Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Writing is a habit

Writing is a habit. It is also an art. It has to be cultivated and nourished and put into practice. I also think of it as a way to exercise the mind. I have often wondered why writing is so difficult when speaking comes so very easily. My answer is twofold. Firstly, I attribute some kind of formality to writing. This is probably because of the extensive written examinations we had when we were kids. Our school system trained us to write essays, composition, summaries, etc. Most of what we wrote as kids was reviewed and graded. This has probably caused the notion that writing is formal to be ingrained in our minds. Secondly, as a lazy reader, I expect that every paragraph that I read in a news paper column and a journal or a magazine to be comprehensive and convey some meaning. Books, stories etc need to captivate the audience and encourage them to continue reading. Trying to be true to this expectation, it elevates the pressure on the written word, naturally making us more careful and cautious about what we write, not to mention the "Forward" command and distribution lists on all email apps.

Living in times when a word processor is handy and probably the next biggest writing aid, second only to the brain, it makes me wonder how difficult writing might be without these. Thinking cogently before you put your pen to paper, collating all your thoughts, putting a summary together seem intimidating at best and almost impossible to achieve without the spell checker, grammar checker, “Copy and Paste”, “Insert” & “Undo” commands. I can remember how some of my essays and summaries looked on my answer paper; like a battlefield. Scratches on full or partial sentences and arrow marks for Inserts. Thinking back to our ancestral days, I can only imagine a world where paper was a scare commodity and people used feather pens to write in ink. We have come such a long way from that. Now, we can dress it all up. Even cover up the fact that there is no natural flow to your thoughts. You can go up and down your article and edit it to your heart’s content before you publish it and no one is ever going to find out how these thoughts were en-meshed in your brain and has to be painfully drug out.

One question I have sometimes debated is whether writing requires creativity. I conclude by thinking, “..not any more than speaking.” By that I don’t mean speaking as in a conversation, rather speaking as in a prepared speech addressing an audience. Persistence and a quiet, calm place, I believe are much more important than “inborn” creativity. One thing is for sure, the more you exercise and train a muscle, the better it gets at doing that specific function. It was fun writing this. My first work of art in a long time! And I intend to make this a habit. Do you want to guess on how many times I relied on word processing tricks?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Raagaas to Running - 1/2 marathon 'notes'

Absolutelyzilch, my text blog has been silent for more than a year now, and finally decided to resurrect it.

I managed to finish my 2nd 1/2 marathon last Sunday. You can read the article here

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ubiquitous poverty

There are moments where I get these sudden enlightening thoughts, atleast, that’s how I would like to view it… One such thought came to my mind today. What if majority of the people in the world are poorer? Think about it… Like the way it was as I grew up. We couldn’t afford a car or the likes of a motor bike. Almost, everyone had to commute through public transportation for long distances. For shorter distances, it was mostly a walk. Even bicycle was a luxury. No need for an expensive gym or a treadmill… No threat of fuel consumption exploding….

All papers and plastics (milk covers) were exchanged for money. A great way to recycle plastics, papers and old utensils. Since there was money involved, no one threw their stuff away. Throwing garbage was not a weekly chore as it is now. Even the stuff that came out of cooking, like egg shells, tea and coffee powder, drumstick fibers etc were all thrown in the garden to enrich soil.

If people had less money, eating habits definitely change. You eat what you need, than whatever you can. To cut down costs, everybody will start farming plants and vegetables in their own backyard, which means that eating fresh vegetables becomes a day to day affair. Organic too… Buying new clothes is a calendered event. One doesn’t buy what what one doesn’t need. Since there is always an uncertainty around job losses, the solution will depend on community. People living together, as a family or otherwise and support each other through their tough times…Ring a bell..;)

While the capitalistic world would scornfully ignore my thoughts as being stupid, may be even rightfully so, I like to think that I am just quoting history and not proposing something idealistic. When the whole world revolves around policies that should make people richer, my point is that, the world is probably better off if majority of people are poorer. There is always a question of who would these people work for and what will be the balance of wealth between different people, which, in turn, would again stir the conversation of imbalance. But, just the thought of poverty as a solution of the current conditions of global problems seemed interesting to me. Oh well, feel like going for a drive… May be, eat out and on the way back, have my preferred pearl tea. Oh, did I forget shopping for my supply of bottled water and canned soda… I can then catch up on the interesting discussions of global climate change that came up in the recent summit….:)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Identity crisis....

This blog is inspired by shoba's two earlier related but unrelated blogs. The scene here is shoba/suresh and sriks are chatting with Mano.. but its some other Mano. I had posted this earlier with different characters in my college's forum, In our college, Horlicks was the code word for Saarayam.

Mano is just out of college. He has been sacked from work and is a little low on cash. His Maama Ayush is elderly and has loads of cash and jewels. So Mano is taking care of his Maama to put some ice.

Sriks: Machaan Mano, eppadi keera?
Mano: who are you people? where did you people come from?

Sriks/Shoba/Suresh think that maybe Mano is in mabbu and so is in Sachin Tendulkar mode. Mein kaun hoon.. Mein Kahaan hoon

Shoba: Ayush eppadi irrukaan?
Mano: How do you know about ayush? plus avan sollare? Avaru thoongaraaru.
Suresh: As usual Benadryl kuduthu thoonga pannitiya?
Mano: Ungallukku eppadi theriyum? Avarau coughing too much today, he has aged no? So gave him some cough syrup and horlicks to let him sleep in the afternoon.
Sris: Paavi.. don't give him horlicks at this age itself. He might get addicted to it.
Mano: ... scratches his head... unnum puriyala
Shoba: How is Meera doing?

In her hurry, Shoba types Heera instead of Meera. Mano wonders how these people know that his uncle Ayush has Heera (diamonds). He is not sure if these are jewel thieves.

Mano: How do you know about Heera?
Sriks: Heera was very nice and glittery in Sathi Leelavathi.

Now Mano is sure they stole Heera from Sathi Leelavathi's house.

Shoba: Naan Heera sonnadhu was meant for Meera.

Mano's ex-girlfriend was Meera, but now he has his eyes only for another girl called Neena Pillai.

Mano: No no, the heera was meant for Pillai.
Suresh: Enna pa sollara, isn't ayush too young to see Heera? Is this the age to introduce him to item girls?
Mano: scratches his head violently... . But continues. "No no, Ayush has seen many girls in his young days. So no problems."

Suresh/Shoba/Sriks think that mano is in full mabbu.

Shoba: So you are playing with pillai all the time eh? (she means thamizh pillai-- son)

Mano: No no its not like that. blushes.

Suresh: Paathiyaa, pillai vandhadhuku apparam, you are ignoring Meera.
Mano: How can I be with both of them at the same time. After you get one you have to let go of the other, illa kudumbathala rombha kozhapam varum

Ellaarum rombha confused now...

Suresh: So how is Fremont?
Mano: FullMonty padam was nice, what is this Fremonty? Part two va?

At this stage Sriks/Shoba/Suresh decide that Mano tholla thaanga mudiyala and let his mabbu clear and they Escape...... .........

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My first`1/2 marathon

I finished my first marathon - I've gloated all about it in


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My RNR-Seattle Marathon Experience

When I signed up for Seattle rock-n-roll couple of months back, my only goal was to make sure that I do a mid year marathon to keep myself in shape for the sacramento marathon that I intend to run this year end... However, after my relay, when I really started doing my training runs, I thought that I could do a 3:25 type marathon if I pushed myself. However, I ended up doing a 3:53 marathon... Obviously, there are reasons... Most reasons were psychological than physical...I did 3:53:37... Much slower than I wanted it to be..:)... The highlight of the marathon was that I met Shoba and her relatives Ramesh/Mala and Aakaash at mile 16 and 22... It was very vital to keep my momentum going at the critical portions of the race...

Anyway, many take aways from the marathon itself:

1) As my friend Soochoo had predicted, the first time marathons (rnr seattle is the biggest marathon in northwest US by far) are typically not planned very well. It showed up in the critical aspects of this marathon. The freeway leading to the starting point got really clogged. After 45 minutes of slow down in the freeway, I finally decided to run about 2 miles to get to the starting point. I started 15 minutes after the race start. I heard from the paper that some people started as late as 1 hr after start time.... With 25000 runners (15,000 half-marathoners and ~6000 full marathoners, the race committee didnt think it through)....

2) That said about the starting point, the course as such was very well organized and had enough drinks/banana/ aid-stations etc., With the rock-bands playing all along and with a lot of crowd along the way, it was a pretty good race atmosphere

3) Never count on weather... I chose Seattle in hopes of a good weather. But, as luck would have it, I started at temp of 59F and it went to 75 F at finish line... The sun was shining all along without any cloud covers. A big no-no for me. In retrospective, San Diego could've been an ideal race for me... But then, last year, it was apparently very hot in San Diego....

4) I started out with a lot of frustration for having run 2 miles and in missing the pacer groups whom I had hoped to follow. With the weather being warm, I just lost my interest in running... As I started out, I decided to throw my timing goal and do a conservative effort. As time went by, I did slow down, to a point where I thought I was willing to either quit half way or do a 4:30 type marathon... Since I had slowed down in the middle, I had enough energy left during the last 6 miles... So, I finished strong...;). .. There were more hills than I had expected. No major ones, the maximum being 2 hills of about 250-300 feet at mile 16/17... But, in general, it was rolling hills all the way along, with a hill of about 100 feet at the 25th mile...

5) I thought the run-less, run-faster program was kind of aggressive. I used to train 40-50 miles for the sacramento marathon. I cut it down to 3 days of running (1 interval, 1 tempo and 1 long run with 2 days of intense cross-training (biking), averaging not more than 33 miles in any given week). I saw big benefits in my speed. I could hold 7:55 type pace for a 21 miler ( my longest run before the marathon). Obviously, that didn't translate in my marathon performance. But, on the positive side, I did not get any cramps throughout. I recovered very quickly. The day of the marathon, I was already playing with my friend's kid in the evening, running around... I felt strong... I think, the 3 days of running puts a lot of focus on running performance every time I went out to run, which could be good/bad..:) ... It also gave enough time to recover after each run. I will definitely try it for my next marathon too... May be, I will add in a slow recovery run apart from the 3 aggressive days...

That, in nutshell is what happened. Checkout my finish line video in the following link. My bib-number is 5048.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Riches to Rags

I was browsing through a newsletter from Schwab and found certain things about retirement and investing that I found rather interesting. I just wanted to capture it in some place. Where else would it be ? Though any of these may not have a significant impact to most of us, it is a good thing to know.

Firstly, about tax implications due to President Obama's budget. The tax is going to increase from 33% to 36% and from 35% to 39.6% for the top 2 brackets of income from Jan 1, 2011. For all other tax-brackets, it will be the same as before ( single earning less than $171,550 or married filing jointly with an earning of less than $208,850). If you think your income may exceed just a tad bit more than the 3rd bracket, it might put you in a higher tax-bracket. In that case, it is a good idea to invest extra money towards 401K if you are not making full contribution to 401K already. You not only save on your taxes, but have that money grow tax deferred in your 401K. Remember that the 401K contribution will be excluded from your income for tax calculations.

The capital gains will be taxed at 20% from the 15% that exists today (if the family joint income is greater than $250,000), again from Jan 1, 2011. If you have long term investments that you plan to sell, it is a good idea to sell it off before Jan 1, 2011 so that you don't have to pay the extra 5%. This applies only if you intend to sell of your investments anyway.

I was surprised by a couple of facts that I read about retirement. If you file for bankruptcy, apparently, the creditors cannot come after your retirement accounts. So, point being, if you are already in heavy debt, looks like filing bankruptcy and protecting the retirement account is a good choice than liquidating your retirement account to pay off the debtors. Sounds a bit unethical... But hey, that's the law..:)... Also, if you have loan from your 401K account (remember the 401K sayings that the interest on a loan towards 401K goes to your account and hence you don't lose money) and if you lose your job, there is a 60 day grace period after which the loan will be considered a distribution with the penalty deducted. In other words, your loan should be repaid if you quit your job (within 60 days). One of the best alternatives to getting a 401K loan is to get a Home Equity line of credit (HELOC). Not only you can move some of your higher interest credit card debts to this low interest alternative, it also gives tax exemption on the interest paid. Remember that, if you are in the verge of losing a job, it is a good idea to get a HELOC while you still have a job (otherwise, you wouldn't qualify for a HELOC). If worst comes to it and if you file bankruptcy, your 401K will still be intact... That's all folks!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Height of religulous


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vazhga Tamil

The week-end was spent in California Tamil Academy. Sat was graduation day - completion of a school year. California Tamil Academy is an amazing organization - run entirely by volunteers, they teach Tamil to over 3000 children in Bay Area. I really like the setup and the dedication. It gives a sense of belonging in more ways than one. People felt at home - at times, they behaved just as badly as they would in a political rally in India without the lathi-armed police.
For example, the secretary was pleading, shouting, cajoling anything to get people to settle down so the ceremony could start to no avail. It was so disheartening to see people (most of them with professional careers no doubt!) standing around without the least bit of consideration for the Secretary's increasingly hoarse voice. I wonder why we embarrass ourselves thus when we congregate.

Finally, the program started, and the children trooped on stage to receive their certificates. As usual, they first sent the pre-schoolers onto the stage. They got them to stand on stage, and there was a slight delay before the certificates were given. The children were left standing on stage looking around at the crowd! One of them sat down on the stage (Guilty as charged: that clown was my child!) I was visible in the audience wringing my hands with an upward swing movement ("You can't sit like that on stage K!" I said to her multiple times after the ceremony quite horrified)


The day after, was the annual day program. It was a grand mela - a LARGE congregation of people belonging to a similar demographic (all Tamilians with one or more children studying Tamil). The day long program started with the preschoolers. We had to drop them off after taking them to the restroom!

The cuteness index to quality of the program was inversely proportional.

In the preschool lot, there was one who decided to admire the chain she was wearing in the middle of HER program (this time, thankfully, it wasn't my daughter!), one of them wanted to talk to his friends on the stage and another decided to just run to his mother halfway through the performance!

As the day wore on, the children definitely performed better! All in all, I laud the academy's efforts.
Vazhga Tamizh!

Monday, May 11, 2009

If Vanaja had abstained from sex