September 2006


Seven sites across the globe facing radical alteration due to climate change



My last attempt to climb Half Dome was doomed to our bad planning, and I had written that I would go back to the top. Well, I got that chance this last weekend and we did manage to make it all the way to the top.

The trip didn’t start out very well. My friend was flying in from San Diego Friday night and his flight was delayed by 3 hours. We ended up leaving the Bay Area at 11.30 pm. Yes, we were determined to make it work this time. After a quick nap and shower in Mariposa, we were off on the hike just as the sun was rising. Yosemite valley is breathtaking any time of the day or year; but the beauty at dawn is at yet another level. I wish I could have captured on camera the splendor of El Capitan at that time of the day.

Anyways, it was much easier this time – we made good time, stopping for water and nourishment. This was a marked improvement over the huffing and puffing of last time. I guess the recent Lassen hikes and cycling has improved my fitness in minuscule amounts.

As is well documented, the Half Dome hike is interesting and challenging from the valley floor to Nevada Falls up the Mist Trail. This 2.5 mile stretch is fairly steep, narrow and very close to the falls. Its infinitely better than the longer, easier and soporific John Muir trail. From Nevada falls though, I found it very frustrating as it is full of endless switchbacks through monotonous jungle and shrubbery. The trail climbs consistently and relentlessly without any view of the dome. This is the part that really tests your motivation and stamina, since it also usually coincides with noon when the sun is beating down upon you.

As a final gift from Nature, you have to navigate this really steep, almost vertical rock face to reach the face dome. I dubbed it the “Elevator”, although its not as bad as it looks since there a few rocks and steps to help you ascend. After going through all of this, when all the muscles in your body are aching, and you have discovered pain in places you did not know existed, you reach the base of the dome. In summer, this place is like Cancun in spring break – just as crowded but without the parties. The cables look intimidating but again aren’t as bad as they look. The worst part is dealing with the crowds and the wait for people ahead of you. The final two sections (along with the Nevada and Vernal falls sections) are definitely not for those with acrophobia.

The views from the top are amazing, and the entire hike is totally worth it in-spite of the strenuousness. Do it if you can.

Wired has this article noting that a US Senate Committe has approved a bill that not only authorizes but extends warrentless wiretapping. No accountability. No oversight. No definition of ‘terrorist.’ No record of who voted for what.

My thoughts on this are best explained via Douglas Adams in “So long and Thanks for all the Fish”:

[A spaceship landed on Earth, and a 100 foot tall robot walked out.]“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

“What?”

“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

Ford shrugged again.

“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.

“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “If I had one Altarian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say “That’s terrible” I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin. But I haven’t and I am.”

Just picked up Karsh Kale’s latest offering – Broken English. He’s managed to combine Indian melody, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop and atmospheric pop for his most diverse release so far. These different musical styles aren’t really so different at all – it’s simply the music we are growing up with. During the course of three records, Kale has gone from a fusion of Asian and Western music to the current state of the art, which Kale has termed “rocktronic organica” – unapologetically Indian and thoroughly American.

My favorite track? Free Fall.

Oh, and I’m noticing that the songs I like tend to be track #4 or #5 in an album. Weird.

A couple of years ago, I was browsing the local public library (making full use of my tax dollars) when I stumbled upon an audio CD. The artist had an Indian name (Maharashtrian on top of that), the album looked cool and I was bored, so I picked it up. Little did I know that seemingly inconsequential act would open up a whole new genre of music – Asian Underground and Asian Massive – that blends elements of western underground dance music and the traditional music of their home countries, typically India or Pakistan.

The artist was Karsh Kale and the album was Liberation. Do me a favor, and listen to it even if you don’t listen to anything else. It features his band, with special appearances from Zakir Hussain, Bill Laswell and the Madras Chamber Orchestra. In addition to this and other solo projects, Kale has played along side, remixed and collaborated with Paul Oakenfold, DJ Spooky, Paula Cole, Herbie Hancock, Bill Laswell, Talvin Singh, Ustad Sultan Khan, Zakir Hussain and many many others.

One of the tracks – Milan (Meeting of the Two Rivers), named after Kale’s daughter – is easily the highlight of the album and has turned out to be my favorite. Zakir Hussain’s contribution to the song is felt throughout, and Kale’s weaving of Bill Laswell’s Bass, Ajay Prasanna’s flute and the Madras Chamber Orchestra’s Strings is as close to brilliant as I have heard in some time. This is one of those songs you find yourself holding your breath to, so as to not miss the slightest note. I must have heard it a million times and still don’t get tired of listening to it; every time I find something new to appreciate – a true work of art.

Ironically (for all the music snobs out there who look down upon this kind of music), exposure to this genre has piqued my interest in Indian classical music. As it turns out, Milan and Anja (another of Kale’s tracks) are based on Raag Hansadhwani. Guess this is my favorite raag.

I later learnt that Kale, Zakir Husain, Ustad Sultan Khan and others had come to San Francisco in 2003 to perform at Stern Grove under their group – Tabla Beat Science. Man, that concert must have rocked…

Unclassifiable. Mind blowing. ‘Nuff said.

One of the funniest ten minutes in the history of Bollywood cinema, for the spontaneity, sheer farce, slapstick and inspired acting.

  • Shaant, Gadadhari Bhim, Shaant!
  • Ye sab kya ho raha hai?
  • Abe, naatak mein aisa likha hai
  • Dhanush tod diya! Teen rupaye ka nuksaan kar diya… Main nahi karta naatak vaatak!
  • This is too much! Ye Akbar kahan se aa tapka?
  • Mughliya sultanat ke shehzaade Salim ke hote hue Anarkali ko kaun le jaa sakta hai?

Pardon me while I ROFLMAO.

I’m progressing nicely with my cycling efforts now, despite my inherent laziness and resulting lack of regularity. When I started out, I would be tired within the hour. Now I can go for a couple of hours easy, and am actually starting to enjoy the ride, rather than huffing and puffing and dreaming of when its all going to end.

However, a wrench has been thrown into my plans to bike to work. We moved to a new location last week, which has no showers. Apparently some genius decided that showers in offices in California aren’t useful. As its about 9 miles from home to office, without showers at work I’m SOL. On the other hand, the new location has a cool game room with pool, ping-pong, darts and Foosball. Best of all, it has a video game room with a PS2, Game-Cube and XBOX 360. Its going to be difficult to be productive the next few weeks.

If I can’t bike to work, I’m thinking of lugging it in my car and getting in a few good rides in the evening directly from my office.