Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I'm a believer... (sheepish smiley face)

It was while skimming through Brisingr, that third book in that silly fantasy series by that young kid, when this thought came to me.

But before that I need to get something out of the way - I'm glad I didn't spend my hard-earned 15 bucks on Brisingr. Instead I sneakily went to enips and downloaded an ebook version. Yes, his writing is less amateurish compared to the previous 2 books, but he still steals so many ideas from so many places that reading the book subjects you to a constant stream of deja vu. Since I'd got the ebook for free, I didn't feel obliged to actually read the whole thing and hence the skimming. Unfortunately, no matter how much I crib about the book, I have to find out 'what happened next', and well there are some bits in these books I enjoy reading, where Eragon learns new things and there are fundaes of how magic works etc.

Which brings me to the thought or rather a realization. After reading so many fantasy books, I have a whole world of magic in my head where I accept certain facts as readily as scientific facts I know. For instance, I know (as in I'm completely sure of this in my head) that -
1. Some people have magical potential, some don't
2. Magical potential can vary from person to person, as in some have more of it than others
3. Practicing magic takes energy i.e. you use up your store of energy or magic when you do any spells etc. (Actually I don't think Harry Potters had this funda, but its only logical.. magic has to come from somewhere. You shouldn't be able to do unlimited magic.)
4. You can store energy or get it from other sources.
5. Dark magic is bad but it can make you very powerful and it usually involves leeching off others and harming them in the process.

Some as yet unverified facts (again in my head) -
1. Everyone has a true name and its supposed to give complete power over you.
2. Dragons/unicorns/phoenix etc. exist.
3. There exist non-human races like elves and dwarves.
4. Elves are diabolical.
5. Dwarves like mining.

Yes, yes I'm a nerd! So, well, its annoying when someone writes a books based on all the facts I already know. There has to be something new in it. I read a book and loved it for this neat trick magicians could do, where they can create a bubble of warmth around them which lets them walk around happily in freezing cold. Now that's magic being put to a good use!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kitty Quest

Note : This is an old post which I half-wrote and then abandoned.

I like animals.

You would recognize this for the understatement it is, if you saw the virtual zoo of stuffed animals, I house in my apartment. At last count I had a donkey, a monkey, a giant bear, a giraffe, a cat, two dogs, a hippo, an elephant, a sea lion, a lion, a lamb, and a deer. As a natural progression of this fascination with soft, furry creatures, I decided to adopt a pet.

Ideally my first pet would have been a dog, a nice big one at that (Or not, because though I like the idea of having a big dog, its the small furry one's with hair falling all over their face, that reduce me to a puddle of mush). Dogs, however, come with a lot of responsibility, financial and otherwise, especially in this country. They have to be walked twice a day, unless you enjoy cleaning dog poo off your carpet. They need exercise, run up vet bills, and can't be left alone overnight. I'm not saying this is not how it should be, but its a huge commitment, one which I would love to make when I'm in a more settled situation. Enter simpler solution - Cat, and thus began the kitty quest.

I started off with considering adopting from a shelter. But I didn't want to rescue an animal and return it if things didn't work out. I spent weeks drooling over cute kittens and cats on craigslist waiting for a perfect older gentle cat to be put up for adoption, whose owners wouldn't mind taking him or her back if I decided to move and couldn't take him along. Quite a wish-list and one which was obviously impossible - why would anyone give away their cat only to take it back later. Anyways, I did contact a couple of people and while they were very interested in the beginning, they either changed their mind about giving up their pet or stopped responding. I was irritated by this at the time, but I now realize its perfectly natural to not want to part with your pet even though it seems the logical thing to do.

So back to shelter it was. In the course of my search, I had also realized that if I adopted an older cat, it would be not only difficult for her to adjust to the new situation, moving to India would probably end up being too much disruption for her. And if for some reason I had to find another home for her before I left, it would be so much more difficult.

So that made it a young cat from a shelter. How young? I first contacted someone for a 6 month old kitten. He had already been adopted, but the lady also mentioned that it would probably not be a good idea to adopt such a young cat with my work/commute schedule. Next up I found this beautiful tuxedo cat, about a year old. However, I was going to be of town for a couple of days and when I did get back, the tuxedo was still at the shelter, but the lady I had been talking to had this 9 month old cream and white (as she put it) kitty, whom the shelter folks had loved so much, they had sent him ahead of schedule. I decided to see this cat and she brought him over. He was sitting huddled up in his carrier but once he came out, he started purring loudly and wanted to climb on everyone's shoulders.

And that's how Kittu came home.

He's now been around for 10 months and I think he likes it here. He sleeps, eats cat food and cheese, purrs, stretches, grooms, runs around wildly, fetches paper balls, greets me at the door, snuggles and then sleeps some more. Apparently cats don't really miss their owners if they leave, but I sure would miss him, so its next stop India for both of us.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Vegeterian Guide to Eating-Out in Hawaii

I turned vegeterian 2 years ago, and since then barring a few bad experiences I've had mostly smooth sailing. I eat out a LOT, and anyone who's lived in US for any length of time would know that veggie options apart from the ubiquitous garden salad are hard to come by in most restaurants. However, with a little adjustment, a little lowering of expectatations and a little creative ordering, eating out can still be a lot of fun. Indian restaurants ofcourse don't need any of these but since we eat Indian food at home, when eating out we like to try something different.

Getting to the title of the post, we recently vacationed in Hawaii and like most first-times to Hawaii went to two islands - Oahu and Maui. The vacation was amazing and I was bowled over by both the islands except for one glitch - Hawaii happends to be not so vegeterian friendly. The local cuisine is almost exclusively barbecued meat and seafood. Surprisingly, finding veggie food was a much bigger problem in Oahu although it is much more populous than Maui and has a downtown which is as close to any city in mainland USA as it gets. For blogging purposes I have identified 2 main reasons for this -
a) We were unprepared. The first couple of days we kept trying to find a fancy restaurant with local falvor etc. which would give us something to eat. Not a very good idea. Recommendation 1 - If you're a vegetarian, stick to known turf in Oahu for food- Italian, Indian (there is only one in all of Hawaii as far as we could find), P F Chang's version of Chinese. Go to fancy places but stick to drinks and chips(/appetizers) as we did on one ocassion.
b) We were unprepared for the north shore. Which btw is stunning (as seen through a car window). We spent most of our day at the polynesian center which is very fancy and popular and everything but has zero, and I mean it, absolutely nothing for vegetarians when it comes to food. Given that you're expected to spend half a day or more there, this was a killer. Recommendation 2 - Pack food for the north shore or stop at the small village which falls on the way and eat at one of the many pizzerias we saw.

Now we come to Maui. We struck lucky on our very first night when we found this AMAZING stir fried tofu with rice, and flatbread on our resort's room service menu. I really wanted to eat that tofu again but we never ordered room service after that and they don't serve it in any of their restaurants - weird! Breakfasts were great on all days - resort buffet on 3 days and longhi's (I'll come back to it) on one. Our second night was our worst food experience in Maui. We went to the resort's restaurant called the Mala Lounge but once we took a look at the menu, we figured we won't find anything to eat there. We politely apologized to our waitress and were about to leave when this artsy looking old man on the table next to us got up and started telling us how good that restaurant is for veggies. He mentioned that his wife is vegan/vegetarian and likes this restaurant by far the best. Our waitress chimes in and says she could customize a bunch of stuff for us blah blah. To cut it short, we order and its awful. We eat nothing and when the waitress comes to pick up the check (by this time the artsy gentleman has left), she looks at our untouched plates and says - 'You should really try Longhi's. I was vegetarian for many years and they're really great. The man who convinced you to stay owns this restaurant, so.. (shrug)'.

So we did try Longhi's and its a great place for veggies. They actually have a lot of vegetable entrees on the menu and not just pasta. Infact the one we tried was sooooo good that my mouth waters thinking of it. Recommendation 3 - Eat at Longhi's. I think that chain exists in Oahu as well. When eating there, try their cauliflower fried a little in olive oil and served with chillies and olives - wonderful.

Another Maui gem. You find absolutely nothing to eat (except fruit stalls and guavas falling off trees everywhere) on the road to Hana. However, Paia where the road to Hana starts is a good place to grab something. We had lunch at this small cafe called the Moana surfrider and they served us a wonderful pasta. I remember seeing other veggie stuff on the menu as well and thai stuff for dinner. Wanted to go again but didn't get round to it. Recommendation 4 - Eat at this cafe or possibly check out other places in Paia as well. We didn't have time as we had started late.

All in all we found great food in Maui except that one time. One last thing, which I have to mention when talking about eating out in Hawaii. Food is expensive there! So be prepared for that if you're going there anytime.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I should blog..

..especially since I have so much work that I really can't afford any long breaks. But then what's the fun in whiling away time that doesn't have several claims on it. It is also Friday and hence the weekend feel-good factor has kicked in. This factor essentially fools you into believing that everything is manageable, you think that you have two completely free days to wrap up any pending work/household chores and come Monday you'll be back in control of your life, in the driving seat, raring to go ... Unfortunately, this takes the edge off the work related urgency, leading to a very high probability that you'll spend the entire weekend doing absolutely nothing. This particular weekend for me, is going to be different from past several weekends, in the sense that I have fewer distractions and practically no plans. Maybe I'll really get some work done.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It likes me not!

I have a recently developed theory that inanimate objects can hear us and that my laptop does not like me too much. Its been playing fast and loose with me for quite some time, acting all innocent whenever I send it over to get fixed, and coming up with innovative ways to stall my work as soon as I get it back. I have a brand new one now though and this one hasn't had time to start disliking me yet. I'll have to take extra pains to be nice to my new laptop, four laptops in eight months is slightly above the company average I think. My car meanwhile had a close shave today, it still likes me so it just gave me a scare by twisting its mirror, and didn't throw a real tantrum by actually breaking it. I think I should clean it up sometime soon.

Superman is the most boring superhero of all times. Reference being the forgettable Superman movie and this collection of Superman Sunday strips from the very beginning which I recently acquired. A typical strip goes like this - first frame - alterego by day, Superman whenever he feels like it, second frame - Superman/Clark Kent observes bad guys doing something shady, third - Superman has cool powers, describe them, fourth to tenth - Superman uses cool powers to foil shady plans, final frame - Superman and Clark Kent look alike! Naah, its not a possibility worth considering. Multiple iterations of this extremely interesting plot got a little tedious and I had to give up on the collection. Currently, I'm reading 'Dune'. I like it, I expected to, so no surprises there. The extremely prolific Alexander McCall Smith is out with the 8th book in the No. 1 series and that has obviously jumped to the top spot in the 'To Read' queue (I'm wondering how much longer before the books start to loose their charm). 'To watch' queue has Pirates of the Caribbean-I (I never watched it), since II was much more fun than I expected.

Deciphering conversation subtexts would be a very useful super power to have.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Big Picture

I've known for quite some time now that I suffer from chronic scatterbrain-ism.

Infact now that I think about it, I was probably born with it. I've never been able to remember birthdays and my poor name face mapping abilities are quite notorious. And then there's always been the amazing ease with which I can miss the most obvious details unless they are pointed out to me. What's made my particular case much more severe is the additional complication of sidetracked-ness. In the middle of a perfectly logical conversation, I can launch into a complete tangent. This coupled with the unfortunate neediness of trying to see the funny side of (almost) everything can lead to some very irritating humor. Many thanks for the fact that puns don't come easily to me. I've noticed that the most common symptom of scatterbrain-ism and sidetracked-ness together is briefly exploring a million and a half options in every case but never sticking to anything long enough to see a result. I wish blogs were more private or that I had chosen an anonymous identity. Its difficult to rant uninhibitedly if you know that its going to be read by people who know you. This because I was trying to get somewhere with all that jazz about getting sidetracked but now I don't think I'll go there afterall.

I tried writing a short story recently. Unfortunately it went nowhere because somewhere in the middle of talking about a beautiful princess who lived in a land far far away, I got stuck with describing the social hierarchy in that kingdom, what crops they grew, what seasons they had, how they elected their king and since it was a very small kingdom with traded with lots of other such small kingdoms, I absolutely had to talk about how exactly that trade was carried out. Meanwhile the princess grew old and died, and I decided to return to reading. So, I finally went ahead and bought Eragon which I wasn't surprised to find out is written by a 17 year old, who I guess is a big Tolkien fan and has read enough fantasy books to pick all the ideas he liked, add some of his own (not sure about this, but there were some which atleast I hadn't read earlier), and come up with a somewhat interesting book. I smartly bought both books one and two together (I realized recently that I'm shallow enough to read and watch everything hyped. Except 5 point someone. I drew the line there), so now I'm onto part 2. Its not that bad though. I'm just in one of my more critical moods.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Slow Friday

This is one of those weird afternoons at work where everything seems to happen in slow motion. With most of the people out for an extended weekend its unusually quiet, I don't have all that much work, nothing very urgent atleast, I'm very sleepy and coffee isn't helping much. I've spent the last hour reading wikipedia which is a fairly interesting way of killing time on the net but I've done enough of that for today. I usually move next to the window with my computer when I'm falling asleep at my desk but its raining today and the overcast sky outside inspires gloomy thoughts. I could take-off early and go home but there's a book waiting there for me which I don't want to finish. I started it a couple of days ago, got hooked to it yesterday, let my curiosity win when I was about three quarters through and read how it ended. It doesn't end unhappily but rather it ends indecisively, with a vague and most probably unfulfilled expectation of something, and well, that's not one of my favorite ways of ending stories. Fiction should not be so realistic, not when you don't want it to atleast. I guess this is why I read so much fantasy.

On a different note I saw an opera recently and if I haven't told you this in person already, they're not that bad. Yes, I didn't expect to enjoy it. I thought it'll be a little too much artsy but then again I wasn't paying attention to the singing since I was busy reading the supertitles. The next time I end up watching an opera, I hope its in english.