A Mixed Bag – A bit of everything under the sun

Archive for October 2008

I wanted to post a quiz about US Trivia. Instead of plain html, i found a way to do this using flash.

But wordpress wouldn’t allow me to embed it here. So i have done it on my other blog:

How well do you know the US?

Do take part and give me your feedback. It’s created by me and not an external link. It’s short and fun.

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The journey on the road yonder

Nature is beautiful as is, but it is only in fall that there is a competition even among its own members. It is during this brief period in the year that leaves change to splendid colors proving that they are no less attractive than the flowers! Perhaps the flowers grew so jealous of the shift in attention that they wished it wouldn’t last. Or the leaves had a last wish of soaring to the peak of beauty just before they dry and fall. Whatever the reason, God blessed them with but a short span of glory.

However, the trees everywhere in the world are not this lucky (or the people I should say). So you can imagine the fervor with which we newbies in the U.S were waiting to catch hold of this sight. And what better place to experience this in than Vermont, the crowning beauty of autumn. With detailed plans made and all fingers crossed, the week of travel finally arrived. Being a large group of eight with four official cooks, the early days of the week were spent in making grocery purchases and preparing handy meals for the tour. Come Thursday night and we were all geared up to roll.

The back of the car was full and looked like our entire household was in it! Wouldn’t it be nice to add a bit of spice to mundane decisions? So we did, in deciding who’ll drive when. We drew lots and had the wives decide their husbands’ luck! The journey was smooth and comfortable though quite a bit long (It was a 16 hour drive from our place!) Initially everybody was enthusiastic and kept the spirits up with games like dumb charades. But gradually, or should I say after dinner, majority succumbed to the joy of sleep. A couple of us though had a temporary bout of insomnia and stayed awake. Other than us, the driver had only an endless list of songs to keep him awake and keep us alive. But it wasn’t as bad as it sounds because of the short frequent breaks we had and constant rotation of drivers.

Cozy little place

At daybreak we were almost across Albany when we began to spot a color here and there. Soon the cameras too had to wake up from their sleep. Nobody entertained the thought that we will be seeing more of the scenery and began flashing the cameras in quick succession. After crossing four states, as we reached the Bennington border we could notice the presence of the distinct architecture of New England counties. From here on, the journey was an absolute pleasure throughout. It was the quintessential country side with quaint little houses and neat gardens in front of them, a sale on every road invariably having bright Halloween pumpkins. Oh, the sight was so lovely. Ask anybody to sleep now! Well, somebody did.

We reached West Dover to our cute cottage styled house on Shady Lane. There was nothing shady about the lane except for a lot of shade! After congratulating one another on making it on time, we ran into the house and quickly surveyed what was to be our home for the next couple of days with the delight of a five year old. We were a tad disappointed to find a room short, but we planned to make adjustments (which though went awry!). We decided to have a couple of hours to rest and get refreshed. Guess what was the first thing to be switched on in the house? The TV. Some were active enough to have a bath and get ready while the rest of us just gathered around the TV. It doesn’t matter how we rest as long as we do, right? Finally all of us were ready to hit the road again.

Scenic drives through majestic hills

Our first visit was to the five covered bridges of Bennington. These were built way back in the early 19th century and all are in close proximity. Due to lack of time, we could cover but a few of them. As we moved, we were amused by the roads. Each town was small and filled with people walking. And almost every little town had a Main Street which was like the commercial hub. There were statues on roads which exactly looked like people too! Next we saw the Bennington Battle Monument where some of the Brigadiers defeated a part of the British Army. Boy is the monument high! We were all peanuts by comparison! We then began our circular scenic route from there all the way up to Ludlow and back. It was past sunset when we reached Ludlow. Since I hadn’t slept in 48 hours, I fought and failed to keep my eyes open. I was awakened in between whenever there was a scenic sight not to be missed. We stopped for some good photographs and were back home for dinner.

Day two was to begin very early, so the lazy bunch (or the wise bunch) including me finished bath the very previous night! This strategy was also to avoid traffic bottleneck near the bathroom! Soon after a round of the adorable ‘Uno’ cards, all of us were fast asleep. The next day began with alarms going off in everybody’s cell phones and there was a lot scurrying back and forth while getting ready. We patted ourselves again for maintaining time and looked forward to the long day ahead.

[rockyou id=125382110&w=426&h=319]

Day Two

We first stopped by Mt. Snow region which was the closest to our place. The mountain was bright with vivid colors and divided by skiing routes. To be clichéd, it was a sight for the sore eyes! The mountain in the background and each couple in front of it has brought us all pictures waiting to be framed. We stopped at other scenic locations en route. Being with Mother Nature in the morning when you could still find dew hugging the leaves of the grass does wonders to your mood. The whole place seemed so quiet and serene. Our next stop was at Hildene, Lincoln’s family home in Manchester. It pays to be President after all. Imagine having a lovely house in a pristine location like that with the hills and woods in your backyard! The house was well maintained with organized self guided tours for visitors. They played the 1000 pipe organ each time a group of curious visitors hopped in. It is in this house that Abraham Lincoln drafted the plan for Civil War. Some interesting things in the house were a cute egg stand, a huge library where apparently nobody could enter, a large story board for the kids in the house. It was full of pictures of different tales from various lands. The kids would point out the picture of the story they wanted and grandpa would narrate it to them. The heart of the place was the view from the windows. All they had to do was lift the screens and they would have canvases like no man can paint.

Then there were two choices of places to go. A one hour ferry in Lake Champlain or a 10 minute ropeway glide. Both were almost the same distance from Manchester but it was not viable to cover both the rides because of their early closure times. So we unanimously voted for the ropeway tour and off we went way up north to Jay Town. This was a 3 hour ride during a time when you have had lunch and the wind is blowing gently against you as you drive along with the sunlight on your face keeping you warm. As expected, half the people were asleep. The others were constantly thinking of interesting games to cover the journey. Finally a game started off with asking everybody’s favorite actors and went on to some questions involving deep thought like what is the one other thing you would have wanted to be if you were not a human and so. We had to give a good reason for our answers and it all set us thinking. We thoroughly enjoyed those rounds and within no time we were near Jay Peak Arial Tramway. We drove 3 hours for a 7 minute tram ride and were just in time for the last one. As we went higher and higher, we realized every minute of the drive was worth it. We could see the miles and miles of land from there; watch the clouds and even their shadow replicas on the hills. Since it was the peak north, we could see a part of Canada from there. Though the ride is short, they do allow you a 15 minute stay on the hill top. From there it was back home after sipping coffee in a country shop which had a few whacky statements on plates such as “Welcome to Jay Town, but please remember to leave”!! Another one saying “I feel so miserable without you, it’s like having you here”!!! It did bring a few laughs.

Now for some fun and frolic

The plan for Sunday was a trip to Boston before heading back home. Again we were to leave early although nobody had the energy to bathe the previous day this time. For one last time we took a look at the house and off we went from there. Nobody wanted to keep their eyes shut for we wanted to capture the last sights of Vermont with our eyes. The three hour journey seemed quick with rounds of dumb charades. We reached Waltham, a suburb of Boston around noon. The place had so many Indian restaurants and clothes stores with Ghaghara and saris that we felt we were in a market place in India. Though fall was prevalent here too, the number of red trees had visibly dwindled.

After a lunch there, we left to Harvard. It was hot and the traffic was so heavy. Parking was so tough to find. This was our first such experience here in the US. After some struggle, we found a good parking place on the road near Porter Square. We photographed the lane names so that we would remember where we had to come back! We then walked back to the 375 year old university. Along the way, we enjoyed a road festival that was going on at that time. There were people with 6 feet long shoes walking as though they were born with them. There was music and dance. The Harvard campus was buzzing with people, more visitors than students. There was no missing Mr. John Harvard who was there sitting majestically. We also took a look at the Memorial Church , the Harry Elkins library and the Harvard Book Store before taking the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority(MBTA also called the T) subway to downtown.

The rails were named red line, orange line and green line depending on the routes. The subway station had interesting questions to ponder over while waiting for the train. We took the red line to Boston downtown. This part was different altogether. While Vermont was peaceful and tranquil, this was bustling with activity. There were downtown maps along the way and we first went to the bay area. The walk was very intriguing with all the tall buildings, the horse carriages with couples and families in them, etc. It was evening and we enjoyed the cool sea breeze for a while. There were telescopes to see the other side where planes were continuously landing. There was also a wedding going on with gorgeous bride and bridesmaids and their gowns. We walked around to the three old markets – North Market, Quincy Market and the South Market. These were full of shops both big and small selling an array of interesting stuff. There were also funny street performances here and there that we stopped by to watch.

Before we knew, it was already time to go back! We took the red line again to Porter Square and had dinner at Pizzeria Uno. Ordering food, all of us began to share experiences and it provided for good conversation. It marked a nice ending to our trip and renewed our friendships. We stayed at Homestead hotels in Waltham, the girls in one room and the guys in the other. It was like a college-girls’ sleepover for us, taking some silly revenges on the guys and reveling in them. We slept quite late after some candid discussions. The guys supposedly slept two minutes after settling in the room.

Bye-Bye Wonderland

We were to start our journey back home early next morning. We were on time again and after a quick breakfast and coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, it was a long, long journey from there. We couldn’t believe five days of vacation were already coming to an end. The drive was smooth again with frequent breaks and rounds of dumb charades which were getting more difficult and more fun by the hour. By evening, all were tired of using their minds, so it was time for a round of Uno again. We also watched a couple of movies, had dinner at a Chinese restaurant located by the GPS. It was a godsend and we now can’t imagine travel without it.

It was just past midnight when we reached home. From five days of togetherness, fun and enjoyable moments, it was going to be back to our own separate lives and everyday tasks. We all parted promising to have another trip together soon, but this one will always remain in our hearts as the one most cherished.

Do you spend the whole day using the internet and then feel guilty?  Have you wished you could have a control on the time spent browsing? I certainly have. To the extent that I realize I cannot limit it and would rather someone else did the controlling job.

Hence I wrote a simple program which doesn’t let me browse for more time than i intended to.

Here is what it does:

  1. It asks me for how much time I would like to browse
  2. Starts my browser for me
  3. Keeps track of the time while I am browsing
  4. And then when the said time is up, just shuts down my browser.

Crude, but effective nonetheless.

If you would like to use it too, I have the files here. One is for Firefox and the other for Internet Explorer. Download the file depending on the browser you use often.

For Firefox

For Internet Explorer


  • Click on the appropriate link.
  • A window pops up asking you to save the file. Click save where you want it.
  • That’s it. From now on, whenever you want to limit internet time, just double click this file and browse.

Some points about the firefox program:

The next time firefox is started, it may ask you to restore the session.This is because it doesn’t shut down firefox in a ‘clean’ manner. Click on “Restore” or “Don’t Restore” and simply continue.

This problem does not happen with Internet Explorer.

It is NOT spyware or adware. It is my own plain batch program and I use it myself. Download without worries.

It’s been less than a year since we are married and we have made it a point to celebrate our ‘monthly anniversary’ so far! It’s already six months and we thought we’ll have an appraisal of each other and our relationship. Talk about how corporate and personal lives cross each other!

You can have a look at it using the above link or download it directly here:

Download Relationship Appraisal Form

It is both fun and serious at the same time. Hope you enjoy it and I’ll be more than happy if any of you feel it inspired you to have one too! If you have any suggestions of how I could change it, please feel free to do so.

This undoubtedly is one of my favorite songs in the new kannada songs genre. Set to a very melodious tone, it takes you to a pensive mode. For those who can relate to at least a part of the movie/characters, the song is sure to bring tears(ok, i am a crybaby i know!). If you are on the brink of losing someone due to a lot of unsaid things piling up, stop reading this and act upon it. If you are not and just wanna enjoy the song, sing along! The lyrics are right here for you:

ಮಳೆ ನಿಂತು ಹೋದ ಮೇಲೆ ಹನಿಯೊಂದು ಮೂಡಿದೆ

ಮಾತೆಲ್ಲ ಮುಗಿದೆ ಮೇಲೆ ದನಿಯೊಂದು ಕಾಡಿದೆ

ಹೇಳುವುದು ಏನೋ ಉಳಿದು ಹೋಗಿದೆ

ಹೇಳಲಿ ಹೇಗೆ ತಿಳಿಯದಾಗಿದೆ

ಮಳೆ ..

ನೋವಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಜೀವ ಜೀವ ಅರಿತ ನಂತರ

ನಲಿವು ಬೇರೆ ಏನಿದೆ ಏಕೆ ಅಂತರ

ನಿನ್ನ ಹಾಡಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಇಂದು ಬೆರೆವ ಕಾತರ

ಒಂದೇ ಸಾರಿ ನೀ ಕೇಳೆಯ ಈ ಸ್ವರ

ಮನಸಲ್ಲಿ ಚೂರು ಜಾಗ ಬೇಕಿದೆ

ಕೇಳಲಿ ಹೇಗೆ ತಿಲಿಯದಾಗಿದೆ


ಕಣ್ಣು ತೆರೆದು ಕಾಣುವ ಕನಸೆ ಜೀವನ

ಸಣ್ಣ ಹಠವ ಮಾಡಿದೆ ಹೃದಯ ಈ ದಿನ

ಎದೆಯ ದೂರವಾಣಿಯ ಕರೆಯ ರಿಂಗಣ

ಕೇಳು ಜೀವವೇ ಏತಕೀ ಕಂಪನ

ಹೃದಯವು ಇಲ್ಲೇ ಕಳೆದುಹೋಗಿದೆ

ಹುಡುಕಲೇ ಬೇಕೆ ತಿಳಿಯದಾಗಿದೆ


Hope you enjoyed it.. Please do leave a comment before carrying on with your life.

How anyone would love to see the Savings Bank meter go up! For that, one needs to cut down the impulse to spend and make some wise choices. The key is to not go overboard and deny yourself of all pleasures. But, how is that possible? Well, here’s what to do:

1. Track your expenses
– Too obvious to mention, but anyway. This is the first step and it is important. You need to know where your money goes and only then you can figure out what to do about it.
Use a notebook and pencil, a self made spreadsheet (that works best for me!) or any other tool available on the web. A month’s expenses would be optimum to track. If you are too impatient to wait for a month, just download your debit/credit card transactions for the last month and analyze them. Here’s an easy-to-use budgeting template

2. Stop shopping every week – I used to do this often, but have stopped it now. And it works wonders. Initially we used to go shopping every week and every time we go there, I would buy things on an impulse. All those things would seem necessary at that time. So the best thing to do is not visit it so often.

3. Go through your kitchen and make a monthly/fortnightly list – Forgetting to buy things and hitting the stores again is one of the major sources of spending. Keep a magnetic grocery list on the refrigerator and as soon as anything in your kitchen gets over, put it on the list. Also, rummage through the kitchen and make a list of all things that would get over in a week’s time. And then shop only once a fortnight or a month. That way, you won’t go to a store just because something got over suddenly. Use a Master Grocery List and Menu Planner to get organized.

4. Plan a weekly menu – Before going to buy vegetables, make up a weekly menu list. That way, you won’t be buying excessively and vegetables won’t get spoilt too. I also cook according to the plan without having to worry about what to prepare the next day. And since we spend time making a plan, we end up eating a variety of vegetables. Lots of advantages.

5. Fix an amount before you go the store – And don’t go beyond that amount. When you are dropping the items into your cart, just keep a rough idea of how much you’ve spent so far. When you realize you are nearing your allotted amount, you will automatically skip the unnecessary items or look for other options around the product which may be better but you wouldn’t have noticed before at all. Contrary to popular belief, don’t shop in a hurry. If you do so, you are likely to buy whatever meets your eye. Instead shop patiently, take your time and compare products before you decide to buy.

6. Pack your lunch to work – If you are in the habit of eating out every work day, it’s time to cut it down. If you find this difficult, at least do it for a couple of days in the week. But remember to put the money you saved in the savings account.

7. What you save in a day, goes to your account – Else, it gets lost. If you feel you have saved some amount in a day by either not buying what you usually buy or by spending better, put that saved money in your account or piggy bank. Whatever you cut down should show up as savings.

8. Cut down on subscriptions – You are not reading all of it anyway, so try this for a month and see if you miss them. Put that amount in your account.

9. Eat out every week for lesser – Dining out is a major expense. We tried cutting down on this, but it didn’t work for us. Mid week, we would get bored and go out anyway. So I have found a workaround for this. Go out every week, but eat for lesser. If you were spending $30 each time, spend $15 now. Find out the restaurants near your place. Some websites give you the menus and rates for restaurants nearby. Check out, plan and go. This way you will even be exploring new restaurants instead of visiting the same ones.

10. Search for coupons on anything – But only on what you already use. No use buying things which you don’t need just because there are coupons for it.

11. Cut down on hitting the theaters – unless it’s really worth watching. Download or rent instead and in goes that money into the piggy bank.

12. Convert everything to rupees – Being an Indian, when I came to the US, it took time for me to get adjusted to the economy here. 30 dollars seemed like 30 rupees to me and that was way too affordable. I spent and spent till I got a 3000 dollar bill! But now, I know better. I convert everything to rupees and it helps me realize the value of money. I know one dollar is 40 rupees and 10$=400 rupees. It won’t seem like 10 rupees anymore!

13. Find expense-less methods of entertainment – In many cases, people shop as a form of entertainment. Find other methods and enjoy your life. Go to a book store, visit a lake, go hiking, biking, take a stroll with your partner, join a volunteering association. There are more ways to lead a meaningful life.

14. Have a coin jar – Keep it in a place where you empty the contents of your pocket everyday. Put all the day’s change in there and when the jar gets full, convert half to notes and put into savings account. Every cent counts!

15. Cut down on junk and ready foods – This will cost you health and money. Substitute them instead with something prepared at home. Make your own yogurt(here’s how), make your own salsa, try out new foods. Cooking is a relaxing hobby however bad you are at it. So experiment and enjoy!

So these were a few painless tweaks that will put more money in your pocket without reducing the quality of your life( it improves I must say, by making you experience new things ). They are nothing unique or spectacular, but rather a reminder of tried and tested methods which work.

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