Thursday, July 31, 2008

I surprise myself!

This is a food post - I just had to brag. :)

We were sort of hungry around chai-time today, and felt like eating something interesting. So I made what I will call "bite-sized corn cilantro fritters".

It was a random experiment loosely inspired by these corn patties we used to get at the fresh food section of the Atlanta whole foods. And I was happily surprised when they came out really well!

Best thing was that they were all ready within around 20 minutes!

Ingredients (to make around 20 of these) -

a handful of frozen corn
half an onion chopped very fine
a generous amount of chopped cilantro
one scallion chopped fine
besan (gram flour) and rice flour in equal quantities (about 2 spoons each)
bread crumbs (about 1.5 spoons)
a pinch of baking powder

salt, chili powder, asafoetida, pepper to taste

Method -

I mixed all the ingredients in dry form (with enough flour to just about coat the rest of the stuff), and added water so that the mixture still remained pretty thick.

I didn't want to deep-fry them, so I used this thing that my mother brought for me from India - sorry, I don't know its name, but you can see what it looks like from the picture.

I used a drop of oil in each cup and dropped half a spoon-full of the mixture into each. Then I drizzled a few more drops of oil around each of them. Covered and let them cook. In a couple of minutes I turned them over, pressed them down and added a couple more drops of oil. Let them cook for a few more minutes till both sides were golden brown.

That was it! They tasted really good, and were gone too soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Purple maze!

Cross section of a red cabbage for this week's theme of patterns & textures. I've started looking for photogenic fruits and vegetables now when I go to shop for groceries. :)

Nagalinga or Cannonball flower

The topic for this week's photos in my class is patterns and textures. We need to photograph a couple of shapes and patterns that repeat throughout the photo, and also need to try and get a feel for the texture of the subject in the picture.

My first thought was to take a picture of the bark of one of our Live Oaks pointing up from below so that the rest of the tree is in the frame as well. Later I realized that I'd already done this before - in Trivandrum in 2006, under the Nagalinga tree.

Most of you from Madras or the South of India know this tree and must have seen it before. For those who haven't - this flower is called Nagalinga because the pink flower looks like a serpent head (Naga) hovering over a linga.

The flowers smell heavenly and at the peak of summer when all the flowers are in full bloom, you can find this tree just from its fragrance, from several meters away.

There was one tree in some private land across the street from where we lived in Madras. So though I could see them, I couldn't ever get close enough to the flowers. Then when I was in Trivandrum with my parents in 2006, we found this tree within the Shastha Temple grounds! It was in full bloom and I got some good pictures.

When I looked online for details about this tree, I couldn't find too much info. There is one blog entry in someone's blog that describes the Nagalinga Pushpa, but that's about it.

When I searched for Cannonball Flower however, I found many more links.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I've been experimenting with the colour settings on my camera - figuring out how to make the picture more vivid and sharp etc, in indoor natural light. I want to take a series of pictures with different colour themes.

We had to take some pictures for class where we had to think about the composition of the image, and this was one of my attempts.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The spider has mated!

More on the life of my Writing Spider ... (from Wiki)

"Yellow garden spiders breed once a year. The males roam in search of a female, building a small web near or actually in the female's web, then court the females by plucking strands on her web. Often, when the male approaches the female, he has a safety drop line ready, in case she attacks him. After mating, the male dies, and is sometimes then eaten by the female".

Looks like our spider has mated! Her poor mate is hanging lifeless from her web even as I write this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Thanks to Hurricane Dolly, it's raining here in Austin! After another couple of blistering hot weeks, this rain is such a blessing.

The thing with rain is, my cats can hear it hours before it really starts raining. And they start acting loopy. This morning we woke up to an incessant banging on the door because Gundu wanted to come in. He's normally our little lion, and looks it too, but when it's raining he's a pathetic sight.

He first crept under the desk and sat at my feet as he usually does when it rains. But when the wind picked up, he crept off and I found him trying to squeeze himself behind the washing machine! I pulled him out of there and stuck him under the bed and that's where he currently is. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Austin's Pennybacker Bridge

"In umr-se lambi sadkon ko manzil pe pahunchte dekha nahin ..."

This is a much-photographed bridge not too far from where we live.
Another one for perspective ...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ad for the Austin Marathon!

Here's an eco-friendly ad for the Austin Marathon!

This week's theme for our photography class is perspective and portraying depth through lines. I have three pictures for this theme that I like among all the ones that I took. Here's the first.

Green Sunlight

It's still 100 degrees in Austin, but the one tree that seems to love this heat is the Crepe Myrtle. Purple, lilac, pink and white blooms cover the trees all over. We have one in our backyard, and in the morning light it was the leaves that caught my attention.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not about spiders this time ... :)

This picture, of a vine growing on our backyard fence reminds me of one of my favourite poems - by Rajlakshmee Battacharya.


In some rainy month, did you decide
to climb up our lichened wall, to reach
the rusty tin-roof, transforming
its shabbiness into velvet-green,
to hang your emerald-pendants
around the neck of our home?

All knew the perennial Madhavilata,
the fragrant Hasnuhana, queen of the night,
they gaped when they saw you
running wild on our roof,
velvet-green, strange, unknown.
We shouted with glee, "It is Punonnoba -- Punarnava."

That you had medicinal properties ---
that your juice soothes and heals---
we never knew till the vaid
sent his servant,
a demon who expertly climbed our roof --
hacked away at its emerald-fringed coverlet !

Oh the despair and the hope---
the running out in soaking rain---
to watch you extending tendrils,
sprouting leaves,
growing in greenness--Punarnava--
eternal companion on the roof-top.

That home was left behind,
as birth-strings snapped.
A refugee, wanderer, I
look for you, but no one knows
your name. No one knows
a velvet-green, medicinal creeper.
Lost to me, Punarnava,
your shade, your cool decor,
your healing magic.

Argiope argentata

A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman
1819 - 1892

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to
connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Seeing in rectangles ...

I've enrolled in a photography class, and I am hooked!! I've wanted to learn how to take more artistic pictures for a long time now, and now that I have a good digital camera, I'm ready to start working on it. So I've enrolled in a class on Composition and Lighting at the Univ of Texas, and it's been a good motivation to explore all the mystery settings in the camera other than "Auto"!

I've been reading lots of stuff online, and have been waking up early and heading out with my camera to take advantage of the early morning sun. It's so exciting that I can't fall asleep at night - I'm so impatient for it to be morning so I can go out to take pictures! :)

This morning I walked down to Barton Creek, which is behind our house and got some good pictures of the creek, trees, and one discarded snake skin!!

And here's a better shot of the writing spider -

So from now on I'll upload pictures from my fast growing album - taken for this class. Since I'm pretty new to this, comments and suggestions are totally welcome.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bambi - a pest ?!

White tailed deer are considered a pest in most suburbs in Texan cities (and other parts of the US too). They are blamed for causing damages to vehicles due to collision, and for grazing on expensive landscaping in people's yards.

Hunting licenses are pretty cheap, with the Texas Parks and Wildlife offering annual permits for just $48. Most people I talk to approve of hunting, since it's "necessary" to keep these pests in check. Bambi - a pest ?!

The reason is that most of the natural predators of deer such as bears and wolves have been removed by humans from the lower half of the US, to make it safer for humans to inhabit the area. Since they have no natural predators, deer populations grow unchecked and overflow into the areas that humans have colonized.

With cities steadily expanding, housing developments are moving more and more into areas that used to be wilderness, and humans come more in contact with deer, coyotes and other animals that live there. We being who we are, claim that these areas belong to us and start to kill any other creature that makes life inconvenient for us.

Shrinking habitat supports smaller and smaller number of deer, and the rest need to be removed. Since we have messed up most of the natural systems on the planet, we need to "manage" land and land use by animals and by us, such that the planet is fast becoming a highly managed piece of real estate, with very tiny bits allowed to stay wild.

The place where we live is full of deer, and we often see dead deer on the road. Last winter there was a little fawn sitting dazed by the roadside. A few others had noticed it and stopped to see if they could help. We stopped too. It had been hit by a car and was bleeding on one knee and
had a blood clot in one eye.

It was disoriented and since it was late, we were worried that it would wander back on to the road and get killed. It had outgrown its spots, and didn't need its mother anymore, but it was still a fawn.

There were six of us and it was around 10pm. After going over several options, we decided that we would take turns to stay with the deer overnight, in shifts of 4 hours each. In the morning we could call Austin Wildlife Rescue who might be able to help.

While we were there, a police officer drove up, and when he found out what we were trying to do, he offered to shoot the animal - saying that's all he could do !! We thanked him and sent him on his way.

Raghav and I took the first shift and stayed with the deer from 10pm till 2am. Then others took over. In the morning we found out that the little one had walked off into the woods nearby. Austin Wildlife Rescue said that they would probably leave her alone since she was able to walk around. Any attempt to catch her would stress her out more.

What is the solution to this problem? We need to preserve pockets of wilderness all over even as cities expand, because they are home to many animals who deserve to use this space as much as we do.

If a person loved Bambi as a child, that should translate to something when (s)he grows up!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The neighborhood we live in has a large population of white-tailed deer. We live adjacent to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, so there is plenty of greenery here and habitat for the deer.

Wiki says Texas is home to the most white-tailed deer of any other U.S. state or Canadian province, with an estimated population of over four million.

Around May every year, the females give birth, and the fawns have a reddish brown coat with white spots, not unlike Bambi. As they grow, the spots disappear. We have a closed backyard with a small gap in the fence, so each year at least one female chooses our backyard as a safe place to leave her fawn while she forages.

Shadow found this fawn last year hidden in the grass and was totally fascinated. I was afraid the cats would attack the little fawn, but they were content to just lie in the grass with it and watch it!

After this one, we had a set of twins in the yard, which liked to nibble on the pumpkin vines that grew there.

This has been one of the things that I love most about Austin and the area we live in. Going close to the fawn and photographing it the way I did is probably not good because it scares the helpless little fawn. I didn't realize it then, but this year we didn't take any pictures though we did again have fawns in the backyard.