Awesomeness

17 02 2017

Awesome. An overused word. Perhaps one of the most.

I read/heard somewhere a long time ago that using “awesome” a little too much is a sure sign of one’s lame vocabulary. It need not and shouldn’t be used as a one-size-fits-all adjective to describe anything positive. The message is  – fight the urge to use it everywhere, get a grip and summon up the appropriate adjective from the depths of your vocabulary pool instead. It totally makes sense. But time and again I find myself lapsing and using the “a” word too much.

So, what can we use instead? In my opinion, adjectives are the most beautiful words in any language. The English language provides us with plethora of adjectives for all occasions. I know old habits die hard! But there’s hope. So, let’s start small.

To appreciate someone’s work:

  • Good/Great job
  • Excellent
  • Brilliant
  • Impressive
  • Outstanding

To admire nature/beauty:

  • Beautiful (simple, isn’t it?)
  • Stunning
  • Breathtaking
  • Splendid
  • Lovely

Expressing awe:

  • Awe-struck
  • Mind blowing
  • Magnificent
  • Wonderful
  • Fantastic

So, what about “awesome”? It’s a real word. isn’t it? What’s the appropriate use of it? It means “something that inspires awe”. So, it has its legitimate use. But, maybe, just to compensate its overuse all around, let me use its other synonyms instead for a while. 😛 ( I actually need the solemn looking hand over chin thinking emoji here! )





Free fall

13 02 2017

Skydiving was something that I never even envisioned myself trying. The first time I’ve seen some pictures of people appeared to be floating in the sky ( of course they weren’t floating, but falling. Fast. ) with bulky parachute bags on their backs, I couldn’t believe that it could be a sport. And then years later, I have had my friends/acquaintances tried it with tandem and saw their videos. It didn’t seem like such a far-fetching and impossible proposition at all.

So, one day I decided to try it and included it in my bucket list. So far so good. When I first mentioned my intention to my husband, he looked at me as if I was crazy, like I said I’m going to commit suicide or something. Ha! Anyways, years passed and the moment finally came when I just went ahead booked an appointment.

How did I feel about it before? I suspected that I would have that falling down to death feeling (sometimes experienced in dreams). And I was a little nervous about that. I read through others’ experiences and prepared as much as I could.

What freaked me out the most was signing the waiver form. It lists all the possible ways that things can go wrong, be it the fault of the tandem instructor or the equipment or just about anything under the sun, absolving everyone involved from lawsuits by the jumper, or most likely his/her survivors. I’m sure anyone who reads it all, word by word, would definitely panic.

It was a cold and cloudy January day. The waiting area was freezing. Ours was the final jump for the day, promising nice views of the sunset.

The prep was reassuring and then we all are in the flight. I (+ my instructor. We are a single unit by now) was the second one to jump. Seeing the person before me tumble out of the door was a little unnerving.

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Moments later my turn came and my instructor pushed us into the oblivion. Within a few seconds we were stabilized. The first thing that struck me was how windy it was. Strong cold wind blowing in my face.

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In the brief 15 seconds of free fall that followed, I was surprised to realize that I didn’t feel any death threat. It was ok. Once the parachute was on, it was super fun. Time to enjoy the views.

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That definitely was a unique experience. Will I do it again? Umm..while I wouldn’t pursue it again in anyway, if an opportunity comes up or situation demands ( 😉 ) or my craziness strikes me again , maybe. Who knows! The only thing that’s sure is that I wouldn’t take it up as a sport. I’m too risk averse and conventional to do so. 😛





The cool factor

8 02 2017

“That’s cool.”

“He’s cool.”

Person 1: “I have done/seen something”

Person 2: “Cool”

“Cool” is one of those new-age slang terms that fascinate me. The way it’s used in varied circumstances and to mean different things.

The urban dictionary presents come cool interpretations of this cool word (pun intended):

  • Popular
  • Awesome
  • Laid back, relaxed
  • Very good, stylish, neat, pleasing, generally positive
  • Nice
  • Okay with each other (not nice, not mean)
  • Used when the conversation goes silent
  • Used when you don’t know what else to say,
  • Used when you are not interested in a conversation
  • Used when you do not know anything about the subject but want to appear as a know-it-all

Wow, look at that! Have you noticed the contradictions? It can mean either “nice”, or just “okay”. It can mean “awesome”, or just “nice”. And it’s especially intriguing to note its role as a conversation filler. So many connotations. Needless to say, it would be almost impossible to interpret the intention behind this word correctly without the tone and other non-verbal cues and in come cases lot of context.

I’m particularly interested in exploring its use with people. A person is cool if he’s perceived as relaxed and laid back. Or if he/she has a confident, or don’t care attitude. It can also mean that the person possesses some admirable traits. This implies that there cannot be a definitive set of traits that define coolness. They differ based on circumstances: in one setting a person who expresses his emotions and vulnerabilities can be deemed as cool by  his peers, whereas in another setting, the person who holds up a facade in the midst of turbulence is considered cool. Also a cool “guy” usually has totally different traits compared to a cool “gal”.

Here is a quote from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on “cool girl”:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, …, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.”

In effect, coolness is anything desirable. You perceive someone is cool if that person possesses those qualities that you desire. Someone is also cool if they have traits and exhibit behavior that you wish you have it in yourself (courage, candidness, confidence, charm etc.). Since desirability is highly subjective, so is what constitutes being cool.

Such a versatile word! Very convenient. 🙂





Wastefulness

6 02 2017

Of late, I’m reminded of “Total Quality Management” concept I’ve studied years ago. It’s fascinating and involves improving efficiency by eradicating waste, among other things. It is this aspect of waste I’m concerned about now. In day to day life, I aim for efficiency too, by being frugal with my resources. While I admit that I don’t definitely set an example, I like to be careful with my spending and generally evaluate the utility of whatever I expend. Despite my best efforts, I realize from time to time that there’s a lot of unnecessary and wasteful consumption/ expenditure. It takes different forms.

Things, which seem very attractive and useful at the time of buying seem meaningless soon after. Items are bought on impulse or with some deliberation, and then ignored once unpacked. Or cast away after only a perfunctory use. Whenever I keep coming across such things at home, I’m baffled afresh and vow not to indulge in such meaningless and wasteful behavior in future. But it seems like, how much ever I try there is still room for improvement. I would think a radical lifestyle change aka adoption of minimalism can address this. But isn’t it such a big deal? A radical mindset change. Sigh!

And then there are other kinds of wastefulness. Late charges induced by missed deadlines, premium paid to accommodate lack of pre-planning,  sub-optimal and sometimes irrational expenses that can result from endless procrastination, opportunity costs involving missed deals/discounts: where’s that coupon when you need it? And of course, there’s also sheer negligence or lack of knowledge/information that can result in some wasteful expenditure. So many factors.

I wonder how much of costs is wasteful. Depending on circumstances, I guesstimate it be anywhere between 10% to 25%. Or at least, it feels like 25%. Oh my god, that’s more than my savings. 😐

I congratulate myself on saving a few bucks here and there by being really frugal and wiser in my shopping decisions. But then suddenly I face myself losing a larger sum to something or the other. Oh, the despair I feel at those times! Everything feels like a sham. Life is unfair. In many cases, I’m aware of the lapses even while they are happening. But I can only watch helplessly as the ball gets rolling. Nevertheless, I keep trying to learn lessons, be vigilant, and reduce the waste. But I quickly realized that it takes a tremendous effort to fuss about each and everything, which ultimately affects my happiness levels. Being wasteful doesn’t definitely make me happy. Neither does micro-managing. I’m damned either way.

So, I have decided to come up with a rule that defines the acceptable levels of wastefulness. I have figured that it’s easier to accept the fact (or fiction) that some level of squandering and irrational behavior is an integral part of life than to attempt to completely eradicate it. Peace be onto me! (Note: I’m still debating with myself on the right percentage. Any help appreciated!)

To any purist out there, who can perfectly manage his/her life and purse, my confessions here might seem silly and childish.  By all means, roll your eyes. With all due respect, I stand on my stance that non-purists, like me, need to come up with some strategies for peaceful survival. 😛





Hiking in Sunol

30 01 2017

It was a bright and sunny Saturday. Perfect for a hike. It was Sunol Regional Wilderness the chosen venue. Lush and wet from recent rains. Another Indian Adventurers of Bay Area meetup event. Though, I must say that, the organizer prefers to communicate via email and likes to keep the planning, the participants, and the actual hike itself in a close knit aka on a tight leash. 🙂

As soon as I turned onto I-680, I saw everything shrouded in thick mist, giving rise to misgivings about the impending activity. But as I drove through and past it, all was clear and bright again. 🙂 Nature, being mischievous I guess. 🙂

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The long winding drive on Calaveras Rd seems never ending for the first timers and there’s absolutely nowhere to pull aside. Just stay put, you can’t miss the park entrance on your left when coming from Fremont.

There’s a $5 entrance fee to the park. As soon as you pass the kiosk, you can see a trail to your right and cars parked to your left.  Don’t stop there and take the trail unless you have a permit to hike the Ohlone Wilderness Trail which takes you to Mission Peak. Instead drive past and take right at the fork.

The original plan was to hike along Indian Joe Creek, which requires one to do multiple creek crossings. But it was evident right away, even with the first glance at the roaring creek, that it’s not a wise idea at this time. Perhaps, Summer is a better time to indulge in its beauty . 🙂

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So instead we headed towards Canyon View Trail, onto Backpack Road, up McCorkle Trail, onto Cerro Este Road, Cave Rocks Road, Eagle View Road … Well, I’ll stop right there. It seems like we took a twisted and elaborate path. I couldn’t have figured out myself. I was blindly following the organizer. I think no one can disagree that there’s a sense of comfort in following a capable and knowledgeable leader, without worrying about anything. 😛 After the hike, he kindly traced the path we followed on the map for me.

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On Canyon View Trail, we had splendid views of the creek. We could hear the roar of the water all along.

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View of 3 peaks – Monument Peak, Mount Allison, Mission Peak

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Calaveras Reservoir view. A new dam is being constructed to replace the historic one and Calaveras Rd is closed between Geary Rd (the park entrance) to Oakridge Rd.

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The park at this time is laden with small creeks.

 

Also ponds.

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And cattle. What does ponds and grazing cattle have in common? They make beautiful candid pictures, when together 🙂

 

On the way back, we stopped at Little Yosemite. It was beautiful and serene. Not too crowded.

Foolish attempt to feel the water. It was freezing cold!

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All in all, we made about 9 miles. Thanks again to meetup and the wonderful event organizers for the opportunity. Hiking in small groups is always fun. Good exercise, great conversations!





Mom and son on a hike

26 01 2017

It’s one of my perpetual challenges to get my son out of the house and into the midst of nature. To make him spend and enjoy time away from all the gadgets. In the past, I’ve tried to motivate him and even tricked him into hiking a few times. I can’t say I had much success. He claims he’s not an “outdoorsy guy”. He is a little short of 10. Nevertheless, with all the enthusiasm that new year brings along, I cajoled him into doing a hike during the first long weekend of the year. Just the two of us. Yay!

I chose the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. I admit it’s not a random choice but inspiration from a meetup planned for a hike there that day to Borel Hill. That was about 6 miles of hiking, but I wanted something shorter. So, I picked one from bahiker.com, which is about 3.6 miles. All set.

 

I was totally surprised when my GPS led me onto the very narrow Old La Honda Rd in Woodside. It was super scary. Stupid GPS. I could have just taken 92W and Hwy35 instead.

We reached the preserve’s parking lot (on Alpine road) by around 10:30 am and started on the trail with gusto. We didn’t come across many hikers despite great weather, at least until noon. It was a beautiful sunny day.

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Mom and Son

I had wisely taken the pictures of the entire page on bahiker so that I can peruse it to stay on the suggested trail and not get lost. I’m not being dramatic here. I’ve had experiences before where we missed the trail and went dangerously off planned route even with good maps and non-novices. I must say I managed well sticking to the plan. I greatly appreciate bahiker for providing such a detailed and clear instruction that I, with barely any other preparation, could make my hike a success. We marched along happily discussing party plans for my son’s upcoming birthday.  We took the Ancient Oaks Trail at the first junction.

 

And then turned onto Charquin Trail.

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We had impressive views of the bay all along the way.

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We also took a little detour along Ridge Trail for about 0.5 miles, climbing up the hill for better views, and there we spotted a couple of coyotes.

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Can you spot them?

This is my son exhausted before the last leg of the hike, a 1.2 mile trek back to the parking lot.

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The fact that it’s largely uphill, didn’t help him. On the contrary, he started regretting his decision to do the hike in the first place. Sigh! It’s just perseverance.  Sadly, there was no other way out than to continue walking. It was also very windy on the way up the Ridge Trail, making him even more miserable. The splendid views offered him only meager solace, if anything.

The last mile doesn’t seem to end. 🙂

But things got way better as we climbed down, past the  to the parking lot and he’s happy again, though a little tired. At last, the sight of the destination:

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On the way back to the car, I noticed that there’s a nature’s center on the other side of the road just 0.1 miles away. The fact that it displayed touchable wildlife skulls excited my son. Despite his fatigue. Off we went, only to find that it’s closed. Too bad my conscious mind didn’t register the open hours written across the board at the start of the trail. It clearly said, open only on Saturdays and Sundays. 🙂 But we got to see the beautiful Alpine Pond in all its glory. So, the short trip was still worth it.

 

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In all, we did a little more than 4 miles. I couldn’t be more proud. This is definitely a good start for the year.

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A rainy hike

22 01 2017

I was so keen on hiking that December day, the prospect of rain didn’t deter me. The hike in Joseph D Grant County Park was organized through Indian Adventurers of Bay Area meetup group (FB link to the event). The drive to the park on the Quimby Road was spectacular, albeit a bit dangerous. The road was narrow and very curvy uphill. The views were awesome but I couldn’t risk glancing away from the road for more than a fleeting second. There was nowhere to pull over along the whole stretch. Too bad. 😦

Joseph D Grant is the largest county Park in Santa Clara County spanning across about 10,000 acres. The rolling hills offer spectacular views and great hiking trails.

I always like the parks/nature when they’re/it’s wet. The crisp green all around lifts my spirits up. It rained on and off, sometimes drizzling, and other times a persistent rainfall. I had no rain shell on, so was completely soaked through by the end of the hike. Much to my chagrin, I haven’t paid attention to the actual trail we were following. I was blissfully following the group between small talk with other members and time alone lost in deep thoughts.

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The hike was part of Bay Area Ridge Trail hiking endeavor that the organizer has taken up. By his admission he had organized events that covered about 60 miles of BART so far and that day’s hike would add another 10 miles. I’m hoping that we followed the intended trail, but I can’t be sure.

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We stumbled and retraced our paths a couple of times. We definitely went on Heron Trail and Edward Loop Trail. San Felipe Trail also sounds familiar. 😛 We covered a little over 10 miles with the last mile on the Mount Hamilton Rd.

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As expected, it was cloudy, misty, and muddy. Beautiful even on the desolate, rainy winter day.  Splendid experience, all in all.

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I wisely chose to drive back via Mount Hamilton Rd, avoiding Quimby Rd. Mount Hamilton Rd also offered amazing views, but I didn’t stop to savor them. Next time, maybe.