Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Portugese nuts !!

Following is just putting some two's lying around in my head together - no claim that these facts are in fact facts!!

The Portuguese call a "bun" a "pao", just like the goans. I know I have to say it the other way round, but I learnt the word in goa. Used to see the pao vendors every morning, out the same time as newspaper guys, going house to house and delivering pao. And of course the pao bhaji is definitely not Portuguese :)

That got me thinking about all the things Portuguese we grew up with, without even thinking about it (at least till now). Don't know why, but they were (and still are) referred to as "parangi" in malayalam - the old Portuguese are - u won't call ronaldo a parangi now. And vasco da gama or someone after that brought the cashew tree to kerala and goa and its pretty much everywhere now. The goans called it caju like Portuguese and made awesome fenny out of it...the mallus called the tree parangimaavu and called the nut a parangaandi - literally translated, that is a Portuguese nut that grows on a Portuguese mango tree !!

The tree itself did not come from portugal though, it came from brazil - another Portuguese colony.

And historical mallu movies (not super duper hit historical, but those that have some history in their story) that feature the Portuguese usually have some ligher-than-normal-dark-skinned-mallu actors wearing a blond wig and trying to speak malayalam with a british accent. Am yet to meet a blond Portuguese (even after looking for one in Portugal) and they seem to have a strong Portuguese accent !!

My resident consultant on these matters - my mother - says "they have to look and sound different - so isn't it easier to put a wig on a guy than try to change his color?"

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Monday, October 11, 2010

what the kids pee...

long long back...early '80s, when we did not know the word "diaper" - good morning stores in trivandrum used to sell them...and since no one knew the word and there was no equivalent in mallu, they just had a board advertising "കുട്ടികള്‍ ഒഴിക്കുന്ന മൂത്രം കുടിക്കുന്ന ജെട്ടി" - or roughly translated "the undie that drinks what the kids pee" - its not as funny in english though..


Thursday, October 7, 2010

small embassy ...

had to get a visa for a small european country...called their embassy consular section in washington...

a lady (lets just call her X) picked up the phone, asked me for my e-mail address, and said they will e-mail me visa requirements.

Got a mail later from lady X, with details for the visa application. Got all the documentation together and mailed my Passport over to the address provided. The UPS delivery confirmation says my package was signed for by Lady X.

Just got back my passport with visa. The visa is signed for by the same Lady X....

and I took the visa receipt to submit for reimbursement to my company and noticed
that the cashier field in the receipt is also signed for by Lady X....

looks like Lady X is the consular section :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Breaded !!

Read about this beer bread recipe, and it was too simple to give up - beer + flour + sugar, set aside, bake, and its ready :)

So that got me reading up on making just plain bread - it ended up being just like the bread aisle at kroger - too many options and choices.

So here is what I wound up with for my first attempt - i am not putting any quantity here coz we are not trying to make a bread to "specifications", make it your own :

flour - whole wheat atta or whatever you want (i read you can add some chopped wheat to get that grains found in market breads) this was about 3 cups for a full loaf
sweet - honey (i would use sugar for my next attempt - i dont like honey anyway :) )
salt - as desired (i used very little - half a teaspoon i think)
warm water (for the yeast)
milk - (a little again 2%)
oil - about a tablespoon (am gonna try butter next time)
also for next attempt will try one egg also in the mix - so it will be sugar, butter and one egg :))
and any other flavors you want to add !!

mix up everything other than the flour - this will be ur liquid for mixing the flour in and it has to be warm for the yeast to work.

i used a processer to mix coz they said knead for 8 minutes !!

so mix up the flour till it is one piece, but not as thick as chapati mix, it should stick together, but still stick to your fingers if you poke it...so somewhere in between a cake mix and chapati mix.

now take the end result and shape it into a loaf (as best as you can), pat the outside with oil (basically create a barrier so it does not stick to anything).

grease a bake plate, put this in, leave for an hour in a warm place - should double in size (if not check your yeast or temperature)

once it rises, bake at 375 F for 40 minutes. check and add more time if required. basically outside will get a good crust like the European breads (dont expect market bread consistency without additives) and you should be able to tap it and hear a hollow sound inside. Maybe stick a fork and find out the inside :)

cool and cut..

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Password delivered wirelessly !!

This was a technological advance I was not prepared for!!

Logged in to the hotel wi fi, it asked for a username and password to connect to internet and also mentioned "for your username and password, call front desk".

Called, and reception guy "2 hours 10 bucks, 24 hours, 25 bucks".

I said "ok, give me 24 hours"

He said "ok sir, 24 hours" and hung up.


I waited a couple minutes and called back "I think the line dropped, can you give me my username and password please?"

Reception guy "it is on the way sir, the bell boy is bringing it !!"

Now guess where this happened :)

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sleepless Days !!

Working the night shift this week...and am having some sleepless days as a result !!

This is odd...it wasn't this hard the last time I tried this back in B school...you start your day (or night) with evening coffee and snaks, head over to the comp lab, check mails, chat on yahoo, play some quake, listen to the folks fighting over "age of empire", and probably gurpi sitting there crying "yaar, band karo yaar, bhookh lagi hain.... already missed lunch...dont want to miss dinner...", grab dinner, and get back to the lab...continue "working" till 1 am...then run over to thapas for maggi / anda burji before they close...(gurpi still going "yaar...pause karo yaar....thapas will close....haven't had lunch today...)....get back to lab....and finish off the night with some more quake and work and then breakfast...peaceful slumber through the day...wake up for coffee and snaks....and repeat....

So, back to the topic...
What to do with your meals? Do you still eat them during the day and go hungry during the night or devise a dinner - midnight snak- breakfast plan? Or do I just eat breakfast-lunch-dinner in that order, but in the night?
I currently am not skipping breakfast lunch or dinner either during the day or night !!! That should be too much food going in right there...need to "weight in" again at end of week.....

What do you do with your beer? You cannot drink it in the evening coz you are heading to work, but you cannot drink it in the morning either, coz it's just morning ??

When do you sleep? Get back in the morning and sleep till afternoon? Or wait till afternoon and sleep till evening?

The shopfloor guys have been really helpful by giving me some ground rules...
1. the 2 am break is lunch break and what you eat is lunch...
2. avoid the sun on your way home....
3. get home, finish your beer..and sleep off....
4. and of course...the day before your off day is called friday no matter what day of the week it is

Sounds like once you have these priorities set, the rest of the stuff should fall in place automatically...dont know yet...just my first day with rules !!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010



onaashamsakal - onam wishes to one and all....

i don't remember wishing each other in the family back in the day, we just celebrated it...

and of course it was necessary to add "onamalle?" (isn't it onam) to all conversations...and onam could be the reason for anything...
like the husband who had a bit too much to drink "onamalle?"..or you bump into ur neighbor whom you haven't seen outside the house all year - "onamalle?"

the only thing my father used to tell me every onam - "drive carefully, you may not be drunk, but everyone on the street is.."

Friday, August 6, 2010

The American life - the flip side

That lady must be at least 90 years old, filling up gas in her old Buick..

Bent over, hardly able to lift the gas nozzle, she did that, and walked around and cleaned her windows..

You see this so many times every day..

Some days u think "wow, that's remarkable..", other times u feel it is so sad!

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pandora Rocks....

pandora radio continues to amaze me: Started out ranking metallica and couple other heavy bands...and its been playing select songs from RHCP, nirvana, U2 etc...based on previous song rankings...and of course those were all songs i really like...

now that i've ranked those songs, today it played "three little birds" - bob marley

of course i love that song....but a software figuring out u like a bob marley song when u've only ranked rock ????

thats a WOW...

the music genome project rocks !!

and it followed marley with hells bells ACDC :))

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Captain Speak

Another great start on an old rickety delta 767...

Aircraft started pushback and suddenly all the lights and air conditioning go out, then emergency lights come on. Captain comes on PA and says "folks, while we were pushing back, our APU fell off-line, we should be able to fix it shortly" - a very technical announcement, that caused all the other hiccups that followed...

Before we proceed with that, couple of quick explanations.

1. The APU or auxillary power unit is like a power generator on the aircraft - this runs everything while on ground and not connected to ground power. Once airborne, usually most power is taken from the engines.

2. This flight is from the middle east, to the USA, and the passenger mix is at least 50% "cautious" US citizens (as they tend to be in this part of the world)

So back to live action - a moment of complete darkness, then silence - as air conditioning stopped, and then dim emergency lighting comes on. This is followed by a hurried announcement from the captain that something important (as three letter acronyms make them sound) fell off !

Everyone still had a brave face on. Some folks were calling the flight attendants to check what went wrong.

We get towed back to the gate. The inside of the plane feels like an oven by now. The human body does generate a lot of heat!

Once connected to ground power, the lights and AC are back. Maintenance folks come on board, and with them are some of the border security forces. Seeing the security forces, there is some real panic visible.

Maybe the flight attendants asked the captain to do some damage control, so he comes on PA again. "Folks, we do not have any problem. This aircraft has a third engine, which is a small engine, which we do not need for flying, and that's what turned off. I would bring my family on board this flight - the security is just part of the procedure".

Explanation #3 - this is a security cleared internatinal flight which pushed back from gate - as good as a mechanic going out of the country to work - which is why the security escort was required.

The captain did manage to turn this fact around rather beautifully. And thanks to the captain again - the original problem being discussed between passengers becomes:

"did an engine fall off??"

Flight attendant call buttons ring furiously. Someone actually reported sick so they could get off the flight, and that took another 15 minutes to get the passenger off. I hear someone behind me go "This is too much sh*t man, Am not paid well enough for this. Am gonna get a job back home"

One passenger gone, cabin doors closed again, and OFF goes the lights and AC, and a moment od complete darkness, and on come the emergency lighting. This is followed by the captain on PA "folks, they pulled our plug too soon from the ground, just a moment and we will get our apu running".

"They pulled our plug"??

Same drill - flight attendant call buttons. Now the lead flight attendant gives the "arrival check" call followed by "we have another passenger who reported sick, folks, if any others are not feeling well, let me know RIGHT now. I am not gonna open the doors another time. I have to get back home and do my weekend grocery shopping and other errands. We do not have any problem with the flight - it is just like your car stalls on start!"

Ah, great analogy maam, a car stalling compared to an aircraft stalling. I can picture it a lot better now. The stalled car rolling to its stop, and the stalled aircraft flying "all the way to the scene of the crash" as Ron White once said.

Thankfully that was our last sick passenger and our last power failure.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The hooker with a bitch flavor !!

True story, with slight modifications (like the movies?) :)

Here we are in an arab country, for a week, on work...pretty conservative place (that's a factor in the incident below)

We finish up dinner on day 1 and the waiter goes "wud u like hooker sir?" - and my boss's eyes pop out - "a hooker?". Waiter shows a blowing action to the mouth, and the boss's jaw drops, till the waiter actions like he is blowing some smoke out, and we figured out what he was talking about.

The boss ends up trying out an apple flavored hookah...

Day 2, we finish up dinner, and the same waiter goes, "would you like hooker sir? We got bitch today!"

"A bitch?"

"Yessir, the aaple, the bitch, the stroberree"

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Fouls, Flopping and Game Time....

Watching soccer again after long....all my old frustrations with the game seem to be coming back up...used to hate all the flopping, the power given to the referee (and the damage done by wrong calls) and the time wasting tactics (which include flopping and delaying throws and kicks, substitutions etc.)

But we do have solutions for all these currently in other games which could work very well here.

Fouls are managed pretty well with the current yellow-red card system, but there is no real review happening of what actually happened. The TV viewers see that it was or was not a foul, but the referee's decisions stands. Something similar to the NFL's coach's challenge should work very well here. Every time the coach suspects there is a wrong decision, they can throw the challenge flag, and the decision is reviewed "upstairs". To prevent too many challenges, the team loses a timeout for a wrong challenge - but we don't have timeouts in soccer - so maybe have a set number of challenges like tennis players are given - maybe just 2 wrong challenges per half and any number of correct ones.

As far as flopping and time wasting tactics - this could easily be fixed by moving to a play clock as in basketball or many other games - not a running game clock . Maybe overall time can be cut from 45 to 35 or 40. Clock stops for out of bounds, goal scores, foul whistles, substitutions etc - any time the game is stopped, clock stops. And game stops exactly at 40:00 - no extra time given. If a ball is in air towards goal, that can be saved or counted if it goes in.

It will also be very good to have the ref call out every decision - we do not yet know if the ref denying USA's 3rd goal called an offside, or foul, and if foul, on which player. Again from NFL - every decision on field is announced by the lead referee to the stadium on mic and TV.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LAX - the traffic within

There is a shuttle bus at LAX connecting Terminal 3 & 5 (Alaska airlines & Delta). For anyone missing an exciting auto ride in Chennai, this (shuttle ride) sure is worth a try.

It is just chaos, except for the main roads parallel to the runway there are no lane markings, folks drive everywhere, every other intersection is an Aircraft crossing, there are actually cop cars patrolling the roads, and i've seen them pull over a vehicle on one trip, lot of honking going on, there were couple occasions on my 5 trips where the shuttle driver had to step on the brakes to avoid hitting some luggage cart jumping a stop sign, and once we had a guy overtake us right under the wing of a 747 !!

That is the main "road" above - only place with lanes, but aircraft cross almost every 100 meters....

Waiting for a 747, got a couple honks from the right lane traffic, someone jumped the stop sign, and overtook

Friday, May 7, 2010

Selling the scan

Here is a very nice way to sell the infamous full body scan in place @ the vancouver airport security.

Once you put the bags on x-ray, and walk through the metal detectors, you are greeted by a nice punjabi lady "sir, do you want to get patted down by HIM" - and points to a HUGE nasty looking guy "OR take our whole body scan ?"...

One look at the guy and I understood why all the passengers before me went to the scanner...

And I replied "scan" and all of them smiled...even that nasty lookin guy :)

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

3D glasses

looks like a lot of 3d telecasts. found the masters being telecast in 3d today. googled masters 3d comcast and the press release of comcast came up, but nothing about where i should get my glasses.

on youtube i found how to make my own 3d glasses - which is basically painting clear plastic film with blue and red markers and attaching it to any glass frame. for that i need to get out of the house first and get the blue and red markers. The only one we have is a black marker, which may not exactly work on 3d telecasts - or may work very well, depending on how much you like golf!

meanwhile, staring at the 3d image, i found a workaround...there are two images split along the center of the tv screen. so first thing i tried is to focus somewhere in front of the tv such that the tiger on the right and the tiger on the left overlapped. So now i am seeing a very blurred tiger woods, and as i kept staring at him, the brain slowly got tricked into focusing at the tv distance. end result - your eyes are almost crossed as if looking at a point one feet in front of your nose, but they are focusing on something about 12 feet away...

saw the 3d for about 2 minutes - looked good - tiger was way in front of the crowd, and the writings on screen were way in front of tiger...but got a bad headache now....

gonna get my blue and red markers tomorrow and try out next...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Flashes and Shadows

Another story about never stop asking your qns.... :))

This is not about the shot below, but the shadows in it:

Lipika asked why the shadows are on the right side of the guy on left but on the left side of the guy on right - well, I initially dismissed the qn thinking thats the way it is, i never moved the camera or flash between shots!

Somewhere mid way thru the day, it struck me why...tried out a couple other shots and looks like i got a valid theory :)

This is how the camera lens and flash looks:

Basically, the flash is smaller than the width of the lens. So when doing wider angle shots, the right edge of the lens which focuses on the left end of the frame is way outside the point where the flash is triggered. If we draw that out, you can see that the shadow will always appear towards the inside of the subject on either side of the center of the frame...

Here is what i drew out of the initial shot setting:

as you can see, the camera sees both me and the shadow towards the center side of the frame...same for another subject on the opposite side....

Sunday, March 14, 2010


On NPR's "wait wait don't tell me"

News: microsoft is developing a skin based touch input, you can work or project on skin.

Comment: if this works, the internet will be primarily used by folks who touch themselves!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Behind the underwear bomb

Come to think of it, there seems to be more thought behind the idea of an underwear bomb than just saying "hey, we are still trying"...

the underwear was of course, a strategic location, and a heated debate is still on whether or not to show / hide that section in advanced scanners that see you without your clothes..

But think of the last major change in security - after the shoe bomber. That was the attack that got everyone to remove their shoes...

That must have been the motivation behind the underwear bomb - getting everyone to remove underwear to go through security...looks like that plan failed - at least till they allow the "show all" feature on new scanners

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Outside Air Temperature

Why do they have to tell you the outside air temp when you are flying? This will usually be bundled in with otherwise useful (not too much though) information like current time at destination or origin or distances.

Are they just gently reminding us to behave, else its not a good place to be kicked out?

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kevala Marthya Bhasha.... ONV....

Kevala marthya bhasha kelkkatha
Deva dhoopikayanu nee
Oru deva dhoopikayanu nee

Chithravarnnangal nrithamadum nin
Ul prapanchathin seemayil
Njangal kelkkatha pattile
Swaravarnna rajikal illayo illayo

antharashru sarassil neenthidum
hamsa geethangal illayo
shabda sagarathin agadha
nishabda shanthatha illayo illayo

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The rest of me.....

Looks like this is going to be my last "physical" music purchase. Not a change I am very happy about...I always loved stacking the albums...from the cassette days to the CD days, running through the stack and picking out a CD to play....maybe a random pick with eyes closed, maybe the farthest one, which usually is the one i haven't listened to in ages....

But the past two years, I have never played a CD i bought. Buy, Rip, Copy (to all the mp3 players around - with the players getting cheaper than a CD itself, this has been an ever growing list - one in car, one in office room, one in travel bag, one in bedroom, one attached to the home theater...the next planned in the loo....)

The little radio I listened to has already moved to podcast subscriptions on iTunes, so effectively an mp3 player takes care of that...and am very close to finishing my first full book completely read on the kindle app....

Are these mp3 players taking over whatever remains of me that Google has left ??

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


This is one of the easiest shots to take with your dslr...coz other than the focus settings you can leave everything else as automatic....

these are canon menu names - nikon folks find your own... :P

> set focus to automatic (that it will usually be)
> set shooting mode to P (program auto)
> optional - on a bright day lock in your ISO at its lowest

> set drive mode to continuous shooting

> set auto focus (AF) mode to AI Servo AF

> Optional - make only the central Auto Focus point active (AF Point selection menu)

catch a car with the central point and press trigger half way to focus & lock in

press trigger full way while following the subject with the central point....and keep trigger down letting the camera shoot away....

review and select good pics in computer & not LCD display (very important) :))

and of course, remember to change it back to One Shot from Servo AF before shooting stills.... else you will be wondering what on earth is wrong with the camera next time you try a still...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Tricky Digital Examination ...

Do not be fooled if your doctor says you need a "digital rectal examination"....

there is nothing "DIGITAL" about that examination...

thats doctor's language for saying he/she is going to use his/her DIGITS to exam your body part in question......!!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Sticking" with the old....

tired of your non-stick pans?

tired of being "gentle" with them ?

tired of using the soft side of your kitchen sponge to "gently" clean them? really feel like using the HARD side and scraping their bottom clean?

left it on high heat and returned to see the non-stick surface disappearing in smoke??

tired of getting a new set every year to replace the last years because they are now super glue pans?

back home and back in time, mom used to have one flat cast iron DOSAKALLU to make dosas,fry fish, fry eggs, whatever...and another deep dish "cheenachatti" for appams, curries and other stuff...

she has gone through a lot of non-sticks, but still has and uses the two iron ones...and i checked with her and found they were gifts she got during their wedding...so the two really are OLDER than me !!!

couple years bk, we got ourselves a real heavy cast iron skillet....and so far, we are loving it more every day....

its been through heavy use, daily fried eggs, almost daily fried fish, and weekly dosas and appams....

and it looks as good as new.....

and you use it right...nothing really sticks...waay better than non sticks....
and even if something does, you can scrape its roots out with a HEAVY METAL spatula...not the soft feather touch ones you need for the non-sticks...

and if you forget it out on the hot stove...it just sits there, like its the best place on earth.....

and best of all...when its your turn to do the dishes...you can scrape its ass clean like there is no tomorrow....

so its been 2 years...and we did go through a couple less non-sticks in this time than normal...but get back to the cast iron...coz this now really feels like a step forward...not back...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

a test match of a hiatus...

watched a one day game after a long long time....maybe 4-5 years...
was browsing around on espn360.com and i noticed india vs. sri lanka idea cup available. put it on....

and i had to note these down along the way....

it is 8.5 hours long, but you can do whatever you want while the game is on...read, work, check mails, just look at the screen when you hear the shouts...either the crowd, the players or the commentator....the game really does not mess with your day at all...

very odd watching the game without any advertisements between overs...you are not used to seeing replays of a boundary hit on the last ball of the over, or the start of strides of a paceman's first ball....

umpire drew a circle above his head after a no ball, and "free hit" was displayed on screen - googled that one immediately.... :))

ravi shastri seems to have taken over from siddhu....
"that really was a biriyani over.."
"that ball found the boundary like a tracer bullet.."

i dont know which commentator it was but yuvraj was looking at the bat quite often and he said "what are you doing bat? you are not making that sweet sound with me!"

dhoni somehow looks younger and fitter??

the espn feed continues right through half time break...there was laxman sivaramakrishnan on the pitch doing a mic test...he was singing "one two three......" in carnatic music....and then shouting at someone in tamil "nee soupaa? naan maggi noodles da..."

the only guy i knew in the sri lankan team was sangakkara....and for good reason...they showed the number of matches each guy on that team has played, sangakkara was close to 250, next one was 89, followed by 30.....