Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Transformers (A Brief Movie Review)

Dios mios! What a boring movie! The lead character was so annoying! Check out the way the hot girl ends up teaming up with him. She is casually going by on a cute scooter in a part of town that she normally wouldn't be in. Alright? It so happens the lead dude was being pursued by a monster robot at that time...in that part of town. Alright? The lead dude and hot girl run into each other and then start running away together from the monster robot. And what's with the other hot girl with the british accent who is an expert on signals (as in communication technology not as in body language) and has a fat black fella (played by a ditzy Anthony Anderson) for a buddy? I have yet to see that combo in Beantown. I thought that british youth were only good at one thing: boozing. The fact that I was spending time thinking about stuff like this while watching the movie should tell you about the quality of its screenplay.

The robots had more personality than the humans. I understand that this movie is about special effects but I have had too much of movie special effects in the last few years. After about 5 minutes the novelty of seeing beeeeg robots quickly wore off. And anyone who wants to see a huge robot (and lots of heart) should look up the Iron Giant. So...2/3rds of the way into the movie, I gave up. And I am glad I did because Namaste Yoga was on.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Luna Poem

So I have come up with a poem for Luna, who is my friend Raina's tabby. Along with Bill and Soon-Il (both of whom I have since lost touch with), the five of us once shared a blissful home in Watertown...and, no, the house wasn't made of chocolate although it had a few memorable cracks and wedges.

Me with Luna in 2004. That was an era a long time ago when I wore my hair long and did a bunch of crazy things...

So without further ado...

Oh ye fancy fancy doggie,
Who is so into cans of tunie,
Ogie ogie ogie,
Oh how you can smell a ratty,
Hoagie hoagie hoagie,
So often full of baloney,
Boogie boogie boogie,
Stop breaking my hearty,
My loonie loonie loonie.

Now this is what I call a Loonnet because it has nine live...lines. Well, I hope that this makes me a "loonateer" and brings out my romantic (the definition of which I have not grasped in eons) side.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Good Morning!

One of Prabhu Deva's most memorable...

Song: Chikku Bukku
Album: Gentleman (1993)
Language: Tamil

And a more recent one that he choreographed...

Song: Main Aisa Kyon Hoon
Album: Lakshya (2004)
Language: Hindi

Monday, December 10, 2007

Planet Earth - A Monday morning rant

I am familiar with how the US Fish and Wildlife Service conserves habitats by controlling the population of flora and fauna. A lot of people don't realize this but hunters, for instance, are allowed only certain bag limits for certain animals in certain regions/counties in certain times of the year. A lot of the revenue from annual hunting licenses is actually used in such conservation efforts. And I know at least one family in New Hampshire that lives on meat from a whole deer during deep winter.

Apparently a redneck with a DUI conviction...according to an email that is going around.

Did you know that various states have hatchery programs using which they grow fish and then use these fish to stock local bodies of water? So next time you see a bunch of guys fishing in a pond, they likely aren't overfishing that pond.

A lot of developed countries do have such infrastructure in place to monitor habitat use. But developing countries do not have the resources (or the deep-rooted passion necessary) to regulate environmental use. Take India as an example: the Tiger population continues to dwindle owing to habitat loss, poor oversight of poaching by forestry officials and ill-equipped/ill-trained rangers. And, again owing to habitat loss, people here in the US are having more frequent run-ins with wildlife (like mountain lions).

Here are some photographs from earlier this year:

"Sea Shepherd crew in a small inflatable boat throw smoke bombs onto the Japanese whaler Kaiko Maru. February 12, 2007. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)."

I think that they are both idiots.

"The Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter, left, and the Japanese whaler Kaiko Maru collide in the Southern Ocean. February 12, 2007. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)."

See what I mean. 'twas a good thing this accident didn't lead to a fuel oil spill.

I do admire these "doers". But in a way, extreme environmentalists remind me of religious evangelists. They are both, in a word, annoying!

The following is a projection of human population all the way to the year 2050:

Year Population(in billions)
2010 6.8
2020 7.6
2030 8.3
2040 8.9
2050 9.4

The United States Census Bureau has projected that there will be around 419 million people in the US alone by the year 2050.

And this is why when conservation groups talk about restricting fishing on "overfished" seas and stopping real estate development on wilderness, I put on a sardonic smile.

9 billion people by the year 2050! No wonder I don't see any point in restricting myself as to how much fish or meat I eat today. Sure I could go vegan but how will that help feed 9 billion people in 2050? Going vegan today so that there can be enough fish for some jerk born into a royal asshold 30 years from now sounds ludicrous. It is f**king ridiculous to worry about people who are not even born. And if everyone does go vegan, wouldn't there be a higher demand for land use so that all the soy and assorted grains eaten by vegans can be cultivated? And what happens when more land is cleared for agriculture? Wouldn't more species go extinct then?

"Let me in! I gotta go save some tuna!! But first I need a shower 'cause I smell like one..."

No. I am convinced that its a simple supply and demand issue. We can either lose species or regulate human population growth more tightly (and we know that the latter is a losing proposition). We have enough people today who have evolved into something that has little resemblance to a once robust species, a direct result of the heavy reliance on the comforts of technology (and watching too many ballgames). Add a strictly vegetarian diet and you probably will end up with humans with hoofed feet. If that is how we are destined to evolve, fine.

"As you know, we are festively plump."

Anyone who wants to know the sad state of human affairs need look no further than the myriad of costly problems (from a bloated public education system to greedy unions to a huge deficit) being faced in California. That American dream state has had these problems for years and there are no solutions in sight (too much partisan politics). I am quite sure that they have time to worry about a bunch of tuna at 35° 41' N 139° 46' E.

Who knows. Maybe a meteorite will crash on Earth and put a full-stop to everything (too bad the planet does not have a reboot button like that on a computer). Then maybe, just maybe, the planet might re-generate life...perhaps without organized religion this time around.

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Speech to the Graduates, 2007 by TC

Another classic one from TC. It does reflect some of my own "findings" from my college going experience. I have posted an excerpt here. The link to the actual article appears at the end of the post.

"As I stand here on this lovely spring day looking out over this sunny vista and your bright, smiling faces filled with hope, I can't help but feel depressed as hell.

While I'm often told that your generation is so much smarter and so much more worldly and wise, I think it's a crock. Mankind obviously learns a lot more with each passing day, but I don't know who came up with the notion that you guys absorbed much of this knowledge.

Nowadays, a general college education is a mighty thin layer of sandwich spread. Sure, they covered all of the bread — tried to expose you to every subject and topic — but the mayo's so sparse you can barely taste it. Of course, there's the old platitude about how the purpose of college is to just teach you how to think.
To this — honored students, faculty, and staff — I say horse piss.

Frankly, most of you remind me of the ducks, and for that matter, the beavers, the turtles, and the frogs."

Click here to read the rest of the article :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Drink Life Deeply

This is fantastic stuff. The initial taste felt a little bit similar to Jack Daniels (which is my favorite beverage) but it was distinctly different once I've savored it. It also seemed smoother than Jack Daniels. I thought that it felt stronger too than most other Whiskeys I have tasted. Sure enough, the label said "50% Vol.". That's it. I don't really have anything more to say.

Monday, December 3, 2007

All steamed up

So my parents have a new room set up for steam baths at their place. They took an existing bathroom on the first floor and merged it with the dining room closet that was next to it. The merger has led to a larger, modern bathroom in an otherwise old-world type Victorian home. I used the steam bath for the first time last night. I have used a sauna many times before but this really takes the cake. The steam bath "got" to me faster while a sauna always seemed to take forever (now that I think about it). I was expecting cakes of dirt to come out of my skin but nothing like that happened. Maybe I was not in there long enough (only seven minutes) or maybe I wasn't as dirty a man as I thought I was. By the end of those seven minutes, I was feeling like a pig in heat. It seemed like I was slightly sweating off the bottom of my feet (do we even have sweat pores there?)! Anyway, it felt really good to turn on the cold water, whence I felt like a hippo in heat. Just kidding :) All in all, it was a wholly holistic experience! I can't wait to use it again when I visit them next Sunday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New York, New York...again!

I went down to visit Sam and Mercy down in NJ for Thanksgiving 2007. I left early Thursday morning from my garage in Boston. It was smooth sailing except in CT where I hit heavy fog for most of the travel there. I arrived in NJ around 9:30 AM. Milton, who lived in Philly, met us there with his wife Shiney and young son Kevin. He was stopping by on his way to Washington DC since Kevin had been itching to see the Aerospace museum there. While the womenfolk were busy prepping the Turkey (for the record, they added a bit of spices to it) and Kevin was watching Chicken Little, Tom & Jerry, and playing with his toys, Sam, Milton and I whiled away the hours chatting.

Kevin. It was unseasonably warm on T-Day.

The food was phenomenal...

...and we made short work of it!

In the evening, we visited Sam's friend Ragu and his family in a brand new community near Windsor. It was a beautiful house with a huge basement where Ragu had a Table Tennis setup. So we played a good bit of TT before returning to Sam's place. Once back home, we put on the projector I had brought with me and watched Shooter before retiring for the night.

On the morning of black Friday, the shopping began. While at home, Milton was placing orders online for some electronics. I was amazed at how these guys shopped, searching for the best deals and using coupons, etc. Wow! I rarely buy stuff and when I do, I buy stuff regardless of the price. Although lately I've become
painfully aware of my own spending habits.

Me and Milton. The hunt was on...

Then it was time for Milton and his family to leave for Washington but first...real shopping in the real world! Sam and Mercy decided they needed to buy some stuff at Kohl's while Milton decided that he finally had to get that electric guitar of his dreams at Guitar Center (he did get it for half the price...at $500!). I got tired of Kohl's after about 15 minutes. I think that I was the only single guy there and just could not relate to what was going around me :) So I went to a Starbucks across from the mall. It was across. Sure. But it took me about 10 minutes to cross NJ-18 because of traffic!! Anyway, I was relaxing over an eggnog latte when Sam and Mercy showed up. We lunched at a nearby Boston market where Mercy (this was her first visit to a Boston Market) sampled a variety of sides with her chicken. After lunch we left for Liberty State Park. Both Mercy and I had never seen "the Statue" close-up (on a side note, this has definitely been a "NY month" for me).

Sam and Mercy at Ellis Island.

A message for cynical immigrants.

I don't know who she was, where she came from, anything about the legacy she may have left behind, if she had time for hobbies or the money for after work drinks. But she was super cute. So there!

I played with the light a bit.

I played with the light a bit more. Look, no tripod!

It was bone-freezing cold by the time we were done with "the Statue". As soon as we disembarked from the ferry, we rushed to the warmth of the car and back to Sam's place in NJ.

The next day (Saturday), Ragu and his family dropped by for lunch. So Sam and I did a bit of grocery shopping in the morning. After lunch, I returned to Boston. Traffic again flowed smoothly except near Hartford were 91N was closed because of an accident. I had to take a local exit, drive a bit around Hartford before finding 84E. Once home, I promptly shaved my head, took a piping hot shower and went to bed! All in all, a weekend well-spent!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Until Death (A brief movie review)

This is another movie where the good guy starts off as a bad cop, gets beaten up into a coma, recovers and dispatches the actual bad guys. Having said that, I have to say that for a straight to video B-grade Van Damme flick, this movie had a surprisingly good screenplay and an acting side of Van Damme that I have not seen before. He doesn't throw a single kick (he does throw a variation of punch while in the driver's seat) as the primary means of delivery of violence here is always through a form of gun. But he did show some acting chops.

The supporting cast could have been better fleshed out. On more than one occasion, it was painfully obvious that people were acting. The producers of such low-budget movies apparently cannot rope in a Scarlett Johanssen. So they should commit more time to finding good casting. The girl playing Van Damme's wife was pretty hot (but then I am always horny so I could be...um...gushing here). The romance seems to have been thrown in so as to add a layer of complexity to Van Damme's "disturbed cop" character. And I thought that, for the most part, his scenes with his wife were actually effective.

So the lack of a good supporting cast along with a more expressive look from Van Damme would have elevated the quality of the movie from average to good. For the most part, his eyes stay rather lukewarm, something that I have noticed a lot in his previous "dramatic" work. A certain amount of fear or stark realization conveyed through his eyes here and there would have significantly raised the tension that Simon Fellows (the Director) was trying to convey in many parts of the movie.

Finally, the action scenes, considered a staple of Van Damme movies, are very few and, except one, are rather bland. Had more creativity been poured into the action scenes, that would have elevated the quality of the movie from good to great.

Thankfully there are no cheesy special effects. I didn't really notice the background music but I have to say that the set design was very professionally done (like in a big-budget movie).

So to recap, for a really good movie to happen next time, Van Damme will need to work with:
1. a better supporting cast,
2. more expressive eyes and
3. more thoughtful violence in the action scenes :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In defense of Bear Grylls

You might want to visit the following two links first:

"Man vs. Wild" now truth vs. deception

The Man Vs Wild DVD set (and some real skeptical reviews) on Amazon

And here is the review I placed on amazon for the DVD set:

"I think that Bear (with his background in the military and a climb on Mt.Everest) started his show with a bit of cockiness. Personally I didn't mind that. Still I am glad to see the disclaimer/warning that they are putting up now before each episode begins (and Bear seems to have mellowed a bit as well). That should tell the skeptics that, like the reviewer below says, Bear's show is a "demonstration" of survival skills (something tells me the skeptics don't care). I like his show. My brother likes it. And a few other people I know like it. And we are all very active folks (not couch potatoes).

Now free climbing a 30 foot cliff to save hours from going around it (as he demonstrates it in the recent "Sahara" episode, which is not found in this collection) may or may not be stupid. But its thrilling (and, yes, I climb for fun) and you can't do it if you are overweight and prefer a couch to a cliff...which means you are naturally going to be skeptical of it :) That also means you have no business being alone and out in the kind of places where Bear does his filming. His show is entertaining and informative to me. But if I were going into unknown territory I would still seek out advice and knowledge from trusted sources before I go because that is the sensible thing to do. So...ease up, people. I agree that Les Stroud's "Survivorman" is more "realistic" but in terms of entertainment value, I feel drawn more to "Man Vs Wild"."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What a magnificent animal!

Looks a bit like a thug...Hi, baby, sorry I didn't call last night!

Great whites are perfectly capable of breaching. I wonder how the person who took this photograph did it: using a telephoto from a tall ship or a wide angle from a smaller boat. Its likely the latter since the pectoral fin, just below the surface of the water to the right of the photo, is clearly defined (unless the above shot is cropped). I wouldn't want to lean out of a small boat with a great white around. See video below for what I am getting at.

And that is a fish that can grow to 5000 lbs! But despite such impressive statistics, they are vulnerable....very vulnerable! They are not fished by humans as much as, say, Cod is. But fishing mishaps happen. And great white sharks mature very slowly. They may not reproduce until they get to be around 12 years old. This means they won't reproduce rapidly enough if their population, already low, were to decline quickly for some reason.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New York, New York

I was in NY this past few days meeting with friends. So I took some photographs. I know. Isn't that amazing? I actually took photographs!!

Although I have been to NY many times before, this was the first time I visited the Empire State building. The light was falling fast but I managed to take some decent pictures using the D70 (no tripod).

View of Central Park.

A different view. This was a handheld shot. I love my D70!

Note how much the light has fallen. The above three pictures were taken during a 15 minute period. I was constantly tweaking exposure in full manual.

Then they had this room with colorful lights. I felt compelled to take at least one shot. Well, I had to do something!

I attempted some rear sync shots so that the background won't be darkened by the flash. This one came out pretty decent. Although, without a tripod, camera shake is evident.

Back on earth, we had to do the ubiquitous Christmas tree-like shot.

At night, we flocked back to our friend Palani's house in Lawrenceville, NJ, a sprinkler city.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Festival of Lights

Today in India, Diwali (aka Deepavali), the festival of lights, will be celebrated all over the country. Because of major construction work in my parents' kitchen here in Quincy, we are planning to observe the festival on Sunday. They will probably invite some friends over for a big lunch.

Setting up lights (through oil lamps) seems to be done more elaborately in northern India.

Everyone does firecrackers, of course.

People play with firecrackers on their own. There isn't that much of a fire hazard since most houses in cities are built in concrete and brick (unlike here in the US where a lot of wood is involved). Any mishaps I remember from my childhood had to do with light burns on my hands from handling firecrackers.

The Rangolis become more elaborate on such "auspicious" days.

I've been calling up friends and family in India this morning and wishing everyone a good time!

ZMA = Deep Sleep

Ok. No one is paying me to write this stuff. So here goes...

I have been using ZMA for about a year now. The serving size is 2 to 3 caps a day. But I've been taking more like 2 to 3 caps a week. I was slacking off and, sure enough, I didn't see any noticeable effect in my sleep or recovery from training. I thought that since I was already sleeping in a pitch black room with the air purifier on (to provide white noise), the quality of my sleep cannot get any better. And I was recovering fine from training. Boy, was I wrong? Well, at least when it came to the sleep component, I was wrong.

In the last two weeks, I've been taking 2 to 3 caps of ZMA before bedtime. And I have gone into deeper sleep than I had thought possible. This happens on all nights except Monday nights (which is when my 130 lb neighbor has pretty vocal sex with her 350 lb boyfriend). So...I go to sleep and wake up the next morning completely awake. No grogginess. Nothing. Nada. Its like my Nikon D70. You turn it on and its ready to shoot instantly. To re-iterate: One moment I am asleep. Next moment I am fully awake. Like I had just been pursued by a bear that grudgingly decided I was too fleet-footed and hobbled back to where it crawled out of.

Apparently most people (which, I know, is a rather broad term) are deficient in Zinc and more so in Magnesium. While Zinc levels can be brought back up relatively quickly, things don't happen as quickly with Magnesium.

Charles Poliquin explains this a little better in this article:


He explains it again in this one:

http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=1257805 (then scroll down to the section "Age, Training, and Dwindling Hormones")

Dave Barr mentions ZMA in his outstanding article on developing a solid sleep routine:


You get the idea.

At 9 bucks, ZMA is a steal:


Try it out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Larder my rum

For the past year, I have been cooking my (whole) eggs in bacon grease (left behind from frying bacon). I am never going back to olive oil now that I have gotten very used to the distinct flavor of frying eggs in pork fat! Although I have received some nods of dissent from friends, I have continued to do so. Joy!

Anyway, here is a great article from Food & Wine that I recently came across:


My 100th post...

...and I honestly don't have a clue as to what to write about It's a total blank in there, man.

So, to settle the matter once and for all, I will just throw in some random photos starting with a closeup of my legs Mmkay?

Vell, I am sorry but I cannot reveal "more" of ze man.

And here is something for the poetically inclined: a picture of a sunrise that I shot along the waterfront a few mornings ago as I was walking toward the garage. It was real early and still considerably dark.

And for those not so poetically inclined: a real early breakfast I prepared and consumed with gusto at around 3 AM this past Sunday morning after wrapping up a Halloween party at my friend David's place. The train's had stopped running and I ended up walking all the way to my apartment in the North End from his place in Inman square. So, yeah, my knees felt like jelly and I was ravenous by the time I got home. I didn't wake up until around 12 or so Sunday morning!

A few slices of bacon, some cottage cheese and a couple of slices of dark wheat (slathered with apricot and raspberry jam) washed down with a bit of hot chocolate.

How about a photograph of my Uncle and cousins? I took the shot when I visited them in Hyderabad back in 2004.

Hopefully I will get to see them again in 2008!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How the west was won...or was it?

Wild fires in the west are not uncommon. But this is a real disaster!

"A woman watched her neighbor's home burn on the Rincon Indian Reservation."
Picture Courtesy: Reuters.

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger observed a fire burning out of control in Lake Arrowhead, California."
Picture Courtesy: Associated Press.

"The famous California sun is now obscured behind smoke and ash."
Picture Courtesy: BBC.

Like waiting for bread in the former Soviet Union.
Picture Courtesy: Sacramento Bee.

"President Bush consoles Kimber Fowler at the Rancho Bernardo Community Center resource center on Thursday as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, left, looks on. Fowler's home burned down in the recent fires in San Diego."
Picture Courtesy: Associated Press.

And later on at a press conference in Escondido... "President Bush speaking about the fires Thursday while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looked on. The men had previously not made a habit of supporting each other."
Picture Courtesy: Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images.

And only last week, I was telling a date that it should be a sea change to live in California

Social Capital

Last night I had to literally close a door in my office as two of my coworkers were being so chatty that a customer I was with on the phone wanted to know if we were starting to have some sort of party. I think for some being chatty makes them productive at the workplace. Now that is not a problem for me at all as long as it does not get disruptive. There was a point in time when I felt that I was starting to chat a lot in the office too but decided a while ago not to socialize so much in the workplace. It wasn't that the chatting was cutting into my productivity. It wasn't. Being single, I could stay around longer and get things done. The decision really had more to do with maintaining a semblance of discipline or polite restraint in my "official capacity".

Speaking of being single, yesterday's incident did make me finally realize something this morning: that I am probably still single because I am not given to talking a lot. I am generally the quiet type but when the fit is on me, I can talk like heck (such fits, however, are rare). So...I don't know if it is good or bad that 9 out of 10 women want to talk like there is no tomorrow. Take my neighbor (who, incidentally, smokes like a chimney; I feel so bad for her dog) and her boyfriend. She is hot; he is not. She probably weighs around 130 while he is closer to 350. Then how in the...? The answer is simple. I have woken up some mornings, looked out my kitchen window and...they were still there in her kitchen a-talkin' from the previous evening!! Now that guy is clearly keeping his woman happy...but at the expense of what? A night's worth of sleep?! Or more? I think that I like my life the way it is.

Is she worth it?

I lowered my standards a bit earlier this year by talking about whatever that came to mind (when I didn't really feel like doing so) while out on dates because I was trying too see if I could appear more interesting. But I only came out feeling silly, a feeling I did not like one little bit. So now my standards are back up to where they were and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Several degrees of...separation

So I stopped by my brother's place last night. We usually train with weights when we get together, a productive way to spend time together (instead of gorging on buffalo wings and gulping down beer at some bar). It turned out to be a rather eventful evening actually!

I hadn't done towel chins in a while. So we started with those. After about 3 sets of only 5 reps each, my fingers were screaming in pain. But the fact that I had gotten 15 reps out of the movement after not having done it in ages was reassuring (guess grip power acquired through rock climbing doesn't die hard).

Towel Chins. No, that ain't me...

We proceeded to Romanian Deadlifts next. I started by warming up with Waiter's Bows using a 45 lb plate. My hands were a bit shaky from the chins. The plate slipped and fell. I moved just in time to prevent the plate from dislocating my kneecaps or crushing my toes (I train barefeet whenever possible) but not fast enough: it took some skin of my lower thighs on its determined journey down.

The Waiter's Bow. That ain't me either...

I decided that I wouldn't want to do the Waiter's Bow after towel chins. Ok. This wasn't too bad but it could have been...

Later we were watching "Silver Blaze", a Sherlock Holmes episode on DVD, when my brother's neighbor Louise called. She sounded shaky and apprehensive,

"Can you come over please?"

So we rushed over. Scotty, her 6-month old miniature Schnauzer, had taken a tumble down the stairs and was lying on the floor just inside her front door. The poor fella had what looked like a broken front leg. So while Louise was on the phone with the vet, we patted and soothed the little bugger as he alternated between moments of silence and piercing wails. I learnt today that he had had a fracture and had to go under the knife earlier this morning if early arthritis were to be prevented (as opposed to a simpler solution that would have cost Louise much less than $2500). I should know in a few days how well that limb is going to recover. But if I know the Scot-man, he will continue to get around with a great deal of enthusiasm, arthritis or not.

I couldn't help but cross-reference what happened to Scotty last night with several things: 1) I could have ended up with a serious injury earlier that day myself while training, 2) Scotty's plight was much more serious than what happened to that horse in the episode of "Silver blaze" and 3) I was reminded of when my brother (who was visibly upset and pretty pissed at Louise for being less than attentive with Scotty yesterday) suffered a compound fracture of a leg during a game of cricket in our early teens growing up in India 15 years or so ago.

Stuff like this makes you pause and take stock.