The Bollywood Quality Conundrum: Ata Mhaji Satakli

Saidas M. Ranade, Houston, Texas

Note: It is great that the Indians are one of the richest minorities in the US. I am proud of our achievements. I am eager and excited to introduce our wonderful culture to everyone. Unfortunately there is a problem of perception about our culture when it comes to quality and ethics. I have illustrated the problem with three separate articles. This blog entry is about the state of Bollywood, the others are about the state of Indian Cricket and about the state of the local Indian vegetarian restaurants in Houston.

Recently, I watched the movie Singham Returns at a movie theater in Houston. The last time I saw a Hindi movie in a theater was probably 15 years ago.

The Bollywood buzz machine had spiked my expectations. The music, songs, the scenery of Mumbai and the humor lived up to my expectations. Unfortunately, everything else appeared to have been put together in a hurry. For an industry and the stars that make crores of rupees, this to me is unacceptable. I tried telling myself that the movies were not made for me but for the hardworking overworked masses in India. Still I could not understand the overt flaws.

The dialogue was more like mini-lectures. There were monologues followed by monologues. What I expected were conversations. It appeared that they had defined the message and then written a story around it. The writers went out of their way to state that the Hindoo girl lights a candle at a church every week. This seemed completely out of character. They had the slokas in the background score and showed the traditional visit to the Holy Darga. Why do Bollywood movies have to have everything for everyone in every movie? The main dilemma of the Hindi film industry is this. For the United States the reality of life in India strikes the imagination whereas for the average movie-goer in India the reality is too harsh and fiction is more appealing. Unfortunately, the Hindi movie industry which basically is about fictional story telling seems to also want to send out real messages rather than simply tell stories. There clearly needs to be more emphasis on excellence in stories, scripts and dialogues. We need a shift in mindset from movies as a vehicle to sell stars to movies as a medium for truly engaging and entertaining the audiences.

What made me say “Ata mhaji satakli” was some really easy to fix elements. The lighting kept changing during many single takes or scenes. I thought we had made technical advances in that area. Same problem with the sound. It was too loud or too low and some sounds like the sounds of “camera flashes” were distracting. Another difference between what I see in the Hollywood movies and American TV is that in Hindi movies several actors seem to deliver dialogues as if they are on stage in a play or giving a lecture without a mic. The volume is typically too loud. This also seems to be the case with many of the emcees on Hindi TV shows.

It is time we the Indians demand quality. I hope you agree. We the DESIS deserve better!

Indian Cricket Corrupted by Big Money

Saidas M. Ranade, Houston, Texas

Note: It is great that the Indians are one of the richest minorities in the US. I am proud of our achievements. I am eager and excited to introduce our wonderful culture to everyone. Unfortunately there is a problem of perception about our culture when it comes to quality and ethics. I have illustrated the problem with three separate articles. This blog entry uses examples from cricket, the others are about the state of Bollywood and about the state of the local Indian vegetarian restaurants in Houston.

I am a comedian. Here is my most recent joke. Are you ready? “The Indian Test cricket team!”

Recently, I had the misfortune of watching the test matches between India and England that were played in England. As has already been stated by many others including well-known cricketers such as Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell, I was not worried that they lost but was most appalled by the manner in which they lost the test matches. To me their body language and demeanor seemed incommensurate with what I see as our values of pride, discipline, sacrifice and humility.

No matter what the outcome of the one–day series was, these players made sure that people like me will not watch cricket for a while. The IPL has clearly had a detrimental effect on the young cricketers’ ability to concentrate and withstand the pressures of test cricket.

I love watching MS Dhoni bat but he seems to not trust spinners and seems to prefer team mates from the Chennai Superkings. We the people deserve better. The BCCI should now set only one goal for selecting, training and developing cricket players: Winning test series in England, Australia and South Africa.

It is time we the Indians demand ethics, transparency and quality. I hope you agree. We the CONSUMERS deserve that!

The State of Vegetarian Indian Restaurants in Houston

Saidas M. Ranade, Houston, Texas

Note: It is great that the Indians are one of the richest minorities in the US. I am proud of our achievements. I am eager and excited to introduce our wonderful culture to everyone. Unfortunately there is a problem of perception about our culture when it comes to quality and ethics. I have illustrated the problem with three separate articles. One blog-entry uses examples from cricket, the other is about the state of Bollywood and this one is about the state of local vegetarian Indian restaurants in Houston.

I love Indian food. Who doesn’t? I am also a vegetarian. I am grateful that there are many Indian vegetarian restaurants in Houston and surrounding areas. I understand that running a restaurant is tough business. So, at the outset, I want to say thanks to the restaurant owners and chefs who have fed me for the past 25 years. Unfortunately, I have seen a dramatic decline in the quality of food served at these establishments. Their idea of vegetarian seems to be someone who eats starchy snacks, candy and sweets. Considering that there are close to 25 amazing vegetables all I see at these restaurants is dishes made from potato, milk, lentils and other starches. In one restaurant that serves Gujarati style food they had cabbage as the vegetable for three days in a row.

Another restaurant that has been in business for many years and sells many different sweets, the quality of buffet seems to be highly inconsistent. I have seen chefs add boiled water to dishes on the buffet bar. Some of these restaurants call themselves vegetarian but I have a suspicion that the Paav in Paav-Bhaji and the noodles they use contain eggs. For a vegetarian that is an issue. When I questioned the owners they advised me to eat something else on the menu. To me this is a matter of ethics. The most troublesome part for me about all these owners is that they do not seem to like feedback. My American friends love the fluffy naan bread. Unfortunately, the naan bread or chapati at these restaurants is either raw, undercooked or burnt. One owner defended the state of naan by saying that he had not heard any complaints from others. On one occasion when I pointed out that the potato dish on the buffet bar seemed raw and under cooked, the owner attempted to humor me by saying that I had come in too early and that within a couple of hours the potatoes would have been cooked. We the people deserve better.

Good vegetarian Indian food is simple, fresh, served hot, has the right balance of spices, cooked to the appropriate extent and uses natural ingredients.

These restaurants continue to use artificial colors and preservatives when they could easily do without such additives. And what makes me say “Ata mhaji satakli” is that some of the new comers to the Indian restaurant business are treating these businesses as cash cows. They know desis have money and seem to exploit the “Chalta Hai” mentality.

It is time we the Indians demand ethics, transparency and quality. I hope you agree. We the CONSUMERS deserve better!

A time-driven system afraid of death

Author: Saidas M. Ranade ++

I had an opportunity recently to spend almost six hours at the famed MD Anderson Cancer Research center in Houston, Texas while accompanying a friend of mine for some tests. As soon as we arrived at the facility there was an option for valet parking. Cars were lined up and there was a gentlemen yelling for people to move. The attendants were rushing so they could park quicker and be efficient. The scene reminded me of the red carpet welcomes I have seen on TV. The patients and caregivers seem to be mostly older white families interspersed with some Middle-Easterners, South Americans and a few minorities. It costs $15 to valet park. I got the sense that treating cancer is a big business.

Once inside the facility, my friend’s dad and I took her for her first appointment. While the tests were being performed, I decided to go to the downstairs café.

At the cafe the items were not raw and fresh but pre-packaged. There was no one cooking. There was nothing alive. It was all controlled. They served cold sandwiches and bottled drinks. There was one person behind the counter and she said the same thing to everyone “What can I get you?” Her tone was not unpleasant but very mechanical. Efficiency experts have applied the same principles they apply for mass production to these facilities. The only problem is they forgot what makes us human.

The Smith/Taylor model seeks to improve efficiency by compartmentalizing work into controllable chunks and in their model some workers are instructed to perform only certain repetitive mechanical steps. Large corporations have exploited this same model to displace many workers with automated systems. This division of labor is not aligned with nature. It is like the roots and the leaves of a tree being run by two separate systems with very limited knowledge of one another. I did not venture to ask the MD Anderson administrators for a copy of the cashier’s career development plan. If I did I am certain someone would have given me a 1-800 number to call the customer support line for the lowest-cost bidding contractor that runs the café.

The foreboding sense I got was that time is money. The whole operation seemed to be more about preventing death and errors. Their approach seemed to be a cookie-cutter approach. I did not hear much small talk. Probably constrained by HIPAA laws and from fear of being sued the staff were saying what they were told to say. No more no less. I felt as if I was a part of a mass production system in which all responses were pre-determined. Machines and mechanical systems care about time. Love, compassion, humor, laughter are our means for transcending time. Healing accelerates when time disappears. Regretfully, the whole patient care services approach in the United States seems to be all about time and money.

++Author: Saidas M. Ranade is a Houston, Texas based PhD engineer and a standup comedian.

Colombia, A Land of Paradoxes

Dr Saidas M. “Sai” Ranade
Houston, Texas

March 29, 2014; Revised May 4, 2014

I have made several work-related visits to Colombia, S.A. during the past five years. They say that Colombia is the rising star among the South American countries. I agree whole heartedly with that assertion. I love the country and the professionalism and the customer service orientation of the people of Colombia. Recently, I returned to Colombia for a ten day visit after a gap of almost two years. So, I was able to observe and note changes and trends. The observations below are mine. They are not meant to be demeaning but aimed at generating a dialogue about cultures, behaviors and progress.

When I mentioned to a friend in the US that I had returned from Colombia. He thought I meant Columbia, South Carolina. What is the difference between Columbia, S.C. and Colombia, SA? There are more Colombians in Columbia, South Carolina than there are in Colombia, S.A.

Avianca is the flag carrier airline of Colombia, S.A. It is owned by Synergy, Inc a Latin American Holding company of a Brazilian Company. Its main hub is the El Dorado Airport in Bogota Colombia. The terminal in Bogota is always jam-packed and they are making money like crazy. Yet, the system is operated like a cash cow. The bathrooms at the Bogota terminal are in bad shape. I used the toilet and realized that they had a single common roll of toilet paper outside the stall for all stalls. I had to do the waddle to get to the toilet paper. Avianca’s motivation for this design is totally unclear. It could be the obsession of Colombians with paper. Another rationale is that the world is splitting in to two groups: A large number of poor and a very small number of filthy rich. May be Avianca has decided that it can make money simply by better serving the few VIPs.

Avianca airlines has one of the largest fleets of Airbus planes that unfortunately spend most of their time on the GROUND. If you are traveling between two cities through Bogota airport assume your actual travel time will be four times the actual flight time. May be the slogan for Avianca should be: “Avianca: Una de la mayor flota de aviones … en la tierra.” Every Avianca flight I took was late by at least 15 minutes. Several flights from Bogota airport were delayed by an hour. Also when things go wrong the staff do not feel it necessary to inform the passengers.

On a positive note, the ticketing clerks seemed very efficient. My bags arrived in a timely fashion and were not lost so the whole baggage handling process is very good. And, the new terminals in Cartagena, B/manga and B/bermeja are very nice.

Paper napkins: I have been to restaurants in many cities in Colombia. They bring a lot of food and then one small napkin to go with it. When you ask for more napkins they bring what looks like a small stack of napkins. However, on close examination it turns out to be a single napkin folded in a triangular shape to make it look like several napkins. The motto of Colombia should be: “Cerveza si, pero no servilletas.”

Colombia is a God’s orchard. It is a heaven for vegetarians. That is a great endorsement from someone who is borderline atheist and does not believe in traditional heaven. There is absolutely no reason for Colombians to eat meat. Fruits like Pineapple, Blackberry, Lulu, Banana, and Strawberry grow everywhere.

Colombians have cornered the culinary skills market. Many chefs in restaurants receive training and certification from SENA. They seem dedicated to their craft and service at most restaurants is very good. Pharmacists in Colombia also seem to be very knowledgeable. Again this may be due to the SENA certification process. Unlike in the US, they take their time to explain options.

Crepes and Waffle is a Colombian chain of restaurants that only employs single mothers. The menu is innovative and focused on health. I ate at a Crepes and Waffle restaurant near Hotel Rosales Plaza in Bogota and the food was fantastic. They have added new menu items like Guava in almond-milk (Guajaba en leche de Almendras) and many items with Avocado. They even have a vegetarian crepe named “Gandhi.”

I saw a homeless guy in Bucaramanga. He had a cell phone and when he asked for money I noticed he had perfect teeth. Colombians have mastered the craft of taking care of their teeth. They are obsessed with dental care. Many Colombians brush their teeth five times a day. Braces are very common.

Colombian men and women like to talk. Conversations are long, rich and soothing. So if you are trying to meet someone from Colombia better have time and learn Spanish.

The Colombian culture seems to be one of pretenses. You are what you appear to be. So, most Colombians dress up for breakfast at hotels. People with titles wear mostly Ralph Lauren shirts and talk and walk slowly like Marlon Brando in the Godfather.

Every corner in each city seems to have the same essential material elements of survival: food (comida), an ATM machine (cajero), beer (cerveza) and cellphone minutes (cellular minutos).

Dangerous Americanization: Five years ago many mom and pop restaurants offered fresh fruit juices such as Mango, Pineapple, Blackberry, Guanábana and Tamarind. Now the common choices in the same restaurants seem to be Lemonade, Orange juice and Coca Cola. The American values of “time is everything,” fast-food and preservatives is fast penetrating the Colombian culture.

There is food everywhere yet Colombian women seem to be relatively slimmer. I think it may be due to all the walking they do each day.

Colombians seem to be obsessed with upward mobility. Work gives meaning to lives of Colombians. They take it seriously and hence are committed to service and quality. Colombians, like probably many other nationalities, seem to love material stuff but I did not see many temples or churches. Spirituality does not seem to be an area of interest at least for most Colombians I met. I attribute that to two reasons. For the masses, the hardships of day-to-day living do not permit any time for spiritual discourse. As Ramdass once said: “You have to be a somebody before you can be a nobody”. Colombia has had relative stability only in the past 10 years. So, I think the first priority for many Colombians is material security.

The idea of good introductions seems to be a missing art in Colombia. Here is a scenario that has happened to me many times: I am walking with a Colombian professional. He sees one of his friends.They have a conversation and I end up simply waiting on the sides until the conversation is finished. Colombian men seem to be especially reluctant to introduce their male friends to their wives or girlfriends. In general Colombians do not like to invite foreign visitors to their homes. This is very different than say in India. Indians are eager to invite foreigners and visitors to their homes and are better at introducing visitors to their family and friends. Colombians, in general, do not seem to be generous in terms of spending money on friends. I have seen more generous (in terms of wealth) people in India which has a much higher poverty level than Colombia. A Colombian woman friend of mine confirmed for me that Colombian men and women desire money and status and are pretty open about their quest for power. For many Colombians relationships are an opportunity for upward mobility. This is not uncommon in many other cultures.

Bogota is like every major city in the world. It simply has too many people. Bogotanan’s or Rollos and Rollas struggle daily with pollution and traffic problems. In Cartagena there is big new investment in the refinery but I think the wealth has not trickled down to the poor. I saw long lines for food stamps for children in Cartagena. Most Colombians will say that there is no racism is Colombia. I think that is true relative to the United States but racism does exist in Colombia. Most of the people in the food stamps line seemed to be black. I also saw more native Indians and blacks doing menial work.

Juan Valdez Cafe is significantly better than Starbucks. The coffees are less strong. They have perfected the “Traditional Chai” recipe. I had Chai at Juan Valdez cafes in almost every city I visited and it always exceeded my expectations.

Colombians seem to lack discipline for standing in lines. I have seen that same behavior in Houston among many different cultures. I saw chaos and shoving at lines at airport gates. At a grocery store in Barranca a man stood with two items. Hoping that that the line will move faster than the others, I stood behind him in the checkout lane. However, he was only holding the spot. In minutes, he was joined by his son (hijo), his wife (esposo)and a cousin (primo)each carrying six or seven items.

In airplanes Colombians look very serious. They do not talk much with one another. On one of my flights from Barranca to Bogota, there was major turbulence and I saw the guy next to me saying a prayer and doing the sign of the cross with one exception. This guy did like 11 or 12 steps. I said “I have never seen anyone do these many steps in a prayer.” He replied: “Five are for me and the rest are for you.” I think I will need those steps to deal with the comments I receive on this blog.

Echoes from the edge (May be)

Saidas M. Ranade
August 18, 2013
Does a leaf, when it falls from the tree in winter, feel defeated by the cold?” – Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho.

Over a month and half ago I became very sick. A throat infection affected my thyroid causing Thyroiditis. I lost 15 lbs. in one month. My heart rate went up and I had fever. I was totally exhausted and had to rest most of the day for many days.

During those periods of physical rest, my mind was still racing. The thoughts of death and dying surfaced many times. One challenge was my own mental model of what I think would be a COMPLETED life for me. The other difficulty was fighting my own conditioning of how I was supposed to feel at the time of dying.

The idea of what makes one’s life complete is interesting. We dream and we plan. Death interrupts those plans. Or does it? Over the past many years I have lived a life of obsession. I wanted to make a positive impact on this world. Some would call it a character disorder. Well may be it is. This obsession forced me to be single-minded and focused. However in doing that at times I lost track of the big picture and important connections. Many American-Indian tribes have recommended that we live a life always keeping in mind the impact of our actions on the seventh generation. I realized that what matters most is not that I complete something but I take a step in the right direction and do the right thing each moment. There is no completion. It is simply a continuing journey. This notion of the seventh generation does not depend on my reincarnation or my reaping the benefits of what I sow. The model is about me being true to myself and making my small contribution in my own way to the universe as it continues to evolve. Since everything is connected who reaps the rewards is not as important as doing the right things now.

I have seen scenes of death in many movies, read books about dying and heard stories of how people died. Judeo-Christian religions speak about forgiving everyone and surrendering to God. Hinduism talks about not having any attachment. Buddhism has a whole book on dying. The Buddhist believe that the predilections of the soul which are formed as a result of habits stay with the soul and drive the process of the next birth. Since no one knows when the end will come, the Buddhist suggest keeping the soul free every moment.

The conflict between how I was feeling and how I was supposed to feel was interesting. My conditioning was suggesting I feel a certain way. I felt odd if my feelings did not match what was expected. I believe that this conflict or for that matter any mental conflict has adverse impact on healing our body. Our spiritual energy needed for healing leaks to close that perceived gap. Each one of us grows up under different conditions and contexts. Having experienced the conflict now I believe that it is important to be true to oneself and at the time of death simply feel and be. There is no right or wrong way to feel or be. For me images of a certain journey I had taken with my parents when I was young resurfaced and gave me contentment.

I also realized that over the past few years I had lost track of my core purpose. Having a sense of purpose is a catalyst to healing. The details of the future did not matter but knowing that I have unique gifts and a unique purpose, what mattered was that I was true to those gifts and true to my calling.

Is this what we call progress?

In a short news item “Body on freeway hit by cars” in the October 15 issue of the Houston Chronicle, Jayme Fraser reported that at around 3:00 AM a man was struck by a car at the intersection of US 59 and the 610 loop.  The most shocking part of his report is that apparently SIX cars hit the body and did not stop.  Is this what we call progress? What has happened to humanity in general and Houstonian’s in particular. How oblivious have we become of the world around us?  Nobody is perfect but I am ashamed of my fellow human beings.

Time to elevate the game: A list of dos and don’ts – Part 2

To readers: For the first 62 dos and don’ts please see my blog dated October 2, 2012. Thanks.

63. The best thing that has happened to our society is copy/paste. The worst thing that has happened to our society is copy/paste. Plagiarism is rampant in corporations in America. Not only people copy/paste from other individuals’ content but seem to copy and paste content from other organizations’ presentations. I follow a simple rule of ethics. If I cut and paste first I always give credit to the original content creator even if I modify or update the content. Second, if I cut and paste I make sure that the content I am using is in open public domain. If not, I seek permission from the original creator or license holder to allow me to use that content.  Ideas matter. The law of karma requires that you acknowledge the work of others in an ethical and generous fashion. Give credit where it is due. This also means you have the ethical responsibility to share the profits from the work with the original creators unless you paid for the license to use it. I follow, to the best of my ability, this ethical practice because it also feels good.

64. To the United States government:  We are tired of extended non-stop, continuous election and re-election campaigns waged by presidential candidates. It appears that the challengers start three years in advance and the incumbents seem to start more than two years in advance. In today’s age of internet connectivity and hyper-media these campaign periods are too long. These campaigns are expensive and these extended periods do not add any real value to life of the US citizens. Make a law that prohibits challengers from campaigning for presidential and other congressional elections one year prior to the election date. And make it a law for all elected officials (incumbents) that would prohibit t them from campaigning prior to six months before their re-election dates.  One year for challengers and six months for the incumbents should be sufficient to get the job done.  Sorry, FOX and CNN, you will have to come up with some real news during the non-campaign periods.

65. To pollsters: We are tired of weekly polls about who is winning. Let the US citizens research, think and decide who they are going to vote for. All exit polls on the day of the election should be banned. It is useless data that intended to create undue influence on voters. The US voters have had 300+ days to decide their vote. If someone cannot make up their mind in those 300+ days they should not be voting.

66. To fellow Houstonians and US citizens:  According to the NY Times, in Venezuela , supposedly failing economy, 80% of the eligible people cast their votes in the 2012 presidential elections.  Egypt 46%. Kashmir = 46%. Only 11% of Houstonians voted in the 2011 Mayoral race. That is a shame. According to the American Presidency project only 55 % and 57% of the eligible voters voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Compare this with over 70% in Canada in the recent elections and over 80% in the first round of recent elections in France.

Time to elevate the game: A list of dos and don’ts

Author: Saidas M. Ranade is a Houston, Texas-based engineer, author and standup comedian. This article illustrates why he is a still single and a market segment of one. For additional information please visit:

I saw a commercial for a product called 5-hour energy. The spokeswoman talks about how they asked 3,000 doctors to review the supplement and how over 73% of those doctors said they would recommend a low calorie energy supplement to their healthy patients. Nowhere in the commercial does it say that the doctors recommended the specific 5-hour supplement.  However by clever play of words the advertisement hopes that many gullible TV watchers will equate what they hear with “Recommended by doctors.” Why do we permit such non-sense on TV and in the media? The rationale for these types of devious practices is that majority of them are permitted by law and by the overwhelming supposed need of our society to dumb things down, to keep it simple, to have fun and to present everything in 30-second sound bites. Thinking about the 5-hour energy commercial gave me energy to think about other types of nonsense and garbage being thrown at the commons and to propose a list of dos and don’ts:

  1. To Nature’s Path: When you call your cereal Pumpkin Flax Granola, we expect pieces of pumpkin in your cereal and not pumpkin seeds.
  2. Protein shake powder makers: Please do not say “Mixes Instantly.” Nothing mixes instantly.
  3. To all cereal makers: Do not take credit for milk and fruits like Kiwis or Mangos unless you have those items in your cereal boxes. It is like me showing Einstein’s photo on my resume.
  4. Vega One: When 7 people have similar symptoms of food poisoning after ingesting one of your protein powders please investigate the reasons and fix the problem.
  5. Someone please explain the idea of generics. So, there is Flonase and then there is a generic for it. They say it is exactly identical to Flonase but costs a fifth of the price. The generic is not called Flonase. Does it have 100% of the same ingredients as Flonase? I don’t get it. Someone please tell me how that works.
  6. To CVS Pharmacy: Do not push generics when a patient asks for a brand name drug.
  7. To Apple, Adobe, Mathematica and all software developers: Do not sell us .2 and .5 versions. Those used to be called updates. Please ask us to pay again only when you come up with a truly new upgrade or a new version. Apple, Inc, you started it. Please stop it.
  8. Chinese massage places: (My friends tell me!) The therapist must match the photo we saw in the ad.
  9. Adult movie sites: (My friends tell me!) Compilation and copy/paste from old movies does not make it a new release. Ethics is a universal value and one must abide by it even in the jungle.
  10. To Houston Chronicle: Please do not sacrifice reporting news at the cost of larger and larger photos. The half-life of the Chronicle is a day. It is not a book or a photo album. I buy Chronicle to get news. It is a newspaper. Please give me news.
  11. To ET: Just tell us the entertainment news. Do not spend 80% of the show time talking about what is to come next and what is to come next week.
  12. To Houston Police Department (HPD): Were you at Treasures disciplining strippers when someone broke into my car and my students’ cars and my friends’ cars?
  13. To HPD: During a thunder storm in Houston, street signal lights stop working. Drivers go crazy and cause traffic jams and
    accidents. I do not see you managing that traffic at those signal lights. Are you at Treasures when that happens?
  14. To Cable TV media folks: If you do not have any new news to report, please go dark. Please go silent. That is your opportunity to contribute to energy conservation and reducing noise pollution.
  15. To Cable TV media folks: When you say something is live, do not show pre-recorded loops.
  16. To Cable TV media folks: Do not keep showing “Breaking news” when it is not really “Breaking news.”
  17. Why is Cable TV obsessed with showing a stock market ticker at the bottom of the screen? The second-by-second stream of values has no real meaning for how companies are run unless you are a day trader or someone who “plays” the stock market. Who is stock ticker really helping? Summarize the numbers once a day. Use that screen space for something more important.
  18. Labor reports that talk about how employment went up or down are useless because they combine all jobs and all categories in to one number. Some things lose their significance when you aggregate them. It is like reporting average salary of normal people at a bar after Bill Gates walks into the bar. The labor report does not tell me what to do with the numbers. For example, I read in the Chronicle (below an unnecessarily large photo) that Houston area will add 36,000 jobs next quarter. Most of the Shale Play jobs are trades and crafts related job. The numbers do not mean much to a research engineer.
  19. President Obama in his 2012 Democratic convention speech mentioned followers of three religions: Christians, Jews and Muslims.  So what about the many Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’is, Sikhs, Parsees and atheists who also happen to be American citizens?
  20. To presidential candidates: Stop mentioning religion in your speeches. United States was built on the idea of separation of church and state. Let us keep it that way.
  21. To presidential candidates: Please do not bring your wives and children to political rallies and conventions unless they are elected officials or running for office. We are trying to elect you not your families.
  22. To presidential candidates: Please inject humor as often as possible. Please surprise your colleagues in your party by making unexpected and at times unpopular decisions. Please make more off-the-cuff remarks.
  23. To the US Government and the media: Please officially acknowledge the loss of many innocent lives by the US bombing and drone strikes. Telling a young girl who just lost her parents in a bomb blast that came from a US bomber or a drone that it is collateral damage or the cost of spreading democracy does not make any sense.
  24. To the US Government: Secure our borders. If you cannot do that, please call our immigration laws, immigration guidelines. Enforce the existing laws first. Then, talk about reform.
  25. To President Obama: Please tell the Islamic militants to chill! We are tired of their excessive violent reactions to any and every comment about their religion.
  26. I like women with a few extra pounds. A friend of mine likes very petite women. If you extend that process it is possible for a man to like and love another man and a woman to like and love another woman. I like Clint Eastwood but I do not have the desire to sleep with him. Being gay or being a lesbian is a natural phenomenon. So, President Ahmadinejad of Iran and other religious fanatics of all religions, can we just allow people to be who they say they are?
  27. President Obama or Governor Romney: Don’t tell Iran what they can and cannot do. Work with Iran to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. If they do not allow us to help them, based on clear evidence take the appropriate action at the appropriate time. And, take ownership for the consequences of your actions. Fifty years from now when oil is gone and people in Iran are dying because they do not have the needed electricity for a water treatment plant or for running a hospital, be prepared to explain that situation to your great grandchildren.
  28. President Obama and Governor Romney: Marginal reforms in public education should not be your main focus. Local and state governments are already addressing these incremental changes. What we need is a complete reengineering of how we teach and how students learn. Assemble a panel of experts. Study the problem in depth and then define the plan of action. Explain to the American people the plan and why it will work. In the meantime, stop blaming teachers alone for failing students.
  29. To all current and former Presidents of the United States: Please do not write books about what you did in the White House after your terms are over. Imagination is always better than reality. Writing a book demeans the Office of the President of the United States. We love you and admire you for what you have done. Leave it that way.
  30. President Obama, regarding the recent events in Egypt and Libya, it was appropriate to say that we do not agree or support denigration of anyone’s religious beliefs or a religion but it was also important to mention the United States’ commitment to defending every US citizen’s right to the freedom of speech.
  31. To the US government: It is believed that the Taliban have bombed and destroyed girls’ schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If that is a fact please explain why we are negotiating with the Taliban.
  32. FISA extension or the Patriot Act is totally against the founding principles of this nation. It is a slippery slope that has the potential to lead to a military dictatorship. Why are the gun toting, 2nd amendment fanatics not opposed to this encroachment on our fundamental human rights?
  33. To all spammers and hackers: You should be convicted of cognitive rape.
  34. Latinos in the United States: Stop selling arms to Mexicans in Mexico. Think about the ramifications.
  35. To the African-American community: You have a rich heritage, you add the much needed cultural diversity to the mix and have made great contributions. We are all equal. Quit framing every issue as a “race” issue. Your approach prevents the real racial hate crimes from being addressed.
  36. To all fellow Indo-Americans. You have the right to celebrate the great achievements of Indo-Americans. I am eternally indebted to India. But remember ethics and compassion are more important than intelligence. The list of Indo-Americans recently facing ethics related charges, scrutiny or convictions includes Rajat Gupta, Farid Zakaria, Kaavya Vishwanathan, Dharun Ravi, Vivek Shah. Anand Jon, Raghuveer Nayak, Sharanjit Kaur and Baljit Singh, Hoor Naz Jafri, Sachin Sharma, Dana Sharma, Madhur Thawani and Ankeet Patel, Kiran and Arun Sharma, Bhogesahwarananda Sharma, etc.
  37. To all folks against the voter ID laws: Remember, there are two issues. Those that might not be able to vote because they could not get a voter ID card but also those who will vote that are not Legal US citizens because of false identifications. The amount of money you spent in organizing speakers and rallies against the voter ID card laws could have been used to secure voter ID cards for all those you claim are disenfranchised by the proposed new law.
  38. India, when a foreign author living in India is threatened by Islamic jihadist and the author requests protection from the Indian Government, do not ask that author to move. Protect her at all costs.
  39. To the Indian Government: Address the exploding population issue. Use compassion but accept reality.
  40. To Indian business owners in the United States: Pay local sales taxes. Report all cash transactions. Your narrow short term perspective is hurting all of us. If you do not like how your tax money is being spent become politically active and work on changing the laws.
  41. To restaurant owners, especially Indian: When a customer leaves a tip for the wait staff it is for the wait staff; it is not for you!
  42. To Indian restaurant owners: If you are planning to serve green peas from a can plus milk (not cheese) please do not call it Mutter Paneer. And, at least stir and mix the ingredients as much as you can before putting the item on the buffet.
  43. To Indian restaurants: Raghda Patties is not mixed vegetable plus buns. Also, please cook the naans. That way we do not have to keep reminding you to make “extra crispy” naans.
  44. To all vegetarian Indian restaurants. Thanks for supporting a vegetarian diet. Make sure the bread you serve does not have eggs. If it does, that is fine. Just let the customers know that that some items on the menu or in the buffet contain eggs.
  45. China: Give autonomy to Tibet. It is a rich culture and we all can benefit by its preservation.
  46. Pakistan: please stop talking about resolving the Kashmir issue. There is no Kashmir issue. If you really believe in human rights how come you never talk about Tibet? Focus instead on a cooperative dialogue and exchanges on environment, education, energy and the basic necessities of life.
  47. Pakistan: Find and prosecute the folks who were responsible for 26/11 Mumbai attack. That is the best way to normalize relations with India.
  48. The US Government: An American has walked on the moon yet you are not able to simplify the tax code. I pay $90 for a tax program and spend many hours doing my taxes each year. Are these expenses and time adding value to humanity?
  49. Every time someone says they lied or cheated or falsified information or abused power simply to support their family it is a bunch of bull crap. Your family is extension of your genes. Your motives are selfish. Just accept you made a mistake or committed a crime.
  50. Humanity: Please stop manufacturing animals for food. Animals are sentient beings and experiencer pain. When anyone hurts we all hurt. Watch “Food Inc.”
  51. This has been said by others. Media, you are the fourth pillar of our society. You serve the truth. Do not embed with military units. Seek and share the real story.
  52. Media: Do not glamorize war with music and fighter jets taking off. Do not convert war to a theater. People are dying and lives are being destroyed.
  53. I cringe every time I hear someone say: “It is all about money.”  I think it is an insult to humanity when the whole experience of life is condensed in to a simple model.
  54. The US Government. Try Guantanamo Bay prisoners in the US. Show the world that our system works most of the time. Putting people in prisons and brigs without the due process is inhumane and unnecessary waste of human lives. If you think they are guilty, try them. If not release them.
  55. To all quantum physicists: We love what you do. But please stop writing books like “Quantum physics for dummies.” Einstein said: “Simple, not simpler.” You also tell us that if we assume not 11 but 12 dimensions, then we have a unifying model. Why do we need quantum physicists to tell us that? Caution: Your research is fast approaching faith-based practices.
  56. To all immigrants in the United States: Keep your real name. Teach everyone else how to say it. Names are like endangered species in the rainforest. Once lost they are lost forever. Note: I am officially initiating my move to take my name back to SAIDAS.
  57. To immigrants who have anchor babies: You are totally free to do that. Morally no one can and should compel you to have or not have babies. That is your right and your freedom. But, remember the details of how you are planning to raise the baby matter to the baby.
  58. Pro-choice does not always mean pro-abortion.
  59. To all seniors: Resentment, regret and bitterness are not good for you.
  60. To all young folks in the US:  Get your head out of the cell-phone (ass) and for a change have a conversation with other human beings.
  61. To all: Don’t judge people only based on their age, sex, race or weight. There are fat ass-holes and there are thin ass-holes. There are jerks of all age groups and all races.
  62. To Houstonians: Lately people seem to be on the edge. There seems to be an erosion of the sense of community that existed many years ago. Not everyone trying to talk with you or ask you a question is trying to steal from you or rape you or kidnap you. Relax, have a conversation. May be you might learn something valuable.

My ten questions for our 2012 presidential candidates

Author: Saidas M. “Sai” Ranade is a Houston, Texas-based engineer, author and standup comedian. This article explains why Dr Ranade continues to be “a party of one” at restaurants. For more information about the author please visit:

I am a single, middle-aged, employed (at least for now), Indo-American, Buddhist-leaning Hindu and a left-leaning politically independent professional living in Texas. And, as far as President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are concerned I do not exist!  When it comes to my vote in the presidential elections this time or the past four times, it has not mattered.   Why is Texas not a battleground state? Have they not seen the show “Friday night lights?” Why is it not a “swing state?” Have they not met the couple that lives next door?  I am so tired of being “NOT COUNTED” by the US political system that just to matter, I am now even willing to pretend to be a young unemployed Latin woman from Ohio or an old Jewish man from Florida.

Growing up as a child in India, I was inspired by the leadership of JFK, the idea of Peace Corps and man’s landing on the moon. I have been in the US for over 30 years and have led a fulfilling life. Both President Obama and Governor Romney have undertaken a difficult journey for a very important assignment. I respect that. However lately, there are some aspects of politics that simply do not make any sense to me.

In about a week’s time (October 3, 2012) we will have the opportunity to view the first televised debate between the two candidates running for the president of United States. Some questions are complex with no simple answers. It will be interesting to see how the candidates respond to those questions. Here are my ten questions I would like the moderators to ask the two candidates:

  1. Many small businesses are evading taxes by hiding the “cash only” transactions. Unaccounted for cash is a primary funding source for human, drug and weapons trafficking. What will you do to solve this problem of accounting for all cash transactions?
  2. Once upon a time “Made in the USA” meant something. That perception is changing dramatically. What actions will you take to ensure and guard the rights of the consumers?
  3. I am a professional and I would like to cross-train so I can be prepared for future economic challenges. I want to learn to use a software application but its license is over $3,000.  I will get a student’s license only if I enroll at a University. What will you do to make cross-training opportunities more affordable to professionals like me?
  4. President Obama, printing more money cannot be the solution to all problems. I do not see any major roads being built or a new network of railways or information infrastructure projects in the area where I live. So, what happened to the stimulus money?
  5. Governor Romney, you gave 30 % of your personal income to charities but you are opposed to taxes. It implies that you do not trust the Government but trust a religious organization to allocate and distribute your money. Yet you are running to be the President of the United States.  The United States as of this writing is not a theocracy. Please explain.
  6. Governor Romney, without taxes who would build and maintain infrastructure such as roads, who will provide funding for large scale medical  and space research, who will provide security for the nation?
  7. It is believed that the Taliban have bombed and destroyed girls’ schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If that is a fact please explain why we are trying to negotiate with the Taliban?
  8. President Obama you said you will close Guantanamo Bay prison. I am not sure why trying these detainees in the US would pose a problem. Please explain.
  9. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive. They do not have the same rights as the men. Why does United States still do business with Saudi Arabia?
  10. Israel keeps building settlements in the Palestinian territories.  What can the United States do about that?