Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving treats

I'm just back after four days of heaven...atleast four days that felt like it. After the rigorous 3 weeks of work here, I badly needed a break, and Thanksgiving (this last Thursday) and its associated hols couldn't have come at a better time. By the way, Thanksgiving is officially the start of the holiday season here - I can feel X'Mas in the air already! Anyway, coming back, I knew it was the only 4 days I was gonna be free whilst I was here, so I decided to make the most of it. On Wednesday night, I made an instant decision to visit relatives in New Jersey. So at around 7am on Thursday morning, I made my way to Chinatown. Caught a bus from there to New York Penn Station. Cheapest mode of long-distance public transport here I tell you - just 20$! I'd hoped to make it to NYC at around noon so that I could catch the last bits of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, but alas, very bad weather, and very, very bad traffic put paid to those hopes, and I ended up reaching NYC at around 4pm in the evening! Caught the NJ Transit Line train to Newark Penn Station, and had my uncle pick me up from there. Many relatives whom I'd never seen had gathered at his place for the Thanksgiving lunch feast and for meeting me too, but they all ended up waiting for me for over four hours, and then finishing their food and heading back to their homes even before I reached Newark! We finally reached my uncle's place at 7pm (12 hours after I'd started from Maryland).

So anyway, I've been at my uncle's house the last 3 days - being treated like a prince and feeling like one too. My uncle has two adorable kids, boys, aged 14 and 8. I spent all my time with them, playing board games like Monopoly all day long with the little guy (who was so happy cos I kept losing to him!), playing Madden NFL with the boys on their PS2, and getting routed badly (I'm still learning the game - it has sooooooo many bloody rules- even more than cricket!), watching Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon all day long, munching on brownies and cookies and other candy and so on. So much so that I started feeling like a 10-yr old again. No Kiddin! When they were tired and went to sleep, I would play ping-pong or pool with their dad. All of us even went for house-to-house X'Mas Carol singing yesterday! (First time I'm seeing it done in Nov itself!) Phew! Pretty hectic I say!

But I feel so rejuvenated now.
Work? 25 hours a day and 8 days a week?
I say - Bring It On.

Ohh by the way...NYC still rocks - me loves it! me loves it! :) :)

Monday, November 20, 2006

The pursuit of happyness

Yeah, Happyness, not Happiness.
(Blame americanized English, not me!)

I watched the new Bond movie, 'Casino Royale' yesterday. Well, it was different, that is not what I wanted to write about. The good thing about watching movies in the US, is that you get to see atleast 7-8 trailers of upcoming movies before the actual movie you paid 10$ for actually starts. Well, one such trailer caught my eye, and I can't wait to see it - it comes out Dec' 15th here in the US. It stars Will Smith and is called The Pursuit of Happyness. Go watch the trailer!

Well, I didn't want to write about the movie either..what got me thinking was the title itself. There's nothing much to say about it I know, but it's something every human and quite possibly every living creature in this world yearns. Happiness. How do you get it? Where do you find it? How do you capture it, hold it close to your heart and not let it out of your grasp?

A team of photography editors from Corbis were asked to interpret Thomas Jefferson's mysterious phrase, "the pursuit of happiness" using images from their archives, and here's their gallery.

I don't have the perfect answer. But I'm just sitting here, when it's well past midnight, typing away on my laptop, letting loose thoughts without caution. I have met people who have made me is he/she always so happy? I have also met peple whom I'd have thought couldn't be happier, but they always seem unhappy. What makes the difference? Alas, its the person himself who defines his state of happiness. (Now, just a note of caution, my using 'he' is just a general notation for a human, nothing dumb to make a male chauvinist grin nor too sinister for a female chauvinist to raise an eyebrow about.) My dear friend wrote a post himself along similar lines a few days ago, on how to synthesize happiness, and after finishing reading my post, maybe you can go read it here. (Polo, you owe me one! :p) The fact that you can find a sick person on his deathbed happier than a guy winning millions on the final table of a poker game in Vegas makes you think twice doesn't it? What makes a happy person tick? Why is it that happy people generally remain happy and sad people tend to remain sad?

I'm not here to give any solid answers, but here are a few ideas that you may wanna think upon...
1. The 2 Gs. that kind of..nevermind. What I'd like to mean here by 2 G's, is be Grateful...and take nothing for Granted. You never know what lies in store for you, and chances are, if can't look at what you have and feel atleast a little grateful, you might never be happy at any point of time in the future. Anyone, I repeat, anyone, can be grateful for what he has in life, if only he/she can take the time to take stock of what he/she has with her. Learn to be content with nothing and you can only be happy when you have more.

2. The Past and the Future many-a-time don't matter, what matters is the Present. I've seen many people who're lost in the past, either dreaming about the 'good ol times' or repenting a past mistake. I've seen many others who're lost in a race, no, not race, in a stampede, running straight forward fearing they'll get trampled if they stop running, looking at the horizon expecting gold, but not realizing that they're actually stamping and stomping on real gold underneath. If we could only take the time to stop and think about what we're doing, we could do so much more better. Alas, this is something that is very hard to do in this modern world, but anything is available to the one who seeks.

3. Identify your natural sources of happiness, and hold on to them. I feel this is something very important. Everybody has their own sources of happiness, be it your family, friends, sport, art, books, movies or just food. Now chances are that you have crossed the age of 20 years, so you have a set of friends, whom you know well, trust and care about. You may never get to know a certain set people better. Ofcourse you may get married soon and then your spouse becomes important. But all in all, your friends and family can remain your sources of strength and happiness throughout your life. Hold on. Never let go. Also, I said 'natural' sources of happiness and not immediate. Therefore, I don't think drinks and drugs qualify. You can be happy just doing what you love to do, even if people think you're crazy, which brings me to another point...

4. Do not let the crowd shape your life. I've seen people who are only concerned about what the 'crowd' thinks about them, and thus turn themselves into something they aren't, hoping to please everyone around them. This ultimately leaves the person with nothing, just a shell, which will one day, have nothing more to hide. Now this doesn't mean you do anything you want without sparing a thought for anyone else. Family and friends always matter, so its always good you have someone to share your thoughts with, whether you like it or not.

5., not Thank God its Fridays, 'Thank God I Forgive'. You can lose all the happiness you have due to one thing. Hatred. Learn to Forgive, and you've learnt to be immune to Hatred. There are other things that can make you lose your happiness like, Fear, Anxiety, and Guilt. These feelings cannot be overcome within days, but with due practice, one can negate such feelings pretty fast. Ofcourse, Faith and Hope helps, but that is another story.

Disclaimer: The author does not practice the above ideas all the time, and cannot stake claim to being happy always...but is willing to try and listen to more ideas. If you have any thoughts that you're willing to share, feel free and share it - via a comment!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the Zune and the Pod

Microsoft did a pretty huge release less than 24 hours ago, and with all the jazz that they could muster including concerts in 6 states in the US with bands such as TI, RHCP etc, they have officially brought out "zune", the biggest competitor to the iPod since....well, since the iPod mini came out some years ago. Now all eyes are fixed on this product, having a similar capacity and pricing as the iPod video's 30GB model. Well, that's what this post is all initial observations of the zune and a tribute to Apple and the iPod - the device that changed the way how man treated music since the Walkman came out.

I got myself the 30GB model on my last visit here...and even though I had my fleeting pangs of guilt at the green splurge, all traces of doubt vanished when I finally got the thing in my hands. It was so beautiful that I was almost scared to hurt it and started handling it with the utmost care, lest it got smudged and the shiny halo around it got disturbed. There I was, the proud owner of an iPod, something I'd always wanted. And it was personalized too, meaning since I'd bought it from Apple's site, I had the option of getting free laser engraving done at the back of the pod, 2 lines of 27 characters each. Well, ofcourse I got it done, and mine read...

iEat, iSleep, iPod

Well, imagine my surprise and shock, when just 5 days later, Apple came out with an announcement and the release of its new line of re-vamped iPods. Though the iPod video didn't change a whole lot, the new one did have a useful search feature, better video playback battery life and was also 50$ cheaper! Well, for a few hours I was like the know..the fox and the sour grapes story..or fable ..or watever. Yeah, that fox. I was like, naaa...its just a lil bet have a decent model content with it dude. But later that night, still feeling a lil bit sorry for myself and the extremely bad timing of my buy, mixed with the desire of owning the utmost latest product from Apple, I decided to write a mail.

A mail to Apple themselves.

Do not laugh, this is exactly what I wrote....

i jus wanted to know..i got my 30GB ipod shipped 5 days ago.
But yesterday the new ipod has released.
Is there some way I can get the new one instead?
even at the expense of some extra charge?
please let me know.

Did I seem a bit desperate there?? hee hee...I guess I did. Well, I didn't expect anything positive to come out of it..heck, I didn't even expect a reply. I just did it for the sake of it.

Now you can imagine my even bigger surprise when less than 24 hours later, I got a reply. Here's how it went...

Dear Stan,
Thank you for contacting Apple.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Apple normally does not accept returns other than as provided in its sales terms. Apple, however, is making an exception in your case.
Apple would like to offer you a $50.00 credit for the price difference, or you may choose to return the personalized iPod. Please note: Apple will apply a 10% restocking fee to your refund if we receive an item that has been opened.
Please reply to this message indicating which option you prefer.

I ain't kidding. I'm not making up any stories for my blog here - I never do. That's the exact mail I got and I couldn't believe it. I waited for a couple of hours and then replied, saying that I wanted to return the iPod I had and get a new one. The only worry I had was that I had to leave back to India in a week, and I didn't know if I'd get my refund and the new iPod in time. Well, hats off to Apple. Within hours of getting my reply, they initiated the return process. I went the very next day to the US Postal Service and parceled back my iPod. It reached Laguna, CA (Apple Product HQ) within two days and Apple refunded my money the very next day. Also, I got my new iPod within 36 hours of ordering it (all the way from Shanghai->Alaska->DC). Speak about efficiency and customer value. If I haven't said this already, I say it now.....I love Apple!! :))

Well, now coming back to the release of the zune, from what I've seen in the previews and the videos, I don't know if it'll beat the iPod, but it may come pretty close. The features working in favour of the zune is its new wi-fi capability, by which you can share files with friends (all be it of limited usage), a bigger screen (3"), and custom background images. What I didn't like - the interface ain't that impressive (truly), its bigger and bulkier and it's from Microsoft :) [smug grin on face]. Well, competition is good anywayz, so we can hope to see even better products from Apple in the near future. It's gonna be like the XBox vs. PS saga..and with the PS3 launch 3 days away (Nov 17th), Microsoft looks set to get their behinds kicked in more than one way...hee hee.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Trans-Atlantic Migration to 105.

Well..first of all....
Apologies! My dear friends and brothers and sisters and other living things that read my blog! I know I have been kinda slow in putting up posts on this blog in recent times (one post in more than one month? That's a friggin understatement you friggin stan_da_man!!) Well, my follies have been realized, hopefully by me, and I have decided to kickstart my blogosphere-life again, which had not died, but was being strangled to death cos of lack of....umm..air? no, LACK OF TIME!!! Oh yesss, I have realized how valuable time is in the last 3 weeks, where I haven't been able to sit down and "think" (yea yea, I kno what your thinkin, do i think AT ALL?)...well..umm..its a phrase, and it just goes to show how busy I was! But honestly, quite literally, that's been my state for the past 3 weeks.

What's happened in 3 weeks? make a long story short...I'm back... in DC.
Ohh..its true, lightning can strike the same place too :) Ahh, pun-not-intendo.

What do you do if lightning hits you twice?

Just Grin and Bear it...

Or scream for all your worth...

Well, I arrived here a week ago, and guess what...AUTUMN rocksss!!! Everything is like so much more beautiful and you can drown your tired eyes and mind in liberating colours of red, orange, brown, yellow, green and feel right away in the zone again. Sessski is the word. It's freezing here too, the average temperature is around 5 to 8 degrees. And the mercury is only going to take a bigger dip in the coming weeks. I'm here for a shorter term, just till the deadline of the project we're working on right now has been reached (Sometime in Dec). But it feels great to be back, and meet friends @ office again. And yeah, we're staying in the same hotel...and have been given the same hotel room too! I guess we messed it up so bad the last time we stayed here, they figured no-one else could stay in it. Back in Room 105. ( I getting nostalgic??!!)