Sunday, April 12, 2015

coffee coffee coffee

I have been on a coffee shop exploration with my close friend Catherine for the past two months and it's been a wonderful experience. This post is co-written by me and Catherine.
The picture below has been sneaked in by Catherine, even though it has no connection to the coffee shops
Mango Popsicle

adventures :)

Cartel Coffee Lab

This is right by the ASU campus and I was surprised I had not been there before. The ambience is good and it has lot of students coming in to study. The coffee is great. We have been there two times actually and it's been a great experience both times. It also holds some significance because this was the place I met her first. In future the goal is to explore other cartel locations like the one in downtown Phoenix. They also brew beer at Cartel, but let me tell you that having a coffee with beer is not a good idea. It can make you feel sick.

This place is two venues in one. The bright half is a coffee shop where students are encouraged to study among decorative sacks of coffee beans. The other half is a brewery where you can cuddle your lover over a high top in the midst of a dim, candlelit stupor.

Here is information from the Centers for Disease Control:

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks

“When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, a popular practice among young people, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.”

Also, from
Scientists aren't sure exactly how the body processes the combination of caffeine and alcohol because the combination - at least in the quantity seen in these alcoholic energy drinks - is too dangerous to test on humans in scientific experiments.
If you want to conduct your own experiment on the effects of beer plus a stimulant, Cartel coffee is the way to go. Here you can conveniently write an essay on your laptop while experiencing the stimulant effects of increased blood pressure and heart rate, heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat, headaches, agitation, jitteriness, abnormal breathing, stomach problems, and constipation while simultaneously experiencing the depressant effects of alcohol including a slowed pace of neurotransmitters in the brain. Also do not attempt driving.

Starbucks at ASU
coffee map

Here is a map that explains where you can find out what coffee from other parts of the world would taste like if you had a suggestible personality and a big imagination.

Latin America: nuts, cocoa, acid
Africa: berries, grapefruit, flowers, chocolate, and spices
Asia/Pacific: herbal, earthy flavors

They want you to believe that coffee has base notes and top notes like perfume, or that it can absorb the essence of the ground it sprouted in or the barrels it was stored in, like a bottle of wine.

But since this is Starbucks, any symphonic notes are drowned out by the larger and more resonant chords of….

lots of sugarrr

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Starbucks in disguise

Xtreme Bean

Live music. Mysteriously sometimes has ceramic coffee cups and sometimes not. Has lots of beautiful artwork too. Surprisingly, once it had a session on website design also. So, I take it that it’s a very versatile place.
People who could fly

Robby Roberson

Gold Coffee Bar

Lots of sugar. Mysteriously sometimes has ceramic coffee cups and sometimes not.

Starbucks at Barnes and Noble

I don’t think that little mermaid even reads.

Arizona Donut Co.

Imagine a McDonalds from the 1980s that was built along Route 66. As the highways replaced the old routes of transportation, this location remained. Then the owners died during Christmas, leaving Christmas lights hanging over the cash registers, and wandering spirits took over the location.

Arizona Donut and Co. ( Ancient Place)
Tea comes with gelatinous balls of wax at the bottom that can be slurped through a large straw. And is actually not tea, but chocolate milk. It really is chocolate milk.

This is also a good place to have meaningful conversations about what is the darkest direction your future could go. Would you ever end up in prison for theft? Fraud? Piracy?

They also trick you into ordering a mocha when you asked for a cappuccino. Then poor guy suffers. In their defense though, it was my mistake that I didn’t hear what they said and should have asked again.

They also cannot read your mind when they ask you if you want a mocha and you say yes. This is what you get when you don’t pay attention

Denny's and Sunny's Diner

Lumping these two together because nobody cares about the coffee at these places. It is good coffee. Period. And it isn’t sweet because the pancakes and waffles are sweet enough.

The best part is the number of refills you get.

Indian Tea at Udupi

This was the latest one in the series so far. Although we had tea at this place, we decided that this should count as one of the places to go in the list. I also had masala dosa after a gap of about eight months. So it was a special day. In many ways it felt like I was back in Bangalore for a moment. Sipping Indian tea and eating mysore masala dosa. While I like having milk in my tea(actually I can have tea in any form), she didn’t really like milk in her tea. And they never refilled our cups :( I was in a mood to have lots of tea, but then again paying more for tea would have been silly. However, the place has the distinction of being very healthy and tasty. Catherine has also developed a fascination for Falooda, which will be tried on the next visit. Also on the list is vada.

I crave this substance which is spicy and makes me drink a lot of water and cry.
Vegetable Vindaloo

At the zoo

Monday, December 29, 2014

one semester gone by

It's been a long time since I wrote a post on this blog. If the minuscule of my readers are angered then you have every reason to be so. In the past few months, I have opened blogger many a times, but only to go back and watch YouTube.

The past few months have been pretty eventful, however. I moved from Bangalore to Tempe to start with graduate school. The journey so far has been pretty good. I have made some new friends, maybe lost contact some of my older friends, I am even trying to make some new friends.

The story of this journey, however cannot start without mentioning the first ever intercontinental flight I took. Yes, it was a Boeing 747-400 for the first leg, 747-8i for the second leg and finally a A320. The journeys were peaceful and the food was good on Lufthansa. I don't remember anything of the last leg however. That's what happens after 24 hours of not sleeping.

Then began the classes and I never realized how the semester went by. The fact that I didn't have a job and money to spend didn't help. Oh, how I wish I had a million dollars to spend. No really no. Ten thousand dollars would be more than enough. Anyway, it's most boring to talk about the semester and studies.

The experience with US has been very good so far. Many things different from India, many things better than India, some things worse than India. Being a heavy user of public transport in Bangalore, I am quite happy that there is some public transit that exists. Not that I have used it much anyway.

In other news, I am an amateur radio operator now. I dream which I had for a long time has been fulfilled. Only things which remain are to buy a kick ass radio and to make lots of contacts. Upgrading the license too. Yes, it took me two weeks to get a license in US. Compare this to India, where I didn't have a license in hand even after two years of writing the exam. I kid you not, the amateur radio licensing system is still in Vedic ages. 

I also completed two books and blazing through lot more. This is the time of the year goodreads tell you to set a challenge for yourself and I have failed it consistently over the few years. I started with 20, came down to 12 but still no results were forthcoming.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Swachh Bharat and me

Swachh Bharat is a great initiative by the Modi government. We should keep our country clean and hygienic at all times and I am totally for it. However, I think it is very important to note that the responsibilities of keeping the country clean lies with citizens and the administration equally.

In an ideal situation, the administration would provide bins at sufficiently large number of places and would have an efficient method of picking up the trash at a designated time of the day. Now, it's the responsibility of the people that they have their trash ready in the desired form, say divided into wet and dry when the pick up happens. The people would also not litter garbage anywhere and use the bins for the purpose.

But, alas, in our country both the systems do not function properly. It has become a cycle of administrative failure and lacking behavior from the citizens. The trash pickup system is pathetic to say the least. During my two year stay in Bangalore, the civic administration changed the contractors for the pickup several times. They brought in a law that said that the trash has to be separated into wet and dry garbage. Now, like a good citizen, I bought two bins and started to separate the trash. The pickup frequency for the wet garbage was daily and for the dry garbage was weekly. The daily pickup never arrived when I was home. Things started piling up and I had no option but to look for a place where it was allowed to throw trash, like a bin from the BBMP. Unfortunately, I never found that too. As it turned out, the pick up guys came once or twice a week around 12 noon. Now, who would be there at home at this time of the day? This is not the case just for my locality, but a number of my friends also faced the same. 

In the era of Achhe Din, every idea looks like gold. But this initiative, while great, is for me just a cost we are paying for the years of neglect by the civic bodies and the citizens. I am not saying the idea is bad, it's great, but it's sad that we needed a Modi to tell us about this through Achhe Din. If the same initiative had been started by the previous government, we would probably have rubbished it saying that it's the responsibility of the government to take care of the cleanliness. That to me is the sad part. Let's just hope that we all do our part and we have clean cities and villages.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why I think I am a feminist?

Feminism has come to be a very powerful word in recent times. It has also become controversial at time. The idea of feminism however, seems very simple to me. To me, it echoes the idea that men and women are equal and should be treated on par in terms of economic, political, social and other matters. Now, the idea seems simple enough and it looks as if it's easy to achieve it.

I was brought up in a family which has a high regard for women. I always made friends who treated women as equals. Even my extended circles usually consisted of like minded people. However, when I stepped outside and talked to a few other people, it dawned upon me that the world is very unequal towards women when it comes to their social, political and economic rights.

The greater worry for me however is that there are people who hate the idea of giving equal rights to women. Recently, Emma Watson gave a rousing speech about equal rights and there were posts threatening her with consequences. I can't understand what kind of people these are.

Until recently, I was kind of wobbling whether to identify myself as feminist or not. That does mean that before that I did not share the idea that women should have equal rights. I did that before too and I have the same ideas now. But, the word feminist in itself has come to become a controversial word in my opinion. People interpret it in so many wrong ways that controversies arise out of it. This to me is just sad. It is a simple idea which is difficult to implement. Hence, it is sad when people interpret it in a way that suits them to rubbish the core behind feminism.

One would normally think that educated people will have better common sense and respect the rights of women. But then again, that is so not true and many of the educated people I meet tell me things like "look at her, going out in those clothes etc etc". This is one of the many many reasons why we need feminism as a idea and as a movement to eradicate the old patriarchal ideas we live in.

But now, I am quite sure I am a feminist. We need more women to become empowered and strong so that we have better moms, wives, girlfriends, daughters. 

PS: I am lazily redesigning the blog, so it may look crappy while in transition(not that it looked good anytime.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

the gift of words

I love letters. Letters which are written on paper and sent over the post. Over the years I have written many letters to people across India and some to a friend in Germany. But, sadly I have not been able to continue them for more than a couple of years. However, I do hope to revive some of the friendships soon. Mostly, the reason of discontinuation has been Facebook :(

I have also written letters and emails to some very famous people. These are mostly the authors whose work I like. One of the German authors I had written to even invited me to his office if I happen to visit Germany. But the most important letter I have received so far is from perhaps the most famous and best sardar ever, the one and only Khushwant Singh.

I have not read much of his works, but one fine day, while reading a magazine I happened to chance upon his address. Straight away I wrote a letter to him, expressing my liking for him and my dream to become an author someday. At the time of writing the letter I didn't even know if the address is proper, whether he would read the letter and so on. I forgot about the letter once I wrote it. I didn't even remotely expect a reply from him. But then again, he is known to be a great man. And one fine day I find this in my mail.

I was extremely surprised by the fact the a man in his 90s took time to respond to a letter by some random guy. Great respect for him and may he rest in peace. This remains one of my prized processions till date. I hope I do live the dream of writing a book and getting it published. I also do hope that the value of this letter keeps on increasing with time :)

PS: This is written after being told to write about this by a fellow blogger S. Her blog can be reached here

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bangalored by Traffic

I have lived in Bangalore for about two years continuously now and here are some things about the traffic which come to mind

1. Traffic at Silk Board and Tin Factory will always be slow moving, no matter what time of the day you choose to travel.

2. Vehicles who want to take a right turn always drive on the left lane till the time their right turn comes.

3. BMTC buses will always bully you unless you are driving something with more than six wheels.

4. There will be people driving in the opposite direction of traffic movement on virtually all roads. And they do it like it is their fundamental right.

5. Motorcycles have higher moral right over the sidewalk than pedestrians themselves.

6. When the light turns yellow it means that you should go faster. When it turns red it means that you can go on for another two-three seconds. Also, the pedestrian green signal is never respected.

7. If there are heavy rains in the time slot 5-7 it is advisable to work more and deliver ahead of your schedule. This might help in your appraisals too.

8. It is perfectly alright not to stop when a traffic cop calls, if he does not have a camera to capture your plates.

9. Guy at the back of the waiting traffic at a signal will start honking as soon as the light goes green.

10. Most drivers will consider allowing an Ambulance to pass as a dent on their ego.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Rahul Gandhi conundrum

In the elections of 2014, the grand old party seems to have put all its weight behind it's young leader Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family. But, looking at his track record and his experience it looks like the gamble maybe a big one. Most of the political experts put Congress at just over a 100 or even less seats. In such a scenario is it a good decision to let someone as inexperienced as Rahul Gandhi out in the battle with some other big names?

Now, people might say that Rahul Gandhi has an experience of ten years as an MP and he has done some good work in the youth Congress. But, according to me, here are some things that make him inexperienced.

  1.  He didn't take up any ministry during the 10 years of the UPA rule. If not in the first, he should have taken up something in the second stint of UPA. It just doesn't fall in place if he hopes to be the PM in the first shot.
  2. His performance in the parliament has been very lack luster. As per news reports, he has not asked a single question, made a statement etc. Being a big leader he should have asked some questions in the parliament, where it matters the most. The occasional press conference where he rips apart the government is not enough.
  3. He was the star campaigner in the UP elections in the 2012 elections. Yet the Congress ended up being distant 4th in the elections. Well, no one expected him to win the elections for the Congress in UP, but surely they should have got more seats, given the scale of the campaign. He never looked like he was going to stay in the state and work. Maybe, if he was projected as the probable CM, the Congress would have won more seats.
  4. Unlike most leaders, he has not climbed up from the grass roots; he is going from top to the bottom. Now, we have many leaders like that, but for someone aspiring to be the PM, this doesn't sound very right.

That said, I do believe that he is honest, sincere and good at heart. Whatever he says in the media, he comes off as honest and true to it. There is no hidden intent in his manner. But then again, sometimes he comes off as too na├»ve. That makes me wonder, was he forced to join politics? Maybe he wanted a different career for himself, maybe he didn’t get to choose one.

Finally, I have a few suggestions of mine to him, so that he comes back stronger in the forthcoming elections, for the better of our democracy.
  1.  Read some books about India; understand the history, geography and the dynamics of the country.
  2. Venture out of the shells of Delhi; visit the villages, towns in the country to learn about them; not for the sake of the camera and publicity.
  3. Rebuild the congress party. The workers of the party seem to be in disarray. If he wants to lead then he has to assert himself and then build the party. Elections are won by the party workers who work with the people. Only the top leaders can’t achieve much.
  4. Accept the mistakes of his party and then learn from them.