Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A different kind of drama

The other day, I "reconnected" with someone from my school who was known to be brilliant but was always pushed hard by her parents for that one extra mark she couldn't get. I imagine there was a showdown every time she took home the report card. That reminded me of the comically different situation in my family.

Just for some background, when I was growing up, I took my exams way too seriously. To be precise, I was your perfect Debbie Downer meets the evening-before-the-big-exam-drama-queen. For years, my family patiently put up with my obsession to ace every single exam, made worse by strong pessimism about how I was actually going to do in them.

Inevitably, national engineering entrance exams happened. I enrolled in this soul-crushing course called Brilliant Tutorials. True to their name, they are only meant for out-of-this-world brilliant people who shouldn't even need to take their course. Now most people I knew, myself included, never got past 20/100 in their tests. (Although, there was always some brilliant rascal from Chennai who managed to score a 90/100 and made you feel like an insect.) In those days, people wrote on paper, and results were sent in snail-mail. On one occasion, things played out like this (10 years ago):

Me: Mom, did the Brilliant guy send my exam papers home? Everyone in school go theirs 3 days ago. Are you sure the watchman/postman/you didn't miss them?
Mom: (avoiding eye contact) No, I didn't see any.
Me: How come everyone else got them? Do you think they lost my papers? Oh my God! They lost my papers! (looking close to tears).
Mom: (Looks helplessly at my brother who's the worst liar on earth.)
Me: What is it? Are you hiding something from me?
Mom: (Reaches for papers under the sofa cushion.) They came in the other day just before you walked in from school. There wasn't enough time so I hid them beneath the cushion.. (voice trails off)
Me: I got only 14?!! What the hell! I can't believe you did this to me!
Mom: I'm so sorry, nanna. I didn't want you to get upset.. (sheepishly)

Now that's a scene you don't find in most Indian households - parents hiding their child's results! Whether it was done out of love or out of fear of the drama queen is debatable ;) but I will say this - I couldn't have asked for a cooler family who never believed that my grades defined me, or that bad grades are a good reason to get upset.

P.S.: "Shortened" and republished for brevity's sake.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yellowstone National Park in Pictures

Last week we visited Yellowstone National Park. Having already told everyone we know how cool our vacation was on Facebook, I have moved on to my blog (No, I am not above flaunting. And yes, Facebook takes precedence as I get more comments there). Now, my knowledge of Geology is almost zero, and I still know very little about Yellowstone - both good reasons to let the lovely pictures clicked by the husband do the talking. Here are a few.

Scenic drive - just kept getting better and better.

Some very interesting terrain - roaring mountain, mammoth springs... Almost felt like a different planet.

Hot springs and some interesting life forms that survive these high temperatures. The one on the left is called emerald pool.

Some hot stuff this! Was quite the thrill to stand a few feet from these geysers and mud volcanoes at Old Faithful, Norris Basin, Dragon's mouth...

Spotted some wildlife too. A friendly bison even stopped by our van.

Water bodies. So pure and untouched. Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb, Lamar Valley.

Yellowstone by dusk. That dashing man in the picture is my husband...

On our way back we stopped at Grand Teton National Park and enjoyed some huckleberry margaritas at the Blue Heron at Jackson Lake Lodge. There couldn't possibly be a place with better views.

That was a great trip!

General advise on itineraries and how to plan your Yellowstone trip can be found in abundance on the net. Only thing I'll add is don't believe anyone who says 4 days is too little to explore Yellowstone. Sure more the vacation days, the merrier, but if you can't take more than a day or two off work, you can still very much enjoy Yellowstone, so don't let that deter you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On inception and recursion

I have often noticed how engineers think very analytically, even about the most mundane/unexpected things. The other day I was having lunch with a bunch of fellow computer science "enthusiasts". One of them declared that he hadn't seen the movie, and here's a snippet of the conversation that followed (spoiler alert...oh, and geek alert too):

C: Inception is like a dream within a dream within a dream...There are multiple levels, sort of like recursion.
AK: Every time you die, you get popped off the stack and go back to your previous dream.
P: But under some circumstances the dream could just hang for a long time, no?
AK: Yes, if you're highly sedated...
C: Sometimes you can't tell if you're dreaming or awake. Leonardo's wife dies because she thinks she's killing herself in a dream, but it's actually real life.
NR: Bad design.
P: Pch. No error handling.
AM: That is why they had the totem. It's like a global variable.

Ah, what would the world be without us engineers...

P.S.: If you're not one of "us", then sorry about the computer jargon. I promise not to do this often.

EDIT: Oh, and what a coincidence - Happy Engineer's Day my brethren!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A tribute to Maggi Noodles

Thank you, Maggi Noodles, for always being there. On late Sunday afternoons as a stand-in for lunch. At 2 am, when hunger pangs are at their worst. When recipes go terribly wrong. When I was still learning that buying milk, tomatoes and Hershey's kisses is not what one calls "doing your groceries". And when I finally accepted that, contrary to my mother's belief, age and experience won't necessarily improve my cooking skills.

Whether I'm feeling like sambar, curry or Chinese, all I need is two minutes and you can make my wishes come true. Pray when will they make chocolate fudge Maggi? Never disappointing, always satisfying, a beacon of hope for those of us who cannot cook - thank you, Maggi Noodles.

P.S. I thought of writing a corny poem using the line "You're not just a Noodle, you're the Dude-le", but better sense prevailed and I decided to spare my readers the agony. M surely remembers the poem I once wrote for her birthday. Never quite heard the end of it until I left college...