Archive for March, 2009

Most Vietnamese restaurants in our New Jersey neighborhood tend to be Pho parlors, specializing in the ubiquitous noodle soup that is a staple of Viet cuisine. They may have a a few appetizers (such as spring rolls or grilled beef on skewers) , a selection of over-rice dishes and a few vermicelli dishes but nothing more adventurous. That is a shame because Vietnamese cuisine is much more than merely pho, or grilled beef or chicken curry over rice. Vietnamese cookbooks contain a wealth of  recipes that make it clear that this is a cuisine to rival any in South-east Asia. But how and where is one to sample such food ?

The answer came to us on a trip to Washington D.C., a city with a large Vietnamese community. We decided to go Falls Church , VA to the Eden Center which consists completely of Vietnamese restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries , pho palaces and the like. We thought that we would be able to pick and choose among the several restaurants at that location.

We got to Eden Center just as dusk was falling.Now,I’ve never been to Vietnam but I’ve seen quite a few TV shows about that country and it’s food. The ambience of Eden Center with it’s garish, multicolored neon signs must  resemble that of Saigon .The shops are arranged around the periphery of a square and the large common parking lot in the center was crowded even on a mid-week evening.Before deciding on which restaurant we would dine at, we walked around all the shops and eateries in Eden Center. In addition to building up our appetites, we got an idea of the place and what our choices were. The large supermarket towards the back of the square was particularly interesting and I wish I’d had more time to prowl it’s aisles. It was very well stocked, better than many others I’ve seen in New Jersey and New York but I contented myself with picking up a bottle of pickled sour chillies and some snacks. The bakeries and the eateries serving banh mi  (Vietnamese sandwiches) were tempting but we were looking to eat a full meal with the empahasis on trying new dishes. We restrained ouselves from trying out the banh mi or “elephant sandwiches ‘ as they are sometimes called in NYC, perhaps because they are “overstuffed”. The torpedo shaped rolls the Vietnamese use for their sandwiches are excellent: a lightly glazed chewy exterior with a soft interior. The stuffing is of various types , usually melange of sliced cold cuts ( not the usual deli style meats but Vietnamese specialties difficult to describe, turkey and ham) or meatballs. What makes them special are the other garnishes and condiments . The sandwiches are assembled by splitting the rolls, dabbing the inside with mayonnaise and then placing the meats, thin slivers of carrot , batons of cucumber, cilantro sprigs plus sliced chillies and/or hot sauce ( optional). The carrots and the cucumber are ,I think, lightly marinated in rice vinegar and a little sugar. The meat component of banh mi is small but the combination of the meat and the cucumber and carrot is both delicious and refreshingly light.

Having completed our perambulations of the square, we decided on the Huong Viet for or our dinner. It appeared to have more Viet patrons already inside and it had been selected as one of the 100 best D.C restaurants by the Washingtonian in three years 2006-2008. It proved to be a good choice.

We started out with spring rolls, crisp and crunchy, to be wrapped in lettuce leaves and dunked in a sweet dipping sauce. Then we had  a mixed vegetable salad, grilled beef, a dish of mixed vegetables in a light brown sauce and caramel fish. The salad was good though I didn’t care for the lotus roots in it . They were cut in thin strips and looked like daikon but they were tough and fibrous; I wish they’d been daikon instead. The grilled beef too was very good ,thinly sliced, slightly charred in spots and  delicious when wrapped in lettuce leaves and garnished with cilantro and mint and a dab of hot sauce before we scarfed it down. The vegetable dish contained an interesting assortment of vegetables and the sauce complemented them well. The real winner was the caramel fish  (chunks of catfish  sauteed and doused in a  sweet-sour golden brown sauce ). Itwas excellent .For dessert, we had a sweetened coconut jelly served in a ( young ) coconut shell and a lychee ice. both of them were good but I’d recommend the coconut jelly.Prices were reasonable and for our party of four the check ,including tip, was about $ 90.

The next day we decided to try out another of the restaurants at Eden Square but this time we struck out. Tay Do was a severe disappointment. .The congee dishes were passable and the pho was pretty good but the eggrolls were chewy, the vermicelli dishes flavorless and there were no desserts. Give this place the go by. In addition to the afore-mentioned Huong Viet, the following restaurants at Eden Square are worth a look-see: Viet Royal ( 6767 Wilson Blvd) and Viet Bistro ( 6799 Wilson Blvd).

  Huong Viet. 6785 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044. Open 7 days but closed in the afternoons. (703) 538-5728.


P.S I can’t say that Eden Center added much to my knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine. The only new dish that we experienced was the caramel fish which was admittedly very good. Last month I’d watched an episode of “No Reservations” in which Anthony Bourdain visited places in and around Washington D.C. One place he visited was a Vietnamese restaurant which looked exactly like what I was searching for. Lots of unusual dishes and very different from what I’ve experienced so far. I wish I’d made a note of it’s name . Oh well, I guess I’ll have to keep searching.

P.P.S ( April, 2009)  I saw a repeat airing of the Anthony Bourdain show and it turns out that he did visit the Eden Center. He walked around the aisles of the same supermarket that I visited . They showed shots of Eden Center restaurants and  I glimpsed several of the places that we had checked out including Huong Viet. Bourdain wound up tucking into banh mi at the Song Que and they looked delicious. You might want to give the place a try.

Read Full Post »

Burmese restaurants are rather thin on the ground anywhere in the U.S. Good Burmese restaurants are even rarer. Even in New York City , that restaurant mecca , I’ve only heard of two Burmese restaurants, neither of them particularly good. What a surprise to find not one but two good Burmese restaurants in the Washington D.C area.  One is Mandalay located  in Silver Spring, MD and the other is Burma in downtown Chinatown.

I first came to know of Mandalay four years ago when my nephew invited us there for his graduation party.Since the we’ve been there twice, the most recent visit being this past week . It continues to delight and I’ve no hestation in recommending it to anyone wanting to sample Burmese food.

Burmese cuisine is undoubtedly the least known of the Asian cuisines probably because the country’s ruling junta has kept it isolated from the rest of the world. Which is a shame , because the people are reputed to be among the nicest in Asia and the food very, very good. Like most South East Asian cuisines, it has been strongly influenced by the cuisines of India and China .  In general , it is milder than either of them and makes considerable use of peanuts, coconuts and lemon juice. I would describe it as  a milder, more refined version of Thai cuisine. The two best known Burmese recipes are Chicken Khowswe ( chicken in a nild coconut based gravy served with noodles and accompanied by an array of condiments) and Mohinga (  fish stew).

Be that as it may, for me the great attraction of Burmese food lies in it’s salads. At Mandalay, the other day, our party of four asked for three Thoke or salads, Gram Fritter salad, Ginger Salad and Fermented Green Tea Leaf Salad. The last named was not available so we asked for Green Mango Salad instead. All three of them were excellent, as usual. Despite the names, all of them have certain similarities. The main ingredients may be different but all of them contain very finely shredded cabbage, onions,carrots and cilantro and are flavored with a “Burmese Dressing ” consisting of sesame seeds, crushed peanuts ,gram powder, lemon juice , garlic oil and fish sauce. It’s flavorful , mild and delicious.On previous occasions , I felt that the Gram Fritter Salad was the best but this time around I thought that the other two were just as good.

We shared three main dishes : Shrimp Curry with onions, green pepper and tomato ; Sliced Pork with Sour Mustard, and a Mixed Noodle Dish with four different kinds of noodles. The shrimp curry was out of this world , the yellow curry paste tempered with just the right amount of coconut milk to make a perfect gravy. The noodles too were very good , mixed with the same ingredients as the salads plus fried tofu and potatoes. The pork dish was pretty good  but could have been better. It was very similar to a dish that I’ve eaten many times in Chinatown restaurants and have even prepared at home . The trick is to wash the pickled mustard  in several changes of water to get rid of the salt and then soak it in sugar water to get rid of some of the sourness. At Mandalay, the mustard had apparently not been soaked enough because it was a little too sour for my taste. The dishes were served with bowls of white rice.

At Mandalay, we always  make it a point to order side dishes or condiments to add zip to the meal. Our two favorites are Achin Yay ( Lemon and Garlic with hot chili oil) and Mandalay Acho Yay ( Soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, chili, sesame seeds and crushed peanuts). Great tasting and , at 49 cents each, a real steal.

For dessert we had  Shweji ( a golden brown cake of cream of wheat, coconut cream, raisins and milk, topped with poppy seeds ) and Coconut Ice Cream. Actually the latter is more like a sorbet and is served in a faux coconut shell.We split the desserts between us and the contrast of hot and cold was delightful.

Mandalay does serve drinks and has a good selection of beers and a modest wine list. While we were waiting for our food to be served , I enjoyed a copper colored winter ale whose name I forgot to note while another in our party had a Mandalay Ale  which , despite it’s name, turned out to have been brewed in the Yakima Valley, Washington State.No matter; both were toothsome.

Mandalay has an extensive menu with at least a dozen other dishes that I would love to try. Appetizers like Squash fritters and Eggplant fritters, Squid salad, Spring Roll Salad, Fried Catfish with vegetables in a curry sauce and Beef curry are some of the dishes I am looking forward to trying on my next trip to Washington . May it be soon !

A final word about the atmosphere at Mandalay. It’s very relaxing and pleasant and the friendly staff make you feel right at home. It appears to be a family run enterprise and everyone from the manager to the greeter and waitpersons make dining there a delightful experience. Prices are very moderate. Our check for a party of four , inclusive of two beers and tip was about $ 105.

Mandalay Restaurant and Cafe  930 Bonifant Street, Silver Spring , MD 20910.  Phone (301) 585-0500. Visa, MasterCard.

Read Full Post »

After the first two rounds of the NCAA Basketball tournament, I’m not doing too badly with my picks. If I could have been the office pool I’d have been among the leaders.  In the first round I correctly picked 23 of the 32 winners correctly. In the second round , I picked 13 of 16. My one  big mistake was to back  West Virginia to beat first Dayton and then third seeded Kansas. Instead West Virginia was upset in the first round by the 11th seeded Dayton Flyers who then proceeded to lose to Kansas. On the other hand , I did pick 12th seeded Arizona to advance to the round of 16.

Still, though my winning percentage of close to 75 % looks impressive, I realize that is deceiving. There have been comparatively few upsets so far. It is the next two rounds that will separate the men from the boys as the remaining teams are closer to each other in ability. As usual, I have stuck to a conservative approach, banking on  only two mild upsets on the way to the Final Four. One is in the West where I think Memphis will upset Connecticut. The Tigers have been on a tear , winning 20 + games in a row, they  are a tough physical team and they have a great coach in John Calipari. My other upset prediction is Duke over Pittsburgh in the East final, mainly because I’m a fan of Duke and Coach K. The other two regionals I feel will go according to form with North Carolina beating Syracuse and Louisville packing off Michigan State.

My picks for the Final Four : Louisville , Memphis, Duke and North Carolina.

Let’s see if I’ve got it right!

Read Full Post »

There have been sports loving Presidents before, notably Gerald Ford, but I doubt that there has been anyone quite like our current President. Others go through the ritual of inviting Championship winning teams to the White House but sometimes it seems more like an exercise in PR or because it is a tradition that they have  to continue. I can’t remember any president prior to Obama not only picking a winner but actually filling out the NCAA basketball grid.

The President has picked Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Memphis to make it to the Final Four with North Carolina going on to defeat Louisville in the final.Apparently he flip-flopped on the final , having first picked Louisville to edge North Carolina before calling it  the other way around. Some sportswriters have called his picks very conservative since three of his choices are # 1 seeds and the fourth ( Memphis ) is a #2 seed. I don’t think the  President’s picks are so much conservative as smart. The President, who impressed reporters with his detailed knowledge of the contenders teams,  knows that most years the Champions have been from among the higher seeds, usually the # 1’s  and # 2’s .Surprises do occur in the early rounds and sometimes a Cinderella team like Gonzaga or West Virginia may make it to the Round of 8, but no further.

I filled in my grid the day it was first published( Monday) and I did it without looking at anyone else’s picks.My picks mirror the Presidents’ choices very closely. My choices are Louisville, Memphis, Duke and North Carolina  with Memphis defeating North Carolina in the final. The only difference between the President’s picks and mine(upto the Final Four stage) is that I have Duke beating Pittsburgh to make the Final Four and he has it the other way around. I will admit that my picking Duke to beat Pittsburgh is perhaps wishful thinking. I like Duke and Coach K and I have a sentimental attachment for them because the only time I won the office pool was because I picked Duke to win it all. I also thought Pittsburgh was unimpressive in losing to West Virginia in the Big East tournament.

Let the games begin !

Read Full Post »

Back in 1982, William Least Heat Moon ,jobless and newly divorced , fitted his camper with a bunk bed and set out to explore America, Sticking to the backroads , meeting interesting people and listening to their stories, he distilled his experiences into his first book, Blue Highways, which became an instant best seller. I remember reading and enjoying it though I somehow missed his later efforts , Prairyerth and River Horse , both of which were well received. His latest tome (562 pages) is Roads to Quoz : An American Mosey and it is well worth reading ,though I do have some caveats.

The title needs some explanation. The word ” Quoz ” means anything strange , incongruous or peculiar and ,at it’s heart, mysterious. ” Mosey”, of course, means a leisurely ramble though it is normally used in the verb form rather than as a  noun. The book then is about several trips that Least Heat Moon made across the length and breadth of America in the company of his second wife “Q” ( real name Jo Ann). These rambles, all of which started out from his home state of Missouri, occurred over a period of years and only sometimes had a definite objective.On their first trip Least Heat Moon and his wife followed the course of the Ouachita River through Arkansas and Louisiana into Mississippi. The second took them southeast to the upper part of the Gulf Coast of Florida in an abortive search for watermen’s taverns , places where people who made their living from the sea might congregate of an evening.They may not have found many of those but they did gain some fascinating insights into the drug smuggling and the political corruption that is rife in that region.Their third journey was into the Plains States , southwest through Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico as they looked into the mystery of his greatgrandfather’s murder in 1901 and went in search of the Quapaw Ghost Lights.Following that they went NorthEast through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachussetts all the way toNew Hampshire and Maine.For their fifth jaunt, they struck out northwest through Colorado, Wyoming , Utah and Idaho .The last chapter in the book describes a journey by  sloop starting out in Baltimore, MD. and ending up at Fernandina Beach FL.

Least Heat Moon does not confine himself  just to describing the countryside he passes through. His descriptions are larded with riffs on Americana, history, flora and fauna, geology and ecology and his conversations with the authentic Americans that he meets on these journeys. All of these, taken together, give a more complete picture of the country than a mere travelogue would. Some of the subjects he touches on include Indian burial mounds, the expeditions of William Dunbar and George Hunter,Florida’s Road to Nowhere, magpies, Railcycles, and the Gullah people of South Carolina. There are many others.

For me, the most enjoyable parts of the book are the descriptions of these chance acquaintances and the stories that Moon  is able to elicit from them.: “Mrs Weatherford” a sprightly lady of 80 who relates an incident in her childhood in northern Arkansas when her pious mother mistook a chance appearance of the Northern Lights for a sign that the end of the world was nigh and destroyed her husband’s still so that they might be cleansed of their sins  and received into Heaven; and what happened the next morning when it turned out to have been a false alarm.”Indigo Rocket”, a mural painter in Camden Arkansas, who tells him about the time he was beamed up into a UFO and the effect it had on the course of his life. Jean Ingold , a woman in her 70’s who lives all alone in a house trailer in Alamogordo , New Mexico on less than $5,000 a year and whose efforts at conservation are a salutary lesson for the rest of us.”Max Dwightman”, the wounded Korean War vet who tried so hard to make something of his life and chose an unusual way to do it.I’ll remember these unique characters and their stories for a long time to come.Moon’s wife, “Q”, trained as a lawyer but now a historian,is an entertaining companion always ready with a tart , pithy comment . One of them : “”Why not call a state penetentiary a gated community ?” (LOL)

Least Heat Moon has a Ph.D in English Literature and started out in life as a professor. His  love of the English language  unfortunately marred this readers’ enjoyment of the book. I have a good vocabulary and I like words as much as the next man but I fail to see the purpose of using obscure words such as “adytum” and  “retrorse”  and “quodlibectic” and dozens of others like them. There isn’t even any point in my looking them up in the dictionary because I’ll never run across them again and no way that I’ll remember their meaning. Their only purpose seems to be to make the writer look smart and the reader look dumb.

Least Heat Moon also has a habit of going off on tangents , breaking off from his narrative to expound on anything that takesw his fancy. Initially, this is charming and his sidelights are thought provoking and entertaining . Unfortunately, he carries this tactic to extremes and his digressions become annoying . He attempts to justify this style of his but his explanation is condescending rather than convincing.

One of the recurring themes in the book is the mindless destruction of our natural resources by developers and others pursuing the “American Dream” of ever bigger houses. He waxes eloquent on the effect this has on the environment and what it will mean for future generations. I am fully in sympathy with his sentiments but , while his nostalgia for the past is understandable, it is unrealistic to expect that things will remain the way they were.

I don’t want to give a wrong impression of the book. Roads to Quoz is a book well worth reading for the picture it paints of our wonderful country and its people.One of my ambitions had been to travel across the country ,experiencing it’s awesome wonders and the diversity of its inhabitants. It looks unlikely that I will do so but reading Least Heat Moon’s books will at least help me experience these pleasures vicariously. It’s just that Roads to Quoz could have been so much better if the author had not been so self indulgent. If he had kept the reader’s interests in mind, this book would have been a hundred pages shorter and much more enjoyable.

Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey. Little , Brown and Co. ( October 2008).New York. $ 27.99.

Read Full Post »

Recently, in response to viewer requests, food shows on Japanese TV ,cut down the size of the meals they showed being prepared. Previously they used to prepare meals for four; now they prepare meals for two since that is closer to the size of most Japanese households. More and more Japanese are opting to marry later and later, if at all,and the women are reluctant to have children. As a result, the Japanese population has fallen for the third year in a row since 2005 as the average number of children per family has fallen to a low of 1.34.

The tendency to have smaller families is not new and is continuation of a century long trend. I’m sure all of us have seen sepia toned family photographs showing a proud patrariarch and his mate surrounded by their brood . Six , seven or more children in a family were not uncommon then; today, the norm is two or even one.

A good illustration of this trend is my wife’s family. My father-in-law ( born 1910) was one of eight children, 6 boys and 2 girls.  He himself had 5 children , 4 girls and 1 boy. All of them have exactly 2 children each. Some have two boys, others a boy and a girl but none of them had more than two children. Their children, those who are married, have either two kids or one . If I were to draw a graph showing the number of children by generation, it would look like a straight line sloping down steeply to the right.

This trend is easily verifiable if one looks at one’s friends and neighbors and their families. All our friends and neighbors,except 2 out of maybe 50 or 60, have two children or fewer. In the case of those two, one couple had a set of twins  after they already had one child ; the other couple tried for a boy after they’d had two girls. ( No, they got another girl). Perhaps in rural areas, families are larger but I’m sure they’re still smaller than they were a generation ago. All of us are only too aware of what it takes to bring up children. With that in mind, responsible parents limit the size of their families. and provide for them properly, espescially for their education. On the global stage , it is a good idea as the world gets ever more crowded. I read recently that the world population has just passed the 7 billion mark.

Which is why the story of that California woman giving birth to octuplets was so distasteful. It’s not as if she was an unfulfilled mother; she already had 6 children all through artificial insemination. As an unemployed grad student, it is impossible for her to provide for her family. What was she thinking ? What was the doctor who assisted in the in vitro process thinking ? It was the height of irresponsibility and I hope it results in the suspension of his license.

Read Full Post »

Way back in 1985, the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka won the Japan Central League title, after a lapse of 21 years. Their overjoyed fans took to the streets in celebration and happened upon a staue of KFC founder Colonel Harlan Sanders. Deciding that it bore a strong resemblance to Hanshin Tigers slugger, Randy Bass, they tore the statue from it’s pedestal and continued their victory parade, passing the statue among themselves. As the went over the Ebisu bridge , their overexuberance resulted in the statue somehow being tossed over the railings into the Dotonbori River. In the 24 years since then, the Tigers have not won the pennant again and many of their fans believe it’s the Curse of the Colonel.

Things may be looking up again.

 Last week drivers were able to locate and salvage the long lost statue. Though the statue’s spectacles, left hand and feet are still missing, Tiger fans hope that enough has been salvaged for the ‘curse’ to be lifted and that their beloved team will once again win the pennant this coming season.

Meanwhile, there is no end in sight for the  travails of the Chicago Cubs who have been shut out of the World Series since 1945. Some believe that it has to do with the Curse of the Billy Goat.

1945 was the year the Cubs made their last appearance  in the World Series. They were hosting the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 at Wrigley Field, and leading 2-1 in the 5 game series. One of their biggest fans was Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern. He had a couple of WS tickets and he turned up at the stadium with his pet goat , ” Murphy”. The story gets a little muddled here but the net result was that he was denied a seat for his pet even though he had the requisite ticket . The popular version is that the other spectators objected to the goat’s odor. As he left the stadium, the outraged Sianis was heard to exclaim ” The Cubs , they ain’t gonna win no more. They never gonna be another Series played at Wrigley Field.” The Cubs did not win another game in the 1945 Series and lost  to the Tigers. Whether because of his words or not, the Cubs haven’t made it back to the World Series since then .The closest they came was in 2003 when they were within 5 outs of winning the NL Championship but fell to the Florida Marlins. Could it really have been the “Curse of the Billy Goat “?

Not a few people think that it is. Over the years , several attempts have been made to defuse the curse. Sianis’ nephew was invited to attend a game with a(nother) pet goat  and he did . It didn’t work; the cubs still lost. Other times , Cub fans tried a reverse mojo. They went to the opposing team’s stadium with a pet goat and were refused admission. That didn’t work either. Now they are reduced to waiting and wondering when the World Series drought will end. The Hanshin Tiger fans are upbeat but Cubs fans are not.

Read Full Post »

It must have been about 15 years ago that I noticed that dollar stores were popping up like mushrooms. All of a sudden it seemed that every shopping center had a Dollar Mart, a Dollar Place, a Dollar Barn or some such variationof the name. This was in addition to the 99 cent stores. On a trip to Los Angeles, I noticed 98 cent stores and even a 97 cent store. Nothing like a competitive edge. I always liked to shop at these places for little things like notepads, socks , scissors , pens, aluminum trays etc. For items like this, there was no point in paying extra for  “quality”. I guess a lot of people thought the same way because the stores grew in popularity by leaps and bounds.

One of the charms of the dollar store was that you never knew what you were going to find . Most of the items were picked up at distress sales or as remainders and many were made in China, India the Philipinnes or even Indonesia. The stock was different from store to store and sometimes I  found some very interesting items. I usually never bought food items there except that once I picked up a large bottle of French’s Chili-O Mix for a $1.49. A real bargain since it is a very good mix. Some people even would load up shopping carts at such stores.

About 5 or 6 years ago, dollar stores suddenly seemed to go out of fashion. People began to look down their noses at shopping at such stores . There was even a New York Lottery ad featuring a jingle that said that if you won the big prize, you would not have to shop at a dollar story ever again.

Now , with the recession, things have changed back again. Frugality is in and one way to practice thrift  is to buy at the dollar store. Even as big department stores feel the pinch, the dollar stores appear to be thriving. Of course now, not all the stock is priced at a dollar. More and more of the items are priced at a $ 1.20 , @1.49 or even $1.99. Just another sign of how far the dollar has fallen.

Read Full Post »

Long car journeys can be a mind numbing experience when one is driving alone. Some time ago,the author William Least Heat Moon was driving across North Dakota and he needed to find a way to keep awake. At such times , one way to keep from dozing off is to think up an interesting question. On this occasion Moon asked himself ” How many people would I meet if I lived to age 90 ? ” He defined a meeting as ” a face-to-face exchange containing a clear , if momentary, recognition ” between himself and another. It could range from something as simple as a wave , a greeting or a smile all the way to a life long friendship. However, each person could only count once towards the total .

In his case, the total that he came up with ( and he was being generous) was 100,000.

At first, I thought that this number was too low but , on reflection, I have to agree with him that it is generous. If you think about it, we meet a lot of new people during our school and college years but afterwards we tend to deal with the same people over and over again.This is true even at the workplace, unless we keep changing jobs or unless we are in customer service. Besides , as we grow older, we meet fewer and fewer people. If you discount the people we meet in the first three or four years of life, the final number becomes even smaller.Ditto if you live in a rural environment or in a small town and never move away.

In my case, since I lived in a populous country ( India) before coming to the States.Since then I have traveled quite extensively , worked in New York City and lived in the suburbs and my number is probably close to 100,000. What’s your’s ?

While I was trying to figure out the number of people I’d probably meet in my lifetime, I also came up with 2 other interesting numbers.The number of days that a 90 year old lives is < 32,000. Less than you thought, right ? And ( are you ready for this ?) ,total number of days since the dawn of  the Christian era is  less than three-quarters of a million.  ( 365 x 2008-1/4 = approximately 733,000.) Surprising , isn’t it ?

Read Full Post »

Australia Resurgent : Who woudda thunk it ?  Just a couple of months ago, the Aussies were in the doldrums after having been comprehensively beaten at home by the visiting South Africans. Most observers ( including me ) thought that this was the end of Aussie dominance and that they would be savaged when they toured South Africa. Symonds was out as was Brett Lee due to injury. The pace attack was green and the spin attack non-existent. The batting was in shambles and Ponting ‘s captaincy was under fire. And yet, today all the problems ( except the spin attack) have been resolved  and the Aussies look more dominant than ever.

Truly a magnificent performance by all , espescially the newcomers — the scintillating Phil Hughes and Marcus North and the young pacemen Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Siddle. Hughes who scored two centuries in the second Test looks like a worthy successor to Hayden and he is only 21 ! Mitchell Johnson bowled well earlier but raised his game to even greater heights , bowling with sustained pace and venom, ably supported by Hilfenhaus and Siddle. The old guard too kept up it’s end with Ricky Ponting , Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke in the runs and Brad Haddin apparently well-set at wicketkeeper. The only time that they looked at all vulnerable was on the first day of the first Test when South Africa had them on the ropes at 38 for three. However, first Ponting took them out of trouble and then debutant Marcus North, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson propelled them to 466.Australia haven’t looked back since . The second test was even more demoralizing as both Graeme Smith and Kallis were injured with Smith being ruled out for the rest of the series. For South Africa, the bowlers have done their share but the batsmen have just not been upto facing the Aussie pacemen, all credit to the latter. It will be interesting to see what changes the two sides make for the final test now that it’s a dead rubber. I can’t help feeling that the Springboks were a tad overconfident going into the series. Quite the opposite now.

India triumphant. India , too, I thought were over-confident starting their tour of New Zealand and this was reflected in their two ODI losses. Perhaps, also,  they were getting acclimatised to the weather and the conditions in New Zealand. Now , that they are used to the conditions , they’ve hit their stride and have won the first three ODI’s handily. The batsmen seem to be in good nick with different players stepping up at different times, none more so than the opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir. The fielding has been typically spotty with only Suresh Raina and Yuvraj providing touches of brilliance. The bowling has been just good enough though Munaf Patel has been a disappointment , with Irfan Pathan not much better. How long will they persist with these two ? Hope  the reserves are given a chance in the last ODI.

England -West Indies has been a strange series. After the Windies won the first Test , skittling out England for only 51, I thought they were on the verge of great things. The pace attack with Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards was reminiscent of the Windies glory days when Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose were operating with the new ball and the Windies were a real team. However, the flat pitches on offer for the rest of the series made for a plethora of runs but precluded a result . Both the third and the fifth tests went down to the wire and, in both cases, the Windies tailenders offered stout resistance keeping  England at bay. Both sides consequently had something to cheer about but it is difficult to assess how good they really are thanks to the placid nature of the pitches.How good is the batting, really ? Windies won the series 1-0 but their batting collapses in the second innings raise questionmarks about their batsmens’ resolve. They still play ” Calypso Cricket”, going for rash shots when a cautious, more sedate approach  is required . The 1-0 win however will raise spirits in this hotbed of cricket where victories have been in short supply in  recent years. I myself was rooting for England to win at least one match because of Flintoff. He’s been one of my favorites and showed great courage and unselfishness in bowling his heart out while seriously injured. One hopes that he recovers soon and is able to resume his career , hopefully in the upcoming Ashes series . Though England failed to tie the series , they have to feel good at the nature of their fightback following the disastrous first Test.The pace attack needs to be overhauled as both Harmison and Sidebottom disappointed . The English conditions will be more conducive to swing and should enable them to trouble the Aussies later on this year.

 It’s such a pleasure to read the cricket commentary in English and Australian newspapers. The coverage in Cricinfo is fine but somewhat workmanlike , focussing as it does on results. On the other hand, reading the newspaper reports and the reader  responses provides another dimension to the game. Here are some gems :

” Matt Prior had a brilliant game in front of the stumps, a very ordinary game behind them.Only Nell Gwynne was much worse at keeping her legs together ” Manchester Guardian. ( Who’d have thought to connect Charles I’s mistress withthe game of cricket ? ( LOL)

One reader was unhappy with the English team’s performance and prospects and thought they should get some re-inforcements from the women’s team . ” That Jenny Gunn might be worth a look for the Ashes . Tall, quick , with good away movement. Could we borrow her for a bit ? ”

When Fidel Edwards bowled a torrid spell, including some bouncers , to Kevin Pietersen and then got into a staring match with him, the BBC commentator likened it to ”  a duck ( Edwards) quacking at a passing yacht ( Pietersen).”

In the S.Africa – Australia second Test, Jacques Kallis was dropped by Michel Clarke  of Brad Hilfenhaus . Peter Roebuck wrote that the unlucky Hilfenhaus ” must have kicked a few cats while walking under a ladder.”

Unlike other games , the charm of cricket lies in things other than the result. It manifests itself  in the sideshows , in the stands and on the field, in the give and take between players and spectators.  Writing such as this provides spice and flavor to the game even when the result is a draw.

Final Note: I hope the Indian selectors are paying close attention to the impact of  fresh blood in the Australian team. Does this give you any ideas, fellas ?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

Two Harvard students relive the magic and music of old Bollywood cinema

Golden Ripples

About Food, Travel, Sports , Books and other fun things

47 Japanese Farms: Japan Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities -- 47日本の農園

A journey through 47 prefectures to capture the stories of Japan's farmers and rural communities


WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

%d bloggers like this: