Category: Personal

Mr Bata, R.I.P

Thomas Bata, the patriarch of one of the world’s largest family-owned business empires, died in a Toronto hospital Monday. He was 93.Bata, who fled to Canada ahead of the Nazi invasion of his native Czechoslovakia in 1939, ran the shoe-manufacturing company that bears his family name out of its Toronto headquarters for more than four decades overseeing its growth into a multinational organization that serves more than a million customers a day.

Bata shoe empire magnate dies in Toronto
Thomas Bata inherited his father's shoe company in 1932. This man’s shoe company store was the place of pilgrimage every year for new school shoes and/or sneakers. I did not know he lived here, and ran his business out of Toronto. Bata was one of earliest brands I can remember, they were the only shoe in town when I was growing up. Bata’s brand has been overtaken on the cool factor points by the Nikes and Adidases of the world. But the last time I was in Chennai, I did find time to go to a Bata and buy a pair of sandals. The shopping experience was out of my childhood, the dusty no airconditioned store, the salespeople hanging around doing nothing much, chaos of unorganized shoes. There were some differences, they actually had a sale section! Anyway, when I was standing in line waiting to pay for the sandals, the guy sho sold them to me asked me if I could fill out a survey, and if I could please, if I didn’t mind, write in the comments section that the store needed air conditioning?? I sure did, because I was there 20 minutes in March, he was going to be there 10 hours a day through the summer.

Anyway, that was my last experience at a Bata’s. His stores are still the place to go for millions of people in small town India and even in the big cities. The stores could use a little bit of sprucing up (and some air conditioning), but the brand is still very strong.

Home at Last

Wow, I woke up at 4 AM Eastern, caught a 6:50 flight out of RDU to Seattle, then drove 3 hours to the ferry, through the most peaceful immigration and customs ever where I forgot to mention my cat and somehow, it was okay! Being a Canadian is just so much nicer than living in the US of A. I got various questions barked at me by US immigration on the way to the states. The person at Canadian was calm, polite and took 30 seconds to clear me, though I guess she missed the pet.

A 1:40 ferry ride + 1/2 hour drive home later, it’s past 10 Eastern Time and I’ve been traveling for 16 hours. Did I mention I did all this with a cat? But, my beastie was the least of my troubles, he was very sweet! The Sherpa Delta carrier we got (on sale!) worked like a charm, very few people knew I had a pet with me at all times, and I was able to actually even smuggle him into the passenger deck of the Tsawwassen-Schwartz Bay ferry! Highly recommended. It fits very nicely under the seat, I was very apprehensive about carrying this supposedly “high maintenance” cat on plane, airport shuttle, car and boat, but he was such a trooper, very proud.

He’s still a little weirded out by the new place, no idea where he is and most definitely does not feel like he’s home. It’s gotten suspiciously quiet all of a sudden, wonder what he’s doing, napping, hopefully.

All right, no more traveling. I was supposed to blog some when I was in North Carolina, somehow, never happened. I don’t blog well when I’m relaxed, apparently. But, I want to snk my teeth into all this carbon tax brouhaha, and I finally found some time to read the definitive guide to Canadian environmental policy, Unnatural Law, so at least I am now not completely ignorant about Canada.


Found the cat, clearly he has a bath tub thing, he’s done this in Chapel Hill too.


Open my mail to see an envelope from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, pick it up and instantly feel that tell tale card, yes, my PR card is finally here, and I guess the photograph I sent them in February from NC finally got to them, hooray, I am now mostly Canadian! If they’d sent it a little earlier, could have avoided this whole Seattle driving brouhaha, but who cares! Man, what a day!!

Pardon all the exclamation points, this card’s given me all kinds of grief, and it’s frigging crazy for it to show up just like that…

Random Fuel Efficiency Note

Got 45.765 Liters or 12.089 gallons to go 400 miles on my first full tank in Victoria, which works out to 33 mpg, which is about 10% better than anything my car (admittedly not a terribly fuel efficient small car) has ever done. Why? Top speed on my commute’s 90kmph (or 55 mph), and that’s only for 7 km. The first 10-15 minutes is stop and go at 50 kmph which doesn’t do much for gas, but the rest is either 80 or 90 kmph, which is about the most optimum speed for maximizing fuel efficiency.

Take home message if it hasn’t been proven a million times already, lowering speed most definitely improves fuel efficiency!

I guess that makes up for the slowish commute. C’mon city of Victoria, get a fast bus across at 7:30 AM, not 7 so I don’t have to wake up at an ungodly hour to take it!

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BC Bicycle Helmet Law – NC Connections

(b.1) that a person operating or riding as a passenger on a cycle on a path or way designated under paragraph (b.3) must properly wear a bicycle safety helmet

British Columbia Helmet Law

I got my bike on Thursday and finally, the vile flu that laid me low for a week has decided to sink slowly back into a tuberculotic cough. Blogging should get back to normal speed and topics as I unpack, start biking, and can live life again without being racked by chills and bad dreams.

Figured I should get back on my bike ASAP, but I decided to first check if BC had any bicycle helmet laws, because we’re like that, we have a lot of what would be considered “paternalistic” laws south of the border. And, it does, and guess what, the project evaluating the law was performed by UNC’s Highway Safety Research Center, small world, ai!

Apropos nothing, here’s the US list of states and their various bicycle/motorbike laws. Note that only 20 states (and DC) require the use of helmets for motorcyclists, quite insane. Fall on your bare head at 50 miles an hour and you are dead, vegetable, or both. In contrast, All of Canada is under universal motorbike helmet laws. Of course, no U.S state has bicycle helmet laws that cover adults. In contrast, four Canadian provinces have mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

Snow, and more

Yikes, my last few posts have been, shall we say “bitter”? Enough of that, how about some boring pictures. Not that I take too many! But, it’s all pictures and no thinking/analysis in this post.

It’s been 4 weeks to the day I arrived in Victoria and the weather’s been completely and utterly whacked out. We had snow on Friday…



Of course, it was too warm for the snow to stick, just came down for about half an hour or so and cleared right away, followed by sun an hour later. Up in Nanaimo, they got 25cm of snow. Toronto, on the other hand, was in shorts, poetic justice, my local acquaintances tell me because us islanders usually rub our wonderful weather in every other Canadian’s face. But, it isn’t really that cold, just not warm. And the crazy instability has its pluses. Did I ever mention that 4 days in a row, I saw some spectacular rainbows on the way back from work, to the point that I was getting a little blase about it? This place is all about micro climates. It will be sunny in Victoria, and as I drive towards Sidney to work, passing Elk Lake, the temperature drops significantly and there’s always more cloud and rain. Then Sidney has it’s own thing going on, could be cloudy, never know. So, always pack a raincoat and a layer or two!

Anyway, went to Thetis Lake this Sunday for a leisurely hike around the lake with a few acquaintances. As usual, beautiful. Spring is here, and it was really interesting to see all the blooming flowers interspersed with patches of snow. Yep, snow and flowers, a little unusual (didn’t take any pictures of flowers, unfortunately).

It’s also the greenest time on the year because it’s been raining all winter and also getting warmer in the last few weeks, so everything’s alive and the evergreens are, well, very green. As it warms up more and the rain goes away, it apparently gets a lot browner. Also saw a bald eagle encircling the parking lot, that’s probably the fourth or fifth one I’ve seen here.

Some random pictures of the lake. The upper trail goes uphill immediately and leads to some beautiful vistas overlooking the lake. I don’t think my cellphone camera does it any justice, looks like I might have to invest in a real camera soon.

Thetis Lake

That’s it, I guess. Enough of the pictures. I am going to be hiking every weekend from now on, there are so many trails, This website actually rates quite a few of them by difficulty, ought to keep me busy for a year or two!

Back to bitter in a bit, and some environmental posts later. Meanwhile, looks like the the ol’ chief finally made it out of Gaul (if you don’t get it, click the link!)

Victoria, 7 Days Later

Well, it’s been an interesting and full week in Beautiful BC (the other BBC), I found a home:

It has a nice view from the window

and a not so nice view from the same window, which I shall not post because it gives away my location, you’re either going to have to email me or, god forbid, visit!
And it is in close proximity (5 minute walk) to the wonderful Beacon Hill Park.

Once the weather gets better (Yes Virginia, long “rant” about the weather’s just up ahead, keep reading!), I look forward to running from home through Beacon Hill Park to the gorgeous seashore on Dallas Road, about a kilometer away (yes, I’ve gone metric).

Not the greatest of photos, but it was rainy and foggy. Yes, you can’t really escape nature in this part of the world, even though Victoria’s dense and urban for its size, you turn the corner and suddenly, you’re in a park or on a waterfront.

The weather, well, it’s crazy. Last Tuesday, or Wednesday, I can’t remember, I was at my local Y taking a tour before joining the gym and it was sunny when I entered, my gym guide points the sky out to me 15 minutes later from the 2nd floor of the gym (nice scenic view of beautiful church grounds from the treadmills, BTW) and lo and behold, hail! Apparently, every few years or so, one gets bad weather from Russia, damn them. But, he did say that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes, and there it was, sunshine again. I step out after joining the gym and walk back to my funky inn, it starts raining, oh well, it rained 5 minutes then the sun came out, then 5 minutes later, sleet. It did not rain frogs, or cats or dogs, so I did not see everything, but still, way too much weather action in an hour. It is not warm yet, but it is not terribly cold either, always hovers above or around freezing at night, and gets warmer up to 8 degrees (45) in the day time. I am told that it will get warmer soon. Really does not matter, though, it’s still very nice and the people here pretend that the weather does not exist, so I am going to be one with the locals!

In other good news, I found an excellent video store, Pic-a-Flic which is in Cook Street Village, just around the corner (literally) from where I live, nice little neighborhood, lots of “character”, which is sometimes problematic! I haven’t really hung out yet, except to go to a couple of bars and to watch Carolina games and the heartbreaking Davidson-Kansas game (why did the coach make the star of the team and its best shooter also bring the ball up the floor on the last play and make him create his own shot instead of setting up a play where he came off a screen to catch and shoot, his forte, I will never understand) at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre with a fellow Tarheel fan (born and brought up in Victoria!). I just happened to run into him in the bar of the inn I was at for a week and I happened to mention where I was from, he nearly jumped out of his skin! So, I guess that baby blue blood helps once in a while! GO HEELS!

And yes, I started work as well, promises to be interesting, though it is a 35 minute commute, which is what you get for living in a cool neighborhood 🙂

First impressions, well, it’s all very exciting and new, but I have the depressing habit of getting my routines going quickly, so I go to work, go to the gym, eat dinner, read blogs/novels/surf for a while, and the day’s done, so what’s changed? The drive to work’s much more scenic, the walk to the gym is much nicer, the country’s language, rhetoric, radio, everything is so much more in line with my values (CBC Vancouver occasionally makes NPR sound like Rush Limbaugh, I kid you not!). There are tons of organic markets, farmers’ markets (summer only), the produce is generally cheap, though packaged goods are expensive, Michael Pollan would approve!

Victoria has its warts, there are burgeoning drug and homelessness issues that seem to be driven by income inequality and lack of affordable housing. The climate also attracts people seeking shelter from the brutal winter of the rest of Canada. I am reading and hearing that parts of downtown can be dangerous for cars, not people though.

All in all, an eventful week, can’t believe it’s only been a week, I feel like i’ve been here a lot longer, but I’ve spent exactly 3 nights at my new place.

More later, I might have exhausted all this personal blogging energy, probably back to regularly scheduled blogging soon.


Warning: Personal post ahead, don’t read if you don’t know me!

Well, since life’s changing quite a bit, what with moving from Chapel Hill to Victoria and all, I haven’t been thinking of bloggable issues, which means this blog has been rotting away to almost nothingness. But, what the hell, mostly friends and the occasional person searching for sea turtles and/or India find me out in the far hinterlands of the ‘net. So, I will cater to my friends and post a personal update!

Made it to Victoria safe and sound, though not without all kinds of adventures in the security line at RDU, place was a zoo of unprecedented (for me) proportions. But, a beautiful and sunny day in Victoria greeted me, and if I had not left my camera behind and simultaneously misplaced the SD micro card on my cellphone (its memory is full up), maybe I would have taken some pictures! I am staying at this place that is half hotel half hostel. The room’s tiny and spare, the place has a homely feel to it, the kitchen serves excellent food for four bucks, and has nice beer on tap. The place is alive and has character in a way a hotel would never have.

Apartment hunting starts in earnest tomorrow. My very friendly bartender informs me that finding a place takes time, and that May 1 is a great time because a lot of students (it is a town with a decent sized university) leave then. But can I stay here for a month? hmm, don’t know about that.

Jet lag hits, so I am going to take it easy. Tomorrow’s a crazy busy day with apartment hunting, applying for all kinds of government cards, etc, luckily, I am a few blocks away from city hall (this ho(s)tel’s location is impeccable.

Adios, my brain’s fried and my eyes can’t focus any more, I’ve been up for 20 hours, time to wind down!

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Rain in Chennai

rainHard to believe, but it is raining in Chennai in the middle of  March.  Most people  I speak to  say that the last 3 years have seen extremely weird weather with rain patterns being completely unpredictable, rain in “spring”, cool weather this late in March, I guess the Chennaiwasis will take it, though the roads get completely messed up even with a few mm of rain. The streets are a lot cleaner, though the suburbs are still a nightmarish mess at times.

Blogging has been non existent because I’ve been doing other things and I’ve been living without an internet connection, except for a half hour here and there everyday. So, no time or inclination, which is a pity, because Chennai is in such a state of flux that things happen everyday, there are pollution issues, transportation issues, zoning (or lack thereof!) issues, corruption, a dizzying pace of new construction, etc. Infrastructure can’t possibly keep up, but the authorities have done a good, if not great job in trying. Chennai has done a much better job than Bangalore, where traffic just does not move. Every month, there are new traffic patterns to try out, new one way streets, new flyovers and intersections, seriously, for someone who used these streets every day for many years, I find myself getting lost because I just can’t drive by landmark any more.

Oh well, there’s still some greenery and beauty to be had, I went birding in Nanmangalam, in the Southern “suburbs” (no white picket fences in these suburbs!) and had the most wonderful time catching up with some old bird friends, the bulbuls, mynahs, bee eaters, cuckoos of various kinds, pheasants, raptors. kingfishers, babblers, warblers, snipes, many more, and my very favorite, the Great Horned Owl!! (the link is to an article detailing captive breeding of the owl in the forest I was in yesterday).


If you peek really hard, you will see the owl in the center of your picture, courtesy my 3X point and shoot (look up from the patch of white bird droppings, that is how we found the bird!). It’s a great site for birding, low scrub forest, and the birds pretty much show themselves, not very hard!

So long, back in the US next week, thank heavens for always on wireless!

Leaving Chapel Hill

I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for over 10 years, encompassing a Ph. D, a marriage, a few jobs, cats, many wonderful friends and a blog that to this day proceeds in fits and starts. But, my time here is finally at an end. I accepted a job offer to move to Victoria, BC. It’s on Vancouver Island and quite breathtakingly beautiful in an almost throwaway fashion!

Photo Courtesy flickr – Allie Wojtaszek’s photo stream.

I am not kidding, the island’s just incredibly beautiful.

Anyways, I will be heading out for a long vacation in Chennai, back for 10 days or so, then leaving end of March to start work. Blogging for the next week or so should be normal (as in, no rhythm, rhyme or reason!). Once I get to Chennai, blogging will be sporadic as my parents don’t have internet and I am too lazy to set up a connection for a month!

Once I get to Victoria, blogging will, of course, resume, though I guess I’ll still remain pseudo anonymous (not that too many people care!). I will be working for a company that works very closely with the EPA and Environment Canada and things get delicate when you work with the government and criticize them! It will be interesting to see where this blog goes, though I will refrain from the usual gee whiz look at that beautiful scenery posting!

If you know people on Vancouver island you can hook me up with, please email /leave a comment. I don’t move that often, and I can’t rely on seeing familiar faces on Franklin Street and the Weaver Street Market any more!

S. is staying in Chapel Hill for a little longer, she loves her work and just started it!

It’s been fun living here, but all good things must pass.

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