Wednesday, September 13, 2017

City of Lakes - Half Marathon - 2017 - Race Recap

I had run the City of Lakes - Half Marathon in 2015. And this year I got a chance to run it thanks to my Run club buddies.

Lovely perfect September morning. Temps must have been in the 60s. Cloudy sky. So I ditched my cap this time. We parked in one of the side streets around Lake Harriet and walked to the start line at Beard's Plaisance, near tennis courts. Turns out the finish line was at Lake Harriet Bandshell, so the return walk was 1 mile. Yes, it counts as recovery walk.

Race first loop was around Lake Harriet, then through the road to Lake Calhoun. Here the elite runners form Africa were returning to Harriet after completing Calhoun. Ah what a sight. I got to the the lead female runner from their group. Then around Lake Calhoun and across the first timer carpets for 3 mile. Weather was still perfect temp and cloudy sky. After looping Calhoun, it was back to Harriet and when I reached the tennis courts, the group from Africa was leisurely walking after after finishing first. I yelled a Congratulations and they politely replied and said I was doing good :)

The next loops around Lake Harriet and then Calhoun did not feel so long or endless. At Mile 11 at Calhoun, I did feel an anxiety rush into me, sort of negative thought which I had distracted from for so long. So the pace dropped in the last 2 miles. But I knew that my pace must have been great in the initial miles. I had minuscule walk breaks this time.

 Finish time was 2:59:34 hour with a pace of 13:53. So thrilled to be sub-3 hour after almost 1 year. I have my Run-club buddy to thanks for, who I ran with throughout. Later I was joking that this race is the first, where they touch-our-feet for namaskar at the end :) Because the volunteers pull out the timer chip strapped to the shoe-lace. Good thing they know we are not going to be able to bend for another day or two.

Swag was a lovely medal in the shape of sailing yacht or boat - apt representation of Lake Calhoun & Harriet. And a glass mug. This one had opaque etchings instead of colored one in 2015.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mishti-Doi Craving

I recently identified a feeling and called it "Bengali-craving". Not Bengali food, not fashion, not language. I have not lived in Bengal or indulge in any of these at any point in my life. So I don't have much explanation on what that craving was ? But I noticed it a few weeks after watching Vicky Donor and Kahaani.

Bingo, I blamed it on the diet of Doordarshan. Specifically of 80's and 90's, when at any given point of time, they did play a show in Hindi with it's roots in Bengal. Shows based on Rabindranath Tagore's work, Mahasweta Devi's stories, or movies by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Bimal Roy and some of Basu Chaterjee's movies. I guess the imagery stayed back more than I knew. That way I can also blame Hemant Mukhrjee, Salil Chowdary, RD Burman and Bappi Lahiri, who used a lot of melodies between their Bengali and Hindi films

Among all, this one is the sweetest memory for me. Satyajit Ray's Apur Sansar, end sequence. I was captivated by the location and sannata, just the wind and few dialogs.

So yes, this craving meant a repeat show of Talaash. Come to think of it, this Doordarshan TV serial had all the big-shot Bengalis associated with it.

Once Nostaligia was covered, we needed something current, something of this age. Not that anyone went away, but Bengaliness is coming back on center-stage again.

Beginning with Vicky Donor. Protagonist was Delhi-Punjabi but the heroine was Bengali and they had some Kolkata locations as well. That is what triggered this in the first place.

And soon came Kahaani (2012). That was some sucker-punch of a movie. I am a nobody to praise its excellent Kahaani/Story ! It needs to be seen. Cool Bidha Bagchi and really really sweet Rana. Their unique poster lead to a really interesting movie. And one side-effect is - it makes me hum a lot of 80s RD songs. A lot of them played in background, in Bengali.


Last few years has definitely seeing a surge in Bengali-backed movies. And then thanks to Netflix I got to see these 2 new movies a billion times.


I still don't know what Piku means, but nevertheless I have watched this movie like 50 times.
Ad-films background of the director shows up, in those well composed shots, which last under a minute.

Very interesting dialogues and sequences. People speak up at the same time. 2-3 disjointed thread run through a single conversation. Someone says no & does exactly that. Every single talk around constipation is included at different intervals. True depiction of how bugging 60+ & their adult kids dialogues.

Classic trope of AB having a side-kick to make things interesting, and his friendship with Raghuveer Yadav. Deepika and her kajol eyes. Her bickering with AB and defensiveness when outsiders/Rana comment. Irfan is a gem as usual, every sequence he was part of.

Production quality is impeccable. Piku's cluttered house, but with impressive wall artworks. Rana's messy house. Trip packing sequences and getting up at dark O' thirty for a long road trip. For a road trip movie, they picked great locations. Night time Ganga ghat at Varanasi, so many sights in Kolkatta, Delhi.

Music by Anupam Roy has been on loop in my Youtube.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy


So when the movie trailer came out, I was turned off. Not believing they could making something watchable for something in my favorite genre - Raj-era environment, Calcutta, Detective, Mystery. And later it lingered on Netflix for a long time, before I watched it.

Movie was very tightly made. So when it ended, I did not understand many things, I had to re-watch it - just to answer, "Wait what" questions. Then, I guess I played it 50 more times. Kids would come back home, and be exasperated, cause this was always playing on TV.

Superb and controlled acting by Sushant as obsessive-compuslsive about finding the truth. Tough Ajit, and that gang of bachelor boarders. Really menacing villain - his end sequence with heavy metal background music, elevates this to SuperHero movie level. No mention of 'Satyanveshi' word - hope that happens in a Sequel.


In terms of frames, I could put a snapshot of every single scene here and still not be satisfied. This movie is worth watching with unblinking eyes. Production values were superb. The way they built outdoors locations and crowds. And blended CGI into it. The Making videos are educational.

They ended with an awesome hero, trusted friend and a menacing nemesis. That is the perfect combination for a franchise. So looking forward to the sequel. Everything so far shows it is not in plans. Attention of all producers and makers have dissipated.

Music - now there is no equal for it and yet it was prefect in the movie and very hum-able outside. Yes no item or dance number yes, chalega. All songs were in background, spreadout and blended with the background music. Heavy metalish in a Raj-era movie - and no one notices.

2017 includes its share.

Jagga Jasoos. This one was eye catching thanks to rich imagery of Africa and North-East India. Its Bengali-heavy maker team did add their nostalgia elements. But there were no clihed Bengali stereotypes in the movie. They did not even say "Cholegaye" in Khaana Khaake Chalegaye, :D In the story, there was a stopover at Kolkatta, but without any sightseeing, just tram and few other studio props. Offline I did find out about the Bengali specific Easter eggs (agapastala, tiktiki, shundi), but it no way changes the flavor of the movie.

Bengali-ness simply enriched these movies, without overwhelming it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Minnesota Half Marathon - StPaul - 2017 - Race Recap

I really really enjoyed this year Minnesota Half Marathon on Shepard road, St Paul. Multiple factors.

For the 7:15am start, I left home at around 5:40am. For the first, it was a carpool commute with my run buddies. It lightened the stressful morning ride and was fun laughing at different experiences on the way back.

Parking for this race is in Rivercenter ramp. Vehicles going in, queued up on the 7th Street W. I did get anxious and thought should park at the lot opposite Excel Energy, but I was stuck anyway, so crawled to the Rivercenter ramp. It wasnt so bad. Loads of free parking space. Parked it closer to the lower level, because exist it o lower level. Don't want to climb the stairs up after the half race.

Run crowd was not very large. It did not feel crowded and pressured to push fast in the begining. nor was it lonely in the last 3 miles. I am amazed by the paces of the first half. The extra long time in the last 4 miles, I think I took extended water breaks and yes slowed down the pace. But mentally I was better focused than I have been in past years races.

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The race in itself was fun too. Loads of fun cheering squads, who had come to inspire their family/friend. 2 ladies holding a glittering stone covered Flamingo on a stick. A duo holding Unicorn helium balloon. And in my pace group, there was as Blind runner with her guide. Such an inspiration.

Historically, this race has always been the hottest - being in August. I think that is why I skipped it in 2015, or maybe it was some other reason. But the spectre of heat was always hovering around. Last year, they did take some temperature control measure. Same thing this year. 7:15 am start. Route winding westward. More trees lining the sides and center dividers. But the biggest unexpected surprise of all, was the cold-wave that came in that mid-week. Coldwave ? In August ? In Minnesota. Yes. Thunderstroms dipped the temps to 50s and it never went above 70F that week. The effect of that on race morning was so very useful for us runners. Throughout the race duration, it was supercool, cloudy hence hardly any sunny patches, and breezy thanks to the River by this route. I forgot my cap in the car, and I did not miss it at all.

My finish time was exact same as last year - 3:05:01. Yet instead of disappointment , I am more accepting. Coz I actually enjoyed this race.

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The race gear. Ah, I cant stop gushing over the shirt. Its is such a geat design - the sleeves, round collar and the hem-cuts. Just perfect. Material is perfect - not too filmsy that it would be see-through on being sweaty, but very lightweight. Medal was cute too.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017 - USA Edition

I had no plans and no prep. Cause MN was not in the line of actual line of total eclipse. And Twin cities have been dark all of August thanks to unexpected rains, thunderstorms and hence cloudy skies throughout. Husband and kids decided to drive to Kansas City MS, where total eclipse can be seen. I did not even think of borrowing 1 set of glasses from them. Bamm !

And when the day arrived, it was usual Monday morning for office. But at 1 PM, FOMO kicked in and watching online was not enough. So I stepped out of the office building, and great there was an impromptu Solar Eclipse Watching party was going on.

Birds were chattering and flying around aimlessly. Not something you see everyday. Nice to know this is true, after reading about it a thousand times.

Without googles, phone was handy to look at the sun directly. Clouds were helpful in reducing the glare. But for a long time could not make out anything about the eclipse. When I waved my fingers around to look at the sun, then something showed, in-between the finger gaps.

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And then when light clouds moved on the sun, that's when the upside  Down Banana or the sliver of the Sun showed up. Wow it was beautiful !

Here I am borrowing a friend's picture without permission. This is a great shot. This is how it looked.

It took me half hour to recover once inside the office building. It could be my cultural fear of Solar Eclipse or thanks to staring at the sky for 15 minutes, no matter how cloudy.

It's easy to dismiss a natural phenomenon, that it won't be spectacular. It will be long drawn. Can't get good picture. Oh why bother ? But even the most unspectacular one, in words or photogenic picture, has the capability to move you when experienced. And this 2017 Total Solar Eclipse is monumental. One which occurred in US after 38 years. One which brought out people across US on a Monday afternoon.

So much fun chatter online. Some really marvelous one liner jokes on Twitter. Some of it brings about the realization - something taken so for granted - that the eclipse will be at 1:07 PM and we could plan the whole day around it. That prediction is all thanks to science and how much it has progressed.
Bottlerocket via Twitter