Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lots of fun at Washington :)

Ok here's the big post I promised you about Washington D.C. The world's most powerful nation's capital, the home to USA's parliament and the abide of the great Bush. Great? Errr whatever :-p. I've been trying to write this post for a week now, so you better enjoy it :-p.

The whole story started with Sri finding out about Cherry Blossom Festival and telling me. He actually wanted the trip to be a surprise for me, but I, tired of being at home (Pittsburgh was our last "official" trip outside the city), made such a fuss that he had to reveal all of his plans to me :-D. So we planned the trip about more than a month ago :).

Talkong more about the cherry blossom festival now. The festival is a celebration of the original gift of the 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington, DC in 1912. These cherry trees are around most of the monuments in Washington and usually flower in the months of March and April. The cherry blossom festival lasts the whole season with various events and culminates in the first weekend of April with a cherry blossom parade. It was this weekend we decided to land in Washington :).

7th April 2006:

On a sunny friday, off we went to Louisville to catch a flight to Baltimore which is just about within an hour drive away from Washington D.C. We did think of visiting the Baltimore waterfront that evening, but there was an American football (rugby for poor Indian people like us :-p) match at the same place and we were told that the crowds would be crazy. So we decided to skip it. Sadly, we never were able to see it later..

But we did have dinner in an Indian restaurant :-D. One of the first things that we did when we planned the trip, was to search for Indian restaurants in and around the place we were staying, so that we could enjoy Indian food as long as we were there ;-). So on Friday we had dinner at Akbar Indian restaurant. And it was pretty good north indian food :). We retired for the day with our stomachs full of Indian food :).

8th April 2006:

We knew it was going to rain. All the weather websites told us that. The weather channel also said that. Yup, we were prepared with umbrellas and ponchos. But still we didn't expect the rain to be the continuously-drizzling-and-grating-on-our-nerves kind of a rain. Which it turned out to be :-p.

We set off from Baltimore at about 9AM in the morning as we wanted to get passes for the Washington monument. Sri had been to Washington before (where has the man not gone!! :-p) and previously wasn't able to enter the monument because the passes are given early in the morning. The passes are free but you have to stand in the queue to collect the same. They are issued for all the trips for the whole day, so they get over very early.

So we went to a place called Greenbelt, parked our rented car and caught the metro train to Archives which is where all the important places of Washington are. This was all no problem at all. But by the time we got there, the passes had already been given out. Well, we thought "Better luck tomorrow", wore our ponchos (a type of a sack-like-raincoat) and headed towards Lincoln Memorial.

The whole layout of the area between 2 famous roads Pennsylvania Avenue and the Constitution Avenue goes like this. The Washington Monument is in the center. On the west of it is the Lincoln Memorial, east of it the U.S Capitol (the US parliament). On the north is the White House and on the south is the Jefferson Memorial. There are museums and government buildings everywhere else in this area. Anyways as we said our first monument visit was the Lincoln memorial and here's a snap:

I can't tell you what a struggle it is to take a snap from a brand new camera in rain :-p. Poor Sri held the umbrella over me while I was struggling with the camera. But the photos came out fabulous :). Here's another of us with Lincoln uncle:

Notice that we are half drenched. Also seeing the Washington Monument and the Capitol from the Lincoln Memorial is a special experience you wouldn't wannna miss:

The long structure is the Washington monument and to its left is the Capitol. At the bottom of the picture, you can see a pool which is called the reflecting pool. It seems on a particular day in an year (dunno which day) you can see the whole Washington monument reflected in the pool. We were able to see about 3/4th :-D.

Next we set off to see one of the museums. Atleast, we thought, we'd be out of rain for a while. The walk was pretty long. There are vast spaces with gardens left free without any buildings. So its too far to walk but too short to take a cab. You know what I mean? The walk felt like a trek :-D. Anyways while walking, we saw that the Cherry blosson festival parade had begun, so we stood and cheered them on. Poor people were so enthusiastic even if it was raining. I snapped hoardes of photos while Sri took videos from our handicam (put to its right purpose this time :-D). So here are the parade photos:

After enjoying the parade in the cold rain, boy were we glad to get into the Smithsonian National museum of Natural History. There were too many people getting in because of the rains and we had some trouble getting out of our ponchos, but anything was better than the cold drizzle outside. The museums in Washington are all maintained very well and there is no entrance fee for any of them. So as long as you are interested, they are great :). But they do have great security and no one is spared from a security check.

Honestly, I am not a fan of museums. So we scanned through the exhibts at pretty good speed. We saw the usual stuffed animals at the animal history part of the museum.

Yup, thats a tiger jumping :-D. Later went to the natural gem history. Now this was interesting. There were all sorts of precious gems displayed. I did take snaps of a couple of them, but this one takes the cake:

22000 carats!! Can you believe that!! I absolutely loved it. After all, diamonds are a girl's best friend ;-).

Next we went to the Smithsonian National museum of American History, looked around the olden trains and other stuff and had lunch. We had to wait in a queue for an hour at a Subway restaurant to have lunch, because of the huge crowd!! Anyways, we did see the National Air & Space Museum next. There we saw the different aspects of the history of aircrafts and space rockets. Also watched a planetarium show there. Again the crowds were bad, but we kindly adjusted :-D.

Our last stop for the day was the US Capitol. It was about 5:30 in the evening already and the rain had stopped. But it was pretty cold and all the walking had totally tired us. So we just decided to see this one and catch the metro back.

There were tulips planted everywhere. And I absolutely adore tulips. I think that had they even a bit of fragnance, they's have been the best flowers in the planet. But sadly roses overtook them in that matter. Anyways, there were tulips and that means many more photos :-D.

That was it. The end of the first day, phew!! With great efforts we caught the metro back to Greenbelt and drove back to Baltimore to the hotel. Yup, again we did have dinner at Bombay Indian restaurant. Though the food wasn't as good as the night before, it was alright :).

9th April 2006:

We left our hotel very early on Sunday morning. We were off by 7 AM and this time, we didn't miss the Washington Monument passes. The queue was pretty long when we reached and we were a bit worried. But the day was bright and sunny and I heaved a sigh of relief.

While standing there waiting, we were extremely surprised and overjoyed(!!! :-p) by the Presidential convoy going on the road right beside us. The best part was that there was a red signal and they actually stopped for it. Sri claims that he is sure he saw George Bush. I noticed several people, but couldn't distinguish anyone because of the shades in the cars. So one of them may have been Bush. Anyways, who cares? :-p. But here's the snap I quickly captured of the convoy :-D.

We got the passes for 2:30 PM in the afternoon! Since we had lots of time, we headed to the White House. 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue is the most famous address in the United States. The home of the President of the United States is secluded, though right in the heart of the city. After 9/11, nobody is allowed inside the grounds of the White House and it is surrounded by a jail-like compound and security police who keep roaming around. We stood at the usual tourist standpoint and I pushed the camera lens through the jail to capture this snap:

Next we saw a not-so-properly-maintained aquarium and had breakfast of sandwiches at a nearby bakery. Since we were totally tired of walking to and fro, we went to a bicycle place and rented 2 cycles! It had been about 2 years since I had ridden a cycle, but it was pretty ok. It was awesome riding on a cycle in the middle of a big city like Washington. Cyclists can be pedestirans or traffic depending on their whims. But if you are on road, you'll have to obey the traffic rules and all signals. On footpaths, the pedestrian rules have to be followed :).

We headed first towards the Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin. Thats where all the most of the cherry blossom trees are. The blooms were looking good on that day as the sun was bright.

Yup, those are the cherry blossom trees. The colours of the flowers range from white to dark pink :). After cycling around quite a bit, we also visited the National Postal museum to see the history of US Postal service. By then it was 2 PM and we headed back to Washington Monument. But my cycle's chain got dislodged and we had to fix that too. Plus, we took a wrong route which meant further delay. By the time we reached the monument, parked our cycles and locked them, it had already crossed 2:30 PM and we were worried that we missed the tour. Luckily for us, still the 2PM batch were going in and we still had to wait to begin our tour :-D. Looks like "Late" is a word in American dictionary too :-D.

The Washington Monument is dedicated to the memory of George Washington and is the tallest stone structure in the world. It stands at 555 feet and 50 flags representing the 50 states of USA surround the monument. There is a single elevator that took us to the top of the tower. The observation room is very small but the view is wonderful. We saw the Capitol to the east:

The Jefferson Memorial to the south:

The Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting pool to the west:

And the White House to the north:

The White House zoomed:

That was it. We were so tired by then that we returned the cycles and headed to the Metro. Just had pizza for dinner and were out like a light :).

10th April 2006:

We had an early morning 6:30 AM fight back to Louisville. So we woke up at 4:30 AM and quickly returned the rental car and caught the flight back. Poor Sriram had to drive all the way back from Lousiville to Lexington, while I slept aaraam se :-D. And so ended another glorious trip :). Well I still can't believe I uploaded about 25 photos for this post :-p. Well, whats 25 of a 105 in total? :-D. Yup, I took totally 105 lovely photos from the trip :).

Talking of trips, the day is finally here!! Tomorrow is the day we head out to India!! I'm totally excited :). All the shopping's done and so's most of the packing. All the work's been wrapped up. Looks like this blog is going to enjoy one month break, but you can never be sure ;-). If and when I get time, I'll surely update some of my activities. After all there are so many - Visa stamping in Delhi, Udupi trip, our gruhapravesha, Tirupathi trip and Hyderabad visheshaalu :).

So long and see you whenever possible :).

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mareyaadaroo mareyalarada Dr Raj..

"You didn't deserve the miscreants who didn't even let your last rites be fulfilled.
You didn't deserve that kind of a disrespect from some hooligans.
You didn't deserve all the violence with no purpose served.
You didn't deserve the completely unfit farewell you got

But you did deserve the love of the true fan following.
You did deserve the respect of millions of people.
You did deserve the second peaceful funeral you got.
And your soul deserves to rest in peace."

"May you rest in peace."

Monday, April 10, 2006

A new love of my life ;-)

I had been looking for the one for a long time. I had searched and searched. I had researched, looked at all positives and negatives, the advantages and the disadvantages. I had asked for advice from some knowledgable ones and also referred to other available knowledge databases. And finally had zeroed in on the one. But there never seemed an auspicious moment for the one to actually arrive in my life. The auspicious moment was because of the cost factor associated :-p.

Nope! I am not talking about Sri, though he is the love of my life, the major love of them all :). Neither does it mean that he is being replaced :-D. Hehehehee. He is the one who can never be replaced ;-). Me getting senti (Get back to the topic lady!!) :(.

Ok ok OK!! I'll stop kidding and tell you what this is all about. Ta-da!! Meet my new digital camera the Canon Powershot S2 IS :).

I won't really go into the technical details of that. You can find all those and the review here at DPreview. Basically it is a 5 MP and 12x total zoom camera. Its very nice to handle. The weight is a bit more, but the comfort level is high. I'm already high on it. Oh no, looks like another thing to which I'm already addicted!! :-D :-D.

The image resolution is amazing and I'm totally loving it ;-). Here is one of the first few photos I took:

The actual resolution of the pic is 2592 x 1944 pixels. Here's another snap, this time a shadow portrait:

We have a handy-cam using which I had been taking pics all this while. In fact, it was being used more for taking photos than for videos. Also, I have some kind of a passion for photography. The handy-cam's 640 x 480 was not exactly enough for me to be creative. That was the reason why we were on the lookout for a camera anyways. Now looks like I've found the right one :). We also have bought a set of rechargeable batteries. a recharging system and a 1-GB(!!!) SD card for it. And I'm having fun, baby!!

Meanwhile I'm just back from Washington D.C today and am totally conked. It was a pretty tiring trip. And, this post was supposed to be written last week, but I never found the time because of work + trip preparations :-D (Nice excuses this time). Yup, the Canon went with us to Washington D.C and you can expect a huggggggggggge post and lot of photos in the post next time. Consider that as a warning ;-) :-D.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Addicted to notpron :-D

Hey hey wait. Don't go!! Read the title again! I am not addicted to porn :-p. Nor is this an April fool's day post :-p (though I really thought of continuing the tradition from last year and posting one ;-) :-D). I am addicted to notpron. Does it mean that I am addicted to anything that is not porn? Hehehehee. Though, Pron is slang for porn, "Notpron" is an online riddle game and yup, I'm totally hooked. I just can't get enough of it :).

What's Notpron?

Notpron is not a point and click game, as the creator David Münnich says. It is about 138 levels(!!!) of pure riddling fun. You can learn more here.

How exactly do you play it?

This is how most levels look like. A picture in a webpage. The above is the first level by the way and no, the above picture won't lead you to it ;-). If you really want to play, the first thing I'd suggest you to do is check out the Notpron official forum and read the FAQs first.

The main aim of the game is to get to the next level, no matter what (as if other games have other aims :-D). Each level is a riddle which you have to solve. Only then can you make it to the next level.

Tips and etcetera...

This paragraph is only for those people who are a bit interested in this. Sri saw me solve the first few levels and he was plain not interested ;-) :-D. Yaara huchchu avarige (this means people have their own madness and notpron has become mine for now) :-D. If you are interested, then go on :).

Again as David says, don't give up too early. Its damn hard, accept it and move ahead.

Basically in a level, the Picture itself, the URL, the Title and the Source of the html will have clues (lets call it PUTS). So the first thing to do when you see a level, would be to do a scan of these :-D. Sometimes its good to check out a level page for other hidden stuff too ;-).

If there is a google bar in a level, it means that you may need some help through search. One thing to remember is that there are spoilers all over the internet for this game. And a spoiler is no fun, believe me. A spoiler spoils all the fun of you solving the riddle, the game will then become just crossing levels which is precisely not the point of the game!! The fun is when you solve a level on your own. Thats when you have a sense of accomplishment and can appreciate the genius mind of the creator :). So be sure that you add "-notpron" at the end of the search criteria whenever you are searching for anything in google :-D. This makes sure that all the sites with a notpron mention in them are eleminated.

If the level requires an userid and password, then you need not register anywhere. In fact the userid and password are automatically revealed if you solve that level, i.e you get 2 words instead of 1. First word will be the userid and the 2nd one will be, obviously :-p, the password :-D. Well, if there's no userid and password in a level and you do end up getting 2 words then the combined word will lead you to the next level ;-).

Next thing is that you might require to download a software for solving a level. Study the PUTS first and they might let you know which software you might require. Again read the FAQs in the forum.

Each level has a background music. Sometimes, even the music might turn out to be the clue ;-) :-D.

Another very important tip is, please note down how you cross each of the levels, the urls and userids/passwords if any, after you solve a level. You never know when you might require those ;-) :-D.

If you need more hints/clues even after studying the PUTS (basically, if you are totally jammed), then you can check out this thread at the official forum again. But be sure again, not to search for clues on internet without the "-notpron", cause you might again end up getting a spoiler you don't want. The official forum usually has hints given by the people who have already solved notpron completely. It might contain some spoilers, but it is monitored closely and spoilers are removed asap.

Where am I?

Darsh first introduced me to the game and I have been totally hooked ever since. If I am stuck in a level, I think about it day and night. So my brain is literally working overtime :-D. I think about it during my work hours and sometimes even solve a level :-D. I've tried out 100 different things for each level and chided myself after solving it. Because thats when I usually discover how wrong my previous attempts would have been and how foolish :-D.

I am right now in the 36th level and going strong (Darsh and me are not collaborating, so he is on a different level. Moreover he's not as much addicted as I am :-D). I have an idea on what to do currently, but I've decided to take it easy today on account of April fools' day. Just for one day, let me be a fool and enjoy my foolishness :-D. Not that I'm a genius the other days :-D. Just that unknowingly I might have been a fool many times, today let me do it knowingly :-D.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. " - Douglas Adams

Hehehee. As for you, what are you waiting for? You can start playing the game here. Go on, get addicted!!