Thursday, November 1, 2007

Helium Hysteria

We got a late-night-knock-on-the-door-birthday-surprise visit from Sumanth, Supriya, Satish and Amrita. They were on their way back from a Halloween party.










On the topic of Halloween, I went to work dressed up as junkie. I have attached a self capture above.

Kanan and Pradyumna visited this evening and tried on the wig.





Then we got down to business on some helium balloons and had some silly, silly, hysterical fun. Videos below:

video
video

video

video

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spooky!

It was about 8 pm tonight. I was alone at home. Upstairs. Fully focussed on an interesting investigation for work.

Then, I heard someone crashing into the apartment wall. Things fell. There were heavy footsteps running up the stairs. More running. More banging on the wall. My adrenaline surged. I screamed at the intruder, letting him know that I was home and warning him to leave. Then, I slowly walked down the stairs gearing for someone to jump out at me. I opened the apartment door and stepped out. It looked like all that noise and commotion had brought some of my neighbors to their doors too.

I had just experienced my first earthquake!! Welcome to California!!! Happy Halloween!!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

This weekend's barbecue

We hosted a group of our friends yesterday for barbecue. Apart from all the food we grilled, we also got to eat a wonderful cake Ishani baked for my birthday (later this week). It was fun having our smallish living space packed with friends.

Aaron took a bunch of wonderful pictures. I combined those with a couple we took into a video. I was playing around with different soundtracks for the video and found it funny how people look serious when the music is haunting, though the mood was light.

(Music from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, tracks 18 and 11 - Forward to Time Past and Hagrid the Professor)


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eventful Weekend

In stark contrast to some of the recent lazy weekend, this weekend was kinda packed
In other news this weekend, JK Rowling declared that Dumbledore is gay and Google home page turned black in San Francisco in support of the city's Lights out San Francisco. Note, setting the home page black apparently does not save power, particularly on LCD monitors.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Internet People: A crash course on buzz videos

A friend recently pointed me to this cool video called Internet People.

It is a clever compilation of some of the memorable characters in the Internet world. I recognized a few videos, but realized I did not know most of these characters. Therefore, I set about identifying the characters that were called out in this video. I found some funny, some outright mean (and passing as humor), some pointless, but the vast majority entertaining. As I watched the videos, I was struck by the low-tech/low-cost production of most of these videos and the millions of eyeballs that have feasted on them.

My favorites are Evolution of Dance , Ok Go and Lazy Sunday Rap. If you are in the mood for some sillies, may I suggest Peanut butter jelly time, Sneezing baby panda and Tom Cruise kills Oprah!!.

I am not sure if I got the right videos for some of the characters and for some I dare not provide a link (Ishani and I got a shocker of a lifetime when we brought up goatse). It is safe to say that you might want to avoid watching many of these videos at work, particularly the ones I've marked "expletives". But if you are looking to kill some time, or catch up on the events in the Internet buzz world, enjoy!

Dramatic prairie dog
Starwars Kid
Numa Numa
Back Street boys lip synch
Napster bad (expletives)
Winnebago Man (expletives)
Jib jab (sample)
GI Joe cartoons (sample)
We like the moon
Superbowl is gay (expletives)
Ask a Ninja (sample)
lonelygirl15 (sample)
Average Homeboy
House of Cosby
Chad Vader
Lazy Sunday Rap (very very cool!, SNL)
The kid from brooklyn (expletives)
Bubb Rubb
George Lucas in Love
Kramer's rant (expletives)
Myspace movie
Chunk Norris Facts (sample)
Telling it all (geriatric stories)
I kiss you
Stanley Kubrick audition
Leroy Jenkins doesn't listen
Homestar runner (sample)
Grape stomp (mean)
All your base are belong to us
Ok Go (Cool!!!)
Shining trailer recreation
Sneezing baby panda
Dick in a box (explicit, SNL)
Rocketboom (sample)
Yacht Rock (?)
Snakes on a plane (music video, expletives)
Angry German Kid (expletives)
Otters holding hands
Dax Flame (sample)
Bride cutting hair
Steven Colbert roasting Bush (part 1)
Little superstar (and the real one too!)
Lightning bolt
Kelly shopping for shoes
Tom Cruise kills Oprah!! (way cool!!)
White and Nerdy (fun)
K-Fed Popozoa
Washington washington (explicit)
Ashley Simpson unsynched
Boom Goes the dynamite
Lily Tomlin in a fight (?)
Peanut butter jelly time (stupid, hilarious)
Christmas lights set to music (cool!)
Cptn Kirk singing Rocketman
Evolution of Dance (the best)
Chocolate Rain

Friday, October 5, 2007

Google Offsite

A couple of weeks back, I joined a group of coworkers participated in an off-site team event. We hiked in the morning and after cooking and eating lunch we sat around and discussed all things Google and web. As a new member of the team, it was great to hear some old time stories and get some more background on the company's culture and its evolution.



Here is an experimental video of our "brainstorming" session. I was not able to get my laptop to control the camera and shoot time-delayed shots. Instead, I took manual shots over a few hours and made this rough movie.

Did you spot my fancy hat?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Step Children

I am not a hockey fan, don't remember the last time I watched a game. I've followed a great many cricket games, but, I am not sure if I qualify as a fan. Definitely not in comparison to some individuals I know.

The context is, India won the T20 championship, rather unexpectedly and the country has been ecstatic. Among all the press coverage about the celebrations, was an article about how the hockey team was left in the dumps.
While India celebrates the return of the winning Twenty20 cricket team, the country's hockey community feels that it has been passed over.

It recently triumphed in the Asia Cup, but its success did not trigger anything like the wild celebrations lavished on the returning cricketers.
Reading the article reminded me of an incident when the hockey team, after winning the Asian games in 1998,was treated down right shoddy by the authorities.
``I will never let my son play hockey at least for India,'' said Dhanraj Pillay, skipper of the Indian team which won the hockey gold medal at the Bangkok Asian Games, on landing in Mumbai last night.
Why would he? I hear he has mellowed down since and was also honored with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. But the the question still remains, why should he? Why do we watch so much cricket? Why does cricket get all the money and spotlight? Why are we a one sport nation?

I can think of a few reason why we all like cricket:
  • Most of us played cricket as kids, watching cricket let us holds on to that.
  • It is a very accessible game. As a kid, I've played with cricket bats made from the spine of a coconut frond and rubber ball, with lines drawn on a brick wall for stumps. We could play it almost anywhere, no tables, nets, courts etc.
  • All our friends could play - be it 3 or 25 people.
  • India plays lots of games and we win enough games to sustain the hope of the fans.
  • Some of our players are very good and we follow their fortunes and enjoy their skill with the blade/ball.
  • We had to, to fit in.
There are probably tons of other reasons why people like cricket. The question then turns to why don't we like other games enough?
  • We do not have the infrastructure to support other games (tennis, ping pong), and only a few,2-4, can play it at a time. But this is not true for football (yeah, the real one) or kabaddi, for that matter.
  • There isn't much exposure for the other games (TV, press, blogs).
  • There isn't much money from the sponsors. The ROI is higher with a cricketer, with fewer risks. Outside of Bollywood and rare exceptions like Sania Mirza, few individuals are able to convert success into marketable fame.
  • There aren't enough marketed successes.
  • It is a chicken and egg problem.
I do not have my ear to the ground about the latest developments in India relating to support for other games and superstars they've produced. I suppose I am part of the problem!

But, if the national hockey team feels let down after a big victory, well the other sports are the step children, compared to cricket, the pampered brat!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bird's Eye View

It was not too long ago when we as map users had to contend with poor quality maps that took for ever to load. Not anymore.

There are many cool options. Starting with the vastly improved UI, we now have the option of satellite view, traffic info etc. Then Google sent hoards of vehicles around the country to acquire photographs for the street view feature.



That kicked up some privacy concerns as some people found themselves on such maps.

I recently came across this video about Microsoft flying planes around the Europe capturing aerial photos, for better resolution and details than satellite images, particularly the 3D views. Looks cool!



With all this high tech images, it was refreshing to find a tangential piece in BBC about a new book with pictures taken from a kite in India. You can find more pictures from the book (India: A Kite's Eye View by Nicolas Chorier) in his website (under the Edition tab).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ali G, the innovator

During the hike the conversation turned to new product development (I don't remember why). I was reminded of Ali G's product innovation and his attempts to sell the idea to VCs. It is a bullet proof plan, with zen diagram, market size, revenue forecast and all that good stuff!

Would you buy an ice cream glove? How about a hovercraft?

Purisima Creek Redwood Trail

Early Saturday morning we took a hike in the beautiful Purisima Creek near Half Moon Bay. It was a rainy day and getting there through the narrow windy roads served as an apt appetizer for the actual hike. Ishani and I hiked with Kanan, Pradyumna, Kanan's cousin Abhijit, Aaron and Jayita.

The rain provided some hardship for the photographers, but it also accentuated the colors. Many of the pics I took were blurry owing to low light and my shaky hands. You can check out some pictures in the album below:
Purisima Trail

It was a lovely, though wet, 7 mile hike through the woods. We accidentally added some more distance to the trail by going the wrong way for a while before Jayita realized we were supposed to be going downhill instead.

By the time we were done with the hike, we were very hungry for some starch. We found some good quality starch at Pasta Moon Ristorante at Half Moon Bay.

Of the two bay area hikes (the other being Castle Rock), this was the best hike so far.

Sumanth's Birthday

Last weekend we celebrated Sumanth's birthday. Supriya secured some tickets for a fashion show at the Santana Row. After witnessing models strutting their stuff on the walkway, we headed over to Maggiano's for a late lunch.

Sumanth's Birthday Album:
Sumanth's Birthday

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yuvirage

I have not really followed much of the action from the T20 tournament, but Yuvraj's explosive innings changed all that. Did Freddie Flintoff ever regret his jibes more than he (hopefully) did today?


Espressoed

I can't sleep.

After days of curiously observing colleagues at Google going through the steps of grinding, brewing, frothing, mixing and hmm..ing their way to an espresso/cappuccino, I made me-self a cuppa today. The drink was good, the timing wasn't. I dropped by late in the evening to check on something and undertook this indulgence.

Oh well, at least the coffee was good. So is the Tivo-ed Daily Show, with Jon Stewart trippin on OJ and Hillary!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jimmy drops by

This is the last in the series of posts based on images long forgotten in Ishani's camera.

Jimmy came visiting the day before my parents left for India. The happy camper found some good food and a nice new shirt.

He looks happy!

He is wandering about in Europe at this present time, before joining the high octane consulting world in October.

Lady Shri Ram Sports Hall of Fame

The only way I am ever going to get listed along with Arjuna awardees is if I create my own list.

Ishani, on the other hand made it just on her ability to handle the paddle.

On the subject of paddles, I have gotten a lot of grief for expressing an interest in watching Balls of Fury movie. I realize it is a B movie at best, but heck, why not? A ping pong ball on fire seems fun!

And then they left

After about 40 days in the USA, amma and achan returned to India on July 16th.

A packed trip. A full agenda including:
1. Attended graduation in Chicago.
2. Visited NY and DC
3. Taught Minnesotans (a few of them) to make Dosai
4. Travelled 3500 miles across the country by road, visiting tons of national parks
5. Disassembled and packed; Painted, unpacked, assembled

All this on their first trip outside the country!





After spending such a wonderful time together, parting was very difficult.

I suppose it always is.

Another Birthday..

.. a couple months back. We celebrated Achan's birthday.


We also had lot of excellent food that Amma conjured up.

Sumanth and Supriya joined the proceedings.




Ishani baked a wonderful cake, that lent itself well to a lot of feeding. :-)










Move Casualties

It has been a while since we moved, but I just downloaded some pics from Ishani's camera, including some evidence of the move damage. The movers dropped the bed frame and the dishes right in front of our eyes. Of course we could have filed an insurance claim.






Insurance
: Human psychology dictates us over valuing the risk of big losses, ergo, movers insurance.

Inertia
: But then, my laziness dictates the inertia against filing a claim.

I suppose if the damage was significant, it would have been different. Sorry, Flora and Francis, your gift trays were a casualty of the cross country move.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day at Archana and Nishanth's

Irvine was hot!!!

Except for getting stuck in 5 mph traffic for 45 mins on hwy 152, the drive to Irvine was smooth.

With the weather proving too hot for comfort, we stayed indoors for most of the day, except for going out for some food (Yogurt Land, Thanh Vietnamese Restaurant, BJ's) and a walk by the Laguna beach at night.

We did not really have to venture out as Archana made yummy food - chat, pani-puri, pav-bhaji, dum aloo, dal makhni etc., and Nishanth had his barbecue hat on.

Other than that, we sat around and caught up on life, watched India beat England in Cricket and admired Discovery channel on our hosts' 46 inch HDTV.

It was, a vacation.

We left early on Monday to take the scenic route home. Unfortunately, we took the boring parts of the route and missed out on the more scenic routes because of traffic concerns driving out of Monterey bay on the labor day weekend.

We will save that for another time!


Visiting Archana and Nishanth in Irvine, CA

Monday, September 3, 2007

Birthday!

Ishani's birthday was on a Tuesday this year. That evening, Ishani was attending a class and I hung out a bit at Google Dance.

Therefore, later at night we had a mini celebration, just Ishani and I. Slice of cake, single candle and flowers. Happy Birthday!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

New Look

Ishani got herself some highlights!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Optimal Aspirations

I referred to a recent article in the New York Times titled "In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich". The crux of the article being millionaires, who would fall in the top 1% of the economic ladder, feel poor in the valley. "

“Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” he (Mr. Milletti) said.

“You try not to get caught up in it,” he added, “but it’s hard not to.”"

Did you say rat race?

This brought to mind something we discussed in a class in Chicago, an unlikely topic given the cold economist stereotypes - happiness. It was a straightforward concept, people who compare up tend to be more miserable (less happy) than those who compare down.

As I thought about it further, this seemed the perfect recipe for complacency, an ambition-killer. How is one to move on in life if one did not aspire for bigger things? I mulled over it a bit and then put it away in a pensieve.

Reading the article, the first thing that came to mind was, how sad! These guys and gals were quite successful and were still at it after $10 million. Then a friend reminded me that a million dollars is not much anymore, not in the Bay. That was crazy! 10 years back I was earning the equivalent of $1600/year, with no accumulated wealth, but life was good. Today, after two graduate degrees and after landing gainful employment, I have to aspire to be these 1%-ers, who as the article pointed out are after their top tenth and hundredth!

Lest I sound like John Edwards talking about two Americas, that is not my drift. I by no means am feeling poor, in spite of the tuition loans and continued lack of accumulated wealth after 10 years. I feel enriched to have experienced what I've over the last decade and am excited about looking ahead into the future with Ishani. I think I am trying to figure out what to aspire for. What is the optimum mix of ambition vs self satisfaction, pushing for growth vs enjoying the fruits? Who is my ideal role model?

Strangely enough all these questions are only getting me more excited as I foresee myself being somehow not limited by a role model, but being forced to fabricate a way forward as I stumble through life. If you take an uncharitable stance on this line of thinking, you could claim as Lewis Carroll did, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there". I think it is ok not knowing the road as long as one knows the general direction and realize when one has gone too far. I will take up a parallel thought of journey vs destination in another post.

Coming back to the subject at hand, I tell myself I will not be entangled in the scenario laid out in the article. But, seeing that the people in the article are smart, successful people, the challenge seems to be daunting.

The challenge of finding the optimal aspirations.


Top 20!

I made it to the top 20.. well technically it is not me topping the chart, but given that it was named after me, why not bask a bit in the shine of being in the Amazon best seller top 20.

If you have no clue what I am blogging about, check out the Murali sandals at Target. Ishani had her short time of fame, once upon a time, as evidenced by the capture on the right. I got this image from a cached search result. I can't find the sandals anymore on Target - either all sold out or they had difficulty selling it. I think its the latter. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Castle Rock

We set out early Sunday morning to a state park close by - Castle Rock. The drive there was short, and included some *really* curvy parts. We got there by 9:30 am and took on a ~5 mile trek. What started out to be a pleasant, light walk, turned out to be quite a strenuous exercise.

For those who could not join us, check out the album below for the riches in the state park.

Castle Rock

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Goodbye Harry!

It was the Summer of 2001 when I first read J.K. Rowling's creation Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I was not the target audience; I got my book just 'cause of all the furore over midnight lines over the third (or fourth) book. Since then I've been hooked to the series and its wonderful characters.

I have given myself up to the wizarding world and followed it with a muggle's curiosity. Be it the unforgivable curses, the horcruxes, the mirror of erised, quidditch, thestrals, etc. Or the intense characters that betray flaws and demonstrate fierce friendships. As I read through the books, I noticed that interestingly, I still picture Harry to be the Harry from the book illustrations (as opposed to Daniel Radcliffe), but most other characters to be the ones in the movies. Either way, these characters continue to remain with me and my imagination.

So when I received my copy of the final book by mail on the evening of 21st July and after hours of isolating myself from everything, including my dear wife and valued sleep, when I finally got off the roller coaster of a book, I felt drained. That was it! It was finally over, reached a logical and complete conclusion. I realize there will be multitudes of tales in today's web-lore that will pickup where JKR left us. But, the conclusions were so satisfactory that anything else now would seem, for a lack of better word, contrived. I would rather relish what I have by reading it for the umpteenth time and reliving the struggles and adventures.

Given that the illustrated Harry has left such a strong impression, I thought it was apt to put together a short Harry Potter Illustrations video based on the book cover illustrations by Mary GrandPre, with John Williams' Lumos! ( Hedwig's Theme) as the background.


To J.K. Rowling and her team, thanks for your great work. Maybe someday my child and I will have a shared spark in our eyes as we relive these stories.

Till then, mischief managed!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Googler et cetera

The last few months have been rather, let us say, carefree. There is something to be said for having minimal responsibilities. Some might claim that I've been in that state since full time business school. Whatever said, the utopia cannot last for long.

Time to descend to the real world!

I am not complaining, I am excited! Here are a few things that I am excited about:
  • Being a part of the Google culture, being a Googler, and the entrepreneurial brew of the valley.

(while you are at it, you can check out another Googler song)
  • Reconnecting with friends who live in this part of the world
  • The weather!!
  • So many national parks within a few hour radius
  • Great Indian and other food options!
Things that bothers me about this place
  • Silicon valley's redefinition of "well-to-do"
  • I-have-to-drive-to-get-anywhere syndrome, also known as limited public transport options (compared to Chicago, not Eden Prairie)
I am sure these lists will grow over time, hopefully the former than the latter.

Right here, right now, life is good!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Get together at Mountain View

It has been roughly a month since we moved to Mountain View. It was about time to have a get together and meet our neighbors. Ishani cooked up some great food and the guest brought yummy stuff too. We were joined by old friends and new. We had a jolly good time.

Pictures from the evening:
Mountain View get-together

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Road Trip Day 5: Grand Canyon, AZ to San Jose, CA

"Check your engine oil every other gas stop, else you will be walking"

Last day of the road trip: Grand Canyon, AZ to San Jose, CA (Sumanth and Supriya's)

Total distance of about 750 miles.

This was the final stretch on this long drive. By this point, it was all about getting to the destination.

On the road trip, I checked the engine oil ever day in the morning before we started. The car needed oil only at the start of day 2. So, I was surprised when a motorcyclist shouted out the above warning to me about checking oil while driving through the desert; he claimed the oil just evaporates in the heat. Though I was quite skeptical about this message, I heeded his words and was glad I did. The oil level dropped from full to almost empty between two gas stops. We saw a few cars abandoned on the way and wondered if that would have been our fate too...

.. as it happened that was not the case and we made it safe through the cactus, the windmills and cattle farms. Yeah, we made it to the bay area.

Dinner: I've already blogged about it :)

Arizona to California
Grand Canyon to San Jose

Friday, July 20, 2007

Road Trip Day 04: Utah to Grand Canyon

Day 4: Nephi, UT to Grand Canyon, AZ.

Total distance about 450 miles.

The drive was easier than the day before and spectacular views made it worth the effort of driving the extra 300 miles. We drove by the periphery of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, drove past the vermilion cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, to reach the Grand Canyon.

Check out the pictures in the albums below to see how the color of the landscape changes from green/brown to brick red as we drove south/east.

We reached the lodge early enough to watch the sunset on the canyon and go to bed early for a good night's sleep before our longest drive (in miles) of the road trip, the next day.

Dinner: At Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon (where we stayed)

Nephi Utah, to Grand Canyon, AZ
Utah to Arizona

Grand Canyon, AZ
Grand Canyon

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Road Trip Day 3

Day 3: Yellowstone WY, to Nephi, UT.

Total distance about 450 miles. We left Yellowstone early in the morning and made multiple stops within the park, viewing the geysers and other wildlife on the way. It took us several hours just to get out of the park and to drive through the Grand Teton National Park. The road was hilly and windy for most of the trip, till we reached Salt Lake City.

This was the most tiring day of the road trip.

By the end of the third day, I was looking to cut the trip short. We almost decided to skip the drive through Grand Canyon and instead go to Las Vegas, reducing the travel by a few hundred miles and seeking better comforts.

But, another look at the map of the Utah-Arizona border, with all the national parks on the way convinced me that it is worth the pain.

We also had a spider for company in our hotel room.

Dinner: Rice, sambhar, palak paneer and kesari!

Yellowstone Geysers
Yellowstone - Old Faithful and other Geysers

Yellowstone to Nephi, UT
Yellow Stone to Nephi, Utah

Road Trip Day 2

Day 2: Hot Springs, SD to Yellow Stone, WY

Total distance about 560 miles. Stops on the way: Mammoth Excavation Site, Hot Springs SD, stop to view Prairie Dogs and Bison, and two fuel stops. On the road around 10 am, reached Yellow Stone at about 7 pm.

Lunch: Tamarind rice
Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan and some fish dish, apart from some heat and eats.

Mammoth Excavation Site: Great story about how tens of mammoths ended up in a natural pit, preserving their remains for 26,000 years.

Yellow Stone National Park (Hot Springs): Stunning, highlight of the road trip; pictures in the album probably do more justice to this site.

Flat Iron and Mammoth Excavation Site
HotSprings: Flat Iron and Mammoth Site

Yellowstone National Park - Mammoth Hot Springs.
Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs

Roadtrip Day 1

I have been way too lazy to add any new text to the blog. But, I have been busy uploading pictures from the trip to the online albums. Finally it is time to unveil those pictures.

The first day of the trip: Today distance about 700 miles. Out on the road around 7:15 am from Eden Prairie, MN. Reached Flat Iron, Hot Springs, SD at about 9:00 pm. Three fuel stops.

<--- Google Map of the various stops along the way.

Badlands
: Awesome, totally unexpected in South Dakota, scorching hot!!

Mt Rushmore: Did not enter, stopped on the side of the road for pics.

Lunch: Chapatti, jam, peanut butter, hot sauce.. (don't ask)
Dinner: Rice (carried a rice cooker), Dal Makhni (heat and eat), Ice cream (about the only store open at 9 PM)

Here are some pictures from the first day of the road trip (Click on the pictures to go to the album with all the pictures):

1. Eden Prairie to Bad Lands, South Dakota
Road Trip: Eden Prairie to Bad Lands

2. Badlands
Badlands, SD

3. Mount Rushmore (few, pictures, blurry presidents)
Mount Rushmore