Friday, November 27, 2009

Tamil Movie Songs - Lyrics vs Video

Sometimes I have been amused, and sometimes amazed how tamil cine songs synchronize lyrics with the corresponding video or the scene. Examples below:

In the song, "Idhazhil kathai ezhuthum neram idhu" (Unnal mudiyum thambi - Kamal, Seetha), there is a line that goes like "...kaalam varum varai poruthirunthaal, kanni ival malar karam thazhuvidumey..." meaning, if he waits until the time comes, she will hug with her flower-like arms. Nice poetic effect, but if you watch the video, Seetha sings this line when he is already carrying her on his back, with her arms around his neck!

In the song "Akarai cheemai azhaginiley" (Priya), there is a line that goes like "...verum pechu, vetti kootam, edhum illai intha ooril...", meaning this town has no time for empty talk, no idle crowds, referring to active, busy and hard working Singaporeans. The video however shows a beach crowd, where people are just lying idle enjoying the beach! Not quite what the poet in mind!

In the song "Janani Janani" (Thai Mookambikai), the movie makers seem to have made a conscious attempt to synchronize the lyrics word for word with the video. For example, "simha vahini nee" shows the goddess sitting on a lion, "jagan mohini nee"shows the goddess with a globe going around, and "linga roopiniye..." shows the shankaracharya worshipping a lingam.

Glad to see paying attention to detail is still a virtue even if it is just entertainment.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Diet that reduced my Triglycerides

Late August this year, my doctor said my triglycerides were acceptable and no more follow-up is required. I was very happy, since I had been battling with elevated triglycerides for over a decade, and bringing that down had a life time positive health impact.

Caution: This is my personal experience, and not intended as medical advice. You should check with your doctor for specific advice to your situation.

Here is a brief history that also explains the chart below:

1997-2003: My first ever blood test showed slightly elevated triglycerides, and doctor suggested I get more exercise, and take more fruit to boost HDL. I didn't pay much attention. Also, I had moved to another city (lazy to find a new doctor) and a boat load of personal issues. Looking back, I think the laziness and the personal issues was due to high triglycerides, making me less energetic.

2004-2007: The triglycerides had shot up past 400 mg/dl. The doctor suggested to get on the treadmill and cut down "transfats", and this brought it down close to 250 mg/dl just in a month - provided evidence that diet and exercise worked. But I didn't continue the regimen giving standard busy work related excuses. It shot back close to 400 mg/dl, and the HDL had dramatically gone down. First, the doctor suggested supplements like Niacin and Omega3 Fish Oil capsules to boost HDL, and finally suggested medication like Tricor or Lopid stating my condition might be due to genetic factors. The medicines helped reduce triglycerides, but made me feel very weak - apparently they work by pulling muscle fat out, so the body builds it back using the excess fat. I stopped the medicines, and I wasn't convinced it was genetic, since my grand parents lived healthy long lives.

After running out of ideas, and running around at work, I decided on something new. This time things worked out very well.

2008: In October, I made use of a company benefit to meet with a health coach. I had blown past all prior readings, now at 573 mg/dl. The health coach, Maia, probed my diet very carefully and made dramatic suggestions that made me sit up and listen:
Maia: "What do you have for breakfast?"
Me: "Oatmeal - that reduces triglycerides".
Maia: "That's not good for you - Oatmeal is carbohydrates, and you need to cut carbs".
Me: "Really - sometimes I take Honey Oat Cereal with low-fat milk - I'll just switch to that",
Maia: "No, cereal is sugar - that's not good for you either. The only thing you can eat is veggies. No fruit, bread, rice, nothing else is good for you!".

I argued that was too harsh, and finally got some concessions - Egg Whites were ok, a little scoop of brown rice, along with a predominantly vegetables diet. We also talked about getting some exercise - and things like meditation that she was excited about.

My wife took her advice seriously, and my diet changed as below:

Breakfast: Egg-white Veggie Omlette with no cheese. Veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and peas. We bought the egg-white paper packs from Safeway or Costco. Egg-beaters may also work. If I had to have breakfast in the company cafeteria, the chef started the egg-white veggie omlette without cheese, as soon as he saw me in the line!
Lunch: Since the omlette breakfast was filling, I would go for half-order on any of the pasta/noodles/rice with veggie entrees in the company caferteria. Other options were veggie tacos or burritos, personal pan veggie pizza without cheese (also, not eating the outer crust helps cut carbs) or just soup and salad.

Dinner: A lot of salad filled my plate, with a scoop of brown rice and other gravy and vegetables. My wife bought lettuce, green onions, black olives, brocolli, spinach, carrots, beets to make the salad different and interesting each week. She also used Olive Oil, Walnuts to make the salad recipe taste good (check out for her recipes). Instead of yoghurt with rice (thayir sadham), I just took the fat-free plain yoghurt (can't live without "the "thayir"!)
Travel: I stuck to a healthy breakfast routine - many hotels have a full breakfast buffet with eggs, veggies, fruits etc. This allowed me to limit unhealthy lunches out during the hunt. Rarely, I would have pizza, burger, or fries, and a little booze.

Exercise: A moderate 20 minute stair master session to burn around 130 calories, couple of times a week. This, in addition to a 10 minute walk each way to the bus stop and back for commute.

The penance started paying off in just a couple of months. There was a dramatic drop from 573 to 313 mg/dl, a whopping 260 points without any medicines or supplements! The HDL also dropped, but I read an article that explained this can happen initially when someone is losing weight, and then it will move up. After another eight months in Aug, 2009, the results came out close to normal - triglycerides at 179 mg/dl and HDL had indeed moved up to 35 mg/dl. What is also important is that the other numbers turned out to be normal as well - I was concerned something else would go wrong trying to fix triglycerides!

The real cause was the excess rice in the diet. Just a couple of generations back, those who had a staple rice diet, had unrefined rice with the partial husk. The husk was fiber and would fill them up quickly, so they never had excess rice and got into these problems. In our times and our parents' times, we buy refined white rice which has all the husk removed and given a nice glucose coating to look good! We end up eating more rice and less fiber, and excess carbohydrates get converted to fat. The excess fat slowly impacts other organs such as arteries, liver, pancreas and causes things like heart disease, diabetes etc in the long run. So, my case is probably not genetic even if one parent had a medical condition that could have been caused by excess triglycerides. A recent Time magazine article shows that exercise won't make you thin.

It was a lot of learning along the way, and I feel blessed I could fix it with my wife's help, and Maia's advice, before it was too late. Again, all of the above is not specific advice for your situation - consult a doctor before you try anything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Indian court sends back custody dispute to US

For a change, I liked this judgment from India's supreme court (news). It was about child custody dispute between an estranged couple, both US citizens, and their US citizen child was taken to India by the mom. Not unusual, but this time the court directed the mom to go back to US, and settle the dispute with the help of US court, which is already dealing with the divorce case. It also directed the dad (petitioner) to take care of expenses until the US court provides further direction - that should set aside mom's financial distress in fighting against dollars. It sets a nice precedent, so these types of abduction cases can be meaningfully addressed. India hasn't signed the Hague Convention on Child abduction, and dealing with these in lower Indian courts can be a nightmare, full of contradictions. I think this is a positive and progressive judgment.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Book Review - The 4-hour work week

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss: This is a popular best seller, and was recommended to me by a colleague, who successfully has spun a couple of Internet businesses. I was surprised even the library had 4 copies. It is amazing the author has accomplished so much for himself even before thirty years of age, and he offers lot of motivational advice for others form his experience. What came across as key learning - get over the concept of working for a deferred retirement and rather take many mini-retirements throughout life by working wisely, and go on your own if you don't enjoy your work. There is also a good bit of Internet Marketing advice and tips ranging from outsourcing to India, website referrals, cheap travel and vacation ideas, and even little tid-bits like using post office street address instead of PO Box to make it look like a professional office address. The book really can influence and get someone thinking to stick their neck out. However, if you are passionate about what you are doing at work, then there is no reason to get excited over all this advice and rock the boat. That's my 2c.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saving women victims of human trafficking - Just Trust

This news article and interview with Just Trust founder Mr. Jebaraj caught my eye. The Indian pledge states, "all Indians are my brothers and sisters", but it seems thousands of sisters are exceptions, and forced into flesh trade in well organized human trafficking. It is noteworthy that Mr. Jebaraj has truly been a great brother to hundreds of sisters that he has helped rescue from human trafficking. Especially, his commitment to this cause has been since 1980.

On a parallel note, a school teacher friend of mine in San Jose, who had seen Slumdog Millionaire, was asking me about how I felt about the movie showing how children and women in India are victimized. I just replied it was reality and the challenge is enormous with the large poor population and the difficulty in getting the system to work well. She went on to add that right here in silicon valley, there is exploitation of women - some of her academically challenged students' moms are single and claim they also have to work at nights. Probing a bit further, she explained they happen to be prostitutes trying to make ends meet. Many are from a particular ethnic group, and there are likely immigrant women exploited due to their visa situation. If this is happening in stock options rich silicon valley, it should not be surprising that developing countries are struggling with the trafficking problem.

Just writing to spread awareness - the least I can do.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mortgage Loan Referral - Nimalya Modak

I recently refinanced my home through Nirmalya Modak in Bank Of America. He provided me with outstanding service - thorough in explaining the options, getting the best possible rate, prompt and very friendly and professional responses, and working quickly and hard to get through a problem at the corporate/escrow office. I was completely satisfied with his service. I am very pleased to refer him to anyone on the lookout for a mortgage loan. He can be reached through this link.