Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Bird Bath 2

All the deluge we have had in the month of August, coupled with the fact that we had been putting off fixing our gutters and downspout could lead only to one thing. And it did -- a watery basement. This forced us putter-off-er of things to actually get down and dirty and de-clutter the basement (well almost completely) and fix the gutters. Needless to say the de-cluttering part was not necessarily pretty stuff. But, in rummaging through the dusty, musty, cobwebby innards of the basement, I did find something interesting.
Aha! Another dish antenna
Naturally, I decided to put this to good use as well and build another dish antenna bird bath. But this one is a bit different from the previous one, in that it has no holes on the side. So, this will have to be fixed onto a rod or something of the kind.
Anyway, I decided to remove the arm of the dish antenna.

underside of the dish antenna

After the arm was removed

Now it's able to sit level -- almost level
I don't plan on just painting this and calling it quits. I am planning on sitting this on a log on the ground. Like this:
Log stand for the dish antenna

Sawing bits of the log off, or burying it unevenly should make the dish level with the horizontal. Only thing remaining is to make it heavy enough so it wont fly off in the wind. I am planning on mosaicking the dish to add weight and some interest.

A few years ago, during a bad thunderstorm, our Dufus broke my umbrella stand.  I patched it up several times and he broke it once more than several times. Finally, I put it out on the deck in the hopes of working on it someday. I think it's day is finally here. I will be using this broken umbrella stand as a source for the tiles.

Considering that it has managed to stand the outdoors for this many years, it should be ok to be used as tiles for my birdbath.

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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Ohh!! Tum se Achha Kaun Tha? ( Oh who was better than you)

He was famous for his impossible dancing. It was amazing how much he could bend and twist and gyrate to Mohammad Rafi's mellifluous voice. He was perhaps not the best of actors, but he was true gold. In an age where most heros were so full of self-importance, he was, as far as I can remember, the only one that did not take himself so seriously. Just looking at him always brought a smile to my face.

Shammi Kapoor was a such a phenomenon that when he died on August 14th, 2011, even some non-Indian media covered it:'%20rel='nofollow

Here are some of my favourite songs starring Shammi Kapoor.
This one just showcases his ability to be ridiculous and contort himself into impossible pretzels!

This one was surprisingly intense.

 Nothing to beat the Shammi-Rafi combo, me thinks!
 So, I bid you farewell, Shammi, and say "Ohhh!! Tumse Achha, Kaun tha?"

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Mutant Pumpkin No. 1 is Getting There

The first pumpkin for this year's Halloween is taking shape. This was just going to be a skeleton face pumpkin, but evolved into something else altogether. I used the garbage bag method of Scott Stoll at to make the basic pumpkin shell.

Although I made the shell way back in December, I had to shelve the project because of work, life and other distractions. The pumpkin got mad in the process and starte to turn into a monster.

Another view

It's so mad, it's even sprouted extra legs! Eek!
And some awful teeth!
But our very own Samiyaar, is completely unafraid of this creature.
Samiyaar to mutant pumpkin: Helloooo? Love your fangs!

Now we just have to wait and see what this pumpkin turns into.

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Friday, 12 August 2011

Dishing it out to the birds

Several years ago, the dish antenna guy replaced our antenna and was about to discard the old dish. DH, knowing fully well how I like to re-use almost everything, decided to save it for me. I turned it into a bird-bath. Really doesn't take much time at all:

What you need:
1.  1 Dish, of the antenna kind!
2.  1 can of paint of your favorite color. I picked yellow, because I wanted the birds to be attracted to this thing.
3. 36 2" binder rings.
4. soap and water and a sand paper.
5. Some sturdy rope.


Remove the "arm" of the dish antenna by removing the nuts attaching it to the dish.
Discarded arm of dish antenna

Put back the nuts, so that there are no holes in the dish.
Scrub the dish clean with soap and water.
Sand it down a bit and let it dry.
Spray paint and wait for it to dry.
Make four chains using eight binder rings each by interlocking them.
interlocked binder ring chains

Look for the holes on the side of the dish antenna -- there are four of them.
Attach one binder ring chain to each of these, by hooking it through these holes.
 Join the four chains together with the remainder (4 of them) binder rings so that it looks like the pics below.

you can see the nuts that held the arm of the dish in this pic

Now all you need is a sturdy rope or chain to hook through the top-most link in the chain and then hang it using that on a sturdy tree limb.

You can also make rain chains using the same interlocking binder ring method and hang it from the tree limb to direct more water into the bath.

Alternately, you could dig a hole and stick a wooden post in it, then attach a sturdy plant hook to the top of the post and hang this thing from that.

Or, you could simply find a log and put the painted dish on top of it.  You may have to screw it down into the log so that it does not fly away in bad weather.

Keep it near a bird feeder and you should have some traffic.

If I get a chance, I might even paint some pretty hibiscus looking flowers on the dish.

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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

There is Yoga and then there is Bikram Yoga

Starting in my 5th grade, we had a regular yoga period in our school which was devoted to learning both the theory and practice of yoga. Our teacher, who we affectionately called Yogi, was excellent. I am still reaping the benefits of the training I received back then in Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga really is a holistic discipline that has to do with more than just asanas. For a brief introdution to Ashtanga Yoga go here.

For someone trained in that discipline, it is a bit difficult to come to terms with most other forms of yoga prevalent today. In fact, the very term yoga today is used to denote only one branch of yoga -the branch that deals with better strength and flexibility. Basiaclly, just the asana bit of the 8-part discipline that is yoga. In Ashtanga Yoga every asana is held for at least a minute and you push yourself, just to the point where you are at the limit of your comfort. Slowly, you find yourself getting stronger and stronger and more flexible. Most importantly, you truly learn to listen to your body and in his words "still your mind". This, I found, was extremely useful to me when I took up strength training. It allows me to bring a focus that I find is extremely essential to make sure that you never lose form when you are lifting -- even if it means that you don't lift impressive amounts of weight.

Here is a video of some ashtanga yoga poses. This is how it was taught to us when we were kids. Slow and steady, working in installments until we finally got to the final stage of every asana. Every asana had a complementary asana that immediately followed it in order to make sure that you "worked out" the opposite set of muscles. For example, sarvangasan was followed by matsyasan. But most important of all, there was no pressure. No need to top the class. No competition. He managed to get permission for a bunch of us who were very interested in learning more, to skip morning assembly everyday to learn advanced asanas, pranayama, kriyas and meditation. At the ripe old age of 10, I found I needed the meditation to get rid of my stress! Don't ask! Such was life as a school kid for me. In my teens I had already developed lower back stiffness and pain. He made a specific list of asanas for me. He did this for everyone who needed something addressed. One kid had what we used to call "soda buddi kannadi" (really thick glasses for short sightedness). In an year or so of trataka and specifically designed kriyas and asanas, the kid went from wearing those glasses to almost plain glass thickness.

My gym holds some yoga classes, but they are not nearly as satisfying as having spent the morning assembly hour with our Yogi. Most of these classes can sort of be classified as vinyasa yoga, where you are constantly moving. This was such a constrast to the atmosphere of my childhood yoga classes where the Yogi first demonstrated the asana and then guided you step by step to the final stage without so much talking! One of the most important thing in ashtanga yoga is something that sounds so deceptively simple: to relax all muscles other than the ones you are working. Sounds easy, but it really is not. It requires complete concentration and some time to get there. In fact, by experience I found that unless I meditated in every asana, I was unable to stop thinking about the discomfort in my body and therefore unable to really relax my other muscles. Truly a mind-matter exercise. In contrast, vinyasa yoga never really gets that far mentally, for me.

Last weekend I tried Bikram Yoga for the first time ever. All I knew about this was that it was yoga done in a warm environment. Wrong! It is asanas done in a hot environment. 104F (40C) hot! Uncomfortably hot. An environment where your heart rate shoots up so high that you feel like your heart is about to rip out of your chest wall and shoot out to the front of the class. And the sweat! Oh the sweat! Now I have experience with cardio workouts where I have felt exactly like I described here and lived to realize that such a thing as your heart ripping out of your chest cavity is unlikely to happen. Even in these cases, I have never sweated as much as I did in this class. That presented a problem. Sweating at that rate rids your body of all kinds of electrolytes. The asanas themselves were not something I had not seen before, but the blast of heat that emanates from your torso when you bend your head down can immobilize you for an instant. The heat, the sweating and the movement, all of it together made me almost pass out. Thankfully for me, the instructor caught on to the situation and offered me some gatorade. Now I normally don't do sports drink. Not even after a long cardio workout, so I instinctively declined. But he offered me a second time and through all the heat induced fog in my brain, I realized that this time was different. This time I really needed that drink. So I took it and as per the instructions of the instructor, I lay down. It took a while for the heart to calm down, but I did recover to do a few more asanas before the class ended.

Bottom line, it was a very interesting experience. Not in the same class as my childhood yoga classes, but it certainly reduced the tension and ache in my shoulder. I got back and read about Bikram Yoga and this is what I found. It is the same set of 26 asanas every time. The teacher usually yells in the class -- drill sergeant style and you ofcourse, you sweat bucket loads. Bikram Choudhury the self-styled guru started his first school of Bikram Yoga in San Francisco, CA. The wiki article on him states that he "won the National India Yoga Championship four consecutive years in his teens". Now that brings me back to Ashtanga Yoga and our Yogi. Whatever happened to the spirit of yoga?

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

All Life is a Stage!

In the drama of life, the actors fall into two separate, yet equally important groups: the critters that call the shots and the humans that document them. These are their stories. DanDan! (with apologies to Dick Wolf and his Law & Order syndicate)

The cast of my particular play consists of two humans, two canines and 2.5 felines ( They go by various names:

Human 1: I, Me, Myself, Mois, TaillessTwoLegged
Human 2: DH (which can be anything from Dear Husband to Dei Husband!), TaillessTwoLegged

Cat 1: Walrus Moustache (WaMu), Dr. WaMu, Resident Hydrologist, Puppy-Cat.
Dog 2Dufus, Bozon, Clownoid, Bulldozer, Tornado. 
Cat 2.5: Dances with the Dogs but Freaks out at the Humans (DDFH).

Apart from these names, other names have been made up and will be made up on a continuing basis. Once we reach a 1000, we are planning on releasing a Sahasranamam thumb drive for each one of them, which can be yours for only $2.99 + Shipping and Handling OR $1.99 + no Shipping and Handling for electronic downloads.

If you missed the link the first time around: Here are their stories again.

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