• Eyes on Fire - Blue Foundation
  • Rooster - Alice in Chains
  • Jigsaw Falling into Place - Radiohead
  • Quien Fuera - Silvio Rodriguez
  • La Tortura - Shakira

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sin Lugar para los Debiles

In a bold display of ruthless selfishness and independence, I left Aparna at home and went to see 'No Country for Old Men' last night. I am speechless. I don't have much to say. The movie is the best I've seen in 2007. Period. It climbs to the top of my favorite Coen Brother's movies.

Update: I read the book of the same title by McCarthy. The movie was a very faithful adaptation. Still, you do get a better insight into Chigurh. Like the movie says, he's a man of principles.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sista saves my skin


Having been at the receiving end of two surprise parties the last couple of years, I was under intense pressure to deliver something 'special' for my joru's budday. Had I failed, I would've been at the receiving end of some serious guilting attacks.

So, sista comes to the rescue. Manju ze cake chef made zis amazing cake - both in looks and taste - and overnighted it in time for mi lady's private little bash. It was brandy soaked layers of rich chocolate, pecans and some form of gluten(I think) - then it was rolled up, sliced and frozen for transport.

Though she found it sweet, Aparna was at a loss trying to understand why it had to be mailed from Denver. It could've been ordered locally right? Well .. she didn't know that that point .. so she positively started to become teary eyed when she came to know Manju actually made it. To rub it in, I also disclosed that Manju did a practice run before perfecting the recipe a day before she actually sent it.

All in all, M saved my day .. made Aparna's .. and we pigged out on what little was there of the cake.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Mathematician plays the Stock Market

Game 1: I'll give you $10,000 and toss a coin. Heads - you get nothing. Tails - you get $5000.

Game 2: I'll give you $20,000 and toss a coint. Heads - you lose $10000. Tails - you lose $5000.

Which one would you play? Game 1 or Game 2?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

'The Goal' and growing up

'The Goal' has been on my wishlist for quite some time. Being in the supply chain business, it was required reading for me but I came around to it quite late. Still, it was a fascinating read. There is nothing new that I can add to what has already been said in the foreword.

Mr. Goldratt teaches us interesting concepts about engineering and mathematics using a story about a plant manager working to save his plant and his marriage. Every problem is first identified, formulated and a solution seems to emerge all by itself. I was reminded of an old teacher of mine,

Q: 'How do you solve a question?'

A: 'You ask questions!'

My favorite lesson involved an analogy drawn between the fluctuating gaps between a line of hiking boy scouts and inventory levels in a manufacturing plant. The same chapter also contained a game involving a series of bowls and matchsticks being moved thru the bowls to simulate throughput using the throw of a die to model randomized events and demand.

It has sparked off a desire to revisit probability and statistics. I wasn't very good at combinatorics and that spilled into the above subjects - but these are the real tools of applied mathematics and every engineer (even a 'computer science and engineering' grad :-)) should be familiar with these concepts.

Not to mention, Supply Chain isn't quite so boring after all. I've been enamored for too long by the elegance and simplicity of problems involving elementary mathematics while preparing for JEE. It's about time I got out of the mold - about 10 years too late to be honest.

I feel like John Cusack's character in High Fidelity in many ways. In one of the pivotal scenes in the movie, when asked to list his top 5 dream jobs, he starts checking off each of them one-by-one for reasons like 'I can't be a reporter for rolling stones in 1970' and 'I can't be a producer for atlantic records in 1969'.

He was refusing to grow up. His 'dream' jobs were adoloscent fantasies and instead stoked a bitterness for his present life. He ultimately realizes that owning his music store is the closest he could get to having his dream job. Funny that I should come to a similar conclusion - after I got married. Any guesses who got me thinking?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ultra-Marathon Man

Dean Karnazes fascinated me from the get-go when I first read an article about him in the Times. His ability to run for days on end motivated me to take up running more seriously, in particular his description of the giddy joys of eating - imagine downing whole cheesecakes for dessert.

The book was a letdown. It says a lot that the best thing about it was that it was a quick read. He does a decent job of describing the weird kinds physical challanges and side effects during the races. The extreme elements in mountains, deserts, forests and the weather are humbling and serve to remind us of our place on earth.

That said, the book failed at mutliple levels. Pretty quickly into the book, the self-pomposity and efforts to counter-balance it with fake humility come to the fore. He did a poor job of articulating the mental underpinnings behind such physical feats. It was a always a very unsophisticated rehash of 'Your body runs the first 10 miles, the mind runs the next 10 and your heart has to take over for the remaining six point two.'

I'm glad I read it but I feel even better that I borrowed it from the local library.

Friday, October 05, 2007

XO - God Bless You!

I heard about the 'One Laptop Per Child' project sometime back. Yesterday, I read David Pogues review of an XO prototype. David raved about the laptop - and rightly so.

I'm not much of a gadget geek. Yes, I do follow the occasional updates to Nikon SLRs (like it's recent full-frame offering) or the new iPhone which was very cool too. The XO is an altogether different matter. I can't believe the feature-set this tiny laptop offers. My personal favorites were:
1. mesh networking
2. security model
3. dust-proof and impact proof design

The simplicity of the system stands in sharp contrast with the bloated pieces of junk a.k.a PCs that we've come to rely on. I've gotten so tired of frequent windows crashes and slowdowns that i don't actually own my own PC now. I sent my two-year old dell 700m back home. I'm content using my work laptop and 90% of what I do is to browse anyway. I'm sometimes tempted to buy one of the new laptops but the thought of running Windows Vista makes me cringe. iMacs appear somewhat better at times but the cost is prohibitive and my technical ignorance of the platform stands against it.

Along the way comes this gem of a device. The ideas behind it are so fresh and innovative - it is hard to believe. Free of commercial constraints (like backwards compatibility), they had the luxury of choosing a security model without baggage. I'll root for this one and I hope larger business interests do not affect it's success. I'll seriously consider buying it (there is a buy one - donate one option for $400) if I see any scope of creative tinkering with it. Even if I don't buy one, I'll gladly pay $200 to donate it a needy child who will definitely benefit from it.

I haven't been as excited by the news of a new product in a very very long time. It gets even better because of the humanitarian underpinnings of the project.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pleasantly surprised - great food

Today Aparna and I ended up at the flying biscuit while scouring the streets for some light none-too-expensive food on our way back from Trader Joe's. The restaurant wasn't officially open yet. They were having a 'friends & family' night where the staff (service and kitchen) was to 'practice' their dishes on 'friends and family'. The food was free.

Our friendly waitress Carissa explained that they were not open to the public but still snuck us in as her friends for the night. We were quite taken by the warmth and also by the place. Given that it was practice night, they had a restricted menu and the only things on offer were dishes they were still perfecting.

The menu featured more than a few vegetarian options and if you ate eggs, you had an incredible array of choices before you. We tried the black-bean cakes with green salsa, hummus and sun-dried tomato wrap and a tofu-potato salad. All three were delicious - right out of the top drawer. The salad in particular was spicy (still can't believe it) and all the dishes didn't have any pretentions about them - fresh ingredients and no compromises when it came to taste and condiments (there was plenty of high quality sour cream and cheese).

We were delighted with our visit on all counts. We left a $20 tip since the food came at no cost. I've spent well over fifty bucks for food that didn't taste half as good. On the whole - a very highly recommended eat for vegetarians.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The bald man's chocolates

Aparna called me a couple of days back from NY to announce that she was about to have dessert at a very special place in Manhattan. She wanted to know the name of one of my favorite desserts (if done right) - the Chocolate Souffle. I felt a shade of envy - but hey, those are the perks of travel. I've had my share. I had the best damn chocolate souffle at Amorio in Santiago. So, I didn't let it bother me too much.

Of course, today when Aparna announced that she had something for me - I was pretty sure what it was. She was surprised that I wasn't surprised that she got me something - but knowing her, she could not have gone to a specialty chocolate store without getting me something. Anwyays, she got me a set of assorted truffles that she picked for me.

Now, I'm not such a big truffle fan - as I feel my palate is much too numb to appreciate subtlety in texture and taste. I crave pure, smooth, dark chocolate paired with strong flavors like orange zest, spices and more recently cognac & whiskey - it tastes surprisingly good. The whiskey doesn't come on as strongly as the cognac (at least with the one I tasted) but complements the chocolate beautifully.

Anwyays, getting back to the truffles from Max Brenner's - I was to begin the most satisfying chocolate tasting experience so far in my life. The creations were truly exquisite and reposed faith in my tastebuds because I could close my eyes and taste all the subtle flavors. My favorites were lemon peel, dulce de leche & whiskey and hazelnut all with dark-chocolate. It was incredible. I was thrilled and hooked. Unless she goes back to that store, I'm ordering these killers online.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Vinayaka Chaturthi

We celebrated Vinayaka Chaturthi this year - once again featuring Aparna's hand-crafted Vinayaka from atta flour and turmeric. We also used flowers from our own garden.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Studio Lighting 101

I took this picture with a home made softbox. While the light seemed good enough for a doll, it didn't quite work out when I tried to photgraph Aparna.

This one had a 20''x20'' softbox with a 200 watt bulb to the viewer's right, reflector on the left and a background light. It was easy enough making the softbox using foam core but I'm not sure how to mount them and control the height and angle of incidence.

Here is a series of pictures showing the effect of adding the different lights one by one.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why are you vegetarian?

Recently, with all the hype surrounding vegetarianism and its variants, a vegetarian could be forgiven for believing that s/he belonged to a higher strata of compassionate and righteous human beings - feeling sorry for their meat-consuming brethren. Now that I've so cunningly confessed and in the same vein conveniently exonerated myself, allow me to inflict some personal history on you.

Notwithstanding generations of strict Brahminic (and hence vegetarian) influences, my Dad ate all kinds of meat during his heyday, including the unholiest of unholies - beef - while he traveled the west. Mom, though not quite as adventurous, wasn't averse to the consumption of meat. If memory serves me well, she might have even tasted pork. Quite understandably, there was no pressure on me to stick to a veggie-only diet. As a child, I tasted chicken and mutton on a couple of occasions - even relished them. However, Mom had no clue nor an inclination to cook meat at home - so our daily meals were always vegetarian.

Somewhere along the way, a desire to eat meat fell to the wayside - and weakened further by taunts from meat-eating friends. I got thru college, living away from home 'unscathed'. I didn't drink (I tried to .. a lot .. to no avail) or smoke (I'm asthmatic) or eat meat.

Due to the combination of a nitpicking palate and a genetic hand-me-down, I avoided the 'twin evils' of drinking and smoking. Add to that a self-cultivated disinclination to eat meat and I was carrying the fodder to feed a delusion of piousness. I was at the tipping point.

I promptly tipped over, when I arrived in the states in 2000. Though Eugene, OR was liberal enough to have more meat-free offerings than the average american town, my options were quite limited - but I slugged it out. I took to cold sandwiches and cous-cous salad and of course gallons of ice-cream that I consumed as dinner. I suppose it was around this time that I truly subscribed to the idea that I was standing on higher ground.

Somewhere down the line, I lost sight of a very important fact. As an Indian vegetarian, I was never ever denying myself the pleasures of eating the tastiest of foods. The sheer variety of home cooked food was staggering at the very least. Being vegetarian came very naturally to me. It wasn't about eating healthy and really not about being overly nice to animals. We ate good food at home - it just happened to be meat free.

There are people very close to me including Aparna who gave up meat for ethical reasons - and I greatly respect that stand. I was never into eating meat so there was nothing to give up. I'm still quite happy being a vegetarian and would love to have more options when I eat out. But ask me about why I'm a vegetarian and chances are you won't hear hogwash about ethics and humanity.

.: I thought I'd post Aparna's response to my rant in a an unabashed show of nepotism :.
I'm going back in memory lane here, but I distinctly remember that as children, we were all taught not to take what isn't ours. Why is taking a life any different then? Why is OK to kill an animal?

I used to not be a vegetarian. It was so easy. Or was it? My reasons were that I needed the nutrition, it was OK as long as it wasn't a mammal, etc. etc. I also thought of vegetarians being hypocritical when they wore leather, so I kept believing that there was nothing wrong. The reality though was that I didn't want to know the harsh reality behind how that food came to my table? It's not pleasant, it's not right, and I believe we have the power to do something about it. The very least we can do is not contribute to it.

It takes courage to stand by what you believe in. I believe all life forms deserve respect. I'm not a mission to change the world...just myself, for the better.

I read about the Canadian sealhunt the other day and was very disturbed. Sign the pledge below if you think it's worth saving a few lives...they're all equally valuable.

I guess it was my turn to ramble on..:)

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I'm hitting paydirt more often in my search for better chocolate ice-creams. Since Haagen Dazs Mayan Chocolate and Amazon Valley Chocolate, I've hit upon Choctal. This brand specializes in Chocolate-only ice-creams. So far, I've tasted 'Pure Kalimantan' and 'Pure Costa Rican Chocolate'.

The description was enough .. "a cacao that makes dark, rich, pure chocolat" . It was as promised - a strong, uncompromisingly bitter, swiftly melting chocolate extravaganza. There was also talk lingering oak, vanilla or caramel - but my brutalized Indian palate craves pure chocolate and as long as that is the dominant flavor, I stand sated. You'll hear more about this brand. I'm very impressed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's picasaweb now ..

I've moved to picasaweb for storing all my online pictures now. It serves my needs - and though it has limited space, it's able to display pictures at a decent resolution. I hated flickr and the limited sets option it had to offer. Let's see how this holds out. I'm hoping to hold out so I don't end up paying to host my pictures.

I made a trip to Tallulah Gorge last weekend along with Bharath, Sandhy and Arora. The sky was overcast, the pictures were terrific.

Friday, June 01, 2007

the Chocolate Revolution

I'm a chocoholic - make that dark chocoholic. I like chocolates. Did I mention that I love Dark Chocolate? Get the picture?

Yes, I scour the candy sections for dark chocolate that I haven't tasted before. Usually, I to go to specialty stores (TJs, Whole Foods, Cost Plus have been serving me well) to satisfy my bottomless pit of a stomach. Of late, I've been noticing some dark chocolate versions of some mainstream (ugh! milk) chocolates.

Hershey's have been serving up some crappy low-end dark chocolate for a while now. However, they've recently come up with a higher priced and slightly better brand - Cacao Reserve. Some of these taste decent - worth a try. The most surprising entrant was a Dark Chocolate snickers bar. I'd say it's much better than the milk chocolate version - what did you expect?

The point is, everyone is slowly turning towards dark. I see a proliferation of articles touting the benefits of dark chocolate. I'm all for it. Hopefully, we'll be weaned off of the extremely sugary and awful tasting american mainstream candy into something more subtle and rich.

I will soon review a stash of chocolates I bought in Canada. I never saw these brands elsewhere and the flavors were exotic - Banana Ginger, Green Anise, Orange Peel, Fresh Ginger. I haven't tucked into them yet - I hope to savor each one like it's a bottle of fine wine. Not to mention - I paid premium price for each bar, close to 6 bucks a piece.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An active long weekend

I just returned from a very hectic but thoroughly enjoyable long weekend in Colorado. I took a day off so I was able to spend close to 4 days in my favorite state. Aparna and I joined Mom, Dad, Manju and Pramod in a whirlwind tour of the state's National Parks.
Day 1: Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak.
Day 2: Sand Dunes National Park.
Day 3: Mesa Verde
Day 4: I completed the Bolder Boulder 10k.

Though it was hectic, we had a great time. We ended up driving up to 2-3am daily because we underestimated driving in the mountains. I can't really complain about having to drive at 30miles per hour in places like Durango and Ouray. I don't know when I'll think I had enough time to take in everything. These trips feel so rushed. Maybe I can take a sabbatical and enjoy time in the mountains for a couple of months - then I'd be satisfied.

We also got Mom to hike up half the way in Sand Dunes national park. Dad was alway enthusiastic about hiking but getting Mom to try it was an accomplishment. Climbing in sand is no joke. We were close to wasted by the time we got up there.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Annadaata sukhibhava

Loosely (and lousily) translated - that means "May the Lord bestow happiness upon the one putting food on the table".

So, I was at work the other day - keeping fairly busy - when I get this mail from Aparna.

From: Prasad, Aparna (US - Atlanta) []
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12:57 PM
To: Sekhar Putcha
Subject: Lunch

Is ready in case you plan to come.
Menu: Grilled veggie pocks (Feta spread, sautéed veggies with fenugreek, olives, and dash of maple), comes with a side salad an scrambled eggs.

This was following by a phone call from her informing me that the pressure cooker just exploded while she was cooking. 'So, the whistle blow really loud? Were you scared?'. She confirmed - 'No, the cooker exploded like a bomb .. almost in my face. The Dal is all over the place'. In my defense for what is to follow, I was on a conference call already - so my mind was all geared up for the ensuing meeting .. in spanish!!!

So, I asked the wrong question. "what's the damage?". It should've been "Are you OK honey?". The reaction was along expected lines. I wrapped up the call - or waited till it wrapped itself up and then headed for home practicing vague excuses for thinking about the kitchen floor and ceiling and all the cleaning I had to do intead of worrying about her life. Mea culpa!!

After a little bit of groveling, she relented and the food was served! Yumm. I should seriously consider starting a vegetarian sandwich/wrap place. Aparna can get really creative with sandwiches.

Hopefully, she is reading this and I'll get more such meals.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Budday cupcake

Aparna baked me a Chocolate Souffle tonight. This one is fresh in the oven for y'all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm a wedding crasher

So I was in Canada the past week seeking yet another visa for re-entering the United States. The only difference - this time my company footed the bill for the visa expenses :-).

I decided to go to Calgary as there were no appointments available in Toronto - hence no Niagara. Calgary is no slouch though. It's the gateway to the canadian rockies and I sneaked out on Saturday to explore some of it's treasures. A pity I couldn't spend more time here. Banff and Lake Louise were beautiful on a hot sunny day.

I was armed with a camera but with no human subjects to shoot - I really didn't want to be alarming locals by taking unsolicited pictures. However, I couldn't resist the temptation to click away to two wedding photo shoots I witnessed that day. One was at Lake Louise (below) and the other at Vermillion lakes (above) near Banff.

When the bride and groom were posing at Lake Louise, an old jolly couple passed by and warmly complemented them, "You look gorgeous!". The bridge gushed, "Thank You!!!" in an Oh so american (or canadian) way - the features drawing inward while craning the neck and cocking to one side - to which the old man quipped, ".. and so does the bride!". I thought the bridge was going to burst into tears. I could barely contain my laughter.

The other highlight was that a black bear crossed the road in front of me while I was driving. Made my day. I'd love to come back to Canadian rockies again sometime. Lake Louise was a disappointment particularly because it was all frozen - I felt gutted.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

intrusive or un-intrusive

Depth of Field - Three words. They have taken on a whole new meaning ever since I got the 50mm Nikkor lens on my budday. The ability to obscure everything but the subject was something I always wanted - and to be able to do that in low light has just made it that much more fun.

Now I can take very sharp pictures in low tungsten lighting - giving my subjects a nice warm cast. The best part though (for me atleast) is that the subjects never realize they are being photographed. No flash - no self-consciousness. Plus, I can take the pictures rapidly - because the camera doens't need to recharge (which it would if I were to use the flash). So, is it not intrusive in the sense that my subjects can go about their business (unless they hear to AF beep and/or the shutter release clack) OR is it intrusive because they never realize they were shot? Either way, I'm not stopping :-).

Here's one of those intrusive shots ..

Happy Birthday to me ..

According to the Telugu/Hindu calendar I was born on Buddha purnima or Vaisakha purnima which falls on May 2 this year (according to the Hindu Calendar). Incidentally Buddha and Annamacharya were also born on this day. I still believe I will make *something* of myself - dream on!

Also, on the same day, my sister-in-law gave birth to her second - a beautiful hair baby boy. Obviously, she was thrilled that he was born on the same day I was. A very auspicious precedent - she seemed to suggest. Still, I couldn't help wonder why they both (Sekhar Sr.) sounded nervous when I pointed out (quite happily) that we technically shared our birthdays. Ever since my cute little niece broke my heart when she made clear her preference for Aparna's handbags and shoes to my skis, I've been pinning my hopes on the new arrival. Hopefully, I can have him on the slopes as soon as he can stand on his feet.

Oh, and I got a super gift this birthday from Aparna - a Nikkor 50mm 1.8D lens.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

My best portrait shot to date ..

TOOT TOOT TOOT !!!!! (<--- Blowing my Horn)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thumbs down ..

Been a bit busy lately but I did find time to gobble and "review" the other two offerings from Haagen Dazs Premium - continuing where I left off before. Both the remaining flavors Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream, toasted coconut and sesame brittle disappointed me in that order. The former fits in the 'too sweet' and 'un-imaginative' category. I think I can officially declare it as a rule that generally, ice-creams with sweet-cream in their description fall flat. They are just that - sweet and creamy - with no personality. The latter had it's moments, when you taste the coconut brittle - but I'd have preferred sesame chikki any day. Come to think of it, the nuvvunda (translates to Sesame-BrownSugar laddu) mom makes is way-way better.

Still, the effort to bring in something new is to be lauded. It gives me an excuse to hound the aisles whenever I hit the grocery store.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It gets better ..

Today, I cleaned up a pint of Haagen Dazs Amazon Valley Chocolate ice-cream. I'm quite happy with this one too. I'd rate it as among the best chocolate ice creams I've tasted alongside Godiva's Chocolate Raspberry Truffle and HD's Mayan Chocolate. My parents and Aparna cringed because of the bitterness, but that only deepened my liking for this flavor. Dark Chocolate is the only way to enjoy the pleasures of cocoa.

Next up, Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Salvation .. at last

It happens week after week .. month after month .. year after year. Ice-cream - as a few of my friends discovered - is more than an addiction for me. So much so, every visit to the grocery store is a battle to try and stay away from picking up a pint of ice-cream. Yes, I come from the school of (1 serving = 1 pint), it used to be (1 serving = 1/2 gallon) but thankfully the latter passed.

Over the last couple of years, my only excuse for not buying ice-cream as frequently was that I'd tell myself that I'm not getting it if it isn't a new *exciting* flavor. That worked surprisingly well. Sure there are lots of new flavors but not one of them is exciting. They are just rehashes of cookie-caramel-butter-pecan-moosetrax-sweet cream crap. They taste awful to say the least. Ben&Jerry's is a case in point. I hate almost all of their flavors - in spite of their variety.

Haagen Daz mango is a staple. My biggest battles are usually to fight a sharply overpowering impulse to pick up Haagen Daz Mango, Mayan Chocolate, Rum 'n Raisin or Irish Cream (in that order). I perennially enjoy having them and they go fast. But the desire for something new always persisted.

Today, as I scoured the aisle with faint hope of finding something, I ran into Haagen Daz Reserve. I was thrilled to find some really interesting flavors. Can't wait to try them out. I'm already done with Pomegranate Chip and the verdict is a 'thumbs up'. It blends well with the dark chocolate chips. While the flavor is still a little too sour to go with a creamy texture, I won't get tired of this one very soon. Next stop, 'Amazon Valley Chocolate'.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Leni Riefenstahl

Funny extract from an article in the the Times. When I was a kid (and even now), I always stared wide-eyed at images of endless lines of Hitler's forces and the aura around him. Leni was responsible for making 'Triumph of the Will'. She was considered one of the most talented film-makers but having sided with the Nazis, she could never shake off the tag of a sympathizer. Still, a fairly interesting life.

She made it as a star because she was good at climbing rocks. There was a whole genre of German movies about clambering around daringly at high altitude.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'll second that ..

A beautiful article on echoing my views and articulating them far better.

As an Indian, I would like India to win the World Cup. But it might not be such a bad thing for cricket if they were to be knocked out in the first round. Cricket needs a reality check. It has an unhealthy, and unsustainable, business model that relies primarily on an increasingly delusional and one-dimensional fan-base. The bubble has to burst for a semblance of sanity to be restored. We must learn to once again enjoy cricket as a game.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Let them live ..

Saturday the 17th of March 2007, was St. Patrick's day. Not that I cared much about St. Patrick's day. No .. I'm condemned to teetotaler-ism in spite of my frequent and mildly committed attempts to get some alcohol into my body.

On that day, India were soundly beaten by Bangladesh in the world cup prelims. I couldn't get my mind around it. I mean, this was only the second match that I saw live since arriving in the United States in 2000. The first was the 2003 Final. I regretted it .. as did many others and took a while to get over it. I was seriously depressed or I'd like to say as much.

Getting back to 17th March 2007, it also happened that unfancied Ireland upset Pakistan. Now, every Indian cricket fan would take solace from that fact. Pakistan was knocked out of the tournament. It was an unreal feeling. I tried to look at it as a positive .. as did many others I'm sure.

It all changed the next day. The Pak coach, Bob Woolmer died that day in his hotel. Diabetes .. stress .. drinking .. they said. My mind cried 'foul murder' but none of the newspapers substantiated that thought. It receded. I felt pity for the man and guilty for having enjoyed the misery of the arch rivals state of affairs.

Today, I read the following report and I felt sick in the gut. If he was really murdered, I can't forgive myself and I will most definitely find it *very* hard to enjoy watching a game of cricket ever again in my life.

Passions may run high, money may have been lost, egos may have been hurt but for God's sake, it's a game. It is only a game. A guy who devoted his life to TEACHING it (Gururdevo Bhava) did not deserve this fate. I pray for him and his family and that there was no foul play.

I write this with tears welling up in my eyes. I'm ashamed of the entire subcontinent and it's so called LOVE for the game. It's madness. We need another outlet for whatever it is that eats us. Spare the cricketers. What's eating me is my own part in this. I never tire of quips about my depression and disappointment whenever we lose. Why? What is the point? What did I ever gain when my team won?

I've had it! I'll be a sane follower of the game or better still, quit following it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pics of the new home

Aparna and her Mom found my efforts at portrait photography a little too funny it appears!

Here are some pictures I've been taking over the last couple of weeks of the new place. I still haven't figured out how to take pictures of rooms with the lens I have. I would've loved to have an ultra-wide for the master bedroom. For now, this should do.

The front


The weekend weather was spectacular. Here's a shot of Aparna in the dying evening light. I love that tone.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Prestige

I saw the movie 'The Prestige' today. Excellent movie! It showed me why I was so much more satisfied watching this as compared to 'The Illusionist'.

But that is not the subject of this post. Today for the second time in my life, things jumped off of the screen into my reality. Let me explain. Back in 1999, when half my batch at the IIT hostel were intently watching a scene in 'The Mummy' that involved an earthquake, we actually felt tremors. I kid you not, there was a real earthquake - harmless, but real. It was the ultimate in movie experience - we lived it!

Most of you already know that 'The Prestige' is a movie about magicians. While I was watching the movie, I got a call from Aparna (who is traveling currently) and I spoke to her for a while. Just when I was hanging up, the ceiling fan in the living room of my new house started to turn. I could feel a chill going up my spine. As I kept looking, the light attached to the motor housing started to blink, fading on and off - like lazy disco lights.

If you are expecting an 'and-my-cousin-jumped-out-of-the-closet-with-the-fan's-remote-in-hand, I'm sorry. Truth is, I was freaking out - for good reason. I tried to remain calm and walked up to the switchboard with as much of a devil-may-care attitude that I could muster and switched it off. And that was that.

Freaky, eerie, spooky .. you name it, I felt it. As I sit typing this up in my bedroom, there is a part of me that is still freaked out. But hey, it's out on the net. Who reads this anyway? Who am I kidding?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Some pain is Mental .. Some physical .. but the one that is both is Dental

That line is from an Ogden Nash poem that is probably the only poem that I ever appreciated in my life given my meagre poem-appreciation abilities. I even tried reading a book called "How to appreciate poetry" - needless to say, that didn't help much.

That apart, I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out yesterday. I was a bit nervous heading into the procedure. I've never had any reasonably big dental procedure performed on me till December 2006. I got a deep cleaning done to protect my teeth from possible root canals.

Back in my grandfather's dental clinic in Hyderabad, I remember a few patients tearing the airwaves in pain from something that was being done on them. I always thought injections in the mouth would be super painful.

I was wrong. The local anesthesia I was administered for both procedures was quite painless. It hurt a lot less than an injection to the arm, say. The numbing effect they produce is quite great too. All I felt was pressure as my teeth were being dug into by the dentist.

The extraction was simple for the top two teeth - my dentist pulled them out within a couple of seconds. The lower ones though were a different story. They had to be broken into segments and then extracted. It felt like my mouth was the site of some major construction work. The left one was particularly stubborn. I demanded additional local (anesthetic) because the felt something near my chin line. The damn tooth was growing that deep because of lack of space in my mouth. Well, eventually, a small part of the tooth (2mm in length - I was told) remained in my jaw. Right now a side of my face is swollen up but I'm hoping this will benefit me in the long run.

A word about my dentist. This guy looked like an offensive linesman. However, he was surprisingly sympathetic towards me and quite careful in making sure I wasn't experiencing any (major) discomfort.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I'm a home owner!!!!

Folks, today I officially entered the hallowed halls of America's favorite pastime - Real Estate. Aparna and I closed on our first home, a 'small' 3 BR 2 BA detached single family home in a clustered subdivision - we bought into a small piece of America.

Since I learnt a great deal of technical jargon during and after the purchase, I'll throw some at you. I've still got a very long way to go.

1. Wrap-around front porch
2. Powder room.
3. Shingles facade
4. Jack n' Jill bathroom

My home allegedly has all of these.

Almost everything went smoothly from identifying the house till the closing. I bought the house from a co-worker going back to India shortly. Interestingly, the previous owner is also from Manhattan Associates.

The only glitch happened when I realized that I needed to make the down payment using a cashier's check instead of a personal check. Unfortunately, my funds were locked up securely in ING Direct which doesn't allow for even remotely speedy transfers. As luck would have it, a couple of friends at work generously pitched in at the last minute and offered cashier's checks from their own local accounts. They saved the day ultimately and I was able to close on time.

My mortgage company was Pentagon Federal Credit Union ( Those of you going for a home loan should consider this lender. They offer very low closing fees because of the fact that they are a federal credit union. They are a bit sluggish though. If you are looking for a 2-week closing, they are not for you.