A Week Under The Hawaiian Sun

Hawaii has much to offer to the water sport enthusiast. It however took me a week of tramping through Maui to realize I like the mountains more than sunny coastlines. While I truly enjoy the waves and absolutely love snorkeling, the novelty can wear off pretty quick. I’d still take backpacking through a mountain range and enjoy the daylong Hiker’s High any day over beach-combing.

My wife and I flew to Maui, Hawaii for a week’s vacation in the summer of 2015. We zeroed-down on Maui among other islands since it is known to have some of the best beaches in the Hawaiian archipelago. Besides, Maui isn’t as cacophonous as the island of Oahu while still offering better tourist infrastructure than the other Hawaiian islands. The famed ‘Road to Hana’ was another alluring factor in our picking Maui over the others.

Five hours on a plane from San Francisco and we got down at the Kahului airport on a windy day. It was warm and breezy the day we landed. The swaying palm trees and the moisture laden ocean breeze instantly puts you in the island spirit. Living in Northern California, I dearly miss the opportunity to frolic in natural water bodies. The freezing waters of the Northern Pacific is no place to get your ocean fix. But now in the sunny tropics of Hawaii, I couldn’t wait to rush into the waves.

A False Start

As it happens more often than you’d like, nature takes her own course, not usually in alignment with your plans. As we got into our rental car and hit the road, we soon ran into a roadblock caused by a wildfire in the nearby hills. Law enforcement officers and fire fighters were out minding the traffic and fighting the wildfire. Choppers hovered in the skies spraying barrels of water on the blazing hills. With no alternative route to get to our accommodation, we took a detour to the nearby Baldwin beach. I immediately changed into my beachwear, ran into the waters and had my first fill of the Hawaiian waves. The waters were colder than I had thought.

We got back on the road after about an hour on the beach, only to run into the same roadblock again. The wildfire continued to sweep through the hills and the cops weren’t ready to lift the roadblock yet. Disappointed with this setback and stuck in long lines of stranded cars, we resigned to waiting it out. Traffic moved an inch every few minutes. After about an hour, we pulled over to the side of the road to catch a nap. When we both woke up, it was past midnight and we found the traffic all cleared out. We drove to our AirBnB, our holiday spirits ever so slightly deflated.

Sun, Sand and Snorkeling

Over the next few days, we made up for the disappointing start to our vacation by snorkeling at West Maui’s famed beaches – Kaanapali, Kapalua, Hamoa, Napili and others. Our AirBnB was by the Napili beach and a paved walkway from the property led right up to the ocean. We were excited the very first morning when we walked to the beach and found a Turtle lounging in the sand. The turtle blended in well with the surrounding rocks and it took me a while to realize it was actually the state’s celebrated Green Sea Turtle. The shy creature wriggled away back into the sea soon after.

Hawaii’s Beloved Honu

Green Sea Turtles are a common sight in the Hawaiian waters. Although they’re gentle, docile animals, it takes a while to get used to sharing the waters with them. I was intimidated with the imposing size of these monsters and hesitated getting into the waters whenever there was one swimming nearby. My wife, Akshata, had her own share of turtle troubles. She and I were snorkeling in the tepid waters of the Kapalua beach and happened to spot a Green Sea Turtle swimming with her baby nearby. Akshata immediately turned about and fled back ashore. I continued to paddle around and lost visual of mama turtle and her infant. A couple minutes later when I changed directions, I was taken aback when I found the baby turtle within a few feet from me. Knowing that the kid’s mother couldn’t be too far away from her child, I panicked and swam away to join my wife. I couldn’t get myself to grow comfortable swimming alongside the Green Sea Turtle throughout my stay.

Under The Rainbow At Kaanapali

Besides turtles, Maui’s ocean floor was rife with corals and colorful fish. Some of Maui’s beach waters are renown for their deep visibility and they did not disappoint. As you dunk your head under the surface of water and stare down through your snorkel mask, a colorful aquascape in high definition unfolds underneath you. Schools of tiny fish going about their business, solitary bigger fish meandering through corals and the occasional needlefish curiously swimming by, make for a captivating experience. I was only content after I finally spotted the Hawaiian state fish that goes by the name – Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa. How’s that for getting your tongue tied?

Injuries and Setbacks

We paid the price for our indifference toward sun protection as we went about enjoying the beaches. Three days into the trip and after plenty of shirtless snorkeling in the waters, I came down with raging sunburns. The mild sunscreen that we mindlessly dabbed onto ourselves was no match for the Hawaiian summer sun. Our burning bodies put the brakes on our exploration and we learned to slow down and be more respectful of the elements.

To add to my misery, a stupid rookie mistake I committed while snorkeling set me up for some major suffering. Inspired by all the snorkelers around me dive deep down into the water, I went on to emulate these folks and swam down about 20 feet. As I descended headfirst, a piercing pain steadily grew in my ears and forced me to swim back up. Having never heard of the technique of Ear Equalization, I was in agony the next few days with acute pain in one of my ears. Ear clearing is a very important technique and ignoring this might lead to some real damage to your ear drums. This ordeal turned out to be another one of my hard learned lessons. Here’s all you need to do to equalize your ears – Close your nostrils with your fingers and exhale. You’ll feel your ears stiffening up. You keep doing this as you dive down into deeper waters.

Touristy Clichés

Over time, I’ve developed a distaste for commercial nonsense that gets passed around as must-sees/must-do’s. Pre-packaged experiences and passive visual sightseeing that doesn’t engage you physically are among my top pet peeves. And Hawaii sure does have its share of the tourist laundry list.

  • Eating a bowl of Hawaiian Shaved Ice
  • Sitting through a Luau Evening
  • Road To Hana Drive
  • Offshore excursions

We had a snuba and snorkel offshore excursion planned at Molokini, a waterlogged crater a few miles off the central coast of Maui. Snuba diving is a crossover between snorkeling and scuba diving and is well suited for someone wanting to try out scuba diving but doesn’t want to commit to a certification process yet.

Geared Up For My Dive

It was a windy day and the waters were very choppy. Akshata came down with a bout of sea-sickness and backed out of snuba. I donned my snuba gear and went diving with a small group along with our dive-master. I was delighted to find myself very comfortable being underwater. Our dive-master guided us around and pointed out a variety of aquatic flora and fauna. He then grasped a little Octopus from under a rock. He passed the Octopus on to me and I held the little guy in my hands for a while, a wee bit nervous as the baby Octopus wrapped his tiny tentacles around my fingers and squirmed. I then passed him back to my dive-master and he let him back where he found him.

Offshore excursions might be great for serious adventures like scuba diving. However, for milder activities like snorkeling, I don’t think the experience justifies the price. Sure, you might get to enjoy richer marine life offshore, but Maui’s coastline offers enough opportunities to have just as rich an experience. Add to the negatives the scheduled progression of the day. As you’re taking it all in and enjoying yourself, there comes the call for the tourist herd to march back into their ride so everyone can hurry to the next planned stopover. I just can’t complain enough about outings bound by rigid schedule.

Stopover Along The Road to Hana

Road to Hana is a worthwhile drive and has great pit stops along the way. The one we immensely enjoyed was the Waianapanapa black sand beach toward the end of the drive. I had the time of my life at this tiny beach laden with coal-black sand and pebbles. The winds were very forceful the day we were there and I frolicked in the huge waves, diving beneath the base of these swells to escape their powerful breaks.

Black Sand Beach

There’s also a cave near the beach that holds a pool of cold freshwater. I excitedly got into the frigid waters and quickly got used to the cold and swam under the overhanging cave walls. I’ll fondly remember my first ever cave swimming in that little hole.

That Little Hole In The Wall

These destinations aside, the drive to Hana was alright. There are vista points and waterfalls spread out along the way but not very many hiking trails. The road can get crowded too, what with this drive being on the must-do list of most visitors.

Impressions

Having witnessed the breathtaking beauty of places like the Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon and Alaska, a tropical destination doesn’t invoke in me the same sense of joy. Scuba Diving isn’t something I have gotten into yet, so I don’t believe going on expensive beach vacations just to snorkel around and lay about is something I would want to do often. I’m glad I got some first-hand perspectives on the overly exaggerated tropical vacation. Places like The Bahamas and The Caribbean no longer figure in my bucket list. The next time I turn to Hawaii, it’ll be with some Scuba Diving or Surfing goals in mind.

A Saunter Through Death Valley

During the President’s day weekend in the Winter of 2016, we headed south-east from the San Francisco Bay Area to the lowest, driest and hottest place in North America – Death Valley National Park in the state of Nevada.

Unlike any other national parks I’ve been to before, Death Valley is a vast remote landscape with many different terrains tightly woven together. After a hike through the red rock canyons, if you feel like sinking your toes in the sand, you are only minutes away from the sand dunes of Mesquite. As you scramble up and down the dunes, if you fancy getting into a crater, a 40 minute drive will land you at the mouth of an adequately large volcanic crater. The terrain choices at your disposal are varied – snow peaked mountains, a perennial waterfall, sand dunes, volcanic crater, immense stretches of salt flats and canyons all within small distances made our visit to this park very engaging.

The drive from the Bay Area to Death Valley isn’t a short one. We broke up our 8 hour onward journey into two halves with a night’s stop at Bakersfield. This gave us some much-needed night’s rest and recharged us for the second leg of our journey the next morning. I no longer have the stomach to settle down behind the wheel for that long. A quicker option in the future would be to simply fly into Las Vegas and then make the two-hour drive to the park. It was close to noon when we made it to Death Valley.

Winter is probably one of the best times to visit a searing desert like Death Valley. This place is one of the hottest on our planet and temperatures soar up to 50C/120F during summer times, rendering a visit here during summer an exercise in survivalism. Even as the rest of the country progressed through the dead of February winter, we had warm weather welcome us at Death Valley. I for sure wouldn’t want to test the elements at this desert in the summer.

Here’s a brief trip report of our visit to Death Valley.

Day 1
As we entered the park, we hit a hiking trail right away. Named the Mosaic Canyon trail, this narrow pathway winds through smooth mosaic canyon walls. The drive on the unpaved dirt road to this trail head isn’t easy on cars built for the cities. My Toyota Corolla took quite a beating as it bounced and squeaked its way to the trail head . We hiked the trail for a while, watched the sunset and then got back before it was dark.

Death Valley is renowned for its night sky. Being way out and away from any major city, Death Valley ranks high in the list of places with the darkest night skies. We hoped to witness the Universe put up a grand spectacle up in the heavens. Mother Nature, however, works on her own terms and had no interest in entertaining us. A cloudy sky marred the view. I’d still gratefully take that over the few handful of stars we get to see in the hazy skies of San Jose.

Mesquite Sand Dunes

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Alaska – 2

Continued from the previous post

Day Five and Six

The town of Cantwell lies about a half hour’s drive south of Denali National Park, home to Mount Denali. Reverently known as ‘The Mountain’,  the tallest peak of North America doesn’t simply reveal itself to the traveler. The immense elevation of the mountain means that it creates its own ecosystem and is shrouded in a blanket of clouds most of the times.

The gloomy skies cast a doubt on our chances of catching a glimpse of the mountain as we began our drive to the park in the morning. We would drive to Denali and get on the park shuttle to go deep into the heart of the park on its single lane dirt road. There are no private vehicles allowed beyond Mile 14 on this road and you would need to get on a park shuttle or a tour bus to get further into the park.

The day turned out to be a long but an eventful one. The shuttle I had booked tickets for was an 8 hour round trip, beginning at the park visitor center and turning around at the Eielson visitor center, at Mile 66. On this long ride, we were moderately lucky spotting some wildlife. A couple of adult Grizzly bears foraged for berries along with their two cubs and our shuttle got pretty close to the animals as they ignored us and went about their business.

The Grizzlies At Our Doorstep
Polychrome Pass

Moose, mountain sheep and a very distant black bear was all we got for the rest of our journey. While I was mildly disappointed with the lack of abundance of bigger mammals, consolation came in as the skies opened up to reveal Mt. Denali on the horizon.

The Snow Capped Mount Denali In The Distance

We squeezed in a ranger hike and a small self-guided stroll into the day and the park rangers educated us on a few interesting facts about the Arctic Ground Squirrel that run aplenty in the park.

Ranger Explains Arctic Squirrel’s Winter Hibernation
Eielson Visitor Center

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Alaska – 1

Alaska was pretty high up on my dad’s wish list and I can now rest proud and easy for having fulfilled his desire.

We had a memorable week-long vacation in Alaska this August and found America’s final frontier to be beyond beautiful. While traveling with aged seniors limited my opportunities to rough it up with a few long hard hikes, we did get a good sampling of the immense landmass. Alaskan brewed beer colored our evenings while the famed salmon, although a savory, turned out pricey.

As I got started with the logistics of the trip, I briefly wrestled with whether to go on a multi-day Alaskan cruise or to make it a self-guided land excursion. I’ve gone on a cruise to Mexico before and the sensory overload was exhausting as well as revolting. The touristy Las Vegas-like atmosphere in cruises, the excesses of buffets and desserts, and the restrictive schedule that prohibits you from going where you want and being some place for as long as you want are reasons enough for me to not venture out on cruises again. That left us with booking our own flights, accommodation and rental car.

Here’s a quick lowdown on how our itinerary unfolded.

Day Zero

Flying from San Jose with a layover in Seattle, we touched down into Anchorage an hour past midnight. It was a little too late to pick up my rental car at the airport so I had arranged to pick up my car the next day in the city. We took an Uber to our AirBNB.

Day One

Potter Marsh, Anchorage

Our day began on a great note as we came across an adult moose that was ambling along a busy street without a care in the world. Cars slowed down to get a glimpse. We were rife with anticipation that this was only the beginning of a lot more wildlife sightings to come that Alaska is renowned for, although such occurrences came in few and far between over the next few days. With the moose disappearing behind the bushes, we headed downtown to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center to talk to the National Park Service rangers and run our itinerary by them. The rangers recommended a few hikes and informed us of a Blueberry festival going on down south in Girdwood. After lunch, we drove to the Earthquake park for a quick hike and then headed to Girdwood on the scenic Seward highway that runs along the ocean inlet named the Turnagain Arm. We pulled over at the many vista stops along the way and got some great shots.

Turnagain Arm On The Drive To Girdwood

Girdwood is a little mountain town south of Anchorage that houses the upscale Alyeska resort, where the Blueberry festival was underway. The Girdwood local band ‘Hope Social Club’ put on some really good live music. The resort also has a few Gondola rides going up the mountains, but after learning the ride fares, I backed off and settled for just enjoying the music with a beer.

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Tax Deduction In US For Home Loan In India

I bought a rental apartment in my home country of India in 2016. I financed the purchase with a home-loan from an Indian bank and am now in the process of paying off the loan. As I live and work in the US and pay my taxes to the US government, I was interested in learning if I can claim any tax deductions for this foreign property investment. As someone who’s been doing my own taxes since I started filing, I did a little bit of reading around and turns out the US federal tax code does have the provision for claiming tax deductions on the home-loan interest that you pay to your foreign bank. I ended up going through the exercise of claiming this deduction and the IRS did not seem to have any objections with my filing.

In this post, I’d like to provide some details on how to go about claiming this deduction on your federal returns. A customary disclaimer is in order before I proceed. Here goes – Note that I’m not a tax professional and the directions provided here might not apply to your case. Please read the IRS instruction documents carefuly and run the facts by your tax adviser.

1. Itemizing your deductions

To claim tax deductions on your home loan interest payment, you would need to itemize your deductions. If your total itemized deductions including your repaid loan interest does not exceed the standard deduction amount set by the IRS, you are better off dropping this whole ordeal and just claim the standard deduction.

You would report your deductible home loan interest in the ‘Interest You Paid’ section of Form 1040 – Schedule A. See the screenshot at the end of this post.

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How To Install Tomcat and Opengrok on Windows

You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

– Stephen King

King’s quote on writing can just as well be applied to Software Development. You become a good software developer simply by reading a lot of well written code and writing a lot of code. There’s no denying this hard truth.

Except that reading code is not a linear process like reading a book where you begin at the first page and end at the last page. Software source code is very non-linear and code components are scattered all over the place. Wrapping your head around large software projects is no easy feat and the fact that most folks aren’t too familiar with cross referencing source code makes matters worse.

This is where Opengrok comes to your rescue. This browser based source code navigation tool makes your life a lot easier when you feel like snooping around a software project that interests you. With Opengrok, you can search for symbols, UI messages, function definitions, variable definitions and files within a software project. In this post I’ll walk you through the Opengrok installation process on Windows and getting a sample software project up and running on Opengrok. Opengrok installation is quite a messy and convoluted process. I hope that this post makes your job a little easier.

1. Download and install Java if you don’t already have Java installed on your machine. To check if you have Java setup on your machine, open up your command prompt and type in ‘java’. If you get the help documentation on the java command, you’re set. If not, head over to Oracle and download the latest Java Runtime Environment. As of August 2017, the latest version was at JRE-8u144. Repeat the command prompt test after installation to make sure Java is now set up.

2. Download and install 7-zip.

3. Download Exuberant Ctags zip for Windows. There is no installation needed here. You just need to unzip the downloaded archive. Decide on a working directory and use that as a destination to unzip all your downloaded archives so you have everything in one place. I usually use C:\Users\<my username> as my working directory. Unzip the ctags zip archive to the working directory.

4. Download Opengrok. Go to Opengrok downloads and get the latest stable release. Ignore the ‘rc’ releases that are release candidates for a future release. Navigate back to older releases until you come across the latest stable release. As of this writing in August 2017, version 1.0 was the latest. Download the .tar.gz package and using an extraction software like 7zip, extract the archive into your working directory. You should finally end up with an Opengrok folder with its subdirectories like so –

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ಅಮ್ಮನ ನೆನಪು

ಅಮ್ಮ ನಮ್ಮನ್ನಗಲಿ ಸರಿಸುಮಾರು 6 ವರ್ಷಗಳಾಗುತ್ತ ಬಂತು. ಇಷ್ಟು ಕಾಲ ಸರಿದ ಮೇಲೂ ಅಮ್ಮನ ಮಧುರ ನೆನಪುಗಳು ಆಗ್ಗಿಂದಾಗ್ಗೆ ಕಣ್ಮುಂದೆ ಸರಿದು ಹೋಗುತ್ತಲೇ ಇರುತ್ತವೆ. ನಮ್ಮೊಡನೆ ಅಮ್ಮ ಈಗ ಇಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದರೇನಂತೆ, ಅಮ್ಮನೊಡನೆ ಹಂಚಿಕೊಂಡ ಸಂತಸದ ದಿನಗಳ ನೆನಪುಗಳ ಮರುಕಳಿಕೆ ಕಡಿಮೆಯಾಗುವ ಲಕ್ಷಣವಂತೂ ಕಾಣುತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ. ಅಮ್ಮನ ಕೆಲ ವಿಶೇಷ ಗುಣಲಕ್ಷಣಗಳ ಮತ್ತು ಅಮ್ಮ ಭಾಗಿಯಾದ ಕೆಲ ಸ್ಮರಣೀಯ ಘಟನಾವಳಿಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಬರೆಯಬೇಕೆಂದು ನನಗೆ ಬಹಳ ಸಮಯದಿಂದ ತುಡಿತವಿತ್ತು. ಅಂತೂ ಈಗ ಗಳಿಗೆ ಒದಗಿದೆ.

ಮುಗ್ಧತೆಯ ಅವತಾರವೆಂದರೆ ಅದು ನನ್ನಮ್ಮ. ನಯವಂಚನೆ, ಕೋಪ, ಚುಚ್ಚುಮಾತು ಇದಾವುದೂ ತಿಳಿಯದು ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ. ಅಮ್ಮನನ್ನು ಸುಳ್ಳು ಹೇಳಿ ವಂಚಿಸುವುದು ಸುಲಭ. ಇದರ ಲಾಭವನ್ನು ನಾನು ಬಾಲ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಪಡೆದುದು ಸುಳ್ಳಲ್ಲ. ನನ್ನ ತಂಗಿಯನ್ನು ಪ್ರತಿದಿನ ಶಿಶುವಿಹಾರದಿಂದ ಸೈಕಲ್ಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಮನೆಗೆ ಕರೆತರುವುದು ನನ್ನ ಹೊಣೆ. ಈ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿಯಿಂದ ನುಣುಚಿಕೊಂಡು ಟ್ಯೂಶನ್ ಇದೆಯೆಂದು ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ ಸುಳ್ಳು ಹೇಳಿ ಟಾಕೀಸಿಗೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಸಿನಿಮಾ ನೋಡಿಕೊಂಡು ಬಂದದ್ದುಂಟು. ಇದಾದರೆ ಅಷ್ಟೇನೂ ನಷ್ಟವಿಲ್ಲದ ವ್ಯವಹಾರ. ಇನ್ನು ಅಮ್ಮ ತನ್ನ ಮುಗ್ಧತೆಯಿಂದ ಬಲಿಪಶುವಾಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದುದು salesmenಗಳ ಮರುಳುಮಾತಿಗೆ. ಮಾತಿಗೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕ ಈ ಮೋಡಿಗಾರರೆಲ್ಲ ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ ಏನಾದರೂ ಕಸಕಂತೆಯನ್ನು ಮಾರಿಹೋಗುವವರೇ.

ಅಪ್ಪ ತಂಗಿಯೊಡನೆ ಅಮ್ಮ. ಅಂದಾಜು ವರ್ಷ 1995.

ಕ್ರಿಕೆಟ್ ವೀಕ್ಷಣೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ಬೆಳೆಸಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದಳು ಅಮ್ಮ. ಆಟದ ನೀತಿನಿಯಮಗಳನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಂಡಿದುದು ಅಷ್ಟಕ್ಕಷ್ಟೇ. ನಮ್ಮ Batsman out ಆದರೆ ‘ಅಯ್ಯೋ ಥು’ ಎಂದು ಗೋಳಾಡುವ ಅಮ್ಮ ಮರುಗಳಿಗೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮತ್ತದೇ ವಿಕೆಟ್ ಪತನವನ್ನು slow motionನಲ್ಲಿ ತೋರಿಸಿದಾಗ ‘ಥುತ್ ಮತ್ತೊಂದ್ ಬಿತ್ತು’ ಎಂದು ಬಡಿದುಕೊಳ್ಳುವಳು. ಆಟ ನೋಡಬೇಕೆಂದು ಬಯಸುವ ಕ್ರಿಕೆಟ್ ಆಸಕ್ತನಿಗೆ ಅಮ್ಮನ ಜೊತೆ ಕುಳಿತು ನೋಡುವುದೆಂದರೆ ಅದೊಂದು ಮೊಜುಭರಿತ ಹಿಂಸೆಯ ಅನುಭವವೇ. ಇದರೊಡನೆ ಬೆಳಗಾದರೆ ದಿನಪತ್ರಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕ್ರಿಕೆಟ್ ಸುದ್ದಿಗಳನ್ನು ಗಟ್ಟಿಯಾಗಿ ಓದುವುದು ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ ರೂಢಿ. ಆಕೆ ಓದುವುದನ್ನು ಕೇಳಲು ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾರೂ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ತೋರದಿದ್ದರೂ ಆಕೆಯ ಕ್ರೀಡಾವಾಚನ ನಿಲ್ಲುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ.

ಕನ್ನಡ ಸಿನಿಮಾ ನೋಡುವ ಅಭಿರುಚಿ ತುಸು ಜಾಸ್ತಿಯೇ ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ. ಹಾಗೆಂದು ಇಷ್ಟಪಟ್ಟು ಹೋದ ಸಿನೆಮಾಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅರ್ಧ ವೇಳೆ ಥೇಟರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ನಿದ್ದೆ ಮಾಡಿ ಕಳೆಯುವುದು ಅಪರೂಪದ ಸಂಗತಿಯೇನಲ್ಲ. ಪುನೀತ್ ರಾಜಕುಮಾರ್ ಸಿನಿಮಾಗಳಿಗೆ ತಪ್ಪದೆ ಹಾಜರ್. ಅವನ ಡಾನ್ಸ್ ಇಷ್ಟ ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ. ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ವಿಷ್ಣುವರ್ಧನ್ ನನ್ನು ಡಾ. ರಾಜಕುಮಾರ್ ಗೆ ಹೋಲಿಸಿ ಕೆಳಸ್ಥರದಲ್ಲಿ ಕೂಡಿಸುವುದು ಮಾಮೂಲಿ. ರಾಜ್ ಡಾನ್ಸ್ ಮುಂದೆ ವಿಷ್ಣುವಿನ ಕುಣಿತ ಯಾವ ಸಾಟಿ ಎಂದು ಹೀಗಳೆಯುವಳು. ನಾನು ಮೂಗಿನಡಿಯಲ್ಲಿ – ‘ರಾಜ್ ಎಷ್ಟು ಚಂದ ಡಾನ್ಸ್ ಮಾಡ್ತಿದ್ದ್ರು ನಂಗ್ ಗೊತ್ತು ಸುಮ್ನಿರು’ ಎಂದು ಅಸಡ್ಡೆಯಿಂದ ಗೊಣಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ.

ಅಮ್ಮ ಜನರೊಡನೆ ಬೆರೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದುದು ಕಡಿಮೆ. ನಾಚಿಕೆಯ ಸ್ವಭಾವದ ಅಮ್ಮ ಅಂಥ ಮಾತಿನ ಮಲ್ಲಿಯಲ್ಲ. ಮನೆಯ ಅಕ್ಕಪಕ್ಕದ ಹೆಂಗಸರೆಲ್ಲ ಮಧ್ಯಾಹ್ನ/ಸಂಜೆಯ ಹೊತ್ತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಬೀದಿಬದಿಯ ಹರಟೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ತೊಡಗಿದ್ದರೆ ಅಮ್ಮ ಅದರಲ್ಲೆಂದೂ ಭಾಗಿಯಾದವಳಲ್ಲ. ಮನೆಯ ಕಿಟಕಿಯ ಪರದೆ ಸರಿಸಿ ಹೊರಗೆ ನೆರೆಹೊರೆಯವರ ಹರಟೆಯನ್ನು ಮರೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಿಂತು ಗಮನಿಸುವ ಗೂಢಚಾರಿಕೆಯೇ ಅಮ್ಮನಿಗೆ ಖುಶಿ. ಹೀಗೆ ಗೂಢಚಾರಿಕೆ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಲೇ ಅಮ್ಮ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆಯ ಮುಂದಿನ ತೋಟಕ್ಕೆ ಭೇಟಿ ನೀಡುವ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳನ್ನು ಅದೆಷ್ಟೋ ಬಾರಿ ಪಕ್ಷಿಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಜ್ಞಳಂತೆ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದುಂಟು.

ದೀಪಾವಳಿಯ ಸಂಭ್ರಮದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಮ್ಮ – ಮಗಳು. ಅಂದಾಜು ವರ್ಷ 1997 – 98.

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The Land of Smiles

Reclining Buddha – Wat Chedi Luang

At the end of my short trip to Thailand with my family, I longed to linger around a little more. We spent an eventful eight days spread out between the capital city of Bangkok and the quaint northern town of Chiang Mai. We had to reluctantly let go of the golden southern beach islands due to lack of time. This however leaves me with an excuse to head back to the Land of Smiles sometime in the future.

Between tramping through the charming Buddha temples, savoring street food and Chang beer at the makeshift restaurants that spring out of nowhere in the evenings, taking in the local life on the metro trains and shopping at the glitzy malls, Bangkok was a sensory overload.

My Curious Friends

After long days that involved significant walking, we would relax at one of the innumerable massage shops getting foot massages. You can’t set your eyes on a spot in Thailand without spotting a massage shop lurking in a corner. A Thai massage is a confounding mix of soothing rubs and getting pounded with elbows and knees. An hour of foot massage and you’d be wobbling out like a formless shapeless alien because your bones are all pulverized. Russel Peters wasn’t kidding! Read more >>

Hiking Half-Dome Yosemite

I fulfilled my long cherished dream of scaling the majestic Half Dome in Yosemite in the fall of 2016. My overnight backpacking trek to the dome materialized after months of persistent applications for a hiking/backpacking permit, followed by a handful of training hikes in the hills in my neighborhood.

I would strongly recommend making your Half-Dome adventure an overnight backpacking trip rather than a single day hike. You’d be thanking yourself at the end of it all and have a much more relaxed and memorable experience to look back upon. I spread out my Half-Dome hike over two days with a night’s halt at the beautiful Upper Yosemite Valley backpackers campground.

If you haven’t arranged for accommodation in the park the night before your hike, as a backpacking permit holder, you are entitled to camp at one of their valley campgrounds. It was very late in the night when I reached Yosemite, driving from the San Francisco Bay Area. Being the inexperienced camper that I am, I lacked the confidence to be able to locate the unfamiliar campground and pitch my tent in the rolling darkness of the park. I slept through the night shivering in the backseat of my car hoping dearly a park ranger won’t come knocking at my car window and cite me. My foolish decision to rent a sleeping bag at the park rental store rather than beforehand and not having brought any warm clothing made for quite an uneasy night as I tucked my limbs in and trembled the night away.

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The Power of Cheatsheets

Cheatsheets are incredibly helpful lookup/guiding documents that you fall back to time and again. For that elusive bit of information that you just can’t retain in your head after repeated Googling over time, cheatsheets can save you the pain of rework.

I have built up a reasonably large assortment of cheatsheets over the last couple years, noting down things that are important to me and which I might need again in the future. These documents have proven invaluable and have helped me quickly retrieve the information that I precisely was looking for.

To give you a sampler of what my cheatsheets look like, here’s my categorized collection of cheatsheets that have been an indispensable tool over the last couple years.

My Cheatsheets

Here’s a listing of the advantages of building up your own cheatsheets:

1. Google Isn’t Always Effective
It is, most of the times. But not always. Googling can quickly get mentally exhausting if you are experimenting around in a new area where you don’t yet have the basic foundation of knowledge built up. For instance,  back when I was working through my Machine Learning course, I had to quickly get up to speed on the Matlab programming language to be able to complete the course assignments. To tackle this, I got started building my Matlab Cheatsheet. Every new Matlab operation I encountered went into that sheet and pretty soon I was functional in Matlab and my assignments got done sooner. I cannot imagine the drudgery that I would have had to endure Googling for hundreds of different basic Matlab functions without this cheatsheet. With my Matlab toolchest built up, all I had to do was to ctrl + F (search) the document. Read more >>