Chocolate and Gold Coins

Monday, March 13, 2006

The D.C. Blogger Meet Recap

A gathering of bloggers came to Union Station on Saturday. We had much fun. Let me start with a list of attendees:

Arnab was very much like I thought he would be. He is little chubby (he looks just like the picture is on his blog). He had a big smile during the entire meet. I think he was just having a blast. And he had lots of interesting stories to tell. He is no doubt a brilliant writer and the perfect host of a blogger meeting.

Arzan and Ravikiran came all the way from New York and New Jersey to be there. I cannot know if it was worth it for them but I can only say that I appreciate the effort these two made to be there.

Ravikiran actually does some interesting software development. I wished I could have learned more about that. He doesn’t come off in real life like he does in his blog. In his blog, he seems quite confident, assertive, and certain in a way that others might misunderstand as arrogance. He doesn’t come off that way at all in person. He is actually somewhat soft spoken.

Arzan Sam Wadia in real life is an architect and he told us about some very interesting energy efficient buildings he is helping design. He also runs a blog called Parsi Khabar that blogs about the Parsi community. Recently he linked to an editorial that said that Zoroasterism might make a comeback in Iran. I remember a friend (in the early 1980’s) saying that it would be nice is Communism fell apart and those nations went for a market economy. I thought it was a far-fetched hope at the time. Well, who knows!

The lone female was Seema. She has a degree in (I hope I didn’t forget this) International Relations. She has a popular blog that I’ve never visited before and that is nice about blog meets, you get to see bloggers you never would read otherwise. We need to work harder in addressing the gender balance in future blogger meets.

Piyush Gupta has a website about India politics. I actually recognized Piyush. He comes frequently to the Einstein Bros. Bagel shop on Gallows road where my family visits every Saturday. We always see him discussing politics with his friends. Sometimes my wife has commented about him and the fact that the female friends seem bored out of their minds. When I said that I met him and he seemed really nice my wife’s comment was, “Oh, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo!” I don’t speak Tamil so I don’t really understand but my guess is- knowing my wife- that she really doesn’t want to discuss the political situation in India with Piyush and his friends. Too bad, he seems quite nice.

Sunil Soman talked a little bit about his work in supply chain management. That is really quite similar to work I do (which means it is not too interesting). He worked on a very similar problem for the same client that I worked on, a coincidence.

Ujval Gandhi had wanted to organize a blogger meet for some time. His work is in mergers and acquisitions. He would like to return to graduate school to get that Ph.D. It is essential in life to get education before earning a good income. Otherwise, one finds it hard to return to college life.

Vinay Jain has many blogs and I am too lazy to link to all of them. He is from Rajasthan and he reminds me a bit of Parthiv Patel.

Chetan Kulkarni was very nice. He gave me a nice card thank me for organizing this meet. That is nice. He majored in journalism but unfortunately he is unemployed right now. He keeps himself busy doing something called “Budginay” which I think is some kind of job search regimen.

Eswaran Baskaran doesn’t have a blog but comments on Sepia Mutiny and writes to India Uncut. He took the photos below. I should really ask permission to post these photos but I figure the good Lord wouldn’t have let me come into possession of these photos if I were not chosen by Him (Her) to post them. I get selectively religious about some things that coincide with self-interest.

I was originally intending to augment the turnout by having phone-ins. We had some A-list bloggers who were going to let me call them and we put them on speakerphone and chat briefly with others. I hoped it might work. Well it flopped. Union Station is underground and has lots of concrete and the signal failed. Sunil tried to call but could not get through. He lives in Seattle; my parents live near Seattle.

But at least we avoided the problem that Anand had in his first blogger meet. He came to a blog meet looking for bloggers but didn’t see anyone who looked like one (what do bloggers look like – people?), and he left disappointed. I avoided such a problem by posting little signs.

Also some kind person remembered to bring a birthday cake. It was, in fact Ravikiran’s birthday. Here is the cake – with chocolate coins on it. It was an excellent quality cake from this pastry shop.

Here is a photo of Ravikiran’s birthday present. Some context is needed here. He had complained about American toilet paper and how it was inadequate for the task. So, as if to show that in a well-developed free market all needs are met, I found these excellent flushable wipes. He declared that this was, “The best present he had ever had.” He might have been just being polite.

Here are some group photos:

Ravikiran is cutting the cake. From left to right: Vinay, Ujval, Michael, Ravikiran, and Chetan, (with perhaps Seema in the background – she did not want to be photographed).

From left to right: Sunil, Ujval, Michael, Arnab, Chetan, Ravikiran, Piyush, Arzan.

Far right: Eswaran.

I should mention that the real reason we had this meeting was trap someone: the notorious terrorist Ondiran Khan, number 5 in command in Al Queda. He now lives in Phildadelphia and blogs under the pseudonym Curious Gawker. We hoped to lure him out into the open by the hopes of meeting Arnab the Greatbong and some free food. The Feds were waiting to nab him and send him to Gitmo. But he never showed. Maybe the food court food was not enticing enough. Maybe someone tipped him off. We’ll try to do this again in May or June and see if we can trap him next time. Please, no one tip him off this time.

Both Arnab and I think the blogger meet was a nice success. We hope to make it a regular event. We will probably have four of them a year.

I was trying to recall some pithy things that people said and then I remembered what Arnab told about Suhail Kazi. He actually met Suhail once in Maryland. He said that whenever he writes about religion and Islam he always thinks, "How would Suhail react to this?" If he thought that if Suhail might take offense then he knows he went overboard.

The interesting thing about that is that although I have never met Suhail, I know he is a prominent blogger with an Islamic-sounding name who reads my blog from time to time. So I have often wondered myself if something I have written about religion might cause offense to someone like Suhail.

So maybe there is a business opportunity for Suhail: giving his Good Housekeeping seal of approval for incendiary blog pieces; Just a thought.

Update 2
Arnab explains in the comment section that the issue of "How would Suhail view this" applies more to how he comes across in the comment section and how he deals with his many critics than with the original post. Arnab does get a really lively debate in his comment section and it takes quite a lot of work to keep it from getting out of hand.

Also, Chetan has an excellent account of the blogmeet here. Also here is Arnab's.

Update 3
Here is Arzan's version and Ravikiran's (with links to more photos).


  • Woof, such fun! Wish I'd been there. Maybe I'll come for the next one, who knows...

    By Blogger amit varma, at 3:21 AM  

  • Hi Amit
    I saved you a slice of cake.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:28 AM  

  • I am an avid fan of GB. I am known as Yourfan. I am sure you are familiar with me by now if you read the readers’ comments in GB’s blog. Usually I don’t get much time to go to others’ blogs. But I made some time to come to yours exclusively (don’t be sad) because GB’s account on this meet was sketchy. I expected a detailed post on that from GB. Anyway, nice to know that all of you had a fantastic time. Thanks for the detailed post and of course for the pics.

    Following is the comment that I sent to Yourfan2 in GB's post about the meet .

    “@Yourfan2: For once I differ with your opinion. You wished you could be present at the meet. But I don’t. I want to keep the association on a virtual level – that is sort of romantic. Besides who can guarantee that the great bully Akash or people like him won’t show up to spoil the meet? I detest the idea of ever meeting people like Akash – not that I disagree with his opinion (which I do with so many others) but exclusively because the way he conducts/presents himself. I hate arrogant people.”

    By Anonymous Yourfan, at 6:10 AM  

  • Nice cake! Maybe we'll have something like that here in India more frequently.

    By Blogger TerritorialMale, at 6:11 AM  

  • what fun! maybe I will up a birthday-gift-wish-list on my blog - (and you can be sure toilet wipes wil feature nowhere in that list :))

    By Anonymous Charu, at 6:20 AM  

  • Sounds great. Too bad you guys couldn't call up. Would have been fun to talk to you all.

    Note to self - Before meeting Michael for the first time, make a blog post complaining about the lack of good cars in USA.

    By Blogger Gaurav, at 6:57 AM  

  • That was a wonderful account of the meet. I have posted my version here. I had a gala time and am already looking forward to another meeting three months from now.

    Also "Budginay" does not exactly mean job search regimen, though it conveys a similar idea. What I said was sarcastic way of saying that currently I do absolutely nothing. I said that I do "Bhajan" which is singing devotional songs throughout the day when Arnab asked me about my occupational status. Actually I should have said that following blogs in my current full time job.

    By Anonymous Chetan, at 8:33 AM  

  • Michael,

    Nice account of the meetup, and very kind of you to dig up my (almost) non-existent online presence.

    Others have already said the same thing, but I will repeat. Thanks for the thoughtful preparation for the meeting and the nice cake. :-)

    By Blogger Eswaran B, at 9:46 AM  

  • Wonderful meet! I wish I could have joined in or at least called in...maybe next time.

    By Blogger Patrix, at 10:05 AM  

  • @Michael: Just want to clarify the statement about Suhail.
    He said that whenever he writes about religion and Islam he always thinks, "How would Suhail react to this?" If he thought that if Suhail might take offense then he knows he went overboard.

    I dont ask the question when I write about Islam. I write what I feel is right. However sometimes many commenters interpret my post wrongly and provide it a communal color. Piyush raised a point as to why do I need to clarify my secularism again and again in my comments section rather than saying "Screw it, I dont care what you think of me".

    It was then that I made the point that I always think that I dont want Suhail, if he made a cursory glance over the comments, to think that I am being derogatory. Suhail is a personal friend and a very nice person whose friendship I greatly cherish. That is why I sometimes find myself going to great pains to justify my position.

    @yourfan: The reason I was sketchy was because I feel that people might not be comfortable if I did a tell-all on everything that was discussed..people often say things in person they wont like to put their name to in "print"...

    By Blogger GREATBONG, at 10:22 AM  

  • Hi Greatbong
    Now I recall your comment better and it makes more sense. I knew it was something profound.
    The reason I was sketchy was because I feel that people might not be comfortable if I did a tell-all on everything that was discussed..people often say things in person they wont like to put their name to in "print"...
    I suppose that is especially if the person transcribing the conversation got it all garbled [blush].

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:47 AM  

  • Hi GB's-yourfan, T-male, Charu, Gaurav,
    GB's-yourfan: GB knew that I would link to everyone and tell a little bit about each one.

    T-male: Free food works every time.

    Charu: Let us know when your b-day is coming up.

    Gaurav: I have your car already picked out.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:59 AM  

  • Parthiv Patel, eh? I have been asked if I am a Bengali and now I reminded you of a Gujarati. hmm.. "mere chehare pe hindustaaN chhapaa hai?"

    Fun meet. Kudos to you for thoughtful arrangements.

    By Anonymous v9y, at 11:04 AM  

  • Hi Chetan, Eswaran, Patrix, and GB
    Chetan: Nice post. I was kidding when I was pretending not to know about "budginay" - my wife accuses me (with some reason) of doing too much of that myself.

    Eswaran: Google did that in no time. I am glad you appreciated the cake. It was good. I ate too much.

    Patrix: The phone thing turned out to be a minor fiasco: I could not phone out of Union Station there - underground and too much cement. Maybe we'll try another location next time.

    Greatbong: I had a great time. I look forward to the next one, (if my wife lets me).

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 11:05 AM  

  • Wish I could've come too!
    I always end up missing these meets; perhaps coz I'm a vegetarian.

    By Blogger seven_times_six, at 12:51 PM  

  • Hi Michael, that was a wonderful account of the blog meet. Also, thanks for organizing the blog meet. Just as a correction, the site that you have linked to on supply chain management does not have anything to do with me. It is some sort of a spam site that some how has a few links with my name in it and its really bizzare why that is case, perhaps its because I have a few articles and patents this area.

    By Blogger Treefrog in a salad, at 1:02 PM  

  • HI 7*6, Sunil
    7*6: Do you live here? Btw, I am vegetarian also - but I do eat cake which has eggs.

    Sunil: My mistake. I tried to google some more stuff about you and that came up. I did look over it closely. It must have been someone using your name.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 1:21 PM  

  • Correction, I meant to say I did not look over it closely.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 1:22 PM  

  • the cake looks yummy.. feel bad for missing out.. got stuck up with something - hope to be there next time..

    By Blogger vishnupavan, at 3:20 PM  

  • Hi Pavan
    Hopefully you will come. We need some more cricket bloggers to counterbalance the political bloggers. Arnab is a big cricket fan and so are many others that were there.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:33 PM  

  • Michael

    Thanks a lot for organising this. It was a fun meet.

    My account is here

    By Anonymous arZan, at 4:22 PM  

  • Michael: No; I'm in Pittsburgh, which is a few hours away. Nice to know you're a veggie too; so there is still hope for me in attending a blog meet.
    I mean, you know how it is with us veggies and meets.

    By Blogger seven_times_six, at 4:29 PM  

  • Michael,
    I enjoyed the meet too. Pretty good account and thanks once again for the cake and the gift. It made me realise that Americans are not all that behind and that they were not sitting tight while the Japanese stole a march on them...

    7*6, I am a veggie too, but the next time you make a bad pun on veggies and meets, I am going to skin you alive and distribute your remains to those who are not veggie as blogger's meat...

    By Anonymous Ravikiran, at 5:55 PM  

  • And I can't suppress a smile whenever I imagine your wife going “Oh, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo!” :)

    By Anonymous Ravikiran, at 6:21 PM  

  • Michael

    Exceelent writeup. Until now I was absolutely convinced that you were a pure bred mallu from Palakhat or Kozakodai or some such "corconut" place, and not the "goru" that you profess to be. Not to be. Oh well!!!

    As someone rightly mentioned, they ought to confer Indian citizenship on you.

    When is the next meet? I'll be there, or at least call in.


    By Blogger chappan, at 8:25 PM  

  • Hey Michael
    Good to know it went well, nice writeup. Sorry I couldn't be there, it was a working weekend for me. I should probably have mailed you that I couldn't make it. Also, I have recently been promoted to Al Qaida number 3 since nos 3 and 4 were both killed in Chicago blogger meets.

    By Blogger gawker, at 9:15 AM  

  • Hi Arzan, 7*6, Ravikiran, Sourin, and C-Gawker:

    Arzan: Nice to meet you. Nice write-up.

    7*6: Sorry, my bad pun radar was shut off. :-)

    Ravikiran: Too bad you didn't get to meet her. The first thing you would have thought was, "How did such a lovely lady get stuck with such a loser."

    Sourin: no date yet but we'll keep you informed. You should have a local meet. There must be other bloggers in Michigan and surrounding areas.

    C-Gawker: You were missed. Maybe next time. Or, If you organise a Philadelphia blogger meet then maybe I'll come up there. But you had better show for that one!

    Btw, congrats on your promotion. Does it come with a raise or is OBL broke?

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 12:18 PM  

  • Michael and friends
    Look like you guys had a great time there.
    hmm I got up with some tax work :(
    hopefully next time I will make it.

    By Blogger Ganesh, at 4:34 PM  

  • So maybe there is a business opportunity for Suhail: giving his Good Housekeeping seal of approval for incendiary blog pieces

    Haha! Trust an economist to come up with such a killer idea :) I am setting up a not-for-profit trust fund(ofcourse tax exempted), and henceforth all bloggers will be required to pay a nominal 10 cents service fee for clearing their Islamic posts so as to maintain peace and stability in international blogospherisms :) Thanks to the current geo-political situation, the volumes are so high that my next three generations won't have to worry about working. For your excellent suggestion I hereby offer you the CFO post with comprehensive dental and 401K :D

    Jokes apart, I'd like to thank greatbong and you for ..ahem..keeping me up as your litmus test. I just got some goosebumps there. Frankly, I had no idea I was being held to such high standards. And I guess that puts a bit more responsibilty on me as to where I stand on issues. If I know someone making decisions based on my feelings, then it'd keep me more on my toes, and I'd constantly learn and reevaluate my beliefs(and hopefully improve). Removing myself out of the equation, in general I do think it's a good thumb rule. For one, given the anonymity of internet it's quite easy for most of us to write something that crosses the line where it becomes unfunny. This relationship with someone you know via blogs is like having a virtual ombudsman. And ofcourse a face to face meeting can do wonders.

    With greatbong I found him exactly as I had envisioned him from his blog (except that I thought he looked too different in his earlier photo). But it has happened with me many times -- and I suppose with others too -- that I realised how different my image of a person someone was prior to meeting them. And this need not be necessarily in strict good vs bad terms. It could be as simple as whether a person is as chatty in self as he is in his writings? Or as much outgoing and extrovert as they come across on their blogs?.

    btw, your fun jabs in DC meet writeup were by no means incendiary and I don't think anyone would take offense to that. If they did, I have just two words for them: "Jesus doesn't love them".

    And since you just called me ..{one more ahem}.. prominent blogger, I'll go back and read my excellent A-list blog again :p

    By Blogger Suhail, at 5:01 AM  

  • Hi Michael,

    Looks like y'all had great fun. I was debating if I wanted to make the 4hour trip from Durham, NC - but then my lazy procrastinating self took over. These are times I wish they had affordable and at least a semi-regular train service in the USA (the only trains that run between here and DC take almost 7hours and travels at odd hours!!).

    I guess I was also a bit intimidated by the A-list of bloggers that were supposed to show up - I am afraid I might be embarrass myself as a gushing fan in such distinguished group.

    Anyway, I will try to attend the next one - if there is any meet in mid-April, I can turn up since I will be in town.


    By Anonymous Bongo Pondit, at 7:06 AM  

  • pardon some grammatical mishaps in my prevs comment.

    By Blogger Suhail, at 12:56 PM  

  • Hi Ganesh, Suhail, and BongoP
    Ganesh: Hmm taxes. I wonder if I need to do that soon?

    Suhail: It would be interesting meeting you. If you ever come back to the D.C. area, we will have to organize something.

    BongoP: Ask Arnab (aka Greatbong) about the next blogger meet. I doubt we will have another one before summer.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:07 PM  

  • here's the blogger meet that was held in Delhi

    By Blogger mayank, at 9:59 AM  

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