Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cheeni Kum (Less Sugar)

Thanks to a cold, I have been unable to concentrate on my books and have been craving spicy food. Tired of trying to concentrate, I went to see Cheeni Kum yesterday. I was mildly surprised at the quality of the movie. I imagined it to be another of those usual Bollywood flicks with lotsa drama, but it turned out to be a different kind of movie. The theme is a love story between a 64 year old man and 34 year old woman. The dialogues are beautiful, and I loved the story line. It is very chick flicky but well made and without any vulgar bikini and wet t-shirt dances. However, it is not without its share of adult humour and talk of sex. But for a change, the dialogues are open and there is no coy shy heroine who blushes at the very mention of sex. It is a progressive theme. There is a lot of comedy, and again I was surprised that it was delivered in well written dialogue rather than the slap stick non funny comedies we are used to in run of the mill Bollywood. The movie could have done without the drama of Qutub Minar and sexy who is actually a 6-8 year old. That I thought was the weakest parts of the movie. I am not very impressed with Tabu, but she had her moments of stellar performance in the movie. Paresh Rawal and Zohra Sehgal stole the show for me. Especially the former. His transformation from a villain to a comedian is now complete in my opinion and he is fantastic in this movie. Music is by Ilayaraja, and you will hear digital and improved versions of his songs from Mauna Raagam. As usual his situational music is great and not jarring. Cheeni Kum is saccharine and you will not be disappointed. Leave the kids at home though, if you do not want them to hear a lot of open talk about sex.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Anti-Bush Advertising

I came across this page when I was searching the Hell Pizza ads in New Zealand. The first two images are the ads for Hell Pizza. I think they were taken down in a few days time in August 2005.

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Holy Bible

My friend Saro sent me this link - very funny

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Global Peace Index

Global Peace Index Rankings

This link gives the rankings of 121 countries based on Global Peace Index. It was surprising to see Ireland at #4 ahead of two Scandinavian countries and Canada. More surprises - Libya at #58, Cuba at #59, and China at #60. Even more surprising - USA and Iran bunched together at #96 & #97 respectively.

Bangladesh at #86, India at #109, Sri Lanka at #111, and Pakistan at #115 - no surprises here.

The no-brainer - Iraq at #121.


This is Me

From "
Get Fuzzy"

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Someone crazier than I

I found this on youtube a couple of days back. The video was posted on the 19th, but the contents make me believe that the dude knew the story when he made the video. Deathly Hallows spoiler warning!!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007


I spent a good part of the morning taking more pictures of the campus here. I am a decent photographer, and just love to take pictures. Not sure I need an SLR yet. I took some of my first pictures with a beautiful Zenith SLR. Unfortunately, it had a shutter problem that could not be fixed. I spent a lot of money trying to get it fixed to no avail. I still have that camera though. The next camera I had was a Kodak aim and shoot film camera. It was called Dr.Finder and was bright red. My friend Ravi thought it was a toy camera and just gave it to me. I took some really good pictures with that one when I was in Pondicherry. I also took pictures of Ravi's wedding with the same camera. My friends at the hostel used to tease me about my toy camera until they saw how beautiful the pictures were. The camera I have now was bought really cheap at Amazon. Its a Canon Power Shot Digital camera. Since buying this camera in 2004, I have taken more than 5000 pictures. It went with me on my cross-country road-trip, has been dropped several times, bears bruise marks, and one time a waiter accidentally spilled a lot of sugar syrup on it. Nevertheless, it is still in good shape and helps me indulge in my fancies. Wish I had more time to devote to photography and learn more stuff and take better pictures. That would justify a new SLR. Until then it is my faithful Canon with a 4GB memory in service.

The lil guy you see in the picture has been most elusive. He is very shy and I have been hunting to shoot him for almost a month now. This morning, finally I caught up with him, even then all he stood for was one improperly framed picture from 5 feet away. He slunk away when I tried to get closer. He is a master of disguises and you will not find him unless you are looking for him specifically. Most times he blends in beautifully with the surrounding, be it the read and brown bricks or green shrubs.

Right now, I am experimenting with different photo share tools like Picasa and Flickr. I have used Yahoo photos all these years, but want something sleek and nice for my blog now. I like Picasa because it is a Google tool and is more flexible than Flickr which is a paid service beyond point.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Gran and her great granddaughter

My visit to Delhi last week gave me a chance to meet some of my relatives who live there. My aunt (dad's younger sister) and her family and my older aunt's son, his wife and his little two month old daughter live there. My granny is visiting them and it gave me a great chance to take pictures of the two farthest generations in our family. Incidentally my gran has a 5 year old great grandson as well who lives in a different city. My cousin was one of the reasons I started reading a lot at a very early age. He brought me an unabridged version of The Water Babies when I was seven years old and I read the whole book with some help from my family and a lot of help from a big dictionary. That was the beginning of my reading days I think. It doesn't seem like a lot now, but back then, growing up in a small village in South India with one public library which surprisingly had such Classics, it was a tremendous achievement. I did not have a lot of time with my family this visit, but I am very happy that at least I could meet them and spend a few hours with them. My cousin was really busy at work so he visited me at the conference centre and gave me a ride to my next destination. We grew up together, with my grandparents and had tons of fun even though he is seven years older to me. He and my aunt were our role models. They were both intensely hard working and set a great example for my brother and me. My younger aunt (in the picture) was in college when I was a toddler and she used to babysit me. We are pretty close and she is more like an older sibling than an aunt to me. I returned favor when her first born (Ashwin) was a toddler and was often left in my care. Ashwin and I have a special relationship and he is now away at Medical School. When he was younger I used to take him out to see movies, and eat ice cream. Those days are some of my fondest memories of him. Hopefully, I will get to see him as well during my time in India.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Darth Vader: Fan of Harry Potter or Dark Lord?

Is Darth Vader crying because of the downfall of You-Know-Who, or rejoicing because the Boy-Who-Lived was indeed the Chosen-One? That damn mask...

(My friend Saro sent me this link from


Craving for American food

I never thought I would say this, but yes!! I was craving for a Subway Sub yesterday. Thankfully Subway has a branch in this city, and I could go there and get my favourite Veggie Delite with lots of mustard and jalapeno. What is more surprising is that a 6" veggie delite costs about $1.50 here, which is cheaper than in the US and Subway has home delivery as well. Next time I crave a sub all I have to do is call in my order and wait for it to come in. How sweet is that!! Hmm!! Hmm! Hmm!!

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Meeting an old friend

After a frustrating day at a conference ostensibly to promote growth but which had the unknown agenda to proliferate more bureaucracy and rents, I had a great evening with an old friend Parth. He is the primary reason I am in the field of Austrian Economics right now and it was nice to meet him and his wife, the latter for the first time. In 2004 when I left for the US to pursue my graduate studies, I was sad that due to scheduling problems I could not meet Parth before I left. Immediately after landing in the States, I realized that I had almost three weeks before classes and a friend in Seattle invited me to come over. I had to fly six hours including layovers and change a couple of flights to meet him. I had to change flights at Salt Lake City, Utah and on boarding the flight I thought I saw someone who looked like Parth and it was him. It stands as the weirdest and most improbable events of my life. Meeting Parth in the middle of nowhere (Utah is still nowhere to me) 8500 miles away from where I expected him to be, and 30000 feet up in the air. My trip to Seattle was totally last minute and meeting him was just one of the best surprises of my life. I got the chance to talk to him for the duration of the flight and it was just amazing. Since then I had met him once more in 2005 when he visited DC, and I was checking out GMU, and after that yesterday. It was just wonderful talking to him about my research ideas and hearing about his successes and achievements in life. He is an inspiration to me every time I think about India. Of all the people who live abroad and complain about India and how bad things are here, here is one guy who did his Ph.D in the US, came back to India and started the Centre for Civil Society and is actually doing something very good for the local economy. Desilibertarian has more about his success with Educational Vouchers in Delhi. I wish I had known his program was being launched today; I would have stayed an extra day just to be here to witness this great event. We spent all evening, and most of the night talking about Mises and Hayek and GMU and my dissertation research and of course what is closest to both our hearts India. It remains one of the most stimulating times of my two months in India this summer; the other contenders are simply my time reading Hayek and others. He gives me hope that there are a lot many more libertarians in India than we give her credit for, and they are all in some way doing something at the grassroots level in true libertarian spirit. We are all proud of you and your team Parth!!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter at Midnight

I had reserved a copy of the final book a week back at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. I bought the 5th & 6th book from that store at midnight parties (Triya was with me for the 6th book), so decided to buy the 7th book as well from there. I went in the evening at 5:30pm and was given a number for Group 3 (groups of 40). So I was going to be the 81st to 120th person getting the book that night. There were many events going on.

But I missed all of them because a long lost friend came to see me at the bookstore while I was in the line to get a number and she wanted to go for a movie. I could not say no. So we saw I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. It was funny, but very stereotypical. Triya got her Harry Potter copy in in India and called me to tell that she got it before I did when I was watching the movie - sorry Triya I could not take your call then.

So after the movie I returned back to the store at 10:30pm and there must have been around 500-600 people in that small bookstore (there were 12 groups and many many kids). There were so many kids and adults dressed as characters from the book - the best one was a store employee dressed as Prof. Sybill Trelawney (see photo - I am in a red Absolut Mumbai t-shirt on the right). There was a kid who looked like Luna Luvgood - blond hair, blue eyes, and radish earrings. Another kid who looked like Draco Malfoy from the earlier movies - blue eyes, sleek blond hair and Slytherin robes. But most of kids were dressed as Harry Potter.

I met up with my friend and we decided to have coffee from Starbucks that was inside the store. The queue was as long as it was for the books. We stood in the line for 45 mins until 11:30pm to get coffee. Then we went to the place where Group 3 was assembled.

At 12:01am the books went on sale. I got my book at 12:18am - it was very quick (see photo). I think I was the 101st to get the book. I got the book, then got two subs from Jimmy John's (that night's dinner and next day's lunch) and went home to get started on the marathon reading.

I read as long as I could and slept off for 5 hrs until 11am. Then started reading again and finally finished off at 4:30am the next day. It was very exhaustive. It took longer than I usually take as I had to check the previous books for reference and because Triya kept interrupting me. She is a fast reader and had finished off early and was pestering me to finish fast so that we could discuss. But I like to enjoy reading - I usually re-read a few paragraphs if I like them. And with this book I re-read most of the chapters - it was that good. And after I woke up I read my favorite chapters again. I must have read the final 3 chapters atleast 5 times. So that is why I could not contribute anything to the blog until now.

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Salaam Namaste Hello

Hi guys - this is Visu. I am very crazy about Harry Potter - a passion that I share with Triya (I haven't met anyone as crazy as her). I met Triya when she was in Lincoln, but we never interacted much until it was time for her to leave (just after the release of the 6th book). I had not met anyone with whom I shared so many common interests - books, movies, driving, photography, and above all Harry Potter -
until I met her. She is special.

And this is who I am:

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.
Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More than twelve hours of Potter

This is what happens when you do not sleep all night, be first in line to get the book and read it non stop all day. The only breaks I took were for lunch and dinner, and when an old friend decided to surprise me with a visit. I am drained. Physically, emotionally. I will save my spoiler filled comments for later after my dear American readers have had more than 12 hours to read it. Right now I am ready to sleep despite my heavy heart!!


Friday, July 20, 2007

Triya ka tempo High High

Visu ki leli zig zag zig zag!! (Visu's has gone zig zag ..) I got the Harry Potter book. was the first in the store. It was empty, and I reached about an hour after they opened and was still the first. The tempo in the tile and continuing is something unique to this place. Right now I can't wait to read!! Sorry Visu! looks like I will beat you, thanks to the dumb amdavadis!!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Salt to injury!!

I am really mad at Michiko Kakutani. Wonder who she is? Well, I did not know either till about 30 minutes back when I found out from our guest Visu that she has written a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows two days before its release in the New York Times with spoilers. Read about it and please protest here (there are no spoilers in this link). I am shocked that NYT even published it. I think JK Rowling and the publishers should sue them. How did this mean critic even get her hands on a copy of the book before its release anyways? Read a Slate article about her here. My disappointment at not being able to read the book immediately after its release (since I am in a dumb city in India) has been compounded by this issue now. I am angry and even more disappointed. The curses of a million fans are on this mean nasty woman.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


For those who do not know Tamil, the title roughly translates to awesome though it falls short of the exact meaning, the perennial knowledge problem as Hayek famously noted it. The following is an excerpt from a blogpost our guest Visu brought to our notice. As an introduction to the issue for our non Indian friends, South Indians are famous for their really long and extremely traditional and uncool sounding names while North Indians have fancy short and cool names. As if that wasn't tough enough for southies are also dark complexioned with the attendant hair structure, while the northies are fairer complexioned and have great looking hair. That said, continue reading this amazing piece, and do not forget to check out the blogger's about page here.

"The Travails of Single South Indian men of conser…

“The Travails of Single South Indian men of conservative upbringing” or “Why we don’t get any…”

Yet another action packed weekend in Mumbai, full of fun, frolic and introspection. I have learnt many things. For example having money when none of your friends have any is as good as not having any. And after spending much time in movie theatres, cafes and restaurants I have gathered many insights into the endless monotony that is the love life of south Indian men. What I have unearthed is most disheartening. Disheartening because comprehension of these truths will not change our status anytime soon. However there is also cause for joy. We never stood a chance anyway. What loads the dice against virile, gallant, well educated, good looking, sincere mallus and tams? (Kandus were once among us, but Bangalore has changed all that.) continue reading here


Guest blogger!

Non Resident Alien is pleased to welcome Visu who will be a guest blogger here, and will blog occasionally. Visu is an amazing person with a rich cornucopia of experiences. Like yours truly he started his journey as an NRA and I think is a Resident Alien now. He will bring to this blog the experience of someone who has been in America longer and who has travelled wider and is more culturally acclimatized than myself. He is a close personal friend and I am very happy to Welcome him to this blog. Please join me in welcoming him and hopefully he will attract more comments and visitors to this site than I.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hunting for old Haunts

I went hunting for some of my old haunts, places I used to frequent when I lived here. One of them was a small shop run by a lady and her husband. She made the best Indian junk food fast food (Pani puri, Bhel etc). Many a late night I used to stop by her small makeshift shack by the side of the road and she would make me some of my favourite stuff with extra care. She was a wonderful lady, very entrepreneurial and she was also trying to make ends meet with two kids in high school. How ever bad the day was, how ever long, I have never seen her frown. She was forever cheerful and hopeful of a bright future. She had to pay tons as bribes to cops just so that she could set up shop there every evening. This being a foodie city, her business did run well. I couldn't find her at her old place today. Its been several years, and I was somewhat hopeful of finding her still in her old place with her cheerful smile. I even had a gift for her and the boys. I was very disappointed not to find her. My hope is that she was successful and moved to a bigger and proper shop. I did not even get her home address when I was here. That was really stupid of me. There were so many days that I was homesick and used to visit her cause she made me feel at home and was very motherly. I miss her.

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Am I a dumb American?

You Are Not a Dumb American

You got 7/10 correct.
You know a good deal about American history, but there's some basic facts you have wrong.
Time to go back to history class!

Given that I am not even American I think this is pretty decent! How do you think an American would score on a similar quiz about any other country in the world? Duh!
Thanks for the pointer Brian

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Super Size Me!!

Since coming home I have put on 15 pounds (especially after my surgery, thanks to mom). Its funny how you do not realise how fat you are until someone tells you. The whole month after the surgery, I was wearing loose, comfortable clothes which deceptively made me believe that I was not gaining any weight. Now that I have to fit into the clothes I bought with me, I realise how fat I am. In comparison to the average American I may not be fat, but in comparison with the average Indian girl I am obese. I am one of the fattest people among the 60 something girls in the dorm I am staying at, and at 5'3" it is very obvious. Since all forms of exercise (except walking) is forbidden, I am at my wits end to lose at least these 15 additional pounds. My angst is heightened since the heavier I am the longer it will take my back to heal. To compensate, I have started a walking regime ( 30-45 minutes a day at 3 mph) . I made this grand plan yesterday to watch what I eat and be calorie conscious in addition to my walking regime and this is how followed up on my decision.
This is the Indian vegetarian option. Its has a spicy potato patty instead of the meat. It was ok. Tasted like American fast food. McDonald's India has Mcdelivery!! Check out the A la carte menu link. The advertisement is good!! So after the McDonald's adventure, I came back and walked 2 miles and told myself I would eat nothing else the rest of the evening, especially no popcorn or soda at the movies. I managed to say no to the movie time hand to mouth existence, but had to.. ooh.. had to have cold coffee (a variant of frappuccino). However, I noticed the difference in portion sizes between here and the US. Here is the largest cold coffee I could get. It is next to my 5.5 inch tall pocket notebook and fits snugly in my small hand. This is smaller than the small sizes in America. Hopefully Super Size Me will become normal size me before I return. "Might as well admit that I am addicted to foood"!! (sing to the tune of addicted to love)

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Missing ma friends!!

I am missing all my Fairfax friends. Its not a very big group, just my buddies from GMU, and I am missing them a lot, especially yesterday when I went all alone to see Harry Potter (boo hoo!!) I also miss the lively conversations I used to have with them. There's a lot going on with respect to my reading and research and its a little sad that I am unable to sound off my ideas. Miss GSPW and ooh! just generally hanging out with my crowd. This whole thing is compunded by the fact that Ahmedabad is a dull city with nothing in the form of entertainment, except for big expensive multiplexes that rarely play English movies (run of the mill Bollywood is unimaginably horrible and vulgar). In some ways its good cause I am spending more time at the library. However, after two weeks of almost living in the library I am dying for a familiar face and intelligent conversation or even a round of Guitar Hero!!

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Expelliarmused.. (spoiler warning)

I was disarmed and enchanted this evening by Potter and his buddies from a muggle perspective that is. Every movie in the sequence seems to outdo the previous one in some way and The Order of the Phoenix is no different. As was expected an 870 page book cannot be fit into a two hour movie, and for those of us who have read the book, the story was quite changed in the movie in some places. Then again, screenplay is quite different from a novel I suppose. I simply loooooved all the flight sequences, both on the broom and the thestrals. They were some of the best scenes in the movie. The climactic duel between Dumbledore and U-No-Hu was a little artificial in my opinion. I expected spells flying back and forth, rather than whatever it is that you call it. But Amazing movie. Was everything I expected and more (after Lord of the Rings I have stopped expecting a lot from books made into movies)!! It was worth the pain of getting the ticket. All shows on the day of release (today, technically yesterday since it is after midnight) were house-full, and I had to use my charms, and cast a spell at the guy at the ticket counter to get my one single ticket. The picture you see is that of the DA. The DA scenes were pretty neat as well. The cast was just fantastic. From Dolores Umbridge to Luna Lovegood, they did a great job. Ginny is also turning out pretty hot. Of course!! Hermione wins hands down any day!! Great movie for all! Some of the jumpy scenes may be a little too much for your lil 'uns, but if they have read the book, they will know what to expect. The dementors were awesome. Four Stars in my opinion. Go see it! I think I will go back a week or so from now when the crowd is smaller.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Stylu Stylu daan!!

lakalakalakalaka.... Rajini movie Rajini movie daan!! After almost 10 years I saw a tamil movie in the theatre. There were just a handful of us in the hall and I wished there were more. Rajini movies are meant to be enjoyed with the mob. Boo!! Hoo!! I had to go by myself. Spent about Rs.310 (transport, movie, dinner, popcorn and soda) about $7.75. The seats were not as plush as the other theatre, but the movie was smashing!! Corny song and dance sequences, that emphasize how pretty the heroine is and how regular the hero is. But calling Rajini regular is akin to calling the Lamborghini just another car. Unbelievable stunts, an unrealistic story line, devoid of vulgarity and all for the common man to raise against the tyranny of greedy power mongers it was the whole shebang all in three hours. Simply amazing!! I did not care much for the songs! They were pretty forgettable even though by A R Rahman. The heroine is a looker but the show was all Rajini's. It comes as usual packaged with his catchy phrases and showy antics which are quite enjoyable. What is more it is also a clean movie without sex and gore like his movies are these days. There was quite a lot of humour as well. OOh!! How I wish I had a gang to go with and bring down the house!! To outsiders the Rajini and Tamil movie scene has to be witnessed to make sense. All theatres at least in Chennai are running full house at every show and tickets are booked in advance. The movie has everything the movie hungry public want from Rajini. He does not disappoint. There are even references to his humble beginnings as a bus conductor. Here is a neat rags to riches story for you!! I loved the theme of the movie, although I am highly suspect of their knowledge of economics. Their knowledge of public choice issues though is bang on correct!! Four stars to this movie. I removed one star just cause the songs weren't memorable. Go see it, and yeah! you may take the kids along. Cooooooooooooooooollll


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Yippee Ki Yay!

Oh Yeah Baby! I decided to Live Free or Die Hard this evening. There was one English show at the local multiplex and boy was it worth the Rs.80 ($2) I paid. Plush leather recliners as big as a Laz-boy (no exaggerations). Bring it on John McClane!! This was a much awaited movie for me, and I almost missed it. I am a die hard Die Hard fan, and this movie was no disappointment in terms of special effects, amazing fight sequences and big bangs and fire power, all the works that makes Die Hard die hard. The plot was a little slow and the intermission (an Indian cinema hall thing) spoiled it, not to mention a lot of stuff I saw in trailers was missing in the Indian edition. McClane did not seem as reluctant as in all the other ones, but there he was.. wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of the sequences did show up a lot as if computer generated when compared to the earlier movies. McClane also did not Yippee Ki Yay as much as in the earlier ones. Some shots were simply too much to believe (the ones with the truck on the highway and another vehicle, which I do not want to elaborate on and give away the plot for those of you who haven't seen it yet)!! But there is one amazing fight sequence between McClane and the one bad dude (hamster!! now I can't remember names after seeing it just once). That one is just beautifully choreographed and just plain amazing. The fight sequence between McClane and Mai (Maggie Q) is great as well. I felt that her role was too brief. My advice!! Thumbs Up for John McClane. Even if you are not a die hard fan you should go see it in the big screen at least once.


Missed Movies!!

This past month and a half I have missed several movie releases. As most of you know, I am a big movie buff and enjoy mid night releases of movies and all the fan fare associated with it (costumes, friends.. the works). I missed all the May and June releases due to my surgery and now I am going to miss the July and August ones because the city I am in does not play many English movies, and even if they are released they run for less than a week. Here's the latest I have missed. Here are a few others!!
The last of the pirate series

Ocean's 13 with Al Pacino

The fun filled Ratatouille

Looks like I am going to miss John McClane as well in his newest incarnation

I am not sure about the other new summer releases like Harry Potter etc. If the past is an accurate prediction of the future. Bye Bye Summer movies. See you on Netflix.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


78%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
He he he!! No Wonder I don't get As any more :)
Thanks for the pointer Brian

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Battlestar Galactica is going to end after the next season. No fair!! I just got hooked to the whole show and fell in love with Captain Apollo. He is such a hottie!! No fair!! They cannot end the season now! Why o why should everything come to an end as soon as I begin to get comfortable with it. Happened with Crystal Maze and now with BSG. Jamie Bamber (Apollo) studied languages at Cambridge and can speak Italian and French in addition to English with an American and British accent. sigh!!

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Monday, July 02, 2007


Lacchu sent me this link. It couldn't have come at a better time as I introspect and retrospect the course of my life and career. It is a great inspiration, and has given me the boost to go through a few more dog years before I become the India expert that I am not striving to be. :) Read and enjoi!!