Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gimme some more!

I want paper cards. Lots of them. From good friends. From parents. From best friends. From sister. From friends I no longer am in touch with. From cousins. From acquaintances. From uncles. From friends I made through unconventional ways. From aunts. From that random person I have spoken with just once. I want paper cards.

Going over them is a joy I simply cannot describe. There is no other explanation for the silly grin on my face right now. The only thing I did in the past ten minutes was quickly glance through some of the paper cards I received in the past few years. Sadly though, the number of paper cards I receive is decreasing drastically every year. I hate e-cards :-(!

I think I just stumbled upon the perfect activity for a lazy afternoon - leisurely browse through received paper cards :-D. They serve as an awesome window to view the past. But for now, I better get back to cleaning my room which started it all! I really think I ought to be given some award for happily coming up with innovative ways of side-tracking whenever I am forced to do some boring chore.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Going to Half Dome - 1

For the past three years, at the beginning of every summer, I would plan to do the famed Half Dome hike in the Yosemite National Park. And every summer, invariably something would come up and I would be forced to cancel the trip. Till this summer. This time around, five of us, C, E, V, S and me wanted to do the hike. And miraculously, till the departure date of June 22nd, the plans stayed unchanged.

C and E left for Yosemite earlier in the day. V and me picked S up at the airport (yeah, S actually flew in from Seattle to do the hike thanks to a certain kind soul named Archana who did very good PR :-D!) and left for Yosemite later in the evening.

The trip started off fine. We had an one hour break for a proper dinner at a proper restaurant (a rather dumb decision in retrospect as evidenced when we did the "available time to sleep" calculation). We reached the entrance to Yosemite around 10.45pm. After travelling several miles and seeing no significant sign boards, I was convinced we were lost. Except for a sporadic vehicle or two, the roads were deserted and there was no other light. Through the shadows I could see rows upon rows of redwood trees, their silhouettes outlined in the moonlight.

This was my first trip to Yosemite (yes, I have stayed in California 6 years and have not been to Yosemite before - and your point is?) . While I could sense the majestic beauty even in the darkness, I had dreadful misgivings about getting lost (no cell phone signal either) and being forced to sleep in the car and thus wind up serving as bear lures*.

Mercifully, much in accordance with V's confident predictions, we safely reached our destination (without making a single wrong turn!) at midnight - a beautiful townhouse nestled inside the Yosemite park. We quickly settled down for the night. Four hours later, it was time to get up and get ready for the hike.

As it slowly turned bright outside, all of us filled our camel-baks, stuffed as many Gatorade bottles as would fit in, made sandwiches for lunch, squeezed in energy bars, sunscreen, trail-mixes, flash-light et al. We hurriedly gobbled down some breakfast and rushed around to speed up the preparation time. Still, it was 6.30a by the time we set off from the townhouse.

To make things worse, we promptly got lost trying to get to the valley. Finally, we managed to reach the parking lot for the Half Dome hike trail-head. Only to see it choking full. A reverse turn found us a parking space about a half mile away from the trail head (oh great, we had just added one more mile to our already looooooong ~17 mile route). There, we vigorously applied sunscreen and then, hauling our camel-baks onto our shoulders, we set off, bright and merry.

We were beginning our hike to Half Dome from the trail-head at Happy Isles. We reached it at 7.50a. We had officially begun our hike!

*bears are a genuine threat at Yosemite. Which was why we rented a car to drive down and made sure that we never left any food in the car at any time while it was parked.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Week 1: ~6 mile round-trip hike at Castle Rock.

Week 2: Series of short hikes over three days at Utah.

Week 3: ~8 mile round-trip hike at Rancho San Antonio park.

Week 4: ~11 mile round-trip hike at Purisima Creek Reserve.

Week 5: White-water rafting at Kings Canyon.

All this training sort of helped me do this:

Week 6: ~17 mile round-trip hike to the top of Half Dome at the Yosemite National Park.

YES - I climbed up Half Dome yesterday. I made it all the way to the top and back. And I am still alive and kicking. YES :-D!

Monday, June 18, 2007


I had to share! Here are the first tomatoes (yes, yes, there is more than one :-D) on my tomato plant peeking out:

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I am mighty irritated, sleepy and queasy today. I guess a total of five hours of sleep + an early day at work + mid-week blues + irregular timings for breakfast and lunch can do that to a person. I have been trying to hold up with major infusions of coffee and tea. I think I am slowly turning into Caffeine-Lady.

Anyways, all of the above translated into a grumpy and sad-looking me. My poor friend at work, P, had to bear the brunt of it. I cribbed and complained and cribbed some more. Finally, P said that he would buy me ice-cream to cheer up. Aiii :-D! I don't like ice-cream all that much but as P put it, "free ice cream is a slice of heaven".

No matter how much I complain about the rampant corruption and bribery prevalent in India, I do love to get bribed sometimes. Especially for doing something which I have to do anyways and which will ultimately benefit me the most! Now, this is not a wish which can be easily fulfilled but my friends, room-mates and family members have sometimes made it happen.

I owe my Master's degree in part to my dear friend (and former roomie) J. For the longest time, though I had enough data to get started, I kept postponing writing my thesis. Just the thought of the task overwhelmed me so much that I did not feel like starting it even. That was also about the time book 5 of the Harry Potter series was going to be released. I had been badgering J to buy it so that I could read it (I had some fundae about why I couldn't buy it). J kept resisting my efforts.

Then, one fine morning, J said, "Okay, here is a deal: You start writing your thesis today. Write at least five pages of your first chapter. Whenever you are done, ping me. I will come over to your lab and order the book online. You can read it first when it arrives."

Harry Potter motivated me where so many others had failed. That noon, I actually started writing my thesis and wrote more than five pages. J promptly ordered the book and as per the promise, when it arrived, I read it first too (in one long shot interspersed with tea and food breaks - the tea and food of course being made by roomies J and R :-D).

Obviously, once I actually got down the task of writing my thesis, it no longer seemed as daunting. I had been successfully bribed to start writing my own Master's thesis!!!

There are other such incidents of small-time bribery. Thinking of them always brings a smile to my face :-)!

Coincidentally, R and J are getting their doctorates today. I am off to Davis later this noon to felicitate them. Up ahead: an evening to relive the good old times! YES :-)!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Arches

Story continued from here.

The next morning, long past dawn, all of us got up and got ready. We were still in good time for the hotel-provided breakfast though. We finished our breakfast in batches, bought water and other essentials (read snacks) in Provo, where we had halted for the night. After picking up coffee (only Starbucks coffee, P insisted) we were good to go.

Our plan was to visit three national parks in Utah: Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon National Park. Thus our vacation would essentially be a road-trip interspersed with lots of hiking to view the various sights the parks had to offer.

Arches National Park was a good three hours away from Provo. K, P, B, S and me set off in one car, a Toyota Camry. The rest were in the other car, a Pontiac Grand Prix. Other than V, who never switched cars, all of us managed to ride in both the cars at various points. Of course, since the Camry was bigger and more comfortable, S and me stuck to it for most of our trip - hehehe!

Our journey to the Arches consisted of travel through desert-like lands. I was extremely surprised to see the barren landscape since I had somehow pictured Utah to be on the same level of green as Seattle! I guess I had confused Yellowstone National Park with Utah (don't ask me how, it is a long story). Though the morning had started off being slightly chilly (thus bringing doubts about the wisdom of exclusively carrying only summer clothes), it was baking hot during the drive.

The drive went off in chatting, admiring the landscape - the vast vegetation-less flat lands soon gave way to beautiful erosion-sculpted rocks - and listening to music. On day one, Guru music was a soothing accompaniment. By day four, I was ready to burst into tears if anyone insisted on playing the Tere Bina song one more time.

Due to the various different times at which the two cars took breaks, we wound up having lunch at different places. Our car stopped at a Mexican restaurant - decent food, while the members of the other car had Subway sandwiches for lunch :-)! After lunch, we synced up to make our entrance to the Arches park together.

K and B were the main planners for the trip. Both, especially B, are hiking enthusiasts and had included a lot of short to medium hikes as a part of our sightseeing plans. By some freak coincidence, both S and me had wound up buying the exact same hiking shoes from REI though we had bought it independently at different times from different cities! These shoes are heavy and hence we also carried along slippers to wear when we were not hiking.

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At the first stop, Courthouse Towers, once the cars were parked, great preparations went afoot for hiking. S and I changed from slippers to shoes. Everyone applied sunscreen, donned hats and sunglasses. Then everyone stocked their backpacks with water and Gatorade. The ones owning camel-baks filled the water-pouches up. Finally, after some fifteen minutes of intense preparation, we were all set and good to go.

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Thus, it was rather an anti-climax, when, two minutes later, we stood in front of our destination! Apparently, this view point actually did not require any hiking. Sheesh! However, the fortress-wall like structures was awesome to look it. I couldn't believe that these were nature-created!

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After Courthouse towers, it was on to the Balancing Rock.

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The picture speaks for itself I guess! This involved a little more walking around but it was still manageable. I guess the intense heat had a much more vital role to play in sapping our energy! There were some climbable rocks around and all of us had a fun time clambering up and down.

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P provided the most amount of entertainment - he climbed up a slope and called everyone's attention to the fact.

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Immediately, someone came up with the brilliant idea of throwing small pebbles at him as target practice - P soon decided to come back down in a hurry!

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From the Balancing Rock, it was onto see the Windows. After mounting a series of steps, we saw a natural "window" on the rock face. S exclaimed, "Hey, I can see a vista through the window....Windows Vista" - I guess you cannot forget your roots :-P!

We spent sometime sitting on the base of the rocks on the other side of the Window. It was very calm and peaceful! Some more hiking brought us to the other Window - the North Window. Together, the windows looked like the eye-mask of some super hero :-)! Most of our gang refused to hike up to the North Window to get a closer look. But B, K, S and me had totally gotten into the hiking mode and went up close there too!
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From the Windows, it was time to go to double-arches. The heat put off most people to hike up to see it. But R, T, S, B and me set off. It was totally worth it! I climbed some more rocks there - it was really good fun.

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By now, it was getting late. It was time to hike up to see the Delicate Arch. We wanted to be there during sunset. The Delicate Arch hike was the longest hike of the day - some 3 miles round trip.

At the entrance to the hike, there were dire warnings about carrying enough water and wearing proper footwear. We loaded up our backpacks with additonal water (though my sad excuse for a backpack could not hold more than one half-litre bottle of water in it at at time, forcing me to carry one more in my hand), reapplied sunscreen and set off. R had a rather full looking backpack - to our questions he seriously replied, "Oh, I have a frisbee, a ball and my flute in it." Huh!!?!!

This hike started off on even land. But soon, it turned into an upwardly sloping hike. I started puffing and panting like a steam engine. R was at the lead, I was behind him, trying to keep up with his faster speed - the advantage being, I could happily reach some point and then pant at leisure while ostensibly waiting for the others to "catch up".

We hiked up a hill and then the path became considerably narrower as we climbed closer to the top. I was still following R like Mary's little lamb. At some point, R climbed onto a really, really narrow and uneven trial, where one edge sloped away into the valley. My heart lurched into my stomach as I put my foot on the ledge. Oh my God, what if I fell! Putting all my faith in God and still clutching one bottle in my hand I followed R and safely got over to the other, wider end.

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Finally we reached the top. This is what we saw:

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Wow! The Delicate Arch! WOW! This one sight alone justified the cost of my air-tickets! On two sides of the Delicate Arch, rock formations provided natural seating. We joined the many people already seated there in eager anticipation of sunset.

Taking long sips of water, we waited for the others to show up, and they soon did. We all descended a little further down and sat watching. Some of the more adventurous folks among us went to take a closer look at the Arch. S and me were both terrified of falling off the ledge and we stuck like lizards to our chosen rock seats.

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Unfortunately, the sun set behind clouds that day, so we couldn't see any dramatic color change. So we set off back down. That was when I remembered the heart-stopping narrow ledge and asked S how she had managed (S is even more scared of climbing than I am) . S replied, "Which place are you referring to? I did not have any difficulty anywhere!". R and I were both puzzled - were we really that chicken that only we felt that the ledge was dangerous?

On our way back, the mystery was solved. What had happened was, while climbing up, R in stroke of brilliant genius had deviated from the established pathway and had instead climbed onto an non-existent "pathway" on the slopes instead. Of course, me doing my "Mary's little lamb" act had blindly followed him too! If anything had happened to me, I would have haunted R for the rest of his life!!! The funny part was, on the way back, R had actually whipped out his camera to make sure he captured S's expression when she navigated the "difficult" portion :-)!

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R, T, S and me descended down the trail in one group. The rest of the hike was non-eventful, other than T insisting, "You should not look at the ground and instead follow your body. It will guide you well." Well, his body guided us all away from the established path and S and I wound up having to scramble on all fours at some points before we got back on track X-(!

Finally, we reached the cars, utterly exhausted. Once everyone reached the base, we set off towards Moab (the nearest big city) for dinner. We tramped into the restaurant carrying about half the dust of the Arches with us.

After dinner, we checked into the hotel and then went straight to bed. Our earlier plans of getting up early the next morning for a sunrise hike was, obviously, unequivocally scuttled without any protest from anyone.

Photo credits: These pictures are from R's and S's cameras. I am not sure exactly who took which picture - but it was definitely someone among the nine of us :-)!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Indian Ocean

In case you are interested, Indian Ocean is coming again to the Bay Area this year on July 14th. Details here:

Their concert was simply wonderful last year :-)!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


My garden
Yeah, yeah, my flowers are doing good :-D. My patio has a lovely splash of color to it now. It is awesome to get up sleepily in the morning and see all that brightness. Touch wood!
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And, surprise, surprise. My tomato plant is now blooming flowers. Yes, it really is. Hopefully I will also get to see tomatoes. I am keeping my fingers crossed (besides watering the plant regularly and trying to make sure it gets enough sunlight, which I suppose, will help the plant a lot more).

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p.s. The pictures were taken during night. It looks a whole lot better in daylight :-)!

I went on another hike this past weekend. Around eight miles or so round trip (yaay, I am improving :-D). Guess what, right at the very beginning of the trail, we saw a snake. About 3-4 feet long with a rather enthralling diamond hatch pattern on its skin. It lazily slithered across the trail, about a feet away from where we stood. To my credit, I did not run screaming back to the car. Nevertheless, from that point, I exclusively focused my eyes on the ground. The last thing I wanted to happen was a snake to wrap itself around my ankles while I busily admired some vista! Fortunately, after that, though we saw a lot of chameleons and a few deers, we did not run into any more snakes. Phew!

Exemplary planning
Yesterday, we had a farewell lunch for my colleague N who is returning to her home country. About a dozen of us were going for it in three different cars besides N herself who was planning to come from her home. The venue was popular Indian restaurant ABC. The car in which I went left work a bit behind the others. When we finally reached ABC, it was strangely deserted but for the other two cars filled with my colleagues. Apparently restaurant ABC is closed on Mondays! Darn.

So we decided to go to Indian restaurant XYZ instead as it was close by. After calling N to inform her of the change in venue, the procession set off again. When we arrived at XYZ, I had a feeling of deja-vu: deserted parking lot with only two cars filled with my colleagues. Apparently restaurant XYZ is also closed on Mondays!

At this point, my stomach was already beginning to digest itself in hunger. Everyone was no longer finding this knocking on various restaurant doors funny. So Indian restaurants were dumped as food choices and we finally wound up at a Chinese vegan place (of course, after calling them and making sure they were open). Who would have thought finding a place for lunch would turn out to be such a non-trivial task.

p.s. I was supposed to be the coordinator for that event :-D! Thankfully, I was not beaten up by anybody in a hungered craze. Note to self: Even if you know that a restaurant does not take reservations, at least call to find out if it is open on the said date.

Gotcha :-P!
Nopes, I have not forgotten about the Utah trip. I finally got the pictures yesterday - yaaay :-D! I will write my story soon. If not for anything else, the pictures look so awesome, I simply HAVE to show them off :-D!