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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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Superman, err woman :)

Looks like I was right almost 2 years ago when I wrote this post - The Superwoman syndrome :).

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Iron Man
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Sense of a Poem..

The Sense Of A Poem

I'm not a poet, yet
Thoughts have a mind of their own.
They grow and when they have grown,
Feel about the known and unknown..

I'm not a poet, yet
Thoughts observe day and night,
Criticize things left and right.
They have an opinion on every sight..

I'm not a poet, yet
Thoughts sense the smell of an event,
The nuances and layers of an element,
Be it may in past, future or present..

I'm not a poet, yet
Thoughts sound like restless apes,
Sounds which then form multiple shapes
Until every single distraction escapes..

I'm not a poet, yet
Thoughts always want to have a say.
Their determination will not sway.
Only when I write, do, at rest they lay.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring ahead :)

Spring is here :). I can't describe how good it feels to go outside without having to go through the ritual of wearing 3 coats! The temperature is almost normal and everything feels so lovely. Its certainly a plus that the tulips bulbs we planted (with difficulty, let me remind you) are popping the shoots out of the ground :-D.

:) :) :). I was almost sure that they would get eaten by some worm or the other :-p. The best is not that. The neighbouring house has a shrub which has flowered!

There are no leaves on the plant but there are flowers :). The other thing is that the neighbourhood has planted cherry trees which are flowering too and man, do they make a pretty picture :). As usual nature makes my need to photograph uncontrollable ;-).

They look nice, don't they?

Some cherry flower stalks...

Some more cherry flower stalks...

Lots more cherry flower stalks...

Looks like a great start to a fun summer :).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wrrrrrrrrroooooooommmmm power!

I've been driving all my life. But the first I remember of it is when my parents bought me a cycle, BSA champ. This was probably when I was around 8 years old. I didn't find any pictures of the brand-I-had-then on the net. These days the BSA champs are all colourful. Mine was just a plain white one. I remember riding it for long with the balancing wheels on and never taking them off. My cousins all learnt earlier than me, but still I refused to consider the riding-without-the-balancing-wheels option :-p. The final straw came when Darsh learnt how to balance :-D. That was when I finally got them removed and first enjoyed a cycle ride without the grating sound of the balancing wheels (fell a couple of times in the process :-D).

I soon grew bigger and the cycle was no longer a fit for me. When I was 12 years old, I got a brand new BSA Streetcat. It was dark blue and it had yellow coloured stretched-thin cats all over (Again I didn't find any snaps over the internet. I have a sketch of it that I drew at home, but well, maybe next time). Remember that one?

Boom boom shakalakha, boom boom shack!
Street cat's gonna knock you back!

Hehehe. I absolutely adored my new cycle. After I begged and pleaded I was even allowed to take it to school (previously I used to take the bus or walk, the school was only about 2 furlongs from my house :-p). I still remember the day I did take it to school the first time. After classes I came outside only to see many boys of my class grouped around my bike and admiring it. I proudly (and stylishly ;-) :-D), took out the cycle ;-). My bike and I went on to have a long relationship. When I finished primary school and joined a highschool which was pretty far away (about 4km I think, not sure), I preferred going on the cycle rather take the bus. Even friends had cycles, so we'd cycle back home together up until a point and then part ways in the evening.

During this time, one of our neighbours, who was also a collegue of my mom's, had a spare old rickety luna. So we borrowed it from him and thats the first ever motorized vehicle I drove :-D. Well, handling a luna was much easier than riding a cycle, ofcourse. On saturdays the school started early and so usually dad would drop me off. But after I learnt on the luna, he would allow me to drive his Kinetic Honda, though I was not even 16 then ;-). It was because of that, I think I got the hang of main traffic areas :). But I continued to take the cycle to school otherwise and even later when I entered my PU college, I took the cycle to college for the 1st year.

As soon as I turned 16, I applied for a learner's licence (it was in fact just 2 days after my 16th birthday and I remember the evaluating police officer make a comment saying "You are in a hurry alright" :-D). And soon got my own Hero Puch automatic to drive. It was red in colour and it had no gears and was just perfect. So it took me to all of my PU and later some of my engineering classes. I was a bit accident prone. I mean I wasn't deliberately doing it, but one day it'd be a cyclist coming in front of me and me skidding and the other day an autowala breaking suddenly in front and me falling. It was not very frequently, but like once in 2 months. I remember my parents being very worried about it, but later slowly I got over it...

Meanwhile I faced getting a driving license from an Indian RTO for the first time in my life. I had decided not to give bribes, so the first time I went to the RTO, I stood in long queues, spent the whole day there and the evaluator failed me with the excuse saying I didn't have a "L' board (I noticed how he had passed another fellow with the same deficiency). When I went to reapply, I was told that I didn't have a valid learner's license as my LL was for 50cc vehicle and not for above. Huh?? How the heck did they conduct the test the first time then? Total chaos! Anyways I applied for a new LL and then had to wait 3 months to attempt the practical DL test. The second time I put big white boards with a huge "L" inside, attached 2 of these to both front and back and took the test. This time I was failed without even an excuse. Also I was a witness to the guy actually taking a wad of money from somebody. God! I was getting pretty frustrated, still reapplied and took the test 3rd time and passed. Finally! This experience taught me that you either have to sacrifice time or money to get what you need.

Well, so after I got my DL, I got a nice brand new Kinetic Honda. It was a shiny dark blue and it accompanied me to my engineering college for 2 years and later my first job for 1 year and second job for 2 years. I did manage to wreck it by falling a couple of times, but not as much as I wrecked the poor Hero Puch. Looks like I had improved a bit :-D. I had to leave it when I came to US (I'm still sad that the 2-wheelers are not very common here) and now my dad's using it. As for the BSA champ, I don't remember what happened to it. Darsh used it for sometime, but later I don't remember. Mom gave away the streetcat to a friend's daughter and I remember I was very sad to give it away but it was occupying space as I wasn't using it anymore. Dad sold the Hero Puch to someone and I wasn't really sad as I thought it'd have a better owner than me ;-).

Although all this while, we had a car at home, I never really tried/bothered learning how to drive it. So though, Darsh had aleady gone ahead and started taking the car around, I was kind of never interested. After I got my job, I thought why not learn it and joined a driving school. Well, the clutch and gears always got me. I didn't feel comfy with the whole thing at all. But this time I went through the driving school for the DL and the guy being bribed nicely from the school (which was a part of the fee that I had paid to learn driving), passed me after seeing 2 minutes of my driving :-p. I still remember the evaluator sitting in the 2nd row of the car and actually throwing the pass-declaring paper towards my instructor! These people are really like fat, overgrown rats who can do what they want!

Despite getting my DL, I never really ventured out in the car. The one time I did, I scratched an auto and it cost my dad Rs.600 to get me out of the mess :-p. Auto drivers look for such opportunities. Our car wasn't even scratched, but well, that incident undermined my confidence all the more and I just took to practicing with dad just within our locality. I had the DL but really it was of no practical use. Anyways, after I got married, I did learn how to drive another vehicle. A geared Yamaha Enticer, Darsh's motorcycle. Though I actually rode it only twice, it was lots of fun and obviously lots different (make that powerful) from my Kinetic Honda.

After I came to US, I never really took any interest in driving, though Sri was continually encouraging me to (he had selfish interests of sitting like a maharaja while I drive, which I have been doing all this while ;-) >:) :-D). About 5 months ago, I finally got a driving manual to learn all the rules here. After memorizing the rules and the specifications, I took the learners's test and passed the test. It consisted of a vision test (to determine whether you notice things on road) and 2 written tests, one on rules and the other on road signs. It was pretty easy and I got my instruction permit. Here with an IP, you can drive the car but only if you have another person who is 21 years or older with a valid DL.

Its ulta driving as I call it (as its opposite to how its done in India). And most of the cars here have an auto transmission. So there is no clutch and no gears, all you need to care about is the accelerator and break. Man, was that a relief! Here the rules are what matter most. In India, roads are chaos with no lanes concept and people driving everywhere. Here, since there are hardly any 2-wheelers and even if there are, since they are supposed to be treated equivalent to cars, there's not much of confusion on roads. There are clear-cut lines for rules and the police catch people only if they cross that line. Since most people follow rules, you just have to be conscious and not be extremely careful like in India. I started off on our old Nissan Sentra and got the hang of it pretty soon. Whenever we went off to the gym ( a post will be coming up on that soon) or grocery-shopping, I drove. So slowly (very slowly :-p) after being corrected in all aspects by Sri , after 4 months, I finally took the driving test for the first time last Tuesday.

But things went wrong. I had taken the old Nissan Sentra to the test. Firstly the window on the evaluator's side malfunctioned and I could feel he got irritated then and there. Further he switched on the AC and the engine being old, couldn't handle the AC and it stalled at a point. Well, me being nervous as it is, panicked and made a couple of mistakes, one of which was not being careful enough for a "Stop" sign. This was hazardous, as "STOP" means you have to stop at an intersection and look carefully both sides before crossing the road. Despite this, I completed parallel parking (hadn't even practiced this and had thought I would fail because of this) and a turnabout (page 18 on this manual) without problems. Anyways, the evaluator declared me failed and asked me to take another driving test appointment for next week.

I was very disappointed with myself and the car. But smart Sri, whose idea was "If she falls from a horse, lets get her on an elephant", immediately that evening insisted that I drive the SUV and practice on it. I was scared first, as the SUV is wider and lengthier than the car. But as soon as I started driving, I could feel the difference, the power and the handling were wayyyyy better. So after driving around for a week, I went to the driving test on this Tuesday taking the SUV with me. The evaluator who came in was different and considerably nicer too ;-). He asked me what went wrong last time and I told him that the car gave some mechanical problems and that I panicked. He saw the SUV and commented good-naturedly that he was sure that this car wouldn't give any problems :-D. This time I was very careful, took care of all Stop and Yield signs, did the parallel parking and the turnabout successfully and basically didn't make a single mistake. I also noticed that the evaluator was observing all my actions and making notes. When we finally finished the test, he passed me saying that I drove very well, but that I'm green around the edges :-D, meaning that I need a bit more experience. Oh man, I was so happy. Thanks to the patient efforts of first my dad and later Sri, now I am able to drive a car around confidently :).

Now I can share atleast a bit of driving when we go on long drives. I have gone on one of the freeways here and it feels wonderful to drive at high speeds and still be in control. But I haven't driven for more than half an hour in a stretch. So need lots more practice and hope to get that by driving around :).

We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly,
but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey,
or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way - Anonymous.

Friday, March 16, 2007

To see St Louis :)

Its been more than 2 months since our last long drive. The weekend before last we decided to fix that and headed west to St Louis, Missouri. To get to St Louis, we had to drive almost 5 hours and cross 2 states - Indiana and Illinois. It was kind of a very last minute decision, so we left only on Saturday afternoon. Here's the Google map sketch of the drive:

10th March 2007:

As I mentioned earlier, we drove for almost 5 hours and reached St Louis almost around 6 PM, but we did gain 1 hour due to the timezone change, so it was actually 5 PM there :). We checked into the hotel in East St Louis which is actually in Illinois and could actually see the famous St Louis Arch from the hotel :).

The Mississippi river flows inbetween Illinois and Missouri, so we had to cross it to reach the downtown of St Louis where the Gateway Arch is built. Though it was still not dark when we reached the hotel, by the time we reached the riverfront, darkness had fallen. We walked along the river for sometime, admired the archway in the dark and yes, took pictures ;-).

The arch is hugggggggge!

But it was obviously closed as it was quite late. But we had found out earlier that there are couple of casinos there. So we headed to the one closest, the President Casino/Admiral Casino :).

We obviously proceeded to squander 20 of our precious dollars (hey, I know its not much, but atleast we are in control :-D). We had lots of fun though. Tried different types of slot machines and basically enjoyed throwing away money :-D. Later, just had dinner (we had had lunch in an Indian resaurant, so dinner was in plain Pizza hut/Taco Bell :-D) and retired for the day.

11th March 2007:

Early Sunday morning, after losing one hour due to day-light saving change :-p, we headed to the arch again.

This time we entered the arch basement and bought tickets for the tram to see the top of the arch. Before I write more about the tram (which is more of a combination of elevator-giantwheel-tram), some history about the arch. The Arch is supposedly the tallest national monument (every monument is the tallest/thinnest/whatever in its category ;-) :-D) in the US and is 630 feet tall. It was completed in 1965, but the tram construction went on till 1968. It was built as a dedication to the westward expansion in the US and is actually called "The Gateway to The West". It was designed by Eero Saarinen and it seems the tram wasn't included until the arch was fully built, though Eero had left enough space required since he wanted people to go to the top and see the views from there.

Dick Bowser designed the Arch's tram system, it seems in 2 weeks! Since the arch is an inverted "U", they couldn't build an actual elevator for it. Though an escalator was considered, it seems the cost was too high to build and operate it. Later even a giant wheel was considered. Finally, "a combination of the elevator principle and the Ferris wheel principle was developed into a train of capsules". More details here. There are 2 trams, one goes up the north leg of the arch and the other, the south.

So our first venture was to go to the top. Here are the snaps of the tram:

Its not very clear since I took it from a glass window, the only place we could actually see it. The inside which had 5 seats each looks like a space capsule :-D.

It was a bit conjusted to say the least, but it was hardly 5 minutes travel to the top. The top was also a bit narrow, it seemed like too many people in a narrow room. But the view was beautiful. We could see our SUV from up and Sri promptly took a photo (aparoopakke :-D).

As I mentioned earlier, the Arch is in one of the banks of the Mississippi river and the river looked wonderful too.

On the other side is the St Louis downtown, while the white building in the middle is the old courthouse:

After seeing through all the windows, we went down and watched a documentary on the history of the Arch. Later ventured out to see the arch again. Each leg of the Arch is triangular block of steel and concrete. And each side of the triangle is sooooo big. Here's a comparision ;-).

Yup, the person not very clearly seen is Sri :-D. Next we went for a riverboat ride on Mississippi river.

As the ride started and progressed, we got to see another attraction of St Louis up close and personally :). Thats the Eads Bridge. It seems its the world's first alloy steel bridge and its design was not anything like previously constructed bridges.

It seems when the construction was over, people were making fun that the bridge would crash as soon as a train would go in it. So the designer, James Eads actually took 2 loaded trains and elephants on the track to display the stability of the bridge (this story was told in the riverboat ride, dunno how true it is ;-) :-D). Ayn Rand's "Atlas shrugged", anyone? :-D. Well, though it was constructed in 1874, it is standing good till now and has a road way on the top and 2 rail tracks in the middle (for to and fro) which are still in use today.

We also took some photos of the Arch. This is a picture perfect one which shows the old courthouse in the middle, just how the Arch was meant to look:

Us on the riverboat :).

After the riverboat ride which actually took more than an hour, we left the Arch (finally!) to go to Anheuser-Busch Brewery headquarters.

Anheuser-Busch is famous for its beers in the US like Budweiser, Budlight and a multiple other beers.

We took a tour and it was pretty informative to see how the beer is made/stored and packed. Below is one of the mash tanks where the ingredients are cooked in. It was all quite interesting, but we had to walk quite a bit as the campus is huggggggggge.

After the tour, we returned back home, driving back 5 hours again and losing another hour due to timezone change :-p. We reached home at around 10:30 PM and retired after having dosas for dinner.

Meanwhile, as Jon Stewart says, here's your moment of zen:

Like Hurricane, West Virginia, Burnt Prairie is actually a place in Illinois :). Don't you think it'd be nice to live in such weird-named places? :-D.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A dark tale!

For the first time since Sri and I have been in the US (Sri has been off/on here for more than 5 years and I have been here almost 2 years now), we faced a power outage!! This miracle, errr, catastrophe happened on Friday the 9th March 2007 evening :-D. We were watching yet another of the many telugu movies we watch now and then and boom!! Everything went dark literally! The strangest coincidence was that just that morning, I was telling my mom about how disadvantageous a power cut could be here in US!

Well, the candles which until now had just been used for decoration/aromatic purposes, suddenly were thrust into a "real" use and I must say, they lived upto the expectation :-D. I ventured out and saw that there was darkness all the way in all the blocks towards our right, but towards our left, there was light after a couple of blocks. It was nice to see the night sky without the ever-present illumination of the street-lights. I pestered Sri into taking me on a drive for a quest to the end of darkness. Well, what I meant was to find out the other end to the power outage. So we drove around the dimensions of where the power cut had happened and to our surprise we found that even Sri's office had the power cut and the factory next to it had about 3 fire-engines around. We could only guess that it may have been the reason for the outage as such.

Power outage is certainly not a common occurence here in US. In India, its a day-to-day experience. And that makes me go into a flash back mode as usual :-D. In our house, before the invasion of the all-powerful invertor that is, if a power outage happened at evenings, we always used sit outside and talk. Talk a lot, sometimes sing old hindi songs and even later, Darsh would bring his accoustic guitar out and we'd have a nice time singing soft english songs :). It was so pleasurable. But it was a different story altogether if the current didn't come back within the sleep time. Especially during summers. It'd be too hot + mosquitoes would have a field day during the night and sleep would become impossible ;-).

Here in US, the windows are almost always closed and there are hardly any mosquitoes in the cities. So no problem there. Its not summer yet and its still pretty cold. We took out a couple of blankets for that. But the major problem is not any of these. In the US, atleast in our house, everything, every damn thing works on electricity. No electricity means no cooking (we have an electric cooking range), no hot water, food might get spoiled ('cause no fridge), house is too hot/cold (no air conditioning) and the garage door won't even open as its automated!! Thankfully we had eaten something in the evening, so we were not really hungry. And since the power outage hadn't spread to the whole town, we could still go out and eat. But imagine situations like the recent tornadoes and heavy snowfall power outages. There's no way to even cook and eat unless you have a gas connection (its costly and some people do have that, but not many). There's no way to boil water!!

What I mean is that people who seldom face a power outage are hardly prepared for it. Hardly any shops own generators here unlike in India where even a kaakana angadi is prepared with some candles/emergency lights. While in India, every building that towers more than 2 stories, has an elevator and subsequently a generator (though using it or not depends on "other" conditions ;-) :-D), here though there are multi-storied buildings, hardly any of them have generators (This became a major problem in New Orleans, Katrina incident). Hardly anybody is prepared for such an event. Even us who have braved many power-cuts in India, were hardly ready. I mean, yes the power-cut wasn't wide-spread, but had it been, we could have probably survived (with raw food) for a day or two, thats it! Later we'd probably have had to drive around to a different place which had power and stay there until power would be restored here. I guess people take things for granted sometimes and some places ;-).

So we talked for sometime regarding anything and everything and called the electricity company several times, only to hear an automated message saying "There is a power outage affecting about 1300 customers in North Lexington. Our resources are working on it currently and hope to restore it soon". After about 3 hours of this "dark"ness, during which Sri even saw a shooting star, boo hoo I missed it :(, we decided to end the day and go to sleep. We still were wondering how we'd face the next day if the electricity decided not to show up, when the lights came back! It was "fun" only because it lasted only for 3 hours :).

The next day I found out that the power outage had been caused by a raccoon of all things!! Thats the reason we have a saying in Kannada saying "Moorthi chikkadaadaru Keerthi doddadu" meaning that "Though an idol might be small, its fame maybe big". Holds good for the raccoon which kept 1300 people in darkness for 3 full hours! :-D.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

You only blog twice (2 years) :-D

The Blog poem

There's a place on the web
Where I pen down my thoughts.
I write this, that and more
I type lots, lots and lots..

I write poems, I put pictures
I write huge posts on my travels
I write about my on-going life
As it slowly but surely unravels..

I started writing two years ago
I hope it goes on to three
Then to five, ten, fifteen, twenty
Until the ultimate end of me!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Visual effects :).

This one's been circulating around recently. Saw it first at Orchid's and later at Usha's. Well it looked good, so I picked it up :).

This one's no tag. Fell free to pick it up if you like. Me like!