Manchester United vs Arsenal (Nov19,2016) – Two Cents

A united fan writing from a United POV, so feel free to call it biased. The talking points for me were:

  • United played as if the international break was never ever there in the first place, however the same cannot be said about Arsenal. They had 11 bodies on the field and yet it seemed like some of them were not yet present there.
  • The bromance between Mata and Herrera off the field has blossomed into a near telepathic connection on the field. The yin of the rugged, workhorse of a player that Herrera is, is perfectly complemented by the silky yang of Mata.
  • The first half shout for a penalty should have been given. Valencia could have put in a bit more effort to stay on his feet however Monreal was outrun and he was in air, with arms across Valencia when he brought him down!
  • This pragmatic approach of somehow churning out a result from an otherwise poor outing could bode well for Arsenal in the long run. This used to one of United’s trademarks !
  • United, should be winning these matches. If we cannot win it when we play well, we are in deeper trouble than what the points table suggests !

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them : Review

I should start by saying that this was probably one of the most awaited movies of the year for me. So pardon me if i had set too high an expectation.  What awaited me was an entertainer with quite a few amazing moments, plugged into a magical journey.

Five Reasons to watch :

  •  A glimpse into the Magical World of Harry Potter. The fans love this world unconditionally and those who aren’t fans are ever so curious about whats around the corner. This movie has subtle hints to Harry Potter if you are looking for it – an occasional mention of Hogwarts and Dumbledore, a Gryffindor scarf etc bring the familiar world back to us.This movie is guaranteed to bring a smile on your face.
  • The animation and the colors makes the movie surreal. The vibrant blues and golds bring the imaginary creatures to life and there are moments one wishes they were real.The graphics around the Obscurus was unnerving and was Scary without being gross, I would say they nailed a difficult scene perfectly. I can list the creatures and their beauty all day and I am sure they are going to live in my mind for a long time to come
  •  Mr.Farrell’s acting has me convinced that he is a wizard. Such is the flair with which he has performed this role. Miller on the other hand had a difficult role to play and has done justice to the short role. Dan Fogler brings a breathe of fresh air into an otherwise grim movie. Eddie Redmayne had a hesitant\curious\shy character and I am not entirely sure why. Much as I loved seeing him, his character could have had better dimension.
  •  A glimpse of New York from the past.This has been done in multiple movies before but not with the imagination of JK Rowling. The life of NoMajs(Muggles) has an old world charm and appeal. The bakery scene almost made me want to jump out of the seat and get into the screen just to smell the freshness of a newly baked bread that they were picturing.
  •  Meet the Pre-Voldemort Baddie. Fables come to life as we have a glimpse of a not-so-mad and ever-so-sensible Grindlewald.

Where it could have scored better:

  • Newt Scamander deserves a book, before the movie. JK Rowling should have explained to us why he is the way he is.
  • I have often been at a loss of words on why people think that every single thing needs to be ‘Americanized’. The heavy British accent that shouted out ‘Hogwarts!!’ was missing from the word go as FB (Fantastic Beasts) is based out of New York.
  • Unlike their present day counterparts, New York City is painted out to be a dull, boring, slightly OCD’d world from both the No-Maj (Yeah, Americans like to rename everything, even if we Muggles do not mind being called muggles) and wizarding world point of view. 
  • There were so many situations that warranted a better explanation, unless you are absolutely thorough on your knowledge of the Harry Potter World.
  • ‘The Flash’, was a pretty odd choice for an odd character.

 

A movie that could have been a lot better had there been a proper JK Rowling book that preceded it and yet, something the HP fan in me would never have missed for anything !!

Philly Septa Strike: Commuter Nightmares!!

Do not manage something that is working fine” These are indeed words of wisdom and I was taught these by the Septa Strike that started in Philadelphia, PA on 03-November-2016.

Septa Regional Rail was functional. First day saw Septa workers try to manage the Crowds by having a queue system where they let only 150 people on the train at each station. Now this does seem fair if the train had a capacity of 450 – 500. And if there were 2 busier stops after ours.

My Train Line = Media Elwyn.
This train makes pickups at 4 important stops: Jefferson Station, Suburban Station, 30th Street Station and University City. We have 5 trains between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. And the trains are fairly uncrowded save an odd day or two.
I usually board this train at Suburban Station.

Day 1: I got on the tracks at 4:30pm and had to wait in a humungous line that moved ever so slowly. I finally boarded a train at 5:45pm. Now, this would have been acceptable had the train been full. It was not. Surprisingly the train was relatively empty (not relatively full) throughout the ride and I know for a fact that there were at least 500 additional folks waiting in a line in Suburban Station.

Day 2: This day I got wiser and decided to take a few photos if the above situation repeated itself. I stood in the line at 4:45pm. I was lucky enough to board by 5:30pm. (30 minutes saved compared to prior day). I spoke to an attendant who said they were doing things differently. Below are the images of how differently the train ride was.

Snapshot 01: After the train left Suburban Station
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Snapshot 02: After the train left 30th Street Station
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Snapshot 03: After the train left University City
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Due to some confusion passengers were told this is a local train and it turned out to be an express. As a result, folks had to get out at subsequent stops to ensure that they are on right train.

The trains are running empty. Does Septa not know this ?? How, there are folks checking tickets on the train. They would surely have noticed that half the train is empty. Why then are we made to wait an hour at Suburban Station ?Guess things are different after all !!

I have never tried counting capacity of a Septa Car. This particular one seems capable of seating over 100 people easily. The train had around 7 cars. So why would Septa let only 150 people board at every station ??

Universal Orlando in a Day: Part I

PARKING:

We reached at 8:30am. We asked for Regular Parking (20$) but the lady at the counter suggested that we go for preferred parking (25$) as it means less to walk. We paid for preferred parking, it was near the entrance and saved us a lot of time both in the morning and in the evening while leaving the park.

THE PARKS:

The park is located in the form of a circle. When you walk in from the parking, you have an option of going Left to Island of Adventures or going left towards Universal Studios. The day we visited, Universal Studios was set to close at 7:00pm and Island of Adventures at 8:00pm. We started with Universal Studios.

There is a Train – Hogwarts Express to go between the parks.

TICKETS:

I was visiting Tampa for a weekend and I wished to visit Harry Potter World at Universal. After a lot of online research and landing up on fake sites, I decided to chuck it and got my tickets from the official universal site.

  • $147 for One Day Park to Park Ticket
  • $70 for One Day park to Park Express Pass
  • $14 Taxes
  • $14 for FedEx Delivery

*(I spent 465$ for tickets for 2 people).Use the Print at Home option and save 14$ for yourself.

The Express Pass can be bought in the Park at one of several kiosks. There was absolutely no rush on the day we went. But I would still suggest getting it beforehand to save you some time.

Once you have the tickets, walk straight to the entrance turnstiles. If you used print at home option, you would need an id card as well. Get an ID-Tag holder with you. You need to present this ticket\print out at every ride and pulling it out of the pockets can get pretty irritating.

Express Pass: We saved 10minutes at couple of rides and more at couple more. While this is a Nice to Have, I don’t think it is a must have. However, if I had to go again, I would buy an express pass.

LOCKERS:

Not All Rides need Lockers. Most of them allow you to take things along and you can place the bags near your foot. The lockers are very easy to operate.

  • Walk to any of the locker screens and touch the screen. Click on “I wish to rent a locker”. It would be free for first 1 one hour of the ride. The machine asks for your fingerprint and after recording it, a locker would open and the number would flash on the screen.
  • Remember the locker number. Stuff all your loose items inside, close the door tight and press the small green button next to it to lock the door.
  • When you want to get your stuff back, head to the same monitor in locker room, click on ‘I wish to reopen a locker’. It would ask for locker number and your finger print for authentication. The locker would have to be emptied when you reopen it.
  • If you have forgotten to add something to your locker, rent a new locker instead of trying to reopen an existing locker.

FOOD and REFRESHMENTS

Based on prior blogs, I expected the food to be wildly expensive. But I was pleasantly surprised.

  • We had Lunch at 11:00am at ‘Louie’s Italian Restaurant’ at Universal Studios. I had Chicken Parmesan Sandwich with salad. My Husband had a Chicken Alfredo Pasta with salad and my friend had a Slice of Pizza. Since we are not Soda people, we asked for a cup of water each. The cost came up to 30$ for all of us.
  • (*The chicken Parmesan was the best one I ever had in my life)
  • The butterbeer beckoned to us at the Diagon Alley section for Harry Potter. We had a butterbeer ice cream and butterbeer slushie for 10$. We also had a box of Cotton Candy from one of the shops for 6$.
  • For Dinner, we had Chicken Fry\Gyro\Chicken Stinger and a Hot Chocolate from Fire Eaters Grill. The Bill came to around 30$ again. The food was decent though not extraordinary. (We walked past Mythos after eating here, else we would have given it a shot)

*All Information is as of 14 November 2015.

*For More Details on the Rides, Read the Part II

 

What’s in a Name ?

As a rule, a bunch of colleagues head out for lunch on every Friday. We try out different restaurants in the area. There is this one restaurant that most of us love and pretty much have our ‘Usual’ defined. Today, we had been to this restaurant.

I asked for my favorite – Cashew Nut Rice. Stir fried veggies in a special gravy, rice on the side and golden brown roasted cashew nuts on top. When we were served, the cashews were no where in sight. I called the waitress and asked her about this. She dismissed me and said they are below the veggies. Surprised that they had changed the way they serve their food, I took my fork and shifted the veggies around searching for my much loved cashew nuts. But Nope, no cashews were to be found in my plate. I called out to the waitress again and pointed out that there were no cashew-nuts anywhere around my plate. She looked at me, with no expression and said ‘ I shall get you cashews’ and much to my surprise, she was back in a minute with a small bowl of non fried cashews. She set it on the table and walked away without another word.

I guess this restaurant wont be on my to-go list of restaurants  for anytime in near future.

 

English We-nglish

Before coming to the USA, I had always been prepared to face difficulties related to accents. As difficult as it is for me as an Asian-Indian, to understand other foreign accents, it is equally difficult for the others to understand the distinct Indian Accent. But more than the accents, I faced difficulties in the way words are used and so did many others with whom I had a chance to discover my adventures. Here are a few of my experiences:

1. This was at a local Store near my place and was within the first week of me landing in the US. I wanted a couple of postage Stamps as I had to mail something to another part of the USA. I walked to the counter and asked for couple of stamps and when I asked how much it was, the man at the counter said ‘Dollar Ten’. When I looked up at him blankly, he repeated ‘Dollar Ten’.  I was still getting used to the Dollar to INR Conversion rates and thought that the stamps were outrageously expensive. I reached into my wallet and gave him a 20$ note. He gave me a 10$, a 5$ and bunch of coins. That is when I realized that ‘Dollar Ten’ means 1 Dollar and 10 Cents. I walked out of the shop with a smile on my face.

2. I was at Chipotle having dinner with a few friends when there was a need for an additional Bowl. I walked up to the counter and this is the dialogue.
Me: Can I please have an extra Bowl?
Lady at the Counter: A What?
Me: An additional BOW-LL
Lady: Excuse me, a what?
Me: A B-OWL?
Lady: (Calls another person and they are now trying to decipher what I am saying)
Me: Bowl, BOW-L, B-OWL?
Lady: Oh, You mean a “BOHL”, of course you can. Here you go.

3. This one was at a Costco . My weighty issues were getting out of hand and I wanted to buy a weighing machine. I went to my nearest Costco and when I could not find it after a couple of aisles, I went to a Costco Associate
Me: Excuse Me, Where can I find the Weighing Machine?
Him: Hmm, Let me see. What is it for?
Me: For measuring my weight…
Him: (With a Smile on his face) Oh, You mean Scales? We have them right here.

The Full Circle

For the uninitiated, the Hierarchy at the IT Office where I work is as follows:
Software Developer Reports to the Business Analyst who reports to the Project Manager who takes inputs from the Data Architect, who in turn, may at times consult the Solution Architect.

Software Developer to Business Analyst: For the files I have been asked to build, is there any specific order to be followed or can I start with the easiest one first.
Business Analyst: Let me check with the Project Manager.

Business Analyst to Project Manager: The files do not seem to be interconnected. Can I ask the developer to build the files according to the level of ease?
Project Manager: Let me check with the Data Architect.

Project Manager to Data Architect: I have been asked if there is an explicit sequence in which the files should be built?
Data Architect: Let me check with the Solution Architect.

Data Architect to Solution Architect: Would you be able to shed some light on whether there exists a predefined framework to arrive at the precise arrangement for the files to be built?
Solution Architect: I shall find out and get back to you on this in sometime.

Solution Architect to Software Developer: Do you have any idea if there is a specific order in which the files should be built or do you think you should start with the easiest one first ?
Software Developer: I don’t think there is any specific order and I can build taking into consideration time to build.
Solution Architect: Great !

 

This is a slightly exaggerated version of what happened to me sometime back !

List of things to take to USA

The following are a list of items I suggest that one brings to USA if they are going for a duration > 6 months. While going through the post, remember it might not be a complete list and also that if you miss out any of these, they are easily available in the US. To make it easy, I have listed down an approximate cost of item in US.

  1. Umbrella. (5$ to 15$ )
  2. The work laptop with all accessories including an adaptor for US Plug Points. (Get an additional adaptor. They are worth around 5$ here )
  3. Pressure cooker + 1 tava + 1 pan. All should be flat bottomed heating method could be Coil Based and not necessarily Gas. Get a chapathi rolling pin. And two additional rubber, safety valve for pressure cooker. (A 3L pressure cooker costs 40$. And a safety valve costs 5$ )
  4. If you want steel utensils, bring them from India as they are very expensive here. A small serving bowl costs 4$. But if you are fine with ceramic variety mugs\plates, they are available for a lot lesser than in India.
  5. Micro Wave Safe tiffin Box. A nice one that serves the purpose can be around 10-15$ here.
  6. Kitchen masala – Lots of famous brands are available here but if you are specific about what masala you want, bring it from India as local varieties are not available here. Some brands that are available are: Baadhshah, Everest, MDH, Nirappara, Haldirams, Eastern, Deep, Swad etc.
  7. Get any speciality utensils that you might need – like idli maker or puttu maker. They are all available here but a small Puttu Maker is 10$. Idli Utensils can easily cost 20$ and above.
  8. If you are a coffee or a tea person, bring 2 or 3 packets of your favorite brand as it is a bit expensive here. ( 200gms of Bru Instant Coffe Powder = 6$)
  9. If you are fond of homemade pickles, bring them from India. Most of the brands are available here for 3$ and above. Oil – can be bought here.
  10. Do not bring rice, grains, cereals etc as they r not allowed on flight. They are also cheaper here and will simply add weight to your luggage.
  11. Footwear – most homes are carpeted and dont need home slippers. Bring one summer wear sandals and one running shoe. You can bring formal shoe if your office demands it. Decent footwear usually cost 15$ and above.
  12. Socks – get at least 5 pairs. ( Each pair costs around 1$-2$, so it can be bought here too )
  13. Clothes – check about dress code at client site and plan accordingly
  14. Bring at least 2 pairs of Indian clothes. Lots of Indian functions festivities around.
  15. Thermal wear if you are travelling to a cold place.
  16. For the clothes – the laundry is usually done once in a week. So plan to bring that many sets of clothes. Indian Clothes tend to get spoilt within 3 months or so. They either shrink or fade.
  17. Bring any cosmetics that you might need. Lots of good cosmetics are available here too but not the specific brands.
  18. Keep a spare set of clothes in your carry bag. Sometimes the luggage arrives late. Keep a small travel kit ready.
  19. Medicines – bring antibiotics, Crocin, allergy meds, pain relief medicine, vicks, zandu baam etc whatever you need or you might need, get doctors prescriptions for them too.
  20. Get a complete dental checkup, do a cleanup and fix anything that needs fixing. Dental issues cost heaven and earth here even with a good insurance policy. Do not travel till all tooth issues are fixed. (My Husband recently spent 1500$ from his own pocket on an emergency root canal. His insurance pays 80% of charges)
  21. Get an eye checkup. If you have power, bring at least 3 different pairs of glasses. Reading Glasses, Travelling Glasses, Spare Glasses. (Spectacles cost around 100$ and above.)
  22. Bring good quality Sunglasses. They are available here too but you might not wish to go shopping as soon as you land here.
  23. Bring 4 pillow covers and 4 plain bedsheets. I would suggest you buy the blankets here.
  24. Carry travel pack of following in handbag Toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, small soap, small talc – in case you have a long airport wait or wish to freshen up somewhere.
  25. Iron for the clothes (They are available for 12$ onwards. So it is your choice whether you wish to buy it here or bring it from India)
  26. At least 4 recent passport size pics. (You may not really need them but if u do, they are expensive. 2 photos for 9$)
  27. Get any photos of god, holy books, idols etc that you might need. Get calendar if you wish to keep track of stars and moons etc.
  28. Additionally, if u are staying at hotel till you find accommodation, bring a few of those instant MTR curries as after a 20hour flight you would crave Indian Food.
  29. Spare Ear phone\Head phone. (I lost mine today and it seems to cost 7$ and up). And while you are at it, get an additional USB charger for your phone.
  30. Water bottle – You will have to shell out around 5$ for a decent water bottle in the US.

Additionally, a software engineer who earns around 35000INR per month in India would be earning around 3500$ in the USA. So essentially, based on salary comparison 1$ would weigh down on his purse as much as 10INR in India. Converting everything by the Dollar to INR conversion rate is simply not worth the trouble.

8 Commandments to discuss with your Spouse-to-Be

The following are not amongst the things that are generally discussed with a soon be to be spouse. For a match made in India, food, movies, books, financial background of the family, love for pets and many such day to day stuff are discussed to check for compatibility. Sense of humor, good looks and a level of romanticism are also considered for the much awaited ‘I Do’. However, I believe that no match should be complete till the bride and groom discuss the following 8 commandments beforehand.

  1. Finance: There are some who track their expenses meticulously and then there are some who don’t. There are those who save at the beginning of the month and then there are those who never save. There are those who send their parents a part of their paycheck, some who donate to religious institutions, some who donate to animal shelters. There are those who love to take from parents and there are those who expect the spouse to be the provider. When it comes to money, every person has their own ideology and making sure that this ideology matches is of utmost importance.
  2. Equality: While the concept of “women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such” is catching on, not all men are ready to treat their wife as an equal and not all women wish to be treated so. Talk to your spouse-to-be and make sure that your views on this match. You really do not want to spend half the night at office trying to fix some issue of utmost priority, only to come home to find out that your other half has problems with you coming in late.
  3. Kids: Discuss this no matter how awkward you think it is. Not everyone is open to the idea of waiting for a few years before having a kid. Not many are open to the idea of adoption. Not many are able to decide how many kids they want and then there are a few who believe kids are god’s gift and humans should not interfere to stop the process. So, regardless of what you believe, having your partner on the same page is of utmost importance.
  4. LGBT Rights: This one is close to my heart. I believe everyone should have the freedom to Love. Make sure you and your partner share same views on LGBT Rights. You might think it is not significant, but it is more significant than you think. Recent studies suggest that more than 8% of world’s population may be LGBT, most of them who have never come out. There are chances that the child you bring up in future might be in that 8%. Having diverse LGBT views can affect your relationship more than you give it credits for.
  5. Religious Ceremonies: Religion is a vast subject in itself and can touch upon variety of topics. On one hand there are the atheists who question the existence of god and on other hand there are folks who believe nothing happens without the grace of god . Then there are a few who spend most of their lifetimes in prayers\rituals. Make sure that you are tolerant of each other’s habits, beliefs and practices.
  6. Parents and Relatives Trap: There are several big decisions one has to take in life – where to buy a house, where to settle down, which school does the kid get to go to etc. Some can make these decisions easily while some folks have to consult others on their big decisions and ensure their approvals. While discussing these with others might not be a problem, awaiting approvals from far flung relatives might be. Discuss the role the relatives will be playing beforehand.
  7. Hobbies and Habits: Nobody can change who they are for someone else no matter how much they want to or they try to. So, finding a partner with matching habits ensures that the changes are limited to a bare minimum. Make sure your hobbies and pastimes align. One should not be a globe-trotting adventurer while all the other wants to do is curl up in front of the TV with a packet of chips.
  8. Fitness and Food: It is easy to let go of oneself and gain the flab as the responsibilities build up with age. Your partner might have different ideas about that. If you are someone who believes that one is born to eat and your partner checks calories before picking up anything, there might be a time in future where you are headed for a disagreement, and those issues my friend, are bound to be heavy.

That being said, compatibility on the above 8 points does not ensure a Happy and Loving Marriage. I know a few couples out there whose views do not match on any of the 8 points but they still make the best of couples.

A Little Bit of Magic

I had been to Broadway-Cochin. It is a street famous for shopping. It is said that if you are shopping and you find yourself on sale at one of the shops then you are at Broadway-Cochin.

I wandered into a shop selling all sorts of plants. I was looking for a particular variety of plant and I had a hunch that I would find it here. The minute I entered the shop most of the attendants there started helping me at their earnest. There were other customers too, but I got the special treatment and I never really gave it a second thought.

After about 15 minutes, I got the plant that I wanted. I went to the counter and paid for it. He asked me if I wanted it wrapped. Since it was a dried plant, I asked him to wrap it in a paper. He asked me if I wanted it gift-wrapped. I said no, took the plant, put it in my bag and turned around to leave the shop.

They were all staring at me intently. One of them ventured to ask: “Are you leaving?”. I was confused at his confusion. So I just nodded my head and said “Yes”. he asked again: “You mean that’s it? You are leaving?”. Yet again, I nodded my head and said “Yes” and I quickly ran out of the shop. All pairs of eyes were on me till I got away.

It was only when my eyes fell on my reflection on one of the several window panes, that the humor of it all dawned on me. I was wearing a magician’s hat(Well- it was sunny and I thought why not) and had a trench coat on (which is a rare thing in India). I guess they assumed I was one of those street magicians about to perform tricks in their shop. That also explained why they were peering intently at the car parked outside the shop. I bet they were searching for a camera hidden in it.

*The above story is as narrated to me by a friend