Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It's that time of the year again. Pumpkin carving time. It is pretty easy to figure out which day the carving needs to be done. The residence neighborhood looks black & orangey, the candy availability in the office reaches epic proportions and I am saddled with a pumpkin when I am exhausted and ready to hit the bed. Yeah, it happens every year without fail.

So last night was the night. When I finally found the time to carve, it was already past 10.30pm. I started to debate whether the carving effort was worth it and then realized: who was I kidding? Since I had already bought the pumpkin, I would wind up doing it anyways - else I would feel guilty!

Mercifully, this year I had printed out some stencils (yes, my original Halloween stencil book has disappeared forever - sigh). So I did not have to do any amateur stencil-art myself. Also, after my treasure hunt of last year, I had learnt my lesson and had put the carving tools in safe place I still remembered. All I had to do was carve. I was set!

At the end of a well-breaked hour and a half, this is what I had:

Does this help?

I won second place at the pumpkin-carving contest at work :-D! More than the winning, I was thrilled that I had managed to take the pumpkin to work and back without breaking the carved pattern off (believe me, if there is a way to screw up something, I can manage it).

Then this happened in the evening: I was showing off my pumpkin to my friend K. He looked at the pumpkin and said "Oh, a ghost?" and then, interested in a closer look, touched it. The next moment, there was a loud snapping sound and my poor ghost's legs (do ghosts have legs - what is the bottom portion called?) had broken away from the frame. So much for all my careful handling. K was highly embarrassed and apologized profusely. But I was too busy laughing. Looks like I am not the only one who is adept at messing up :-D!

It's almost gone. Still, Happy Halloween. And here's to a couple more months of uninhibited bingeing :-)!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

General Stuff

So there was another jujutsu class yesterday. This class focussed on how to free yourself if an assailant grabbed you from the front or from behind. The first self-defense step we learnt in case someone grabbed us from behind was how to hold our arms so to give ourselves breathing space even as we are being crushed.

The 6'3" TA was in attendance. He held us all by turns in a big crush from behind so that we could practise our move. He grabbed the first student from behind and lifted him slightly off the ground before letting him go as the student managed to twist his arms to hold it in the correct position.

Then it was my turn. The moment he grabbed me from behind, I felt all the air in my lungs coming out in one big gasp. And then, he lifted me right off the ground as I stood mummified unable to move any part of my upper body try as I might. The TA looked extremely amused and effortlessly carried the mummified me a few feet before putting me back on terra firma.

Sigh - at 5' 7" I have always
thought of myself as a big person, and here was someone who happily lifted me as easily as though I was a feather. It was a rather eye-opening experience. In spite of all my posturing of learning jujutsu, I wonder just of how much use it would be in real-life if I actually have a well-built assailant attacking me. I really need to say goodbye to all the gentleness and instead start kicking and jabbing "like I mean it".

One of my cousins has this rather strange habit. Whenever S is angry or stressed out, she starts cleaning up the house. The more angry she is, the greater the number of places which get cleaned up. Her mom used to tell us, only half-jokingly, "Whenever the house begins to look dirty, I rile up S just a bit!"

Spotting some convoluted connection, I recalled that story today. Today was not the best as days go. I managed to wake up after some five hours of sleep and then was not able to get back to sleep - aaaargh! So I got in to work at some unearthly hour and only had a cup of coffee to fuel me till lunch time. And guess what, I worked like a woman on fire. So, in order to achieve maximum productivity, I need to be stressed out, with only five hours of sleep and be running on a single cup of coffee. Hmm...

Update on the bowling story: Our HR manager helpfully put up everyone's scores from the bowling game right outside the kitchen where it is highly visible.My lowest score was THE lowest :-(! However, my highest score was higher than the highest scores of at least a few other people. Which was why I stopped myself from whiting out my scores from that display :-P!

I have said it before and I say it again. My friends rock! Whenever I think I am down and out, I just need to talk to them. And then I feel almost on top of the world again :-)!

The moon has been looking very pretty the past two days. Especially today - I think it is full moon tonight. Stick your head out of the window if it dark right now. :-)!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bowl baby bowl - 2nd edition

It had to happen sometime. And that sometime happened to be today. This time's fun-event at work was scheduled to be bowling. Oh dear lord!

To top it all, our HR manager cheerfully announced before we got ready to leave, "Oh by the way, all your names have been randomly keyed in at the lanes we are playing in. So find your team by looking at the screen. Have fun!"

Oh no! So not only would I get to bask in my bowling glory, I would probably get to do it in a team filled with people I might not even be that familiar with. Great!

No wonder, just before leaving for the bowling alley, I went to my friend P's cube and whined, "Can I please just go home? I don't want to go bowling in a team filled with unfamiliar people!" P asked me to be a good sport and come. And then asked me how it mattered if I was in a team filled with unfamiliar people. I crossly said, "Duh, because, I can't ask them to shut up if they start giving me bowling instructions?"

Anyways, resiging myself to an afternoon of humiliation, I set off. My randomly picked team of five had exactly one person I knew fairly well. Great!

When we started off, as I had predicted, my bowling ball invariably found kinship with the gutter and set off towards it with great delight as soon as I let the ball go. After a bunch of abysmal throws interspersed with some fluke good throws, I realized something. While my team-mates hi-fived and cheered me for the good throws, no one said *anything* about the bad ones, and what's more, did not even have any kind of look of commiseration or pity!

At that point, I realized that everyone was just out to have a good time and I too should just let go and stop worrying about my game so much. So I decided instead to focus on enjoying it :-)! The rest, as they say, was history!

Ah, not really. But I managed a couple of strikes (yes!!!) and once went through an entire game without throwing a single gutter ball. You are probably scoffing at this point and thinking what's the big deal. But then, you don't know that on some previous bowling outing, I have gone through an entire game where every throw of mine except the first two throws went into the gutter!

Ya my score was still trailing along the bottom of the score cards - but I played for the entire duration for which the lanes were booked and did play much better than before. More importantly, I had a good time :-D!

I guess I have finally made my peace with the bowling Gods!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Zzzzzz, yawn and such

To the four or so people (did I tell you, you ROCK :-)?) who still check my blog for updates: apologies for the even more infrequent posting of late. Believe it or not, I am currently on the infrequent-posting mode because I am sorely lacking on sleep :-(!

It all started off with my preparation to go to Boston about two weeks ago. I wound up with five and a half hours of sleep on the night before I left - what with the packing, prepping and everything. Turned out that would be the most amount of sleep I would get on any one night for the next five days. But the Boston trip was PLENTY of fun :-D! Which made it all the more awful when I returned to the bay on Sunday night and realized I would have to go back to work on Monday.

I tell you, last week was the longest of my entire life. I swear time halted for a few hours everyday. By Tuesday evening I already felt like I had been in the same week for more than 2 years. I desperately longed for the weekend so I could catch up on some much needed shut eye. On the brighter side, every night last week, I fell faaaaast asleep about 5 seconds after my head hit the pillow :-). When Friday evening finally came I was giddy with excitement, disbelief and relief. Yaay, the whole weekend to sleep!

Well - man proposes and God laughs. While Saturday went by with a mega overdose of lounging around, Sunday again turned out to be one of those fun but hectic days. Net result, I had to threaten myself (all over again :-() to get out of bed this morning even as my eyes stubbornly stayed shut.

I need another weekend stat. Any help, anyone?

Ya, I am done with the cribbing now. Ya, maybe not posting anything would have been a better idea probably :-).

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Autumn in New England

On our way

The Cog railway tracks - heading up to Mt. Washington

Icicled grass - below freezing temperatures already on Mt. Washington!

Mt. Kailash might look like this :-D!

At the base - first proper stop to gape at the colors

A canopy and a carpet of leaves

Color palette

Green foliage

Red foliage

Rays of the sun

Dew drops

Kancamagus pass

The return journey

Monday, October 08, 2007

Blue Angels

The past weekend was super hectic but fun. I had family: my uncle and aunt, parents of my cousin in the East Coast, visiting me. As I was supposedly the seasoned West Coaster, my cousin had entrusted the task of showing them around the various sights and sounds of California (or how much ever sighting and sounding is possible in two days) to me.

I was all up for entertaining them. However I was not too thrilled at the thought of yet another visit to San Francisco's Pier 39 with a ride around the SF bay on the "bay cruise adventure" ship thrown in. However, it is cruelty to send away first time visitors to the Bay Area without showing them the famous Golden Gate bridge and the famous Pier 39. So I put my chin up - besides, simply being in San Francisco is so energizing!

So on Saturday morning, we all set out for San Francisco on the Caltrain (I would rather be sitting on a hot stove than be forced to parallel park my car on a slanting slope in San Francisco :-)). The Caltrain was unusually crowded. In fact, as we approached San Francisco, owing to lack of sitting space, people were standing in the aisles and squatting on the floor near the seats. I thought the crowd was due to some baseball game.

Then we took the bus to Pier 39. Once again, the bus became slowly crowded and was soon filled to bursting point. Which was when my aunt pointed out, "Hey! Look at those planes in the sky! They are doing all kinds of maneuvers!" Sure enough, two planes were flying in close formation. Then they split and rose vertically. And did beautiful vertical spins. I watched spell bound.
Watching the thrilling antics performed by the planes kept us entertained all the way up to Pier 39. Meanwhile I wondered what airshow this was. As soon as we landed at Pier 39 we found that this was the air show performed by the famous Blue Angels - about which I had heard announcements the previous week on radio.

The crowd on Pier 39 was to be seen to be believed. It would have put Ranganathan street to shame. People lined the dock, lined all elevated points, filled the interior spots and milled around. Everyone was watching the show. And during especially difficult-looking maneuvers everyone applauded.

We bought tickets for the bay cruise adventure. My uncle and aunt understood completely when I said I would wait for them on the dock instead of going on the boat-ride for the 11th or so time! After seeing them off on the one-hour boat-cruise (from which the airshow views were apparently even more awesome), I settled myself down at a vantage point and focused completely on the airshow.

It was, to describe in one word: amazing. I wondered just how much amount of practice it must have taken to fly so perfectly. At some point two planes traced out a gigantic heart in the sky while a third one went through the center of the heart like an arrow - so cute! The planes made huge loops and spirals in the sky. Two, four and six planes flew in close formation and executed various patterns in the sky.
At some point four planes took off in close formation from a place close to where I was sitting. As the planes thundered past overhead, I saw just how huge they were. The sheer majesty of that scene took my breath away. I watched open-mouthed.

After some more time I saw the planes make the Fleur de lis (I found out just this morning that that probably was what I had seen) pattern. After that, after a few more maneuvers the show was over. My uncle and aunt returned from the cruise around the same time and we spent some more time in Pier 39.
All of us were thoroughly excited at having the airshow added as an unexpected bonus to our San Francisco visit. It totally made up for the 2 hour ride (which usually takes around 35 minutes) in the almost non-moving traffic from Pier 39 back to the Caltrain station and the ride back home in the uber-crowded Caltrain.

Blue Angels rock :-D!

p.s. I also found that some girls are capable of talking loudly to their companions without a single pause for one and a half hours straight. Yeah, I am sure about this - we had one such specimen accompany us right beside our seats on both the onward and the return journey. Talk about being lucky :-(!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Since I wanted to try

Recently I noticed that my 2007 collection of doing "things I have always wanted to do/try" was rather on the low side. So when I browsed through my local community center's course catalog, the word "karate" seemed to leap out at me. You see, just like learning French and learning to play the keyboard, learning karate has long been on my list of "things I want to try my hand at at least once".

With nervous excitement, I ran my finger down the timings list to see if any of the karate classes were being held at a convenient time. My excitement turned to disappointment when I realized that the only Karate classes were in the mornings. Sigh!

Then my glance fell on the word Jujutsu. Hmm, why not learn jujutsu instead? Another scan showed that jujutsu classes were held on Wednesday evenings. Ah, perfect! So I quickly signed up for the jujutsu class. A friend also told me that jujutsu was more elegant than karate. Yup, grace personified me (yeah, right) was going to go for jujutsu classes alright!

Last week was the first class. I landed outside the class and was pleased to see a crowd of adults waiting outside - ah, jujutsu is popular! Inside, the children's jujutsu session was just getting over. As soon as the kids came out, they ran towards various adults (who were parents I realized then) and soon the entire crowd dispersed, leaving just me and another guy.

I stepped into the class to see an instructor and a teaching assistant (TA) dressed in Gi (the white uniform). The instructor looked at the course attendance list and said "You must be Ar-chaaana." I was just concluding that the list probably had only one Indian sounding name which was why they identified me so accurately when the instructor grinned and said, "You are the only student registered for this session."

What!?! The instructor then proceeded to tell me that while they would teach me something that day, in case no more students registered for the session, it was quite possible that the class would be cancelled. So much for my jujutsu learning dreams :-(!

And then the other guy who had been waiting outside with me stepped in. He wanted to give a trial shot at the class. Phew - at least I had company for that class! We initially had a bunch of warm up exercises which I managed to go through fairly okay.

Then we went onto actual jujutsu. It is a form of self defense and focusses mainly on what to do if someone attacks you. In the first few minutes of the class, two things became extremely clear. The other student, H, was simply raring to try out the defense moves with as much punch as he could muster. On the other hand, I was trying to do everything as gently as possible to ensure that I did not accidentally hurt anyone. The instructor was trying to point out that I needed to put in more energy into my moves so that they would actually have some effect on the opponent bad guy.

At some point, we learnt a move to push the opponent to the ground. The TA for the class was this 6'4" guy and he was my "opponent". In the process of pushing him, I involuntarily lost my balance and landed on my knees beside him. At which point, the instructor looked at me with amusement and said, "Listen, you have not pushed him to the ground so that you can sit beside him, chat with him and enquire about his family. He is the bad guy!!!" Grinning sheepishly, I hastily pulled myself up into a more alert pose.

The class was pretty interesting and soon we came to its end. All the moves I had learnt so far were swiftly flowing out of my head even as I picked up my bag to leave but I was keen to continue. The instructor said that if at least one other person signed up, the classes would continue. I looked at H and implored, "Please sign up too!"

Today was session 2. H has signed up too - yaay! So at least I don't have to drop my jujutsu-learning dreams. As expected, I had forgotten most of what I had learnt the previous week but it mercifully came back when we recapped.

The instructor said that I was doing things a bit more forcefully and it was a good sign. But this new image was slightly shattered when he asked to do a roundhouse punch to show me some move and I blinked at him. He asked,"You have never punched anyone, have you?" And I meekly said,"Er, no!" But ya, now I know what a roundhouse punch is too :-D!

We learnt a variety of ways in which to hurt someone. I was most impressed on learning just how much pain a simple knuckle punch on the hands can bestow. I also learnt 10 different ways to disorient (read, hurt enough to disorient) an opponent. And yup, am also learning how to be more vigorous with my moves.

All ye folks, you can now start thinking twice before saying mean things to me ;-P!