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Goodbye Christmas Carnivals Website! May 31, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Christmas, Internet, portals, Review, websites , add a comment

Way back in 1999, I was not taken seriously on my attempts to develop a Christmas site. What does a “Sardar” (Sikh) know about Christmas, and what are his credentials. Of course I knew just a little better than nothing about Christmas and had never been to a Church except as a tourist, so I had no credentials, per se.  I knew something about sites, and that got me going. Nine years of profitable ownership later, http://www.christmascarnivals.com is sold. Sold to Side Show Ventures, I am sure Jimmy Sutton  would be a far better owner-manager to my absentee landlord approach. 

Jim, congratulations on your acquiring Christmas Carnivals, it is a good site which offers lot of information on Christmas. It has been very close to my heart , and I would add a lot about the site to this post in next few days.

Let us have a farewell Q & A.

Q: What was the need to design and develop  a website for Christmas? 

A: I don’t need to develop websites, and surely not for a living. To me developing a website is picking up a canvas and letting it known as a painting. On a more serious note, way back in 1999 there were many sites on Christmas, but there was a need for the site on Christmas. Christmas Carnivals was developed to cover that niche. Christmas Carnivals was also developed as a spoke, to the hub and spoke model of  http://www.dgreetings.com. DGreetings, at that time had no significant section on Christmas and Christmas Carnivals acted as a spoke. It was you scratch my back, I scratch yours.  Having said that, Christmas Carnivals is very close to my heart, and would remain so. Every year, the site had a new look and a new treatment, we kept on changing the site

 More to come…

 

Book Expo America 2008 L.A. – A Review May 30, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Books, Review, Uncategorized , add a comment

There are authors, there are books, and then there is me. I must be the third most seen and noticed in this largely “white American” show.  So what is this turban doing amongst all this? MapXL Inc, the holding arm of Compare infobase for mapping business in the US decided to participate in this Book Expo; Mani felt that my being “Local” could be of “help.” I would wait for the verdict.

I drove south from San Jose on I-5 and covered the distance in 6 hours with three breaks. The journey was fine, and the Garmin Nuvi knew where I had to go, exactly.

  1. Pre arrangements and communications – 9/10
  2. Official hotel selection – 9/10
  3. Website: 9/10
  4. Shuttle service to the venue 10/10
  5. Information in rooms: 0/10
  6. Exhibition venue and guidance: 6/10 – technlogy is absent, signage is inadequate, the exhibition – it looks like hasn’t grown.
  7. Cooling: 8/10, Could have been a bit cooler
  8. Particpants :10/10 you name it and the publisher is there
  9. Authors: 9/10 Very Good book signing activity
  10. Walking area: 9/10 Plenty
  11. Food: 9/10 Plenty
  12. Restrooms: 4/10 -No good

After checking with a few regulars, I conclude there is a significant recession rub-off. High gas prices have also contributed in lesser footfalls.

I am glad we had prefixed appointments before coming here.

 

Coffee Company – Pleasanton, CA May 28, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Coffee, Food, Review , add a comment

Thank you GPS. I was driving back from Sacramento to San Jose with Mini and Mishti and we needed to go to restroom and some coffee. I didn’t want to go to Starbucks. All Food option on my GPS had the first listing as Coffee Co., my first thought was maybe Starbucks has not paid to Garmin for branding so they have just mentioned as Coffee Company, I was wrong. This is not Starbucks and it is Coffee Company, which serves Coffee with coffee. LoL.

Where? Coffee Company, 5424 Sunol Blvd. #7, Pleasanton, CA. (925) 462 5567

What we had? House Blend, Coffee with Coffee, Caffe Latte – House Blend, Apple Juice (bought out product),  Blueberry Bran and Walnut Banana Cake

How was it? Great, Fabulous, Outstanding

Ambiance & Decor: Has a distinct feel and the soul of the shop reflects. Place to go for a leisurely cup of coffee with your loved ones.

When to go? When you want coffee and not Starbucks.Cakes were good, you actually eat the cake and not the sugar… LoL..

Service: Very personalized and very warm. You just don’t want to leave.

 

Fresh: Absolutely fresh coffee and freshly baked cakes/ muffins.

Do we recommend? Yes. You must go if you are in Pleasanton and what you need is a cup of coffee.

When not to go?  If In hurry, this place may not work well. If you want a process based, factory experience of having Coffee, this would not work  atall.

Recommended for: Those who want to have a leisurely cup of coffee over a chat.

More to come…

 

Indian Restaurants in Bay Area May 25, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , add a comment

Today Mini & seltf invited our fiends over for a Dinner. It was tough to choose from the seven eating places which are always talked about – Rajjot, Amber, Shagun, Dasaprakash, Tandoori Oven, Sarvana Bhawan and Udipi. My selection process worked like this:

Rajjot – Great food, but you just can’t take anyone there, it remains the most famous hole in a wall.

Amber – Continues to be the best brand for Indian food, with nothing authentic Indian about it – American Indian is the closest you can put it.

Shagun – Great ambiance, unpredictable food quality – too risky.

Sarvana Bhawan – I’ve not been there but drilling down revealed major service time issues.

Udipi – Becomes too noisy, doesn’t represent India in true light.

Tandoori Oven – No table orders, place order at the counter takes formal dinning pleasure away.

Dasaprakash – Best choice scenario. By course serving would have been a better format, but they are not staffed adequately for that so they get everything together.

Thanks Romit for introducing me to Dasaprakash and encouraging me to try them even on a weekend. Dasaprakash I conclude, is the best case scenario despite the fact that it has no drinks and no meat. 

More to come…

Retirement Planning For Your Future Years May 23, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Retirement Planning, Review , 1 comment so far

How should one react when someone who is in his early forties boisterously announces his retirement from the “rat race?”

 

How should one react when at forty he predicts his early retirement would ensure that he lives beyond 120 years – giving him 80 years of future life to live and enjoy?

 

This got me thinking towards what my retirement plans were and honest to goodness answer was – Nothing. I haven’t had the mind space to think about it at all. To me, retirement planning comes as a very different animal when compared to investment planning and planning your kids’ future. To me, it is preparing yourself for the sunset days.

 

I called back my friend after a week to educate myself. Here is the question and answer session which lasted for over two hours:

 

Dialogue between Me & My Friend:

 

Me: Do you think you have reached the correct retirement age or is it a knee jerk reaction to the miseries at work?

 

My Friend: It is a reaction to miseries of life, my life. For eighteen years I have lived only for someone else. Retiring early gives me reasons to live for myself too. As far as the correct retirement age is concerned – I know it has arrived for me. However, I don’t know if it is the same for you. I think my two hours would translate to more monetary benefits than my nine to never ending job did.

 

Me: Are you confident that you will be able to maintain and grow your living standard post retirement?

 

My Friend: I never lacked confidence but I always had it at stake. Today, my confidence is a free bird. To me it is important to have the confidence that I will enjoy my sunset years and live it to the fullest. Because enjoying a second life is a big challenge in itself to many of our peer group. Living standard and life style are very subjective and geography dependent. So, I have defined their boundaries and set my own living standards.

 

Me: Would your investments be able to provide hedge against exceptional inflation and money market crisis? Your fortune may be wiped out due to unforeseen circumstances, you don’t have hundreds of millions, your savings as per you are are modest, how’s your `what if analysis’? What all does it budget for?

 

My Friend: The word unforeseen is self explanatory, yes you are right exceptional money market crisis and inflation may threaten my existence, however they would threaten it either way whether I am working or not. I would have mind-space when that happens and my being retired would surely give me a better window to correct things and my reaction would be faster than those who would be in midst of the crisis.I have done some what of geographic hedging, some currency hedging and some investment in bullion and real estate. Yes, it is a conscious hedging, things may go wrong still, and I know that.  

 

 

Me: What do you think are the options for your future years? Would you really be able to relax and keep yourself busy?

 

My Friend: I am not throwing away my organized living habits, I am just rejigging my priorities. My options are mixed bag of personal/ social and commercial activities. From 80% commercial life, I am down to 20% commercial. I have time for my dentist sessions and my ophthalmologist. I can actually spend twenty minutes on my much needed eye exercises. Less stress has improved my driving, bringing down the probability of any serious accident. For the first time I have time to spend on causes which have always been close to me, I am glad, I am actually going beyond the lip service.

 

Me: You know, our company has been working with a very `young’ man who drives fast red cars, his project is all about retirement and beyond, http://www.futureyears.com is coming up as the most challenging project. Being there done that always adds a new dimension to the project, Jim Sutton is doing exactly that with Future Years. Jim has had a great first life and now is working for an equally exciting second life. I must also check with him his personal views about life after retirement.

 

My Friend: Yes, that would be exciting to know.

 

My Friend: What all does FutureYears.com cover and which geography does it address too.

 

Me: As per Karin, Jim’s partner in this venture, Future Years covers all that you  need to know to enjoy your golden years. If I recall correctly, Future Years covers travel; health; finances; insurance; conducive and healthy locales to retire too and a whole lot of other things. I am told, Wikipedia.org also has a rich section on retirement planning.

 

My friend: What about careers and post retirement job information on the internet. 

 

Me: There should be a lot of information on the internet, in specific, I am sure  about http://www.futureyears.com - the site has quite a few sections dedicated  to post retirement career options, if only you wish so. LoL. On a lighter side, I remember a section on active travel and cruises.

 

This session with my friend, and subsequent discussions with Jim & Karin  convinced me that it is never too early to plan for your retirement. Your future is secure the day you start doing retirement planning, so that way, sooner the better.

 

 

Fujiya Chinese and Japanese Restaurant – Review May 20, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review, Uncategorized , add a comment

February 26,  1985 was my first time at Fujiya and yesterday was the last.

Date: May 19, 2008

Time: 8:45 pm to 10:20 pm

City: New Delhi

Address: Community Centre, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri

Country: India

Restaurant: Fujiya Chinese & Japanese

Occasion: Invite from a cousin

Location: Next to Carmel Convent School, Malcha Marg, New Delhi 110026

Drinks: Coke – No Issues; Fresh Lime Soda – You just can’t make it better.

Format – Comfortable sitting, table service.

Starters: Golden Fried Jumbo Prawns – Their Jumbos are really Jumbos, served four pieces, thy are just superb; Chicken Drum Sticks – 8 pieces 2 kids, nothing left, one didn’t have to tell the kids to clean the bones, all done all set; Button Mushrooms – very good. Dry Chili Chicken – They don’t have it as menu item in starters, but they provide on request – very good.

Main Course: Veg Hakka Noodles – They are Chinese and not Punjabi in taste; American Chopsuey – It is crispy with right portion of vegetables and sauce which doesn’t make it soggy till very end. Portions are good; Whole Red Snapper – Red Snapper is one of my favorites and the way serve with thick gravy and vegetables, it is just awesome.

Water: Buying bottled water recommended, they have Catch Brand, which is among the best.

Locational Access: Very good.

Parking: Ample parking available bang outside the door, lunch time parking could be tough.

Ambiance: Simple and functional.

Interior: Just fine for this price range, could be better.

Tables: Functional, Clean hot plates.

Cooling: Excellent

Acoustics:  Very good acoustics, doesn’t become noisy. 

Staff Attitude: Caring and excellent to regulars.

Service: Quick and courteous.

Washroom: Not up-to the mark, but clean nevertheless.

Rates: About Rs 600.00/ $15 per-head. 

Why Go: Food, Reputation, Rates, Central Delhi Location, Authentic

Why Think Twice: Interiors

Barbeque Nation Restaurant – A Review May 18, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Barbecue, City, Food, Review , 5comments

Date: May 18, 2008

Time: 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm

City: New Delhi (Janak Puri Outlet)

Address: B-1/ 623 Janakpuri, (Near District Center)

Country: India

Restaurant: Barbeque Nation; Owners: Barbeque Nation Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

Occasion: Sunday evening Family Dinner

Location: Bang opposite District Center Janakpuri on Shivaji Marg/ Najafgarh Road.

Map: http://www.mapsofindia.com/delhi/block-b-jankpuri.html

Drinks: Masala Cola – No issues ; Pistachio Twirl – No issues

Format – One Price buffet spread, no drinks included. Barbecue on the table.

Starters: 5 Veg and 5 Non Veg Starters – Served on the table – Directly to plates or on skewers kept on Charcoal Grill placed in the hollow center of the table:

Vegetarian Starters: Hara Seekh Kabab - totally avoidable; Mushrooms on skewers – OK; Thai Grilled Vegetables – very good; Uncut Sauteed Potatoes on skewers - very good;  Paneer Tikka - trash, poor quality of Cottage Cheese followed up with extremely poor marination. 

Non Vegetarian Starters: Chicken Kabab on skewers – OK; Mutton Seekh Kabab – all chilli no taste; Chicken Boneless tandori – Good; Fish Fry – very good; Prawns on skewers- very good.

Salads: Standard unexciting spread with an exception of Corn Salad. 

Main Course Buffet (Non Veg Menu) Spread: Standard Upper Middle Class North Indian Shaadi Spread, looks like a roll call. 1 chicken dish (Chicken Tikka Masala) – Good; Mutton Biryani – Good; 1 mutton dish (Rogan Josh) – Good, 1 fish (Lemon Sauce) – Rubbish and hopeless and above all it was stale and real bad – had to be vomited out instantly and still live with chances of food poisoning for several hours. 

Main Course Buffet (Vegetarian Menu) Spread: Dum Daal – Regular OK; Veg Manchurian – OK; Paneer Dish – Horrible, they have a problem with their quality of Paneer; Mushroom dish – Good. Veg Biryani – Very Good; Roti & Naan – Good.

Deserts: Fresh Fruits – OK, Gulab Jamun – good; Ice cream with sauces very good.

Water: Kinley bottled water served as part of the buffet.

Locational Access: Very good.

Parking: Valet support.

Ambiance: Very good.

Interior: Excellent for this price range.

Tables: Very Good, Plates need to be wiped once brought on the table.

Cooling: Not correct tonnage. Becomes too hot, with live grill.

Acoustics & Music: Acoustics bad, becomes very noisy, Music could be far better. 

Staff Attitude: Indifferent

Service: Very Fast but totally Unpersonalized

Washroom: Insufficient numbers and not very clean

Rates: Reasonable (at 500 + drinks in May 2008 )

Why Go: Ambiance; Location; Concept; Starters

Why Think Twice: Main Course unexciting menu; Indifferent staff and unpersonalized service; Process flawed – stale fish landed on the table, I noticed – Fish was withdrawn from the buffet for rest of our stay. Thank God.

More to come…

 

Amritsar – Sifti Da Ghar May 16, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : City, Food, Golden Temple, Review , 8comments

Yesterday was a good day for me, a visit to Sri Harmandir Sahib – http://www.goldentempleimages.com always does good to me, it recharges me. As it was Sangrand, beginning of the month, even at 3:00 pm there were lots of  us for our own individual reasons.

Amritsar Airport was recently renovated you can smell it, but wait, there’s another smell and more visible changes happening. The new terminal is being demolished. A heritage oriented structure is being changed over to a swanky Iron & Glass House.  They could have retained this and made another, it would have been best. Why bring it down, and so quickly?

Ambarsar, as the locals call it, is known for Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is also known for being a foodies delight. Kundan, Kaiser, Gyan, Kanhiya, Bansal, Lubhaya are all legends. Papar and warian, a whole bazaar exists and they would gladly make you eat the raw Papar to understand how the cooked would taste. I try my level best to go to Gyan on my every visit, located at Chok Regent Cinema, Gyan to me is the finest Barfi you can have in the world, and why his lassi tastes the way it does remains a tasty mistry.

Amritsar is the city most visited by me and I am seeing the city change, the change is of course making the city yet another city of India, Amritsar is loosing its distinct character. None of the folklore lush green fields welcome you the minute you step out of the airport, it is the concrete, either done up or under construction.

The wikipedia link offers lots of information on Amritsar, but the soul of the city is missing, the information is more like 10 pages read one page written: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amritsar

So here is an attempt to define/ explain the statement which is as old as Sikhism:

Q: What is the meaning of Amritsar – Sifti Da Ghar?

A: To understand it fully we must reword the sentence – Amrutsar – Sifti Da Ghar, Amrut + Sar, (as per local fokelore first hand from generational chain) Amrut (Amrit) is used here to mean Pure, Pious, Water, Nectar and Medicinal and Sar means – Sarovar or a Pond or a Pool. A rough cut  meaning of Amritsar is a “The pool of pure, clean, pious and medicinal water”. Sifti as per them stands for Adorable, Appreciation and Praise. Da of course means “is” here, and Ghar means home which is an abode.  So Amritsar – Sifti Da Ghar means – ” The adorable  abode of the Pool with pure, pious and medicinal water”.

The city of Amritsar (also referred as ASR) gets its name from the Amrut Sarovar. The Amrut Sarovar’s digging on a lot of land which had a pond with medicinal values was initiated by the Fourth Guru Ram Das. The generational chain referred to earlier also substantiates that Guru Ram das initiated the same as per wishes of the third Guru, Guru Amar Das Ji. The sarovar per se is now popularly referred to as Ram Das Sarovar. Some devotees also refer to Amritsar as Amarsar, substituting Amrit for Amar, first name of the Third Guru.

If anyone disagrees with the above interpretation, I pray with my folded hands for a submission of your revered view, and may Wahe Guru “Bhulaan Chukaan Muaf Karnian” (Forgive me for my forgetfulness and mistakes).

More to come…

Eternal Gifting April 28, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Review , add a comment

On my respected Mother’s first death anniversary the thought came to my mind, what would I give to my Mother four months down the lane and what would she give me as a return gift. She always gave one and I knew she would this time too.

When she had passed away, we had created a Foundation in her memory G.K.Saberwal Foundation, I thought let the foundation be the medium of this Mother to Son communication.

A project was born. Project, to do a Coffee Table Book on Sri Harmandir Sahib – The Golden Temple. Realizing that I would have no time window to pursue the thought, Compare Infobase was formally commissioned to do the project for the Foundation. Compare did a great job, but I had no window to spend hours over the manuscript and get it out on time, I was not too happy for it to come as a book in the form it was, and I was very sad that the project would be a no go. 

I left for San Jose amidst this uncertainty. Unlike last seven years this Baisakhi I couldn’t go to Darbar Sahib, sitting cutting receipts in the San Jose Gurdwara Sahib on the Baisakhi day with a beautiful photograph of Sri Harmandir Sahib looking at me a website was born.

Eight days later http://GoldenTempleImages.com was my Mother’s eternal gift. A Look at the site and I could feel  that there was no other way a son could have given a gift to his late Mother and the Mother could have given a return gift. Divine was the word. Serene was the word. Sri Harmandir Sahib’s abode on Internet, in the form in which it has come is a Collaborative Effort of Akal Purukh and its blessed ones. My thanks to the Compare Infobase team for picthing in and changing the course of the project. The Foundation with its folded hands  thanks everone for those extra miles.

 

 

Tandoori Oven – North Indian Food Restaurant, San Jose, Quick Review January 19, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , 1 comment so far

What is in a name? To me Tandoori Oven as a name of an Indian restaurant in California sounds very Californian. It’s Hybrid and people just like that. (Tandoor means oven, tandoori connotes food cooked in an oven)

So here we go:

Where: The Tandoori Oven

150 South First Street, San Jose (1) 408 392 7222

Format: Fast Food/ Counter Order Table Service 6/10

Location: Downtown San Jose - 9/10

Parking: Abundant around the area – 9/10

Menu: They got the India Map wrong…. For them the region of Punjab is on the banks of River Ganges. May God bless them, if you really care to know look at http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/india/india-political-map.htm 

Menu Rating 0/10 for getting the region wrong and 6/10 for the menu choices and options.

Ambiance -  Could be better, some Punjabi Music could have helped. 7/10,

Chicken Tikka Masala – 8/10 This is one dish which is so non Punjabi but finds itself on every menu. My friend (Mother Indian/ Father White American) really liked it, he just polished it off 8/10

Samosas – They came with Safed Channa (I prefer to call them Safed Channa and not Chitey Cholley bcause the were made in tipical (non Punjabi) UP style, though the beans were of-course closest to chitey cholley – garbanzo), portion was small, Samosas could have been slightly bigger as they are not exactly finger food, and they taste better when they are stuffed more and crust is slightly more crunchy. But they were OK. Rating 7/10

Chicken Biriyani – Portion was unending, it tasted good, good enough for my Bengali colleague who was here for the second time in one month. Rating 8/10

Karai Shrimp – I make it better, far better. The gravy was not for Shrimps. Conventional Punjabi food has nothing to do with Shrimps though but we all love our Punjabi Prawn/ Shrimp curries. Tomatto was less, Masalas were just about OK. There was no Khada Masala, as in most of the Kadai dishes, it was strangly similar to Chicken Tikka Masala Gravy.  Shrimps & Gravy were talking two absolutely different languages. It tasted fine though. I rate it 4/10, if it was called Shrimp Curry, I would have rated it 7/10

Plain Naan – You just can’t make them any better 10/10 

Basmati Rice – The rice was cooked well, but quality was not the finest. It was more of Basmati Tukda (Pieces). 7/10

Raita:  Hopeless – They just don’t know how to make it. Curd was bad, the so called homemade yogurt didn’t look like one. Masala’s were dis-proportioned.  It could be a good Dip, but Raita  – no way. 0/10

Allo Matter(Vegetable of the day)  - Just OK.  5/10

Cucumber Salad – Just OK 5/10 – I thought it would be salaad, the Punjabi version of Salad, which it was not.

Why Go? Only Indian Joint in downtown San Jose. Better than Amber, few miles away. Reasonably OK food. Not too bad prices.

Why not go? You can call it North Indian, but as they position it as Punjabi, you would be disappointed though. Food of Rajjot is far better than Tandoori Oven but Rajjot’s ambiance is zero, Amber’s food is horrible when compared to Tandoori Oven but ambiance is far better.

My 2 cents: Go grab, it looks like the best package deal in bay area for north Indian food.