Monday, July 31, 2006


a lot of people in madras take this for one term. they ask "is today your happy birthday" and I want to say "yeah, today is my birthday alright, but I don't know if I am happy or not, particularly after you asked this question". you keep hearing "when is your happy birthday".....I don't know whether they really want to know which birthday we are finally going to be happy or if they are indicating that I have not been happy enough on all my other birthdays!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Final 500!

I got my $500 deductible from the insurance finally, more than 3 months after the accident happened. They sent me a letter with the cheque and a note saying that this closes the case. They are so glad to be done, but I have been a good customer and have patiently waited for the money. And life goes on, with the new car with already 3500 miles on it!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


My friend had called me to go with him to extraordinary desserts, a place somewhere close to downtown san diego that's very famous for its desserts. The previous time I had gone there with one other couple, we had somewhat got lost but eventually found this place. This time, I asked my friend to drive 'cause I was tired. We reached that place, but couldn't locate the actual address. Plus it had too many oneways and crowded streets, that we somehow eventually ended up taking the freeway itself! After that the next exit on the freeway turned out to be another freeway! ;) When we took the first exit on that freeway to make a U turn back onto the freeway, we missed the entrance and took some other surface road. I had to refer to a map after that to get back on 163S. We repeated the process of taking the exit, etc and were determined to find this place now after parking somewhere.

After quite a few rounds, we parked the car on 3rd street and washington. The place seemed rather quiet and run down, but there was some activity on washington street, with the video stores right on the corner. I helped my friend parallel park and just as we got out of the car and locked it, a totally drunk woman lost her balance and fell on the car behind us which set the panic alarm in that car. By this time, my friend had got pretty frustrated with the whole experience. We thought she would gather herself up and move on, but she did so, only to fall right next to our car! Another homeless guy started helping her out, but also started leaning on our car, much to the anxiety of my friend ;) We then decided to call 911 'cause we thought the situation needed some attention. The old drunken lady just couldn't gather herself up and even bore the beatings of the other homeless guy around her. We finally made up our minds to go and locate this place called extraordinary desserts, with the hope that it would cool us down. The address was supposed to be some twentyninetwentynine 5th street and we kept on going on 5th street, but it seemed it would continue forever before we reached this place. After quite sometime, we decided to return back. When we came back to our car, we found that the ambulance had just arrived at the scene and the paramedics were trying to help out the old lady. I told them what I witnessed and the man thanked me. I was almost going to ask him whether he knew the address of this extraordinary desserts, in Larry David style but decided against it. The whole thing seemed funny to me ;)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What and Why - Music

Why do I love music and am so passionate about it? I am even obsessed with good music. Let us see why.
  • To me music represents one of the highest forms of creativity exhibited by humans - every music piece is like a new being - a creature and a work of art.
  • I am fascinated at the varieties that are possible. I am also amazed at how our ears recognize music as a form of art - how they distinguish music from general noise. They say that even an untrained ear can detect the slightest dissonance.
  • Music has given me great joy during my childhood. I used to be able to pick a few tracks from a song and just concentrate on that one track. Ilayaraja is the single most reason why I am interested in music.
  • Music has instilled many different feelings in me. To me it is a form of expression - that allows us to express many different subtle feelings very clearly.
  • It also amazes me how the same tune can bring about different feelings to different people.
  • Music is something that comes from the composer's heart and hence a pure reflection of what he/she "feels" about the situation.
  • A lot of math is involved in music scoring or reading - which again appeals to me because I am also scientifically inclined.
  • All the ancient composers' works appeal to me a lot. I am amazed at their success at music and more amazed that their tunes are still being played all over the world even after a couple of centuries of their death. They live through their music and they seem to have done something great to mankind.
  • If I am able to play a tune on the keyboard, it has a great positive effect on me - I feel more confident and happier. I am able to appreciate the composers' mastery on the subject whenever I try to decompose a song into its individual tracks.
  • Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, music is also worth a thousand words. Sometimes music can express something much better than words.
  • I am very impressed with Rahman's career progress and his gift for music. He inspired me to learn the keyboard. It is a matter of pride for me that Rahman is so successful worldwide just 'cause of his music.
  • It is a means of doing something for mankind - it is a means to relieve their stress and entertain them and in return earning their praise and wishes. It is something that would give great recognition that commensurates with the effort that goes into making music, unlike many other professions.
  • It is a means to reach people that you don't know and a means to make them listen to your heart.
  • It is a means to be surrounded by positive energy and a means to be in touch with one's true self.
  • Music is a form of expressions where there are no rules within a set of rules.
  • Music is an art that requires minimal equipment or accessories - voice alone is enough to produce music and amuse anybody in the world.
  • Music affects me deeply and instills many different feelings in me and I want to be able to reproduce those feelings with my own self.

What and Why - Photography

I have become very interested in photography. It's another cliche thing to say, but that's the truth for whatever reason. Why would I be interested in photography? Let me think:
  • I used to be an artist when I was a kid - that was probably my childhood talent or inborn talent or whatever you want to call it - the stuff that came to me naturally. For various reasons I had to ditch that art and move on. Photography offers me a very close result - I like to shoot landscapes and stuff now and I feel like an artist.
  • It involves a lot of technical details and effort to come up with a nice photo. Being scientifically inclined, I enjoy this aspect of photography. I like to read about cameras, film, digital sensors and dynamic range, etc.
  • Good pictures that come out are really rewarding - people like it for one and it boosts my self confidence. It gives me a feeling that I have done something above the ordinary - something distinctive.
  • There is a lot more room to improve 'cause I see great pictures everyday and keep refining my benchmarks.
  • It is artistic - the composition, framing, exposure, etc give me a lot of room for creativity. It partly satisfies my creative desires.
  • My perfectionist attitude constantly interferes with the result of the pictures that I take, but I have learnt to 'stop the photo' at interesting places without further refining them.
  • It is again, one more step closer to mother nature. It forces me to spend time on one particular subject without getting distracted by whatever that surrounds it.
  • It is a form of meditation and allows me to focus (apart from focussing the camera).
  • The idea of holding an exhibition or having an online gallery really appeals to me and seems like a somewhat distant goal that I can strive towards.
  • I truly value people's appreciation and comments on my photos and that means a lot to my self confidence.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What and Why - Travel:

I like to travel. It's probably a cliche to say that. I have not travelled much in India. What is travel about anyway? That's what I'll try to answer here. Let's see.
  • Travel is a means of discovery, exploration. You discover a part of yourself when you travel and that's probably why I am even writing this blog.
  • It is a means of unwinding from an otherwise monotonous life.
  • It is a step closer to the all powerful nature
  • It feels good for the body and the mind.
  • You don't notice the passing of time when you travel which means that you are happy and are living the moment without thinking about anything else.
  • It allows the mind to focus and be engrossed in something.
  • It is what you can do to get to know more about our planet and what all is there on it.
  • It is a means to get to know more people, various cultures and probably a means to understand life itself.
  • It gives something to talk about to your friends and family and amuse them with your travel stories.
  • It is a sense of adventure and a feeling that you have accomplished something more than the ordinary.
  • It improves the health of body & mind.
  • Everytime I travel, I learn something. My mind needs constant work.
  • It is a means of being creative because you don't know what you are going to run into - same as exploration and discovery.
  • It is a means for me to take landscape pictures and appreciate the beauty of nature and gives an opportunity for being creative.
  • I personally attach a lot of value to exploration and discovery and coming up with some great shots which others haven't taken before. To me it is important to do something above the ordinary. At the same time, it is also important for me to do the ordinary extraordinary things like visiting Grand Canyon, etc.
  • You come back from the trip charged up to continue your everyday activities.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Colorado Trip

We had gone to Colorado for the long weekend (July 4th). We had a very hectic schedule and I don't have as much time to write about the trip in great detail as much as I want to. So, I'll quickly summarize it now and try to elaborate it later:

Day 1: We landed at Denver airport at around 9:45 AM local time. By the time we could rent the car and get out, it was 10:30AM....i wanted to see if we can reach the Pikes Peak Cog Railway thing by noon so that we can get on that train, but we were unfortunately just in time and hence couldn't get it. Our luck was that all the afternoons of our stay in colorado was cloudy and stormy. Regardless, as planned and reserved, we got in the 1:20PM train up the peak. The cloudy weather and overcast sky is the worst enemy of a landscape photographer unless you have some special subjects. If you are just planning to shoot the regular scenery, you would want a blue sky - something that I didn't find in the afternoons. One wonders where all the cloud comes from. Anyways, so the cog railway starts on time and heads up hill. Pikes peak is one of the tallest peaks in colorado - a height of more than 14000 feet. There are about 50 peaks which are over that height in colorado and you can see many of them eye to eye from the Rocky Mountain National Park's Trail Ridge Road.

The thing went up the summit. There were lightning strikes on nearby peaks and we were warned to get inside the building if we saw our hair standing up. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to shoot lightning. I thought I shot a couple, but when the slides came back, I hadn't caught one lightning. There were so many though. All of a sudden, we were charged up by an impending lightning and my hair was all standing up. We were terrified and immediatley ran inside the visitor center to protect ourselves. I later learnt that the positive charge accumulates on ground and forms a path up to the negative charge arising from the cloud - when the circuit is closed you have a lightning and thunder. We really didn't want to be in the path - the temperatures exceed 50000C apparently! That was literally a hair raising experience. It was much colder at the top and the air was so thin at 14000 feet that I was breathing so hard just to stay normal. Any couple of steps that I take - I found it very hard to keep up. They say one must drink a lot of water at such high altitudes to remain hydrated.

I wasn't too impressed with the Pike's Peak summit - in fact, that's the least favorite of everything we did. We would have barely spent about 20 minutes at the summit and we had to catch the train that was going down. We came down, looking at the scenery. There was some rain to add to all the cloudiness. There were couple of people sitting in front of us that didn't bother asking us before they closed down the window when I was trying to take some pictures.

The next thing we did was Garden of the Gods. This place is unique and has very wierd rock formations. There are very thin hills and mountains, all made of rocks. It was something new that we hadn't seen before. We spent some time there. Again, I wished that the sky was blue, but it wasn't, much to my disappointment. Bear in mind, we were able to do all the activities that we had planned, but I missed out on some real good photographic opportunities because of the overcast sky.

The third and the best thing for the day turned out to be a 45 minute tour of the "Cave of the Winds" in Manitou Springs - a city that's adjacent to Colorado Springs. This is an underground cave and offered me some of the best photographic opportunities for the entire trip. It's like a slot canyon buried underground, filled with stalactites and staglamites and lot's of interesting formations. I was amazed at the beauty. We then did groceries for the remainder of the trip and figured out where the hotel was and checked in. We cooked simple dinner and slept that day 'cause we were exhausted. The plan was to wake up at 5:30 AM the next day and head to Canon city, where we had reserved a rafting trip.

Day 2:

So we got up at 5:30 AM or so and pretty quickly got ready and had breakfast at 6:30 AM itself. By the time we filled gas and set out, it was 7:20AM. Nobody in Colorado Spgs knew how long it will take to reach Canon City, but we kind of guessed it'll be around 1 hr. and that's how long it took us. We were there in Raft Masters office by 8:10 AM, 5 minutes before the check in. They were not really paying much attention to the time of check in. There were a whole bunch of people there, amongst which there was a group of 18 people from Texas (they could be either Pakistani or Bengladeshi - my best guess). I originally planned to go with my swimming shorts only, but on second thoughts, decided to rent the wet suit. We rented three things - the wet suit, jacket, river boots. The life jacket was given to everyone and it was not officially rented. These things were not charged. I used a AAA discount to get our tickets to about $52 each. The guide asked us to board the shuttle bus to go upstream where we will launch our raft boats. He then told us of all the safety precautions. My wife couldn't take them all since she has absolutely no first hand experience in water, leave alone swimming. She was totally scared, but I assured her that it would all be ok. We were all asked to wear helmets BTW (yellow color).

We then boarded our raft and Brit was our rafting guide. She happened to be the older sister of the guy who gave us all the safety instructions. During the course of rafting, she was telling us about her family - her parents are farmers in Canon City and she just bought a house for $200,000 with a 30 year loan. During summer, she does rafting trips though it doesn't pay her all that much. She does painting on china dishes, something like that during winter time and that pays her during then. She was a great guide and really manuevered the raft very cleverly in the class V rapids to avoid tipping of the boat. I was the second best in the raft (I am not even kidding). We were with a bunch of oldies from Texas and they weren't much use paddling during the tough portions. The guide has also done a 27 day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon and told us that it was a lot of fun. Anyways, the rafting itself turned out to be a hell lot of fun. I was laughing hard whenever we went through the rapids - class III, IV, V and only longed for more. My wife on the other hand was waiting for the trip to end. We didn't get all that drenched though we went through some 3-4 foot waterfalls - not that big but big enough to be called class V. I paddled hard throughout the trip. The rafting was done on Arkansas river, amidst the Royal Gorge, which was spectacular. There were 1000 foot walls of rock on either side of the boat and the scenery was splendid indeed! Towards the end of the trip, the river mellowed down and my wife started enjoying ;) Water didn't splash on us all that much since the guide made my wife sit in the middle of the boat so that she will be the least scared.

Finally the rafting had to end and we were driven back to Canon City where we took some pictures before surrendering all the gear back to them. We had lunch in our car, got directions for Great Sand Dunes and set out. On the way, we encountered terrible thunderstorms and heavy rain that I had to pull over and wait for the rain to subside. I guess that is how thunderstorms are - it's like somebody is pouring buckets full of water on you - the water doesn't even get time to get dispersed into droplets. We were thankful that our rafting trip went in good weather and were kind of disappointed at the same time 'cause I was planning to take some good pictures at the sand dunes. Regardless, we kept driving and we drove through some beautiful scenery - close to the Arkansas river. We must have reached the great sand dunes visitor center a little before 5PM. The Sand Dunes is an amazing sight. We really wished that the sky was clear, but continued to take some pictures of that place. Nothing to worry 'cause there is some sand dunes close to San Diego that I can visit. We did some short hike on the dunes and set out from there at 6:30PM after which it started raining over there. We reached Colorado Springs before 10PM and had dinner and crashed.

Day 3:

I haven't udpated this blog in some days and before the enthu runs out or I forget, I felt the need to finish this travel diary. Day 3, we set out at pretty much the same time as Day 2 - 7:25AM, from CO Springs and headed towards Aspen after filling gas. We went on 24 west, through Manitou Springs. We got a pretty crappy car, thanks to Denver Airport's ridiculous car rental prices. It wasn't climbing any small hill, so we kept on driving slowly like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels on the motorcycle in Dumb and Dumber. We went through some scenic places and took a break at a city called Buena Vista - which is celebrated as the rafting capital. Arkansas river runs through this city. The weather was awesome so far. We had some coffee there and moved on. Close to Buena Vista, we caught freeway 82 west that goes to Aspen through a mountaneous landscape. This segment was getting better and better. We stopped at a place called Twin Lakes and took some pictures. We moved on and I was delighted to see so many mini forests of Aspen trees all around the road. We stopped at another place called Willis Gulch which offered plenty of photographic opportunites. We then proceeded towards Aspen because we wanted to see Maroon Bells asap and move on to Glenwood springs. We reached Aspen around noon and I went straight to the visitor center where they gave me a map of the small pretty town and told me the various points of interest I should be visiting. Of course I didn't have time for all of them. We then proceeded to the place where we were to board the shuttle bus that leaves for Maroon Bells. We had lunch before we boarded the bus. The bus takes about 20 minutes to get to Maroon Bells. The weather at Maroon Bells is kind of indeterminate, but generally gets overcast and rainy during the afternoon. We learnt the lesson the hard way - we had to face the rain.

Maroon Bells is one hell of a scenic place and really offers numerous opportunities for photographers like me. The place is lush green, with a lake and two gigantic mountains called the Maroon - Bells, literally because they are maroon in color and look like bells. The scenery was awesome. We took a ranger led walk around the lake and were awe-struck at the beauty of that place with all the blooming wild flowers and all that. We also tasted a plants leaves that had some medicinal value. We went somewhat deep into the trail with the ranger and I kept stopping for pictures frequently until a really hard rain hit us. It became sleet in a short while and gave us no choice other than running towards the visitor center. I was very disappointed at this - firstly, the sky wasn't blue and secondly, my camera was under risk of getting hydrated ;) Anyways, as always, I told myself that I have to go there again sometime and somehow made up my mind to leave. We caught the shuttle back and went back to Aspen, where we wasted no time in getting back into the car and driving towards Glenwood Springs. The weather became perfect after a while before we reached GS. I immediately located the hot springs hotel there and parked the car and rushed towards the hot springs swimming pool. We had to satisfy a few formalities, etc, but I just couldn't wait to get in the water. My wife also joined me. We would have spent a good two to two and a half hours in the pool.

There are two pools there - one of them is called the therauptic pool and the other one is regular. The former is really hot and the latter is cooled down for everyone to swim pleasurably. I really enjoyed swimming in these pools. It was very relaxing after a tiring two days of running around. There was no rain, but the crowd was too much. I couldn't swim straight for a long time. They feed the swimming pool with the hot water springs and mix it with freshwater to make it a little cooler 'cause the source water is too hot. We originally had plans to visit this place called hanging lake near glenwood springs but we were so enthralled by the hot water springs that we decided to take it easy and just continue to rest. At about 7 pm or so, we felt we were done and quickly packed up and had dinner and started our long drive towards Denver. It took us easily 3 hours going through all the mountains and passes and what not. Plus driving in the night made it kind of stressful. There were a few cities up there in the mountains at 9000 feet. The I-70 freeway near glenwood springs is a work of art - there are two levels, one for each side of the traffic and each side had independent tunnels. It is built in a narrow canyon, with the colorado river flowing in it, with a train track on the other side of the canyon. Overall, it was spectacular. We reached Denver at around 10:30 PM or so and checked in the hotel and crashed almost immediately.

The next day, we were to pack up everything completely and head to rocky mountains national park.

Day 4:

So we got up and packed up everything. Had some breakfast at the hotel, checked out and started driving towards the Rocky Mountain National Park. The hotel was conveniently located near the major freeways that took us to the park, so it helped. It's about an hour and a half drive to estes park, the entrance to the national park. We were checking the weather and the forecast was thundershowers for the afternoon - so we were kind of determined to cover most of the park before the afternoon. We had a flight to catch at 8:40PM, so we planned it such that we would leave the park at around 3PM, so that we may comfortably reach the airport before 7PM with the July 4th traffic and all. In the end, because we hurried so much at each place, we had too much time to kill and reached the airport at 5:45PM itself. In the park, we first went to a place called Bear Lake. The lake was awesome, with blue skies in the morning and lush vegetation around it. A short hike away, was another lake called Nymph Lake - that was awesome too and was well worth the 0.5mi hike. We didn't want to venture out any further on the trail that would have led to some 5 other lakes 'cause we didn't have much time. We headed back from Bear Lake, which by that time was full with parked cars. The final day was pretty much driving and stopping at important vista points and taking pictures. We reached the Alpine Visitor Center at around 2:30 PM or so and I did a short hike up to the nearest summit. When they say that the air is thin above 12000 feet, you need to take it seriously and literally. I ran out of breath like carzy - I was panting hard and was kind of totally sapped of my energy. I took it slowly after than and reached this peak and took some pictures. I came down, spent a few minutes at the visitor center and the store there and pretty much started our drive out of the park to Granby and from there back to DEN.

We reached DEN much sooner than we had planned and were able to get onto an earlier flight, which was kind of delayed and eventually left at the time scheduled for my original flight which was delayed even further. We landed at SAN at 9:45 or so and came back home.

It was one hell of a trip overall and turned out to be a hair raising experience - literally!