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....