Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's been a while...

...since I last wrote! Heavens! Half a year -- I see my last entry was in January. Well, what can I say? It's been crazy, at work, and my life in general. Work's been insane, till I moved to a new team (which I absolutely LOVE), and my Mum and sister were visiting me in the interim, so what with juggling a new job, and showing my family around the city (this time in a car!), I didn't really have a lot of time to devote to other pursuits -- like writing on this blog.
It's been an eventful six months! For one, I've completed two years at Dell, which is quite an achievement. I never thought I'd last two years anywhere unless it's a compulsion (like studies). But I've stuck it out in Dell entirely by choice for two years, and while it hasn't been a smooth ride all the way, it's certainly been a learning experience! And I'm wiser and happier than I was two years ago, which is what matters, right?
I've traveled a bit! I took my Mum and sister around Austin, around Texas and around the country during the two months they were here. We visited the little towns of the Texas Hill Country -- Burnet, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, Marble Falls...and enjoyed it immensely. I think there's something just so fascinating about small towns! And since I'm a girl of the hills at heart, I really enjoyed exploring Texas Hill Country! We went in the peak of wildflower season, when the hills were ablaze with flowers of various hues, and the very wind seemed fresh and fragrant. Lovely! We also did a road trip to New Orleans, which is by far the longest I've ever driven -- 12 hours in one day, practically without stopping! But what a trip it was! We saw the gorgeous Louisiana bayou, the beautiful pine forests of East Texas (Loblolly Pines, I believe they're called?) and the gorgeous, gorgeous city of New Orleans. We later went to Disney World, and had the most fantastical, magical, incredible five days there. Ahhhh!! What a couple of months it was!
And now, I am all set to go to Atlanta to visit an aunt. Well, technically, she is my great-aunt, but since she is almost my Mum's age, I call her aunt. I've been looking forward to this trip for a while now, so I'm excited! Plus, it's always exciting to see a new city, though the most exciting thing in Atlanta I'm looking forward to is the historic house of Margaret Mitchell, and see the setting of Gone With The Wind. Plus, it's Georgia! The very name evokes thoughts of gracious southern hospitality, so I'm quite looking forward to the trip.
And, I've been immersed in the wonderful, magical world of Enid Blyton. She was quite my favorite author growing up, and even reading the books now, I've realized that no matter what, she'll always remain my favorite author, of all time! Why, the magic! I've raced through the "Barney" mysteries, as they're called, and the Adventure series. The "Barney" mysteries are the exciting stories of siblings Roger and Diana, their younger cousin Snubby (quite a pest!), his dog Loony, their wandering circus-boy friend Barney, and his monkey, Miranda. From meeting the rather wild Barney in The Rockingdown Mystery, through Barney's search for his father in the hilarious and mysterious The Rilloby Fair Mystery and The Ring 'O Bells Mystery, and the culmination of the search in the heart-rending, haunting, melancholic The Rubadub Mystery, it's been a magical series. I try to ignore The Rat-a-tat Mystery and The Ragamuffin Mystery as they're nowhere near as good as the first four. The Adventure series is the exciting adventures of siblings Philip and Dinah Mannering (and Philip's collection of pets), and their friends siblings Lucy-Ann and Jack Trent, and Jack's adorable talking parrot, Kiki. Exciting, adventurous, and hilarious (especially when Kiki scares off the bad guys with her nonsensical babble), it's been a fun read. Ah, I do so love Enid Blyton's books!
I'm planning on going to London later this year, probably around my birthday (which falls very close to Labor Day weekend). I'd love to see the rest of England, especially the places Enid Blyton wrote about -- the beautiful Dorset beaches and coast, the Devon moors, and the cliffs and beaches of Cornwall. But let's see! At the very least, I'd love to see London (and I hope I can snare something from one of the boutiques on Bond Street while I'm at it!).
Whew! I've blabbered on for quite a bit. That's what happens when you don't write in a while! Things just pour out in a rush. Well, I guess I'll head off to Atlanta, and hopefully have a ton to say when I return! Sayonara!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Revisiting childhood

It seems to me that in the past few days I've been revisiting my childhood, so to speak. I've discovered a channel called Boomerang that airs cartoons I used to watch when I was about ten years old or so; I found the Marcel Marlier-illustrated books I used to read when I was five; and I just discovered that one of my favorite books as a child -- the 'What Katy Did' series by Susan Coolidge -- has two more books to end the tale. I've been totally immersed in those for the last few days.
I'd known about Boomerang -- that is to say, I knew there was a channel out there, a spin-off from Cartoon Network, that aired all those old Cartoon Network shows that I used to watch after I came home from school. The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Space Ghost, Dino Boy, Josie and the Pussycats, The Centurions, and, my personal all-time favorite, Jonny Quest. I was thrilled to discover that these were the
classic episodes of Jonny Quest, the one where he was a tiny 11-year-old boy travelling around the world with his father, fighting bad guys. When I was 10, the episodes used to transport me into another world, an exciting world filled with gadgets (I used to find gadgets fascinating even back then!), bad guys, lots of action, and a bodyguard to take care of it all for you. And science -- lots and lots of science. Science that I thought would seem antiquated to me now, but strangely enough, it doesn't. There's a lot of gadgets shown in the show that we still haven't invented. Is that cool or what?
The only thing that used to irk me about the show was the inaccurate portrayal of India, or more accurately, Calcutta. My grandmother lives in Calcutta, and I've been there several times -- and while I wasn't around in 1964, which is when the show is from, I seriously doubt Calcutta ever looked like that, with dome-topped structures and snake charmers everywhere. It
was the former capital of India -- if anything, I'm sure the architecture was more Victorian than Mughal. And even if it was, there was no way it was so in 1964. No way. Calcutta is one of the largest cities in India, and it was most certainly not filled with palaces and mystical Morrocan buildings in '64. But I digress.
Strangely, that little annoyance from my childhood didn't seem to annoy me now. I watched it more with amusement than with the indignation of childhood. I guess I don't take it as seriously any more. But I am so glad I've found the series again. Yes, I do have the DVD, but there's a certain charm in watching it on TV -- being able to watch only one episode at a time, interspersed with commercial breaks. It feels more
The funniest thing was, even as I watched the show again, I forgot all about my life -- work, and responsibilities, and even the fact that I had to go to work the next day! -- and totally felt transported to the mystical forests of Ashida, filled with dragons that eat humans. I actually felt horror every time the Quests were foiled. And when the show ended, I was surprised to discover, that even after fifteen years, it still got my heart pounding. I suppose I'm still a child at heart!
Another thing I found over the weekend was the Marcel Marlier-illustrated books I used to read when I was five. I 'found' them on Amazon, actually. To be honest, I was amazed they were available at all. I immediately placed orders for copies of
Debbie's Dream, Debbie Learns To Cook, Debbie's Visit To The Countryside, Debbie's Birthday Party, and Mark And Michelle In The Forest. My mother used to read them to me when I was a child. I used to follow the stories with rapt attention, and since I couldn't read when I was a baby, I used to make up my own stories with the illustrations, which were gorgeous. If the story said that Debbie was ill and fell asleep, I made up my own back story, of how she didn't want to sleep, but her friends all came over and tired her out with their tales, and she did go to sleep then. If the story said simply that she dreamt, I put all kinds of details into her dream, anything I could come up with, simply looking at the illustrations. I loved those books. As I grew older and learned to read, I read the words along with looking at the illustrations; but what do you know? The story had lost part of its charm! Even now, I look at the illustrations more closely than the story itself, and hope that someday, if I have a little girl of my own, I will read to her the story, and maybe make up my own 'illustration story', just like my mother did to me!
The last blast from the past this weekend was my beloved 'Katy' series. I don't know how popular the series is here in the States; but it is apparently very popular in England, which was why we had a couple of extracts from it as chapters in our English textbook when I was a kid. I was always fascinated by the large family that Katy had (in fact, the first time I read an extract, I didn't have
any siblings; my sister wasn't born till I was almost eight). I finally found the entire book, What Katy Did, on the floating bookstore, MV Doulos. That in itself was quite an adventure. I remember my father coming home, all excited, with the flyer announcing that the MV Doulos had anchored at the Prince's Dock in Bombay. It was a little way out from our suburban home, but we went there anyway. Just the fact of being in a bookstore that would actually be somewhere else entirely in a week, and had been in several places and countries I could only dream about, excited my childish imagination terribly. It seemed like a real-world manifestation of Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree series which I adored. The top of the tree would be in different lands each week, and this 'bookstore' seemed to me to be the same. From between the aisles, I could see out the porthole, and into the vast sea. It was so terribly exciting! That remains one of my favorite adventures ever. I remember picking up What Katy Did and Oliver Twist and The Swiss Family Robinson; there were others, but I don't remember. I was disappointed when we had to leave. For a child whose biggest trip alone seemed to be to the school, this trip seemed to have all the magic and adventure of travelling to a foreign and strange land.
But I digress. It was here, on this ship, that I first started reading my beloved Katy series. The stories,
What Katy Did, What Katy Did At School, and What Katy Did Next basically followed the oldest child of the Carr family, Katy. Katy grew up in the Midwest, in a town called Burnet, with her widower papa, her strict aunt Izzie, and her siblings -- Clover, Elsie, Dorry, Joanna "Johnnie", and little Phil. Also part of the children's group was their next-door neighbor, Cecy Hall. The seven children would often go out into the nearby woods, or into the loft, or some other exciting place, and have the most exciting time, imagining themselves to be in some mystical place, with magical powers (like 'Paradise'). It excited my childish imagination tremendously; the fact that Katy was so near my own age made me associate even more with her (though I was the age of the next sister, Clover, when I began reading the series). Katy's wild imagination, tomboyish nature and love for reading made me associate with her in a way I had never associated with anyone else my own age. I had newly moved to Bombay, and didn't have any close friends; and my sister, then two, was too young to be enrolled in my schemes. I used to create my own fantastical world, and, thinking that the underside of the study table was my hidden 'cave', I would fortify myself with candy and water, and pretend that I was marooned on an island and hiding from wild beasts, and read the books sitting in my 'cave'. It was great fun. As I grew older, I collected other stories from the series. Next was What Katy Did At School, an exciting story about Katy and Clover being sent to Hillsover to a boarding school the other girls called the 'Nunnery'; this made me also want to go to a boarding school. The fun of being with so many other girls, having secret societies with meetings, awaiting letters from the family...this seemed very exciting to me back then. Finally came What Katy Did Next, which I acquired in the eighth grade. This was the story where Katy travels all over Europe with the widowed Mrs Ashe and her daughter Amy, and falls in love with Mrs Ashe's younger brother, Ned Worthington. I loved that book, first for the travelling aspect (even at thirteen, I knew I was going to travel a lot one day!) and then as I grew older, the love story part. But as far as I knew, that was the final installment of the series. So imagine my delight when I discovered that there were two more books in the series -- Clover, and In The High Valley. I read Clover with great gusto yesterday, and have just began In The High Valley now. At the beginning of Clover was the wedding of Katy Carr! My Katy, one of my best friends through my childhood, was now married! It was like the conclusion of an epic. And when I read about the sorrow of Elsie and Clovy, and the rest, and Cousin Helen coming home to find all her child-cousins grown up now, and Katy getting married in the same parlour her Aunt Izzie used to look after -- it just felt, I don't know, satisfying. The Katy story has reached closure in my book.
Apt, wasn't it? Katy Carr Worthington almost literally grew up with me. And thus, I had a very nostalgic weekend, revisiting my childhood's most precious moments.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have received my Kindle! After a year of thinking about whether to get one or not, I finally took the plunge. I knew I didn't want Kindle 1, but Kindle 2 (or K2, as people call it), was gorgeous. One of my friends at Dell had one, and I'd been eyeing it, but decided not to, at the time. But it never did leave my mind entirely, and finally, a week before Halloween, I decided to take the plunge.
The story of the Kindle's arrival is a story in itself. After days of not receiving any tracking news, I realized that Amazon was using FedEx SmartPost to send the package -- something that caused me a LOT of nervous moments, for the stories about SmartPost aren't exactly exemplary, on the internet. Most people complained that the packages would move around the country for days before finally getting to their destination. Some people said parts of their package were missing -- like one guy who lost his entire Wii console. I was terrified. And then the package showed up in Dallas.
I was relieved. How long could it take, right, to come from Dallas to Austin? The cities are just a 3-hour drive apart. But I was wrong. Four days went by, and no sign of the package, and just as I was about to call Amazon to ask where the hell my package went, it showed up -- in Houston!
Those who know the geography of Texas know that Dallas, Austin and Houston lie in a triangle, more or less the same distance apart from each other (though I think Austin's closer to Dallas than Houston is). WHY the package went to Houston was something I completely failed to fathom. It stayed there for a while, and then set out again to Austin. Here we go again, I thought. This time the package should surely show up in Austin by the next day!
I was wrong. It took another 3 days before it came to Austin, and another day before it was delivered to my home. I think I went half-crazy during the wait, and I know I certainly drove my coworkers mad! But the Kindle was here, I was happy.
I'm still happy with it. It looks beautiful, reads great, just like paper, like Amazon claims. Gotta hand it to eInk! The online selection of Kindle-formatted books is not as vast as I would've liked, and a lot of my favorite authors and books are missing. So are the first books of long-running series of authors like Michael Connelly, Robert Crais and Vince Flynn. A LOT of children's books are missing (what I would've given to have had Enid Blyton on Kindle!). And the battery never seems to last anything like the 2 weeks Amazon claimed, though maybe I read a lot more than they imagined anyone would.
But, the pros outweigh the cons. The K2 is light -- no one can deny that. It's a traveler's delight. It weights barely 11 oz, and fits in 1500 titles (according to Amazon). I wish I'd had it when I went to New Zealand last year! Instead of the 10 books and 3 magazines I took, I could've just taken the Kindle. But anyway. I love that you can buy a book and have it delivered within 60 seconds. I love that you can sample books -- that's how I got started on Dennis Lehanne's Shutter Island. I love how you can email yourself documents and have them arrive on your Kindle at 15c an MB, and peruse them at your leisure. I love the user-friendliness of the new Kindle. Of course it's not going to replace my paper books completely -- there is an undeniable charm in opening a brand new book, reading the crisp black lettering against white paper; even the smell of a new book is charming -- things you'll never find in an electronic reading device. But the Kindle is perfect for what I wanted -- carrying half my library on a 15-hour plane ride!
And I will now return to Shutter Island. Adios!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Wow. It's fall. It's taken some time to sink in that my favorite season has started. It has crept up on us in Austin...well, that's not quite the truth. It rather forced its way in. September 21st, the last day of summer, was 95 degrees, and September 22nd, the autumnal equinox, was a lovely 69 degrees! I love fall -- the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as John Keats so aptly wrote. We don't go too much by way of mists here in Austin, but I know exactly what the man meant when he wrote that poem. There is something and comforting and warm about fall. The rich colors associated with fall help that feel of mellowness. Sadly, we don't get much by way of foliage changes here. At times like these I wish I lived in Colorado, where I could see the aspen brilliantly change their colors. Here, there are a few random trees that do change color -- but very few. But I'm content to imagine the changes, and savor the crisp bite in the cool morning air. It's been getting cooler every passing day, a blessing after the ferocious summer. I love the cold. It's so much easier to cope with cold than heat -- you can always bundle up when it's cold, but you can't strip beyond a certain level of decency when it's too hot!
Fall also means fall fashion! I have to admit, the speed with which I've taken to following fashion trends has taken me by surprise. I can't wait to start dressing in turtlenecks and skirts and tights and boots and scarves...and all the goodness that comes with fall fashion. I was getting sick of wearing shorts. Besides, the colors of fall fashion are much richer, especially this season, with teal, berry, deep orange, rich chocolate brown and black. Lovely.
Fall also means Halloween! I've forever wanted to go dressed as Yuki Cross from Vampire Knights (the manga) for Halloween, for the Cross School's day uniform for girls is absolutely cuteness. But I think, at 25, I'm a little too old to dress up as Yuki Cross. Maybe a good old witch, then. I've never dressed up for Halloween before -- maybe this time will be a first!
I should visit the Bull Creek park sometime. It's been a while since I last went there, and I'm sure it would be beautiful in fall, especially since it's been raining a lot lately. The creek had dried up completely in summer, hopefully it's filled up now. I love that place. I wish I could live on Bull Creek, but I'm sure houses along the creek are extremely expensive!
It's fall! I can now sit in the patio and read books in the cool evening air. In fact, that is precisely what I'm going to do now (I'm reading The Da Vinci Code), so till later!

Friday, September 18, 2009


My God, has it really been five months since I last blogged?? Wow. Things have been busy at work, so I haven't really had a chance to write anything. In fact, even as I write this, I'm keeping an eye on the clock on my iHome -- it's 8:43am, and I really should be leaving for work. Work should be fun today -- we have a Pirates' Day at work, where we get to wear eyepatches and say "Ar!" (unfortunately, my team didn't get any eyepatches). I'm also really, really enjoying the new weather -- till about the 8th of this month, it was hot and muggy and just nasty; and then the weather did a sudden about-turn, and it's been cool and windy and cloudy ever since. I love it! I hope it rains today and tomorrow too. It's weird -- the way the weather suddenly changed. And we haven't even reached the autumnal equinox yet! Well, who's complaining? Everybody in Texas wanted some cooler days. It's just the weather to be eating hot pizza and drinking warm cups of Earl Grey tea, and reading detective novels -- like AA Fair's novels, that I have just discovered. AA Fair is the pseudonym of Erle Stanley Gardner, whose Perry Mason novels I used to gobble daily for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner when I was in my teens. Perry Mason novels focus more on the legal aspect of the cases; AA Fair's Cool and Lam books are just pure hardboiled detective fiction, with delicious phrases like "Dr Devarest was dead as a mackarel", or "I socked him one on the jaw, and he let loose with a haymaker from the hip". Ah, hardboiled detective fiction :) There's nothing quite like it! I'm reading a similar book called Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, except it was written in 2008, not 1948. It's interesting in its own way -- but here, they talk more about DNA forensics and CSI, instead of lifting fingerprints from lipstick. And another look at the clock tells me it's almost 9, so I should start wrapping this up, and get moving to the car. Till later!