Jul 28, 2007

2005 and Two years later......

A sudden gush of hot air greeted me, when I got off the aircraft on Aug 6th 2005 at 2 am. I was like - 'What place have I landed in?', 'Is this the place I am going to spend a significant portion of my life?(Then it was 2 years, though it is a lot longer now....)'.

Excluding the two month long lazy trip to Bangalore last summer, I really have been around Tempe all while. So it does make sense to put some thoughts about my life in this _____(read blank) town.

This guy who's never been away from home had set his foot on the US soil (read concrete) and was raring to go. A lot of expectations from within and from others made him pretty responsible and not take things too lightly. But would this thing last.....

No more relatives around, all friends(mostly new ones), roommates, (who could be the best thing to happen to you, or at times the worst too!), professors, bosses at work, students of other nationalities in the classes all would seem new to this person, who has never been in a hostel either. A not-so-frequent call to back home, counting the number of minutes spoken(or the duration the calling card would last for) used to be the case with most of us. But thanks to the ever reliable company, it did seem reasonable to talk to loved ones pretty frequently. Weekends used to be fixed for webcam chat and voice chat, by those who felt 'Seeing is Believing'. For me, weekend meant sleeping for long. I still believe so.

A totally new variation in teaching style, asignments, labs, exams seemed wierd initially, but not anymore. Waiting outside a professor's office, during office hours to ask help with assignments or to talk about being prospective research assistants(read funding!) all took place. And I did land up with a very sweet professor too! There's no feeling for an exam here as back in India, and the grades really don't matter after a while. Research does matter a lot though!

A sudden change from eating cooked food to preparing food without a transitional phase in between was something shocking. But it was handled comfortably, thanks to tips from mom, cooking turns amongst roomies and free food give-aways by the hotels here. Why would I speak more about the food, it should be more emphasis on other stuff done in these two years!

Shopping was something that fascinated me in this country and I would shop away to glory, after all there is a credit card to pay! Be it groceries or other things, I would enjoy it.

The types of people I came across would be either good or bad, opportunistic or helpful. This stint did teach me a lot and made me more independent, patient(after all who would listen to me shout, other than my family). I also figured out it improved my time-management skills etc. I found myself at the receiving end, when people helped me initially. But, I am able to do it now much to my satisfaction!

After all, these two years weren't two bad and hope the next couple of years would be as smooth as this, or perhaps smoother!

God bless me and the world!

Jul 26, 2007

Favorite Movies - II

So here's it's sequel to an earlier blog, listing my favorite movies.

Kannathil Muththamittal - One movie that actually stirred up the emotions in me. Probably the first movie that I cried, a beginning of a never-ending thing. Simran fitted to here role to the T. It should have probably be named Indira, than Amrutha or Kannathil Muththamittal. Keerthana P.S. was one child artiste that I enjoyed after Shyamili. Madhavan was not in his usual chocolate boy role. Nanditha Das' performance in the climax was amazing. sad that Simran lost out on the National award, since she had her voice dubbed (by Deepa Venkat).

Flavors - A really sweet cute desi-american movie. Realistic, though most people seemed to be Andhrites,(which is one reason why it was real). All the scenes seemed as if it was happening right next door. A person who has been in the US, will appreciate this movie even better. The chemistry between Karthik and his friend was something rare, and they were the best couple in the movie. The mother-father duo from India(seen in Waagle ki Duniya), seemed really practical. One should have a mom like that one. My mom, is surely one. The Ramana Dasara... guy was fun too, especially with Karthik in the scene in the hotel. Candy alias Chandramukhi, with her rules for her apartment roommates, which had 'Candy makes the rules' as the first rule, was a practical girl. Overall, a good H1 visa holders' movie.

Bombay - The Maniratnam magic worked with the Bombay blasts as the theme. The simple romance between the lead pair was a good thing in the movie too. ARR had good songs for this one, particularly Uyire, and the theme.

Padayappa - The only reason for this to be on the list could be Rajnikant's style and more importantly Neelambari aka Ramya Krishnan's flawless acting. A typical Rajni masala movie, though with a complex storyline had a clear screenplay. And for once, Rajni let someone speak against him.

Mugavari - An Ajith movie, had the yearning of a young guy to become a music director, yet wanting to support his family which has been really good to him. Jyothika was good in this one. The soundtrack was a rehash of many English songs, thanks to the copycat Deva.

Sathi Leelavathi - A laugh riot and all characters were reponsible for the success. ONe cannot single out a character which didn't contribute to the share. Kamalhassan and Kovai Sarala were a fun couple. One of the best comedy movies till date. I want to watch the Kannada version of this one.

Michael Madana Kamarajan - Never can a movie be made this way. 4 Kamalhassans and each of them having a different storyline, yet linked later on. Why don't movies have such strong storylines these days.

Jul 22, 2007

Self check out

The supermarkets in the US have this Self checkout option, to avoid making their customers wait in the forever serpentine queues. All items, except discrete vegetable and fruits have a bar code on them and you would scan the bar code.

The experience last week at the 'Always Low prices' store was not all that desirable. We keyed in the bar code number more number of times, than actually scanning the barcode. The machine/bar-code reader isn't sensitive at all, and even a Walmart employee who came to help, couldn't do it himself. It was worse, if one got multiple quantities of the same thing, since it didn't scan the second or the third piece of the same item. I wonder how cashiers do it all the time. Hats off to their efficiency.

At the Food and drug store, it is way better off, though I've faced the same problem, but not to this magnitude.

Jul 19, 2007

Summer in AZ - My Experience

If there was an alternative to an hair dryer in the amount of hot air blown, it would be the wind in Tempe or in general the wind in the valley. It was this gush of hot air that greeted when I landed in Tempe. I never knoew I would be associated with it for this long. Last summer, I was in India, enjoying the monsoons, But this summer, here I am, enjoying the heatwave in Tempe.

It was a late summer, May was particularly pleasant compared to the last May. This June was like how last May was, the summer has had a one month offset. Hope August doesn't get too hot though. The temperatures scorch at 112 F on most days and have gone upto 117 F. This is the temperature in the shade apparently. So the really one is a few degrees higher. The worst time to walk in the sun would be between 3-5 pm. The least temperature would be 85 F at 4:30 am and may last till 5 am. I have seen the temperature hit 100 F by 7 or 8 am. The beginning of this week had some showers which made the next morning very humid. It was like Chennai, sticky and sweaty!

I chose to teach this summer, to keep myself occupied and for monetary benefits too. It would have been really boring if I had to immerse in research all the time, even though I am finiding it good to do that now. I didn't make a trip to India, in order to facilitate a faster MS thesis defense and PhD qualifier. Also I am working on a few conference-level papers, which I definitely need to have, since I have been researching for so long. I feel it was good decision that I made to stick around during the summer, since it is so relaxed and my only focus is on research.

My teaching experience this summer is something that I need to make a mention of. I was handling the basic Circuits class for the first time, even though I have TAed for the next course in circuits. But this was an experience, since it was mostly non-EE students and most of them had this as their first course in EE. The labs that I taught were pretty simple and not too demanding. I tried to experiment around introducing a new lab and giving guidelines for their reports. It did help me a lot, since I saved a lot of grading time. I should probably implement it in the next semester, if I am let to handle a lab all by myself. Also, I had the opportunity to set a lab final and it was like reliving my BE lab exam experiences. I did receive good feedback from the students, though there were these usual complaints. But one thing that I was surprised was that 'I was rude/impatient' from a particular student, so I learned what I had to control. Be it my saccharine tone or liberal attitude or my impatience, it needs to be offered only in moderation.

I didn't watch too many movies, probably because I found a lot of company to talk to. But I did watch Hrishikesh Mukherjee's two classics, Khoobsurat and Chupke Chupke, thanks to Kumar. I watched Sivaji, in a movie hall, and at home I saw Flavors, and a few other ones that I don't remeber at this point in time. I prefer watching TV, now that lot of India channels are up on the net for free. Also, I tried to build my music collection and I felt happy doing so.

Also my work at the administrative office in the university was of great relief from the stress and boredom :)

Overall, not a bad summer!

Jul 15, 2007

Help Vinay!

The bone marrow drive for Vinay was held at Chandler temple on Ray Road today. I went and gave the sample and registered. I really felt happy doing so. It doesn't hurt to do this. After all, it is spending some time and giving a few samples of saliva. The collection does not even take a minute.

After all there are 1 in 20,000 matches for South Asian and you could be the one to save a life.

My friend Suchindra informed me of this and I felt I would go if there was a drive in PHoenix and luckily there was one.

More information on http://www.helpvinay.org/dp/index.php and http://www.helpvinay.org/dp/index.php?q=node/252

Jul 9, 2007

Uppu Kallu - Ode to mother

One of those songs that stir back old memories in you. Apparently sung by a girl in remembrance of her mother, while she sees this particular guy. The song is in Karupasamy Kuthagaidhaarar, no idea what the title means. But it is composed by Dhina, and sung by Bombay Jayshree. A really sweet song. Love every bit of it and brings back good old memories of my childhood etc. don't know why.

The song's link is http://www.musicindiaonline.com/p/x/pWOg8T0e3d.As1NMvHdW/

A not so good-quality video at http://youtube.com/watch?v=2LRbtuCImvI

Jul 6, 2007

Bore and Boredom !!!!

Boredom is something that I hate. One of the worst punishments that I can get.

My main aim in life, research gets boring at times. Teaching gets boring most of the time. Chatting, Orkut are no cure to boredom. They can bore you to no end. Movies, TV - there is a limit to it too. Sleeping - oh no! not all the time..... Music - an okay cure to it..... Cooking - fine if things are going good on the stove and microwave, but at times it can be the most boring thing to do.....

The best thing for me is to TALK TALK and TALK..... either in person or over the phone.... But pity the person who has to bear the brunt of my chatter. It has increased over the years and I need to control it and my outspoken nature. They have often landed me in trouble.

One thing I need to do is to go out and play and get some exercise. I am sure this will balance everything out!

Jul 5, 2007

My fav movies - I

A list of my all-time favorite movies - a lot of them the usual typical movies. This is the part 1 and will mainly have Tamil movies as emphasis and the post-2000 ones. It was post-2000 that I began watching movies, thanks to the 4 month long break after my II PU (12th class). It would also make sense if I would say that action movies do not feature on the list unless they have been too entertaining. Give me a movie with good looking people, good songs and no unexpected twists and turns(it shouldn't tense me) and no unnecessary fights, I can sit and watch it forever and ever and ever........... Another option, have a movie with a lot of action and fights, but let that be the only premise.

Alaipayuthey - The first movie I saw within 2 weeks of release, and the concept of a simple weddind makes a lot of sense to me. Love the really light-hearted romance between Karthik and Shakthi. Would have watched it a zillion times now, that I know the dialogs...... Snehidhane - my all time favorite song and every other song in the movie is something that's on all my playlists. Mani's magic worked.....

Kandukonden Kandukonden - One of the really colorful movies in all times, and a good showcase for all the actors to exhibit their skills. ARR was in great form, and so were the singers....... An album to cherish, and a DVD to treasure.....

Mitr -my friend - Revathy Menon's directorial debut made a lot of sense to me seeing the craving of a Indian housewife in the US, who cared for her workaholic husband and an 'ABCD' daughter. Really good movie.....

Mudhalvan - Shankar at his best, Arjun in great form, Manisha at her best after a long time, and ARR as usual rocking...... though unrealistic made me crave for a CM like him, plus a good romance between Arjun and Manisha was a big plus.

Kakka Kakka - Perhaps one of the few Jyothika movies on this list, I watched the movie just for the lead pair and was satisfied by the really mature and dignified romance between the two. Plus fast-paced stories are okay to me, if they seem realistic. HJ had really good songs in this one.

Mouna Raagam - Perhaps the only 80's movie in my list. I love the Karthik's flashback in the movie and Revathy's mischief in the movie. Plus songs by the Maestro were too good.

Mozhi - A clean entertainer with a feel-good theme, and good acting by the lead artistes.....

Kanda Naal Mudhal - A treasure to the Tamil film industry, a fun movie without a dull moment, and one of the really good movies of Laila. Good songs by YSR.

Rhythm - One of those sloooooowwwwwwww movies, but was really effective in bringing to life the 5 elements of nature in the 5 songs..... Good acting by Meena and Arjun, and a clean entertainer....

Anbe Sivam - Kamal's magic worked big time in this movie, and this movie makes me think about so many thing everytime I watch it. One of the treasured ones for me.....

It was just 10 movies in here. Will come up with many more blogs on this one..........

Jul 1, 2007

Sivaji Thiruvizha at Tempe

Having been in the sleepy town of Tempe for close to two years, I have heard of a few carnivals, and event that have had record number of participants. I have seen classical music concerts that have attracted lot of Indian crows, say 200-250. I have seen movies like Vettaiyadu Vilayadu attracting a huge crowd to the theater in such number that, extra chairs had to be put behind the existing seat and I was sitting in the first row. The crowd was all calm and composed except when Kamal appeared on screen for the first time. But this time it was different and had to be different.

Rajinikanth, the hero of the masses and classes had his second release in two years and it meant the union of the celebrated director Shankar, music wizard ARR and this great actor. So there was no shortage of hype at all. Any movie-based site, news-based site had atleast one article on the movie everyday. The advance booking begun a while ago and the tickets for a month were sold out in India on the first day itself.

Here in Tempe, the movie was getting released on the same day as the rest of the world, except for the time difference. Dilip got the tickets for this one, almost four weeks in advance. And I saw that the tickects were all sold out 3-4 days before the movie itself, something that rarely happens here. I expected to see a big Indian, Tamil crowd at the theater.

What I saw was definitely a lot of Tamil people and a equal number of non-Tamil people. The name Rajini is just magic to attract people to the theater. The parking lot was full, at 8:15 pm itself, even though the movie begins at 9:30 pm. All the cars had their speakers blare out Athiradee, Ballelakka and other songs from the movie. The serpentine queue to get into the theater to catch the seats never seemed to get smaller. It was a reunion for a lot of friends who least expected to see their friends at this event. For a few of them, it was a reunion after a couple of years. A big crowd of people without the tickets went back home dissappointed.

The students group from Tucson, came in with special shirts for the occasion and took the first row of seats. The theater was full at 9 pm itself. Sivaji songs along with songs from Shankar's other movies were played. There were long trains of people that went around the theater hall. It was indeed fun to watch the same excitement as in any theater in India.

The trailer for 'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom' was played and none of us wanted to see it and all of us juse wanted to see Rajini. Next came the trailer of the animation film on Rajini 'Sultan', which was enough to stir us up. Next came the AVM logo and then Superstar Rajini logo, which was entirely new and drew whistles and claps in great numbers.

Flowers are not that widely available in Tempe, but that didn't prove to be a problem to the fans. Shredded bits of paper did the job, and it was only those bits of paper in the air for the first 10-15 minutes, and every time when Rajini had something really stylish to offer.

There was no dearth of whistles, claps, laughter throughout the movie. And that's entertainment too. The crowd onscreen was entertaining and the crowd offscreen was entertaining to the same extent too. It was indeed a fun filled outing. I doubt if this is going to happen again. It is something that happens once in a lifetime.... a lifetime of Rajini's film.

In short, it was a Thiruvizha with lots of people, flowers, praises etc. The only thing missing was a Rajini cut-out. Is that too much to ask for?