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Spring is here...

Spring is here and we have started our yard work. This time last year we had moved into out house but we had no clue about the lawn care other than mowing it. Over the last year, I have learnt a lot of bits and pieces about lawn care and now its time to put it all to use. Vikram, my neighbor and co-worker is an expert and I follow his advice.

So two weekends, ago, when it was a nice and sunny day, we first cleaned the lawn, removed leftover foliage and spread some palletized lime over the lawn. Then I used Scott's fertilizer with Holtz pre-emergent weed preventer. This is supposed to help the growth of the Tall Fescue grass I have and prevent the crab grass and other seeds from germinating. I still have weeds that have grown over the past few months and they can only be killed by using a weed-killer.

After the application of fertilizer, it rained and also a cold spell came in. Even today, it was high 50s when we set out to finish up our spring application. Both of us got into our sweat shirts and son the sun warmed us up. We raked out all the remaining foliage around the edges of our lawn, especially near the fence. Then I used the Hedge trimmer to cut off all the tree branches that were on my eye level. Since they were dry, it was relatively easy. Then I helped Manjiri clean up another part of our yard to prepare it for some kind new landscaped area (we haven't decided what it will be yet, but it was good to work on it). While Manjiri knit-picked on fine weeds in our soon-to-be-planted vegetable garden, I focused on getting the lawn mowed and yard cleaned up. Then I spread some Scott's Fertilizer with Haltz Crab Grass Prevetner in those peripheral areas where I raked up the foliage from. After that application, which was very quick because of the Scott's Standard broadcast spreader I bought couple of weekends ago, I also spread some Insects killer granules in a 5 foot band around the house to prevent millipedes and such bugs from entering the house from the foundation. The spreader makes our life so easy. Then I got out the weed killer I had bought yesterday. This time it was SpectraCide (as opposed to Weeb-Be-Gone last fall), and despite Vikram's suggestion of using a spray can, I used their special bottle which can be used directly with a hose. It makes life very easy for people like me; I just need to see if it’s effective.
Well, I will surely know since I actually took pictures this time for a Before and After type of a comparison. I took them at the end of today's work, just before the spraying of the weed killer with the hosed water. I will take pictures again soon to keep track of the progress.

Rest if fine. I was tired after I worked from 10:30 am till 5 pm in the yard all day today. Pretty much chilled in front of the TV after coming back in and taking a shower. Watched Bring It On, followed by American Pie 2, followed by American Wedding. While watching the TV, I shredded some documents that needed shredding on the new shredder I purchased from Office Depot, manufactured by Ativa. I didn't really like it even though it has a capacity of 10 papers at a time, because it made a lot of mess and it was very inconvenient to unload the resulting junk.

Finally I decided to get the laptop blog away about my day's activities.

Whale Watching, San Diego sight-seeing, Old Town and Red-Eye to Chattanooga

Day Six - February 19th 2006

Sunday was the last day in our trip and we had not planned for much activity in San Diego for this day except seeing the Panda bears at the San Diego Zoo. And the skies were also overcast when we stepped out of the hotel after a quick breakfast. It was the first time in many days that we actually got off to an early start: 8:00 am!

But while checking in last night, we had picked up some of those local sightseeing brochures and read about some of the activities available to do in San Diego. One of them was whale watching, and Manjiri had called in for some information. They had tours of 3.5 hours, and Manjiri immediately signed us up for the 9:30 am tour which began from the San Diego harbor cruise terminal. So that meant we had to leave as soon as possible when we got ready. Driving distance from El Cajon to the harbor was about 15 miles and without making any traffic errors, it would take just that many minutes for us to get there along I-8 and CA-163. We parked the car right in front of the cruise ship terminal leaving all our luggage except our jackets and cameras. Since we had already checked out of the hotel, this car would now be left here all day until we return to the rental car company.

We barely made it to the launch of our cruise boat because of the long lines to pick up the boarding passes, but when we did, the skyline of San Diego downtown as seen from the harbor was spectacular. Somehow, the barren buildings of any city appeal to me more when seen from a distance, such as this view from the water. Same thing had happened to me when I saw the San Francisco high-rise buildings from Twin Peaks. The skyscrapers are just breathtaking. In this case, San Diego buildings are not THAT spectacular, but it was a nice sight. The cruise sheep was slowly going through the bay of San Diego towards Point Loma, which is actually a naval station, and then go past that a few miles into the Pacific Ocean so that we can see the gray whales migrating from Arctic to Mexico or the other way around. But luck was not on our side. Most of the whales had apparently made their southbound journey already and the northbound route was further away from the coastline, making it difficult for the ship like ours to pursue in limited amount of time. So we ended up jst circling the seas for a good 3 hours without seeing the whales. As a consolation, we at least got to see many a dolphin and also some California sea lions that were frolicking in the sun and trying to play with the birds and passing by boats like ours. Although it was sunny most of the time, it was cold and windy, so we had to remain bundled up on the boat. When we got back, we received free tickets to go on another one of their cruised since this was fruitless, so to speak.

After this, we had about 5 or 6 hours left to do a few things. Old Town San Diego, and the zoo. We decided to leave our car parked there and took the Old Town Trolley to get us from the cruise line parking lot to the zoo area. Fortunately or unfortunately, we had to go through many other stops before we got to see the zoo finally. Downtown bundling, and communities like gas-lamp had interesting history associated with them, but we could have use the hour for better use in the zoo. By the time we go to the zoo, we had seen Coronado Island and its scenery and then it was almost 2 pm. We had about 2.5 hours for the zoo. We doubled up inside the zoo after purchasing the general admission tickets and went straight to the Panda exhibit, which had a long line to get into, as if it was a florida themepark adventure ride. But I guess, just like us, people had come from all over the world to see how the species of Giant Panda Bears was being saved and nurtured for. We were told that this wasn’t actually a zoo exhibit, but more like a research station who made its backyard publicly seeable. We were grateful because we got to see some cute ones hanging out in the tree and eating bamboo shoots and one was even dozing off on a tree limb. After the Panda exhibit, we saw many other animals in the cages and some exotic birds in a bird sanctuary, all of which made us think about why we capture many of these animals. Their freedom must be compromised to protect their species from extinction, but does that make the zoo animal-friendly ? Who knows. We tried not to think about it as we went along the different animal exhibits. But Manjiri and I were both disgusted at times looking at how little free room and navigation area elephants had had as compared to their wild counterparts. But in the end, we left it all in the zoo and came out to catch the trolley tour, which the last bus was still supposed to come and pick us up.

After a long wait and frustration building (believe me, both our feet were tired by walking for several hours by this time), the trolley tour bus never showed up and we ended up taking a taxi back to where we had parked our car. It didn’t cost us much, but we were really mad at this tour company and would not recommend it to anyone going to San Diego. Yes, it saved us on parking and driving hassles, but they need to increase their frequency and also duration for which they operate. We will have to call them and talk to them about our difficulties.

We didn’t let it get to us because we still had a few hours to enjoy in San Diego and the place to go was Old Town San Diego. I had some experience of “el pueblo” from Albuquerque and Santa Fe and Taos from New Mexico days. Although I had not been to San Diego’s old town before, I felt like I have been there, and Manjiri also liked the rustic, old feeling. Of course, this was also commercialized quite a bit now with many small street merchants selling everything Mexican and Native American. We bought some stuff from TinSmith, a producer of all things Tin, and a few San Diego souvenirs. The dinner had to be Mexican. We had been planning for an authentic Mexican food all this time what better place than here, so close to Mexico. We had to ask locals which would be the best place to eat and the answer was The Old Town Café. The popularity was quickly apparent, as we approached the hostess to put down our name for seating: a wait of 1 and a half hour!! We didn’t have that kind of time on our hand, but luckily for us, they had open seating at the bar and indoor patio. We decided to take our chances there and found that the food was really tasty just we had heard. We had horchata (pronounce as orchaataa, the first h is silent) and a Mango Margarita for drinks. Manjiri had a veggie burrito while I enjoyed a chicken enchilada.

We were lucky that the old town was very close to San Diego airport. We reached the rental car return counter, gathered up all our belongings in 9 different small and large bags and made it to the check in counters of US Airways at the San Diego airport. In the hour that we had before actual boarding, we consolidated our pieces of luggage into 6 items, because they will only allow 2 personal items each on board and we can check in 1 bag each. We had to get creative, but in the end it worked out. The flight was full even though it was a “red-eye”, but as soon as we took to the air, I was fast asleep. When I woke up, it was the pilot’s announcement of Charlotte approaching. After landing at the Charlotte airport, we sat and wrote up some blog offline while I waited at the gate to catch the next flight to Chattanooga. On arrival home, Nilesh picked us up after I had a chance to change and freshen up and I came straight to work. Manjiri had the day off, so she went home and informed me that the cats were very happy to see her. All in all, a good trip was finally over for her. I had to wait till I got home that night to recover from all the traveling stress.

I didn’t mention this earlier, but we lucked out a lot by getting this “JAW” journey for using our frequent flyer miles, which in turn were accumulated pretty much because of our India trip in May 2005. Anyway, to get a two-one-way trip like this is sometimes next to impossible, but we must have been lucky. Being able to fly into San Francisco and fly out of San Diego made this 6 day vacation more enjoyable, because otherwise, we would have to drive down the hundreds of miles and then drive back all the miles to catch a flight. Alamo also made it easier by not charging us a one way rental fee. What was funny about the Alamo rental was that I used a coupon from MasterCard, but we actually paid for it using Discover. The coupon was found online using Google and car was booked online using Alamo’s website. It saved us quite a bit of money, you should try it next time you have to rent a car. More notes like this later….Now back to Life in Chattanooga…

California Trip 2006 - Pictures

Pictures have been uploaded at http://photos.yahoo.com/bhushankarle in the folder called "2006 February California Trip"

Danish Town, Santa Barbara, Malibu Hindu Temple and Artesia Indian Community

Day Five - Feb 18th
We left our hotel in Buellton at about 10:15 am, and thought about taking a quick stroll into the Danish town of Solvang where we had seen cute neighborhoods last night when we dined. Although we had many places to see ahead of us, I wanted to have a few photos for the memory. What ended up happening was that we actually spent almost an hour and half in Solvang’s beautiful shopping district. We were both amazed by its atmosphere. Cute little shops looking like little Denmark with lots of cheese and Wine tasting outlets. We actually learnt a few things about Danish cheeses and also go some Solvang history lessons. Bought some souvenirs and left town at about 11:45 am.

We saw some ostriches along the way to the Gaviota pass at an Osrich farm, but due to lack of time, we passed up the opportunity to feed them or buy any souveniers.

Gaviota pass offered us spectacular views as we approached the Pacific Ocean on 101 south.

We were now in the vicinity of Santa Barbara. The road was again hugging the ocean and mountains on each side of us. We did not stop in SB, but continued all the way to Malibu. Along the way we saw many places where land slides had left their mark. The houses looked cute.

Then we took an exit on 101 to go to the Malibu Hindu temple located on Las Virgenes canyon Rd in the Malibu Canyon. This Venkateswara temple has perfect location and because it was Saturday, it was open all day. Lots of people had come in, mostly Indian, but I overheard a French family sitting next to me at the shoe rack outside the temple as well. Must be a tourist attraction and the local people also seem to know about the temples location. I say that because I had stopped earlier to ask for directions at a local Coldwell Banker’s office in Thousand Oaks and they knew about the exact way to find the temple!!

We also ate some Prasad at the temple and left at about 2:30 pm. We then approached LA’s metropolis. Highway 101 turned into a huge freeway now and we followed it aroung the downtown buildings, changing to I-10 in Santa Monica. Then changing to 110 and finally onto I-5 and then I-710 and ending on I-605. As we passed through many towns and cities of LA, it gave us an idea of what its like to dive in LA. Amazing. We saw the HOLLYWOOD sign in the distance. We then took highway 22 exist on 605 and went back onto PCH to approach the beaches. Sunset was incumbent upon us, we now started looking for a nice place along the highway to sit down and enjoy the vista. Finally that appeared in the town of Huntington Beach. Nice beautiful beaches, and the sunset marked with many clouds. It was a little bit chilly to comfortably sit down, but, the we enjoyed it while we could.

We then drove back into the LA freeway system, on 91 freeway to Artesia, which has the Indian community shops. On Pioneer blvd, we felt like we were in Little India. We enjoyed shopping there and also ate wonderful Punjabi food at Ambala Dhaba. I had phugwara goat curry while Manjiri had chhole bhature, both of which were spicy and tasteful.

We left that area around 8:30 pm and reached San Diego neighborhoods around 10:30 pm. We had booked our hotel already this time, and it was outside the main city neighborhoods, in the town of El Cajon. In an effort to find it, we accidentally reached the US-Mexico border!! We didn’t venture to actually reach the border crossing because we didn’t bring our passports with us. But the excitement of actually seeing it was there. We may go there again on Sunday, just to see it in daylight.

We finally reached our hotel (Quality Inn again) at 10:30 pm an retired very quickly. Unlike all the other hotels, this one didn’t have fast internet. So I am writing this blog offline and then I will upload it when I have the chance to connect to the internet.

Today’s plan is to enjoy San Diego sights and then catch a flight late at night and reach Chattanooga early AM. We have been watching the weather channel and looks like CHA is experiencing some chilly weather, mix of rain and snow in TN. That weather may actually interfere with our weather plans. We will see.

Mystery Spot, Pacific Coast Highway to Solvang

Day Four
The plan was to leave early to spend the entire day driving to reach Los Angeles area, but we got a late start. And leaving Sunnyvale and Santa Clara area became difficult when we passed Bhavika's Vegeterian Food and other such Indian snack places on El Camino Real. We stepped out of the hotel at 10:30, but after shopping for kachoris and murukku and ratlaami sev and samosas from Bhavika's, we finally left the Bay Area around 11:45 am.

We took highway 17 to towards Santa Cruz. Vikram had recommended that we check out the Mystery Spot near Scott's valley, so we stopped by. This is a 150 sq ft area in the deepest of the woods where objects defy gravity. You are bewildered when you see your self standing upright and yet leaning a good 20 degrees in front of yourself when you are in the middle of the mystery spot. Scientific minds keep questioning the presentation of this popular tourist attraction, and even the tour guide admitted that there an element of optical illusion added to enhance the natuarally occurring geomagnetic anomaly there. It seems true, when you are standing there, it just feels weird, and the crooked house through which they pass you, makes you really think that the gravitational and magnetic forces there are out of whack. Of course, I took it as more of an entertainment but Manjiri had already seen such a mystery spot somewhere in Wisconsin earlier and could not stop questioning. We left there discussing the mysteries of the mystery spot.

As soon as we got back to highway 17, it started raining, and this rain was there with us on and off through the day. We then reached the Pacific Coast Highway, California's famous Highway 1, which goas along the coast all the way to San Diego. We didn't really stop by all the vista points because it was raining and also because until we got past Monterey, it wasn't all that spectacular. but boy oh boy, as we approached Big Sur, the views changed dramatically. We now started seeing huge mountains jutting against the Pacific Ocean and the road barely staying on the mountain side. The Curves had to be manouvered carefully and luckily there were many official and some unofficial turnouts where we could just park for a while and enjoy the scenes. It was a treat for the eyes and the video/photo digital cameras. We thought of actually hiking down to the actual shore, but the hike was quite steep and in many places, the road level was a good 1000 feet above the level of the ocean, so we skipped that and continued along driving. Just before Big Sur, we stopped by at Rocky Point restaurant and had our lunch. Salad and Soup. But the viewes were spectacular. And just about then, we started seeing some clouds come in which added to the scenery. We watched the waves crash against the rocks creating surfs that retreated to be engulfed by the next larger wave crashing towards the shore. We drove and drove along the coast hugging the mountain edges on our left and the ocean on our right. Many areas of the road had signs of recent landslides, and huge boulders had fallen near the road. We were grateful that none happened while we were there.

The drive along the coast was pleasant until the started raining hard. Actually we were kind of lucky that we got to see the squall of the rain approaching the coast from way in the diatance while we were filling up the gas in San Simeon ($21 for only 5 gallons - Full serve). We left in a hurry to avoid the rains, but one of the squalls eventually did catch us. We stopped for the day at Salvang, CA which seems like a very cute Denish (of Denmark) township. We ate at A Bit of Denmark and got to enjoy some Danish cuisine. It was nice. Then we retired at Quality Inn in Buellton, CA. Salvang and Buellton are also picturusque towns very close to Highway 101, secluded in the mountains.

Today we are leaving at about 10:30 as well. Hope to finish th PCH and reach san Diego by the end of the day.

Napa and Sonoma Valley and Sunnyvale

The third day of our California trip was NOT planned for what we actually ended up doing. We were originally supposed to leave San Francisco area and start our drive towards San Diego on Pacific Coast Highway (highway 1) but Manjiri suggested that we should tour the wine country while we are still here. Of course, I am all for country sights, and since I had never been there to Napa and Sonoma, we immediately signed up for it with Tower Tours. The bus driver was the same from our San Francisco tour yesterday and she was very informative. This time we drove to the east of the city crossing the bay on the lower level of the Bay Bridge landing onto the east bay city of emeryville. The drive to Napa was about 1 hour and the country sights were very pleasing to the eye. Greenery was all over the rollign hills and pretty soon we started seeing the vineyards.

The tour took us to three different wineries during the entire day and all of them offered us unique experiences. The Madonna Estate Winery, The Viansa Winery and The Cline Cellars, all have been making specialty wines and they shared their history and wine making techniques with us tourints. They also offered us wine testing and free tips on how to do it. I learnt a few tricks as well. For example, to really get to know the wine, you must try and use all your senses: first see it, making sure its clear; then smell it thoroughly; then take it in your mouth and chew on it, before gulping it down. And most importantly, after you have swallowed it, breathe with your mouth and exhale with your nose; what that does is brings the smells back to your nostrils from inside and that really was a trick I liked a lot. Oh boy, i loved the wine testing when I started using that last trick.

But after a while, I got bored with the wines. Besides, all these winery people were really talking a lot and trying to sell their wines via these gimmicks of wine tasting. So I focussed more on enjoying the vineyards. At Clines' the flowers were beautiful and they had huge Eucalyptus trees which added to the ambience. At Viansa, the hilltop location offered spectacular views of the Napa-sonoma valley and the wine country. Viansa also offered a lot of farm related food producs for our taste buds, specially for those of us who were tired of wine tasting. We learend a lot about basics of wine making at Madonna Estate. All in all, we had a good time tasting various wines and we took home a couple of bottles for ourselves.

For the lunch, we were dropped at Sonoma City Plaza, which offered many historic places to see and curious places to eat. We had soup and sandwich as The Red Grape, a fancy italian/Californian place. Manjiri ordered a flat bread topped with jack cheese and onions on it and I had the simplest salad. we toured around and likes the plaza atmosphere.

After the wine country tour was finished, the tour bus brought us back via the golden gate bridge and dropepd us off at our hotel. we had already checked out but had left our car there. we left it there and left our belongings (except for jacket and purses) and left to go back to the Fishermans' Wharf for one last stop for shopping for souvenirs. We walked about 10-15 blocks, almost all the way to the Pier 39. Got some nice memorabilia and then caught a taxi (the walk back would have been uphill and cold/windy) to our car. We then set out to leave the city.

We were supposed to leave the city at 6pm, but it was close to 7pm now and John, my long time buddy, who lives in Sunnyvale was waiting for us to go to dinner somewhere. We took 101 south and after tackling some minor traffic snags, reached his place at about 8 pm. The drive down this road was bringing a lot of memories back to my mind as I had spent some time living and working here back in 1997. I shared those memories with Manjiri as I passed each exit. It was very interesting.

When we reached sunnyale, John immediately took us to Sweet Tomatoes, a delightful place for vegeterians. It offered us a nice atmosphere for conversation and plenty of variety for a simple buffet price. John was happy and positive as usual, and he was happy to see Manjiri for the first time. Both of them talked a lot while I simply enjoyed the food and john's positivity. He works as a roofer in bay area and is an avid golfer. After the dinner, we dropped him off at his residence and checked ourselves in at the Quality Inn on El Camino Real near Mathilda Ave in Sunnyvale. Glad to know that they had fast internet access and decent accomodation. We were both very tired and fell asleep very quickly. The wine must have had an effect on us after all :-)

Muir Woods, San Francisco City sights and our Anniversary

Day Two (15th February)
After a good night's rest, the day of anniversary began. 15th of february. Four years ago we were in Pune, getting ready at this time to tie our nuptuals. Today we were in the heart of the city of San Francisco. To celebrate the day, we had planned several things for the day: a guided tour of the Muir Woods (forest full of giant Redwoods, just north of the city) in the morning, a guided tour of the city itself during the afternoon and a dinner with friends at a nice Italian restaurant later in the evening.

At the onset, it is hard for a young engineer like me to let go of the control and let someone else show me the city. But believe me, in a city like San Francisco, driving can be painful, parking can be expensive and having to pay attention to traffic can take away from your enjoyment with your loved ones. So we decided to book the tours offered at a discounted price (thanks to our hotel manager) by Tower Tours company. They picked us up from our hotel and then we headed towards Muir Woods with a nice tour guide/driver of our van. Crossing the Golden Gate bridge, the winding road took us through Marin County hills into the National Monument called Muir Woods. These trees are really old, some of them have been around since 925 AD, and they are still growing. The hiking in Muir woods, among some of the oldest, and tallest trees was and awe inspiring experience. We decided to make the most of the hour we had been allotted and choise to make a very ambitious 2 mile hike on the main marked trails. We crossed over 4 bridges, and circled the river that ran along the marked trails. There were some amazing views of trees along our path, some so large, that we had to lean al l the way back, and still could no see the top of the tree. As we went deeper into the woods, it got darker with the density of the trees and foliage, and the roots were "everywhere". Fantastic way to start the day.

On the way back, from Muir Woods, we were given a chance to explore (read "Shop") in Sausalito, one of the richest area around here. We crossed the golden gate bridge again, and had a panoramic view of the Pacific ocean as we crossed the bridge back into SF. downtown.

Came back to Fisherman's Wharf area and had lunch at Boudin's, which is famous for their original Sourdough bread. I enjoyed a bowl (sourdough bread bowl) of clam chowder, which was nice, whereas Manjiri enjoyed tomoto soup. We met Saly, a Canadian born Keralite Indian girl, who is a pharmacist in Edmonton, Alberta. She was on our tour to Muir woods and joined us for lunch and conversation at Boudin's. She was there to attend a conference for her company.

Then we rushed to Tower Tours office to catch our next tour, the tour of the City of san Francisco. This bus was very big from outside and very comfortable inside. The views of the city itself were spectacular. Golden Gate bridge (again), Palace of the Arts, Twin Peaks, Alamo Square, Full House house, Crookedest Street from a distance, Golden Gate State Park where Manjiri went and saw the Japanese Tea Garden (and it was fantastic, with all the pagoda's, stutue of Buddha, wind chimes, flowering shrubs, and stones set around to help cross the "waterway") and I had a chai in deYoung museum cafe. Twin Peaks is the tallest mountain in the city and offers a great view of the entire bay area. All along the city, we saw painted ladies, which are old victorian row houses. We were thrilled by the up and down streets of the city. Coit tower, Market street and financial district. We passed through China Town and Little Italy (part of North Beach area). we were dropped off at our hotel by the courteous bus driver of our tour.

At our hotel, Yasmine was waiting for us to take us to dinner. She drove her honda accord to the city from Alameda, where whe works as a special education teacher. We then reached italian restaurant called "Stinking Rose" which is famous for their use of garlic on everything. The conversations were delighful and so was the ambience. we had good apetisers and some vegeterian pasta dishes followed by Garlic ice cream!! it wasn't too bad, although it left an aftertaste I wouldn't like anyone to have:-) but the Stinking Rose was a great experience. Uwe (Yasmine's husband) works in an exciting field of pharmaseuticals research and was telling us all bout his work and we had interesting discusions on relationships, how they met, what' sgoing on in their lives and many catching up to do. Yaz finally dropped us off at our hotel and we retired very quickly. this time Manjiri took the turn of connecting all the gadgets for recharging:-)

All in all, it was a memorable day for our 4th wedding aniversary. Manjiri is happy and is now demanding that I should make more plans like this for our future anniversaries. we will see how it goes.

Today we are planning to take another Tower Tour to Napa Valley. Its a whole day affair, hopefully one that will give us a lot to remember. Then in the evening we are to go to Sunnyvale, and see another friend and then head on to the Pacific Coast highway and San Diego.

California Trip 2006

Day one -
Nilesh dropped us off at the Chattanooga airpot at 6:30am - we were thinking that we might have been late, but we did ok. flight to Charlotte was a small Canadair regional Jet, but from Charlotte to San Francisco it was an Airbus 321. We of course had to get the window seats on top of the wings, as our luck would have it.

I spent most of the time on the plane trying to play with this new toy of ours - the laptop. But the battery was not fully charged, and after 50% drainage, the performance was very slow. I tried to rip some music while I had the power, but I lost the power quickly. but the feeling of having a laptop was wondeful one.

Flight time was about 6 hours. it was long and restless for both of us.
San Francisco airport was completely renovated, with AirTran working and all.

Alamo car rental - $314 - for 1 week rental including all costs for a fullsize car (we got Chevy Impala - 2400 miles on it)

drove to san Fracisco - along highway 101.

2:00pm Arrived at Francisco Bay Inn at 1501 Lombard st. Very nice location, near everything. Hostess was Indian, helped us out, gave us plenty of suggestions for touring, and dining.

took some rest. it was a long day (and a long night before that). we were both very hungry as well, snacked on cashew nuts, sunflower seeds and Kashi bars manjiri had cleverly packed along, until we were finally went out on the town.

on day one, we decided to tour the city in the car. Drove down the streets of San Francisco. Lombard street turns into World's Crookeded Drive for about one block of the city:-) . also went past City hall, Ghirardeli Square (some construction there) and eventually reacehed Golden Gate Bridge. We took the last exit in san Francisco, before crossing over into Marin County. At that exit, there's a very nice display of the cable on which the GG Bridge suspends. its about 36 inchecs in diameter and made up of some 27000 smaller steel cables (3mm diameter each). Its amazing to see. Then we walked onto the bridge itself.

It was 6pm and darkness was just falling. It was cold, say around 50F and windy as we reached the top of the bridge. Traffic was constant, and the noise of cars on the bridge was a bit annoying, but the view of the City from up there at nightfall was enthralling. I took some pictures, but I was too far to take good ones of the city. The vibrations of the bridge was destabilizing the tripod shots of the night landscapes and the cold wasn't helping either. We then just enjoyed the romantic time on this famous landmark on valentine's day. We walked back to our car and drove back into the city to our hotel.

we then made plans for next few days activities with the help of the Indian lady owner of our hotel. She was very helpful. we then decided to walk 5-6 blocks of the city to eat something, may be Indian. But found this unique place instead. "Ya Ya Mesopotamian Cuisine California Style" - basically food and ambience of the Iraq. I had never before tried Iraqi foods, and surely enjoyed. Even Manjiri found good veggie stuff. more on that later.

When we reached our hotel room we were exhausted. Quickly retired after pluggin in all the gadgets to be recharged for new day of activities.

New Year begins with a bang!!

December 2005 anad January 2006 have been quite eventful. Have been meaning to write about it.

December saw our house full of guests. First it was my best friend Amit, his wife Shraddha and daughter Isha, who came in early December to bat the holiday rush. They also drove to Florida to see Disney. Then during the Christmas holidays, Sudarshan and Neeta Desai came from Atlanta for one day, followed by Akshay Amin for another day (he actually drove all the way from Kansas!). Right after that, Meera, Manjiri's friend came from New Jersey, with her brother Pramod, his wife Madhavi and son Anirudh. They also brought along their parents who were visitiung from India. On the New Year's Eve, we also had the company of Sneha & Sachin Prabhu and their children Anand and Arati, who drove from Somerset, KY to see us.

So we had this big bash on New Years eve. More on that later. Suddenly everyone was gone and the new year gave us some relent. Work picked up. New projects kicked in for me. I am now working on a proof of concept on AVR.NET Webpart using Microsoft SharePoint technology. Exciting stuff. Manjiri is also beginning to get busy with new classes for her continuing education.

Both of us attended 3 of 4 different musical programs at the Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga during the last two months. First it was the Nutcracker, in which Carrie's daughter Alyssa was acting. Then it was the Home for the Holidays musical with Christmas carols and holiday songs. We then saw the spectacle of Tommy Tune and his dancing troupe in the Dr. Dolittle. And just last week, we enjoyed Italian opera Don Giovanni, performed by Chattanooga Symphony and Orchestra. The music was written 250 years ago by Mozart. It was a good experience but I am not sure if I will go again. The opera reminded me of naaTyasangeet - a musical drama in marathi theatre in Mumbai/Maharasthra, except it was in italian. Luckily they had english supertitles (yeah, over the head, projected), so we could at least understand the story being told. The sopranos and tenors and altos were very good singers, but personally, not too exciting for me. I actually felt the same way about sangeet-naaTak as well. but anyway.

Well, time to go play table tennis again. Toastmasters leadership training was good. I am now actively learning by being Vice President of Education at my club, Monday Mumblers. Taxes are beckoning me as well. I have almost finished adding up all my stuff in my online tax preparation website, just need to wait till the actual W-2 are shipped and received. I enjoy doing taxes, believe it or not. I learn a lot, doing it myself. Gotta go for now.

Thanksgiving

We are curretly in Verona, KY (suburb of Cincinnati, OH) visiting Manjiri's brother for Thanksgiving. We drove up here last night (5 hrs from Chattanooga) and played poker until 4am (with fake money chips) with Shrini (Manjiri's brother) and his friends and neighbors. That was fun. Now Elizabeth, Shrini's wife is cooking up the thanksgiving turkey and all the other paraphernilia that goes with it. I am looking forward to eating all that and hanging out with the kids (Akshay, Evan and Tej) for next few days. Planning to go shopping tomorrow morning. Let me know if you want to buy something. Walmart has tremedous specials just for tomorrow ( take a look at this digital camera 6mega pixels for $200 - I am thinking of buying it seriously)

During the afternoon we went to Cracker Barrel and had some late breakfast. Then Shrini showed us his office building from outside. He works for this big Japanese Car company's North American division (name starts with a T). The office was impressive. Then we went to the airport to pick up Sundeep. He arrived from Boston to join us for thanksgiving. The reunion of the Arole brothers and sister was yet another highlight of the weekend. The two SPA-Role brothers immediately started talking tech and put their heads together to see if they can get the Toshiba projection TV's Red color (which was lost due to some lose connection) back again. They actually opened it up while I started asking google for its service manual (Toshiba 65h80). Before too long they figured out the problem and fixed even before the service manual was downloaded (which in itself was amazing - now a days everything is available on google:-) )

Now Shrini is playing with his new remote control car toy. Let the games begin...