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Archive for September, 2007

What do i wish to choose depends of what i can get out of this for myself and others. Inept scale for weighing the two makes the choice more difficult. Though the choice is not clear cut, i’d choose a million dollars over knighthood.

Funding a small innovative technology business, nurturing it, and help it grow would make the choice of a million dollars more appropriate for me. A seed capital of million dollars is a huge sum to invest in any one business and the risk involved is uncalled for. Budding entrepreneurs with innovative ideas don’t need more than a hundred thousand dollars for any activity, initially at least. The entrepreneurs could be college students or the ebullient graduates. The lack of entrepreneurial instinct in India is due to the risk involved in such a venture. The risk is mainly the money but playing safe would kill the killer idea of a youth. Giving a support by empowering them to achieve what they really want to would give immense joy for me, which even the knighthood would fail to give.

A million dollars is enough to fund at least ten such entrepreneurs. Be it the idea of providing property classifieds over Google earth in real time, or development of a seamless audio transmission network, all it needs is a little encouragement and some capital. The benefactors of such an activity is not only the group of people involved in it but also the one who are using the technology for their convenience, and there by taking India from being a destination for cheap labor to land of entrepreneurs with innovative business development models and ideas.

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North East Monsoon

The increase in the temperature i felt in Bangalore after coming back from Coorg was making me uncomfortable. ‘Feels like summer’ i uttered, walking to lunch in the scorching sun.

I read a news article that the rise in temperature at the end of South-West monsoon before the onset of North-East monsoon was usual, and higher the rise in temperature more the downpour would be. Couldn’t agree more, after the showers on Wednesday night.

I left office by about 9pm, there was no hint of rain in Indiranagar at that time. The roads were relatively free of traffic, i reached the Queens road in about 10 minutes. I could see the wet roads there, ‘it must have rained heavily here’ i thought. Still cruising smoothly i reached Race course road. Light drizzle started by that time. As i neared Shivananda Circle, heavy showers lashed. The downpour was nothing like i had seen in quite few years. Roads were jammed. Riders taking shelter in the available spaces, under trees and bus stops, parking their two-wheelers haphazardly on road added more woes to the traffic. I rode in the pouring showers, my nike jacket and Starflash helmet providing enough protection. My low ankle Adidas shoes were drenched in rising water as i moved crawling in the snail paced traffic.

The water was about 1 feet at the underpass near Ceegees. The ride was really bumpy with uneven manholes covers, potholes, and ditches. The Barapole at some parts had lesser water and rafting was less bumpy! The picture below shows an Accent near that place.

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The downpour was more stable past this place, but the arterial roads in central Bangalore were still chocked with Cars, Buses, and two-wheelers. Finally i reached home, totally drenched.

North East monsoon arrives, cooler Bangalore until summer. :)

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After planning and failing a couple of times for Kail river rafting, i agreed without a second thought for rafting at Coorg when Chethan asked me some time in mid July. I didn’t ask who, when, how or anything for that matter. It did happen early September, and it was quite an adventure!

The journey to the base camp at Ponya organic coffee estate from Bangalore was expected to take about 6 hours. Five of us left on a Swift at 4:30 am on Friday morning as we were expected to be at the camp before noon. Fifteen others were on a Santro, Indica and Octavia, all starting at about the same time.

The drive till Mysore was on impeachable curvy four lane road, with less traffic. Going past a couple of glittering 24-hour coffee shops on highway at Chanapattna and Mandya we reached the outskirts of Mysore at 6:20am. We headed to a vintage restaurant serving idly-chutney somewhere in Mysore city.

Finishing our breakfast, we headed towards Coorg by 8am. The road was good for about half an hour drive, then the narrow single lane road started. We headed towards Hunsur. The drive after Hunsur in intermittent rain was taking toll on the low clearance of Swift with narrow potholed roads requiring lot of maneuvering. With maps in my hand i navigated to reach K.K.R. Bridge(tea estate bridge), after passing Titimati, Gonikoppal, Ponnampet and T.Shettigeri with some breathtaking scenic paddy fields and cloud covered hills. Taking directions from locals we reached the Ponya estate.

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Neither the Hutch dog nor the Airtel jingle followed us at that place, couldn’t contact John’s BSNL. Myself, Biju and couple of others walked through the estate on look out for John, and were lucky enough to find him soon. Parked the cars on the side of the road, took our backpacks, and headed for the base camp which was about a kilometer walk. It was nearly 11 am.

Dropped our bags at the provided tents on the banks of the Barapole and changed to dry fit tees and shorts. Zipped the tents as instructed, not providing a warm house for snakes and thousands of other insects at the camp. The instructors/guides provided wind cheaters, life jackets and water sports helmets (all American brand, Made in China! lol). After brief instructions and tips by John we were taken for lunch at a place next to the tea estate bridge on Mahindra jeeps and pickups, which are the unmatched by any SUVs on that terrain. The rafts were atop a modified jeep.

After lunch, we went on jeep about 8-9km on road to reach a small bridge. Unmounted the rafts, few more briefing sessions followed, with 5 on a raft we were ready to go in the drizzling monsoon rain on the rough Barapole.
coorg_02.jpgThe rafting on first day was on narrow Upper Barapole, with lots of bamboo trees and bushes with spider webs. There were few rocks and the rafts got stuck at a couple of places on this narrow gorge. The ride was quite adventurous with few class 3 rapids and many class 1-2 rapids. Frequent ducking in the raft to avoid the tree branches hitting the helmet protected head had to be timed to perfection to enjoy the bumpy ride. There were lots of spiders of different kinds and sizes, having their webs on these bushes, which landed on our rafts and at times over our faces. Ride surely not for the arachnophobic.

Our guide Mahendra, a native of Nepal, made us play few games on the raft. Balancing on the edge of the raft like on a surf board as the raft was rowed to circle by others, locking the T joints of the paddle and balance on the raft, and running along the edge of the raft! Almost all of us dived into the water on most occasions, failing to balance. I did quite well to balance on one occasion staying on the raft for about 30sec when the raft circled rapidly with cheers from Pratima and others.

Drizzing was intermittent, the water got colder by evening, and we were close to the base camp. Few more forward paddles, the rafting on day one came to end. We pulled the raft towards the banks, close to 6 in the evening.

The rain got heavier, we let our outfits to dry on the campfire next to the tents under a canopy. Coffee and tea were served along with some chilly corn flakes and biscuits. It got darker, chatting next to the campfire went on for quite some time till the dinner was served. It was not the famed ‘Pandi Curry‘ but another the local delight, ‘coconut rice’ with some sambar and a sweet, slowly everyone slipped into their tents pulling over the sleeping bags. It was still 9 pm!

We could see only a few sparkling fire files in the pitch dark night. Listening to Avril and Shakira for some time and then to the croaking frogs, and insect squeaks, i went to sleep.

Bright Sunshine, chirping of birds, and turbulent flow of river made me get out of the sleeping bag at 6:30am on a Saturday morning. The view was serene with sun rays shimmering on the river. The pure organic coffee sip embraced me with warmth, and i took quite a few cups that morning.

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Walking along the coffee estate in the early morning, got down to a more turbulent river flow the golden shimmer on the river was much better but was ephemeral due to the dark clouds. Spotted a snake, few strange looking insects, and realized a few leeches sucking blood on my feet. The shimmer off the coffee beans, the cool breeze on the river and the chirping birds made my day.

Taking a few oily pooris for breakfast, on to dry fit clothes and rafting gear, we were ready to go. This stretch was expected to be free of trees and bushes hovering over the river, with class 3-4 rapids in succession. At about 11 we pulled the rafts on to the river, after few routine drills, plunges in water, and reviving the paddle moves we headed downstream passing under the tea estate bridge after few forward paddles.

“Morning Coffee” was a class 2 rapid we faced first up. Rains last night had made the river more rough, and exciting. Morning Coffee was followed by three class 3 rapids, “GrassHopper”, “Wicked Witch”, and “Frame Head”.

An hour had passed, and we were close to a class 4 rapid, “Milky Churn”. Pulled the rafts on to the banks, a small trek over the rocks got us in front of Milky churn, in full flow. allonrocks.jpg

The vigor of the river flow was more fierce than it appears in the image. John and his team left first for the Milky Churn, followed by Rana’s, Mohammad’s and then our team. Few forward paddles and were holding on to the rope, the raft rocked with gallons of water filling the raft! The bumpy ride was uncanny and unmatched. The splendid moments were captured by Aurangazeb standing with camera on one of the banks, next to the tea estate which were on either side of the river. The joy and exhilaration on our faces were evident.

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A swimming rapid followed, taking few plunges, swimming in relatively calm water, and a capsize, we were we were close to our final stop.

As if all this wasn’t enough to exhaust us, we had to carry the raft to load it on to the jeep! The steep, narrow, and treacherous terrain of the coffee estate made the task almost impossible. I was taking more load, the price i paid for being taller than others in the group, until Biju joined us. The distance we covered was nearly a kilometer, the weight of the rafts on our head made it feel much more. Finally we reached the jeeps. Loading the rafts, we were taken back to the base camp. The rafting expedition was ended with a sumptuous lunch at the camp, but our trip didn’t…

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Modes of relishing music has undergone an immense change since my childhood. Though i am not a fanatic of a particular genre or band i would sure listen to music often, and the choice predominantly depending on my mood.

The variety of sources include radios, phonographs, TVs, cassette players, walkmans, discmans, desktops/laptops, mp3 players, juke boxes at cafes, internet radio, and even as caller tunes on mobile phones!

My early childhood memories recall an old radio at our home, huge in size. A uniquely woven cloth covered the speakers that was integrated in the bulky wooden box. The design showcased the speakers and an analogue display with knobs to scroll, tuning for the AM/FM channels, in the front and wooden case covered the other sides. This was a piece my dad had procured, with his first pay check as a radio engineer. Those were the days when color televisions was a big thing and the radio channels was less impressive.

Radio we had was very very simial to the one in pic

The radio at home is very similar to the one in image above. The choice of music obviously were that of the RJs (not sure of the designation :P) and had to send a snail mail for request, which never happened in my case. Listened to some old (retrospective) Kannada, and some Hindi songs on this, occasionally.

Cassette players by Panasonic, and Sony were more preferred over this antique (even at that time) and the audio cassettes were a rage.

Around the same time we (me and my cousins) got Sony’s Walkman players. The headphones provided with that were big for 5 year olds but still we managed to listen on that. The cassette-based walkman was very new to India in late 80s and i think there weren’t any Sony outlets then. The products had to be “imported”. The walkmans didn’t have any equalizers and the only controls were for Play, Stop, Forward and Volume. A couple of years later we got the walkmans with equalizers, the use of which were insignificant to us at that time, and of course the tiny earphones (can i call them on-ear earphones as compared to the in-ear earphones??).

The phonograph at my cousin’s place was very exciting. I would dabble with it when i visited them, making it sound funny. Some DJing at that time!

There were also small transistor radios with small speakers and a long antennas. I remember a red colored small transistor radio which was played every morning as i got ready for school, playing all kinds of songs and reading out snail mail requests from listeners on Akashvani, and Vividh Bharati.

Transistor radio

Then was the time of bigger and better “music systems” with equalizer settings and more than two channel systems, and probably the advent of home theater systems. These systems had more PMPO output than the older players and hence attracted more attention. (probably this is were music industry realized the need of less dynamic range music to make it more popular and achieve more compression).

Soon came the CD players, a significant change in the audio industry. They could not only store more songs but also were to offer better sound quality. A technology change from magnetic tapes to optical drives.

We got a Philips CD player music system which also offered cassette-player and multi band radio. The audio CDs were only for the audiophiles as they were more expensive than the sober cassettes. This system with two stereo speakers, offering 400W PMPO, had a range of audio effects for different genre of music and some effect for surround sound. 400 watts was not very high as there were players up to 2000W but was more than enough for my room. The audio was pristine and the quality of music was phenomenal and superior to any other player ever i listened to.

Shortly i got my first desktop computer, which played the role of a music player as well with Creative speakers. The phase was not very exciting as far as the quality of music is concerned but the mp3s and software players(Winamp, Real, Jet audio and what not!) with array of post processing options and the ease of use pulled me to that. Played CDs, mp3s but not cassettes. This was the time when cassettes were losing out their shine and soon had to ascend from the throne. CDs were more cheaper than earlier, and CDs carrying hundreds of mp3 songs were available for much cheaper price than ever before.

Meanwhile, the Radio was back with a bang, the advent of FM channels, notably Radio City on 91FM. RJs Suresh Venkat and Geeta Modgil were nothing less than a celebrity in Bangalore.

I remember being to one of Radio City organized concerts, Euphoria, Antaragni and one other band playing, they had set of huge speakers and being right in front of the stage i listened to deafening music. Being at Rahman’s concert on a rainy night at palace grounds was only a tinge better than the Radio City’s concert. I had a tiny FM tuner for a brief period of time.

Then came the DVD players, mp3 players with flash and hard drives, and mobile phones doubling as music players. The era of cassette players was gone, seems ephemeral now!

More recently i got a Sony Walkman mp3 player with USB connectivity for car audio systems. The earphones had not changed much from the earphones i had used for cassette-based Walkmans but reproduced better quality of music. I was unhappy in noisy environments as i couldn’t listen to good music.

Sony walkman mp3 player

Soon came the Bose QC3 headphones offering active noise cancellation. The crystal clear quality of music is again at its phenomenal best since the days of Philips music system, with an exception of occasional less pristine mp3 song at lower bit rate (being euphemistic).

In the near future looking forward to Audio Spotlight developed by Joe Pompei, as he disregards the conventional speaker systems to the ultrasonic one he invented.

And i dream of not wearing any physical device but able to listen to music just by the thought of it. No strings attached!

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Hey world!

How you doin’?

Writing, not just for the heck of it. An attempt to put down thoughts in a wordy way, avoiding being prolix (even if i want to huh!?), more than a mere comment or expression or a smiley. A conscience attempt, by will.

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