Monthly Archives: November 2012

Happy Deepavali!

Deepavali or Diwali is on Tuesday, 13 November this year. Deepavali is also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is the celebration of the victory of good over evil according to legends. Celebrations are with oil lamps and other light, colours, decorations, fireworks and of course lots of goodies to eat!

The photos here were taken when I went to an Indian restaurant during Deepavali a couple of years ago. The decoration on the floor (known as ‘kolam’) is made with coloured rice grain. Different, very creative designs of kolam are seen in various places during this festival.

To all Hindus around the world – a very happy and prosperous Deepavali to you, with lots of light, happiness and good fortune.

This is an absolutely amazing set of videos about savants and the human brain.

Understanding and Embracing Diversity

Savants (the knowing ones) are people with neurological conditions like Autism Spectrum Conditions, who also possess incredible intellectual abilities. The videos below are about Savants with impressive memories. Watch and be amazed:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:


More on Autism:

Vote for Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

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Sci-fi: Conversations with an Extraterrestrial – (7)(ii)

7. Virtual Rendezvous in Ladinga (ii)

Sitting comfortably, Alan watched as the 3D movie rolled out with a narrative in English. Actually, the movie felt like having more dimensions than three. It was a 5D movie, at least in Alan’s mind, perhaps 10D, reaching into the unfamiliar recesses of his mind. Alan felt like he was moving, sensing with all his senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) and experiencing down to his core what was in this movie. He felt like he was living it, hypnotised by it, in a dream-like state.

Ladinga was beautiful and clean. The people were beautiful and simple. In fact, they seemed to be wearing some sort of gear with tiny solar panels that converted all their energy expended as well as the sun’s energy to air-conditioning or heating (or whatever made them comfortable) for themselves.

As Alan travelled around virtually, he noticed there were no people living in poverty or in poor health. At the same time, there were no ultra-rich people flaunting branded goods or engaging in past-times for the rich and famous as happens on Earth. It seemed utterly peaceful and intelligent. There were no arguments, bickering, crime – everything seemed purposeful and well thought out.

There were differences in the Ladingans, Alan observed. There were a number of scientists seeming to be working on high end research, he noticed a few musicians playing music that was so stirring he felt himself being buoyed to a different level. The majority of the Ladingan’s were doing more “normal” tasks. Even so, they didn’t work long hours, they spent a lot of it on relaxation and being happy. Most of the work was handled by technology.

Sci-fi: Conversations with an Extraterrestrial – (7)(i)

7. Virtual Rendezvous in Ladinga (i)

Interrupted from his task of understanding Felix’s reaction, Alan was stunned to encounter a hazy image of Sequillious again.

This time, she appeared as a robot, but was unmistakeable in her demeanour – reproachful as before, flashing signs with words, just as before.

Adjusting the frequency to  2735.7 as indicated on the sign and as he had done before, the fuzzy image sharpened. Sequillious decided to make her voice heard; this time it was a metallic, monotone voice, just as one expects from a robot.

“I am going to show you a movie”, she said.

“Did you have anything to do with what happened to Don a little while ago?”, Alan questioned.

“Figure it out. All the vices on Earth will be in check”, she chimed unrelentingly.  Alan’s question was answered here. Sequillious was behind it; she was definitely onto something. What did she want us to do?

“What about this movie you have mentioned?”, Alan asked, feeling overpowered as he did before.

“Bring your cubipit and Antigua Helmet to Artic Hill, five kilometres south from here right now and I will give you an experience of life in Ladinga”, Sequillious commanded in monotone speech.

Wasting no time, Alan operated the cubipit to take off towards Artic Hill, with only Felix with him. He had flown around on the cubipit many times; the mechanics of it had been perfected. Alan reached Artic Hill in a jiffy and was all ears.

“Exit with only the Antigua Helmet and your 3D glasses from the cubipit”, Sequillious commanded as if with a voice booming from the Heavens. Alan followed the instruction exactly as commanded.

“What I am going to show you is an experience of life in Ladinga”, Sequillious continued. You will not be allowed anywhere near Ladinga, but I would like you to observe the experience virtually. Then you will see the vast difference between Earth and Ladinga. I have prepared this specially for you so pay close attention”, Sequillious ordered.

Book Review: True North – by Bill George with Peter Sims

Ture North – by Bill George with Peter Sims

Everyone gets something different out of a book. The opinions here are mine only.

This book is all about following one’s moral compass, as a leader and about authentic leadership. In many ways it is refreshing, as it emphasises that there are no cookie-cutter rules about leadership, so differs from other leadership books that may be more prescriptive. It encourages one to figure out one’s true values, strengths and weaknesses and understand this deeply. True values only come to light when one has to choose between close trade-offs, often in a crisis situation.

The book traces in depth, through interviews, the leadership lessons and ups and downs of well-known leaders such as Howard Schultz of Starbucks Coffee, Chuck Swab of Charles Swabb, Narayana Murthy of Infosys, Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, Dan Vasella of Novartis, Wendy Kopp of Teach for America and others.

The book also gives useful insights on why leaders may lose their moral compass, being driven by external factors, rather than internal ones, drawing upon the experiences of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, contrasting this against that of Ronald Reagan.

It is easy in today’s world to get lost in all the external demands and short termism and to forget what we are good at, what our natural styles and values are. This book is an excellent read – a reminder to stay grounded and follow the all important moral compass when all else is in chaos.

Sci-fi: Conversations with an Extraterrestrial – (6)(ii)

6. The Scare (ii)

Don seemed to have gone into a deep sleep. At least that is what Alan hoped it was. He did seem to have a pulse. Strangely, he seemed to be mumbling, like someone who was having a bad dream or a nightmare.

“Ambulance is on its way”, Nancy announced, coming back to the team. “Actually”, Tanaka intervened, “it doesn’t quite seem like a heart attack now. It could have been a seizure of some sort. Now, Don seems to be having hallucinations or bad dreams or something.” “Would it be alright for me to do a few brain scans?”, Tanaka asked keenly. He didn’t think he had witnessed anything like this before.

“Well the ambulance will be here in about 10 minutes, so I guess you could if you’re interested”, Alan said, bewildered but leaning towards Tanaka’s guesses as to what was happening to Don.

Don’s face had turned bright red by now. He was clearly experiencing something most peculiar. He seemed to be breathing heavily, as if in fear or anxiety or guilt. Nobody knew quite what to make of it.

Felix continued to look rather uneasy. He barked occasionally, then hid in the corner, as if afraid to do anything else. “Perhaps I should get my cubipit and Antigua Helmet to figure out what’s happening to Felix”, Alan said, half thinking it wasn’t worth trying to do this before the ambulance arrived, but half thinking he couldn’t miss this opportunity for more evidence gathering.

The team got to work, Ollie assisting Tanaka with the brain scans and Nancy assisting Alan with hurriedly putting the cubipit and Antigua Helmet into action.

Sci-fi: Conversations with an Extraterrestrial – (6)(i)

6. The Scare (i)

Felix barked sharply. Alan twitched. It was the same bark as in the early morning hours a few days ago when Sequillious had appeared as an ethereal being. “What does this mean”, Alan thought, still in the presence of his Dream Team and Don. He had doubts about Sequillious and Don and their clash of values – Alan was sure Sequillious did not like where Project “Chocolate” was heading and she could easily start doing something to hinder it if she chose.

Don suddenly looked ill – white and drained of healthy red blood circulation. Don tried to articulate his thoughts again. “We are going to capture the aliens and….”. Before he could finish, he crouched in pain as if something was attacking him. “Don, are you alright?”, Alan shouted. “Shall we get an ambulance?” “Wait, am I really being mean?”, Don said in pain, as if something of a guilt conscience had suddenly sprung up in him.

Nancy wasted no time and headed straight for the phone, calling an ambulance. She feared that Don was having a heart attack. She had witnessed the same with her uncle a few years ago – a heart attack happening under her very eyes – and the memories were still vivid. She was wasting no time here. It’s the sort of thing that comes without warning and changes one’s life forever. That’s exactly what happened with her uncle. She thought the symptoms looked eerily similar. Her uncle had been in his early fifties when it happened. Don was in his mid-forties and led the life of a megalomaniac – drinking excessively, smoking and living with the high stress of seeing big money come and go. It would not surprise her at all if he was experiencing a sudden massive heart attack.

“Perhaps I should rethink my priorities”, Don said weakly. It was as if someone was holding a knife to his throat. Alan could not believe what he was hearing. Don had never seemed so weak or compassionate as long as he had known him.

The Moon in Broad Daylight


It was 7am and I ventured outside. The morning being pretty bright already, I expected to see the sun rising. Lo and behold – what did I see instead? The full moon in all its glory!

The moon is beautiful to look at, and I usually admire the full moon at night. I have to say, it’s pretty interesting in broad daylight too. Although not visible in the photo, I could see little blobs and contours – blue, grey and yellow. I was intrigued.

Hello, Moon! 🙂

Sci-fi: Conversations with an Extraterrestrial – (5)(ii)

5. What Now? (ii)

“Right! There is no choice”, Alan decided. “We have to all discuss the strategy together.” Alan summoned Ollie to put recordings of the conversations with Sequillious together and proceeded to arrange a meeting with Don and the Dream Team. He was at a dead end himself.

When Ollie ran the audio and video recordings, to Alan’s astonishment, they were blank. Completely blank! Was there something wrong with the sensors? Ollie checked them again. He traced the history. The sensors seemed to have been disabled from the time Sequillious manifested as a lady in the distance to the time she disappeared in a flash.

Don stared at Alan disbelievingly. “Are you having hallucinations, old chap?” “You say a lady spoke to you, telling you the extraterrestrial community is so intelligent that you seem like a cockroach to them?” “Ha! Ha! Ha!” “Ooooooh!” “Ha! Ha! Ha”, Don guffawed uncontrollably, as if he had just stumbled upon the funniest story he had heard in his life. “Uhhhh”, he continued, finishing it off, aching from the stitches of such hard laughing.

“Wait”, Alan asserted indignantly. “The sensors had been disabled and enabled again, according to Ollie’s investigation. Obviously, Sequillious did that because she didn’t want her actions to be studied here for our use to make more progress towards discovering the Ladingans”, he said, piecing the puzzle together. “The Ladingans really do not want anything to do with Earthlings. They are unimpressed with how we operate on Earth. They want to keep us as far from them as possible. Our progress with the cubipit and Antigua Helmet would be something of a potential threat to them. They have assigned Sequillious to ensure we do not progress further.

“Why are they unimpressed”, Don questioned. “Well, Sequillious said something about Earth being dirty and polluted and Earthlings being irresponsible and greedy”, Alan continued. “She thinks we will spoil Ladinga if we get anywhere close or have any dealings with the Ladingans”, he said.

Sci-fi: Conversations with an Extraterrestrial – (5)(i)

5. What Now? (i)

But Sequillous had disappeared in a flash. She had had enough and she wanted Alan to think hard. So it seemed now, “Project Chocolate” on Earth and “Project Rectify” at Ladinga were at odds with one another.

Alan sat, deep in thought, mulling over every bit of the encounter, over and over again. He could not get it out of his mind. The visions of Sequillious were as clear as ever, his thoughts as muddied as ever.

“Would we collaborate with cockroaches?” he repeated to himself, still stunned by that line from Sequillious. Was she saying that cockroaches were to Earthlings what Earthlings were to Ladingans? “Wow”, Alan lay lifeless, as if all the air had been sucked out of him. Was he to be excited because he had received an absolutely clear signal from a species in space… a phenomenon that was a first in history? Or was he to be devastated that the encounter had been rather terrifying? It was far from the encounter he had envisaged – a placid form of life to be studied by intelligent Earthlings. This in fact reduced humans to insects in the eyes of the extraterrestrials. What now?

Alan thought through what Don might say when he would relate this to him. Or should he relate this – would Don be furious or do something foolish? The technology was working excellently. The cubipit – Antigua Helmet combination could detect life on the surface of other planets, with the right tweaks and adjustments. That was exhilarating! The Ladingans, however, were far too clever. They had built a hideout that could not be detected, not even by the advanced technology in the cubipit and Antigua Helmet. They sensed though, that movement on the surface of Ladinga could realistically be picked up. Sequillious had ventured out and made contact, but the rest of the Ladinga community was in hiding.