April 13, 2007

Photos: Easter Weekend

In the absence of relevant content, here are some photos from this past weekend. I think I tried to go for some artistic effects that I've seen done really well on Flickr, but in the absence of a tripod, and working with Shan's digital camera that ran out of batteries every ten minutes, the results aren't great.

Here are a few of them, anyway.

April 04, 2007

Defining Diversity


A few weeks ago, I was invited to a technology conference in the famous windy city of Chicago. Nearly 900 people attended, mostly North Americans but not exclusively, brought together by the prospect of stumbling upon that next great idea, and to hear from experts what the future may hold.

In the opening address, the host paid respect to the diversity of the crowd. And looking around, there certainly was a lot of variety; many colours and shapes, from the East and the West, and I certainly wasn't the only Muslim around. Browsing the guest list as I reached the hotel, I found at least a couple dozen Muslim names, mostly South Asians but a healthy dose of Arabs as well. And in that crowd of people, at the heart of corporate America, I actually felt like I fit in.

That feeling didn't last long. Surveying the audience, I noticed the uniformity of the participants. Yes, there were black people and Hispanics and Indians and Chinese people, but somehow they all looked the same. They all sounded the same, and they all dressed the same. There was an almost robotic feel to the crowd. In spite of the multitude of traditions and customs that their ethnicities may have been known for, in this forum, everyone followed a single custom, portrayed a single personality. Even as I first reached O'Hare Airport prior to the conference, I was able to easily identify others who were attending the same event simply by their appearance and gait.

At the end of each day, the inevitable alcohol would come out, and I would disappear off to explore downtown Chicago. I was saddened to see that a number of those participants with Muslim names gracing their nametags would be drinking along with everyone else, likely out of a desire to fit in with that crowd and make key connections with industry leaders. I was often told about how important it is to network with the senior people in the industry, and networking in corporate America invariably means sharing drinks with a person. In spite of all the ethnic diversity, social interaction was limited to the practice of only the corporate West. There would be no sipping tea with these managers, and no Tim Hortons to discuss all the issues of the day; alcohol was the fuel that built relationships in this world, and I had no interest in taking part.

As I wandered through Millenium Park (pictured above), I kept thinking that the diversity that was being applauded earlier was entirely superficial. Ethnic diversity means little if one loses all the uniqueness of that ethnicity, and religious diversity means nothing if there is no accommodation for religious difference. Of course, one can't please everybody, and what is a restriction for one may be an obligation for another. So where does that leave those who won't trade their values for the sake of fitting in? It usually leaves them on the outside looking in, and that will always be their personal challenge to overcome.

I've had the honour of working with a number of outstanding people who have seen diversity beyond the superficial recognition of its existence. I've been a part of some fantastic teams that embraced diversity not just in words, but in practice - and that definitely strengthened our effectiveness. But those appear to be exceptions, and on a large scale, whatever diversity exists in the corporate world still remains shallow.

It remains a challenge, and perhaps it should remain a challenge. Perhaps our strength lies in our ability to overcome societal norms. After all, few have ever achieved anything by simply following the course. Let the current flow as it may, we must hold our place.

Update 4.5.2007: More pictures here.

April 01, 2007

ill relevant opinions

It's been over a month since I posted here. In my defense, daylight savings time hit several weeks earlier this year, so the month of March was an hour shorter than usual.

During this hiatus, I thought to myself, "what am I missing?" And now I know. There was a certain edge that was missing. A rage, if you will. The sort of rage that is best expressed through convoluted rap lyrics. So here goes; as of today, Irrelevant Opinions has gone ghetto, and none o'ya can say nothin' to make me change my mind, dawg. An' from now on, ya can call me MC Slam.

yo .. one two .. check one two

yo, we'z back and we gots a new attitude
so y'allz best sit back, expressin' your gratitude
for deze opinionz, clever and astute
if you don't like 'em, yer gonna get da boot
cuz deze rhymez keep comin' an' flowin'
a real sight to see when mc slam gets goin'
i keep rhymin', ain't no sign of slowin'
flyin' rhymez like some kinda boeing
yeah, we'll rap, through thick an' thin
so grab a coffee, and roll up da rim to win
an' if you loze, and ya ain't feelin' cheery
express your melancholy at target theory
dats da place to go when yer feelin' weary
breakin' down like my chevy cavaliery
so listen to me an' my cheezy ebonics
i ain't hooked on dope, yo, i be hooked on phonics
so keep readin', you an' yer minionz
keep readin' deze irrelevant opinionz
y'allz be thinkin' dis blog waz dead
but deze new rhymez give me mad street cred
no more bloggin' 'bout bugz in my cereal
now i'm goin' wit' da gangsta material
no more expressin' my irrelevant viewz
an' droppin' random links to cbc newz
now i be bloggin' 'bout drugz an' booze
while i pump my funky basketball shoez
if ya don't like it, don't try to sway
me away from my amazin' new bloggin' way
ya better not be hatin', ya better not provoke
ya better understand dis be an april foolz day joke
so y'allz best follow yer noze an' wiggle yer toez
cuz everyone knowz da rhymez we compoze

aight man, let's get outta here
w0rd to your brother

Update 4.1.2007: Special thanks to Google, for their new free broadband service which allowed me to post this.