Monday, November 23, 2009

Visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium

I have never been a fan of a museum tour or an aquarium trip in my life before. But that may be because I haven't seen the best of both. I had a chance to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium few days ago and I think I loved it.

I have seen a wide variety of fishes, white sharks, jelly fish, penguins and may be a thousand more deep-sea species. I loved the way they have organized the exhibits and the way they took every effort to involve oneself personally. You can touch and feel some of the creatures, leaving a lasting impression, specifically for the children. There are cameras that you can control to explore some of the the exhibits more. You can zoom, rotate and immerse those cameras in water to get a better view of those exhibits. There is a water slide area and a section of one of the exhibits was organized to create a beach-like tidal waves for the birds in the exhibit.

To demonstrate how some fish hide from their predators, the same fish were put into two chambers with different soil/sand color and you can see how the same fish changed colors to match the background. This is just one example of how every effort was put in to easily learn and explore all the sea life. It's just not a place where everything is thrown into a big tank of water and you are asked to find out what each one is. Every exhibit is carefully designed to maximize the experience and that's what I liked the most about this aquarium.

If you're visiting California's central coast, I think you should not miss this place. It's a very fun and learning place for the kinds and adults alike. You can get the pricing, parking and visiting hours (including the best times to avoid crowd) from their website. You can purchase the tickets online and print them at home. As someone said, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water". Go and experience the magic.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tollywood songs, videos, news and more on iPhone

If you are someone who follows latest news, gossips, videos, trailers, songs and pictures of latest Telugu movies from websites like GreatAndhra, IdleBrain, Ragalahari etc., you can now access all of that information on the go on your iPhone with the new RagaLahari iPhone app.

Ragalahari's iPhone app has all the latest Tollywood news and pictures. You can listen to the latest music right on the iPhone for free and also watch trailers and other video content. The app is pretty neat and loads fast. Streaming of songs and videos works well without any interruptions with a decent 3G or Wi-Fi connection.

Browsing the photo galleries is a little clumsy as the usual flick gesture to move to next photo is not implemented. There is a slideshow feature. But, if you want to browse few photos in the middle of the collection, you can't go to the next photo directly. You have to go back to all pictures and select the next photo.

I have encountered a few display bugs / glitches in the current version. But nothing is very major. Overall design and the fast load times more than make up for these small issues and I expect these issues to be fixed in the next version. It's worth a look for all Telugu cinema followers and it is currently available for free in the App Store.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Track your workouts to keep yourself motivated

For several months, I was thinking of inducing some kind of workout into my otherwise not-so-active (I spend most of the day with my head leaning forward gaping at computer monitor) daily life. Finally, I started to spend some time hiking every weekend. Till that point I never looked at the iPhone apps that fall under the category 'Health and Fitness'. The one that I really liked is RunKeeper.

When you are about to start your workout, just fire up the app and press the start button and let it run. That's all you have to do. You can optionally select the kind of workout (whether you are running, walking, cycling or hiking). If you do the same kind of workout regularly, it will remember your last selection and you only need to change it if you change your type of workout. Once the workout is done, press the stop button and you will see the statistics like duration of the workout, distance traveled, average speed, feet climbed and calories burned. As the tracking is GPS based, it will track your location even though there is no cellphone signal.

The cool thing about RunKeeper is that they have a web version where all your workout data is uploaded. Once the data is on the site, you can see your track embedded on a Google Map and you can share it with your friends or the world. There is also Twitter and Facebook integration to post your workout data as a status update with a link to the map and details. Sharing is completely optional and you can keep it to yourself if you do not want to share it with others.

The best thing about tracking your workouts is that it will keep you motivated. You will see how you are progressing or improving over a period of time and you will try to do more the next time. And as it costs you nothing, there is no reason not to try it out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Claim visiting parents as dependents for tax

This one is a very quick informational post. I came across this information while discussing it with a friend and thought this might be useful for others.

You can claim the people (parents, in-laws and others) who are visiting United States as dependents for tax purposes (only if you have sponsored them in the first place) if they stay for at least 183 days in US in any tax year. So, next time you go to file the taxes, remember it.