Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Eve Party?

Today is New Year Eve. Lot of people will have parties. Lot of drinks. Lot of drunk driving. It is alright. There is a funeral home in USA that has a deal for you.

Before noon Thursday, drivers can visit that funeral home to sign a contract stating they plan to drink or take drugs and then drive on New Year's Eve. If they die in a wreck that day, the funeral home will give them a free burial. Services included in the package are a casket, grave, limousine and preparation of remains. Funeral home officials said the program is designed to save lives by making partygoers think twice about drinking and driving.

Any takers for this offer?. I sincerely hope not.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My View of 2009

So many things happened in this world in 2009. I consider the following 12 events are very significant. These are my own personal views. You may even laugh at me for considering some of them as important. You may not even recognize some of the names. So here it goes:

Happy

Barack Obama, first Afro-American, was sworn in on January 20, 2009, as the 44th President of the United States.

U.S. stock markets recovered from their 2008 disaster. With only 3 days to end the year, compared to the beginning of 2009, Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by 17%, NASDAQ Composite is up by 40%, and S&P 500 Index is up by 21%. A better year financially.

Summer Bird, a horse owned by an Indian-American couple, Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman, won the prestigious Belmont race on June 6, 2009. (I wrote my first blog on this on June 8 and only one person commented and that too a month later on July 6, 2009.)

Scientists discovered water on the moon. They had long assumed the moon was dry. This will make way for growing vegetation in the moon.

Sad

Senator Ted Kennedy died on August 25, 2009, at the age of 77. As President Obama said “His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives.”

Michael Jackson, King of Pop, died on June 25, 2009. He was 50. His album “Thriller” still remains the best selling album of all time. It sold more than 50 million copies.

Ed McMahon, long time side kick to talk-show host Johnny Carson, died on June 23, 2009, at the age of 86. As Donald Trump said "America has lost one of its great icons. Ed McMahon was a terrific entertainer and a wonderful person”. When Ed had financial difficulties during the last days of his life, Donald Trump helped him.

Farrah Fawcett, actress, model, national sex symbol (to any age group) died of cancer on June 25, 2009. She was 62. Michael Jackson’s death on the same day over shadowed this sad news.

In 2009, H1N1 (Swine Flu) broke out in many countries across the globe. Fortunately major catastrophe has been avoided.

Tiger Woods Affair. Very sad. Tiger is a child prodigy. He won a putting contest at the age of 3. He is credited with popularizing the sport of golf. He is solely responsible for other golfers to get more prize money. His picture-perfect family life and his public image as a disciplined person were all shattered. For better or worse, I consider him as Man of the Year for 2009.

Pathetic

On February 24, 2009, a triumphant President Barack Obama addressed the Joint Session of U.S. Congress for the first time. His speech was eloquent and at the same time plain-spoken. It showed how well he reads the public.

Whenever the President speaks before the nation, American television networks give equal time to the opposition party to give a rebuttal. (I do not think this practice is followed in many countries.) This rebuttal will be broadcast live immediately after the President’s speech. The opposition party, Republican Party, chose Governor Bobby Jindal to give the rebuttal. Governor Jindal is likely to run for the President of the United States in 2016. Everyone thought this rebuttal will be an introduction of Governor Jindal to all the people of USA. But what a disappointing performance by Jindal! Boston Globe wrote: "Insane, Childish, Disaster". Even Republicans criticized his performance. Some people commented since no one wanted to stand up to Obama at that time, Governor Jindal was made a scapegoat.

Blunder

Indian Government’s approval to create a separate Thelungana State. In 1956, for the first time, a new state was created based on language. Andhra Pradesh was created from the Madras State. It paved the way for creating many states based on language. If that was a bad idea, this one is worst. A state is being divided into two even though both states will be speaking the same language.

This is going to be a precedent for many more problems. Royala Seema wants to be a separate state from the proposed Thelungana State. Gorkha Land from West Bengal. Vidharba from Maharashtra. Saurashtra from Gujrat. In addition, the U.P. Chief Minister wants to divide it into 3 different states.

Mr. Karunanidhi is going to take advantage of this situation. He is already thinking of dividing Tamil Nadu into 3 different states. With Madurai as the capital, there will be Azhagiri Nadu. With Chennai as the capital, there will be Stalin Nadu. With Coimbatore as the capital, there will be Kanimozhi Nadu.

(I have a question. How did the central government approve the word “nadu” in Tamil Nadu? Nadu means country. Nadu does not mean state. Tamil Nadu means Tamil speaking country. Is there a separate country within a country? What is the motive here? After all, Karunanidhi and his party were advocating seceding South India from Indian Union and naming it Dravida Nadu. Thank God they did not have enough support in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Avatar 3D Movie




Yesterday, Christmas Day, we went to see Avatar 3D movie. This is an awesome movie.

Here is the plot. Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) is a paralyzed Marine. He was recruited for a top secret program to infiltrate an alien planet. This would give him a chance to walk again. This alien planet is called Pandora. The population is known as Navi. With some sophisticated lab work, he gets a Navi body. He can control his body through his mind. After several months of living with the Navi, Scully’s sympathies begin to shift after he falls in love with a beautiful Navi warrior girl (Zoe Saldana). My grading: C for the story.

Sam Worthington came out better than this role in Terminator: Salvation. Zoe saldana fares a lot better as a Navi.

Avatar is a solid exciting science fiction adventure. The sound is almost as amazing as the visual effects. They used the state-of-the-art 3D filmmaking techniques to create a visually stunning alien world.

AVATAR is one of the best movie experiences I have ever had.

This is a must-see film in the theater in order to fully enjoy the 3D visual effects accompanied by the incredible surround sound. After coming out of the theater we did not feel like we went to a movie. We felt like we spent more than 2 hours in the planet Pandora.

This is the 3D glass I wore in the theater. They let us take home these as souvenirs.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Decoration

Received in the Email and I am sharing with you.

“Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after two days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn’t realize that it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of the many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn’t take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.”

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To All My Blogging Friends: HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brittany Murphy


Brittany Murphy, actress, 32, died this morning of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. Very sad.

She was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents divorced when she was only 2 years old. Her mother raised her in Edison, New Jersey. Brittany had a very poor and sad childhood. Her mom struggled financially.

She wrote an article in the Glamour magazine. In that, she stated they were forced to eat spaghetti night after night and some nights even that was not there. She had to beg her mother to buy clothes for her at Kmart. In addition, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and survived a double mastectomy.

Brittany got her first job in Hollywood at the age 14. She starred as Brenda Drexell in the series Drexell’s Class. She acted in movies like “Clueless,” “8 Miles,” “Just Married,” “Girl, Interrupted,” “Sin City,” and “Riding in Cars with Boys,” among others. In addition, she acted in many television series. She has also given voice in many animated films.

Brittany married Screen Writer Simon Monjack in May 2007.

Such a talent is gone at this young age.

May her soul rest in peace.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ancient Sayings

I would like to write this post about an ancient Sanskrit writing and how it does not have any significance in today's world.

A Sanskrit saying from many thousands of years ago goes as follows. (Please pardon if there is a spelling mistake or a pronunciation mistake. I read this in English and not in Sanskrit.)

Uththamaa Aathmana Kyaathaa Pithaa Kyaathaa's cha Madhyama
Maathulena Dhama Sasurena Dhama Dhama

(If a person is recognized because of himself, he is the best. If a person is recognized because of his father, he is mediocre. If a person is recognized because of his uncle, he is low. If a person is recognized because of his father-in-law, he is the lowest.)

It says if someone is recognized in the street for what he/she is, then he/she is the best. For example: She is a gold medalist in our university.

If someone is recognized in the street because of his/her father, then he/she is mediocre. For example: He is our MP’s son.

(It does not address people like Jawaharlal Nehru and President John F. Kennedy. They were born to famous fathers and became more famous than their fathers.)

If someone is recognized in the street because of his/her uncle, then he/she is low. For example: She is our Managing Director’s niece.

If someone is recognized in the street because of his/her father-in-law, then he/she is the lowest. For example: He is the son-in-law of this “particular movie director”.

The above Sanskrit saying may be OK at that time when it was written. It is totally out of tune in today's world. People don't bother as to how they are recognized. They can and will say:

If my father is famous and I was born to him, it is not my fault.
If my uncle is famous and I was born in that family, it is not my fault.
If I meet a very good mannered and beautiful girl and we both fell in love and marry, don't blame me if her father is famous.

Another example of what was OK then (thousands of years ago) and out of tune today is Manusmiriti, the Code of Manu. He said a female should be protected by her father in her childhood, by her husband in her youth, and by her son in her old age. If I tell that to any woman (including my wife), she will immediately remove her shoes to hit me. I have read a little about Manusmiriti. But only in English. What he said may have been correct at that time. In his days, the world was cruel and exploitative. So he may have wanted to help women and children. Other writings by him show that he is not anti-woman. For example, he also wrote:

A house where women are ill-treated and weeping will never prosper.
If an unmarried girl gives birth to a child, it belongs to the man she is going to marry.
If a bride is pregnant at the time of marriage, the bridegroom automatically becomes the father of that child.

Pre-marital motherhood existed in ancient times? May be.

Phone is a very good example to see how things change. First there was no phone. Then phone with no numbers and you have to call the operator to give you connection. Then phone with numbers to dial. Then phone with numbers to touch. Now phone comes with us wherever we go. Had someone documented about 100 years ago how great the phone (no numbers and has to call the operator for connection) was and if we read it now.......I will leave it upto you for comments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Customer Service

USA is considered one of the best in customer service. But the customer service here has deteriorated compared to 10 years ago. But still it is better than many countries in the world. The high level executives are more interested in top notch customer service than the actual customer service rep. Here is what happened:

On December 6 I went to a famous electronic retail store and made arrangements for a home theater installation in my home. They gave a due date of December 15 between 8 to 12 PM. I asked them to give me an earlier date if there was any cancellation. They said they would if there was a cancellation.

On December 9 evening I got a call from that store and said they have rescheduled the appointment for tomorrow (December 10) between 12 to 4 PM. On December 10, no installer came. And, no telephone calls. Therefore at 7 PM I called the store. The customer service rep did not give any satisfactory answer. He said he does not know why the installer did not show up and he would write an email the next day to the dispatcher and get a new installation date. I asked if the installer missed the due date is it not his responsibility to come the next day. He said he does not know.

After I hung up, I was so mad at the poor customer service. I wanted to do something. I could have approached the local store manager and fixed the problem. But since I was very mad, I wanted to take it to their Headquarters. I browsed through the corporate headquarters web page of that electronic store. There was a list of names of CEO. President, Executive Vice President, CFO, and other Vice Presidents. But there was no email address. Then I looked at the business card the sales rep gave me on December 6 when I first went to make arrangements for the installation. It had his email address. It is like this. firstname.lastname@storename.com. Suddenly I had this idea.

I wrote an email explaining the situation. I selected the Executive Vice President’s name at random. For his email address I put hisfirstname.hislastname@storename.com. I took a chance and sent that email. I thought it would come back as “mail undeliverable”. I waited for 10 minutes. It did not come back as undeliverable. Now I was glad I was able to correctly guess his email address.

I was not 100% sure if I would get any help. There are many reasons. First, if my email goes to his “spam”, he or his secretary would delete it. Second, if he is on vacation or tour, he may not have time to read my email. Then I went to bed.

That store’s headquarters is located in the East Coast whose time is ahead by 3 hours. On December 11 I got a call at 7 AM from that store’s Director of Executive Complaint Resolution. That Executive Vice President must have told the Complaint Resolution Director to take care of this problem. She profusely apologized for the inconvenience. She said she has contacted their installation manager for California and asked him to send an installer to my home immediately. She then gave her personal cell number and asked me to call her if no one contacted me by 4 PM California Time.

From 9 AM I started receiving several phone calls from several people apologizing for the inconvenience and every one promising me that they will send an installer today to my home. Finally the installer showed up at 2 PM and installed my home theater.

Here is the best part I like. That Electronic Store waived all the charges. Installation was done for free at no cost for me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Poor Judgement

His name is Larry. An Anglo Saxon White guy. He was working in our company as a junior level manager. He was a bachelor, never married. He lived with his aged mother. He was not heterosexual. Unlike some others, he never advertised his sexual orientation as a gay person. But his mother and friends knew this and accepted that fact. Of course, he had a lover. His name is Charles.

I knew him well. But he was not a close friend of mine. We have been to his house one or two times. He, his mother, and his lover have come to our house once.

Larry loved his mother to death. He took care of her daily needs with love and affection. He would cook for her every day. Made sure she had her medications every day. Daily, Larry would take her mother for walking exercise. He took her on exotic vacation twice a year. In short, he took care of his mother as if he would take care of his own newborn baby.

He never drank. He never smoked.

One day, the fate struck. His doctor diagnosed he has AIDS. He was devastated. His mother was even more devastated. As months went by, his health deteriorated. Larry weighed 200 lbs. And, after 9 months he weighed only 130 lbs. He could not go to work. Therefore, he went on medical disability. He was unable to drive his car. His lover, Charles and another close friend, Sam (a straight guy) took care of the daily needs of Larry and his mother.

Larry was becoming depressed more and more every day. One day, he took several sleeping pills in order to commit suicide. However, Charles saw this and rushed him to the hospital in an ambulance. Doctors saved his life.

Many visitors came to see him at the hospital. All of them (except Sam) were unanimous in their scolding to Larry. “Why did you do this stupid thing? Your mother is very old. Who is going to take care of her if you die? If you die, your aged mother will become an orphan. Your mother is having health problems. You are going to aggravate her condition by committing suicide.”

Larry was discharged from the hospital 3 days later. Since Larry cannot take care of himself, Sam and Larry’s mother decided to admit him in a Care Home. Care Home is a home where they take care of sick people for a fee. He was there for a week. His mother was lonely at home. Sam went there every day to see how she was doing. She knew that her son was dying of AIDS. She decided to take Larry back home. Since Larry had suicidal tendencies, Sam was opposed to this idea. Sam and Larry’s mother approached the doctor in that Care Home. The doctor refused to talk to Sam. It is the law that doctors are supposed to talk only to family members, if the patient has one.

Larry and her mother talked to the Care Home doctor. No one knew the conversation. The doctor decided to release him from the Care Home and let Larry go home with his mother.

On a Thursday evening Larry called Sam about his car insurance. Sam said he will do the needful. On Friday evening Sam called Larry at his home. The phone was ringing and there was no answer. Sam decided to go to Larry’s house on Saturday. Larry’s neighbor called Sam on Saturday morning at 10 am. He said he knocked Larry’s door and there was no answer. The newspapers have not been picked up from the patio.

Since the neighbor had the extra key to Larry’s house, Sam asked him to open the door. After 10 minutes Larry’s neighbor called Sam and informed him that Larry and his mother are dead. There is blood all over the house. Sam asked the neighbor to call the police and rushed there.

To end this post, this is what happened. The visitors who came to see him in the hospital were scolding him as to what would happen to his aged mother if he committed suicide. This was a very poor judgement on the part of the visitors. Since Larry was already depressed and loved his mother, he was worried so much about the fate of his mother in case he should die naturally or commit suicide. He finally decided to kill his own mother, before taking his life, so that she would not suffer or become a helpless orphan after his death. So on Friday he took a claw hammer (a sharp V shaped at the end) and hit his mother forcefully in the back of her head several times. Blood was forced out of her head. There were blood marks on the ceiling, on the window screen, and on the side lamp shade. She died.

Larry then went to his room. Took a blade and cut the veins in his hands, legs, and neck. He also died 20 minutes later.

This is not a fiction. This is a true story. Larry and Sam worked in our Company. I have changed the real names to protect their privacy. Couple of days later Sam came to see me and told me the whole story. I said Larry made the wrong decision to kill his mother. Even if it was right in his mind, I told Sam, he could have put a bullet into her head as opposed to beating her forcefully in the back of her head several times. Sam just wept.

The lesson: When we visit someone who is very sick, we should say some encouraging words. We should not depress more a person who is already depressed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fair Play

Last Saturday, December 5, there was a soccer match in Italy. It was an Italian Second Division match, Ascoli vs Reggina. Reggina's Carlos Valdez pulled a muscle and attempted to kick the ball out of play so he could receive treatment. Apparently, it is a time honored tradition that the opposite team will let the ball go out of play in that situation. However, in this match, a player from Ascoli intercepted the ball and passed it to another player in his team who scored a goal.

Immediately, there were protests and fights between the players. Once order was restored and the match resumed, the Ascoli players stood still and allowed Reggina to score an uncontested goal in order to be "fair". After the match, the Ascoli Manager said that the decision to allow Reggina to score an uncontested goal was a unanimous collective decision by the players. After the match, they had to hide in the changing room for more than 2 hours to avoid facing the protest from Ascoli fans.

Now Italian soccer officials have started an investigation whether Reggina's free goal constitutes a fair play or breach of soccer rules. They are also investigating whether the original goal by Ascoli is legal or not because the referee should have stopped Ascoli from scoring that goal.

A gesture of kindness has become a controversy.

Ascoli's good gesture did not bring them any luck. Reggina won the match 3 to 1.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Visit to Universal Studios

The next day, Friday, November 27, we went to Universal Studios. Any one who goes to Universal Studios will have a wonderful time. At the same time, they will be amazed at the technical marvel in film making.

We took the Universal Studio tour. They took us on an open air trolley and toured the whole studio with a live guide giving commentary. Some of the memorable things we saw were:

Wreckage from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.
Cars used in many movies.
The famous Bates Motel (Psycho) and a guy posing as Norman.
Jaws
Parting of the Red Sea
How floods are created for the movies.
Plane wreckage.
And, many more.

Then there are several other attractions available. They are:

Special Effects Stage – How special effects are created in movies.
Revenge of the Mummy – Ride
Jurassic Park – Ride
Terminator 2 – a 3D show
Shrek – a 4D show
House of Horrors – Walk through seeing horror movie characters
And, many more.

Because of the bad economic situation, if we buy a one day ticket, the studio is offering free admission for the second day (valid upto one year). Therefore, after the studio tour, we decided to see only Shrek and House of Horrors. I am sure we will be in Southern California many times within a year and we can see other attractions on our next visit.

Shrek is a 4D adventure which is exciting. It is a short film where the spirit of Lord Farquaad returns from the dead to kidnap Princess Fiona. Shrek and the donkey come to the rescue. It is 3D plus an extra dimension. This extra dimension is the “physical effects” experienced by the audience in the theater. For example, when the donkey spits, they spray a mist in our face. When another character is going very fast on a horse, the whole seat is shaking as if we are on that horse. The seats are made that way. When tarantulas fall down on the floor, we feel something is crawling on our foot.

Enjoyed it very much. Will go back again.

Before the start of the show they advised it is not suitable for pregnant women. Half of the Indian origin audience left immediately.

Then we visited the House of Horrors. We came face to face with Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Chucky, and many more characters from the horror movies. The advertisement for House of Horrors says: Get ready to scream your head off at House of Horrors. Your worst nightmares will come true as you make your way through the dark and windy terror maze. Now I understand why Insignia says “horror movies seem funny to her”.

Here are some pictures:

Entrance to Universal Studios

Car used in the movie "Back to the Future"

Fire

Flood

Rome, Italy, inside the Studio

The Bates Mansion in the Hitchcock Movie, Psycho

Airplane Wreckage

Highway 5 on the way back home. Traffic was not that bad.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Disneyland Video/Music Clips

When we visited Disneyland, I took 8 small video clips of Disney Parade at 5:30 PM and the Fantasyland and It's a Small World. I am not a technically savvy person. My technical advisor (Insignia) has her hands full. Therefore, I did not want to bother her. The entire time for these 8 clips is less than 15 minutes. I tried several methods to upload here. First I tried to individually upload all 8 clips. The Blogspot will not accept it. Then I made a movie of these 8 clips in Picasa. I tried to upload that movie. It was in upload status for more than 12 hours. Then I gave up.

I wanted to share these 8 clips with you all. I finally decided to make a web album of these 8 video clips and share this with you.

http://picasaweb.google.com/rajang716/DisneyVideoClips#

Hope you all like this. Keep your volume up so you can enjoy the music.

I will keep this web album "live" for another 30 days in case some one wants to copy these clippings.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Visit to Disneyland, Anaheim, California

This year we decided to go to Disneyland and Universal Studios during Thanksgiving holidays. We thought it will be less crowded in Disneyland on Thanksgiving Day (November 26). But we did not take into account that the previous day, Wednesday, November 25, is the most travelled day in the USA. That is the day we drove from our home to Disneyland. The distance is 356 miles (573 km). We usually cover this distance in 4 hours plus 30 minutes snack/lunch break midway. Since there was heavy traffic on Highway 5, it took us 8 hours and 30 minutes to reach our destination. We stayed in a hotel opposite to Disneyland.

At the Disneyland entrance

The next morning we went to Disneyland. We have been there many times. Therefore, we have decided to visit for only one day and see those attractions that we did not see before. We were expecting a long line to purchase the tickets. But to our surprise there was no line in the ticket counter. We bought the tickets and went inside.

Since it was a Thanksgiving Day, there was a special Turkey Parade at 10 AM. It was very colorful.

Special Turkey Day Parade

We first visited Pirates of the Caribbean. Even though it was less crowded in the Park, we had to wait for 30 minutes in the lines to see this. The ride is built underground and it is filled with water. We travel in small boats and see the exploits of the treacherous Captain Jack Sparrow who is going after the buried treasure. The special effects and the way the story is told in the very Disney style are awesome. The 2003 Movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” is based on this Disney attraction.

A snapshot from inside the "Pirates of the Caribbean"

After this, we decided to visit the Haunted Mansion Holiday. This is available from September to January only each year. This incorporates Tim Burton’s story “A Nightmare Before Christmas”. We are supposed to scream and shout as we see the ghosts. Of course, there were lots of screams in the dark by many visitors. We, personally, were disappointed. We think Chamber of Horrors in Madame Tussauds in London is much better than this.

Outside the Haunted Mansion

Then we took a ride on the sailing ship Columbia. This is the exact replica of the first American ship to sail around the world. The ship sails through the “Rivers of America”. There is a museum in the lower deck. We can see the ship employees’ (Captain, Crew, and Doctor) quarters and the galley. For this ship, they use the same U.S. flag that was used in 1787.

On the deck of Sail Ship Columbia

It is now 2:00 PM. We left the park to have some lunch and take a break. They put a stamp on your left hand which will enable you to reenter the Park.

We got back in the park around 5:00 PM. They have 2 daily parades. One at 2:30 PM and another at 5:30 PM. We saw the second one. We videotaped portions of the parade with our digital camera. It was very fascinating.

Then we took the Disneyland Railroad to tour the entire park. It is one of the most popular attractions. It has 4 stations. The Main Street, New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, and Tomorrowland. You can get down at any station. Or, you can keep riding all day in this train. Between Tomorrowland and Main Street, we can see Grand Canyon and Primeval World.

Finally, before watching the fireworks, we went for the most popular attraction “It’s a Small World”. There was a 45 minute wait. If it was a regular day, the waiting time would be around 2 hours. It is a boat ride. It is located in the Fantasyland area. The boat goes softly and smoothly and you can witness more than 300 brightly costumed dolls and animals sing the following song:

It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small small world

The costumes represent more than 100 nations. The dolls sing this song in 5 languages. It is a wonderful and unforgettable experience. It will make you come back here more and more.

Dolls inside the "It's a Small World"

At 9:25 PM the fireworks began. It lasted 17 minutes. One simple word to describe these fireworks. Spectacular. This and It’s a Small World will make you come back to Disneyland again and again.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated each year in the United States on the 4th Thursday in November. It is a federal holiday. Most offices are closed on Friday (day after Thanksgiving Day) also. Therefore many people will have a 4-day weekend.

It is supposed to be a religious observation to give thanks to God. The first thanksgiving was celebrated in the United States to thank God for helping the pilgrims survive the brutal winter. The early settlers of the Plymouth Colony (now Plymouth, Massachusetts) were called Pilgrims. It is said the first thanksgiving was celebrated for 3 days. That first thanksgiving was attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Indians. That is American Indians and not East Indians.

The traditional Thanksgiving feast menu includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Of course, lot of alcohol also consumed.

Traditionally, in our home, my wife cooks the following. Of course, I help her. This menu idea came from Google.

Starters: Tomato and Roasted Bell Pepper Soup with Sourdough Croutons

Salad: Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut with Maple Dressing

Main Dishes: (Since we are vegetarians) A Vegetarian Dish, Maple Grazed Carrots, Peachy Sweet Potato Casserole, Mashed Potatoes.

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie

Of course there is always a football game (not soccer) in the TV. We invite a few relatives and friends and eat and drink our heart out.

Friday, the day after thanksgiving, is another story. It is called Black Friday because the retailers hope that their sales figures will move out of the red and into the black. It is the biggest and busiest shopping day in USA. It is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Most of the department stores open at 5 AM on that Friday and many people will be waiting outside in line all night to enter the store at 5 AM and grab the stuff. There are always huge discounts on all items in the store.

But this year it is going to be different. We are driving to Southern California to see Dinnyland (that is Disneyland) and Universal Studios for the umpteenth time. My family thinks if we do not go on a plane it is not a vacation. That is a different story to be told at a later date.

We are returning from Southern California on Sunday. Next week I have to attend to some urgent and important chores. Therefore, my next posting will be after 12 days.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hope

A few months ago I read a book titled “Call Me Hope”, written by Gretchen Olson. That book touched my heart. While browsing the web yesterday, I happen to read a commentary on this book.

This is the story about a 11 year old Hope Marie Elliott. She is studying in sixth grade. Hope lives under the pressure of her abusive mother. . Hope’s father ran away from home when she was a baby. Her mother told Hope that her dad ran away because “she cried all the time”. She has been called stupid and idiot so many times that she started to hate these two words. Her mother never said a single praising word to Hope.

Hope is tempted to run away from home but chooses to tackle the situation. She establishes a creative point system. She gives herself points for every bad thing her mother says to her. She finds comfort and inspiration from reading Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.

Luckily her friends, school teachers, and some neighborhood old ladies shower affection on her. With their support Hope gradually begins to believe in herself. Finally she is able to confront her mother about her abusive words and help her begin to change.

People, who generally think child abuse means someone physically hurting a child will change their mind after reading this book. Even constant verbal abuse is also child abuse.

Parental abuse happens because of different reasons. They themselves were abused as children. Lack of parental knowledge. Expecting too much from their children. Financial problems. Insecurity and immaturity. Alcohol and/or drug problem. Unable to manage children as a single parent. Defective self-image. Some parent think since they give birth, they have the right to do anything with their children.

Children suffering from abuse develop a range of anti social and self-destructive behaviors from academic difficulties to depression to panic attacks to suicide attempts. Many children, especially girls, run away from home and end up in red light districts.

At the same time, there are many children fight back in their own way and excel academically. They become lawyers, doctors, engineers, software professionals, managers, business executives, etc.

This is my 50th posting and I proudly dedicate this blog to those abused kids who have become a success in their life through their hard work and dedication.

News Flash: As I am about to post this blog, the TV is giving this sad news. Anul Ram, a 31 year old Indian origin woman in Sacramento (about 75 miles from our place) has been arrested for allegedly drowning her 3 year old daughter to death. She has been estranged from her husband and living separately. The child’s father called the police asking for a welfare check of his daughter and 7 year old son. When the officers went to her apartment they found the child unresponsive. The officers performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. They rushed the child to the UC Davis Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.

Where is the limit for child abuse? How sick can some one be to drown a helpless child? Children are a gift and are to be loved. They should not be harmed in any way.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The World's Most Powerful People

Forbes Magazine, for the first time, has come out with a list of “The World’s Most Powerful People”. The magazine allotted one slot for each 100 million people in the world for a total of 67 slots.

What are the criteria for ranking? There are 4 of them.

1. Do they have influence over lot of other people?

2. Do they control large financial resource?

3. Are they powerful in multiple spheres?

4. Do they actually use their power?

They first ranked all the candidates in each of these 4 dimensions. The individual rankings were averaged into a composite score which determined who was ranked above whom.

Here are the top 10 powerful people in the world:

1. Barack Obama, President, United States of America
2. Hu Jintao. President, People’s Republic of China
3. Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister, Russia
4. Ben Bernanke, Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve
5. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Founders, Google
6. Carlos Helu, Chief Executive, Telmex, Mexico
7. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, News Corporation
8. Michael Duke, President and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores
9. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, King, Saudi Arabia
10. William Gates III, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

There are 5 Indians on that list. They are:

36. Man Mohan Singh
44. Mukesh Ambani
50. Dawood Ibrahim (yes, the same Dawood Ibrahim)
55. Lakshmi Mittal
59. Ratan Tata

Three bad guys made the list. Osama bin Laden (37), Joaquin Guzman, Mexican drug trafficker (41), and Dawood Ibrahim (50).

Oprah Winfrey (45) is the only entertainer.

John Roberts, Jr. (49), Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is the only person from the judiciary.

Three journalists made the list. William Keller (51), Executive Editor, The New York Times, Wadah Khanfar (54), Director-General, Al Jazeera, and Mark Thompson (65), Director-General, BBC.

I noted some interesting points.

Igor Sechin (42), Deputy Prime Minister of Russia is more powerful than Dmitry Medvedev (43), President of Russia?

Kim Jong II (24) of North Korea and Luis Silva of Brazil (33) are more powerful than Man Mohan Singh (36)?

We can take consolation that Man Mohan Singh (36) is more powerful than Syed Gilani (38), Benjamin Netanyahu (46), Nicolas Sarkozy (56) and Hugo Chavez (67).

Osama bin Laden (37) is more powerful than Syed Gilani (38)?

Dawood Ibrahim (50) is more powerful than Lakshmi Mittal (55) and Ratan Tata (59)?

If they give one slot for every 100 million people, then India should have received 11 slots on a mathematical basis. The highest place an Indian could get is 36. This will bring down many Indian leaders to reality.

Following is the total breakdown:

1 Entertainer, 1 Judiciary, 3 Bad guys, 3 Journalists, 20 Leaders of countries, 39 Rich industrialists or people associated with money.

In the end, money talks. You have money. You have power. That is the bottom line.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Everyone talks about this movie. Some say this is the best horror movie. Some say this is the most boring movie. So, last night we went to see this movie in the theater.

Paranormal Activity is a horror movie produced under $15,000 and has only 4 actors. It was filmed within one week using a hand held video camera. Within a month of its release, the revenue has grossed up over 100 million dollars.

Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat are lovers and start to live together. As soon as Katie moved in with Micah strange things start to happen in the house. Micah bought a video camera to document these strange occurrences. There have been strange noises, whispers, and footsteps.

Micah has been filming all the conversations. He even has the camera filming while they are sleeping in the bedroom. They ask the advice of a psychic. He tells the couple that most of the things are normal house noises. Katie then tells the psychic that these things are happening in all the house she lived since she was a child. The psychic is an expert in human spirits only. He suggests that they should consult an expert on demons. But that demonologist is out of the city on some business.

The video tape is recording everything that is happening every night. The noise and bizarre happenings become more violent each night.

The director tries to tell the audience that this story happened to somebody in real life. The names of the two characters in the movie are same as their real names, i.e. Katie and Micah.

The Director is also trying to tell us that genuine scary situations do not have to include the usual lots of blood, gruesome death and psycho killers.

I am not reviewing this movie. I am just expression my impressions of this movie. If some strange things are happening in the house, my thinking is, why don’t they get the hell of that house? Again, one might argue that wherever Katie goes this will follow her.

When they sleep in the upstairs bedroom there will be a noise in the downstairs. These 2 will run down the stairs to see what it is. They never turn on the lights. They always run in the dark. If this happens in your house, won’t you turn on all the lights the whole night?

There is no photography or music. As I said, the actual filming was done on a hand held video camera. I am sure we all have watched something recorded from a hand held video camera. It is not steady and shaking all the time. So I had to sit through 89 minutes of watching a hand held video camera shoot in the dark. When we came out of the theater my eyes were straining.

If it is not such a good movie…story-wise and also production-wise…then how come it has earned more than 100 million dollars within a month? May be some people really like this movie. If they read this blog, they may think, as they say in Tamil, kazhudhaikku theriyuma karpoora vaasanai (Does a donkey know about the aroma and smell of camphor?)

If there is a war movie, I want to see both sides fight like hell. I do not want to see couple of diplomats negotiating a cease fire. If there is a horror movie, I want to see lots of bloods, gory killing, and the audience scream in fear.

This movie is over hyped.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dead Wrong

Ademir Jorge Goncalves was 59 years old and lived in Parana State in Southern Brazil. He worked as a bricklayer. He went out of town on some business.

Monday morning police informed the bad news to his family. He died in a car accident Sunday night. Police asked the family members and friends to come and identify the body. His sister and 4 of his friends made positive identifications. The police released the body to the family.

It is a custom in Brazil to hold the funeral the very next day. Family had made arrangements for the funeral. Friends and relatives had gathered to say goodbye to Ademir.

Finally a guest arrives at the funeral. Who is he? Ademir Jorge Goncalves himself. Everyone was relieved.

What happened?

The corpse was badly disfigured, but dressed in similar clothing. Ademir spent the night at a truck stop drinking with his friends. He did not get word about his own funeral until it was already happening Monday morning.

His niece said she and her two uncles had doubts about the identification. But since an aunt and 4 of his friends identified the body, they went ahead with the funeral. End of story.

But I have some thoughts.

This man should take the names of the people who did not come to this funeral and then write them out of his will.

Why don’t they go with DNA testing?

When someone is late for everything, we always joke that he would be late for his own funeral. Looks like this guy really did that.

He should have sat incognito in the audience. After everything is done, he should have said: So that is what you thought of me?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Economy

I am honored to receive this “Blogging with a Purpose” award from Titaxy. Thank you so much Titaxy. I really appreciate it.

Yesterday, I received the following in my email. It explains how bad the economy is. I thought I should share this with our friends. Here it is:

The economy is so bad ... (How bad IS it?!)...

I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

I ordered a burger at McDonalds and the kid behind the counter asked, "Can you afford fries with that?"

If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

Hot Wheels and Matchbox stocks are trading higher than GM.

CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

McDonalds is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children's names.

A truckload of Americans were caught sneaking into Mexico.

Dick Cheney took his stockbroker hunting.

Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore.

The Mafia is laying off judges.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

Congress says they are looking into this Bernard Madoff scandal. Oh Great!! The guy who made $50 Billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 Trillion disappear

Monday, November 2, 2009

Baseball Tickets

This week baseball fever is at its height in USA. World Series game is going on between New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. People’s interest in this World Series is similar to a T20 Cricket World Cup Final match.

World Series is decided on the best of 7 games. First two games were played in New York on October 28 and 29. The third, fourth, and fifth game will be played in Philadelphia on October 31, November 1 and 2. The sixth and seventh game (if necessary) will be played in New York on November 4 and 5. All tickets are sold out.

Susan Finkelstein

Susan Finkelstein, aged 43, lives in Philadelphia and is a great fan of Philadelphia Phillies Baseball team. She tried very hard to get tickets to go to any of the 3 games to be played in Philadelphia. She could not get the tickets. Therefore, she took out an advertisement on Craiglist. Following is the advertisement:

“Diehard Phillies fan – gorgeous tall buxom blonde – in desperate need of two world series tickets”

Philadelphia police saw this advertisement. They decided that Susan was so desperate to see her beloved team in the World Series that she offered to exchange sex for tickets. They set up a meeting with her and an undercover police officer in a bar. There was a conversation between the two of them. They did not describe the actual conversation. Other undercover police officers from the nearby tables came to her and arrested her for prostitution. She is released on bond.

Susan’s lawyer says his client is a fan of the Phillies and wanted to go and see the game. According to him, she may have dropped double entendres in her advertisement but never explicitly offered sex. If somebody read into that posting a sexual connotation, that's on them. There's no overt sexual reference.

Susan said: I did not do anything wrong. So, I am not embarrassed about my actions. I am embarrassed about how I was arrested. I was hoping to get cheap tickets. May be meet some one, and talk, and bat my eyelashes and maybe get some tickets.

She said at the end of the interview that she needed 2 tickets – one for her and one for her husband.

A local radio station heard about this. They gave Susan two tickets for free so that she and her husband can enjoy the game.

By the way, as of this morning, New York Yankees are leading Philadelphia Phillies 3 to 1.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Time to Fall Back

Tomorrow is Sunday, November 1. At 2:00 AM tomorrow, the United States of America will move its clock back by one hour. The “standard time” will then begin.

USA changes its clock forward by one hour at 2:00 AM on the second Sunday in March. This is the beginning of “daylight saving time”. At 2:00 AM on the first Sunday in November “standard time” begins. There is a famous saying about changing the clock in USA: Spring forward and fall back.

Why they want to change the regular time to “daylight savings time” for 6 months? About 85% of the Americans have no idea. They just change the clock because every one does that.

Benjamin Franklin conceived this idea. The main reason for daylight savings time is energy conservation. If there is more sunlight in the evening, homes and shops do not have to turn on their lights as early and therefore save energy and fuel. USA went on daylight saving time during World Wars l and 2 to save energy and fuel for the war effort. The current national system of daylight saving system was implemented in 1973 through a law passed by the U.S. Congress. This was done at that time because of prevailing oil shortage at that time.

Many people hate daylight saving time. People are irritated to change several clocks in the home twice a year. Most of the home appliances like TV, DVD Player, Oven, Microwave Oven, A/C Thermostat, and Landline Phones have clocks. This is in addition to wrist watches and alarm clocks. Many feel it contributes to sleep disorders. Some people argue that there is not that much energy savings because of constant running of air conditioners during summer months. Also, if there is more evening time, people go on many different tasks and visit friends and therefore use more gasoline.

Quite a number of people at work will come late by one hour at the beginning of “daylight saving time”. Their excuse: I forgot to change the clock. I am yet to see any employee come one hour early at the beginning of “standard time” saying they forgot to change the clock.

There are many who suggest having a compromise. Change the clock by 30 minutes only one time and make that time a permanent one.

There are some states in USA and other U.S. territories that are exempt from this change. They do not change their clocks at all. They are: Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. This is because either they have more natural sunlight or they are tropical.

Places that are located near Equator, The Tropic of Cancer, and The Tropic of Capricorn have more sunlight. The Tropic of Cancer runs through India. Therefore no time change is necessary for India.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guess What This Is?

Recently Insignia posted a blog with many photos. At the end, she posted a photo and did not tell what it is. She just wrote: “And finally, a task for you all. Can you taka a guess, what this could be?”.

From that blog, I got an idea to post a photo of an object that I have and ask our friends to tell what they think it is. This is certainly not a one upmanship. This certainly follows the idiom: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Here it is. Please take a close look at this and post your comments as to what you think it is.


Post Script: The above photo object is a wine pourer. Please see the photo below. It allows you to pour wine without drips.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Match Fixing?

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. October 21. Luxembourg Tennis Open. Caroline Wozniacki, ranked number 6 in the world, was leading in the first round against Anne Kremer of Luxembourg. The score was 7-5, 5-0. At that moment she retired from the match because of hamstring injury.

Looks like she was having hamstring injury problem from the beginning. When the score stood at 3-0 in the second set, her dad told her to retire before winning the match because her injury will prevent her from playing in the next round. This was picked up over the microphone and heard by the people watching the match on the internet.

Caroline did a wonderful gesture for her opponent by allowing her to advance to the next round in front of her hometown spectators. She said:

“I could possibly have finished the match, but felt there was no way I could get ready for the second round on Thursday, so I chose the sporting way and let her go through. She's also [playing] at home.”

What did Caroline get for her sportsmanship? WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) is now investigating Caroline for 3 big offences, gambling, match fixing, and tennis integrity.

Serena Williams verbally assaulted a line judge and she got a slap on the wrist.

I had written the following in reply to a comment on a previous posting:

Wimbledon. The year 1960. Semi Final Match. India’s Ramanathan Krishnan vs. Australia’s Neale Fraser. A shot from Fraser was called “out” in favor of Krishnan. Krishnan interceded and told the umpire that it was “in”. Krishnan, instead of gaining a point lost a point. Eventually that call was instrumental in Krishnan losing the match to Fraser.

Next week, a Tamil weekly, Kalki, put the picture of Krishnan on the cover and put a caption from Bhagvat Gita: "Paritranaya Sadhunaam vinashaya cha dushkritamDharma sansthapnarthaya sambhavami yugay yugay" (Whenever there is downfall of Dharma (righteousness), I incarnate to re-establish the Dharma.)

May be Krishnan would be investigated for match fixing in today’s world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

California SuperLotto

California state lottery, known as SuperLotto, is attracting millions of buyers. The jackpot starts with $7 million. If there is no winner, the amount is carried over to the next drawing. The highest amount it has reached so far is $193 million (February 16, 2002). The winnings are subject to Federal Income Tax. It is free from State Income Tax. Winning numbers are drawn twice a week, Wednesday and Saturday. The cost of each ticket is $1. We can select the numbers. Or, we can ask the computer to select the numbers at random. This is called quick pick.

Who does not want to make easy money without working? Most of us want to make easy money. Therefore, yesterday, I went to Safeway grocery store to buy a lottery ticket. I always buy only one ticket. There are some people who buy more than one ticket. That is a waste of money. The odds of winning are 1 in 41,416,353. Therefore, if we buy more than one ticket, the odds are not going to help us.

Here I am reminded of a story. A guy was praying God for so many years to win the lottery. He did not win. One day he got frustrated with God and prayed a lot asking Him why he did not win the lottery so far. God took pity on that guy. God appeared in front of him. The guy asked God why he is not winning the lottery even after praying Him for the last several years. God told him: I want to help you. But please meet me half the way. The guy asked God as to what should he do. God replied: Please go and buy a lottery ticket. Then only I can make you win.

I don’t want to be like that guy. Therefore, I buy one ticket for $1.

Something funny happened in the Safeway Store. We can buy lottery tickets in the lottery machine. But the machine does not give change. I did not have a one dollar bill. Therefore I went to the Customer Service Department. I was surprised to see the Store Manager there. Safeway is a very big grocery store chain. Each store has a manager and several assistant managers. Therefore, it is very rare that a manager himself/herself attending to the customers behind a counter. Here is how the conversation went:

Manager = Good Morning Sir, How may I help you today?

Me = Can I have a SuperLotto Quick Pick one ticket

Manager = Sure. You want ordinary numbers or lucky numbers?

(He was joking. Before he could finish the sentence)

Me = Neither of them. Give me the winning numbers.

He dropped the $5 bill I gave him. Looked at me and said: That was a very nice come back. But this is the first time someone said (in that quick come back) "give me the winning numbers." So far every customer I asked that question have replied “give me the lucky numbers”. He gave me the ticket and said: Good luck to you.

There are some people who buy tickets for several weeks in a row. I buy only for one drawing at a time. Why? In my opinion, if I buy for next week also, it means in my mind I unconsciously believe that I am not going to win this week. Therefore, one lottery drawing at a time.

Did I win? I will know today, Wednesday, at 8 PM.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Japanese Ingenuity

Beginning October 1, All Nippon Airways is asking passengers to use the toilet before boarding the plane and help cut carbon emissions. They claim empty bladders mean lighter passengers, a lighter aircraft, and therefore a lower fuel cost.

The airline staff will be present at the boarding gates and ask the passengers if they relieved themselves before boarding.

They estimate the weight saved will lead to a 5 tonne reduction in carbon emissions each month. A spokeswoman for the Airlines said: "If the flight is lighter, we use less gasoline which is good for the environment,”

This news has brought lot of comments from people all over the world. Here are some:

“Because you go once does not mean you won’t go twice especially if you are drinking beer in the airport bar.”

“Do you get extra bag of peanut if you go number one and number two before boarding?”

“Considering some of the raw food they eat, it may not be a bad idea.”

“I wonder if they have considered enemas, hair cuts, and bra-less ladies.”

“If everyone held their breath during the flight, they could reduce carbon emissions.”

“What's next, shaving passenger's heads before boarding? Making them run a couple laps around the airport (so weight will be reduced by a pound or two)”

“Why not issue diuretics at the check-in counter?”

“Have everyone arrive 2 hours early so that they can give you enema to lighten the load.”

“Will the airlines start charging extra if you want a human pilot on board next?”

“Why not fly naked? (Clothes weigh a lot)”

“Next they would ask us to cut our finger nails.”

“You really want the likes of Michael Moore naked on an airplane?”

“Why don't they just weigh the passengers and charge by the pound. Like freight.”

“How about a new type of status on the screen: GO TO TOILET.”

“Next they'll be asking you to prepare for a flight as though you were going to have a colonoscopy.”

“In related news, Air India has asked its passengers to go on a hunger strike prior to boarding.”

“Passengers could flap their arms while in flight to reduce weight.”

Are they going to install dialysis machines at the airport and employ nephrologists and nurses to help passengers with acute kidney failure? (This is not in quote because this is my own comment.)

“Do we get any points for vomiting before getting on the plane?”

“Could you get a reduction in the ticket price if you swore you drank or ate nothing the previous 24 hours?”

“Are they going to rename All Nippon Airways to Stop and Go Airways?”

“Airlines staff can ask the passengers the following:

Sir or Madam,
When was the last time you emptied your bladder? Do you think you could do so again before you board the plane? If you don't we'll have to impose a full bladder surcharge on your ticket. Yes, you have to show the container full of liquid to prove that you voided your bladder.”


Here is one I think is the best: “If they would just let us open the windows we could relieve in-flight”. (But there is a political problem here)

An Irish airline, Ryanair is considering charging passengers for using the toilet while flying. They are thinking of installing “coin slot on the toilet door”.

I just thought of an idea to increase revenue for the airlines. Install coin operated toilets in the plane. They should accept only coins. No paper currency. No credit cards. Then include coins in the banned items (like knife, blades, firearms, etc.) so that passengers will not carry any coin with them while boarding. Once inside the plane, stewardess will give change for paper currency. Passengers will get 3 quarters for each dollar. How about that? Any takers?

Frequent flyers can use their mileage to buy toilet tokens.

You have any comments? Be my guest.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Visit to Greensboro, N.C.

A relative of ours lives in Greensboro in the state of North Carolina. They celebrate Navarathri Pooja in a grand style each year. Every year they would invite us to visit them. We never found time so far. This year we decided to accept their invitation and go there.


Golu in Greensboro

We stayed in Greensboro for 5 days. It was raining cats and dogs for 2 days. We were able to go sight seeing only for a few days. We visited the following 3 tourist attractions:

Natural Science Center

It is very much a family oriented place. We spent the day with lots of fun and exploring the science museum and planetarium. They feature dinosaurs, insects, and aquatic life. We also visited the Animal Discovery Zoological Park. We were able to see at close range tigers, wallabies, alligators, and African wild dogs.

Blandwood Mansion

This is a National Historic Landmark. Originally constructed in 1795 Blandwood Mansion served as NC Governor John Motley Morehead's home. In 1844, AJ Davis designed an addition, transforming the farmhouse into an Italianate wonder. We were able to see original architecture and family furnishings.


Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

It was an interesting and emotional experience to visit this place. Battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought here on March 15, 1781. The largest, most hotly-contested battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign was fought here between the Americans and the British. The Americans kicked the British’s a** royally.


The British General said: “I never saw such fighting since God made me. The Americans fought like demons.”

Who was this British General? General Cornwallis. Yes, the same guy who became the Governor General of India from 1786 to 1793. We should have kicked the British out of India just like the Americans did.

A page from the history. The British Army surrendered to the Americans in Yorktown, Virginia. The surrender ceremony took place on October 19, 1781. The commander of the British Army, General Cornwallis did not attend the surrender ceremony saying he was not feeling well. He sent his deputy, General O’Hara, to officially surrender.

Another scene from history. Lt. General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi of Pakistan, in spite of all the terrible things done by him, personally surrendered to the Indian Army’s Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dacca on December 16, 1971.

Niazi fought for his country. He was man enough to come forward and surrender personally. He was not a coward like Gen. Cornwallis.

Finally, I have landed in San Francisco International Airport hundreds of times. Every landing is a pleasant and exciting experience. Until the last second before the plane’s touch down, it will look as though the plane is going to land on water. This picture was taken a few seconds before landing.


Happy Deepavali to you and your family.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Awards And A Tag

Since President Obama has not received any awards or prize during the past 2 days, I have some extra time on my hands. Therefore, I would like to accept the awards I have received.

These two awards (One Lovely Blog and I Love Your Blog) were passed on to me by Neha and RaMmY. Thank you very much Neha and RaMmY.





This award (A Fabulous Blog) was passed on to me by Nazish Rahman. Thanks a lot Nazish.



All three of them tagged me with the same questions. So here are the answers:

1.What is your current obsession?
Nothing.

2. What are you wearing today?
Black Pant and Blue T-Shirt

3. What’s for dinner?
Falafel on a Pita Bread, Piquillo Pepper Yogurt Sauce, Tomato Relish (My wife is preparing them now)

4. What’s the last thing you bought?
A California Lottery Ticket

5. What are you listening to right now?
TV playing Batman cartoon.

6. What do you think about the person who tagged you?
Neha – If I ever have to face the law, I want her on my side as a lawyer as well as a friend for moral support.
Nazish – His postings are thought provoking. (PS: My own words. I did not copy from Neha.)
Rammy – Very likeable person. Read his “About Me”

7. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.

8. What are your must-have pieces for summer?
Money, to go on vacation.

9. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Penang. It is a paradise on earth

10. Which language do you want to learn?
Spanish. In 30 years, it is going to be the official language of the United States.

11. What’s your favorite quote?
"Don’t get mad, get even”

Thirukural - Inna Seitharai Oruththal Avar Naana Nannayam Seithu Vidal (Do good to the person who has done you wrong. Let this be his punishment.)

“Who said nothing is impossible? I have been doing nothing for so many years.”

12. Who do you want to meet right now?
Someone I know. Do not want to give the name.

13. What is your favorite color?
Blue

14. What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own closet?
My dark blue Brioni suit

15. What is your dream job?
University Professor taking a class on Modern History or Current Events.

16. What’s your favorite magazine?
Forbes Magazine

17. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
Go to Wente Vineyards in Livermore and buy couple of bottles of Merlot Nth Degree (2004).

18. What do you consider a fashion faux pas?
No white after Labor Day (First Monday in September in USA). Bandana.

19. Who according to you is the most over-rated style icon?
Angelina Jolie

20. What kind of haircut do you prefer?
U.S. Marine haircut

21. What are you going to do after this?
Have dinner.

22. What are your favorite movies?
Nenjil Ore Aalayam, Thillana Mohanambal, Godfather (Part 1 and 2), Bridge on the River Kwai, Duel, Borat, Star Trek

23. What are three cosmetic/makeup/perfume products that you can't live without?
Nothing. I don’t use any.

24. What inspires you?
When someone says “you cannot do this” or “you should not do this”. That inspires me to do that.

25. Give us three styling tips that always work for you:
Be self confident, be positive, walk like you own the place.

26. What do you do when you “have nothing to wear” (even though your closet’s packed)?
When I “have nothing to wear” I don’t wear anything. (That’s a joke. Please laugh)

27. Coffee or tea?
Coffee

28. What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed?
Watch TV

29. What is the meaning of your name?
King

30. Which other blogs do you love visiting?
I love visiting most of the blogs.

31. Favorite Dessert/Sweet?
Badam Halwa. Chocolate Pizza from Max Brenner in New York

32. Favorite Season?
Spring.

33. If I come to your house now, what would u cook for me?
I will request my wife to cook and she will be delighted to. Any South Indian dish or Punjabi Dish or Falafel or Pizza with Pesto Sauce. She is an expert. I would request her to do the cooking because I want you to enjoy the food in our home. I will select the wine.


34. What is the right way to avoid people who purposefully hurt you?
Just hit them back when they are least expecting. After that, they will avoid you….unless you love that person. Then, it is ok to forget and forgive.

35. What are you afraid of the most?
I am reminded of what John Gotti, the mob boss and a godfather said. I have the same answer. Who? Me? Afraid?

My own question: Why can’t you think of a question to type here?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize

As soon as I got up this morning, I turned on CNN. I could not believe the news. President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. My first reaction was “for what?” Has Nobel Peace Prize become like an honorary doctorate degrees given to the Tamilnadu politicians?

All nominations must be received by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee by February 1. President Obama took over as President of United States on January 20. What did he accomplish in the first 12 days?

Then I read a statement from the awarding committee. It cited "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." I like Obama. But excuse me. In 12 days in office, did he strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people? All he did was promise. In my opinion, it is an award for promise and not for performance.

If they give a Nobel Peace Prize for promise, the following people should also be considered:

Vladimir Putin – He promised to protect journalists in Russia who face serious threats.

Gordon Brown – During election campaign, he promised to allow the people of Britain a democratic vote on the Lisbon constitutional treaty.

Kevin Rudd – He promised zero-tolerance of violence against Indian students.

I am sorry, I forgot about some of the Indians who are qualified for this prize. They are:

Sonia Gandhi and Congress Party – They are always promising to end poverty in India.

Most of the Indian Politicians – They promise constantly for passing Women’s Reservation Bill.

All Tamilnadu Politicians – They have been promising for ever to help Sri Lankan Tamilians to achieve their goal, peace, and happiness.

In the end, the power of the President of the United States won. In my opinion, a deserving individual, who was nominated this year, Greg Mortenson was denied this prize. His Central Asia Institute has built more than 130 schools for girls in places where opium dealers and tribal warlords roam. They are located in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His mission has inspired millions of people to realize education and protection of girls is very important to peace and prosperity.

In order to be fair, I have to write here what Obama said after hearing the news that he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He said: "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize.”

A tid bit here. There is no Nobel Prize for mathematics. Reason? Alfred Nobel was a bachelor. But he had a mistress. She ran away with a math teacher. Nobel got angry and decided not to give Nobel Prize for mathematics.

PS: Please read about Mike Ditka in the "comments" section. Thanks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Circle of Friends Award"

I am happy to receive “The Circle of Friends Award” from SiMbA tAgO. I am honored he considers me as his friend.

Here are the rules associated with this award.

You have to display this award in your sidebar mentioning who you got it from with a link to his/her blog.

You can keep this award only to yourself or pass this on to more deserving bloggers of your choice.

And now, I pass on this award to:

Insignia – a true blog friend and my technical advisor
Gautam – a friend of a friend, so he is my friend

Congratulations Insignia. Congratulations Gautam.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Awesome" Photo


This photo was taken by Mr. Pat Gaines at Bonny Lake State Park. This park is located in Colorado State.

Here a kingbird rides bareback and harasses a red tail hawk. Mr. Gaines said he focused his camera on this red tail hawk because the bird had been screaming. He also said as the kingbird rode bareback on the hawk, it pecked away at the hawk’s head.

Mr. Gaines posted his photo at the Colorado Birder website. This photo was also published in the Denver Post.

He felt sorry for the red hawk. We all do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Honesty Tag


Here are the rules.

“This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog’s content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.”

“When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!”

Thank you Shruti for presenting me this award. I am honored.

10 honest things about me? I don’t know what to say. Here are 10 thoughts come to my mind at random.

1. I have lived in 7 cities in 3 different countries.

2. I had the best job in the world. My bosses thought I was a super hero. There is an Irish proverb: If you have a reputation as an early riser, you can sleep until noon. Therefore, I read Wall Street Journal for 2 hours and took a long lunch every day. I believe my job can be done in 2 hours time instead of 8 hours a day.

3. Even though I have lived in USA for most part of my life, I am a vegetarian. I enjoy vegetarian dishes from Indian, Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisine.

4. I love red wine, especially Merlot.

5. I do not decide anything instantly, either at home or at work. I take my own time to decide. But once I decide, I never change my mind. Even if it is a wrong decision. Sorry, I can not say “never”. Occasionally, my wife puts her foot down and makes me change my decision.

6. I believe kids should not be sent to school or day care center before they are 5 years old, if any one parent is able to take care of the family financially. Once they go to pre-kindergarten, those precious days of “kids at home” are gone forever.

7. I have been smoking cigarettes since I was 14 years old. Two years ago, one day, I decided to quit. Then, I quit cold turkey.

8. I am a news junkie. I can watch news channel like CNN for ever.

9. I am afraid to go in an underwater tunnel. We have BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) here to transport passengers. It is a computer operated train. Everyday thousands of passengers take BART to reach their destination (like the London Tube). I also take the BART. However, I never go on the BART between Oakland and San Francisco. Between Oakland and San Francisco lies the Pacific Ocean’s Bay. BART connects these two cities through underwater tunnel. As for as I am concerned, I like BART (Buses Are Reliable Transportation) between these two cities.

10. No offense to animal lovers. I don’t like pets. I don’t want them in my home.

And now, the award is presented to: RajLakshmi, raMmY, SiMbA tAgO

Please accept the award and the tag. Thanks.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Musical Chairs in the Plane

I am still in Greensboro. Since I had some free time, I thought I would post this.

This happened on our way to Greensboro, North Carolina.

We had booked our flight from San Francisco. It was an A 321 (Air Bus). The plane was fully booked. Whenever I pay for myself, I travel by “cattle class” only. Thank you Mr. Shashi Tharoor for coining that phrase. We could not sit together. My wife’s seat was 7B. My seat was 8B.

In an A 321, there are 3 seats in each row. A is window seat. B is center seat. C is aisle seat. The best is aisle seat. Window seat is second best. Center seat is the worst. We both had the worst seat.

As soon as we entered the plane, my wife sat in 7B. I went to the next row. There was a good-looking girl sitting in 8A. There was a guy sitting in 8C. Now I have to sit between them. The guy was already flirting with that girl. As soon as I approached them, the guy told me he would be glad to sit in the center seat and I can have the aisle seat. It was a win-win situation. I got the aisle seat for me. He has an uninterrupted 5 hours of flirting with that girl and get cozy.

However, man proposes and God disposes. (That good-looking girl must have been a frequent flyer with lot of points to her credit. She must have asked to be upgraded to executive class.) After a few minutes, the airhostess comes and tells the girl that she has been upgraded to executive class. She picks up her stuff and leaves saying goodbye to that guy. Now I took pity on that guy and asked him if he wants his aisle seat back. He said no and he would be happy to sit in the window seat.

However, the airlines think otherwise. Since the girl in 8A has moved to executive class, now that seat is “officially” vacant. After a few minutes, a big fat guy has been allotted that seat and comes and sits in that seat. Now our friend is in the middle seat. I asked him one more time if he wanted his original aisle seat back. Now he is embarrassed to take back what he gave me originally. He said no and I can sit in the aisle seat.

While this is happening in my row, in row 7, a guy came and sat in 7C, the aisle seat. I asked him if he would like to exchange to 8C. He said he would be happy to. Therefore, I took 7C and he took 8C. Now my wife and I were sitting side by side in 7C and 7B.

The poor guy, who gave up his aisle seat in 8C for me so that he can flirt with that good looking girl, ended up sitting in the center seat 8B, between 2 fat guys.