Monday, July 25, 2005

Podcasting and NPR

You can't listen to NPR in your car in Bangalore. At least not on the radio. Oh well, at least not being broadcast on air. What you can do however is download podcasts, put them on your ipod and have them transmit to your FM radio in your car. So now you can listen to NPR show from Seattle while driving your car in Bangalore. Cool, eh?

On my last trip to Seattle in April, I picked up
an iPod plug-in for transmitting FM
from Monster. I had tested one from Belkin earlier and didn't like it. The one from Monster has worked great so far. About a month or two ago I started downloading podcasts to the iPod and listening to them. However, iPodder and other tools I tried didn't work quite as well as I liked. I knew it then that it was only a matter of time before iTunes solved the problem for good. iTunes 4.9 indeed did. Now I manage my podcast subscriptions directly from iTunes and these get uploaded to iPod when I plug it in. When I get in my car, the iPod plugs into the FM transmitter, and voila! there's NPR on radio in a car in Bangalore! Heh.

Friday, July 22, 2005

More photos from Leh

I posted some more photos from Leh on Flickr. All these new photos are here:

I used the feature on Flickr to add notes to a photo to mark out Stok La, the highest point of our 3-day trek. Really cool feature, I have to say. My respect for Yahoo! went up by a little bit the day they bought this cool website.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The forests of Bandipur and Mudhumalai

I spent the last two weekends in the Bandipur-Mudhumalai area. The first weekend was in Bandipur, and the second in Mudhumalai. I don't know how much the Lonely Plant to India covers it, but there is surely a lack of good resourecs on the web for these areas. These are some of the thickest forests I have ever seen, replete with wild life. Over the two weekends, I saw herds of wild elephants, even tuskers, lots of deer, a pair of black bucks, some mouse deer (something I didn't know existed!) -- but seem to have a lot written about them -- and some more.

The first weekend in Bandipur we stayed at Tusker Trails. Good food, good cottages, friendly staff and good set of activities to do -- in all it was a perfect weekend getaway from Bangalore. The second weekend I had extended family in town, and we stayed at the Casa Deep Woods in Mudhumalai. The facilities weren't as great (no pool!), but in general things were better organized. We did a short trek through the forest and on the way back chanced upon a huge herd of deer. Seeing the deer run and jump across a stream was a fascinating sight -- beyond doubt it is one of the more beautiful creations. As I write this I recall more than one stories I saw on National Geographic featuring deer being caught and eaten by alligators or tigers or lions... Ugh!

Anyway, Mudhumalai itself was great. After a day in Mudhumalai we headed to Ooty. I had made reservations at the Willow Hill. While it didn't meet my expectations, it was definitely a nice place to stay. I was hoping for it to be more of a retreat with much more charm. Ooty itself scored low on the charm factor. We visited Pykhara and Glenmorgan on the way to Ooty, and thanks to the clouds and the greenery most of these places looked right out of a Hitchcock thriller (in a good way! :). The next day we headed to Avalanchy and Coonoor. The small trek to the Avalanchy lake was nice -- through the greens and exposed land, along a small stream. The drive from Avalanchy to Coonoor was quite spectacular. The drive is surrounded by very green tea estates all around. With the clouds descending down to the hills, it made for a very enchanting drive. We didn't visit a tea estate till we reached Coonoor -- where we were disappointed somewhat at the High Fields estate. Next time I plan to spend a more chilled out time at a tea estate and do little else in Coonoor and Ooty.

I am back in the Bangalore noise now. Over the last few months I've gone from liking this place to disliking it completely to getting used to it to the point I've stopped caring enough to like it or not. Lavanya Sankaran recently wrote a book with stories from the city -- I read only the first couple and I found it just as superficial as I find this city. Nevertheless, there is money pouring into the city, and people too, with hardly any room to accomdate the latter. So, it goes on.

I'm considering another trip to the Himalayas sometime -- Hemkund/Valley of Flowers is a potential candidate, and Ladakh-Zanskar valley another. There were some discussions on a bicycling trip to Leh, but I doubt it'll happen this year. I am sorely out of shape and it requires a lot of training. Meanwhile I am happy to follow Lance's trail in France.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Of late I have been on more than one flight. The flights to Leh and back and then to Pune for Hemant's wedding. I managed to read about 3-4 books in the meanwhile. During the trips to Leh, I read the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. The author tries to fashion a detective after Miss Marple, and does a good turn by making the tale more like folk stories from Africa. I had picked up another book for Leh, Red Carpet, by an author based in Bangalore (or at least writes about Bangalore). The book however got forgotten in Delhi enroute to Leh, and now that I have it in my possession again, I've started it. The first story was no great shakes.

On the way to Pune I picked up a Wodehouse, hoping to get an easy read. It was. Luck of the Bodkins, as it turned out, was something I had read earlier. But then, it is difficult to remember the Wodehouses separate from one another sometimes. Unless it is Leave it to Psmith, which stands out, in my humble opinion, the best of Wodehouse and one of the funniest books around.

Back in Bangalore, I picked up the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It is a book written in first person, from an autistic teenager's point of view. I have no knowledge or experience with someone like that, but the book did make a good read. It sure does make feel one more comfortable with one's idiosyncracies, if there are some :). I wasn't sure all through if it was meant to be a children's book or not. There is sadness in the book, but from the autistic child's point of view, there is a simplification to everything. And the actions of this child, that would otherwise seem so strange (and they do to the people in the story), have very logical reasons.

Currently I am also reading Ignited Minds by APJ Abdul Kalam. I am through with the first couple of chapters. In some ways, the book tries to preach wisdom, and in some ways tries to inspire one to dream and make big things happen. What I liked most about the book so far was that it acknowledges outright that the book is not intended for cynical adults like me, and tries to speak to the children in their language, for Mr. Kalam believes it is these minds that will listen and will act. Sitting in India, seeing things broken around one in so many ways, it does make one nod one's head in agreement as one reads along.

Besides the books, every morning now I wake up early to pick up the newspaper. Not to read the news but to get my hands on the daily Su-do-ku puzzle. I had printed some out for the flights to Leh, and managed to crack some of the "very hard" ones during the flight. Alas, the papers carry easy to medium ones only. Apparently these are gaining huge popularity across the world these days. Someone in our office circulated them around before they started appearing in the newspapers, and now it seems too mainstream.