Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 - word montages

Past year:
Without asking for it, my traveling lifestyle got converted into a stationary and sedentary life style. There are good things I enjoy about it, particularly the ambiance. Earlier it used to be like home coming, now home is home! There are side effects - mainly the slight increase in weight. I was always gifted in this aspect, that I never had to worry about what I ate. The weight just maintained itself. This increase is nature's way of reminding... that... mortality!

Biggest karmas - food, sleep and lethargy!

Back on facebook - that is a separate story. So it will be a separate post. 

Shakthi Chalana Kriya and Shoonya have been the biggest blessings and friends for the past decade! No words to express the gratitude! They hold me together.

Music still tugs heart strings. Thank you so much! 

I have suddenly started reading a lot. No complaints!


This year:
I want to pick up one or two core aspects and work on it instead of piling a list.

* I want to weed out lethargy - largely. I hope to include Angamardhana into the regular schedule for this. Daily would be aggressive - I will start with twice a week and see how that goes.
We recently went on a trek inside the forest. Round trip of 4kms or so. It was quite effortless - so body is not in that bad a shape.

* I have been dabbling with programming on and off. I wish to integrate this into one coherent skill set. Not for any purpose - just for myself.

Other wishes - not necessarily goals - will be good if they happen:
* Want to go on a long drive - 1000kms+ one way. Can't do it in one week. Need to plan for two weeks

* A trip to South America - may not happen in 2015...

* Kailash - . Please.....

Friday, October 31, 2014

Rate my life - 2014

This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.8
Mind: 7.3
Body: 9
Spirit: 6.5
Friends/Family: 4.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
And this was last year...
This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.3
Mind: 6.7
Body: 8.4
Spirit: 5.7
Friends/Family: 4.8
Love: 7.3
Finance: 9.1
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
The last three are similar between the two tests. No they're *exact*.
But the first three - should I be happy with what I am doing with my mind, body and spirit?

Books I have read recently - #3

The Carpetbaggers - This is really seven books rolled into one. I read this mainly to get a taste of the author. I can't really say I enjoyed it or hated it. As the book trudges on for hundreds of pages, you can't help feel a sighhhhh. But he is a master story teller - akin to a magician weaving strands of silk out of thin air. I really liked the 'Max Sand' character. Wish his part had been longer.

The Harry Potter Septology - Its unfair to try and do justice to this book in a two-or three line review. Again seven books - but not done in one sitting. I/we (and my wife) read the books together, interspersed with the corresponding movie. It has been one of the most enjoyable experiences. A summary of the impact...

A Thousand Splendid Suns - A fictional account set in the backdrop of wartorn Afghanistan. The story spans over a few decades. However, the story is edited like a movie screenplay which doesn't do full justice to what the author has tried to convey. Besides, the story moves dangerously close to stereotyping men, but is redeemed by a few characters - one or two at maximum. But the power of Khaled to instill a particular situation or emotion inside the reader is brilliant. I just wish he had utilized this gift to expound more about the two leading ladies.

Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine - One of the brilliant books I've read. It is scientific but almost reads like a novel. Its a story of two notorious characters in most people's lives - caffeine and alcohol. They have many things in common - scientifically classify as drugs, dangerous when over the limit, generate bittersweet experiences within the limit, have addictive potential and steeped in lore. Ignore the lore and just talk about the science - yaaawn. Ignore the science and just talk about the lore, you either deify or demonify them. So the book talks about both and in the process elucidates and entertains. Very rare! And the writing is not industry sponsored - so it is unbiased to the bottom. The consciously and necessarily dumbed-down to layman-level science is very high voltage material.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Septology

Just like how Nike puts a tick mark without the label name and expects people to understand THE BRAND... Without saying what THE SEPTOLOGY is, marking it on the title says I am a Harry Potter fan or convert.

Another symptom is that that when someone wanted to lift something heavy from the loft and asked for my help, I pointed my forefinger towards it and said "Wingardium Leviosa". Then I sighed and asked someone there - "Do you have a wand?". And I am not kidding...

Blame it either on the amount of time I spend reading and watching the seven stories or the effect of how it has been written or a combination thereof.

But it honestly has been one of the best experiences!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Books I have read recently - #2

Guess what the bolded and underlined headings are? Platform nine and a three quarters!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone:
I took a long time to get here. I've also avoided watching the movies so I could do the book and the movie side by side. This book was written by Rowling when she had her back to the wall - or burned all bridges so to speak. The most impressive aspect of this book is that it conjures up a parallel universe, a universe which wizards inhabit and us commoners are "muggles". It should have taken enormous working out. Even the subtle undercurrents of such a life are brought out to the surface wonderfully. But being the first book, it could have even succeeded by the element of surprise. But to sustain it through a septology is no mean feat. 
I am glad the entire septology of both books and movies are out before I started on these. No frustrating waiting time!
Ok, the movie next before the chamber of secrets!

The Elephant Whisperer: 
I paused for a long time after finishing this book. I didn't want it to end. Almost desperately, I was flipping pages forward (this is Kindle!) and as an appendix I found pictures from the book. To think I almost missed them! You can't read this overnight (well most can't), so you can get a synopsis of the book here. Well its more like a segment of a chapter, but its a good precursor. It also includes color photographs that I found at the end of my book.

Most of us are either prudish or are driven by apathy. It takes a different kind of person, one who has the necessary courage, passion and endurance to walk the distance and take difficult decisions even if they may be heart-wrenching. This is an account by such a man. And the story is nothing short of extraordinary. There are so many "OMG" moments that the review in itself would be very long to highlight these moments. I will save you the ordeal and just say - please read the book!

Its very difficult to articulate the amalgamation of emotions criss-crossing inside once I finished it. I will just say that the desire to visit Thula Thula is very strong now. Hopefully in the near future, when the finances allow (gulp!). Its a very steep ask at this time. Its also inevitable that I am going to pick up "The Last Rhinos" soon. The title of that book sounds ominous - I should keep my heart from sinking.

Post Note:
I was browsing through and there was this reading challenge for 2014. "I will read xx books this year". You can plug in your xx. I punched in 10 and then realized the number was ridiculously small. I might have hit that number this year already. In fact, I don't have the time to do any kind of intense reading. Its just one hour at night before sleep and I see books finishing by themselves. A reminder I can bring to other activities - that small steps go a long way.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Books I've read recently

If movies can take up review space, books should too right? And if movies promote attention deficit, books should promote attention? I hope they do! I want to make a slight transition from being a primarily non-fiction reader to a combination of both - like 70-30 with bias towards non-fiction. And with the Kindle proving to be very vital with space and as a bookshelf, I think paperback's will be very infrequent for me. I am sort of reorganizing my reading culture around the Kindle now. The Kindle has some important draw backs but it is on-the-dot as a paperback substitute.

Eat Pray Love:
One vital thread was missing when I started reading this book - actually until I was 90% through with this book. I made the mistake of browsing through some reviews.

I have no problem with the narcissistic undertone. Or with how elaborately she engages with trivia - like eating gellato at 9am in Italy. Or that she wanted to leave her marriage. Or that she broke up with her post-divorce boy friend. I was actually quite impressed with the candidness. However, in one of the reviews there was a seminal bit of information. She was paid $200K as an advance (keeper, not required to be returned) to travel and write about her journey. That sort of turned my entire perspective upside down.

It was like somebody took out a pink lens in front of my eye and replaced it with a blue one. I don't have an issue with the money as such. Its just that money is a great neutralizer of discomfort. The initial view of a woman going out on a limb, burning all her bridges not knowing whats next morphed into a woman going on a vacation with a $200K budget. Importantly, this sort of retrofit writing definitely impacts the quality and the actual events as well. I am eating gelato with a friend I got introduced to in Italy - the perspective of the a woman enjoying this precarious moment not knowing her future versus a woman for whom this is a petty indulgence and jotted down on her little notebook remembering to include this in her novel - *very different*.

Another problem was with honesty. She's candid with everything - heck she is happy to admit on record she m*********d. But she didn't think it was appropriate to announce she has an advance that amounts to lifetime savings for like most of the world populace. I should have seen it coming as one incident in the book gave it away. I just assumed unabashed honesty and a pre-established rapport with the author from an earlier TED talk.

I eventually went ahead and finished the book - because I was 90% done. But it made me very sad!
I suggest that you skip the book.

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1):
I wanted to read a Jack Reacher book after watching the character's debut movie. This was also my first Lee Child book. This was also Lee Child's first book. This was also the first Jack Reacher novel. I will just say that this book is one of the reasons I want to increase my fiction quotient in reading. The writing style is casual and nonchalant, yet explosive. I couldn't put it down.

Die Trying (Jack Reacher #2):
Guess why I picked this up? For some reason, this book switches to a third person perspective compared to Jack Reacher's perspective from book 1. May be because the author wanted us to have a ringside view of other events in the story. Again, couldn't put it down because of the story and the writing style. But the first one was better. This is certainly not my last Jack Reacher book, but I am pausing for now.

Hat tip about Jack Reacher: He's like Jason Bourne. Doesn't rely on luck. Expert in many things. Finds a way out of nothing. Is astute with an eagle like sharpness into events. If it is all too cliche for you, you might find it over the top, but not boring. For me, these are character traits I want to pickup - especially the multi-faceted talents and the depth of insight. So it was engaging and inspiring as well!

Next, I want to start and go through the Harry Potter septology.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

a new chapter?

I am happy to have sat out of the live updates. But surprisingly, the air was full of it even here. The one off sporadic updates still hit me.

My biggest relief out of this election were two things:
  • Freedom from utter-sheer incompetence and dilly-dallying
  • The new govt has gotten the "clear mandate" they requested before. There will be freedom to implement things without the ambivalence the earlier govt(s) were subject to. This also means, all excuses are off the rug from the word go!

Post note: Whats amusing to note - the erstwhile govt campaigned for the new govt as well. I will put the % contribution (in terms of vote) at 30-40!

Post note story:

One of the shocks during Congress' hey day in Tamil Nadu was that Kamaraj (the king maker) lost in his own home town. One of his supporters, shocked at the news, runs to him and tells him:

"There must have been some fraud. We should demand a recount!"

Kamaraj says:

"There will be no talk like that. Would it be democracy if I won all the time? Also, no one should talk about the new Government for the next six months."

We lack leader material like that. At least, we should hold on to the final request - not talk for next six months and then have a review.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

borrowed inspiration

from Twitter

May 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

borrowed inspiration

from Twitter

May 07, 2014 at 12:12AM

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The 25 Greatest Film Composers In Cinema History

Since this post is about music - you should read this first.

When you pick the "25 greatest film composers" in cinema history, that is a pretty broad canvas to pick from. That means all movie composers all across the globe and going backwards starting now to the beginning of mainstream movie composing.

Could you possibly do justice to such an undertaking? Probably not 100%. How would you even know?

Without being overtly emphatic, I will just say I was hmmm, "pleasantly surprised" to see Ilaiyaraja in 9th spot. Yes, he is within the top 10 in the "The 25 Greatest Film Composers In Cinema History". And what a photograph they picked!

I am a total suck-up when it comes to Ilaiyaraja. But even with my supreme bias, I know he hasn't received the recognition he so rightly deserves. While this list is not a be-all-end-all - I am more than gratified to see that this list, written by an overseas music aficionado* features him in the top 10.

His capabilities really need a more challenging platform**. The few times he used a symphony orchestra had the virtuoso conductor exclaim about his skill and spontaneity. There is only so much you can do with the same situations - hero stops earth from spinning, hero meets heroine ta ta ta ta. The few times where some yorkers have been bowled at him have been dispatched out of the ground in stunning style. Its time for a few more yorkers.

BTW, what exactly is this 25 composers deal? This is the link. It has a few of my other favorite composers as well. I recognized about 10 in all in the list. So there is so much to unearth in terms of talent and treasures. Which is exactly why this article leaves me so much in surprise. Thanks much!!

* - Not written in context of social-climbing. It is just that Ilaiyaraja's music has been mostly regionally received

** - To be fair, some of his undoings might be himself and his take-it-or-leave-it personality.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Got an hour? Enter here:

This is a heavy ping-back post. There were quite a few things I read/watched during this period and I wanted to share the really good one's here. Some are VERY IMPORTANT as well. If you are short of time, just watch the second talk

First of all: Mother Earth. Too often, we forget to keep perspectives of what this planet offers us. The upcoming interactive flash demo was earlier released as well. It has been upgraded now to offer interesting facts as you click on each object. Even if you have played with this flash before - watch it again. It starts with where we are. You can zoom out to infinity. And you can zoom in to infinity again! Watching this will remind you of how miraculous the fact that this planet is sustaining life amid several impossible constraints that need to come together for that to happen.

The scale of the Universe

Earth again: The following is an Imax video that is going to be - or has already been released. This is technology as a portal to the miraculous. This ~7 minute video is a must watch. Someone's comment on the video was "I fucking love this". I second that. That expletive was for emphasis!

Hidden miracles of the natural world

The following two are probably relevant most in the digital age under current context. Snowden and NSA! Perhaps more important was the fact that this is as close as you can have Snowden and NSA talking together. They appeared on TED remotely. Snowden's talk was persuasive. But in all honesty, Richard Ledgett (NSA) handled his talk impressively as well. He spoke a lot without giving anything away! But given he was talking to a hostile audience - not visibly hostile - the experience showed. Only thing is that I have a hard time trusting NSA for anything.


Richard Ledgett (NSA)


This is the first  book I've read digitally (fully) - and its one of the best! It is a short read and is full of common sense. I really wished my erstwhile employers had this book while I was working. We had to endure so many mind-numbing, outdated and plainly annoying practices. No one really was paying a thought to whether these were working or not. The 37signals people did and it reflects in their culture and success (along with this book's success as well).

As a side note - digital reading for me is here to stay. The pleasure and convenience of having a 100 articles and 25 books in a device is unbeatable. Also, being able to tweak the font size to a convenient reading level. Finally, night time in trains! Paper is out of question. E-words to the rescue!

Sunday, May 04, 2014


I really didn’t think I would get to use this phrase in real life.

Recently, after a long day’s work, I reached home at about 10:30pm. A man shouldn’t have to yearn for a good night’s rest after a good days work right? In the room, there is a provision for installing a split air conditioner. Except in my room, there isn’t one. So what is there is a cylindrical hole leading to the outside world.

You really can’t peep out of the hole. But the hole was large enough for a tarantula to crawl in. I won’t split hairs on whether it really was a tarantula or not - because mine were standing upright. It certainly was a very large spider! Each leg the thickness of a pencil. This one was a real opera star as well, as the body was hidden inside the hole with four legs sticking out into the room. The legs were bright purple in color with white circular stripes. A real scene from a horror movie it was.

For one, all the purported love about being in brotherly love with fellow sentient beings went out of that cylindrical hole. I took a broom stick and I wanted to do a tap on the wall, so he (she?) would withdraw his legs into the duct and get out of the house. Scarier dilemma was, what if he gets into the house? End of story! I anyway could not go to bed imagining his legs sticking out of that duct like that. Anyway, that would also mean the invite for him to come into the house was also open.

So I took the chance and tapped the wall with the broom stick. He ran out!

I spent the next 45 minutes taping the duct so that no creepy crawly ones come inside. Somewhere I gave wings to this tarantula and imagined him flying. I realized that if this line of imagination continued I would need a pill or a doctor visit. But the next day, I saw those same legs, in the same nonchalant fashion, sticking out of the duct, but from the other end - that is from outside. I went in just to make sure that my tape on the inside was strong.

Heebie-Jeebies indeed! It turns out it is much easier to love arachnids on book, photographs and videos!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Palate dance!

Largely, in most cultures of the world, food is consumed for taste first and health next, if at all. Most marketing for food happens through the vehicle of taste.

Food items have an inherent taste. If we like that taste that passes.

Some food items taste good after processing. Processing means, it is baked, fried, grilled, steamed - so on. Case in point, peanuts are bland, but roasted peanuts taste divine - subjective statement! Largely, our "processing" accounts only for taste and not for health. So it is no surprise our processing kills most of the nutrients.

Some food items are combined together to give a synthesized taste. Ummm, Sambar podi is an example.

There are permutations and combinations of the above. So cooking as a whole is a rich and elaborate art form. Innovation is definitely possible, but even our historical recipes will run into several books!

I have from my childhood grown up on taste and not on health. My culture and family upbringing was such. Even now, I eat for taste first and then for health. Mostly, I don't go looking for healthy food. I go looking for tasty food. Its up to the surroundings to ensure I get healthy food in the process. I am counting on my Sadhana to take care of my health. I have a bone to pick with the creator in that respect - that all tasty foods or almost all tasty foods are detrimental to health. Contrarily, the items that are best for health are bitter (neem and turmeric?, which I love for a change!). Any food purists (I am looking at you "A"!!) reading this - please don't quote exceptions, which I know exist. I am just making a general statement.

In that respect, I am happy with where I am living. People around me take care of the nutritional balance. Today, I saw a unique item. Carrot salad with coriander leaves (that call this with a different name in the US, I forget). Carrot, while very healthy, has a very soft, neutral taste. Coriander, again while very healthy, has an aromatic, strong, anchoring taste. Whoever the master-chef was, did an insightful mix. The tongue searches for those spots of coriander, while the carrot just goes in effortlessly. They use a similar approach to give veggies to the children here. They mix it with pineapple chunks. Trust me, it works! They also mix carrot salad with ground cashew-burfi! Thank you for taking care of this for me - because I am going to take up food bondage as the last step before enlightenment. Until then, its other things to work on.

After dinner today, I had two diary milk chocolates. Because I have not one sweet tooth, but two sweet teeth! One on the right side and one on the left side. Hope my pancreas will be good for life!

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