[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Hype and Ridicule

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004


This tiny TV-B-Gone, seems like a no-big-deal gizmo has created too much noise in the internet. A tiny key-chain remote that switches off any TV. Simple is it? But why the hell is it selling like $100 Sony playstation? coz of nerds! I am pretty sure not a single soul is buying to use it with their own TVs, but Americans perhaps are so tired of TVs everywhere that they wanted to switch off every TV. Period. Imagine, hanging out silently in an airport, but turning off every TV or turning off all those 200+ big screen TVs in bestbuy all in one shot and nobody knows who did it? Its getting crazy Dude!

If thats one extreme, check out this less insane Listmania extreme from a Amazon.com user. Shiela, an “Ardent Seeker Of Oddities” has created this “Top 25 Weirdest Items You Can Purchase Through Amazon“. So much for amazon. I wonder what kind of weird things will come out such a list from eBay.

Roy’s Podcasts

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

You might have read in one of my earlier posts about how blogs are rewriting the fate of modern media, I mentioned a word about Podcasting.

Roy has a working model for Podcasting. I dont want to spend any more word to explain what it is, besides saying if blog is for reading/writing, podcasts are for listening/talking.

pdocast…a new buzz in world of open media.

Check Independent Content Networks with Roy Walter. You may remember Roy from my earlier blogs here and here.

If we believe what everyone is saying, Podcasting concepts will change the way we will listen to radio and watch TV in future. The next evolution of On-Demand for everyone, by everyone.

However, this is NOT a earth-shattering concept by any means. Audioblogs mushroomed all over early this year. I remember Arun started using audioblogs to entertain readers with his mimicry. Podcasts is pretty much a similar concept of making your own MP3 versions of anything ( talk shows, music shows, music, radio shows, teaching lessons etc ) and combine it with a RSS feed. Explore the world of podcasts and see for yourself if its worth the hype.

The four Neuroses

Monday, November 29th, 2004

H B Gelatt articulates four neuroses that stifles our ability to make confident decisions about future.

Future Phobia, Info-Mania, Perspective paralysis and Reverse Paranoia.

I am probably a possibilist, but I for sure have the Info-mania disability. Always feels like I can’t get enough knowledge. The lesson for me from Gelatt : Genuine Igonorance. So I am going to be learn to be genuinely ignorant of world wide knowledge from now on!

When I was there, I also read this insight on metaphors for future. Read it and then identify yourself with one. For me, I believe future is a great ocean and I hope to be a good navigator treading the uncharted waters, of course, barring any typhoons!

btw, If I had truly learnt Gelatt’s first lesson above, I shouldnt have stayed back to read the second one and more on his website. Isnt it?

Yet another WOW car ad!

Monday, November 29th, 2004

This new viral ad for Citroën C4 is truly wow. Made with similar animation techniques from Finding Nemo, this transformer ad is sure to be a fire around the world wide web. I guess the makers deserve kudos for thinking creatively and of course, making it look close to real.

wow car ad

Read more about the ad and how the made it..here

Watch the ad here or here .

Did you miss the famous Honda Accord Ad that made big buzz in the online world? Oh, then, you should sure see it. Its mind boggling when you start thinking about how they could have made it. Watch the Honda ad here.

My take on blogs

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

apple store
Arvind and Ranjini finally chose to stay back, thanks to the snow in Mid west. So we hang out this thanksgiving all by ourselves. Being next door to one of the biggest malls in new jersey, The Bridgewater Commons mall, we spent a day long shopping. 99% of that was window-shopping 🙂 and 1 was real. We stopped by the new hype-shop Apple mini store. Mesmerised by the store, products and its crazy shoppers (if one in 10 buy something, apple will make millions, that was like the crowd there), to buy a iPod. This classic gizmo has a fantastic user interface and pretty good stereo headphones. I am writing this blog as I enjoy this melody by Babul Supriyo from Hum Tum, beamed into my external speakers directly from the iPod.

With some time to spare today, I set out to clean up my yahoo email. I had close to 1000 emails ( never deleted!). I found this email that I sent to Subha, my friend and columnist at The Hindu. A small part of this email later made it to the this article she wrote on the The Hindu about blogs.

Since I gave my take about Blogs on that email, shouldnt it ideally be in its own blog? Here you go. This is the reply to an email I got from Subha asking for my take on Blogs. I have left it unedited and I still agree with most of what I wrote 3 months ago.

So I see you have been infatuated by the world of Blogs. I would think it was inevitable. I am not sure how much you are aware of this virtual world of blogs or weblogs as they are also called, but it has morphed into humungous proportions and millions of new weblogs are written everyday.

Blogs mean different things to different people. As you said, one form of it is to write about everyday happenings so everyone, including friends and family can get to knwo about it at their liesure. This is bit easier than sending an email and the major difference is it is all stored in a sequence of posts and can be read one by one by anyone anytime. Writing comments is nothing but replying to emails, except that comments stay attached to the note to be available for reading afterwards. So its again all-in-one-place idea.

To many, Blog is nothing but a place to write about “anything”. That in itself is very powerful. Remember “anything” within quotes mean NO RULES, NO BOUNDARIES. All of a sudden I can write a blog about how painful it is to wait for 10 mts outside a first floor of my four floor office elevator with 3 others and then realize as soon as we get into it, each one of us press each of the four floors and I have to go 4th floor! That sucks! See this doesnt mean anything. Not to me, not to you. But may be to someone somewhere someday, into distant future, out there. He or She must have had a same experience or a similar one and it triggers something in his/her mind. So that simple three liner stands to be of some purpose. How long does it take? 2 mins. What does it cost? nothing! Whats the purpose? I have written down something that it will remain forever for whoever wants to use it for whatever! You get an idea?

For some, Blogging is means of Private Journalism. They write religiously about news / events / entertainement / media etc. There is scores of such blogs. The attractiveness in it is it is personal, fresh unedited) and amateur and so is expected to be more closer to the truth than the so called main stream media which goes thru 10 different reviews and editorials. No wonder people like reality shows these days, same concept isnt it? unscripted? real? live? personal? There is also an argument that blogs could challenge main stream journalism. But it is just that. It will remain as a challenge but can never beat it. Becoz 90% of blogs inturn depend on mainstream media like newspapers, magazines and tv for their source. Only 10% of the bloggers are journalists themselves in its traditional sense. You could still find 10 local fanatic bloggers from 10 different states and use those 10 blogs to read fresh first hand news about the states. But it might be easier to go to Hindu after two hours to read all of them at once. So my take is becoz of blogs very virtue, which is decentralization, its going to be difficult take over main stream media all together. Which is why, these geeks have come up with somethign called Aggregators and RSS feeds. They are softwares that you can install or aggregating website themselves, where you can subscribe to different blogs and get a direct feed from them. So instead of visiting 10 different blogs everyday, these aggregators can collect them on behalf of you and read them from one place. Cool isnt it? So thats how the industry is bulging out. Time will say if its just a hype or will be a real threat someday.

As for my blog, I started it way back 2-3 years ago. Just for the fun of it. I still do it for the same. I write whatever I think of. I dont care who reads it who comments on it. I just do it. It helps in my writing and also makes me to think. The greatest drawback of blogs is that the content may be good, but the quality may not be always good. Since the writing is more like an extempore, you dont think about the words and sentences in depth to write a great piece. For that, I need to be skilled anyway isnt it? like you guys are!

Blogging is infectious and viral. Most blogs link to other blogs. So once you fall into it, you can go on reading so many things and never realize its end of the day. Perhaps, the freshness and naiveness in the writings make it addictive. Some bloggers use it to let their heart out. It makes them feel better as there is nobody to say right or wrong. Infact, there is no sense in arguing about correctness in one’s blog unless they directly refer to someone or something. You write it and let it go. Most of them dont even care to read it again.

The more unknown the person is the more you tend to like their writings. The more farther the person is writing from the more you feel closer to that person. I have made a bunch of friends thru just blogs. Just for it, I believe its worth it. Plus, everyone get to know who I am, what I do, and what I care for. If not for anyone else, these blogs are going to be there just for me, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, to read and relive it. Thats why I named and tagged mine so.

All of the above is MY OWN VIEWS and the beauty is someone else might give a different view. Take them as you feel its value as. I think I have become talented in one thing becoz of all this, I can keep on writing some crap until end of time 🙂 I should learn to stop!

Eventually, about 4 lines of what I had written to Subha made it to the Hindu article! Yet another reason to read blogs for real news, real views and real reports; I heard in NPR a couple of days ago that more russians and ukranians in US (and perhaps all over the globe) learn about the political drama unwinding there thru Blogs written by locals witnessing it live from their windows!

Ukraine elections thru the blogosphere : Ukraine Revolution, Ben in Ukraine, Fistful of Euro’s, Periscope, Kumbaya, Ukraine, Russia, Europe, the US, Oh My!, Teksty and From our man in Ukraine – all termed “well-informed” news!

Enterprise Architecture Blog

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

Firms are focusing on architecture at enterprise level. Application level architecture has always been a focus every since software development existed, but a macro level architecture concepts and a special focus on it by an independent team has gained momentum only in the last few years.

While there are tons of books to read on this topic, this blog “Thought Leadership from an Enterprise Architect” by James McGovern, an enterprise architect at Hartford Financial, is a worthy read if your related to any type of software architecture.

Happy Thanks Giving!

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

The next days two days (four in all) will be marked with chaotic travel and outrageous shopping. Close to 10% of US population si travelling in the next four days so we chose to stay put. Arvind and Ranjini will be driving down from detroit to visit us and that might be one heck of a long 10 hour drive tomorrow especially with rain in the forecast. With harini working on friday, we may head out to new york city to catch up with her after work and hang out there for the rest of the evening. If so, it will be almost after three months that i will be visiting the great city, though its only a flash 40 minute drive from here [with traffic triple that]

When everyone is scrambling thru catalogues for thanksgiving under-$400 PC deals, I am going to clean up my old Compaq Presario PC that has been sitting around idle ever since I moved this site from my home to TCH. Why clean up? That beloved PC will be donated to the local church whose computers were stolen recently according to a notice in our coffee room requesting PC donations for the church. I thought it will do some good to church community instead of simply dusting up and eating my desk top space. If you are in US and interested in donating your old computers, here are your choices.

Another Byte They refurbish old computers and distribute them to those who need them, including Indian reservations in the Southwest.
Share the Technology They salvage used computers, repair and upgrade them, then donate them to nonprofit organizations, schools and people with disabilities.
World Computer Exchange They give new life to your donated computers and connect poor youth in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to the Internet.
National Cristina Foundation Donations of computers, software, and peripherals are distributed to people with special needs.
Computers for Kids They upgrade old computers and distribute them to needy families, schools, and organizations. (Connecticut-based)
Computers for Youth They only accept corporate donations of 50 or more computers at a time. Good resource for companies.

Happy ThanksGiving!

Corruption, India & Hope

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Atanu Dey, a voracious blogger focused on India’s developmental economics, recently wrote a blog on Corruption in India. What he wrote wasnt totally surprising becoz it described something that most Indians are aware of and most likey, experienced first hand. Needless to say corruption is detrimental to any country’s economic and social growth.

The fact that I agree with crowning India as “Largest Kleptocracy” aside, I asked him a question about how corruption really affects economic growth. The shorter version of the question is No matter whether the money is in the hands of one corrupt official or 10 middle-class private employees or 100 poor rural citizens, that money’s got to be doing something isnt it? if so, shouldnt the economy grow inspite of corrupt public sector officials (including those in the higher esteems of “Politics”). The question may seem stupid and answer may seem obvious, but I wanted to know exactly how?

Atanu replied with this post pointing to this World Bank report on Corruption. After carefully digesting the report for little more than an hour, I get the essence of corruption’s economic consequences as follows [There is still some piece of my question left unanswered by the report, but partially answered by a subsequent comment here] :


– distorts the composition of government expenditure [Govt officals allocate more funds into sectors where they can get more bribery as opposed to sectors which may really need funds: Defense spending vs Education or healthcare spending ]
– reduce economic growth by lowering incentives to invest [less new business so less new jobs etc]
– lowering the quality of public infrastructure and services [When part of budgeted money goes into bribery, the other lesser part forces the quality of infrastructure & services to be compromised]
– decreasing tax revenue [more illegal activity, less legal tax to govt]

In India, corruption has already become deeprooted and is accepted as a norm. As the report points out once corruption has become ingrained, it is very difficult to get rid of and the only hope is forceful reforms from top to bottom. A forced reform is something highly difficult to even get accepted at the Indian politics, much less to be implemented consistently nationwide. [It may be possible as chidambara did with VDS the last time around]

On the other hand, for most citizens bribing gives them predictability and in most cases, accountability. After paying Rs.1000 for a passport atleast they know they will get one for sure within the agreed time frame or know who to ask for it, instead of waiting for few months on the Rs.50 regular service where there is nobody to question when no passport arrives.

Eventually, all answers point to only one remedy : Education. That I truly believe is necessary[but not sufficient]. Basic education should(will?) empower our rural masses to escape out of fateful poverty. And it will be decades before we see any results. But the call for action is to act today. Atanu’s answer to this is RISC[A growth model for India’s rural economic development : Read in detail here]. Quiting his day job in California, Atanu is out in India, working with few others[Rajesh Jain, Suhit Anantula, Reuben Abraham, Anand Chandrasekaran and others ] trying to implement his RISC model (addressing the delivery of basic education piece) that could someday rewrite India’s rural mass’s destiny.

What can Internet do for you?

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

No, the title is incorrect. Think, what did you do for Internet? If you are like me, wondering what we are doing in the internet economy besides watching it, as it booms, here is two more reasons for you to ponder more. These are just two examples of why we should get started now and do it instead of just dreaming it.

Live-Shot.com, may sound like a porn website, but hang in there, it isnt. It represents a latest innovation in internet. Live-shot.com offers the world-wide users a place to hunt in real time. If that sounds ridiculous, you better go and check it out. For a meager, $5.95, from the comfort of your desktop, you can control a live rifle, of course,with the help of high-speed, high-resolution camera, and hunt in a free ranging texas ranch for sheeps, antelops, hops( and much more in future) and also have them shipped to your home! Initially, I couldnt believe it was real much less legal. Until the Texas state goverment and federal goverment writes new laws to protect anything like this, it is absolutely legal and yesterday in NPR, i was told that this website and few others in such business are making hay big time.

This second one is lot more innovative and promising. eMachineShop.com is a website where you can design and order your own parts. Virtually any parts for heavyduty machinary to door knobs to tiny camera parts. Note the word design. While tons of web sites sell parts, this is perhaps the first one to offer you to design your own part right there in their website. The slick idea is not without its challenges. Its indeed great idea to offer industrial-scale design online but how could you manufacture practically anything that users could design on-the-fly online? With just few employees out a small New Jersey office, this website envisions to accompolish that by contracting to manufacturers around the world (think China). While the idea is far fetching, the business is already flourishing according to this USA Today article.

The more I read such stuff, the more the question pops up. What can I do for the internet? Miles to go before I rest…

Goose bumps with Antartica on HD

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

Saw this specatular documentary on Discovery HD about MIRACLE CONTINENT — ANTARCTICA. The truly pristine atmosphere and the heavenly tranquil of the ice-covered sea provided such a stunning visual retreat that I was in a state of gawp from the moment I switched the TV on.

[Kapitan Khlebnikov, one of world’s most powerful icebreaker expedition ships. Source:Aurora Expeditions]

This russian ice-breaker ship carrying a selected few on-board takes us through some unbelievable views and watching it on widescreen HD ( high definition is a much better video quality than regular TV ) with our dolby surroud sound was just a feast to eyes and ears. I mean as the ship sliced thru tranquil waters and with the wind hissing from all the 5 speakers around me and the NJ weather close to antartic levels at 40F, i had goose bumps on some shots. Right there I replenish all the money spent on HD and home theater. The only appropriate ad in between was for Voom, which was eye-catching too, made me think if i should get that as well [Voom, is another satellite dish provider, like the Dish Network that we have, but Voom is no-nonsense all HD and only HD, howz is that?. Voom offers 60+ HD channels while we have just 5 or so ]. Come this thanksgiving, HD TV is expected to be the hottest seller and no turning back as all media channels are mandated by US Govt to upgrade to HD quality. [Start watching HD, I bet you will less likely want to watch the regular]

[Ice mountains of the antartic. Source:Disovery]
Engorssed in that rare audio visual experience of Antartica, I learnt a few facts that I have never known before. I knew Antartica was a continent, but didnt know it was fully discovered and mapped just about 125 years ago! One would expect a continent to be made up of countires, but not so with Antartica, which has no countries but exists just as a one single mammoth continent(about 1.5 times size of US). I never gave a thought about who has rights over that continent or rather who owns it?. Apparently, its owned by NONE. The continent has been dedicated to science!!! Its governed by an international treaty signed by 20+ countires who camp out there just for exclusive scientific reasearch. A real treasure for earth scientists and environmentalists. [I was delighted to see India among those few countries having a research stake in the continent 🙂 )

On Demand TV Ripes

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

Lead by this hint from Rajesh, I hit this recent news CNN article about RipeTV. Having experienced Comcast On Demand for a year when we lived in jersey city, this news isnt totally surprising. RipeTV should just be on more to the host of video programming choices available in Comcast On Demand for consumers. For free, Comcast was offerening everything ranging from short independent movies to internation fashion shows to exotic travel guides via On Demand. That means, just before our planned vacation to Costarica, we could turn to Comcast On Demand and select the travel guide for Costarica for a on-time pre-vacation experience of whats in store, all at the convinience of our living room. We will also welcome the targeted ads for costarica’s local restaurants and shopping centers placed in these guides coz they make more sense for someone visiting cosatrica.

But the last statement from RipeTV on that news article turned my attention:

And eventually, if the service takes off, the company wants to solicit the audience to create programs for RipeTV. “We want to get to the point where the audience programs the content,” Magnussen said, “so we’re the eBay of TV networks.”

As I expressed my excitement in previous post about how more and more common people are creating content(audio/video/written) for modern media, RipeTV and others will naturally want to be eBays, Yahoos and Googles of Citizen’s content.

Blogs are redefining modern media

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004

Its been a while since I have bragged about blogs. The last week has been pretty interesting both at work and off it. At work, I have started an internal blog, that i have been trying to introduce to our team as a knowledge sharing tool. Though it hasnt been completely welcomed and embraced yet, its being looked at with some excitement while I remain the only person to contribute to that blog. Its a pure technical blog and completely internal so unfortunately i couldnt share it here with you.

As part of my research on this initiative at work, I came across this insightful interview with Jeff Jarvis, to who some refer as ‘Blogging Media Guru’.(His profile looks impressive indeed). Infact, I should say Jeff is the one who really brags about blogs, I am no where close to it. He seems to be a true evangelist and visionary when it comes to comparing blogging and the rest of the media.

I am overjoiced by the following comments that Jeff makes in this interview. These are really future looking statements, but from watching the blogging community explode, i am fairly certain that he is right.

Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will. Today they are challenging and changing media — where bloggers now fact-check every big fellow’s ass — but tomorrow they will challenge and change politics, government, marketing, and education as well. This isn’t just a media revolution, though that’s where we are seeing the impact first. This is a chain-reaction of revolutions. It has just begun.. As more and more common people start blogging their opinions, and million others reading them to get real views (and eventually persuaded) , I think we are witnessing a making of a revolution in modern media.

The means of distribution are getting cheaper and faster: broadband will soon be part of the public infrastructure like roads. …We dont need slots on a cable network with big clearance to be seen/heard by millions; it gets there through the open media.. Thats like saying, you pay tax, you get broadband. Thats just the gateway into the open world. You dont need to beg bigname studios to make and run your own movies(iFilm, TriggerStreet, ProjectGreenLight, all free!!!), you dont need to be a big writer/columnist to be heard/read(4,686,481 blogs, 5 posts per second), you dont need to be a radio jockey to host your own music show or talk show (podcasting, Transom). Its all becoming open-for-anyone media, all at the click of few buttons from your desktop. If you are creative and have a nice way of saying it, there are dozen ways to say it clean and loud, and millions of citizens across the globe are waiting to read/see/hear/witness it.

Finally Jeff says “The big media is competing with people who are doing this for free just because they love it.”. Yep, he is referring to you and me. Dont we love it? Oh, if you arent yet blogging, please do.

Incredible Jana!!!

Saturday, November 13th, 2004

Inspired by Finding Nemo and Pixar reputation, we saw ‘The Incredibles’ last night. The movie was good enough but no where close to Finding Nemo. The premise was pretty creative : After all, super hero’s also have their own life, family, kids and a day to retire 🙂 I laughed out loud on some funny scenes but mostly the movie was dragging ( proof : harini slept off for most part ). My take : Its not worth the $10 a piece theater trip, a $3 blockbuster trip in about 3 months would suffice 🙂

Incredibles was definitely watchable by all means, but this afternoon, we were tortured by a tamil movie : Jana. If ajith is trying to say from the movie that he wants to be a super star, then i only pity him. The movie, an exact shameless rework of Badhsha, is not even worth the $2 rent. Total utter criminal waste of time, money and resources!!! Badhsha was a genuine movie that fits Superstar’s calibre, but Ajit as Jana, as an ultimate dada of Mumbai? Comes nowhere close poor chap, diehard Ajith fans may make the theaters look full but I will honour that with a thousand farts!!!

Puerto Rico – part 2

Saturday, November 13th, 2004

Part 1 is below here:

Continuing from where I left: On Saturday afternoon, the wave runner session ended five minutes ahead of the 1/2 hour schedule as I finally realized that Harini was really pleading to get off the water. Tanning was the last of the things we went to a sunny state like Puerto Rico but lying in the sun was the only sensible thing to do there. Lying there after the salty dip, we literally got broiled as the Caribbean sun was unbelievably blazing. (It will take a couple of months I guess to get back to our original complexion, we both came back pitch dark).

Choice of food was very limited within polimonos island and any choice for vegetarian food must be least expected there. In addition, these all-inclusive resorts charge twice or even thrice the normal price tag for even a pint of anything eatable. They also make paying for it less painful by allowing us to chargeback everything to your room so you will never realize how much you will be surprised at your final bill at checkout (we were bit cautious after we realized this from the second day) You have no choice anyway but to just keep charging it back to your room. Finishing the lunch with whatever we could get in the only restaurant there, we returned to the resort at around 4.

We headed out shortly after a shower to drive to a popular shopping area in Old San Juan, which should have been an hours drive from Fajardo. Back in the lobby, one of the hospitality girls warned us about the traffic on a saturday evening into San Juan. But we underestimated it citing new jersey and new york city traffic is much worse. A big mistake, within 15 minutes we were stuck so bad that signals go from red to green to red and we weren’t moving a single cm. After a criminal waste of our precious vacation time, halfway in that traffic we decided to turn around and return. Harini was bit hungry ( you sweat everything you eat. Besides, as most star resorts, we were given less food for more 🙂 ) so we decided to get into a Subway that she spotted at the next strip mall. Although we suspected that they might not speak English, we didn’t expect them to be puzzled when we said we said ‘One veggie delite please’. She had no clue what we said and smiled at us and stared at the lady at the billing counter. No one could understand what exactly we wanted. It was so difficult to even explain her by pointing to the menu that we wanted “no meat”. Thankfully a lady next to us in the line helped us as by translating it to them.
Traffic driving back was much better so we got into some local roads to get a sense of the country side of puerto rico. It was already dark and we couldn’t really see much farther than the street lights as the roads curve a lot in the hilly country side taking us up and down from town to town. Another startling difference to US life, people hang around in groups in front of shops, parks and houses. You hear loud Latin music from some where as we drove slowly with our windows down but locals drive reckless even on such narrow and slippery roads. About 10 miles into local towns, we felt it as not a good idea to be lost during that time of the day. Harini reminded me of a similar unplanned drive that we took when we were in New Mexico where we completely lost our way. Deep into the deserted mountains of New Mexico, we were running very low gas and not even a single soul was to be found much less a gas station. We were extremely lucky to have reached one just in time when the gas was almost over. Recollecting that experience and ensuring that there is still half tank left, we drove back to Highway 3 to the known route to Wyndham.

After finishing dinner at the pool side restaurant at the resort we decided to wrap the day little early as we had already planned for the next day to visit the Culebra island, a very famous island 20 miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico. A lot many people and web sites said that not visiting Culebra would be an mistake(Why would we do that when this probably is our only trip ever to PR )


The public ferry next day was at 9.00 am and we had to drive for about 10 minutes from the resort to reach the fajardo public ferry marina. Not to take chances this time with the PR public ferry system and traffic, we left early and reached the marina at 8. Locals around the marina apparently rent their front yards for parking during the weekends during which we learnt that most of the Puerto Ricans camp out to Culebra for day picnics. Parking in one such local guy’s front yard, we joined a line to buy tickets. The ticketing area and the line resembled our Chennai managaram’s bus stand and train lines with zigzagged steel rods under asbestos sheets. As in India, more than a few people crowd before the counter sticking their heads and forearms into it. The crowd included variety of people including a lot of tourists from US, but most of them had packed their own bags of food, water and of course, crates of Beer. The waiting area was very much thrid-world style with trifling dwellers screaming in multiple tones trying to sell lotteries and bottled water. The ferry departed sharp at 9 for a 2 hour ride. The ocean was roaring with beauty and the splashing water from waves were adorable. Admiring this and many tiny islands (just few yards by length and width with a couple of palm trees in the middle; I am sure we have seen those in movies and posters, it was cool seeing them in real ) on our way, we reached Culebra around 10.45.

Walking down from the ferry, we had no idea what to do. Its a reasonably big island that you cant just walk around to see everything. Exactly when we were wondering about what to do next, some locals marched in asking us something in Spanish. After I said, ‘No Esponala’, he said, ‘Taxi to Flamengo?’, We said ‘Yes’ and followed him. We saw a bunch of mini buses wooing tourists for a $2 ride to Flamingo Beach (which we were later told by somebody as the world’s second most beautiful beach; First is in Hawaii it seems). Few minutes and we reached Flamengo. Walking past the vegetations in front of the beach, we were welcomed by the breathtaking view of the beach. It was truly a spectacular with greenish rich mountains on either side and crystal clear water and foamy waves. Surprisingly, there were just around 100 or so tourists there. The mountains surrounding the ocean were all so admirable definitely God must have taken time to create such a beautiful place. I was reading the history of Culbera and apparently the tiny island was used by Pirates in past as a hideout. So the island became notoriously dangerous for anyone to visit and hence was least inhabited among the carribean islands. Even today, there is no shops, no fancy bars or restaurants and no big name resorts. There were a couple of tent-style temporary shops in front of the beach selling some snacks and beach wear. I remembered to buy a snorkeling gear before we went deep inside the beach to settle down at a good spot.

Soon we were in the sea playing in the water. As I inaugurated the snorkeling gear, Harini was hesitant again. She was already terrorized by our wave runner experience the day before. She just wanted to get knee deep in the water and sit with snorkeling gear on and just look into the sea from there. But the reeves were a little deep inside (not too much farther but at knee deep water but at hip deep) the sea. Watching me float there and enjoy the reeves, she got excited. After an hour she also learned to float holding my hands and enjoyed the reeves. She got so excited that she started humming a song while snorkeling and in that process drank a lot of water, extra salty water :). She also reminded me of the alabatross poem “water water everywhere but not a drop to drink”.

We had a very good time swimming and snorkeling, looking at the scales on the sea bed, a few colorful fishes and a lot of other strange objects that people left under. Switching between water and sun, we spent a the afternoon there. It was a memorable experience. Some more snorkeling and running around, it was time to return as the last ferry from that island was at 4.30 pm. The return ferry was late by 2 hours and that forced us to hang out at the Culebra marina area watching the local kids diving into the ocean and playing all sorts of catch and run games. A chinese carry out in front of the marina saved us from hunger as we grabbed a vegetable low mien. When we reached Fajardo at 8, the parking lot was locked with a board hanging on the gate that read “Corredo” (you guessed it, ‘Closed’).As expected, he lived in the house right opposite to the parking lot and so rushed in a few minutes to open it for us. We were so tired that a hot water shower only made us feel worse and even more sleepy. Hit the bed early again since we had to start early morning the next day to catch our 9.30 am flight.


Bidding farewell to the beautiful resort and Fajardo, we headed out at 5.45am on monday. Pathetic, we got stuck in the monday morning traffic again. It was so horrible that I was whining all along about it and that we would miss the flight. But some latin God saved us as just about 10 miles away from the airport the traffic cleared and we zipped through to the airport car return in a flash. Rushing to the gate and see people already in line to board the flight, I had just enough time to grab a breakfast sandwich and stuff it into my backpack before boarding.

This time the flight took off right on dot at 9.30 and landed in Newark Int Airport at around 2 pm. Flying back we enjoyed the movie “Notebook”, which we had already seen but couldn’t resist watching it again (Its a good romantic sentimental drama). After we reached home, I excused myself for a nap while harini started planning her usual chores : grocery shopping, laundry, dinner etc

Our experience in Puerto Rico – Part 1

Friday, November 12th, 2004

Its our first anniversary and aren’t first anniversaries supposed to be special and taken seriously? (its got to be if one considers the marriage as successful 🙂 ). As I always do, we were planning for it for almost two months, but it remained ‘planning’ and was never executed! [my greatest virtue (call it weakness or strength) to date is to delayed decision making, put more bluntly, dragging things to the very last minute 🙂 ] But this time Harini was adamant to go ”somewhere” as it was almost a year since we went out for a vacation. The last one was early this year to New Mexico. After bugging me for so many days, and myself wavering all the way from Munich, Germany to Poconos, Pennsylvania, I brought it down to one choice : Puerto Rico(PR). How and Why? It was the farthest sunny place I could go without have to go thru the painful process getting a visa. Puerto Rico(PR) is a US colony and moreover, American Airlines flies non-stop from our closest airport. [I still don’t know who its part of US and still not part of US, Puerto Rico represents itself as a separate nation in Olympics and Miss Universes etc but everyone is a US Citizen there!] .

Even after fixing up the place, I took time till the 11th hour to finalize the hotel/resort. PR isn’t a big country but there is still whole lot of choices on where to stay and on which side of the island nation. For a few days, I thought we were going to stay in a small-time motel in Boqueron Bay on the less crowed south west coast of PR but just the day before leaving NJ, I liked the idea of staying in a full-fledged resort, I booked into Wyndham Resorts at the El Conquistidor Spa & Resort in the city of Fajardo, on the north east coast of PR. pool .Harini took care of every other pre-travel planning from finding things to do, spots to see to packing our clothes and charging our camera batteries. On Thursday, Nov 4th, we reached Newark Liberty Intl Airport around 6.00pm and it was freezing cold and raining heavily (may be couldn’t believe that we were finally going for a vacation :)). After checking in our baggage, we still had an hour before boarding the flight, so we were hanging around the food court area talking to Dana, Nags and grabbing a bite from subway.

After boarding the flight at around 7 pm our flight had to wait at the gate for more than an hour for which the pilot gave some vague excuses (some external startup not working so we are borrowing from other airlines who aren’t working either so we going to our workshop etc…reminds me of a joke Seinfeld gives as a reason these pilot give excuses for delayed take off when the real reason is that they forgot the keys to the flight in their hotel room!!! ). Finally he managed to take off at around 8.30 pm. Just then we learnt Puerto Rico is 1 hour ahead of us (eastern time) and it was a 4 hour flight. After the pleasure of watching the Tom Hanks/Spielberg movie “The Terminal” on-flight ( The movie is OK, worth a home video), we landed in San Juan (capitol of PR) Airport at around 12.30am and after collecting our baggage we stepped into the PR land at around 1.00am. It was warm and humid. Within a few minutes I started feeling the sweat on forehead. Somewhere I read it was 85 degrees.

It felt like we stepped out into Chennai because of sultry and sticky weather. Not only that, people were shouting at the top of their voices(very unlike USA) from one corner of the terminal to the someone in the other corner. The arrival area, just like the one in Chennai, has secured metal rods around the arrival gate and around 100s of locals, at 1.30 AM standing around not letting the each other see anything. All the voices we were hearing were in Spanish. Spanish has a strong emphasis on ‘R’ syllables and I felt almost every word has an R. So imagine people screaming all around you, you only hear ‘CURRR PUR MARRR RROSS PURR JERRR RRRAKK’. Perhaps, someone who doesn’t speak Tamil would also feel the same way getting out from Chennai airport (makes me wonder how it would sound). After waiting for the rental car shuttle to pick us up, we rolled out into the PR highways in our upgraded Chevy Blazer around 2.00 am.

golfThere is probably only one high way, Highway No: 3 from San Juan to Fajardo. After a small mix up trying to understand the Spanish highway signs, I managed to reach that highway from airport. Thank god it was 2 in the morning, there was literally no one on the roads. We drove for about 1 hour lost our way again a little bit at the junction where we had to split for the resort and eventually reached the resort. I believe this resort is one of the biggest and best ones in that area which I certainly didn’t know until I saw this one and a few others around ( All I cared was the rates per night that this one offered and it was under my budget plus the pictures on the Wyndham website looked pretty inviting). It was high up on a hill surrounded by full of palm trees and other tropical plantations. We drove past a golf course on the hills and Atlantic ocean was roaring on the other side of the hill. The combination of the oceanic breeze and the sultry weather was inviting after the chilly nights in Jersey. It was almost 4 am when we checked in and reached our room. Again, we were lucky to be upgraded ( they didn’t have the room size option I had asked for so they had no choice but to upgrade me on to next level ) and we got a ocean view room with a private bar, DVD, Cassette and Music players ( Except for the first and last one, we had no time to use the rest 🙂 ). view The view from the walk-out balcony was truly spectacular, even at the time of the night. The ocean was more noisier now perhaps the world was sleeping, lights blipping far into the ocean from the cruise ships and other smaller islands away from the coast. To the right of the balcony we enjoyed the bright lit night view of the entire resort (We were on the right corner of the V shaped resort). Admiring the ocean view sitting in the balcony for a few minutes, we hit the bed at 4.30.

Sun broke early but we were too tired to realize it, we woke up around 10. and hurriedly rushed to the breakfast cafe as we just read the note on the desk that said breakfast clsoes at 11. Finishing the breakfast with a hot cappuccino, we decided to take a drive around the resort to start with. With sun light, the resort looked much like a paradise. Believe me, it was. The moment we rolled down into the curvy driveways of the hill, I only remembered our “God’s own land” Kerala which is could be compared with this for its tropical beauty. It was beautiful drive amidst the rain forest, the lush golf course and with the line of beautiful beaches on the horizon.

Getting out of the resort and driving into the outskirts of the city of Fajardo, we soon realized that Puerto Rico, though being a part of US is still very unlike US. We noticed dirty roads with garbage all along the curbs and overflowing garbage bins. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying the natural beauty of all the other things. The best was the low-ceiling colonial-style houses, one after the other ( no lawn or front yard very much like what it will be in places like cochin) colorfully painted in pink, green and blue. Yeah, this was strikingly contrasting to how houses are built here in US (almost all in a community look alike). But in PR, there was no uniformity and it looks different but natural.

The previous night while driving from the airport to Fajardo we stopped on red lights watching as no one waited except us. Strange ! We realized much later that after midnight nobody needs to make full stop for the red light !.The roads are designed in the US way with multiple lanes and perfect lane dividers but people just drive in the middle of the road not following the lanes. On another day driving out in heavy traffic, we saw people use the shoulder(not really a drivable lane) as the 4th lane and driving high speed comfortably, the cop included I should also not forget to tell you how prompt and rule binding one guy was. In the middle of an intersection when the light changed to red, he stopped right there, and cars honking big time turn either from front of him or behind :)…….Rules is rules isnt it? no matter where you are!

Back to our first day; Returning back from that late morning drive, we did some shopping for a while within the resort. There were shops all over the place selling beach wear to cigars to art/crafts. While having lunch at the pool side restaurant, we decide to dive into the pool. Looked like everyone in the resort were already in the pool, can’t blame ‘em, at around noon the sun was scorching at 90+. Hanging out in the pool and playing some water games (just between us with the volleyballs and tubes) we came back to our room for coffee time. During the morning outing, Harini already had her eyes on a Chinese restaurant “Chopsticks” just outside a few miles from the resort. So we came back to Chopsticks for dinner. We encountered the real Puerto Ricans there for the first time. No one in the restaurant spoke English. We managed to use some sign languages to ask for ‘No meat, vegetarian fried rice’ and luckily got what we asked for. I don’t remember when the last time I was in a place when everyone around me spoke a language that i didn’t know but this was one little embarrassing and at times, bit scary. As soon as we finished dinner, we said better return back to resort where we know we will be fine. The day was not yet over, apart from those rooms up the hill this resort also had private villas, which were located down the foot of the hill for which we had to take a tram which incidentally was located just outside our room on that floor. So we went down to Las Castle village(Private Villas) in few minutes. That walk on the edges of that island overlooking the sea was unforgettable. It was warm and cozy walking amidst the coconut and palm trees resisting the ocean breeze. After chatting for a while at the ocean front bar there, we returned back to call people in India to take their wishes and also to wish Harini’s mom on her birth day(Its the same as our anniversary). Exactly at 12, we wished each other marking our first anniversary stepping into our second.
Harini by now has already learnt a bunch of Spanish words…how? From the signs on the streets :SALIDA(exit), Pare(stop), Velocidad Maxima(maximum speed limit), Solo(only). With that vocabulary I felt a little better stepping out into the country side. Next day we decided to visit a small island, called the Palominos, owned by the resort where they also offered many water sports and recreational activities like parasailing and horseback riding. We took a 15 minute ferry ride from the resort and reached Palominos. The sun was at its peak at 10 am and everyone were enjoying the sunbath. We found a good spot, that was sunny but still shady and started enjoying the sun and the beach. The water, crystal clear sparkling with sunshine, but still cold enough to keep us cool below the sun, invited us shortly. So we went into the beach and Mr.ActSmart (that’s me!) slammed Harini into the sea (don’t worry just knee deep) :)..she came out safe but was cursing me with fury. Back to the shore shortly, but I am not among the ones who would sit quite and idle for long and I was already take the wave runners for a ride. Poor Harini, innocently agreed, it was all fun until we both got bit farther into the ocean on wave runner. Although she was sitting at the back, once we reached the middle of the ocean ( about a mile into it) she was shouting at the top of her voice as if her lungs will blow up soon and as always, I kept laughing and enjoying the tides hitting them harder and jumping higher every time. (In her own words : I actually felt like being tortured by some devil having fun watch me cry and shout. I was so glad that we hired it for half hour and not the full hour.30 minutes looked like 30 hours of breath taking rollercoaster ride, I took a sigh of relief once I touched the earth). Now when I think about it , I know for sure that it was FUN!!!!(Am not sure if she will do it again thou!:))

The experiences from next two days will folllow shortly and the photos shortly after that [blaming it on me, we still dont have a digital camera, so waiting to develop the rolls!]

[It took both of us four days to write this which is why it got bit lengthier, hope its enjoyable—i am sure we will enjoy it years from now]

The Part 2 of this travelogue is here. [Click]

The travelogue?

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

I am hoping some of few are waiting for us write about our trip to puerto rico ever since i raved about it before leaving NJ. The reason I started with ‘I am hoping…’ is becoz we are indeed writing one heck of a long travelogue from this wonderful experience of visiting a foreign country

what foreign? yes, its a US colony, but really a in and out latin american country, outside of the main airport and few miles from city center, pretty much 9 out of 10 dont know a word in english!.

ok, save all those experiences for the post to come. we have been chiming in together to make one long good blog about the trip, so just bear with us for a day or two.

Stinking Cigar – A short film

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

I have been wanting to write about this short film ever since the movie was made three months ago. Today, the day of famous Hindu festival, Deepavali, perhaps was pre-destined to be day of release for this short (and sweet) film – Stinking Cigar.

Stinking Cigar is being released today for the general public. Directed by the upcoming director, Arun Vaidyanathan, and music by another talented muscian from chennai living not too far from here in the washington area, Srikanth, the movie is a visual presentation of a touchy poem. The film gives a glimpse into the mind of charming Jennifer as she defies everything to win back her mom’s love. With that introduction, I invite you all to watch the short.

stingking cigar
[Click on this poster to watch the movie with a Real Media Player. If you are on dial-up and in India, unfortunately, it might take forever to download. Sorry, we couldnt help you with that]

For those of you who might be wondering what I ( rather we, myself and harini ) have to do with this…becoz of my interests in screenplay and short films ( which is how I got to know Arun in the first place ), Arun offered us a role in making this movie. Though arun, who also lives here in the New Jersey area, christened me as assistant director of the film, we just played the small part of helping out in everything during the making of the movie. That included everything from what an assistant director would do to keep track of every frame shot to what a light boy would do. And I enjoyed thoroughly, learning from every momemt. I could write a really lengthy story about our experiences but to make it short : It was a long and tiring two days of hard work that we hope shows up in the quality of film.

On your part, You could help with ecouraging us by watching the movie and sharing the good things and most importantly, the things that need improvement. Arun or myself will be more than happy to answer your questions, which the film is certain to evoke at least a few.

Anniversary Day

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Bush victory yesterday has only made the mood sober and thankfully we will be away not having to repent too much for it. You never know, four years from now we may as well witness an Arabian Union (UDAS – united democratic arabian states!!!) and a unified korea with their own liras and dollars! Even if Bush has nothing else, he has all the luck in the world up in his ass. Who would have expected him to win citing moral values as central theme! Poor kerry perhaps conceeded because he figured Red Sox winning the world series is good enough for him!

On Nov 6th, we will be married for one year. In retrospect it has been a wonderful journery that we both have truly enjoyed and cherished. We only wish and pray that it will be alike in the coming years. Looking back, I dont think I have compromised or changed anything in the last year except for the time I used to have for all myself. Life now revolves around two and not one. In fact, I have only become lot more lazier than I used to be. Thanks to harini, she has been taking care of herself, the house and the ever demanding me!

To celeberate this occasion, we are leaving on a weekend vacation to a land that I recently read as the carribean island Christopher Columbus fell in love with. To impress Columbus must mean something for he was such a seasoned explorer who must have seen the best of every island in the globe.

ocean view

So we are heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico from where we will be driving east to the coastal city of Fajardo.

Gilligan’s Island at Work

Monday, November 1st, 2004

Friday was a big day in our office. It was the official halloween party day and the entire building was bustling with people constumed up in all colors. The most common theme was ‘To Scare’ but our team chose to stay bit different. A few weeks ago, I was introduced the 70s classic TV series called ‘Gilligan’s Island’.

Original Island

Soon after its first series in 1964, Gilligan’s Island had become a super-duper hit. It began as just another comedy sitcom (comedy serial) where a group of people gets stranded in a deserted island somewhere in the middle of ocean. But soon the characters in the island, the best among which is Gilligan, won the love of every American, especially young adults. I guess, they were so realistic and adorable, everyone loved them inspite of their stupid acts. I am least qualified to write any more than this about gilligan’s island, but I can say from the two episodes that I watched that it was hilarious. Hundreds of websites and fan groups still talk about the show and its unforgettable characters. Infact, TBS is running a new series called ‘The real Gilligan’s Island’, a latest flick perhaps based on the original.

All that said, our team chose to enact Gilligan’s Island for this hallween. Since there are only a 5 or 6 characters on the island, our team soon ran out of any characters for me. Even otherwise, my features arent matching anyone either. I was requested to be a Tarzan attacking the island, but i kindly denied it to avoid a no-constume role!. But things didnt go on thursday and the person whoever was supposed to be the crucial character, Gilligan, had an emergency to attend to. And so now you can guess, the great great myself was rather forced to be Gilligan on friday.

Dressing up like Gilligan was actually very straightforward. He wears a white classic sailor’s hat with a white-collar rugby jersy, a worn-out sailor’s white shoes and a kakhi pants rolled over to his knees. All is cool, except for a one. Gilligan was only 5 foot tall and to match that I have to slice the lower half of my legs! But everyone was kind enough, in the spirit to save our halloween party, agreed to have a 6 ft Gilligan. So I, coming from nowhere, became Gilligan after only knowing about him for a few days!.

Skipper and Gilligan
[The skipper of the wrecked ship smacking Gilligan ]

We rushed to a local clothing store, but the closest to a Gilligan’s sailorcap I could find a was a JLo ( Jennifer Lopez ) ladies cap with jazzy silver chains around it. With the chain removed going in friday, everyone appreciated the cap for its originality!

The crew
[The whole Gilligan’s Island crew at Met including a chimpanzee but not the two chics next to Gilligan from the original picture above 🙂 ]