Monday, September 28, 2009

My reading this year


Besides loving to read books, I love to keep track of the books I have read as well. Here's a tally of the ones I have read so far in 2009. Currently, I am reading Ruskin Bond's Book of Nature, which is a wonderful book that takes me back to being in the hills and mountains of Himachal and Uttrakhand. He describes the simplest of things so beautifully and elegantly, without guile, without pretense. I especially love the way he describes his walks in the forests around Mussoorie and Landour, discovering a small brook once, spotting a Leapard in another, or just noticing the antics of a cat while sitting on the hill above his cottage.

February 2009
1) The Kindness of Strangers-edited by Don George
2) How Starbucks saved my life-Michael Gill
3) The Moonlit Cage-Linda Holeman

March 2009
1) The Virgin's Lover-Philippa Gregory

April 2009
1) Air Babylon
2) Death of a Red Heroine-Qiu Xialong
3) A Loyal Character Dancer-Qiu Xialong
4) Unrooted Childhoods

May 2009
1) The Palace of Illusions-Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
2) White Mughals-William Dalrymple

June 2009
1) Hill stations of British India-Graeme Westlake
2) A fine family-Gurcharan Das

July 2009
1) The Duchess-Amanda Foreman

August 2009
1) The Right Attitude to Rain-Alexander McCall Smith

September 2009
1) Dubai Creek-Stephen Wilkins

You'll notice that the book in the photo does not feature in my list. Well, that's because, I started to read it, but just lost interest. It was one of the few books that I could not finish, and I'd been looking forward to reading it for so long, well, since it won the Booker Prize.  I just found it to wander around too much, without really getting anywhere.

Travel trends

I've been reading several travel newsletters on how the recession has impacted the industry and also on how travelers are coming up with innovative solutions to still be able to vacation. One of the more popular ways has been to rent an RV, which co-relates with the high number of rv insurance policies that have been sold in the past few months. RV travel has a long history in the US and with people focusing on domestic travel, this trend has really caught on.

Another popular options has been to swap homes with other people, so you can save on hotel rooms. People also swap cars in some cases, so all you have to pay for is the gas and you get to see a new place while staying for free. There are many sites that facilitate these swaps, which makes it easier to organize everything for the first time home swapper.

Timeshares are also popular, and interestingly a lot of people who invest in timeshares do not actually get to use them, due to their endless restrictions, months of advance booking and charges upon charges. The slowdown has changed this, and more timeshare owners are actually using their vacations than before. Many resorts and time share plans are also offering substantial discounts to last minute travelers as a way to not let unsold rooms be wasted.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

photo: green tea time

I never was much of a tea drinker earlier, but have been converted for the past few years. I've even started to enjoy Green Tea and I look forward to a nice cup of green tea in the afternoons. Here's a shot I took several months back in the living room.

green tea time

wishful travel plans

I traveled a fair bit when I lived in the US, initially in college, then working, and then several years later when I returned to the country, but one state I never got to go to was South Carolina. I've always wanted to visit the Carolinas and the islands off their coast. I've visited Virginia several times, but never managed to make a trip to the Carolinas. Now it seems that there are lots of vacation deals in the area such as Myrtle beach hotels oceanfront where one can imagine some really nice relaxing times. I'm so very tempted and kick myself for not visiting the area when we lived on the East coast in Providence.

Happy hunting ground

I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who turn to the internet to look for ways to lose weight and burn fat, often knowing that the results are not of the best quality. After all, we all know that if you have the right keywords and pay the right agent, you can be on the first page of Google's search, but in no way does that mean that the information on the first page is the best information. Often a high number of hits makes the listing a popular search result, often the numbers are fudged and often the result page has nothing to do with your search.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

list: september promises



September seemed to have come up on us so quickly this year. And I'm happy about that. September is when one can finally breathe a sigh a relief for the nearing of the end of the harsh summer, and the promise of better weather.

September promises:
  • to make me sit and wonder how the year flew by.
  • to dream of cold winter days when I have a mug of hot chocolate in my hand.
  • to be able to venture out for pleasure again.
  • to visit my favorite park in the city, Creek Park where I love to watch the water lap softly against the shore. 
  • to be a time of planning for a winter vacation and annual family gettogethers.
  • a time of hope, a time of joy and a time for dreams.
The photo is of the wall behind our house in Dubai and was taken ages ago, while on a morning walk.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dubai Metro launches

Yesterday and today have been big days here in Dubai. The much awaited Dubai Metro has finally opened with much fanfare and excitement. Only 10 stations on the Red Line have been opened as yet, the rest will open by early 2010, while the Green Line should open by June 2010 (delayed from March 2010). The opening ceremony started off last evening at the Mall of the Emirates where the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Makhtoum presided over the events. We were there in the mall and heard the cheers and clapping when Sheikh Mohammed arrived, and spotted his son, the crown prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Makhtoum before the ceremony started.

The metro opened to the public at 6am this morning. We haven't been on it as yet, but are looking forward to explore it and new areas of the city through it soon. This is the first metro project in the middle east, so it's been made a big deal of and rightly so, since one of the highest usages of vehicles is right here in this part of the world.

on developing an expertise

In my last post I wrote about how it is essential for the writer to go beyond the safe boundaries that one sets for oneself. I did it by accepting a research assignment on the weight loss industry and on weight loss pills and how they act as a psychological support for so many millions of people. The topic was completely out of my comfort and knowledge zone, so I had to spend a good amount of time researching and understanding it, but in the end I did create a great white paper on the subject. This way one can expand one's niche and learn how to develop a greater range of expertise.

on not sticking to safe topics

As a writer, I get to cover all sorts of topics, but sometimes there seem to be endless amounts just on one topic. After all, how much can I really write about the best fat burners or mortgage companies and so on, but if you want to be a writer, especially a freelance or a web content writer, then you often don't have a choice. Well, of course, you do have a choice of not taking an assignment, but then if you only want to stick to your own comfortable niche of writing then you're really not expanding your mind or trying to break out of your safe zone. I don't say to write about heart surgery if you don't have the expertise, but it's a good thing to try and do some research and cover new topics as well.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

On living in a foreign country

sunset

Living abroad gives you a really great perspective. When we first moved to Dubai, at times it felt just like back home but at others it felt so foreign. Like when you stay at a hotel in transit and turn on the TV and can't find anything familiar, and all the channels are foreign ones. Well, not exactly, but at times it feels exactly like that, especially when the local ads come in between the English programs.

The thing is that there is no one type of language or program here, as there are Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese, Sudanese, Turkish and Saudi shows on the TV here. The Turkish soaps are apparently very popular with Emiratis and Saudi women and many go to Turkey especially to see the sights where the soap operas were filmed.

Another interesting aspect of living here is buying food from all over the world. It's especially noticeable when buying fruit and vegetables, as they are sorted and priced based on their country of origin. So my receipt looks something like this:

Peaches Turkey
Kiwi Italy
Plum Spain
Garlic China
Ginger China
Lamb Australia
Onion India
Asst vegetables India
Carrots Australia
Chickoo India
Lychee Thailand
Red Delicious Apple New Zealand
Granny Smith Apple USA
Oranges Lebanon

Yes, the country is actually part of the name here as they are priced differently. Take tomatoes for instance, there is a huge difference in prices between locally grown tomatoes to vine ripened tomatoes to plum to cherry and so on, most of which come from several different countries. Some supermarkets even have notices on which fruits and veggies have been flown in by air! Sometimes items have a city name such as "Banana Mysore" instead of a country notation. This sign was for the delightful mini bananas of South India.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Yay!

I've got great news and I had to share it with you asap!

I read today that two former editors of Domino Magazine have teamed up to create Lonny Magazine, an online magazine for interior design and lifestyle. I am so thrilled and waiting excitedly to see the magazine in full when it starts in the Fall! Thanks to Michelle at  Design Evolution where I read about it.