Silicon Valley chief’s meteoric rise… in just two hours!

The world knows too well of Google’s climb to fame… and fortune. But senior management executive (VP) Alan Eustace, at this renowned Silicon Valley company, can now proudly boast about the personal accomplishment literally under his belt. His daredevil feat yesterday has nothing to do with Google. The stupendous success with his “wild, wild ride”, going up into the stratosphere was certainly an engineering marvel, with meticulous teamwork, expert planning and execution; but it also speaks to human endeavors sans boundaries! Alan, congratulations!


Photo Courtesy: The New York Times

With his ascend to an altitude of 135,890 feet, Alan broke the record of 128,100 feet set by Felix Baumgartner two years ago on October 14, 2012.

Wearing a specially designed spacesuit with a life support system, this adventurer – a veteran aircraft pilot and parachutist –  took off at dawn from an abandoned, desolate airport runway near Roswell, New Mexico. Tied to a 35,000 cubic feet helium-filled balloon, the computer scientist ascended at a speed of 1600 feet per minute, reaching the stratosphere in a little over two hours. Marveling the darkness of space, he began his descent soon after, and what a free-fall from 25 miles above the surface of the earth! Alan Eustace did not hear nor feel the boom as he crossed the speed of sound. After releasing himself from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive that caused the boom heard by those on earth, he was climbing down at the rate of 822 miles per hour. The contraption designed by his technical team included a small parachute that opened up first; and four-five minutes later the larger, main parachute helped him glide back to earth. In case you’re wondering if Google Earth or any of Google’s multi-billion dollar operations had anything to do with this personal feat, then the answer is ‘no’. Despite Google’s offer to assist him, Alan was opposed to the idea. This was his own endeavor, not for the media to turn it into a marketing event.

Some others have endeavored similar flights… The story of Michael Fournier is also rather interesting. 🙂

Kudos to the spirit of adventure! As the director of competition at the United States Parachute Association has stated, “I think they’re putting a little lookout tower at the edge of space that the common man can share”. With, or without Google, Alan Eustace has made his mark in ‘search’… of space. 😉

Sports and silhouettes after sunset… California!

Sports and silhouettes after sunset… California!

Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

Heard of parasailing, paragliding, parachuting… now here’s some kitesurfing, or you may also hear of kiteboarding… a fine example of Extreme Sports… they’re such a pretty sight… awesome!

38 Gold…

Yep, DGP Gold is hovering under $38 today, a steep stock-price plunge  of almost 6% since yesterday. For the past 5 days or so, it hovered at all time highs of over $40.

Five days ago, at final count, India had bagged an all-time high number of gold medals at the CWG 2010 in Delhi38 – to be precise! Congratulations to all Indian athletes who brought India’s total tally to 101, including the bronze and silver medals as well. Well done, guys and gals!

Is everybody in India celebrating this success in every gully and nukkad across the nation, I wonder? Are kids enthused to taking up sports more seriously, now that national pride has been restored somewhat, after the CWG success, both, as host and as participant, I wonder.

Netas are now back to squabbling, sorting out allegations of ‘corruption‘ during the ramp up of the Commonwealth Games 2010… will there be a true resolution on this front? Will the monies be returned (if they were wrongfully taken in the first place) to the national coffers, I wonder.

In the meanwhile, heavyweight China rattled stock markets worldwide by it’s surprise move of an interest rate hike, the first in three years! In the US, DJI, NASDAQ, NYSE, S&P… you name it… are all down… hold your breath, holy-moly… that’s almost 2-3%! Here’s more from Andrew Batson!

38 Gold sounds good on the sports track… but if you have investments in Gold on the stock track… keep a close watch, so you’re not caught unawares! Talking of stocks, sports, and celebrations here’s something to smile about… the Scots will roll up their sleeves, put their Scotch aside, and gear up for the next Commonwealth Games in 2014. The Queen’s baton was officially passed on to the bagpipers…

Lift, Wrestle, Shoot… just get Gold!

In Delhi, at the Commonwealth Games 2010, India shines with 11 Gold Medals. Having bagged Silver and Bronze as well, Indian athletes are displaying a sterling performance, much to the surprise of spectators with their watchful gaze at this sports concourse.

In world financial spheres, on the bourse, with the intra-day high of $1,351 per troy ounce, Gold is displaying never-before-seen staggering numbers, so those holding gold are unlikely to part with it during this rising tide, whereas others fearful of another downturn in USD and the general economy (despite conflicting opinions) are bound to tug and pull their resources locked up elsewhere to enable them plow back in Gold. How long this rally as in ‘The Gold Rush’ will last, is hard to tell, ’cause markets are manipulated to an extent where the common man is throughly lost, loses track of trends… any which way seems to be a losing battle for all but a marginal few.

For those wrapped up in the daily routine of a basic job, it’s hard for them to keep track of a diverse financial portfolio. Economists and financial planners seem to be lost as well due to never-before seen fluctuations. For everybody, it’s a guessing game. Gold’s glitter has always seemed attractive… so may be the best bet is to go for gold… on, or off the field!

Glimpses of The Commonwealth Games 2010 Stadia… no spit, all polish!

Spanking new stadia await the excitement of some 7000 participants who have travelled to New Delhi from across 71 nations to display their athletic prowess. World audience, and athletes… just a few more hours to go! The (anticipated) extravaganza of the Opening Ceremony this evening should set the tone for the next 11 days.

I was searching for video clips of the different venues across The Games Village. Here’s what I found. Thank you, jerrypkla for the upload.

What’s an event of this magnitude without an anthem? Watch, and listen to the passion in Swagatam rendered by Hariharan with Delhi’s school kids painting with henna (thank you, 6271mani for uploading on YouTube); Jiyo… Utho… Badho… Jeeto (Live, Rise, Ascend, Win) by Rahman. Thanks, Apooppan, for the HD upload! A R Rahman’s recent composition will grow on you… folks, yeh hai India… wah, wah!

(Yeah, think India; nah, nah, not Africa’s ‘waka waka’!) 😉

Eat, Play, Love… watch The Games begin!

October is here.

The dawn of 2nd October, reminds me of  Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary (141st) … reminding me also that it’s time for reconciliation and rapprochement. I, for one, have critiqued India aplenty this past week, but now with just a day to go, on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi,  my best wishes are with all participating athletes, with participating countries, and of course, with India who plays host to representatives of 71 participating nations!

It’s a time when the focus for athletes is to win that medal for their country, and for themselves; but for India… her focus must remain on, “Atithi devo bhavah“, which, translated from Sanskrit means, “A guest (in my home) is God himself”.

A warm welcome, good food, safe, secure and a clean environment; and may the visitors return to their homes with their medals, but more importantly, with wonderful memories of their experiences… and exotic tales of a nation brimming with paradoxes, that perplexes the most agile or sharpest mind.

Shera, here we come… share our passion… eat, play, love… watch The Games begin!

Where’s the charmer? Sneaking snake… at The Games Village!

What next! In India, infamously known during The Raj, as a land of snakes, snake-charmers and elephants, lurking in the Games Village, today, was a live snakejust around the South African athletes’ camp! It’s unlikely that they brought the reptile from their home country! Life-threatening? No, this is no laughing matter, with just a week to go before the Games begin, if they do…

In the meanwhile, there’s news that Prince ‘Charming’ Charles – no less – in lieu of Queen Elizabeth II, will inaugurate the CWG… Britain’s Queen will not attend the event – with no such precedent in 44 years!

It turns out, that with this turn of events, The President of India Mrs. Pratibha Patil – will not preside over the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi… time for breaking historical records… or should we say, history repeats!

Urban Indians’ bombastic attitude… nothing but talk!

“Words are cheap… “ is oft stated, and more so, it seems, by India and Indians. Charlie Chaplin went on to say ” … the biggest thing you can say is ‘elephant’.” Indeed, the Commonwealth Games 2010 may well turn out to be the proverbial ‘white elephant’, at least for India; to say the least, I’m ashamed! A mammoth opportunity to woe (and wow) the world… has fast faded, forever!

So, the stock market has spiked…  virtually to 20K, and along with it escalates euphoria among those following Mumbai’s Dalal Street, a.k.a. India’s Wall Street. There’s talk of going “from third world to the third most powerful nation”… would you believe that? I’d like to, but am sorry, and sad to confess… that just won’t sink into my head. So what, if the source (we’re lead to believe) is the US National Intelligence Council (and I can’t get around to believing the NIC has reported that, although, I concede, to not having read their entire report)!

Euphoria released a song, “Dilli Meri Jaan“, dedicated especially to the Commonwealth Games, one of four, created in recent times; if these weren’t enough, yet another one was released, “Come out and play, Balle Balle“. Kudos to its composer & singer, Anand Raj Anand, both, for the composition, singing, and above all for his implicit faith in the nation. Alas, not quite sharing this sentiment, at this moment, as I write, it seems the Games are “Khallas” (“over”), even  before they’ve begun. Doomed from the beginning, thanks to India’s ‘system’… i.e. corrupt government, now even the stadium ceiling has collapsed!

During July 2009 through March 2010 I assisted a buddy in India towards organizing a trade show, in anticipation of the Commonwealth Games; the event didn’t take off the ground, thanks to Indian bureaucracy, and lack of support from the sporting goods trade… only now am I beginning to understand that veterans in the local domestic trade could foresee the doom, way ahead. In hind-sight I’d say, promoting your brand of sporting goods in such a mired environment would indeed have been an expensive exercise… not quite in monetary terms, but certainly in the long run for your brand/s! A wise decision to steer clear, folks, I now agree, with a somewhat heavy heart, and long-faded hope.

Many will accuse non-resident Indians for an ‘unpatriotic’ stance, but the fact remains, that if most of the burgeoning middle-class India – and Indians – continue to wear an attitude that says “we’re resilient“, I say, this vindication is the fundamental reason for the nation’s slow progress… this tolerance towards mediocrity!   Again, many will react and say, “Hey, you’re being an armchair philosopher”; to those I say, we, out here, sitting so far away from mathrubhumi (motherland), are able to view India with a different perspective. Myriad and varied reasons lead us to make another nation our home; even so, it pains us to see India in this state, even until this day… along with pain, now there’s shame! Wake up ‘Shera‘! India, wake up to hard facts and reality… the roar from Beijing’s silent stadiums resounds!

A story of human resilience… and society’s humaneness!

Tales of compassion, resilience towards life’s adversities, and stories of hope in the face of unthinkable challenges are always so fascinating… I just finished reading one such story, “The Hard and the Soft“, brought to us by op-ed columnist, David Brooks, of The New York Times. Speaking of Norway’s winnings at the recent Winter Olympics, he states that “This was no anomaly. Over the years, Norwegians have won more gold medals in Winter Games, and more Winter Olympics medals over all, than people from any other nation.” He cites the story of Jan Baalsrud, a young Norwegian in 1943, from the book, “We Die Alone” by David Howarth. (I should read this book.)

A while back we watched Akira Kurosawa’s epic-like film, “Dersu Uzala“, an Academy Award winner from 1975. Again, this was a riveting film, and I’m reminded of it today!

Returning to the spirit of Norwegians, is yet another compelling story of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian zoologist — and later in 1922, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — who ventured to go “Farthest North” to the North Pole… way back in 1893. This is the adventure narrative of a man who struggled with the most extreme forces of nature.

Undoubtedly, we hear, read, and watch stories of human survival through man-created atrocities and challenges. But those are for another day. For now, I silently congratulate not only those who succeeded and won medals at the Winter Olympics, but also those who toiled to make their way to the West Coast, Canada, this year. Kudos to you all!

$200,000 go up in thin air!

For those following this story, just imagine!

Today, Michel Fournier was going to make history if he broke the records by falling off from the stratosphere. Alas, the helium-filled balloon would have been worth every cent of the $200,000 (no error in the zeroes) it cost, if only… But in what seemed to be a bizarre accident, it took off skywards, leaving the dare-devil skydiver in a state of shock, right below, on Earth! One can only imagine the devastating effect on the man, when his dream of 20 long years got blown away – literally, just like that!

I do feel bad for the retired army Frenchman, as surely others passionate about this sport must also feel. Not only those, but also others – believers in the human strength, capability, and resolve – may also be saddened. We all hope that he will find a sponsor soon, to make good his loss, which may currently be his only tangible, impeding factor.

Monsieur Fournier, who knows, another day will soon dawn when your dream will be fulfilled. We wish you the very best for your ultimate success.