Monday, October 16, 2006

Physical fitness

We’ve always been conscious of what we eat (calorie content, trans fat, cholesterol etc.); but our awareness in this field has increased substantially over the years. I’ve made it a personal goal to be fit and healthy, and Hobbes has also taken this up seriously this year. Here are a couple of changes we have made to our lifestyle.

1. No eating out. The exception to this rule is vacation. So yes, we have eaten all meals out when we were traveling earlier this year. I was willing to go the Tasty Bite way, but Hobbes is not a big fan of those and their sodium content isn’t exactly low :) That is not to say that we never eat out on regular days – but we certainly try to minimize those occasions. We both brown bag our food to work. This has the side effect of saving money. I have seen numerous calculations of how much that $5 coffee or lunch adds up to over a long period of time.

2. No rice on weekdays. Earlier our mindset was such that a meal wouldn’t seem complete unless rice was included. One day we decided and boom, no more rice. (On earlier occasions, we had talked about giving it up, but it just seemed too difficult to do.) We indulge in rice on weekends with dishes that taste especially good with rice (think egg curry). Also, khichri is more or less a permanent fixture on our weekend menu, so we get our rice fix then.

3. Exercise. There is no substitute for this, unfortunately :( Hobbes has joined the gym at my work. Both of us exercise first thing in the morning. We try to be at the gym by around 7-7:30 AM. Cardio, weights, crunches and stretching take up about an hour. My gym is really cool because they have showers with adequate facilities so that you don’t need to carry anything other than your clothes. The gym has towels, shampoo, conditioner, even q-tips! Hobbes could have used the gym at his work for free, but working out together has his own advantages. (We pay a nominal fee for him to access the gym). We encourage each other to work out when one of us doesn’t feel like going. And best of all, it’s fun! We compliment each other, correct each other, and it’s just more time we spend with each other, totally relaxed and having tons of fun! Hobbes has also started coming to my yoga classes. At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, I will say, that is really quality time as a couple :) And oh, we try and do this ~3-4 times/week.

4. No booze. I haven’t had a drop for a while now. Hobbes also decided to give up drinking, at least till the end of the year. BTW, all this effort is directed towards looking good at an upcoming family event, but my hope is that we will continue everything even after that, and if possible, for the rest of our lives. It was funny how quickly Hobbes went through all the liquor in the house because he was trying to give up drinking ;)

5. Running. We go for a run every Saturday morning. This started a couple of weeks back, and I can feel the differences in such a short time. We essentially cover the same distance and always the same trail, but every week, we manage to get it done in less time than the previous week. Right now we are at 5 miles in a little over an hour. The amazing this is that ever since I started running, I feel less cold. Earlier, I used to be cold all the time. My resistance to cold has gone up, albeit by a few degrees! And for someone, who is always the butt of everyone’s jokes for being cold at odd times of the year, this is certainly a welcome relief!

That’s it. Sometimes we throw in an evening of Turbo Jam, but we’re pretty bad at that stuff, cause we’re still learning some of the moves. Both of us are noticing considerable improvements in our physical constitution, and that’s the greatest satisfaction because we know that the hard stuff is paying off – we like the folks staring back at us in the mirror :)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Toronto photos

All the photos that I took in Toronto are here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Toronto trip, day 6

Our last day in Toronto. We had packed the previous night, so there wasn't much to do. We checked out of the hotel, kept our luggage for safekeeping, and off we were for our final movie of the festival. And what a fitting finale to our trip!

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The Last King of Scotland was running at Paramount. It was an awesome movie. It was so well done, the story was so tightly knit, and well-written, that for a few days I kept on thinking that it was based on a true story. After I few days, I was looking for more information about the movie on the web, and realized that it was fictional. Very touching, very moving and just amazing overall.

That was it. That concluded our marathon movie week :) We had brunch at a local place, and took the airport shuttle back to Pearson International Airport.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Toronto trip, day 5

We watched Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn at Paramount. This was an absolutely amazing film. Part of the fascination was that it was drawn from a real person's life. Herzog couldn't be there for the Q&A but one of the actors was there, and he said that all the actors had lost a lot of weight in a very short time for the movie. Great performances and wonderful acting.

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One of the things on my to-do list in Canada was to have a crepe (sweet stuffed version of the desi dosa). We had lunch at Cafe Crepe.

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The menu, look at the variety of crepes available.

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Some people order right here.

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We sat down inside.

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And finally, the food !

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Washed down with Canadian beer and a milkshake.

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After filling up our stomachs, we headed to the Royal Ontario Museum. This and CN Tower were the only two attractions we used our City Pass at. We spent a lot of time at the various Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Greek exhibits there. Saw the Japanese warrior God dress (identical to the one shown in Harakiri) there!

Our last night in Toronto... Dinner was at Rasoee. Better than Dhaba, but overall, not impressed with the Indian food in Toronto at all.

Toronto trip, day 4

Today's movies included

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We started the day with Babel in Elgin. This was a very high-profile, much talked about movie. Brad Pitt starred in it. There was no sign of him before, during or after the movie :( This was a global, multi-national version of Crash. The scene where the doctor decides to "sew" Brad's wife's wound was very disturbing ...I am sure this movie will get a North American release soon.

Post-lunch, we took the subway to Isabel Bader theater and went and stood in line for The Making of a Bollywood Blockbuster. This was not really a film, but a discussion with panelists from Bollywood including Karan Johar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan. People started forming a line way before the movie. Ah Bollywood! We couldn't get ourselves to waste a precious ticket on Never Say Goodbye and instead had decided to attend this to represent the film industry we both grew up with :) Hobbes had hoped that this would be an enlightening discussion about the technical aspects of movie-making in B'bay. Alas, that was not what it was. It turned into a star-worshipping event where people clapped at every statement uttered by any of the three celebrities. Most of the time was spent on the participants praising one another - how Amitabh liked Shahrukh's work, how Shahrukh liked Amitabh's work, and how Karan liked both Shahrukh's and Amitabh's work. I came out of that a bit disappointed, and re-thinking my lifelong ideas about Amitabh and Shahrukh. Amitabh smiled maybe once during the entire conversation and it seemed as if someone had forced him to be there ...he came across as grumpy, moody and pompous. Shahrukh, on the other hand, seemed to be basking in the adulation of his admirers. He was very cheerful, and seemed to be enjoying himself during the event.

Some pics from that show.



Our next movie was in the same theater, so we basically came out of the hall, and went straight back into the line for Copying Beethoven. Several people associated with the film, including the lead cast and the director were present for the screening. Amazing performances by the actors! And this was a treat for classical music lovers. No opportunity to showcase Beethoven's works was missed. Here are some pics from that night.

From left to right, Ed Harris (who plays Beethoven), Diane Kruger (lead actress), and Agnieszka Holland (director).

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Toronto trip, day 3

Hobbes handled the logistics of picking the movies/venues really well. It was so convenient to watch movies in Paramount. The Roy Thomson hall was also super-close to the hotel, but we didn't have any movies there. Having the first show in Paramount gave us a chance to sleep in till late, and the beds were so comfortable that we did exactly that :)

Started off the day with Hana. This was Kore-eda's take on the whole samurai-war-is-honor genre. He gave it a different twist where the warrior draws strength from love and humanity rather than from fighting. Having seen Kobayashi's Harakiri before, I was able to appreciate several references to it. I really liked the movie. And the treat was Kore-eda showing up on stage after the movie to answer questions. He was extremely humble and down to earth. He had an interpreter with him to translate his answers to English. One of the best films I saw in the festival.

The next film we saw was The Bothersome Man. This was a strange one. Funny in a dark way. And several scenes could be interpreted in different ways. I neither hated it nor loved it.

The last movie of the day was The Fall. This was my first Tarsem movie ever, and he was present at the screening in traditional Indian attire. It was full of rich colors, and was shot beautifully - when the credits rolled, I saw locations from everywhere around the world. It also showcased a lot of historical Indian architecture - all of which, I hope to see someday in person! It was screened at the Elgin theater - which is a beautiful venue by itself. But it seemed more suitable for a theater/play/opera rather than for a movie. It was a huge hall but seemed to fill up quickly.

This was the first day since our arrival that we had some time to ourselves in the evening. We took the subway to Gerrard St to check out Little India. Yes, there were tons of desi shops lining the street, but I would say, El Camino Real in Sunnyvale-Santa Clara-Mt View beats it hands down. I had an extremely disappointing chaat, followed by awesome "Kashmiri chai". We then took the cable car all the way back to the hotel. It was a great way to see the city. We passed through Chinatown on the way.

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For dinner we went to a Thai restaurant close by. Toronto looks very different in the "touristy" vs the "regular" parts of the town. Difficult to believe that one is in the same city. The touristy part is littered with restaurants, stores, shopping malls, and tons of people. The regular part is mostly residential with empty streets.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Toronto trip, day 2

This was a busy day. We watched 5 movies - the maximum I have ever done in a day. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the 5th movie was in Paramount which was within walking distance of the hotel. So we didn't have to run around a lot.

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Outside the Paramount.

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And inside.

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We started the day with 12:08 East of Bucharest. This was followed by Requiem.For lunch, we came back to Dhaba at King West and John. They had a lunch buffet. Though some items were unique when compared to a regular Bay Area Indian buffet, overall, the food was just so-so, nothing great.

We rushed back to Paramount for 2:37. Set in Australia, this was a brilliant film about the pressure teenagers face in school. The director and one of the actors were present after the screening for Q&A. Hard to believe that this was the director's first movie. He said that he had experienced something very similar in his real life which prompted him to make the movie. He was very young, around 25. Extremely talented. He is the one holding the mike.

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I was looking forward to the next movie, A Grave Keeper's Tale. I got really excited when Hobbes pointed to Nandita Das walking towards the front of the auditorium. Both the director, Chitra Palekar, and the lead actress, Nandita Das, were present. This was a Marathi movie about a woman who lives as an outcast in a village, tending to the graves of children. Interesting tidbit - the movie was shot in Amravati. Nandita was extremely articulate during the Q&A. I was very impressed by the way she spoke. She looked very pretty in a sari. I have been a big fan of Nandita since I saw Fire.

The last movie of the day was Jade Warrior. This was a Chinese-Finnish movie where a Chinese prince is reincarnated as a Finish blacksmith. This had elements of surrealism mixed with Crouching-Tiger-style fights.

Dinner that night was at a Falafel place. We had survived 5 movies in a single day!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Toronto trip, day 1

We had taken a red eye out of California, and reached Toronto early morning, around 7 AM. I had bought tickets online for the Airport Express, so we took that to the hotel. We stayed in Holiday Inn in downtown Toronto, on King. They were nice enough to let us check into the room as soon as we reached, even though the official check-in time was around 4 PM. We showered, and immediately went to sleep :)

Woke up and started wandering around the hotel. I had bought the City Pass from Priceline, which included admission to 6 attractions. The first of these was CN Tower. It was within a very short walk to the hotel. It was a much, much bigger version of the Space Needle in Seattle. I thought the coolest thing there was the Glass Floor. This is a see-through floor located at a height of 342 metres.

After that, we walked, and walked, and walked! We had an Italian lunch followed by more walking. We were looking for a Scotia Bank ATM, and also wanted to get a general feel of the area. We also went to the College Park Box Office, and picked up our 30 tickets.

By the time we reached the Royal Ontario Museum, which was the venue for our first movie, we were dead tired. But all that changed once we went and stood in the line. The ticket checker asked us if this was our first movie, and we told her that not only was that our first movie, but our first festival ever :) We were so excited!

Our first movie was The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. The director, Sophie Fiennes, came on stage after the movie and did a Q&A session.

This was followed by Ten Canoes. Neither me nor Hobbes was able to appreciate this movie well. One reason was that a lot of the movie was in a language called Ganalbingu (the rest in English), and those parts did *not* have subtitles. So one was left guessing as to what the characters were saying. The Festival did add another screening - this time with subtitles - and anyone with a stub for the previous screening could attend this one. Unfortunately, for us, it was impossible to attend due to time constraints.

I had also read that no photography or filming was allowed inside the theatres and I assumed that this meant that no cameras would be allowed. Imagine my surprise when I saw people clicking pictures of the director after the movie. So I have no pictures to show off for day 1. The only pictures are in my head :) Except this one.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

I won, I won!

I came back on Sat from a camping/rafting trip, and checked my email. I wasn't expecting to hear back from TIFF so soon, but there it was - the mail from Customer Service with my results for the advance selection ... Guess what - I got all 15 of my first preferences !!! I don't know if it was a case of first-timer's luck, or my selection (I picked a lot of early morning screenings), or that the stars aligned perfectly, but whatever it was - THANK YOU!

Here are the movies I will be attending.

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema
Ten Canoes
12:08 East of Bucharest
Requiem
2:37
A Grave-Keeper's Tale
Jade Warrior
HANA
The Bothersome Man
The Fall
Babel
The Making of a Bollywood Bloc
Copying Beethoven
Rescue Dawn
The Last King of Scotland

Friday, September 01, 2006

Received the Out-of-Town package

After waiting for so long, we received the Fedex package finally. Yesterday afternoon when I checked the Fedex tracking page, I saw that the package had arrived in California, and was on a truck out for delivery. I immediately called Fedex and the rep told me that the package hadn't been delivered yet. So I rushed home from work, and waited, and waited, and waited .... Finally the package arrived around 5:30 pm :)

There were no goodies as some other people have reported, but I was happy to receive the thick book describing each and every movie in great detail.

On a side note, I emailed my list of movies for first and second preference yesterday, so I didn't need to send the package back. I also got confirmation that they would treat my email as an "order". Now let's see how many of the 15 movies we asked for, we finally get ...We are going to be in Toronto for 6 days, and we've bought the 30 coupon booklet, so we plan to catch 15 movies. Since this is also our first visit to Toronto, we hope to squeeze in some sightseeing and Indian-food-sampling into the trip. Any suggestions for the latter are most welcome!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

TIFF

Hobbes and I are going to be in Toronto for the International Film Festival. I am really excited about it. We had ordered the Out-of-town package which lets visitors choose their films in advance to enter into a lottery drawing. We waited for it, even took off from work early, but the package didn't show up. Apparently all the packages are stuck in Memphis. So we called up the TIFF box office. After being on hold for several minutes and a couple of phone calls later, we were told to e-mail our selections. I am confused as to why this process cannot be made web-based. We could have avoided all this unnecessary anxiety if we could choose our movies on the web. Anyway, I am not going to let this one little incident foil up my mood for the event. I'm really looking forward to being there next week!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Baigan bharta

We don't have a gas stove at home, and an electric stove is just not suited for roasting an eggplant (or brinjal, as it is called in India). We recently bought a grill, and roasted the eggplant on it. Here are the results.

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Unfortunately, I was not at home for the rest of the steps, and so, no pictures of the finished product :(

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Blueberry pancakes


When I woke up on this Sun morning, I had the sudden urge to eat blueberry pancakes. Hobbes happily complied :)










Monday, July 17, 2006

Aloo Tikki

A few days back I suddenly started craving for aloo-tikki-chaat. At my insistence, Hobbes "volunteered" to make it. And so, this Sat, we embarked on re-creating this favorite snack from my yester years. Here's the whole thing in pictures ...