaging at 31.726 kilometers per week so far.

There is a section "My Runs on MotionBased" on the right side on the right side of my blog, that will have links to all my latest runs. Should you be interested in joining me during my runs, do send me an email. If you are a Chennaiite or if you are one of those people who frequents Chennai, I invite you to join Chennai Runners.
Regular running increases your physical and mental fitness levels(or, call it the Bodymind) and also aid you in cultivating ultimate self-discipline and self-control, which are some of the keys to success in every sphere of life!

Have a great day...!

What does it take to be a Google?

Here are some of the bare minimum qualities a company needs to possess to "Be a Google" -
  1. Extremely Short product cycle times - From idea conceptualization to the first beta
  2. Open communication across the corporate management (and technical) executive lines (most often companies spend too much time on funding and the related areas)
  3. Use the best web platform - Preferably one that is really light weight - Zope works well for Google
  4. Have a good deployment strategy in place - Low cost, High Efficiency - Use Linux based servers!
  5. The cost of memory is dropping drastically - Its approaching zero cost - Don't try to limit the memory alloted to each user - Users love more memory (which translates to more 'Freedom' to do what they want)
  6. Hire top-notch techies to be able to convert idea to a prototype to a beta to a full version
  7. Have large reserves of capital for research and product marketing
  8. Concentrate less on proprietary software and business models
  9. Kick of multiple simple and powerful product initiatives - Not to pack everything into a powerhouse - Its like putting all eggs into one basket!
  10. Know when to quit - Don't beat a dead horse!
Not sure if Microsoft has better plans and strategies in place (if they convert the Yahoo! bid to a success) to compete with Google. I've seen a fundamental difference in the way the two companies (MS and GOOG) have looked at the software industry (MS is more in the proprietary software space, while GOOG is more in the free-to-use software space).

I'm sure things will unfold in the days to come. Lets wait and watch!

A tip to Greatness...

Being great or feeling great is not essentially the way people perceive one to be. Its the way one feels about him(her)self. As I said in my first post of this year, the world outside of us is simply a reflection of the world inside of us.

Here is a tip that will help you live your day with a feeling of absolute greatness -
"In an A4 size paper, write down the positive affirmation that you've always wanted to feel like. Stick this on the mirror in your bedroom. Every morning, look at this and close your eyes for two minutes to visualize yourself as one who embodies that positive affirmation. Take three deep breaths and feel the freshness in you, the greatness in you. Walk out of the room with confidence!"
Do this for atleast 21 consecutive days (if you miss even one day, start afresh!) And, you know what? This works!

You can also apply this to get rid of a negative quality in you. Say, you would like to get rid of your anger. Just write down "I never get angry" as an affirmation. It works. Try it out..

Simplifying web-based processes

CoScripter is a system for recording, automating, and sharing processes performed in a web browser such as printing photos online, requesting a vacation hold for postal mail, or checking bank account information. Instructions for processes are recorded and stored in easy-to-read text here on the CoScripter web site, so anyone can make use of them. If you are having trouble with a web-based process, check to see if someone has written a CoScript for it!

An important part of the CoScripter experience is a custom browser extension for Mozilla Firefox that automates the process of recording and playing back processes. To download and install the extension, visit the download page. If you don't use the Firefox browser, you can still use the instructions provided by the scripts to manually complete web-based processes.

CoScripter is still a research project at IBM Almaden Research Center (IBM's second largest research center in the United States). You could post your comments in the forum. You can also mail at coscripter@almaden.ibm.com. Help and documentation is available here.

Having trouble in Starting a good Habit?

Have you ever wanted to cultivate a good habit, and had a big time trouble of not being able to successfully convert the effort into a regular habit?

I've got an answer for you! Try this out as the first step -

"Make an announcement (preferably a written one) to the world that you are going to start this new habit 'X'. You would miss doing it for a couple of times. But the guilt, and the commitment that you've made to the world, would push your limits and slowly you will notice this good habit being a part of your inner self!
Have a wonderful day..!

Mashups and More from the IBM shelves

With an increased buzz around the Web 2.0 space and the concept of social networking catching up like wild fire, its been a very interesting period for web technologists and developers. With Google leading the bandwagon in the development of cutting-edge web technologies and tools, we've seen the hunger-struck Microsoft desperately trying to dowse the flames of Google's growth and in the market and the user mind share.

While all of this has been happening, off-late, I have been posed with one common question from people in my network and from customers (during informal chats). They have all wanted to know -
"What does IBM have in the Web 2.0 space?
This is indeed a very interesting question. Hence, in this post, I would like to point you to some of the work IBM has been doing in the space of Web 2.0.

The first tool that I'd like to talk about is the QEDWiki (v1.3 being the latest). QEDWiki is a browser-based assembly canvas used to create simple mashups. QEDWiki is a unique Wiki framework in that it provides both Web users and developers with a single Web application framework for hosting and developing a broad range of Web 2.0 applications. QEDWiki can be used for a wide variety of Web applications, including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Web content management for a typical collection of Wiki pages
  • traditional form processing for database-oriented CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) applications
  • document-based collaboration
  • rich interactive applications that bind together disparate services
  • situational applications (or mashups).
QEDWiki also provides Web application developers with a flexible and extensible framework to enable do-it-yourself (DIY) rapid prototyping. Business users can quickly prototype and build ad hoc applications without depending on software engineers. QEDWiki provides mashup enablers (programmers) with a framework for building reusable, tag-based commands. These commands (or widgets) can then be used by business users who wish to create their own Web applications.

You need to Register yourself to be able to download QEDWiki. You can also get to see a Demo of QEDWiki in action.

The next Web 2.0 tool that I'd like to talk about is IBM DAMIA, which provides easy-to-use tools (though a web interface) that developers and IT users alike can use to quickly assemble data feeds from the Internet and a variety of enterprise data sources. The benefits of this service include the ability to aggregate and transform a wide variety of data or content feeds, which can be used in enterprise mashups.

DAMIA lets you do the following:

  • Import XML, Atom, and RSS feeds.
  • Assemble feeds from both the Internet and from Excel spreadsheets; database support is coming soon.
  • Import data from local files in XML format and Excel spreadsheets.
  • Aggregate and transform a wide variety of data or content feeds into new syndication services.

When building a complete Web application that provides a user interface, additional tools or technologies are required in order to display the data feed provided by DAMIA. Mashup makers, such as QEDWiki, and feed readers that consume Atom and RSS can be used as the presentation layer in the enterprise Web application.

The third tool is the IBM Mashup Hub, which connects Web 2.0 mashup creators and situational application assemblers with the data and user interface components they need for creating their solutions. Mashup Hub provides two broad areas of support: feed generation for enterprise data sources and a catalog of feeds and user interface (UI) widgets.

Mashup Hub enables the users to perform the following actions -
  • Define which data from an enterprise data source, such as a relational database, should be included in an Atom feed.
  • Register existing feeds so they can be shared.
  • Upload or download UI widgets, including those used by QEDWiki to make enterprise mashups.
  • Participate in community interactions with other Mashup Hub users. These interactions include social tagging, commenting, rating, and searching the content of the Mashup Hub catalog.

Feed sources supported by this release of Mashup Hub include relational databases, collections of XML documents in IBM DB2® pureXML™, Microsoft® Excel files, comma-separated value files, Microsoft Access exported queries, IBM Information Server federated data, and the contents of ordinary XML documents. A user can also register existing feeds in the Mashup Hub catalog.

The fourth and the last one I'd like to talk about, is the IBM Mashup Starter Kit.

IBM Mashup Starter Kit is a preview of a new Web 2.0-based mashup platform that empowers business professionals to rapidly get the information they need, no matter where it resides. This toolkit enables users to assemble their own Web 2.0 mashup applications, solving business problems without aid from information technology (IT) specialists.

IBM Mashup Starter Kit consists of two technologies: IBM Mashup Hub and QEDWiki. IBM Mashup Hub is a mashup server that stores information feeds (such as in RSS, ATOM, or XML formats) in order to enable reuse and collaboration. Mashup Hub can also merge, transform, filter, annotate, or publish information in new formats. From there, the newly-enhanced QEDWiki serves as the user interface and allows non-IT users to "mash" information from any data source in order to create a single view of disparate sets of information in minutes.

IBM Mashup Starter Kit can combine information from databases, departmental information, personal information, or the Web. It rapidly blends information and Web services, such as weather reports or maps, with enterprise content and services, such as IBM Information Server, IBM DB2® pureXML™, and IMS (Information Management System) transactions and databases; and it easily "mashes" them together to generate fast, flexible, and affordable applications for specific business needs.

This new approach to delivering Web 2.0 applications builds upon IBM’s Information on Demand strategy for helping organizations seize control of runaway data growth and rapidly respond to emerging opportunities by using information as a strategic business asset.

Just to end the note, IBM's Lotus suite of software has an offering called Lotus Connections, which is a social software for business that empowers you to be more innovative and helps you execute more quickly by using dynamic networks of coworkers, partners and customers. It helps with instant features like Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Dogear, Activities and more.

Further information about IBM's Web 2.0 initiatives is available at the following Web site: Web 2.0 Goes to Work: Drive innovation and growth with Web 2.0 technologies.

February 03, 2008

38 Days of 0% Blogging and 100% Learning

To all Subscribers, Readers and Regulars of my blog,

Wish you a very Happy 2008! I know its already February...but its always better late than never :-)

I'm sure many of you have been wondering what this "Blog Break" status on my Twitter means. I've got a decent number of people asking me this question too (Thanks for mailing me!). Well, I had no specific reason for taking this short break from the world of blogging. Having said that, it doesn't mean that the 38 days did not matter much....IT DID! I used these 38 days to take care of myself.

Most of us have been busy doing great stuff around in both our personal and professional lives, that we less do give time to ourselves. We do make it a point to take the car for a service, but never thought that one of the most complex systems - our body - needs some attention!

No, don't move your mouse to the top right side of the window!.....I'm not trying to talk about something philosophical here. Here is the message I would like to convey in this first 2008-post of mine -
"To Change the World around you, Change the World Inside You. Change has to happen from inside"
Have a great year ahead!