Monday, April 25, 2011

Pinnacles National Monument

Pinnacles National Monument
22-23 Apr, 2011

It is no news that people who do not plan generally have to take things as they are thrown at them. Pinnacles National Monument will be partially remembered by me as a lesson in this regard.

I left the office on Friday afternoon at 2pm. I had the campground booked for Friday night. The weekend dates Sat and Sun were booked, i had done my booking only last week. I woke up (it was Wed last week) and started looking for some camping options. Pinnacles was there on my list and after 20 mins of browsing, i just made the call and booked the closest weekend spot.

The visitor center closes at 5pm, my plan was to reach there by 4:30 pm. It was a 2 hr drive, so i had to leave at 2:30 pm. I had to make food, fortunately i had done the shopping earlier. Food was ditched at the last instant, back again with pita bread and hummus :) , i also got pasta from office that was served as part of friday lunch. After packing, i was out of my house at 2:55 pm. Already late!

Pinnacles peak has two entrances, one on east side and one on west side. I had not researched any of that and i was shooting for west side entrance. Turns out that west and east side are not connected and my campground was not on east side - gone are the hopes of reaching visitor center. And it started raining, very little drops and i had not planned for rain at all. But who cares, i started towards the east side. 101 turned into highway 25 and boy! it was so beautiful driving on 25, loved it. Green grass, grass going over small hills, farming, no houses, blue skies, the mistake turns into a blessing.

Found my campground, in my curve of learning camping, this was time to start fire, i had taken firewood and three types of lighters, ultimately it was the matchbox that came to the rescue. Tent setup was easy as the ground was soft. It had stopped raining and the night was quite bright. The stars were awesome, so many stars. Campground was full, people cozily sitting around fire everywhere, chatting, fooding and enjoying. I also sat next to my fire and just stared at the fire. Peace, happiness after such a long time.

The hike in morning was very interesting. I reached the trailhead after packing all my stuff at 8 am. I took the Old Pinnacles Trail, going up to High Peaks trail and then reaching the west entrance, coming back by Balconies cave. What an amazing 9 mile trail, i climbed a rocky hill, went through a tunnel, went through a dark cave with flashlights and walked next to a creek for 4 miles. Very diverse trail, from pure rocky terrain to caves and to walking next to a river bed. The best part was the Balconies cave, it was fun going through them, pitch darkness and rocks everywhere.

I pulled ITB band next to my knees after the half way and then decided to come back after the first hike. The original plan was to do two hikes. It was also getting very hot. Had a big pasta lunch (carboload :) ) and came back on 25.

Pics can be found here -

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Life in Mar 19 - Apr 24

Getting back. When life brings you down, you need to get back to life and even harder. My previous post in "Life in" series was an eye opener, nothing important was going on and i seem to have been wasting my time. It was a bad feeling writing that post. But i am happy to report that it is not the case this time and indeed what a month it has been.

Please see few previous blog posts to see what i have been up to. This post will cover the ones that slid through the cracks.

Played Cosmic encounters on last Wednesday's board games. Enjoyed a lot, as usual.

This month's camera cinema club movie was "These amazing shadows" - a documentary on US National film registry, how it came to existence, the kind of movies it has chosen, how it works etc etc. But more importantly, it was a collage of classic movies, something to feel nostalgic about and reminded us how truly great cinema as an artform is. Well made movie. In the screening before this one, on my feedback form, i had requested that we should have a documentary and this month they picked a docu. Thanks for listening to the feedback.

Books : Started reading the Idiot By Fyodor Dostoevsky. Also, started on The gay science by Neitzche.

MicMacs: Watched the movie MicMacs by Jean Pier Jeunnet - the man behind Amelie and A very long Engagement. Liked it a lot. Definitely not Amelie level but still very high. He has carved his own niche and no one can imitate him. Quite bold in experimentation, highly creative and some great performances. Not to be missed.

Knitting: Now that the rug is complete, i am making a stuffed egg using size 3 needles. A big change from size 50. Going ok so far.
Also, went to Berkeley for Yarn shopping at a store that was closing down with Guy and Christine.

Cooking: Cooking experiments continue. Last one was Chocolate coconut macaroons. Pics can be found here

Camping is a joy and so is planning of camping. Very interesting to see an impulse planner thinking two more steps ahead. But quite a lot of shopping - tent, firewood, camping shoes, lighters, lights blah blah.

Audiobooks: Listened to Grapes of Wrath on my way and back from Point Reyes. This audiobook had characters, and seemed abridged, but it had music as well. Overall, i think the story was quite interesting, i think the audio book even though was great while driving, it does not give justice to the book.

India won the world cup: I am very surprised that there are no blog posts from me on this historic news. India Aus match was enjoyed with Amit Rana and Gurshi (who was working). India - Pak match was enjoyed sitting at Gursharan's office with his CEO and some other strangers. India - SL final was enjoyed with Nikesh, Zoheb and Deepak at Deepak's place. (It is very important to document the view venues) . Extremely delighted to see India win. I have more respect for Dhoni than before especially the way he batted in last innings. Overall, i liked Zaheer's agression and not giving up and Munaf Patel's simplicity. Glad to see Gambhir and Virat Kohli in the side. Overall, not impressed by Indian bowlers and even though Yuvraj Singh was man of the series, i still see him as flaky. Kudos to Dhoni for being the brain behind. My personal favorite Indian team was 2003 team which has Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman. Too bad in 2003, we didn't convert. Very happy for Sachin that he has the cup on his accomplishments as well.

Got my bike. Yay!!

Battlestar Galactica : I am hooked into this TV series after playing the board game twice with Manish and others at office. BSG is a very interesting series and its creators have managed to mix the sci-fi genre with political drama in a very nice manner. I am in third season now and even though some episodes are drag, most of them are very well written. The acting is also quite good. The interesting things to note is that BSG has devised some constructs which allows them to escape the conventional limitations. For example they use the word frak instead of fuck which is ok for prime time. By making cylons having multiple copies, they can easily kill them and yet have them too. This is so creative if you think the drama Heroes where the watch maker was dragged on for season after season. There are other small small details that make BSG a delight to watch.

And finally the big news - My company was acquired by Walmart last week. There had been a numbers of rumors of acquisition floating around for last two months. But finally it happened. Personally, Walmart as an employer is not that exciting, its like getting an offer to work for Narendra Modi and you know my views about hi,. But there is a lot of opportunity in the area of social ecommerce and Walmart is also way behind the amazon. But, the most important point is that there is a good number attached to work and looking at that number, it may not be that big for others but for someone from my standpoint, it is too good to be true.

In a better world

In a better world is a Danish movie that won the foreign language oscar this year. I saw it yesterday night in Aquarious cinema at Palo Alto.

I liked the movie. It is a realist movie. Realist movie to me is a genre where fiction is used to depict a real life situation. The difficult thing or the fine line is to walk the extreme cases, because real life sometimes can be very extreme and some of the real incidents are so shocking that one just shudders to even think about them. In a realist movie, generally it is this extreme case is portrayed or the exaggerated vision is depicted, but the challenge is to do it in a convincing manner.

For some reason, sometime ago, i had stopped watching realist like movies. My reason was that they always left me depressed and saddened by the state of the world. So, i decided to break my silence with in a better world. And i liked it a lot. There are very few movies when i have actually had a physical reaction to an on-screen situation. There was a time in the movie when my hands were up in the air, just by pure dis-belief or they were stretched out in front begging to please stop whatever was happening on the screen. In a better world is able to bring out that kind of emotion. But one good thing is that it has a reasonable happy ending, something that makes it easy to bear after the movie has ended.

The movie revolves around a family, the father is a doctor who goes to Africa to treat refugees there. The elder son is being bullied at school and he has a new friend whose mother just died and he is going through an anger/denial stage. Under the story line, In a better world raises a few very important questions -

1. What is the meaning of courage ? If a person slaps you for no reason, what is the courageous act in response? And what kind of example are you setting up for your children.

2. An evil person needs help, should you help him ? The reason for not helping is very clear,the reason for helping - May be, the help changes his heart, may be he sees the suffering and understands. What is the morality here?

3. Revenge, what is the cost of it ? Everybody wants revenge, but do people have idea on what is the cost of revenge ?

The subtle references to above question happen throughout the movie. And the overall shadow is that how to do parenting in above scenarios. What kind of examples do we need to set so that the young can see and learn. As in a usual foreign lang movie, the acting here is top notch, especially by those young boys. The background score is less but very impactful whenever present.

Come on Indian cinema, pleas wake up from your fantasy world and start making realist cinema.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Board games

I like playing board games. I like the whole culture and strategy that goes into it. Wi, XBOX, kinect...nah they do not attract me. But board games, playing cards, call me anytime :)

It came all back with playing Battlestar Gallactica at office. Thanks to Maneesh for bringing the board game. I had no idea behind the series but i played the game and it was fun. After that, i have started watching the series and you know how it goes with me and series, once i get hooked, i am an addict. So i have finished two seasons of BSG in two weeks. A note on BSG series may be a subject of another blog post.

Then, i went to a meetup of board games two days ago. I ended up playing five different board games including - Castle lords, Nexus, Carcassone and Kill Dr. lucky. Carcassone, which i am sure i am spelling it wrong is one of the most popular games and i can see why. I liked Nexus and Kill Dr. lucky. Dr. lucky was a very interesting game.

The thing to note about board games is their whole conception process, how to make a board game interesting, not too difficult, interactive, design cards, the whole process, i have no idea about it but it sure looks very interesting. One more meetup and i will find myself owning some of those board games.

So far board gamers have been quite nice, they are always ready to explain rules to new-bees like me and are patient enough to understand the amateurish moves that we make. Like the spirit!!

Hiking alone

Last Sunday, i went hiking/camping alone. I have done a few hikes before and camped twice before. Never done it alone before.
In previous hikes i always found people hiking alone and i had wondered how it would be like to go all alone in a jungle. Well, thanks to US National park services, the trails even inside a jungle are very well maintained and thanks to over enthu junta here, you always see someone else hiking, so in reality you are not alone.

But hiking alone is a lot of fun. All by myself, i can pace myself and take a break whenever i can. Although, to my big surprise, i did not wanted to take break. I wanted to go on even when i was tired. Point Reyes is a beautiful place. I hiked 15 miles on Sunday and 3 miles on Monday while going from campsite to my car. On Sunday, half the distance was spent hiking in mountains or in forest over mountains and other half was a stroll on coastal trail which ran just beside the bay. Tough to choose which one is better but it is great that one can do both kind of hikes at Pt. Reyes.

Next was camping. I had little fear on how to set up a tent, i had never done it before and by the looks of it, it did require some knowledge on how tents work :) Let me state here on record that my tent stood up the entire night with me cozily sleeping inside it. I was dead tired after the hike so i went to my tent pretty early. The sky was still blue when i slept but i woke up several times during night. I used to wake up, see the open sky above me, see stars and then sleep back again. One of the most peaceful sleeps that i can remember. Camping is a great feeling. Some pictures are embedded below -

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 things i know to be true

1. I know that hard work has always pays.

2. I know that there is a truth and it is universal.

3. I know that there is nothing to fear as long as i am truthful.

4. I know that my writings/poems are mediocre but it feels great to write them.

5. I know that good music can always make me smile.

6. I know that i do not need to drink/dope to experience high.

7. I know that time will change and change is always good.

8. I know that i have limitations.

9. I know that respect has to be earned.

10. I know that there is a joy in giving that can not be felt in any other way.

Inspired by this TED talk -

Update 1: Now, i have watched that video twice. I love the 2nd poem "Hiroshima" that Sarah narrates in the end. It reminds me so much of veer ras in indian kavi sammelan. She sings in that ras. I like it a lot. More videos can be found here

Monday, April 4, 2011

My rug is complete

My knitting rug was finished on Thursday, Mar 31, 2011. It is the first project of mine with size 50 needles. It uses the simplest garter stitch with brown and black yarn. A total 6 balls of yarn were used (3 of each brown and black). In order to add more fun, i have shiny yellowish green silky yarn and some random yarn just to give some randomness to the order.

From Knitting

Weekend Mar 26-27, 2011

Continuing in the effort to make weekends more productive, here is another story.

It was again a rainy weekend. With rain there is always the question - what to do?

The start was again quite interesting. The food experiment of the week was bread roll. Unfortunately, in the excitement of making them, i forgot to click photos. But they were quite delicious. A little on the darker side of brown after frying but overall it could be termed a success.

Next up was the visit to San Francisco. This time it was Cartoon art museum. A very small museum and quite interesting. It throws glimpse on variety of cartoon art that is around us. Cartoon art is not just the second last page of the newspaper anymore, there is animation, sketch, there are graphic novels, the manga style and also the political cartoon, often satirical. The famous Danish cartoonist making allah comics reference was there. A nice small museum. I was disappointed to see only one image of Calvin and Hobbes strip.

Then the idea was to go to a Bay Area one acts festival. I had no tickets; the plan to go there was made in morning. I went to the place; a very unique part of SF. There were quite a few homeless patrolling the streets, walls had graffiti art on them and it seemed that it was a place where homeless can go at night to sleep. Saw a building with falling furniture. Found it absurd but fitting to the place. After staring at the building for another 10 mins, i began to like it. Especially the chair :)
Images can be found here -

But the festival was sold out. So i had to leave. Sigh! But it was still a beautiful day. The rain had gone by now. So i went to Treasure island, a place i wanted to go for a long time. Treasure island is an island opposite to SF. You can see both the bay and SF skyline of buildings from there. It generally has very few people and is very peaceful. The idea was to go there and read The idiot. But by the time, i went there it started raining and it became quite cold as it is after all an island.

That was saturday.

Sunday was spent in a non interesting way. Some chores had to be finished.