Friday, December 25, 2009

The Charming and the Clever

Saw 2 movies this week - One charming, and the other, very clever.

In Julie and Julia, Julie Powell (Amy Adams), as a way of spicing her life up, opens a copy of Julia Child's (Meryl Streep) "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and decides to cook all 524 recipes herself in 365 days and also - to blog about it! The story of her quest is interwoven with depictions of Julia Child's own life in Paris in the 1940s and '50s. The ending, is not quite "Hollywoodesque", but an apt one I thought. I enjoyed the movie -and got hungrier as every minute went by. A must, especially if you are a foodie.

Moon is one the better Sci-fi movies you'll see. Astronaut Sam Bell is living on the dark side of the moon, completing a three-year contract with Lunar Industries to mine Earth’s primary source of energy. Or so he thinks! Not many special effects, if that's what you expect from a Sci-fi movie, but what drives the movie is a fantastic idea. Sam Rockwell, who plays the astronaut, I thought was brillaint in this role.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Manali - Kalihin Pass Trek

Just got back from a wonderful Himalayan Trek - from Manali to Kalihin pass (15,750 Ft) and back to Manali (a different route on the way back). 8 days of challenging (mostly), fun trek with a great bunch of people, organised by the KMA (Karnataka Mountaineering Association) .

The initial plan was to trek all the way to the Kangra valley (Dharamshala), via Bara Bangal village and Thamser Pass, but our mules and horses could not cross over the snow fields on Kalihin. Hence the change of route. But this in no way diminished the enthusiasm of the group!

A few pics from the trek here. More details and Pics to follow....

The trail is essentially through Shepherd territory, and we came across sheep and their masters all through the 8 days...

KMA Secretary and our team Lead Srivatsa (aka Vatsa)

Oxygen cylinder usage demo

The four "Maltova Moms" in our group!

Sign outside Dalai Lama's residence in McLeodgunj.

Trainee Buddhist monks argue Theology in the Monastery.

No one to play with :((

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adventure is out there!

Just saw Pixar's "Up". This for me is one of the best movies of 2009 so far, if not all time. You'd usually cry towards the second half of a tear jerker movie, but this one will have you reach for a tissue within the first 20 minutes! And then...the fun begins!

A gruffy old widower, Carl Fredericksen faces a lonely life ahead when he decides to have the adventure that he and his wife had always dreamed of. He sets out for the legendary Paradise Falls in South America. His method of transport? His home, lifted by an colorful canopy of thousands of balloons. He has company though, albeit a stowaway - an 8-year-old "Wilderness Explorer" with a heart of gold, Russell.

Peter Docter has scripted a superlative work that is the dream of pure genius and is a wonderful adventure for all to behold. No wonder this movie was chosen to open at Cannes this year. And I really wish it gets the Oscar nod come March 2010.

Also, check out the Trivia section of the movie on IMDB, to read a heart warming story of how Pixar helped realiase a 10 year old girl's dream come true. She desperately wanted to see the movie, but the cancer-stricken girl was too sick to go to a theater. Read the same story here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Of Dream Careers and working with "Depatures"

One of the things about the Oscars for the best foreign film is that you hear about movies which you might not have otherwise. The winner for 2008 was Okuribito, or Departures, by Yojiro Takita, is probably the best I have seen this year. An out of work musician responds to an Ad for a job, and discovers "working with departures" refers not to a travel agency, but to a "niche market" firm hired by morticians to perform "encoffinments" - not necessarily in the list of dream professions of most people. We follow his profound, and sometimes comical, journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.

Japan's rural landscape is beautifully depicted in Okuribito. Apparently, the main location of outdoor scenes was the city of Sakata and surroundings in the Shonai Region of Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan.

Oh yes, Joe Hisaishi's tune "Memory" is absolutely brilliant. Take a listen here.

The movie essentially deals with starting over once what one thinks is a "dream career" ends, and also, in a way, the power death holds over how we live our life.

I gave it a 9/10. Watch it and let me know what you thought about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mumbai Marathon - 2009

Did my first Half Marathon this weekend, and such good fun it was too! I had been training since October, but the stint in Utah and California had interrupted my schedule. I continued training when I got back to Bangalore, though. My longest Sunday run was 20K, a week before the HM, which I did in 2 hrs 8 mins. This led me to tell myself a sub 2 hr HM was a distinct possibility in Mumbai! Naive, eh? Running in Malleswaram - Sadashivnagar cannot be compared to running on Marine Drive - Chowpatty, as I was to find out!

I flew into Mumbai on Saturday morning and checked into Hotel Manama - close to CST and Azad Maidan, which was the starting and end point of the run. Went over to Cuffe Parade to collect my bib, then went loafing around VT and Azad Maidan. Came back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

I was up by 4:30 AM on race day, and headed out towards Azad Maidan by 5 AM. Dropped my bag at the baggage storage area and got into the holding area by 6 AM. By 6:30, everyone holed up here were getting restless by the minute. 6:50 was when we were "released", and I made my way to the starting point outside CST. The clock showed 6:59 and I "officially" started the HM.

Mumbai was out in full force, with most people either running, or coming out in huge numbers to cheer the runners. A few policemen were enthusiastic and cheering runners too - you don't see THAT very often do you? Apart from the official water counters, residents from apartment blocks en route handed out bananas and "Glucose" biscuits. I was near the 6K mark (37 mins), when the elite runners sped past us on the return leg! I was the 12K mark in 74 mins, by
when I knew a sub 2 hr was unrealistic! The humidity got to me by the 17K mark and I had to switch between running and walking for the next 2 Kms. The last 2 KMs were run on sheer adrenaline, and I made it to the finish line 2 hrs 24 mins after I had started! I then stumbled on towards Azad Maidan for my certificate!

I thought the event was organised very well (except for the screw up at the prize distribution for the elite Indian women's winners, which I was to hear about later). It was great to make some new friends too - Sultan and Rajas from Mumbai, and Guna and Satish from Chennai. I hope to meet these guys soon in other runs across the country.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some shameless self promotion...

I have been away traveling (work related, mostly) and hence no blog updates lately. I hope to be more regular with updates now that I'm back home.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Everest Base Camp Trek - September 2008

Alright! Finally getting down to pen down my Everest Base Camp trek travelogue. I will forget the minor details if I delay this any further. So here goes..

Why EBC? Not sure really. I had been researching treks in Spiti (Himachal Pradesh), but came across the EBC and Kala Pathar trek, and on a whim, chose it. Sounded off potential trekking partners, a few seemed keen, but eventually dropped out! My leave had been approved, so I decided to go ahead with the trek anyway. Famous for its spectacular mountain peaks and the loyalty and friendliness of the Sherpas, the Everest region (Khumbu) is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Nepal.

There are in fact two Everest Base Camps that Everest expeditions can set off from: the South camp in Nepal (5,360 metres) and the North camp in Tibet (5,208 metres). At both of them, mountaineers preparing to attempt the summit stay to acclimatise to the altitude and wait for favourable weather conditions before leaving to make an attempt on the summit. The South camp tends to be the more commonly used by Everest expeditions for practical reasons – the southern ridge is the easier and safer route to the summit, and climbing from the Tibetan side requires a special visa from China.
Below are my thoughts on how you could go about preparing for the trek and my day to day log from the trek. If you do not wish to go into it, you can get a flavour of the trek by looking at my photographs from the trek!

A few things to keep in mind while planning your EBC trek:

1) Best time for EBC trek?

It is said that it can be done all year round (though December - March can get rough), but May - June and October - November are the best times. September is iffy, because of the late monsoon showers, but the 2nd half can be alright, as I found out.

2) The Schedule:

There are 2 trails you can take to EBC. The "Classic" Everest trek, the way Tenzing and Hillary went about in 1953, from Jiri (A 7 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to the trailhead in Jiri) - takes about 14 days just to get to EBC. Or you could fly to Lukla from Kathmandu, like most of us lazy hikers do (A 25 minute flight) and start the trek from there. Schedule about 8 days to EBC from here, including 2 acclimatization days and about 3 days to get back to Lukla from EBC. So 12 days including a buffer day, if there are health issues.

So, here was my schedule -

Day 1 (Sept 14th) - Fly KTM to Lukla, trek Lukla to Monjo/Jorsale
Day 2 - Monjo/Jorsale to Namche Bazar
Day 3 - Acclimatization in Namche Bazar (3,440 mts)
Day 4 - Namche to Tengboche (It's better if you went up to Deboche, really)
Day 5 - Tengboche to Dingboche
Day 6 - Acclamatization in Dingboche (4,350 mts)
Day 7 - Dingboche to Lobuche
Day 8 - Lobuche to Gorakshep and EBC (5,400 mts)
Day 9 - Gorakshep to Kala Pathar (5,545 mts) and Periche
Day 10 - Periche to Namche Bazar
Day 11 - Explored Namche (Shyangboche, Khumjung and Kunde)
Day 12 - Namche to Lukla
Day 13 - Fly Lukla to KTM

3) Air tickets within Nepal:
4 or 5 local airlines fly the KTM - LUA route. They offer online booking, but you need to fax them a scanned copy of your credit card, which seemed a little dodgy. I enquired if the Hotel I had booked (Hotel Garuda, Thamel) could help me with this. They could. There is a travel agency (Hillary tours) attached to the hotel, who booked the KTM - LUA - KTM tickets on my behalf. I paid them the ticket fee in cash when I got to KTM. You also need to budget for "Airport tax" - Domestic, 170 NPR and International, 1650 NPR - when in Nepal.

4) Currency and ATMs:

Indian Rupees (except the 500 and 1000 denominations) work in Kathmandu (100 INR = 160 NPR), but not in the Everest region. So you had better exchange your INRs or US$$ into NPRs by the time you get to Namche. There are ATMs in KTM, but those advertised in Namche, were not working (off season, perhaps). You can however, go to currency trading shops in Namche, swipe your credit card and get cash. The shops charge a commission of 10%.

5) Porter - Guide:

I don't think you really need a guide for this trek. A good guide book is good enough and the trails are usually busy and the directions well marked. so there is little fear of getting lost on the trail. A porter, however, is not a bad option. That way, you can enjoy your trek with only your camera bag and water bottle in hand. But if you really want to rough it out and carry your own gear, you can. The standard guide fee is about 1200 NPR per day and 800 NPR for a porter. You will have to come through a trekking agency if you need a guide, but you can hire a porter from Lukla itself. There are hordes of them waiting outside the airport, waiting to be hired, but it's better to get a tea shop owner recommend a porter for you. Most places on the trail have cheap and clean lodges specially for porters.

6) Fitness levels:

You don't need to be from Krypton to do this trek, but a reasonable amount of fitness will help you enjoy the trek more. Walk/Run about 25 kms per week, for a month before you start the trek, and you should do alright. Make sure you schedule those acclimatization days. Carrying Diamox is not bad idea too. I took one every day going up and I think it helped.

7) Expenses:

Expenses in the Everest region are a little more than in the Annapurna region, where I have trekked in 2006. Tea houses charge between 200 - 300 NPR per night on this trail. A meal per person can work out to about 250 NPR, and a hot shower, about 300 NPR. Tea and chocolates are other expenses you may incur.Including the porter fee (800 NPR per day), the trek cost me about 15,000 INR (not including the air fare). Mail me if you need more information on this.

8) Food and Drink:

Most lodges have the same standard menus. The price goes up as we head higher, though. For breakfast you can choose from toast, eggs and porridge. Fried rice, noodles, "Dhal Bhaat" are preferred for lunch and dinner. There are also several bakeries scattered throughout the Everest region, which offer similar fare and a range of cakes (often delicious) and other sweets. A wide range of beverages is also available - milk tea, lemon tea, coffee and hot chocolate are all very common. Bottled water is available enroute, costs 100 NPR per bottle.

9) TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System)
A TIMS card is mandatory for trekkers in Nepal, 2008 onwards. The new system allows the Tourism Board to better serve to trekkers in case of emergency and also better maintain records of trekkers in the country. You can either get it from the TAAN (Trekking Agents Association of Nepal) office in Kathmandu or have your tour operatorget one for you for a commission. TIMS though is separate from the "Permit" you need to get, near Jorsale (100 NPR for Indians and other SAARC citizens, 1000 NPR for the rest). Though no one asked me to show the TIMS certificate on the trail, a record system will help monitor the safety and security of trekkers. Click here for more information.
Daily Log:

Day1 - KTM to Lukla to Jorsale

The KTM domestic airport is a little chaotic. There are 4 or 5 domestic airlines flying to Lukla and each of them, on a good day, do more than 10 trips to Lukla. So, paying your Airport tax , checking in and security can be hectic. I flew on Agni Air, in a Dornier Do 228. The landing on Lukla airportis not for the faint hearted. The airport, named Tenzing-Hillary Airport, is categorized as STOL (Short take off and landing). The Runway is only about 520 mts long and inclined. Click here to watch a video of a landing and a take-off.

I landed around 8:15 AM and made my way to a cafe for breakfast. The cafe owner introduced me to Kabiras Rai, who would be my porter and companion for the next 12 days. We set off from Lukla by 9:30 AM. The trek to EBC starts with a steep climb down from Lukla. Guide books recommend you spend the first night in Phakding, but we had lunch at Phakding and pushed on, towards Jorsale, beyond Monjo. Jorsale is where you enter the Sagarmatha Sanctuary. The entrance fee is 100 NPR for folks from India and other SAARC countries, and 1000 for the rest. I settled down in a lodge in Jorsale (the shower was broken though) for the night.

Day 2 - Jorsale to Namche Bazar.

The first half and hour out of Jorsale is an even, pleasant walk, across two suspension bridges. Once you pass the 2nd bridge, the steep climb upto Namche begins. Be aware that there are no tea houses or lodges on this path. We got to Namche in about 3 hours, with a break to munch down a Mars bar in between.

We reached Namche around 11 AM, walked past the main market street in this town, and settled into "Lhasa Guest House". Ramesh Lama, who runs this place, claims this to the smallest of all lodges in Namche (about 6 rooms). The shower and the hot meal were most welcome.

Namche Bazar, a small horseshoe-shaped town at 3,400 metres, is the capital of the Khumbu Himal. Namche has three bars, four bakeries, several Internet Cafes, a bank and many shops selling most things you could ever need in this part of the world. The main street stretches from the market area on the outskirts of town and curves left slightly, then right leading up to a crossroads on which more shops and lodges are located. This J-shaped street is the centre of the town and contains most of it’s services.

Day 3 - Acclimatization in Namche.

Do not confuse an acclimatization day with a rest day. It is better if you spent the day walking around and exploring the village, at the height you are getting "acclimatized in". I first went up to the Namche Monastery (under reconstruction) and then walked further towards the villages of Phorte, Tesho and Thame. The water that runs through Tesho comes directly from 'Mount Khumbuila' - the most sacred mountain to the Sherpas.

The walk is even and, like the rest of the region, scenic. It took me about 5 hours to get there and back to Namche for lunch. I later went to the Banijya Bank to exchange my INRs for NPRs.

Day 4 - Namche to Tengboche.

I set off from Namche around 7:30 AM. The first couple of hours of the trail now is fairly even and not taxing at all. I passed the Tenzing Gompa and the "Road construction Donation Box" before I got the first glimpse of Everest and Ama Dablam. The trail between Kyangjuma and Sanasa is delightful. The trail then starts going downhill, all the way till Phungi Tanga (where the water in the streams drives the prayer wheel). From Phungi Tanga, its a 2 hour steep climb all the way upto Tengboche.

Tengboche is the largest Sherpa monastery in the Khumbu area and exerts the greatest influence. It was burnt down in an accidental fire in 1989, but has since been reconstructed. The lodge I settled in was soon invaded by an Italian medical/moutaineering expedition group, who soon made the dining room their base! Ordering my meals proved difficult above all the Italian that was flying around. We even spotted a couple of these Italian women applying makeup around 8 PM, when the temperature was below zero. Strange, you'd think, but it might have been some sort of experiment. It was also a medical expedition, remember :)

Day 5 - Tengboche to Dingboche.

I set off from Tengboche without waiting for breakfast. 30 minutes on, I came to Deboche, another small hamlet, with a tea house or two. We set off towards Dingboche after breakfast at Paradise lodge in Deboche. We passed through Pangboche and Somare before reaching Dingboche. By the time we hit Dingboche, we are over the tree line , and so lacks the greenery of the villages below. Dingboche is actually slightly off the main EBC trail, on the Island peak trail. Periche ( I called it Dingboche's twin village) is bang on the EBC path, and hence a little more crowded. I knew the Italian team was headed to Periche, so it was an easy decision to head for Dingboche instead.

The Snow Lion lodge in Dingboche (the first lodge on your left as you enter the village) was my favourite tea house during the whole trek. The views of Ama Dablam, Tebuche, Pokalde, Kangtega and Thamserku are just awesome. Make sure you're carrying your wind-cheater as the winds can get very fierce around here.

Day 6 - Acclimatization in Dingboche.

I spent this day loafing around Dingboche, and walking up the path towards Bibre and Chukkung, for about 2 hours. The gompa over Dingboche is also worth a visit.

Day 7 - Dingboche to Lobuche.

We started off walking uphill straight away from Dingboche to reach a small plateau. On the other side of this ridge is Periche. The Periche - Lobuche trail meet the Dingboche - Lobuche trail after an hour, near Thukla (aka Dhugla). After "black chia" in Thukla, its another steep uphill climb for a about an hour. No proper trail here, you just make your way up by jumping from boulder to boulder. Once on top, you will find memorials built for dead members of past Everest missions. Another hour ahead is Lobuche.

Lobuche is where I felt a little nauseous. I took a paracetamol and tried to lie down (around 3 PM), but this did not help. I went upto the dining room, ordered garlic soup and started talking to my friends Mark and Anne (from London). It was 8 PM by the time we had covered topics from holidaying in Kerala to cricket pitches in the sub continent to what Borat did (or did not) to help tourism in Kazakhsthan! By then, I felt a lot better. One regret though, is that I did not get Mark and Anne's contact info even though we trekked and dined together. Mark is a Geologist based in London and Anne works in Dubai. If you chance upon this blog, Mark and Anne, please do get in touch with me! It was great meeting the two of you on the trail.

Day 8 - Lobuche to Gorak Shep to EBC to Gorak Shep.

Gorak Shep or "dead crow" is just an assortment of 4-5 lodges and not any sort of settlement, per se. It is about 2.5 hrs from Lobuche. I got an early start from Lobuche, reached Gorak around 10 AM, rented a room at one of the lodges and set off towards EBC. The trek to EBC is about 2-2.5 hrs and is not the easiest. The last 45 minutes or so is a lot of scree on ice and tough to negotiate and chances of you slipping and hurting yourself are high. The base camp itself is an assortment of tents, pitched by folks who were waiting to make an assault on Everest in a few days. There was the Italian team and the Korean team when I was at EBC. It was about 1 PM now, and the weather turned bad. it started snowing as I made my way back to Gorak Shep. The weather never really improved that day, so I had my fingers crossed about making it to Kala Pathar the next morning!

Day 9 - Kala Pathar and Gorak Shep to Periche.

Kala Pathar is the highest point you can get to on this trail (5,545 mts) and offers awesome views of the Everest range. It had snowed in Gorak the previous night and when I woke up by 5 AM, visibility was less than 10 mts and the chances of getting any sort of views from Kala pathar seemed impossible. But Kabiras and myself set off to Kala pathar anyway. The weather Gods' mood seemed to have lifted, because there was a dramatic shift in the skies as we were trekking up Kala Pathar. By the time we reached the top, the only cloud in the sky was a UFO like formation over Everest. By 7:30 AM, the only blues that Monday morning were the skies!! The entire Everest range was visible and it was as if the whole scene was stage mananged just for us. I was later told this was the best morning the region had had in the previous week and that it went back to being bleak the next day onwards. I could not have got any luckier.

Came back to Gorak shep for breakfast, and began the journey back. Made it to Thukla for lunch and then headed all the way to Periche to call it a day. If you wish, you can even go beyond Periche, to Orsho, and stay in the only lodge there, in the middle of nowhere. Absolutlely beautiful setting!

Day 10 - Periche to Namche Bazar.

This hike from Periche, downhill, most of it, was my best trekking day, which is saying something. The trail was easy, weather was fantastic and views, brilliant. I passed Orsho in an hour , then Pangboche and Somare. I had lunch at Sanasa and reached Namche by 3 PM, a trek of about 7 hours.

Day 11 - Loafing around Namche Bazar.

As I had a buffer day in my schedule, I used it to see the villages around Namche. Shyangboche has the worlds highest 4 star (?) hotel - Hotel Everest and an abandoned airstrip, now used as a soccer pitch by the locals. Kunde has a hospital and Khumjung, a high school and a bakery or two. There are also many Mani stone walls and a few chortens in both villages. Got back to Namche around 2 PM for lunch.

Day 12 - Namche to Lukla

There was a steady drizzle on this day, all the way upto Lukla. The trail had become muddy, making it a not-so-comfortable last day. But this was a small price to pay for the incredible trek that is the EBC. Once you reach Lukla, you need to inform the airline office and confirm your return ticket for the next day. If you have reached Lukla earlier than scheduled, they will usually oblige you by putting you in an earlier flight, subject to availability, of course. Just a few days after I flew out of Lukla, the Yeti airline plane from KTM crashed in the LUA airport, killing 18 people on board. Only the co-pilot survived. Close call, huh?

I survided the "low altitude sickness" in KTM for a couple of days, before heading back to New Delhi. I then went of the second leg of my vacation to Ladakh and Kargill. More on that in another blog post.
All photographs from the trek and the are available here or here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

EBC Trek Countdown Begins...

I'm off to Everest Base Camp on the 13th. Will fly to Lukla from Kathmandu on the 14th and start the trek to EBC. Atleast thats the plan - 'cause the KTM - Lukla flight takes off only in fair weather. September is the fag end of the monsoons in Nepal, so fingers crossed!

Photo Courtesy - Lincoln Hall

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One World, One Dream

The Olympics draws to a close, and wow, what an exhilarating 17 days its been! The buildup before the Opening, the performances and the results - from an Indian perspective probably makes the 2008 version of the Summer Games the best ever.

Some of the images that will remain with me forever are -

* The tricolor going up while our Anthem was played, on the 11th of August, thanks to Abhinav Bindra! I was not in front of a television when it happened, and did not quite believe it had happened when I was told we had won a Gold. This and Vijender and Sushil Kumar's Bronze made it the best ever Olympics for India.

* Waiting with bated breath to see if Michael "The Phenom" Phelps would get his 8th Gold. The 4 X 100 medley was close, but his team mates helped him make it. Stories about the Phelps diet were equally interesting!

* The 90,000 plus spectators in the Bird's Nest and millions of viewers on TV, regardless of which country they were from, cheering Yelena Isinbayeva over the 5.05 meter mark in the women's pole vault.

* Akhil Kumar swearing he was there for the Gold, and would not settle for anything less. Refreshing approach from the Boxer. He lost the Quarter Final bout, but the boys from Bhiwani have triggered off a revolution.

* The most frustrating aspect of the Games? The coverage by our very own DD - Sports. Most of the anchors and the "expert" commentators seemed to have NO idea what they were talking about. The clichéd phrases and the absolute murder of competitors' names made one cringe. Even more infuriating was cutting an event off completely when the last bout or the last lap was on, and moving to an AD break or a totally different sport. Precious LIVE action was lost when in-studio anchors went about discussing insignificant stuff. DD has been covering sports forever now, but just do not seem to be learning.

Over to the London Games now. The bar has gone up by more than a few notches (for our athletes and administrators, not DD Sports). Will the revolution carry us to the double figure medal mark in 2012?

I think it will.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Whew! Over a month since my last post. Nothing much to write travel plans happenning. Training for Bhutan Half Marathon stalled by a foot sprain, but got back to easy running this weekend. Not sure if September 7th is feasible now, with the 3 weeks lost. Will wait for a few more easy runs before taking a call...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What happens if you use your phone in a concert?

Ever been irritated by that moron on the cellphone at the movie hall? Here's a funny video on how such a moron is "dealt with"..

Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Government..

So we finally have a Government here in Karnataka. The BJP must have been pleasantly surprised with the numbers they got, but the "arrangement" to make it past 113 will keep it uneasy for the rest of its tenure. The cartoon below from today's The Hindu hits the nail on the head. But I think the threat to Yeddyurappa's government comes more from within his party than the Independants or the Opposition. Reactions from Hubli over the non-inclusion of Jagadish Shettar into the cabinet and the growing bargaining power of the "Bellary Brigade" should still give the CM sleepless nights.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bangalore Open 10K Run

Namma Bengalooru has not been having everything run for it lately. Our politicians, our infrastructure projects, even our Cricket team are the main reasons for some of the bad press we have been getting. But, there was an event today which got lots and lots of Bangaloreans together and show the rest of the world what the city is capable of and that they still stand solidly behind their city.

The Open 10K and the 5.7K "majja" run kicked off from the Kanteerava stadium today. Both these runs saw people from all cross-sections, all ages, participate. An equal number were seen lining the course clapping and cheering the runners along. The event itself was very well organised for the most part, I felt. There were a few people disappointed by the timing chip showing timings which were way off, and a few who felt water stations were not too well spaced, but then, there will always be teething issues, this being the first event of its kind and scale here in Bangalore.

Can't wait for the next Bangalore Open 10K! Hopefully it will not be a 9 AM start in the middle of summer next time, though :)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Assembly Elections....Again!

The assembly elections are upon us again, here in Karnataka. Hopefully, we will not have another for the next 5 years!

Here's a cartoon by RK Laxman, on criminals running for political Office. To find out if a candidate in your constituency has a criminal "history", click here.

So, are you headed towards your polling station tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why the moon waxes and wanes

Did you enjoy reading Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama when you were a kid? Then you will definitely love this new book - "The Puffin Book of Magical Indian Myths". There are 50 enchanting stories from Hindu Mythology, brought alive by some equally brilliant colourful illustrations. The stories bring a mythical perspective to questions like "How all living creatures began to blink" and "What happened when Balarama wielded the plough". Absolutely fascinating.

Not much of a childrens' literature fan yourself? OK, but this will still make a great gift for a schoolkid you know. Trust me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The "Not So Green" Torch

The IOC are hinting they may do away with the torch relay next Olympics onwards. Though this may be prompted by the protests and angry demonstrations, it may make the Go Green brigade happy. Guess why?

According to Earthlab, who have developed a formula to calculate carbon profiles,the Olympic Torch Relay is adding about 11 million pounds of carbon to the atmosphere. Approximately 5,500 tons.

The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee says the journey will cover more than 85,000 miles. So when the torch isn't being marched through city streets or extinguished by protesters or threatened by fire extinguisher - armed protesters , how is it getting around? You guessed it, by plane. An Air China A330 custom painted with the Olympic logo and color scheme. The A330 burns 5.4 gallons of fuel per mile. That translates into 462,400 gallons for the entire trip. With Earthlab estimating that every gallon of jet fuel burned produces 23.88 pounds of CO2, the Olympic Torch Relay is adding about 11 million pounds of carbon to the atmosphere. That's 5,500 tons.

So here's another excuse for more China Bashing!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wackiest Job Interview Mistakes

What's the most unusual thing a candidate did in a job interview? Or after? I have had instances where candidates have broken down citing "bad home condition, sir" and a chap walking up threateningly at a restaurant two days after the interview asking why he was not short listed!

Careerbuilder released its annual survey of the most outrageous interview mistakes candidates have made, according to over 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals nationwide. This year’s list includes -

  • Candidate told the interviewer he was fired for beating up his last boss.

  • Candidate answered cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a "private" conversation.

  • Candidate smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room.

  • Candidate told the interviewer he wouldn't be able to stay with the job long because he thought he might get an inheritance if his uncle died -- and his uncle wasn't "looking too good."

  • When the applicant was offered food before the interview, he declined saying he didn't want to line his stomach with grease before going out drinking.

  • A candidate for an accounting position said she was a "people person" not a "numbers person."

Have you experienced any such incidents?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Starless Night!

A sweet short animation created by Carl Campbell

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Adolf Hitler, MLA ?

How would you like Adolf Hitler to represent you in the State Legislature? Or maybe Frankenstein, if Adolf isn't demonic enough? Or would you play it safe and have Newton as your MLA?

No, these aren't names from a "Fantasy Election League", but real people vying for seats in the just concluded polls in Meghalaya! This state has a predominantly Christian tribal population with a penchant for naming their children after the famous (or infamous), or simply choosing expressive words such as Gregarious or Hilarious. "People here have a fascination for exotic names and hence give their children strange names" , R Lyngdoh, a history teacher, was quoted as saying. Apparently, people give little thought to the connotations behind a name. Cool, huh?

Adolf Hitler, by the way, is a Garo tribal leader and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate contesting from the Rangsakona constituency. Frankenstein Momin, represents the Congress.

Some of the other candidates contesting the polls are - Romeo Rani, Darling Lamare, Moonlight Pariat, Boldness Nongum, Comingone Ymbon, Clever Marak , Oral Syngkli , Advisor Pariong, Founder Strong, Gregarious, Hilarious and Budshell Marbaniang.

One of the many things that makes our democracy so colorful, I suppose!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

14 Greatest Engineering Challenges

The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency in the US, announced today 14 grand engineering challenges for the 21st century that, if met, would greatly improve our life! They have not ranked it any order, but have left it to the public to vote. The list of 14 was arrived to by a committee of Engineers and Scientists - including Larry Page.

The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish, - Sustainability, Health, Reducing Vulnerability and Joy of Living, the group said. They also added that rather than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive.

The final 14 of these fascinating challenges are -

Make solar energy economical.

Provide energy from Fusion.

Working on ways to capture and store excess carbon dioxide to prevent global warming.

Help restore balance to the nitrogen cycle with better fertilization technologies.

Provide access to clean water.

Restore and improve Urban Infrastructure.

Advance health Informatics

Engineer better Medicines.

Reverse engineer the brain.

Prevent nuclear terror.

Secure cyberspace.

Enhance virtual reality.

Advance personalized learning.

Engineer the tools of scientific discovery.

One of the comments on the NAE site was "They forgot to include the need to eliminate the dependence on politicians and lawyers."

Click here
to vote for what you think are the top challenges (its a popup on the page, so make sure you allow popups to vote)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oscar 2008 Nominees Clips

A clip created by Filipe from Brazil, for the 80th Annual Academy Awards Nominees. The score by Michael Giacchino, LOST Soundtrack - "Parting Words".

Another clip here, with the top 8 Oscar nomination categories. Notice the "Typewriter Score", written by composer Dario Marianelli for Atonement.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Best Villain Ever?

I think he is. Even better than Hannibal Lecter! Javier Bardem is Anton Chigurh, a haunting and brilliantly chilling hired hit-man, killing his victims with a slaughterhouse cattle-gun in No Country for Old Men, which I saw last week. Bardem is my pick for this year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar. And if No Country for Old Men does win the best movie Oscar, it will be because of Bardem. This is one villian who is sure to haunt viewers long after the final credit has rolled.

My pick for the Best Movie Oscar?

Of the 5 shortlisted, I have seen Atonement, No Country for Old Men and Juno. Atonement is superb, with brilliant performances allround (the best part for me was using the typewriter as a musical instrument). No Country for Old Men is probably the favourite to win, but I really want Juno to win! Ellen Page plays 16 year old Juno MacGuff, with the knack of being funny and brutal at the same time. This has to be one of the best comedies lately, and yeah, the soundtrack is great too.

Take this Oscar Quiz to test how much you know about this year's event.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Are you a Certified "Orifice"?

Do you feel surrounded by incompetent idiots – and you can’t help letting them know the truth every now and then? You are often jealous of your colleagues, and find it difficult to be genuinely pleased for them when they do well? Or you constantly interrupt people because, after all, what you have to say is more important? Then take this ARSE (Ass**** Rating Self Exam) to find out if you are a "Workplace Orifice".

Other interesting "ARSE TOOLS" developed by Bob Sutton include the ACHE (Ass**** Client from Hell Exam) and questions to determine if your future boss is a certified orifice!

Let me know if the tests told you a bit more about yourselves or your clients ;)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Andaman and Havelock

Highlights from my trip to Port Blair and Havelock last week. A couple of "low lights" (apart from my badly sun-burnt skin) are also listed! Click here for my pictures from the trip.

1) The Ship ride.

Honestly, I did not expect the sea journey to be as comfortable as it turned out to be. Calm seas and beautiful weather ensured there was no tossing and turning. We were in a 2nd class cabin on MV Swaraj Dweep. The cabin had comfortable bunks and air conditioned. Showers and toilets were clean, and the food decent. Meals were served in the Dining Saloon, along with the Ship's officers. The best part about it though, was the evening breeze on the deck and a wonderful view of the Milky Way in the night sky. The crew also let you into the Navigation Bridge on request, where you can familiarise yourself with all the gadgets that aid in the sailing of the ship. We were greeted by Dolphins on the 2nd morning, just outside Port Blair! The 60 hour ride surely is a must, at least once in a lifetime.

2) Visiting the Cellular Jail.

I think every Indian must visit the Cellular Jail. Located in Port Blair, it stood witness to the torture meted out on the Freedom fighters during the first half of the last century. It was called "cellular" because it is entirely made up of individual cells for solitary confinement. It was originally a seven pronged building with a central watch tower acting as a fulcrum and a massive structure of honeycomb like structures. Only three of the seven now remain. There is a Museum, Art Gallery and a Photo Gallery in the jail complex.

The story of the inmates and their struggles are brought alive during the Sound and Light Show, every evening. Two shows, one in Hindi and the other in English.

3) Havelock.

About 3 hours by ferry from Port Blair's Phoenix Jetty, Havelock is an Island paradise. White sandy beaches and unpolluted, crystal clear waters are the hallmark. "Radhanagar Beach", about 12 kms from the Havelock Jetty is amazing. We just did not want to get out of the water here! You even have the option of elephant rides on this beach. We stayed at "Bay View Inn", about 400 mts from the Jetty, which has a beautiful little beach of its own. Our non A/c room cost us Rs 800/- ( A/C costs 1500). More expensive hotels exist in Havelock as well.

The other beach we visited was "Elephant Bay" which is ideal for snorkeling with its corals. The corals and the colorful fish a treat, if you get a hang of Snorkeling first. Scuba diving options are available on Havelock too, but that takes a few days to get trained in.

4) Glass Bottom Boat Ride near Mauadhera.

A 45 minute bus ride from PB takes you to a seaside village of Wandoor (in the new recently, for the chopping of trees to make way for a helipad for our President's visit!). A 20 minute ride on a speedboat takes you to the coral island of Mauadhera. Here, glass bottomed boats are available to take you over the wonderful corals. Options for Snorkeling are available too here.

5) The Tour Operator - Administration Nexus.

This for me is the most worrying aspect about tourism on the Islands. Our Operator tried to convince us there were no ships and buses to Havelock and Baratang. He wanted us to take Private transport to these places. Smelling a rat, we checked with the Administration, but they told us about a "crisis" of tickets to Havelock and a lack of buses to Baratang. These officials though, shamelessly offered to "fix" tickets on private buses, for a commission. We dumped our Operator on the 2nd day and got our tickets by standing in queues, getting to Bus stands and the Jetty early.

6) The garbage on Ross Island.

Ross Island, 10 minute boat rid from Aberdeen Jetty, was the seat of the British Administration in the Andamans. Now in ruins, but still a nice place to visit to get a sense of an age gone by. It housed a Hospital, Bakery, Barracks and even a cemetery, all of which are in dilapidated condition now. It is "maintained" by the Indian Navy now, but the most shocking aspect was the garbage strewn about by the modern day tourist! I could see all brands of empty mineral water bottles, potato chips, biscuits and paper plates thrown all around the island. Maybe a good idea for the Navy would be let in tourists/school children in for free, provided they bring back a certain amount of garbage on their way back.

7) We only saw less than 10% of what the Islands have to offer. I wish we visited more places, but I guess there will always be a next time!

Click here for my pictures from the trip.