Flying South for the Winter
Last year I made the most insane road trip across the United States. From Lake Michigan to the Pacific. This time I am making a much saner trip to the Augusta, GA. It will be insane in some other way. My cousins and me driving my aunt and uncle crazy.
Looking forward to some clear skies and sunshine. I must remember to take my shorts.

From the Bubble of American Supremacy | George Soros: "Bubbles do not grow out of thin air. They have a basis in reality—but reality as distorted by a misconception. Under normal conditions misconceptions are self-correcting, and the markets tend toward some kind of equilibrium. Occasionally, a misconception is reinforced by a trend prevailing in reality, and that is when a boom-bust process gets under way. Eventually the gap between reality and its false interpretation becomes unsustainable, and the bubble bursts.

Exactly when the boom-bust process enters far-from-equilibrium territory can be established only in retrospect. During the self-reinforcing phase participants are under the spell of the prevailing bias. Events seem to confirm their beliefs, strengthening their misconceptions. This widens the gap and sets the stage for a moment of truth and an eventual reversal. When that reversal comes, it is liable to have devastating consequences. This course of events seems to have an inexorable quality, but a boom-bust process can be aborted at any stage, and the adverse effects can be reduced or avoided altogether. Few bubbles reach the extremes of the information-technology boom that ended in 2000. The sooner the process is aborted, the better."

Rivera's Murals
The Art Institute of Chicago does not play fair. After having been there not many museums can match up. The Detroit Institute of Art, though no exception has its highlights though. The DIA was under renovation and we could not see the famous Van Gogh - "Self portrait with Sun-Hat". The museum interestingly is organised thematically rather than chronologically which makes it interesting to see three-four hundreds years of painters at one time and their take on the same subject. The Seurat that they had was neither the size nor of the grandeur of AI's Evening on the Grand La Jatte but still pointilism still fascinates. You can look a hundred times and its still fascinating.
The whole trip was made worthwhile just by the Rivera Mural Commissed in 1932 by Ford and is a tribure to the auto industry. It is impossible to appreciate the whole thing at one go. It covers four huge walls. It consists of a main picture and then sub-panels. Each having a specific purpose to the theme. It was more like listening to a four movement symphony. In this case the movements having a much more tighter thematic structure. Its is about racial equality, the relation of industry and nature. The various industries are depicted and industry as depicted as a growing foetus from the womb of
Mother Earth. He merges Edison and Henry Ford as a manager in one panel. He and Frida spent a month photographing the Detroit plant before he spent about eight months finishing what he considered as one of his finest works.

Dodging Bullets in Downtown Detroit
It had to be my great idea to have lunch at the Mexican Town in Detroit, it took us one hour to get to a place which technically is 5 minutes away. Thanks to the people. The people who were not around in this 'ghost town'. I can give some benefit of doubt to the fact that it was a Sunday and it was cold outside, so not likely to see many people taking a stroll giving directions to four brown guys in a car.
There were no stories about dodging bullets in downtown Detroit. Just liked the title and since you are reading this so far. Its more hype than anything. I have lived to tell the tale.
The food at the Mexican place was great. The bowls of salsa and chips never stopped coming. The decor was of a mexican villa with its head of the bull and portraits of flamenco dancers and bullfighters. The waiteress starting talking to us in Spanish. Not surprising.
As part of adventure I ordered Napalitos,which is made from a type of cactus. I seem to have a weakness for exotic sounding dishes. It was not too bad. Tasted like dudhi. Next door was the Mexican store which looked, smelt and even would have tasted like any Indian store. It the identical spicy smell that assaults you the moment you get in. Similar with special foods re-packed in plastic bags by the owners, and the Mexican equivalents of Thums-Up and Parle G, including greeting cards in Mexican. Ironically printed in China!
A sign that you have you truly arrived in the USA
When I gave a quarter and a dime to an American beggar.

Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

One Student
Mathematics: Might fail the class. Refuses to apply himself.
English: Very good knowledge of literature. Works well
General Science: Satisfactory work. Behavior in class far from satisfactory
Chemistry:Missed one exam.
Excerpts from the report card of John Lennon
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland, Ohio

It was a pilgrimage of sorts for me to go to the magnificent I.M Pei structure that opened in 1995. There are five floors and I could see only one in the entire day. The stuff that they have is amazing. The listening booths present the genre,artist and his links and info with the music, of course. Everything is audio-visual celebrating everything that rock and roll is all about. This includes a section on Teen Idols, clips from TV and radio about R & R being bad for the youth, a huge video wall, the 30 foot Giant Fender Amp replica that Neil Young used for one of his concerts. Finally saw the famous Sgt. Peppers suits of the Beatles and John's report card.
The museum has a huge collection of Hendrix stuff including one of the Fender Strats. One of the ones that survived his battering.
The most astonishing exhibit is the original Sun Studio on the second floor loaned to the museum by Sam Phillips. The same piano that Jerry Lee Lewis played on his famous Sun Sessions. Seeing such stuff was eerie.
Another interesting exhibit was the letter to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone by Charles Manson, asking for a years free subscription in return for an interview.

Last Exam..Blizzard..Rock Concert
The time that I was waiting for finally arrived. The date reads 17th and I did finish my last exam. If I been less insane I could have made this my last exam ever. In some sense. That's another story.
There was a blizzard this morning and I it was fun to walk around in that before the exam started. It took some time for my fingers to "thaw" before I could start writing. The walking around also resulted in soggy socks, a peeve on which I have ranted before.
First things first after the exam. Harlan Hatcher library. This means that I now have an updated list of books to be read. That column on the left has yellowed with age this Fall. I have to first I must finish the fall backlog of books. The book club in the CO-OP(where I live) has decided to read "Animal Farm" this winter break. My choices were a "Bend in the River" and "Money" , none of which I have read so which I will read anyway.
The afternoon was spent at a rock concert. Actually watching a rock concert the TV room. Thanks to somebody's good sense they have hooked up a Kenwood surround sound system to the DVD player. I was watching the Monterey Pop festival Complete. The volume was turned to a conspicuously loud level. Why? Because it's a rock concert dammit! No one complained, but a couple of people peeped in where Janis was doing "Ball and Chain". Not surprising at all. Janis-Ball and Chain-at the Monterey Festival 1967. It's crazy. Watch it!(LOUD)
I watched the movie twice. The second time with the film-maker and producer commenting about the various aspects of the film and performances. It's kinda of hard to believe that none of these guys and most people there, had ever seen or heard of the Jimi Hendrix, The Who and really did not know what to expect.
Ravi Shankar
Putting Ravi Shankar at the end of the film (not the original concert) was a masterful idea. As he explains,
"...I put Ravi at the end because I felt that that's where I think I wanted to leave people. A sense of arrival at a different place. They all thought that they would come here and get liberated by drugs and what actually liberated them was something totally unexpected."
D.A. Pennebaker

Ravi Shankar performed Raga Bhimpulasi along with Allarakkha Khan. The audience was moved by the Jugalbandhi. I feel its quite a shame that the percussionist always is the junior artiste. Throught they refer to A.R. as '..the tabla player.". Perhaps if A.R. had also managed to get some famous drummer as his pupil then he would be just as famous as Ravi Shankar.

Google update
Quoting the Wall Street Journal
" ..Google plans to open a development centre in Bangalore with around 100 employees". The article went on to mention that there were a significant number of Googleemployees who were willing to spend 'significant' amount of time training the engineers in India. This will also be their first overseas facility. All the other offices are sales offices.

Google and power of Blogging
This is thanks to Vivek who sent me the story. NYT story

Some issues that provide food for thought

1. This makes it possible for anyone out there to make manipulate the Google page Rank, of course provided that there are enough people out there willing to support that particular idea of cross linking. The most common hates would not be a problem to garner blog support. Anything like maybe Greatest Cricket Team linking to India for example would be hard. (Takes you to A Windies site using I am Feeling Lucky.. wonder of wonders ..) An easy target would be Britney Spears. "Worst popstar" (Thats my contribution. Will it catch on? Guys?)

2. Really interesting to see how blogging is rapidly becoming a the New Free Press. Of course you have maybe hugely misreported facts, titled opinons, personal idiosyncrasies and yet it is becoming quite a community of people. The Internet is a great thing but it also means Real people out there can make a difference to public opinion. They called the Fourth Estate the Press but now even the Press can be relied on really accurate news. There is another Estate the Fifth Estate of bloggers.

3. I was tempted to call this blog the Dead End of the Blog because it does not link to another blogs. In the vein of that one smart alec who put up a site saying "This is the end of the Internet. You will have to go back". Adding a sidebar is one of my other facelift plans for this blog. Gimme two more weeks. Atleast it will save me the trouble of typing in all the address of the blogs i regularly read. (Also I would be improving their Page Rank)

3. Currently typing 'hirak' on Google gets you here. Though Hirak Parikh takes you to my personal webpage. This is because most people link me with my first name. So another frightening fact is that all the people who have linked me decide to associate some phrase like "Hirak: Jerk of the century" or something...?

Jimmy John's
Their claim is that at Jimmy John's you get the world's best gourmet sandwich. Maybe not the best but definitely the freshest subs around. I like the attitude and the humourous signs. There is a neon sign that says, "Free Smells". The sign inside say, "You must eat at Jimmy Johns because your mothers says so." Great irrestible after that right. Wait a minute till you reach the counter. They have a sign that says, "Be ready with you order when you reach the counter and say, 'loaded ' if you want onions." In short don't waste our time. Their website is great with history of the college dropout owner.Jimmy John's Looks like that if you want to achieve something in then dropping out of college looks like the only way.
Whatever the stories when you bite into that fresh French bread with sprouts and chunky avocado only with the usual suspects, your mom was right. Check some of the ads they are fun. Its fun in way to see a sense of humour in a website for sandwiches. Explore around you will find it hilarious. There is a TV ad starring India in a vegetarian role and then the Baggy Pants ad is the best.

World Aids Day
I was shocked to find out that India after South Africa has the highest number of HIV/AIDS affected people. Currently Africa is hitting the crest of the wave. India is predicted to hit that in around 2019. It is mind boggling to think the economic consequences of this. The strain on the health system, loss of productive labour, effects on AIDS orphans and families.
Its not easy to get people who need this info the most to realise the gravity of the situation. A worker once pointed out that ".. how can you talk to these people about AIDS/HIV when they don't have basic ideas about health and hygiene?" So again the solution boils down to education. Another problem is the bad attitude of people in India about AIDS victims. Quite a percentage felt that, AIDS victims should kill themselves or they deserved it and it was punishment from God. So AIDS patients in India are double dammed.
I was walking across the DIAG when I see these bunch of girls on a table giving out the red AIDS ribbon. I walk across there to get it and the girl says offers a brochure and asks if I would like condoms. They are lying in a basket on the table.
It was an offer that one should not refuse especially if you want to mantain the image of the exotic Indian mystique. So I smiled and said "Sure". Now picking one would be to looking like a newbie and grabbing a handful would be bragging a bit. I took what appears to be sensible. Three. I was also choosy in picking the colours. That was a neat stroke I felt in this whole scam. What was more surprising was to learn that NOT many people stopped by to pick them. The girl said that, people felt shy about getting condoms. It was somewhat strange considering that was America. The land of the free, the land of the brave. Apparently not. Its quite prudish, homophobic, conservative. Much more than conceived.
PS: Always take 3!

Glove challenge
Today it was the first day it snowed. They were flurries. It looked pretty with the snow on the branches of the bare trees, which looked edible with all that frosting.
I got my winter jacket out for the first time in months. I found an old glove in a pocket. I lost three pairs last year. Actually that is not correct. I lost three halves of the pairs. There is chance that I lost opposite pairs and I could reuse the other two halves. Oddly the left hand glove on both occasions disappeared. Sinister? :)
Two of the three pairs did not belong to me. So technically speaking the lose has been 50% but effectively 100% damage.
This year I am trying a thought experiment. I have bought realtively high quality, expensive gloves from Eddie Bauer. The thought is that you are more careful with more expensive stuff. I don't think that I shall misplace them. Let's see. So far it has been about one month and I still have the pair. Please check back later for the status of the glove. I think I shall win!

Strangely yesterday was the 27th of November and Hendrix's birthday. All day there was not a single song on the Classic Rock Station. Strange.

Eric Clapton and Friends
94.7 FM is the classic rock station. Today being Thanksgiving, there were two specials. One of them was the Eagles special. It was nice to be woken up and then stay in bed LYING and listening to "Lying Eyes". Hah!
The best was yet to come. Day after is George Harrison's Death Anniversary. So they had a one hour special called "Concert for George". It was great to hear Eric Clapton, Tom Petty ( Travelling Wilburys), his wife, Olivia and the usual suspects talk about George and music. The most entertaining of them all was of course, Ringo Starr. He is exactly what his character in "Help" portrays. He is different, not the cute looks of Paul, or maverick behaviour of John, or like soul searchingly quiet George. The good ole' regular bloke - Ringo. Despite everything being at a strange sort of peace. It was interesting to hear how George showed him how to hold the C chord.
Eric Clapton never took to Indian music despite George's efforts to get him and other guitarists to listen to Indian classical music. Olivia recounted how Eric finally agreed to play Ravi Shankar's arrangement. His bit is really great. Shankar's mammoth arrangement I felt, was too much of a pastiche to be anything distinctive. There was a shenai going crazy as usual, bits of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the Mohan Veena and Anoushka conducting some random vocals. Bit of a let down. Too much Indian Exotica, too little real music. "My Sweet Lord" is beautiful in that sense of being sincere to music and less to any image.
The rest of stuff was great though to hear George yell "Taxman". The two sides of Harrison.
"George's favourite was the diminished. He would play that and all the people would go crazy. It was beautiful."
Monty Python was the surprise entry adding the element of comic relief. "..George would not want a long speech about him cause he would be the first to shout out 'Rubbish'..."
Olivia Harrison
Greatest Moment
Eric's tribute to Harrison as he played "While my guitar gently weeps". I wish I could have enjoyed the song unadulterated without the comments during the song by Olivia in the programme. That too in the middle of the solo. Man! I need to get hold of the 2 set DVD.
The only day I want to go to the Indian Store its closed. I jogged there in the cold expecting some nice 'samosas'. I had to be content to jog back and make some curd rice. Not bad considering they were playing the concert again. Ambience makes a huge difference.

ISA Diwali Show
Last Friday we had the ISA Diwali show. Which was held a month late. A testament of adherence to IST? It was supposed to start at 7:00 pm and I called my American friend to watch. She turned up at 7:05 and apologised for being late. The show started at 7:45 after Pooja and setting up of the equipment. The MC of show gave 5 minute long introduction.
It was all downhill after that. The sound system sucked. Bad. The Classical performances were first. The Indian junta typically, was not listening at all and was more interested in saying "Hi and Hello" to friends they meet everyday, while the poor musician tried to play above the din. Looking at the bewildered face of my friend Lisa, I was in splits. Of course, when the Indypop hits started the whole crowd got excited. We Indians love to talk about our great culture but want to nothing concrete to even make an effort to appreciate it. Lisa thought that the concert would end by around 8:30. Well what do you know. It was fun translating the Rafi song. I think it's not at all easy to convey the desperate emotion and feeling. How can you explain well enough what,
"Pukarta chala hoon mai, Bas ek sham zulf ki,
Bas ek nigah pyar ki"

She came to watch me and I did not perform till 10:00 pm and she waited. Thanks to impromtu prize distributions and zillion problems with the sound, more delays. Welcome to India!
Thanks to the ***tty sound system our first song "Kandisa" was butchered. Thankfully the second song the fusion piece called "Ananda" by Taufiq Quereshi and Kumaran-Ganesh from the Streams of Confluence was heard. As it is the bass guitar is not foremost in people's ears. (On second thoughts its good in a way considering the author's experience on the bass guitar)
I was ashamed of the rank unprofessionalism of the ISA people conducting it and the MC's who thought that they were in somebody's house yelling (announcing). Needless to say that the dances were a travesty of dances of any sort.
It would have been great to have a nice show after all the practice and late nights. I still think that the practice is more fun. All that instant jamming. Playing and getting nowhere. The jokes, the banter and the tom-foolery during practice is more fun than a perfect audience, a perfect sound system and perfect musicians(ahem!)

A quote about Daylight Saving Time
There was an extensive article in the WSJ which is linked below for another 7 days - Deja Vu: "'At the back of the daylight saving scheme,' complained Samuel Marchbanks, the fictional alter-ego of Canadian writer Robertson Davies, 'I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.'"

The Chilean Pablo Neruda was a Nobel laureate who constantly questioned his own reality and ours. One of his last works was The Book of Questions . He died in 1972, and Copper Canyon Press published his "unanswerable" questions in 1991, translated by William O'Daly. From the lyric, paradoxical, enigmatic, tragicomic, surreal, or poignant questions Neruda asked, here are a few favorites:

Why don't they train helicopters
to suck honey from the sunlight?
How many churches are there in heaven?
Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?
Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?
What forced labor
does Hitler do in hell?
How many questions does a cat have?
Do tears not yet spilled
wait in small lakes?
Where does the rainbow end,
in your soul or on the horizon?
Who was she who made love to you
in your dream,while you slept?
And does the father who lives in your dreams
die again when you awaken?
Where is the child I was,
still inside me or gone?
Isn't the city the great ocean
of quaking mattresses?
How did the grapes come to know
the cluster's party line?
How did the abandoned bicycle
win its freedom?
If all rivers are sweet
where does the sea get its salt?
Does smoke talk with clouds?

Last Waltz
I saw the Last Waltz again after a few years. This time more carefully with earphones and no disturbance from excited friends yelling along with Muddy Waters as he powerfully rendered Mannish Boy. The more I see his movies the more I admire the art of Martin Scorsese. This the as close you can get to the excitment, the sweat and the great music if you were not there.
It seems so real and natural. That is real art.

Confessions of a Caffeine Addict

The temperatures have again fallen. Not yet sub-zero,but cold nevertheless. I use this as a justification to start drinking more coffee than usual. I am now at one whole pot of coffee a day.
Differentiating the men from the boys, hard core addicts dispense with the fancy creamers and sugar. It's pure coffee. Black and straight to the gut. Caffeine now acts as a kick-start for the day. The mid-afternoon sleep and boredom dispeller. I wonder if it's just an oral fixation or genuine addiction? My sweater now smells of coffee. Analogous to a smoking jacket?
Yet, I look forward to a different way of having coffee - like, in a coffeshop, over some intelligent conversation. It's been some time since the Barista days on Main Street. The excuse? May be not having the time or the right company for indulging in the ambience of a coffeeshop.
Surest Sign of Addiction:Drinking alone.

'The radio is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din
can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course,
than the eardrums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babble of
distractions, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually
repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but usually create
a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas.'
Aldous Huxley; On Silence; 1946."

Wonder what Huxley would have to say about TV. Especially TV these days?

Speak Up!
Today there was piece in the Michigan daily which had some facts right and an argument that has too many holes. I feel there are too many unecessary extrapolations and some grave misconceptions.Read Article. Well to come up with a convincing argument I had to some homework on the facts. The truth as always is obscured by the rhetoric and each one's own personal agenda. It becomes difficult to see the difference between black and white after the sophistry.
So far it has been an interesting afternoon so far as I visited R.S.S Website and also the the Bajrang Dal. I was impressed by the Sarsangchalak's speech. Not all right but it was much better than I expected. While randomly surfing I found the Niemoller quote. I read it for the first time in Boston at the Holocaust memorial. This one is made of glass pillars and has random numbers on it denoting the concentration camp numbers. It is hauntingly beautiful.Anyway its time to speak up.

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.”

Martin Niemöller

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Microsoft vs Google:Ominous Signs of another David versus Goliath

"MSN now currently ranked 4th in search engines in a market lead by the fast growing Google now aims to take Google on.."
Wall Street Journal, today

I am kind of shocked and outraged being a self-confessed Google lover after reading this Wall Street Journal Article. It is the next logical step for Microsoft. No one is safe. This scares me a bit.
Google is going to go public some later this year and it is rumoured that it will be 15$ to 25 $ million. Microsoft already tried to takeover Google earlier this year. It seems that the was rejected by indepedent thinking, Linux-Unix loving employees. Microsoft claims that it will now concentrate on winning the Search Engine War. Perhaps it won't be the browser style war but with Redmond you never know.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Would like to see this in the future?
MSN-Google Search

Dead Grateful(?)
The Grateful Dead are playing and I am having a delicious piece of paratha with imported "chhundo"(CHHUN-do). After the microwave heated paratha I open my packet of imported Khhakra and eat it with more chhundo like a good Gujju boy. I mean how Gujju can you get? Grateful Dead and Chhundo. Somethings that you grow up with hold the same fascination like having it for the first time. Like a good slice of juicy Alphonso in May.

"This tastes Mexican. Like like chips and salsa. Only more spice"
Nick, labmate

Are they real?
Reading this story a though came to my mind. Is anything for real these days?
NATIONAL POST: "40% of women with breast implants want them out: survey"

Is anything for real these days
Welcome to the new century. An new era of fake breasts, fake profits, fake fast bowlers. Is anything for real these days?

Visual Thesaurus
If have not visited this site. Do so now. If you regret it your money back guaranteed.
Visual Thesaurus
Its a awesome idea of representing information in the form of spatial maps. Don't we all think of words in this way. Thanks to the Internet and Java that such mental concepts are now actually possible to be represented. We live in such an exciting age.

Chaudhavi Ka Chand
This was the only movie that I missed among Guru Dutt's famous movies. The incomparable Waheeda. The greatest moment of the movie is the song and soft focus on Waheeda and amazing lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni. That's all the remains after the movie. Rafi's haunting voice of the song and the sleeping beauty.
The story was workable(!) and acting none too great. I mean after Pyaasa and Saheb,Biwi Aur Ghulam this was a damp squib in comparision. Johnny Walker was of course crazy as hell.

Wise Observation of the Day
"Could they have not talked for five minutes with each other to sort things out and saved me the torture of 3 hours"
Who? (Your guess is as good as mine!)

Happy Diwali email experience
Its Diwali and I feel its more in my heart than anything else. I am sitting here in the Co-op (thats where I live now) reading all that mail with Happy Diwali messages in it and I feel that my first statement was wrong.
Its been about a few days now that I get these mails and e-cards from friends, family other random people who cc-ed the message to everybody they knew or did not know. Mail which I would have deleted as spam and muttered a silent curse to those who can't tell the difference between a 'reply to' and 'reply to all'. The silliest message warms my heart. My aunt from Atlanta sent the Diwali sweets and fried stuff the other day. Its so good eating those chaklis. After a few bites one remembers the million times I must have sneaked up and stole chaklis as they were just done being fried. Chaklis that too hot to be eaten. Its cold outside and so is my chakli. But still its Diwail nevertheless.
Its seems so long ago that all I looked forward to was fire-works and of course the Diwali holidays. I wonder when I grew up and got over the fireworks craze. Then of course the great thing about Diwali was the New Year and all the money that was given for touching the feet of elders. I always spent it within the hour and it was always a tape. ( Yeah those days when I bought tapes).
The crowds on Main Street have been growing. It must be crazy right now. Those were the days when the pavement was wider and the hawkers were a huge presence.
Our wada in the evenings full of the acrid smoke and waste of the fire crackers. Mouths cloyed with the sweets. Relatives, friends...It was crazy.
Right now its me squatted on the floor reading those mails and revisting those memories. Its just another Friday in Ann Arbor. Tomorrows the football game against Purdue. For me though tomorrow will be Happy Diwali.
There are periods of sudden quietness in Diwali that are eerie. A time when all are out of the house and the neighbourhood is suddenly quiet. No crackers except the ones that light the sky in the distance. In this sudden quietness you see this 'diya' in the dark corner flickering. One see it fight with the wind to stay lit. I feel a little like that diya now. One diya and its still Diwali!


"As satisfying as an airline bag of peanuts when you're dying of hunger.

Eastward Ho!
Thursday, 9th October
Tomorrow I begin my five day trip to New England. I shall be visiting my sister after five years. Elder sisters are great to have but not when they still think you are a kid brother.
Friday, 10th October
2:15 am
Anuj dropped me off at the airport. Being a night owl he did not mind. Seems like paranoia to be coming so early to the airport to make sure that i dont oversleep. NO it hasn't happened before but I am not too eager to start now.
Finished reading the first two stories from BLind Love by V.S Pritchett. Excellent! Feel sleepy
Trying to sleep. Wondered when I did this last. Slept in uncomfortable positions on chair.

Standing I surely decline
I rather sit; better recline

Strange thoughts come to you when you in this state of limbo. At this odd hour, in this odd Detroit terminal I remembered why I found factorials so interesting. It was because of the "!" sign to represent them. I liked the notation cause it reminds me of the exclamations in sentences. Aha!..Great!..Arrgh! ..3!
Perhaps I am crazy. Well since I am half asleep I am just half crazy now.
5:00 am
Waiting at the US Airways terminal which seems to have seen its share of history. The seats were ripped. Man I felt like this was like some S.T stand!
6:20 am
Aloft in the skies wondering if the ailing airlines would give its ailing passenger something to eat other than slightly larger than a tablespoon of orange juice. They say times are hard!
6:40 am
Dawn is breaking across the sky. Its cloudy and hence nothing spectacular.
6:50 am
I was wrong. It needed some time. The view was spectacular. There was the dark, river and in the distance through the fog was this flame of red like a fire in the darkness. Down below the cars rushed on the highway like tiny LEDs on a display
7:15 amBought a burrito at MacDonalds. Can't simply live on the two tablespoons of orange juice.
7:57 am
Got the middle seat which is the worst. Crammed between two All American Women ( read huge) I was trying to eat my burrito.
8:40 am
Woke up from a power nap. Seemed like a bad idea fall asleep again.
9:15 am
Continued reading the Pritchett book while I waited for my sister to come pick me up. Would have liked to wait outside. It was hill-station weather. Misty, cool not cold. The sky murky grey.
9:40 am
My nephew is surprised why this 'new uncle' and his mom are screaming. I met Sheetal didi after five years. Obviously. "Son, you were not even born then.". I am getting old enough to say such stuff. Sad!
10:10 am
Driving down the rural Connecticut countryside. Fall colors my sister says each year are just as beautiful. The gold, the reds, the oranges. We stop talking. Its almost sacrilege to talk.
11:40 am
Watched a train cartoon for the first time while the kid watched it for the millionth time probably. He still enjoyed it more. Wonder how many things when we grow older are still fun the hundreth time, the millionth time?
12:30 pm
Had Indian food after a long time. Great the next few days are gonna be fun.
2:20 pm Read two pages of the book and feel asleep on the swing.
5:00 pm Woke up in a bed. I moved in my half comatose state there. A nice nap feels great!
6:30 pm My sister thinks I have grown up and become mature. Quite a welcome condescension. Elder sisters! Atleast the kid brother image is being replaced.
10:00 pm Drive to Vivek's house in Manchester (MAN-chest-er, not the English man-CHEST-er. The American change pronunciations too!) after dinner and a lot of catching up on old times. I was really amazed by his GPS navigation system. I think that it should be made mandatory.
10:40 pm We are fiddling around with the computers. Three comps between the two of us. Later we are conference chatting with my brother in India and also chatting across the room. Height of craziness. He shows his Mac off and I am sold to the idea. NOTHING BEATS THE MAN IN OVERALL DESIGN. PERIOD. Awesome. I am sold by it by vivek. (Knowing the fact that one cannot get a level opinion from one who bought an ibook on the anniversary of his first Mac)
1:20 am We are still up playing around this time looking at the really cool movies that he made using iMovie. That software is fantastic man. It possible ot produce almost professional looking films with it.
? Dont know when I dozed off.

Saturday,11th October
Its a bright sunny day in New England. I awake from my slumber more than eager to seize the day and then again fall asleep. Ain't that perfect. Hell I am on a vacation. Finally wake up and to avoid destroying appetite for brunch we make some quick bhel. The temotation to eat more is always there. Brunches make sense when you wake up really late.
It was all really worth it cause Cafe on the Main in Manchester was a great place. An old world look to it. The unique thing was that each chair was different. Everyone got a different cup. I got the smallest mug. Wonder why. First time I have been given such benefit of doubt. The owner and the waiter were locked in a mutual, friendly slanging match for rooting for the Red Sox and the Yankees respectively. This rivalry would make more sense as the days went on and by the end of the trip I would be a Sox fan.
Golfing Golfing I thought was a fuddy duddy game and I never took to it. Today it was perfect day though for some practice on driving range. I was trying to hard in the beginning trying to almost kill the ball. Often to my extreme chagrin it landed a few feet away and MANY TIMES I swung and missed. Luckily not too many watching my baby steps at golf.
At the end of 1.5 buckets I was getting a couple to pop straight up and away. This came at the cost of one broken club. Gold clubs I am told dont break. Well I broke one on the first day. Such things are expected from me.
Apple yatra Well Vivek eager to Apple proselytize took me to the Apple store. Man if you have gone ever been there you would know that that was overkill. Amazing. All showrooms take cue from Apple. This is the way to present you stuff. Apple seems to be catching up on the selling aspect. For all that seems ironic that they have only 3% of the comp market.
Book shops We step into the Barnes and Noble store. Vivek and I can be easily left in a bookstore and we won't be bored for hours. Wish that instead of stools they had nice cushy armchairs. Perhaps they dont want to invite too many of my breed. Of late I get a sinking feeling that there are so many books that I would like to read and I am not getting any done.

Sunday, 12th October
What was possibly the rainiest day ever in Boston we decide to do exactly what should not be done. The all outdoors Freedom Trail and sightseeing. A really enthusiastic National Park Ranger made up for the bad weather. There was a T-shirt salesman who refused to sell a sweatshirt to Vivek cause he was not open yet. He needs some tips from guys down at Fashion Street, Churchgate and the 'boni ka time' concept. Maybe thats why he is still a T-shirt salesman and not Abercrombie and Fitch.
The Boston effect According to Vivek all sights in Boston have this unique 'Boston effect', which is that all things in Boston, like Boston are small. All the great and wonderful things that you hear about Boston are true but be prepared for the smallness of everything. America where the accent is always on Bigger, Grander Boston stands apart as the city built around cow paths. I don't know what a European feel is but surely Boston is different from the other cities I have seen. This is one city where Indian style rash driving, honking is not only accepted but an essential survival skill. I was impressed. Most Indians would feel at home.
The great temples of learning Afternoon,still in the pouring rain we cross the Charles River to Cambridge to see Harvard and MIT. It was nice to get a sense of history but again the Boston effect persisted. Both were smaller then imagined. They looked grand but not as I had expected. As usual we stepped in the bookstore. The Harvard Book Store is quite different from other stores. The selection of books is totally different and also I like the huge amount of staff recommended books. Most bookstores seem to just pay lip service to this fact.
Pani Puri Acceding to my request Sheetal made Pani-puri. The puris were from Cambridge. One would expect it easy to find an Indian store in Cambridge. It was great. Still nothing beats the pani-puri stall. Perhaps the lack of hygiene is a flavous that is missing from the bhel, vada pav, pani-puri, dabeli, sandwich made AT HOME. be continued..

As for me, I've never picked a guitar up without learning something. Sometimes you're learning things you don't want to know, like you're not as good as you thought you were. But even that's a lesson. To me, it's a friend when there's nothing else around. Everybody else is asleep or gone, or your old lady's left you. Well, you've always got her. I mean, the shape alone . . . I sleep with the thing sometimes.
Keith Richards
The previous quote was a little unsubstantiated,which drew a lot of unsubstantiated comment. I try to justify it despite the many Freudian associations with it. I am sure that Keith Richards meant going to sleep with it in a metaphorical sense. What you really, really should you not go to sleep with? Atleast with the idea. Funnily it echoes something related to
"..I thought only men went to with an idea.."
V.S. Pritchett (Blind Love)

Whither Bollywood?
Another post mortem report. I shall post my comments here in a bit. In the meantime check outDeath of the good film

Early Morning
Well it has begun. What I mean is not sleeping late but being awake till almost breakfast time. I was getting some HW done and what I wish to avoid happened. Working till the wee hours of the morning.
Much as I like to bitch about it, it has its advantages. Till about 12:30 the world is awake and at least in the library its prime time.
From 12:30 to about 2:30 are the hard core late night workers for whom its just another day. After that is the graveyard shift guys. These are the guys who don't do it everyday and are the ones who have HW due later that morning. This time is perfect. Its really quiet also you feel energetic somehow at 3:00 am.
Why was I up then? At 12:00 before the cafe closed I had a double expresso shot - doppio and that kept me awake till four. Next time I might have the good sense to choose something sweeter, milkier like crammin caramel.
Another advantage is getting a free ride home in a taxi. There are some intrinsic pleasures about FREE food. Yeah but at 4:30 am nothing beats a taxi dropping you at your door and that too free.
Of course getting through the next day with some 3 hours of sleep is sheer hell!

Generation X..Where X is a variable?
There are many names for this generation. Perhaps we the first generation of Indians that became the first
1. Channel Surfers (Thanks to STAR TV circa. 1990)
2. Web Browsers
3. First to come of age when Real Highways were built
among other things
Eyes Wide Angled
Doing what my generation does best I was browsing the net (on my new laptop [of course]), chatting with people and at the same time some else was watching the Wide Angle series on television. I suddenly hear Indian voices on the tube. Naturally hearing the Great Indian Accent I feel a great bonhomie, a homecoming of sorts. Its about the NBA and the story. Then as expected Arundhati Roy pops up in the last segment of the show in an interview. What surprisingly caught my eye was the interviwer Mishal Hussain. Guys you might want to check her out!
Anyway as things are in life, one always starts with ignoble purposes in life ...Mishal Hussain lead to more reading about the whole Wide Angle series. They are great. Really well shot and directed. The topics (Al- Jazeera, Aids warriors in Angola, Human Trafficking) are nothing new but I like the treatment.
Well Mishal is still beautiful but the Wide Angle series I am forced to admit are better.

New Blogger on the Block
After almost 4 months after having got my cousin to get a account he has finally entered the world of blogging. He has an interesting post on 'Driveway moment'. Check it out! We have a lot in common and most importantly what we share is The small stuff that makes life so interesting
It has come at a cost though. All the tech support has been heaped on my capable shoulders so to speak till I get to New England later this month to tricks of blogging.The HTML on the template page scared him off. He has my sympathies being a doc and Mac user. Since I had the privilege I quite shamelessly crossliked it to this page here. So much for megalomania! It about time that I put some crosslinks on my sidebar. Not exactly Big Mama Thornton's - RECIPROCITY, though some really have interesting blogs. Better than readin the NYT, which is "All trash that's just fit to print"

Bike building
More on the lines of DIY, I spent a good 5 hours building a bike from sratch. It was good to have Tom and Jerry ( those ARE REALLY their names) help us tyros out. I removed the innards out, cleaned the bearings, aligned wheels. All the fun stuff.
At the end of the day I had a few interesting observations
1. People REALLY WANT TO KNOW how to fix bikes and stuff in general.
2. Yet they DON'T TAKE THE EFFORT of learning.
3. Some who did stay back to just observe did not regret it one bit.
4. The best things in life are FREE!
There is a little work left. Putting the cables on. Considering that at 12 noon it was just another bike frame rusting away..

Half-time Show
The Engineering College at Umich is celebrating its 150th year and as part of the festivities is the half-time show during the Michigan vs Houston game this Saturday. I knew college football at the big universities was a huge thing, but I had not inkling that it is this huge a deal.
There is a complete flag team that does these fancy Olympic Opening Ceremony kinda of moves on the field during half-time. Of course there are about 100 people in the music band. A whole battery of coaches. I have to check this fact out. Who is the highest paid employee of any university? The football head-coach. Seems a little hard to believe, that even Nobel prize winners at a top university are less-paid than the football coach. The university makes so much of money on tickets, TV rights, all the advertising.
The self-sustainability of this sport is amazing, given the fact that American football is played only in America and watched primararily only by Americans. There is so much of hoopla. Yet ironically, despite everybody making tons of money off it, the athlete is paid nothing. It is an amateur sport. My sympathies with Maurice Clarett (Who is Maurice Clarett?)
Everyone's secret wish
So guys I shall be on TV, this Saturday 12:00 EST ( Michigan versus Houston) which along with seeing your name in print is everyone's secret wish.

Six Times Seven?
What is six times seven? The answer would be simple, but not when you are trying to use that to stay calm on the world's tallest roller coaster that shoots you up 420 feet vertically and then down, twisting back. That was a relaxation technique.The whole ride was 17.5 seconds and we waited in line for about 2 hours. This was more because I wanted to sit up front, in the drivers seat so to say. It's totally worth it. Theoretically speaking 99.99% there is nothing that can happen and you could be actually read a book or conduct a conversation while on a roller coaster. I forgot to try this. Keep you eyes closed and think you are on a really jerky bus. You might rationalise all you want before you start your ride but then when you are ON you are ON.. Some people say life is roller coaster. It's not and I am sure they have not been on a real one. If it was it would be unbearable for more than the few seconds that most rides last. (Some have maintained that sitting behind me on a bike is 'an experience'. None has died so far and I have not had any accidents. Honest!). Back on terra firma I realised the answer is
Standing in Line
Thankfully yesterday was a Friday and there was not much of a rush. The waits though for the latest and greatest were long. There is lots to do when you are standing in line. I reached a conclusion that despite what is advertised. Speed is nothing, atleast for the thrills. Its all about acceleration. Perhaps that's why the much touted Cedar Point attraction the 'Dragster' was not as exciting as the Millenium Force. It was fun working out the G's and all kind of other stuff with stopwatch and the equations of motion.
Then of course you can people watch. Watch some psyching themselves up, making heroic victory signs, looking cool, big smiles and sweating profusely below the neck. I noticed that they have an 'EXIT' at the point of boarding. Was thinking of suggesting 'Chicken Gate'.

Folk Music
I am plugged into Alison Krauss and reading an excerpt from a book. The book is a classic. A classic is a work that is often cited but never read.How true that is! Alison Krauss is the First Lady of Bluegrass Music (FLBM), which may not be true, though she brought bluegrass to mainstream America, always filled with its current 'idols'. There is something very appealing about folk music. Last night someone was playing the Gypsy Kings in the lab, it was wonderful. All my Gypsy Kings CDs are back home with all the others. There is an odd 'aha' feeling in hearing an old tune, something familiar in an unfamiliar place. Funny how French gypsies singing Spanish flamenco could change the complete atmosphere in a few minutes. The lyrics are simple usually ( unless you are talking of Bob Dylan, who is something else!) and so is the tune. A hummable, singable tune. The more I hear different fold music, its easy to see the common thread in all of them. Folk Music can be sad, lively, funny, satirical but it's never full of anger. The relatively fewer electronic, synthetic sounds make it more natural, more soothing. I became a major fan of the Hungarian folk musicians Musikas ( MOO-she-KASH) featuring Marta Sebestyen ( they are on the OST of the English Patient), which sounds at times so much like Indian music. Apart of the extremely talented Indian band Indian Ocean, I see very little of folk in Indian bands. We do have a rich classical tradition but also an incredibly rich folk music tradition. There was much of it in the 40s and 50s, but not anymore.
In the meanwhile, Alison Kraus and Union Station are twanging away on their banjos and mandolins. I have my earphones plugged on. Life is perfect!

Black August(?)
Thursday we had the nation's worst blackout in decades and was a little eerie that the radio announcers kept saying that this was not a terrorist attack. It appears that the ghosts of 9/11 have not yet been exorcised.The US also finds itself deep in shit in Iraq already, for an unjustified,uncalled, "UN-less", pointless war.
Thursday night was fun in many ways as people had 'block parties' and some enthusiasts revelled in seeing the night sky and the current flavour of the month "Mars". I think the Mars hoopla is a little insane as relatively Mars is still just as far away as it was 20 years ago. The only upside of this is that I can get access to a telescope more easily. Most people, however decided to get more down to earth and got drunk a day early and the next day( thank God it was Friday) and was an off. A fe stupid people cursed the darkness. Those with more sense enjoyed the outdoor experience. ( I am not talking about the looters in Detroit). I was thinking how prepared we are in modern India with hurricane lanterns, candles and torches all the time. With apologies to the Old Testament
On the 7th day MSEB said, "Let there be light", and there was light.
Independence Day
The next day was also the Indian Independence Day. I made it to the Independence Day event on the "Diag" on my bicycle wearing a kurta. The chief guest was some 'desi' proff., who mercifully gave a small, though platitudinous, cliche-filled speech. His saving grace was that neither Gandhi nor Nehru figured in his speech, which for amateur Independence Day chief guests is quite an achievement. All the shops were closed thanks to the blackout of the previous night. My stomach was rumbling for some nice hot sambhar and idlis. I had to make do with a banana and slightly smashed kiwi fruit.
A Full Circle
It's now been exactly a year and a day since I got here in Ann Arbor. Here in US of A. "Here in the land of the free, home of the brave"(sic). It now seems fun to see the new students with crew-cuts and maps in their hand looking lost on the Michigan campus. Was not long ago that I too was getting on the wrong buses. Much water under the bridge since then. I never really doubted my cooking abilities. Though now I really have a chance to prove it. I tried to learn how to Tango and I quickly realise that its not for nothing that they say 'it takes two to tango'. If I still have two left feet its thanks to that fact. I and many others like me share the joker's view below.

Madras Masala
Yesterday afternoon me and Jeykumar took our lab-mates to the Madras Masala. Tuesday afternoon is not a good time to eat(pig out on) Indian food. Makes you feel heavy and sleepy. Yet, I avoided letting practical considerations getting in the way of their enthusiasm of eating an Indian meal.
It is almost mandatory for all Indian restaurants who call themselves Indian restaurants to server 'Tandoori chicken'. It is universal to confirm to certain stereotypes that are associated with your country.
My American friend was surprised that we actually make 'okra'. In fact I was surprised that Americans actually have food in which these use 'bhendi'.
Only in America, would you eat dosa,wada, rasam, chinese hakka noodles, Indian-Chinese 'Manchurian', tandoori chicken, lemon rice, bhendi, gulab jamun,malai mutter and kulfi. After all that mix of North, South, East and West, I wonder how many people survive the 'Indian food' experience. It was not great food which I would have had in maybe 'Shraavan' or the great Mughlai at the Blue Nile. I was reminded eating the 'bondas' of the humble wada pav.
We all go there despite the okayish food. Like my friend said, " It's like Mac Donalds in Europe. You'll always find Americans there. Makes you feel at home." He was right. Feeling heavy and sleepy after the meal. Good or bad and despite having seen much better, I felt at home!

The Art of Maintenance
"Between the internet and all the do-it-yourself books and being an engineer, there is nothing that you cannot do..."
-John Seymour, lab colleague
This guy has all the damn tools in the world. Typical of human nature though, he said that he did not have half the tools he wanted. His dream list was to have some really fancy saws and planing tools and ....
My aims were simpler though. I had this busted tire and I had(wanted) to fix it (myself). I went and got all the stuff. The tire, tube (which was of the wrong specs). Which reminds me to share the

Cardinal Rule of Shopping for Spares:
Make sure you have the right specs AND the salesman gives you the right specs.

After all that and having John's really snazzy toolbox (one of a hundred that he owns),making my own measly collection of tools insignificant in the TOOL- OWNERS FIRMAMENT. This is what happened.
I figure things out, remove the tire, get my hands all greased, fix it and then I realise that the wheel was 'out of true'. Damn!! I cannot ride the bike and I have to trudge back. I hate walking-trudging.
Then the next day after checking the "RIGHT WAY to TRUE a wheel" on the internet, I trued the wheel. Truing wheels is great fun. "It's like learning to draw a straight line"-Jerry. More about Jerry some other day. It was a great experience. I am proud of my own trued wheel even if no one notices. Among the many unfinished books I have to read is Robert T Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance. He mentions in the book that, most people want to ride bikes and not bother about maintaining them or even bothering to learn how.
I echo his sentiment. I am long ways off but I can understand the Joy and Pride of Living in the House that YOU built..Riding the bike YOU constructed from scrap.. and things like that.

Caveat to John's Quote (as above)
"... we can do all these things, but the question is that as engineers is it worth our TIME?
- John Seymour

Book Review "Bawdy Language" (X - Rated??)
I can't put it better than one of the other reviewers have put it.
A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste. If you love words and erotica, you must read this punographic masterpiece.
—Richard Lederer, Wordsmith, Author of The Cunning Linguist

If you caught the pun in the previous line, the book(Link to the Book) is definitely for you. Unfortunately or fortunately the book is not available for sale in bookstores and available only online. Though it was great to read some excerpts from the book. If if you are the squemish, prudish sort it would be 'enlightening' to read atleast one excerpt.
What is the borderline between 'pornography' and 'erotica'? Between 'erotica' and 'high-art'? Is whatever masquerades as genuine appreciation simply a 'primal, animal urge' that has acquired a veneer of respectability? I don't know the answer. Does coming from a nation of a billion-strong(getting stronger), quantitavely and the 'land of Kama Sutra', qualitatively speaking, automatically qualify me?
In the early 60s the mini skirt was a rage because of shock effect. Later the medi-skirt became a rage because of not what it revealed but what it concealed. There is a partial scientific explanation of this effect in the Reith lectures(see The Artful Brain). Perhaps then the apple-kissing and wet sari of Hindi cinema is just as effective if not more. It's all in the head, perhaps and hence I liked the book above. Yet I am to reconcile the view of the 'mini vs medi' viewpoint.
Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it.
D. H. Lawrence

Washington D.C.
Was in Washington this Wednesday for a Project Review(DARPA meeting). Being more of a business trip rather than a junket, I did not see much of DC. Except floated about in Old Town Alexandria. Saw the Capitol and the Washington monument from a distance.(Quite like the photo below). I think that less than 5 days is not doing justice to place like DC. Perhaps some other time. Also the advantage of being in DC is that you could be wearing anything from a business suit to sandals and shorts you would not look out of place. At least on the street.

It has well preserved wood structures, relics from the 19th century and has a colonial look to it. Most of the Old Town is antique shops and the yuppie Banana Republic shop despite the old facade looks a little out of place. It was great to hang out with all the guys at the hotel pub called Annabelles. It was fun playing Trivia blitz with a playmaker device. Some of the questions of course I had no clue. A cultural bias of sorts. Then again how many guys there would know who Barthomelow Dias was?

50s style diners
On the trip back there were no stops at famous Pennsylvania diners. On the way to DC we stopped at one in Somerset, PA. It was great with a jukebox from the 50's i think. Each table had this small jukebox. Ours had one speaker cover fallen off and large silver colored plastic buttons to select. It had a cute little handle to flick the pages. It was incredibly retro. Despite the retro look it has selections from Christina Aguilera and J. Lo. Which I think was so darned heart breaking. Atleast Tim had the sense to play an old country song. Imagine that. You are eating at this amazing 50's style diner with synthetic leather upholstery and have to hear some chick belt out Latino hits. Yuck! There should be a law against this. Would have spoiled the meal. What was the owner thinking?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

There should be a name for this phenomenon of
"Unexplained re-occurence of a a reference to an event,book, fact.." My suggestion is:
wiedertreffen- Ger. meet again (In case anyone knows the word for it or has a better idea lemme know)

I was listening to Vilaynur Ramachandran's excellent Reith lecture series on the brain. In one lecture he referred to C.P. Snow's celebrated Rede lecture on the Two Cultures where Snow cites the Second Law as an example of the gulf between Science and Humanities. Today I was reading Robert Lucky's excellent last page article in this month's Spectrum ( if you know what IEEE Spectrum is and not know Robert W. Lucky then please electrocute yourself.)
He talks about his granddaughter, who is a living, house-messer extraordinaire. Keeps the Second Law happy. Reading further he says
" ...order can be achieved locally at the expense of disorder elsewhere. I think engineers are like this too. While our work seems to involve the creation and imposition of structure, our environment often disintegrates spontaneously around us.."
Reading further ahead and then observing the mess of papers and books and three day old coffee on my table, I realise how true his observations are. Perhaps I should forward this article to my mom. Who will typically disagree and who has spent almost all her life battling the Second Law. A fun site if you wish to see more insight into "Zen and the Art of the Second Law"

Politics and Protest
NPR has become a latest fixation and the Prairie Home Companion on it another. I found this parody of the Pete Seeger's Where Have All the Flowers Gone.Perhaps more apt in todays world, especially in America.
Where are All the Democrats?

Are Indians better spellers?
"They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce."
Mark Twain

From the Herald-Dispatch
"Sai Gunturi’s victory in this year’s national spelling bee was a personal triumph -- his first championship after three previous trips to the event.
But for Indian-American students as a group, the win was just one more in a recent string of top honors at prestigious academic competitions.
Gunturi is the fourth Indian-American student in the last five years to capture the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee championship. George Thampy, a St. Louis teen whose parents are from India, placed second in the National Geographic Bee in May 2000 -- a week before he went on to win the national spelling bee title."
For full story..

The 4th of July
I find it easier to do something 'constructive' on big days. This was a special day. Today I went cycling to the Sailing Club on Baseline Lake ( some 27 kms away). It was searingly hot when I left then it got cooler as I entered the mico-climate of the scenic Huron River Drive. The Huron River Drive is a great place to bike. Many cyclists, few cars. A route that runs parallel to a train track and the Huron River. I was looking a little anachronistic with my bike with the white-wall tires and conservative handlebar, compared to the lycra-clad, 17-Speed, orange-juice can toting "Super-cyclists".
Suddenly a dust storm blows up and light drizzle. The sunny sky turns murky, grey in nanoseconds ( I am not kidding!) and then it starts to pour. Thanks to great American design, mudguards are not considered a vital accesory. In minutes , I am splattered with the mud. My backpack turns from black to brown. The bike was blue when I last remembered... I HAD GREAT FUN!!
Then I stopped under a tree and wondered..Yeah this is what a good monsoon rain is like. Here I was standing in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road looking at how the rain soaked the green fields in front of me. The map in my bag getting wet. (older readers may note that I had changed to my sandals and kept my socks DRY in the bag. See old post on Soggy Socks Suck!)
I wondered why I was so damn happy. loved every moment. Getting wet..stopping.. Maybe it was all things together.
A- I had no time pressure
B- No entry in the What-the-well-dressed-man-is-wearing-nowadays
C- No bickering companions who cannot appreciate a good soak
and most importantly ..
D- I was excited about the trip, the journey and not the destination.
Its another thing about the great day I had sailing and then again riding back all those miles. Most of the best times in life are the little ones. The small and seemingly insignificant. The ones that SOMEONE else would wonder. Did that make that much of a difference? I think they do. Those moments which are pointless and happened unplanned.... Like this one somewhere on Huron Drive, 2 miles from the destination. Getting soaked in the rain through a potholed dirt road. Wet, aching muscles, sore hands, alone and as happy as can be.

Independence Day
Tomorrow is the 4th of July. Late at night the National Public Radio(NPR)(the only perhaps 'free' media enterprise in the US) broadcasts the BBC World Service. There was a discussion on the American flag and what it meant to Americans. The American flag appears on bikinis, doormats, hats, toilet rolls. People have burned the flag and it was declared constitutional under the
First Ammendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
That's America. There was a reporter who said that displaying the flag was no longer done in New York but he claims that in the heartland there are still people who do that and think it patriotic. I was still in the car passing houses where the Star-Spangled Banner was on doorways as I heard him speak on, "...that is a bellicose kind of partriotism that we see that says that we Americans are right and you are wrong..". The BBC commentator went on to say that on this Independence day America stands divided on political and economic issues.
Yesterday at the BBQ I heard a comment that "Smoking was no longer considered fashionable." Currently the flavour of the month is that in many..err most parts of the world its no longer fashionable to say, " We are Americans. We are here to save you."
Interesting sidelight in the comments.

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders.
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
It has not changed since those days though there are no slaughterhouses here anymore thanks to refrigeration. Jogging on Lake Shore Drive at 6:20 am is great. Passed the river walk on the Chicago river. The breakfast houses were open on Michigan Avenue. Also I swear that the Tribune is much much better paper than the NYT.

The longest day
My greatest regret has been that despite my best intentions, I have not been sucessful in making the best possible use of the Summer Solstice or the Longest Day. Today was special.
I am up early. Though much after sunrise. Dad would have been pleased. Since this is Chicago and its at the edge of the Central Time zone, the sun beat me to it today.
Try to get almost all the cut strawberries out of corn flake box and let them soak in the milk.
I am standing at 924 E and 57th Street on the University of Chicago campus looking of any signs to the Neural Coding Workshop which I am here to attend. I try to see if I can spot any Nobel Prize winners. For the first time in my life I was as close to as many of them as I would ever be. I don't see any.
The seminar starts after the introduction by Dan Margolish, who is the Professor of Darwinian Sciences (A chair like this can be only at UC).
12:25 pm
Lunch is at the Quadrangle Club. One of the most swanky places. I feel a little happy that I am not in my shorts. Had a good time eating the baklavas.
Standing ...err nestled inside the Henry Moore sculpture at the site of 1942 atomic experiment
(explosion). They say that this was where the Strug basketball court was.. Aesthetically I saw no relevance except the suspicious mushroom cloud at the top otherwise the sculpture is a nice place to study in.

Walking to the train station. Trying to look the kinda of guys-you-would-not-want-to-mug. Man after all this Neural Coding 'n shit, no' whad i'm sayin' :)
6:37 pmWalking along Wacker drive which is much safer than the South Side. The Chicago river still looks green and I spent some time looking at the flower-petal Marina Towers.. I wish they would pass a law making it illegal for cars to display their rear to all the tourists this summer. I think it is kinda obscene.
Eating pav bhaji on the 31st floor watching the sun set over Lake Michigan
They have fireworks over Grant Park. I wonder if I can get back for the the Jazz festival this summer-end. Last time I did not have my chair and did not have my blanket. This time I may not have the time..
Discussion drifts from Indian women authors to how all religious movements become subverted after a while. Mostly after the founder dies. Then it becomes just a big bureaucratic shim-sham. Try for instance the RC church.
The longest day endeth thus...

Peck,GOST and some analysis
I just finished seeing 'To Kill A Mockingbird' day before. Gregory Peck was named the best American hero as Atticus Finch. As my friend Javed put it Peck has left the building. It was an interesting week. I finished reading the God of Small Things and the next day I saw 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. I loved the score and especially Badham ( the child actor who plays Scout). It was beautiful. It is silly to compare the two books beyond a certain level because they are about different things.
Could help but notice these superficial similarities
1)Both books see adult events through children's eyes. Or the sudden loss of innocence.
2)Jem=9, Scout=6, Estha and Rahel are both 7 years old
3)TKMB is about racism, GOST is about untouchability
4)Atticus and Ammu are both single parents
5)Ayemenem and Maycomb county both small,sleepy towns
6)Both written by women who have not written any fiction after that
7)Both won highly prestigious awards
TKMB->Pulitzer prizes, best American fiction written by an American
GOST->Booker prize, best English fiction written by resident of England or the Commonwealth
(Please let me know if i missed a few)

The God of Small Things
I am about 4/5 ths through the book. I seem to have finally broken the jinx of being some kinda anti-Magnus Magnusson(who?) of merely starting. I have shaken that off. Not yet, but close to it. Hah!
Nothing quite beats the quality of the description of Ayemenem and the monsoon in the first few pages. Indian writers in English are perhaps the most ambitious experimenters of the language. Roy is undoutably doing that with her 'No Locusts Stand I" and frequent capitalizations. Its very easy to be distracted by her style rather than what she has to say. It is also a funny book when one considers the humourous observations of the 'naked man at the railway tracks' , the ribald Malayalam boat songs, and the innocent, accidental profoundness of children.
I often pause to think how much of Roy is there in Rahel? Are all books mostly autobiographical in a large sense? They have to, I suppose.

Quizzing then and now
Of late Pune has got the title of the 'most improved quizzing city'. We proudly boast of Mastermind India who is not only Pune's own but Boat Club's own J. Ramanand. (His blogs make interesting reading. Ramanand's blog). It was good to hear that Abhinav Vidyalaya reached the TV round of the ESPN quiz and other schools like Bishop's also performed well.
This reminds me of my own quizzing days in school, when things were not so glamorous are they are nowadays, with being on TV, and all. The first interschool quiz that I took part in was the Maggi quiz in the 7th Standard. I had somehow impressed the teacher who thought I had good G.K. to merit a spot along with Siddharth Rege of another class to represent the school.
The elims were at SNDT which at that age for me, was another country. Luckily my father was free to take us. So early Sunday morning we wait outside our school for the great Rege to arrive. The man does not show up. There was little time left and I started panicking. Then strolls Paul James a classmate, who like a good Catholic was on his way to St. Xavier's Church for Mass just across the school. So I rope him in to partner me cause I had this idea that you SIMPLY CANNOT take part alone. He was not a quizzer at all. Something better than nothing.
We go for the elims and they were fine. Then there were two blank spaces at the top where you write the participant's names. I knew that the entry form from our school was Parikh and Rege. So I wrote those two names thinking that we would be disqualified. James, I think for his part contributed one answer. More importantly he helped me grab more Maggi packets, being sitributed for free than the other teams did.
The elims were forgotten in the mess of school HW and football matches. Then one fine day I was called to the office. We had qualified for the semi-finals. The two students were Parikh and Rege.
This time it was a Nehru Memorial Hall ( the scene of many interschool battles) which was kinda of home territory. Rege profusely apologised for the missed appointment. Apparently the rickshaw that he took broke down and he reached there late. We did not prepare much. I read the Manorama Yearbook. Everybody did those days. I wonder what they do these days. We were nervous under the arc-lights, the audience who clapped but you could not see and other teams who looked better prepared than us. We was 2nd throughout the quiz and then came from behind to win by a small margin beating Abhinav Vidyalaya. Also I thanked what proved to be fortuitous, writing Rege on the form instead of James Paul. We were in the finals despite some goofs. I remember a question "How many faces does a dodecahedron have?" Damn are you actually supposed to know that?
Finals of Maggi Quiz

We then took stage once again. This time we we better prepared with all the octahedrons and dodecahedrons and all that nonsense that used to ask. Its now considered impolite to ask such questions. Luckily it was a Saturday. So we had some support from students. Quizzing has been always a step-son and not considered worthy enough to send cheering squads. More in that vein Quizzers are not worshipped like rock-stars. Does quizzing make it easier to nail chicks? Luckily despite these odds, given a chance St. Vincent's students are usually very vocal supporters. At that time I felt the tension and the performance anxiety.
Rege and I had a look at the trophy before the quiz. It was HUGE. I wanted it bad. Real bad.
The finals started. The team from Jnana Prabodhini looked lethal to us. It is a school for high IQ kids. We thought we did not stand a chance. It was our day. We cleaned eveything that day. It was so magical, that one of the answers Rege blurted out incorrectly but the quiz-mistress ( I am being very PC and not dirty) heard the correct answer. We were slapping high fives and rolling along. We hit shots in the dark and they turned right. We just romped home. Abhinav finished 2nd. I later got to know that team well - Satyen Kale ( a legend in his own right) and Ashutosh Joglekar. Interestingly George Thomas representing Vidya Bhavan won the senior category. I have that photograph back home of the august George smiling benignly in the camera. I was to make his acquaintance later. Satyen and I for long recognised each other with the Maggi quiz. It's a small world.
Winning on debut was good cos I never wanted to give it up. I became a semi-hero for a couple of days. The Maggi quiz never took place after that year. So the rolling trophy after all these years (10 years ago) is still in the principals office. Hopefully beneath all that now dulled brass it still reads :
St Vincent's High School
Hirak Parikh
Siddharth Rege

Almost everything that happens in quizzing happened.
Missing partner. ..some lucky breaks...being asked just what you know...answering correctly what you did not..pre-final jitters..gleaming trophies..
Of course I did not attain immortality. Shucks!!

Blog makes it to the new edition of the OED!
This March blog,n made it as a 'real' word to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) along with the derivatives like blogging, blogger. etc. I am posting the entry since the OED is not available for free (how stingy can you get?).

= WEBLOG n. 2.
[Shortened < WEBLOG n.
1999 TBTF for 1999-08-30: Aibo Rampant in cistron.lists (Usenet newsgroup) 30 Aug., Blog., a Web log... First spotted on the Eatonweb blog, er, Web log on 1999-08-25, though Eatonweb's proprietor Brigitte says the coinage is due to our very own TBTF Irregular Peter Merholz.]

[1999 (weblog diary) 23 May, Cam points out and PeterMe decides the proper way to say ‘weblog’ is ‘wee'- blog’ (Tee-hee!).] 1999 P. MERHOLZ in (weblog diary) 28 May, For those keeping score on blog commentary from outside the blog community. 1999 Scotsman (Nexis) 30 Aug., Many of the early 'blogs link to one another and have built quite a community of webloggersthe authors who maintain them. 2002 Salina Jrnl. 21 Apr. B6/3 Blogs..contain daily musings about news, dating, marriage, divorce, children, politics in the Middle East..or millions of other things or nothing at all.

Movie Fest
"One of the gifts one movie lover can give another is the title of a wonderful film they have not yet discovered. In university, I had a Shakespeare professor who was the world's leading expert in ``Romeo and Juliet,'' and who used to say he would give anything for the ability to read the play again for the first time. When I meet someone who has never seen ``The Third Man'' or ``Singin' in the Rain,'' I envy them the experience they are about to have.
Robert Ebert
Chicago Sun Times

Since I got back I have more movies in three days than I have in the past 8 months. Today I shall start the Apu Trilogy. Back home I never had a TV. Why didn't I is a topic for another blog. Till then though, the reason is not what you think.
I finally saw the The Manchurian Candidate. Not as chilling as yesterday's The Silence of the Lambs. Axelrod the screenplay writer said that the movie ""The poor thing, you know, went from failure to classic without ever passing through success. It would be nice for it to have some success.". Not surprising that the off beat thriller was not re-released till 1988 since the Kennedy assasination. American politics is still a political circus.

42° 16' N
83 ° 43' W

That's where I am currently. I have been cribbing a lot about the weather, but I am now at peace with it. I have shaken off the remnants of the circadian rhythm stress and am ready to carpe diem and also seize whatever is being offered for free.

Class Struggle
"The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle."
Karl Marx

"The history of all hitherto existing airline passengers is the history of class struggle from economy to business."
Hirak Parikh
Thanks to overbooking and my willingness to act as a martyr ( by agreeing to fly on the next flight) I was promoted to business class..actually World Business Class. While the Economy class have-nots are stowed as galley slaves with barely enough breathing room (forget leg room) the privileged few roll in the lap of luxury. I played the part of a regular really well. While there were riots in the queue for the bathroom way back in the plane, I was up front freshing up with the wonderful softening lotion and squirting some perfume. I was really in seventh heaven for the first time in all these years that I have flown. Casually flicking the buttons on my personal TV screen, even more casually asking for my glass of Champagne(it does not taste like horse piss like i was told ( more so I am intrigued how did he ever taste horse piss?)). More casually noting that some of my fellow passengers fumbling with the buttons to get the foot rest up..Ach these bourgeois! I was also told that the air hostesses are better in the Business Class. Much to my disappointment there were two excellent stewards. Better to have one good looking air hostess than two efficient stewards. How casual can NWA get?

Last Tango
This is my last night home.The vacation has come to an end. It feels like that I just got here and now its time to go. I have very few regrets though about the trip. I did almost all the things that I wanted to do. I have not yet gone to Marz-o-Rin despite the 'impression' that it gave to readers (Javed :( ). It has been a long and dangerous summer. I passed Laxmi road twice today. Once in the searing heat of the afternoon and once again in the evening. This is the first time in my entire life I actually made an effort to look at the buildings properly. A looked around when stopped at the great red lights while the traffic snarled around me.
The Dagdusheth Chowk is full of neon signs that coexist with black brick structures, old wooden windows, broken glass-panes, dust over the ages that no one bothers to clean, old signboards with peeling paint. New buildings with ceramic tiles and old ones with the rough granite stones. Business is still conducted on first floor offices with rickety wooden stairs with carved banisters. A mix of old and new. Few steps forward and a few back. Pune with aspirations of a slick metro with wide roads and fly-overs. The narrow streets of city and the crowded gallis still remain.
It was my last tango, my last ride through the streets, zipping through as I did all these years. Its great to be on one of the bridges in the evening and feel the cool breeze. Soon these stinks, smells and scents will become memories. Good-night!

The traditional crushed ice gola has reached cult status these days. The humble gola has been revived from oblivion. Unfortunately the prices too have skyrocketed along. The 21st century is a savvy purveyor. With a menu card and some special golas like the Jamnagar special more expensive than some ice creams!
Arundhati Roy and her Harlem Renaissance
The latest issue of Outlook has another essay of Ms. Controversy Roy. A lecture that she delivered at the Riverside church. A place for many famous anti-war speeches. Its a typical Roy piece. Link to radio speech
Replete with satirical similies, statistics and heartless bashing. Her style is 'written with all heart trying to appeal to the rational mind'. I find it hard to believe her statistics which she uses to support her most important points. I wish I can get hold of the complete text and check some of her statistics. 'Empire' is now synonymous with USA. ( I recommend reading Rafique Zakaria's piece in Newsweek last April - The arrogant empire ).
Of course being a story teller it makes excellent reading for her pungent sarcasm. Also her renaming of things. Her talent for prose that's verse is undimished.
She has not made any original points.The essay can be termed as saying nothing much of consequence though. I was looking more for her unique insights into the matter. There are none that we have not heard before. Her solution to the problem is ridiculous. I wish I can share her hope that we as citizens of the world can wrest our democracy back. Of course the last lines will always be quotable.
"..You are not a great nation but can be a great people. This is the time. Seize it."

Catching up
I have not posted for a long time.I have lots to write about the 'trip' back home. I have not. It's flattering that people are hitting this blog and leaving comments. Keep 'em coming guys!
I am thinking of good reasons for not posting.
A slow internet dial-up courtesy the great VSNL
The heat of the past few weeks just put me to sleep
Laziness(yes I am admitting this!)

In the Meantime..
9th May
I conducted a quiz on the Boat Club where I attended the quiz club on a H-1 visa many Saturdays. It's a ghost of its former self with four people taking part. The pedigree of the contestants was of course not at all under question. Not that the tag that they were all on BBC Mastermind last year adds or subtracts their ability. (One is Mastermind India, the other a semi-finalist and the third another who made it to the TV rounds). It something that would be nice to crow about among tyros somewhere else. Hah! The quiz was fun despite the protests about the amount of stage questions.The great kanda bhaji was unavailble though. Life's not perfect.
19th May
I turned 23. Which does not seem to be any great numerological signifincance for me to really shout from the rooftops.It was an interesting day though. After a really long time that I went to Sinhagad with my parents. We left at about 5:00 am so we escaped the heat. The view from above halfway point is great. What appalled me is the amount of rubbish that people throw. I was about to yell loud abuses (no one was around) to there barbarians who litter.I paused there for a couple of seconds.
Maybe it being my 'Happy Birthday', I was looking at things differently. I picked up one of the plastic bags and started collecting the rubbish.

Among the rubbish was Goa/Manikchand Gutkha packets (do these guys survive to get to the top or does cancer kill them first?), someones left-foot slipper( my sympathies), chocolate wrappers. My efforts were noticed by a couple who asked me if I was from an organisation. Can individuals make a difference? Not alone. I know that. I hoped that atleast if the hillsides were not 100% clean after I finished. I felt I contributed in a way.
I felt a little guilty that I had not what I could have done much before. Personally its time to stop simply pointing fingers. I hope I can do that the rest of the year. Happy Birthday!

Back Home
Nothing changes and yet everything does. Its great fun to be back,even if its 40 C in the afternoon. Ann Arbor has its attractions but then Pune has its distractions!
Marz-O-Rin has a brand new top floor. This will make it even more popular. A balcony is a great vantage point for ogling. Wish they had done this years ago in the days of my youth. Hah!
The traffic is still as chaotic but thankfully my Puneri driving instincts have not at all diminished. Doing 120 kmph on I-94 is no challenge compared to 30 kmph on Laxmi Road on Saturday night. Yeah on Saturday night on my 'rusty but trusty' M-80. I was already taking the free lefts and doing the 'orange gamble' quite effortlessly.
Last night I met up with friends in 'Vaish' (where else?) and had an SPDP (what else?). Great meals start at less than 80 cents! Old jokes with old friends. Priceless.

Swimmin' in the Rain
They say that Gene Kelly had a temperature of 103 when he did his song and dance sequence. Singing in the rain is one of those pleasures that Life gives us for free. Today there is a really good rain that reminded me of the monsoon. I went swimming today and it occurred to me that there are no outdoor pools here so one of life's great pleasures cannot be enjoyed in the NCRB( Rec bldg).
Its great to have thunder overhead and it pouring. While you swim you cannot get wetter. Its fun being totally immune to what is really a great damper(haha) sometimes

Have you ever had this feeling of being in a huge bathtub with the shower also on. Also I forget to mention the water's cold. That's the real fun..

Hummus and Pita
Strangely this Friday's update column is too about food. This might give readers the wrong idea that I am mostly upto eating. Trust me that is not true. I rather talk about something else than the boring exam week.
I hopped(literally did) to Jerusalem Garden to have my hummus and pita. I ended up ordering a falafel plate. Of course the piece de resistance was eating the walnut baklava. The best description can be of a khari type layers soaked in sugar syrup with a filling of walnut and 'mava' in it. It is dee-licious. My aunt often made about a huge box of them each time she came. It's really great. Sinfully great! It cost a buck. What do you get these days for less than a buck?
Without my asking the waitress packed and made a nice little box for me to go. I wish she had asked, "For here or to go". Since I let her decide, I acquiesced with here wishes and left.
I wonder why people here cannot sit and eat? Why is food always on the move. Or atleast it has to always somewhere else than where you paid for it? Weird...

Thai food
Ann Arbor is famous for its great restaurants. Though it does not have too many Thai restaurants. Today I discovered the best of them all. Siam Cuisine is in a little back alley of Main tucked away in a corner. The service and the speed are excellent. What finally counts is the food though. Thai food is more about the aroma than anything. On this count this restaurant scores great. Two scents are predominant-coconut and chili which are then colored by the other exotic herbs and spices. I love the Tom Kha soup and I liked the kothmir sprinkled in it. The other two entrees I don't remember the names. Of late my taste in Thai food has exponenentially increased though my capacity for remembering the names of the dishes has not.
In a way that is good so I don't(cannot) order the same dish again.
What was great about this restaurant is that they offered a fixed dinner menu. This is good cause then you get the correct combination of dishes in the way they are supposed to be ordered rather than a hit-and-miss philosophy when you are in an exotic restaurant.
Only crib is that in Thai restaurants they dont give you a Fortune Cookie.

Time to blog
Looking at most post dates I realise that I have time to blog only on weekends.

Daylight Saving (not Savings) Time
A few days ago this part of the world turned the clock ahead an hour to change from EST to EDT. The website below is amazing resource for what I think extremely peculiar. Thanks to that I lost one hour of sleep. Which IS A LOT OKAY? Also it is now dark at about only 8:30pm or so which actually should be 7:30 EST.
Link on Daylight Saving Time

Does it save energy?
Studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that Daylight Saving Time trims the entire country's electricity usage by a significant, but small amount, of less than one percent each day with Daylight Saving Time. We save energy in both the evening and the morning because we use less electricity for lighting and appliances.

A rather sloppily written sentence. I dont think that it does save too much energy but the greatest advantage is the more daylight hours in the evening. More time to play ( if I were a schoolboy) and being up and about along with the sun. ( look who's talking?)

Let's bomb Texas they have oil too
The war in Iraq is not yet over. On TV they say that 67 % of Americans support the war now that it has begun. I dont trust the American media one bit. In this land of the free the big media is the least free and always a pawn in someone elses hand. I trust my nose and all the people that I met and spoke to seem dead against it and more against George W. Its a senseless war which will have big repercussions on Bush. Also I predict that he is not going to die in his bed an old man.
I really dont understand the US foreign policy vis a vis the people here. Here there is so much of protest and the freedom to protest. In fact today I missed seeing the most famous item on Ann Arbor's annual calender. "Hash Bash" where flower power junkies, college students, liberty activists gather to legalise 'grass'. The university seems to have clamped down on this in a big way. Most of the times its just more tourists than the actual protesters. Need to check up on this debate.

Muzsikas featuring Marta Sebestyen

It rained yesterday. The rain in Ann Arbor is an excuse for what you call rain. They have this drizzly, light rain like as if someone had gently turned on a sprinkler.
Puneites dont have too much of respect for the Pune rain. It rains heavily and then clears. Atleast it rains heavily. It makes rivulets that carry the dust. It has always been fun to splotch home from school wearing gum-boots and with a raincoat not bothering to escape the splashes from rickshaws and cars passing by.
What is most unromantic about the rain here is that there is no scent of earth. This kills the fun. Too bad I wont be able to enjoy the monsoon. Running in the rain with your old walkman is so much fun. You dont feel the heat and the water kind of rejuvenates you. Of course what follows is the mildly sinful pleasure of a hot bath. Ahh!

From Somnabulism to Narcolepsy
Its 2:30 am and today i have no excuse why to why I am not sleepy. Last night I had these chocolates that have a coffee bean inside and I had three of them and was awake till 3. I just realised that my knowledge of sleep inducing methods is really poor. I tried eating rice and curds but that does not help. Anybody with some info on how this can be done please let me know.

What do I care what other people think?
Finally after a frustrating few days I got this commenting thing to work. It was just about sticking some code. Frustration is when something you know is childishly simple and you cant get it work. When you debug some error you realise one thing "You are an ass!" and another profound realisation that how could you forget a basic step. In this case it was RTFM. Anyway I did all but the obvious and the stuff did not work. Now it does. This is to impress on you gently reader that your opinon matters. Do bear lightly on me!

Classical Music

The Music Appreciation course is one courses that I have really enjoyed. It has been so much of fun and I learned so much of stuff. All those terms that looked daunting are now under my belt.Rondo, sonata, movement, allegro, andante. I have the whole Italian jingbang, the German lieder and what a fugue is.
One always feels that Classical music is stuffy and people who listen to it even stuffier. My original intention was to be that ultimate snob. This ultimate cultural snobbery and arty fartiness is a valuable asset to acquire?
Its a shock to know that Bach is Baroque not Classical. More than the shocks was the revelation. The spiritually uplifting Gregorian chants. I cannot believe that I would actually listen to the Hildegrand of Bingen. I have yet not come to terms with Beethoven's music. The Fifth Symphony's opening motive is still so unsettling.
The Romantic composers have caught my fancy. Especially Schumann. Now I really appreciate their mastery. Great credit to Prof. Albin Zak who could make pop crazy students equally crazy about Bach and Schubert.
My friends ask me how does this compare with rock music. For some time I was out cold. How I can compare songs with three chords with people who played three chords in quarter time. How can you explain the Tristan chord. The great revolutions of harmony and form over the years.
It reminds me of Bob Dylan "Don't condemn wha you can't understand.' All I know that if I had lived without knowing the beauty of Schumann's Eusebius or the tragic beauty of Chaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasty Overture I would have missed something.