A Late New Year Reset

January 31, 2011 ~ 09:31pm

Today started what I hope will be an end to my meandering thoughts on life. The month of January has been quite an exhilarating 31 days. A few weeks ago, in a surprise even to myself, I left the cubicle culture of the "mega-corporation" that I gave over 6 and 1/2 years of my life. (I have plenty of reflections, but I will save those for another post). And this morning, I stepped into a more demanding role at a smaller company where the work is more challenging, the hours longer and most importantly the rewards are much better. ... While I'll still be sitting in a cubicle, the environment, people and responsibilities have little semblance to my past setting.

... I had been planning a trip to Spain (to visit my cousin) for February, but due to the circumstances I decided to go ahead in January as a treat to myself. I came back last week after touring Barcelona, Seville and Madrid. In a sentence: one of the best trips of my life. I could write novels on that, but again, some other day.

So apologies in advance, my inbox has been flooded since December and work/life/etc. has just been a total mess ... my computers are in boxes :( ... I hope to be situated and back in some sort of rhythm in the next month or so.

And to conclude this positive post: the net effect of the recent set of events (trip included) is that I feel like a totally different person. I am so looking forward to 2011 and beyond ...

Quick Thoughts About India

July 8, 2010 ~ 09:41pm

Well it has been a few days since I returned from India. Each trip so far has been totally different. These are just some random observations that I want to record for myself.

Rains

This is the first time I ever visited India during the rainy season. There is a reason they call it the "monsoon season". It was just non-stop rain. And during the brief bouts of sunlight, the heat was unbearable. And the mosquitoes, what devils. I counted 76 visible bites on me alone. It was an itchy flight back.

Roads

I have never seen the roads in such disarray. Firstly, even without the rains there are potholes the size of cows cars. Why even call them potholes? During the rains, you really can't even detect the full size of the holes or where they are. I had the bumpiest car rides of my life.

When I went to Mangalore at the end of 2007, I could see the start of the new roads and flyover. The construction has progressed but what a mess. The roads are incomplete all over the area. Where it is complete it has totally eliminated any walking space along the side of the road. There is no room left for anything.

Main Event

We had to attend an engagement which happened to be considerable distance away. Getting there I endured the curviest roads and the scariest car ride of my life. The map shows apx 70km but it took well over 2 hours. Rounding some corners made your heart skip a beat. (route is approximate).

In my previous trip to India I was fortunate to experience what a "typical Mangalorean wedding" would be like. I thought then that the many of the formalities were really unnecessary. Well much to my surprise the engagement event we attended was identical in almost every way but without any church ceremony. It was actually pretty exciting sitting up on the stage, but I think the guest of honor found it a bit overwhelming. Those lights can be blinding you know.

Anyways, with exception of the drive there and the heat, it was actually pretty fun. I'm disappointed all my siblings couldn't be there. Maybe next time (assuming there is a next time).

People

This trip was unique that my brothers and I were all forced to speak Konkani much more than we were accustomed to. It was okay for the most part. It was odd for me near the end of the trip, there was some moments where I could almost hear myself thinking or talking Konkani in my head, as opposed to translating from English. Too bad we were there too short to really test me.

One of the new recruits we took with us happened to be American born (like my youngest brother). I was worried how she might adjust. The following story sums it up. If you are a Muslim please skip the next paragraph.

Traditionally pork ("dukra maas") in Mangalorean cuisine leaves a sizable portion of the fat to be cooked along side the meat. If you've never had this before, you might be surprised when you find yourself chewing on a rubbery blob of non-meaty strangeness. Well our newcomer just ate it all up without any complaint (sometimes that's even a little tough for me). When asked, she revealed: "I thought, mmmmm, that must be some different type of mushroom". She ate pretty much everything and didn't get sick, that's pretty impressive.

Sadly I didn't get to see as much family as I had hoped. What was very annoying was the commute between different relatives homes. What would have taken 30 minutes or so previously was taking us almost an hour. Even where the roads weren't too bad, the traffic has just exploded. There were so many new cars on the roads. Traveling a few miles seemed like a journey on its own.

Conclusion

I conclude, at great cost, that India is still there and is still haphazardly growing at seemingly unsustainable rates. Sad to see.

Anyways I think this may be the last trip I will go to India in big group of people. I think I might go solo next time or with perhaps only one other person. I think I want to see more and do more instead of being caught in traffic or rain.

In spite of some of the nuisances in traveling, I think this was one of the more comfortable trips I've taken. But I don't measure a trip in how comfortable I was, rather, was the experience worthwhile? Yeah, I would definitely say: yes.

Quick Trip to India

June 22, 2010 ~ 10:52am

Well "quick" means a little less planned than my usual excursions, and of course, a bit shorter than the past few trips.

This should be quite the interesting experience with many "firsts" for a few different people, and I hope they all manage, seeing as they're not a seasoned desi like me (jk).

I will be intentionally disconnecting from the internets for the whole duration (unlike some BlackBerry toting brethren). So email replies will be a few weeks delayed. Hopefully I won't have any 3G withdrawal symptoms.

Anyways, will report when I get back. Happy start of summer!

As I previously mentioned, I had a rocking good time at the U2 concert in Pasadena. I trekked all the way across the country because the 360 Tour was not coming to Michigan like they did in 2005. For those who were not as fortunate, the whole concert was performed live on Youtube (an internet first!). ... Anyways, when the dates were announced in April, I made the commitment to come out to California. Since I took floor ("non-seat") tickets in 2005, I thought it would be just too exhausting to repeat that. My brother and I ended up getting tickets in the second level, the view was not as good as we had hoped, but there were plenty of much worse spots. I can't believe how much those seats cost.

We were lucky enough to have a friend arrange parking at a private residence. It was a brisk 5 minute walk to the stadium which was incredibly alive and unbelievably crowded. I think there were supposed to be over 95 thousand people in attendance! After trying to find another friend, we gave up looking and went to our seats. ... About 30 min before the opening act, you could see the stage crew still getting things set up. For anyone who has not seen pictures of the 360 stage, you really have to be there to appreciate the complexity. The stage is underneath 4 giant arms (or legs) that hold up a light tower and a completely circular display screen. The whole thing has been aptly named "the claw". I can't imagine how many people have to work to assemble and dismantle it for each show. Even with the obscene ticket prices, I read that the tour is not making much profit with such a setup.

Sometime after 7, even though the stadium still had not filled up, the opening by the Black Eyed Peas began. I personally don't think the hip hop group really meshes with the U2 demographic, but they were pretty fun to watch. I think the Peas were okay, but what really made it memorable was a surprise appearance by Slash. They played Sweet Child o' Mine (the old GNR hit) before wrapping up.

During the intermission, my brother went to grab some food while I remained seated. I had the horrible experience of having the nearly drunk lady behind me spill her cup of beer all over my right shoulder, arm and camera. This really put me in a bad mood...

When U2 finally showed up, I noticed the entire stadium was absolutely packed to the brim. The band members made a slow walking entrance (as opposed to just appearing on the stage like they did in '05). They started out with 3 songs of their latest album (No Line On The Horizon). To be honest I didn't know most of the lyrics to those songs so I couldn't sing along. It wasn't until they started "Mysterious Ways" that I got of out of my beer-spilled-dont-know-lyrics funk and was truly able to enjoy myself!

I feel like they did a great job with a selection of the older music. There were all the popular "Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby" classics. I was surprised to hear the 1984 song "The Unforgettable Fire" and it was really cool to actually see so many fans who actually knew the words to that. There was however one major downer to the music, and this may just be my opinion, but it really sounded as if Bono's voice was really strained during a lot of the songs. I felt as if during some songs, he struggled to keep up with the audience. And at times, it seemed as if he was just speaking the lyrics instead of actually singing. A letdown for me: when performing "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" off of the new album it sounded nothing like it does in the Blackberry Loves U2 commercial. I was really looking forward to that, instead they opted to use conga drums and make it sound weird. Even the 2005 opener and crowd-pleaser "City of Blinding Lights" sounded a bit off to me. Ahh well, it was still satisfying hearing it live.

As for the mix in politics, there was nothing new there. After the usual recognition of Aung San Suu Kyi, they added a special mention to the 2009 Iranian protests. I'm sure some other important people said some really important things on the big screen, but I might not have been paying that much attention.

Outside of the music and politics, the stage setup was really cool. The circular display screen was actually made up of hundreds of smaller pieces. The pieces themselves could move with the screen to make it stretch the whole height (quite spectacular). At times the screen descended completely at the base hiding the band. It was a gradual motion making it blend so smoothly with the performances. The lights and color were impressive entirely on their own.

Like I said previously the whole event was quite over the top. Lots of visual feedback that never got boring. I chose to be in the stands instead of the floor. And looking around me during the whole concert, I was disheartened to see so many people near me, not even standing or clapping or moving in any way during some of the most spirited songs. They appeared almost bored. And when I looked at the sea of people on the main floor, I could see their energy alive with the music. I'm disappointed I didn't experience that in the stands. My brother suggested next time we get on the floor, while I'm not sure I could do that again, I do envy the enthusiasm present in the heart of the stadium. No big deal.

The band wrapped up with the moving last number "Moment of Surrender". It felt a lot shorter than I expected and we left the stadium without much trouble. I really was looking at the t-shirts but I couldn't bring myself to spend the $40 (they were only $35 in 2005). As we were leaving some t-shirt peddler offered us shirts for $20, and we haggled it down to $15. Impressed we tried again this time for $10 but he refused. Good thing too, it turned out the shirt was xxx-small. Stupid me. It doesn't really matter though. I'll keep it as a souvenir for a crazy night of ups and downs.

I know I was really rambling with this post - there was just too much to explain. Its been over a week and I just wanted to try to capture as much as I could. In retrospect after all the money, travel and spilled beer, I had a great time. And even after just hearing the 360 tour will in fact come to Michigan in 2010, I have no regrets. It was worth it. Every moment.

California 2009

October 29, 2009 ~ 09:47pm

I got back from my trip to California last night. As previously noted I was intending to relax a bit but that never really happened. For better or worse (more of the better), I went around. A lot!. I had a different city for pretty much every day. And I really don't know what I was expecting, but the traffic and driving were too much for me. Although, I was doing much more traveling on account that I was a tourist.

I had a relatively painless flight into I flew into LAX Thursday night and right off the bat, I could see why people dread that airport. Too much traffic, crowds, commotion, police - enough to make you want to avoid it. It took well over an hour and half to get to where I was staying in Orange County with my brother.

I was on the beach Friday and later drove out to the Santa Monica Pier to watch a Cirque Du Soleil show: Kooza. It was pretty entertaining. I will have to write a more in depth review of this in the days to come.

Saturday we spent the day in San Diego. We watched the UofM vs Penn State game at the Pacific Beach Bar & Grill where apparently there is a significant number of Michigan fans. I met up with some college friends and we did some site seeing in San Diego. What a gorgeous city! The view from the top at Cabrillo National Monument overlooking the San Diego Bay was magnificent. You could see all the way to Tijuana (no I did not visit there). Lots more to do there. Sadly I did not plan enough time. Perhaps next trip?

Sunday after church, we drove up to Pasadena. I made a quick side trip to El Monte to visit someone, but eventually we reached our destination: Rose Bowl Stadium to see U2 perform. This will definitely require an additional post. Despite some drunk-thinks-she's-hot girl accidentally pouring beer all over me, I still did manage to enjoy the performance. The U2 360 Tour was just over the top, but an 100% unforgettable experience! We were lucky enough to have someone arrange free parking for us, but unlucky enough to get lost on the way back.

Monday, after a late night, we once again drove back into the mess. This time to Universal Studios Hollywood. I think this may be my first trip to a Theme Park as opposed to a general amusement park. It was really fun, with extra praise for The Simpson's Ride (did it twice!) and The Mummy Ride. Unfortunately the Terminator 3-D attraction was closed down, which was a major let down. Otherwise the park was pretty fun. I think we picked a great day to go as we never waited more than 20 minutes for anything. The people who paid double the general admission price were foolish, there is no way they got their money's worth! We had dinner at the park and I split up to catch up with a friend. We did some cruising through the nicer nearby areas. By that night I noticed my voice had pretty much given out. Probably the screaming..err..singing at the concert.

Tuesday I had lunch in Anaheim. Nothing special, just a place to relax halfway between LA and Laguna Beach. Spent the evening not doing anything special. Watched some DVD's, had some drinks and told some silly old stories. Sometimes the craziness gets a little too crazy with siblings, but all in all enjoyable.

Wednesday I flew back. I wouldn't mention the flight, but the damnedest thing happened. We encountered some unusual turbulence. Apparently somewhere near Colorado, we hit some "mountain wind" which caused the plane to instantaneously drop 500 ft in altitude. It was quite shocking and in truth, a little exhilarating. Everything flew 2-3 feet straight up (including un-belted passengers). I wasn't really scared considering I was buckled down, but the attendants were yelling at everyone to sit down. The real mess was that the passenger next to me had a full glass of wine that also flew up 2 feet and hit me in the stomach, crotch and right leg. It was a mess. I endured over 2 hours smelling like wine sitting in a wet seat. He felt terrible, but I figured it wasn't the worst thing, his wife's wine covered the seat and lady's hair sitting in front of her.

But besides that, I think I was really happy with my time spent in "Cali". I think my brother and I were a bit too ambitious when planning considering we intended to do much more with less time. Even so, I am quite impressed how much we were able to enjoy. This was a first for me visiting where everyone had their S.O. with them. Everyone was a good host (and hostess) to me, considering how thoroughly irritating I can be (was ... am ... will be).

Lots of fun stuff and crazy stuff. Dowsed with alcohol twice (luckily no one lit me on fire ... although some of those California girls ... ). First time doing continuous status updates on my mobile. Too much driving (almost 600 miles total!!!). Lots of talking, singing and screaming. For the people who were making the pitch I should consider relocating ... well, all I can say is this trip was a really compelling argument.

Much more things to say, but I fergit, ask me and I'll tell you. A review on the performances to follow...