About Me

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Pune/ India, Irvine/ CA, now Boulder/ CO
Welcome to my blog! I'm Hrishi from Pune, India. I am an earth system scientist currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at CU-Boulder. Here I mostly write (though not as frequently as I hope to) about my travels, landscape photography, scientific computing, book and film reviews, fitness, cooking, and science communication. Feel free to navigate based on the labels below. My website: hrishikeshac.wix.com/hchandan

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Avocado Chaat

For someone who could make nothing apart from Chai and Maggi until a couple of years ago, it will be too presumptuous to write about a recipe. But this particular recipe is an exception- because it is my very own, original recipe! Yah!
Panu-puri and ragdapuri (as called in Marathi, or gol gappe and chaat, as they are called in Hindi) are amongst my favorite dishes. You get them as road side dishes on a cart for Rs. 20 (1/3rd of a US dollar! Still, I find the current price is a rip off, because they used to cost Rs 5 when I grew up!) in almost all the regions in India. If you are concerned about road side hygiene (which I am not), given the correct ingredients, they are super easy to make, and very, very tasty! But there lies the problem: the right ingredients. 

After moving to Irvine, CA, I find myself at loss- ain't no road-side chaat in this country! Some of the Indian restaurants in the orange county might be serving chaat, but I am sure they don't taste half as good. But here I found a few new things, like avocado and tortilla chips. So trying to preserve what is my interpretation of the bare fundamentals of making chaat, I came up with my own version of chaat, which I call avocado chaat. It's very quick and easy to make, and tastes great, and is arguably healthier than the normal chaat! 

Here's the recipe: (serves 2)
To be chopped: onions (1 medium), tomatoes (1 medium), avocados (1 medium), boiled potatoes(1 medium), and if feeling adventurous, 2-3 green chili
1. Crush 7-8 tortilla chips in each of the two bowl, add potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, onions, green chili
2. Add pasta sauce (2 tbsp), non-sweet yogurt (2 tbsp)
3. Sprinkle red pepper powder (just a pinch), chaat masala (just a pinch)
4. Add shev (bhujia- I think they can be called as Chickpea fried noodles!) as a topping, sprinkle lime juice


I want you to experiment and make your own avocado chaat- Treat this post as a source code to an open source software. Take this and build your own!
Here's a photo of the chaat that a friend of mine made:



Good luck, and do let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Naruto

I never liked anime. I didn't know what manga meant. Growing up, I was so used to watching traditional, western cartoons that when I first saw anime, the characters looked ugly! Almost two years back, a friend recommended me to watch an anime series called Naruto. I told him I hate anime. He asked me which ones I had seen (and hated), I said none. Well, both of us being PhD students, there is no room for making conclusions without evidence. So I watched the first episode of Naruto. Didn't like it. I thought the lead character was an idiot, there was a lot of emotional drama (being tortured by family drama serials in India all my life, I certainly didn't look forward to see more of this) and there was unnecessarily hysterical dialogs, and the conversations were, well, highly animated (no pun)! After I told him I didn't change my view, he said watch the first 8-10 episodes and then you will get hooked. I said "let's see", but both knew it may not happen.

Fast forward 2 years. In between, I had seen a couple of Kurosawa films, rewatched Kill Bill, and was now aware of the 'animated' dialogs in Japanese. Somehow it is very familier. I can easily visualize such dialogs happening in any of the Indian languages.  Japanese didn't sound alien. So when I was free last fall, I decided to give Naruto a go. Watched the first few episodes, and as my friend had said, I got completely hooked on to it. Loved the story, loved the plot, loved the style, loved the humour, loved the animation, loved the music, loved the action, loved the emotions. In short, I loved everything that Naruto presented. The whole experience is super duper inspiring. Within a couple of months, I had watched the entire 10 year old series. Now I started bugging a friend to get her to watch Naruto. So with with her, I rewatched the entire anime. I didn't get bored as it evoked a very powerful nostalgia as the plot covered several years and I loved to watch again, the characters when they were younger. Now I was up-to-date with the anime, but the story is going on, and I was loosing patience. Enter Manga. The anime is based on the manga comics and Naruto manga was several subplots ahead of the anime, and so I read the manga. Now I look forward to the new manga every Wednesday, and the anime every Thursday.

What I liked the most about Naruto is the plot. Its such a well thought out story. The integrity is maintained throughout its long span. I liked how it started on a small scale, a small happy village, and plot got increasingly bigger and bigger and now its dealing with a world war and the fate of humanity. Very similar to several books that I have read which start at a small scale (the Shire; 4 Privet Drive; Lyra's Oxford), and then the plot expands to include several big kingdoms/ nations. The lead character is carefree, in fact even a nuisance at the beginning, and then grows up to shoulder some heavy responsibilities. Same happens with Naruto. I liked the setting of the Ninja world. Similar to Jedis (I've read George Lucas got the idea of Jedi from buddhist monks). The concept of duty (or dharma) is very common in India. I have been aware about the chakras since I was a kid (my dad used to urge me to 'awaken' my chakras by doing specific yoga). Even the manipulations of different forces of nature using ninjutsu is very similar to the mythological wars in the texts Ramayana and Mahabharat. So may be that's why I could relate very well with the world of the ninjas.

Another thing I liked was how the characters were not black and white. Even the protagonist does things which one would not expect a 'hero' to do, and even the 'villans' are shown to be good humans at some point. There is a constant transition in the perception of a character's morals and now I expect that to almost all the negative characters, still it is never boring when it actually happens. The music is very well placed and there is this weird leitmotif, not just associated with particular persons, but also associated with particular situations (for example a specific music when a fight between two ninjas is about to have a complete turn around).

Judging from the manga developments, it seems like Naruto is going to end pretty soon. I'm sure the creator has a very powerful end up his sleeve. He has already told us how the series is going to end: with Naruto becoming the Hookage (village head)- his childhood dream/ ambition since the first episode itself. But that's the beauty of this manga/ anime. Its easy to guess whats going to happen, but the way it happens always takes your breath away.

About the drawing, this is the first real sketch I have drawn on a computer. I used a Wacom bamboo tablet (which I had gotten for 50 bucks when it was on a 50% rebate) and Sketchbook Express, a free software for mac. Initially I was just going to draw a quick and dirty sketch in less than 10-15 minutes. But then later decided to take advantage of the ability to create multiple copies in the digital world, and do a colored version after completing the sketch. When I started looking for tutorials on coloring, I realized that there are several smarter ways of doing the whole process using layers. First draw a rough sketch, reduce its opacity. On top of it, draw another layer with 'line art' (clean, powerful strokes of outlines, not the messy dirty ones I draw as sketch). As there is already the rough sketch below the layer for reference, its super easy to draw the line art. Once that is done, put the line art layer at the topmost, and create a color layer below it. Coloring is also very easy. Getting colors using palette is easy. For highlights and shadows, it is possible to increase or lower the palette's darkness to get the desired effect without searching for a darker yet similar colored shade. Easy. And obviously, it is possible to erase anything, so there is no 'dead end'.

I didn't pay much attention to the image while sketching, and while coloring, I realized some of the parts needed to be redrawn. Damn. Next time, I am going to pay a lot of attention, and proceed with coloring only when I am 100% satisfied with the drawing. I believe it will cut my time by half!

Happy manga, anime, and happy drawing and coloring to you all!