Posts Tagged ‘Modi’

Letter From New York 04 22 15 From robotics to singing in the rain…

April 22, 2015

Last night, on a balmy New York spring night, I went at 5:00 to Junior’s Deli on 45th Street in the heart of New York’s theater district and met Cathy, my middle niece, her husband and their two daughters, Clare and Isabel, for a pre-theater dinner. They were off to see “Matilda” and I was off to see “It’s Only A Play.”

Cathy and Michael live in Portland and my brother is there watching after their two sons who had just accompanied he and his wife to Machu Picchu. I don’t get to see Cathy and her family very often so it was a cheery visit and then we went off to our respective performances.

Amazingly, after the performance, as I threaded my way through a hideously congested Times Square, I ran into them on the corner of 44th and Broadway. We laughed and hugged and then moved on.

I curled up in bed and started to read a Peter Wimsey mystery but soon feel asleep, Kindle in hand, only to wake later to turn out the lights.

This morning I had breakfast with David McKillop, who recently stepped down as GM of A&E and stepped into the role of Chief Creative Officer at a new production company called Propagate, which is being funded by A&E. He’s partnered with Howard Owens who used to run Nat Geo.

It was a glorious spring morning and we walked around Union Square for a while after breakfast, strolling past all the vendors that form the Union Square Farmer’s Market, then walked over to 7th Avenue where we parted. He off to a meeting and me to day of talks called “Imagination,” being held in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival.

The morning was devoted to robotics. While Elon Musk is terrified of intelligent machines, all these speakers were gung-ho enthusiasts of artificial intelligence and robots, as long as every one followed Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics.

It was fascinating. The demonstration of Watson, IBM’s Supercomputer, was impressive. The video they showed reminded me of “Star Trek.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, spoke in the afternoon about the technology advances they are making in serving ads and video content to their 250,000,000 users and that was impressive, too.

After the 3-D printing talk “Eating Your Way Into 3D Printing” I had to leave to go view a cut of a sizzle reel my friend Todd’s company is working on.

While I was involved in all these fun and rather joyful activities, the world ticked on.

Yesterday the Saudis said they’d stop bombing Yemen but this morning bombs were still falling there, with the country lurching toward a humanitarian crisis as supplies are floating out at sea because of the Saudi embargo.

When I was in India there was lots of news about a land development law that the Modi government is attempting to pass. It would ease the government’s ability to expropriate land belonging to farmers for other uses. It is hugely controversial and hotly debated and stridently opposed by the Congress Party, the opposition to Modi’s BJP.

Today there was a rally in Delhi protesting the bill. At it, an Indian farmer committed suicide, hanging himself from a tree. He left behind a suicide note saying the recent extraordinary rains and hailstorms had ruined him. Rahul Gandhi raced to the hospital and the PM, Modi, is said to be “shattered” by the incident but probably not so much that he will withdraw the law.

Britain, which is facing elections on May 7th, is working overtime to figure out what is going to happen if the Tories lose. If the Scots become the power brokers in the formation of a new government, there is a concern about the results. “Constitutional crisis” is on the lips of a few.

Thousands of Ethiopians have taken to the streets to march in protest against IS’s killing of thirty of their countrymen for being Christian.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan paid slight attention to Japan’s wartime responsibility in a speech in Jakarta, which raised the ire of Japan’s neighbors but not so much that Xi of China wouldn’t meet with Abe. The two had a thirty-minute meeting and stressed their determination to continue working on their relationship. It almost sounded like an estranged couple continuing their therapy sessions.

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis would stop in Cuba while en route to the US for his visit here. Cuba will probably go mad for the Pontiff.

The bright spring morning turned to afternoon clouds and rain, which has now stopped though the grey continues. I am off to dinner tonight with my friends David and Annette Fox, celebrating my return from India with take out from Indus Valley, our favorite neighborhood Indian restaurant. Will be a good time.

Letter From New York 04 19 15 At the end of a weather glorious weekend…

April 19, 2015

The weekend is winding down in Claverack and it’s been good. Dinner at the Red Dot with my friend Paul, his daughter, Karen, and her fiancé, Andrew on Friday, followed by yesterday’s lovely lunch with Jack Myers, which itself was followed by an evening of glorious violin and piano music. Yevgeny Kutik was on the violin; Dina Vainshtein on the piano. It was two hours of music by luminaries such as Prokofiev as well as lesser lights such as Cesar Franck. Everyone in the audience was appreciative of the music coaxed from their instruments.

In the afterglow of the concert I went for a cocktail at Ca’Mea where I ran into a couple of people I knew as well as a lady who had, too, just been to the concert. We both liked the Prokofiev the best.

Then I wandered home and curled up with a few more episodes of “The Unbeatable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix, binge watching until later than I should have.

Morning brought church with a good sermon by Mother Eileen and a quick bite to eat before getting paint samples for the living room. It’s looking stale and so it’s time for a change.

Walking around the circle, I listened to the news on my iPhone, off my Newsbeat app, and soaked in part of what has been a weather glorious weekend.

While it is perhaps antediluvian of me, I still have an AOL email account. I have had one since something like 1992. Can’t read any messages for the last two days. Every time I try to open an email, I get a technical error message. And their help desk is pretty thin unless you pay the monthly charges, which I quit doing years ago. So I’m a little frustrated.

Frustrated, too, is the gentleman who flew a gyrocopter onto the Capital lawn, resulting in a full security review. Doug Hughes wanted to raise awareness about the need for campaign finance reform. He brought with him 535 letters, one for each member of Congress. Instead of focusing on the message he was carrying, news media have been focusing on his security breach.   He is unhappy his campaign reform message has been lost in the din.

In another Mediterranean tragedy, another boat capsized north of Libya with perhaps as many as 950 on board, with hundreds said to have been locked in the hold and unable to escape. So far only 28 survivors and 24 bodies have been recovered. If the numbers hold, this will have been the worst single tragedy for refugees seeking a better life in Europe. 3,500 died last year attempting to make it from Africa to Italy or Malta.

Many of these refugees, including the ones on the capsized boat, are setting out from the Libyan coast. On that very coast, a new video has been released purportedly showing IS members beheading 16 Ethiopian Christians while footage later in the video captures IS shooting 12 more Ethiopian Christians in the back of the head out in the desert.

The ugliness of absolutism beats on.

It is also raising concerns about IS finding a good foothold in Libya, not all that far from the Italian coast.

Back in India, Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent to the Congress Party, has returned from a two month “sabbatical” and is locked with current Prime Minister Modi in a battle of words to proclaim how “pro-poor” each one is.

In Yemen, the Houthis mock suggestions they will surrender under the air barrage led by Saudi Arabia. In Iraq, the Kurds have pushed IS out of an oil refinery and have broadened the buffer zone around Kirkuk, an oil rich city. Iran is seemingly determined to make it as difficult as possible to get a deal done by June 30, a deal being made even more difficult by Putin selling missiles to Iran. With western sanctions, Russia needs the cash.

Needing to perhaps hit a restart button is the Director of the FBI, James Comey, who published a piece in the Washington Post that suggested that Poland and Hungary helped the Nazis during WWII, quietly complicit in what was going on. Poland was not amused. The US Ambassador was summoned this afternoon for an apology.

Unapologetically, the sun is beginning to set and the day is fading to grey. I have a few tasks to do around the house and then I am going to curl up with a good book or may be a few more episodes of “The Unbeatable Kimmy Schmidt.”

Letter From New York 03 19 15 With the speech over, back to Delhi…

March 29, 2015

It is always hard to know exactly how well it went when you give a speech, which I did today. Personally, I think it went well. No one fell asleep. There were very few yawns. It was supposed to go for sixty minutes; it went for 90+ with all the questions.

Professor Ron Eglash, who spoke before me, stayed for my speech and when we got into the car to go back to the guesthouse, he told me that I was brilliant! And he’s American, so he wasn’t using “brilliant” the way Brits do, to say that was nice. He thought I was really good and I appreciated it.

Twenty students rushed the stage to have their pictures taken with me so I felt, for a few seconds, like a rock star.

All good.

The day came grey and drizzly today and the grey has never really gone away. Post speech, I’m feeling a bit tired and am going to finish this and then try to catch a few minutes catnap. I’d really love a glass of wine but the campus is “dry” so I will have to wait for Delhi for that.

Now that the speech is done and the conference closed, I have gone back to perusing world events a bit more closely.

Angie’s List has put on hold its expansion in Indiana until it further understands the implications of that state’s Religious Freedom Act. They were about to break ground in a few days on a $40 million building project. In the meantime, the legislature is drafting a “clarification” of the law, which it plans to unveil in a few days. I am very curious to see the clarifications. I’ll still be in India when they come out but I will be looking.

It is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Christian’s Holy Week. Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the Germanwings crash in the service today.

In other Francis’ news, he keeps hinting that he thinks his Papacy will be short, ended by some great event. I hope not. He is popular among Catholics and is stressing Christian themes in a way no Pope has for decades.

In good news for heavy drinkers, it is being reported that coffee counters the bad effects of drinking on the liver. One cup of coffee turns back the dial on three drinks. I predict coffee sales will rise.

Rising slightly are hopes that a nuclear deal will be made with Iran, but only slightly. There are still major differences and it’s not clear they can be overcome. Secretary Kerry was to return to the States for an event honoring his friend and colleague, the late Ted Kennedy. Kerry has cancelled the trip to remain at the negotiations.

Netanyahu says the deal is worse than he feared.

There are no negotiations going on in Yemen. There are lots of dropping bombs. Saudi Arabia claims to have destroyed the ballistic missiles the Shiite rebels seized when they toppled the Sunni government. The Arab League is holding a summit and is presenting a pretty united front against the rebels, announcing at the same time a regional security force.

The situation underscores the tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Places like Yemen and Libya are the grounds now for proxy wars while the two powers attempt to become dominant in the Middle East.

In the confusing battleground that is Syria, the Al-Nursa Front has taken the city of Idlib. As they entered the city, they reported that Syrian troops had executed some detainees before fleeing the city. Al-Nursa is one of the groups, along with IS, vying for power in fractured Syria.

It is difficult to keep the players straight.

Singapore is saying farewell to its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. The Prime Minister of India is there along with many other world leaders. The city is said to be at a standstill. For them, it’s like saying good-bye to George Washington.

Tomorrow, I leave Roorkee to return to Delhi. The weather looks ominous and so I will be praying for a safe driver. It will be good to be back in Delhi, where creature comforts are a bit more available. Not only is the campus “dry,” it is also vegetarian. I am hankering for some chicken tikka.

Letter From New York 01 26 15 Storm a’comin’!

January 26, 2015

For the last half hour, the deer have been madly racing back and forth across the drive, first to the east and then back to the west. Perhaps they are attempting to decide where to shelter from the storm that is a’comin’.

Eastern seaboard Governors have been going on the radio all day, warning folks of the apocalyptic storm which is bearing down on the Northeast. All day we have been prepping. Down in the city the snow has started to fall while here in Claverack, the first flakes are just beginning to tumble from the sky.

It threatens to be worse in the city than here, but not by much. The latest I heard was a prediction of 12 – 18 inches with freezing temperatures followed by the possibility of another 12 inches tomorrow.

Currently, I am cozy in the cottage. The danger we face, other than not being potentially able to get out of the house, is that the heavy snow might bring down the power lines and electricity will go.

In case of that, I have candles at the ready; water in the tub to flush toilets and as much wood as I can handle in the house. In situations like this before, the Franklin stove has warmed the house quite nicely. I’ll have books and magazines to read by that candlelight and hopefully we’ll make it through.

It will be interesting. If there is no blog tomorrow, it will because there is no power, no Internet and no heat. I’ll be holed up, living as if I were in the Wild West.

For the first time I can remember, this winter storm has been named: Juno, who was the Roman goddess of women and marriage and wife of the big cheese, Jupiter.

In the meantime, beyond the storm-centered northeast, the world has been ticking on. Alexis Tsipras is now formally the Prime Minister of Greece and is receiving congratulatory phone calls from other European leaders, also telling him, nicely, that they’re not budging on the Greek debt situation.

In Syria, Kurdish fighters have driven ISIS troops out of Kobane, the much-contested Syrian border town. In Iraq, there has been some headway against ISIS also. Kobane lays in ruins with most of its population now refugees in Turkey.

A hobbyist has come forward in Washington, DC to admit that he was the one who crashed his drone into the White House lawn last night, precipitating a lockdown of the President’s house. It’s been a not very good year for White House security. Small drones are especially troublesome – and potentially dangerous.

While not being dangerous to us earthlings this go round, a mountain-sized asteroid is slipping by earth tonight. It is thought an asteroid about this size collided with the earth about 65 million years ago, bringing an end to the Age of Dinosaurs. Scientists are studying this one to help them know how to knock one off it threatens to collide with earth. Can’t do it yet which is why I am glad this will be a near miss.

The Church of England has installed its first female Bishop with a minimum of muss; only one man stood up and shouted about it being wrong. I had expected more.

Obama is in India. Apparently he and Prime Minister Modi have been glued at the hip since his arrival, which is not what usually happens. Apparently Modi is a great fan of Obama’s and modeled his recent, successful campaign to become India’s Prime Minister after Obama’s two wins.

Dark has fallen across Claverack. The snow is only lightly falling right now and the temperature is dropping.   I will think good thoughts and say prayers that the power stays on, allowing me a day of having little to do but cozy in the country.