Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wishes

Some parts of the world are already in 2009. 2008 is fast slipping away in California too. Time to bid 2008 adieu *sniff* and give 2009 a warm welcome *yaaay*.

Wishing you a wonderful 2009. May all your dreams come true. May you have lots of health, wealth, happiness, food, sleep, vacations etc. etc. in the year to come.


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Alive (and bigger)

Vanakkam! Just a post to state that I am very much alive. This has to be my *most* hectic trip ever to India - I have barely watched Sun music (on my last trip my sister threatened to cut off the cable connection since my insistence on lounging on the sofa all day long with Sun music on full blast (to catch the latest songs' visuals, you see) was getting rather unbearable), have watched just one movie in the theatre, have found time to shop for beautiful Indian western wear only in week 4 of my stay and have sorely neglected my poor blog. Phew or what!

Anyways, after spending most of my first week back home too ill to get out of bed and sick enough to even shun food completely *gasp* (I know!) , I am now catching up on the gastronomic front with the enthusiasm of a desert traveler stumbling upon an oasis. Also been traveling like crazy. And been meeting a lot of relatives and friends. Did I tell you how much fun I am having? I don't feel like leaving India.

Which reminds me - I am back in the US on December 28. Please cheer me up. I will very badly need all the cheering up I can get.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lazy post

Joy tagged me a while ago. I can't think of anything to write about currently and my blog feels rather neglected. What perfect timing, no? So onto the game of tag it is. I call this the book tag (so creative, right? *applause*).

****
Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
I had about a vampire's chance in garlic-field of not developing it :-)! My earliest childhood memories are of mom and dad sitting on chairs and reading while sis and I played on the floor. There was no way that I could not love doing something which my parents so obviously enjoyed doing.

What are some books you read as a child?
I started off with comics - Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Phantom, Mandrake etc. And then graduated to Enid Blyton (Famous Five, Five Find outers, Secret Seven, the wonderful, wonderful Magic Faraway Tree etc. etc.). From there it was on to Three Investigators, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew. Also throw in some abridged versions of classics. Basically, I traversed the arc which pretty much every reading Indian child used to travel (what do kids these days read?).

What is your favourite genre?
I like books which have lots of technical titbits and current/world affairs woven into a story. Frederick Forsyth and Michael Crichton are good examples. I like reading the classics. Of course, P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen are Gods.

Do you have a favourite novel?
There are plenty of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading - don't think I can pick a particular favorite novel. But some books that linger in my memory ...

- Five get into a Fix - the first full length novel I read.
- Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit - my very first PGW, it has a special place in my heart
- Pride and Prejudice - I *have* to read it at least once every year
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - this was the first book I read from cover to cover without even a single break (other than one trip to the kitchen to get the huge snack dabba for company)

Where do you usually read?
Anywhere and everywhere. Really. It is not the place which matters - more like, do I have a book to read?

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
Pretty much always. Mostly because considering the n number of places I read my books in, I sometimes forget where I left a book. Then, when I need to have a book to read ASAP, I will just pick another one instead of launching a book hunt right away (unless of course book 1 is at some critical point). It is kinda easy to start off multiple books this way!

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
Huh - why would that be different? Or are we talking about techie books/school books? In the latter case, yup, in addition to reading, I also used to pile a tremendous amount of imprecations upon my head for not having started reading sooner (beginning cramming the night before an exam sometimes brings a nasty shock in terms of the amount of stuff to be crammed).

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
The library is my blessed primary source. I have a collection of 15 or so good books in my house which I have never read. I have them unread because, in case there is an earthquake or a flood and I am not able to go to the library, I still will have new books to read. In case you were wondering, nopes, I do not have sufficient food stock to sustain me for more than a couple of days.

Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?
Yes - I usually only buy books which I think I will read a second time.

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?
Check back in a decade or so!

What are you reading now?
Wonder boys - Michael Chabon
A case of exploding mangoes - Mohammed Hanif

Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?
Yes - it is spread across my gmail inbox. However, when I am in the library scratching my head for the next pick, my memory as well as gmail does an exceptional job of hiding every book on the TBR. Not very useful if you ask me.

What books would you like to reread?
Comics. Classics. Humor. I almost never reread thrillers or adventures or suspense novels - you know what is going to happen, right? And in that genre, the getting there bit is usually not a scenic ride to be savored repeatedly.

Who are your favourite authors?
PGW, Jane Austen, J.K.Rowling, Fannie Flagg, Bill Bryson, Agatha Christie, Dave Barry (his columns and non-fiction , not his works of fiction - yuck), Terry Pratchett - ah well, just go and look at the list on my profile page. But that list is not comprehensive either.

Nah, not tagging anyone. Would love it though if at least a few of you readers pick it up. Go on folks, indulge me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A song, a movie and a tribute

Jason Mraz's I'm yours is so cheerful. I simply couldn't help breaking into a grin and moving my head to the beat even the first time I heard it on my car's radio:



What do you think? Or are you already twirling around your computer :-)?
****

Children of heaven
After a long while, this was a movie-watching experience I simply savored. Unfortunately, though I generally do not favor a split movie-watching experience, I had to spread watching this movie over a span of several days. But each time, within minutes of resuming the movie, I was totally drawn into its world. The child artists are awesome. The relationship between the brother and sister is so true to life. I especially loved the scenes where the brother offers the sister a long pencil as a peace offering (and as a bribe to not tattle), the fun they have while washing the shoes, how the sister confesses after all her bravado that she would not have complained about the brother to their parents anyway - okay, I don't want to blow it for the folks who haven't seen the movie yet. But suffice to say that the movie brought back fond memories of my own childhood relationship with my sister. No matter what the place, the language or the culture, some fundamental bonds are the same the world over, no?

If you have not watched this movie yet, do yourself a favor and watch it. If you still have your doubts, it just may convince you that no matter how bitter sweet life might be, the sweetness is perhaps always a wee bit stronger than the bitterness.
****

Author Michael Crichton passed away :-(! MC kept me engrossed through long flight journeys, extended transit times and many long lazy holidays. Who is going to make reading about science such a thrilling ride now? Who is going to make me gobble up so much technical info with such great alacrity now? I hope you have got one of the plummest spots in writer heaven, MC! You sure deserve it! I will miss your writing so much. RIP.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good deed for the day

Once upon a time, long long ago, me and my colleague V, both of us the youngest and the most recent additions to the company, were invited to a meeting filled with head honchos. Both of us spent the meeting wondering why the hell we were there and also trying to remain as invisible as five and half feet plus individuals possibly can. Midway through the meeting, the projector powered off. Everyone was wondering why when V, blushing beet red stammered that he had accidentally pulled out the projector's plug with his feet. For the next 10 minutes, various people tried to bring the projector back up while V kept up a constant stream of embarrassed apologies. Finally, peace was restored. Half an hour later, the meeting was done. As we walked out, I told V, "O boy, I wonder why I got invited to the meeting. I must have been the most useless contributor there". V stared hard at me and then said ruefully, "Well, at least you did not contribute negatively by wasting everyone's time due to turning off the projector with your feet!"

Now, why this sudden raking up of past pain? I got reminded of negative contributions. Today I was helping a colleague debug some issue and gave her a brilliant suggestion to try out so that I could confirm the problem she was facing. Fast forward two hours. Colleague sends a terse email saying "I have lost all my email thanks to following your idea." Brilliant me had forgotten to foresee what would happen if the problem she had been facing had not been a problem at all. Apparently crashing email clients is the result. Sigggghhhh.

p.s. Though in both instances I felt genuine regret, there is one part me, that part with the horns sticking through the head, which simply can't help being amused. I know, evil me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wishes

Happy Diwali :-)! May your Diwali be sweet, sparkling and wonderful!




Diwali special:

Tamil colleague stopped by my desk and whispered, "This is for you" as she handed over a ziploc bag with homemade murukku and laddoo in it. She then apologetically added, "Keep it out of sight - I brought stuff only for you!" My face lit up like a thousand lamps as I grinned back my thanks :-)!

Three of us decided on an impulse to put our noon lunches into the fridge and head to Saravana Bhavan for lunch instead as a Diwali treat. The rava dosas/parathas we ordered was awesome. But what totally made the day was when a waiter, in spite of protesting that all complimentary Diwali sweets had already been distributed the previous day, still showed up with three cups of fresh, awesome-tasting kesari, because you know, "You folks asked!" Yup, it was for free.

Happy Diwali again folks :-)!

Picture from here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I hate you!

A while ago I saw a tag going around which asked the tag-doer to list literary characters they liked. I decided to give it a kutti twist and list literary characters I hated instead. To people whose tags I have postponed doing to do my *own* tag: please to forgive me *bambi eyes*.

Literary characters I hated (in no particular order):

#1 Dominique Francon: Let me start with a disclaimer. I have read only one book of Ayn Rand's: 'The Fountainhead'. Honestly, at the end of it, I could not quite figure out why so many people ooh and aah over it so much. I found it condescending and pretentious. But while I disliked the book overall, Dominique was the character who drove me over the edge. Such an opportunistic, leeching parasite. Wonder how someone can conceive such a character and consider her as the "heroine" (I know, I know the book is about Howard Roark - but if there is a heroine character in the book it is the bi***y Dominique, right?)

#2 Gogol Ganguli: Oh, why did such a colorless, self-absorbed and whiny character get to be the protagonist of 'The Namesake'? Gogol's unfathomable angst and self-generated misery got quite annoying after a while and I was cheering with all my heart when his wife decides to leave him.

#3 Amy March: That miserable imp! Why did she have to marry Laurie! Jo and Laurie were meant to be, not Laurie and Amy, come on! For the longest time since I first read 'Little Women', I was unable to recoincile myself to the Amy-Laurie pairing. How could you do this to me, Louisa May Alcott? It is only during the past year or so that I have finally decided that the Laurie-Amy pairing was not that unforgivable after all (yeah, yeah, I am sure Louisa is jumping in her grave with joy about this approval). But - I still dislike Amy. Oh, btw, I have never quite forgiven her for burning Jo's manuscript either.

#4 Fanny Price: She is probably the most sainted, martyred and unidimensional 'good' character I have read about. I never thought that a character from a Jane Austen book would figure in this list, but seriously, Fanny takes the cake for being the most annoyingly righteous character ever (you can almost see a smug halo tucked around her beastly head). If I had known her in real life, I would have tried my bestest to rile her up just so I can poke fun at her remonstrances. Quite an irritating character and her being the heroine of 'Mansfield Park' took out most of the fun of reading the book for me.

Okay I wanted this list to feature five characters but racking my brains periodically for the past few days has not brought forth anyone else to mind. So four it is :-).

If you always wanted to rant about fictional persons and were waiting for the chance, please to take up this tag!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Las Vegas revisited

* Never ever leave from the South Bay only at 5.15pm to catch a flight out of SFO at 7.18pm on a freeway-congested Friday evening. You might not barely squeak through not dying of I-am-so-going-to-miss-my-flight panic-induced heart attack.

* Las Vegas can be freaking colder than the Bay Area. While it might be boosting the economy, buying a touristy "Las Vegas" emblazoned sweat-shirt to supplement your woefully summery wardrobe does nothing to add to your fashion-quotient on The Strip.

* Where there is a will, there is no tiredness. Thus you can step out to have fun past midnight, unmindful of the long day, long flight and sleep-deprivation.

* Pretty heels look good on feet. But after several hours of continuously strutting about in them, you will feel like dismantling your legs and rolling your way to your next destination.

* If the rolling mentioned above is not an option, bend legs at knees and do duck-walk. You will look like a clown minus the big red nose, but your legs will thank you.

* Lunch under the 'Venetian' sky with live music in the background makes for a nice experience.

* Standing in 5 inch heels feels like doing a continous calf-stretch. It is impossible to walk in them without tottering. Net-net, the best place to wear such heels is in the store where you were trying them on for a lark.

* When staying at a nice hotel start sight-seeing right there. It is kinda sad to look at the hotel entrance while leaving for the airport to catch the return flight and exclaim "Oh, the exterior has all these interesting decorations? I never knew!"

* It is possible to return from Las Vegas without gambling even a single penny.

* Visit Vegas with super-fun friends. Because what one does in Vegas stays in Vegas ;-)!

* Mondays at work after a super-packed, super-fun, disappeared-in-a-jiffy weekend in Vegas will feel an eternity long. Suck it up - it was great while it lasted after all!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Two things

I won an award, I won an award! Joy of Me, My Mind and Wilderness, has awarded me the "Brilliante Weblog" award! Yippeee! Though I don't think I deserve the award (*cough* modesty *cough*) I am much honored and am super thrilled. Thanks a lot, Joy!

As I have said before, I find a lot to admire in the writings of so many fellow-bloggers. Some of them are linked on the side-bar, most are not. Regardless, I am so glad I have got the chance to read them.

One blog which was particularly a super awesome find is Floridora's Last Quarter-Game of Life. I came across his blog a bunch of years ago when I randomly hit on the "next blog" link which appears on the Blogger header. I read his most recent post then and was hooked. Since then, I love reading his posts whether they are about day-to-day happenings or about his past experiences starting from the time of World War-II. His zest for life and sense of humor shines through in all his posts. Thanks for the wonderful blog, Floridora and here's to you blogging for many more years to come. You truly are a Brilliante Weblogger.

****
After three days of getting increasingly threatening threats to do his tag pronto, I am getting down to it. Pratap has tagged me to:

1. Make a word out of my name, picking a part-of-speech
2. I don't have to save the world but just spectacularly make an awesome sentence (with my name as defined above). p.s. this rather convoluted tag-rule has its origins in the tagging post.

Now, if you read Pratap's original post, you can see for yourself that I have already chosen a totally cool (and apt :-P) meaning for my name. I had defined archana as an adjective meaning "something wonderful in a special way" or simply put, "something awesome". So, you could use it in sentences like 'This is an archana dress", "Oh, she is my archana friend", "Look at that flower - so beautiful! It has a very archana color". Yeah people, you can stop laughing now. No, really.

Anyhoo, unfortunately, according to the "rules" (made up on the fly, I bet) as described by Pratap, I cannot reuse my original meaning and have to think of a new meaning. So here it is:

archana is a verb meaning "making and drinking chai".

Usage examples:
1. After a long day at work, he got home and archanaed.
2. Can we archana now?
3. Why have those folks not arrived yet? Are they archaning at their place?

Tada :-D!

This is a fun tag to do and does not take long - it will be great if at least a few of you take it up! Vishesh? SK? Archana? Saumya? Joy? Sayesha? J? Deepthi? All the people linked on the left sidebar? All my readers? Okay, that is beginning to sound desperate. Still, pretty please? You could use the comment space itself if you are so inclined!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Conversation at lunch

"Hey Archana, did you buy a new car?"

"Huh!?! No - why are you asking?"

"Oh, I saw you getting out this morning from a nice shiny black car."

(Realization dawning.)

"Oh." *sheepish grin* "I took my car for a wash yesterday."

(Laughter all around.)

Sheesh! I really ought to wash my car more often.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tales out of school - 1

Reason for this post: I have been in reminiscing mode.

Of all the seats in all the theaters in the world...

Once, when we were in undergrad, four of us decided to go for a movie on a sudden impulse. We had heard that the movie Love ke liye kuch bhi karega was decent time pass. So on it was to the movie theater.

At the theater ticket counter, we learnt that the movie had started some 15 minutes ago. Ah, a masala Hindi movie - most probably nothing worth not missing would have happened in the first fifteen minutes. So, undeterred, we bought tickets anyway.

After being in the blazing hot Chennai afternoon sun, we were practically blind when we walked into the darkened theatre. Groping our way from the aisle, we walked down a row. M was leading the way and I was following her close behind. A and V followed. We filed past the occupied seats.

M finally reached an empty seat and was about to lower herself into it. Which was when my slowly returning eyesight saw to my horror that the seat was already occupied. M was getting ready to sit and the guy already on the seat was gaping in soundless open-mouthed disbelief at the prospect of his lap suddenly having an uninvited guest on it.

At the last moment I grabbed M's hand and hissed that the seat was already taken and that we should move on. Finally, we four safely found ourselves unoccupied seats. Of course, we giggled quite a bit after that at the remembrance of the averted disaster.

When the lights came on during the interval, we dissolved into uncontrollable laughter again. You see, the only rows of seats in the entire theater which had occupants in it were the rows we were seated in and the row behind it. Among those hundreds of empty seats, M had chosen a rare occupied seat to sit on. No wonder that poor guy couldn't believe his misfortune!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Reverse Dracula

Note the day, mark it, mark it! Ladies and gentlemen, today I finally did something I have wanted to do for a long, long time and have never done.

I donated blood :-D! And it happened in such a commonplace way - no red carpet, no majestic music, nothing. A couple of colleagues and I were doing our afternoon walk when I spotted a blood donation van. And I said, "Oh I have always wanted to donate blood. I should go see if I can.". Though colleagues in question did not want to/could not donate blood, they said that I should go.

So all three of us went in together. The other two were providing "moral support" for me and happily settled themselves in too. Which was when the blood collectors (!?!) told us that the process would take about 45 minutes. Uh-oh. So my moral supporters left after making sure I was okay with being alone with the Big Bad blood collectors.

The process was nothing extraordinary and went much along expected lines. It was kinda strange though to see my blood flowing into a bag aided by me squeezing a small rubber ball. After some time of squeezing, a beeper went off indicating I had donated enough blood.

A big bandage was wrapped around my arm around the needle-prick. I was then made to sit down for 15 minutes sipping from a bottle of water (I said "No!!!" to apple juice).

That's it, I was free to go! I was feeling all euphoric at having finally donated blood (though a friend smartly pointed out that it not euphoria but lightheadedness due to blood donation) and walked back to work.

I still feel slightly woozy though I am willing to bet a fair amount that it is just my imagination. But yaay, I donated blood!

And oh, I would like to give special thanks to my company which has made this event possible. Most of management here is out for the next couple of days leaving me plenty of time for useful activities like 1.5-hour long lunches, half-hour long walks, 1-hour long blood donations, catching-up-on-gchatting, middle-of-the-day blogging etc. Mucho obliged!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Evolution of friendship

I was in final year of undergrad when the movie Snehithiye came out. My friends and I thought it was a decent movie and good entertainment. The movie was soon forgotten but one of the messages from the movie was oft quoted by us even much later.

Tabu, who plays an inspector in the movie, comes to an all-girls college as chief guest for some function and tells the students that it is very easy for women especially to lose touch with their buddies from childhood and youth. Saddened by this prediction, then and there, the two female leads make a promise to be a part of each other's lives forever.

When I watched that movie, my first reaction was: "Hey, that is true. While my dad is in touch with his close friends from the old days, most of my mom's close friends are the wives of my dad's friends." It turned out that this statement was echoed by almost all of my other female friends. Then and there, we friends too made a pact to always be a part of each other's lives.

Immediately out of college, this was an easy thing to do. We had nothing better than to do than to keep in touch anyways! Thus every happening, big and small, in each person's life was shared in depth. Emails, instant messaging, phone calls - there was no dearth of communication. So much so, I took it for granted that my friends would tell me *every* single happening in their life in real time. I still remember getting extremely upset because a very close friend did not tell me about an important event in her life as soon as it happened.

Anyways, the first year out of college, I think my friends and I hogged most of the available bandwidth on the internet, on telephone lines and everywhere. In spite of being spread across two continents and thousands of miles, the bond was still there. I thought back to the Snehithiye dialog and thought, "Um, this is so much fun. Why did anyone make a big deal out of keeping in touch."

Towards the end of the second year, slight cracks began to appear. Everyone had more "responsibilities" (however you define it), and though news was still shared, it was no longer with the same limitless abandon as before. The network of people I was very regularly in touch with became smaller. But the ones I *was* in touch with - oh we were on call 24/7 for each other. Life was still good.

Then, somewhere towards end of year three, some of my close friends no longer seemed to be "0n call" for me all the time. Though I knew I could still count on them, I felt hurt by this sudden demotion. For the first time in my life, I started thinking twice about calling some close friends for fear of "intruding". And o boy, was I unhappy about this development. What had happened to us? I nevertheless still tried to keep in touch as much as possible - email, phone calls, everything - I saw wanted us to go back to the good old days. I missed it so much.

Then some more years rolled by. Initially I could say with a clear conscience that in case any communication stopped with any friend, it was due to lack of response on the other side. I would *never* be the person who did not reply to an email or who did not call back.

Time went by. One fine day, I guiltily realized that sometimes I was the one who did not respond. I wanted to, but somehow did not. Oh, I met up with most of my close friends a couple of times a year and we caught up with news often enough. But the constant communication was a thing of the past. I felt guilty but then...

Now I think I have finally reached the stage I have dreaded for so long. I have come to accept that frequent and daily communication with close friends is not something which is going to start happening magically by itself. Though it seemed so at some point, just because we are "friends", it does not automatically guarantee constant involvement. Everyone is busy with their own lives. Maybe this is another symptom of growing up - I don't know. The saddest part is, I no longer feel sad or angered by this realization. Because I myself am "busy" you see.

Don't get me wrong here. As I have said many times before, my friends will always be one of the foundations of my life and that is something which will never change. Friendship should grow and evolve as the persons in it grow and evolve - that after all, is a sign of a long-lasting relationship.

That knowledge still does not stop me from sometimes thinking back to the days of unbridled, joyous, no-holds barred friendship. Those times, I wish I could turn back time. It was not so long ago after all.

Friday, August 29, 2008

In a huff*

"I don't want to go."
"Pleaassee - I promise to be a good girl if I can stay at home."
"How about I just turn around and go with you to the park?" *bambi eyes*
"But she is so mean to us..."
"Waaah - I so don't want to go."

Finally, mom starts laughing "Archu, do you remember, you have actually *paid* money to go to these fitness classes?"

Sigh! Ya, I was whining about not wanting to go to my fitness class. I joined this new class where the instructor makes us do about 1200 abs crunches (not exaggerating) in one go. Needless to say, after 30 minutes of non-stop abs crunching (followed by another 30 minutes of equally painful exercises working other parts), I feel like my stomach has been replaced by a mass of pain. At this rate, I think I will soon be a human being whose top half and bottom half is (dis)connected by air - my abdomen would have run away due to sheer torture.

The sad part is I realize the root cause of the agony: I had taken a fitness-class break of sorts recently for about 3 weeks. Immediately all my built up resistance melted away faster than rain drops on a sun-baked pavement. I ask you, is it fair? I have been going for my fitness classes quite regularly for more than 3 years now and a 3 week half-break is all that is needed to bring me back to my "dear lord, I cannot bend" *groan*, "I can't walk fast" *pant* , "Does the sofa seat have to be really so low down? *ouch* status of the day after the very first ever day of fitness class. Sigh!

One thing to be said for all this trouble is, I invariably end every fitness on a mental high even if I sometimes physically feel like I have just been run over by an extra large truck. Which is probably why in spite of all my whining I still drag myself to my fitness class week after week.
--
Below is the fortune I got on my Linux machine today which prompted this post. Enjoy!

Fortune's Exercising Truths:

1. Richard Simmons gets paid to exercise like a lunatic. You don't.
2. Aerobic exercises stimulate and speed up the heart. So do heart attacks.
3. Exercising around small children can scar them emotionally for life.
4. Sweating like a pig and gasping for breath is not refreshing.
5. No matter what anyone tells you, isometric exercises cannot be done quietly at your desk at work. People will suspect manic tendencies as you twitter around in your chair.
6. Next to burying bones, the thing a dog enjoys mosts is tripping joggers.
7. Locking four people in a tiny, cement-walled room so they can run around for an hour smashing a little rubber ball -- and each other -- with a hard racket should immediately be recognized for what it is: a form of insanity.
8. Fifty push-ups, followed by thirty sit-ups, followed by ten chin-ups, followed by one throw-up.
9. Any activity that can't be done while smoking should be avoided.

--
*like in huffing and puffing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

300

This post is the 300th one on my blog.

Please wait while I hold my mouth open, palms on cheeks, in a newly-crowned Miss. World- worthy pose.

But yes, 'tis true!

In celebration, I decided to do something special - a new look for my blog. Yaay!

My aim was to keep it simple to reduce loading time for the few readers who actually come over to the site to read. It is still in beta-testing stage though - so pliss to adjust.

And oh, I was very smart and remembered to take a back up of my old template in order to safely put back all the stuff on the side bar with the new template. Only, I took backup of the wrong template. Computer science engineers are extra smart when it comes to such things I hear. Anyhoo, that is why some stuff that I had on the side bar previously might be missing. They will be re-added as they surface to memory.

So yes, me and my blog are still going strong :-)!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A post

The weekend is almost here. Time to chill and fudge way out of writing a proper post.

This evening, my mom found a funny "poem" on an aged newspaper clipping tucked inside one of the books mom and dad bought at the library book sale last month. We had a good laugh reading it. I searched for it online and of course, the Great Google located a soft copy for me. Here it is, for your reading pleasure. And oh, this "poem" is specially dedicated to cheer Rads up :-).

When God passed out brains,
I thought he said trains,
And I missed mine.

When God passed out looks,
I thought he said books
And didn't want any.

When God passed out ears,
I thought he said beers
And asked for two long ones.

When God passed out legs,
I thought he said kegs
And asked for two fat ones.

When God passed out noses,
I thought he said roses
And asked for a big red one.

When God passed out heads,
I thought He said beds
And asked for a big soft one.

When God passed out hips,
I thought he said lips
And asked for two large round ones.

God am I a mess.
***

TGIAF* folks!

* Thank God its almost Friday.

p.s. couldn't find the name of the original author of poem.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Freedom

Happy Independence Day!


I am wearing green clothes, white slippers, kinda-orangy earrings and blue hair-clips. My parents said that unless I wore signs pointing to the latter two, no one is going to notice it. Ah well, its the thought that counts! A few of us desis from work are planning to grace an Indian restaurant for lunch later today.

Dressing up and eating is a quintessential part of any Indian celebration. And I am proud to be doing both for I-day :-D.

What are you doing?

p.s. anyone who says stuff like, "O - I am going to do social service", "I am speaking for India in the UN" and similar stuff will be whacked - hmph.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What happens in Vegas ...

... stays in Vegas.

Unless the visitor happens to be me in which case all the happenings get published onto a blog. Trip highlights.

DEFCON

Definitely very different from every other conference I have been to. I have never seen speakers arrive *drunk* at any other conference! Most of the talks were interesting - though now I have become ultra paranoid. From what the speakers had to say, it seems like every time I log on online, my passwords are out there available for anyone who is interested.

My best conference moment came when I heard Fyodor speak live. I have been a big fan of his Nmap ever since I got the chance to use it.

Okay, enough techie stuff.

Queen Nefertiti
In a fit of ego-maniacism, I got my profile sketched. I don't look like me, which is why the sketch is posted on this blog. I think I look like African Royalty (I know, I know). For some reason the name Nefertiti popped into my head and I have christened the picture Queen Nefertiti (okay, I admit, that is the only African Queen I know off the top of my head) . What do you think?

Cirque De Soleil - Mystere
These folks are famous for a reason. The entire performance was spectacular and a total visual feast. I think I watched only half of the show - there was simply so much going on that it was impossible to see everything at once.

Tuft
My dear dad won Tuft (the stuffed penguin pictured on the right) for his darling daughter. Apparently dad was the only parent who did not have a small kid in tow while playing those games. But as mom pointed out, he was after all winning toys for his child too :-D!

Gambling
If there is a Lady No-luck, she took my permanent residence with me when I was in Las Vegas. Good thing that I am not that interested in gambling.

Madame Tussaud's

It is a better class of wax museum. Some of the figures were quite life-like. But coupled with a trip to "The Venetian" (in front of which it is located), it is definitely worth a visit. Venetian has the best indoor decor I have seen yet in Vegas.

Ryan Seacrest
This dude has started appearing on my local radio station as a DJ of late. There was (and is) a lot of hype and hoopla surrounding his addition to the radio station. I find him pompous and full of himself and was wondering why on earth he should be treated different from any other John Doe DJ. Turns out I am out of touch with the entertainment world. This Ryan dude has a wiki page devoted to him. Just how popular he is in the entertainment world came home to me when I saw a wax statue of him in Madame Tussaud's!! Oh well - I *still* find him pompous and mostly annoying.

If I were a fruit-eating monkey...
One of the nights I ordered a "supreme fruit salad" in quest of a light dinner. All our orders appeared one after the other. I got a muffin and some yogurt (which were part of the fruit salad order) and also a small cup of fruits. I thought the fruit cup looked rather small but would still make a filling meal combined with the muffin and yogurt. I had just dug into the fruit cup when the grandmotherly waitress arrived at the table again and pointed at me and mock-crossly said, "Shame on you - that fruit cup is hers!" (pointing to my mom) "This is your order." Saying which she placed this dish in front of me:
You now know why my jaw dropped and I goggled at the waitress before gasping "This is HUGE". I shared some of the fruits with dad. Yet I had enough left over for breakfast the next day too.

Walking
I walked so much that I am sure the soles of my slippers are thinner now by at least a few millimeters. The good part is, while walking, there is so much to ogle at that the miles simply get eaten up. The tough part comes when you retire to bed at night. O boy - never realized my legs could protest so emphatically. Taking along a good pair of walking shoes is probably the most useful Vegas travel tip I can give.
***
That's all I can think of.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

You know work is ruling your life ...

- when some days you don't even get online to do the random surfing/blogging/blog-hopping/chatting after getting back home. And don't miss it (yup yup, I have not been kidnapped and replaced by my clone. Or so I think).

- when you haven't done one of your erstwhile favorite timepass activities - looking at your blog's visitor stats - in ages. And don't even realize it.

- when, given the looming deadlines, you start having second thoughts about the wiseness (is that a legal word?) of your decision to do the company-sponsored trip to attend a conference in a fun destination .

- When the only thing you can think of when talking about work is marvel over just how much you have to do.

- when you haven't posted in a while and yet glance anxiously at the clock to ensure that the latest whiny post is not going to take more than 10 minutes.

The last point is the reason why this post's quality is even lower than the already low post-quality threshold on this blog.

Hopefully I will get used to this madness soon and start churning out inanity more frequently for your reading pleasure :-)!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Orkut

Recently, yet another of my friends asked me if I was on Facebook. I said "Nah, being a member of one social networking site I don't use is enough!". I was, of course, referring to Orkut.

The first invitation I got to connect on Orkut was ages ago - maybe in 2004. That time I simply ignored it as one more specimen of junk unsolicited invitations. Around 2005-2006, the Orkut craze started picking up. Finally, I too got on board.

The initial months on Orkut were a heady rush. It was just so much fun to try and locate long lost friends. Either done by yourself or with someone else. Shilpa and I located a classmate from the seventh grade with the aid of cobbled together snippets of information.

Of course, once we figured that most of our blog buddies owned Orkut accounts, we became quite proficient at locating them based on the hints that their blog posts unknowingly dropped (of course, some of the people locations were a lot more straightforward with the people in question simply sending us invites to connect).

I remember getting quite a thrill when I located a classmate from fifth grade. Considering that I switched schools (and cities) every three years on an average throughout my schooling, this was no mean feat. Of course, once I did connect to the classmate and say hi, I discovered I had nothing more to say. Oh well - the journey had still been fun.

But like too much of any good thing, slowly the attractions of Orkut started to pall. There is only so much scrapping and so much hunting you can do before the boredom of sameness sets in. My logging into my Orkut account dwindled from multiple times a day to about once in two or three weeks. By the time the Facebook craze hit, my only reaction was: ho-hum.

Today, I logged into Orkut for a lark. I just clicked on a random contact of a random contact of a random contact and landed on an album in a stranger's profile. Call me weird, but I *like* looking at pictures of people. It can be pictures of people I have never met in my life and don't know from Eve. As long as the pictures have some variety to them, I can happily browse through them with interest (which one more reason why I stopped frequenting Orkut as a time-passer after they introduced the concept of photo locks - if you are hung up on privacy, use picasaweb or something, no :-)?).

Anyways, this stranger had mercifully not locked his album and I generally browsed through his pictures. Which was when my eyes finally fell on the name of the album's owner. It rang a bell. Could it be that guy? Then it struck me that the name was unusual enough for it to be belonging to the person I thought it belonged to. Some more research and hey presto, I found his brother's name in his friends list (the names of the brothers rhymed - so I have always remembered them). Tada!

I knew this guy when I was around six years old. We both were among the youngest kids in our entire apartment complex and hence were slighted together by the "older" kids. Regardless, during the long summer months as well in the busier school months, we were in a gang of indefatigable younger kids who were always ready to run out and play whether in the blazing hot noons or in the sea-breeze cooled evenings.

Thus, today I have set a new record for locating a person from way back in my childhood on Orkut. The interesting part is, I was not even "hunting" this time. Which is why, though I am not planning to add yet another person to whom I will never say anything other than hi to my friends list, I still am grinning.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bits of unrelated and random notes

Missing mouse pointer. Today my computer mouse died and became a ghost. So while I could see things getting highlighted and cursors magically appearing when I clicked on text pads, I could not see the actual mouse pointer. This kinda of thing *might* be fun if you have nothing better to do than to play "guess where the mouse pointer is". Unfortunately, I did. I heaped only about 2 million imprecations on Bill Gates' head while I rebooted my laptop which as usual, restored sanity. Aargh and double aargh.

A song. Very nice, this one. I read somewhere that looking at it from a Carnatic music angle, Harini has not sung it properly. But I don't care - the song is just so soothing and I love listening to it.

Height of sycophancy. I thought our Indian politicians would be the recipients of the best sycophancy in the world. I was wrong. Have you heard the lyrics of this song from Dasavatharam? Even with my not-so-strong lyrics deciphering skills, I heard lines like "Tamilnadu is so proud to have given birth to you", "You are a great artist and ever youthful", You can even understand Freud" (wth) - really, I am not making any of it up. If anyone plied me with even a fraction of the praise in that song, I would probably die of embarrassment.

Most spurious argument ever. Ah, you don't get it! followed by a "Hence proved" look. Got reminded of this after n number of Kamal fans offered this statement as argument whenever anyone expressed not-so-favorable views of Dasavatharam. That phrase conveniently substitutes logical argument with a flaky presumption that you have to be in someway gifted to be able to understand something. Which is a very poor argument as arguments go. Oh, I have used this non-argument before. Once when I was explaining why I thought Calvin and Hobbes was funny to two non-fan friends, I smugly said, "You just don't do get it do you?". The look that I got that day will forever keep me from thoughtlessly uttering those words again.

Fireworks. After five years of living in the same city, I finally decided to go to the local city park to see their 4th of July fireworks display. I dragged my parents along too - a slice of Americana I said (hahaha, Americana in the Bay area - that's a good one). The road in front of the park had been blocked off. We joined the happy crowds as everyone made their way to the park. The display was simply awesome. It all ended with a fantastic finale. Gets a complete five star rating for the atmosphere as well as the actual display.

Latest crush. WALL.E. How can a robot be sooooooo darned cute? Especially one which is so rusty and looks like a dabba** from all possible angles? The folks at Pixar must be hogging approximately half of the creative genes in the world I think.

Enthu beans. Talking of creativity, even software engineers can be creative. Yesterday, as part of an exercise during training for some software development process, we had to design a travel brochure for an imaginary company offering tours for Martians visiting Earth. I was pretty surprised by the creative, interesting and fun inputs from everyone (all hard core software developers) in the team. Software engineers are not always from the stereotypical nerdy and boring mold, I tell ya.

SATC. I finally watched the SATC movie a couple of weeks ago. Watching the movie reminded me all over again why I liked the series. The bond between the four female leads is believable and true to life. Thus Carrie walking practically all the way across NYC to meet Miranda just because Miranda felt lonely did not seem dramatic but an entirely plausible scenario. Thank God for female friends. BTW, though I enjoyed it, I thought the movie was just average.

Cute lyrics - These lyrics "nadanthu kondey parandhu sellum azhagu*" sound super cute, no? It so vividly captures the image of someone happily skipping across.

Mandatory rant. Apropos of nothing, I hate singer Madhushree's voice. It puts me on the edge and I feel like yelling "shut up, shut up" into her ear whenever I hear her singing. Kinda sad since these days she gets to sing a lot of otherwise very nice songs. I assume someone out there likes her voice - can't see why else she gets to sing in spite of going "gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan" as soon as she opens her mouth.

TGIF folks :-)!

** box
* sorry, you got to know Tamil. Translation will take away the charm

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dieting tips for the new age

Most people keep cribbing about how they need to lose weight. This is a common refrain especially among the female of the species. During one such refraining session, a colleague said, "You know what, instead of striving to eat lesser, all that a person needs to do to achieve optimal weight is to grow taller till they are proportional for their weight."

Aha. Now there's a thought. I have never consciously tried to grow taller and all the height I have so far came by on its own without me staying away from as much as a celery stick. In fact I distinctly remember that eating well contributed to my height.

Based on this evidence, growing taller seems to be a more hassle free and enjoyable alternative to eating lesser. Of course, there is the caveat that sometimes, before reaching optimal weight, a person might need to extend vertically till his/her head is sticking somewhere into the ionosphere. But hey, tall is good (for reference, look at the heights of super models).

So I am all set. From now on, off with watching what I eat and other old-fashioned ideas. Only growing taller for me.

Now, if someone can tell me how I can communicate to my body that it is supposed to grow vertically and not horizontally whenever I eat.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Annoy-o-meter

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the special relationship I share with Aishwarya Rai. Namely, I can't stand her acting. I find her plasticky, annoying and the target of my prayers for being an early victim in any movie having any chance, however minuscule, of killings.

Given that Ash usually just has to make a physical presence in a movie to make her annoying, in Dhoom 2, she managed to take her "my-annoying-self" performance to sterling levels. Five minutes into her appearance, I was wanting to throw something at the screen. Ten minutes later, I was pulling my hair out in frustration. Fifteen minutes later, I hoped Hrithik or Abhishek or even random character on the road #3 would have the good sense to bump her off.

Of course no such thing happened. At the end of the movie, finding myself still sane, I felt like a survivor. I found a new appreciation for the tolerance levels of the entire crew of Dhoom-2. And though I woke up at night in cold sweat with echoes of "Funny guy" and "Sunehri like likes you" in my head for quite a few days afterwards, the frequency of these incidents gradually decreased.

The point I am trying to make is, after watching Ash in Dhoom-2 I thought the absolute zenith of an annoying performance in cinema had been reached. No matter how annoying any other actor was in any movie, beside Ash's spectacular Dhoom-2 performance, they were mere fireflies beside the sun. That Dhoom-2 performance would forever occupy the numero uno position in my Annoying Performances Hall of Fame.

Or so I thought. Then I watched Asin in Dasavatharam. Till she opened her mouth to talk, she looked very pretty. The words "En perumal-a kudu" were the harbinger of doom. High pitched, irritating, murder-inducing, annoying - Asin managed it all and more!

Why on earth could not the character Fletcher who seemed to kill everyone else at first glance not have killed Asin on a priority basis? I think it was his devious plan to try to drive Govindraj to suicide due to unbearable torture by giving him Asin's constant company. Seeing the sheer number of places where Asin could have been bumped off convincingly and yet was still left alive was like being denied candy after being taken all the way to the checkout counter again and again.

By the time the end of the movie rolled around, I was eagerly awaiting it. There did not seem to be any other way out of watching the torture called Asin.

To be fair to Asin, unlike Ash's role in Dhoom-2 which *might* have been saved by a better actress, *anyone* performing Asin's role in Dasavatharam would have been equally horribly annoying. Which is why I have decided to let Ash retain her title of most annoying performer ever. But let me tell you, it is a very very narrow victory.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SATC Quiz

Rads posted her result on this "Which Sex and the City character are you" quiz on her blog and asked her female readers (why not the male ones too, you know, to explore their inner woman and such :-D?) to try it out for a lark.

As someone who watched the entire Sex and the City series on DVD over a span of 3 weeks (in case you are wondering, yeah, yeah, I was working full time too), how could I resist.

I finished the quiz and while the score was getting calculated I thought, "Please, let me be anybody but a Charlotte!" I find Charlotte a bit too wimpy for my tastes.

Then I thought, "Ah, it will be fun if I am a Miranda" - though I did not agree completely with this quiz's take on Miranda's character. Any time someone asks me which character in SATC I resemble the most, I promptly say Miranda, though Carrie is the writer (I write blogs, got it?).

Samantha is someone I cannot identify with at all. Brazen me is an oxymoron (unless my rather gullible personality gets coaxed into being brazen - my dear friends will know what I am talking about).

Finally these are my scores below. Kinda funny no, the 40, 30, 20 and 10 :-D? And oh, readers (both female and male) of this blog, do take up the quiz. It is short and fun. If you have a blog too, pliss to post your results :-)!

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Sex and the City: The Four Women, the Four Elements
Your results are based on the four Elements of Astrology: Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Each Element has its own set of characteristics, and each of us displays some combination thereof, usually with a focus on one or two. Samantha, Miranda, Carrie and Charlotte each personify one of the Elements and its basic traits. Which Elements most strongly influence you?

Note: Scores are rounded to one decimal place and therefore may not total 100%

You scored 40% Carrie
Your answers peg you as a Carrie-type, much influenced by the Air Sign qualities associated with Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Like confident Carrie, a sex columnist, you're curious and perceptive, always seeking answers and never satisfied with the superficial. An Air Sign influence can lead to indecision and an avoidance of tough issues, like with Carrie and her on-again, off-again attachment to Mr. Big. Forward-thinking, incredibly intelligent and witty, you just exude quirky charm. You'd be utterly bored by someone who's just a pretty face or hot body -- though you don't mind looking and flirting! You're more turned on by an equally smart and funny mate, someone who challenges your mind and makes you laugh. You love to talk, so you need a good listener who's open to playful and eccentric ideas about love and lovemaking.

You scored 30% Charlotte
A romantic at heart, you chose the answers that demure Charlotte may have chosen. Strongly influenced by the intuitive, profound and sometimes naïve Water Signs -- Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces -- you're like a mother, a mystery and a poet all in one. Though on the surface you may seem innocent and all about seeking the good in people, beneath the surface, you hide secret yearnings for intimacy, for attachment and ideal love. You're seeking a knight in shining armor, a soul mate, someone who will complete you and tether you to the earth when you get carried away with your fantasies. You're super-sensitive, soaking up the moods of others; you emote freely, crying at commercials and sappy movies. You also provide a shoulder to cry on and open arms for hugs. Be careful that you're not so wide-eyed and trusting that you get taken in by some cunning wolf in sheep's clothing.

You scored 20% Miranda
You chose many of the same answers that Earth Sign-like Miranda, the cynical but pragmatic lawyer, might have chosen. Just like Miranda's had a tough time deciding whether to give in to the affections of Steve the Bartender, you don't give your heart up to just anyone. Miranda shies away from a relationship with Steve because he's 'just' a bartender, not something more conventionally ambitious or stable. Those with powerful Earth Sign qualities -- characteristics associated with Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn -- are cautious in love and seek stability and status over nearly anything else. Earth Signs provide a steady, realistic attitude and they can bring order out of chaos. A little-known Earth Sign fact: Incredibly sensual, you seethe beneath that smart, expensive business suit of yours, yearning for intimacy but hesitant to give up your material needs, your career ambitions or your responsibilities for a passionate moment that might not turn out the way you'd hope.

You scored 10% Samantha
You identify with Samantha's bold and liberated Fire Sign qualities, characteristics associated with the Signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. You're strong, audacious and larger than life -- and you take what you want! Sometimes you can even be thoughtless and selfish, as you get so caught up in craving immediate gratification and excitement that you overlook someone's feelings. Your personal style likely reflects your desires: sleek, low-cut, revealing just a bit more than might be considered acceptable. Watch that you're not coming on too strong, though. You could scare potential suitors off with all your drama. If you seek so much attention, the more basic qualities of the Fire Signs could be burned right out of the picture. Show less skin or cleavage and more of your creativity, your vibrant leadership skills and courageous generosity!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Something smells gooood


Yesterday, I visited the mall after a long time. I found that my favorite splurging store, Bath and Body Works, was having a summer clearance sale. My eyes had hardly registered the word "sale" when I found myself standing plumb in the middle of the store.

I picked up a very promising looking bottle of body lotion made by the Bigelow company. That company makes a mean lip balm, I tell ya. The body lotion ought to be good too, I decided. Besides, the bottle said the lotion had the natural fragrance of almonds. Best of all, it was 75% off - woo hoo!

Late last night, before going to bed, I eagerly tried on my new lotion. It smelled divine alright. Of freshly baked almond biscotti. Suddenly I found myself very very hungry. And I stared longingly at my lotioned arm.

I forced myself to not taste some of that yummy smelling lotion and instead snacked on some unhealthy stuff. Finally I went off to sleep, dreaming of cookies and cake. As if I am not already surrounded by enough food temptations. Bah!

But frankly, that wonderful smell is totally worth it!

p.s. The lotion itself is light and smooth. Very nice

p.s.1 My dad expressed relief that I had not bought the lotion before the Yosemite trip. He said that he had no doubt that some of the bears would have taken up residence in our cottage there then!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

All that jazz

A couple of months ago, I decided I needed a break from my routine weekly fitness classes. I scoured the ever dependable community center's activities guide for a class different from my usual ones. And there it was - "Broadway Jazz". Get fit in a fun way, it urged. Tada!

I signed up with great enthusiasm - a fitness class incorporating dance moves should be fun! On D-day, I landed up in class in my track-pants and tennis shoes, towel and water-bottle in hand. Once inside the class, something struck me as being different about me.

It soon became obvious. Of the total of nine participants, I was the only one wearing tennis shoes. Everyone else was wearing dance shoes. Huh!?! Wasn't this a fitness class?

Soon after I made this observation, the instructor turned on some music and did a whole series of ballet-like moves rapidly one after the other. Then she stopped, turned around and told us to do all of these moves as a warm up exercise. Everyone else plunged into doing the moves. I picked my fallen jaw off the floor, gaped some more and hurried to copy everyone else's moves.

That was when it struck me - I had managed to join a dance class incorporating, duh, dance moves. Oh no. I mean, I have been to salsa classes before, but there at least I knew I was going to dance. Besides, was jazz even a kind of dance?

And then, to rub salt onto my stupid presumptions, I discovered that every other participant in the class except yours truly had been at least to one dance class under the same teacher before. Oh dear.

The rest of the warm-up session reminded me of comedians from various movies. You know, where everyone is doing something and the comedian alone is doing a whole different thing? Where the comedian then rushes to catch up and invariably winds up bungling?

Yeah - I was that comedian. Everyone else would have already pirouetted half way across the room by the time I realized what the move was. I would rush to catch up. And then when everyone had finished the move and were facing the front of the class, I would be the odd woman still in the middle of the move facing the back of the class. Normally, I would have fervently prayed for the ground to swallow me up at that point. But for some reason, that particular day, I just found it all very funny and simply grinned.

The warm-up concluded with abs-crunches (ha, finally something I am damn good at) and other floor exercises - all familiar territory, restoring my confidence a bit. The teacher then told us that we would be dancing for "All that Jazz" from the Broadway musical Chicago.

She went over the steps slowly - we tried to follow her. Though I caught on to some of the steps, I was still floundering. She then said she would turn on the music so we could all dance to it. Right - even with no music I danced more or less like a particularly drunk crab with arms!

She turned on the music. And a strange thing happened. After ages of looking and acting like a person grinning in spite of a stomach ache, I started enjoying myself. It was just so much fun to dance to the music - the moves just seemed to fit seamlessly with the music. And who cared if I sometimes tapped my left foot first instead of my right and vice versa - it was still so much fun!

The rest of the class went off in a flurry of dancing like a star (yup, turns out that dances in musicals most often are Jazz dances).

That's how at the end of the class, much to my own surprise, I decided to stick with it for the entire duration*. My instructor was a sweet lady who said that if I came a bit earlier to class, she would go over steps with me beforehand. This helped quite a bit with complicated steps.

At the end of two months, I had learnt quite a bit about ball changes, pirouettes, jazz walks and touch steps. More than that, I had learnt how it is possible to have fun even while doing something you so superbly suck at :-)!

* I guess I was not the only one surprised at my decision to stick with the class. At the end of the 8-week session, my teacher hugged me and said she was so glad that I had decided to stick it with. It is an entirely different matter that she looked like she was going to get a heart attack when I told her that I might continue classes with her for the next session ;-)**.

**I have not yet done that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beautiful Yosemite

This past weekend, we graced Yosemite with our presence. This time, it was not to attempt feats of valor like last year. Instead we did proper touristy stuff like relaxing, sightseeing and taking tons of pictures.

Even the almost incessant drizzle and generally cloudy and cold weather could not quite mask the ethereal beauty of Yosemite. No wonder the national park boasts of some of the most photographed vistas in the world. My camera does not do much justice, still...

One of the views from the famous Tunnel View point



The same view later in the day when the fog and mist had rolled in



The Bridal Veil falls - isn't the scene breathtaking? Trivia: legend goes that if you stare at the Bridal Veil falls for an entire minute without blinking, you will get married within a year (don't know if you will get divorced if you are already married :-P)!



Tipis at the Native Indian museum in the Yosemite visitor center. They look so cute - wonder whether they are as cute to actually live in!



The mandatory sunlight* filtering through trees (albeit giant sequoia trees) snap.
*ok ok - it is hazy alright



The "clothes pin" giant sequoia tree. Apparently a natural forest fire burnt a hole through the trunk. Yup, the resilient tree is still thriving and going strong. And oh, believe it or not, the hole is wide enough for a pick-up truck to drive through!



Snow in Upper Mariposa Grove - it had snowed the previous day there! Needless to say, the trip to Mariposa Grove consisted of a lot of stamping about and shivering in addition to sightseeing!



The venerable Grizzly Giant sequoia tree. This grand dame is a royal 2700 years old!


Bottom line: Yosemite definitely ought to be on your list of must-visit places!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kada kutty*

It is always said that parents never stop being parents. In other words, to parents, their kids are forever trapped in a drooling, squiggle-eyed, gurgling baby time-warp.

I was talking with a friend the other day and she told me that her father had called her up early in the morning that day. It had turned unseasonably cold the previous night and he wanted to remind her to put on her sweater when she left for work. Did I mention? My friend turned 50 just recently.

Though I had heard about this compulsive-parenting phenomenon much earlier, my firsthand experience came about when I was in tenth grade.

Mom, dad and me had gone to visit some temple in South India. When we reached the temple entrance, dad was walking a little ahead while mom and me were lagging behind, admiring the architecture.

As we crossed the threshold of the temple, mom excitedly grabbed my hand and said, "Ooooh Archu! Look, what a huge elephant!" as she pointed out to the token elephant standing at the entrance. "So big, no? How exciting for you!" she continued.

At that point I gave a cold glare and crossly said, "Mummeeeeeee! I am not in kindergarden you know. I know what an elephant looks like. You don't have to point it out to me. I have seen plenty of elephants before in my life!" and stomped off angrily to complain to dad.

I caught up with dad and was just about to start complaining when he excitedly interrupted me, "Oh, here you are. I was looking for you! I wanted to show you the elephant. Did you see it? So big, no?"

Aaaaargh! I am sure the other people in the temple must have thought I was a mentally retarded 14 year old. Unless they were also parents, in which case they must have been too busy pointing out the elephant to their offspring to notice.

Oh well! As I said, parents will be parents!
--
*kada kutty refers to the last born in a house. Kada kuttys usually get even more babying than their siblings.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The non-hanging garden of my patio.

Swish, swish. There, I just brushed off the last of the dust from the cave I had crawled into for the past few weeks. I have been super-duper busy. Before you roll eyes and go, "Yeah, right", for a change, this is not the usual self-important sounding excuse. I was actually busy. To all the readers (actually make that reader, singular) who worried about me: I am doing fine :-)! Things are now almost back to normal and I am all set to be a glittering part of your lives again. Woohoo or groan, whichever!
---
'Tis the season to garden. This year I have gotten super ambitious. Yesterday's trip to OSH saw me return with a tomato plant, a yolo pepper plant, mint plants, two different varieties of flowering plants and a big bag of Supersoil. It was only while I was planting that I realized that I did not have enough soil for all the plants. Also, I had two empty pots left even after all the plants had found a home. Some googling also informed me that the pot in which I planted the pepper was too small for it. So much for claiming to be a seasoned gardener.

This morning I remedied the situation by repairing back to OSH and buying additional soil, a bigger pot and some more flowering plants for the empty pots. This is how my patio looks currently.


I solicit all unoccupied fingers you may have to cross them on my garden's behalf and wish for the healthy growth of my plants. Thank you!

Yesterday was also the day when, after a long period of not seeing any water except for the excess water draining from the plant pots, the patio was washed and cleaned. My poor back stands (or rather curves) testimony to that. Groan.

Oh well, anything for my garden.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tag time

Joy has tagged me. Since she explicitly expressed belief that I would be a prompt and responsible tag-doer, I am doing it now (okay, Vishesh and Binaryfootprints, please to not burn hole on computer monitor - I have not forgotten your tags yet, I swear).

BTW, is it just me or does everyone think that everyone in the blog world seems to be doing this tag? Anyways, on to the question and answer session.

Last Movie You Saw In A Theater:
U, me aur Hum. As I already said, ugh.

What Book Are You Reading:
Very Good Jeeves, for the n+1th time. Ideally, with my current Jane Austen obsession, it should have been Northanger Abbey. But current status of affairs does not permit me to indulge myself in reading to the exclusion of everything else. And Northanger Abbey would have been too much temptation...

Favorite Board Game:
Cluedo. For some reason, I was quite good at this and always managed to detect the murderer before anyone else everytime we played. Scrabble is a close second (I am not that great there though).

Favorite Magazine:
Reader's Digest, though these days it is more a comfort magazine (like comfort food). I like reading Time.

Favorite Smells:
Love the smell of rain on dusty ground, the smell of fresh ground coffee, the smell of mom's cooking as I enter the house.

Favorite Sound:
Sound of waves crashing on the seashore.

Worst Feeling In The World:
Self-loathing, helplessness

What Is The First Thing You Think Of When You Wake? :
Mostly it is: do I really have to wake up right now?

Favorite Fast Food Place:
No place in particular.

Future Child's Name:
Archana 2.0 (if it is a girl) and Archie 2.0 (if it is a boy)

Finish This Statement. "If I Had A Lot Of Money I'd...”:
...travel, travel, travel.

Do You Drive Fast? :
Not on local roads. On freeways I usually find myself doing around 10mph above speed limit.

Do You Sleep With A Stuffed Animal?:
Yup - have a collection both on bed and bedside table.

Storms-Cool Or Scary? :
Cool.

What Was Your First Car?:
Is a Honda Civic.

Favourite drink:
Hot masala chai.

Finish This Statement, "If I Had The Time I Would .....” :
...do even more of nothing.

Do You Eat The Stems On Broccoli?:
Yup. Love broccoli either raw or lightly cooked.

If You Could Dye Your Hair Any Color, What Would Be Your Choice? :
Coppery-brown. Yeah, I tried this shade once on my hair. Only time you could actually spot it was if you looked really hard when I stood under direct sunlight or a bright yellow lamp.

Name All The Different Cities/Towns You Have Lived In
Pune, Thanjavur, Chennai, Calcutta, Karur, Madurai, Mumbai, Davis and now Bay Area.

Favorite Sports To Watch:
Used to watch cricket a lot. This later dwindled to watching World Cup cricket matches when India played. Now nothing. I love watching events like figure-skating, diving, gymnastics etc... though I start getting bored around the time contestant #3 makes an appearance.

One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You:
Have never met Joy but I feel like I know her well. We seem to think similarly about many things. Would absolutely love to meet up with you someday (coming to the Bay, anytime :-)?)

What's Under Your Bed?:
A box full of CDs and a disassembled shelf.

Would You Like To Be Born As Yourself Again?
Definitely. Good or bad, I like me!

Morning Person Or Night Owl?:
Night owl to the core. I have no difficulty seeing 6am by keeping awake through the night. Waking up at 6am though usually qualifies for a spot in the "tough things I have done in my life" list.

Over Easy Or Sunny Side Up?:
Sunny side up with lots of fresh ground pepper. Eat with toast. Yumm! (screw salmonella).

Favorite Place To Relax:
By the beach with a book, listening to the waves.

Favorite Pie:
Chocolate cream pie.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
Not much of an ice cream person. But will not say no to Baskin Robbin's Pralines 'n Cream ice cream. And oh, the fudge topping from Ghirardelli - yum, yum, yum!

Of All The People You Tagged This To, Who's Most Likely To Respond First?
Hopefully, Shilpa.

----
Tag award ceremony:
Shilpa (keep up my trust, no?) and Pratap (pliss to do at least this one!).

That's all folks!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reader's Digest

My earliest memories of Reader's Digest date back to the time I was in kindergarten. Contrary to what you may have concluded, I was not a child prodigy, able to read the magazine from cover to cover at the ripe old age of 3. Rather, I used to find in the magazine's pages, a pretty convenient place to write "check" marks with a red pen, finally giving "scores" at the end of each article with flourish, just like Sandhya miss in my LKG class did in my notebooks. Of course, as soon my parents discovered this new hobby, it died a premature death.

Reader's Digest(RD) has been a part of my household for as long as I remember. Dad started subscribing to it from the time he started working, much to my mom's delight. It meant that she would not have to give up reading RD (which my grandfather used to subscribe to) after marriage. Little wonder then, when sis and me came into existence, this family interest got passed on to us too.

Starting around age 7, I was able to read the simpler page fillers and the simpler jokes in the various features like "Life is like that", "Laughter the best medicine" and so on. As I grew older, I started reading pretty much the entire magazine. I also had fun reading interesting old RD article collections (which mom had patiently clipped out and bound) as well as the collections published by RD itself (I still have fond memories of a book of short stories which had stories like "Lamb to the slaughter", "The selfish giant" and "The wedding gift").

Irrespective of the number of transfers my dad went through, RD subscriptions always followed. When a new issue of RD arrived, there would be a tussle as to who would read it first. Mom was soon relegated to late mornings and noon as the only time when she could get her hands on it (when the rest of us were at work/school). Sis and me would fight over it when we got back from school - soon, a reading schedule was brought into existence to restore peace in the household. Dad of course, could choose anytime he wanted (ah, the perks of being head of household :-)).

During exam time, while cable TV connection got disconnected at friends' and cousins' houses, it stayed untouched in my house. Instead, mom would hide new issues of RD! Of course, we subscribed to other magazines too but somehow RD had a special pride of place.

To my dismay, around the time I was finishing my undergraduate education, I started noticing a deterioration in the quality of the RD articles. But hey, it was by no means poor quality and besides, it was still The Reader's Digest!

Once I got to the US, RD was sporadically subscribed to by roomies. But it was no longer a constant, unchanging part of my life. Then, a couple of years ago, my manager gifted me a with subscription to RD. Yippee!

I started receiving RD regularly and continued subscribing to it. Good or bad, RD was a source of comfort, a sign of being at "home" - home being defined by as a place always having the latest issue of RD. Of course, I enjoyed reading it too. And so it has been since then.

Last week, I got into a fever of house-cleaning. I found that, true to my hoarding tendencies, I had stored *every* issue of RD I had ever got from the time I started subscription. In a way, I guess this was a legacy from my childhood days when RD magazines alone were not thrown away easily (you really did not think that I would miss an opportunity to squarely place the hoarding blame elsewhere, did you).

Anyway, hardening my heart, I gathered them all into a big plastic bag, to be taken to the dumpster. Then, I felt bad. Nice magazines - why throw them away? Maybe I could donate them to someone who wanted them. The local library seemed like a bad option. Google to the rescue! I discovered that apparently there were places to give away stuff. Then it struck me, Craigslist!

Late on Friday night, I placed an ad on Craigslist - "Free old issues of Reader's Digest magazine", it proclaimed - with little hope of response. My main aim was to assuage my guilty conscience by proving to myself that I had tried *not* throwing those magazines away.

To my pleasant surprise, within the next 10 minutes, I had a response from a lady saying that she wanted to pick them up the very next day. Before morning came, I had two more positive responses. The next day noon, the lady stopped by my house and picked up the RDs. Resolutely shaking off my last bit of possessiveness I handed over the bag of old RDs to her, just managing to not add in a choked voice, "Please take good care of them".

Vive la Reader's Digest!