I recently came across some online photos of Hindu wedding rituals which looked amazing and special because they were part of an auspisicous occasion. Then today I saw a mother across the street taking pictures with her smart phone of her kid. He was doing nothing in particular besides walking and looking cute. The five year old just didn’t get it and was not cooperative in posing or smiling. And it started a whole chain of thoughts for me. I realized that with the prevalence of cheap and easy photo, sound, and video recording, people preserve too many memories today. It’s not like the time of film cameras and tape camcorders when the capturing of memories had to be used judiciously. Digital memory capture is essentially unlimited and free.
I can’t remember the last time I used a “regular” film camera and I’m not alone. The world switched from film photography to digital a long time ago. It’s mostly a good thing as digital photos can be taken without having to have them printed. So, they don’t use paper when they’re not printed out and they don’t cost anything to take if they’re not developed into prints. In these ways, digital photos help the environment and the budget. Bhat’s where a positive can become a negative. People now take way too many photos. They’re free so why not? The need for judicious use of film no longer exists.
As an amateur photographer, I do like the fact that I can act like a pro and take thousands of pictures on a trip so that I know a few hundred will turn out good. But what is annoying is how many moments get captured by the numerous digital cameras that your friends and family have. I really feel sorry for children born after the dawn of the digital camera, (and the camcorder for that matter). Many of us lucked out.Save 20% on Economy Rainbow Frames from PictureFrames.com! Select your colors now. Click Here!
Add to the digital photo phenomena, the fact that photo-taking capability is often provided on other non-camera devices like phones, PDA’s, and you have a recipe for disaster. We will all have countless digital skeletons on our hard drives and memory cards. But even worse, these digital photos are easily copied and sent or posted electronically for all the world to see. In the “old days,” duplication of film photographs required money and effort.
Despite all the evilness, digital photography has allowed us to capture memories better. And pictures can be altered with software to look better. But I’m afraid we’ll all become inundated with countless pictures that never get organized or viewed again. Now there’s no looking back. Digital photography is here to stay, and it is as evil as ever.
<<< WARNING: This post is really long, which parallels the ride I’m writing about. >>>
As many of you know, I had been (moderately) training for a 100 Mile Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe called “The World’s Most Beautiful Ride”. I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training to prepare for the event, and I raised nearly $4,000 for the cause. I had always wanted to do a century ride and my father’s passing from complications due to leukemia last year made it that much more meaningful to do it this year. In a nutshell, the story is that I did it! I actually bicycled 100 miles. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but thanks to the Michigan and Minnesota teams’ training, support of cheering crowds, family, and great organization to take care of us during the event, I was successful.Free Shipping on all orders with purchase of Nashbar tires or tubes!
The night before, I started prepping for the ride in my hotel room, putting things together like spare tire tubes, my clothes, my race number 712, my food and drink, my sign, stickers, motivational picture of my dad for my handlebar stem, and helmet decoration. By the time I was done and went to sleep, it was 11 and I had to wake up at 4:30 the next day because we had to start riding at 6. Well, thanks to all the hydration I had to do, I woke up at 3 to go to bathroom and couldn’t go back to sleep but for 15 minutes. So I was tired, but I got ready, met with Team Michigan at the lobby. I put hand warmers in my pockets and foot warmers in my shoes. I needed my coffee, so I had half a cup, ate a part of a muffin and an energy bar and lined up with the team to ride to the start. Then we lined up to start during the cloudy 40 degree morning and soon after, we were off…
The beginning was very familiar because we had done a “22 mile practice ride” the day before. I was still sore from that. Not a good sign. Anyway, after we passed the familiar bend, then began the crazy uphill switchbacks which made us climb 500 feet in 2 miles of horizontal distance up to Inspiration Point. One person fell and broke a wrist, some people had to walk, one was hyperventilating. Luckily, my mountain biking experience came in handy helping me get to the rest stop in decent shape. Then after eating, and hitting the restroom, we had another uphill. This was followed by a huge downhill which had me traveling at speeds up to 34 mph. I was worried about my safety as there was lots of bicycle traffic with some going slow and others going fast. There was also some car traffic going the other way. We finally got to a flat area, and I saw an ambulance going the other way. That couldn’t be good. It was relatively flat for the next 12 miles, and then there was a side trail and road combo with mostly gentle downhill. For some reason, I was somewhat tired and cycling slowly at this point. Going slower than normal was part of my strategy so that I’d be sure I’d have legs at the end, but I didn’t feel like I could go faster even if I wanted to. And lots of people were passing me.
Then my first minor mishap occurred. With all the fast downhills and wind, my left contact lens started drying up and moving out of position. So I pulled to the side to put it back in. Well, I took the lens out and it was so dry, it blew away! Luckily, my parents taught me to be cautious. So I had a spare set of contacts. I wish somebody had told me that bicycling sunglasses were necessary to keep the wind out of my eyes. I had normal ones as I didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money buying bicycling clothes and equipment. Anyway, with my new left contact in my eye, I set back for the road. Then we stopped at Truckee which was basically the halfway point. At that stop, I took off of my sweatshirt and sweatpants to leave with some of the coordinators. I also saw lots of people from Team Minnesota who had caught up with me, and I decided to wait for other friends while I ate significant quantities of food. I ate everything from energy bars to boiled potatoes to bananas to granola bars to cookies to oranges to cantaloupe pieces. And I would need every last calorie. It was after eating that I realized that my knees, wrists, and butt were all hurting in different ways and in varying amounts. Later, I set back on the road with a couple of friends who rode more at my pace and we took turns drafting each other to save energy. Some girls from New Jersey followed for a long time when I led, but they never took the lead.
I was doing fine again for a while, and then around mile 60 or so, I started losing energy and I slowed down. Every slight grade seemed like a major hill. Then, just when I started getting my energy back with some more energy bar and Gatorade consumption, I heard some rattling near my water bottle. I thought a screw fastening the water bottle cage to the bike was loose. It sounded like a slightly annoying bell. I kept riding and then in another half hour, my water bottle and most of the cage fell off my bike. The cage just fractured and fell apart! So I had to stop to get my bottle, put it in the back pocket of my cycling jersey, and then I had to throw away the broken cage. I motored on with a butt that really hurt, a left thumb that went numb and knees that were about the same as before. Shaking my wrists out one at a time didn't make them hurt much less, but it was bearable. At the next stop they had lunch which was a nice team mini reunion and I ate more than before. I had a veg. sandwich, chips, cookies, more fruit, and potatoes. I learned in training that I had to force myself to eat more than I felt that I should.
Soon we were back on the road, mentally prepared for a moderate uphill and then the last major uphill. I was doing poorly on the uphills, but my friend did much better. I was just crazier on the downhills where I made an effort to gather as much momentum as possible before subsequent uphills. We made it up the next moderate uphill, stopped again to take pictures of the beautiful scenery and then we ascended again in a slow and steady fashion. I was mostly in 2nd gear out of 27 but I was mentally prepared. So much so, that when I reached the top of the hill, I thought it was just the midway point to the top of the hill. But I had in fact crested the last major hill and I knew then that there was a good chance I would make the full 100 miles. I had forgotten about my wrist and knee pain at this point but stretching at stops helped with my knees and my left achilles hell tendinitis which started acting up during training about a month earlier.
The next five miles were a blast but they were also downright scary at times. It was all downhill and I hit a speed of 39.2 mph. My eyes were tearing up from all the wind so I had to slow down a bit to see more clearly. Also, I wasn’t familiar with the road or where the potholes were. I did see sewer grates and potholes that I successfully avoided, but, as a courtesy, I also had to hand signal to people behind me to avoid those obstacles. That left me slightly off balance many times. Also, since it is tradition for Team In Training teams to wear a helmet head dress that represents their state, I had a ¼ inch thick foam core Detroit Red Wings logo mounted to my helmet. With crosswinds and 40 mph cycling it actually caused me to veer to one direction like a tailfin would an airplane. Turning my head only helped a little and it changed my perspective on the all-important road in front of me.
Eventually, the major downhill ended and the course transitioned to smaller rolling hills. At this point we were done with 94 miles and I was feeling pretty good because I knew with certainty that I would finish this 100 mile bike ride. I looked down to the picture of my dad with happiness. Pain was not an issue at this point. The remaining up-hills were no fun, but at the very end, I felt comfortable riding 18 mph and I was motivated to finish. I was going so fast in fact that I almost didn’t make the final turn to the finish area, had to really widen my turn. As I approached the finish area, I was riding alone. Then as I got closer, I saw the crowd. There were easily 100 people cheering me on to the finish. It felt great, but it felt like I didn’t deserve so much cheering when all I did was finish about 1,000th out of 1,800 riders for Team In Training. What I did is nothing compared to what people go through when they suffer from leukemia and have to go through treatment, but I’m glad I was able to support the cause by helping to fund research for a cure.
I feel proud of what I have done and I thank all my friends and family who motivated me and donated money to help me reach my goal. I also thank Team Michigan and Team Minnesota and their coaches and staff who prepared me well enough to stay motivated and to finish. Now, I feel like cycling more centuries, or at least 60+ mile rides. Just last year, I rode 123 miles all summer. This year, I rode that much in 2 days. What a motivator a worthy cause can be.
I’m finally situated and back to normal here in Michigan. I’ll take up where I left off with my last blogpost. My trip continued within my home state of Gujarat, India. It’s quite an adventure whenever I go to India, and a lot has changed since my last visit in 1998. Back then, nobody here had cell phones; now just about everybody does. Internet was an unknown term whereas now people know about it, but it’s not exactly easy to come by. I bought a wireless modem a few days after I arrived in Surat, and due to customer service that is poorer than in the U.S., it took nearly a week and multiple phone calls to get connected.
There’s always a connection to my culture and religion that I feel when I’m in India. I’m not a minority, and there’s no prejudice toward me, (although one merchant called me white). But it can be overwhelming. There are a billion people in this great country and anywhere close to a city is crowded. It’s generally dusty and/or dirty by American standards and there are bicycles, motorcycles, animals, and people everywhere. You hear horns blaring every couple of seconds since horns are used to let other drivers know of your presence and to reserve a right of way. When in a large store, the difficult part was finding my friends and family. I’m used to looking for black haired people amidst brunettes and blondes. That doesn’t work in India.
There are many things we in western cultures take for granted that most people don’t have or just can’t get here. One of these things is a lack of overt corruption. As soon as we left the Mumbai international airport, a police officer saw our out-of-state plates and asked our out-of-state driver for his license. Our driver had to pretend to not have it. He knew that if he gave it, the officer would take the license away and force us to pay for it in court the next day. This is a prime example of how it’s just a pain to get things done at times. You often have to bribe people to get what you deserve anyway. We also take for granted clean drinking water. In the U.S., bottled water is an unnecessary luxury, but in India it’s a necessity for a non-resident. I used boiled or bottled water even when I brushed my teeth.
Hot water is not a given. You either have to heat it right before your bath or heat it in a pot and take a bucket bath with a cup. You pour water on yourself as you need. It’s a little inconvenient, but not too bad because it doesn’t get too cold in most parts of India. Squat toilets are the norm but Western toilets are becoming more common. When you travel, public restrooms can be unbearably dirty and make sure you keep toilet paper with you.
In general, getting anything done can be a pain. Many things are within walking distance, but if it’s not, it takes time to get across town by way of rickshaw. Traffic in Mumbai is horrendous and in Surat it’s bad for a city of its size. You just drive kind of randomly and do what you have to do to get to where you want. Following lanes are optional. There are many traffic circles and few traffic lights and there are still traffic cops stationed at intersections. The way people drive is in a manner I call “psychic, reluctant cooperation. If you squeeze your way into a spot, the other guy will eventually let you in and not hold a grudge or give you the finger. It’s just the way it is. Also, people don’t really think about safety. It’s more of a faith-based system. You have faith that you won’t get into an accident so you don’t need a helmet or a seatbelt.
Litter is everywhere. In “the old days,” they used natural things like banana leaves for plates and burlap for bags. Now they use plastic. The culture doesn’t look down upon littering so it’s everywhere and it looks bad. In fact, it’s an assault on the eyes and one of the things I liked least about India. But it's the beautiful natural scenery and ancient buildings that really make India visually appealing. In America, if a building is 100 years old, it's old. In India, if something's 2,000 years old, it's old.
Also on the impressive side, things are happening in a positive direction. They are building large 6-lane freeways which will really help with travel times. Right now, if you can go 55 mph, you are flying. Average speeds are about half of what they are in the U.S. In a few cities here, rickshaws ad buses have been mandatorily converted to run on natural gas which really helps reduce pollution. I call that progress. For this to happen in the U.S. would take years. Here, the government just says do it because it’s the right thing to do. They find a way.
Food is cheap. Even good food at a restaurant costs little. Six people can fill their stomachs with great food and service for 525 rupees, or $13. In addition, fruits and vegetables of all kinds are available in abundance at every corner. I hardly exercised, ate some rich food full of oil, butter, and whole fat dairy products, (albeit with good fruits and veggies), and didn’t gain any weight. I credit that to wholesome food without fortification or chemicals.
In many cities there, you still have the neighborhood feel where you know your neighbors and the people that run the shop down the street. Kids stop in at neighbor’s houses unannounced. It’s safe to walk around at night just about anywhere. At worst, you might get pick-pocketed. People with ill will rarely have guns and weapons.
People in India don’t use much energy per capita. They generally don’t have air conditioning or cars so carbon footprints are small. They air dry clothes and most of them wash clothes and dishes by hand. This is all changing though as electric home appliances are becoming more prevalent.
The economy is booming, thanks in part to a growing middle class and a developing infrastructure. Real estate prices and the stock market are going through the roof. I just don’t see how the country can grow like this forever with the increasing wealth disparity and hundreds of millions of other people that need to be taken care of instead of being left behind.I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing or not, but they are starting to build malls and supermarkets in India, just like in the U.S.
I cherished my time in India with friends and family though and while there I missed home, but now that I’m back to normal life, I miss warm sunny days, not having to work, feeling like a millionaire and taking in the rich culture and history. Together, it all makes me realize how American I am but how much I appreciate my Indian heritage.
I have posted some pictures too. The trip made for great photography.
I recently left Rome, Italy after three days on my way to India, (where I am now). As a result, you the reader now get to read my first international post coming to you from a "Cyber Cafe" in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. I was bold enough to travel to Italy alone, and it was a bit of a lonely yet very reflective experience. This post will also include a diary type introduction to things I’ve noticed. The Rome experience started with me running half a mile (with a backpack and a carry-on roller bag) through the Philadelphia airport. My connecting flight from Detroit was very late and there was no way I was going to miss the flight to Italy and have my stay there cut from three days to two. I made it and then found out that I didn’t have to run after all because the boarding was delayed. On the plane, to accommodate a mother with children, I was switched to a seat next to a really nice Italian guy who happened to be from Rome. He was really interesting to talk to and he gave me all kinds of insider tips on what to see, eat and do in Rome. I hardly slept while chatting with him, but it was worth it. He wrote me a whole 2 pages of travel guide info and even helped me get my ticket and get to the right train once I picked up my bags.Looking for better airfares? click here!
Well, I got to the train station “near” the hotel and walked with two large “India style” suitcases for three long blocks in an agonizingly cumbersome fashion. I thought it would be easier than taking the tram, but I was wrong. I finally made it to the hotel 25 minutes later, and my room wasn’t ready yet so I left my bags at the hotel and went out to get some coffee. I was so unprepared with my Italian language skills that I was using single words and pointing to make my order. The cappuccino was amazing and so was the chocolate croissant, (cornetto). I ended up talking to two American students who were in the café and I asked them for some tips on where to go. Anyway, that’s how things started when I began to notice things were quite different in Italy, (at least in Rome).
I was staying in a non-touristy part of Rome so I got a better feel for the real culture. Few of them speak English and I felt weird for not knowing more Italian. It was very humbling. My three years of French didn’t help as much as I thought it would. But the people weren’t generally mean or nice when they figured out I was American. They didn’t turn their noses at me, but they rarely gave any special help in sympathy with my situation. At least numbers, (as in prices), are universal. Except for the coffee and wine, things were very expensive for somebody traveling with lowly American dollars. Keeping in mind that it’s based on one person’s experiences in a short amount of time in only one Itaian city, here’s what I noticed, (in numbered fashion).
1. Italian is a very expressive language. It takes a lot of energy. Just the way they say “grazie”, (GRAZ-yay), was very emotional. For me, it played into stereotypes of Italian-Americans in New Jersey.
2. Almost all the cars there are hatchbacks, (my kind of people in that respect)
3. Almost everybody smokes, (not my kind of people in that respect)
4. There are many beautiful women there with classic Italian features.
5. Women don’t seem to look at you even if you can't help looking at them, (at least not when you’re an Indian American who looks middle-eastern.)
6. Young people are very unabashed with their public displays of affection, kissing in intimate ways out in the open for all to see
7. Rome has so many historic buildings that it’s mindboggling
8. The streets are very narrow and people park where they can even if it’s illegal
9. Red lights mean stop, but if you feel like it, you can go when the coast is clear.
10. Pedestrians have the right of way unless the car can beat you to a spot without hitting you
11. There is graffiti everywhere, even on historical buildings which is kind of sad
12. Nobody seemed to be in my face given that I was an American. I didn’t hear the words, “Bush”, or “Iraq”.
13. Unlike in America, they don’t have Hispanics to perform the jobs that the mainstream people refuse to do. Instead, they have South Asians. (Perhaps this provides an explanation to point number five above).
14. A temperature of 28 degrees F is very very cold to them. Many of them had scarves covering their mouth, hats and even fur coats which seemed a bit ludicrous to me, but they’re not used to it.
15. It doesn’t seem like it is cool to be an American there, but their songs and fashion are heavily influenced by our culture. Most of the songs on their MTV station were in English.
16. The cappuccino, lattes, and pastries at just about any cafe bar taste amazingly good, so much better than Starbucks.
17. I saw very few chain restaurants. The only one I remember is Blue Ice gelato.
18. Few people there are fat, probably because they walk a lot more and eat more wholesome food.
In the end though, I’m glad I was able to visit Rome even if for only three days. When I get to faster internet access, I will attach a few of the 500 pictures I took which exemplify the beauty and history that the city has to offer. One day I will return to Rome again even though I didn’t through a coin in the Trevi Fountain. (Euro coins are worth a lot, too much to waste on superstition.)
One of my most loyal readers, (let's call him Dave), has been disappointed in me for not writing about a significant event in our lives. At least it's significant from the perspective of our recreational sports lives). We are the champions. It's that simple. Now, most of you may not have heard of our volleyball team, (The Hi-Risers), or of our league, (The Detroit Stay and Play Social Club's Wednesday Intermediate Southfield Sand Co-Ed 6's Volleyball League). But trust me, it was a challenge. We are a team consisting of players of varying volleyball experience that range in age from early 20's to late 40's and are represented by various ethnicities and occupations, but we all have one thing in common... We like to win. (And we like to drink the free beer we get from the league when we do win a match.)
We were possiblly not the most talented or physically fit team, but during the regular season, we didn't lose a single game. Being down in score never got us down as we just kept coming back. During the finals, we lost the first game convincingly, but our attitude kept us from getting down. We won the second game in a tough match through some scrappy play and more grit than the sand we played on. Great sets and digs followed mixed in with some good blocks, good hits, and occasional wicked serves got the job done, even after making some mistakes. Our skills complemented each other very well. The heat, humidity and biting bugs made conditions worse for all of us, but Game 3 was no contest as Amy, one of our ace servers led us to a convincing 15-2 win with 13 straight points!
Winning the championship also got us snazzy long-sleeved champions t-shirts which you can see us wearing in the picture below.
This pic is also located towards the bottom of http://www.myspace.com/spscdetroit
Now Dave, I'm expecting a comment from you. Here's to winning the next indoor session. We're off to a 3-0 start.