Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Christian the lion

One of my all time favorite videos, this video made internet circles a few months ago. For the cynics it is a true story.

This version has more detail but doesn't give the story properly.

Tree Planting at Patterson Park

Last Saturday, me and a couple of friends volunteered to plant trees at Patterson Park in Austin. The event was organized by a local non profit organization called Tree Folks. The organization does tree planting around Austin and works in association with city of Austin parks and recreation department. We went there to volunteer as part of the Art of Living Austin's community service imitative.

The holes to plant trees had been pre dug using one of the city's big machines. All we had to do was shovel out the mud from the pit, put the tree into the pit and pack soil around the roots. And once tree is planted rake some mulch around the tree. We planted all kinds of trees but I only remember a couple of names like bald cypress, desert willow and live oak. I was fortunate to meet a lady who serves on City of Austin’s forestry board, through her and the rest of the tree folk volunteers; I learnt a few interesting things about trees and planting them.
  1. The depth of the pit should not be more than the height of the pot
  2. The pit diameter can be 2 to 3 times wider than pot diameter
  3. Never make the edges or bottom of the pit too smooth.
  4. Never put mulch so that it covers the shoot (leave at least a few inches between mulch and shoot), for it might kill the tree.
  5. Pack the mud around the tree as much as possible and never leave air gap in the mud as the roots stop growing once they encounter an air pocket.
  6. Bermuda grass is an exotic invasive species and a non native while buffalo grass is native (the lady mentioned a few more but I don't remember).
  7. A freshly planted tree needs around 1 inch of water per week for 2 years for it to settle down. After 2 years it will grow/survive on its own.
  8. Desert willow as the name suggests needs lot less water to grow than weeping willow.

Some one mentioned an old Chinese proverb,” The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is now".

It was an interesting chilly day with temperature in range of 45F-55F and I was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and needless to say I was chilled out (literally). On the whole we had fun. I will try post some pictures when I get them from our volunteer lead.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cactus bloom in our patio




Technically it is still not a complete bloom but it is on the way.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Some useful tools for windows users

At work my environment is mostly windows and I have found some of these tools to make my life a bit easier.

Textpad

It is probably one of the best text editors built, it is agile and very responsive. It almost has all functions of linux editors like gedit or nedit amd it is more versatile and powerful than wordpad I rarely use notepad or wordpad anymore and Textpad is my default text editor.

Hypersnap

For all those who use screen captures for their power points and don't want to use "Print Scrn", here is your answer Hypersnap. You can capture an area of screen, an active window and even edit the captured image. Again,for single use not all that expensive

ExamDiff

A worthwhile tool that does what tkdiff does in linux. Its a free tool and it works great.

WinBatch

This is more like perl and does almost everything perl does but easy to learn and use. It runs slower than perl. I found it very useful to create multiple directories or parsing data from multiple files. I bet it can do way more but that is all I have used it for. The license if a bit more expensive than most others I have listed but I have found it is worth the price.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Barber shops in US (yes, they do exist)

For most of us who have lived in US for long enough time, we are used to super cuts and sport clips and great clips and so on for hair cuts and if you are picky like me once in a while you end up with an unsatisfactory haircut. All this was true till I discovered an independently owned barber shop last month.

It was suggested by a friend of mine and I went there with lots of hesitation. The shop is located in a rundown part of the town and was called Oak Hill Barber Shop, The name Barber shop instead of cuts or clippers got me thinking, Being in US for as long as I have been, I am more used to people calling themselves stylists and the places they work as either clippers or cuts and last I heard of a barber shop was when I was in India.

Inside the shop also, the ambience was more retro and not like the usual chain stylist stores. The chairs seemed to be more than 20 years old but I admit they were really comfortable and very well maintained. Instead of a receptionist and bunch of stylists, there was only 1 person. Turns out she was the owner of the shop and she was the one who was going to cut my hair. She claimed she had more than 20 years experience cutting hair and I have to admit I got one of the best haircuts in a long time.

The cost was similar to that of the chain stores (that was surprising); she doesn't take credit cards though but only cash or check. Needless to say I will go back to her for my future needs. Last but not the least I have the pleasure of supporting a locally owned business.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A beautiful sun rise





I captured these from our apartment patio using the Canon A610, used the manual mode to control the shutter speed.

Curious behavior of our gold fish




We have a fish tank with 3 gold fish and one of them, the white one always goes and rests inside the decorative pot. The curious part is, it has just the head barely sneaking outside the pot.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Super Bowl

Last Sunday was the 43rd Super Bowl and it was historic in lot of aspects.

One aspect that interested me was that Steelers created history by winning their 6th title. Arizona Cardinals haven't won the championship in the last 51 years and they also would have created history if they had won. A friend of mine told me that there is a baseball team called Chicago Cubs who haven't won a championship in the last 100 years.

I think if IPL continues, we Indians can also some day say things like Royal challengers never won a championship or Rajasthan Royals won one too many times.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

SLR Buy

A month or so ago a I borrowed my friend’s digital SLR to play with, I was completely blown away by its performance. It made me realize what I am missing in terms of digital photography equipment and I decided to buy one for myself.

Unlike the last few times when I have purchased things almost spontaneously I decided to do some research this time (hint: I am married now)

Needless to say the two leading companies for digital SLR are Canon and Nikon and since I am a complete novice I decided to focus only on budget DSLRs. I went through the usual set of comparisons of mega pixels, CCD size, year of make, speed, with or without image stabilization, N focus points or N+1 focus points and so on and so forth. The comparison reminded me of a song from Hindi movie Rangeela ("Complan bole mein meeta hoon, Horlicks bole mein acha hoon :)), Anyways, I had to make a decision before I go mad, so I almost narrowed down to Nikon D60. But after going through some more reviews decided on Canon Rebexl XS and again decided to notch the budget up by couple hundred $'s and decided on a Canon rebel Xsi.

So far so good, now that I have decided on a camera, I decided to wait to see how my company's outlook will look like by the end of January. Needless to say it wasn't rosy and my employer asked us to take a 10% pay cut (well I am glad it is only 10% and not 100%). On top of this my car decided to go through a routine maintenance and my dentist decided to fill a couple of teeth.

My earlier deadline of January end is way past over, I have decided to postpone it by another month or so and tthink again. Of course the guidance from our new president isn't helping much either :).