Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

'No holiday at Halloween. It's a pagan observance'

...said the lady to me, when  I asked about the possibility during my freshman year at Syracuse.

Cold windy weather, the sudden onset of darkness (at 4p with the end of DST), and deserted streets, make  for an eerie setting. Michael Myers appeared on TV over and over again, as did Jason and Freddy. Else, there were repeat telecasts of The Exorcist, Dracula, Psycho, and similar.

That first Halloween, there were random knocks on my door. Didn't usually have that happening. Turned out it was neighborhood kids trick or treating, and I did not have candy on me, nor did I want any tricks. I pretended no one was home.

Watched creatures that looked like Jawa from Star Wars go past my apartment. There was another in a cape and head in its hand. Had the feeling I was missing out on a lot of excitement.

The next year, I did not participate, but attended a Halloween party. There was a drag queen, a large bunny with a candy basket, Boris Karloff, a hangman,  Anthony Perkins, and Henry VIII. Ahead of this event, I'd been asked by nearly anyone I met - 'What/who you going as?'  (WYGA).

In the years afterward - junior/senior years/ grad school - I really got into Halloween. The opportunities for social advancement (*wink*wink*) were amazing, the reason I started referring to Oct 31 as 'Helloween'. I knew months ahead, my response to WYGA. I was ready with tales to tell at parties, famous lines from horror movies, who played who in what, and ideas for after-party screenings. Pah-tayyy!

It was fun! Halloween was bigger than New Years and DeeWolly. Why, I even sold the India student community on an annual event for the weekend before Oct 31! (This was so I could continue to have a good time at the regular Helloween)

But these soon turned into Bollywood lookalike contests, unfortunately, and I'd look a tad silly in my Ghostface costume.  There were also rival parties, with no social networking possible. No opportunities, when there were several political camps. And this was a tiny community of like 50 Ind students!

I soon decided to observe Helloween only with the natives. 'Hello, hello, hello....', this was social.

By the time I started my career, I'd started to wish 'Happy Halloween' to people far away in India. Now I gather it's big in Jullunder and Hyderabad, with other cities fast catching up.

Maybe it'll become like what it used to be for me, back in the day.

Perhaps it'll get to 'WYGA?' again.

Happy Helloween.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

That call ten years ago today - Tue a.m.

Roommate in Detroit that had taken a flight out of Logan that morning: 
'I'm ok'
Me in Framingham, MA: 'Ok, so?'
Roommate in Detroit: 'Turn the TV on!'

And then I watch the 2nd plane come in.

All outbound calls not connecting - all networks busy. Cell and landline.

Dad on the phone: 'You ok? Good. The planes originated from Boston, and I have someone who's son also left Boston at the same time....'

I record the day's events live, towers collapse, ashen (literally) faced people, sirens, II date that will live in infamy....

Thoughts on my time up there, in the twin towers two months earlier on a rainy day.
Reports that Camp David and the White House were hit.
Friend and I play tennis in a surreal setting that 9/11 evening.
Endless incoming calls to ask if I was ok. I wasn't.
TV shows people in Gaza shooting rifles in the air.
Stick Old Glory sticker on my car, given recently acquired PR status.
Wed onward: 'Are neighbors, people at the store, mall, interstate..... looking at me differently?'
'Chasing Amy' on TV the previous night

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Early morning parade - people I see almost every day

I've always wanted to make this list of fellow regulars at the Joggers Park. I do not know any of their names. Here goes:

Elephant Lady
Peaceful (and mildly frowning) senior citizen who walks anti-clockwise. Not elephant-like in size, but she wears a floppy gray colored track suit.

Elegant slim female runner, likely in her mid-20s, who has a medium-speed shuffling gait. 

Captain Gamsakhurdia
Purposeful looking speedwalking senior gentleman in shorts. Is considerate of lane etiquette - always steps to the side when runners pass.

Colonel  Rahmanzadeh
Looks like a 60ish Iranian armyman on furlough. Anti-clockwise brisk mover - walks with a jacket and shorts on. No gun seen.

(Or local corporator) Middle of lane walker who swings his arms wide inconsiderately. Always accompanied by at least one chatting flunkey. Seems to inspect the park often for maintenance, and knows all the staff.

Pol's Flunkey(s)
Up to 3 walkers that are seen with the politician all the time. One of them looks 100% PMC staff like, and has this unique walk-speed jog at times. Moves at the same speed as the rest, only that he has this jogging action.The flunkeys usually end their time at the park with a loud chortling session seated by the pol.

Florida Pensioner
Slow moving old gent who makes others behind him guess which way he'll veer, from the middle of the track.

30ish runner in a red hat who will always try to speed up and take the lead, when someone tries to pass him. Usually does not succeed.

Kindly Old Lady
The one I mentioned here back in March. Walking conversationalist, and friends with a group of always seated chatty ladies that talk about their families and inflation.

The 3 Idiots
Insufferable group of vocal codgers who have one trait in common. The ability to always get in the way of anyone that passes them. This is done by ambling 3 across in the walking lane, and 1 in the narrower running lane, with frequent sudden switches in position. And by being oblivious to how they annoy everyone. They start with one meandering senior, and in minutes the group expands to 3, led by the Chief Idiot who can actually straddle both lanes at the same time.

Group typical I'm sure, of many other similar places. Other park users now plan their walk/run schedules so they avoid this 3-5 man regiment.

Gold's Gym Instructor
Senior citizen who's somehow the exercise coach for other older gentlemen. Does contortions that some of them simply should not replicate, and he should not encourage to do.

Destination Restroom
Middle aged man who always walks around the park with a rolled up newspaper.

Tantric Yogi
Barefoot 40+ runner in a tee and pants, flails his arms wildly, and runs only anti-clockwise in the mud track. Wild hair. Inspects and picks flowers.

Dark woman who walks only in the shaded stretch even on moderately sunny mornings. There's another that whips out an umbrella in the non-shady section, early mornings.

Katherine Hepburn
Stately, tall old white lady with a slow gait, and an umbrella. The slowest mover in the park. Is wary of tripping or being knocked over by runners. Has two attendants - one that walks with or behind her, and another that gets her newspaper and a bottle of something. She's the only regular person of white extraction in the mornings.

Steam Engine
Unsteady and ungainly slow barely-jogger, who forces himself to get momentum with a series of violent forward movements. Uses the far slope to gain more speed afterward, with a flat footed thumping sound all the while. Stares at anyone that passes him, which means almost everyone.

(+couples/others who show up daily, but have no standout characteristics or behavior like those on this list)

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Glacial Retreat Watchers Consortium

The Glacial Retreat Watchers Consortium (GRWC) was founded decades ago to promote and encourage competitive glacial retreat observation. The members meet regularly to form observant teams and compete on observed global glacial retreat.

The scoring system is usually in reverse (less is more) as glaciers are retreating and not advancing at this time. Likewise for the competition.

Most in the GRWC were very good at glacial retreat watching which was a good thing, and they wanted to ensure many more benefited. So they spread the word about the fun they were having and got several new young members to join. They all showed up in glazed eyed enthusiasm. Many did.

The young newbies were amazed at the quality of observed retreating knowledge and wanted in on all of it. So they competed at these GRWC meets and lost spectacularly, but everyone has to start someplace and stay there forever, right?

They were very impressed with the Messis, the C.Ronaldos, the Rooneys, the Tevezes, the Kobes, the LeBrons.... and their Record setting exploits. They saw them teaming up and winning Regional Glacials, and the National Furtwängler and Siachen Cups,and some high end competition in between.

So they wondered if they too could join these teams, as the GRWC was meant to promote and encourage glacial observation in retreat. Surely they could be the third observer?

They made calls and sent emails to the Kobes and Messis, weeks ahead of the star contests. They got:
  1. No response over 5 weeks
  2. 'Nope, am observing with someone else'
  3. 'I always observe G-lent with ____'
  4. 'You're not very observant. Deals struck in the last mini ice age'
  5. ('I'm waiting to see if Berbatov is available')
Or 0.5 days before the Open Glacials, when already teamed, they'd get from a suddenly single and until recently evasive Kobe:

'Hey, are you teamed?'

All of this happened several times.

In the locker room/dugout/showers -
'I don't wanna observe glacial retreat with that newbie. S/he's such a moraine!'
'Can't win with these moraines in our team'
'S/he's weak on catching isostatic rebound'
'Bergshrund! What a wannabe observ'ho'
'Btw, WYGW next year?

Now at the regular GRWC open observation meets -
'Hey, how come only we the same teams again at the observation deck?'
'Hey hey, why only 11 people watching the watchers compete? There were 18 before'
'Btw, HMYW?'
'And WYGW?'

Optimistic and naive newbie tries again. Calls and emails to the C.Ronaldos and LeBrons, months ahead of the big contests.

No encouraging signs, nor any promotional.

Now again at the regular and inclusive GRWC open observation meets -
'Hey hey hey how come only we the same same teams observing G-lent again?'
'Hey hey hey why only 3.5 people watching us the watchers compete? There were 11 last time'
'What's the glacial watch cutoff?'
'Anyways, who/what do we joke about?'

'And hey, where the heck are those moraines?'

Along with the glaciers, something else was retreating. At a faster pace than climate change.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

THTM: This morning at the park

End of run, stretching at a park bench. Sound of someone walking on dry leaves, toward me:
'Hello, good morning, wanting to talk to you long time' (kindly 50+ lady)
'Hello'  (smile)
'Who you are?'
'           '  (raise eyebrows)
'No, no, I see you running every morning, long hair waving, it is good looking on you'
'Oh, thanks'  (smile)
'Like paramhansa you look' (smile)

'Oh, what? I see...'
'Yes, like swamiji. You have seen his photo? In paper?' 
'Think I have, yes' (oh, darn, like a swamiji?!)

'What is your surname?' (!)
'That is from where, in south?'  (thinking expression)
'Yes. Mixed'  
'What is mixed?'  
'I'm half I--r and half G-B (Ko---n region)' 
(Lit up smile, beams)'Oh, I know, my first daughter is married to I--r boy. But we are from Surat <+detail>'  (animated phase)

'Where are your parents, what they do?'  (inquiring smile)
'China....<+one line summary>'
'So you are new here?'
'No. Spent my childhood here'
'You are having some accent, that's why I asked. You are visiting from abroad? USA?'
'Yes, a few years ago. I work here'
'Oh my sister is settled there . Since many many years <+ extra detail>' (beaming)
'But you know Indian language?'
'Yes' 'What you do?' (smile, smile)
'Mkt... <+whatever>'
'You are having H1?'  (sounded like the flu)
'No, I don't'
'Green card? Or you are citizen'  (inquiring frown)
'Why do.......yes, green card, but am Canadian'    (error III)
'Canada green card you have?'
'No. United States'
'So USA green card and Canada citizen' ('Now I get it' frown, looks at the ground)
'What is procedure for Canada? My son-in-law is thinking to go' (inquiring frown, looks up)
'That'll take a while, ma'am. I gotta go now' (smile, turning to leave)
'Wait, wait... where you live?' (eyes wide, smile)
'Oh, nearby... I have to rush actually!' (smile, take-off mode 3-2-1)

'One minute - you are married?' 


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nokia's Ovi Store and software - helping keep Android and Apple in the lead

I don't think any Ovi users (any left?) were surprised by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's 'burning platform' memo to Nokia staff this week. From the beginning this store and associated software have been, and continue to be, a disaster.

Ovi is simply unusable. It is a piece of trash. It is an Android and Apple App Store driver. It is, well, unusable. Seven attempts in all. Despite several communications to Nokia at different levels, including an Ovi PM known to me, nothing has changed.

As a 'high-end' Nokia phone owner, I was initially excited about Ovi. I planned to load my device with applications, get music, everything. 19 months later, I still have nothing.

I. For example - Ovi Music: We won't let you buy
Overall, navigation on Ovi Music and beyond is abominable. Same as it's been for over a year.
1. Now I tried clicking on Unlimited Music downloads
2. Went to a page where it said 'enter PIN', or request a PIN
3. Request PIN went to a general help page
4. Where a link to Unlimited Music how to went to a 'Sorry can't find that' page

This was after I logged in three times and it still said I had to login again.
Then it said I needed to create another account to access unlimited downloads, when I clicked on the Unlimited banner
Absolutely (gave up) no way to buy plain music, never mind unlimited downloads. Where to pay to download - no clues given.

I have stayed away from Nokia accounts online and the Ovi store for this reason. The whole online experience is very confusing, just goes around in circles. And I'm not your average mobile/net novice.

II. For example - Ovi setup/use on Nokia PC Suite: A'maze'ingly useless 
PC Suite is the super-useless software that syncs a Nokia smartphone and a laptop.
  1. Anytime you try to upload music using the god-awful Ovi interface in PC Suite, it will say there's a software update.
  2. The Ovi software will rarely find the phone, and the PC Suite anyway will keep switching back to 'USB mode' from 'media transfer' mode. This is despite picking the media mode every time.
  3. Near impossible to upload and organize music. Each file will somehow disappear inside a folder, and show up with completely different music, even if the music's from the same album.
 Just treat the phone as a pen drive and drop files in the music folder. It works. What Ovi?

III. Note on Nokia PC Suite basic usage: Finlandia Ostrich Special
Nokia PC Suite and it's various version updates are no less spectacularly incompetent. There's no way to save incoming call numbers to the contacts list for instance.

Oh, and you can't just pick images and videos to move to your laptop. It has to be all or nothing. And the bumbling program will store them in folders inside folders automatically in the laptop making it difficult to find anything later.

Calls from users and communities to Nokia since antiquity go unheeded. They don't want to know. The result - look up the content of Elop's note to staff.

Ovi and software like the above mentioned PC Suite are definitely part of Nokia's downward spiral - key contributors. Like I said before, they need to be left behind on that burning platform when Nokia jumps.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The delightful Li Na. Congratulations anyway!

Notice how Li Na seemed happy even in defeat at last Saturday's Australian Open Final? She looked thrilled to just be there at the end of a hard fought match. She was delighted, and having a good time at the finish.

Li Na played a great tournament all through, especially a top class semi final and final. She went down fighting to Kim Clijsters, and dominated the match until the middle part. She likely won ten-fold more admirers in the tennis world with this performance (despite asking the umpire to tell loud Chinese fans not to 'teach me how to play tennis' in the II set).

And at the end, there was no disappointment shown externally. Li Na had quietly gone further than any Asian in Grand Slam singles competition. She was no 'storms in, crashes out' first round specialist

She smiled as she sat courtside after her loss, smiled as she chatted with Kim C on the podium, and then gave a graceful, cheerful speech. Gamely, in English, to a vast audience. It was all a good feeling.

As she posed for post match pictures, all dressed up as she held her runner-up plate, she still looked as pleased.

(Now watch for several new Chinese players on the tour. They'll have added this to their production lines)