Monday, December 17, 2007


My daughter loves soft toys and I love solid state trinkets. Of late I'm on an extended shopping binge! With all the advertising and teaser rates, they finally got through your purse strings somehow. Or so I discovered in the last 3 weeks.

I've bought a Web Cam with $20 mail in rebate, which had I seen before, I'd never have bought. In the blinding glare of greed, I did not read the fine print. Aaah! They built the mail in rebate system for bums like me. They who fall for the honey trap and in their post purchase lethargy, never make it to the mail box.

After a week in grieving, as if on rebound, I went on to buy belkin FM transmitter which works only when I hold it in my hands. That means that I get to hear my Zen micro only when I'm waiting at the signal. As soon I put the darn thing down, all I hear is static. Well thats not so bad, my wife consoles me, at least you've stopped fretting at the signal. Now I dont rush till someone honks me to...

If that wasn't enough, I bid for an SD card drooling at the price tag of $9 for 4 GB during one of those lazy browsing times at ebay. The bid was ending in <1m and I bid and won it for $9.96 only to notice that the seller was from Hong Kong and he's charging me $14 to send the wafer across the pacific.

The predictable part is that it does not end here, Barely recovered from that rude shock I was at it again. This time obsessed with external storage(Hard Drive). In my desperation to get a great deal, I passed up several auctions (got out bid) till finally my luck clicked. Got a great deal, but the seller has just 32 ratings (not all positives) and now I'm fretting if I'll ever get to see me prize drive...

Still waiting to hear from the seller, who hasn't shown much interest in establishing a contact.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Change of Heart

Australia beat India 4-2, here in front of our home crowd. But thats not necessarily bad, as I gather from various discussion boards. I think we have tacitly accepted their superiority over us. Maybe it was the amazing twenty20 which softened our hearts and diluted the bitterness.

Sachin, has been been on the receiving end of things for the last couple of years. I've never seen so much anger against a single individual when the game is played with 11. It appeared as though he was THE reason for the failure of India team to perform. The loss in ODI worldcup only made things worse. Inspite of decent performances in B'desh and England the critics were flapping their touges calling on Sachin to give it all up.

But of-late things have changed a little. Its as if people have had a change of heart. With more than 1000 runs in the calendar year, it appears little master has atoned and redeemed himself.

In a nation of 1 billion people, a nation of worshippers, hungry for idols life is tough for those who stand on that pedestal.

I pray we offer our heroes a graceful exit into the sunset when they finally decide to hang their gloves.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Last Ten Years

Last I listened to Kenny Rogers, I remember, was during growing up years. I was a wiry adolescent youth with sprouting beard when I first heard the story of the "Coward of the County". I loved Kenny's country stories and his gravelly rustic voice and often imagined how life would be in the country side.

Two decades have passed since. Last week, while browsing yahoo music library I came across this name again. While playing my old favorite numbers, I chanced upon one of his new numbers. This was a brand new story. A different one. Story of the last 10 years. Story of our lives.

I've heard stories of old times, of kings and warriors, of places I've never been and times I never lived . But this story was different. This is a story I've lived. Well we've all lived through the last 10 years. We've all experienced the phenomena that shaped the last decade. We have lived through the .com boom and bust, pre and post 9/11 world and I guess we all loved superman(Christopher Reeve) in his red caper and tortoise glasses to whom this song is dedicated.

The narrative takes us through the age of Y2K scare, the free world of Internet, the "new" war and all those changes that defiend the last decade.

This post is a tribute to the master of story telling Kenny Rogers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sub Prime Country

Greed is good, said Ayn Rand. Greed is a national epidemic in the capitalist's capital of the world. Housing meltdown in the US highlights the dark side of it. But its also an important lesson on personal accountability for one's actions. I would not say people did not see it coming. The soothsayers have been predicting it for years. I've read articles about it for the last 3 years, but then no body knew when and how bad.

Analysts and experts have a field day projecting the future. They have no concept of middle ground. They love stay on either ends of the spectrum. They would either lead you on saying there is scope for further profits or tell you that worst is yet to come.

Through financial wizardry they have made housing as leveraged and dangerous as margin trading only with higher stakes (for common man). They lure you with teaser rates, allow you take possession of a house with no down payment and sell you dreams of quick profits before the high interest rates kick in. Surprisingly, they then palm off your mortgage to other investors by secutitizing it and de-risk themselves in case you should find yourself at the short end of the life.

I think the next logical thing to do is to start an insurance company that would cover people against foreclosures in case of adverse price movement. In fact I wonder if there already are such companies out there doing business. I tell you, there is money in playing on people's fears.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Obsession with Blue

Odyssey in Blue

After the Bluest Waters of Crater Lake and the Live performance by the Blue Angles its time to drench in the Pacific blue at Monterey. Loved the shades of blue as they merge with the skies to paint your world with the bluest of palettes.

17 miles drive in Monterey is best of the green and blue worlds as we know them. Just about 2 hrs SFO you could cover it on a bright sunny weekend even after a lazy start in the day, just as we did.

Also, if you wanted to spend time on the beach you could extend your drive to Carmel beach, just a few miles from there.

Here you can find the beauty of Pebble Beach Golf courses captured in strokes of blue and green

Blue Angles

Never before have I watched an Air Show. So when the Blue Angles (US Navy) came calling I was game.

No movie, Top Gun or otherwise can prepare you for the sound and fury of watching these angles live. I guarantee you. When the roar a jet flying just 500 meters away pounds your senses, its like lightening striking in front of your eyes. Your adrenalin level spikes like a giant Hawaii wave and perks up every hair pore on your body. Imagine when 6 of the kind flock together searing the skies right in front of your eyes.


I guess I'm lucky to see world's bluest birds unfurling their bright wings proudly in the azure.

Here are some very mediocre pics of the great spectacle I witnessed today.

Widespread Abuse on discussion boards

I've been part of some discussion boards and have had a few give and take with other contributors. However, we never crossed the line and ventured into exchanging explitives and personal abuse.

As it is, its always difficult to argue with a point of view. If you do not agree, just state so and put across your alternative. Its not like disputing facts and statistics. Facts can be disputed and corrected, but the interpretation is always gray. Same statistics can be used/ abused by different people based on their leanings.

In any case its sad to see people calling each other names and generally flouting the norms of civilized discussion. Especially on rediff its ever so blatant. I do not blame rediff for its just a reflection of our cultural maturity and all rediff is doing showing us the mirror. I do not like what I see and I guess its my problem...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Appreciating Rupee

Its shrinking my canvas. Its poisoning my dreams. Its ripping my wallet. When will this carnage stop? Or will this deluge ever recede? 0.5% drop by Fed in US caused a Tsunami of dollars that hit Indian Shores and bouyed the sensex by 10-15% in just a couple of weeks and rupee breached 39.

I'm not sure which side of Dollar Rupee equation am I on. I have a portfolio in India thats doing well, thanks to rate cuts introduced in US. At the sime time, I'm worried that my dollars are losing their green glimmer.

IT companies are no longer growth stocks. Even with high revenue growth, the margins and net profits are lagging.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Crater Lake Oregon

Sharing their habitat
Who Moved My Cheese??

Inverted Icicles

Stitched Crater Lake

They call it the purest water lake in the world. Perched at 7000 feet in the cusp of the volcanic mountain its the bluest lake I've ever seen. May be the lakes in Leh would match the beauty and the purity of crater lake.

We stayed in a Log cabin in the wilderness with deers frequenting our room. Saw a few in the chill of the morning mist.

I've been trying to leverage Stitch feature of my camera and the results could have been good. Its a great feature which allows you to take multiple snaps and then merge them in a single picture to create a panoramic view.

The weather was misty on the day we arrived, but fortunately cleared up the next day. Another attraction there are amazing columns of solid lava that have frozen and look like upside down icicles.

The falls in the vicinity were too cold to enter. We were happy just to click snaps.

Here are a few of the snaps from my latest adventure.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Yosemite to Grand Canyon on Wheels

US is a beautiful country. The more I explore it the more I love it. I'm speaking of natural beauty. Last week I undertook a 2000 mile journey in an old beat up Accord that took me to Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, all in 5 days.

Yosemite was hot. I really had not expected the mountains to be like oven, yet it was frying hot out there. This summer has been especially harsh on CA, or so our host at Cedar lodge told us. Its dry and hot and prone to Forest fires. Earlier this summer Lake tahoe had one tragic incidence of forest fire, barely a month after I visited it in June. Lack of rains this year added to the woes of Yosemite as the beautiful bridal falls were reduced to a trickle.

Anyhow, after spending a day at Yosemite, I drove to GC. It was a breathtaking journey. I started off amongst the mountains. It was a beautiful, calm and cool morning with the sun lighting the mountain tops as we drove along a tiny stream on I-140 from El-Portal to Mariposa. As we reached downhills, we stopped at a place called Coarse Gold on route CA - 41 for breakfast. Just as we started off towards US 99 the scenary changed. The mountains gave way to hills to hillocks to gentle slopes and the green got replaced with bright golden yellow. California is called golden state for many reasons, but to me its the landscape. As we neared CA-99 the scenary became stunningly bright golden with beadings of trees making it look like some special effects film.

As we drove through CA-99 to I-15 N the scenary changed again. The vegetation disappeared and ugly, scarred scarred hills sprang up. The desert was dry as bone and hot as a furnace. It was quite scary as the signs carried messages like "Next services 50 miles". Goodness, what would happen if my car broke down in this sweltering heat?

As we crossed over to Nevada on I-40 E, the landscape became even more rugged and remaining traces of vegetation disappeared. The land became flat and bare. We finally broke for lunch at a Roadside Steak House in Nevada. They served some wonderful bbq chicken and life restoring lemonade. We then set off towards Az.

As we entered Az, we were greeted by thunderstorms and a mesh of railroad tracks. The silver streak of wagons crawling across the desert and pulled by 4 to 5 hefty locomotives looked like a stream of water flowing through the desert.

From time to time we'd see exits to Historic route 66 and it reminded me of Cars (Pixar Movie). The road was straight as an arrow with Giant trucks crowding the I40 hauling supplies deep into the desert to sustain US way of life.

We broke our journey at Kingman. Tanked up, as Gasoline was a wee bit cheaper 2.79 9/10 per gallon and set off again towards Williams (our base camp for GC). As we set off, the scenary changed once again. The barren land got replaced with green lands, with patchy green shrubs lining the way to Willaims. As the sun set behind us I kept looking up the breathtakingly beautiful sky in my rear view mirror. Shades of blue got mixed with the grey of clouds with pink borders as the sun struggled through the clouds on its way down. We finished our 650 miles long drive for the day as we took exit 163 to Williams. Once again the shades changed to bright yellow with millions of wild flowers painted the canvas with their bright petals.

Buying a Camera All Over Again

First Digital camera I bought was about 3 years ago. I'm not too much into photography and so I was more interested in a point and shoot camera than an a bulky professional one. The site I put my faith in to read up various reviews available back then was Somehow Cnet plays a very important role in all my electronics items purchases. Be it buying a digital camera or mp3 player(I chose Zen micro over iPod based on Cnet Review) or an amplifier or a laptop, Cnet plays an important part of my decision making process.

After using the Minolta Dimage Xg for three years I thought now was the time for an upgrade. I was pondering a trip to Grand Canyon and thought it would be nice if the pics looked a little better than 3 megapixel point and shoot camera.

Dimage Xg has been a good companion. Its small and elegant (by 2004 standards). Amazingly it did not have a moving lens and most other cameras did and yet it provided standard 3x optical zoom. I read somewhere it used a prism internally to achieve the zoom and that made the images just a little too foggy for my liking, though for most occasions it belted out great ametuer pics.

So the quest started again. This time I was looking for a meatier camera especially with greater zoom, Image stablization and movie recording capabilities better than 320 X 240 (Dimage Xg).

The camera that captured my fancy was Canon Rebel xti 8 mega pixel camera. It was what reviews called a prefessional camera for an ameture price. Still the price was too high for my liking. After looking around for similar capabilities but lower prices, I chanced upon Canon S series. It had all the nice things I was looking for and a price tag that was considerably cheaper than the other Canon model. One feature I had wished for was a viewing screen that rotated 360 degrees. Sometimes I wanted to click overhead shots and I would raise camera over my head and click in the general direction of the subject using intuition and hope the pictures came out right. With this feature I could rorate the camera vewing screen and see the subject.

When researching cameras I'd recommend looking up Digital Camera Resource Page to read up about the cameras. Another great resource is Imaging Resource site. It has a range of standard subjects and you can compare the pics of some standard subjects from various cameras. This gives you excellent apple to apple comparison of cameras.

So far I'm happy with my new Canon S3 IS camera. I'll post some of the pics of GC I clicked with it. So far no Post Purchase Desonance :)

Overall this camera gave me the right value for money and

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Magic of UPS

Some time back I had an emergency and needed to send something back home in a hurry. Time was really short and I was really worried how the logistics would pan out. In fact I was almost certain I was not going to make it on time.

It was just a fluke that I wandered to a UPS store near my place. I explained my problem and they assured me that if I was to use UPS it would guarantee that the shipment would reach its destination within the short time. I was skeptical yet not having run out of options decided to throw my money at it.

Well UPS delivered big time on the promise. It delivered a package half way across the globe in just 60 hours on a weekend. And all the time I could track the progress online. It was very reassuring and I'm still in the awe of technology as it demystifield the logistics behind UPS magical delivery system.

Freakonomics Steve Levitt

Makes an interesting read. Challenges conventional wisdom and explores some very interesting questions ranging from explaining reasons for crime rate drop in the US to corruption in Sumo wrestling in Japan. Though my personal favorite is age old debate nature vs nurture. IQ thats gentic vs nurture, something parents can influence.

Though, he constantly argues that the kid's wiring is done in the womb and there is little that parents can do to change it. There is evidence that parents and help make best of the limited abilities the child may have. The fact that adopted children could settle down well(better that un-udopted kids) in life because of their parents' efforts brings out the impact of nurture on kids and how important parents could be.

Correlation is one thing and its quite mathematical. Causality is a completely different ball game. That requires deeper understanding of the issues and the insights to peel off the mask and identify the true cause of any phenomenon.

Refernce to Unabomber vs. Ronald Fryer is presented in a shocking way. This led me to check out some things about the UnaBomber and as usual Wiki describes the events in the life of UnaBomber that clearly bring out the social maladjustment that he suffers right through his life. Thats the reason why perhaps people talk of EQ being an important factor in shaping one's life. While its true that parents can't help much with a person's IQ, I'm sure if parents try, they could help build EQ of a child to help him make it through the vagaries of life.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

World is Flat Silent Crisis (page 200-300)

Crawled past page 300. It took me a week to get there from page 200. It talks about the silent crises in the US triggered by lack of interest in Science and Technology fields amongst the American youth. I don't quite agree unless they insist on home grown talent. But then in a flat, world one would argue, why do you insist of indigenous production of an expensive product, here a math- science graduate, when you can source it from a flat world? Well, what works for the US is that it can import IQ just like textile and toys. Really, at the post graduate level they have the best education system.

Any country can import teachers for their primary schools and train them to teach well, but how do you create a community of capable professors that stimulate innovation and invention through constantly challenging and shaping the minds of the bright and the talented? US to me provides the most creative educational ecosystem. It attracts the best of both worlds by providing a meeting point for the best academic minds and the best pool of talented students around the world.

One could argue that internet has allowed the teachers and students of the world to collaborate and therefore universities do not matter. But I disagree. There is only so much one can achieve through bits and bytes. Universities are important because they create an atmosphere of learning which can't be replicated in a virtual world, yet...

A society when on top of its success breeds complacence and decadence which finally leads to its fall. Good thing about capitalism is that it breeds paranoia and competition amongst its practitioners. This I guess is good for US. In a flat world no one including US has the luxury of taking it easy and US knows it.

So much for now... Another 150 pages to go...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rain cripples New York City transit - Yahoo! News

Rain cripples New York City transit - Yahoo! News

So just 3 inches of rain can do this to New York! Mumbai received 30 inches in a day and we cried out about how bad Indian infrastructure is. So 3 years later, this is the moment of truth. Come on stop cribbing about what's bad here. Things can get bad any where but we curse ,swear and blame it on our country as if our country is no good.

The other day a bridge in minneapolis fell with cars driving bumper to bumper and a few months ago a part of I-80 flyover crashed All of this makes me feel that disasters happen, things turn bad and even the most powerful nation isn't immune to all this.

Lets give ourselves a break. Lets not pick on our city. I did that some time back in one of my posts, but this has been an eye opener.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

How To Make Black Money Work For Govt

How bad is this idea? The only way to tell is to ask the people with Black Money if they would put their money behind this concept.

The basic idea behind this is to bring that money into main stream economy without punitive action against the investor for hoarding/not paying taxes on it. Here is how it works.

Allow Mutual Funds companies to launch such funds that would channelize black money into the economy. Any one can put money in these specially designated funds without having to declare the source for those funds. The underlying theory is that by bringing this money to the mainstream we can ensure we put this capital to best use i.e. create wealth.

There are various alternatives to tax investment flow in and out of these funds depending on following question. In what time the govt thinks money can change its color to white. Also, if the money spends enough time in the system, can we forego so of the tax liability associated with it.

Here is how a typical fund terms would look like.

- Entry Load of 10% on all capital inflows. (proceeds to flow to the govt)
- Exit load of 25% if you exit in the first year of investment. Proceeds to flow to the govt.
- Exit load 20% between year 1 and year 5.
- Exit load 10% between year 5 and year 10.
- Exit load 5% between year 10 and 20. (if at all)
- No exit load beyond 20 years.

Govt makes immediate 10% when black money enters the market and taxes money going out purely based on how long it stays within system. Unlike other small savings schemes, govt does not have to ensure a fixed return. Based on any given fund's performance people can choose between various options.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The n-deal: US' Dhritarashtra's embrace?

The n-deal: US' Dhritarashtra's embrace?
Well this is good because
- India has come out of nuclear wilderness after 30+ years
- India breaks away from the past of being spoken of in the same breath as Pakistan. In fact it is now being associated as credible balance for China's growing might(economic and political) in the region
- India needs all the power is can get. I hear, France gets 75-80% of its power through nuclear energy. Japan about 30%.

- US has not built a Nuclear power plant in decades as US does not consider that a safe mode of generating power. Also, waste disposal has its own sets of problems. Considering above, it's surprising that it should encourage India to go that route and offer help to set up Nuclear Power Plants / provide fuel.

This to me is a clear indication that this deal is not so much about Nuclear Power. Its about Balance of Power and India is US's best bet against China Threat.

- India not being able to test /create more nuclear weapons. I think we already have enough nuclear war heads as "credible deterrent". Work in recent decades is more around delivery of these war heads and I guess we have successfully shown that we can strike deep into enemy territory with what we have(Agni-II et al). We may not be able to reach Beijing but reaching Shanghai / Islamabad is enough to maintain peace with our neighbours.

- Installing Nuclear Power Plants. Its always very expensive to build a nuclear power plant as its capital intensive. On the other hand per-unit cost of electricity generation is relatively less. At the same time maintaining requisite level of safety, discharging waste and closing the power plant if need be are all fairly expensive. Us usual there are pros and cons. Personally I'm not convinced with idea of nuclear power given the risks involved.

All in all this is a historic milestone. It establishes India as a responsible Nuclear power state while providing us an alternate source of energy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The world is flat (Thomas L. Friedman)

Started reading this book with completely wrong expectation. I thought this would give me a glimpse of the future just like Future Shock. But none of that stuff. I was always impressed by the vision of Alvin Toffler and how he predicted the future almost 40 years ago. How some of those theories must have sounded down right stupid or exaggerated in late 60's.

Tough Luck. This cliched book talks about a theme that has been beaten to death. Every Indian working in IT for the last 10 years or so understands it as good as the dollar rupee conversion rate. Out sourcing, offshoring, supply chain, all of these were born more than 10 years back and are bread and butter to a million Indians, millions of Chinese and hundreds of companies.

Talking of these in 2004/5 is like Bolly wood making an Angry young man movie, a cop fighting against the goodaraj in 2007. Ram Gopal Verma's Siva for example.

I might be completely wrong here. I've only labored through 200 pages in hope of vision unfolding somewhere, but it does not seem like the Author would go beyond quoting Indian IT icons' most banal statements and dressing them up in prophetic garbs. e.g. "The playing field is being leveled" as stated by Nandan Nilekani and "The world is Flat" as understood by the Author.

Also there is a contradiction here. Round world actually brings people closer. The farthest points in a Flat world are in fact close neighbours in a round world.

Columbus would have turned a few times in his grave as Mr. Friedman compares himself to the greatest discoverer of all times. Especially when his discovery comes after millions of Indians, Chinese and Americans were doing business that way for about a decade. Some cheek eh!

May be the average American was still not aware this phenomenon till Mr Friedman finally cracked the mystery open. Though that would be hard to imagine given that America is at the cutting edge of this transformation and is actually shaping this revolution. Also I guess most Americans speak to Indian Customer Service Agents for most of their queries and complaints.

I really could not understand the cause for the runaway success of this book. But may be there is a treasure at the end of the rainbow. And so I shall wade through to the other side in search of a vision.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

An enjoyable evening with friends

We aren't really the most socialable family in town. Inviting friends over and cooking for them is not our idea of an ideal weekend. Yet we did that today and to our amazement we actually loved it.

This managed property has several ppl from my company living here, most of whom I don't even know. It was my wife who befriended some residents. As they got talking they realized that their men, they all worked for the same company. And so we got introduced through our wives. Since, we have had a couple of parties (pot lucks) and they all have been quite enjoyable.

Today was our turn and while my wife did most of the preparations, I was made incharge of my daughter. I took her out to the market and fed her lunch. In the evening the couples came over and we played Dumb Charade with Hindi movies. It was a lot of fun after a long time. We were transported to our college days. We debated the rules and the signs and established the code. Had a laugh guessing the movies. The one word ones the the toughest to guess. Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hai is a standard 7 word movie and one of the easiest ones to guess as our opponents figured out.

The kids, they all had a blast. They laughed, they fought and cried and became friends again, all in the same evening. Some of these families will be moving out as their projects are coming to an end. But the fond memories will remain...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Boom Boom Becker

How I idolezed him. What a swagger! At times his swagger reminded me of Viv Richards. He walked upon the court as if he owned it. Hell he did own it. I remember we had just bought our first TV when I watched him defeat Kevin Curren at the age of 17 to become the youngest player ever to win Wimbeldon. Our entire family fell in love with this kid. My mother, who is not much of a tennis enthusiast would never miss a Becker game. She remembers him as the kid who made his parents proud.

Here is an unbelievable clip. Looks all concocted but for the fact that the players are real and so is the match. The King of Comeback. Poor Andrei Medvediv looks so hapless against the blaze of Becker's Aces. Imagine trailing 0-40 and then coming back to win the game with 5 consecutive aces. Awesome!

Talking of Tennis I admired Pete Sampras very much. I'd say Sampras could break any player at the top of one's game. I've seen Ivanisevic at his best being tamed by Sampras in straight sets(1994) Wimbledon Finals. I've seen Becker being tormented by this great player. Though when ever these two played, I'd cheer for Becker as Sampras made him look real underdog. Aaaah! the excrutiating pain of watching your idol being clinically decimated. Inspite of all the heroic dives Becker could hardly ever match Sampras cool precision. BUT FOR THIS OCCASION. I Looooved it. Becker getting better of Sampras. Its a rare clip :) Hail Becker!

Real Moments, Real people, Real Heros

Fact is stranger than fiction. If it was the reel world I'd give it a thumbs down for over dramaticizing. But what do you do when you see it in the real world? You bask in the glory of it and soak in its impact. These are moments history is made of.

The clip calls it the best goal ever. I saw it about 15 years ago on doordarshan once, as a build up to a world cup and it stayed with me. Today, I looked it up in youTube and was thrilled as a boy to find it there. View this and get inspired. This is no movie and the opponents are no dummies, as George makes them out to be. I agree THIS is the Greatest Goal Ever.

Its such a pity that such a great man should die so pathetically as an alcohol addict. The price of greatness I guess. In memory of George Best

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hi Fi Discussion Forum

I was trying to weigh options for a Hi-Fi system. Not surprisingly, the choices in India are limited and prohibitively expensive. I happened to walk into Bose store in Pyramid and was awed by the equipment on display. Bose stores are great at marketing their products. After I was treated to a well scripted demo I was sold to the idea of owing those tiny jewels (I guess the satellites are actually called so) . Eventually the conversation drifted from the sound and fury to the price tag and one could hear the jaw and spirits fall to the lower end of sonic spectrum. I scuttled off suddenly remembering a phantom appointment and returned home crest fallen.

Upon googling the topic a bit I discovered a new world. A world of Audioholics. In this world there are only bose bashers and no takers. Bose is for sissies they say. Well that kind of hurt my sentiments. But I took a deep dive into their world and discovered I was swimming with Dolphins.

I guess the forum is one of its kind for Indian Audioholics and ironically its hosted on a german domain. Thats kind of weird I thought but then so long as the contributors are desi bhai log, the .de domain is just a minor technicality.

These guys know what they are talking about. They know which good brands are available in India, and for each cities who are the dealers, where the shops are and how they compare to each other. Also, the threads taught me how to describe music in its own lingo. Whats sound stage, what are upfront / laid back / transparent / colored / rolled off speakers and how to navigate through the myriad choices to pick whats best for you. Also, they would tell you whats the bargain and how much to pay.

A bunch of music romantics amongst tone deafs like me. Quite heroic. Through them I could learn to appreciate the sound of music. Check this out hi-fi forum Pick the stereo track. Most other tracks are in german if you fancy the language.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bloggers Block

True bloggers dont worry abt following too much. They plug their keyboards to their thoughts and the bytes flow. Then there is a Bloggers Block. You gotta build the momentum to get over that hump and from then on its nice and easy as if its part of your daily chores.

Here is an example. Someone I'm following lately on the net. See the first 2 years... They are patchy but then as if by a miracle the person found the rythum. You dig till you hit the eternal fountain and from it you draw your thoughts. Here is to OfTravelAndTravails...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

List of my favorite Soundtracks

Spent the whole day listening to Soundtracks from various movies... Here is a short list of my favorites

Road to Perdition - Thomas Newman
Forrest gump - Thomas Newman
Summer of 42 - Michel Legrand
Scent Of a Woman - Thomas Newman
The Phenomenon
Once Upon a time in America - Childhood memories (Zamfir Pan flute) Ennio
American Beauty - Thomas Newman
The Godfather - Larry Kusic and Nino Rota
Picnic at Hanging Rock - Zamfir Flute
Il Postino

Discovering Thomas Newman

In my growing up years, I guess I was in college when Al pachino won Oscar for Scent of a Woman. In my small town there were handful Video Libraries and I scourged through them to get the Video Cassette as I had loved Micheal in God father so much.

I fell in love with the movie right from the starting moment when the boy Charles looks up
baby sitting assignment. I did not realize then but the music stuck in my mind. It was couple of years later, I had graduated and joined a computer company as a salesman. Forrest Gump had swept the Oscars that year. I was bunking office to watch Forrest Gump at Chanakya when once again I felt the same exhileration as the feather swooned and floated across the screen.

Once again time past and I stumbled upon Road to Perdition. This time curiosity got better of me and I looked up the internet to figure out composer and there was this name, Thomas Newman and listing of his work. Both above movies featured there along with American Beauty, Shawshank Redemption.

I think he is one of the finest composers of our times. Certainly my favorite.

Alas! my Yahoo Music subscription does not have these soundtracks. What a shame!

Geneva NY US

Driving thru NY state was one of the most beautiful experiences I've had. The untouched forests and vast lakes surrounded by hills are breathtakingly exotic. I loved the fields merging into forests heaving gently with the slopes of the hills.

On our way back to New York from Buffalo, we passed through the sleepy town of Geneva, yes there is a Geneva in NY state. We had our breakfast in one of the local joints. As we entered the place all eyes turned towards us as if we were from some other planet. There was a momentary pause and then every one went about their business. Not surprisingly almost every one know every one else. The family that runs the business was at first name basis with most customers. and the Hot Chocolate they served me was miles ahead of Starbucks Chocolate.

As we exited the city I drove by Seneca Lake. The road hugged the lake from north to south serving up a delicious visual dessert after meals. There were so many houses that had the lake as their back yard pool that I felt jealous of people living there. I'm sure these folks have internet, electricity and all the modern day amenities along with the scenic and peaceful life of the country side.

I'm a small town boy and will always remain so. This life appeals to me more than the sky scrapers of NY.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

NYC vs Mumbai

Its uncanny. The two cities can be so culturally similar. Honestly, I'm not a very well traveled person. I have seen very few megapolis but last week when I hit nyc I felt a dejavu I guess mostly because its so similar to Mumbai.

Things that are similar
A melting pot- NYC is global melting pot while Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city in desh. So may diff kinds of ppl living together harmoniously
Energy - The moment I stepped into NYC I felt as if I had entered an energy field. I get the same feeling in Mumbai. Everyone has an aggressive schedule to keep. Every twitch of a muscle is for a purpose, to achieve some goal. I step out at a busy station in Mumbai I get carried away by the crowd even if I was a reluctant walker.
The Subway - NYC Subway appeared old and tethering on brink of collapse. Mumbai feels the same yet its the lifeline of the city. I think in US there is New york and then there is rest of US. Very different pulse. Very different ppl.
Direct Talk - If they are pissed it'll come out, if they are happy it'll show. No apologies, don't come in my way if you dont want to get hurt. I have no time to explain, if you didn't get what I said, too bad.
Out doors- hawkers on the street, streets overflowing with ppl. I want to get across the road. Whats signal got to do with it? There is 2 and a quarter inch of space between two cars, can I squeeze in and pass through. Hey, the other lane is empty, lemme rush and fill up the vacuum. How dare you try get into my lane, ok get in after I've passed. 1 mile = 45 min
Night life - City never sleeps.
So much indifference, and yet, every now and then you'll find some one who would find time to help you, touch your life in a soothing way.

I loved NYC. I'm home!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NYC trip has been a strangely redeeming experience. All my life I'd heard abt the great city and blessed are the ones who get a chance to set foot in heaven...
So assuming a favorable planetary alignment and that this was our calling we planned our maiden trip to the east coast two months ahead. We even got a great deal at Travelocity and were set to dig into the big apple.

On the d-day, we stepped into winding check in line at American Airlines counter at the airport wondering how popular AA is amongst travelers. While other check in counters wore a deserted look, we had about 100 passengers ahead of us in AA check in queue. One look at the departures screen and mystery of AA's popularity was unraveled. 3 AA flights were cancelled and guess what, ours was one of them. Ouch!

Travelocity 1-800 numbers landed me in the hands of a eager representative in India. I explained my predicament and pleaded for help. The lady confirmed that mine was indeed a precarious situation with hotel and car bookings likely to go down the drain. The best she said she could offer were her prayers that I got onto the very next flight.

In the mean time AA circulated another 1-800 number to all the hapless passengers to call and negotiate the passage to their destinations based on availability on other AA flights. The 1-800 lady I narrated my misfortune to, put me on hold for 30 min before confirming that the earliest she could plant us on a flight to NYC was 2 days later. Well at least our assumption of AA's popularity was right!

Next step, call the hotels and plead with them. Last remember I pleaded my case this way was when I proposed to my wife. At least I was rewarded for the hardwork, but this time I just could not break the ice. The hotels refused to relent. Well two days rent down the drain. Boohoo!

But I get thats when I hit the bottom. From that point on I started bouncing back and the clouds started to lift...

Note: To be continued...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

In defense of Nirmal Lifestyle

I was used to my Lokhandwala life style and loved it till it all ended happily(I got married) and started thinking of owning a place. With my meagre means and leftover savings from my party happy bachelor days I really could not claim ownership to anything more than 1000 sq ft of pre owned super built up space in that neighbourhood.

So finally, we started looking for more affordable pastures and one of those soujourns brought me to Mulund. Despite of all the misgivings about Mulund being a sleepy un-happening, unexciting place (and that reflected in the prices) I took instant liking to it. It happened because I saw Shoppers Stop coming up in a vast tract of land, quite unlike typical Mumbai. Nirmal Lifestyle and its ambitious plans made my decision for me.

Honestly, though they have taken time to deliver on their promise, the final result is quite pleasing. Shoprite is its mainstay. It attracts ppl from as far as powai. Crossword appeals to the bookworm in me and I sneak in every now and then to smell the latest paperback. Then there is Shopper Stop, Mac D and usual bouquet of retails found at almost every mall in Mumbai. Since PVR opened, watching movies is about walking down and across from our place after dinner and strolling in to the theatre in my pyjamas for the late night show. Gone were the days when we used to catch a local to town to watch the late night show at Sterling. At the end of the show (around 1:00 am) there used to be a mad rush to catch the last local from church gate.

Though I agree that Mulund is no match for Lokhandwala and its high life, its a cosy little nest near the oasis (NLS) that appeals to my current personal status (married with a kid) :)