Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movie Review: A Wednesday

Just 5 words. Every Indian's must see movie.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Onions and Yoga

While what I am about to say is trivial and unproven, it is still worthy of saying it.

I am a great fan of onions, and like to include them in my cooking whenever possible. Ironically, I also have a great problem when it comes to chopping them, because my eyes water and burn like hell. Of course, everyone has trouble when it comes to chopping onions, but for some reason, I seem to suffer from the eyes burning for much longer and harder than others. While the rest seem to get through it in a few minutes, I seem to suffer from the burning in my eye for nearly an hour or more.

So like everyone else, I googled for remedies….and there were a ton of them. Some of the common ones were sticking your tongue out while chopping, chewing gum, freezing the onion, among others. But none of these grandma methods were really a good solution, 'cos none of them had any logic or theory behind them. So I went about trying to figure out why eyes burn in the first place when you chop onions. And I am going to answer this question below.

Simply put, eyes burn when chopping onions because, there is some substance that comes out of the onion, travels through the medium (air) and comes in contact with the eyes. This substance causes a reaction from our eye, that causes the burning. First, lets eliminate the obvious possibilities.

It cannot be some liquid squirting out of the onion, because, if so, my eyes shouldn’t burn at all since I wear glasses all the time.

It cannot be fumes that come in contact with your eye when you chop. I have tried squinting my eyes, keeping my eyes open at a minimum while chopping. If it was due to surface contact, that must have atleast reduced the burning. It dint.

Its not by contact. Its not by spraying liquid. So what else could it be? How else could these fumes be transmitted? The only that means that sounds logical is by means of inhalation. The air contains the fumes. We breathe in that air. These fumes get into our eye through the nostrils. That is the only remaining way in which the fumes can come in contact with our eye.

To test this, I tried to chop onions by avoiding inhalation at the time I chop. I took a deep breath, and started chopping half an onion while breathing out. Then, I moved away, took a deep breath, and returned to the chopping. I could certainly feel the difference. My eyes hardly burnt when compared to the times before.

So, if you want to chop onions without your eyes watering, practice yoga. Develop control over your breathing. If you can hold your breath for long periods of time, you can chop these bastards with this simple technique.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Journey to the center of the mind

Saw this amazing talk by Prof. Vilayanur "Rrrrrrrr"amachandran on youtube.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Green Ganesha Chathurti

Ganesha Chaturthi marks the birth of Ganesh, the Elephant God, the remover of obstacles. Back in India, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated with much fervor and enthusiasm all over the country. But even the remover of obstacles cannot possibly remove the amount of garbage that is dumped into every water body, from the mighty seas to little lakes, 10 days after the festival, when the Ganesha idols are immersed into water to mark the end of the festival.

Here is the nice side of the story...Ganesh Chaturthi starts with colorfully painted idols of ganesha being sold several days before the festival.

Here is the not so nice side...Ganesha idols are typically made of clay or plaster of paris and colorfully painted with paints containing harmful chemicals such as arsenic and mercury. Plaster of paris takes a long time to dissolve and releases many toxins into the water when it dissolves.

On the day of the festival, these ganesha idols are beautifully decorated with flowers, colorful garments, and puja is performed.

Decorations often are made of plastic, thermocole and other non-bio degradable substances.

On the 10th day, these idols are taken to the sea (or any water body closeby) in a procession, and immersed. There is a lot of dancing and singing in the procession, making it a gala event.

Thousands of ganesha idols (with sizes ranging from a few inches to more than 80 feet in height) immersed into the sea (or any water body closeby). Along with it goes all the flowers, garments, decorative materials into the water. The irony of the story is that the same ganesha idols that were adorned and worshipped a few days ago, often end up washing up on the shores broken, and are left there for dump trucks to deal with.

For a environment friendly Ganesh Chaturti, here are some things we can do:

1. Use clay idols of ganesha, preferably unpainted. If you really need painted ones, purchase something that use vegetable dyes, that are bio degradable, and not harmful to nature.

2. Avoid using plastic or thermocole decorations.

3. Do not dump any flowers into the lake / sea. Dispose them off separately.

4. Immerse ganesha in a tub. Many temples have a small pond like area for this purpose. Make use of them. Do not use water bodies like a lake or sea for immersion.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Affect Vs Effect

Here is a quick lesson in English grammar. I have often seen people make mistakes with the usage of the words affect and effect. I have even seen mistakes in websites and official documents, and so thought of clarifying the difference here.

Lets examine the difference. Consider these 4 sentences.

1. The settings in the device manager in the computer, effect the performance of the system.
2. The criminal act effected a significant change in the law and order situation in the county.
3. Soil erosion by water and wind affects the natural environment.
4. The affect of soil erosion can be seen in the the grand canyon.

Which of these are right / wrong?

And here are the answers:
(1 - Wrong, 2 - Right, 3 - Right, 4 - Wrong)

Here is how the difference can be understood.

When the word AFFECT is used in a sentence, the sentence also says "what" is being affected. The keyword here is "what". The word AFFECT always refers to the influence of a certain event ON SOMETHING. Hence, whenever we talk about affect, it always refers to a person, or thing, or similar.

In contrast, the word EFFECT is used in a sentence to indicate an action. The word EFFECT is used to describe "how" something was AFFECTED. The EFFECT of a certain event is another event. The word EFFECT indicates a result (remember cause-and-effect). This is different from AFFECT which refers to an object.

Lets look at the 4 sentences again.

In sentence 1, the sentence doesn't say anything about "how" the settings influence the performance. It only says that the settings influence the performance. So, the performance of the system is the object. Hence, the word to be used is AFFECT.

In sentence 2, the sentence refers to "change" in the law and order, which indicates action. The sentence is about the "influence" of the act on the law and order situation. Hence the word is EFFECT. The same sentence can be re-framed using the word AFFECT as, "The criminal act affected the law and order in the county by a significant amount."

In sentence 3, natural environment is the object of the sentence. Hence AFFECT. Hence correct usage.

In sentence 4, the sentence is referring to the influence of soil erosion. Hence the word is EFFECT.

Let me know if that helped..!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

N-Deal or P-Deal

Found this article in the Hindu.

What exactly is India rejoicing about? It seems like all the excitement at this time in india is about a government winning a trust vote. For the last 25 years or so, we have not seen a government prove its majority in a trust vote situation. All of a sudden, PM Manmohan singh is being hailed as the greatest PM there ever was. Visionary Leader. "Singh is King". In all this, the real topic seems forgotten. Every news article talks only about the political situation in India, how BJP has brought shame to the parliament, and how the parties have responded about the deal.

Is anyone even thinking about the N-Deal?? Read the 123 agreement? Is the N-deal in India's favor, or is it locking our country into this huge investment? What are its Pros and Cons? Is this opening up our defenses for foreign inspection? Meeting our energy needs? What is this deal doing to our common people?

The whole issue has been turned around into proving which political party is right, and what it will take to stay. Its no longer a N-deal. Its just a deal about who is in power. Should call it the P-Deal. Indeed a black day in Indian politics, and media.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The king dethroned

The end of an era. Roger federer's unbeaten streak at wimbledon ended yesterday after a long battle between him and Rafael Nadal, with Rafael Nadal emerging as the new champion at Wimbledon. Roger's 5 year winning streak was over. "It hurts", said a smiling Roger, laconically, at the end of the 5 odd hrs game, whne John McEnroe asked him how he felt. Hidden in that smile was the regret that he would probably never be able to equal Bjorn Borg's record of 6 straight wimbledon victories, the highest ever.

But lots of admiration to Rafael, who played amazingly. If anyone deserved the cup over Federer, it was him. It was definitely an emotional moment for me and all my friends, who were all routing for Federer. Wimbledon was his, and he fought for it with all he had. If anyone could have pulled the game from a 2 set deficit to a 5 setter, it was him. Reminded me of the time when Federer beat Sampras in the 2001 wimbledon, and the commentator exclaimed "There will be a new king in Wimbledon." Its his superb skill and warm persona that makes him the undisputed champion of tennis and a favorite among all tennis fans. Winner or not, he is still the king at wimbledon, and an inspiration to tennis players worldwide.

"I will be back, next year", said federer. Will look forward to that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Zakir hussain - Live in Concert

The legendary table maestro Zakir Hussain was in Chicago a couple of weekends ago. I managed to find the last few tickets. And what a concert it was..!! A very heart warming experience. It was a pleasure to watch him live, performing his magic with his fingers. His speed and comfort had the audience roaring. His animated descriptions of the musical notes (tha ki ta dhin dha) , comparing them to the traffic in India, had the audience in splits.

It was not just him though. The whole team consisted of about 7 individual performers, 5 on percussion, and 2 on stringed. There was even a 3 men team from Manipur, who performed a dance while playing thier percussion. It was amazing to see the guy perform the "roll" while playing on his drum. That definitely fascinated the audience.

I was amazed to see that about 50% of the packed auditorium was non-indian. But come to think of it, it comes as no surprise. Zakir is a proponent and founder of the World Music movement. He has worked toward uniting the eastern and western styles of music, and perfomed in conjunction with many a western music artists. He is even a visiting professor at a few prestigious institutes. So it really comes as no surprise that he is very popular the world over.

While everyone knows about his elan in playing the Tabla, what I found even more appreciable about the person was that he did not make the concert, HIS concert. He was only one among the 7 differnt musicians, playing his part in the group. Everyone had a part where they performed a solo. And when Zakir was playing he would always acknowledge the other persons playing, appreciate their talent, encourage them. Have to respect that.

2.5 hrs of pure elation.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

my SLR camera..!!

Check out my new SLR camera.

Finally bought it. I always wanted to have one. It’s a Canon EOS 500N. It’s a film SLR camera. That got some raised eyebrows when I mentioned that to my friends. "Film camera huh? You are heading the opposite direction." was the general response. But, guess what? I am old school. I like things that are not over simplified by the advent of technology. I would choose a hand crafted wooden table hand assembled by a person, than a latest technology termite resistant, machine pressed pseudo wooden furniture made of compressed wood flakes. Same reason I like wearing an analog watch over a digital watch. It’s the same reason I like hand woven cotton fabric to anything else. I think a film camera has the real essence of photography that a digital point and shoot doesn’t match up to. It fascinates me to think that a device with a simple lens arrangement, some mechanical levers and buttons, some spring attachments, requiring no external power and working on simple principles of optics and mechanics, can actually freeze time, and save us a record of a past memory that we would have otherwise only had to carry in our minds.

IMHO, There is a certain amount of authenticity to pure physics, engineering and mathematics that a digital computer doesn’t quite measure upto. But having said that, it will be hard sharing the pics I take, cos I will have to scan them. Another reason that I purchased this camera, is that it came with a 28-200mm sigma lens. IT has the EF mount that is still the standard mount on most SLR Canon cameras today. So, I am hoping that I can reuse the lens on a DSLR that I would purchase in future.

Now having taken that off my chest, time to start clicking..!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

San Diego

Last weekend was a great trip to San Diego. It was 5 PM in the office when we remembered that the car rental was going to close at 6 PM. After some frantic printing of maps and even more frantic calls, we were on our way to pick up cars. Though it was me and 2 of my colleagues (Eddy and Crystal) who all went to San Diego, we all went in different cars, bcos of personal plans and commitments. So after picking the cars, and dinner at Indo Café near LAX, I was pretty much on my own for the rest of the weekend. I have to mention here that the Indo café was an Indonesian restaurant where Eddy took us. Don’t miss their corn fritters with spicy sauce. YUMM..!!

Country inn, San Diego - Apr/12/2008, 12:30 AM
Reached the hotel, checked in and hit the bed.

Country inn, San Diego - Apr/12/2008, 11:00 AM
Still in bed. Went downstairs to get breakfast at 9 AM, though.

Country inn, San Diego - Apr/12/2008, 1:00 PM
Was ready to hit the road. The girl at the reception gave me a sheet of paper with abt 15 locations to see in San Diego and directions to the place. It covered pretty much the whole of San Diego. It even had the nearby Starbucks and restaurant locations. Really useful stuff. She even recommended places for me to see, based on what my interests were. The day was bright and hot. I was keen to hit the beach asap, so after a lunch stop at a sub place, I headed to the Posh La Jolla area, which was just 1 exit away from where I stayed.

La Jolla Area (pronounced, La hoyya) 1:40 PM
…was freakin' packed. Traffic lined up for 2-3 blocks. The beach area was even more crazy. After a lot of searching, I found a place to park, and headed to the beach. The beach was simply amazing. There were hundreds of people swimming, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, playing on the beach, sun bathing, or simply sitting doing nothing. I was probably the only guy on the beach with shoes (I took them off as soon as I realized that, and tied them to my backpack. Cant say if I attracted more attention now or before). There are dozens of little shops, restaurants, and surfing and bikes rental places right next to the beach. Since I was alone, I wasn’t too keen abt heading for a beach swim. I walked into one of the rental stores, and found a kayak tour into the sea to a set of natural caves about a mile away. I signed up for it.

Tour of the caves, La jolla beach, 3:00 PM
They loaded us up with a life jacket, helmet and a paddle, about 15 of us. Then we trotted to the beach, and waited there for the tour guides to divide us up into groups of 2, and put us in a our kayaks. Since I was alone there too (damn!!), I got a kayak for myself. We paddled our paddles and headed into the pacific. Jason, the tour guide tried to keep us together and safe. He even gave us some snippets about San diego history, sharks, marine plants, and some other stuff I could quite hear. Since I was alone on my kayak, I was usually at the end of the group, fighting to catch up with the group and what Jason had to say.

The caves were a natural formation due to soil erosion due to the waves. They were apparently used by beer smugglers during the time of prohibition in the US, to store beer smuggled from Mexico. These days, they are used by pelicans and sea lions as nesting ground. The whole area stank of their poop like anything, that I couldn’t stand it. But some guys dint seem to mind, and were there snorkeling in those waters..! Yikes..! After touring the caves, and avoiding any pelican poop from hitting me, we headed back to the beach. The return trip was even more tiring. After a quick wash, and a delicious veggie burrito and modelo, I was on my way out of La jolla.

Interstate 8, 6:00 PM
I wanted to go to the Old town area, cos it was a nice area to go to. Atleast, that’s what she said at the hotel. But I somehow messed it up and ended up going the wrong way. Like all true explorers like Columbus and Drake, I headed further, trying to make the most out of my error. I infact did, and found a mission trails dam and hiking area in the hills. I have kind of developed an addiction for hiking these days, after a couple of hikes in the San jose area. I was thrilled to bits of having found this place. But the place was closed as it was close to 7 PM. So I decided to come back the next day, and headed to my hotel.

Gaslamp, 9:00 PM
Eddy was in the downtown GasLamp area, and we decided to check out the night life in San Diego. I left my hotel and headed to the GasLamp district. After picking up Eddy, we walked around a bit, and finally decided on the Whiskey Girl club for a few drinks. The club itself was pretty cool, and the crowd, hep. The little tussle at the entrance between a customer and a security guy made it even more interesting.

Apr/13/2008, 1:00 AM
Lights Out.

Apr/13/2008, 9:00 AM
Still in bed…

11:00 AM
Was ready and headed out. First stop Coronado Island.

Coronado Island, 12:00 Noon
Coronado Island is a little island just off the mainland of San Diego. There is a bay bridge that connects the 2 land masses. It’s a beautiful quaint island. The centerpiece of the island is the 100 odd year old 5-star hotel that stand imposingly on the beach. Simply beautiful. I would want to vacation there sometime with my wife.... Zap! Back to the present. After a quick lunch (veggie burrito, what else) and lemonade, I headed back to Mainland SD.

Mission Trails Visitor Center, 3:00 PM
Remember I said I would trek here the day before? So here I was. I came to the place a little late hoping that the sun would have cooled down a bit. Dint happen. The lady there asked me if I have hiked before, when I told her that I have neither a cap nor sunglasses not a wet cloth to wear around the neck. Taking pity, she I went to the back room and got me a piece of scarf that was in the lost and found section. IT was still in the 90s when I started off on my hike, armed with a bottle of Gatorade, some chewing gum and that someone's scarf. It was a lonely 1.5 mile hike with lots of ups and downs, and at the end of it I was feeling like the wet rag (now fully dry) dangling around my neck. But I loved it. I then got back to my car, and drove to the dam up hills. IT wasn’t much of a dam really. But it was worth a trip.

I then got back to the room and spent the rest of the day doing laundry and sitting in the hot water spa and swimming (caused my eyes to burn for the next 3 days).

In short, a place worth visiting. Again.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another week

Another week over. Had to complete a certification exam last friday, and I did...and Passed..!

Nothing much happening this weekend, except for some personal chores, and paying my respects to the horde of credit card companies who send me credit card offers on a daily basis. Its such a hige pile of envelopes, that I have to deal with, from a multitude of companies. I let it accumulate for about a month before deal with them. Why? Cos, shredding isnt exactly fun.

I have a theory that the credit card companies know that a lot of thier credit card offers will endup in the shredder, and adopt a simple trick to counter it. They cant really stop you from shredding them, but they can atleast make sure that you "open" the envelope, before shredding. Chances are that something there catches your eye, and entice you into reading the contents, and chances are that a certain percentage of people who read it WILL sign up for the card.

Mine is a shredder that I bought at Walmart for abt 22 bucks. It can shred 6 pages at a time, says the note on top of the shredder. So credit card companies make sure that their envelopes are fat enough that the entire sealed envelope will not go though the popular 6 page shredder. If you still try to send it throught, it usually goes half way, and gets stuck. Sometimes it goes through entirely, but comes out in one piece on the other end. It just has a lot of ridges on it. By including some junk paperwork, and fattening it up, the credit card companies make sure that you have to actually open it up, and only then shred. Simple, yet effective. "Billions of blue blistering, boiled and barbaqued barnacles! Damn..!!"

I started to read this book called Midnight to Millenium, by Shashi Tharoor, the guy from UN.(Actually, he was the UN Under Secretary General). Its been a very interesting read, so far. Will sumbit a ful review once I complete it.

Next weekend...San diego..!!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Here I am...sitting in the office, my clients office actually.
My manager has asked me to complete the task by tonight. I probably wont.
I have an exam coming up in 2 weeks time, and I have been carrying the books around with me for the past 2 weeks without opening it once.
On my Ipod, Sukhbinder is belting out "Chaiyya chaiyya.."

But all I can feel at this time, is an ounce of pride, a lil determination, and a kilo of enthusiasm abt reopening my blog after a looooooong time...!!! :-) Way to go buddy..!

Hope those neurons keep firing.


(chale chayya chayya..!)