Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SF half marathon 2012 - Notes from Week 1

Yes, I finally gave in. Gave in to the idea of "how it would feel to finish a half marathon under 2 hrs 15 mins." Now that's a goal. Also on the way, I would like to shop for some "discipline" and "strong work ethic". The key to finishing a marathon (or half marathon) is not just hard work (of course you need to run!) but a whole bunch of discipline.

I am only in my second week of training (I am self training btw, which needs even more motivation and discipline). I can tell you the first week was hard. Hard, not because I had to run (thankfully I love running), but I had to keep it "consistent". Run, cross-train, run, cross-train...and so on. The entire week. It surprises me how the mind rebels against discipline. It is not tough, once you put your shoes on, music on and you are out the door. It is tough, to break that inertia till you get to the door. The rest of the magic just follows :-)

California is beautiful. If you are a Californian and you are not running, shame on you (with the exception of injuries). What better ways to explore the bay area than on foot. I loathe driving. I hate getting into a car to go to some place. How about some self-powered commuting for a change? Running, biking, skateboarding..anyone? You not only run on natural fuel (your body energy) and get lean, but also save so much fuel. Aren't you feeling charitable already? :-)

I know it is hard in the other states, due to constant changing weather. But summer should be a treat and what better ways to enjoy that than running? Ironically, I found more people in New York City enthusiastic and ready to kick butt than here when it came to running. I mean really, people running in subzero temperatures in their cold gear shows grit. Compare that to a lazy Californian. You have weather, beautiful terrain and trails going your way and yet you make excuses to budge? Tch tch.

The first week went quite good. I clocked in ~15 miles. Ok fine, my Nike+ says its 14.68 miles, for crying out loud.

Second week has already started and yesterday was my cross training day. I did some good, old fashioned elliptical workout for 40 mins. Felt good stretching the other muscles.

Today is the run day. And no matter what, I will just do it! :-)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Awesome Indian things # 5 : Autograph book

In the 90's, high schools in India never had any 'graduation' ceremonies. Well, we did, sort of. Only we called them 'farewells'. And we didn't have yearbooks.

And so, one exciting thing about the days leading to the farewell was something we humbly called "Autograph book" (although I can't claim this to be an Indian thing, it surely was one of the highlights of high school farewells in India.) 

This springs back memories of every kind. What made this entire affair so exciting was - "What is that special guy/girl going to write about you?". As was the concept, we maintained a different autograph book for the faculty - the most boring, plain looking and serious autograph book would be promptly picked from Hallmark. The jazzy and style statement autograph book was bought to pass around friends.

And thereby the least controversial and at the same time, most cliched line of the millennium was born.

"Be yourself" - this line was scrolled all over each other's autograph book. Till this date, I believe that 90% of us who scrolled that line, didn't really mean it because we didn't really understand it (we didn't care. If we had to write a line for someone we didn't particularly care about, we would scribble "Be Yourself". Whatever that was supposed to mean, huh?

Some of them were outright shabby. They would write a word and then scratch it to death (so I couldn't read what was written! Mystery eh?). This pissed me off because here was a beautiful and colorful looking book and some was shitting all over it.

Some of them thought took pride in leaving a few pages and then writing somewhere in middle of the book. Seriously? You think I am going to search all over the book just to see where you might have written your precious pearls of wisdom and sweet nothings for me? Get a life dude.

And from the person who meant the most to you (i.e. in your fantasy world. why else would you be excited about a damn rambling on a book?), there would be cryptic statements. Something of the sort - "You are special". And you could run your imaginations wild with it. (Remember, you and him/her are in a fantasy world? Anything is possible here. No boundaries on imagination.) And then we could dish out our own interpretation with our friends. "He wrote to me! He wrote he loves me! He said I was beautiful and he is smitten by me" (See how the statement was interpreted. No mention of the "you are special" part. It morphs into beautiful, sexy, attractive, gorgeous, I love you)

Of course, there also had to be an equally unexciting dreary world of teachers' autograph book. Full of life lessons (which they never taught in class but rushed to write in my autograph book instead) - "You must persevere", "Achieve great heights and work hard", "Make your parents and teachers proud"

See where that was going? And as if this wasn't enough I had lots of God's messages scrolled over my book (I studied in a convent). 

"God will show you the path." "God bless you and your life." "God will guide you to your goal."

Sigh. The point being, too much of that stuff just had an opposite effect on us. Heck, no one really even bothered reading through the book (unless one of us had a crush on the teacher, which I unfortunately never experienced. Never mind that.)

I wish I had a favorite in them (at least I don't remember. It was decades ago!). I wish I could actually run into one of those things and see what sort of nonsensical stuff my school friends had written then. It would be amazing to scan them and put them up on this blog. Like anonymous autographs from the 90's ha!

Where did all that naive love go to? Bring back the autograph books!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Curse of Knowledge

Yes, sometimes I get deeply thoughtful about stuff like that. Not kidding.

So currently I am reading Made to Stick and this is an excerpt from the brilliant book on the curse of knowledge (it is easy to follow, I promise;-) And also since I am in the mood to throw this stuff at you, you got no choice.):

In 1990, Elizabeth Newton earned a PhD in psychology at Stanford by studying a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: "tappers" or "listeners". Tappers received a list of 25 well-known songs such as "Happy Birthday to You" and "The Star Spangled Banner." Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table). The listener's job was to guess the song, based on the rhythm being tapped. (By the way, this experiment is fun to try at home if there's a good "listener" candidate nearby)

The listener's job in this game is quite difficult. Over the course of Newton's experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 2.5% of the songs: 3 out of 120.

But here's what made the result worthy of a dissertation in psychology. Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly. They predicted that the odds were 50%.

The tappers got their message across 1 time in 40, but they thought they were getting their message across 1 time in 2. Why?

When a tapper taps, she is hearing the song in her head. Go ahead and try it yourself - tap out "The Star Spangled Banner". It's impossible to avoid hearing the tune in your head. Meanwhile, the listeners can't hear the tune - all they can hear is a bunch of disconnected taps, like a kind of bizarre Morse Code.

In the experiment, tappers are flabbergasted at how hard the listeners seem to be working to pick up the tune. Isn't the song obvious? The tappers' expressions, when a listener guesses "Happy Birthday to You" for "The Star Spangled Banner," are priceless. How could you be so stupid?

It's hard to be a tapper. The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it's like to lack that knowledge. When they're tapping they can't imagine what it's like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song.

This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it is like not to know it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns)

First, lookup Mindy Kaling. If you have identified her from The Office, good job. I just feel she should come on screen more often. Of course, I am also happy if she just keeps writing books like this one - Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns). If you want a flavor of this book, read this New Yorker piece she wrote - a funny take on the state of chick flicks. Not surprisingly, it also happens to be one of the chapters in the book :-)


It takes a certain kind to write this book - unabashedly funny, over-the-top sarcasm and loving to degrade oneself for the sake of laughs. All traits of a good comedian. Now, intertwine that with sassy humor and real-life events, with some girly fun thrown in here and there. That takes it up a few notches. Mindy Kaling (aka Vera Mindy Chokalingam) has arrived.

Comparisons with Tina Fey's Bossy Pants are inevitable, but having read both I am happy to say that the comparison ends there. The book stands on its own. She comes across as this cute, funny best friend that girls want to have. There is nothing more successful than a book that connects with a certain type of audience. I am sure the guys would love this book too. It is more about comedy than say a girl's fashion black book. But a girl, she will love it. So if you are guy who has a funny girlfriend, this is the book she will enjoy reading and love you even more for gifting it to her ;-)

Some of the chapters were laugh out loud. For instance there is one entire chapter on her long and vivid revenge fantasies that she imagines during workouts. Easily one of my favorite chapters.

Like I said, it takes a certain kind.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Awesome Indian things # 4 : Power Outage

For the more unfortunate friends of mine (I mean the Westerners) who missed the rare opportunity to partake an event such as a "regular" power outage will never get themselves to understand the freedom and joy a power outage presents. Allow me to explain.

Also, I could write about power theft - another topic, another day. Pic courtesy: The Daily Reporter

In the 90's and also late 80's when shining stars (such as me and also a certain guy named Steve Jobs) thrived, power outages were a part and parcel (I love how I switch to British English) of life. Of course, as a kid, I had not many TV show options. So when that most favorite TV show (which also happens to be the only show that airs Bollywood songs) - Chitrahaar - was supposed to air and the power outage happened imagine my sorry state. In fact, I would spend the whole day terrorized thinking about what I would do, if the power went out on me during showtime. I sometimes resorted to praying and becoming intensely devout just so that God could allow the power to stay until the end of the show.

So but for this one situation, power outages were always welcomed by me. Since,

1) I didn't have to do my homework. I always had words of wisdom up my sleeve - "There is no light to study. Candle light is not good for the eyes." Parents would just give up at this point.

2) I could play "antakshari" without interruptions.  There is never a dearth of Bollywood songs. Ever.

3) Antakshari not only meant honing my singing skills, but also practicing verbal and physical fights with siblings, cousins, neighbor kids, street kids...all the young victims of power outage unite at such a fateful time.

4) I could go up the terrace and stare at the stars and the moon and think I will be some sort of a big deal sometime in future (also called as dreaming) while battling mosquitoes into the night.

5) I could eavesdrop at what the adults and senior citizens are bitching about. Oh they must really hate that old fat lady around the block...point noted.

6) I could play hide and seek, lock and key, chor police in the moonlight.

7) I could gossip about which guy is "sighting" which girl at school and whose love letter I messengered this week. I could also talk more important things like which Bollywood star is dating which other Bollywood star.

So there you go, you inferior people in the power-always world - You will never know the power of a power outage. Or you could just move into my hometown.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Special - Fighting like nobody's business

Yes. It is a fight club -  two's a duel. A verbal duel that begins with me, peaks with me and ends with him. Didn't I tell you about a little yin and yang the last time? Yes, so I fight and he listens. Yin and yang, there  you have it.

I have been guilty of pulling him to a combat, most of the times because I am too bored of stuff (sorry, it is just that way with me. My thought process sometimes includes - "I am bored this evening, so let me provoke the boyfriend and polish some of my profanity hurling skills").

I have known to be a little on the tom-boyish side of life. I don't groom myself. I don't like to giggle that much. I don't think unkempt hair and nails is the end of the world. I don't want to watch those sappy sentimental movies. I swear more than the average girl does. I have an intense urge to jump off a trapeze or a moving plane. I like to lounge around in my pajamas, outside. I think Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Bradley Cooper and all those blue eyed men don't deserve any attention. I don't like chocolates, cakes, flowers, stuffed toys..almost anything sweet and cute to look at. I like my gifts to have a lifetime utility value. I could go on forever....

But what has that to do with fights I have with boyfriend? Nothing. I was just in a mood to distract you all. However, I turn into this egoistical bitch, stubborn and dreadfully moody at times - something that the boyfriend has carefully studied for years and has trained himself on how to detonate that type of behavior.

It is weird how a relationship survives amidst silly fights. If that soap opera told you that fights only show how much you love each other, I will say yes to it and also add that it shows your destructive side too. There is an old adage - "Think before you leap" and I am not glad to say I don't go by it.

There is a natural destructive tendency in girls and no matter how much effort I put in to revitalize my tom-boyish side of personality, this is one trait I will never be able to give up - that natural destructive tendency to "fight" - exists in all girls. No exceptions made. This is in our DNA. We like to "work" things up in our mind, lock them up and give the boys a chance to unlock them.

Needless to say boys are so straightforward they can't tell through the manipulation. They can be goddamn CEO's, astronauts, physicists and Formula one racers but they can never, never, never get to what's on a girls mind. Which is the point of the whole fight. "So you can't figure me out? Is this how much you love me?" - This sentence is enough to start a slew of fights. We need no other topic to pimp this fight.

Now ask me what true love is?

True love is the boyfriend blinking blind at the face of manipulative provocations like a puppy dog. Which annoys a girl to no limit since she suddenly feels like her "superpowers" to provoke a fight have vanished. But when the day drains out on her and she knows that she has no one to provoke, she will knock the doors of the boyfriend and ask - "Care for a fight?" (Didn't I say this was a fight club?)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Special - Painting the town red (but in stealth mode)

I am bloody impressed at how that was possible - courting each other secretly. Or was it? For some weird reason, no one asked if we were dating each other. Either it was more than apparent that we were dating or people just didn't give a shit. I believe it is the latter. Let's give some cred to people's intellect here, ok?

I am also bloody impressed at how a shockingly routine life suddenly turns into a dreamy doe eyed fantasy. (Ok I stretched that too far, but you get the point). After all all that notion of thunderstorms, violins, misty clouds etc. must have flourished sometime in an alternate universe, to be depicted so incessantly in movies. Three cheers to Bollywood!

Darting around the town in stealth mode was a piece of cake. We had a strict code of conduct. No sheepish looks. No affectionate glances. No flirtatious glint in the eye. Hell, we could totally come across as two strangers, if we wanted. We just raised our cloaks up and walked around all day like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. And if anyone asked we could always tell - "We are pals, chilling out. As pals do."

We shamelessly dodged every invitation from friends who wanted to hangout with us. (Of course, I can tell you this was so easy-peasy because we didn't really have that many friends to boot in the first place)
Parents can wait. Bosses can wait. Work can wait. Bills can wait. Eating can wait. Sleep can wait.

Only meeting could not wait.

I picked up life lessons along the way...

Lesson 1: I can text at the speed of light. Also I will draft texts when I get a gap of about 1 min (when either of us is on a bathroom visit)

Lesson 2: I am capable of being a multitasker. I can watch TV, text live commentary to boyfriend and fake-hear my dad talking all at one go.

Lesson 3: I can drive my bike fast - Out of a work meeting and in a movie theatre in mere minutes.

Lesson 4: I can tell NO. No to meetings, no to wedding invites, no to boss, no to parents. Life is a lot more productive now.

Lesson 5: I can take pleasure in little things. Boyfriend got me a chocobar today, a pan pizza from a hole-in-the-wall food joint and corn from the guy who was tired of seeing our faces everyday. Life is rocking right now.

Lesson 6: I can watch nonsensical movies and still be in a happy mood.

Lesson 7: I can make incredibly silly faces and still look sexy.

Lesson 8: I can bitch to my heart's content and not wait for someone's approval since I am always right.

Lesson 9: I can be an arrogant, manipulative, cynical bitch and still be "cute" and "influential"

Lesson 10: I can throw caution to the wind and become fully independent. I have gangster backing now. Boyfriend = gangster. He will help me procure books, pirated software, street food, movie tickets, mp3's - all the essential things that I cannot afford to compromise.

However like all good things must come to an end, the facade of reality crumbles as soon as you are through this phase. And that is why they say - Enjoy till it lasts.

Disclaimer: I do not take any responsibility of your well-being if you choose to follow some of the "life lessons" above. Strictly, at your discretion. Because, who knows, your boyfriend might not turn out to be quite the gentleman you thought he would be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Special - A little Yin and a Little Yang

So the earlier post did not go down. That is a good sign. I got the seal of boyfriend approval today morning. Yay. Happy Valentine's Day everyone :-) I can't exactly say may you have more and more boyfriends/girlfriends. But I said it already...

Also, props to Googlers who made this. Love it!


Do you know what the best part of early days of dating is? You do not have to be at your best behavior. That's right. You can follow that advice all your friends and teachers wrote in your "autograph book" when you left school -

"Be Yourself"

(I never, till date, understood what that is supposed to mean. Did they mean to say, stop being fake and grow up? That was the most controversial statement of my school life.)

Be Yourself.

So for instance, I could giggle a lot (I think I cackled more than giggle) and get away with it. If you didn't know how annoying it is for the opposite person while you are giggling unnecessarily, next time please take that table by a group of teenage girls sporting Beiber shirts and polka dotted nail paint)

I could eat a hell lot and it would still be "cute".  I could just come in an old jeans and t-shirt and still appear so "chilled out". Obviously, I unashamedly milked this vantage point.

However, one thing led to another and from our behaviors, I could only conclude that we happened to be dangerously opposite in nature. But I was completely confused. What if either or both of us were not acting "genuine"? Allow me to explain.

Take 1:

I hated shopping. I still do. My idea of shopping is to scan the entire floor of apparel and after careful thought, price comparison and optimization, pick exactly one (ok maybe two on a bright day) piece and go home. Also, this one piece will be a regular looking garment (read jeans, boy t-shirt or a cardigan).

Whereas my boyfriend was totally taken by the idea of shopping. As if his life depended on it. He would scan the entire floor nevertheless, but pick pieces that will blow your mind and you will stand there like an idiot, watching him mix and match like a magician.

Needless to say, it made me uncomfortable and insecure. This thing - shopping- is supposed to be a girl's home turf.

Take 2:

I wasn't any pious. Heck, if you had me get up and take bath on a religious day, you should feel lucky. I imagined guys were like that. Not generally pious and all such good things. So imagine my surprise when I see my guy do elaborate rituals as if his full time job was that of a priest. Not only that, but he often felt generous and explained (very patiently) about these rituals.

What could that mean to me? Embarrassing yes. Cute no. Admiration maybe. But the top of it all was this - is he manipulating me into following these things? Is he or is he not?

Take 3:

A vegetarian and a foodie don't belong. Him - vegetarian, Me - foodie (that means non-vegetarian).
If you want to tell me that a vegetarian can also be a foodie...well then...Y.A.W.N
So when the noble priest and rockstar shopper orders a vegetarian dish, what do you do? You order the exact opposite of course. No compromise. And also go overboard about how much you love animal parts. Bheja Fry. Liver Fry. Paya. You know talk about "hardcore" stuff.

The good thing was I didn't have to share my food. The bad thing was I was eating from his plate.
Did he think I was a glutton? Did he think I could strangle him one day for food? Very confusing again.

And inspite of all the forces against us, evil eyes and wagging tongues of people whom we didn't care or seem to notice, we sticked together. Why? Because it was epic! Little yin and a little yang.

And also because his "About me" on Orkut profile read "I keep the drama at the door". He got me there.

*No, that wasn't a typo. Anyhoo is the "cooler" way of saying Anyhow.  Refer Tobias Funke from Arrested Development.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Special - The day we met and sparks didn't fly

Happy Valentine's Week friends :-)

If you are surprised at why I am so jolly good about Valentine's week (yes I am celebrating the whole damn week, because I wish so..its a free country ok?), don't ask. I am surprised as well.

Let's just say I am in mood and move on now. Lately, I have been at war with my boyfriend and I think it is the perfect time to make up to all the shit I throw at him. So being the generous girlfriend I am, I will gift him something from my heart. (Also, because he wants nothing short of a BMW and I cannot afford one right now I will be the eternal frugal girl that I am and hence all the pre-hype about "something from my heart").

So I thought I would just write one post a day, the entire week, about our burgeoning romance from the yesteryears (yes it has been THAT long) and dedicate them to him. Also I cannot guarantee you if this will happen - I might take down the posts if my boyfriend happens to object to this sudden feeling of blog-charity. So consider yourself lucky if you read it in time. Ahem.

I cannot tell you how our love just keeps growing and multiplying over the years. (I am not getting the right cliche to throw in here. Sigh.)

But I can tell you this - It wasn't the proverbial love at first sight. Which thoroughly disappointed me later, when I confessed love, because all my fantasy about love at first sight hadn't come true. It shattered my whole belief system in "love-at-first-sight" fantasies I had as a young girl. Also, I don't believe in fairy tales anymore as a result.

The day we met was rather a dull day. No thunderstorms. No rains. No voilins. Not even bloody good food. DULL. DULL. DULL.

I was working as usual (What did you think? This is what people do in real life. Work. Not dance around trees and think about love fantasies). A common friend of ours had mentioned that he was in the same premises as my work. Which did not the least bit interest me in any way. I mean he was merely an existence till then. I knew him, he knew me. Vaguely. Yawn.

So I just had to be nice and all, like I always am. Also I was bored but obviously I was not going to tell him that. I shot an email into the cloud (I had to throw in the word "cloud". It is the most hip word to use in Silicon Valley right now). And then I sat nibbling and day dreaming (those are clear indication of work boredom). I checked Orkut and re-checked Orkut and kept doing so in intrevals of 5 minutes. (Ya Facebook didn't exist then. Orkut was all the hope we got back then).

And then the email reply happened. Of course, who could resist a charming email from me. Right?


Little did I expect an email reply that read something like this - "I am not sure if I have time to meet...blah blah blah..". Yes I did not care to read the rest of it because I was Jesus freaking mad at him.

What the what? No time? No time for me? A BITS Pilani graduate? (I will forgive your ignorance now, think of BITS as the Ivy League of India).

I am BITS fucking Pilani graduate! And this guy, of all the nerve, rejects me over email?

On second thoughts, I always think that was a classic move on his part. Playing "hard to get" is a classic classic move my boyfriend. Very classic.

But back to the moment. He rejected me!

Oh ya, sparks of a different kind were definitely flying. So I risked signs of desperation and sent him another email. Very subtle about how it can be "a quick chat over the rooftop - nothing of importance - would be nice to catchup"

On second thoughts, #FAIL. Very non-classy of me. I regret till this day.

So what followed was not a quick chat. Instead we had more than an hour long chat. Didn't I tell you I was charming? No make it lethal. I used to be lethal.

What did I tell you? No sparks. No love at first sight. But the longest, soul-stirring (ok not really but insert some profound word here), chat-sy chat of epic proportions ensued...till the cloud (the real cloud, like, up in the sky cloud) disappeared and gave in to the moon and stars and it was time to drive back home.

I mean, how romantic, longest chat ever on the first day ever of a brewing romance. It was nonsense, gossip, silly and profound, intellectual and highly enlightening at the same time. And yet I vaguely remember what the chat was about.

In other news, boyfriend thinks he might want an Ipad. I will ask him to wait till "Ipad 3 comes out". Which obviously wont happen by Feb 14. Classic move Manju.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Awesome Indian things # 3 : Prabhu Deva songs

Prabhu Deva. The 90's. Crazy dance moves. Respect.

I mean who didn't like Prabhu Deva right? The man just rocked it in loose baggy style pants. Chikku Bukku Chikku Bukku Rayile....did you think you could make trains sound any more cooler?

Yep. He had arrived.

It was crazy in the 90's. Cable TV was just getting traction. Plus Doordarshan was actually making efforts (I know!) to air those nice countdown shows. It seemed like I could never escape all of Prabhu Deva's cult songs.

But nothing struck my inner soul like this song - Petta Rap.

I really really really really loved it. Like more than the Saturday night special pulao my mom used to make for me. I mean if you knew me, you would gasp "No way!". That's because as a kid I was a food monster (eating incredible amounts of food was a way of life). And here, I am telling you Petta Rap took that coveted place, for a brief period.

I remember going to this function at my relative's place (after much coaxing from my mother. I hated and still hate any kind of social settings that includes my relatives). However, this one time I agree I enjoyed. Why?

Because they had me at Petta Rap.

Apparently a bunch of my cousins (all boys. I am one of the only 2 girl cousins in my family among some 15 odd cousins), made it their mission to make this function sort of mildly entertaining. So a scheming cousin, wears his baggy pants inside out and starts "Petta Rap". Plus they had a sidekick (who looked just as dangerously skinny like Vadivelu) dressed superficially in a saree, lip syncing with the old woman's voice in the song. Each time my cousin lifted his baggy pants up and did a pelvic thrust we invited the cold stares and talking mouths from the senior citizens camp (If you ever in a Tamil family ceremony you would understand how much drama this would have created)

So my dear cousin, all though I don't remember which one of the half a dozen cousins you were, I bow to you. I was too egoistic as a kid to join you in this blasphemy of dance (I feared kids wouldn't take me serious), but you taught me their is always hope in dreadfully boring family ceremonies.

All thanks to Prabhu Deva.

Friday, February 10, 2012

And its pink!

Look at what I got in mail today. (Unless you are Sherlock Holmes, you are not to mention my dirty laundry and crummy gym bag in the background)

A giant pink costume?

No silly, its a bean bag  (apparently they sold me on it because you can contort and make shapes off it. They got me at creativity.)

The immediate reaction I had when I impatiently ripped apart the huge cardboard box it came in, was this:


No, it wasn't the stingy amount of beans they have inside it (Seriously, what were they thinking? Its a fucking bean bag, put some beans in it you stingy morons!)

No it wasn't even the failure to hold shapes (so much for creativity, baah!)

No, it wasn't even the strange stench that comes with it (I gather it is a "factory setting")

But it was this very apparent, blatant, in-your-face pink color.

Pink. Whaaaaaat?! I was raven mad. But but but...I ordered it in Fuchsia. I mean that word "fuchsia" sounded so EXOTIC! And in the pictures it looked more red than pink. I should have fucking looked up Fuchsia.

Here is what wikipedia has to say about Fuchsia (as I read it now, a tad too late eh?)

"Fuchsia (pronunciation: /ˈfjuːʃə/few-shə) is a vivid reddish or pinkish purple color named after the flower of the fuchsia plant, itself named after the German scientist Leonhart FuchsFuchsia is a synonym formagenta."


* I am a serious Arrested Development convert. I tend to use their quotes in all my conversations as if I was born to talk that way.

PS: Also Blogger wants to be a bitch and upload images from Picasa only. They go all Vista-type-circling-cursor over me if I try to upload images from my computer. *Miffed*

PPS: No it is not a Valentine's Day gift. I mean, I assumed that you sort of assumed...you know.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Awesome Indian things # 2 : Golli

Now don't be all smart ass and type "Golli" in Google search and expect a neat wikipedia page on it ok? On second thoughts, I must speak to the engineers on the search team, explain them that what we are talking here is of national importance :-)

Remember Golli (aka Gotti) my Indian mates? The awesome, epic street game of marbles, colorful ones at that. Marbles I used to steal from my brother and other street kids to make my own collection. Yes, all is fair in love, war and game of marbles.

This was epic. More so because my parents loathed it. You know how you get a kick of it, by doing something that your parents intensely oppose? So not only did I steal (or win marbles, yes I was the envy of the local guys) but I also had to constantly change their hideout. I always kept it adventurous. It was all so thrilling as a kid. Specially since we had no Internet or Ipods or Iphones then. If they had Internet then, I would have published a blog on how Golli increased the niche skills of concentration and competitiveness among kids and showed it to my parents.

I mean which Indian kid in the 80's didn't enjoy a game of marbles, braving the tropical heat of India? And the best part is how serious we took the game for. I mean really all those blames on each other of cheating and then an eventual fight breaking out. For example, I constantly blamed guys of lifting their thumb of the ground while aiming with their forefinger at another marble. As an aside, I had pretty good nails, ready to claw up guys if a fight broke out. Yes, I had claws. A girl has gotta take advantage of her DNA (for defense purposes only)

My mom could tell, when I came back home with unkempt hair, grime in my finger nails and darting eyes (as I had to quickly arrange for a hideout for my marble loot from today's game). She mostly overlooked it. And since my dad was mostly somewhere in the Middle East at the time, working his ass off for kids he thought were doing their homework diligently, I was in a marble friendly world. Until he came on vacations and I had to put on a skirt and act all goody-goody with this godforsaken doll of a thing. Yes I hated dolls. There I said it. Too. Much. Pressure.

Now who wants to play golli with me?

Because you don't want to invite the wrath of Crime Master Gogo - Aankhen nikaal kar gottiya khel tha hoon gottiya

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Book review: Last Man in Tower

For a really long time I wanted to read an Indian book by an Indian author. You know what I mean. Not the pseudo Indian stuff, but something I can relate to. And definitely NOT Chetan Bhagat. Sigh.

Having grown up in a middle class family and lived (for a few years - but the best ones!) in a chawl I took to Last Man in Tower like a fish takes to water (Yes, I had to throw in a cliche there;))

Pic courtesy: Amazon.com book cover

I read Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger long ago. For some odd reason, I wasn't impressed by it. And now I know why. Methinks it is the way he symbolizes circumstances and people in his story and depending on how well you follow these through the thread of the story gives you the maximum pleasure. It is like reaching a crescendo but without much ado about it. You know, like a good detective novel. If I described Last Man in Tower to be a suspenseful story, there will no laughing about it. It is a suspense filled drama! Like the Indian soap operas, but taut and better :-) (Ok I shouldnt have compared to Indian soap operas. Let me rephrase. It is like those characters in a story that become endearing to you. Ya, that's what I meant. Good.)

The way Aravind Adiga sketches the characters in the book is so believable. It makes you sit up and say "Hey I know this guy!" or "Hey, that is like my neighbor X"

Last Man in Tower is all about greed driving middle class people crazy evil. And that is in a nutshell what the book is about. If you were ever in a middle class family or in poverty or...you know anything except the elite, you will relate to this story :-) If you grew up in an apartment building or in a chawl you will totally suck it up. Oh, and for people from Bombay, you will enjoy it immensely! (Hopefully someone writes about Hyderabad soon)

In fact, I might pick up The White Tiger for a re-read. I am caught in the Adiga wave now.

PS: Oh as always, the book isn't thick, so it is an easy read. Just go slow and don't skip some of his subtle symbolisms of Indian life, it will really give you an appreciation of both the beauty and ugliness of Indian life.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Awesome Indian things # 1 : Sugarcane Juice

Move over Diet Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Tropicana, Red Bulls of the world. You thought you could juice it up? Well nothing tastes sweeter than Sugarcane, you jack asses.

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia (A Hyderabadi sugarcane juice vendor)

Wow, that was bold. And no, I am not psyched in the middle of the night over a drink.

I just love some Indian things you know. Things that were near and dear when I grew up in apna Hyderabad. Well, oh well. #JustSaying

This was my go-to drink you know. Days while lounging outside in the heat with my hall ticket to be seated in for some god-knows-which-entrance exam. Being a student in India was tough man. And here I hear people talk about absurd number of homeworks and paper deadlines. Come to India mate, I will show you what it is to write a bazillion entrance exams, each one for a different school, major and god only knows what else they throw in these days.

Anyhow, so anyone worth their Hyderabadi life will know how the local cinema halls used to shut us out till the nth second and would let you in only a moment before they screen the cinema. Remember? SO annoying. And to stand in that blistering heat (think Texas heat here) without a glass of sugarcane would be blasphemy, no? I remember filling a Milton flask full of sugarcane juice once for the entire family of 4 before we headed for Jurassic Park. (How much I miss the 90's. boo-hoo!)

And how many times has someone warned you about the wrong kind of water they use to make that sugarcane and how many times have you heeded to that warning? Not once. Haha. You could take fever but not say no to sugarcane juice.

Funny, how the warnings now are less about "bad" water and more about "calories". Things change, trends change, people change.

Sugarcane juice, anyone?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Things not to worry about

This is a list of things NOT to worry about as written by F. Scott Fitzgerald (I must read his Great Gatsby someday!) to his 11-year old daughter.  Being a chronic worrier myself, this came as a pleasant reminder - of things that do not matter :-)

Read the other two lists he wrote about to his 11-year old daughter

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The debate on Khan Academy or not

The first time it ever occurred that Khan Academy may not be the perfect solution to education was on a road trip to Monterey. My friend A candidly asked me - "So what do you think of Khan Academy?"

I was taken aback a bit by that question. I mean, there was only one answer to it, wasn't it? Everyone knows Khan Academy is great, so why was she asking me such an obvious question with an obvious answer.

And then she put forth the argument on the other side - a side, very few of us are willing to accept or even respect.

A said - "But what about teaching? What about that personal connection, that bond with a teacher, who shows you the real use of whatever you are learning?"

I possibly couldn't argue that. We just settled to a mid-conclusion. Yes, Khan Academy is good but it is not a replacement to the age-old ways of traditional teaching. Although I secretly felt more supportive of Khan Academy. I didn't tell her that.

And now I can relate to the point A tried to make that day.

Khan Academy is a convenience. It delivers education to people who might not be able to afford education the way some of us can. It helps you work through basic skills. It never declared that it could replace education systems. But people *assumed* this is the replacement. It is not.

Because, if I learn Math, just because I want to get a badge on their site and jump levels (as if I am playing a game), I will never learn the essence behind Math. So who brings that essence to you? A teacher - someone, who is rarely found in today's technology driven world. Someone who is a rare commodity.

If I love reading literature, it is not because some technology platform taught me how to read. Sure it *assisted* me to find the meaning of a word in a dictionary, sure it *provided* me a convenient way to bookmark and read and re-read stuff on devices...

But did it teach me to love and imagine the characters in the book? No. Did it teach me to cherish each story I read? No. I think my old librarian did.

It is after all a human endeavor, not some computer graded test.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Why you will fail to have a great career

I happened to bump into this candid TED talk (I can spend my whole day watching TED!)
Instead of talking about why you should follow your passion, which we have heard bazillion times by the way, the speaker takes a practical approach - he talks about what excuses we make to avoid following or searching for our passion. Some of them being -

- Great careers are just a matter of luck, so I will just stand around and try to "be lucky"
- There are special people who are geniuses and I am not special
- I am not weird, obsessive or paranoid (ha! Steve Jobs has spoilt it even more for us)

and so on...Inventing excuses to not persevere.

Strange, how the human mind is - Resists something that could completely turn your life upside down.

Only because you are afraid of failing

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Art of Storyboarding

Quickly, what comes to your mind first when I yell the word "Storyboarding"?

Animation movies? Motion picture? Illustrators?

Did it ever occur that it could be used in a presentation, perhaps?

That's right. Traditionally all we have heard of storyboarding is in the world of interactive graphics and motion pictures like animation movies. Last week when I went to a "presentation skills" course I was really taken aback when I was told that "storyboarding" is in fact one of the neatest tricks to use while building your presentation. WITHOUT A COMPUTER!

How cool can it get?

I often find it distracting to use the computer (I mean Internet more, when I say computer) to build my presentations. In fact, that should be the second last step in your presentation preparing process (the last step being practice delivering!).

Why you ask?

Because..Powerpoint or Google Docs or whatever the heck you use is not designed for you to quickly organize your thoughts.

Because..It is more human to take a wad of stick notes, scribble one thought on each sticky note and move them around in your workspace.

Because..you can pull down a sticky note and then tack another which feels more appropriate. Imagine the amount of time it takes to move around slides, think about fonts, draw and arrange shapes...These are distractions. You should be focussing on content and building a story at this time not worry about beautifying things.

It is time to take that sticky pad gathering dust on it and put it to use :-)

Build your narrative and tell your story to the world.

Recommended watch: The Pixar Story. I watched this documentary on Netflix and it was fascinating to see how animators build their stories.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Org charts in Tech

Manu Cornet, a Software Engineer at Google working on Gmail themes, came up with this drawing (below) of what an org chart looks like at 6 major tech companies. You can follow him on Google+

His other drawings are hilarious as well. Gives me the much needed laughs at work :-)

The red dot in Apple and the guns at Microsoft. Very tongue in cheek, indeed. *Wink*