Jul 17, 2014

Tried and tested

After the untimely and much-mourned demise of my favorite productivity app Astrid, I carried its non-syncable version on my phone, still able to use my task list that I had built up with so much care even if it was only on my phone. But I also went about worrying about losing the data to some glitch that would need returning the phone to factory settings or other unforeseen circumstances. 

I tried a lot of task apps (todoist, Any.Do, Wunderlist are the ones I remember) that are accessible from both computers and phones: all had one great drawback. I couldn't customize the recurrence period. For example, I check the water levels of the our inverter battery every three months. Astrid allowed me to schedule things 3 months apart, three weeks apart or anything of that sort.Other to-do apps never had that capability.

I did not give up. While holding my precarious Astrid tasks in one hand, I kept searching for a to-do app that would let me schedule the recurrence of my tasks according to my own needs. And a few months ago, I found...

The first thing I noticed on their features list was "Flexible  recurring tasks"! I was still very cautious, and tried it for several days on my comp and phone before transferring my tasks data to TickTick (manually of course).

The app took a little getting used to - as with any new thing - but now I've got the hang of it. On my computer I use only Firefox to browse, so I've set my TickTick account as the home page for Chrome.  So whenever I open Chrome, I have my task list on hand! The interface is clutter-free and quite simple. I like it!

  • Limited number of entries you can make in the free version. Astrid's was unlimited. But I can live with it!
  • It doesn't have a cheerful little octopus congratulating me for the tasks I mark as done :(
So finally without trepidation, but with lots of regret, I let go of the little red octopus in my phone. Bye Astrid, I'll miss ya!!!

Jul 4, 2014

Another precious year!

Yesterday someone celebrated a birthday here at Karthi.. Who? I'll show you...

Yup all of six years old and in the first grade! On June 2, the brothers finally stepped out in identical outfits - also known as school uniforms and I couldn't but help get all weepy...

...thinking about how all that pristine whiteness was destined for an untimely demise on the persons of my boys. By the way, I wasn't worried about the dress of the guy in the back, just so that you know :)

To think this guy started out like this...

and this...

... and is now going to regular school!!! (Now you see why I was concerned about the uniforms? If you have been trying to wash out the dirt in boys' white uniforms for years, you would cry too.)

And here I am left with useless things like these...

Is there anything more forlorn in this world than a couple of support wheels separated forever from a kid's bicycle? I couldn't help think that once kids grow up, parents will kind of look like that pair up there, all worn down to nothing, battered and completely useless for anything else. Okay the uselessness part may not be true :)!

And yes, I have to tell you the story of how those support wheels came off. Our younger kid is such a contrarian (yup, new word, describes Ani exactly) that he makes a production out of every little thing. I think I managed him well this time! 

At first I was fixing something on Kunjunni's bike when the little guy rolled his up with support wheels and all. I finished my fixing and just commented to his elder brother how great the smaller cycle would look once the support wheels were off and the side-stand was on. (Notice how wily I was, I did not make any direct suggestion to the owner of the bike! :))

Kunjunni played along and agreed. So Ani had to agree too and off we went to find the side stand and I fixed it to the cycle after removing the extra wheels. Kunjunni and I made a great production of how stream-lined and big-boy-like the bike was looking when Ani suddenly realized, "But I can't ride without support wheels!"

We poohpoohed the thought. It was easy as anything, we said and got Kunjunni to demo on his own cycle around the front yard (not that Ani hadn't seen it before, still). I offered support and pushed him around a little.

Then our contrarian had a humongous meltdown. He insisted that I reinstate the support wheels as he would never, never, ever be able to ride without them. I think now that he was not ready to let go of that aspect of his childhood so quickly.

Here, I was crafty again. I didn't stay to reason with him. I just said, "Oh, if you aren't ready to ride it like this, I had better give it away..." and beat a strategic retreat.

Then I went into my room and pretended to be working on something on my laptop. The little guy came in and made some tearful complaints. I did not even deign to look.

Soon, our front yard became the arena for desperate attempts to keep possession of a beloved bike. I did not dare peek out of the window for fear of him seeing me. But I could hear some falls and some riding. DH who had been working from home that day went out and made some congratulatory noises, so I knew there was some progress...

About a half hour's efforts later, Ani sidled into the room and tried to catch my eye while I gazed resolutely at the monitor. 

"Amma, come and see, I have learned to ride the bike without support wheels"

"Hmm... (very bass, very serious)"

"Would you like to come?"

"Ok.. (no enthusiasm at all, the danger is not over even at this point)"

Thus I went to the front door and witnessed that accomplishment which had been touted as impossible just half an hour ago and made appropriate congratulatory noises, but in a very subdued fashion.

Then I went back inside and did a victory dance all by myself.

Thus do parents pave the way, one stone at a time, to becoming redundant support wheels.


Jun 25, 2014

Kitty Saga - 3

New readers of notsoperfectkarthi, please read Kitty Saga - 1 and Kitty Saga - 2 (at the very end of that post) to bring yourselves up to speed.

It had been more than a month since Chakki had taken her kids off in huff after we had offered her "substandard" acco in our garage while she had gunned for the five-star lifestyle in our kitchen. The kids and I went about the general merrymaking of summer vacation always keeping an eye open for the return of the prodigals.

Then in May, after we returned from a hurried trip to Chennai and Ooty, I opened the front door one afternoon and was scared out of my wits by a black and white furry ball that shot across my way on our porch. Who did I see?

The black n white kitten hiding behind the toy car! They took up temporary residence in our garage. Chakki had brought them back! Here they are hiding behind my scooter:

The kitties were completely wild and would never allow us anywhere near them. I cornered the B&W one once and only got clawed for my pains. I decided to let them alone until they grew accustomed to us if they could. And yes, service at Karthi Cat Spa continued...

They switched acco between our garage and our next-door neighbor's open terrace. Some time in May, the tan and white kitten went missing. But the B&W one made up for it. We named her "Aakrantha Kumari" (the greedy girl kitten) in honor of her insatiable appetite for milk. 

One day we offered Chakki a piece of fried fish. Aakrantha Kumari was on the neighbor's roof. Chakki started to eat the fish, then reconsidered it, picked up the piece of fish and carefully made her way into the neighboring yard while mewing softly with the fish in her mouth. We heard her daughter's frantic replies from our neighbor's roof as she waited to share the delicacy. Such motherly care!

Then two weeks ago, when we came back in the evening after a long day of weekend errands, we found Aakrantha Kumari on our porch. By that time, she had taken to coming in to Karthi from time to time under the strict supervision of her Mom, still not allowing us to touch her, but not running away from us so much either. She shared another bowl of milk with her Mom. Then she played under our car that had been parked in front. Ani came in from time to time to give us blow-by-blow reports of her antics under the car. 

Then as dusk was falling, I went out into our front yard and heard our neighbor call. I walked up to our boundary wall  and he said, "You know that lovely black and white kitten that plays with the kids? It was killed by a stray dog in our yard. The momma cat was so distraught and was crying over the body. I am just back from burying it." DH had come out to hear the last part and I had to tell him the whole thing, by which time the kids came to know about it too. And worse, Chakki herself came to us over the wall.

It was heart-breaking. Because she didn't seem to know what to do. She called for her kitten roaming all over our house. She followed DH distractedly when he went from room to room as though she was sure he was going to the kitten's hiding place. She had never taken her kittens to our second storey, but she went up the stairs anyway and wandered calling in the empty rooms up there. When we opened the front door, she went out. But then came back again through the bedroom window and searched under the window seat where she had given birth to her adorable twins. When we closed the windows, she sat on the sill outside and called.

We all grieved for that bundle of fun. We tried to be philosophical about it, but not very successfully. Two little kittens - alive for barely two or three months? The only consolation was that at least we knew what had happened to the second one, that we had fed her just an hour before she went away and that we had seen her minutes before when she was alive and well but had been spared the horrible end. 

Now all that is left of those kittens' lives are a few photos, a video of both of them playing under our coconut tree and our memories. I will post the video if I can, I downloaded it today to my computer and laughed and cried while watching it. And I had to write about them so that they will be safe somewhere in this cyber-world at least - always playing, tumbling over each other, pretending to be tigers!

Jun 18, 2014

Post Anniversary Thoughts...

In celebration of our twelfth wedding anniversary, let me share this excerpt from Eric Maisel's The Creativity Book

"What are the contours of a good intimate relationship? Every successful intimate relationship rests on the following twenty building blocks. Both partners commit to:
  1. The care of each other's solitude
  2. The maintenance of emotional security
  3. The maintenance  of meaning
  4. The maintenance of passion
  5. The creation of at least occasional happiness
  6. A gentle demanding of discipline from oneself and one's partner
  7. A gentle exchanging of truths
  8. An acceptance of the limits of the human
  9. A minimizing of one's own unwanted qualities
  10. The support of each other's career and creative life
  11. The maintenance of friendship
  12. A monitoring of moods in oneself and one's partner
  13. An acceptance of difficulties
  14. A commitment to one's role as ethical witness
  15. The management of one's own self, life, and journey
  16. Careful communicating
  17. A bringing of one's creativity to the partnership
  18. The maintenance of a present and a future orientation
  19. Fair treatment of oneself and one's partner
  20. The creation of a safe environment"
I understand most of the concepts, except for "one's role as ethical witness", but I certainly get the gist. And I would like to add a rule no. 21. Here it is:

 21. The maintenance of an incorruptible, unbreakable sense of humor

As for us, we are getting there, getting there... Though I think that even when we are in our dotage I might still occasionally adopt my screechy fishwife tones and DH will still go ballistic to the point of bulgy-eyeness. So much for gentleness! But there is no one else I would rather do this whole thing with and I think THAT is what really matters!!!

What do you think? And if anyone can make out what building block no. 14 means, please let me know! ;)

Jun 1, 2014

Movie Review: Bangalore Days

Wow, ever since a bad incident six years ago when I had to manhandle a guy who took advantage of releasing-weekend crowds, I had given up going to any movie's first few days' shows. Result: I missed some good movies like Anjali Menon's Manchadikkuru, Madhupal's Ozhimuri etc. and had to wait a long time to get the DVDs.

Bangalore Days, anyway, will not suffer the ignominious fate of being thrown out of movie theaters before a week is up. As we were all looking forward to Anjali Menon's latest, I decided to make an exception for my own rule. We caught the late show of the movie at the nearest theater on the day of its release! The crowd was huge for the late-night show, the theater was housefull.

The nothing-given-away plot summary: Kuttan (Nivin), Divya (Nazriya) and Arjun (Dulquer) are cousins who have been playmates since childhood. Arjun and Kuttan have made their way to Bangalore and when Divya is married to Das (Fahadh), all three cousins achieve their childhood ambition of settling in Bangalore, their dream city. But the cousins soon find that things are not as smooth in their dream city as they believed it would be...

It's difficult to give Bangalore Days a single adjective that will encompass the whole movie. We all laughed till our eyes were wet. Then we all cried till our smiles dawned once again. The movie has to be seen to be believed. The characters may have been seen before - we have all seen Kuttans, Arjuns, Saras (Parvathy),  Meenakshis (Isha Talwar) and even Michelles (nameless-to-me) - they are common enough. But it is the way in which they are blended together in a tapestry of love and hate that the movie becomes a thing of beauty, to be watched again and again, ad nauseam.

Although it is essentially a story of youngsters, the elders also play notable roles - be it Kuttan's mother (Kalpana, in a lovely humorous role she handles very well) who blossoms in unforeseen ways, Divya's hidebound parents (Maniyan Pillai Raju and Praveena) who decide that an astrologer's prediction is more important than their daughter's dreams or Natasha's (Nithya Menon) embittered parents played by Pratap Pothen and Vinaya Prasad and Sara's ambitious mother (Rekha) who wants only the best for her daughter. We have seen the likes of these characters as well - but not like this and we cannot but empathize with each of them.

The last time I went to Bangalore, I saw lots of traffic jams, construction of the metro going on everywhere and a general breakdown of infrastructure in several parts of the city. Which makes me wish I had gone with Sameer Thahir and Anjali Menon. Together they take the best of the city and make it appear a dream destination that everyone aspires to. The picturization of the final bike race has such a dreamlike quality that was calming and exhilarating at the same time.

The whole cast does an exemplary job. Fahad takes on a partly unsavory character and comes out brilliantly. Dulquer has us rooting for him all the way. Nazriya and Nivin handle their roles with consummate ease. Parvathy is a revelation - this girl has come a long way since her half-baked initial performances. 

A highlight of the movie was the incredible montage of childhood pics of the three central characters in the intro. It was enthralling, to say the least.

But the movie is causing me some deep disappointment: There is nothing to find fault with!!!!

Final verdict: Paisa vasool, time vasool, even lost-sleep vasool (and that's an encomium very, very few movies can hope to earn from me!) Go ahead and book your tickets, you won't regret it!!!

May 28, 2014

Movie Review: How Old Are You?

Ever since this event, we have known this would probably happen. At Karthi, we followed all the unfolding of events with an eagerness that even surpassed the interest in the formation of a new central government for the country.  Each bit of news was savored and shared. It hit the screens right after one record landslide win was announced. For the sake of one person alone, we hoped that the same would happen for this movie too...

It was hard to hold on to our maxim of "Never go for a movie in the opening weekend" this time.  But we did it and went to see the movie at the first opportunity last Sunday.

No actor could have asked for a better comeback vehicle. The first movie that was announced for Manju was one by director Ranjith and for old times' sake, it was pretty disappointing to have it come to naught due to story problems. But proving the extremely cliched but true adage that "Everything happens for the best," Rosshan Andrews' How Old Are You has happened.

Manju Warrier comes to life as Nirupama, a UDC clerk who somewhat all of a sudden becomes aware that the society thinks that she is past her prime. And she is, as she says, "Just 36." Certain factors clash and combine to make her feel unwanted, undesirable and a butt of jokes. Her saving grace comes when she is reminded of what she once was and how people still have that resplendent image of her. Whether Nirupama can recapture that old essence of herself is what the movie is all about.

Writers Sanjay and Bobby have concocted a gold mine of a script this time - especially because it will resonate with most around-40-year-olds regardless of gender. I think all people who are immersed in their respective callings and harried lives take a moment to stop and reconsider what they are doing in life around 35-40 years of age. In fact, it was my 35th birthday that provided me with the impetus to start this blog four years ago. Well, this movie will certainly sound the clarion call for those who are still sleeping and are unaware of their true selves!

Okay, okay there are other people in the movie too! Kunchacko Boban essays a slightly negative role as Nirupama's selfish and manipulative husband - does well too. Amritha Anil plays the brilliant 13-year-old daughter who is at once Nirupama's nemesis and salvation. Since the audience will become haplessly involved with Nirupama, it will be easy to overlook the character of her daughter who is a heroine in herself.  All the rest of the cast provide wonderful support for the central characters.  Starting from Kalaranjini who plays a spaced-out mother-in-law to Nirupama (and has dubbed for herself for the first time after her vocal cords were damaged) to the lovably hypocritical Thesni Khan all play memorable characters.

Sameera Saneesh is surely gonna have ladies thronging shops asking for wide-bordered "How Old Are You" saris. This is one movie costume designer who delivers with every movie that she does. 

Okay, untangling myself from the gorgeous saris, let me deliver the final verdict:

PLEASE go and watch this movie before you are a day older!!!

May 6, 2014

Movie Reviews: 7th Day and Ring Master

Aaaah, it feels so good to be back. I find that when we have a tour planned way ahead of time, my routine life just goes into suspended animation. I don't feel settled enough to pursue any of my regular activities and am always thinking, planning, packing and this becomes worse in the week preceding the actual trip. Besides there is DH who wants to explore all avenues of possible things to do and asking me to research the same. I have to use all my power just to restrain his enthusiasm or he would have us return from the trip all fagged out! 

But yes, we managed to watch two movies the weekend before we traveled. One was purely for the kids; you guessed it:  Ring Master. Dileep's latest should be taken only in that spirit so that you can avoid having any high expectations. We had a bunch of our neighbors' kids too in our entourage and they had a good time. There are any number of reviews online that say that the actor has used this movie to get back at his estranged wife. Please be advised that it is ONLY a marketing stunt to attract more people to this movie. 

7th Day: Kudos to Prithviraj for choosing to back this debutante director's movie. Syamdhar shows promise as a director. Akhil Paul's screenplay has some lacunae, but is still strong. There is an emphasis on slow motion sequences and extremely controlled dialogue delivery with punch lines popping up everywhere. But aside from all that, it has a very good thriller feel although I did predict the climax 10 minutes before it happened. Sujith Vaassudev (boy, is he into numerology or what) does excellently well with a camera - turning even a morgue into a wonderful piece of cinematic scenery. Tovino Thomas gets another good role, Vinay Fort, Anu Mohan, Janani Iyer - all pass muster. Definitely good for one watch.