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Something Cool I Came Across a Few Days Ago

Something Cool I Came Across a Few Days Ago

A few days ago, a friend of mine pointed me to a website (Sunday Nite Dinner) where a slideshow was embedded in one of the blog posts. It was really cool. So, being the pseudo GT geek that I am (pseudo being an understatement – you might as well throw some suspenders on me and slip a pocket protector on me), I had to figure out how to do the same thing on my site. It took a few days, but I found the solution. I think for future posts, this whole slideshow thing could prove to be extremely useful. But for now, I’m just flippin’ around with it. I created the actual slideshow with a software called Flash Slideshow Maker. They offer a free software which you can use to create your own custom slideshows. It is very easy to use and simple. There is some really cool stuff you can do to your slideshows with this software.

After that, I simply uploaded the files to my web server and then put in some code that would embed that slideshow onto my website. For those that have wordpress, download the Kimili plugin – this will allow you to embed video and photos with a single line of code.

Here is something I threw together (below):


[kml_flashembed movie=”/blogpics/slideshows/example slideshow/slideshow.swf” base=”/blogpics/slideshows/example slideshow/” height=”420″ width=”520″ /]

Sugo

Sugo

Last Wednesday, me and a few friends went to dine at Sugo Restaurant in Duluth. I read some great reviews about this renowned Italian joint online, so I figured I had to give it a try – and it didn’t exactly hurt that they had a mouth-watering vegetarian menu. There are so many joints in the A that I’ve dined at and have left feeling disappointed. However, Sugo was not one of them. I was pleasantly surprised.

Everyone on the staff was polite, knowledgeable, and friendly. The owner even came to our table and immediately apologized for not having come to greet us earlier. He then proceeded to rattle off all their specials for the day. I have never encountered anyone who described food in such precise, almost intimate detail. His passion for food permeated his heightened frame, bushy mustache, and subtle northeastern accent. He made everything sound so succulent, so delicious, and so fresh that we were left salivating at the mere thought of ordering. I love it when restaurant employees exude a genuine passion for the product they will serve to you. I am infinitely more excited to dine when I encounter that. I myself am a novice foodie, so I also share a passion for delectable culinary items. That’s why I greatly appreciate that very same passion reciprocated by a wait staff at a restaurant. If you love what you serve, so will the customers. I truly believe that.

I always maintained that if I ever opened a restaurant, I would try to staff only the friendliest people. I would have an amazingly relaxed, friendly, and vibrant ambiance. I don’t know if it matters to most folks, but that kind of genuine hospitality resonates deeply with me. It isn’t always just the food that brings people back.

This is what I ordered (description from the restaurant’s website):

Stephanie’s Beggar’s PursesPurses of pasta stuffed with Robiola and Pecorino Romano Cheeses, tossed in a pesto cream sauce with dried apricots, sweet grape tomatoes, dried pears, and crispy asparagus

Beggar's Purses

Looks kind of sort of like this (above)

Are you friggin’ kidding me? How incredibly mouth-watering does that sound?

Giggity…giggity….

I was razor thin close to having a culinary climax right there at the table. My gastronomic mojo vehemently refused to allow me to order anything else. Needless to say, the food exceeded my preliminary expectations.

I will be returning there in the future. My experience was too damn good for me to do anything less.

swaptree

swaptree

SwapTree

I have recently re-developed my affinity for books. Having to travel here and there every other week gave me a lot of down time at airports and on planes, so I started to read more to pass the time. I’ve bought maybe 5-6 books in the past couple of months, but started to wonder if there was an easier (and less costly) solution to procuring the books I am interested in reading.

After about a half hour of surfing the gnarly waves of the world wide web, I came across a website called swaptree. The basic idea behind swaptree is that it allows its users to swap items they have for items other users have at a minimal cost (you only pay the shipping and handling necessary to send out your product). For basic setup, you create a list of things you want (i.e. books you are interested in reading, CDs you wish to listen to, and/or DVDs you wish to view) and then you create a list of the things that you have and are willing to trade. Once you have done this, the swaptree database will automatically find trades that may appeal to you – often involving a trade with a user who has something you want that is willing to trade for something you have.

I will be shipping out my first book (Into the Wild) this afternoon and receiving my first swap (Tuesdays with Morrie) sometime this week or next. You can even swap books for DVDs or music and vice versa. There are even opportunities to swap items completely free if a person is located near you. In that case, you would simply meet up with them in your city of residence and swap items in person.

If this site turns out to be reliable and consistent, then this would be a significantly better alternative to purchasing books. Rather than having to shell out $10-$20 each time I want to purchase a new or used book, I could now just pay somewhere between $2-$3 for shipping and call it a day. And the best part is that I can just drop it in my mailbox at my apartment and be done with it.

I’m sure there are a ton of other websites like this, but this is the one I stumbled across. Plus, it has a really clean interface to use and has a lot of registered users. Sheck it out.

Such is Life

Such is Life

I’ve had a week to digest the death of an extremely close cousin. I wonder if I am handling it too well. I’m not sure exactly how one should feel in situations like these. By no means do I intend to marginalize death or sound callous, but I tend to deal with situations like these with a “such is life” shrug of the shoulders. I don’t know why I am so flippant about tragedy sometimes. I mean, when I think about last week’s tragedy, it hurts. It especially hurts knowing that I will never again see someone I had become so accustomed to seeing all the time. I mean, there was a good 4-5 year stretch of time when I would see Ankit at least 2-3 times a week. Him not ever being there again is almost unimaginable.

My brother has taken it especially hard. Ankit took his own life on my brother’s birthday (May 19). He has had trouble sleeping and says that he keeps envisioning Ankit’s face and lifeless body in his sleep. He had developed an affinity for Ankit. He would always get excited whenever Ankit would come over to my house. They would always play video games together and share a frozen bean burrito or two. How can you explain death to a 16 year old? How can you explain suicide to a 16 year old? I talked to him for a few minutes and tried to explain to him that Ankit is in a better place right now and that sometimes…shit just happens…point blank period.  I explained to him that sometimes things happen that defy reason and rationality.  Sometimes in life, very little closure can be sufficed.  I hope that I provided some kind of solace.

My mom nearly flipped out because I didn’t cry at the funeral. My eyes welled up and I found myself on the verge of losing it a few times, but I clenched my jaw and restrained my emotions. I don’t know why I am like this, but I know that this is the way I deal with things sometimes. I don’t mean to come off as indifferent or unaffected by tragedy, but I don’t know how else to deal with these sort of things. Maybe it still hasn’t hit me yet, I don’t know. I’m just trying not to think about it too much. Regardless, my suffering is an insignificant microscopic speck in comparison to what his immediate family is going through – and I refuse to lose sight of those who have been devastated the most.

I have stopped asking why and ceased searching for answers. Sometimes, life can unsuspectingly hit you in the mouth. All you can do is ice the sore wound and move on.

It Just Aint Right

It Just Aint Right

I have so little room left to feel right now. I am emotionally paralyzed – incapable of moving a sentimental limb. I don’t know if I can feel any more.

The funeral procession was held yesterday. I have no idea how I sat through the 2-hour funeral. The prevalent emotional devastation was almost too much to bear. Every time I looked over at Ankit’s father, my eyes welled up. The agony of a father losing his son is incomprehensible and almost unbearable. Having to bury your child is something I pray I will never have to experience. How can I put into words the catastrophic emotions that everyone felt in that building yesterday? How can you contain yourself when the victim’s parents are disillusioned and devastated?  My goodness it hurts to see his parents and brother suffer the way they are now. I cannot begin to imagine the pain his mother is suffering right now. She is strength personified. As a young girl, she lost her father to suicide. As a young mother and wife, she lost her husband to homicide. And now, after having rebuilt her life, lost her oldest son to suicide. My goodness the pain. No matter how much I am hurting right now, it is insignificant compared to what she is going through

And his brother. He lost his father at a young age and now his brother. Life cannot seem fair to him, because it hasn’t been. I am praying with every ounce of my being that he can overcome this. I told him that he has to be strong for his father and mother. He has to be able to help his mother overcome this tragedy. It is such an immensely unimaginable burden to carry. I don’t know if I would be able to recover if I lost my brother.

At the funeral yesterday, his mom walked over in tears to the casket and hysterically said to her deceased son, “Mami bolave che, jaag beta” (“Mom is calling you, wake up son.”). I fight hard to restrain my emotions even as I write that. Later during the course of the funeral, his dad placed his hands on his dead son’s body, bowed his head, and uncontrollably yelled, “Jaag beta, jaag beta!” (“Wake up son! Wake up son!”). I nearly lost it when I saw that.

This just isn’t right. I don’t understand it and I don’t know if I want to. To be honest, I still am dealing with an array of mixed emotions. Anger is one I am having a hard time dealing with. Why did Ankit have to take his own life? Why did he have to cause more pain to a mother whose threshold for tragedy had long since been surpassed? I think that I am still angry with Ankit for doing this to his mother and family. They needed him as much as he did them. He was everything to his brother. Now, every day for the rest of their lives, they will be reminded of the void he has left in their lives. That is an unimaginable pain that I’m not sure I could endure. I pray that they will recover from this. Our family can only take so much more pain. He was the centerpiece of that family – and just like that, he’s gone. My sadness is hindered by my anger. I think he mentioned to a cousin of mine that he felt that he was “burdening” his family with his emotional issues. Burdening? What did he think he would do to his family once he decided to take his own life? I don’t understand it and I don’t know if I want to.

With Indian funerals, there is no shortage of emotionally gut-wrenching moments. Tradition requires the family to walk around the deceased person’s casket a number of times sprinkling flowers over the body. You are brought face to face with the deceased. The disillusioned parents had to perform traditional Hindu rituals as they stood in tears above their deceased son’s body. Later on, the rest of the family had to perform the same rituals. There was no way to avoid the emotional heartache and devastating despair. When my turn came to walk around the casket and drop rose petals at his feet, I stood for a second staring at his lifeless body. Even then, It still didn’t feel real.

Indian funerals inundate you with emotion and sadness. It is emotionally difficult to attend one, but I think that it can help heal some of the wounds caused by a death. The families congregate around the loved ones and offer their condolences while singing religious songs and chanting God’s name. It is in moments like these where you realize how important family is, because when you lose a loved one, only family can begin to understand the pain. Only family can help alleviate some of that suffering. It is therapeutic, but not for the faint of heart.

I miss him and I think the reality of the situation still hasn’t completely registered yet in my mind. I am at a loss for explanation and reason. He was too damn young and too damn good of a person to exit our lives so quickly. He was the LAST person I would expect to do something like this. Irrationality was not in his nature. Logic and common sense seemed to have been embedded in his DNA.

He won’t be able to be a best man at my wedding. He won’t be able to be an uncle to my children. I don’t think it’s fully hit me just yet that I will never see him again.

I told his brother, “Just because you lost your brother, it doesn’t mean you don’t have any more brothers” – and I meant that. I hope to be able to somehow fill a small part of the gaping void his brother left in his life.

This is a pain that will linger for a long time. I pray that his family will be ok.

Eulogy

Eulogy

Ankit

I am admittedly not good at these things. Eloquence seems to evade me at times like these.

This is still a surreal moment for me. Ankit had become a permanent fixture in my life. He was one of the few people I could always rely on. If you ever needed anything from him, he would be there. If you ever needed him to be anywhere, he would be there. He was as selfless as he was caring.

His absence will leave a painful void in my life.

When exactly did reality end and tragedy begin? I’m not sure. I think that these past few days have been a significantly tragic blur in the lens of all our lives. I am still emotionally numb from the initial shock of this unfortunate episode. I don’t exactly know how to feel, what to feel, or even if I want to feel right now.

I mean, what can one say in situations like this? I mean, whatever pain I feel is entirely insignificant compared to the pain and suffering his family is going through. I feel like the only thing I can do is speak of the person that Ankit was – to highlight the many positive imprints he left on the lives of others. Instead of mourning the life he could have had, I’ve chosen to celebrate the life he had.

Ankit was such a laid back person. He rarely got upset. It just wasn’t in his nature to be malicious or cruel to others. He was one of the most pure-hearted people I knew. He was the kind of guy that everyone got along with – that everyone liked. He always had a way of resonating positively with people.

I will remember him for many things, among which are:

His affinity for Taco Bell and Mexican Restaurants. Anyone who knows him knows this. He was absolutely enamored with tostadas – but who could really blame him? They are delicious. We even joked that we would open a Taco Bell in India one day. I still remember the days when we would take the 37 bus from his dorm on the Georgia Tech Campus to eat at Taco Bell.

His ability to answer every single question with a simple, “Fa Sho.” He might as well have tattooed those words on his forehead.

His humility. He never thought himself to be better than anyone. He was always able to laugh at himself and put things in perspective. What you saw was always what you got with Ankit – and I loved that about him. He was as simple as he was humble.

His devotion to his family and friends. He spoke often to me of how much he cared for his family. His family was his top priority – and he tried his best to enhance the lives of those closest to him. If there was any sort of family gathering, you could be sure to almost always see Ankit there. I can’t even remember how many times he made the hour long drive to my house in Lawrenceville just to hang out.

I have a thousand other great memories of Ankit, but clarity escapes me right now. We lost an indescribably special person this past Monday. Words just don’t seem to suffice.

The pain we feel now is a testament to how amazing of a person Ankit was.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family. We must all help one another move on past this.

Ankit, I love you and will miss you. Eni karji rakjo Bhagavan.

An Equivalence of Rights – Gay Marriage

An Equivalence of Rights – Gay Marriage

Yesterday (Thursday the 15th of April), the California Supreme court ruled 4-3 that same sex marriages should be allowed in the state of California. I am not all that surprised by this ruling. California always seems to be the leader in liberal legislation and programs. They often set the precedents that other states follow.

Needless to say, a lot of folks are irate about this ruling. They declare it unconstitutional and blasphemous. They decree that it is a direct sign pointing to the degradation of American morals and values. To me, most of this reeks as perfunctory hypocrisy. When it seems to be convenient, people dust off their bibles and quote the good word to justify their hypocritical viewpoints. I understand that in the bible it says that marriage should be between a “man and a woman”, but doesn’t the bible also explicitly state that we shouldn’t consume alcohol and have pre-marital sex? When did the bible become the absolute legislative ruler of our society? I mean, whether you agree with homosexuality or not, it is prevalent throughout this country and throughout the globe. I mean, I know it isn’t the same, but it kind of sort of reminds me of the lower classes in India and of the way some women are treated in the middle east. These groups of people are disallowed basic rights and are made to be outcasts in society.

I don’t necessarily agree with homosexuality, but I do feel that gay folks deserve the same rights that we have. I mean, they made a choice that most of society disagrees with….and?  Big hoo-hah. I heard something somewhere that was both funny and made a lot of sense: “If gay people want to go ahead and get married and be as miserable as the rest of us heterosexual married folks – then by all means, let them”. I mean, it was a joke, but I kind of share that point. Not about the whole misery thing, but more about the equivalence in rights among all Americans. The thing is, being gay is a victim less “crime”, so besides you being repulsed or deeply offended by it, no one suffers any physical harm as a consequence of it. I think gays are probably the most persecuted minority in this country today. I know black folks have it bad, and so do brown folks in the aftermath of 9/11, but at least they have the same basic rights as everyone else. Gays are already playing with a limited deck when they sit down at the table.

I don’t know, but I think that in the past I was less accepting of the alternative lifestyle choice that some people make, but over the years I’ve become more open and liberal about my perspective on this. I have encountered quite a few gay people over the years and have gradually re-evaluated my initial beliefs. Let the gay folks have the same basic rights that we all do. Let them marry. I mean, if you are offended by homosexual couples, why would you be more offended if they marry? I mean, if they don’t marry, they will just stay together forever practically married, so what difference does it make if they have that official label as “husband and husband” or “wife and wife”? I can understand the religious repercussions of this ruling by the California Supreme Court, but what else would you have us do as a country? Continue to persecute homosexuals because of their lifestyle choice? Whatever happened to the “content of their character”?

I guess if I was approaching this from a more religious vantage point, then maybe I would feel differently. I mean, I am religious, but just not deeply. If God is truly the final judge of everything, shouldn’t you let Him decide whether gays deserve salvation or not? Whether they deserve to go to heaven? Again, let me reiterate, being gay is a victim less societal “crime”. So, why can’t they just live their lives in peace?

A Crackberry Man-Whore No More

A Crackberry Man-Whore No More

So, I arrived back in town today from Dallas. Now, the Dallas Fort Worth Airport is aesthetically decent, but someone please tell me why in the hell their rental car return center is located like 5 miles from the actual airport? You have to take a shuttle from the rental car center to the actual airport. I considered this completely asinine. I really didn’t understand that. But, the saving grace was that the ticket counter for each airline was directly next to the actual set of gates for that airline. So, pretty much, after you check-in at the ticket counter, you literally walk 10 feet to security and then BAM! – you’re at your gate. You don’t have to take a train or anything. I’m not sure if that compensates for the logistically deficient rental car center, but it definitely is a welcome idea.

I sold my Blackberry Pearl today. So, that is one less thing to worry about. I am a crackberry man-whore no more. I think I’m going to try to keep things simple when it comes to cell phones. I don’t really care too much for having an mp3 player, megapixel camera, or 3G on my phone. I just want a phone that works – and works damn well. A phone whose strength is just that: its capabilities as a PHONE. You know, a phone with ultra-clear reception and great battery life. i guess if I was willing to part with the 20-30 bucks/month necessary for a data plan, then I’d be more inclined to purchase one of those “fancy boy” phones. However, since I am adverse to slicing that much extra provolone each month, I will abstain.

It seems as though it’s getting harder to gather folks to go out to places nowadays. Some folks have intensified their obligations while others are trying to lay low. Seems like everyone is doing their thing right now, therefore, it seems to have gotten a lot harder to congregate folks. I think that I enjoy being bored sometimes, but never for too long. Just as soon as I realize how good it feels to not be doing a damn thing, I have the urge to actually do something. As ironic as it sounds, I get bored of being bored sometimes. I think that is probably why I’m usually down for whatever, whenever. The only problem is that most of the time, I am the person who has to gather folks. Why couldn’t some of my friends be a little more proactive? Sometimes, I wish that other people would brainstorm the plans for the evening. That way, all I would have to do is show up and have a good time. But, I’m not as disillusioned as you may think I am – I know that ain’t happening.

Up next week is my cousin’s wedding in The Bluegrass State (Kentucky). Her family is loaded and word on the street is that the wedding could be extravagant. Their immediately family epitomizes and justifies the brown stereotype. The mother is an anesthesiologist, the father is a doctor, one daughter began her residency as a doctor a few years back, and the daughter getting married next week just graduated med school recently. 4 for 4 on the desi stereotype – they are batting a 1,000! My goodness. Geez, spare some scrubs for the rest of the family, will ya?

That is why I anticipate an excessively grandiose wedding. Plus the fact that her older sister got married a few years back and chose not to have the typical, big fancy Indian wedding. So, their parents didn’t exactly get to go all out as they had hoped. But, the one getting married next week is their last daughter and she seems perfectly fine with going abundantly over the top with extravagance and lavish opulence. I’m not sure that the wedding will live up to those standards, but I’m pretty damn sure it’ll be fancier than her sister’s.

Now, I don’t normally make threats, neither am I the type to authoritatively intimidate, but she BETTER have paneer at the wedding. Her sister did not. That day will forever live in infamy. Although, she did kind of sort of pseudo make up for it by serving a mushroom palak shakh instead of the traditional palak paneer. She must have known that she would have to appease me somehow because of her decision to not serve paneer at the reception. She knew right – and the mushrooms did ease the pain caused by the absence of my favorite North Indian treat. She somehow played with fire – and did not get burnt. Her sister better be sure to not press her luck in the same manner.

Thoughts from The Lone Star State

Thoughts from The Lone Star State

“You have to go a long way to beat our meat.” That double entendre is courtesy of The Market Place in St George Island, FL. I read that on the back of someone’s shirt while I was waiting in the security line at the airport the other day. Either they have huevos made of titanium or they are utterly oblivious. I couldn’t help but smile and snicker when I read that.

I have rented an ample amount of cars over the past year and have learned that the consumer RARELY receives the car they actually want. They almost always stick me with some puta de la mierda coche. So, this time, they offered me a choice between the PT Cruiser (a car that I absolutely loathe) or the Toyota Prius. I reluctantly chose the Prius – honestly, I would have even selected a Chevy Malibu over a PT Cruiser. After about ten minutes of seated deliberation on how to start the car, I got a salesman to help me. Not only do you jam the entire key fob into a slot next to the wheel, but you also have to have your foot on the brake simultaneously while you press the start button. Odd. Needless to say, my 1st impression wasn’t that favorable. But, as I drove the car and started to mess around with its cool features, I started to gradually warm up to the car. Once I realized that the car was a hybrid vehicle and that I was getting 45-50 mpg, I nearly reached a vehicular climax. If I didn’t have the wherewithal to withdraw, I would’ve impregnated the hell out of that sedan. It even has a rear-view camera that turns on once you put the car in reverse. And, they have a screen seated atop the dash that displays the climate (A/C and Heating system) and the Audio system of the car – and it’s all touch screen. Once in a while I actually rent a car that I would actually consider buying – last time it was a VW Passat and this time the Toyota Prius.

As I drove the 2 1/2 hour trip from Dallas to Longview, I noticed that they have an Indian radio station in Dallas (104.9 – Radio Salaam Namaste). I think it’s the only 24/7 Indian radio station in the States. I was blown away. I listened to it up until the point I could only faintly discern an occasional dhol amidst interference and static. They played everything from Bhangra to remixes to old school songs (they even played Pehla Nasha – that my friends, is my generation’s “old school” – a friggin’ classic).

Pehla Nasha (absolutely classic)

I heard that they have a radio station like this in Atlanta, but I have yet to listen to it. But please believe, when I go back to the A, I’m gonna keep my eardrums out for it. Listening to Indian music made me reminisce on some of the better pondae (aka Indian, desi, brown, etc.) parties I went to in the past. I swear, when I hear an old school Hindi jam, it reinvigorates the love and passion I have for Indian music. To be quite frank, listening to that station made me miss being around brown folks a little. It seems that I have stretches of association and disassociation with the Indian community.

There are times when I go to a lot of events and festivities held throughout the Indian community and there are months, sometimes years when I am more ambivalent about the Indian community. I don’t know, but listening to that Indian music on the radio brought back a lot of great memories. I’ve tried very hard over the years to NOT be defined by my culture and heritage. I didn’t want to be one of those Indians whose entire world revolved around all things Indian. It isn’t as though I am or ever was ashamed of being who I am, it’s just that I’ve grown weary in the past of the ignorant mindset and segregationist attitude that has come to define many members of our community. Regardless, with all the being said, and a LOT was said, I love my brown folks and no matter what, I love who I am and where I am from. I have digressed TREMENDOUSLY, but, I guess my point is that hearing the tablas and sitars on the radio made me miss my community. I seem to have acclimated myself to facetiously chastising brown folks intermittently, but the truth is that I love my brownies – always have and always will. Now, if only they would put an Indian music channel on Pandora radio or on Sirius or XM Satellite radio. They NEED to do this.

I have put my Blackberry Pearl up for sale on Craigslist and Facebook. If anyone is interested, I will be letting it go for a non-negotiable price of $125. It is a white TMobile Blackberry Pearl which is in great conditon, save a few minor scratches on the top (not on the face or screen of the phone). I have decided that I actually enjoyed my Motorola RAZR more than I did my Pearl. The Pearl is a great phone and mine worked great, but I didn’t intend on buying the internet plan and missed the flip design of the RAZR. I guess, contrary to my irrelevant ruminations, I do give a flip. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

I love girls in simple clothes. Most times when I fly, a majority of females are dressed down in sweats or hoodies – and I find it very attractive. I don’t know what it is, but there is something to be said about a girl in sweats and a hoodie. I guess if a girl can have you going ga-ga over her in some sandals and a hoodie, then imagine how mind-numbingly gorgeous she would be when she took the time to look good. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always preferred the simple look over the extravagant. Maybe in some odd way, getting with a girl who dresses down gives me an excuse to habitually resemble a haphazard hobo. Dressed down or in a sari – either of those two will get me almost every time. Honestly, how can a woman NOT look stunning in a sari? That, to quote the proverbial Hamster, is “money in the bank”. If you can wear the hell out of a sari, you might as well bring a pujari with you, because we’re exchanging vows at that very moment. I’m a sucker for saris.