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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Clothes for doll

I have a Glam Doll Barbie I had fun dressing up. I bought patches of fabric from Walmart (super cheap @99 cents) and worked my way to some random assortment of clothes for her. These are some my attempts. Most are work still in progress, but I am learning a lot as I have learned with every new hobby I picked up. If you are interested, let me know, I will be glad to share how I made it.

Dress 1
Dress 2
Dress 3
Dress 4
Dress 5

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Travelogue: Silver Falls

There is an undeniable connection between humans and nature. Unmolested greenery, the sounds of a free-flowing brook, and chirps of an unknown bird rustling among the leaves of a tree comfort a soul that feels tired in the concrete jungles of civilization sometimes. I know I have forgotten the skills to survive in the wilderness thousands of years ago. But those who manage to do it for pleasure or for pain- come out with the wisdom that we need very basic things to survive: a hunting knife, the knowledge of fire, and the ability to climb trees for safe shelter at night. 

It may be several moons before I go on a jungle safari in Africa or South America, but I can quench my thirst with what is available around me. On my recent trip to Oregon, I discovered Silver Falls State Park, which has 10 waterfalls. Road construction on our way to the park included single lane closures with pilot cars chaperoning visitors to follow them through the dusty road. It was a sigh of relief when we saw concrete road again. The Northern Falls appeared first, but the real beauty was the South Falls. The volume of water had diminished in Silver Creek with the onset of dry months and swimming was not allowed owing to hazardous conditions. We hiked for couple of hours around South Falls trail. The trailhead that begins at South Falls takes about 5 hours to reach North Falls (about 6.9 miles). 

A temperate rainforest has charms of its own. The unabashed verdancy invites you to explore it more intimately. I surrendered and felt lost among the lushness as I walked on the trail spellbound, my will to see the waterfall more closely growing stronger with each step. Soon, the naked overhang of rocks was above me- I touched the ceiling that had patches of brown rocks (probably Iron deposits) on the black basalt bed. The mist from the waterfall moistened my face, and I felt hypnotized as I looked where the water hit and created a plunge pool.

There were several gaping holes, called ‘erosional chimneys’ formed by continual enlargement of cracks and fissures under the attack of ice and percolating water. * I looked up the chimneys and wondered what might creep out of it. I imagined that with some effort I could actually crawl up one of those- but fortunately, my companion is more pragmatic than I am and wouldn't have allowed it. I saw a bench, dedicated to the memory of one Michael Summers. It said ‘We miss our walks with you.’ I imagined a family walking together on this beautiful trail- what a wonderful way to remember someone!

We progressed past the South Falls trail and towards the Twin falls. The forest got quieter and the trail narrower as we walked by the stream. SG said that maybe we return to the trailhead before wandering too far. “Maybe next time’’ I thought while I looked around still dazed by the curious things around me.
Suggested further reading :
Oregon State Park link
Oregon geology link *
Silver Falls Trail map link

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hum Chlormint kyu khaate hai?

Ok, everyone is doing Batman-Robin joke these days. Here's mine. (Premise: You need to watch Indian Cholrmint ads)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple iTunes credit fraud

The good thing about having little money is that you can monitor it constantly. I have the habit of checking my BOA account at least once a week, especially before the weekend splurging begins. On 09/04/2012, I discovered that the merchant name: Al*Apple iTunes had made an unauthorized withdrawal with my card.

I called up Dispute transaction/claims of BOA at 1-877-366-1121 and notified them of the transaction, then got my card blocked. They sent me a claim report to fill in some details while they temporarily adjusted the amount to my account. I looked up at the Apples support site where similar incidents have been reported. (Link)

Fortunately, Apples iTunes made a refund on 09/10, BOA made the temporary credit reversal on 09/18 and all is well. For now.

 In case it happens to someone else, please cooperate with your bank in their investigations and report the claim asap.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to make the best use of criticism

I was reading this article by Vinod Khosla on TechCrunch, where he decouples the need to be a jerk to become a successful entrepreneur. But he asks the readers to be 'objective, intellectually honest leaders' and says,'I prefer brutal honesty to hypocritical politeness.'

A lot of us believe that we prefer so too in our dealings with others, but find it rather difficult to accept when criticism about us or our work is not sugar-coated or served with other random praises. I, for one, believe in giving my best to the task at hand- often pushing myself to do some extra bit so that no one can find fault with the completed task. For many years, it worked for me- my parents, immediate family, peers, teachers, my superiors - all seemed happy. If there ever was a rare occasion where I felt that I did not do as well as I should have, I tried to compensate by outperforming in others.

But life has reached a different phase now- it is not about just one job or one relation. And I have realized that I have to open my perceptions to objective assessment. Not denigrating or belittling my efforts, but genuine advice that shows me ways to improve my undertaking. It might not be possible for me to cover all bases all the time. People have different set of values and experiences, and they will judge based on the extent of their intellectual facilities. Some may not be able to process the information completely and beyond the scope of their accommodation or acquaintance, but be eager to make recommendations nevertheless. However, it is good to know how things look from a different perspective. Now, you might or might not agree with their opinion, but there is seldom the need to wage a war over it.

Monday, September 03, 2012


I was a war correspondent at Kosovo when I met her for the first time. The first thing I noticed about her was that she had kind eyes and a very comforting calmness about her; the way she spoke to those who had to live through the horrors of war. She empathized with their suffering and tried her best to bring out their stories for the world to hear. It was not long before we got married. I was her colleague and husband but we respected each other’s decisions as adults, never infringing upon the professional territory of the other. I always considered her a better reporter, though she was several years younger to me. Her sensitiveness to war and suffering was not vitiated by age.

Then she got posted in Syria. I knew it was nothing like the war zones we had covered before. Drones dropped bombs on residential buildings without qualms. Soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were executed by the Syrian Army deployed by the government. The civilians and army defectors unified and fought under the ‘Free Syrian Army’. She moved around with the help of the insurgents, doing what she best did- reporting stories of innocent people whose lives were caught up in conflicts.

I moved in with her and we heard reports of journalists dying in the field: American reporter Marie Colvin, award-winning French photographer Remi Ochlik , French television journalist Gilles Jacquier. No matter whose side you were reporting from, there was no safety. I feared for my life and hers too when the journalist next door to our hotel room was fatally wounded by a gunshot.

We were traveling to report shootings in Aleppo, in northwestern Syria, 310 kms from Damascus. We saw another group in army fatigues moving across the street and I thought they were from Free Syrian Army . But suddenly, someone screamed and I heard gunshots. I moved to my left and took shelter behind the broken walls of a dilapidated building. After an hour, I managed to crawl out and reached my hotel. I waited for her to arrive too, but she did not. Someone mentioned seeing her in the hospital. I rushed where she was and saw her body on a stretcher. Her hair and trousers were red. I saw where the bullets had entered and exited through her neck and right leg. I asked her if she had been in pain, if she had looked for me. But she said nothing. Our government helped me to take back her body to our country where our families arranged for a funeral.

We had talked about this before- living under the constant possibility of death- and she had told me if she were to die before me, she would come back to our house and move the statue we had bought together for our garden. I watched it every day while I was at home. But time has come for me to return to work, and my will has not been broken yet. I will do what she would have wanted me to do: go back to Syria to report the unheard stories of human plight.

(incomplete draft)