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I wrote about www.walkscore.com in my earlier post – tells you how walkable your city is – found it interesting..

Remember an old tune that you cannot recall (so desperately!), go to www.midomi.com and hum the tune and it promises to recognize it for you.  Quite fun, results were not very accurate, but good nevertheless.

A site I spent a lot of fun time was www.brainbashers.com. You can spend hours taxing your grey cells or just plain having fun.

Having some family fun games with kids?  Use this nice scrambler to create word puzzles http://www.lerfjhax.com/scrambler

http://www2.smarttech.com/st/en-us/search gives some useful tips on searching smart, if you’ve always had difficulty finding the right stuff on the web.

Being a programming layman, I always had issues with figuring out HTML.  Get some basics for reference at http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/ .  It’s very useful when you build your site or blog.

Some good stuff on social media strategies can be seen at http://vizedu.com/2009/04/social-media-strategy/

Verizon operates a great site for kids and education – visit http://www.thinkfinity.org/home.aspx

A comprehensive site on healthcare reform and wellness is from Phillips http://www.getinsidehealth.com/Topics/

And of course the mother of all sites for inspiring oneself and reaching higher and higher is http://www.ted.com/index.php

As we beckon 2010 with a hopeful smile

Leaving behind the 2 years we won’t forget awhile

May bulls in the stock markets roar

And the jobs, sales figures soar,

Bringing cheer and success to you and your career in style!

The Economist carries a great article on Japan and the culture of rice growing, marked by rituals and the painstaking detail that goes into growing rice.  Rice is linked to centuries of family traditions and Japanese values.  Humility is a virtue the Japanese hold dear: “The heavier the head of rice, the deeper it bows”. In our rat race we have forgotten humility.

We all want to have the best car on the road, surge ahead first and show road rage when someone cuts us.  Woe befalls an aged driver moving at the right speed on a road.  We all will curse him or her and shake our heads in disgust and zoom past him showing how fast and agile we are.  Will we all be fast and agile forever?  We have forgotten sincere Thank you’s, Please’s.   What we have left is a soulless, meaningless grimace and a murmur at best.  And we all want more money, power and jewelry than our neighbor, don’t we?  And show it off as much as possible.

Hell broke loose when Barack Obama bowed too deeply to the Japanese premier.

The Japanese Bow

Hello, if one is richer and more powerful, it’s not bad if he bows deeper.  A nice story from the Arabian Nights talks of a king who returns a bow to a common man.  He wanted to be one up on the common man did not want anyone to think he was less humble. Truly, humility is a forgotten virtue.

The Genesis Chapter 2 says that the Lord created the cat as a balance to the dog.  Adam’s Guardian Angel complained to the Lord that Adam was getting too proud – “Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but no one has taught him humility.”  The Cat that Lord created would not obey Adam. And when Adam gazed into Cat’s eyes, he was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam learned humility. God was pleased. And Adam was greatly improved. And Cat did not care one way or the other J  For God’s sake, why does it take a cat to teach man humility?

Lord Krishna’s childhood friend, a common and poor man called Sudama called upon him at his palatial well guarded mansion, after several years.  Guards would not believe this poor, ragged man was a friend of Krishna.

Krishna the king humbly welcomes poor friend Sudama

Krishna heard of this and ran and embraced his friend and eagerly ate his favorite puffed rice dish that Sudama’s wife had sent for him.  Krishna never forgot his poor friend and treated Sudama with utmost respect and humility though he was the rich king of Dwaraka.

Looking at today’s corporate world, makes you wonder – Do humility and faith have a place in business?  In MBA schools and in all of our training for interviews we are told to be aggressive, tout our accomplishments and blow our trumpet as hard as possible about our work and achievements.  Some wonderful insights on humility and its impact on companies are available in this MSNBC interview with the CEO of Greenleaf Center, Larry Spears. Empathy, humility and self-sacrifice, Larry Spears says, are the marks of a true servant-leader. According to Spears, recent examples include Jimmy Carter and South African religious leader Desmond Tutu. Spears also points to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Eleanor Roosevelt.  When partners, consultants and directors of McKinsey & Co. were asked how they elected Rajat Gupta as their CEO in 2004, McKinsey specified humility as a key criterion.

It would seem then, that the value of humility is not diminished in any way in personal life and business.  A simple test can show you how humble a person is.  Count the “I, me, mine” words from a person in any conversation and compare it with the “You, your, we” words used and you will know that someone much better.

A highly skilled mason was retiring.  He had built hundreds of great houses for his boss.  He was weary and looking forward to retirement. His boss asked him to build just one more wonderful house for someone special.  The mason was not happy.  He had lost interest in building  great houses, though he was fit.  He agreed reluctantly and built a not-so-great house. The walls were weak and the roof was not great.  His quality of work was unusually poor.  As he bid a goodbye to his boss, his boss handed him the key of the same house which he built last and said – this was my farewell gift to you, my friend, I hope you like it.

Our Attitude affects everything. The Fast Company magazine is a fantastic place to read about Attitude.  You can read some fascinating stories on attitude at Fast Company.com; notable amongst them is the Zappos Story and the Amazon story.  Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill – that’s how Southwest Airlines hires people.

The Gita has the most profound material on attitude that you can find.  This verse recited by Lord Krishna, “Karmanye vaadhikaarasthe maaphaleshu kadachana” is a real punchline on attitude.  It’s meaning – “You have a right to perform your prescribed action, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities, and never be associated to not doing your duty.”   Do your duty with detachment to end results and results will automatically follow, is what it means. A fast paced, almost fiction like depiction on Lord Krishna and his teachings can be downloaded for free here.  You won’t be bored and the intricacies of the plots are truly amazing.

The latest issue of Fast Company has a very stirring editorial note on Attitude.  He describes how the young Facebook, Twitter generation folks are overturning corporate hierarchies and building businesses.  They don’t respect and couldn’t care less about corporate management structures and have scant regard for listening to deadbeat managers about what cannot be done and how we cannot do something.  They are adopting novel but simple ways to get things done.  It leaves larger corporations gasping for breath. He talks about the celebrity Ashton Kutcher’s attitude and how he is transforming the media landscape.

In these gloomy recession days, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s talks and book on “The Power of Intention” could also bring some cheer and a change in attitude.  Give it a try.

Woes befall us, if our iPod headphone gives the tiniest crackle, or gas prices go up a few cents.  We cannot do without an afternoon of internet disruption.  How can we get less affected by recession and other external environmental crests and troughs? A small jolt hurts us so bad.  It seems the more we depend on money and materialistic stuff, the more we get tethered to them firmly.  Our happiness solely depends on …well…stuff…

National Geographic carries a story about the Hadza tribe in Tanzania. They have no personal possessions, don’t grow crops, have no sense of time or calendars. They live by the day, hunt, eat and live happily and healthily. No change from 10,000 years ago.  Has the recession affected them?  While we hum and haw about layoffs and pay cuts, the Hadza are busy hunting for the night’s meal, nothing’s changed.

Gandhi did 2 things to live happily and create a revolution– he gave up materialistic possessions and started walking.  He became a vegetarian in his teens.  He got his power of conviction and inner strength from these sacrifices.  He lived life simple.  Remember, Gandhi took up walking and with his Dandi march started the Quit India movement that led to the end of the British rule in India.  He died a private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office.  Millions came to his funeral procession.

A recent editorial in Forbes or Fortune magazine said that the economy is not in anyone’s control anyway, take up walking and “walk” out of the economic recession.  The editorial recommended that Tim Geithner start walking since he cannot do much anyway to walk the economy out of recession.  Not much is in his control.  Not a bad idea.  After all Einstein discovered gravity probably while walking and resting under an apple tree….  Walking would probably give our economic gurus some new ideas to stir up the economy!

Walking stimulates the brain, generates ideas, reduces costs and helps keep the environment green and reduces the terrible dependency on oil.  I found a nice site http://www.walkscore.com that gives you a measure of Walkability of any city. I typed in Shrewsbury, MA, where I live. It is not so great at 51/100.  That means I need to drive to buy any groceries or have a cup of coffee.  There is not even a pedestrian crossing to cross the state highway at the traffic lights. Boston is classified as a Walkers Paradise with a score of 98/100.  Bangalore – 80/100 very walkable.  Interesting!

And then after deeply ruminating over walking and living simply like the Hadza folks, I realize if marketing and advertising is what actually has led us away from a simple life to the awful dependence on stuff.  I remember the Lexus ad tagline “A strong desire is a justifiable need”.  So we buy more and more stuff today, tomorrow and more stuff on Black Friday.   But that’s what runs the economy and keeps the world going around, doesn’t it?

Fascination with trains and railroads has been an enduring obsession for me.   When I was five, all I ever wanted was to be a locomotive engine driver.   What a wonderful life he led and what fun trains were!  Chugging through vast hinterlands in rain, dust and snow, trains would conjure up yearning imagery of lost worlds and nature’s vagaries for me.    The old Hindi ballad, Kishore Kumar’s “Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai” is spot on.  Translation with some poetic license 🙂

Move on with the journey of life, said the engine’s roar
The commanding yet beseeching horn blared
Get in, you mere mortals and say nothing more!
The train beckoned me and I was snared!

Whether they run on steam or coal or gas or electric motors, trains have basically retained the same glamour.  The Palace on Wheels carries amazed international tourists from Delhi to Jaipur in royal ambience.  A steam engine symbolically pulls you out from Delhi station.

Jethro Tull’s “Journeyman” is so poignant when you remember some long night journeys in trains:

Orange beams divide the darkness
Rumbling fit to turn the waking worm.
Sliding through Victorian tunnels
Where green moss oozes from the pores….
Howling into hollow blackness
Dusky diesel shudders in full cry.

“Chaiyya Chaiyya” from AR Rehman is one helluva train song, with the cute small train winding through hills.  It is also the title track for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Inside Man”.

BTW, I still want to be an engine driver, wonder if I should look up Monster.com tonight……. .

This bestseller talks about how Mary got into the driver’s seat of a “toxic dump” of a workplace where everyone’s morale was very low.  No other department employee enjoyed talking to Mary’s colleagues.  The work they did was boring, their customers were unhappy and hated talking to them.  Next door was Seattle’s Pike Place Fish which did a similar boring job of selling fish but everyone was happy and made customers happy daily and all the time.  Slowly Mary transformed her “toxic dump” and her department became the most fun department of all.

She helped each employee “Choose their Daily Attitude”, “Build Fun” into the workplace, “Be Present” and “Involve Customers” in their activities and work.  It involved simple things like having a fun competition during lunch time, sharing each other’s problems and inviting a customer to share their glory and teach them something on one day.

Found the book quite inspiring and as simply written as “Who Moved My Cheese”.  Light, fun and easy reading, yet deeply philosophical.

Looking at quickly reading Kermit the Frog in “Before you leap: A Frog’s Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons”.  Seems very similar, quick great reading.