Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Impressions from Mexico

When my dear friend suggested that we should get together sometime this year and we should plan  for a week or so and ideal would be an all inclusive resort, my thoughts were Caribbean or Cancun. Since we had a few friends who had earlier visited Cancun we decided with the same.

The all inclusive was the best and it was the first time for us in an all inclusive  resort which took us close to a day to get used to, but this blog is not about that.

Here are some of my take-away from the trip

  • The blue waters and the white sand beaches are truly mind blowing. My best experience was to keep the window open through the night just so I could hear the ocean. The temperature was near perfect 80F through out the stay
  • We hardly had to use it but the public transportation facility is very good.
  • Being in the resort we are always shielded from real Mexico. Step outside and take a few steps up and down and one gets to see real Mexico
  • I felt Mexico lives on bargain, there were multiple layers of agents for every single activity we planned (Chichen Itza, Islas Mujaras, parasailing and water ski). In some sense they have adopted capitalistic system for their tourist attractions.
  • As always, the bigger the group and longer we persisted the better negotiating power we had.
  • The visit to the Mayan village of Chitchen Itza reminded me of a stroll in our native in India, granted the main roads were much better paved than in India.
  • Far too many Indians have visited Chichen Itza as it is evident from the fact that the local sellers were greeting us with "namaste, accha price"
  • The tour guides while booking promise you that they will start at 7:45AM from hotel and be back by 7:00PM in the night but in my experience the start time is right but the end time will be closer to 8:45PM, I highly recommend this trip though.
  • Outside the resort, I felt the everything had a different rate for tourists vs locals(just like India, not the pharmacy though)
  • Islas Mujaras is overrated, when we negotiated the tour to the island the guy was very particular "no swimming with dolphins, only seeing them", I think he failed to mention that we will be in the boat itself when we see the Dolphins.
  • It's hard to believe, but the restaurant we went while on the island the food was cooked on an open flame stove using wood as fuel, yes the food had a barbecue flavor to it.
  • At the cost of being too harsh to the island, I won't recommend this specially with young kids. Unless you have an insatiable penchant for snorkeling and would do it at any cost.
  • There is also the activity of holding the baby shark, that felt like animal cruelty and human rights violations than anything fun.
  • I think The island is very very poor and lives on tourist income only, the evidence was when they said pesos 5 to use bathroom to change clothes.
  • The resort we stayed from vegetarian perspective always had great breakfast and lunch selection but dinner was so so, come to think they have no other restaurants open for breakfast, 1 for lunch and 5 for dinner. Keep in mind this might be true for your resort also.

Needless to say the best part of the whole trip was catching up with old friends and making some new friends (as young as 2 year), The ocean and the beach were all secondary.

The Mayan village

During our tour to Chichen-itza we stopped at the model Mayan village and the structure of the same surprised me. It totally reminded me of my native village in India. The house was in 3 parts with one part dedicated for the temple, the other for the kitchen and the rest of it was boarding and playing areas. Wait a minute that’s how my native house in my village is built like.

The other intriguing common thing I found was the use of samrani aka benzoin resin, a sort of powder that when put on the burning charcoal gives an aromatic flavored smoke which we use specially around new born. The same is apparently true in Mayan also.

You are still interested, their back yards had Cuban oregano (dodda patre), banana plants and few others, voila that’s again our back yard in my native. We do have a few conconut trees there but these guys seemed to have some betel nut trees instead.

I am not here to talk about any major connections between the 2 cultures as one could argue that the same tropical weather led to the growth of these plants and human beings through evolution figured out the same.

Chichen-itza, the place of Maya

The place is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, it is famous for its monumental constructions and the history behind it. It stands as an example for the Mayan supremacy over astronomy and math.

From what our tour guide described to us, the civilization lasted for over 500 years and through out most of that time they kept building and building and used slave labor to do the same. They developed elaborate rituals to perform the sacrifices and believed the more elaborate the ritual is gods would be pleased better and bestow us with great rains and harvest. I have a theory for this, but I don’t want to put it in the public domain. All wonderful and great for their times and might also would have worked during their times.

Again from what our guide told us, Mayans were like Romans (believed in destruction and conquests) but lacked the knowledge of metals and used wood for everything. If that is true, I am impressed by the knowledge they had about the wood itself.

The structures IMG_0507are plain amazing, specially the main pyramid in Chichen Itza and the way a clap echo's back as bird screaming (a dragon in their case) is beyond any numerology.

The questions that arose in my mind were of a different type, how come the civilization that were so good in math and astronomy that built such great observation towers lacked the understanding that destruction of forest leads to loss of rain.

Granted there were a council of very smart and intelligent people in those times who passed on their learning in astronomy to their next generations, for I do not believe the great pyramid was built in 1 go and there were multiple iterations of the same which were slightly imperfect. I wonder if this what led to the belief that Mayan’s were building for ever to please the gods?

Was there a lack of leadership which could have encourage other forms of science to develop?, its hard to believe that a developed mind like that would have been stuck in one field for that long. As per our guide the lack of food lead to destruction of the Mayans of Yucatan as due to their arrogant nature, they had amassed enough and more enemies among other tribes, even before the Spaniards came.

Looking at the Spaniards destruction of the Mayan temples and places of worship reminded me of the Muslim invasion of India and destruction of our temples. I guess human beings are the same irrespective of their religion.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin carving

This Halloween, my artist wife Sandhya did this pumpkin carving, it is princess Sophia the first (a Disney character). This was her first time at carving a pumpkin and I must say she aced it.

The photo is truly not doing justice to the art but had to try. IMG_0028

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sweet Berry Farm

Sweet berry farm, I thought I had already written about this, but looks like I have missed it. Considering I have been visiting this place for the last two years on an average 2 times a year it does deserve an entry in my blog.

It's an hour drive from Austin near the city of marble falls. I came to know about this place through a friend of mine. It's one of those well managed commercial farm which opens twice a year for tourists, once in spring and once in fall. In spring season they have strawberry picking and in fall they decorate the farm for pumpkin festival.

It has always been a blast for my daughter,  for she gets to do her favorite activities like berry bounce, sand art, tractor train ride, face painting, feeding and petting goats, and this time we spent time running through the corn maze and lastly her most favorite, pumpkin painting (only in fall). In short we easily spend a day there.

If I need to pick one gripe about the place is that the food part is a bit scarce out there but they do have a ton of picnic tables for those who can pack from home and if you are there for the pumpkin patch don’t forget to try their wonderful pumpkin ice-cream and the very addictive strawberry lemonade (I think its the sugar).

IMG_0019IMG_1947IMG_0140IMG_2199 IMG_0024 IMG_0065 IMG_0074   IMG_2109

Between strawberry picking and pumpkin patch, I feel pumpkin patch is slightly bigger for they open up the farm on the other side of the highway for the same and is more fun than the latter one.

One great thing for me is to see my kid grow, every time I have been there I have seen her doing the things slightly and some times much better than she did last time. I think the study is fairly scientific for she gets to do the same set of things but done over period of time.

The farm does not charge entry fee or parking fee and we pay only for the activities and food. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Of course needless to say, go there with decent amount of cash for it is a cash or check only place and they do have an ATM but not sure what they will charge for the fee.

If you plan the pumpkin patch, I recommend to visit before Halloween.    

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Diya painting for Diwali

Last Saturday (October 11), the Circle C Indian community had organized a diya painting workshop for kids on account of Diwali. Please don’t get confused when I say the big name “Circle C Indian community”, I would prefer it to be read as organized by 2 individuals Kirti Joshi and Meenakshi Matai. The event was organized in a nearby public library and thanks to Sandhya I got signed up to be the official photographer for the event.

All the supplies required for the workshop was provided by the organizers including 2 diyas per kid. The kids were divided into 2 groups (I am guessing it was done based on age initially and latecomers joined in where they could find space) and the instructors were giving detailed instructions about the painting. It was fun to see the little ones listening intently to the instructions and following to the extent they could. There was a noticeable difference in the way smaller kids (3.5-4.5 years) approached vs the bigger kids (5 and above) approached. The younger ones believed in colorful palettes to start with while the older kids believed in more professional approach and were meticulous with their details.

For me personally it was double bonus, for one I got to document the entire event from beginning to end at the same got the opportunity to catch up and hangout with some old friends. It could also had been an opportunity to enhance my photography skills too but passed it up for good pictures.   

At the end of the event, most everybody had painted their own diyas and in some instances parents took up the brushes on behalf of their kids and painted the diyas. Either way everybody had 2 well painted diyas with them.   

The event was so good that it was initially announced to be a hour long event but ended up being close to 2hours. I will be the first one to say, some of the diyas painted that day could have competed in the professional league.

I don’t know if Kirti and Meenakshi had organized such events before but this one was professional grade. Kudos to you two for doing this.

Below are some of the pics from the art studio.

IMG_0213 IMG_0214 IMG_0252 IMG_0285 IMG_0288 IMG_0292 IMG_0297 IMG_0300 IMG_0302 IMG_0315

Monday, October 06, 2014

If Austin can do

A year and half ago while shopping at Walgreens I saw the notice "by city of Austin ordinance, use of 1 time carry out bags will be banned". I wasn't sure what it meant and when asked the store clerk he said the plastic bags I had taken for granted for ever cannot be used anymore and people are encouraged to bring their own bags.

Came home and told Sandhya the same and she was glad to hear this. As it turns out we had quite a collection of plastic bags sitting in our garage (this collection was from last 1 year or so since we moved here to our new place).

Yes, once upon a time we did try to use them as trash liners but considering a lot of them will tear at  the minimum amount of stress we weaned away from them specially for the kitchen and then occasionally used to use them sometimes for bathrooms. Frankly speaking they were a pain to use, I was glad to find the 10-gallon size trash liners at Costco.

It took me a while to get used to the no carry bag concept as I would end up at the store without the bags (on the way from work or some such things) and end up either carrying the items in hand or buy their newer/thicker bags.

For the thicker bags, previously we used to have 2 to 3 designs for the carry bags that would cycle through and new designs take their place once in a blue moon but now a days the designs keep changing every few months, it appears as though a new industry has started because of this (In my opinion, Whole Foods carry some of the cool designs ). Now, we have an assortment of bags and some of them are permanent residents of our respective cars.

I am sure it was a big ordinance and the city must have faced a lot of opposition as no other city in Texas including our next door neighbors have implemented the same. I am proud of my city Austin for taking this bold step.

Frankly we have been trying for a few years before the ordinance to use less plastic bags but I admit we had failed miserably. Now a days it feels strange when I shop in our neighboring cities and they bag the items in those white plastic bags.

I think it's one of those things in which a strong ordinance bought a good change, In my opinion the next thing to tackle is the Styrofoam carry out boxes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Smart phones do have a second life

When I lost my beloved iPhone 4 I was devastated, I replaced it with a new look alike iPhone 4s.

Fast forward 2 years later, the phone started showing its age. First evidence was the lack of voice in FaceTime and then came the day I realized I couldn't plug my earphones to the phone. The last straw was when the power button on the phone broke, imagine not able to lock or power down your phone, it was a night mare for few days.

All the above and the imminent launch of iPhone 6, I had almost made up my mind to wait for the launch and buy the new iPhone. But the new phone looked more Androidsh and to top it off my service provider threatened to hike price if renewed.

All said and done, to get a new phone I would have to pay $400 extra plus the equipment cost over period of 2 years and $180 year on year from there.

That pushed me to look into nexus 5, but after owning nexus 7 I am not a fan of bare bone Android any more.

So, I looked at the last option of repair and resurrect my existing phone, a quick Google search led me to icracked.com, a few phone calls and a day later, all my iPhone problems were fixed and it is working like a champ. The total cost was $65 including the cost of a new battery. Thankfully only 1 part broken and rest of it was just cleaning and removing lint.

Monday, September 22, 2014

How long does it take to sell a Toyota Camry?

00505_lm46Zy4Rcdw_600x450 How long does it take to sell a Toyota Camry? How does 10hrs sound? Surprised, it's true. When we decided to offload our 2001 Camry and posted the ad on craigslist Austin Friday night around 11:30pm, by 12:15am I started getting text messages and emails inquiring about the car. Initially I thought it was a spam and ignored the same (like the chat messages that popup automatically when you enter a chat room). By Saturday morning 8:00 there were 5 text messages including 1 offer to buy the car outright without even trying the car. I started responding to the texts 1 by one in the order it was received, by 9:00AM I had 1 guy was scheduled to come at 10:30 and other at 11:30 and another 12:30.

While the guy at 10:30 did not confirm back, a lady called and asked if she could come and take a look at the car. I was hesitant as there were others who had inquired before her but she was persistent and I decided to give her the 10:30 slot. It appears she was in a big rush and she showed up at 10:00 itself. She and her husband looked at the car inside, outside, under the hood and inside the boot, did a test drive and said they want to buy. They asked for slightly lower than I was asking and when I declined to negotiate, they agreed for the whole price, paid in cash and signed all the required paperwork and we were done by 11:00am.

I must say, a few things worked to my advantage, considering it was my wife's car it was almost dent free barring a few scratches at few places and well kept both inside and out, another thing was that the car was mostly dealer serviced and hence every single detail of the service was posted on Carfax and it made my selling easy.

I am not vouching for service at the dealership all the time, I do have some bad experiences with my VW dealership.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Not so smart Google maps

I have come to rely on  Google maps for everything related to  travel, so much so that I no longer carry my stand alone trusted Garmin gps with me. It works fairly well in most cases but did utterly bad in one case. The recent example was when Google maps was showing my destination to be in the middle of an elevated freeway, while my actual destination was on the access road of the freeway.

Made me think about the addressing schemes, if the address is something like xxx on yyy freeway, then can I really blame Google for asking me find my destination on an elevated freeway. Another possibility is that the address of the destination existed and the freeways had a make over and became elevated to add more roads underneath. At which point, may be the address ought to have been updated to reflect the change in road schemes but didn’t for some reason, Again benefit of doubt Google. But considering Google is smart and it’s applications like Google maps are one of the best it should realize the destination can't be on an elevated freeway. Yes, I tried both Android and an iOS device with the same result.

All the above being true, the irony was, the blue icon for destination was showing the right location (on the access road) using which I used to reach my destination by manual navigation but the automated routing was telling me to jump off the freeway.

I think its the case of not so smart Google for once :).  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Who discovered America? – satire

They say Christopher Columbus discovered America, I disagree, I think it must be a Kannadiga who first discovered America and Columbus re-invented the same. Here is my argument :)

There is a proverb in Kannada “ಪಾಪಿ ಸಮುದ್ರಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋದರು ಮೊಣಕಾಲು ಉದ್ದ ನೀರು”, loosely translated a sinner cannot commit suicide even when he goes to the ocean for the ocean level never rises beyond the ankles. The ankle may be a oversight and they probably meant the knee.  They say proverbs have deeper meanings as they arise from people’s experiences. So, if you think about it at some point in time some “sinner” must have tried to commit suicide by drowning in an ocean or sea and unable to do so for the water never became deep enough. Can you think of 1 sea where it is possible, Gulf of Mexico where you can keep walking from the beach and rarely see a dip in sea floor level :).

So, Kannadigas knew Gulf of Mexico and hence knew America :)  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shame on you Bangalore

The recent incident of rape of a 6 year old kid in a private international school (VIBGYOR High School) has made me lower my head with shame. The incident happened on July 2nd, reported to police on July 9th or 10th and media leak on July 17 or 18 and first arrest on July 21. The incident has bothered me at multiple levels and raised more questions than I can answer. To start with

  • The 6 year old kid was sent to a dark room as part of the punishment for mischievous behavior. What behavior entails a dark room punishment and who will be outside the dark room guarding the room?, did the parents of the school knew such punishments existed in the school, if yes why did they not raise a voice against such things? I asked some of my friends and they were totally unaware that such punishments existed.
  • Lets say for a second the punishment was justified, was it not time bound? who went back to fetch the kid from the room? didn’t she notice any abnormalities with the kid? what about the damn teacher who ordered the punishment did she not notice anything strange with the kid?
  • The incident got reported to the police almost 10 days later, and the media got a whiff of it a few days ago? why was there the delay from the parents to contact media, would they have expelled your kid from the school? to hell with it let them do, who in their right mind wants to send their kid after such incidents back to the same school again?
  • The parents thankfully for once gathered and protested against the school and the funny part within a day of the protest the police arrested the first suspect. Is the government/establishment sleeping, does it need people to get to the road before it can take any action?
  • A few incidents happen in UP and our honorable union Home minister and Women’s affairs minister make statements cautioning the government of UP, what about this one?, where is Rajnath Singh and where is Maneka Gandhi, doesn’t the lower states exist or they will only comment if the number of MP seats is more than 50?
  • The accused was dismissed from a school for conducting similar activity back in 2011, didn’t the VIBGYOR school do any background check or at the least ask the previous employer as to why he was dismissed.
  • For the accused to reach this level, it has to be premeditated. I am sure there were warning signs spanning over the 3 years he was employed there which the school/teachers/staff completely ignored.
  • The solution from the government is CCTV cameras in every school, how does this help? only our home minister can explain.
  • The parents protest also brought to light another incident in a different school a few years ago. Why did it not go to the media?
  • For the gathering/protest only 4000 people showed up, again another shame. It was a Sunday and was a peaceful protest why did not more people join the protest.
  • I almost forgot “thank you” supreme court for commuting the death sentences of the  accused in Delhi rape case.
  • At some level I think we need to make an example of a few convicted rapists and it has to be done at an extremely fast pace. What does it take to do this? Mr. Modiji we have elected you with great hopes, I hope you will live up to our expectations. 

I have nothing against the school but if the school says they have a special coaches for skating and bicycling or some such silly things, I would be very wary. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Coca-Cola and car battery

My trusty/beloved VW is touchy about the battery, I think I have replaced the battery more times than the tires themselves in the last 12 years.

Other day over the long weekend it refused to start and no amount of pumping gas pedal would help and I presumed a dead or almost dead battery. So, I had to bring out my trusty jump starter (btw, a good investment than cables) and jump started the car. While doing this I noticed that the presumed dead battery was reading the right voltage (slightly less than optimum) and there was some white salty substance on battery lead. I figured the battery is slowly dying and it will last a few more months.

The weekend passed with me pumping gas pedal every time to start the car and figured this would be the way going forward till the battery completely dies.

One thing that kept bugging was the white salt like substance on the battery leads, I remembered in one of my previous life times someone had told me to pour a can of coca-cola to clean the battery leads. I had never practically done it till yesterday. On the way back from work I picked up a can of ice-cold coca-cola from the vending machine and once I reached home opened the hood and poured the entire can on the battery lead. I was surprised to the see the white thing dissolve away and the battery lead has a slight shine to it now. The biggest bang was when the car started without me touching the gas pedal.

ps: There is no significance for ice-cold and I am sure a room temperature coca-cola would have done the trick too but that would have meant I buy a 6 pack or a 12-pack.

pps: If interested in trying please make sure the car is turned off and ignition key out :)     

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A case for earth worm composting

It all started about 2 months ago, I was a skeptic then and not sure how it will all work out and what would it take to accomplish successful vermicomposting system. All my skepticism went away last weekend when I saw this in the compost bin. Rich beautiful and earthy smelling vermicompost. 


It was fun to watch all the greens (veggies,fruits) and browns (paper, cardboard and shredded paper) turn into fine compost. I did use it up in the garden and will have to wait a few weeks before I can assess the impact on the garden. I admit this is the fastest way of generating compost, any other technique or method would have taken a few extra months (minimum 8-12 months).

Previously I used to recycle the news paper (1 or 2 free ones I get in a month), now they are part of my worm bin, same goes to the cardboard cylinder in the center of the paper rolls, last week started to use pizza boxes too.

Having reared them for close to 2 months. I have learnt a thing or two about them and figured it would be a good time to share those insights. 

  • I use the worm factory to keep these worms, the instructions that come with the bins is fairly self guiding 
  • I have the setup in a corner of our garage and that’s where they have been since the day I began.
  • The one thing that would become a common sight in your house will be the fruit fly trap (rice vinegar + few drops of dish soap and nothing else)
  • Never had any bad odor coming out of the bins
  • They prefer a 1:1 ratio of greens to browns, other methods need 1:3 greens to browns 
  • They prefer to work autonomously and don’t like being disturbed by raking around or aerating around”
  • Unless there is a problem (bad smell) don’t go poking around the bin, at least not frequently (once a few days is very frequent)
  • There is a work around to reduce the flies like adding brown to cover the green at the very beginning but trust me they wont go away completely but will surely reduce the flies
  • The worms apparently don’t like the office paper, found it the hard way but they are ok if one combines office paper with brown paper (cardboard boxes and so on)
  • No citrus and no pineapples or anything that is highly acidic in nature.
  • Not much time required for setup or maintenance, most of my time is spent in collecting brown material and keep them shredded 
  • They don’t like too much moisture, but this won’t be a concern if you regimentally follow 1:1 for green and brown  
  • As with many things in nature, patience, patience and more patience

Friday, April 25, 2014

The secret is breathing . . . . .

I have been with Art of Living and practicing the breathing techniques taught by them for close to a decade now. By now I have come to understand and experience the value of breathing right, but always found it hard to explain to a 3rd person about the value of breathing and how it can help control emotions and how the secret to most mental ailments like anger, anxiety and stress can be associated with different breathing patterns and how they can be fixed by fixing the way we breath.  

All was true till I heard this show on NPR called 2 Guys on Your Head and the talk was about road rage. In the talk at one point one of the speakers explain “when you are stressed your breathing is shallow and shallow breath is associated with anger, so when in a situation that you need to vent the steam. Take a few deep breaths, relax your shoulders and . . . . . ”.  I don’t remember verbatim but this fairly close. I can vouch for this as I have personally noticed at the time I am venting my anger out my breathing very shallow (of course its in hind sight).

If you are interested in learning more about the breath and its modulations and how to lead a happier life. Then contact your nearest Art of Living center and ask them about their happiness program. I am sure its worth your time and effort.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What is the alternative

Every day I open the online portals of news papers like Times of India, NDTV, Tehelka and so on. I find articles again and again repeating why Modi is a bad choice, lets look at them one by one

  • His model of development is fake: Are my friends who live and visited Gujarat and also this article in Forbes about agricultural development in Gujarat wrong and only the congress and AAP are to be believed?
  • He is a fascist, I don’t even know what this means
  • He is for crony capitalism, I thought more and more industries are moving to Gujarat including precious TATA Nano project from West Bengal to Gujarat
  • The infamous Gujarat riots of 2002: come on guys. With supreme court and number of special investigative teams not able to find him guilty. Why should we believe you? are you guys claiming yourselves above the supreme court of India? Also, if you have proof go to the court and prove him guilty and hang him or send him to jail.
  • The encounters of Ishraat Jahaan : Luckily nobody has brought this up and the one portal that was beating drums with this one (Tehelka) has gone cold right after the arrest of Tarun Tejpal and resignation of Shoma Chaudhary. Even here, I am yet to see the CBI implicating Modi or Amit Shah. 
  • He stands for Hindutva: we don’t have a problem if some one says “I am true to Islam or in Hindi mein sacha musalman hoon” or if a Christian says “ we all are true Sunday church going christians” but we always and invariably have trouble to call ourselves Hindus and we stand behind it as though our religion is some sort of untouchable and to be vary of.

Despite all these, lets for a moment say we believe you and don’t want to vote for Modi and BJP. So what’s your alternative

  1. Rahul Gandhi? – Pappu or Shahzada who can’t even answer questions to a TV journalist and give the power back to commit more scams. I think I am tired of this part,
  2. Mulayam Singh Yadav? – the one who says boys are boys and rapes happen?
  3. AAP Kejriwal – he claims he did a sacrifice by quitting as CM of Delhi but I for one fail to understand it and considering he resigned in 49 days don’t have faith that we will stick longer than 6 months if made PM
  4. Jayalalitha? – if we want to have 1re for lunch and dinner all over India then here is the candidate.

I don’t know others who are contesting for the PM ship.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Composting side effect

Had some left over watermelon on the counter top that were left over night outside the refrigerator, unlike the previous times when in my laziness I wouldn’t have bothered to touch it as it wasn’t refrigerated, this time around I tried the melons, found them good and finished them for breakfast.

Sandhya was cutting Apples for Avni and gave me the core, I cut it into small pieces and realized most everything was human edible and the waste was very minimal (<10%).

Wondering what’s the significance of the above 2 stories, long story short we have started a vermicomposting bin at home. Now to the long story.

Last few months when my in-laws were in town and we were bouncing ideas about composting, my father-in-law came strongly in favor of vermicomposting and he had his good reasons. I said sold and bought the bin and ordered the worms from online store. They all are slowly settling down and eating the food scrap we are providing.

Now that we have the bin, I hate to throw anything to garbage pile which can be fed to the worms. The idea was to throw anything and everything that I thought we don’t want to eat towards them. But there is a catch, in this process of throwing anything and everything I am almost filling up the first tray in less than 2 weeks while in general it is supposed to be filled up in a month (over feeding). So, the solution, eat it if I can instead of throwing to worms for compost. 

When we started it was for getting compost for the garden but never thought of this side effect in the process.

ps: there is a big discount available from city of Austin for the compost bins (75% up to $75).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Freedom of expression

Recently Penguin publishers pulled out the book “The Hindu”, by Wendy Doniger. There has been a big media hue and cry over this crying foul. But is there a foul, or is it just any publicity is good publicity.

The book has been in circulation for close to 4 years and I had never heard of this book till I read the news online that its been pulled out. Now I am so curious that I am willing to spend $14 and buy this and give it my time. I am sure there are a few thousands like me.

For the media crying foul, unlike Satanic Verses and such books, the book was not banned by any state government or central government. Just like Dr. Doniger has the right to express her views (right or wrong) so does the agency which filed the case against her. Isn’t that the real freedom of expression.

Also, India are not new to controversial books ex: take any book of Dr. S.L.Bhairappa like “Parva”, “Avarana” or “Sartha”. Each one has controversies built in but the books still exist and people like me buy it and some read and some don’t.

Last but not the least, freedom comes with responsibility one without the other is meaningless.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Story of awareness

It's been a decade since my first art of living course, this is the story of how I got to do the course.

After coming to Austin, I was looking to do some sort of meditation course and was interested to start communicating with the Yogananda's organization. I had already visited them once in LA and had developed a liking for them. Then as a twist in the tale came the illness of a coworker who apparently didn't own a car. As a good Samaritan and free bachelor high on helping people, I had offered to help him with his doctor visits. To my surprise he asked for a ride only once and in that ride he started to talk to me about "doing the Art of Living course" (don’t remember how it started, sorry), me still more mind/ego centered at that time wanted to argue with him and “wanted to be convinced fully” before I took the jump.

So, we talked about this and that and at some point it was getting towards heated one (from my side) and I was determined to prove him wrong (don’t know why) and at point he told me the importance of awareness. I remember him pointing towards the windshield of the car and saying "there is glass here and one should be aware that the glass exists" by that time we had already reached our workplace back and we stopped it there. He even lent me a couple of books to read, which I don’t remember if I read or not.  

It didn't make heads or tails to me then. and took a good long while to comprehend what he was saying about “awareness”.

That was the very first conversation that pointed me to the course and if my memory serves right it took close to a year after this conversation and another interaction with another friend that bought me to the door step. 

Later in the week I came to know that somebody else also offered him the ride for the doctors visit that day but this guy refused all others and waited for me, don’t want to label it and diminish the value.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Few observations from Mr. Kejriwal’s interview

If one starts to write about AAP there is no end, they are just too colorful and wonderful. Mr. Kejriwal, I appreciate you for your dedication, your logical arguments and the way you stand up for your colleagues and defend them at all costs.

I am one of the those who saw your interview on CNN-IBN and also a similar toned one on NDTV (I know, I am jobless). All hail your achievements in the last 3 weeks and lets see what documents you now have in hand against congress that you didn’t get with RTI before and how you will make them sorry for their act.

That said, you kept saying “people will decide what to do, people will run the government and they will decide where the money to be spent and you won’t contest the parliament election but the people will”, in case you are not aware there is an English word for it called “Refrendum” and your esteemed colleague Mr. Bhushan said the same thing but you said what ever Mr. Bhushan said is his personal opinion, you totally disagree with the same and not that’s not the stance of you or the party. Now, I am confused what do you stand for?

Second, we need accountability, suspend the few police who did not do the duty and all these crimes will stop. I agree on the accountability but do you believe we have enough police officers for the population and enough resources with them to prevent all this kind of crimes?

Third, you vehemently defended your colleague Mr. Bharati’s act. Fine that shows you stand by your troops. But few simple things arise in my mind, what was the intent in going there in the middle of the night? was that the only time your minister had? mind you he has been receiving complaints for last few months (before he became minister). if your minister only took the PCR van with him, who called the media?, if according to your comment there were lot of women and drugs in the plain sight, why didn’t any of the folks who complained recorded the same on their camera phone or some such device? Your argument of “they refused blood test”, even in USA to make employment decisions all they need is urine test and not blood test.

Fourth, the drug and prostitution rings cannot run without police help. Agreed on this point, but in the same breath, I for one find it hard to believe that a bunch of Nigerians are able to run such a racket without the help of the local people (Indians, Aam Aadmi), do you agree?.

Fifth, you are now the chief minister of Delhi and please respect the post and stop making allegations like “local police pay bribes to the Union Home Minister”, you even named him by name. If you have proof please come out and publish the same and defame the guy but not without proof. 

Sixth, you comment on police ran away from Mr. Bharati and anything could have happened to him. Last I remember it was you who said no security needed and want to be accessible to people and so on. So, are you saying your government needs police protection now? 

AAP is wonderful, they keep my blog active Smile

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is AAP making a joke of itself

I know I know, I am the one who wrote the post that said “Case in Favor of Mr. Kejriwal”. But in the last few days the acts that the AAP has done seems to make me think otherwise. Here are the incidents

No FDI in retail because people will lose jobs if this happens. Really, do you really believe in this crap Mr. Kejriwal. Please don’t compare US and Mexico to India to make your case for this.

Law minister ordering the police to raid a place which he claims to be a brothel and a drug peddlers place, and he is angry that police did not act according to his whims and fancy to top this Mr. K supports and defends his ministers actions. Really, I am pinching myself to see if I am not dreaming.

The comment from Mr. Prashant Bhushan on referendum in Maoist infected areas about removing the paramilitary forces, again who are we kidding.

The comment by one Mr. Binny for not being offered a ministry in the AAP government in Delhi. Mr. K please keep a tight leash on your party and its members, just because you are Aam Aadmi doesn’t mean there should be anarchy within. 

A foreign woman tourist gets attacked and raped in Delhi and the AAP just like its predecessor/supporter congress blames the way Delhi police is organized (central vs state). Really, don’t you have some other original ideas other than aping your predecessors?

The AAP reminds me of a line from the book Freedom at Midnight in which our esteemed Prime Minister Nehru requests Lord Mount Batten to take control of India and see the violence during partition is quelled, the reason being Mr. Nehru says that he and his fellow colleagues have been freedom fighters and half their life went in fighting and don’t have any experience in governance. 

So, I think AAP may prove to be a revolution that had all wonderful aims and life looked lot rosier when being on other side of the fence and blaming the system. But when you are in the seat of power and have the authority to change, it seems to fizzle out.

In short, they seem like bunch of novices and Delhi is their learning ground. Hope it doesn’t become costly for Delhi and India in general. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Solar Panel on a Canal

Back in the days when I was young, naïve and inquisitive I remember visiting our native village in Karnataka and looking at the big canals that were dug to carry water from the dams to villages and reservoirs hundreds of KMs away. I remember asking some of the elders around me in those days, why can’t we do something to cover the canals won’t the open canal lead to lot of evaporation and sorry I remember vaguely that the cost would be exorbitant to cover the same.

But the new initiative taken up by Mr. Modi of having Solar Panels on the river canals has solved that problem, a cover that pays for itself. I am not sure of all the claims in the article but this is definitely a way forward and progressive thinking.  


Enjoy the slide show here

Friday, January 10, 2014

IMessaging/Text Messaging problem with IOS 7

Over last few of months 2 things happened with some of my friends in terms of their cell phone handsets.

  1. Some of them got fed up with IOS and switched to Android
  2. Some of them got fed up with Android and switched to IOS specifically Iphone 5s

So, what is the significance of these 2 events. For those who do not know, Apple supports something called Imessage between IOS devices (Iphone, Ipad or Ipod) and it introduced this with IOS 5 and it is free. For people like me who refuse to sign up for a text plan it was a good deal. Now we have alternatives like whatsapp and all so it is not so big a deal, but not everybody in my contact list are on whatsapp either.

Now back to the events, because of event 1 I was unable to text message my friends any more and it always came up with “Imessage delivery failed”. In event 2 I wasn’t able to send my friends Imessages, no reason it should not work as according to Apple any IOS 5 or higher devices should be able to use Imessage.

I was hoping Dr. Google would provide answers but they said “Sorry, you are on your own”.  I tried deleting phone numbers of these specific friends and re-entering the same but no use either.

On a final try I deleted the contact of the friend who switched to Android completely and recreated the contact again. And the miracle happened, I was able to send text messages to this new Android friend and at the same time was able to send Imessages to friends who had switched to Iphone 5s.

If you were encountering problems like me and if the above solution works in your case too, will you please let me know?

Monday, January 06, 2014

Case for Mr. Kejriwal

I resisted myself from writing this article but some how I couldn’t resist putting my points across.

To Mr. Kejriwal’s credit, he is the champion of Right to Information Act (RTI) and he along with Anna Hazare started a campaign against corruption and in some sense the whole country united behind the cause. When the political parties did not heed much he took the most democratic way possible and launched his own party called the Aam Admi Party (AAP). In the process he is accused of delineating Anna Hazare and other activists whose charisma he is accused of using for his benefits. On his launching the party, I think the choice was simple, either be on the sidelines and keep protesting and hope someday our elected leaders would listen or become the leader and show how its done. Most everybody was with him till then.

Now after Delhi elections where in which his party won majority of the seats but not enough to form a government and he formed a government with the external support from Congress (against whose corruption he rallied against). Here many people believe he betrayed, I take a different view.

If AAP hadn’t agreed to form a party then it would have been a hung government in Delhi and a set of re-elections. Considering the inflation and cost of re-election is it really justified to do the same? Now that he has become the CM I think the first priority would be the good transparent governance with no corruption, that’s where I believe we need to give him some time to see how it will work. Life looks lot different when you are in seat of power vs being an activist, the best example I can quote is of President Obama, if people remember he ran first time in 2008 on the notion of “closing Guantanamo prison within a year”, now its been  5 years and we are still struggling to find out how to go about it.

On the other hand I am not ready to give national reins to his hand, for one he and his cadre haven’t proved a thing about anything and Delhi is like their learning ground, will wait 5 or so years before I take that decision. Also, I am worried about his cronies like Prashant Bhushan and his take on Kashmir.

In closing, my take is lets not pit him and Mr. Modi against each other as that’s what the congress government wants and lets wait and watch to see what wonders he can do in Delhi. On a related note, back in 2011 Mr. Kejriwal along with others once shared the podium with Sri Sri and if Sri Sri has faith in him then I for sure am willing to wait and see.