February 24, 2011

Thursday Challenge: Movement

Thursday Challenge. “MOVEMENT” (Shaking, Falling, Bouncing, Jumping, Curling, Sagging,…)

Okay, two weeks in a row. And again, I have problem selecting just one or even two shots, but this time I stayed focus on one subject: Arctic Tern. The first few pictures are tern hunting for food. Just FYI, these are taken at different times though on the same day. I just made a series out of them:


A close-up of one of them:


Another view of the hunting:


Lastly, this is the series of shots of two terns fighting for the same spot and finally the winner landing on the spot:


That’s it for the movement series. Hope you like them..

February 21, 2011

Conservative and Liberal

The other day I met some one, who by his own admission is a conservative. For some reason I always imagine the conservatives to be either old (usually white: yes that’s me being racist), or a religious fanatic. So a young guy, who doesn’t seem like a religious fanatic, claiming to be a conservative came as a shock to me. And this got me to thinking. Is being a conservative really that bad?

What is being a conservative mean? No I am not talking about the issues and conservative versus liberal stand on them, but the dictionary meaning. The Oxford Dictionary says, it means:

“…holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion…”

while being a liberal means:

…open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values…

The way I see it, they are two side of a coin, yin and yang, the two pillars needed to have a balanced society to develop and grow. How you ask?

Well, imagine a society which is perfectly liberal. Every new idea, new opinion is embraced and hence the society changes to adapt it every month, every week or may be every hour. What happens then? Chaos, right? Also, do you really think that every new idea, every new opinion is worth trying out? Communism was a new idea once upon a time and societies did change to adapt that idea. You know the result.

So we do need a fair share of conservatives to keep the society grounded to challenge the new ideas and how practical they are.

Now, imagine a society that’s completely conservative. No new idea will ever be entertained. The wheel inventor would be prosecuted (sounds familiar?). We would still be living in caves or may be even in jungles.

So bottom line is that we need conservative as well as liberal ideas in the society to make it function properly.

All this is good and great, however, my initial question was: Is being a conservative really that bad? Let me add to it: Is being a liberal bad?

Well, I think so (at least now). In my opinion a person, like a society, should be well balanced. A person who is either too liberal or too conservative, is in danger of being either a hippie (as in full blown dum-maro-dum style) or a religious fanatic, respectively. I am not sure I prefer either of them.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?

February 19, 2011

February 18, 2011

Tag: Years past

I stole this tag from Sunshine. And like any tag, its going to reveal more personal stuff about my life. Let’s see how much I will be able to put out here.

30 years ago (1981)

1. The first train ride that I remember. My reaction was: Everything is running backwards, including the Earth and the tree. And I think I said something along the lines: “Mummy Dharti ghoom rahi hain.” in a very excited tone.

2. My first memory of my cousins, one of them was about a month old, the other was two years old. My aunt asked me for a name for the baby. I named her Sony, the name of my first best friend in school.

3. I remember roses, a lot of them and a variety of them, in our garden. My mom is an avid gardener but except for that time of my early childhood, I have rarely seen her planting any flower-plants.

4. I remember seeing a dead snake that my dad killed. I am not sure how to describe that feeling. I was scared, excited, thrilled and somewhat sad.

20 years ago (1991)

1. I moved from class VIII to class IX. A big change, at least for that age. All of sudden everyone around me was talking about boards and career choices. One thing I remember hearing more often that year was how next few years are going to decide the rest of my life.

2. I didn’t like my class IX class-teacher. Her first question to me was: what’s your last name? I answered, “Nothing.”. She remarked, “So you are Richa Nothing.” The entire class laughed. She insisted on calling me ‘Richa Nothing’ for the entire year, which meant the entire class called me the same. Some of them still do. I absolutely hated it.

3. We went to Delhi on a class tour. I saw Red Fort, Qutub Minar, India Gate, and Appu Ghar for the first time. It was a great trip.

10 years ago (2001)

1. I graduated from my Master. I had a job in Infosys before graduation but then 2001 recession hit. I was put on the bench for indefinite time. It was a hard time. All my classmates were joining their jobs, starting new life and I was stuck at the home.

2. I approached almost all the companies visiting the campus that year to talk them about job. I was told right on the face that they are not interested in hiring a woman. Forget the qualifications, knowledge or ability.

3. I cleared my NET and was offered scholarship (JRF) to pursue PhD in my home university. So by end of 2001, I was all ready to pursue my PhD. However, later (2002 beginning) I got a job offer from one of the company (only one who accepted to interview me) and decided to take that.

4. Spent a night in the hospital attending a friend who had an epileptic attack and was unconscious for the most part. It was a scary experience.

5 years ago (2006)

1. I had already left my first job and joined PhD in Stanford. I cleared my Quals in this year. I did my first internship that summer.  

2. Got out of a relationship. Got my heart broken. Badly. Got into depression. Lost 20 lbs in 2 weeks. Almost quit my PhD.

3. I went to New Orleans that year. This was year after Katrina hit. We went through the worst affected areas of New Orleans. On the doors of the houses, a number was written in red ink/chalk. When asked, I was told that’s the number of dead bodies they found inside the house. I still have those images etched in my mind.

4. Bought my first ever car and started to learn driving.

5. My first room-mate in US graduated and left. So I changed room-mate. The new room-mate was the biggest jerk that I have had as a room-mate.

3 years ago (2008)

1. I had already bought my first D-SLR the year before. So it was a year of photography. It was a great year.

2. I had been going to Kenpo Karate for a year at this point. This was the year when I started getting a bit better at it. I got my blue belt and I learned how not to get hung up on mistakes. It’s an accomplishment, a mental discipline I am rather proud of.

3. I started this blog in 2007, but 2008 was the year I wrote the most post in a year: 248 posts in 366 days. I haven’t been able to match that number ever since.

4. I travelled quite a bit. Euro-trip in March. Spent the summer in Southern California (second internship) which meant weekly trips to some where nice. Went to Disneyland five times that summer. Visited Las Vegas for the first time that November. Went to Grand Canyon. Finally, spent the Christmas in Scotland.

5. I got two paying photography gigs: Doing a photography board for Geophysics Department and then taking pictures at Stanford Graduate Student Council’s Thanksgiving dinner.

6. I had a very productive year research-wise. For the first time, my advisor was impressed by my work.

2 years ago (2009)

1. The great recession hit which left me without a job yet again (do you see a pattern here?). I was ready to graduate that year but there was no point graduating without a job, was there? So frantic search for job began. By the end of year, I did find one.

2. I got a severe back ache as well as a nerve pinch in my left leg, for the first time in my life. I was in physical therapy for 4 months. Nerve pinch was the worst. I couldn’t walk at all.

1 year ago (2010)

1. I wrote my thesis and defended, hence finishing my PhD. I gained weight during this time period. This is the first time I have gained so much weight since “great depression” of 2006.

2. I moved from California to Texas.

3. I started my new job.

4. I went around California with friends before joining my job. That was fun.

5. Bought new furniture, new TV and DVD player.

6. I wrote the least number of posts in a year in 2010: 135 posts in 365 days.

So far this year (2011)

1. I have been exercising fairly regularly and eating healthy. For past 2 weeks, I have been steadily loosing 2 lbs per week. At this rate, I will be at my pre-thesis weight in about 2 months.

2. I have been posting fairly regularly this year. I don’t think I will be able break the 2008 record but I can at least beat last year’s record.

3. I have made some new friends in the new place and I have been arranging lunches/coffee with them. I am getting better at this social networking (offline, online I have 333 friends on FB) thingy.

4. Bought my first new car: a 2010 Toyota Corolla. Miles: 08 mile on first day.


1. I was very sore because of my aerobics class the day before.

2. Worked whole day. I had a pretty productive day, in fact.

3. Watched cable after a long time. Ever since I bought my new TV which gives me direct access to Netflix, I have been watching more Netflix than cable.

4. No exercise. 


1. I got a hair cut.

2. I ran a lot of errands since morning. In Houston, it means a whole lot of driving. I think I drove about  60-70 miles today, if not more.

3. I tried out my car ac for the first time. Yes, the temperature in Houston has risen again.

Tomorrow I will

1. Sleep late.

2. Eat out. I haven’t done that in a about 3 weeks now.

In the next year I will

1. Go to India. I haven’t been to India for 3.5 years now. Its long over due.

2. Travel a bit more than I have been. Take more pictures.

3. Have some saving.


That’s all folks. Take the tag if you like it…

February 17, 2011

Thursday Challenge: Trees

Every week I check out the Thursday challenge and think about posting something but simply never found time to go through my photographs to do so. Today, I finally made it. The topic was so tempting that I couldn't resist. The only problem is that I have so many pictures on the topic that I can't pick one, so here are selected few on the topic:

This first one, that I like to call Reflection, was taken in Yosemite park on a boxing day.I like the way melting snow giving way to the stream and of course the tilted tree looks like its eager to see its own reflection.


The next picture is from the Japanese Tea garden in San Francisco Golden Gate Park. If you even plan to go to the SFO, do plan to spend some time here. Its very peaceful place to be. I like to call this picture: Green.


The next one is a complete change in scenery. This is right at the gate of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. This is Joshua tree forest in the Arizona desert. Yes its a forest. Its simply spectacular view. I call this one: Survival.


How can I forget Christmas Tree among all the trees. This is the shot from San Francisco (I think its Pier 39), just before the Christmas. I like the way it has a reindeer, Christmas tree and the moon all in the same shot. Can't get more christmasy than that, can it? This one is call: Festive.


And now moving internationally. This is from the St. James park in London. I am not a big fan of London but St. James park is  my absolute favorite there. I call this picture: Reaching out.


And lastly, my beloved Stanford. This one is from a running/walking trail in Stanford Campus. Doesn't this look awfully familiar? Well do you remember the default Windows XP desktop? Doesn't this look like that one? Did you know the Windows XP desktop shot was taken in Napa Valley (near San Francisco) so its not a surprise that I found a similar landscape while shooting in Stanford, is it? I call this: Breathtaking.


That’s all for today. Hope you like them..

I can rhyme

Impedance is Red
Reflectivity is blue
If you want to find oil
Use seismic as a clue.

Okay I am a geek but a rhyming geek! I will happily take that. 

February 16, 2011

In Pain

As I wrote yesterday, I tried out a new aerobic class at the gym. It was a great class, that is, if you don’t get embarrassed by being out of sync with rest of the class. However, it was an intense class and all the muscles, including my neck muscles (don’t ask me why and how), have been hurting since morning. I was so tired yesterday that I passed out slept at 8 last night and woke up at 7 this morning. And then I had to be in a class the whole day today.

For future reference, if you want to try out a physical activity, don’t do it before a day-long class. Its physically painful to sit the whole day long if every muscle in your body is hurting. And it is very difficult to concentrate when you are in pain. Just saying…

P.S.: As you could have guessed, I ditched the second activity of the day. For once, I am glad I did.

February 15, 2011

To go or not to go...

The age old question. oh well , at least its almost as old as my age. Being an introvert, every time I see something I want to do, meetings I want to attend I go through this anxiety phase just before the event, whether or not I should go. Usually I am happier if I do end up attending but I have bailed out of few of them as well. 

Why am I writing this. Well today, I am planning to try out two new things. First one starts in 57 minutes and I am at desk getting anxious by the minute. Its a Total Body conditioning (aerobics plus strength) class in the office gym at 11:15. I have been planning on attending one since beginning of new year (New year resolution) but have been a bit busy with meetings and courses etc. Today, I don't have anything so I can attend the class but.... I am not sure how hard it will be or whether I would be able to keep up. Not that I am in a bad physical shape at the moment but still getting embarrassed in front of your colleagues/ co-workers/managers is a whole new territory. 

The second thing that I will be attending today is a bike workshop in the evening. I want to get my bike back in shape so that I can ride it to office and take it out on weekends, now that weather is getting better. But I again will be in a new territory and am not sure how well I can handle to anxiety phases in a day. So wish me luck. I will let you know how it went (and whether or not, it went) tomorrow.

P.S.: Yes, you read it right. We have a (actually two) fully functional gym at office. We have about 25-30 classes per week in the aerobic studio including cardio, yoga, Tai-chi, kick boxing etc. We also have cycling studio as well as full set of gym equipments including weights, treadmill-s (as in multiples: as in more than 5), cycle-s, elliptor-s, stair masters and a nice work out area (apart from the aerobic and cycling studio) in each gym. We have 4-5 personal trainers to help us out (as in identify the weak areas and design an exercise regime to focus on them) plus the instructors for all the different classes. The cherry on the top is that all this is free! The only thing they ask is that you should be in one of the gym at least once in two months. Do you envy me now? 

February 14, 2011


Recently, a lot of people around me have been talking about green cards, citizenship etc. I guess I am now at that stage of life when one thinks about that kind of stuff. However, I am not sure that I want to give up my Indian citizenship. I guess I am getting nostalgic, patriotic or may be, plain crazy. True that I have to deal with a lot of paper works, a lot of scrutiny for holding the Indian passport, yet that passport with all its three lion and slogan of “Satyameva Jayte (Truth alone triumphs)” is part of my identity. It feels weird to even think about giving that up.

There are a lot of things wrong with India but there are few things that do make me proud to be Indian. I have been making this mental list for past month or so:

1. Our national motto “Satyameva Jayate”, unlike America’s “God Bless America”, is far more representative of me as a person. The latter will never represent me. I am an agnostic-atheist. If I don’t believe in God, then how can the phrase “God bless America” will ever be representative of me? “Satyameva Jayate”, on the other hand, is above such insinuation. Despite it being a Sanskrit phrase, it doesn’t allude to any “God” but simply state the fact that Truth alone triumphs.

2. We don’t teach our children religious scriptures as a fact of science. Evolution is a scientific fact, not creationism. If someone in India ever proposed to introduce intelligent design in science curriculum, he or she would be laughed at. That school will never make any money (that’s what the school are these days: business units). It’s an unthinkable thing in India. Science and religion just don’t mix.

3. Science and religion don’t mix (I know I said that earlier). This is a very important differentiation in our society. We don’t challenge science based on religious scripture. We, as a society, are and have always been very accepting of sciences, which is very unusual for a society. I never realized this fact when I was in India.

4. Our educational system is one of the best. Okay, the public school system is not as good but still the curriculum we follow, is far better than any other system I have seen so far. I am not talking about the competitions, entrance exams etc. but the regular school education. Western education system makes kid smart: they can talk publicly, they are smart, and all that, but they lack substance. The basics, the fundamentals that are laid in our school system is way stronger than what they teach here.

5. The interest rates in India are much better than anything they are giving here. I know its matter of time and once the recession is over, the interest rates will go up in US as well but it still tempts me to keep my Indian citizenship.

To end the post:

P.S.: 1. May be I am just a bit homesick. Haven’t been to India for 3.5 years. Guess its high time I pay a visit. That will cure my craziness about not giving up Indian citizenship…

2. The song is there simply because I love Arvind Swamy and this post kind of reminded me of this song..

February 13, 2011

My Complains

This post has been in making for a long time. But somehow, the format never seemed right. I started this post as a note of things I think are bad parenting techniques but somehow couldn’t make myself criticize others unless I have been in their shoes. All of us can say what’s good or bad from a vantage point but being in that position might be very different. Like this video (which BTW is a disclaimer for this post):

However, having said that, I still have a list of complains for my “parent-friends”:

1. I don’t care what you let your kids do to your phones, cameras, iPods, etc, but please don’t expect me to give my cell phone, camera, iPod etc to your kids because they are crying for it. Don’t give me that accusatory look when I refuse to give my stuff to them. They are your kids, not mine. I am not letting them spoil my expensive gadgets for their amusement.

2. I don’t care how your kids behave with you but I don’t like when your kids hit me with their toys (metallic cars or whatever other toy they have). It hurts. And all this because I refuse to let them have my gadgets? And if you won’t stop them then I will. When I made friends with you, I didn’t sign up for getting hit by your kids. Also, in my world kids are not allowed to hit adults.

3. You might be ready to treat your kids as friends but don’t expect me to treat them as my friends. I view them as spoiled brats they are. And I don’t like spoiled brats. I don’t find them cute or adorable. Its not cute when your kids tell me to get out. I take it as insult and unless they apologize, I am not visiting you again.

4. Being friends with you doesn’t automatically means that I have to take care of your kids too. If you insist on bringing your kid along on a trip, which was supposed to be, say a photographic trip, then I will not run around your kids instead of taking pictures. They are not my responsibility. Why am I supposed to assume their responsibility? If I wanted that responsibility, I would have had my own kids. And no, I am not giving my expensive camera to them to calm them down. What if they throw it down in their rage? Will you replace it?

5. You can keep your house as dirty or as clean as you want but if you are visiting my place, please control your kids. I don’t want to loose my security deposit just because your kids don’t know the meaning of cleanliness. Do you still wonder why haven’t I invited you to my place ever since your kid was born?

Don’t take me wrong. I love kids. I just can’t stand spoiled brats. I don’t understand the recent trend of letting kids do whatever they want. May be someone can explain it to me?

February 1, 2011

Redefining Rape


Rape is only really rape if it involves force.

So if someone is drugged and raped, its not a rape. In case of incest, it will be considered rape only when the victim is younger than 18 years. If a 13 year old girl with limited sex education is raped by a pedophile, its not a rape.

No, you got it wrong, I am not talking about a new Taliban regime or a middle-eastern country. This is a new bill being discussed in US! And that’s not all. All this is done in the name of, wait for it, religion. But for once, the religion in question is not Islam but Christianity. How you ask?

In US, there is a big debate between pro-choice and pro-life. The center issue being  right of women for abortion. Pro-choicers say that it’s a woman’s body and hence, her choice while pro-lifers say that we must protect the sanctity of life (to hell with woman’s right or whether she is capable of raising a child).

Okay, I agree that not all pro-lifers are necessarily religious fanatics but all the religious fanatics are pro-lifers and hence, my point about pro-life being more a religious thing. Coming from India, I always found this debate ridiculous. With female feticide on rampage in the home country, I never thought I will ever be for an abortion. But listening to all these religious fanatics go on and on about the sanctity of life (never mind the current world population explosion), I am turning into a pro-choicer. But I digress.

So one of those extreme right house representative (they are in majority now) in US has come up with this new bill, in order to impose the pro-life. It’s called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion”.

At the moment the insurance companies can reimburse for the abortion only if the woman was raped or if she is in physical danger due to delivery or pregnancy. However, the pro-lifers are now pushing for this new bill in which they can only pay if the woman was “forcibly” raped.

Basically, she should be able to prove that she was raped and it was the violent kind. If not, then may be she consented to being raped, right? According to Wikipedia:

In criminal law, rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse against another person without that person's consent.

One of the conservatives is quoted by Time magazine saying:

"And while we're at it, you know what really burns me up? All of those women getting abortions paid for by Medicaid and saying they were raped. I bet they weren't even really raped."

Rape is one of the most under-reported crime, even in US. And this moron wants the one who do report it, should be put on the stand and prove that they were “forcibly” raped. And all this just because they think woman’s body is only an instrument used to bear babies and she should not have choice in it?

P.S.: 1. Its been a long time since I have been outraged so much. Well, seems like conservatives have the majority again.

2. A sample of pro-life religious fanatics.