Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ben Hur - Live

It was a cold day, 4 deg C outside, so wrapped in our pullovers and jackets, we set out to watch the much anticipated ''Ben Hur - Live'' at the Olympiahalle in Munich; having purchased the tickets more than 2 months ago.

(click on the pictures for a better view - tip for the not-computer-friendly people)

The show had popular names when it was first advertised and the website boasted of a lot of numbers - right from costs of production to types of animals/birds used. It creates the effect needed but I think it also pushes expectations to levels that might leave a slight tinge of disappointment at the end of the show.

You have seen the movie, right ? For those who haven't, Messala and Judah Benhur are childhood friends who grow up to have different political views, the former in favour of the Roman empire and the latter in favour of the Jews. One thing leads to another and Judah ends up in the galley as a slave while his mother and sister end up in prison because of Messala. Judah swears revenge - how he manages to do that and how he is reunited with the family is the rest of the story and as in countless movies, the ''taking revenge'' part is made all exciting; with a chariot race in an arena in Rome.

So why is this called the tale of the Christ ? when Judah is sent to the galley, he is beaten up and lies nearly dead from thirst and Jesus offers him water. Judah repays this kindness by offering water to Jesus before the cruxifixion. Judah's sister and mother, who are affected by leprosy, are cured by Jesus and Judah is touched by Christ's love and message (shown in pic above).....subam.

- The top place is taken by the chariot race (arena shown in pic, have no good pics of the race itself - horses speed > camera shutter speed) and the gladiators fighting. The sad part is that this only takes about 15 minutes of the 2 hour show.
- The stage props, their assembly, disassembly all coordinated to the second ! Brilliant ! The houses, the ship are all represented extremely well and accompanied by really good music and lighting.
- Messala and Judah - Both the actors were really good and looked the part.
- Horses - beautifully kept, wonderfully trained horses !
- Doves - they practically flew where they were asked to and returned to the cage ! was quite a sight to watch !

- Too much drama and less action: The broschure is kind of misleading. I think I am being biased here because I have been pampered by the Stampede (not people dying.....its a rodeo) in Calgary where I enjoyed a 45 minute chuckwagon race - completely real and adrenaline-pumping ! That day, I actually understood why people get addicted to horse racing. I have also been pampered by the Ritterturnier at Schloss Kaltenberg, where one gets to see jousting, sword fighting and horse riding at its best (check out the link, you will be completely amazed !! I was gaping the whole time and the show lasted 1 hour !! should write about it....)

- Too many people: At any given time there were around 50 people in the arena. I understand that it is a city (Jerusalem or Rome) but like in the movies, you expect to give your attention to only the hero and heroine or the hero and the villain

- Too many themes: One can see that they have had trouble deciding what sections of people to satisfy, there are acrobats, fire spitters, dancers and almost everyone from a circus....every scene lasted a few minutes and you never know where to look and you can find the hero/heroine or the hero/villain only if you are really focussed.

- the narrator in the black suit (show is in latin, narration in German). How difficult would it be to give the narrator a costume too ?

On the whole, an enjoyable show that falls a little short of expectations.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vetti pasanga naanga

Scene 1: tea kadai with rendu vetti pasanga (VP) ordering tea

VP: master, onne gal rubaiku rendu tea podu
Master: onne gal rubaiku tea pottu naanga epdi pozhapa nadathardhu ?!
VP: 1000 kodi rubaila nadathura Hindustan Lever companye 50 paisaku shampoo vikkaran
Master: appo daily aluku oru shampoo packet vaangi kudika vendiyadhu dhane ?!


Scene 2: tea kadai, rendu vetti pasanga vettiya pesara

VP1: oru kappal muzhuga poradhu, kappala irukaravanga ellam pullayar kitta vendikiranga, appo pullayar vandhu enna pannarnu sollu parpom ?
VP2: ellarayum kapathirupaar
VP1: illaye, dan, dan, dan, dandadanu dance adinar. makkal ellam puriyama ''pullayarappa, naanga kashtathula irukkom, nee dance adariye''nu kettadhuku pullayar solrar ''oru oru varushamum neenga enna kadala thooki potutu ipdi dhane adareenga ?!''


The double ROFL scenes were from Ponniyin Selvan, made me laugh for a really long time :D !

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No Facebook, No Wall

A few months ago (or years I don't remember), I made the mistake of checking out facebook when I had too much time. Since then there exists my account, undeletable good-for-nothing account. I do not have a profile or a picture but unfortunately I did login with an email address...and yup, you are right, I am constantly being bombarded with invitations.

I have been ignoring those invitations for months now and have been explaining to certain people about it too....and I am slowly losing patience....I mean I spend enough time online, talking to/about/with/for people, there is gmail, gtalk, orkut, LinkedIn, blogger, skype, voip, windows messenger, MS Outlook, not to mention the age-old (and still my favorite) yahoo messenger, landline, mobile and that it ?!...well I don't know, but I definitely do not want to add a face book wall to this !!

Yes, I am an extrovert and yes, I am talkative and yes, yes, I like spending time with my near and dear ones but for once I am going to take what Seinfeld says ''you gotta give people a chance to miss you''

So, let facebook miss me, let the wall miss me and I don't know about people, I am connected to them in one way or another....and even if you do miss me, doesn't absence make the heart grow fonder :) ?!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccination

Starting 26th October, swine flu vaccination will start in Germany. The costs will be covered by the Health Insurance.

The vaccines will be given first for:
  • People working in hospitals, pharmacies, first-aid workers and security personnel
  • Pregnant women
  • The elderly (those older than 60)
  • People with asthma and/or chronic illnesses (chronic bronchitis, mutliple scelerosis etc.)
  • HIV patients
The availability and distribution of the vaccines depend on various factors, so if you fall into any one of the above categories, please check with your doctor immediately.

Read more about it here (heads up: article in German, duh?) and remember to ask your doctor about it or at least google for information.

Be Careful and Stay Healthy !

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Harry Potter Spell

I am jealous of J.K.Rowling....everyone of us has at some point thought about magic, witches on broom sticks, vases hanging in mid-air and food appearing out of spite of all these thoughts, she was the only one to see the potential in them, give them shape and finally make truck loads of money to become one of the top 15 rich people in the UK.

When I saw the first Harry Potter movie of the series, I had not read the books. To this day, it somehow remains my favorite since like Harry, it was amazing for me to see how far the world of magic has been pushed to - a complete country with its government, school, hospital and of course, people...umm...actually, witches (no, am not swearing !) and wizards. It was really interesting to see the buying of a wand, the first broom stick lesson, the first quidditch match and many other firsts.

Sequels are generally very critically reviewed because of the expectations generated by the predecessor(s) and when one promises in advance that there would be 6 more sequels, there are more expectations accompanied with a few suspense-robbing assumptions like the bad guy will obviously die only in the last one and consequently the hero should be kept alive until then !

The second part was decent, nothing to complain about. I thoroughly enjoyed the 3rd book- writing a story about traveling back in time is very difficult; keeping track of time, characters and plot and all at the same time...was brilliant. I enjoyed the movie equally well. The fourth part had the excitement of a 20-20 match, fast, gripping and having a magical tournament was again another brain wave from Rowling.

Die hard Harry Potter fans or fanatics (like my sister-in-law, who cajoled me into reading these books in the first place) might disagree or might even get offended by what I am going to say but I will stand by my statement - The charm is lost from the 5th book onwards and no wonder many thought Harry Potter 5 and 6 movies were not good. I actually wanted to leave halfway while watching 5, the movie was a joke although it was supposed to be scary since Lord Voldemort (the bad guy) had returned with his full power at the end of part 4.

I read the seventh and final book this saturday, 600 pages (oh...God..) and I consider it a wasted saturday. All I learnt from and enjoyed in the book was English, British English. I think Rowling has made enough money out of it and is busy with other activities now that she just put together something while watching her kids do homework.

All said and done, Harry Potter and his gang have definitely entertained me in the last few years. If you argue saying its childish, well, yes, but so is Tom and Jerry and that makes me laugh any day. And if you argue saying its pointless, well, yes, but so is ice cream :D ! If you have a few hours to spare, watching movies 1-4 might be a good idea but if you are just getting into the habit of reading books, you might want to stay away from the 500-600 page drivel.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Around the Clock

It is that time of the year again (pun intended :D).....tomorrow, the last Sunday of October, is when I get to sleep a whole extra hour, that's right, we move the clocks back an hour since daylight saving time ends.

For those who are unfamiliar with this ''time-travel'' concept, on the last sunday of March every year, just before spring (supposedly) begins, the clocks are moved ahead by an hour so that you can use one more hour of the sunlight that is (apparently) available in Spring and Summer (This means I can make up for that 1 hour of sleep I lost in March tomorrow :D). This is then referred to as daylight saving time.

So what is the big deal, you wonder ? The resulting confusion and chaos on these 2 days (and a couple of days after) and why ?

Different countries adjust the time on different days ! So if I have to call someone in Canada (say, in Calgary), the time difference could be 7, 8 or 9 hours depending on when which clock is adjusted.

Some of these countries have more than one time zone. So if I have to call someone in Canada, this time in Toronto, the time difference could be 5, 6 or 7 hours.

There are exceptions, as always. Arizona, for example, has no daylight saving time while the rest of the US does.

Some or all of the above results in one or all of the following
- You can hear people swear at Microsoft Outlook for sending out calendar invitations with wrong meeting times
- There are people running through corridors at work asking for time
- There are people with completely irritated ''I-missed-my-train/flight'' looks in March and overflowing coffee shops in October since they turned up an hour early !
- There are really smart men who use the ''Oh..I forgot about the daylight savings'' excuse for being late in March although they never turn up early in October (like I said, smart!)

One would think this only happens to people who are new to daylight savings but NO...happens mostly to people who have grown up with it since the newbies tend to be extra careful.

So what to do
- Many computer based systems can adjust time automatically but not always and come-on its Microsoft ! So manually type in the time of the meeting in the message, to be sure.
- You have a computer and internet right ? Just google for the current time in a particular place.
- Set the right time in your alarm clock BEFORE going to bed, will be too late (or early if you are lucky) after you get up.

The other day I heard a friend saying ''India is a big country, you should have more than 1 time zone'' and I thought ''adapaavingla, nanga urupidiya irukardhu ungalukku porukalaya'' ?!

On the plus side though, daylight savings does make a lot of sense w.r.t energy conservation, reducing traffic accidents, increased sport activities, barbeques - Oh yeah, an extra hour of sunlight can make a lot of difference !

Rise and shine, people, let's fight the grey winter and enjoy the colorful fall (pun unintended) :D !

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thatha's Sadhabishegam

With great difficulty, I woke up at 7am today (:D) since I knew it was precisely 10:30 am in India, minutes after the muhurtham for Thatha's Sadhabishegam would have been over - perfect time to call since everyone is relaxed and available.

You call a little early and everyone is either looking for panchapathira uthirani or odhi vidara dress or something in the chattiram rooms and you call a little late, everyone is either busy giving vetthalapakku or searching for room keys to get the (much-dreaded) blouse bits or in the dining hall making sure that the guests get all the servings of payasam and appalam they want or exactly one serving, depending on the turn-out :D

So here goes....a summary of my half-an hour phone call

Me: Appa, function nanna nadandhudha ?
Appa: supera pochu, unna dhan miss pannom.....iru Thatha kitta kudukaren

Me: Sadhabishega namaskaram Thatha, Happy B'day
Thatha: en asivardham, all the best, (with some extra enthu in his voice) nee ezhidhanadhu dhan padikaren, Bharath print panni kuduthurka (my blog).....(pauses).....unna dhan romba miss pannen
Me: ..................(overwhelmed)
Thatha: iru amma kitta kudukaren

(someone shouting in the background....chowmee fonela.....)

Amma: Function romba nanna pochu. (With a girly excitement) enga appa akka thangai moonu perukkum ore colorla pattu pudavai vangi kuduthurka, naanga adhula foto kooda eduthundom. Nee dhan illama poita, unna romba miss pannrom.

Amma gives me a complete description of the events and there is no pause for me to even say ''oh...apdiya'' :D, after all the kadai phone gets passed on (God bless the mobile phone !)

(Ashok) Amma: Function nanna pochu. Neeyum Ashok dhan illai, romba miss panrom
Appa grabs the phone saying naan pesaren :D
(Ashok) Appa: Naan un bloga perisu panni print-out eduthu Thatha kitta kuduthuten. Adha laminated coverla vechundu Thatha ippo photo eduthukara

(Cameraman in the background....sir andha covera konjam straighta vechukonga...)

Amma takes the phone again

Amma: Periamma kooda print-out eduthundu vandhurukka

(someone in the background....chowmee t-shirta pirichela ?? adhu enga ?
someone else.....ulla coverla irukku, naan eduthundu varen)

Now t-shirt is being opened, amma gives running commentary

Amma: pirichuta
Me: oh..
Amma: ingerndhu vellaila edho ezhuthu theriyadhu !!
Me: ada rama....kitta poi paaren.....
Amma: hey...theriyardhu...supera irukku....Thatha bayangarama sirikara......
Me: :D, :D
Amma: Thathava potuka solli photo eduthu anuparom paaru.
Me: Photos ellam seekaram upload panna sollu
Amma: solren...amam, nee officelerndhu epdi ivalo neram pesara
Me: Kadavule, time difference irukardha nee eppo pathalum marandhudu, ippo 7:30, ineme dhan kelambanum
Amma: samachiya, saptiya and all the usual Qs

I wanted to talk to everyone else but I had done so a few days ago on Diwali and I was getting late for work.

When I finally hung up, I was homesick but then I thought of the fond memories, remembered its a friday (eyy...weekend), smiled and got ready for the day.

PS: I say someone because I ''almost'' know who it is and if I make a slight mistake and say a wrong name, sethen, so being prudent :D

PPS: Bear with the thanglish, too lazy to type in Thamizh

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For my Venkutu Thatha...

When amma told me on the phone that her siblings and she were planning Thatha’s Sadhabishegam (his 80th b’day), I was surprised. Could my Thatha really be 80 yrs old ?! True, he has become thinner over the last few years but besides that, there is no change in his caring, enthusiastic, protective manner.

As I think about him (photo shows him holding me when I was a year old), I remember all the stories amma has told me over the years, all the times I have spent with him and I have to jot them down before I get too overwhelmed.

Thatha’s parents passed away when he was really young and he was brought up by his mama and mami. Having grown up without parents, he resolved to marry a girl who had grown up the same way and so came paati into the picture. They had 5 kids – 3 daughters and 2 sons. Actually this should be 6, since Thatha treated his younger brother like his own son. Thatha was the sole bread winner of the family and to this day, amma never ceases to talk about how well they were all brought up; right from having pattu pavadais for Diwali to georgette half-saris for college, right from having a good education to being married at the appropriate time. Amma’s stories of how no one ever slept past 6am and how no one ever was late for anything had initially scared me into thinking of Thatha as a headmaster but no one who interacted with him can ever be scared of him.

To me, visiting Thatha inevitably meant doing a namaskaram, getting money for that (:D), lots of eatables and above all, an extremely cheery welcome (va va va chowmee :D) and a lingering goodbye (he will keep waving from the balcony until he is out of my sight and I don't know when he stops) !

To this day, I cannot think of a single time or place when/where Thatha has asked me for a favour. Anytime I call him he will give me his wishes, ask about the weather, my well being and never once has he actually even hinted he needs me to get him something. The only time I did get him something was when I went back to India after my graduation in Germany – I got him a pullover since amma told me he goes out at nights and it gets chilly in Dec/Jan. When I gave it to him, although he was happy, he mildly chided me for wasting money!

Paati spent her last days in the hospital and Thatha was spinning between the hospital and the house. When she finally passed away, one could clearly see that a part of him was missing. Every now and then, he would fondly refer to ‘Mogam’ and talk about her; this would be followed by a few moments of silence. There is a common complaint that men do not express love explicitly as much as women but I believe this silence expresses volumes.

There is so much to list about Thatha; things he has done for as long as I have known him, things that amaze me, things I have not seen in anyone else.....

He is a teetotaler – have not even seen him eat vethalai.

He does Sandhyavandhanam thrice a day – even when he is traveling !

He goes to the temple almost every day – I would have ate millions of bananas that Thatha has brought me as prasadham

He visits his daughters in town atleast once every week (he lives with his son)

He remembers b’days of his kids, grand kids and more recently, even great-grand kids (shown in photo above)

He visits them on b’days, if they are in town, to give his blessings with Prasadham from the temple – Thatha has woken me up many times on my b’day.

He walks from Mandaveli to Mylapore almost everyday for something or the other.

He still takes the bus if he is not in the mood to walk, hates autos. – it is quite a scene to see Thatha bargaining with an autowallah.

He hates Manirathnam movies - I saw agni natchathiram with him in the theatre and I still crack up when I remember him saying during the climax ‘ennadi idhu, ivalo irutta irukku’…ROFL !

He loves Michael madana kama rajan – when I did mono acting of the thiruppu-kameshwaran scene in my cousin’s wedding, Thatha came to smiling and said ‘kalakkita po’ – until then, I did’nt even know that ‘kalakita’ was a part of his vocabulary :D !

The list will go on and I can talk about how I have never seen him asleep (this says more about me than about him, illa ? rolling eyes…) or sick or tired to do something but it would be easier to just summarise it in a sentence.

It is rare to find people who have led a happy, fulfilling, blessed life where they did their duties and more at every stage and it is a boon to know/be associated with them. Thatha is definitely one of them and I am proud of him (I hope he is proud of me too….) and although I will not be physically present in his Sadhabishegam, my thoughts will adhere to the chathiram walls and I will live through it with the photos I will get (Makkale, here is your cue, send me photos asap).

Happy Birthday, Thatha ! I know you wear white t-shirts, so here are a couple to your collection. I bet you said ''edhuku idellam'', as always :D !

Thanks for bringing up my chinna thatha, amma, periamma, chitti, mamas, me, my brother, my cousins, niece and nephew (in photo), thanks for taking care of all those you welcomed into the family by marriage, thanks for everything....

Thatha, be there for my kids too, I am sure they would love their kollu thatha as much as I do or even more :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kamal pol oruvan ?!

I was eagerly awaiting ''Unnai pol oruvan'' not just because I liked the hindi version (A wednesday) and I am a Kamal fan but also because of this nagging thought at the back of my head that the remake should retain the essence of the good movie and should not be spoilt by Kamal's over enthusiasm. Kamal is a very talented artist but like Sherlock Holmes says he does not always exhibit the quality of the greatest artist - the knowledge of when to stop.

Well my apprehension was uncalled for since Kamal had underplayed the role as needed, maybe with a little difficulty while Naseeruddin Shah cruised through all along.

So far I have not seen a person or a review that has anything against the movie. So I am going to play the devil's advocate and concentrate on the flaws....or atleast what I can point to as flaws.

Remember the scene where the cop checks a high-rise building after being tipped by the man who supplied the explosive ? When he does not find him here, logic dictates that you send cops to check all high-rise buildings in Bombay (or Chennai) and narrowing them down should not be difficult because he has to still be in the heart of the city and a high place where he can have good reception and can still be obscure.

After all the hue and cry about keeping this whole case confidential, to the extent of not even revealing the perpetrator's name, his sketch is faxed to everyone including the FBI and interpol !! Will he ever be able to travel anywhere or get through an airport ever? Even if one assumes that the sketch was never faxed, Anupam Kher or Mohanlal even suggesting it is logically wrong, right ?

Another miniscule thing that nagged me is a 50 yr old man with a wife, who calls to remind him to bring home items for Kheer or Kesari, has to live on nearly stale (he smells them, grimaces before he eats) sandwiches...I mean I have never known a single day where appa or anyone in that age group in my family taking sandwiches for lunch....there are a zillion things in the Indian cuisine that one would rather eat. Exception: weirdos (mostly teens) who pay 120 rupees for a sandwich in the airport, when there is a dosa or chat stall for half the price next door.

One thing I hated about the tamil version was Lakshmi's role. I could have definitely done without her role and the unreasonable animosity between Mohanlal and her. Maybe this was an attempt to take a dig at the political situation in Tamilnadu but it was badly done.

To finish it on a optimistic note, I liked some of the dialogues in the Tamil version. I was glad it was not translated word for word because certain phrases are effective only in that language. I also liked the fact the fight was on behalf of society and was not a personal vendetta.

Some of the dialogues I enjoyed (from both versions):
I am replying on a Wednesday.....obviously
Mujhe tharike se parvah nahin, sirf nathije se.....dangerous argument

Terrorism is instant, why should Justice not be so ? reply in a lighter note in Rajini style, azhikardha kashtam, aakardhu dhan kashtam
(pointing to the computers, hacker says) idhellam munnorgal, abhivadaye sollitu try panren....apdiyavadhu abivadaye sonna seri !

All said and done, every time there are movies like Indian, Anniyan, Wednesday they do extremely well. I don't think this is mainly due to the story and screenplay being different, it is because each one of us pour out our frustrations by identifying with the protagonist in one way or another. So each time there is one such hit, doesn't it also showcase our helplessness ?!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Wednesday !

I was woken up at 7:30 am yesterday morning by a phone call (when one has the luxury of staying 15 min away from work by foot, one can indulge in one's beauty sleep until 8 :D !) and it was one of those rare occasions when I din't mind answering the phone in a sleepy groggy voice.... it was my dearest friend calling me to wish me on my b'day (thank you, thank you readers, for your belated wishes).

After the regular what did you buy, what are you going to do questions, started the late-twenties girly discussion of how we are growing up, how we are facing more and more responsibilities (:D) and when the call was over, I was awake and ready for the day. I opened the curtains while sipping my coffee and was greeted with snow flakes !! This is the first time I was seeing snow on my b'day, couldn't believe my own eyes !! October is when you expect the leaves to change color and get chilly but not snow and temperatures below zero (if only we left Nature alone, she would leave us in peace too !)

I then switched on my laptop getting ready for the next rarity for the day - more personal emails than forwards and spam. When I clicked on some of the e-cards I was thinking about how I used to have atleast 20 e-cards and how many people would end up sending the same e-card (remember the times sifting through the animated cards in 123greetings or the extremely real lakeview cards ?).....we have evolved past that, atleast most of us have and seeing the couple of e-cards made me feel like I was in school :D

Appas and ammas had already called the previous day at midnight in India and obviously had showered upon me more blessings and wishes than I can handle (and since my wedding, this is inevitably always followed by a subtle hint of asking me to think about starting a family). Ashok Appa always insists on me following the age-old tradition of wearing a new dress on my b'day. Well...I mostly did, I wore my brand new winter jacket (that I had reserved for december) to work !

On my way to work, I was checking all the sms wishes and taking pity on my fingers, I decided to reply by email. There is a colleague of mine, who plays amma's role for me in Germany and she gave me a big hug and some flowers. We usually have a cake party at 3 pm when someone has a b'day and I usually make it a samosa and lassi party :D but this year the party has to wait as I have another huge reason for celebration coming up (Keep guessing!). The phone calls went on - wishes from cousins, friends....thanks to my patient colleague who shares the office with me (he would simply grin everytime I spoke in Tamil since he knows about me and my family)

Then came the phone call of the day - Ashok saying he is at the airport and will be home in an hour. It is not convenient when one's b'day falls exactly in the middle of a working week but like Ashok says, something simple like this is not going to deter him :) ! At 4, I was ready to walk home in the snow and since the sun slightly came out, we decided to go for a run. We were about a km away from the house when it began snowing again. Since we were well dressed to combat it, we did continue and were back home after 1.5hrs, wet but not cold (running does help combat the weather :D)

In less than an hour, Ashok took me out to dinner to a vegetarian restaurant, Prinz Myshkin - my first time in 6 years in an all-vegetarian restaurant in Europe. Although the name of the restaurant sounds Russian, the menu had Indian and Italian dishes and vegetarian sushi. The restaurant had excellent reviews online but I thought there was nothing exceptional about it except for the fact that they were purely vegetarian and cooked with no preservatives/chemical additives. The food was decent but was exhorbitantly priced (too late to worry about prices).

I had Potato-Zuchini-truffel au gratin (in simple english it refers to potatoes, zuchini, cheese, a bit of spice cooked in an oven slowly for a really long time) with honey and nuts sauce. Ashok opted for a Indian thali just to see how well they do it and that was a mistake. The thali was good but there was nothing Indian about it except for the names. It was nearly bland and I believe the Chef has a problem of understanding that spices in Indian dishes should be cooked and not just sprinkled upon vegetables like pepper.

I loved the desserts though. I had the Crème Brûlée (French dessert - custard with a caramel layer) and the sugar was caramelised at the table :D) while Ashok had the delicious Apfelstrudel (apple pie) with vanilla icecream.

We were so full and the night was so crisp (the snow had disappeared as fast as it had come down) that we decided to walk a good stretch by getting off the tram a couple of stops before our destination. By the time we got home, we knew we were still too energised to go to bed; so we stayed up and watched 'Newyork' - a brilliant must-watch movie (will write about it in my next post).

It was a good day although I realise that the excitement of a birthday is gradually waning (well, am growing up :D) and I thought it was taking a morbid (but practical) turn when I reviewed the life insurance I had and decided to get some more. I have a long due post about this topic too (too many drafts, too few posts!)

I had a fun-filled interesting day (even got a tamil b'day wish from a non-tamil friend - பிரண்ட நாள் வாழ்த்துக்கள் ...ROFL!) and I hope I have a year much like it too :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pesto...Presto !

What do you need:
- Penne or Spaghetti (I prefer Penne, is easier to eat)
- Pesto (ready made, I love the Barilla brand, its really good!) or homemade (if you are familiar with Italian cuisine)
- 2 teaspoons of Olive Oil
- 2 tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- Basil (Optional)

Time needed: 10 min

Kind: Moderately healthy (ready made pesto might have preservatives)

How to do it:
- Cook Penne in a pot of salted and boiled water. Do not took until eternity and make it a porridge, just until its soft enough to eat. Also cook only a portion that you know you can eat. Left over Penne tastes like @%$#^%^^& !
- Since the above step will take a max. of 10 min, in the meanwhile take a pan, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- Add chopped tomatoes and 2 scoops of Pesto (with a tea spoon) and heat the mixture until it forms a thick sauce.
- You can add pepper to the sauce (I usually add mulaga podi since I like it spicy :D)
- Add the sauce to the cooked Penne and garnish with basil

You can use Pesto to make a sandwich too. Just take a baguette, add butter or cheese to it, then add pesto, 2-3 slices of tomato, some lettuce leaves and lo! you have a sandwich that tastes much better than usual....atleast I think so, I am totally a pesto-girl !

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chaos in Jurassic Park

I laughed at my husband, when he picked up the Jurassic Park book by Michael Crichton in the library. I did not quite understand the point of reading the book after having seen the movie multiple times and more so, after all these years. The next sunday, he turns to me and says ''Lets watch Jurassic Park'' and watching a good movie again on a sunday afternoon is very easy and so we did. After the movie he said ''The book was better than the movie, even though I enjoyed the movie more after reading the book''. When he, someone who is stingy with compliments (not w.r.t me :D), said that, I was intrigued, so I decided to read the book.

He was right, the book made for a very good read. I completely loved the theories of Ian Malcom (played by Jeff Goldblum, remember ''The Fly'' ?) which was explained so much more in detail than it could be done in a 127 minute movie (never realised the movie was over 2 hrs !) and since I had seen the movie I could imagine him explaining everything written in the book.

What was really interesting about Chaos theory: How the initial conditions manifest themselves in the exponential growth of error (Butterfly effect) and hence the outcome. Consider throwing a ball - depending on the starting position, point of contact, surface, initial force and gained momentum, the ball may end up anywhere and if one can determine how exactly the ball would move, I don't think cricket and many other games will exist. Just like friction, we do need chaos !

Nonlinear systems: Using weather as an example was brilliant. Ever wondered how many times we complain about the weather forecast, blame Murphy's law, curse our luck in this context ? Simple answer: Weather is a nonlinear system and we try to analyse with it our linear equations and laws of Physics and hence the results being right is just a matter of probability.

Concept of fractals: A normal day - wake up, go to work, come home, sleep is a fractal because if you look at it in a few months, or a year, it always looks the same. However you still cannot predict what exactly will happen tomorrow - you may be late or take the day off. This is what makes it difficult to describe a fractal in fundamental mathematics (Euclidean geometry).
I came across this link when I was reading about chaos theory online - very very interesting.

When Malcom says ''Scientists focus on whether they can do something but they never stop to think if they should do something'', I couldn't help but think about Einstein and the atom bomb and his quote "Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity.", discussed by Stephen Hawkings in ''A brief history of time''. Although Einstein proposed that the United States should develop its own nuclear bomb, fearing that German scientists would beat them to it, he was publicly warning of the dangers of nuclear war and proposing international control of nuclear weaponry even before the first atomic bomb had been detonated. Unfortunately the former took the front seat.

Some facts I learnt (from the book and otherwise):

Turtles abandon their eggs

When a lion takes over a new pride, it kills all the cubs so that it gets a chance to disseminate only its genes and the females do not spend time rearing cubs from another male.

Lizards and reptiles are cold blooded animals. So a snake will die if he is out on the beach at midday.

Steven Spielberg is making a film - Pirate Latitudes - out of a posthumously published novel by (the late) Michael Crichton.

Crichton was 6 feet 9 inches tall. He was socially awkward but was married 4 times !

And like any other book-movie combo, there were differences in the script but I don't think anyone ever complains about that (except maybe Harry Potter fans!). Although the action in the movie is a lot more enjoyable (seeing a velociraptor is obviously more effective than reading about him..rather her - thanks to Spielberg for that), the book definitely is worth reading.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Valet and Valise

Hercule Poirot tells his valet, George “I am driving to the country this afternoon. Prepare of me, I pray of you, a little valise”.

This sentence got me thinking since the last 3 weeks have pretty much been about hotels, bags, check-ins and above all, packing! I am not a meticulous packer, to me there is not much difference between stuffing clothes into a washing machine or a bag (well, maybe I should give myself a little more credit :D) but I have a method, my method (if one can call it that !). To mention a few, I always pack my camera with its charger and an adaptor (for different countries), I carry a small socks bag since I hate spending time finding only one of a pair in the suitcase, just when I am about to leave.

My husband, on the other hand, is a born ''packer''. He would put Fedex to shame and irrespective of the number of flights or the baggage handling, when one opens his suitcase on arrival, everything will be exactly where he placed it and he does it everytime!! In spite of this, I have reservations in letting him completely pack for me and I usually adopt a supervisory role (read, I sit on the sofa reading a book while he packs :D).

Anyway, my point is how can you have a valet pack your bag and how can you travel without knowing what you are taking and where you will actually find it!? Does your valet’s dress sense actually decide your fashion? Would it not be frustrating to search everywhere and finally realize that your valet has not packed it? Would this not be disastrous w.r.t women who insist on wearing matching shoes and accessories and hats and what nots?!

I know most of these possibly have sensible answers like the valet knows his master’s taste in clothes, preferences and any other idiosyncrasies and he possibly travels with the master and helps him get ready everytime. But yet, when I think about this, it is incomprehensible for me to fathom the level to which they are pampered or rather dependent on another person for such basic needs.

Yes, I am not great at packing and I never will be but I am content with knowing that good or bad, only I have to deal with it. I can find my toothbrush, socks and wrinkled jeans anywhere, anytime and that’s all there is to it :D !
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