Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tremdendous Timepass...

...has been happening.

First, thanks to Desktop Tower Defence, a game which has won a lot of buzz for it's groovy interface and playability, I ended up playing long nights. Then we made a user group, and Dhoomketu, after having to be nagged into play it, thrashed the bejeezus out of my scores.

Gautam John came along, and ruined my workdays by introducing me to Shuffle. I have half a mind of suing him for the act of introduction. If you're even a little bit distract-able, please don't click on the link. Don't say I didn't warn you.

But, if you HAVE clicked....

It doesn't have the user group thing, so I'm posting my best score so far as a screen-shot, thereby (heh, sorry) throwing down the gauntlet for Dhoomketu and whoever else dares.



In the meanwhile, Desktop Tower Defence has released version 1.5, with new towers, and new creeps. Go try. You can add your scores on our group (drop me an e-mail, and I'll tell how to). Please leave your name, and not some psycho anagram like 'gp' (who ARE you?)



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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Everyone's...

... favourite 'Brand Cartoonist' (if there's such a thing) Tom Fishburne, has started a blog.

I've seen his stuff all over the place, in many different places, and he is funny in a very topical way. I'd imagine it's sometimes hard to get through to everyone on something so topical. He surely strikes a chord for all of us who directly or indirectly work with brands, brand managers and marketers.


Please go visit. At the worst, he's funnier than Randy Glasbergen (eleven times out of ten anyway).

I also hope he doesn't mind me using the above cartoon to continue to harp about ICICI bank's abysmal customer service. Spread the word, people, about their evil ways.



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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Third...

...post on our Turkish adventures is, well, again on food. This one explores the stuff we liked beyond kebaps.


1. Manti (Turkish Ravioli, or Turkish Dumplings sometimes): Primarily Ravioli stuffed with meat, they cook it with a lot of yogurt and garlic. They are more in the dumplings territory when it's not cooked with yogurt-garlic.


2. Turkish Breakfast: Since we stayed at an assortment of pensions and family B&Bs we were served a standard format Turkish Breakfast wherever we went. This comprised bread, boiled egg, paynir, cheese, butter, strawberry/cherry jam, tomatoes, olives, fruit and chay.


3. Fish: We had an assortment of fish in many places. It's more expensive than meat out there, and they love it. They go easy on any kind of sauce, seasoning or marination, so it's often a little bland, although extremely fresh almost everywhere. The fish below is from the gulet charter, with sides of egg-salad and veggies.


4. Sesame Bread: which is bread with a lot of sesame on top. They have an entire variety of bread with sesame on it. The pic here of a variety from Izmir which doesn't go easy on the sesame, with a LITTLE meat in it. The pic below is one of a simit seller, simits being Istanbul's favourite sesame-doughnut sort of snack.


5. Shorba (or Turkish Soup): They love their soup, and we had a lot of it too - it's cheaper, filling, and quite tasty. The lentil soup is something I hadn't seen anywhere else before. The closest Indian parallel is probably dal.



6. Gozleme:
A snack, mostly. Gozeleme is stuffed bread. If you know how Indian stuffed parathas are made, this is very similar. They have endless choices for stuffing, from various combinations of meat to cheeses and veggies. Another popular snack is borek which is like a 'puff' (I can't seem to find the picture). The Gozleme pictured below was devoured in Kusadasi (near Selcuk).


7. Pide (Turkish Pizza): Their variant of pizza is quite tasty, I'll admit. The bread is bent on the edges, and they usually serve it cut up into small bite-sized pieces. The lower of the two pictures here is from Goreme, and that's how it's usually served. Once again, you get to choose the topping, and they give plenty of choice.



8. Turkish Hot-Plates: Basic hotplates, I just included this nice picture of the way they ask one to choose.


9. Grilled Chicken: I put this since I found the pic. The only thing this has over the one you get in places in Bangalore like Empire/ Imperial is size - and that can be fixed by having MORE. I'd recommend avoiding it if you're Indian - it's way bland.


10. Veggies: We (she, really) had some mix vegetable meals as well - they love aubergines, tomatoes and, capsicum


That's it. Simple post, really. More Turkiye posts on the way.



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Monday, June 18, 2007

People are...

...asking me about my rage at ICICI bank on Friday. I should document it. It's just some ranting, so if you have less time, skip this.

So....

I hate ICICI Bank. Hence, I avoid them like the plague. I go to lengths to not have anything to do with them. Once they offered me 10 lakhs for just hearing a sales pitch, but I refused. Ok, it didn't happen, but it could.

Why? Because they suck. They make you wait to give the same things another bank will not make you wait for. Like to use an ATM machine. They also treat personal information like it's on a billboard at the corner of CMH Road. Once, in a moment of weakness (#1), I agreed for their credit card. Weeks later, after having signed multiple forms and such, I realised that everyone from their direct sales agency (not even employees of the bank) had more personal information about me than I have. And it's all over the place. I looked in his notebook and learnt many things about many people! I quickly made him scratch that out, tore all the forms, and asked them to cancel the request.

Anyhow, so I've gone two years with an account without having to do anything with them. I've never even opened the envelope which the debit card came in. Yes, I don't know the pin number either. Since my salary account has to be with them, I take the risk of logging on late on every 30th and electronically transfer the money to another bank account. And not have to worry about doing anything with them for another whole month.

And then, they go and introduce a "new grid based debit card". It's a super-lame security measure which ensures that only a customer who has the debit card can transact on the net - which is similar to their earlier security measure which ensured that only a customer who has the debit card can transact on the net. Go figure.

They call and ask me where I want it delivered. I tell them to do so at my office, since most document deliverers don't work later. They, in their infinite customer orientation deliver home, find me not there, and ask me to go the bank to collect it. I end up being forced to go to the bank.

After avoiding that for an entire month, I have a moment of weakness (#2) while walking past the branch. So I go in, and wow, there's a machine thingie which issues a token number - I get my token, relieved that I'll not have to deal with shoving-pushing-line-cutting. And then I wait a couple of eons even though there are only 4 people ahead of me. Since of the 8 counters available, only one is operational. And on a full working day, early in the afternoon. I do my thing when I finally get to the counter, I'm told to wait, even though the card is at her desk in only half hour more. Since it has to be dispensed by another person only, who comes in another half hour late. I get my thing.

Then, I decide to write a complaint. I go up to the Branch Manager and ask for the complaint book, which she takes an entire 10 minutes to dig up. After writing the story, I take a look at the other pages, and it looks like they don't use empty pages for the bank copies. So everyone overwrites on the same page - which makes all the complaints easier to handle, by having to crumple only one page and throw away.


There it is, three and half hours wasted of my entire workday. So avoidable. The bank goes out of their way to ensure I come into contact with their uber-pathetic customer service. I was getting by before. So why don't I just close the account? Because I'm scared of having to deal with them face-to-face again this year. Maybe next year.

Cartoon from Speedbump by Dave Coverly.



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Friday, June 15, 2007

The Second...

...post on our trip to the land of the Ottomans is on the ever-entertaining fellow travellers we shared the country with. Here are some gems:

The Dutch Four: Eric & Henrietta, Gert & Jenny. These four were on us on our gulet cruise. They were much older, and loved to snorkel, swim and sunbathe. Experienced travelers, the four always travelled together. Strange and hilarious quirk: Rick's habit of kicking off a song with a random word from a conversation, and the other three joining in, like some sort of warped word-antakshari. For instance...

Me: The bread is dry this morning, pass me the honey please
Rick: Honey Honey...
All Four: ...how you thrill me, aha.....

The Long One: sugar?
Rick: Oh Sugar!
The Other Three: par-ap-prah-parp
All Four: You are my candy girl...

Anyhow, entertainment all around. Here's all of them from one of the evening meals.


The Intrepid Boatman: Among the more delightful people we met, Jean-Baptiste was one of a whole sudden gang of travellers we'd become by chance in Cappadocia. Boat-repairer when he feels like it, and Mediterranean sailor otherwise, he was looking for someone to accompany him on his (renovated from scrap with his own two hands) sailing boat back to Athens or further on his journey back home, "before the summer inconvenient-for-sailing weather sets in". Here he is, in a cave-home that we discovered on an impromptu trek in Goreme.


The Good-looking French Couple: Perrine and Jean-Philippe were also part of the Goreme gang that we became by chance. Among the friendliest French I've ever met, no doubt. Philippe got us out of a few bad spots during a rainy trek (to be described later) with nothing less than cat-like agility. That's the two of them along with Marie...


Marie Tremblay (above) had come all the way from Quebec, and was doing Turkey alone because it wasn't on the list of places which she and her boyfriend wanted to do together.

The Intrepid Dutch Couple: These guys are the most seasoned travellers we will probably ever meet. Eric and Veronica had done India (for 3 months and no Delhi/Agra etc) and had enjoyed it!! They had sold all their stuff and had done South America from tip to tip for a whole year. We met them while transferring buses to Goreme. We were being hustled by some tour-agent types who were trying to peddle us guided tours while playing us with Turkish tea in the morning and promises of mini-vans to Goreme. So were they. Neither of us succumbed, and ended up being unceremoniously dumped on the next available bus in the direction (no tour, no mini-van, no more chay). On the bus, we immediately connected with fellow guided-tour-haters. These two are fearless and will do anything to not take a guided tour or follow any beaten path. There are, in the back of 'our usual table'.


French History Buff: Jean-Marie was the third of the Jeans - strong, hunky silent type. He spoke little. The long one votes him to be best looking, though. He was on a history-trip of the country, something that to me seems endless, given the truckloads that Turkey has.


The Goreme Gang: We'd met by chance, one by one, and ended up having supper/dinner/chay at the same place every evening that we were at Goreme. We exchanged tips, and some of us visited places and went on treks together. Easily one of the reasons why we enjoyed Goreme so much. And the Long One got to practice her pathetic French as well. There we all are, before we all left for further adventures in other places.


Illegal Immigrant Dude: We met this can't-stop-smiling guy who was escaping his country of origin in hope of a better life. Istanbul was a stopover in a long-ish journey. I won't tell you his name and where he's going. But he had a plan which included midnight boat crossings, passport destructions and various other 'sensitive' shit. I don't think he was lying at all, and he was smiling with the strength that only futility gives - this was the only way out now, get another passport or die trying. All the best, brother - I hope you're where you want to be, by now. That's me and him outside the Blue Mosque, where he just came up and started a conversation.


Rick Price: We just met him for a brief moment while downing a mid-day beer at the Antalya marina, and he's such a GROOOVY sight! He runs experience bicycle tours - when he heard we're from India, he asked us if we could send him a vintage leather bicycle seat with springs! I should get back to him.


The Drama of Modern Tourism: Endless guided tours, super-technophile Japanese tourists with some serious gadgetry, noisy Americans, middle-aged gujju groups with yellow caps shouting 'Bombay Travels', all played a constant background music to our trip. The next picture is a homage to all such, named 'The Drama of Modern Tourism' - a bunch of guided tourists at the Grand Amphitheatre in Ephesus (ancient city in ruins). The next one is in front of the Library of Celsus, one of the representative buildings of the Ephesus ruins.



The Other Side: So these guys, with rasta-kind of hair are juggling balls and ninepins in Taksim (cool hangout road of Istanbul), with like a collection bowl up front. They are obviously backpackers trying to make their hostel-fare (note luggage in background). They're the worst jugglers I've donated money to. But I have to admit, they had made quite a packet by the time I saw them, around 50 Lira probably. Roll on people...


More posts as soon as I make the time, there are many tales to tell. Also, if anyone on this page wants their photograph removed, holler.



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I hope...

...ICICI Bank BURNS DOWN. And in as gruesome a way as imaginable.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hang on...

... a moment, say some readers.

What's all these Turkey posts about? Where did you go? When? Where's the detailed itenarary? Travel writing? Reviews?


Blah, I say. Blah and further more blah. We'll stick to pictures, with some descriptors. All the travel writing you'll get now is the below few lines.

We landed in Istanbul - walked around for 3 days - decided to skip Ankara - took the night bus to Goreme - lazed there for 4 days - took another night bus to Antalya - 2 days later we took a bus to Fethiye - boarded boat to Marmaris - 3 days later we're in Marmaris - we didn't like it much, left for Bodrum - 2 days later, Selcuk - Back to Istanbul for a night - flight back home.

Photo from one of the nicest places we stayed in, Hotel Kalender, Bodrum. Friendly family-run place close to Gumbet.



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Thursday, June 07, 2007

The First...

...of my posts on Turkey will be on food. And specifically kebaps. And deservingly so.

So...

The Turks claim to be the people to have invented kababs (kaybobs, kebaps, whatever). I'm not into this concept of 'inventing' something like the kabab. People were probably grilling marinated meat in many places since forever. Anyhow, the word's Turkish, so we'll bow to them in respect. I (cholesterol notwithstanding) did many varieties, while missing out on just as many (Patlichan (aubergine) Kabab comes readily to mind).

I'll keep my analysis to a minimum and let the pictures say a thousand words. Also, pointer towards Madman (Aadisht, not the other one)'s Flickr set on Food, which is a nice thing for similar reasons.

Here goes...

1. Doner Kebap: This is the quintessentialest of the Turkish kebaps, Doner came in three varieties: Lamb (the default option), Chicken and Beef (least common, I felt). The simple visual below explains all that you need to know. The desi 'showarmas' are poor cousins of the Doner, basically. There's no end to the breads or rices that this is served with.


2. Adana Kebap: My personal favourite, this one's among the spiciest I had on my trip. It's quite popular all over. Recipe here. It's usually served with Anatolian Rice, as pictured here. Thumbs up to the Efes Restuarant in Selcuk, one of the best places we ate at during the trip. Both Lonely Planet recommendations for that town that we went to couldn't hold a candle to this fine place. More about Lonely Planet tips later.


3. Pottery Kebap: This one gets points for, well, packaging. Simply put, this is meat cooked in a pot. This is popular in Cappadocia, especially in the pottery-centric town of Avanos. We had this in Goreme, a small distance from there. The first pic shows him breaking the pot, the second one pouring it, and the last one is the result. The beef one is far better than the chicken one.


4. Ottoman Kabab: This is less kebap, more curry, and most scrumptious. We had this on one of the three expensive 'dinners' that we had, in a place called Anatolian Taste.


5. Chop Shish: Shish kebap really, but the small pieces that they cut it into is interesting, and of course the texture and flavour of the meat simply rocks. This one was at one of the disappointing Lonely Planet picks called Tat in Selcuk.


While Chop Shish is a Selcuk speciality, Shish variants are popular all over. The pic below is from an assortment I had in Goreme. The photograph also contains a pair of Kofte, described next.


6. Koftesi, or Turkish Meatballs: Similar to the Indian concept of a kofta, Turkish meatballs are the best accompaniment to rice that they have, in my opinion. The photograph below has a picture of what kofte would look like before they cook it.


And to top off the first post, a snapshot of a kebap cabinet, which one can choose one's meat from. This is in one of the nicest places we went to, in Istanbul, miles into the sprawl behind the touristy Misir Bazaar (Egyptian Spice Market). The place had small stools, and a huge platter for a table-top, and was called Durum, which is the bread similarest to our roti.


Appendix. Galauti Kababs: Nope, not Turkish ones, but very deserving of a shout-out nevertheless. Big thank-you to young Dhoomketu, who sent us off on our adventures in the most appropriate way possible - Galauti Kababs and Mutton Biriyani. This is at the Vasant Vihar pad where Dhoomketu is holed up with his beloved for the length of his sabbatical, while posting weekend entertainment on his blog (What does he know of weekends now?)


That's it for now. Many more posts await your kind perusal, such as More Food, Strange People and Quirky Turkey. As and when time will permit.



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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I'm...

...back.

Nice holiday and all. Regular posting threatens to resume, initially with pictures and tales of the trip.

You might see some minor blog revamps too. MIGHT.

Whenever I can. You know how it is.


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