Lawn in March

Lawn in March

Aint it cool? Just by watering ….

Lawn in July

Lawn in July

There is more to the story. I screwed up my front yard by over-fertilizing and it is burnt in certain areas. I got fed up with the weeds and wanted to destroy them all. My lawn was OD”ed”.

Currently my front yard is in recovery mode. Rookie mistakes of a new home owner. 🙂

Edit – I forgot to thank K and K who helped us in fixing the lawn. They had been to our place and we put them to work … 🙂

Contd ….

One month later –

The immediate thing that we had to do after moving in apart from the obvious House Warming ceremony was fix the garbage disposal unit. Removal of the previous unit was as tough as attaching the new unit. Tip: This is a one man job and tricky due to the space crunch. Use a Paper-towel roll to keep between your back and cabinet as padding if you are fixing it in the half-lying posture going inside the cabinet. Make sure you can handle the weight and don’t drop that thing on your face. This was my first handyman work and had to convince Prad that I can do it. I think she has more confidence in me after my first handyman job.

As always, entertainment is a biggie for Prad and me. We got our 52 inch Sony Flat Panel in a good deal and so far its awesome. We are thankful to all our friends who could make it to our housewarming ceremony especially the once from Chicago, Atlanta and Washington DC. During Thanksgiving weekend, few of us got together and played under-arm cricket in my basement.

Two months later –

I enjoy being the Handyman! I like to do things around the home. But, there are too many things to do and all cannot be done at the same time. We were in the big-shopping-mode past two months trying to fill up at least the living room area with a few furniture sets. We bought a office furniture set and assembled it. There is something to learn in everything you do. The office furniture is a “L” shaped table. I was very careful in setting up the main table on Tuesday reading the instruction and making diagrams in my mind to check if it will look right after it is assembled. It took me almost the whole  night to finish this. The mini-attachment was supposed to be fixed on the LHS and I started on fixing this to the main table on Thursday. There were specific instructions on how to fix it on either ends. I think over-confidence took over me and I was not as meticulous like the previous setup. After drilling a few holes, I realized that I was following the instructions for the RHS setup. I hope there was a ROLLBACK statement but alas there was none. We have to stick with three holes on top of the mini-table. I am looking at wood fillers, paint, putty, etc to fill up the hole and make it as invisible as possible.

Now –

Awaiting the much anticipated spring season to begin. Winter has been worse than what Lexington has been through in the past few years. I want to start working on my yard. After we locked down on the house, I think the owners forgot to water the lawn and I could not revive the yard before Winter ice caused slow death. My lawn looks not in the best shape even before we could start working on it. I have heard from other friends that your lawn deteriorates as each year goes by. May be that will not be the case with my lawn.(Who am I kidding!)

Tip: Here is a link to a Home Buying PPT that I presented to a bunch of friends. Check out if you are interested ….

It was as though I got up from my sleep and two season’s passed by. It was work, soccer, watching HD sports channel, movies. I would like to say all those things but that is not the reason I did not post. Plain Laziness. Moving on to happening things –

House to Home –

No more do I- get frustrated that the house is not in the location we are looking, get excited that we could be living in one of these houses soon, call the real estate agent – seeing a FOR SALE sign. We got our first home.

We had been through the home buying process which some call as fun experience and some as grueling experience. For us, it was not easy due to certain personal selection criteria but it was more fun than anything. I agree it was frustrating to wait on something that you do not have control on.  But, it was worth the wait. I believe everything that happens, happens for your own good.

We learned a lot about buying a house, decorating a house, ideas from seeing other houses, building a new house, mortgage payments. Although, Prad and I have been preparing for this event forever, we were so excited to move into our first home. We did not move in immediately after getting the keys. We took our time in moving things from the rental apartment to the new home as we had the apartment until the month end. But, that did stop us from going home for lunch. We used to take all-time favorite Gumbo and eat at the counter table. After lunch, spend some time at the deck and go back to office. In the evening, we will find reasons to steal a look of our new home before going back to the apartment.

To all people who are looking to buy a house – do not get impatient, I am sure there is a home awaiting a new owner which is exactly to your liking …. contd

My uncle, who is a wild life enthusiast, used to take me and my sister to all WWF organized trips when we were young. We used to go bird-watching during the peak season at Vedanthangal, flamingo-watching in Pulicat lake, unplanned long drives and trekking to places not often visited. We enjoyed the companionship of all my uncle’s friends who were great wild-life enthusiast too. The first time I got introduced to wild-life photography was during a visit to a lake near my uncle’s friend’s village to watch-out for a particular breed of king-fisher (BEER-LOVERS, give me a break). My uncle’s friend, being a pro photographer, gave me an unloaded Canon SLR and asked me to fake as if I am taking pictures close to the target without scaring the bird. The point of this exercise was to be as close to wildlife as possible and blend-in with all the flora-fauna surrounding you. To get a great shot, you should be invisible to the eyes of the species and give them confidence that you are not scared of them and so can they be not scared of us.

A few years down the line, one fine morning we started driving towards Pulicat lake, about 85 KM from Chennai. I was amazed to see a bunch of people very excitedly setting up their cameras at 5:00 AM in the morning. They were getting everything setup before the sun rise which is usually around 6:00 AM – 6:30 AM. This is when I got introduced to powerful cameras with bazooka kind of lenses attached to them.

Pulicat lake, a beautiful lake close to Sriharikotta, is host to a great variety of bird species through-out the year. One of the major attractions are the flamingos. The flock of flamingos stick close to each other and move together very slowly.

We get down from the car and introduce ourselves to the group. I see a pink patch about 2 miles from where we stand slowly moving – so packed that you can only see a patch of pink water moving. I was sitting still like a frozen tree because every single action is being watched by this pink patch – if it moves away from you, someone in our group has made the place insecure for this patch. Already excited of seeing such a beautiful thing, I cannot express in words the picture in my mind of the sunrise behind the already beautiful scene.

What does this got to do with my dream’s coming true? Hint: camera setup !!!

I was waiting for my chance to look through the bazooka camera lense. One of the photographer was kind enough to explain to me the functions of his camera (I do not remember the model). He told me the differences between various filters (U.V, Polarizer). Although, I forgot many things that he taught me, it was good to know about few tricks in photography that I do remember to this day.

My dream was to get a good SLR camera and learn photography. It so happened that 10 years later I meet my wife who also happens to enjoy photography.

We were waiting for opportune moment for a long time I guess. The moment came when the Canon A-80 that we own started giving us some trouble during the Cincinnati Open Tennis tournie. I liked the Canon A-80 which I feel is a good starter camera to learn. It has many manual settings options and 2 custom setting options. But time has come for me and Prad to go one step ahead with respect to photography.

Prad gifted me a Canon EOS XSI Rebel Digital SLR with 18-55 mm lens recently. Wooooohooooooo !!!
We ordered the Canon EOS XSI such that it came before the Labor day weekend. Our first test is coming up in a few days – trip to Colorado.

Digital photography was not so advanced in those times and it was expensive to print pictures professionally. You had to pick your position and time almost to perfection to get a great pictures and you do not get too many chances to experiment. Things are lot easier now with digital cameras. Memory is cheap, storing pictures easier. You can experiment different positions and take as many pictures as you want. Then you can choose the best one from all your 100 pictures for printing. Of course, not to forget the softwares to enhance the picture quality.

In this world, where it has become easy to take a good picture, how can your pictures stand-out as the great pictures from the rest of the decent once? Being dynamic, travelling at least few times a year, being patient, experimenting, learning, etc.

Viewers – add/suggest your views on good photography based on experience.

JK Rowling –

I was not a big fan of Harry Potter series until Prisoner of Azkaban movie came out. I started reading Prsioner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix long after they were released. I remember going to the midnight party at Joseph Beth book-store for the book release of the Half-Blood Prince and the Deathly Hallows.

I like all the stories in which the good survives the evil. At some point of their existence in this world, each human goes through good times and difficult times. It is the choice that one makes that differentiates them from being good or evil.

KD had sent this link – JK ROWLING SPEECH AT HARVARD

The speech was captivating. I have not read such a big article in one sitting ever.

Equation – (**warning- very random thought)

Σ (good things that you do in a certain time-span) – Σ (bad things you did in the same time-span) = X

If  X = +ve { you are a good person}

If X = 0 { one bad thing will put you in the evil section}

If X = -ve {you are termed evil}

You must be wondering what is the time-span. It is left to the person who is evaluating you. 🙂

What is GPS – Global Positioning System. There are many satellites revolving around the earth that transmits signals. The GPS receiver tracks the signal to determine the location, direction of the receiver. Enough of “DUH” info. Question is, do you really need one?

My reason of not having one is, Prad does not like another person instructing me on how and where to go while we are traveling together especially if it is a woman voice giving me the directions. Besides, she is really good at navigation, remembers places that she has visited before and has good direction sense.

Safety is one of my highest concern. GPS-Nav is a distraction. Looking at it constantly for directions might distract you while you are driving. GPS-Nav are annoying if there are many turns or steps on your way to destination.

At times, I feel safer with a GPS Nav in the car especially when I want to get away quickly from a dangerous/unknown place. Anything that would lead me out of the unsafe place faster.

You tend to become very casual with driving when someone is instructing you all the time where you need to go.

With one of these babies sitting comfortably near you, you can never miss a turn (unless you are sleeping and reduced the volume to zilch) and not end up 20 minutes later than the latest time you had to be to a place.

Last year I had been to NJ with my family. We had rented a car from Philly and we were on a East Coast trip. So, we decided to daringly use the NJTP (New Jersey Turn Pike) trusting the good-old GPS borrowed from a friend. We started at the Metro Park Station heading towards friends place in New Brunswick. We got lost at one point because the software loaded was 6 years old and some of the roads had become one way. Somehow we got back on track on a highway expecting to reach our destination. So, we thought until we were standing at the same Metro Station parking lot a good 30 minutes later. Immediately we shut off the GPS and called our friend for directions.

The problem with this GPS was it’s user interface. It was horrible and confusing. So you could actually get lost even if you have one of these.

With someone like Prad giving me directions, I completely lost my directional sense as if the part of my brain responsible for directions became numb. I could not remember the directions to the places I visit 10,000 times. Until, one day Prad decided, she would not guide me anymore for short distance. Imagine what would happen to a guy like me if I own a GPS-NAV.

So, do I really want a GPS NAV? My dad always says, there are things that are necessary and things that are luxury. GPS-NAV is one of the things that is not necessary currently for my daily activities.

Have you been on a long Road trip, with just you and few friends or you and your better half – no rushing to airport, no queues, no security person touching you to look for explosives hidden in your body, no air hostess showing you how to wear a seat belt; no recorded voice telling you when not to use restroom, when not to use your phone; no rushing from one terminal to another to catch the connecting flight to find that the only flight to your city left before you could run the 400 m from terminal 1 to terminal 2 in 3 min and 30 sec;

I have travelled by road to quite a few places, formidable mention –

 

Starting Location

Destination

Trip Type

Distance

Car

Rochester, NY

Lexington, KY

One-Way

584 mi

Nissan Altima

Lexington, KY

Niagara Falls, ON

Round trip

1084 mi

Ford Explorer

Lexington, KY

Daytona Beach, FL

Round trip

1622 mi

Nissan Altima

Lexington, KY

Chicago, IL

Round trip

744 mi

Infiniti I35

Lexington, KY

Gatlinburg, TN

Round trip

424 mi

Infiniti I35

 

I have mentioned few places that are not too far like Gatlinburg but we love that place and go there at least once a year.

Although, I love to drive, the Road trips are becoming more NOT feasible anymore and I prefer to fly if possible. I think it has something to do with age!

I have tried to list a few Pros and Cons of Road trip –

Pros –

  • My first paragraph which are negative things about flying and can be Pro for Road Trips
  • if it is a 500 to 800 miles, based on your city, you could drive and reach at the same time it takes for you to go to airport, checking in, finish security clearance, fly and go to your destination from the airport
  • Obviously cheaper for shorter distance (less than 1000 miles). I am not sure about the cross-country trips. With increasing gas prices, road trips might be as costly if you have less number of people
  • No restriction on how much you can take as long as it is within the bounds of what a car can hold.
  • No restriction on the number of bags you carry irrespective of how much each one weighs
  • Better options of choosing your spot for stopping for food, beverages, etc than the options at airport and cheaper than the cost at airports
  • Better snack options for travelling rather than the stinking pretzels or peanuts
  • I feel road trips are more fun because you are the one in control and not the pilot who does not give a damn about you
  • You can easily cancel a Road trip or return whenever you want 🙂
  • If there is a road, you can travel to the smallest town. Not all small towns have airports and the frequency and flight options sucks.
  • More hygienic. Breathe fresh air by opening your window. In a plane, your stuck with thousand other people breathing the same air that circulates – the same disease prone air.
  • If you take your own car, you will have your car at your disposal for any travel at the destination

Cons –

  • BIGGEST RISK – more accident prone. Even if you are a careful driver, there will be one crazy-ass driver who could spoil your trip
  • The driver will get tired but if there is good company and more people who could help, this should not be a problem
  • Road trips in winter conditions – not my kinda driving conditions
  • Not great for very long trips – you might have to stay overnight and continue the next day
  • Overseas travel
  • Access to internet
  • You might take the wrong exit and enter a GHOST TOWN where Indian Jones might think twice before entering the town
  • With more control, you will have more responsibilities. Like concentrating on not sleeping when you are driving.

I am probably prejudiced because of the recent flight that we took and the problems that we faced with it. I am sure you guys will have something to add too.

I had been to a Testing conference recently. I, being good at making people comfortable, usually will start a conversation and will be able to make good conversation with anyone. That is what I was proud of until this day at the conference.

I joined this table one day for lunch. Two people were talking to each other across the table. Here is their conversation –

lady: What part of Georgia are you from?

man: I am from Colombus, GA. How about you?

lady: AWEEEEE! I used to live in Colombus, GA 10 years back. (telling other people around the table who are least interested) Colombus, GA is a tiny-weeny city in GA and a very nice place. When I used to live there, there was no food place except for Chick-A-Fillet.

another man (trying to add something to involve everyone): The city I live in is quite big. The worst part of the city is the traffic. Traffic coming in through to the city have to pass through a bridge which is a bottle-neck.

lady: Ohh, if your city is (human) body, Columbus, GA is a mole in the body.

lady to the man across (not interested in the other man’s city info): So what’s new in Columbus?

man : You know the XYZ street, they have broadened the road and its a two way lane now.

lady: Really. (To other people in the table) When I was in Columbus, this was the only major road.

man: Ohh you got to see the mall now. They have re-constructed the mall now. We have a Dillards, Gap, a book store. Oh, ohh and we have a new Denny’s.

lady: Wow … I have to come to Columbus now. We have a few friends who still live there.

By this time everyone at the table was so stunned by this conversation, that nobody was willing to start a new conversation for the fear of getting awkward. I was envying the other tables wanting to move there so that I can talk something sensible (hmmm, let’s see, since we are at a Testing Conference, how about TESTING). I ditched the idea of getting up from this table with my plate in hand and moving to another table. That will look so obvious that I was so not interested in this conversation. There was silence around the table, people looking at all directions except the people around the table.

man (after 5 minutes of silence): Oh you know what, now we have a new Olive Gardens.

That’s it! I picked up my plate joined another table. Any table would be better than the one I was sitting earlier. As I was leaving, the man was thinking of what new things had come up in that little town in  the past 5 years.

 

I collect myself from my room to go have some coffee in the office green room (we call this green room because our office coffee break room is really green color including the carpet). There is a nice patio accessible from the doors from the green room. In good weather, you can see all the nice ladies wearing sun-glasses getting tanned in the sun, chatting with each other. If only they had a cocktail and dressed in what-they-wear-in-beaches, one would think this is a beach party. So, I see a bunch of ladies outside but they were not doing exactly what I expected to see. One lady, M, was sitting in a chair and one, J, standing close to her. The others were excited and laughing nervously.

I am getting closer to the scene of action wanting to know why these ladies are excited. They can get excited for anything and everything in the world, but something in their faces told me it would be interesting to watch this activity.

There was ash flying around all over the place from the M’s ear. Getting a little close, I clearly see smoke and a burning candle stuck to M’s ear. What in the world was that!

So, I ask the experienced person –

J- “Barrath (sounds as Barrack with a th), this process is supposed to relieve sinus pain.”

Me- “ Really! Ahem” (Are you kidding me?)

Me- “Is this some kind of VODOO medicine that you burn all the bad things from your body?”

J- “Ha ha ha … It’s not VODOO medicine, you get this in Good Food Co-op and it is supposed to remove the excess wax and toxins from your ears”

Me- (Yeah Right!!@#@!#)

I did not believe the possibility of burning candle stuck to your ears (Eustachian tube) would relieve sinus problem. Do you believe it?

People, it is true and it is called Ear Coning.

Now that you all know about it, when are you going to try? Tell me how it goes. 

Recently our ex-President, APJ Kalam had come to Lexington, KY. Mr. Kalam needs no introduction but I was astounded by the simplicity of this man. Greatness personified in every action of his from what I saw and what I heard from other people.

“Kalam” in Arabic means “talk”, “speech”. Well his speech was great in parts. I had not read about his concept of “PURA” from the India 2020 book. For those of you who do not know, “PURA” refers to “Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas”, is about giving a cluster of villages physical, electronic and knowledge connectivity (ref Wharton speech). Thus the reference made by Mr. Steve Beshear, Governor of Kentucky, about “World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, made sense later.

On a different note, the atmosphere in Lexington, KY was more than festive. I was at one point overwhelmed by the amount of talk, activity, politics, the “J” word going around in this small town with limited Indian population. Last few sentences by Kalam –

Righteousness
“Where there is righteousness in the heart
There is beauty in the character.
When there is beauty in the character,
There is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home.
There is an order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation,
There is peace in the world.”

The cultural programme that followed his speech was good. We had the National Anthem and “Humko Mann Ke Shakti Dena” sung by kids at the beginning. A booming American National Anthem. The English note performed by the singing group was good. I am not a big fan of people singing in different pitches but this was different. There were two Indian dances, one Gujurati Dance which was colorful and a contemporary dance. The choreography of the contemporary dance was good as it involved coordination. I felt the message was lost and a good narration at the beginning could have helped many including the American folks present. The Clogging group STOLE THE THUNDER. There were these cute little kids who performed really well. Although, the music was too loud, I could still hear them “CLOGGING”.

I appreciate the effort, practice and the show put up by each of the performers. Some of the performers are my friends and they had put in lot of effort into this show. Hats off to them!

I do not have photos with President Kalam that I could share but I did not really try to get one. I will get a photo with the President after I accomplish something really great.