Flight from Chicago and Day 1 in Phoenix

Posted January 14, 2019 by Guppy
Categories: Phoenix

Flight from Chicago

We took the 7:50 flight out of Chicago. Flying from O’Hare is always an adventure by itself and as always the whole experience did not disappoint. We drove from Madison and parked our car in Blue sky parking. The experience was pretty painless and we were hurried into our bus to get to the airport. The bus driver probably forgot that he was driving a small bus and not a car in a Nascar race which meant the ride was pretty thrilling.

The airport was really crowded and even though we had checked in (and paid for a luggage to check in,) we had to stand in line to get the luggage tag printed. A lot of the United kiosks were down which made it a little painful but luckily we got through and the lines were pretty brutal. Security was a little painful with kids and after a hurried dinner we got into to the flight. One thing with traveling with the 3 year old is the pain of lugging along the car seat. Additionally once the seat is fixed, my son loves to kick the seat in front just to annoy me which makes it an adventure to ensure we don’t get yelled at by the passenger in front. Luckily he slept as soon as we took off and slept all the way to Phoenix (and so did I).

In Phoenix, we picked up our luggage and took the shuttle to pick up the car. After that we went in search of milk without which our kid will not sleep. We went to one of the few open shops still open at around midnight. The shop was owned by a Punjabi and after chatting with him for a few minutes we left.

Finally reached our Marriott – Residence Inn in downtown Phoenix. We totally loved our stay here and in my wife’s opinion this was the best place she has stayed in the US. The rooms were big and comfortable (family of four), the views were nice, it was in downtown (not that it means much in Phoenix) and the service was awesome. Breakfast was pretty good too and the kids had a blast in the swimming pool and generally running around like crazy. The only thing was parking cost 33 bucks a day with valet being the only option.

First day in phoenix

First off Phoenix is dry. Madison winters are humid by Phoenix standards. I knew it was the desert and everything but man it was rough. For someone who grew up in humid Chennai, Phoenix was brutal.

We had breakfast early in the hotel (on less than 7 hours of sleep) and headed out to the few places that were open. In the morning we covered the Butterfly wonderland, Maze (glass and laser) and the Odysea aquarium. The experience was totally awesome – both my kids loved it. Really good place to entertain kids but the tickets were pretty expensive – the combo tickets set us back 200+ dollars for the four of us.  If I had to pick just one I would probably do the aquarium – it was pretty unique but the butterfly garden was a close second. Skip the mazes if you want to save some money. Both the butterfly garden and the aquarium have cafes but if you are visiting both then go to the aquarium cafe – much bigger food menu.

After catching up on some sleep in the evening we went to the city of Glendale to see the light show. It is called Glendale glitters and it was a pretty nice place to walk around with family. The weather was also pleasant.

Very few restaurants were open because it was Christmas eve but we found an Indian restaurant called Godhavari. The place was super crowded and they did not know how to handle the crowd. They were also getting online orders which meant chaos. The result of this was we ended up waiting close to 2 hours before we got our food and the food was pretty average. All in all we ended up leaving totally irritated.



Posted May 28, 2010 by Guppy
Categories: Gardening

I know this is a really strange topic for me to write about but recently I discovered that I am in love with gardening. Granted, it could be a fleeting love, especially given the amount of work required but then again maybe it will lead to me finding my calling in life. Become a professional gardener and then a farmer :). My wife is probably glad her parents don’t read blogs. They would be aghast to know their son-in-law has such lofty aspirations (please note in India being a farmer is not what you would consider a decent job).

It felt like I have always wanted to garden.This got me thinking – what is it that led to this love affair with gardening. After thinking about it for a while, it all came back. When I was a little boy way back in the day, my friends and I decided that we wanted to grow a rose plant in each of our houses. Apparently, for rose to grow, all you need is a piece of the stem or so we were informed. No internet meant we could not verify this. As an aside, I am still stumped to know what my cousin’s reaction would have been. See, his way of validating anything is going to the internet and finding a site that validates what he claims :).  Well, going back to the story, we convinced the owner of a rose plant to part with some stems. To be honest, it might have been that we jumped the wall (or at least my friends did. I was too fat to do any such jumping) and cut it ourselves but over time, I have convinced myself we did it the right way. Of course, being the youngest guy in the gang, I got the saddest stem you will ever see. The other guys took the ones with the roses and lots of leaves. I got the remaining piece. Boy was I jealous.

Anyway, I took it back home and planted it in my garden. I took care of it like it meant the world to me. To make sure it survived the heat, I watered it regularly (this was before the days of water problems struck Chennai. Ah the good days before running behind a truck with a bucket) . Since there was no Google, it was impossible to research the things you need to grow a rose plant. My house had this huge mango tree (still does) and the dead leaves were my idea of mulch and manure. Aah, the wonders of an education and the imagination of youth. Anyway, after a while my rose plant started to flower. All the other guys had their rose plants die on them – ha, karma.Yeah, I can be vindictive. Might have even rubbed it in.

I remember the plant going strong for a year or so till I came from school one day to see that it was replaced with my dad’s car garage. Ah well, you cant have everything in life.

But anyway, I am proud to announce that I am back to gardening even if it is for just 3 or 4 days. The new game now is to identify if the small green thing which is growing near my bulb is actually my dahlia or a weed :).

World Cup 2010

Posted May 26, 2010 by Guppy
Categories: soccer, World cup 2010

Finally there is a lot of activity on the world cup front. I am all excited – I get to watch football (or soccer to you Americans) without having to jump a couple of hoops or pay exorbitant amounts of money. Football happens to be my second favorite sport (cricket, you are still my favorite but after two scandals in a the last 10 years, I am seriously considering this status) and one of my gripes about living in the US is the dearth of football coverage. When I was still in school/college, we used to get so much soccer that I was pretty spoiled. I could rattle names of half the players in the English premier league. I could even name players in the Brazilian division 2 if needed. Alas, those days are just memories.

Anyway, except for the cricket world cup (not the 20/20 version), the football world cup is the one that gets me all fired up. Unfortunately with a baby at home, I will be forced to ration the games I watch, at least in the group stages. That made me look at the teams and decide what teams I want to watch most. My order:

Brazil – my adopted soccer country. I have not missed any of their world cup games since the 90 world cup (when the Careca led team went down to the hated Argentines in the pre-quarters). I think this team is going to be a boring one like the 94 version without the genius of Romario. I still will watch.

Argentina – Yes, I am a huge fan of their hated rivals but they definitely play exciting soccer. Any team with Messi deserves my time. Of course with Maradona leading the team, I am sure they will self destruct and probably lose to Nigeria and Greece and go out of the world cup. You wonder when he is going to do something completely crazy :). For all his genius as a player, he usually has a constipated look when his team is doing badly. Maybe he will teach them the hand of god trick.

Spain – Definitely the most gifted team – brilliant midfield and attack. I think they are the favorites and hopefully they go all the way to the finals. I still want Brazil to win but a Spanish victory will not be too bad. With a 20+% unemployment, they probably need this more than any other team. Here is hoping Torres is in full flight.

USA – As my adopted country (as opposed to adopted soccer country), I definitely will be rooting for them. Having watched most of their qualifiers, my guess is they should make it to at least the pre-quarters.

I will also probably watch some England and Holland games – they should be exciting. Germany without Ballack doesn’t sound appealing.

Observations from the IPL final – 2010

Posted April 28, 2010 by Guppy
Categories: cricket, IPL

The final between Chennai super kings and Mumbai Indians was one of the few IPL games I saw live this year. Most of the other games, all I managed to catch were the highlights.

Initially the way Chennai started, I thought they were definitely going to lose. Suresh Raina definitely played well but boy the fielding was pretty pathetic. I would have guessed that routine catches would be taken by the teams but I was mistaken. In fact, in my opinion that was one of the biggest differences between the two sides, the other of course being captaincy. I will talk about the stupid captaincy later but you would guess a team with Jonty Rhodes as the fielding coach would be light years better than the other team. This is the guy who was electrified the art of fielding. Instead it looked like Ashok Malhotra (forgotten him have you?) came back to replace all the 11 guys on the field.

Now to the captaincy and coaching – why on earth would you not send Pollard earlier? Seriously. If he had come in earlier and struck some of those blows, the pressure would have shifted to the bowling side. This would have been especially true with some decent batsman to come after him. All a coach (Robin Singh here) needs to do is assess the situation and send in your best bat. Instead he decides to send Harbhajan Singh at 4 – seriously? What the hell was he smoking?

On a slightly sad note, this was the first time in my life that I was excited when Sachin got out. It was definitely a weird emotion. It took me a whole day to get my head wrapped around this.

I also wish I didnt have to hear that crap speech by Modi. While he might have been the brain behind the whole thing, I thought it was the most inappropriate speech. Instead of listening to how the game played out, we had to listen to his stupid speech.

I am also impressed with the popularity of the thing. Someone told me recently that the newly formed Kochi team was worth more than the LA Lakers – wow. That definitely is impressive.Of course, I am convinced that Mumbai would have won with Phil Jackson coaching them :). He would have definitely looked at Pollard, decided Pollard can hit and sent Pollard in.

My first ever credit card – closed!!!

Posted March 31, 2010 by Guppy
Categories: Random

Tags: ,

Yesterday, I canceled my Citibank card. I have had a Citibank card for the longest time – close to 11 years. In fact, it was the first card I ever got and so I was a little disappointed to cancel it. It was my primary card for a very long time but I started reducing my use of it when I got a better rewards card. I still had it for nostalgia sake and it was a pretty useful card for certain things. Unfortunately the card did not offer any good perks to justify using it a lot. It was like being in a relationship where both of you are indifferent to each other. You don’t need each other but the comfort of knowing the other person is there was good.

Then the relationship started becoming abusive. Citibank first raised my interest rates – didn’t bother me much because it did not affect me. Then they started charging more for services. Again did not affect me much but was starting to anger me. They reduced my credit limit. Finally they decided to add a 60 dollar charge for the card. Seriously!!! For a crappy card, poor credit limit and not so great service, Citibank decided to charge me 60 dollars a year.  This at a time when they need customers. The condition to avoid the fees is to use the card to the tune of 200 dollars a month, they would credit it back at the end of the year.  While I probably can hit the limit easily, there was no way I am being forced to use their card. Being nostalgic, I still wanted to hold on to the card. So I called them up to reason with them. When I complained about the fees, they essentially told me that I can opt out of my fees but my account will be closed. Well, since there was an ultimatum, I just went ahead and canceled it. Screw you guys if you don’t want my business.

I will be honest and state that I am big on going local. In fact, when the move your money project started, I pretty much agreed with the philosophy and started to slowly move my stuff towards the local banks. I was not convinced I should close my credit cards but that changed fast. I am heading down to my credit union sometime this week and will open a credit card with them. I am sure they want my business and I am more than happy to give it to them.

Back to running

Posted March 11, 2010 by Guppy
Categories: Running

Finally I am back running after laying off for 4+ months. I actually started running last week. For now, my running consists of mostly walking and just increasing my speed every couple of minutes. I am also sticking to the treadmill so I run on an even surface. After my run last week, I did feel some pain and so for now, I have decided I will run once or twice a week. Mostly it will be walking with a wee bit of running but at this point, I am willing to take just about anything.

I didn’t realize how much I miss running. It felt so good to be back on my feet. The other thing I realized was that I was apparently in pretty good shape (by my previous standards.) I had a really tough time running even a minute at a time and I remember I was running close to 40 miles a week last year. Sucks. Why cant the body retain all the stamina improvements achieved over the last couple of years? It does retain the fat doesn’t it – stupid thing.

The one thing that running does provide is a lot of time to think. I can’t read a book while running, so it is either music or thinking. Maybe this will lead to a lot more posts :).

“The Hindu”

Posted February 8, 2010 by Guppy
Categories: Running

I will come out and state that I am a news junkie. Reading news seems to take most of my free time – if there is a way to make a living out of it, somebody please let me know :).

Anyway, this is to talk about one newspaper in particular – The Hindu. I grew up reading this paper. I remember rushing to get the paper everyday when I was still in Chennai. If someone else got to the paper before I did, I would beg them to give me the sports section. That was the only thing that interested me. as a kid As I grew older, I added the international section to the list of things I read. By the time I was finishing up my undergrad, I would read it from top to bottom.

When I came to the US, having the newspaper was one of the things I started missing quite a bit. I am not talking about the physical newspaper but the content of “The Hindu”. I would try to satisfy my cravings with a visit to the website – hindu.com. only to find that it was absolutely the crappiest website of all. Slowly I just gave up.

Every time I felt nostalgic or wanted to get some specific news about India, I would still start with the website. Anyway, recently I visited their website and was shocked to see that they are trying to improve their website. After 10 long years, it looks like the folks who run the paper seem to have realized that having a good website is a necessity. Seriously, it took them 10+ years to realize the impact of the web – wow.

Anyway, go ahead and take a look if you were a fan of the Hindu. The URL is beta.thehindu.com. I should warn you that I have gotten a number of Apache errors when you try to access their website – obviously it is still very much a ‘Beta’ site :). But I have it back on my firefox toolbar.