Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Love Evaporation!

As part of learning to gargle, my 21-month-old-son has learnt to hold water in his mouth and then spit it out. Needless to say, this has led to some "interesting" episodes where milk has gotten transferred from the glass or bottle to different destinations other than his stomach.

I was however, not prepared for what he did today.

When my attention returned after a 60-second interval - no more - to my son and my laptop (which was on when I had left it), I found he had "transferred" - in my best estimate - about 5-6 gargles-full of water onto my laptop. Which, as I said, was on when I had moved away from it 60 seconds earlier. With a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach and hoping against hope, I felt the laptop for a pulse. There was none. It was done for.

For a good 2 seconds - bad 2 seconds, actually - time and the world stood still for me. The potential damage of a $1,000 - irrespective of whether my company paid or had me pay - paled in comparison to the catastrophe that awaited me if my data had gotten corrupted.

But my high-school physics and chemistry kicked in, so I leveraged the combined forces of molecular movement, air velocity and elevation. I set it vertically to drain the laptop of the water, opened it up and kept a high-speed table-fan right next to it and let it dry in phases (keyboard, under the keyboard, power-unit/fan) across several hours.

Finally, an anxious 6 hours later, all the water had dried up and lo & behold, the laptop booted up! The poor chap (my laptop, that is; my son got away only with a groan from me) isn't out of the woods yet, but at least I was able to take a complete back-up of all my data.

I love evaporation! And Dell. Goes well with my Nokia E71 that survived an oil attack earlier this year (oil is thicker than water, so the speaker was out of action for a whole week). Phew!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CA-130 - a breathtaking drive

I have always found it captivating to climb up to an elevation and gaze at the city or city lights or expansive countryside at my feet. Perhaps it is because of Amar Chitra Katha stories I read as a child where kings had outposts atop hills to watch for the approaching enemy or it may be because of my frequent trips to Moti Dongor (a hill in my hometown named after the 'Moti' [jasmine] flower that grew there aplenty in yesteryears) from where one got a view of the entire city. As a teenager, a few of us friends would cycle up to the top of the hill and perch ourselves atop a boulder on the eastern side of the hill to take in the unhindered view of the town at our feet and the open countryside beyond it.

On Sunday evening last week, my wife had to attend to some chores. Not having to multi-task to satiate our toddler son's ever-growing inquisitiveness would have been a great help, so I decided to take him and do something that I would love doing but my wife wouldn't quite enjoy - drive up to Mt. Hamilton.

Monday, September 13, 2010

All for the best!

In primary school - probably in the 3rd standard - we had this lesson titled "All for the Best". It was a story about this wise minister who always felt everything happened for a good reason and always dismissed every untoward incident with "All for the Best!". Which earns him the King's wrath one day because he exclaims "All for the Best!" when the King accidentally chops off one of his own fingers. A few weeks later while out hunting, the King is captured by some tribals and is about to be sacrificed to their Goddess when they see a missing finger and thus "disqualify" him from being sacrificed (since only "healthy" men were to be sacrificed).

I was reminded of this story today though of course, my experience was hardly as bizarre or life-threatening.

I landed in Denver, picked up my rental car, punched in my destination address in the GPS and took off. Less than a mile out, my GPS failed. I pulled over and realized the battery was dead and the power-cable was broken. I usually carry my personal GPS - for the petty pleasure of saving my company $10+ per day, but this evening, I was kicking myself for trying to save those $10. For, the road out from Denver Airport is miles and miles and miles of nothing. And at 9PM at night, for sure, you can see nothing else but nothing.

One cannot of course make a U-turn on the freeway and with seemingly every exit either leading to another freeway or a toll road, I didn't really know where to turn. To my luck, my cell-phone signal was also low, so I couldn't use the GPS on my phone either. I would have called my wife for navigational assistance, but my ear-piece was in my bag in the trunk and there was no way I was going to try navigating with the speaker-phone at 70mph at 9PM on an unfamiliar freeway. I was averse to going back to the car rental, because that too was, well, in the middle of another nowhere.

Right then, I heard a soft but ominous alarm in the car. The car was overheating.

That made the decision for me. I was going back to the car rental - middle of nowhere or not. At the car rental, while they were checking me out with the new car, I asked them for a GPS. To which, the customer-rep said he would have to go get one from their storeroom because the ones he had were all broken! DAMMIT, I thought, but I also thought I could just borrow their power cable instead of renting the unit. Turned out it was the power-cable that was broken! For a split second I was convinced some forces were conspiring against me.

But since the car had over-heated and since they didn't have a GPS handy and since I wasn't cussing and yelling - yet - the customer rep decided to help me out. He asked what make my GPS was. Garmin, I said. Turned out he was a sales rep for Garmin before he joined the car rental agency! For the first time in the last 30 minutes, I was actually happy about something. He rummaged around, found a power-cable for my GPS and even went on to tweak some settings on my GPS.

That's how I learned about WAAS and EGNOS -

I drove off - though delayed by a good 30 minutes - actually happy that the first car had overheated! Were it not for the overheating, I might have elected heroics based on the position of the moon to get my bearings to head west over trying to find my way back to the car rental! And of course, I would have been without a GPS for the remainder of my stay. And I would never have heard of WAAS or his cousin, EGNOS. On the other hand, had the GPS not failed, I would have probably had a much longer drive coming back to return the faulty car.

Like they say, "All for the Best!". Though of course, for the GPS not to have failed and the car not to have overheated, would have been better than the best...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chiquita Sundae: Phenori with ice-cream

I picked up a "Chiquita Sundae" from Chevy's tonight for dessert and stashed it away in the freezer - in a bid surprise my wife - so she & I could have it after the little fellow was off to sleep.

And now that the little fellow has indeed gone off to sleep, I got the 'Chiquita Sundae' out of the freezer.

It is - according to Chevy's online menu - a "rich vanilla ice-cream in a sweet cinnamon boat topped with our homemade Cajeta or homemade Chocolate-Kahlua sauces and whipped cream". This is the first time I've eaten a "Chiquita Sundae". The "cinnamon boat" tastes a lot like 'phenori' - a Konkani delicacy that is much like the 'chiroti' and is usually a common delicacy during Ganesh Chaturthi (though the 'phenori' doesn't have cinnamon).

I have no hesitation in recommending this to anyone who likes desserts. And I'm wondering why I never thought of 'phenori' with ice-cream before. Slurp!

To my wife, who fell asleep trying to put the little fellow to sleep: if you haven't yet charged out of your seat by now on reading this, you'll find the other half waiting in the refrigerator. The half that I generously left for you after successfully fighting temptation. Well, not quite an arithmetically-accurate "half", but at least you'll know now what 'phenori' with ice-cream tastes like. Bon ap├ętit! :)