Friday, December 5, 2008

Last Post - 2008

Well, I got a few things to take care of this winter like getting a technical certification and concentrating on ski season training. And with more hours of planned sleep every day, I have decided that something needs to give. I also tend not to socialize much during winter preferring to spend most of my time by myself. No dating either since I can't be bothered with putting on nice winter clothing and taking long walks in city streets in winter. This is my last post for this year. Here is some food for thought until my first post next year:

This is half a week's worth of shopping. A second trip to the market will be to buy chicken, vegetables and more fruit. I use eggnog instead of cottage cheese for a couple of months out of the year. I also prefer heavy cream to that half-and half stuff. The white package is wild salmon. I like to cook fish the same day I get it as I don't like storing fish in the fridge. So I make 2 to 3 trips a week to the market just to buy fish. Alright, so there is some stuff in there that is not organic.


Fish and vegetables washed down with some plantation rum: my flagship recipe!


Breakfast stuff including some piping hot PG Tips' tea.


Bison hamburger with sauteed onions and mushrooms. No cheese. I prefer eating cheese by itself.


Roast chicken and eggs.


Roast chicken and vegetables.


Roast chicken and rice.


Of course, I could always get stuff from the food court in Faneuil Hall, a five minute walk from my house, if I don't feel like cooking at home. Here we see lamb kabobs from a Greek shop in the food court. I wouldn't have minded a little more meat and a little less rice though.

This blog will now go on hiatus until next spring...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quantum of Solace (A brief movie review)


Opening Sequence

One of the most anticipated moments in a Bond movie is its opening sequence. In Quantum of Solace (QoS), the opening sequence is a continuation of where Casino Royale (2006) left off. As it played out, I yawned. Then the opening credits and the song accompanying it came on. The main reason why I developed a liking to Chris Cornell's You know my name was because I enjoyed how the visuals in the opening credits for Casino Royale played out. That eventually led me to develop an ear for Chris Cornell's track. Not so here. In QoS, I didn't even attempt to figure out who the singer was. The visuals were rather flat and so I sat back with pursed lips. This has got to be the worst opening in a Bond movie. I yawned again.

Bond Girls

Gemma Arterton is forgettable. Her time on screen is so brief that I don't even remember if I had a chance to observe her..um..selling points. Her destiny, in the same mold as a former Bond girl from a much better Bond movie, isn't as impressive. The other Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, impresses to an extent. She is more in the mold of Maryam d'Abo from The Living Daylights (1987) except Kurylenko knows what she is getting into once she is, figuratively speaking, in bed with Bond. Her accent, playing a South American character, is slightly uneven but admirable given Kurylenko is East European.

The Baddies

The baddie from Casino Royale has hardly any screen time and is forgettable. We just want him dead and done with so as to be able to see what the movie can do after that. Another baddie, a corrupt South American General (how original) is on-and-off menacing. The main baddie is a pussified version of a villain from any action movie and I was sorely disappointed.

The Plot

After a point, I stopped caring.

The Stunts

An airplane chase over no-man's land is the highlight of the movie. The other stunts are cursory, badly edited and didn't stay in my mind.

Daniel Craig

Craig had a memorable presence in Casino Royale. In QoS, his character is severely lacking and he speaks no memorable one-liners. I think that Daniel Craig will be a Bond who is only as good as the script and its pacing. Otherwise, a distinct lack of charm with his leading ladies (think Roger Moore) and flair for a playful sense of humour (Pierce Brosnan) stand out rather painfully.

Conclusion

It is obvious that the filmmakers were unsure as to how to continue with the franchise from where Casino Royale left of. Without the Bond brand, QoS would have been just another piece of disposable action entertainment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

RIP M.N.Nambiar

Know anyone who has acted with 7 generations of actors and starred in more than a 1,000 movies?



From the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7737798.stm

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anatomy of a scene

This is a repost of a post originally published on Crossroads back in June 2007. I am so busy at the moment at the office that I have not had much time to write.


"It was late afternoon as I pulled into my driveway and climbed out. The sun was warm and making its way toward the horizon. On a whim, I walked across the huge yard toward the rolling fields beyond the property line. I scurried over the freshly painted white fence and, with my hands on my hip, stood there taking in the lazy scene. The sky was a deep blue with wisps of milky white clouds passing by at a snail's pace. They had all the time in the world. A cockchafer went flying past me. I craned my neck to follow his flight path. He was moving fast and soon he was out of sight over a small hill overflowing with dandelions that were swaying gently to the breeze. It was a calm day but then it was always calm out here.

As I sunned, I slowly became acclimatized to the smells and sounds of the field. A slight but angry rustle nearby indicated that my presence had disturbed the slumbers of a small animal, perhaps a field mouse. Two butterflies were in earnest conversation a ways off. They seemed to tumble down a bit. They were in combat. Were they fighting for the love of a lady then? The distant warble of a purple martin seemed to add a layer of melancholy to their battle. One of them was destined to lose. I hoped that they were not brothers.

The sun was sinking lower in the sky and the breeze had picked up. The light had turned to a cooler blue. There was a faint hint of a familiar scent wafting down from a small hill yonder to my right: the fragrance of bur marigolds that I could not see. Maybe that cockchafer had a cousin who made her home amidst those marigolds. Had he been taking tea with her before he said his goodbyes and so ended up flying past me on his way home? Maybe it was time for me to be getting home too. I took one long earnest look around. Everything seemed to indicate that it was time to start settling in for the night. I turned and started waddling my way back home."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Goodmorning!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pure Moods III - A brief CD review


I have actually owned this CD for several years now. When I played it for the first time then, I didn't notice any catchy tracks, especially in light of what I had gotten used to in the first two installations of the Pure Moods series. Recently, on a drive back from a hike in NH, I put this CD on. I played the CD twice and listened to all the songs. Here are my thoughts on which tracks caught my fancy and which fell short.

Some tracks, like Synaesthetic from the Blue Man Group, I skipped right away during the first play. Other tracks like Games Without Frontiers from Peter Gabriel, I listened to fully the first time but skipped thereafter. Yet other tracks like Deliver Me from Sarah Brightman, Only If by Enya and Gravity of Love by Enigma were listened to fully during both iterations and have not been listened to since (but may be listened to tentatively at some point in the future).

Here are the five tracks that I continue to listen to in Pure Moods III (the other tracks are skipped):

#5 Land of Anaka - Brian Eno and Geoffrey Oryema

It was Geoff's deep voice and what seemed like a slow guitar that initially drew me to this song. Now I have taken a very strong liking to it.



#4 Cristofori's Dream - David Lanz

A beautiful, mellow instrumental. This piece should be listened to in a very, very quiet room. Otherwise, you won't do it justice.



#3 Porcelain - Moby

I had been listening to this song on YouTube for a while now without realizing that I had had it in a CD for a long time. I had found it after looking up information on Moby, whose theme from the Bourne movies originally piqued my interest and eventually led me to discovering this song.



#2 On Sacred Ground - Yanni

I had a feeling that this piece, with its grandeur, might be from Yanni (I lost the album cover a long time ago and had to look up the track listing on Amazon). And I was right. However, there seems to be no piano/keyboard (a Yanni signature) in the instruments used. At first I felt that the flute that picks up after the first two minutes of this piece was a bit invasive but now I am used to that. This piece brings to mind visions of being alone in the insides of a very old cathedral or chapel in an ancient town...although the guy who posted the below video had other visions.



#1 Life in Mono - Mono

Y'know, I was worried that this track might have been by some female named Ashley or Kayden something or other. But, thank goodness, it turned out to be by a singer with the lovely name of Siobhan de Maré. This was also the theme song in the movie Great Expectations (1998). Love it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

As Tests go...

I know that I said I never watched Cricket Tests. It was true up until a month ago. But with the Australians recently touring India for the Border-Gavaskar trophy, which consists of four Tests, I seem to have taken a sudden liking to Tests. Somehow the thought that a Test equates to a battle is a charming thought. Unlike the Twenty20 or ODI formats in Cricket, a Test is played for a period of five days. That's right! Five days! Each team gets to play two innings, each attempting to better its scores, or simply keeping the other down, with every batting turn. At the end of a day of play, the teams get to assess a variety of factors:
  • How did the pitch behave today? Was there enough turn on the ball? Was there enough swing for the pace bowlers?
  • Who played well and who didn't? Is a player's exising injury starting to bother him and should that be taken into consideration going forward?
  • How much of the weather was a factor today? How much of the weather will be a factor during the remaining days? If the weather makes a turn for the worse (maybe heavy crosswinds are predicted), will the behavior of the pitch change?
  • If that particular batsman turns out to be in great form tomorrow, how should the fielding placings be to counter his favorite selection of shots?
  • And so on...
So now you see why such a Cricket match is called a Test! Trust me. People call Cricket a slow, boring game. But that is because they don't understand it or don't care to. In the Border-Gavaskar trophy, there are four Tests involved. This is a series. Whichever team wins the most Tests takes the series. The series is played every few years in India. And it is always played between India and Australia. The Aussies are the number 1 ranked Test team in the world. India are in 3rd place (South Africa are in 2nd place).

So far in the 2008 series, 2 Tests have been played in this series. The first Test was drawn and India won the 2nd Test by a huge margin. The 3rd Test will be on a ground where the India team has not lost the last 7 Tests it played there. And the Aussies apparently, after their heavy defeat last week, are raring to go! Anyway, the 3rd Test begins tonight at 12 PM EST (9 AM local time) in Delhi. An additional problem the teams have to encounter at the beginning of this 3rd Test is low visibility because of smog from all the firecrackers that were used up for the recently concluded Diwali, a national festival! I am going to bed now to get a few hours of sleep because I have to be up at midnight!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

State of the Fall

I have no idea what I was trying to convey with the title of this post but who cares? Anyway, here are some photos I took this past Saturday when I was up by Crescent Lake with Russ. Even though I just snapped away, I still had the presence of mind to use a ND grad filter to underexpose the sky. Click the pictures for a larger version.


The wisps of cloud immediately caught my attention.


Note the cranberry patch in the right, foreground.


And a closeup of the cranberry patch. Tart!


A couple of the locals at Crescent lake looking for work...


Russ had some nice stonework next to his cottage.


Would you believe that this picture was taken right next to the town dump?! By the way, the dump was new...


Note the milkweed. This was a terrific, sunny meadow!


We briefly investigated a beaver dam.


A random road that led to a farm where the look of things suggested a hesitant maple syrup operation.


Another random road that I was somewhat taken with.

On Sunday (the following day), I did a nice, energetic hike up to Mt. Osceola with Kim but unfortunately my camera battery was aziz. So I couldn't take any pictures. But I can always go back...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Joe the businessman

Wait a minute! If you make $250 grand a year in personal income, does that make you a plumber or a businessman? That being said, I am still in favor of a proportional tax for everyone with functioning organs and limbs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Goodmorning!

Friday, October 3, 2008

So did anyone get Veeepped?

Last night, when Palin said, "Hey, can I call you Joe?", I smiled. But then when she referred to a hockey game, I grimaced, "Uh-oh, here we go again".

When I think of Alaska, I think of pristine wilderness...not theatre & the arts, a complex financial services industry or annual public transportation budgets. I strongly feel that it is easy to appeal to Alaskans or those folks from northern New Hampshire with Palin's brand of energy. Yes, she has got things done from the perspective of mayoral politics. But how would Palin do as a Mayor or Governor in a "fast" state like California (where even the mighty Schwarzenegger machine has failed)? My take: she might not even have gotten elected to office anywhere outside of Alaska. You want to deal with the EU? "Darn rights" aren't going to help with the likes of a Dalia Grybauskaite.

Palin's hockey mom saga also highlights a serious issue: is it necessary to have 3 or 4 kids to demonstrate traditional family values?

I am not going to comment on Biden as, like some people, I tuned in to confirm my impression of Palin. All I will say is that Biden seemed very capable with a much better handle on "issues" than Palin. I will like Palin as long as she remains within a certain context: small town politics and the hockey field. But who knows...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Champions League 2008

The inaugural Champions League 2008 kicks off December 3 in India. 8 teams -- including the two finalists from the inaugural Indian Premier League tournament from earlier this year: Chennai Super Kings (whom I support) and Rajasthan Royals -- will compete for the prize money of $6 million. The final match will be on December 10.

A week of intense Twenty20 Cricket would be a great way for me to kick start the winter here in the US before I transition into the ski season!


Ah!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Uh-oh! Kate's migrating...

So I had an email from my friend Kate, Ms. Cuteness herself, this morning :) It reads as follows:

"hello family. hello friends. as some of you know i've been living in the new englands for the last 2 years having sent my wagon east after my dawning years on the west coast. and i've learned something about this place kept mystery to many a westerner. it's ef'n cold in the winter! so, i'm leaving for south america. and that's that.

i fly into buenos aires on the 15th of december 2008 and will return to boston to continue my mechanics at the end of march 2009, leaving from lima, peru. this will be a bicycle journey embarked upon by myself and 3 babes of urban destruction. i will be the main support for mechanical life while another is an old hat at south american exploration and a keen navigator, a rouge student with legs of fortitude, and a muscle bound rugby trick gone nurse. a planeteer like quadrant of might, thundercats of adventure, power rangers of good timery. there is also interest by others to join us in legs of the trip which is encouraged though we can not guarantee stays and equipment for guests.

we are still in the budding of routing and contacting and looking for any and all help in stays and suggestions for this trip. if you have advice or know of a kind home for us along the way, please help. especially if you know anyone who has done bicycling in these areas. i talked to an agrentina that has and she informed me that it seemed like i was routing myself through the desert in the summertime. "oh, no." i said. "it's fine." she grinned.

also, and the main point of this email, i'm looking for a subleter for my room in jamiaca plain, a boston providence of large green spaces, large cuban influence, large art and activism encouragement, and a larger gay community. quit the happening spot. my room is large and beautiful with its mostly windows and rent is around $450 plus utilities and shared food. i live with artists, film makers, teachers, farmers, social workers, activists all in a big house with a roof garden and an ornery ex new orleaners cat and oldest resident of the house named alice. if you know of anyone who would like to sublet this space from me please give them my contact as soon as possible. it would be between november through march, though i can extend this a little on the ends if need be.

ok, you little whale biscuits. thank you for everything and if not sooner i will see you on the otherside.
-kate"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A simple life

Yesterday, on my way to the office, I breakfasted at the Country Kitchen in Weymouth. Usually I order either eggs, sausage and toast or steak, eggs and toast. Yesterday I got cheese omelette. I don't like mixing cheese with other foods. So I don't know why I ordered that. But it did remind me of some happenings back in 10th grade.

Going back in time...back in time...back in time...

"So what happened?", asked my 10th grade Computer Science teacher with a genuinely concerned look on his face. The fact that the prettiest girl from 10th grade was standing next to him holding some exam papers for his review wasn't helping. She wasn't simply a looker. She was also top of her class.

"I think....I didn't prepare...well", I replied shyly. That was followed by a quick furtive look at the girl. In hindsight, I realize that I had been sweating it out for no reason. She had been so innocent, so sweet that she probably didn't even know how to mock or think lowly of others. Anyway, only a few weeks earlier, at the beginning of the school year, my Dad had introduced himself as a professional software programmer to my teacher. So my teacher was, I guess, curious as to how the son of a programming guru ended up taking only 20 points out of a 100 and in a monthly exam too. But first I must explain how school exams were structured in those...wonder years. Or rather, I will lay it down for ya.


Click for a bigger picture.

Monthly exams were somehow easier because they only covered content taught since the last exam period ended. So, for instance, the 2nd Monthly exams only covered the curriculum taught after the Quarterly exams. While this was the case with a subject like English, History or Geography, it was trickier with the sciences especially Mathematics. A theorem that you learnt at the beginning of school year more than likely was needed to solve a problem during the 3rd Monthly exams even if that problem had been taught only in the context of a recent topic.

So how did all that relate to the pretty bad 20/100 in Computer Science?

See in 10th grade, we only had, if I remember right, one class a week on Computer Science. And the 20/100 happened during the 1st Monthly exams when the software programs were at their most basic. We were essentially performing additions and subtractions. And the pretty girl had been recruited by my teacher to review and score the exam papers because he had figured out that she, a 16 year old, was so good. So more than my low score, it was the study in contrast between me and her that rankled but only for a short while. I will write a bit more about this girl in another post...but all this brings me to the reason why I wrote this post: I just couldn't be bothered with taking exams (or anything else for that matter) seriously.

When other students would sweat, pore over books and consult with each other right before exam time, I would be sitting relaxed and gazing out the window...at the swaying trees outside, at a couple of crows in earnest conversation on a power line, at a workman frantically gulping down water after an hour of hard labor on the hot street...and wondering if that water somehow tasted any better to him. And during an exam, I would more often than not just wing it. While the learned types would ask for more paper to tackle the extra credit questions, I would already be walking out of the exam hall.

Coming back to the present...back to the present...back to the present...

Come to think of it, I still cannot be bothered with taking a lot of things seriously today. This past Sunday, I was relaxing in a little cottage in Eastham when my folks called and said that they were coming down to discuss "very important matters" with me. It was a damp, rainy day. While I waited for them to arrive, I was standing by the cottage door watching the rain drizzle through the trees in the yard outside. And I observed this little chipmunk scrambling between the potted plants and bushes looking for food in a desperate bid to beat yet another New England winter. When it found something to eat, it seemed to forget the world around it as it focused on getting that food down, blissfully oblivious of my presence just beyond the glass of that storm door. Suddenly I felt like that kid in school from a time long gone by.

You are probably asking yourself, "So how did that cheese omelette in Weymouth remind him of 10th grade in Madurai?!?!".

Good call. When I figure that out, I will post again here...

Seriously though, that breakfast didn't remind me of that simpler life. Something else that frustrated me this past Sunday did. But I thought the cheese omelette would make a great start.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)



If this wonderful aster hasn't already started to bloom, it will start doing so soon! It will continue to bloom into early Fall.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Rowes Wharf Bar (A brief bar review)



The Rowes Wharf bar, in the Boston Harbor hotel, has the best selection of Scotches in town! I discovered Glenfarclas here, a brand that I find is as good as my favorite: Jack Daniels. On those days, I feel like putting on a suit and relax over a Whiskey, I go here. Its a 10 minute walk from my house and is right on one of the docks at Rowes Wharf. What more can I say? The ambience and atmosphere simply suit my own tastes.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Memorable Scenes

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Picture of the times


I've pretty much figured out that this is how I appear to women on first dates...Woof!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Prince of Persia - A brief movie preview


Jake on the sets of the movie in North Africa.

So...Jake Gyllenhaal will play the Persian Prince. Hey, at least it ain't Tobey Maguire or Orlando Bloom. Here is an article on this movie. Daniel Craig surprised everyone with Casino Royale. So I am gonna keep my thoughts to myself on this one. Jake is a great choice for a lot of roles. Anyone who has watched October Sky will know what I mean. However, this would be his first action outing -- that is, if you discount his other "action" outing, Brokeback Mountain.

The original game and its successors have always involved a lot of running, swimming, climbing, vaulting and solving of puzzles in addition to sword fights and archery. But the storyline in all these games has been mostly linear -- the new one coming out in Q4 2008 apparently will be an exception -- and simply about getting from one level to another until the Prince finally gets to rescue the Princess. So it should be interesting to see Gyllenhaal's performance in the stunt scenes and more importantly the adaptation of such a simple concept to the big screen. I certainly hope that the venerable game will not be marred by any possible fatuousness in this movie! Apparently the movie won't be out until 2009. That may be a good thing 'cause it likely won't compare well to The Dark Knight if released this year...or even next year, I guess.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Swords, Sandals and a Rock

Heh! Heh! One of my alltime favorite scenes. Its kinda funny if you think about it though. One of my recent posts involved wild Salmon. This one has a grizzly in it...

...a grizzly that ends up being a constellation!

Whoa!

Bodybuilders back in Louie's heydays can move pretty fast because they were also well-conditioned in addition to being strong. The sad thing about today's "bodybuilders" is that they take 3 steps and then start wheezing...

Y'know, it took me a while to realize that the soundtrack from the The Rock is awesome. But realize I did!

Clearly this is a much more heroic post than my last one...which was sweet enough to gag on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Home Depot

Note: Home Depot isn't paying me to write this stuff.



I am not big on chain stores but I like Home Depot. The smell of freshly cut wood while casually walking down their various aisles makes me feel that all life is good. I have often stopped at the painting section and gone through a paint selector book for 15 minutes while trying not to catch the eye of a salesperson. I don't want to talk. I just want to take it all in. And all those bolts and screws of various sizes and shapes in their own boxes neatly stacked in those huge shelves...Ah! I simply relish the tools section even though I don't know one end of a spanner from the other. Oh, they take care of the afore-mentioned bolts, do they? I have nary a plant in my house. I have been meaning to get some for a few years now but continue slacking off. Maybe I will make a procurement from Home Depot's garden section next time. Maybe for once, I won't simply stare at those little stands of dainty books that read How to Build a Deck or 16 easy Projects You Can Do Yourself For Less Than $100. Maybe I will...go through them. By the way, all those rows and rows of cement bags. I tell ya. Heaven!

Any visit to Home Depot naturally has to culminate in the lighting aisles, by far my favorite area there. When my folks did a major renovation of their house many years ago, my only suggestions included a chandelier for the dining room and twin light fixtures for the front door. I couldn't be bothered with making suggestions for the rest of the house. The chandelier came from a specialist lighting company in Dorchester, where my Mom and I picked it out. But the front door fixtures, looking very Victorian, came from Home Depot...and I picked them up all on my own!

I never really buy anything at Home Depot. Still I like to stop in occasionally and waddle around.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Three Easy Recipes

Fish and Vegetables

Here is an exceptionally healthy meal that I make 4 to 6 times a week. It is rather filling.

Total Preparation and Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

A slice of Wild Salmon -- about 1/2 lb
Coconut Oil -- 1/2 teaspoon
Lime Juice
Salt and freshly ground Pepper -- To taste

1. In a non-stick pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
2. While the pan is being readied, slather the Salmon with lime juice and freshly ground pepper. Add desired amount of salt.
3. Place the Salmon (skin down) on the pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Then turn it over onto its other side for 2 more minutes.
4. Cook covered for 6 more minutes in medium-low heat (3 minutes each side).
5. Remove from pan and let the Salmon sit for a minute or two.

For vegetables, I prefer chick peas, baby carrots and either broccoli or spinach. I throw the mix into a small pan filled with water, a bit of turmeric powder and 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil. Then the whole thing is put over medium heat until the water starts boiling.

If you don't like oily fish or if the Salmon is too expensive, you can use Tilapia (likely farm-raised). In addition to lime juice, slather 1/2 tablespoon of garlic paste on the Tilapia for a great taste. Cook each side of the Tilapia for 3 minutes (turning over once in total). Use medium heat throughout.

Beef with Broccoli

Ingredients

1 Chinese guy
1 Chinese gal from the old country

So they get married and on their first night in bed, he cooes in her ear,

"So, my love, how sweet you want make love to you?"

She looks at him coyly,

"You soun like you have lottah experience."

"I have maduh lottah "delivery", yes."

"I wan 69."

He stares at her.

"You wan beef with broccoli?!"

Mutton (Goat) Biryani

When I grew up in India, mutton was a staple meat in our diet.

This recipe is easy. I just get it from the Indian Delight restaurant in Weymouth, a few minutes away from my office.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Now the restaurant has Lamb Biryani on its menu. I like lamb but only when prepared in the context of a Greek or Scandinavian dinner. In other cases, I find it too strongly flavored for my taste. Anyway, Indian Delight sometimes stocks mutton but you have to make a special request for it. Keep in mind though that mutton is red meat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hey! A gold medal...

So...an Indian has won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And the event?

10m AIR RIFLE?!

What the flying f**k does that mean? A trained bumble bee delivers the bullet to the target or somethin'?

Pardon the cynicism. Guess I would have liked it better if the medal had come out of a track & field event or weight lifting -- that is, if Indians ever get out of the habit of doping in the latter sport.

But...I guess a gold medal is a gold medal.

I was so engrossed with India's sorry performance against the Sri Lankans in Cricket last week -- and researching the carrom ball -- that it didn't even occur to me to check to see if India won anything in the Olympics until a colleague mentioned the gold medal this morning.

Here is a picture of the fella:


That is a lot of hair...

Anyway, congrats to the chap for getting out there and conquering pressure!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cricket in the Olympics?

While I am entranced by sprinting on a track, diving in a pool and olympic weight lifting, I somehow can't take the Olympics that seriously. I don't know. I just can't do it. So when I hear about all these top Cricketers recently pushing for Cricket to have a spot in the Olympics, I get mixed feelings. Their argument is that Cricket in the Olympics will enable it to spread to bigger nations like the US and China and allow Cricketers to win gold medals.

Let me tell you something: I don't want the US and China playing Cricket. If they get to do it, I will probably absorb it and then continue to immerse myself in the game...like any good sport would. But I am not that excited about them getting involved in our game. One reason is the ever-cramped Future Tours Programme (FTP) of Cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC). More countries will mean a more crowded FTP schedule. Plus the likes of countries such as the US -- isn't that Allen Stanford dude from Texas? -- and China have big egos and that means possible influences on the rules of the game from their Cricket boards.


Excuse me, Mr.President, but...playing Cricket requires a touch of diplomacy! "Slogging it" doesn't work here.

With India's Cricket board, the BCCI, now exerting a powerful influence over the general direction of the game in stark contrast to the floundering leadership of the ICC, I can't help but wonder if these international Cricketers might want the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to somehow take over the game simply because they don't want some third-world Asian country on top of things. No, wait! That is a ludicrous thought!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anatomy of a scene




Elation! That's what I felt. I clutched the novels, one from Alistair MacLean and another from Louis L'amour, as I left the library and started riding home on a rickety bicycle. The final exams were over. I could now look forward to six weeks of summer holidays before my junior year in high school commenced. I didn't have much to do but read, enjoy my solo rides out into the hot country and hang out with friends. I wasn't as given to spending a lot of time doing the latter. So I was spending a lot of time doing the other stuff.

That particular morning, I had found two of my favorite authors on the same day in the dusty chaos that was the little library in Narimedu! But before I reached home to devour my finds for the day, I had to make a stop at a friend's house in LIC Colony. After half an hour there, I was getting hungry for both food and literary content and so decided to leave. But rather than make my way back through Sellur, I decided to take a detour through Krishnapuram and then Reserve Lines (so called because that neighborhood housed quarters for the city's reserve police force).


Click for a larger view.


At the border, where I had to cross into Krishnapuram, there was a flat barren area littered with shrunken mesquite and what I think may have been giant milkweed. Some claimed that the milky sap of the latter was toxic. Anyway, it was an untouched piece of land in an otherwise intensely built neighborhood. Some of the plants were standing in black muddy spots with dragonflies buzzing about. It seemed I could make my way through the mesquite to get to the main road that ran along most of Krishnapuram. So rather than use a potholed, characterless street, I decided to go through the flatter terrain of the mesquite. Halfway in, my bicycle chain came undone. So I put the bicycle on its stand and set about putting the greasy chain back on its front sprocket. A fairly easy task. As I stood up and wiped my hands on a jutting branch of mesquite, I took in the scene around me.

There was an elderly man with a crudely made walking stick ambling along on the potholed street I had just avoided. A housewife, standing at the entrance to her house on the other side of that street, was haggling with a rural looking woman selling vegetables door-to-door. I could hear the ceaseless traffic noise of two-wheelers coming from the direction of Krishnapuram. Birds were chirping in a variety of trees -- banana and palm primarily -- surrounding the houses in the vicinity. An imperceptible aroma of Tulasi briefly permeated the air. And in the miserly shade provided by the mesquite and milkweed, a couple of stray dogs were resting and taking a nice respite from the slowly rising heat and humidity of the day. A white butterfly was wandering around aimlessly in the contrasty light. A scraggly looking donkey, with likely the same idea as the dogs, was slowly making its way into the mesquite. It saw me and stopped. I could see that it didn't want to go back into the streets filled with the infestation of humans and automobile dust. But it was also wary of me. Very wary. There was a battle-worn look about it from living off the streets and possibly putting up with local kids who no doubt pelted it with stones when they were of a mind to.

The sun beat down on me and sweat started trickling its way into the small of my back. I thought back to the recently concluded school year. It had been a difficult decision to make. To switch schools, I mean. I had had a great time at the school. All eight years of it. My friends attended that school and the campus itself was only a stone's throw away from my house. But I simply couldn't bear going through those Tamil grammar lessons anymore and if what I had heard was true, the experience would be even more painful during the last two years of school. And they offered French as an alternative in the new school. Well, maybe the decision was an easy one after all.

A distant rumble disturbed my thoughts. The dogs were on the alert with their ears pricked. The donkey was still there gazing at the ground, resigned to destiny. I pitied its situation and considered taking it home. Then I thought of the look on my mother's face and decided against it. What a life the poor animal must be having compared to my own carefree one. Now the skies were darkening. Where I lived, tropical thunderstorms came out of nowhere. As the air turned heavier and the dragonflies settled down, the mesquite and trees around me started to dance hesitantly to sharp gusts of wind. Dust was being kicked up in spurts. I mounted my bicycle and started furiously pedalling home still a good 2 KM away. As I reached the main road, I briefly glanced back. The donkey was meandering its way into the mesquite. A whole lot of good that was going to do in torrential rainfall. Then as I cycled past a workshop, the scene vanished from view.


"You abandoned me, Gopi! Et tu...you brute!"

My stomach was rumbling by the time I arrived at my house. With heavy clouds hovering over the city, the day had turned almost dark. Men and women, with the latter's saris billowing to a wind that was now blowing steadily, were hurrying along on the street. The guy who owned a tea shop at the corner of our street was quickly bringing in his benches. I put the bicycle in our verandah and breathed a collective sigh of relief and exertion as I reached for the books secured in the bike's rear rack. A few seconds later, the heavens opened.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Sweaty Saturday - Beaches and Pole Dancing

Its official, folks! I no longer use sunblock for sun protection when I sunbathe at the beach. Instead I have switched to unrefined coconut oil. And I have to say my skin felt a lot cooler when I was at Revere beach this past Saturday morning! Also, while there, I noticed an Indian guy sunbathing and canoodling with this really fat, white girl...a mistake that I, of course, will never make no matter how wishful I might be for female company. But it was a refreshing change to see an Indian fella in proper beach wear at a non-India beach. What else? A bunch of kids kept kicking up sand playing football (aka soccer) nearby. That was really annoying! Then this big Indian (Sri Lankan?) family showed up fully dressed, parked themselves plumb in the middle of some beauties and started laying out all this food. Two of the beauties, seemingly annoyed, promptly picked themselves up and moved away. The family, of course, looked like they didn't give a sh*t. I am not as cynical of these things as I used to be but its hard to ignore something like that.

Anyway, these days I observe and, for the most part, forget. Besides I was having a good time texting this girl I had met online a month ago. We flirted steadily for a while. She was at a pool near her house with a friend and sent me a picture of her bikinied bottom, which melted my very sensitive little Indian heart like right away. Then my water ran out and I decided to leave. The beach was loud and was starting to get really packed (Indians or not). But I am not really sure if I want to go to Revere beach again. Like the beaches in Hull and Wollaston, the beach had a lot of noise from nearby passing traffic and the occasional siren and I couldn't concentrate on a book I had brought along. Were it not for the fact that I had had to attend Allen's bachelor party that evening, I would have gone some extra miles and hung out at singing beach or the Cape instead, where one mostly hears nothing but the squawk of gulls, the crashing surf and maybe the occasional tittering of some insect in dune grass or perhaps the distant boom of a foghorn.

I had actually gotten ready for Allen's bachelor party the previous Saturday evening. I guess I was being an eager beaver! No harm done. Now I stop at The Living Room across from the waterfront a couple of times a month for dinner on my way home. So we met up there, dined outside under the sun and drank "a bit". I stuck to martinis while the rest of the guys went with beer. Allen mixed it up though. David wanted to go across to Tia's but, throughout dinner, we had all been observing a steady stream of swell looking women making their way into the Living Room's lounge. So we decided to go hang out inside in the lounge. I was especially glad since I am not exactly fond of Tia's.

One of my neighbors had suggested Centerfolds. While the rest of the gang remained at The Living Room, David, Allen and I ended up at the strip club. At Centerfolds, David got upset. He was upset because he had just paid a girl $40 to do a lap dance for me and I wasn't interested. She had a trim body but I didn't find her attractive. Trust me. I have a big appetite but I couldn't see myself paying a girl to strip for me. So I sat at a table at the back of the bar and contented myself by watching girl after girl pole dance while David and Allen went upstairs. No idea what was upstairs and I didn't see those two again that night. I had enough visuals to keep me occupied.

While everyone else was drinking and letting go, I was analyzing. Gluteal folds, for instance. At my gluteal junction, the point where my caboose meets my hamstrings, my hammies integrate smoothly into my glutes courtesy of my choice of training. But a lot of these girls, despite their acrobatics and athletic look, had gluteal folds of varying depth. Some of the girls looked real young. Probably college students. Their dance movements were clinical and obligatory. The only exciting movements happened when the panties came off for a full frontal. When that happened, I could have sworn I was able to smell...money. At the end of the day, it was a job and the girls went through the motions no different than they would have had they been employed at some "it pays the bills" desk job. I also noticed a lot of black and asian guys sitting at the bar right in front of the stage. One black dude was giving away bill after bill to every girl who danced.

Yaaawwn! It was 1.30 in the morning and some of the girls had been asking me all along if I wanted a dance. Even though I had had only 5 drinks or so all evening, I didn't feel like drinking or hanging out anymore. Plus I had a vague notion that it was only a matter of time before some bouncer figured I wasn't being very profitable to the club. And I like leaving places with my dignity intact. So I stumbled out and caught a cab home.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An era ends

Content removed anticipating undue pressure

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blast It

So, after 10 years, the AC in my car has finally conked out. I had it recharged a week ago but now I know for sure that a component or two in the climate control subsystem will need to be replaced. I haven't got a quote yet but, along with a new EGR valve and clutch pedal, I likely will have to shell out something slightly more than a grand. I have been driving a few days now in 80+ degrees. I am so used to canned air here in Boston, that a lack of a working AC in my car has set me wondering about how I managed the heat when I grew up in the hot streets of Madurai. As a matter of fact, I wonder how people in a country like India manage the intense heat and pollution. Maybe they don't manage. Maybe they just bear it. I mean take a look at this sh*t:



This particular video reminds me of the ECR in Chennai...except, "ECR road" as locals refer to it, actually appears narrower at points because of super-heavy traffic!

When I stayed at the house of a close friend on the ECR during a trip to Chennai in January this year, the traffic was packed and the air, hot and dusty, kept rising to his 5th floor apartment. Fortunately, my friend and his wife, with their small child, have since moved to a quieter part of the city.


An early morning view from my friend's old apartment on the ECR. You can't see it but the Bay of Bengal is just beyond the haze. Besant Nagar then would be slightly to the left of this shot and by the beach. I think that this picture was taken the day before Pongal this year.

During my June trip to India, I stayed at my friend Santosh's place near Adyar in Chennai. Although it was in a busy part of the city, it was somehow quieter and cooler...could be because it was set far in from a main road and there were quite a few trees and shrubs about. While his new Bolero was a big help, the occasional ride on his motorcycle was an eye-opener. It was fun but I wouldn't want to do it 365 days out of the year. I mean I had to give up wearing my favorite Cape Cod hat when on his motorcycle and the sun beat down mercilessly on my newly shaved head. But the eye hugging sunglasses I took with me to India this time were a blessing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Door 3 Gallery Opening Soon

My friends Kate and Jason are opening an artsy gallery in Boston. Look, no one is paying me to do this stuff, alright? But you gotta admit these flyers certainly add a bit of color and grit to my blog.

Gallery reception: July 10, 8pm to 9:30pm


Click image for larger image.

Broadway Bicycle School will also be hosting a Women's Basic Mechanics Class Mondays from 5:30pm to 7:30pm starting in August. I guess way too many chicks have been coming into the shop to get their bikes fixed or somethin'...


Click image for larger image.

Monday, July 7, 2008

ID4 - A weekend recap

Well, I didn't do much for July 4 last year. This year it was decently busy. I resolved an "issue of the mind" with a neighbor early on Friday, cleaned up the place in the afternoon and met up with David and Kate in the back bay later in the evening. We then biked over to Jason's place in Roxbury for a few hours of celebration. It was pretty dark on Jason's roofdeck. But the food was really good. Once I pointed a finger at a girl,

"That girl looks good, dude."
"Gopi, please, don't ever point a finger like that. It offends people."

Now David's advice on dating and women has always helped me out in the past. So I had no hesitation in jogging that piece of advice down in my memory. But I really couldn't catch anyone else's eye and everyone seemed to just stick to their known group of friends. Blech!

Anyway, David and I decided to leave around 11.30. Kate, who was in earnest conversation with a Tobey Maguire type, decided to hang out longer. We stopped at Buks for a brief drink on the way back. I had to watch it since I am not as used to alcohol and I still had to ride a bike home. We ran across this attractive blonde Bridie (or was it Birdie?) there, whom we had seen before on Friday nights at Buks. She was a bit drunk -- tell me about it -- and switched between me and David in her stupor. Then, as the night wore on, I noticed David had a hand over her thigh and then later on her belly. She didn't seem to mind. At one point, I could see most of her black lace bra. All of that is not unusual in a night like that. Still after a while, I started feeling bad (more so at myself than her) and so gestured to her to prop her gown up properly, which she did and giggled,

"That doesn't happen all the time!"

Yeah, I am quite sure it doesn't :) Anyway, I decided to pull out...I mean, leave. It was real late anyway and I had to meet up with Alexa for coffee in the morning.

Later Saturday morning, after mulling over a piece of advice -- my second for the weekend -- from Alexa and having profusely apologized to her for what I had thought was a helpful comment from me, I seriously pondered whether I should go to Revere beach despite the gloomy weather and then decided against it. And a girl I had met online was a no-show in Harvard square in the afternoon. I was a few minutes late in getting to a coffee shop there. Who knows. Maybe some other guy "snatch"ed her up and went up a tree. The occasional tree does grow in Boston, y'know. But the other good thing about a city like Boston is that since there is always something to see and someplace to walk into, you can change your plans on the fly. So at the end of the day, you can go home feeling like you have done a lot, when in effect you have never really accomplished anything. And so I returned home later in the afternoon and made myself a shepherd's pie.

After a power nap, I received a text from Kate. She didn't want to go clothes shopping like we had planned. After the previous night and a long Saturday at the bike shop, she was dead on her feet. I was wondering what to do -- remember I don't do too well if I am home Saturday nights -- when David called in. He wanted to watch the UFC. I was elated. So he came over and after about an hour of pizza, wings and cigars in my roofdeck, we went down to my apartment just in time to order the event. Barring one listless fight, the rest of the fights were pretty exciting. Both of us agreed that Rampage Jackson should have won his close fight with Forrest Griffin. But I guess the UFC may have seen Griffin as more marketable. Griffin definitely tried a variety of fighting techniques while Jackson seemed content to remain on his feet and box.

I went to bed immediately after David left since I had to be up only a few hours later to catch the Asia Cup 2008 final between India and Sri Lanka. The match started around 4.30 AM EST on Sunday. After the innings break (around 8.30 AM), I propped up the volume. It didn't matter. India got thrashed! What the f*ck was Dhoni thinking sending in Yuvraj against a clearly in-form Mendis? And what the bloody hell was Raina, who had impressed me very much with his performance in the recently concluded Indian Premier League, thinking going crossbat against a straight one from Mendis who had just claimed the wickets of Sehwag and Yuvraj? I almost had a fever come on watching these guys underperform! Anyway, the match ended early in the afternoon and I decided to go see my folks. I hadn't been to the gym for about six days. So I was practically twitching just thinking of the weights in their basement...and ended up lounging on their couch in front of the TV for the rest of the day.

All in all, a decent weekend, wouldn't you say? But next time, even if it were a gloomy summer weekend, I am gonna go to the beach anyway. It can't be an unhealthy experience and it might just be good for my soul to get a little bit wet behind the ears now and then.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Dark Knight (A brief movie preview)


Whatever you do, man, don't screw it up.

The only thing I liked about the Spiderman franchise was the first 20 minutes or so of the first movie. The scene where that Toby fella experiments with his new found powers was fun. Couldn't enjoy the rest of the movie though. Kirsten Dunst was totally hot in that movie but she seemed kinda washed out in the second movie. I know. When it comes to enjoying the Spiderman movies, I seem to stand alone like the..um..dark knight. The 3rd installment in the Spiderman franchise was clearly one movie too many.

Christian Bale has charisma, something I feel that Tobey Maguire lacked. But then Tobey was playing a high school kid...with responsibilities. Kinda difficult to relate to that, huh? So his character was a "tear-fest" at times. Bale, of course, will be playing an adult character with all the sophistication required for the calibre that is Bruce Wayne. Perhaps it is unfair to compare those two roles. So I think my concern -- and it is not often I care about what is being put out by Hollywood -- then has more to do with the script itself. When too many things are thrown into the mix, which is what happened with Spiderman 3, the audience will want to just...up and away. The Batman team has had plenty of time to learn from the Spiderman 3 debacle. So I certainly hope that they won't be repeating the same mistake.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Picture of the season


Seven A.M. by Edward Hopper

In 2007, the MFA exhibited a lot of Edward Hopper's work. Outstanding stuff! So I ended up spending more time at the MFA in 2007 than in any other prior year. This year, I am looking forward to a couple of exhibitions at the MFA.

It is a custom for me to spend several weekends in the summer scouring art shops and galleries in Rockport and Gloucester for pieces that capture my imagination. No, I don't have $30m to disburse for a 100 year old painting. But I have spent as less as $30 for beautiful art created by local artists. And, of course, while I am in Rockport, I also visit this little shop that sells Apple Strudel with Vanilla ice cream!!

And so it begins...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Park's 5x5

To conclude my spring training, I just started following phase 3 of Reg Park's 5x5 program this past Sunday. So far, I have put in two sessions on this "routine". All I can say is that at night, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I have been dropping off to Z-land like a pine cone dropping in the still depths of an Alaskan forest.

Usually I keep my workouts under an hour and not do more than 3 or 4 movements per session. And I only plan on trying Park's style of training for a month. Anyway, it has been taking me about 1.5 hours to complete the entire circuit, which speaks volumes about the gains I have made in my cardiovascular conditioning in the past few months! Had I embarked on a program like this before the start of spring training, I likely would have had a few buzzards circling my limp form outside the gym. Can't wait to see where my BF% is in a month!!

Got to go stock up on goat milk now...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Violet Eyelashes

So this is a poem about a friend of mine. Yeah, it is a she. Why would I write about a guy? Duh!

Enjoy!

Such a bundle of joy
She came into my life
From a world so far
And different from my haunt
Of times long gone by
To melt me in words
As sweet as the honey
From the rarest acacia tree
And soothing as the art
From the realm of rembrandt
I wonder in my sleep
If these arms can reciprocate
And possess a little strength
To hold my thieving magpie
During times of unfair disharmony

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cricket Vs Baseball

I have admired the occasional American Football game. It is an outstanding game of credit. Baseball? I could never dig that. The primary reason has to do with a complete lack of style in batting (or hitting) and not enough tactical requirements when compared to the richness and variety evident in Cricket.

Hitting/Batting

Baseball: The hitter either slogs or slaps an incoming ball. There is no wicket behind him that he needs to worry about. Then he advances by bases unless a home run is hit whence every hitter is allowed to complete the square. That's it. Simple.

Cricket: A batsman plays either defensively or aggressively (or a mix of both) depending on tactical requirements such as the influence of net run rates, skill of the active bowler (pitcher) and placement of certain fielders. The lack of a strike-out concept in Cricket means that a batsman could potentially "hit" for an entire inning and face numerous deliveries!! And all of that while protecting 3 Stumps (or the wicket) and being wary of the wicket keeper right behind him. Shots involve blocks, cuts, drives (cover, square, on), pulls, hooks, scoops, sweeps (regular, paddle, reverse), slogs (baseball style), glances, flicks and the Marillier and are accomplished using the appropriate footwork. Shot selection becomes crucial when a high run-rate is required. In addition, 1 or more runs can be scored against a single delivery. The equal of a home run in baseball provides 6 runs in cricket unless...the ball where to hit the ground at least once before it reaches the boundary, in which case, only 4 runs are provided.






Six consecutive sixes (homeruns)

Pitching/Bowling

Baseball: Mostly full tosses where the pitcher delivers the ball to the strike zone without the ball hitting the ground. The ball may not always take a linear route to the hitter depending on its wear pattern and wind conditions. That's it. Simple. It is not uncommon to use the same pitcher for the entirety of a team's pitching.

Cricket: Bowling can be both defensive and offensive depending on tactical requirements. While the occasional full toss is delivered to a batsman, it is usually done because the bowler slipped up or the bowler decides to surprise the batsman with a different type of delivery. Usually though, bowlers (both pace and spin) deliver so that the ball pitches (hits the ground) atleast once before reaching the striking batsman (inside the strike zone). So a delivery can be a high/low full toss, short ball, length ball or a yorker. The combination of such pitching on the ground, weather (wind and dampness on ground) and wear pattern can make the ball turn or swing in a variety of ways, improve bounce or dampen it and either slow the ball down or speed it up. Because the ball pitches, the condition of the ground laid out between wickets plays a significant part in the toss winning team's decision to bat or bowl first.

So the batsman needs a really quick eye and then has to decide in a fraction of a second as to how to play the incoming ball using the appropriate shot. The bowler could bowl a wide ball or a no-ball and provide a run to the batting team in the process, which can sometimes prove crucial in the later stages of a game. Toward the end of a game, the run up used by a bowler to get to the bowling zone to deliver the ball can work the crowd up and put pressure on batsmen and fielders alike. This I have found to be not nearly as spectacular in baseball.




Fielding

Baseball: Restricted to the square. Fielders use a glove to pick up the ball. I have seen some spectacular catches taken in baseball.

Cricket: The ball can be hit to any corner of the ground by a batsman. Fielders, except the wicket keeper who is always behind the striking batsman, do not wear gloves. Again, I have seen spectacular catches fielding moves made in cricket but without the aid of a mitt or a helmet.



Fielding (no mitt)



Because of the variety of shots that could be played and the bowling styles involved, the Wicket Keeper (fielder behind the batsman) has an athletic role to play in cricket.


Cricket fielding positions

Getting Out

Baseball: The 3 common ways a hitter can be dismissed are Strike outs -- hitter misses playing 3 balls in a row, catches and run outs (before a hitter can reach one of the bases, he is tagged).

Cricket: Bowled out (ball hits the stumps behind batsmans), catches, runouts, LBWs and stumpings are the 5 common ways a batsman can be dismissed. The type of bowling style, pace or spin, in a given situation can be used to predict how a batsman can be dismissed. For instance, stumping of the batsman during spin bowling occurs commonly in a high run-rate requirement situation. So the type of bowlers in the active team are culled from a bigger roster depending on pitch and weather conditions.

Game Format

Baseball: Has only one format comprising of 9 innings for each side.

Cricket: Has three formats. Test cricket is played over 5 days for multiple innings. I never watch it. One-Day International (ODI) cricket is played for around 6 or 7 hours total with one inning for each team with a couple of drink breaks in each inning and a lunch break. I only watch ODIs during the World Cup, which happens every 4 years. The newly invented Twenty20 format lasts for around 2.5 or 3 hours total with one inning for each team with a single (10 minute or so) break. I am really hooked on this format now! Twenty20 games are played in the evenings (local time) and many expect them to completely replace ODIs. The T20 World Cup happens every 2 years.

Wrap-Up

Additionally, in cricket, the team captain is responsible for making all tactical decisions and coaches have no say once play begins. This decision making capability by a player, along with the various batting styles, simply does it for me! For uncontrollable situations, such as rain, the team captains work with in-ground umpires to decide on the fate of the game or adjusting it to fit time and run rate constraints.

The IPL and the art of captaincy

Having said all that, I have to add that two of my favorite movies are The Sandlot (a real favorite) and A League of their Own :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Watership Down (A brief book review)


I started reading Watership Down on the flight over to London from Boston and completed reading it in India. This was an engrossing enough read!

I originally bought the book at Logan airport because the book promised vivid descriptions of the English countryside and I was feeling a bit mellow. It didn't let me...down. It is about a bunch of rabbits that talk like humans and are attempting to find their own "land" in the English countryside. Various characters that you would see in a story like Toy Story can be found here: the calm, leader type, the nervous, brooding type, the spiritual type, the belligerent, muscular type, the comic relief type, etc.

But, by themselves, the rabbits would not have made as much an impact as they did had it not for the color, depth, sounds and smells woven into the story by Richard Adams' vivid description of the English countryside. The only other time I have come across a similar type of prose to describe a land was in Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams (which is the best non-fiction work I have read). Toward the end of the book, I occasionally forgot I was reading about a bunch of rabbits because Adams ratchets up the tension so well that I was somewhat drawn into the conflict myself.

This book will be liked by children (I don't know; 8 - 12 yo perhaps but only if articulated properly) and adults alike.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Commonwealth Delicacy

So last night I was out with this wonderful woman Ingrid, a Sociology professor, who was thinking of moving to Boston. I don't believe that I have ever dated anyone sweeter. The chemistry was so sizzling you could have thrown a couple of eggs our way and they would have finished scrambling by the time they hit the floor. Naturally, toward the end of dinner, we ended up holding hands and just gazing at each other. Those cornerside lounge-style tables at Match on Mass Ave are simply awesome! For once, it was a relief for me to not think of something to say on a first date. Anyway, after dinner we took a walk on Commonwealth ave toward the Commons. We held hands and kissed several times enroute. Usually I am very conscious of kissing in public but this time, it just felt so right!! Being with the right woman does that to you, I guess. That is the kind of date everyone dreams of. Although it has happened to me occasionally before, this one was special. I don't see why I can't get a second date -- after I get back from India, likely -- but, on the remote chance I don't, I will really cherish this one! I came home late last night, slept well and woke up to a cool, drizzly morning. I have a feeling she is going to give me sleepless nights during my time in India next week :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What a game! What a game!!

I think that I have finally acquired a good understanding of the "There is a game on tonight!" mentality here in the United States...courtesy of the Indian Premier League's (IPL) inaugural season which wrapped up today. The last two overs of the second innings of the final match today were simply phenomenal in the kind of in-your-face nerve-racking tension that built up during the course of the match!

Since I moved to Boston back in '94, I have not been following the usual formats of Cricket (that can last several days) as I picked up on other physical activities here in the United States. I have come to embrace this format of Cricket as each match lasts only 3 hours and is played in the evenings (local time). My weekend rock climbing up in NH has been put off because I have been sitting at home watching these IPL matches late weekend mornings (EST) for the past 5 weeks.

Anyway, both the losing team, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) whom I came to thoroughly support, and the winning team, the Rajasthan Royals (RR), put up a consistently well-played inning each. The win was a very close one for RR. But full credit definitely goes to RR's lower order batsmen, Shane Warne (also the RR skipper) and Sohail Tanveer, for not giving into pressure and wrapping the final over up with dignity. Unlike Soccer or American Football, in Cricket, the coach really has no say once a game begins. The Captain of each team gets to make all tactical decisions. So it has been an absolute pleasure watching Warne (the only non-Indian skipper in the league) guide his team through each match and then eventually take the final! Now I have decided to make an effort to get out there and find some Cricket lovers so I can get to watch the next season of the IPL with some great new friends!

Friday, May 30, 2008

'Elementary, my dear Watson'

The second semi-final, in which the Chennai Super Kings (the team I am rooting for) will play Kings XI Punjab, is slated for tomorrow at 10.30 AM EST. I will be watching it in the coziness of my North End apartment. No, no pizza or beer. I am on a strict diet in preparation for beach weather and so only BCAA tablets, some H2O and maybe a bit of cheese will figure.

What about the first semi-final that happened this morning? Well, the Rajasthan Royals' Shane Watson's blazing 52 may have made the Delhi Daredevils nervous. Whatever it was, the Daredevils, when it was their turn to bat, collapsed all out for 87 in the first semi-final of the knockout stage of the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Watson's team, the Rajasthan Royals, are currently at the top of the league table and have shown that the recent fracas with Kings XI Punjab (where RR lost quite spectacularly) was just that: a fracas. And not really the psychological advantage that the Kings XI may have hoped for a few days ago (during the dead rubber -- and final 1st round -- match between the Royals and Punjab).

A quick rundown of what to expect tomorrow

Chennai: Stephen Fleming is back in NZ, in anticipation of his wife's delivery of a child. So it will be interesting to see who Parthiv Patel will open with. But Chennai has a strong middle order, probably the strongest in the league. But then Punjab has the strongest top batting order in the league. Chennai's bowling totally sucked during their second 1st round match against the Rajasthan Royals. So their bowlers cannot afford to screw up against a team like the Kings XI.

Mohali: Kings XI has the strongest top order batting lineup in the league, their opening striker being Shaun Marsh, who at US60,000 has proven to be an outstanding value for the money for Punjab. Marsh by the way has scored the most runs in the tournament. They have very good (and, more importantly, consistent) bowling and fielding.

Verdict: If Chennai isn't consistent in their batting and if their bowlers just give it away, they will certainly lose against Mohali.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Picture of the times


Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona. HiRISE Image of Phoenix descent on the parachute.

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter marks the first time ever one spacecraft has photographed another one in the act of landing on Mars.

This is definitely a picture for the history books. It is an unfettered reflection of human ingenuity in play!!

Friday, May 23, 2008

RIP Reg Park

I know Clancy Ross passed away a month ago but I just found out that Reg Park had died last November.


Growing up in India, I developed an interest in physical culture watching movies starring that big Austrian dude and that other Italian dude (who, in one of his movies, goes to Russia to wallop that big Russian fella). While my Dad eventually bought me some of Arnie's books while I was in high school, I craved a much personal learning experience. I didn't get that until the advent of the Internet -- a few years after my arrival in the US -- allowed me to learn about the lesser known strongmen of yesteryears and their bare bones training with just a few pieces of equipment.

Clancy Ross full squatted well into his 60s and convinced me that full squats were the way to go. A few years after that conviction, I grew from a thin 130 pounder to a dense 155 pounder with 22 inch thighs. Reg Park, on the other hand, remained elusive from my research for many years. Somebody wrote somewhere that if John Grimek oozed dense muscularity and Steve Reeves exuded aesthetics, then Reg Park combined those two qualities to build a rugged physique...a physique that would eventually inspire a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, thousands of miles away in a little Alpine village, to give up soccer and become a bodybuilder. A couple of years ago I re-discovered Park and his lifestyle and made a drastic change to my training again: I threw away isolation exercises and only did the big, compound movements. I stopped feeling guilty about not doing "cardio" or training abs directly. After a while, I realized that I was able to stay strong and in shape without, it seemed, really trying. Workouts weren't simply workouts anymore. I was training and it suddenly defined my existence, like breathing, eating and sleeping do. A year later I finally convinced my brother to start lifting free weights. And, Reg Park, was the reason for that.

Tributes are here (starting with one by that big Austrian dude).

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Cricket is my religion. Tendulkar is my God".

I have often bemoaned the never-ending increase in India's population. I don't bother anymore, of course. But the irony is that it is exactly because of that high population that the formation of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has become possible. Ok, I am not going to go on a rant about saving the planet. Instead I want to quickly gloss over a new phenomenon in Indian cricket: Indian cricket fans hoping that International Indian cricketers will lose their wickets easily in IPL matches.

I mean here I am dreading Sachin Tendulkar's expected active participation with his IPL team: the Mumbai Indians. Tendulkar has been on the injury roster for all the 7 or so matches to date that the Mumbai Indians have played in the inaugural season of the IPL. So why am I dreading his active play on Wednesday? Because the Mumbai Indians will be playing against an IPL team I have started supporting: the Chennai Super Kings! When CSK played Kings XI Punjab (and won) this past Saturday, I was overjoyed! I was elated to see KXP Captain Yuvraj Singh, one of my favorite Indian cricketers, lose his wicket so easily after scoring only 2 runs. Such a strange feeling that was...

A lot of these senior Indian players don't perform consistently well in International games (the IPL, despite having star foreign players, is a domestic league). But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not replaced some of these inconsistent performers in a long time. This is quite possibly because it is difficult to market the game in the advertising world with relatively unknown talent, such as promising state-level players. So the IPL, which is overseen by the BCCI, is a great way for a lot of these local guys to show off their talent while playing amidst and learning from both International Indian players and foreign stars. So I guess that I am not that confused about the afore-mentioned strange feeling since I can see how the IPL can strongly benefit India's future in International cricket. I am already seeing some of these Indian youngsters being mentioned in news media in Australia, England and elsewhere. If that was one of the original intent of the BCCI, well...hats off to it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Audacity (A brief software review)

For 8 years or so, I used a PC at home. Nothing wrong with that. I played Prince of Persia -- both the original DOS version and the outstanding 3D version from 1999 -- and Microsoft Flight Simulator on it. I edited photos from the weddings I covered and burned CDs of them. I also recorded streaming music directly off the sound card a lot. Creative's sound card on that PC came with a piece of software called...Creative Recorder. How original. Creative Recorder allowed me to capture CD quality sound right off the sound card. And life was good. Kane seemed fine. We were all having dinner and...it must have laid some sort of egg in his body...

No, wait, what am I saying?! That's dialogue from Alien.

"Put me out of this misery, doc. Give me one of those yoghurts that chicks dig into after yoga."

Anyway, early this year, I decided to upgrade my computer since I was getting into serious RAW file editing and the newest versions of Prince of Persia and MS Flight Simulator were almighty slow. Occasionally the Prince would freeze during combat like a Bollywood "action hero" with a synchronized lower jaw and groin cramp. Not good. Besides which the PC started acting up and sometimes wouldn't turn on when I hit the power button. I would even nudge it with an elbow: "Pssst. Wake up." It would just sit there listless like a Gaulish cockerel with adenoids. So before I dropped an anvil on it and earn the wrath of all the tenants in 3R, 2R and 1R below me, I decided to buy a new laptop: 3 GB of RAM, a graphics card with 256 MB dedicated video memory, Vista Home Premium, etc. Everything was great until I realized that there was no way to record sound directly off the sound card in the new laptop. How was I going to rip off my favorite music from YouTube or Ragaa? I tried a variety of software that claimed to record audio directly from the sound card. None of them worked as well as the barebones Creative Recorder. I was desperate. My life was in tat-tat-tatters. Then I discovered Audacity. Suddenly the clouds parted and the sun came out. Little birds with flowers in their tiny beaks circled me a-chirpin' and red squirrels started nibbling at my ears. I was...oh so happy!


Audacity: A turning point in my life!

I had actually started to develop my own recorder software on the laptop using C# and DirectX but then, while troubleshooting an unrelated Vista issue on the web, happened to run across a forum poster who mentioned Audacity. So I thought I would give it a try. And I am glad I did 'cause, trust me, attempting to program DirectX was a chore. Anyway, Audacity is so easy to use. You open it, click record, then click stop and finally export the captured audio to a choice of formats including MP3. Done! You can trim off unwanted portions by selecting/dragging the unwanted region with your mouse. Audacity even captures audio smoothly while I have other applications open and active. I suspect that this is only possible because my laptop has a multicore processor. I haven't used some of the more advanced features the product has. I don't need them. The software is available for free under the GNU license!

Now I can look forward to a summer of new music!