Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tagging, (you can not escape)

I've been book-tagged by Vivek.

Total Books I Own
Not counted, not sure, I can see 8 of them on my desk right now, I should have around 20 or so in Pune and atleast 30 should be with Yogi in Hyd, I don't really have a count for books back home, I did have a trunkful :-)

Last Book I Bought
Noticia De Un Secuestro (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
El Amor En Los Tiempos Del Colera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
The Salmon Of Doubt, Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time (Douglas Adams)

Book I plan to buy next
Cien años de Soledad

Last Book I Read
Right Ho, Jeeves (P. G. Wodehouse)

5 Books That Mean a Lot to Me
The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy (the trilogy of 5 books by Douglas Adams)
Contact (Carl Sagan)
मानसरोवर, Maansarovar (Premchand) (haven't read them in last 7 yrs but all of them were really good)
('mean' is a bit dicey, if it was 5 best I could have included more names)

My Unfinished Book
Joy in the Morning (P. G. Wodehouse)

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Its funny how I can get nostalgic about anything and everything. I recently bought a copy of MS Office for Mac and received first mail with a word document today (after buying the copy) from Neha. I used to ask Vivek and Mittal to convert all the RFPs, Proposals, Resumes that were sent to me in word format, to pdf format so that I can read it on my linux PC. And one particular document (GSM-MAP Spec) could never be converted completely because of its size.

I miss that now. For readers information, I am not fond of being called a geek, because I am not, though Gera surely is a geek.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Which states in India have you been to? :>

Which states in India have you been to? :>

I am jealous of my dad, he has travelled to (infact lived in) most of the states for 2-3 yrs. each.

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Finished reading P. G. Wodehouse's Right Ho, Jeeves, I brought so many books here and didn't get any time to read any of them. today I also managed to buy a couple of books from Barnes and Noble bookstore.

As I spend my time in US, I tend to compare it with India regularly and want some things to change in India to make it a better place. One of the things that should be looked at is minimum wages. I have been told by so many people in US that one can lead a normal life (though not lavish) irrespective of profession. Of course people tend to overspend and are under debt but atleast they are given a chance to choose their lifestyle. This page has a list of minimum per day salary. I find them too low even for small cities. Shouldn't the wages be dependent on cost of living in city?

I believe that all governments should try to align minimum wages in a manner that anybody with skill (in any field, be it cutting wood or construction work) should be able to earn a good living and lead a good life. I does sound a bit socialist but some people might argue that it will lead to highly capitalistic economy. Small business will not be able to afford skilled workers and small scale industry might take a hit and only big (really big) players will survive.

The best effect having good minimum wages would be that people will have somewhat more balanced approach to various career options. Rather than everybody running towards being IT professionals (most of them only because it pays so much more than any other profession) some people would actually go ahead and do whatever they like or atleast pursue their passion part time without loosing financial stability. Need I say, happy people make a healthy nation. Ignore Vikas's statement, "Happiness is the most unproductive state of mind."

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

I went to see Batman Begins with A(n) shoe man and Tan in June, The movie rocks. Go watch it.

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बाजीचा-ए-अतफाल है दुनिया मेरे अागे ।
होता है शबोरोज तमाशा मेरे अागे ।।

This gazhal always reminds me of kalpu, it is on of his favorites. Talking about reminding, songs from Dil to pagal hai remind me of scenes from chandrakanta and bhootnath and songs from Gupt are related to The Godfather (first english novel that I read). I had been listening to these songs in loop while reading those novels.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

After a real long time, I went for hiking today with Anshuman (my G S Lab colleague). We planned to go to mission peak that is visible from hotel as well as office and came highly recommended by people who hike regularly.

We started at around 4 pm and were back at 7 pm. I am not sure that we actually climbed the right peak but the one that we climbed was surely highest (atleast one of the highest) in the nearby area. I am expecting information from anshuman, he would study the map and find out the peak that we actually managed to climb. Climb should not be the word because it is more of a difficult walk than climbing.

We took the standard east end of Stanford Avenue, off Mission Blvd path to start our hike. It is popular trail and we met quite a few people who were starting alongside. There were atleast 5 or 6 hand gliders in sky and these guys were surely having a gala time. We actually saw one of them land. Initially I thought that the guy/gal is going to crash in some tree or in some building but it was a smooth glide and it surely was a treat for eyes.

The hike was relatively easy for me and climate was perfect, I don't think anyone can get tired in that environment. The view from topmost point as well as in the route was good. Fremont, Mountain View and Some part of Bay was visible from the trail, the mountains beyond bay were also visible and added to overall beauty of the scene.

We took the hidden valley trail to hike and going up the hill was much easier than coming down. I always find climbing down to be a more difficult task. The funny part was we were sweating because of sun and climbing but it was very cold on hill because of height and the cold wind.

A strawberry juice from Jamba Juice centre with energy booster was really helpful after the hike. I wonder why they have not thought about not opening the chain in India, they will be a big hit.

Update : I confirmed that we really hiked the correct peak, This link explains the trail in detail with photographs.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Yosemite National Park

Updated post with photos taken by Umang, they are better than the earlier links I had sent.

Yesterday's aquarium and beach visit was not enough to make this weekend complete. Umang invited me to join him to Yosemite National Park. For the uninformed, Umang is one of the guys I report to (I am reporting to too many people nowadays).

Yosemite is around 180 miles from my hotel and is slightly more than 4 hours drive. Among other things, Yosemite has two of the top 10 tallest waterfalls, Yosemite Falls and Sentinel Fall.

We started at around 5:50 in the morning so that we can come back before 11 in night. The drive itself was fun and was full of many vista points with lakes, mountains and beautiful flowers. We saw a lot of 80-100 feet tall trees and I couldn't help comparing them with indian trees, these ferns are almost 5 times taller than normal indian trees. We reached the park at around 10:30 and decided on going to BridalVeil Fall first. BridalVeil is a fall that seems to move like bride's veil, the movement is due to wind. We tried walking towards bottom of the waterfall which can be reached during start of winter season but all we could see was mist and of course we were all wet much before the foot of waterfall. BridalVeil Falls are really pretty and we met an old lady who was overwhelmingly happy to be watching them for the first time. She had found a very good view of the falls and we took a couple of photographs from there.

Next halt, El Capitan is the largest single monolith of granite, it stands 3593 feet from base to summit. It is an almost verticle rock but we could see that some people were climbing it (talk about daredevils). You should see the photographs of this rock to appreciate how difficult it must be climb.

Next destination was Yosemite falls, the falls are 2,540 ft high. There were many waterfalls (small and big) on the way to Yosemite falls. We didn't spend much time on Yosemite falls because we couldn't find a place to park :D. On the route we also got to see the famous peaks (el capitan and half dome) from various angles and manged to take a photograph of elephant rock too.

After that we drove to Mariposa Grove to see the famous Giant Sequoias or Sequoiadendron giganteum. They are the largest living things known to humans (by volume). Tallest Giant Sequoia in Mariposa Grove is about 290 feet. Giant Sequoias a from the Redwood family, Coastal Redwoods are the tallest (368 feet/112 meters is the tallest so far). Giant Sequoias are also called Sierra redwoods (the wood is actually red).

There were many trees that had got special attention, among them was Fallen Monarch that fell several hundred years ago and is still lying around. Supposedly Tannic acid present in wood works as preservative and arrests decay. We took the guided tram tour in park and tram driver Sam doubled as guide. Sam made the a lot of difference to the drive, full of stories regarding the park I sometimes envy these storytellers.

We saw the Bachelor and Three Graces first and the next was The Grizzly Giant. It made even the 100 feet tall ferns look tiny. GG has an estimated age of 2700 years. It has a branch that is 2 meters in diameter and said to be larger than any non-sequoia in the whole grove.

California Tunnel Tree and Wawona Tunnel Tree (fallen but still there) are said to have maximum contribution towards popularity of this place in early years. There are a lot of trees that stand in a group of 2, 3 even 8. The most famous couple is called Faithful Couple and there are two other trees right in front of the current couple that will make next FC in 500 yrs or so. A 100-500 yrs. old Sequoia is called a young tree. We did see some that were planted recently and a board that had "Don't step on the Giants" written on it told us what those tiny one actually were.

We saw a a lot of other interesting trees including Clothespin Tree, Telescope Tree. There were just too many huge trees all around, it is said that these trees were present in the when Dinosaurs were ruling the earth, atleast they are proportioned that way. The trees survived the calamity that resulted in extinction of Dinos. Some fossil analysis also revealed that genotype and phenotype has not changed significantly, they already are superhumans (in tree world) so they don't really need to evolve that much.

We left the grove and the trees soon after our 1 and half hour tour was over and headed towards Glacier point. It offers some of the best views of the valley. I was able to touch snow on roadside (actually it had turned in ice, still have to experience snowfall and soft snow). From the rim of glacier point we could see 3214 feet down (almost vertical).

At last count Umang had driven more than 450 miles during the day.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

This weekend has been very good so far. I called Shaadi around lunch time, he asked me if I was interested in "ghoomne chalne", I was. He came and picked me from hotel, we had two cars and all 6 of us had met each other ealier. I didn't know where we were going for a long time. I was happy to be going out, exact place didn't really matter. The drive was very nice, really beautiful trees on both side of road, mountains on both sides road (below the trees) added to the beauty. We drove for around 50+ miles and decided that we will go to Monterey Bay Aquarium. A very small hitch, since we didn't plan to go there in the first place and got interested in the place because there was a good poster at a Vista Point where we halted to take photographs. US being a well documented country, we didn't have any problem finding the right exit and making it to the aquarium without any hitch.

Monterey Bay Aquarium claims to be No. 1 aquarium and No. 3 top-rated family attraction in USA. I would agree with them, I have never seen an aqurium of this scale and I did see a lot of families, I would have loved to go there as a kid, if I had known such a place existed within driving distance.

We went the section called Ocean's Edge, Ocean's edge had many fishes inclucing tiger shark, california sheep head. It had large windows through which all these fishes were visible, they had all sorts of plants and rocks to give it a natural feeling. There were other smaller aquariums with convex lenses that were housing many crab varieties, octopus and some really amazing fishes. There were many types of ray fishes and there camouflaging skills were really cool. We also got the see the beautiful mermaid's purses . To demonstrate the camouflaging they had two shallow tanks, one of them had brown coloured pebble rock another had white pebbles. Same type of fishes were kept in both tanks and they had changed colours to match the bed colour.

There were so many type of fishes with unique characteristics that it is not possible to describe all of them in this blog. I highly recommend everyone who is around this area to give the a place a visit. Touch pool for bat ray fishes were a hit among children, they just wanted to touch the fish again and again inspite of ice cold water and the fishes didn't seem to mind.

Another attraction that ocean's edge had was a simulated high speed water current, we stood below a transparent roof an lot of water was rushed onto roof with very high speed (and loud noise). You know that there is roof and you know that it is just a game but the loud noise and white water does managed to excite feeling of fright, if only for one second.

Another cool creature that aquarium has is sea otter, there were 3 or 4 sea otters and they were fun to watch. Otters are very active, playful and naughty creatures. One of the otters was busy playing with a blue ball while another was hiding behind a rock and peeping once in a while. A third one was actively swimming throughout the pool, it seemed to be posing for the photographs. We could have spent the whole day there, but we wanted to see the sharks.

Rather than sharks we saw jellyfishes first. Flower hat jellyfish and Gooseberry jellyfishes were very attractive and beautiful. There were many types of jellyfishes in all colours and sizes. Aquarium had taken pains to make sure that tank bed were of contrasting colour to make it a more pleasant views. This was the first time I saw jellyfishes (except on TV). One of the tanks had a button which one could press to make the jellyfishes vanish, basically they were visible because of the light, in absence of bulb light it was really hard to spot them.

Finally we saw some sharks, not the big ones but small ones of various types. There were many species of sharks including Tiger sharks, many type of rays and hammerhead sharks.

We ended our visit with Penguins. I am awaiting photographs and will try to post them when I get them.

After aquarium we went to Carmel Beach and had fun on beach. Water was ice cold and it felt very good to be back on warm send after going in water. I repeated the process a couple of times. When I was having difficulty keeping my feet in water for more than a couple of seconds lot of people were happily surfing in the same waters. Once again this was my first time watching someone surf, it looked very good on TV but live action was also good.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I went to San Francisco again and a spent a good time walking on Fisherman's Wharf after parking at one of the coolest parking places right by the bay. We headed towards Golden Gate Bridge and stopped at Vista Point took some photographs and decided to cross the bridge walking. It is fun to walk on the bridge and it is really scary to look down. Some folks had brought there bicycles and must enjoying the ride. We just went half the way and came back. The city looks beautiful from the bridge.

Once again we went to Lombard Street and it was fun to go on the ultra steep roads. We experienced another small wheel-spin :) I have been going out regularly on recent weekends and I am not able to catch up with the books that I got here. Next week if I don't go out I plan to read atleast one good book.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Read this article referenced in Dhar's blog. One of the things that author suggests he has learnt from playing FPS is to face towards entrance when sitting in your cubicle. I have seen better solutions to boss catching you surfing net or watching educational stuff. The answer is rear view mirror. I have seen a couple of them in the office here (they seem to be very common), more over they are portable, you can carry them with you when you change jobs, some of them use velcro to stick to your monitor top left/right corner. Will try to post a photograph sometime.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Spent the morning watching Steve Jobs' Keynote in San Francisco in Jan. Steve Jobs has earnt a nick name : Mr. RDF, I don't agree with that, whatever he presented IS real, or maybe I have not come out of the RDF yet. Its a must watch for anyone and everyone who uses a computer. I have more Steve Jobs Keynotes to watch later today.

The mac mini should be called mac tini, I had some different dimensions in my mind but I realised how wrong I was, when I saw it in the keynote. Go watch it here. Now I need to talk yogi in buying a mac mini :))

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Microsoft adding XML files to Office 12

If they really make it open standard (royalty-free), SO MANY other companies would come up with much better versions of office products (If not better, we would atleast see some trimmed down faster versions). There should be a catch somewhere, but I don't know what is that.

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