Wednesday, February 25, 2009

143.5 Centimeters of Love

"I apologize for not being as direct as the two previous speakers, but I nevertheless have something to say. I went to a train station today and learned that the distance between railway tracks is always 143.5 centimeters, or 4 feet 8.5 inches. Why this absurd measurement? I asked my girlfriend to find out and this is what she discovered. When they built the first train carriages, they used the same tools as they had for building horse-drawn carriages. And why that distance between the wheels on carriages? Because that was the width of the old roads along which the carriages had to travel. And who decided that roads should be that width? Well, suddenly, we are plunged back into the distant past. It was the Romans, the first great road builders, who decided to make their roads that width. And why? Because their war chariots were pulled by two horses, and when placed side by side, the horses they used at the time took up 143.5 centimeters.

"So the distance between the tracks I saw today, used by our state-of-the-art high-speed trains, was determined by the Romans. When people went to the United States and started building railways there, it didn't occur to them to change the width and so it stayed as it was. This even affected the building of space shuttles. American engineers thought the fuel tanks should be wider, but the tanks were built in Utah and had to be transported by train to the Space Center in Florida, and the tunnels couldn't take anything wider. And so they had to accept the measurement that the Romans had decided was the ideal. But what has all this to do with marriage?"

I paused. Some people were not in the slightest bit interested in railway tracks and had started talking among themselves. Others were listening attentively, among them Marie and Mikhail.

"It has everything to do with marriage and with the two stories we have just heard. At some point in history, someone turned up and said: When two people get married, they must stay frozen like that for the rest of their lives. You will move along side by side like two tracks, keeping always that same distance apart. Even if sometimes one of you needs to be a little farther away or a little closer, that is against the rules. The rules say: Be sensible, think of the future, think of your children. You can't change, you must be like two railway tracks that remain the same distance apart all the way from their point of departure to their destination. The rules don't allow for love to change, or to grow at the start and diminish halfway through - it's too dangerous. And so, after the enthusiasm of the first few years, they maintain the same distance, the same solidity, the same functional nature. your purpose is to allow the train bearing the survival of the species to head off into the future: your children will only be happy if you stay just as you were - 143.5 centimeters apart. If you're not happy with something that never changes, think of them, think of the children you brought into the world.

"Think of your neighbors. Show them that you're happy, eat roast beef on Sundays, watch television, help the community. Think of society. Dress in such a way that everyone knows you're in perfect harmony. Never glance to the side, someone might be watching you, and that could bring temptation; it could mean divorce, crisis, depression.

"Smile in all the photos. Put the photos in the living room, so that everyone can see them. Cut the grass, practice a sport - oh, yes, you must practice a sport in order to stay frozen in time. When sport isn't enough, have plastic surgery. But never forget, these rules were established long ago and must be respected. Who established these rules? That doesn't matter. Don't question them, because they will always apply, even if you don't agree with them."

- The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fresh Pomegranate Juice!

Fresh pomegranate juice! I got to taste it when I was in Bangalore last month. I have to tell you the fresh pom juice kicks the packed stuff you get here in the US many times over. I don't know if it was the freshness of the juice or the variety of fruit used to make it, I was just bowled over by the taste. It was brimming with fresh sweetness compared to the stale tartness you get in packed pom juice in the US.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tourist Spots around Bengaluru

This spreadsheet is so awesome, I just had to share with my readers. Visitors and residents of Bangalore city will find it very useful. It lists all the tourist spots and places of interest, from 50 kilometers to 580 kilometers from Bangalore. It shows the distance of the spot, what type of place it is, what facilities are available there, where is the closest petrol bunk (gas station in Americanese), best times to visit and number of days needed to see the place. Totally awesome.

Here's the link: Tourist Spots Around Bengaluru

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Google Contacts - Merge & Search

If you are a frequent Gmail user, you should check out the 'merge' option in your Google Contacts. Most people we communicate with have more than one email address. Due to the way Gmail adds every email ID you write to its address book (Contacts), you might have more than one entry in Contacts for many people. Now you can select multiple entries belonging to the same person and merge them together in Google Contacts to create one neat address book entry, without losing any information. Give it a try. I was able to remove almost a 100 duplicate entries from my list.

Google contacts has also vastly improved its search feature. Just type in any letters or numbers in the search bar, and it will search every field of your address book for those. So now, you can search your address book by name, email address, mailing address, phone number, instant messenger ID, etc.