Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Big-Apple NYC

Things have warming up with the arrival of Spring. And it's the perfect time for my post on the New York City trip from April, last year.

Zantu from London, who BTW has covered all known countries, wanted to celebrate her milestone in NYC. Whatsapp connected us, a plan formed and we landed in NYC. It turned out to be a perfect College Reunion for 4 of us.

We choose to stay in Westin at Times Square. That was some brilliant research & decision by MJ. It saved us renting a car. Was very close to Metro station. Cabs all around and walking distance from Time Square.


Lots of squealing once we got together. All this excitement could not be contained in the hotel room. Even though it was late night and past usual bedtime, we were out for dinner and then spent a long time at Times Square.

Saturday

We begin the grand tour with what else, but the Statue of Liberty. I am the Prodder - one who prods family out of the house, every-time we have a travel planned. So I started, with emphasizing the need to get out of the room by 7am because it will be hot and there will be mile-long line for tickets. Other sensible ladies brought it up to a decent 9 AM.

Turns out, it was not hot and no lines at Battery Park. Always a pleasure to be proven wrong this way :)





A short Ferry ride from Statue island to Ellis island. Fascinating place for History buffs.


Once back on land, we waded through the street dancers, snake performers & Jam stalls, looking for a good place to eat. All the sunny stroll had made us ravenous. Google maps took us to Tajin Restaurant. Food was decent, heavy even. In our excitement , we forgot to check that they charge extra for the chips & salsa.


Post lunch we walked aimlessly and reached WTC. Walking around the monument, reading all the names, was a very sobering experience.



After a brief rest in our room, we set out to find out the oldest/largest library in the world. We didn't find it though. Instead we wandered to Bryant Park and lounged there, watching the performances and crowds, taking more pics at the fountains and flower-beds.



Next stop - Willies Tower (Sears Towers). Why do they keep renaming places ?

No long ticketing queues but by the time we reached the Observatory deck, it was close to dark. So no great pics, but absolutely great views. Even with crowded balconies, we got enough unhurried view of all sides.

Dinner was at a Thai place we stumbled upon while wandering the street in the dark.

Sunday

 

Central Park was the main theme of Sunday. We had decided to get into the touristy I-Heart-NY shirts. After breakfast, the first hour was spent looking for the said shirt. 4 ladies with 4 different choices. But we did end up buying white shirts with the same I-Heart-NY logo. Now that we were well-fed and dressed, off we went to the Central Park. First thing, we spent 30 minutes clicking picture at the entrance.


Then we haggled for bike rentals and took a cycle rickshaw to the rental shop and got ours. Yahoo the Fun Begins now !

Ride across the Central Park was very eventful. Stopped at each location for photos.
 My cycle chain kept coming off, which my more handy friend Mandy, fixed it for me. When it happened the nth time and one Indian uncle offered to help plus some patronizing lecture, she brushed off his help. Applause.



Here we are at the fabled F.R.I.E.N.D.S. water fountain. We were ready to dip our feet in the water and click pictures. There was a shooting crew already and the camera guy offered to click for us.


When he finished clicking, a lady from the crew came by and said, he is a famous BAFTA award wining cameraman and we should take pictures with him, so ofcourse we did that ! Weeks later Zantu did some research and found out, that the lady was also a UK Celebrity Anita Rani ! We didn't click pic with her. Bamm !

Once the shooting crew went away, we lingered in the algae water. And soon a Parks employee came running to chase us out. We, bunch of 40 year old, never felt more Collegiate young before :) And she was laughing at us, "I don't think this is even the real one". Oh !

Further biked up to a Japanese Garden. Just more opportunity for us to goof-off and click more pictures.

This place I forgot what it's called. But this large stone area is featured in so many movies. A place where the protagonist muses or has a private conversation with SO. In reality, it was teeming with people.


Once we got out and all photoshoot was complete, a side look at 2 shirts revealed that it was not "I Heart NY". It was "I Apple NY". Apple, as in Big Apple. Geddid ? Nawww.

Now we were on our hunt for a lunch place. We roamed 40 minutes rejecting everything that came up. Finally landed at "Lunch Pazza Notte Restaurant & Lounge". Food was I-cook-better-pasta type.


The street outside was much more interesting. There was a market in the middle of the street, selling trinkets, crochet jackets & the lot. Perfect post-lunch activity.




Sunday night


Monday gloom began to set in early Sunday evening. With Mandy gone and me to leave by an early flight, there was not much cheer. So best thing to do was a Times Square stroll again.




Take-a-away dinner which took 2 hours to decide because umm choices. I went for my favorite Falafal sandwich loaded with every veggie on the table.


Someone managed to pull in another friend RH. Our conversations went on and on. There was no settling us. And soon I discovered, that the new friend RH, was an old school friend of my PUC BFF and about whom I had heard so many school-time stories. Oh small world indeed. Zantu was also a school friend of my PUC BFF, but I had forgotten about it. So bamm ! More Whatsapp calls to Belgaum. And more talking.

Monday

I had to force myself to sleep at 2:30 so I would get atleast some sleep before getting up at 4 AM. I dilly-dallyed and got out of the hotel by 5 AM. Long multiple Metro ride to JFK. Since I reached at 6:45AM, they wouldn't allow me for my 7:30 flight. Boom ! They put me onhold for the next flight at 10. There was only one thing to do after Security check - find a spot to get some ZZZZZZ. That is exactly what I did. Later I tried communicating with work & home to say I will be late.

Did I put enough photos ? Did I miss something ? Is this post not lengthy enough ? Bah.


Clocks did not exist for me that weekend. All the leisurely walks, like we had nowhere be, at no given time. That unhurried feeling. Crowded streets. Metro rides. It all come back when I played some of the NY centric movies - Been Again and Before We Go  .

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Life of Bond

Every generation loves/hates, at least has a passionate opinion about the James Bond hero of their generation. My Dad feels Sean Connery is the best and the only right James Bond. By the time I was introduced to Sean Connery films, he had a bearded look. And I could not imagine how he could be a Bond ? I did catch-up with his Bond movies on Star Movies, but it had nothing for me to catch a fancy.
buzzfeed

It was a while till my Gen Bond movie came along, one I could watch in a movie theater. Hence my favorite Bond had to be the first Bond movie released in my grownup years - Pierce Brosnan. Standard version of Handsome while interacting with the ladies in the movie, he seemed right. His flirting or interest, did not come out as icky. And his sudden change of expression, when any challenging situation comes up. Or the audible turning of wheels in his head, when he had to outsmart the villain or his army, and when it's time to be an action hero. Pierce could do all and in different time compartments. Brosnan movies, on the whole, did cover many interesting sequences. Fight on the huge dish antenna, adventures in China with Michelle Yeoh, fascinating cars, Judi Dench as M.


And  then came along Daniel Craig. First impression - intense and very taciturn, thanks to the anger given to him as a part of Casino Royale. His indiscernible expression in almost all situations. His light muscular face and shifty eyes saying nothing predictable.  Loved this reboot. I am still in awe of the parkour chase action sequence. This reboot series gave the first time r experience, for all the long established traditions of the Bond movie series - why martini shaken not stirred ? Why "Bond ... James Bond" ? Bugging chatter with Q. Who MoneyPenny ?

Skyfall has to be my favorite. Adele's song, the cold snowy landscape for action chunk, M's death. Only because it's Voldemort/Ralph Fiennes , I could accept him as Dench's replacement M.
And the new Q was cute and very promising, as in, he can become the Q we have always lived with so far.

Spectre was a perfect last film that way. Nothing spectacular, but it wrapped up all loose threads about all villains, who were part of this reboot. Great views of major European cities. It was kind of sad to end his series.


Among the Bond girls, I was most impressed by Michelle Yeoh. My love of Chinese martial arts movie cross with Bond movies - how could I not love it.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/DarthFredster/do-your-james-bond-opinions-suck-2j1dk?utm_term=.qmGK5nBZP#.fy9LQbqVX


Each of the Brosnan villains had enough personality, they were a parallel figure to Brosnan. Very colorful and memorable in their own ways. In case of villains in Craig movies, I hardly paid attention to anyone, because Craig was the over-powering one. They were just somebody to be dispensed with surely.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/DarthFredster/do-your-james-bond-opinions-suck-2j1dk?utm_term=.qmGK5nBZP#.fy9LQbqVX

I wonder who they will pick for the next Bond ?
And, I can't believe I went through 2 rounds of Bond actors !

Bond Movie Yesr Actor
GoldenEye 1995 Pierce Brosnan
Tomorrow Never Dies 1997 Pierce Brosnan
The World Is Not Enough 1999 Pierce Brosnan
Die Another Day 2002 Pierce Brosnan
Casino Royale 2006 Daniel Craig
Quantum of Solace 2008 Daniel Craig
Skyfall 2012 Daniel Craig
Spectre 2015 Daniel Craig

Who is your favorite Bond ? Which one is your favorite Bond movie ?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Salad Streak

I tried a Salad Streak for 3 weeks. This Salad streak was in no way a meal replacement. I can already imagine the headaches from giving up Rice. This was to help me portion-control my comfort food. I am not modest and will say that I mostly cook such delicious vegetarian fare, that I need help with portion-control. With a big box of chopped veggies in my tummy, it's hard to go for the second or third serving of main course.

Here is the detailed Salad matrix - a grocery list for this exercise:

Veggies Fruits Toppings Cooked veggie additions
Cucumber Strawberry Feta Cheese Boiled Sliced Eggs
Carrots - grated for easier chewing Navel Orange
Mandarian
Groundnuts Brinjal bhaja/Eggplant chips
Red peppers (and then other colors) Cantalope Sunflower Seeds Sweet Potato Baked Fries
Avacado Apple - chopped Pecan Grilled Chicken with Hot Sauce (from cafeteria salad bar)
Canned Pickled Artichoke hearts
Walnut Butternut Squash
Canned Sliced Beets

Cabbage sabji



Beetroot - chopped, boiled & tadka



Beans Poriyol - chopped, steamed & tadka

I blindly shopped almost all one day to get started and used them for the week. Then shopped the rest as needed.



Lately Lettuce had been making me feel yucky. I find the whole cut, wash & dry routine cumbersome and also a show-stoper for rest of the salad. So I decided to make it a Leaf-less Salad.

Also skipped ready-made dressings - cause some of the bottles last forever, keep piling in my fridge, and make me feel guilty for a long time. So no new shopping. I started with a Lemon-salt-Pepper dressing.

As a result of this streak, there was no weight-loss whatsoever. I guess I am beyond that, given my age and body-composition. What it did do however, is to acclimate my tummy to a much lighter fare. And helped me condition my shopping and planning towards the salad component of a plate. And it helped me get over the ugg-feeling I had developed towards salad thanks to Lettuce.




Friday, February 24, 2017

Songs of 2016 Hindi Films

What IS with the new crop of Music in Bollywood ? I am mind-blown by the shear output of new styles and good ones at that.

Singers:

There is such an explosion in Bollywood music, its hard for me to name them all. Arijit Singh, Armaan Malik, Ankit Tiwari, Jubin Nautiyal, Monali Thakur, Neha Kakkar, Palak Muchhal. Last 2 years were flooded with their songs, hence they got noticed. But obviously, they have prepared for this, all their life. A whole lot of hit songs were by new singers. Hope they do not stay one-hit wonders.

Once upon a time, there was a monopoly in terms of Hindi singers. They did enrich the field in many ways. Other singers however, could barely make a scratch. Yet a lot of them did sing enough, for us to have a playlist of favorite songs - maybe nostalgia driven but not to undermine their immense talents - Suresh Wadkar, Yesudas, Anuradha Paudwal, Kavita Krishnamurthy. Eventually they did become giants of their world, but the pace is nothing compared to the explosion we have now.

Thanks to the competition reality shows, practically everyone started training in singing from their babyhood. And now we have the cream rise to the top. They are popular. Maybe not monumental & revered like the pre-80's singers. But they are popular and busy with work. That is much better scenario than the starving artist situation. Because God knows, Producers pay peanuts for the actual recording for the movie. It's the offline demand for the singers to sing their own or current hit songs, that bring in the dough.

Lyricists:

Is every Lyricist now, from the school of Gulzar ? How many of them studied in Hindi medium ? I know that a lot of them come from the Hindi dominant states. But a lot of them are metro city-bred or are southern. How are they managing to churn out poetry ? I know of the whole stance that Hindi songs are not poetry. But I feel we are well past that. Hindi movie songs are Poetry. They give a stanza to any instance of life. They bring out analogies that are lurking in the back of our minds. Now they have dazzling, clever lyrics, witty and with unique metaphors.
Notable mentions: Kausar Munir, Anvita Dutt, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Jaideep Sahni, Kumaar.

Interesting thing about Lyricists is they don't get paid much at all. I wonder how this many of them continued in this field and so many new ones still wander into it? I assume they have other source of livelihood as well, like other writing jobs in Films and Ad world. Because I don't think they have any recurring income from their output, just the initial payment. The song rights usually reside with the Producers and they are the ones who control the next remix, remakes and reboots every few decades.

However it is interesting how in any Remix song, the Lyrics are the hook, which get the audience. The musical arrangement & instruments change. Apart from signature tune, everything else changes. Singers change. Only thing that's constant are the lyrics (even with modifications and additions).

Music of 2016: 

Majority of the songs were hit dance songs. And almost all categorized as EDM. They are all gems which are going to last long. Melodies are all beautiful, notably Amaal Mallik & Mithoon.

Collaborations seem like there is going to be interesting times ahead. Songs from independent makers were added in big-production house movies, after refining the original raw version. This would be un-credited in the less-informed era. But now in the world of uber-information, these artists are credited and actively participate in the movie version. Main example are Kar Gayi Chull , rappers and collaborations with Nucleya.

I am amazed at how they grow independently, really spread out. Most of them have used Youtube channels as their lab to grow and gather admirers along the way. And once they have built their own popularity base (measured in numbers on social media & sold event tickets) and once they have perfected their skill levels, they are collaborating with the filmmakers, again with a level of independence - not giving in to the traditional mold of "Hindi film Music director".

Coming back to mainstream muscians, Sairat is the wowest. Their orchestra and visual picturization was very refreshing.



Monday, January 9, 2017

Steps to Yoga Addiction

How to go from 0 to feeling-like-an-expert type in Yoga.

To begin with, as a non yogi, all your life, feel left out or inept when the neighbourhood aunty says she can touch her toes or when told the legend that Rekha & Dr Raj Kumar owe their suppleness and health to Yoga.

Take the first step and do yoga along with a Youtube video. Here is the tiny video which is sold as stretches, but is actually is a gem collection of key poses.


If you are still unsure about joining others, then start doing more in your own privacy. But first get new gear - comfy yoga pants and the all important, colorful Yoga mat. Blocks & Straps are good too. But if not ready to invest in one, then make your own with left-out straps and folded towels.

Next thing for DIY Yoga - are the videos. There are loads of channels to follow on Youtube.
Just take your time out, lock yourself in a room with a large display screen for the Yoga videos. With a calming background music, step by step instructions, these are the best to work out a session with.
  1. Psyche Truth
  2. Yoga With Adriene
  3. Soft Music & Yoga ~ Yoga Yak
  4. Shilpa's Yoga
 

Now that you are comfortable doing Yoga by yourself, it's time to get out there, do it with others, I mean in a Group. Whether it's a group class in your generic fitness gym or a Yoga specific studio. It doesn't hurt much or cost much, to try out a few weekly sessions.

I can guarantee you, by week 4, you will proficient in knowing what is cat pose ? how different is it from cow pose ? The dog pose, cobra, warrior, even Vinyassa.

It's admirable how the Yoga instructors calmly lead us through each step. And given the finite number of poses, they structure every class different from the other. That alone is enough to make us come back for more.

That and the last 5 minutes of Shavasana. Nothing can beat that.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Running Report for 2016

Running in 2016 was very eventful. Not in terms of medals but in terms of experience.

I ran 770 miles and 9 races. I must credit my increased mileage this year to the 2 Training cycles I went through.


First morning of January , I ran the Commitment Day Race. I signed up for it coz I needed some race but not Polar Dash. Spent rest of Jan, in usual frustration about not being able to run outside. New place, icy roads, and being available only at dark hours were the reason. I spent more time on Google, reading winter running stuff, than getting actual runs. It was less dark than previous month. But it did get dark every evening by the time I reached home. I remember racing with the Sun on my left - being bright throughout my commute, and then for it to go off blink, right when I turned into my area. Bamm ! It did not snow so bad this Jan, but whenever it did, the roads took more than a week to clear the frozen black ice. I was not going to risk those. I had already taken a tumble in my driveway when I went to leave the thrash-can for pickup. That one incident was enough.

And then in the last week, a serendipitous thing happened. I spent a few hours in unsuccessful search of Run Club in my area. Later when I checked my email, I found a mail from Lifetime about their Training for Grandmas. It was a followup promotion after Commitment Day Race. I have never been more happy to share my email. I enthusiastically squeezed into their group runs, even before the training officially started. Securian Half happened around this time and the way it finished, did not make me happy. But this was expected with the below par base miles I had.

Weather conditions stayed same in February. And I could see that I lagging much much behind the training plan. But thanks to run group, I got in some very beautiful snow runs on weekend mornings, through trails I did not know existed. Of course I was the last slow runner and got lost a few times; that did not change my mind.  My weeknight runs were nowhere, coz I was still scared to go out on the dark icy roads, regularly. So I crunched up and got gym membership to use treadmill. Boom my total miles for Feb & March climbed up. It helped me in the Hot Dash 10 miler.

I kept going on the weeknights treadmill and weekend morning outdoor runs in April. So the Get in Gear Half experience was beautiful again. I felt nervous because my training plan was a few weeks off from the group training for Grandmas. I was training for Minneapolis Marathon - the one in my comfort zone, coz I did not have the confidence to drive back from a destination race. Yet I did feel I would run this well.

In mid-May, 2 weeks before the race, the news came up that Team Ortho did not get permission for their route. This was a spanner in the wheels. I was disappointed but was eyeing them for my refund. I did not want to be tricked like last time, into signing up for their next race. And this mood-spoiler derailed my training. Finally, it did get cancelled and they gave a full refund. Once the pressure of the actual race was gone, my runs dipped again in June. This and the official start of summer vacation, meant my miles were low for June.

In the meantime, peer pressure worked and I signed up for TCM Marathon on Oct - something I never thought I would run - given that it needs summer training. But I did show up for the group runs and carried on with my own runs. So that brought up my mileage in July and peaking in AugustMinnesota Half Marathon - StPaul made me really question myself. I doubted my treadmill runs and  how the absence of any formal speed workout was affecting my results. That reminds me, Speed workouts are still a black hole for me. I guess I should get some real coaching for this.

September has the 3 peak weeks of training. But I, in my nervousness, quit even the runs I could manage. That brought the mileage down. I did showup for the 20 miler for experience sake and did cover it all. Women Run The Cities cheered me up a bit. The taper weeks were again something I am sure I did wrong.

Oct first weekend was the big TCM Marathon day. The way I finished this race threw me off completely. I tried to enjoy my vacation away from training, but was constantly thinking about what went wrong. Since a long race has too many factors to consider, I can't make out which variable changes the equation. So in Nov & Dec, I decided to switch to workouts for weight-loss and strength-training. Cold & snow helped me stick to this plan. Workouts involved short runs.


I thought I would curtail Races this year. But in review, I see I ran more races this year. Good part - most of them were without medals. Yes, I have gotten over my past obsession of Medals. Now I want good finish times; PR from my this year's results.


Races were spread through the year. So I got to run in different weather conditions. The Training runs covered my craving for running in new unexplored routes.

Conditions Name Date Distance Time
20F Cloudy Commitment Day 1-Jan-16 5K 40 min
35F-40F Securian Winter Run 30-Jan-16 Half-Mara 3:03:37  hours
25F wet icy Hot Dash 10 mile 19-Mar-16 10Mile 2:12  hours
53F Get in the Gear 30-Apr-16 HalfMara 2:55:53  hours
78F Minnesota Half Marathon - StPaul 6-Aug-16 HalfMara 3:05:54  hours
64F Capitol Run 17-Sep-16 20 mile 5:25 hours
64F Women Run The Cities 25-Sep-16 10Mile 2:07 hours
38F-55F TCM Marathon 9-Oct-16 Marathon 6:45 hours
35F No wind Hindu Mandir Thanksgiving 5k 24-Nov-16 5K 38 min

Here is what happened when I was training per plan with a group:
Almost all training plans are 16 weeks long and need atleast 4-5 weekday runs plus 1 weekend run. Miles progress up through the week, which means run-time increases each time. On whole, in a 3 month plan, the first 2 months were easier to stick to the plan. In the last month, everything collapses. Everyone, including me, has meltdowns considering the neglect of home & family time. And then it's back to the previous routine.

I switched to new shoes for each training cycle. But they are in good shape, so I did not exactly throw them away. I used them for the casual biking and the workouts in Nov-Dec. I have an interesting story about my running capris. I had a two Under Armour capris - my favorite, skin tight, kept my loose tummy in place, lovely colors of blue & green & neon. I think I used them throughout the first half for runs on treadmill and outside in summer. And one fine October morning, while I was 1 mile on a trail, I felt a burn in my inner-thighs. I look down and see that seam stitch had opened and my skin had chaffed. It was painful, but no embarrassment, as my group had gone ahead. I turned back and ran back 1 mile to my car. This was the day, I did not have a backup pant in my car, so I drove back home for 10 miles, changed and drove back to the trail for a 8 mile long run. Somehow I am not embarrassed about the tear or the 40 miles drive, coz it was a perfect weather for the long run and I would regret badly if I had to miss it. Every run is indeed an adventure.

About weight-loss, there was nil. I started the year with Orange Theory workouts, once every week and minimal running. When running picked up in Mar, I gave up the Orange Theory, cause the soreness came in the way of running. Then it was all running till TCM Marathon in Oct. In Nov, being goalless and introspection about my race performance, made me switch to a workout class again. On an average my running/workouts have been 4-5 times a week. About diet changes, they are as healthy choices as they can be. Portion control may need work but it is a constant work-in-progress. Hence my weight through the year has been on a roller-coaster of +-3 pounds, with the final weight in Dec being exact same as Jan. My strength & stamina may have changed; though I have no way to measure it; except the subjective compliments that I receive.

As I end this year, I don't have any specific goals for 2017. I am sure my learning will help me create new goals.

Wish you all a very Happy & Prosperous New Year !


Monday, December 12, 2016

Reading Book list of 2016

I did get back to book reading last year, though I kept it limited, by making good choices. Now my philosophy is that, there are limited number of hours in a day and all books are not gifts of Saraswati that I should revere them and read every suggested list. I have no hangup about discarding some books, after trying the first few pages. This confidence also stems from the fact that I am not buying them. Well some of them. I depend on Library now. Library has enabled all us to wade through hundreds of children books, running books, potboiler novels, cookbooks, new releases & more. This year, I managed to read the below books, while I let go of many half-read.

Do share your this years reading list, recommendations & wishlist in the comments.

Martian by Andy Weir


Got to know about it when the movie promos started playing on Youtube. I usually force everyone in the family to see trailers. I did it for Martian movie trailers as well. Later when I bought the book, my kid (who I thought is just a baby) goes, "Oh liked that movie". She remembered the trailer.

So after endless wait for Library copy, I went and bought the paperback. I wanted to read it before movie came out. The book is worth all the hype ! Totally humorous language. Not some desolate desperate despairing depressing tale of being left behind. But a story of taking one step at a time and problem-solving. And there is enough material to engage a Space Sci-fi lover. Loved it.

And then I saw the movie hoping it would be as good as the book. And yes it was. Matt Damon is good enough. Pissed that they excluded a few of the dialogues I loved. Glad they added the end sequence, not originally in book. And Youtube had more videos of ARES life on Hermes.

Rant alert: Why the .. change Venkat Kapoor to Vincent Kapoor ? I love Chiwetel, I did not otice the difference until the every end. But didn't they find any Indian actor for this role, if Andy can write it ? Scott teri toh ! I scanned lot of Reddit & Quora threads, but this one never picked the storm like other diversity issues of 2015. One story goes that Irfan Khan was not available. Yes he would have been a great choice. But there were so many to pick from - Asif Mandvi, KalPenn & many new faces I don't even know their names. They live closer to the casters. Sometimes recruitment folks just don't try again and it's a lost opportunity for a huge group.

Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis



I am a fan. Her tone is so pleasant, soothing. Personal account of trail hikes, through dense forest, camping, quite nights - I am a sucker for those. That is why I own Jim Corbett Omnibus and love Hunger Games Series. And Jen Pharr Davis is a record holder elite in this sport/field. There is way more to learn from my generation forester.

This book covers, in detail, her first few attempts at Appalachian Trail hike and then the final record breaking assisted through-hike. Various segments of the trail, different runners who ran with her for the diff sections, her husband, family & friends who assited her the whole way, her mentors and her resources in the planning. Finish writeup was thrilling, even though she conveyed that in real life, it was not movie-like thrill.

Got to know about JPD when Scott Jurek broke the record in July 2015. And Karl Meltzer broke Jurek's record this year September. Just because records are broken to frequently, it does not diminish the superhuman effort that is involved in this endeavor. JPD gave her blessing & data to Scott Jurek just like she was mentored by the previous record holder. And Scott assisted Karl in this attempt. So yes JPD is superhuman and I am glad I read her book.

Running: Emil Zapotek - by  Jean Echenoz



Sounds like a English translation from French. No numbers or facts as in no run-time or year details. No photographs. Very conversational like the writer had dictated the whole thing to a gathering or audience, speaking eloquently. Totally reminded of some of the Hindi or Marathi raconteurs recounting stories of major heroes. But did paint hazy but elaborate pictures of different phases of his and Czech lives.

Emil's wiki page is enough to impress about his achievements & capability. Interspersing them with his real life anecdotes and his age at each of those milestones, makes it all real. Just a glimpse into Czech life under Communist regime and the sports & political bureaucracy he had to face every single day.

Sometimes we need a read book about real-life heroes, which is not slickly produced or even engineered by a group of marketing types. Sometimes a real-life story needs to be documented, so it is relayed to others somewhere in a different timeline. This was that kind of book. I am glad I read it.

Miles to Run Before I Sleep by Sumedha Mahajan 


That brings me to this book. Again not a slickly produced or written book. But I am so glad I got a peep into the life of an Indian Female elite runner. It's a very personal account - covers her health limitations (asthma), family equations, new job and finally her run experiences. The 2nd half focus is on the 1500 km run in 30 days, from Delhi to Mumbai with star runner Milind Sonam and group. This part covers the uniqueness of a route in India. Every run route is such a new experience, and I don't have the India run exp. And some about run co-ordination politics, something given in any sporting world.

I am still waiting for a slickly produced biography of PT Usha. None that I know of, but for now her FB page will do. On FB, I can see what she is up to now.

Ready One Player by Ernest Cline

Throughout, I wondered how Steven Spielberg will fit in everything 80's in his movie of this book. Just imagining the cost of buying rights for those thousands of songs, music, movies & TV shows from the 80's, that populate the background and key parts of the story. I am familiar with some of the popular culture of the 80's of America and some obscure ones were new to me.

Storyline progression was entirely on parts which are as exciting as a video-game. They work.
Entire population being addicted enough to live in an alternate online world, is not hard to imagine, because we are nearly there - till internet crashes. What is not imaginable, is the entire world retrograding to a past decade, completely. Books justification are the despairingly destroyed world and the motivation to win the prize. But wont a section of population not care about the competition. Okay maybe, only the competitors define what trends are and speak on behalf of the rest. Then this book is believable.

Among other things, I loved the concept of "video newsfeed". That was 2010-2011. I don't know how effective or prevalent FB feed feature was, at that time. Newfeeds in FB world have undergone transformations & become influential, in today's world. This was at a point in the story, to show how normal life was and how everyone used it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


The tit-bits leaking out in social media were killing me while I waited for my Library copy to be available. I did get it finally and grabbed it with a celebration. At the start, that play format was killing. Definitely all the surrounding text and descriptions built up the scenery in all 7 HPs. I missed that here, for more than half of the book. 3 years of school went by in 5 pages. No sign of McGonagall. It was like watching a movie/trailer with no background music. I cribbed & cribbed about it in our cousins Whatsapp group.

Albus sounded like a waste fellow, till the end. Scorpius was much more adorable and sensible, grounded fellow; nothing like kid-Draco. After the first half, when story picked-up pace, I forgot everything else and managed to finish.

Am I happy I read this book ? As happy as reading the first 7 ? Maybe not. This was more of a continuation of all fan-fics I had read so far. To be able to create another blockbuster, using this same valuable set of characters, this endearing HP universe, it will definitely need some writing skills, of those followup writers. Otherwise, we have Wikipedia & Pottermore to know info about it all.


Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

 

Second Tuesday of Nov this year was erm unnervingly quite since morning. By night, my patience was on the edge. I just wanted to go to bed and not know what happened. I got up at dawn and stumbled in the dark to browse all Feeds on my phone. Being a neutral party, the only thing that rang in my ears, was a tweet I had read long back. "Let the Seventy Sixth Hunger Games begin !". So I had to escape into the Hunger Games Series. I ordered the copies from my Library and spent the next 2 months reading them in my warm cozy bed. It's a good thing that the glamorous movie version kept playing in my head, while I read the book which clearly depicted a lot of Eastern Europe 90's situation for poverty side.

Do share your this years reading list, recommendations & wishlist in the comments.