I am the alpha and the omega
September 28, 2005
Freeman's Rule
Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.

Sea World

Ever since I watched the first dolphins and whales performing on the Discovery Channel, I had always wanted to see them for real, with my own eyes. I wanted to touch the dolphins, feel the splash of the orcas, dance with the flamingoes and talk with the sea lions.

Opportunity knocked on my door when I got a chance to visit Sea World at San Antonio. Twice.

A few highlights. Since not everything can be highlighted. I am splitting it into two parts - the animal displays and the three main shows.

  • The dolphin pool: A huge pool where dolphins swim by, and during feeding time, you feed them fishes and they return the favor by allowing you to touch them. The experience, well, is one of a kind.

    One of the bottle-nosed dolphins there, ready to get more food. It is insatiable.

    For a fee (two fishes), the dolphins will even perform acrobatics for you (Jus' kidding).

  • The aviary: This sea world has an aviary full of colorful lorikeets (mainly red and rainbow). (What are lorikeets?) And again, during feeding time, they let you into the cage with a small cup of nectar which these delightful birds relish. And if you are patient and lucky enough (both are essential components), one of them will get attracted towards you and starts sipping the nectar. If conditions are really auspicious, two of them will start fighting for it, as in my case.

    Click on the images to go to my Flickr pages.

    The red lorikeet was actually on the shoulder of the lady in front. And it jumped onto my arm. After having its fill, it migrated to my shoulder and vociferously started whispering sweet nothings into my ear for about a couple of minutes. (Man, are they loud.)
    It was quite difficult taking this photographs, as I had the camera in one hand, and a bird in the other, and I had no idea what I was shooting. I did try a shot of the lorikeet sitting on my shoulder, but I ended up focusing somewhere else.
    Among the rainbow lorikeets (which refused to get onto my hand), the one in the front started fighting with the other one for my nectar. It also tried to grab that small cup; the resulting tug-o-war that ensued caused my cup to get crushed and all the nectar spilling away.

  • The flamingo pool: This is where the tall walking ladies reside, mostly elegant pink flamingoes, some scarlet ibises, a few mallards and some ducks.

    The grandeurness of the adult pink flamingo (the greater flamingo). The slightly grey one in the is still a young one.

  • The sea lion pool: Adjoining the theatre for the sea lion show, there is this huge pool where a lot of types of sea lions. And during feeding times, they CAN shout. Some really attract the best attention by splashing water with their flippers. Others just bellow. It is quite an interesting experience, though.

    A couple of the more demure sea lions pose for me at the tank.

To be continued....

Posted by satosphere at 6:35 PM

September 21, 2005
Freddie's Laws of Biomechanics
The severity of the itch is directly proportional to:
* The number of persons in the group you are with.
* The distance you must reach to scratch it.
* The more embarrassing the place that must be scratched.

Hurricane Rita

Who would expect a Category 5 Hurricane to hit the dry land of Texas.
But it is.
Hurricane Rita, the 17th Hurricane in the Atlantic region, is now one of the most fiercest one; more than Hurricane Katrina which wreaked havoc into the heart of New Orleans and Louisiana.
Now, Rita is said to strike terror into the (eastern) heart of Texas. (Thats where I am)

Look at the projected path here, and for orientation, this is how Texas looks like.

Austin is in the periphery of the path of the hurricane. It is said to affect the coastal areas near Galveston and Houston the most.

Should I be excited.
I am not. I am scared.
I dont see any signs warning people here. Nobody telling us what to do if Rita changes its mind and rushes towards the capital of Texas. No plans for emergency.

In other words, life seems to be as lackadaisical as before.

But hopefully nothing bad should happen.

I never expected a hurricane to graze Austin.

UPDATE: More information here @ New York Times.

UPDATE 2: The hurricane has weakened in intensity, and veered off to the east. There is only a 40% chance of rain in Austin now.
Dug up some old photos of New York. Head over to Flickr to see them.

FINAL UPDATE: No storm. No hurricane. No rain.
Clear balmy skies. Sunny day. No rain. No rain forecasted.
And the college closed for no reason at all!.

Posted by satosphere at 3:52 PM

September 18, 2005
Franklin's Rule
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.

People who keep their computers messy

I made this quaint little observation.
The number of icons on the desktop of a computer is directly proportional to how disorganized a person is.

Crowded desktops. Hate these a lot.

I have seen this myself, in many people.
I have seen desktops with about 80 icons on the desktop. Shortcuts, folders containing shortcuts, setup files, downloaded files (I blame firefox for saving all files in desktop by default, and I blame the people who still havent realized that.), word documents, photos, images and what nots.

And this is clearly reflected in their "organization". They tend to keep things lying around everywhere. And they lie "everywhere" until somebody tells them to move it away.
And then search for some item they have been missing for the one week, just because they did not care to keep them in their correct places. Just like how they maintain their computers.

For Windows, ideally, the only icons that should be present are My Computer and the Recycle bin. Thats the case with me. (Of course, I have a nifty multimedia keyboard that has programmable keys for launching all applications and opening folders.) But even then, I would keep away all files in their correct places. So much so that I know where each and every file have I are kept, neatly classified.

(One of the better reasons I like Windows - I can specify where everything is installed, unlike the Tux.)

And in real life too, I like to keep things organized, so that I would be able to find them in a jiffy, rather than hunting around at the last minute in a mound of stuff.

Posted by satosphere at 9:35 PM

September 11, 2005
Fowler's Law
In a bureaucracy, accomplishment is inversely proportional to the volume of paper used.


A burning plane. A gaping hole. Mid-air. You jump. And fall. Fall Endlessly.
The stuff that dreams, rather nitemares, are made off.

And for once, at a very hefty price, I got to experience what it really means to fall endlessly. For 1 minute. From 15000 ft.

It all started with one lazy person in the intern's group at nvidia advertising that his room-mate who skydives regularly wanted to invite people for tandem jump at Adventure Skydiving Inc. I, at that time, seeking a lot of thrills, signed up immediately. And on that fateless day, with a warm weather to assist, myself and my friend proceeded to drive to the skydiving place.

After the necessary preparations (the legal stuff and 50 signatures), I was geared up and instructed on what to do, as soon as I jump off. But all that is of course useless; you will understand why when you continue reading this.

And then we got on to the rickety plane, of which I was more afraid than the skydiving itself. And, it ascended, and reached the requisite 15000 ft, high above all the surrounding hills. The doors opened. And I started walking towards the opening, with the instructor strapped to my back. And looked down.
Looked at mother earth 15000 ft below.
And a small question popped into my head - whether I need to do this? But that was instantly quelled by the other half of my brain, seeking more adventure.
So I took that gratifying step. Out of the comfort of the plane, into thin air.

The moment as I stepped off the plane, with the instructor in my back.

And started tumbling.
And lost orientation. And my mind was a complete blank. All those instructions given just an hour earlier hidind deep behind the folds of my brain. Refusing to come out.
For the first 10 seconds.
Then reflexes took over. And soon settled into a smooth freefall - at 120 mph (190 kmph). That was probably the longest minute of my life.

The smooth freefall. This is how earth looks when you freefall. No rushing earth, tumulting stomach or anything. Much like what you would see in Google Earth.

After freefalling 10000 ft, the parachute opens, resulting in a sudden mid-air brake.
And then you slowly glide to earth. The instructor was kind enuf to give me controls of the parachute for some time. So for about a minute, I turned, twisted and rotated until I found it too tiring (the controls are really tight). And after about 5 minutes, I gently landed on the golden earth.

A standing stop. Just as I kept my foot on the ground.

And that, followed by a lovely lunch at Saravana Bhavan ended one of my most fun days.

Warning: SKYDIVING IS NOT FOR THOSE WITH HIGH ALTITUDE PROBLEMS. Like me - my ears started paining a lot at that altitute.

Posted by satosphere at 11:47 AM

September 03, 2005
Forthoffer's Cynical Summary of Barzun's Laws
1. That which has not yet been taught directly can never be taught directly.
2. If at first you don't succeed, you will never succeed.

I apologize for the length of this post, but words dont do enough justice to this experience; neither do pictures. Links in italics go to pics. There are about 4 of them.

The Pure Amtrak Experience - The California Zephyr

  1. A bountiful breakfast in the beautiful mountains.
  2. A lavish lunch among lush green farms.
  3. A delicious dinner through deep 'n dark forests.

Pretty much sums what Amtrak is all about. (For the ignorant, Amtrak is the government-run rail service in USA, much like the IR, but far less popular, and far more expensive).

Perhaps the reason I chose to undertake the journey across the country from San Francisco (remember the Golden Gate?) to Chicago (remember Sears Tower) on Amtrak. I was not travelling alone; my room-mate who is as enthusuastic about trains as me also joined along.
And for three days, I chose to forget time and to enjoy the scenery, wilderness, and the amazing feeling of being in the middle-of-nowhere. They add quite a real "down-to-earth" feeling while getting from one place to another.
Amtrak describes this ride as follows:
Experienced travellers say it's the most beautiful train trip in all of North America... and as you climb to the sky through the heart of the Rocky Mountains - and further west, the Sierra Nevadas - you'll find it hard to disagree. Certainly, it's the most comfortable way to travel between Chicago and the great cities of the West. But as you twist past the narrow canyons and towering peaks of the Rockies, following the Colorado River through a breathtakingly beautiful mountain wilderness - and climb through the famous mile-high Donner Pass in the heart of the Sierra Nevadas - you won’t be thinking about where you’re going. You'll be thinking of how glad you are that you took the California Zephyr to get here.

Natural beauty so spectacular it takes your breath away - on a dazzling ride that touches the sky!
I probably cannot put it in any other better way.
Much like the IR, Amtrak is always late, atleast on this route. This train was no exception. It arrived half hour late. And departad one hour late. Here is the P42 Genesis Engine 140 which pulled us till Omaha Nebraska, cutting short the 2400 mile journey to just about 1900 miles; due to some track maintenance work, I had to undergo an 8 hour bus journey. We got a nice roomette accomodation, comfortable for 2 people and providing us first class services on the train.

As you speed though some of the most beautiful cities, tunnel through towering mountains, tease rivers by hugging their steep canyon cliffs, cross spectacular bridgers and race through uninhabited deserts in the "middle of nowhere", you get the feeling that this is probably the best way to travel; for more than half the journey is through mountains, and you get to see some really spectacular scenery as the train curves and twists to gain elevation, and then rapidly descends to go along the rivers and canyons and deserts that time forgot, seeing the countryside as God intended it to be.

Add this with good food and great companions, veteran travellers who narrate some quite interesting stories all make up for a complete experience. Well worth the $300 experience; every cent more valuable than every mile I travel on an impersonal, business-like and cramped airplane.


Posted by satosphere at 11:21 PM


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