I am the alpha and the omega
December 29, 2004
First Law of Debate
Never argue with a fool. People might not know the difference.

North-East USA Trip - II

Baltimore - Your Experience Starts Here

While the capital of Maryland does sound interesting to the average traveller, be warned - the cold does not. Its location at the head of the Chesapeake bay certainly does not help it get warm weather. During winter atleast. It certainly freezed my arm the minute I tried to take a couple of snaps. Without gloves, my hands would have had to be amputated within 5 minutes of exposure.

But certainly that does not deter me, the more than average tourister. Two train rides from my place in the usually empty MARC Commuter trains followed by the slower-than-the-average-tram Light Rail of Baltimore landed me near the harbor of Baltimore, its downtown business district and main tourist attraction center.

Click for a bigger picture
The main harbor looking into the bay. The aquaruim is seen in the center.

The main attraction is, of course, the aquarium in the picture above.Its certainly its moneys worth. And is probably the biggest attraction there yet, and if you include the dolphin show, which runs packed nowadays, nothing can beat it.

From the hot tropical waters, to the sweaty marshes, to the humid rainforest, to the frozen wastes of the tundra, to the mysterious depths of the oceans and barren wastes of the sea, it has everything. I wouldnt do justice to it, if I put pictures of it. I would rather, if you get the chance to be somewhere in Northeast USA, to go pay a visit this aquarium. Be prepared to spend a whole day in it.

Apart from the scores of aquatic life expected of an aquarium, vis a visthe regular tanks, a huge pool of rays, sharks, it also has an amazing tropical rainforest and the big dolphin pool, where the dolphin show is being conducted.

Two of the many dolphins there, making faces at the audience.

The arctic tundra exhibit showcased the Puffins, a mysterious flying bird which you would feel that it escaped from a circus a long time before evolution had its effect.

Here ye, Here ye.Meet the puffins - at the Baltimore Aquarium.

Did I mention marshes and everything. Well, here it is through a fish's eye. Of course, a fish can't see in color, but since you all can. I AM putting in color.

An aquatic marsh, from below the water.

Of course, the rainforest which I mentioned above.

Two tropical birds in a large greenhouse at the top of the aquarium.

What else is there, you ask? There is lot more to see - the downtown district is pretty vibrant, and you can just take a nice stroll around the place, enjoying it during the summer and winter holidays alike.

Santa's place - a beautifully decorated place serving snacks, right on the harbor.

And if you are interested enough, with loads of cash, you can of course take the Acela, the American Equivalent of the TGV to get to New York or Washington.

The Acela express, waiting at the Union Station in DC.

Coming up next : The Smithsonian museum of Natural History, uh... after I have finished seeing it completely.

Posted by satosphere at 9:55 PM

December 28, 2004
Dean's Law of the District of Columbia
Washington is a much better place if you are asking questions rather than answering them.

North-East USA Trip - II

The above law seems appropriately titled for what I am going to experience. Coincidence, I guess.

Thursday to Sunday of the last week was spent in going to and being in Detroit, about 500 miles from where I was currently. Given me, I would have rather flown to that place. But not my uncle - he prefers to drive there, even though it takes 9 hours. Last year, they had actually driven all the way to Grand Canyon from Maryland. Thats way away.

I spent the time navigating - figuring out which exit to take, and then finally going to my uncles place. Quite a maze. Its easy to get lost without a map, I would say. And if you miss an exit, the next one is about 30 miles away, and its no easy task to go back again.

On the way, went to the SV Temple at PittsBurgh. Having managed to reach in time, just before closing, I got a view of Balaji, a replica of the one in TTD.

A total of nine hours of drive, through the states of Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, I was in Detroit, amidst the bountiful and beautiful snow which I was seeing for the first time. Luckily, the roads had been properly salted allowing snow to melt more easily and driving conditions safer. It was too late to do anything at that time, apart from a cool nap.

12 hours later was when I took this snap below, from the balcony of the apartment. The amount of snow just amazed me. In all its crystalline niceties, it was really pretty, cold and icy.

Snow rite in the balcony, and the open grounds beyond

Later on on the day, went to the Henry Ford museum.

The Henry Ford museum - Americas Greatest History Attraction

You must apologise me for that picture. This was the best I could get with a near 0 Centigrade weather and wearing thick gloves and bad lighting.
What I had expected more was lots of cars and details about car manufacturing. What I had got in return for the 13$ I had paid was a window into history. Too much history, in fact. So much so, that after a three hour walk of the place, I had just finished half of the museum. And my back started paining from carrying a big tripod all the way around. The museum closes at five, and I decently voluteered to leave it, rather than be kicked out.

Just kidding.

Atleast this massive 2-8-0 Consolidation with a huge Ice-Breaker attached in front (thanx to British Columbia Railway) seems to know its way around history.

A huge Ice breaker and the Consolidation.

Next day, my desire for skiing and my firm insistence on it, helped me go to the Pine Knob Ski Resort. Even though I wasnt prepared for it at all - no cold weather clothes, no ice jackets, no thermal wear. Nothing. Apart from my big eskimo jacket purchase 4 months ago in Austin. Luckily the rental there had everything, including a ski instructor who taught us the basics for one hour. And then we were on our own.

The Pine Knob Ski resort. I skiid on the beginners hill in the right.

Skiing, as seen on TV, is much more difficult than it looks. Firstly, it is very difficult to move. Imagine having 3 foot long feet, and trying to move, when every feet you move forward, you move two backward, if the feet are not angled properly; all the while trying to make sure that the feet do not cross over one another. Once you reach the top, or in my case, climb for 20 metres, you ski downhill, hoping that the skis dont behave like drunkards, each trying to go its own sober way, and finally trying to stop when you are moving at 20 miles per hour, with nothing to hold on to. All in a biting cold of around 0 centigrade, resulting in a constant leakage of brain fluid (as Calvin from puts it). And all the while praying that you dont fall down, because if you do, its very difficult to get up to.

Still, its amazing fun, and a good work out too. But make sure that you do tone your leg muscles before going, otherwise you mite end up having an excruciatingly painful nite that nite. Thank God I didnt.

Skiing requires a lot of practice. The balancing part is very difficult. Its like learning to cycle all over again.
I hope to do it again sometime soon, if it ever snows somewhere near Austin. Unlikely though.

Posted by satosphere at 10:25 PM

December 27, 2004
Dean Martin's Definition of Drunkenness
You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.

North-East USA Trip - I

Well, after titling it appropriately, so that everybody can know what I am trying to approach it, let me proceed on with what I was trying to proceed on - my trip to North Easternn USA - mainly Maryland, DC, NYC and Detroit - this being the first part of the many that I will be posting.

Lot of pics included.

First - my trip. After having left the warm confines of my home at Austin, and lugging along a 35 pound (thats 16kgs for you) suitcase and a fully filled backpack through 2 free bus-rides to the airport, I reached the ABIA. Unfortunately, having wrongly predicted that the security check would be too long, and then proven wrong, the resultant long wait for departure proved a bit boring. Fortunately, time passed by with The Golden Rendezvous. A short 40 minute bumpy ride landed me at the IAH.

The futuristic Houston Airport - a eerie blue dome of some sort to represent the sky

Another planning mistake made 2 months ago in order to save money resulted in another 2 hour wait, the time happily spent in snapping more snaps, and reading more words in that suspense filled book mentioned above in passing.
Soon, I was on the four hour journey to BWI. The only thing that made the journey difficult was that, after having had NOTHING from noon (when I had had delicious pasta mentioned in the previous post), the only thing offered on the aircraft was small snacks - thats common in all american aircraft - another cost-saving technique they use. What made it more pathetic was when the hostess came and asked what sandwich I want - turkey or ham. C'mon people, I am a vegetarian (an ovo-vegetarian, in any case). And my answer of neither took her by surprise, I must say. Finally, I just had chips and coffee.

Arriving at 11:10pm local time in Baltimore - I had luckily remembered to shift my watch time 1 hour forward (my mobile does it automatically) - the agonizing wait for the baggage followed. After a REALLY long wait, made more confusing by the arrival of baggages of 3 flites on the same carousel, I finally got a my suitcase, an odd-man out among others. I was picked up by my uncle, and an hours drive on an interstate, I was at home. Feeling tired, I had a small dinner, and went off to sleep.

No snow yet. Not cold enough, apparently. No white Christmas in the Tri-state area here.

The next day, after a lazy morning, I went to a local mall - the Lakeforest mall. An hour of window shopping later left me feeling with mixed feelings. Not that I do not enjoy shopping, but I am not a window shopper. The Christmas Decorations there (remember, its still the 22nd of December at this point) took me by awe. Nice ones, really.

A fully decorated tree with Santa at the bottom for the kids.

The end of the day was spent in studying the maps for a long 9 hour road-trip to Detroit, where another of my uncles is there. Atleast, I was happy that there was a heavy snowfall going on.

To be continued...

I deeply mourn for all the victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami disaster that has hit South East Asia, and more importantly the East coast of the Indain Subcontinent.
Thousands of lives have been lost, and many more bodies washed out to sea, and yet to be found. The humanitarian scale of the disaster is just too much. Help as much as you all can. I know I will.

Posted by satosphere at 1:15 PM

December 20, 2004
Deadline-Dan's Demo Demonstration
The higher the ``higher-ups'' are who've come to see your demo, the lower your chances are of giving a successful one.

One of those posts where I am not going to post any pics - reason being that I could not upload them anywhere. :D

But there are three important things to tell you, I think three.

Let me see how it goes.

First - I have been experimenting with a lot of cooking these days. Whenever I find time, and I do not want to sleep. Apart from the Paneer butter masala and Chole masala mentioned before, I also managed Mushroom Pulao, as well as a different way of making Pasta (to be culinarily correct - Penne Rigate) without the Pasta sauce. With a dash of pepper, salsa sauce, green chillies, soy sauce, and a generous dose of ghee (there goes the one hour effort I put at the gym), it tasted amazingly well. Previous preparations used to be with Pasta sauce that made it taste a bit tomatoish (if you eat a lot of tomatoes, then you probably will NOT know it!!!)

I realized that cooking correctly is all about proportions, know what to add when and how much of it. And that, unfortunately, comes about by practise only.
I remember, when my mom used to teach me cooking, I always asked how to know how much to put - she always replied, I just know it. Well, now I know too. For example, most of the cookbooks and recipes that you may find straggling on the net, always mention that
Add salt to taste.

Ever wondered what that meant? Not me, the first time, only by practise, and some minor cooking disasters did I arrive at the correct "formulae" for the amount of salt - And that varies from person to person.
And it comes about by practise only - nothing hereditary, or nothing that is passed by word of mouth.

I guess living on your own has its advantages - You discover the chef in you.

Second point - X'mas Decorations.
People here seem to put a lot of effort into Christmas decorations. For them, Christmas is like what Diwali is to us, perhaps much more.
I was recently on a stroll of a street quite close to my apartment, in the nite, I was amazed to see so many decorations and lighting being put up. So much so that there was a huge que of cars, and an even larger rush of people that would put Shopping malls to shame. One particular que to view a beautifully decorated house stretched beyond the block, I wanted to see it, but time did not permit it.
I did get a few shots, but I am sure they would not do justice to that place. That place and many more.

I am going on a short 15 day trip to my uncle's place in Maryland, actually a suburb of DC. Leaving tomorrow at noon, and will be back in Austin on the 6th. Hoping to see DC fully and also make a trip to the Big Apple. I think I will also be able to go to Detroit for a couple of days, weather permitting.
Some of the things that I hope to do:
- Learn driving enough to get a license here.
- Get a good tripod to take better shots.
- Have my first hand at skiing.
- See snow for the first time.
- Enjoy Christmas and New Year.

Good bye. And happy holidays to all you.


Posted by satosphere at 10:14 PM

December 17, 2004
Dawson's Rules of Superior Inferiority
1. Don't let your superiors know that your are better than they are.
2. You never know who's right but you always know who's in charge.

I am just frustrated now. I spent an hour typing a really nice post, and before I could click on Publish Post at the bottom, I did some vague keyboard combination, and before I knew it, I was staring at the dashboard, and my post all but disappeared.

Neways, I think this is the gist of what I was typing.

My trip to the Capitol

The Austin State Capitol is the largest State Capitol building in USA - bigger than the one in Washington.
And considerably less busier. ;)

History about the Capitol is given here. I am not conducting a history lesson over here, nor do I have any intention to. But all I know is that a lot of restoration has gone into making what what the building is as of now.

The Capitol building is the administrative seat in the capital of Texas. (The business capital is, of course, Houston). It houses the house of Representatives and the House of Senate.

First, go to my yahoo photos at http://photos.yahoo.com/sathishcj/ and navigate to the Capitol folder. (The other folder collexions are incomplete as of yet.

From outside, the Capitol looks like a perfect replica of the National Capitol building, sans the pure white of it. This is more dull cream in color. And is surrounded by a nice grassy wooded (an oxymoron here?) lawn dotted with a lot of statues of famous persons which I have no necessity to know.

Surprisingly, inspite of its official status, most of the areas is open to visitors. Including the House of Representatives and the House of Senate. The inside is dominated by the great hall under the dome, and the four levels in the building. The two Houses are located at the second level, on the opposite sides of each other. The third level has the visitor's gallery for these two Houses (where visitors, mostly press, are permitted during meetings.

For the Holidays, the House of Representatives has been decorated with a very nice Xmas tree. Apart from it, the entrance to the Capitol Grounds had a bigger tree.

Given below are 7 best images of the 73 given there. The best at the last.

A quite majestic pose, against the backdrop of the Capitol - of the Texas Pioneer Woman (Thats what it says)

A group of flowers against the backdrop of the Capitol. What was amazing is that the camera managed to lock on correctly to the flowers, inspite of using the full zoom.

An inner view of the inside of the dome, from the second level. The lighting is just amazing in this.

The inside of the dome. Notice the symmetry in this. If you squint, you can make out the letters T E X A S around that star.

A small flower, against the mighty Capitol - that was what I tried to achieve.

The top of the Capitol, beautifully lighted in the nite. It came out a bit skewed, but it was a difficult shot, given the 1 second exposure that I had to use. I had to sit and take this photo.

My best yet. The detail level is just amazing. And the light reflecting of the star adds the icing on the cake.

Posted by satosphere at 3:03 PM

December 14, 2004
Davis's Basic Law of Medicine
Pills to be taken in twos always come out of the bottle in threes.

And then there is Christmas.

The season of joy.
The season of giving.
The season of recieving.

The season where everybody decks up their house more beautifully that in a traditional Karthigai Deepam.

So I as I keep going around the freezing neighbourhood, I try to capture the glimpses of warm light, and then successfully capture that dark image into my camera; hopefully without shaking much.

Here is a shot of the Delta Tau Delta interfraternity organization, very beautifully decked up, with a very nice Christmas Tree, which was in a quite inaccessible place.

The Delta Tau Delta interfraternity house - very nice arrangement of lights.

The same place at another angle.

The side of the place.

This was a very nicely decked up residential place - amazing lights, which I couldnt get, and then this.

A very nice house, and a small projector showing that Seasons greetings.

Moving to more homely matters.
All the three of my room-mates have laptops.
The same laptops, that too. No difference among them. I dunno how they are going to differentiate between them.
When I walked into the room a couple of days back, I saw all three of them with the laptop, and I couldnt resist this shot.

Three laptops.
One person listening to music.
Second person left.
Third person installing Fedora Linux.

Just to prove how rich we are :P.

And I will leave you with this

Mirch Masala. What more can I say?

P.S : If the snaps dont look sharp, its because I used a different image resizing program.

Posted by satosphere at 4:33 PM

December 11, 2004
Davidson's Maxim
Democracy is that form of government where everybody gets what the majority deserves.

Thank you for all your wishes for the exams, and sharing my sleep deprivation with me.

All that is over now, and is now in the past, and I am running like the wind, or as fast as the wind can carry me, into the future.
Christmas, and New Year. Here I come.

The weather has definitely been better for the past week - it has been a mild 20 C, with a few showers now and then, making late nite (or too early for the next day) walks at 3 am seemingly much less painful. No snow yet. It never snows in Austin, atleast during December. Thats what I am told. This mild weather seems to have produced a sort of spring bloom in the apartment garden - check Misc Shots at my yahoo photos.
There are also some shots of the Capitol and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

I also went to Ocean's Twelve with some of my friends yesterday.
First day, first show at that.
And while I haven't seen Ocean's Eleven, I must say that the second half of the movie was a bit painful to watch. It was just a visual collage of images, haphazardly put to depict a motion picture. I wish it could have been done better. Hoping to see Ocean's Eleven today.

Christmas is approaching. People have started decorating houses - some of them are quite amazing. Over the next few days, I plan to get lots of shots of these and put them up here. So wait on.

Meanwhile here are some more shots (9 actually) I got from last week, while I was busy doing the project and trying not to sleep.

Delicious Gobi Mutter Curry - thanx to recipe books brought from India.

One half of the class I am TAing - on a busy day.

The freezer during one of the busy nites - one of the nites that I did not sleep.
The computer with the blue desktop on the bottom left was where I was sitting.

The Gregory Gymnasium - which I occasionally visit.
It was very poorly lit at that time, and I had to take a 3 second exposure - thats why its so blurry.

The Main UT Tower (37 floors high) Lit Red and showing 04 signifying the graduation ceremony last Saturday.
This too had a longer exposure - so its blurry.

Another angle of the UT Tower - this too is blurry for the same reason.
It was a very long exposure - notice that the streetlights are green and the black sky is magenta.

JC Penny - a mega department store - and Christmas trees at that place.

Another Christmas tree there. Nicely decorated.

I guess I am obsessed with this shot.
This is the third in the series, with the longest exposure that I have used = 4 seconds.

Posted by satosphere at 3:14 PM

December 04, 2004
Dave's Rule of Street Survival
Speak softly and own a big, mean Doberman.

48 hours without sleep.
24 hours without food.

I am not living in a desert with no food, no water and no sleep.

It is what grad school can do to you.
Especially at the end of the semester.

This saga started on the morning of Wednesday. When I realised I had a lot to do before the project submission on Friday at 5 pm.
So the full nite out on Wednesday nite, and did a lot of work. But not enough.
And I could not sleep on the day of Thursday as had a 3 hour of TA session, spread over the day as 3 one hour sessions.

The lack of sleep on Wednesday nite also caused a really funny situation. There was this class at 11 am on Thursday. I went to the class. Was half asleep and half listening. Suddenly I opened my eyes to find the entire class empty, the professor packing her laptop and waking me up. And for a moment, I was wondering what was happening. Then I sheepishly apologised to the prof and explained that I didnt get enough sleep.

The worst is yet to come.

I continued working on Thursday nite, running hour long simulations and writing the report at the same time. It continued till 8 am on Friday morning. And I couldnt stay awake anymore. I had reached my concentration limit. So I just left for home. I hoped to catch an hour nap and then go back to work on it more and then do TA work starting at 2 pm. And with that end, I kept 4 alarms staggered by 5 minutes each for 9:30 am.

All I remember next is a call from my friend who seemed to be very frantically looking for me. And he said that he had submitted his project. I asked him why he did it so early. The reply he gave that it was half hour to 5 gave me the shock of my life. I saw my mobile - it had 20 missed calls. And 3 were from the prof of the course of which I am the TA.

I called up the professor and explained that I could not come in early. And I apologised profusely that I had not slept for 2 days. He, thankfully, accepted it and asked me to come and suprevise the closing of the lab. Which I did.

I then called up my project partners (whose calls amounted to 15 of the 19 missed calls), who said that they did most of the work and had managed to submit it.
And only at that time did I encounter relief.

And only after reaching home, did I have dinner - at 8 pm. 24 hours after Thursday's dinner.

Things did work out well at the end. But I still feel guilty about it. Something that I will not forget for a while.

Moral of the story: If you want to work a lot, make sure that you sleep only two hours a day - dont avoid sleep altogether.

To culminate the wonderful end of Fall '04 classes, I went around to the LANCAVE and played Halo for an hour and a half.
Followed by Half life 2 for an hour. (10$ usefully wasted)

And then went around clicking photos with my camera.

And I am in love with it.

Posted by satosphere at 1:44 AM

December 02, 2004
Dave's Law of Advice
Those with the best advice offer no advice.

Here are some of my experiments with my camera.

First up, is what is the same road as in the previous post, but with a longer exposure, so that I get the blurs in the red and yellow car lights. Not quite as expected. As my hands were jittery in the cold.

Dean Keaton at 8 pm. A Route 100 - Airport Flyer is seen at bottom right waiting.

I never expected Christmas Lights to be put up so early. A bit of a surprise for me to see this wonderfully lighted house.

A beautifully lighted house.

I spent over ten minutes trying to get the shot rite, as it was low lite condition, and I wanted to manually control the settings in the camera. The only requirement was a steady hand that I didnt have.

Over the many attempts at getting a good shot, this was one. Had a bit of a shake.

Shakey snap.

Posted by satosphere at 5:36 AM


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