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I had to do something productive, or I would've died of boredom.

My to-do list that needs some doing

I was not sure whether I should be doing this – sharing my to-do list. But I thought I would do it just for the sake of archiving. Perhaps when I am older, 60, or even 40, I will revisit this list and laugh at my ambition or lack of it.

So here goes, a rough look at activities I include in my to-do list while I temporarily deal with being unemployed.

  1. Undistracted library book reading
  2. Practice for FTCE/GRE exams.
  3. Clean the house with a focus on making it look visibly cleaner.
  4. Cook a new recipe or create my own.
  5. Organise laundry and the pantry.
  6. Get 3 hours of exercise – cardio, weights and stretches.
  7. Complete online marketing course.
  8. Practice American accent, get rid of Indian accent (sigh).
  9. Write a blog post a day, random nonsense will do for starters.
  10. Ensure calorie deficit is in place for guaranteed weight loss.
  11. Watch an award-winning movie, watch an entertaining TV series.
  12. Read the news, share interestingness.
  13. Edit Wikipedia.
  14. Read, answer Quora.
  15. Win a challenge on Fitbit.
  16. Study Google Maps and find a new interesting place to explore. Or just learn a new road name/ route.
  17. Blog a lesson plan. (I used to love creating these as a teacher.)
  18. Make beautiful photographs.
  19. Do something nice for someone.
  20. Make more YouTube videos.

Ha, ha, ha. Don’t laugh.

101 reasons to workout

This piece is a follow up to an earlier post I had written titled, ‘101 Excuses not to exercise‘. Well, I have been working out and exercising more than usual. I wake up at 4.45 am every day and hit the road for a morning wog (walk+jog).

Florida is dangerously sunny and while it’s summer, post 7.30 am workouts can be torturous outside. Why? Cause it’s hard even to look straight because of the sunlight.

After the morning workout, I hit the gym on some days and do a walk in the night too.

Some days, when there is someone around to drive me, I visit a park or the beach to walk a little extra.

So here are the reasons I use to brainwash myself into exercising.

  1. So I can eat dessert.
  2. Cause I ate dessert yesterday.
  3. Cause Bolt is cool on the track and I want to #win like him.
  4. Cause I set the alarm and have already woken up so might as well go out.
  5. Cause it’s time to be bikini ready.
  6. Cause I need to lower my cholesterol.
  7. Cause it’s beautiful outside.
  8. Cause there’s no one outside in the mornings and I can have the whole sidewalk to myself.
  9. Cause I need to win a Fitbit challenge.
  10. Cause my goal weight is 120 pounds for December.
  11. Cause exercising with my neighbour friend is the only time I get to interact with humans, for now.
  12. Cause I have to collect more Pokemon.
  13. Cause I need more Pokeballs.
  14. Cause I need to get groceries and I do not know driving, yet.

WIP list, I will keep adding to this post.

Glimpses of my workouts.

 

 

 

Kayaking at Okefenokee

Ever since I moved to Florida, the land of sunshine and gators, I’ve wanted to see gators in the wild. I’ve been reading some really bizarre gator stories on Florida news websites. Gator spotted crossing the road, man lets gator ride his motorbike and of course the tragic ones that made it to the international headlines – Gator kills boy at Disneyland.

So last week, when my husband suggested we visit Okefenokee — a swamp in nearby south-east Georgia, famous for its wild gator sightings — I was excited. The drive just before we reached the national park was breathtaking, a long narrow road with tall long leaf pine trees on both sides. *Most roads that I’ve traversed along in the US have beautiful trees that dot the sides but sadly give no shade to travellers using the road. That’s perhaps one thing I really miss about Mumbai and other places in India.*

The name Okefenokee, it’s hard to get in the first instance, comes from the Native Americans and means ‘Land of the trembling earth’. The swamp land, which is a national wildlife refuge is abundant with wildlife including the omnipresent gators, birds like the white ibis, wood storks, sandhill cranes, and rare creatures like the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded wood-pecker and indigo snake.

It’s also important to note that the swamp is the source of two rivers – the St Marys River and the Suwannee River. We decided to try kayaking and canoeing on the tranquil Suwannee. It was exciting at the start but after we completed one hour of paddling our way with many failed attempts to synchronise with each other, we grew very tired. The exhaustion was partly because of the harsh sunlight and partly cause our thumbs were bruised because of friction with the oars.

So we decided to head back. On our journey, we saw several snouts and protruding eyes watching us from the sidelines. One was so invisible that we realised its existence only after we bumped into it by the shore. I was pleasantly surprised to see how harmless and calm the gators actually are.

Here are a few pictures from our adventure.

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View from my kayak. Tandem kayaking is not very easy.
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My friends chose the canoe and it appeared to be easier to paddle as compared to the kayak.
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One of the gators who volunteered for a photo.
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Another still gator, almost statuesque.
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Great blue heron
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Double-crested cormorant

After we returned, we visited the museum and store on the swamp campus. The museum was interactive and had activities for children.

What did I learn?

There once was a drink called swamp tea. Described as being a complex brew of decaying vegetation, the drink that was once popular with sailors, is now not safe to drink.

Check out the details below.

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And then there was this juke box with sounds of all the wildlife belonging to the Okefenokee swamp.

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There was also a movie screening, which we missed and this photobooth where I leapt to take a photo.

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Jargon I picked up from the adventure –

 

Peat: Partly decomposed vegetable matter, usually mosses, found in marshy or damp regions, and composed of partially decayed vegetable matter.

Trending news: Where to find viral stories? Social media, of course!

Trending

The social web has a bunch of places where trends appear, grow from small sparks to burning issues that are discussed, shared and dissected by people with web access around the world. Here are a few sites I refer to find new trends. These are useful sources for journalists but verification is a must to ensure credibility.

  1. Reddit – ‘User-generated news links. Votes promote stories to the front page.’ reads Reddit’s homepage. And that’s what it has been since 2005.  A place to find interesting news, discussions, memes, viral images and videos on the Internet. The links are submitted by members of the website and are usually things that they have found to be interesting or share worthy. They get up and downvoted by other members. To find trends, you can visit a subreddit, or a  category. The website’s slogan is apt, ‘The front page of the Internet’ comparing it to the front page of a newspaper that usually carries the most important news of the day.For those who want an easy way to maneuver around the website, there is http://redditlist.com/ that gives you insights on activity on the website including popular subreddits.
  2. YouTube’s Trending Feed – An official source created by YouTube to showcase popular videos. This is an easy way to find what people are watching. You can also visit the Google Trends Hot Videos. This page can be sorted according to time and region and therefore is a good way to find local and global trending videos on YouTube.Google Trends Hot Videos.jpg
  3. Twitter– From being a social media site to a site where journalists and personalities come to create and break news, Twitter has come a long way. You can use Twitter Moments to see grouped tweets related to a trending news topic, or simply visit the Twitter log in page.Twitter Whats happening.jpg

    For those who are members of the networking site, a left-hand side panel shows location-based tags and are perhaps the best way to stay in touch with what people are talking about on the Internet on a real-time basis.There are websites that map Twitter trends too. One such popular site is Trendsmap.com.
    trendsmap.jpg

  4. Facebook’s FB News Wire is the best source of viral content uploaded on Facebook.  It’s description reads, ‘a resource for journalists that aggregates newsworthy social content shared publicly on Facebook by individuals and organizations’.

    Facebook also displays trending topics on the right-hand side of its home page. It is divided into the following categories – top trends, politics, science and technology, sports and entertainment.
    facebook trending.jpg

  5. Wikipedia‘s weekly Top 25 articles list is available. Although it is not really a real-time list, it gives a sense of the week’s most popular articles. There are websites that track Wikipedia trends like Wikistats, Wikipedia Trending
    and Wikitrends.
  6. Google Trends is a source for popular Google searches that is updated on an everyday basis. The trends can be sorted according to location and categories like business, entertainment, politics, health, sci/tech, top stories and sports. Then of course you can also use Google News for news-related trends. The fascinating thing about Google News is that it is often used by online news companies to track popular trends and then cater to interests of what audiences are looking for. So journalists generate news and stories based on the trending topics on the search engine.
  7. Then there are other sites used to share content and each of them have their own trending pages…. A few examples are: Google Plus Explore, Quora, WordPress, LinkedIn, Medium, Tumblr.
  8. And sites that deliver viral content news including Techmeme, BoredPanda, Buzzfeed, Mashable, Upworthy.
  9. News sites have their own Trending News pages too. Here are a few:
    HuffingtonPost Trending News
    BBC Trending
    CBC News Trending
    Trending – Today.com
    Indian Express – Trending News

 

Why Indians love Indian stores in the US

You won’t get some, actually most of this stuff in Walmart. You might not even get it at Costco, Home Depot or Sam’s Club. That’s because the products that I am writing about are quintessentially Indian. They are things that we’ve grown so dependent  on. And catering to the Indian demographic in the United States are Indian stores. Some of them are small corner shops, while some have grown into large chains, like Patel Brothers that has shops in several cities across the United States.

I’ve visited a few Indian stores in Jacksonville, Florida and here are some of the most useful things I found inside. (This is a WIP post which I intend to update over time.)

  1. We don’t like eating bread loaves everyday. We like our traditional flatbread but hey, it’s not easy to make. And there’s nothing like ready-to-eat flatbreads – chapatis. It’s healthy, Indian and quick.

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    Ready to eat chapatis
  2. America has so many different kinds of Greek yogurt tubs and cups, it’s amazing. But a desi likes desi dahi. And this Indian yogurt is popular because of its distinct taste.
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    Indian dahi

    3. Lychee. Yes, those irresistible sub-tropical fruits are specially sourced at stores like Apna Bazaar.

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    Litchis!

    4. Punjabi samosas are high on nostalgia value. Besides, fresh ones placed strategically at the cashier’s counter become even more tempting.

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    Fresh samosas

    5. Indian vegetables – from roots to leaves, they’re the ingredients you need to make Indian bhaaji and without them, the kitchen is incomplete. Tough to find all Indian vegetables at Walmart. Tindli, paapdi zindabad.

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    Leaves! Tandaljo, Gongura, Poi, Dill, Methi and Cilantro (Kothmir)

    6. Deep fried goodness. From chakli and shankarpali to gaathia, khakra and other ‘namkeen’ (savoury) snacks, stores like Patel Brothers stock them all.

     

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    Chakli and shankarpali
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    “Loose” snacks or what we call farsaan in Mumbai

    7. Indian religious and festive accessories. We need them to celebrate and follow customs!

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    Pooja material

    8. And finally, the one object I myself had a tough time finding. Buckets. For bucket baths, of course. I found one at Home Depot that is used for painting and then saw these at Patel Brothers.

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4th of July parade in Washington DC: Photos

Marching bands, promenading truck floats, waving beauty queens, giant character balloons, cheering dancers, bike-riding cops and stomping cadets. These were some of the sights at the 4th of July, 2016 parade in the nation’s capital, Washington DC. I was lucky enough to witness these while I stood on a sidewalk by Constitution Avenue in front of the IRS federal building.

I have grouped photos of the various participants in the parade… Hope you enjoy viewing them.

The giant balloons…

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There were several cultural groups that wanted to express their gratitude to the country. These included – Sikhs of America, Taiwanese Americans (as pictured above) Chinese Americans, Vietnamese Americans, members of the Hare Krishna Movement… some of them were dressed in traditional wear to promote cultural diversity of America.

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The bands were largely school bands of DC.

And then there were a few famous personalities too. Can you identify them?

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Selfie camera apps: Hilarious, hideous and ludicrous

Selfie apps that let you edit photos to change your ears, eyes, skin and outfit are growing popular with Generation S.

I remember using my first augmented reality software on my PC when I was still in college. It was long ago, I think 2003. The game was a simple basketball game that recognized body movement using the PC “web” camera and let you shoot in a digital basket on the screen. I would spend hours moving my hands in front of the PC to shoot the ball into the basket.

Then a few years after, when I was a journalist @dna, I recall using another AR app to create giant mushrooms on the streets of Mumbai’s infamous waterlogged Lower Parel. With that kind of water, mushrooms were perfect for the scene being photographed. The app would superimpose digital mushrooms in real time on scenes being captured on the phone camera.

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Photo taken with Sony Xperia Z1’s augmented reality app

And now in 2016, it seems Snapchat is making this very technology of ‘mixed or augmented’ reality popular again by mixing it with selfies, that well, many MANY people love to take.

What they let you do:

Take a photo of yourself and superimpose a digital nose, eyes, tattoo, painting, headgear, ears, mustache, hat, goggles, hair, mask on it. Some make you look prettier, some make you look funnier and some make you look plain hideous. Those who already love to take selfies are hooked to these apps cause they add some variety to an otherwise monotonous self-photo.

Some of the apps also add sound and other special  effects to the selfie videos – or selvies or velfies, as some like to call them. So if an app lets you add a dog’s tongue and ears, it also lets you bark like one with a bow-wow sound every time you open your mouth. Another example is a dracula avatar that makes your mouth drool with blood every time you raise your eyebrows.

I tried out a few selfie editing apps, here are my favourites with sample selfies I’ve taken using the apps.

1. Snapchat

 

2. Camera 360

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My favorite

 

3. YouMask

4. TagMe

 

 

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