Friday, December 25, 2009
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
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
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.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
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
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
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Sunday, October 26, 2008
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.
So, here was my schedule -
Day 1 (Sept 14th) - Fly KTM to Lukla, trek Lukla to Monjo/Jorsale
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
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
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
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.
One of the many things that makes our democracy so colorful, I suppose!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
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.
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
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
My pick for the Best Movie Oscar?
Thursday, February 07, 2008
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
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.
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.