Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Photos and Photo Albums - Memories that last forever - aided by ZoomIn

Call me old school, but inspite of being a part of today's digital era, I still cannot replace that warm fuzzy feeling I get when flipping through a photo album in my hand.With every other service going online, this service of printing out photographs is also now available online. I have been using ZoomIn.com for about 3 years now and have been mighty satisfied with their print quality.

I would like to share a review of my experience with ZoomIn

ZoomIn offers a variety of photo printing solutions .
a) You can get your photos printed, like we used to do in the 90s. This is the basic service they offer. To do this, you upload your photographs to their site. These photographs can be organized into albums. Once uploaded and ready, you can order your prints from the site.

You can go for printing the entire album. Or select specific clicks within one album and order prints only for those.
You can even bump up the copies of prints for specific photos in an album - i.e. Say in a 20 image album of an event, you want extra copies of only that group photo that you took with everyone, you can do that too.
You can opt for one out 3 photo finishes - Matte, Glossy, Metallic.
Size options available are 4x6,5x7,6x6,6x8 (in inches) and so on. The largest photo print you can order is 16x20. If you are looking for a photo print bigger than that, you can look at the Poster printing service on ZoomIn. Otherwise for sizes bigger that 16x20, you will have to fall back to your nearby photo studio.
Other than this you can specify if you want a border on your print, if the photo can be cropped to fit the print size you are ordering or not, and if you are allowing any automatic color corrections for contrast or not.
Cost for minimum size is Rs.6 per print for 4x6(Smallest size) and  Rs. 525 for the largest size of 16x20.

b) Alternatively, you can opt for photo based products. Currently ZoomIn offers PhotoBooks, Photo Canvases, Posters, Calendars, Mugs, Magnets, and Framed Prints. I have ordered multiple photobooks, and posters from them in the last two years, and all of them have come out very well.

Latest item I ordered from them about two months ago was a ZigZag Mini Pocket album with photos from a recent family function. It is compact enough to keep in your handbag!

I have found ZoomIn to be very innovative with their product line, and there is always something new to look for in their product offering. Currently there is an offer going on for all photobooks ordered till December 20.

Over and above this, you can also get Rs100 off on your first order by using the code 'EclecticRant' when you signup for the first time!!

As the year draws to a close, I am sure many of you are recollecting memories from the year gone by, and I hope this post helps you to cherish your memories better!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chennai Geetham

The recent rains and consequent flooding in Chennai last week drew out the citizens of this city in large numbers. Volunteers descended on the streets braving rains and knee to neck deep water to help each other out with large scale co-ordinations happening through social media websites like twitter and facebook.

Now that the flood waters have receded, people are still soaking in the camaraderie and brotherhood that came to the fore when disaster struck. People have done some very amazing  work, with some media celebrities leading the relief and rescue efforts.  This very nostalgic write up by Girish Mathrubootham, the Founder and  CEO of Freshdesk took me down my own memory lane. Those first days of discovering the new language while settling in PS Senior Secondary School, the days of cycling around in Mandaveli in the hot dusty afternoons, the long wait in the queue to get the monthly 'Paal card' in the aavin counter, the brisk walk down to school from Devanathan street, the sudden isolation and tranquility in the initial years in Pallikaranai, dealing with a bunch of over playful class mates in Sankara school, the drive down the state highway to college, and the sleek manoeuvres to overtake lorries and trucks on the same highway on the lowly Scooty Pep -- It was like my whole life was flashing in front of me.

I also was reminded of this odd song that my first boss had shared with me - There was this upcoming band called Prana(back in 2008) that had launched a new album called 'Mazhaithuli' and this one song from that album somehow was available for free. It is called the Chennai Geetham - an anthem of sorts for this city.

Fast forward to 2016, and that band is nowhere to be found on the interwebs, so sharing this song from my archives. All copyright belongs to the original creators of this song. I have posted this on Soundcloud because the band is nowhere to be found now, and Soundcloud just makes it convenient to share audio around.
Update - 12 December 2015
One of the members of the band Naushad Ali [@nashlib on twitter] reached out to me and shared the official youtube link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxpWNODu9E8

They also mentioned that the album 'Mazhaithuli' is available on iTunes - so do make sure to check out their music if you are on an Apple Device.

Enjoy -

Changes in the course of my life

I was reading this post by Vijay Varadan about how he closed down his game development studio about less than a month ago, and how he is dealing with giving up something he held very close to his heart.

Which brought me back to, well, myself. Since the time I joined school as a 3 year old kid, I have always been working on or towards something. The workaholic DNA inherited from both my parents meant that even during the summer holidays during school/college, after the minimum obligatory lazing around, you would find me pottering around with some hobby or the other, if not anything else.

For a soul like one described above, it is a very crushing feeling to wake up to deal with a routine that looks like this -> No office, no class. Just wake up, cook your food, clean up your surroundings, take rest and get back to sleep in the night. But, I did, I took the leap and quit my job at Jombay in early May due to climbing health issues being the top reason for the decision. My funda was simple - from my persistent visits to the doctor's clinic, I realized I dont have eternity to live my dreams and ideals and that Life is Short. Yes, we read it day in and day out, but it strikes you like a lightning when it happens in real life. Dont worry reader, I dont have any terminal disease or cancer or something, it is my thyroid gland that has landed me into this state of introspection.

So that's it. I quit the one thing that I was doing reasonably well among a lot of my endeavours. It is going to be 4 months now, and I realised these things about myself --

1) I am very bad at selling anything that I have created or belongs to me. Sales is  very tough art and people working in sales should be treated with absolute respect.
2) Programming a computer day in and day out has made me friendlier with machines than people, in short I had forgotten what it was to be a human being. To sense what is going on around you. To trust the being in front of your eyes, and just ask a question.

I also went back to my drawing board to see what else was there that defined me, that could still be pursued while attending to health matters and the answer was clear. How many times I had mentioned this in my 'About Me' introductions, but I had gone blank when push came to shove. Sanskrit. Yes, I am now pursuing an MA in Sanskrit at Pune University followed by a study of linguistics.

I haven't written any code since May this year, not that I dont want to, but just that I want to take a break. And anyway, my mind is so wired around programming now that even though I dont type out the code on a screen, my mind keeps working out algorithms one way or the other, so this break is only for the hands and eyes. I have stepped up blogging(more to record experiences), outdoor activity, photography and this thing called hanging around with friends just like that for sheer fun, basically anything that will revive the human in me.

The Mister, as always, has handholded me through this entire decision, and now enjoys unparalleled attention, now that gadgets have been given a secondary state in my life.

So that is about it, I am now a programmer on a sabbatical who is pursuing an MA in Sanskrit.

Visit to Sangam Mahuli and Nana Phadnis Wada

I have been living in Pune for 4 years now. But I haven't travelled to nearby places much. Last week I had the chance to take a quick outing to a few places around Wai and Satara. 

It was a day trip where we left at 9.30 from Pune. We visited Sangam Mahuli, Dholya Ganpati and Dakshin Kashi Vishweshwar temple in Wai and Nana Phadnis Wada at Menawali, and were back in Pune by 5. We spent some time just soaking in the serenity of the place at Sangam Mahuli on the banks of the Krishna River.

Here are some brief photos from the trip 

Sangam Mahuli Shiva Temple

Side view of Same temple

View of the river stream near Sangam Mahuli Shiva temple.
There are many temples along this bank within a short radius.

The back entrance of Nana Phadnis Wada leading to the Ghat.
This is a famous location, and preferred as a film shooting location.

View of the Ghat behind Nana Phadnis Wada

You can read a detailed blogpost about these locations here 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

#BlogReview - ChayaChitrakar

Conversations. I love them. Be it serious and structured or random and free-wheeling. I feel that is the best way to bond with people and make friends with them. And many times, some of the best ideas come during such exercises. 

But alas, in today's world, Conversation is a lost art, and that is what attracts me to the world of blogging. There is a wide network of people who are happy to share their thoughts and looking forward to hear your own. Here is a blog that I regularly visit - It is called 'ChayaChitrakar' - It has a really simple funda - every post is a set of 3 images around a topic or a theme, with a short comment about it in 3 languages - English, Hindi and Italian. The blog author, a medical doctor from Assam, posts pictures of such wide range of things, and yet not to heavy on the mind, it is always refreshing to go through his posts. I always look forward to reading his posts each and every time. 

Humour - A Way of Life

That Humor can be a way of life, was a revelation for me. And I was introduced to this refreshing new world order by none other than our very own R K Narayan.

Back in the days of my early teenage years, I used to (still do) harbour very strong feelings for using all things 'Indian' or 'Swadeshi' - when our school history lessons about the British Raj and the freedom struggle were getting freshly imprinted on my mind. I even used to insist to my mother to get me atleast two sets of dresses in Khadi material every year. In the rush of such high-spiritedness, one day, I darted into the school library to pick up atleast one english book, as per my teacher's mandate.  Wandering aimlessly, I kept scanning through the book titles one after the other, when my eyes stopped on the word 'Mahatma' - "Waiting for the Mahatma" said the book title. Relieved to have found some book to do with Mahatma, I rushed off to get it entered in the library register, not bothering to check the author, or the summary of the book, or if it was fiction at all in the first place. That week's 'Library book reading for the week' assignment introduced me to the fact that even Indian authors could write really good quality fiction. As I turned page after page in this book, I not only grew addicted to the storyline, but also to the style of writing in which the whole story was laced with humour inspite of handling an out and out love story set in the era of India's freedom struggle, and yet not diluting the plot one bit.

That was the beginning of my attachment to R K Narayan and his stories set in Malgudi and surroundings. As I read more and more of his books, I realised that looking at the situation with a humourous view point made it easier to deal with life and made life all the more enjoyable. 

I am yet to complete reading all the works of R K Narayan, but the bug of writing and the bug to find something to laugh about even in the most complicated situations has bitten me forever. And reading his books taught me to appreciate the likes of George Orwell, as well.

If I ever become a writer, I would like to be in the league of R K Narayan.

Image Credit - Penguin Books, India

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pune Photography Lovers Group - November Photowalk

Last Sunday, the good folks in Pune Photography Lovers (Group exists on Facebook) had mutually agreed to do a photowalk at Sinhagad Fort. I was also there along with the rest of the group. This is a very nice and helpful community of photographers, and it was a great learning experience about how to attempt Sunrise photography. Here is one picture from my collection of clicks that day -

For more pictures, take a look at this album on Facebook - It is a public album, you should be able to view it without necessarily logging in.

We went up to the entrance of the fort, and took a short hike to a spot where one could click without hindrance from man-made structures. It was a great experience to have the early morning winter wind blow on your face while you attempt to capture Nature in all its glory.

Looking forward to more outings with this group.