Saturday, December 10, 2005

One dial and a click away..

Some voices are like this…

I just feel so good to listen to them. Just spoke with one such voice. It is always a pleasant experience listening to the voice. In spite of all the changes which happened in between, still there is no change in that voice. It is the same familiar friendly affectionate voice. We will never stop cracking PJs. We will never stop talking about our favorite topics.

Wherever it is, let that voice, be always happy & cheerful…

Talking of voices and telephones, I wonder how happy Graham Bell would be seeing his invention connecting so many people separated by time & distance. There may be e-mails, chats, cams, talks…but there is still a charm about these telephones. There is something about dialing the numbers and giving voice to people on other end or getting the feel from other side.

Nothing is pleasant as a surprise call. Same thing happened few weeks back, a friend of mine who was from same school, hostel & college as mine, out of the blue, called me from Boston. Somehow we had lost contact and it was a nice surprise to see his call. It was so much fun updating the things from both sides and talking about our school MKT, Harihar, our Harihar gang and all those silly-wonderful time we spent in Dharwad!

There was another call from another friend who was not in contact for a long time. So this talk was just about our previous project, previous project mates, all the treks & all the picnics we went. When I met this guy, we spent hours talking and looking into photos of our good days in that project.

Other than these calls, calls to home are as always provide the regular supply of oxygen. Calls to friends in India are always a shortcut to memory lanes to India.

If telephones have charm, e-mails have their own class.

It is such a nice thing to keep in touch with friends in home and in different part of world. I sometimes get astonished thinking about being in a global-village. It feels so good to see in the mailbox, a mail from a friend in Japan talking about the Japanese tradition, a mail from Munich about how he is touring Europe (& sharing his little secrets), a mail form Scotland about the lake he visited, someone talking about playing football in UK, someone talking about temperature in Finland, someone mailing about getting anxious about not getting Visa. World surely has shrunk into such a small place.

Then there are regular special doses of mails and which I make a point to mail regularly. Like the ones, which I get from my friend in Bangalore whom I’ve never met, but with whom I mail so comfortably and discuss everything under sun from treks to Boyz!

And there are these gang mails where all ‘reply-all’ stuff will be happening. It is easy to be in touch with and to get to hear from all the folks through these mails. The discussions in these gang-mails often get lively & sometimes go out of control and out of context also!

I didn’t include all the talks we have about one of my favorite topic- previous project in Bangalore. I have so much to say about this, I better will come up with a separate post about it soon.

Whatever it is…one thing that is sure is that friends & family are just a dial and click away.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Escape to Catalina !

There was aqua blue in whichever direction I saw...

The Pacific Ocean was looking magnanimous spreading itself all across. The wind blowing was chilling & at times the sea looked like was becoming little disturbed.

The cruise was splitting the waters and was heading towards Catalina. Standing on the deck of the ship I was lost in the enormity of the ocean. I wonder what all things the ocean has within it. It is so enormous but yet appears so calm.

No wonder they compare eyes to ocean. It is so true that beyond those eyes existed an ocean…

Before my thought stream took me further deep into the ocean, the island was getting visible. So after an hour of cruising from San Pedro we were approaching Catalina Island, our holiday destination.

Catalina Island…
A tiny but refreshingly beautiful island in Pacific hardly 25 miles away from mainland California. The idea of visiting the Catalina originated when I heard from someone in the office about the island. To accompany me in the trip was the lovely couple – Shikha & Peru.

As the cruise approached the island, we saw the coastline dotted with lots of small ships. The Casino was standing right on the coast. There were few yatches venturing into the waters.

We landed in Avalon, the only city (town) in Catalina Island. The harbor was beaming with tourists, most of them there due to Thanksgiving holidays. As I walked in the very neat streets of Avalon, I noticed that there were not many automobiles. There were restaurants, sports gear shops, souvenir shops, everything revolving around tourists.After having Potato fries & sipping soft drinks, we set to explore Avalon.

There was a range of things to experience in Avalon. Kayaking, Snorkeling, Scuba diving, Parasailing for the adventurers. There were arranged tours for people who wanted to explore the city. There were bicycles & golf cars for hire for people who wanted to explore on their own.And finally there was beach & sun for people who just wanted to relax!

Parasailing was looking very inviting & I couldn’t resist the invitation! Though I had done parasailing before in Bangalore, I had never done that on water. Shikha also got charged up to try parasailing. The motor boat carried us in the deep waters.

The parachute was attached to the boat and we strapped ourselves to the parachute. Slowly the rope attached to parachute started extending and the wind was blowing so heavily that we started floating in the air. As the rope extended further & further from boat we soared higher & higher in the air. Now we were literally in the air with parachute above and Pacific Ocean below, just hanging there with a rope. The view from the top was mesmerizing. The island & the shore were looking still more beautiful. It was blue water everywhere. At one point, parachute started descending down & down, almost few feet away from water. When I thought I’m going to land in the sea, the boat picked up the speed and again we started soaring.

All good things have to an end and so as this. Slowly the rope pulled parachute and me back to the boat. I thoroughly enjoyed the sailing and I think parasailing above water is more pleasant than on land.

Back to shore after parasailing, we hit upon the sand. The mild sun was a welcome sight.Sat on the beach chatting about the parasailing and about few of our favorite topics. Meanwhile came across a group of TCSers whom we had met at Griffith Park in the TCS picnic a week earlier. Had a brief fun chat with them before we moved ahead.

Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin…What is common to these famous men? I know you must be wondering why suddenly a quiz popped here. The next place we came across has got to say about this.

I think some of you know about Tuna, the big sea fish. Tuna is particularly known as a popular sea food and these days becoming a restricted food due to high mercury level in it. I read that it has pink flesh as against white flesh of most other ocean fishes.

There is a Tuna club which is more than 100 years old and any body who catches a Tuna can become a member. But the catch is that Tuna has to be caught using the ‘rod & reel’ only. Considering the huge size of Tuna fish and the mechanism of rod & reel, it was considered impossible to capture the Tuna fish by rod and reel. There were often injuries sustained when trying to catch the leaping Tuna. So it became associated with really skillful & adventurers. This club was for people who successfully caught Tuna. As the club’s motto say “Fair play for game fishes”, the idea of the club was to provide even chance for Tuna’s life.

By the way, all the above three personalities were associated with Tuna club.

Next on our list was Casino. This circular doom building on the coast is the landmark of Avalon,was built by Wrigley as a tourist attraction (Wrigley is the same ‘Chewing gum’ guy).If the name 'Casino' brought memories of gambling then this is the wrong place you thought of. This casino has nothing to with gambling. It is a huge theatre where movies screened and other cultural programs conducted.

Not far from Casino, on the coastline were 'Kayaks’.These is the slender, small, lightweight water crafts which are paddled with the two-sided oar. The Kayaking looked to be a popular sport in Avalon and I think it is one of the best way to explore the rugged & beautiful coastline of Avalon. Kayaks are available in single and double Kayaks. These Kayaks were said to be developed by Eskimos as a fun & easy way to navigate the waters. Though I was all excited to try it, I couldn't do it as I didn't get any partner to do it and also as my swimming was still below elementary level.

After all these events, it was time to hit upon a restaurant for the lunch. With some effort we were successful in finding a place where Veggie Pizzas were made. The family size pizza was huge but thin & it was successful in filling our stomach.

After lunch, we again hit upon the beach to get some sun. While the couple with me decided to relax in the sun, I set out to explore little bit more. There was 'Lover's Cove' on an edge of the mountain and this place is known for Snorkeling. This water sport includes putting a watertight face mask, insert into your mouth one end of the long breathing tube called a snorkel and put your face beneath the surface of the water. This way it gives a view of fishes & a view of under the water world.

I must tell about the Golf car(t)s here. On Catalina Island, full-sized automobiles, buses, and delivery trucks are severely restricted. I read that they have policy that for every two big vehicles retiring out of island, they will sanction one new vehicle and often the wait time for new full-sized vehicle is more than 25 years!

This intended discouragement of bigger vehicles is to reduce the pollution and has made golf carts the primary motorized means of transportation. Most island residents themselves own only golf carts for transportation. With golf cart speeds topping out at just about 15 miles an hour, and in-town speeds far slower than that, traffic in Avalon moves literally to a gentler pace. These golf cars can be rented to explore the island.

There was semi-submarine ride to explore the underwater world, snorkeling, scuba diving, guided tours, golf car trips and so many other exciting things to try out. But time was running out & it was time to take the cruise back to San Pedro.

So we were back in Avalon Harbor and waiting for 'Catalina Express'.On the Harbor, I noticed there was a stone statue of a seal. It was in memory of a very popular seal 'Ben' who lived on the Avalon coast and who was extremely friendly with people and famous among the tourists.

Back on the deck of the Ship, the evening in Catalina was looking beautiful. The purple waters, the island in dim light and the red sky looked as if it is straight out of a painting.Slowly the lights were glowing here and there. The Casino was beaming with lights.

We took leave of Catalina with memories of good time spent there. As I discovered, the island offered so many things and it got added to my favorite destinations.

Standing on the deck of ship, I was trying to follow the stars in the sky which were scattered all across. The cruise was speeding in the water in the darkness of night and there was a light house standing somewhere at a far distance, beaming ray of light...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Queues,Thanksgiving and Turkeys.

Think of Queues….
What is the first thing which comes into your mind?
At least for me, it is ‘Tirupathi’ and I instantly remember those long queues and the devotees standing in queue for hours to get the Dharshana. When I had been to Tirupathi last time, we had been in the queue for 4-5 hours. You may be thinking why this guy in US suddenly is talking about Tirupathi’s queue.

Now it is 2 in the morning & I just came back after doing the rounds in the city! Seeing huge queues in front of electronic shops here, Tirupathi flashed in my mind. Now you may be wondering why people here were standing in queues in front of electronic shops.

Last Thursday of November in US is celebrated as ‘Thanksgiving’ day and the day after is known as ‘Black Friday’. On every ‘Black Friday’ all shops offer grand discounts. But the biggest and most attractive offers are given by electronic shops. But the catch is that these offers are limited and only available to people having coupons. And how people get these coupons? Stand in the line from Thursday night till the time the shops open on Friday morning & distribute coupons. And on ‘Black Friday’ the shops open at 4-5 in the morning!

When I heard this from somebody here, I thought they may be joking. But as Thursday night began to grow, it was becoming true. Many people in apartment also started to go out. So I decided that I’ll go and check myself if this is true.

At some distance from our apartment, there is ‘Best buy’ and ‘Circuit City’. When I reached these places, it was a scene to look at. There was a huge line of people waiting outside the shops. They were totally cladded in winter wear. Everyone had brought the folding chairs/stools to stand (sit) in the queue. Few had brought the comforters and sleeping bags and I heard they were in the queue since 9 in the night!! There were families standing in the queue and enjoying the coffee they had brought!!!

So it was looking like people in the queue had well planned and well equipped to stand in the queue. Most people in the queue were Makkoos, Chincos and few Desis who were there to get the laptops, cameras, TVs, players and whatever they can at highly discounted prices.

Just a thought….
Isn’t that we spend most of the time in our lives in queues??
Queue to get ration, queue to get admission to school/college, queue to get movie tickets, queue for walk-in interviews. I have seen people who will be in the queue waiting to fall for a particular guy/gal!

Back to discount queues….
It is so different from the Tirupathi queues. There people wait in queues just to get a glimpse of the God, here they stand in queue to get the things which can be easily termed ‘materialistic’.
In both cases, people return back with a sense of happiness, here people return with a satisfaction that they were able to save so many dollars, there people return with a satisfaction that they were able to spend some time in presence of Almighty. For me one queue reflects materialistic world and another queue stand for spiritual world.

I just took ‘Discount Queue’ as example of ‘materialistic’ and ‘Tirupathi Queue’ as an example of ‘spiritual’. It may not be so clear cut as there may be elements of materialism in ‘Tirupathi Queue’ and vice versa??

Before I get too philosophical and bore you more, let me tell how the concept of ‘Thanksgiving’ day came into existence.

Several centuries back, it seems that few people from England got frustrated with the suffocating religious set-up there and fled to US . They called themselves ‘Pilgrims’. The first winter in US for pilgrims was very harsh with little flood & extreme cold, due to which many of them died. But the next harvest was extremely good for pilgrims. They had enough food and they also got lots of help from native Indians.

So in order to thank natives and thank for all the good things, they arranged a feast for natives. That practice grew up as ‘Thanksgiving’ over the years. It was formally declared a national celebration during Lincoln’s period.

One thing which is closely associated with Thanksgiving is Turkey. Although it is not clear how it became associated with Thanksgiving, this bigger version of hen has become a must for Thanksgiving lunch/dinner.

It is so much so popular that in white house every year there will be a ‘National Thanksgiving Turkey’ function where the US president does something called ‘official pardoning of the Turkey’! This year Turkey’s name which got pardoned was ‘Marshmallow’. This tradition was started when Truman was president and it involves pardoning Turkeys and retiring them to Park where they will spend rest of their live.

Such a contrast that when several thousands of Turkeys make their way to lunch-dinner on Thanksgiving, few lucky Turkeys gets ‘pardoned’ by president and they live rest of their life royally and guess what is the name of park where these royal Turkeys retire?

Frying Pan Park !!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Spring forward, Fall back

Sun rises in the east and sun sets in west.

You should be thinking what big deal in that, everybody knows that. But one thing we usually don’t take into consideration is the time sun spends in each geography. Sun in certain period of year falls in love with that place so much so that he sets at 8 in the night and in another period he hates it so much that he sets early at 5 in evening.What this means in the uneven number of day light hours during different periods of years.

So how to balance this uneven day light?
Advance the time by one hour during summer months and once summer is over bring back the time by one hour. This concept is known as Spring forward, Fall back. This idea was first floated by Benjamin Franklin and it first got used in US during world war time.As of this year, DST begins for US at 2 am on first Sunday of April and time reverts to standard time at 2am on last Sunday of October.But in 2007, DST is going to extend for few more weeks.

US follows three different zones – Pacific Standard Time (PST), Central Standard Time (PST) and Eastern Standard Time (PST).What it means is when it is 8 am in west coast of US, it will be 11 am in Central US and 12 am in East Coast.Along with these three different time zones, which are already confusing, add Daylight Saving Time to make it a perfect chaos!

Same thing happened last week here after time was adjusted back one hour on last Sunday of October.I actually got up on a lazy Sunday morning at 11:30, but due to daylight saving it was 10:30.All gadgets which had daylight savings logic had automatically changed, but few were still showing 11:30 leaving me confused! So after confirming the time few times, I came to conclusion about the correct time!

But more confusion was yet to come in office.

After Daylight Saving Time got over, the time was adjusted back. But what everybody forgot was the fact that there are few areas in US like Arizona and Hawaii which don’t follow DST. So our system calculations based on date & time started behaving strangely in the first few days as the time zone setting was not taken into account for Arizona and other non-DST zones. It took some time to get into the bottom of problem.

But why they do they go for day light savings?
One of the major reasons being quoted is energy conservation. It is said that amount of electricity consumed depend on when sun sets and when people go to bed. As people have same bedtime through out the year, by artificially moving sunset one hour late, the amount of energy consumed is reduced. To prove this, there are statistics which shows that DST reduces the country’s electric usage by one percent.

DST also is said to increase opportunities for outdoor activities.Most people plan outdoor activities during the increased hours of daylight.Other benefits include lesser traffic accidents and lesser crimes!

By the way, this day light savings is not followed in every country. Countries close to north pole or south pole , the daylight period is longer in summer.In countries near equator or in the tropics,the day and night are nearly the same length.So DST is usually not useful in the tropics and in equator.

There is one interesting incident I read about this DST.
In September 1999, the Palestinian West Bank was on daylight saving time while Israel had just switched back to standard time. West Bank Palestinians prepared time bombs and smuggled them inside Israel to their men, who misunderstood the time on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded—one hour too early—killing three terrorists instead of the intended victims—two busloads of people!!

Opponents of DST claim that there are not enough benefits of DST.Disturbed sleeping patterns, less productivity due to sleep-disrputed workers, accidents, confusion for people traveling are the several reasons to criticize DST.

I heard India also once tried DST when it was in war with Pakistan.

I’ll leave with you to think on this..
Supposing some lady gives birth to twins on the night when DST is reverted back.Say one child is born at 1:50 am.At 2 am the clock is turned back one hour.Now another child is born which actually is born at 2am but due to DST it is born at 1am, making it the older of two child even though it is the younger. Doesn’t it have legal effects in cases of properties or rights?

What do you say?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Halloween day & Spooky night!!


The ideas, thoughts and imaginations related to the ghosts/spirits are as old as the ghosts themselves. The ghosts form a significant part in every culture and each part of world has its own traditions related to ghosts.

One such tradition prevalent is Halloween Day.

Halloween day, most commonly associated with weird costume parties, spooky nights and candies. It is widely celebrated in United States, Canada, England & Ireland. These days, it is celebrated in other countries also.

I was amazed at the way, houses were decorated here for Halloween Day. Atleast 2 weeks before the Halloween day, there were Jack-O-Lanterns in front of each house. There were ghosts made of balloons & life-size ghost toys put up everywhere. More amazing was the way people were waiting eagerly for the day.

Loads of mails was sent in the office to discuss the dress code for the day.After much debate and voting it was decided that everybody would come in ‘Cow Boy’ dress to office on Halloween day!

The office on Halloween day was looking straight from the old Cow Boy movie. Most of them were in big check shirts and denim with the trademark Cowboy hats.

A part of office was decorated as an old cow boy bar with posters of ‘Most Wanted Cow boys’ pasted all across. There was even a funny skit which was about the outlaws la Cowboys fighting against the sheriffs. The skit was about cow-boy programmers who don’t want to follow any ‘Process Change Management’ and about Sheriffs who want everything to be process oriented. The dialogues were so humorous.

Another group of people in office had dressed up as aliens with antennas, one more group had dressed up as nerds, some other group as Egyptian Pharaohs. It was a welcome change to see such vivid images in office!!

For Chocolate buffs, there were tons of plenty of chocolates everywhere in office.On each of our desks were placed peanuts & chocolates!!

Back in apartment in the evening, I saw people roaming around wearing those ghost masks and dressed up like ghosts. There is an old belief that on Halloween day, ghosts/spirits would be back on earth and would be roaming around to get into the human body. By wearing those ghost masks & dresses, probably that was a way to confuse the ghosts and misguide them that people in those dresses were also part of ghost community!

Jack-o-lantern, which is a carved pumpkin lit by a candle inside, was placed on each doorsteps. Scary face carved on the pumpkins was one more way of frightening ghosts!

One more Halloween related tradition is 'treat or trick'.Children would go to each neighborhood house, knocking the doors and shout ‘trick or treat’. The house occupants would give chocolates, candies or sweets. Candy Apple was the hugely popular item that was given to kids on Halloween day. It was such a nice tradition where children were ‘officially’ allowed to go and demand chocolates, candies or sweets from anyone.

But nothing is allowed to remain straight and simple!

I read somewhere that act of ‘trick or treat’ went for serious scrutiny after rumors that the some individuals were embedding things like razors and pins in the apples that were given to children. The paranoid followed and the hysteria reached such a stage that few hospitals on Halloween day offered to X-ray the candy apple collections. Few incidents where the candy apples were ‘drugged’ or ‘poisoned’ were also reported. So that act of ‘trick or treat’ never remained same. These days I heard children rarely go out & collect candies.

These days the most popular thing is the Halloween night party where there will be costume party with people in all sorts of dresses and which has all the spicy ingredients required for making a ‘spooky night’!

I believe like any other old tradition, Halloween day is no more only about ‘ghosts’.It has acquired new dimensions. More over it has given a chance to people, to be something they are not and to do things which they always wanted to do. Ask anyone who went to Halloween party, they will agree with me!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ifthiyar with Turks

Sitting at the dinner table, I was literally clueless about what was spread across the table.I couldn’t recognize any of the dishes there. How could I, after all it was Turkish dinner.

It was the ‘Ifthiyar’ party arranged by the Turkish community and we ended up there after my Turkish colleague Ahmet invited for the party.

Ahmet understood my concern about the food and assured me that he had made arrangements for vegetarian food. While rest of my colleagues digged into the various meat dishes, me and another friend were the only veggies there.

First came the palm dates and then appetizer ‘Ayran’. It was a drink of beaten yogurt, salt & grated cucumber. It was something like our butter milk but not exactly same.This was followed by vegetable salad.Then followed a series of main dishes.

One was an orange color rice item which was made of rice(or rather rice-lets).It was plain in taste with some unknown spices and only thing I recognized in that was that they had put salt in the dish !

There was another green color grain item which was like Kosambari. Even ingredients almost tasted similar. In a flash, Kosambari prepared in home during festivals passed through my head! Next regular rice with vermillion made its way to my plate.There was chutney like thing which tasted familiar but couldn’t co-relate the taste!

Mean while my host friend was giving running commentary about all the dishes coming to my plate.

'Dolma' was the one which I liked. It is rice stuffed in the grape leaves and baked.It is almost like our ‘Patra Oday’ we prepare in Karnataka .I heard from Ahmet that the ingredients of 'Dolma ' can also be vegetables & beans.

There was a rectangular deep-fry item which tasted some thing like pakoda. Or was it that I was trying to find Indian taste in every item?!!

In that dinner party, me & another friend were the only veggies and this food was specially prepared for us. Looked like Ahmet took extra pain for us..

After getting stuffed with the food, ‘Tatlisi’ appeared on the table.Tatlisi is the Turkish term for sweets or desserts.

‘Helva’ was that dessert made of milk, sugar, nuts, vermillion & flour.Before we could finish that small rolls were served on the plate.It was a deep fry sweet & tasted like Jeelabi.One more variation came which with great difficulty made its way into stomach!

During dinner, I had a lengthy conversion with Ahmet about Turkey, his home town Istanbul, places to visit in Istanbul and current political scenario in Turkey.I could notice how excited Ahmet was when he was explaining to me about Turkey. For any ex-patriate, talking about their country is such a nice thing. I remember I also get pumped up when I explain about India to someone here.

By the way, if you are not aware, Ifthiyar is the party arranged during Ramzan month for breaking fasts.If you recollect, Muslims fast through out this month and they won’t have food in between sun rise & sun set.This party was arranged by Turkish community here and I think we were the only non-Turkish people there!

After dinner, a video presentation was made telling significance of Ramadan .We took leave of Ahmet and while returning I had this question hovering me

“Religion is simple and it gets complicated when it gets interpreted.It was invented to show the light in the dark but why it is being used instead to push towards dark?”

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Once again in Phoenix!

South-West Airlines, LAX-PHX flight…

Everything was same & even few of the airhostesses in the flight were looking familiar!! It was nice to be back in Phoenix.How do my office folks know that I love travelling places?

First four days of training was spent, most of the time working in class and rest of the time as usual searching & testing new restaurants in Phoenix. And some part of my hotel stay was spent calling up customer care of hotel asking to rectify the internet connection in my room!

On Friday evening, a long ride of 30 minutes brought me to Deer Valley apartments. Last time I was here in Phoenix, I had met Archana. This time it was to meet one more good friend from Lucent-background and who was part of our picnics & treks in Bangalore. It was almost 8 months since I had seen him. After a little while I heard that familiar voice and there he was sitting on a bicycle…Supreeth Hedge!

Suppi took me to his house & I met Giri, his roommate whom I had met in our Kumara parvatha trek. Chatted with Suppi for a long time and didn’t forget to pull his legs about why he hasn’t shaved for weeks?

Next was visit to Archana for dinner. When she was about to start cooking, she realized that there was no rice & once again we were out on ‘Bhavathi Bhikshan Deyi’ campaign!!!

Archana took me to her colleague Sachin & Mubin’s house & it so happened that we ended up cooking there & eating dinner with them! Mubin is an interesting guy to talk with.As I mentioned any project name to him, he used to come up with few gals names from that project and would ask how they were doing! Had dinner and chatted with them till 11:30 before Suppi called. So these guys dropped me back at Suppi’s place.

One more drive with Suppi this time to ‘Blockbuster’ to get some movies. We were literally ‘Gone in 60 seconds’ seeing the movie of the same name!

Saturday, Oct 1:
Phoenix appeared little cooler now then it was during my previous visit.

After lots of hiccups & last minute changes, finally Suppi was the rescuer and took us to Arizona mills.This is one of the big malls in Phoenix and as expected did lots of window shopping before we went to movie ‘Flight Plan’.

A little girl goes missing in the aircraft and there won’t be any proof left that the kid had boarded the flight. Nobody believes mom that her kid came with her. So mom herself gets into action of searching the kid in that aircraft, of which she knows each & every bit of it!! How she knows the aircraft? Because she will be the one who would have designed that aircraft !! Interesting movie and I heard rumors that the movie may get banned! That may be because the movie has many scenes showing minute details about aircraft and how to goof it up.

After movie, did some small shopping in the Arizona mills. I added one more t-shirt, to my latest hobby of collecting T-shirts bearing city names I visited.

Next stop was ‘Mills Avenue’, which we called ‘Brigade road of Phoenix’. Looks like Brigade road had deep rooted influence on all of us hailing from Bangalore. First thing we do here is compare any dazzling-happening street to Brigades and then we add ‘May be this is little bigger’!

Mills Avenue is across Arizona University and I think the large chunk of that crowd was from there.One interesting thing about Mills Avenue was the huge guitars erected on the footpaths.There were so many of them and each in different color & design. There was a guitar which was shining red, which got its color by the 1 cent coins pasted all over it

The evening was just getting lit up and there were young crowds all set to enjoy the Saturday night. Most of the time here again we spent in window shopping and also followed Achhu to whichever apparel shop she went.Looked like all the shops in that Avenue was meant only for Ladies!

After a quick dinner of Spinach pasta, went to ‘Four rabbits fountain’ and sat there chatting for a very long time. Invariably the topic of treks and finally Sakleshpur trek came and how dearly we remembered that trek.

Anand, who is Acchu’s colleague, was in great form too. Best part about Anand is he speaks so good Kannada. It is significant & heartening considering the point that he is a Bihari !

I know that sometimes I just get pissed off due to silly & stupid reasons. Achhu will definitely be nodding her head to this & saying “I know”!

We left Mills around 11.The crowd was getting bigger and bigger. Came back and slept at 2 not beforing watching ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’.

Sunday, Oct 2:
We got up pretty early for lunch at 11:30. Me and Suppi were in quite a flash back mood after seeing our Kumaraparvatha trek fotos and Lucent picnic fotos.Don’t know how long we sat chatting about that KP trip, about Sandeep who was the 'star' of that trek, about Sudheep's capability of carrying friend's luggage,about Sumanth,Hakim,Mohammed,Ayush,Bhat….

Picked Achhu on the way and went to Anthem malls. It seems the whole idea of that session was to show me huge cactuses and desert landscaping in Phoneix.Indeed there were cactuses on either side of road and there were few cactus nurseries also.On the way back from mall, Suppi, Achhu & I sung some Kannada songs non-stop. Especially that song “Heghe idhey namm desha..Heghe idhey namm bhashey..Heghe idharey namma jana?” was sounding so meaningful!!

Anthem mall is one more shopping mall in Phoenix.If you had noticed, Phoenix has nothing but huge malls and looked like those are the entertainment spots here. Phoenix doesn’t boost huge things as in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

But things small or big, looks good only when you are with good company.
Suppi & Achhu gave such a nice company throughout my stay there.

Achhu & Suppi, I know you will definitely do still better planning next time I come there!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

5 Rs to 12 $ - A hair cut tale

I was sitting in ‘Kathy’s Nails & Hairs’ near to my apartment and letting hair-specialist to work on my hair. As that barber went about his work, my mind began running few years back….

I think its name was ‘Mamata Hair Saloon’, which was few doors away from our house in Harihar. But popularly it was known as ‘Chinnappana Cutting Shop’ after its owner’s name.It was the ‘official’ saloon for me for more than 20 years. Till I finished my Engineering and moved out of Harihar, each of my haircuts was done in that Saloon!

Chinnappa na cutting shop was always crowded on Sunday and that’s when I used to go for hair cut. There used to be ‘Prajaa Vaani’ and ‘Nagara Vaani’ newspapers for waiting customers. By the time, my turn came, I would have finished each & every letter in the newspapers from sports page to reader’s letters!

Then hair cut would start. As they knew exactly what hair cut to do (Why don’t they know about their long-standing elite customer!).They would start hair cut as soon as I sat on the chair without asking what to do. I always had ‘Pilewan Cut’ which in other words meant very short hair.

Initially in the school, I used to be taunted and was made fun of because of this ‘Pilewan Cut’.So I did got ideas to change the hair styles. But that taunting soon died out after I became all teachers’s ‘darling’ in the school and after same taunters had to get some help from me in class!

Strangely enough, I never visited any saloon in entire 2 years when I was in Dharwad for PU and instead used to get haircut whenever I visited Harihar, of course in Chinnappa’s shop! I had seen the hair cut price growing over years starting from 5 Rs to 15 Rs in that shop.

Once I was in Bangalore, the hair saloons became like web sites. Go to whichever you feel like!!

In Laksmipuram, CMH road where I stayed for more than year, there was this hair saloon which I went couple of times.That barber was a full fan of Kamal Hasaan and whatever Kamal tried on scene with his hair, this guy would have tried it himself. Then I moved to Domlur and visited couple of saloons there.The average hair cut cost was 25 Rs.

There was no personal touch to hair cuts anymore, no cinema gossips, and no big political discussions.

When in Chennai for 2 months, had to go for a hair cut and that was one of the funniest hair cutting sessions I had. Barber didn’t know anything other than Tamil & I have to use sign language and only word he understood was ‘short’.The barber was happily watching some songs in some Tamil channel and doing hair cut.I was praying that he would spare my ears !!!

So all those hair-cut experiences had left a typical picture in my mind about saloons.’Hair Saloon’ immediately brought images of some (usually small) shop with lots of mirrors,some fancy chairs,scissors-blades-combs,heavily-talking barbers,radio-tv-newspapers-magazines,hair across the floor...

Hair and time wait for none!

So after coming to Torrance I went in search of a hair saloon.My previous image of barber shop was about to change.Near my apartment there were at least some 6 saloons.I visited each of those saloons find out more about them.I have to hop from saloon to saloon because of hair cut costs and also as few saloons required ‘appointments’!

There were saloons offering hair cut starting from 10$ to 25$ and a price left for anybody's imagination. After doing survey of saloons, finally I choose a saloon which I thought was decent where ‘basic’ hair cut was 12$.

This whole saloon looked very high-tech with plethora of gadgets all across.People were sitting and waiting on a nice couch ,watching TV and going through those cine-magazines.There were people getting done variety of hair-operations.There were people who were getting hair colored. People were getting their nails polished & trimmed. There was a lady who was sitting on a chair with a bowl on her head (I came to know later she is trying to get a curly hair!)

My turn came & barber asked me what I want to go for.
I asked for a basic hair cut. It almost sounded like telling to Dell that I want a PC with a basic configuration !!

The barber shoot his next question ‘What stage 2 or 3? “
Stage?? I was puzzled and asked him to show how stage 3 looks like.He smiled & showed his head.Now that I had a bench mark I opted for stage 2!!!

Next question ‘any shades you want try?’ and pointed to the chart.It was looking like an Asian Paints Color chart with different range of shades for hair.I said no but could not stop cross checking the color, guy next-chair had chosen for his hair. It was rose pink shade!

During haircut session, many gadgets were brought out which I had never seen before.It looked barber hardly used scissors but instead used these gadgets. After working on my hair for a while, he declared that hair cut is done.It wasn’t bad at all..

That was my first cut with saloons in US.
I later came to know that there is a ‘Barber College’ where there are courses for budding barbers.

I was brought back to present when barber told me ‘Is this fine with you?’ I nodded my head, paid 12$ and started walking back to apartment, thinking how nice it would have been if those saloons with those 'Prajaa Vaani-Nagara Vaani' and talking barbers were here. How nice it would be if barbers here would talk like there anything about politics & Cinema??

A hairy wish ???!!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Four days of Phoenix..

You will be planning to go to some place and at that same time your office sends you to the same place where you were planning to go. How do you feel?

Thatz exactly what happened when our client told me that they are sending me for a 4-day training to Phoenix. I always love to travel, exploring new places and meeting new people.Added to that, this time there was also an old Bangalore buddy whom I was to meet in Phoenix.

Day 1:
Sep 13,2005
Day started very early. The pretty airhostess who was checking our boarding pass was able to shrug my sleep to an extent. South West Airlines took off from LAX finally at 6am.The journey was a very short one for one & half hours. But I never saw that pretty looking airhostess in the plane again. May be she was there in Business class. It was again the case of ‘what you see is what you not get’!!! Before I finished Orange juice and bunch of songs in my iPod, plane landed in Phoenix.

From airport directly we went to Toyota office. Let me now introduce my colleague Jeanne Chu who is a Vietnamese-Chinese. In Phoenix office, we met our another classmate Clarice. The morning training session was very live with our instructor Dan in full form.

Lunch was at Mexican restaurant. Half my stomach got filled by seeing the waitresses and pretty crowd there. After lot of research, I was successful in customizing Burrito suiting my veggie taste. Indeed the Burrito was yummy. Rest of my gang had their own pleasure grabbing variety of Burritos.

Phoenix is lot hot compared to Torrance or Los Angeles.There are cactus all around the place.Some of them were huge and few were looking very catchy.

Afternoon session was little sleepy, but was made live again by Dan. As we had flown that morning itself we were feeling very sleepy. We returned to hotel and slept immediately. I got woken up by Chu for dinner.We decided to explore Italian food.

Olive Gardens was that Italian restaurant we went.The ambience was pleasing and even more pleasing was the service. Warm greetings, nice smiles & feeling that make you feel you are being taken special care. I opted for Pasta and Chu ordered for some Shrimp dish.Garlic bread was a nice appetizer.We sat & chatted for a while before food came.Pasta was tomoto based one with onion & pepper blend.The Pasta was tasty.

Pasta brought memories of those wonderful days of having Pasta in Brigade’s Barista. I was lost for a while somewhere before Chu asked what the matter was. I didn’t tell anything to her and just smiled. Meanwhile, in the next table there was a birthday bash and all hotel staff came & sung birthday song. In a matter of next half an hour so there were 6 birthday celebrations in the surrounding tables!!!I think hotel staff got tired singing b’day songs!

It is always good to see celebrations..I remembered those celebration times when we used to make our friends to stand on top of table in Pizza hut and almost used to embarrass them.

Back in the hotel and retired to our room.I had a nap before dinner,So I sat & watched a movie in the room.I don’t know if you have seen this movie ‘Ali G’.Total timepass movie where a good-for- nothing idiot becomes British MP accidently & then minister.(So you can call that a British movie version of Laloo!).

Day 2:
Class started early at 8:30 and went pretty well till lunch. Now big question was ‘where to go’? After much debate, we decided to go to Indian restaurant. We had an amazing session in ‘Priya’ Indian restaurant. Our menu read something like Chicken Kabab, Sheikh Kabab, Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan, and Navratna Kurma. The last two exclusively for me.We pepped the lunch with Mango lassi.Our team was so overwhelmed with the Indian food that they took some food back as parcel!

Afternoon session was a typical one with sleepy faces all around.Then we got a message that they are having ice-cream party in the office.So we quickly took a break and munched the amazing icecreams.

In the evening, my colleague Clarice took me in her Lexus so that she could drop me at 19th Avenue.It was almost a 30 mile drive.On way we talked plethora of topics.She couldn’t understand how Indian youth still (prefer to) stay with their parents even after being independent, how arranged marriages are possible, how people can manage to live together for decades.I was also little curious to know the social fabric of American society.

After a quite a long drive, she dropped me in front of Palm Courts. I waited there for a while before Archana finally appeared. The office she works is right in front of her apartments. It was so nice to see a known friend in an unknown place.

We went to her apartment and sat there for a long time talking about Bangalore, about Nagapatnam trip and of course our favorite Sakleshpur trip.We were both remembering Bangalore gang so much.We had almost forgotten Achhu’s colleagues who had come with her.After orange squash, Achhu took me out on a tour of her apartment.Showed gym, pool & her friends house.We had a good session of photography in her apartment.

Time was quickly running.So we cooked rice-sambar and finished the dinner.I took the cab back to hotel, which was a lengthy 30 miles.Again time to go back to my iPod, listening to Kannada songs I recently downloaded to my iPod. By 11:30 was back in hotel and tuned into the movie ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.

Motorcycle Diaries is a movie about…I think I’ve to come up with a separate blog for that.

Day 3:
Things were getting heated up in class.Today also class had started early.For lunch,we went to one more Mexican restaurant.I had Black Pea Burrito with hot Salsa.Back to office and things really got rolling.Also it happened that our client manager visited the office and met all of us.

By the time we left class it was 8:30 pm and directly we went in search of a new restaurant.But our search of Thai food was unsuccessful and finally we landed up in Subway.Got the Veggie Paddy Sub to room and enjoyed it with watching the movie,‘Around the world in 80 days’ starring Jackie Chan. Jackie’s movies are always good to watch and I being his fan for a long while, watched the movie with pleasure. I had memory of reading that Julius Varner book ‘Around the world in 80 days’ when I was in 9th Standard.I was curious to see how it is picturised and though movie greatly deviated from the original book, it was a good movie.

Day 4:
One more hectic session in class. Now we were totally into the thing.
Lunch we went to ‘Minni’s Kitchen’, an American Shoppe where I ordered Veggie Stack. Veggie Stack was seriously a stack with layers of vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, and sauces.Topped it with Strawberry lemonade.

Evening flight to LAX was at 6 pm.We decided to check-in early and ‘stand by’ so that we could get into any earlier flights.We somehow managed to got into 5’o clock flight. Flight of one & half hour was over before I finished my bunch of songs.It was good to see Air hostess men in shorts & T-Shirts against that typical suit they always wore.

So it was a good time in Phoenix with most of the free time being spent in restaurants exploring new food. Having people who also wants to explore with me was a plus point.Though there are less choices for Veggies like me, few of the dishes I tried were amazing.

And best part is that I’m going back to Phoenix again soon for one more training!!!

Friday, September 02, 2005

When Nature Chides...

We had just found that boy’s dead body....

If alive, probably he would have been 5-6 years old. The face was completely eaten by worms and the whole body was swollen as it was in water for almost 7 days. We poured a bag of bleaching powder on that decayed and highly smelling body and somehow managed to pull the body out from that debris. We carried it to the shore and the earth mover dug the grave in few minutes.

Don’t know how many graves the earth mover has been digging for that past week?

After showing the body to that boy’s father (who was the only survivor in that house), I & another friend lowered that dead body into the grave. Earth mover pulled the sand on the body and in no time leveled the ground.

There was a graveyard at each step we kept on the sand there. There were some huge sand mounds which were nothing but mass graves which had 25-30 bodies.

That was January 1,2005 in Nagapattanam, a place in Tamil Nadu one week after Tsunami.

All those heart-drenching scenes started rolling like a movie before my eyes when I read that bodies are being found under debris in US East coast after the recent ‘Katrina’, the killer hurricane.

These natural disasters are like this…
They bring with them so much havoc, so much pain and take away so many lives. Be it the tsunami struck India or hurricane damaged US, there is one language spoken at that time…..’pain’.

Victims of these disasters desperately will be needing help in terms of food, cloths and shelter .More than that they need some emotional consoling.That is what I found when I sat talking with those people in those Tsunami relief camps. The mental trauma and psychological after-affects of these disasters are traumatic.

It may be true that victims if they don’t get enough of supplies can get into acts of looting or something unruly because they want to survive.But there will be few useless-human beings who makes the disaster as an opportunity to loot,to grab whatever they can...shameless human beings..

It will be a challenge to any country to handle these natural disaster. Real strength of a country is proved in that situation.

The way people of India responded when Tsunami struck is really heartening.They did whatever little they can do. They donoted funds, they voluntaried in the relief activities, they consoled the grief-struck ones.

It made one thing clear that there is still something called ‘humanity’.

On another note, when nature regularly chides us with such doses of disasters, why do we want to make things still worse? Why do they still go for all those destructive things like Wars,N-bombs, H-bombs?

Is it not enough pain & stress with these tsunamis, hurricanes, rains??..

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I think thatz why iPod !!!!

Few things make their way into our lives…

You hear about it somewhere, you read about it & before you realize you will be a part of the whole thing. Internet and mobile phones are best examples. I’m talking about something like that but may not so far reaching as internet & mobile revolution…

Imagine that you have an idea of a revolutionary product. You realize that having only ideas is not sufficient, but you should also have resources to realize that idea. You approach few reputed companies with the idea of building the product. Those companies play it safe and reject the idea. Finally you get one company which accepts your idea and decide to take the bet on the idea.

As they say, what follows next is history!!

You see that the product you visualized has become an icon and captured the imagination of millions. (Still capturing is going on strongly).

To cut long story short, the product I’m talking about is iPod, the portable digital audio music player designed and marketed by Apple. A sleek looking audio player with a simple user interface and which can store thousands of songs.

An estimate said Apple has sold over 15 million iPods till June 2005, including 5.3 million in the 1st quarter of that year. iPod currently dominates the digital audio player market, frequently topping best-seller lists. In its fourth quarter results of 2003, Apple reported earnings of $106 million its highest revenue for Q4 in 9 years. Thanks to iPod !

But how did it all happen?

As I told you in the beginning it was because of one man’s idea & one company’s bet.

Tony Fadell was an independent contractor & hardware designer who has this idea to ‘make an MP3 player, build a Napster music sale service to complement it, and build a company around it’. He approached RealNetworks & Phillips with his idea. Both turned him down. Finally it was Apple who at that time was also struggling and who saw the business in Tony’s idea.

Apple hired Tony Fadell and assigned him a team of about 30 people including designers, programmers and hardware engineers. While Fadell may have had the business plan, Apple CEO Steve Jobs molded the device's shape, feel and design. The interesting thing about the project was that since it started, it had 100 percent of Steve Jobs' time. After 8 weeks, the first model was ready for production. Absolute secrecy about all the iPod prototypes was maintained during its production.

To compliment the excellent product, there was an excellent advertising campaign. They pepped up the advertising with some catchy lines and some famous artists performing for it.

Apple provided iPod users the easiest way to download music from CD, computer hard disk or from net. It built an excellent music sale service and accessory business around iPod.

iPod was first released in October 2001.Against all skepticism about its price it proved to be an instant hit. Apple never stopped. After that what followed was an iPod series. iPods with 1 GB, 4 GB, 6 GB, 20 GB & 40 GB hard drives came into market. iPod with Photo storage also made its way. Users were thrilled to see a new player which was as big (& thin) as a Cadbury chocolate, which had such an amazing storage capacity (GBs of hard drive which meant they can store thousands & thousands of songs) and a long lasting battery (once charged the player was able to play for 12-18 hours).But what really caught the imagination was simple user interface designed around a central scroll wheel.

Consumers flocked to buy the new gadget and still now they are flocking.

Once iPod got established, almost a new industry started which developed & produced accessories for iPod. Check the range and number of accessories available for iPod, you will be amazed. You get an accessory if you want to use the iPod in your car stereo, you have another accessory if you like to wear it as an ornament(I have seen people wearing iPod like arm bracelet & as necklace),you have some other accessory to use it in home stereo….

iPod soon became a cult figure. So much so that in early days in New York when iPod was a status & style statement, (iPod is still a style statement but not sure about status statement) robbery was targeted on people in metro trains wearing those white ear buds (iPod comes with a funky white ear phones).Police has to ask people using iPod not to use it in hostile places and if possible to camouflage the ear phones with some other color….

An interesting news story broke out when George Bush’s iPod play list was revealed somehow. The president’s iPod play list seemingly contained songs which went against the conservative image he holds!!

It doesn’t mean that everything was/is right with iPod.
iPod ran into problem when the batteries for its first generation were found to drain off within a year, users couldn’t replace those batteries and hence had nothing but to buy one more iPod. After a public anger, Apple promptly replaced the batteries for all affected users and took care of that battery problem in its next generation iPods.

iPod got into problem with rapper Eminem when he sued Apple for illegally using his “Lose yourself” number for iPod advertisement.

Barring legal & technical glitches, I think one thing which can go against iPod in new markets is its price.The price of iPod looks to be higher than any other mp3 player.

Where iPod is heading now?
There seems to be no stopping the fairy tale success of iPod.

iPod is acting as a ‘gateway drug’ for Apple products. (Gateway drug is one ‘soft’ or slightly addictive drug which will lead to the use of other ‘harder’ drugs!).In the sense that iPod is prompting users to shift from Microsoft Windows based PCs to Apple Mac PCs. In a single year after iPod got released it seems 33% of Microsoft windows users shifted to Apple Mac!!

Looks like the ‘halo effect’ of iPod is benefiting Apple…

Have you heard of this term ‘Podcasting’?

That is the latest thing iPod is into. Podcast is like a radio show published by anyone on the net. It could be a real radio show, some random person airing their views, or a band showcasing their songs. Using software like Apple iTunes you can get your PC to keep pulling new podcasts (which are in mp3 format) down whenever they come out. What it means is that ... you just tell your podcast software to say "I want to download any podcasts whenever a new Britney Spears podcast appears" and it will keep checking for any new ones. So once podcasts are captured, then it can be transferred to iPod and played. This concept is called ‘time-shifted media’ and its set to revolutionize radio and TV. Traditionally, shows have been broadcast on a ‘view by appointment’ or ‘listen by appointment’ basis.

There are even speculations that US elections 2008 will be done by podcasting!!! One more thing happening is the shaping of an opinion among some hardcore iPod communities that iPod inventors should be awarded with Nobel…

If we are to believe Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, we are entering an age of “iPod economy”.

While you ponder about iPod, let me go & hook to my iPod….

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Estados Unidos Méxicanos

I don’t know who gave that name to that region….
The name was derived from a word which meant “War God”. True to its derivation, the War God played havoc there.

A rich civilization, Spanish invasion, followed by a 400 years of Colonization rule, fighting the Spanish for freedom, independence, before enjoying the independence, war with America resulting in huge losses, followed by a little peace, suddenly an unexpected attack from France. When everything looks settled, civil wars raging for decades. Finally some sort of democratic government forming but again revolution against the government. A single party rules for 71 years. Finally change of government, now an upcoming economy…

I was truly looking forward to experience what this combination would look like and I wasn’t surprised to find the results.

Still if you didn’t get what I’m talking about…I’m talking about “Mexico” and my recent visit to Mexico.

July 16, 2005

My Mexico trip started with a journey from Los Angeles towards Mexico border via San Diego. Mexico is the southern neighbour of USA and California state shares a part of boundary with it.

A stop at San Diego Old town where I visited the historical park. This park has the reputation of hoisting the first American flag in the region during US-Mexican war of 1850.This US-Mexican war resulted in US acquiring Texas, California & Arizona from Mexico.

A quick lunch in Mexican restaurant where we had Burritos.Mexican influence was all ready getting visible in the food, culture & dress in that part of US, a sign to us that we were approaching the border. After a drive of 70 miles, we were struck in a huge traffic jam. Realized that we have reached San Yedra, the Mexican border. Passport and Visa verification was done by the Mexican authorities. After nearly an hour, we were finally in Mexico!

Just crossed the immigration point and we were in a totally different world from America. Suddenly felt like I was in India. A lots of footpath shops where t-shirts & goods were being sold. I was in Tijuana, a Mexican city.


Tijuana, famous in US and other parts as a place for pleasure. A city which has the reputation of being the most visited border city in the world. A city meant for total fun without strings attached.

Got down in Tijuana to be welcomed by kids trying to sell handicrafts and ornaments, vendors trying to lure us into their shops. Just like in our country. The streets were looking good with tons of tourists strolling. The streets were full of handicrafts, restaurants and unbelievably high number of medicine shops! High number of medicine shops is to capitalize on the US visitors. In US, getting medicines without prescription is really tough and these medicine shops here sell anything & everything without prescription. Few medicine shops carried huge signboards shouting ‘Way to Viagra”!!!

One more interesting thing in Tijuana was the Donkeys! It has almost become a custom to sit on these decorated Donkeys, wearing Mexican hats and photographed. Sometimes Zebras replace Donkeys. Streets were also dotted with some nice art pieces.

As our destination was not Tijuana we have to move on from that place. So another 2 hours of journey in a lane where on one side we were in Mexico and another lane was US separated by high walls. Gradually the walls disappeared giving way to mountains and after a while to Pacific Ocean. As we moved into Mexico, English started becoming rare. All signboards, instructions and advertisements became Spanish.

La Bufadora

We reached La Bufadora. Located at the end of Punta Banda Peninsula, this place is known for natural wonder called “blowhole”. Visitors had assembled around a sea cliff area and we made way to the spot. We witnessed an amazing natural blowhole spouting seawater 70 feet into the air. The sea water banged the rocks, entered the cave like structure and finally got thrown out through an opening with a huge roar and creating a geyser which sometimes went to 70 ft in air. Every time the geyser went up, there was a huge cheering from the crowd.

Back from the blowhole into the streets of La Bufadora. A jam packed street with footpath shops. Shops for t-shirts & dresses, marine delicacies, craftworks. I tasted samples of “Churros”, a sweet snack. Back to bus and after another 16 miles of journey we were in Ensenada.


Known as the "Cinderella of the Pacific", Ensenada had become one of the favorite tourist destinations in Mexico. A small town with harbor, very popular among cultural visitors, vacationing families and party animals.

Checked into Villa Marina hotel. Through balcony in my 10th floor hotel room, I had a bird’s eye view of Ensenada. It was looking compact and neat. After getting freshened up, we freaked out to explore Ensenada. The harbor side was very calm and there were tons of love-making couples on the sea side and loads of visitors around the harbor. Roamed for a while along the sea side in the dawn hours.

Walked into ‘Three Heads Park’. This is a tribute to three Mexican heroes, Miguel Hidalgo, Benito Jurez and Venusthano Carranza who were prominent personalities in Mexican history. Miguel Hidalgo was a catholic priest and was the first to mobilize the Mexicans against the Spanish occupation. Benito Jurez, an ex-president of Mexico during civil war and who is called Mexico’s Lincoln. Venusthano Carranza, another ex-president of Mexico and who was assassinated.

Entered the main street of Ensenada. Evening was slowly growing and the shops were twinkling with colorful bulbs. The footpath was interrupted by restaurants which were made of glass walls on all sides. These restaurants looked very pretty with nice seating and lighting.

There were groups of local bands in Mexican hats and playing some catchy songs. These bands usually comprise 4-5 artists, roam around in the streets and play in front of visitors and live on the tips they get.

Also on streets were small ornaments shops. Though they were looking nice, the price was too much. We entered few shops to check Mexican goods. Strolling the streets itself was such a nice thing to do. A very festive air all around…

Entered into Pizza hut to have dinner and had to use all my dumb charades skill to explain to the Spanish speaking Pizza hut people about what we want. One interesting thing is along with Peso, the Mexican currency they also accept US Dollars. While the couple with me retired to hotel to take rest, I decided to explore more…

The best thing about Ensenada has to be the night life there. The main street was alive with numerous discos, bars and what-nots! The sound of Spanish music and guitars was roaring all around the place. Gallons of liquid were being gulped. Scene in disco was exotic with some groovy dance steps and babes moving sensually. Mango-Mango was one of those discos in a prominent location and the crowd kept flocking it.

Checked few more ‘happening’ places. Looked like in Ensenada only agenda is ‘fun’ (Well, the definition of ‘fun’ was varying and there were people finding ‘fun’ in plethora of activities!).Returned to hotel room at 2 in the morning!

Just a note about Mexican babes. In a word they are ‘Hot”!! (After all Salma Haik is also from Mexico!!!)

July 17, 2005

Woke up at 6:30 as our journey on Sunday was about to begin at 7. Left Ensenada and our journey continued along the pacific coast.
Hotel Calafia
Stopped at Hotel Calafia, this was once a Catholic Missionary church and now a huge tourist attraction. Located on scenic Baja coastline, the building is about 300 years old. But it was “Titanic” which made the hotel famous!

There were tables arranged at strategic locations from where the sea view was extremely wonderful. There was a replica of a Spanish ship ‘Corona Aurea’ on the sea side just beside the breakfast tables.

Inside of the hotel building was looking very familiar. It should be… because this was where movie Titanic was shot! The grand dining hall in the movie was straight out of this hotel. The scene which showed the Cabin corridors of Titanic ship was also here.

Our journey continued. Meanwhile into the bus, few local guitarists also alighted and played Spanish songs for a while. It was around 11:30 when we reached Tijuana and Mexican border.

Entering from US side into Mexico seemed to be easy, but other way was very laborious. Everyone in the bus was asked to get down and go to Immigration counter. The luggages where thoroughly checked. Fruits and Vegetables from Mexico were also not allowed. Everyone in our bus finished the immigration formalities in a very short time, but three of us who were on L1 had to go through unnecessary extra formalities at the counter. The officer took his own sweet time to complete the formalities. People in bus thought that it was not feasible to wait for us and left us there with phone number & place to meet. After an hour & half of total time pass in the immigration we entered into US and first aim was to catch the tour bus.

San Yedra

That place was San Yedra and there were trains running from there to San Diego where we were to meet our bus. Couple who were with me were totally panicked after missing the bus. Some how I convinced them that it is fun to take such adventure rides and narrated my previous adventure ride in Vegas! Took the ‘trolley’ which took us to San Diego before few more stints of adventure finding the right train, stop & time.

Met the bus at San Diego Harbor from where our journey continued back…

I was thinking about where Mexico is heading towards?
Though there seems to be still some unrest & clashes, winds of change are definitely blowing. Looks like Mexico has realized that wars & internal clashes don’t help it in anyway. Mexico has opened its doors for free trade and it is trying to becoming more stable democratically & economically. The people have voted out the party which ruled them for 71 years.

Finally this should sum up everything about current Mexico…
Vicente Fox is the current president of Mexico and he was the chief executive for Coke in Mexico before becoming president and he is considered the latest good friend of Bush!!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Meet Mickey !

July 10,2005
It was the time when Dooradharshan use to rule TV in India and like many; I used to wait eagerly for the Mickey Mouse Show. It was fascinating to watch Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck. Many of us grew watching Mickey & his wonderful gang.

I was standing at the entrance of Disney Land and thinking about that wonderful time…

Disneyland, the famous amusement park in Los Angeles started by Walt Disney in 1955 and which now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Home to many legendary characters and place for fun and fantasy.

The Sunday was slowly waking up and the crowd was pouring into Disneyland. By 9 we were inside the Disney Park. The main entrance led to Main Street, U.S.A, a long street of shops & building which were looking like from early 1900 days. There was a colorful orchestra band playing in the street. As we traversed through this colorful street, came across a square where the “Partners” stood. Partners is the nick name given to Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

An interesting anecdote how Disney came across the idea of his amusement park …
Walt Disney had been to an amusement park, sitting idle on a bench, watching his daughters play; he noticed how ragged and filthy the small amusement park was. He also observed people's reactions to different rides, and noticed how children's parents had nothing to do. They would be anxious to go home, while their children were still having fun, and playing. So he came up with something where both parents and most importantly children have fun.

I was standing in front of partners who virtually ruled the cartoon world for decades. There was ‘Sleeping Beauty Castle” standing right behind the statue. This building shown in the beginning or end of Disney TV shows/movies with “Buenos Vista Production” is familiar with the viewers.

Disneyland is divided into Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland , Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown and Critter Country.

We entered into Frontierland which is supposed to relive the pioneer days of the American frontier. The Frontierland had Thunder Mountain, Mark Twain Ship & Tom Sawyers Island. Thunder mountain Rail road was too much resist and we took the indoor/outdoor roller coaster based on the concept of a runaway train careening through an abandoned mine complex.

Fantasyland was the next land visited. We moved to Peter Pan’s ride, Toad’s ride and Snowwhite’s ride which were more suitable for kids. “It’s a Small World” was the name of a beautiful ride through puppets which represent various cultures and regions of world. There were puppets dressed in Indian costumes dancing in front of Taj Mahal. It was like a quick glance through many colorful costumes of different countries.

Visiting Disneyland without visiting Mickey and gang is not feasible. So we moved to Toontown, the place where Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy & Pluto live. Met Goofy & Pluto. There was a queue to meet Minnie. After a wait was in Minnie’s house & met the Mickey’s lover gal. Walt Disney never would have imagined that his mouse character would one day become a legendary character. To prove that legendary point was a big queue to meet Mickey. After roaming in Mickey’s house & a little long wait met Mickey in the greenroom of his house.

A quick lunch at Toontown was followed by the monorail ride, which was one of Disneyland’s signature rides. The monorail took us from Tomorrowland to Disney Downtown and back. This ride provides a quick preview of things in Disneyland.
We were back in Fantasyland to take ride through Matterhorn Bobsled. There were few persons doing a hiking of this 140 feet mountain. I heard sometimes Mickey & other characters also try to climb this mountain. This was a way paying tribute to former Disney president Frank Wells, who climbed mountains as a hobby and who was tragically killed in a helicopter accident. The rollercoaster here was the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. Though it was thrilling it never was so much gasping. May be I’m used to bigger thrills!

After a bumpy ride I met Aerial, the mermaid character. The gal in mermaid costume was really pretty J Glanced through Tomorrowland attractions like Astro-Orbitor. It was now time to get into some adventure and so we were in Adventureland.

Probably this was the land with larger crowds than any other lands. We entered into the Indiana Jones adventure, a ride based on the Indiana Jones movie. (Indiana Jones movies were directed by some famous directors like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg). In the ride we played the role of tourists in 1935, who visit the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, which is supposedly located somewhere in India. The ride was one of the best rides in the park and it was truly exciting to escape from a falling boulder and snakes.

We climbed and walked through Tarzan’s tree house. It was nearing 3’o clock which meant it was time for ‘Parade’. The Parade is the most anticipated event in the park where all the Disney characters walk through the streets of Disneyland in a colorful procession. Visitors had already thronged both sides of street everywhere.

The ‘parade of dreams’ as it was called, began with a procession of several Disney characters. Nice dance steps to a wonderful foot-tapping music followed it. Then followed marriots who were swinging in the rope. This was followed by Lion king and his group, which was followed by Snow white & 7 dwarfs. Pluto and Goofy entertained the crowd. Finally, came the grand daddy of all, ‘Mickey Mouse’ with his gal friend Minnie.

After the parade we went back to Adventureland to continue our adventure. Got into Jungle Cruise, this was a humorous boat ride, hosted by a ‘skipper’ who took us on a journey through the jungles of Asia, Africa and South America. There was piranha attack scene & Gorilla wrecking scene. During the ride also came across our ‘Ganesha’ in a forest part of Asia. I was wondering what our Ganesha was doing there!

There was “Enchanted Tiki Room” which housed a Hawaiian-themed musical show "hosted" by four lifelike macaws. The presentation featured a "cast" of over 150 talking, singing and dancing birds, flowers, a "magic" fountain, tiki drummers that performed the attraction's signature tunes. Only thing which I didn’t understand was why they located that attraction in Adventureland!

Checked into New Orlean square to ride with ‘Pirates of Caribbean’. That looked like yet another ride to me. We quickly moved to Critter Country and its main draw was ‘Splash Mountain’. After going through the longest waiting time we came to know why ‘Splash Mountain’ was so popular. A 52-and-a-half foot drop (the largest in the park) at a 45 degree angle was too thrilling.

As we were running out of time, we ended the Disneyland tour. As I was coming out of the park, something which I read about the opening day of Disneyland splashed in my mind.

“Opening day, was a day to remember. Six thousand invitations to the Grand Opening had been mailed. By mid-afternoon over 28,000 ticket holders were storming the Magic Kingdom. Most of the tickets were counterfeit.

Walt Disney was 53 when he dedicated Disneyland Park. It was a memorable ceremony. There in Town Square, Walt could look around and see the fulfillment of his hopes, dreams, and ambitions in the form of a spectacular entertainment kingdom.

Opening Day was a terrible disaster. Heat wave raised temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, due to a plumbers strike, few water fountains were operating in the hot weather. Asphalt still steaming, because it had been laid the night before, literality "trapping" high heeled shoes. After opening day, the heat wave continued, and almost wiped out the park.”

Initial hiccups and failures didn’t deter Disney much. It was not yet another amusement park. It was a dream of a man who was determined to create a dreamland.

50 years later, it still stands there as a mark of American dream...

Monday, July 11, 2005

A spectacle called Golden Gate....

A city barely 48 square miles made up of hills. The city which stood up despite the total destruction once by massive earthquake & once by fire. The city which embarrassed liberal look towards the immigrants & resettlers, when other parts of America were gripped in Conservativism. The city which became the laboratory for the world where revolutionary technologies & trends got incubated.

Welcome to San Francisco!

On a cold Sunday afternoon we entered the city. The bus took us over “Bay Bridge” & the view of SFO downtown from there was excellent. Went through the streets of downtown before we stopped at Pier 39.We got down & walked to the cruise, which was about to take us on a ride in the bay. A 24$ ticket and 10 minutes later we occupied the deck of the “Blue & Gold” cruise ship. The entire three floors of ship were packed.

The ship started moving away from the shore & the skyscrapers of San Francisco were looking like a deck of cards on a blue skyline. On the ship, a running commentary about history & milestones of the city was going on. Blue water was all around & the ship was making its way. A bunch of seagulls were following our ship. Few seagulls got very adventurous & started flying at a hand distance height. The seagulls had got attracted by the food packets which people in the cruise were carrying.

Now at a distance in the sea, a thin outline was getting visible and our ship was progressing towards it. The outline slowly grew as “Golden Gate Bridge”, the famous bridge. There was an air of anxiety as the cruise moved towards the famous landmark. All cameras were focused on the orange color bridge. Due to the heavy fog, the Golden Gate looked like a bridge which connects heaven & earth! The two towers on which the whole bridge suspended was lost in the clouds. I started frantically clicking my camera.

When the cruise was barely few feet from the bridge, I noticed that my camera was no longer responding. The battery had exhausted. I literally snatched batteries from one of my friend & continued my photography. It was overwhelming feeling to see the mighty bridge so close & from beneath.

Here is a quick history of Golden Gate Bridge…
Despite the great depression, scarce funds, tons of technical challenges and lots of skepticism, the 1.7 miles long across the San Francisco bay was constructed in 1937 due to the relentless efforts of Joseph Strauss, the architect. One of the most interesting facts was that ‘only’ eleven workers died during construction, a new safety record for that time. ‘Only’ because in the 1930s, bridge builders expected 1 fatality per $1 million in construction costs, and builders expected 35 people to die while building the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the bridge's safety innovations was a net suspended under the floor. This net saved the lives of 19 men during construction, and they are often called the members of the "Half Way to Hell Club”!!

Back to the cruise..
On our way back, we came across Alcatraz. The most infamous federal prison which was the subject of numerous books & movies.
The island prison was the final destination for the hardcore criminals & nobody escaped from the prison live. For several decades it remained a focal pint of curiosity, suspense & rumors. After prison escape attempt in 1963, the prison was closed. The island was then occupied & claimed by native Indians, who were evacuated quickly. Finally the island was declared a monument.

Meanwhile in the cruise, there were interesting people to watch out for. There were two ladies who were in their own world ever since the cruise had started. They were unusually displaying the liking for each other through kissing & hugging. It didn’t take much time in realizing that they were lesbians…

Remembered something which I read somewhere …”San Francisco is known as ‘homosexual’s capital’ and there is a ‘Castro’ street exclusively for them”.

From the cruise, we could see the Bay Bridge, which was elder than Golden Gate Bridge. The bay bridge is one of the longest combination bridges in the world; it is a combination of two suspension bridges and a cantilever bridge.

We were back on the shore after an hour in the cruise and moved to Palace of Fine Arts.This was a temporary palace created in 1915 during the Panama Pacific Exposition. But the structure was so good that they decided to preserve it. The temporary material was replaced by the existing material.

We walked through the park around the palace. I ventured inside the palace which was looking like straight out of old Rome. There were huge columns and rotunda. There was a wedding party photo sessions going on at the palace. The wedding party was dressed in extremely eye-catching color combination, which I captured in the camera.

From there we came back again to our Golden Gate Bridge. I quickly rushed to the bridge & walked across the bridge for a while. I tried taking in my arms the two main cables which pass over the top of towers. The cables were so thick that it couldn’t fit in arms. I later came to know that the cable diameter was 37 inches, there were 27,572 strands of wire, 80,000 miles (129,000 km) of wire in the two main cables, and it took over six months to spin them. Visited the ‘dedication’ on the bridge, which talked about all the engineering genius which resulted in this landmark. Then saluted the statue of Joseph Stroup, the architect for his master creation.
Golden Gate stood there as a mark of determination,hard work,creativity,engineering genius,relentless effort...

We came back to Pier 39, which is also known as “Fisherman’s wharf”. A nice place to shop, dine & roam. Caught a glimpse of sunset across the sea. We did little bit of shopping, little bit of chocolate eating and lots of roaming!

Back to bus and from there to Hotel Merriot, which was our stay for the night. Quickly grabbed my recent favorite Mexican item, Veggie Burreto and went to sleep watching some TV.

There was still more to explore in the City of Golden Gate Bridge...

July 4
American Independence Day. The day started with a visit to Lombardo Street, world’s most crookedest street. The street was at a slope of 47 degree. The roads were in totally zigzag fashion. The flowering plants around the zigzag path gave a unique look. Truly, a crooked street. After Lombardo, we moved to the China town.

This is supposed to be the largest Chinese settlement in North America. The shops & restraunts everything was in Chinese format. Roamed across the streets & it did gave an feeling of India because of the garbage thrown on the streets, people happily walking across the road without caring signals, few people extending their shops to the footpath.

We tasted Almond drink & pop-corn made of some beans, met accidentally another set of TCSers who were also on SFO trip. We got back to bus & left for SFO as we needed to travel atleast 7 hours back to Los Angeles.

While traveling, I was thinking of China Town, Solvang the Danish settlement, our Indian community. US accommodate them all, but still something American is maintained. How do they manage?

Definitely we need to learn something how to progress but still don’t loose our roots..


July 3,2005
It was around 4:30 in the morning when I woke up to get ready on a Sunday morning. By 4:45 everyone was in bus & the bus started the journey for day 2. Day’s objective was Yosemite & San Francisco.

I slept as soon as bus started & woke up to find the bus moving through a Ghat road amidst forest. After passing through 3 hours & a big dark tunnel (But not as big as those in Sakleshpur trek!) reached the Yosemite National Park.

The view was simply mind blowing. There were range of mountains covered with green forest, beautiful valleys & numerous waterfalls. Added to that was a thin cover of mist & sunlight trying to pierce through this mist blanket. Total effect was mesmerizing.

I sat there for a while savoring the nature & capturing the images in my mind & my camera, which these days had almost became my extended body part!

Along with these mountains and waterfalls, the park also houses El Captain, the world’s largest single monolithic granite rock and groves of giant sequoias, the world's largest living things.

We passed through the towering El Captain and Bridalveil waterfall which was in front of the granite rock. Next we stopped at Yosemite waterfall, which was supposed to be the world’s 5th tallest waterfall & USA’s tallest waterfall (2450 ft). The waterfall is having three parts – upper fall, mid fall & lower fall. The waterfall was visible among the pine trees. It grew bigger & bigger as we walked through the pines towards it.

With little more effort we reached the bottom of waterfalls. The water was falling on rocks with roaring sound and demonic force splashing water droplets all across. The whole atmosphere was looked like wrapped in droplets. (I quickly went for a flashback when I had been to Abbe falls in Coorg with my Bangalore gang)

We roamed around the stream & woods before we got into bus. The bus took us in a route which was running parallel to the Yosemite river. I was observing how the river was taking shape. I had seen this river which was ferociously jumping from the hill top, bursting through the rocks with great force. The same river now was flowing gently & steadily.

Doesn’t river is almost like humans?

Initially it bursts with energy, it deals everything with power, it meets so many new things on the way, take so many new things. Gradually it gains it steadiness & starts flowing maturely….

Stopped for lunch to have Pizzas & after the journey continued. The guide was telling some gold-rush stories from California.
I remembered something which I read about the gold miners who invaded this native American territory during those gold rush times.The way the opposition was smashed & horrible crimes commited against the natives was a gruesome account.Looks like the natives/tribes always are the victims in the process of some men's quench for gold, glory and other nature given gifts.
Three hours of journey we were nearing the city which gave to the world some famous terms – Silicon Valley & Golden Gate bridge.

We were on our way to San Francisco…

Building a Castle...

It was a foregone conclusion that I would be landing in some new place in the Independence Day long weekend. Only thing of interest was “Where I would be going”?By the time I decided that I should go to San Francisco, there was a gang of 9 people with me, whose destination was also San Francisco. It was San Francisco via Solvang & Yosemite.

The journey began on Saturday morning from our Willow Tree apartment. After a stop at Travel Design office, we moved to Montary Park, LA and boarded the bus from there. It was nice to see a lady driving the bus. Our itinerary for the day was visit to Solvang & Hearst Castle. After a 2 hour of journey along the scenic Pacific coast, we reached Solvang.

Solvang is a mini-Denmark in US. Solvang, meaning sunny fields, was founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish educators wanting to establish a Danish-type folk school. . Along with the teachers came farmers, carpenters and artisans who constructed the first shops, homes, hotel and church. Danes from the Midwest and Denmark continued to migrate west to Solvang bringing their skills as farmers, teachers, carpenters, merchants and artisans. In 1936, as part of Solvang’s 25th anniversary celebration, the future King and Queen of Denmark visited and more interest in the community developed. Tourists started coming and more shops, bakeries, hotels and restaurants were built to make their visits more enjoyable.

We got down at Solvang & the whole place was looking totally European. Buildings, streets & entire atmosphere was Danish-like. There were wind mills on the street. We had Pizzas for lunch there. Then we roamed around the streets appreciating the colorful Danish streets.

We took leave of Solvang & the journey continued along the Pacific Coast. At some places, there were high mountains on one side & sea on other side. After another 2 hours of journey, we were in Hearst castle. Hearst castle is supposed to be the only castle in US.

A little bit of history about this castle..
William Randolph Hearst was one of the richest man during 1950s.He was a media tycoon with more than 50 newspapers/magazine publications under his belt & earning tons of dollars. He purchased some 150 acres of land which included 50 miles of beach for his outings. One fine day he called architect Julian Fraser, and told that he need to built a ‘little something’ in the land he brought. Julian Fraser had no idea of what she was venturing into. The ‘little something’ took almost 18 years to complete.

The castle was magnanimous. Antique art pieces, paintings, rare statues….Hearst bought everything to fill the castle. Castle was not small either, it had 165 rooms. Hearst had the habit of collecting rare things which included coffins, roof sealings, doors, windows.

He wanted to make the two swimming pools the best. The outdoor pool was placed among the gallery of roman-style buildings & statues, specially curved out by Italian architects. The indoor swimming pool was nothing special except that 24-carat gold was used for design & decoration of walls & floors of the pool !!!

We arrived at the Castle’s Visitor’s information centre. It was an extremely well organized information system. There were tons of information easily available, lots of Castle merchandise, theatre where movies about the castle was played, food court…We took the shuttle bus (21$ ticket) which ferries tourists from visitor centre to Castle. It was another half an hour journey in the bus with commentary about the castle & its history. The trip we took was for the first time visitors & we came to know that there were many trips .One for beginners, one for people who want to explore more. It was just like Java Basic & advanced certifications!!

We got out of bus at the castle to meet the castle guide. The guide walked us through the guest houses, outdoor swimming pool, through few of its rare collections & finally to the castle. We came to know that castle was never completed due to Hearst’s death. We went through the elegant paintings & art works inside the castle. The dining hall, the billiards room & the theatre were just too much to handle. If that was not enough, we reached the indoor swimming pool. We were literally walking on 24 carat gold which made the designs of floor. The walls were also decorated with gold carvings.

Came out of the castle talking about all the things & our shuttle took us back to Visitor centre. In one sentence, it was a rich man’s fantasy for something little which created something very grand.

One thing I liked about the castle was the way it was projected & presented to tourists. The information provided & packaging was so good that you feel excited about the castle. I had been to many palaces in India & this was not so outstanding compared to them, but the way they made it big was really appreciable. A lesson or two to learn for our tourism industry.

After the castle visit we headed to Fresno, our stop for the day. On the way stopped for dinner in a Chinese restaurant. I was content with rice & some paneer dish. But my non-veggie friends had a tough time there! There was a pre-defined menu for dinner & without any choice the items kept coming. Some of the things which occupied the table were sparklers (some vegetable with octopus/star fish), pork pieces, one whole big fish. Even though all friends there were hardcore non-veggies, I heard that they had a horrible time. Finally I had to share my veggie items with them!

Checked into Radisson hotel. We roamed around the beautiful lobby of hotel & watched some TV before we slept. The waterfall in the lobby was nice. It reminded that the next day we were going to visit beautiful natural waterfalls....

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Universal Studio

Last time I took you through the Hollywood, the stars & the Oscars. How about going behind the scene this week? Come…this time I’m taking you to Universal Studio.

Universal Studios Hollywood is reputedly the world’s largest film studio and theme park, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles. The park was opened to the public in 1964, allowing the public to see behind the scenes of the film world. The park features the latest in state-of-the-art video and audio technology, and uses impressive special effects and stunt shows to entertain visitors.

On a bright Sunday morning, I & Prosenjit took the Metro bus 444 to LA Downtown. On the way we were joined by Sudipto, Sita (both of them Prosenjit’s project mates) and Suchitra (Toyota Project but in different module). So after a long one hour in the bus we got down at Pershing Square (This name should sound familiar for those who read the previous posting on Hollywood).From there, the metro train flew us to Universal City. At Universal City, after waiting for a while, the Universal Studio Shuttle arrived & it took us to the Studio.

The trademark globe of Universal Studio was at the entrance of the Universal Studio. Photo sessions begun immediately there. We walked into the studio to find ourselves in front of a nice fountain with three sculptures, one of a director, a cameraman & a light boy, which truly depicted the essence of movie making. Analysis of the map & prioritizing the rides & shows was done. There were atleast 15 rides/shows in the park. The ladies with us had come without having breakfast. So we moved into a food court. After everybody’s stomach was satisfied, we rushed to the first in the list of our rides, Jurassic Park. We were literally carried to the place by long escalators.

Jurassic Park
We moved through the famous gate on which “Jurassic park” was beaming & found ourselves in a long waiting queue. But the queue was really moving fast & for company there were visuals from the “Jurassic Park” movie being played. So very soon all of us got into the ride. The ride started very smoothly through the very cool stream of water in a picturesque surrounding and herbivorous dinosaurs gazing on the stream bank. There were some small & big dinosaurs making movements all around. When everything was looking fine, suddenly a car written “Jurassic Park” started rolling towards us & fell just few inches from us splashing water all across. Then there was some red alerts everywhere telling that there was danger ahead. We entered a dark tunnel & suddenly from the top we saw Tyrannosaurs ‘Rex’ almost trying to engulf us. We picked the speed & moved across its jaws .It kept following & then there was a shout “escape”. Next few seconds we were falling freely & almost everybody’s heart stopped. The ride came to an end after that free fall.

Got out of ride & there were survivors photos to see & buy. The images of each one of us when the ride was in free fall were captured on camera. It was a hilarious photo to look at. Prosenjit was almost in coma stage, some look like that was the end of world. Suchitra was in deep penance closing tightly her eyes. Sudipto was very expressive with mouth wide-open in awe. Sita had resigned from life closing her eyes. I was laughing like a mad when the fall was happening. Thought of picking that photo, but it was very expensive (29$).We came out of the ride thrilled & kept talking about the ride for a while. Then we moved to the ride ”Revenge of Mummy”

Revenge of Mummy
We kept all the bags & cameras in the automatic locker provided & entered the tunnel. It was a typical Egyptian setting inside straight from the Mummy movies. There was a sound of the insects humming everywhere & few clips from the movie were being played. We got into the ride & the ride began with a slow journey through some amazing Egyptian gold like pharaoh statues. Then we entered a cave where suddenly lots of mummy hands came out of walls & roofs to grab us. The ride picked up the speed & started flying very furiously. Now it was moving down the slope with great speed & there was darkness everywhere. There was light at end of cave where the ride was heading towards & suddenly we saw it was dead end & we were about to hit the walls with speed. The tram stopped just few inches from hitting the wall; it went back & took another turn. Then again it sped up to reach a bright sun like object, before we realized there was a sand storm trying to engulf us, so the tram moved back in the same speed it went. The ride came to end after that. But we were expecting much more from that ride.

At each location of the park, there were sign boards showing all the rides/shows, next ride/show timing & expected wait time. That was very useful to plan our schedules.

We moved to watch the Shrek-4D show. That show had a very long queue. We patiently waited in the queue talking about the Shrek movies. Back ground story so far where Shrek & Fiona get married was told. Then we got into the theatre & wore the 3-D goggles.

The movie was simply flabbergasting. There was wonderful 3-D effects & excellent story with characters I love. If that was not enough there was this 4th dimension! Imagine a scene where there are spiders hanging around & Shrek picks these spiders & throws. You see these spiders flying at you & falling on the ground (till here 3-D effect), next moment you see spiders moving on the screen & you feel something is climbing up your legs!! You get an impression that the spiders are actually climbing up your legs!!!

One more scene, Shrek is chasing the villain in a chariot & as the chariot moves; the chairs also start moving giving the impression that you are also involved in chase. Too good!! Everybody in our gang was very happy after the show. We took some snaps wearing those 4-D green goggles.

Terminator-2 3D
We moved to the Cyberdyne Institute to see the Terminator-2 3D show. As we entered there was presentation about the fictious Cyberdyne Institute which gets interrupted by Sarah Cornors & John Cornors (All Terminator fans should be familiar with these names!).Then as we get into theatre, there was an amazing display of 3-D effects. What better combination than T2 effects & 3-D effects. It was a ‘super’ show.

Universal Studio Tour
This tour allows the public to see behind the scenes of the film world. Today, a visit to the park, which attracts around 35,000 visitors per day, begins with an exciting behind-the-scenes tram tour of famous film sets, with a simulated earthquake, a collapsing bridge, and several surprise attacks from key Hollywood film characters, such as the shark ‘Jaws’ and the famous giant gorilla ‘King Kong’.

The tour started in a tram which was equipped with audio-visual aids & a commentator explaining the history, geography & milestones of Universal Studio. We were taken to the production place where sound generation was done. We went next to few permanent sets put up in studio like the streets of England, streets for cow boy movies & Mexican street & a house setting on a snowy winter day. The metrological department of studio showed how they convert the seasons quickly when they created rain & flood in few minutes. Then a bridge which collapses & gets back to normal form was shown.

There was a patch of thick forest which was looking familiar & suddenly it became clear that where I had seen that. It was in movie “Jurassic Park” where the Tyrannosaurus “Rex” gives entry in the movie on a rainy night. Do you remember the scene where the kids are struck inside the car & they see Rex breaking the fence & plucking the wheels of car? That particular scene was shot here. I always thought that was in Costa Rica.

We came across a pond where suddenly a shark almost attacked the tram. Then we were explained that the famous scary beach scenes from “Jaws” were created in this pond. The shark which was moving was a mechanical shark called “Bruce” (Also learnt that Spielberg named the shark as “Bruce” after his attorney’s name!!)

Then it was time to see some ‘live set’ which means the shooting had happened recently in the set & they preserved the set as it was. The place where we were taken was a airplane crash site with plane pieces scattered everywhere, aeroplane seats thrown all across, a car half burnt, broken houses .We were then told that was for the latest Spielberg movie “War of the Worlds”(which gets released sometime in June end).

The tour now entered a place where there was a railway station set. Suddenly it started shaking & the station roof got collapsed & a heavy truck started rolling towards us & stopped just in front of our tram. If that was not enough, a train coming to the station started moving out of rails towards us. That was the earthquake scene. Next we moved across the tunnel & out of blue, a huge figure emerged at started shaking the tram. It was ‘King Kong”, the famous tall towering ape.

We were taken then to the place where the moon landing scene from movie Apollo-13 was created. After all the wonderful time, the studio tour came to an end.

Back to the Future
We rushed to “Back to the Future” ride. That ride was all about virtual reality & it took us smashing through the glass windows, through a boiling volcano mouth, through a valley almost hitting mountains, through dinosaur’s mouth. That was an excellent ride too.

I went & took snaps of me with Shrek & few on the “Fat Boy”. Fat Boy is the Harley-Davidson bike used by Arnold in Terminator-2.That was such a macho bike & it really looked powerful.

Evening was getting closer & we went to the Van Helsing. Unlike other rides, this one was a walk through the haunting castle. The castle was dark & walk was exciting with ghosts jumping suddenly & skeletons rolling all around.

Still there were lots to do in the park, but time was not on our side. We took leave of Universal studio. Came back to Universal city by the shuttle & caught our metro train which took us to Union Station. Ladies proceeded towards Torrance in 444 bus, while me & Prosenjit went to explore one more route to Torrance, which we did successfully!