Tue, 31st Jan '06, 8:05 pm::

Late last year I realized I was gaining weight and decided to do something about it. So starting November 1, 2005 I gave up pizza, cheese, all fatty foods, excess bread, and started eating only healthy foods like vegetables, fruits etc. Today at exactly the end of 3 months, I have gone from 187lbs to 167lbs - 20lbs lost in 3 months with bare minimum exercising/running! I'd say I lost 90% of the weight due to eating right and the rest because of life-style changes (walk/run more, prefer manual labor over machines) I'm sure my metabolism is fast enough for me to lose this much weight this easily but I still think anyone can do what I did as long as they stick to their diet.

I'm not starving myself under any conditions. I eat a lot more than anyone I know. But I only eat a balanced meal - I take 100% of my daily requirement of calories, vitamins, proteins, fat, carbs, sugar etc. and get most of that from vegetables, fruits, milk, wheat bread, dry fruits & nuts etc. I don't snack on junk food anymore and I rarely eat foods that taste great but make you fat (cakes etc.) I know, it sounds like my life's not worth living now that I only eat grass and shoots but seriously, this is absolutely the easiest way for anyone to get back in good health. Now I'll start running on the beach more once the weather gets better.

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Mon, 30th Jan '06, 11:25 am::

Everyone's walkin by my office and saying "It's great to see this light turned on." I love my job and even more the people :)

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Sun, 29th Jan '06, 10:05 pm::

My friends came over tonight. First, Lanie came over and instantly both my kitties ran up to her, after all she took care of them for two weeks. She is absolutely the nicest "kitty-sitter" I could've ever found. She even left me a cute little 'welcome-home' greeting card with drawings of my kitties along with an X-mas sock with the phrase "I love my cat..." We sat down for about an hour and I showed all the pictures and videos I shot in India during my sister's wedding. An hour after Lanie left, my friend Liz came over with Dave, Josh, and Jessie. We chilled for a few and I showed Liz the pics & videos too. Now they all just left and I'm gonna relax for a few before going to bed.

Tomorrow, work starts. And I couldn't be more impatient - I want to get back to work so much :)

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Sun, 29th Jan '06, 3:50 pm::

My buddy back from college (now known as Akshay Kapoor) is gonna star in another Indian movie: Alag and looks like he's sportin' a bald new look. I know his first film didn't fare well but I'm hoping the best for him with this one. It does sound pretty different for an Indian movie - Sci-Fi story of a guy who has "spent the first 18 years of his life indoors in the dark because he possesses special powers and then steps into the real world. It's his journey of going out of his home and trying to adapt to society." It sounds like Blast from the Past meets Phenomenon - I just hope it turns out good and the public likes him. I remember him in college plays and he was pretty damn good. It's just that excellence in on-stage acting in Central New Jersey has no relation whatsoever to success among the billion-strong audience of Indians 10,000 miles away. Best of luck as always.

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Sat, 28th Jan '06, 4:05 pm::

I just bought MailMaster StoreMore Mailbox from Step2 online for $114 with shipping. Not bad considering that HomeDepot sells it for much more. It's actually a pretty sweet-looking mailbox and comparable in price to other mailboxes. The best part is that it can hold mail for up to two weeks so I don't have to ask a friend to bring in my mail when I'm out of town for more than a few days.

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Sat, 28th Jan '06, 3:45 pm::

I was dusting my baker's rack when I heard a loud noise. I looked outside my window but didn't see anything. Five minutes later a guy rings my doorbell and tells me that he ran over my mailbox with his pickup truck! He's willing to pay for it all so at least it's not a hit-and-run. He lives just a few houses down so once I buy and install a new mailbox, I'm gonna hit him with the bill. I could've been mad at him and he totally expected it but he's a neighbor and an honest one at that. So I just smiled and said, "No probs man. Thanks for being honest. I'll get a similar mailbox soon and give you the bill." Since mailboxes similar to mine run about $75-100 I can't let him go for free. Anyways, I'm afraid I got a little termite problem with my roof too. That's gonna be a big expense if it's true. Ahhhh the joys of homeownership.

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Sat, 28th Jan '06, 12:15 pm::

I'm back home in Florida! The entire journey from Kolkata, India to Tampa, Florida took over 40 hours but the good thing is that I got enough sleep and am not too tired. Now I'm cleaning my house, doing the laundry etc. And petting my kitties.

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Wed, 25th Jan '06, 5:55 pm::

Now that all the guests have left and my sister's on her way to her Honeymoon in the Himalayas, I get to spend time with my parents. So I don't feel like 'blogging much during the next few days, unless something out of the ordinary happens.

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Sat, 21st Jan '06, 9:05 pm::

My dad, his brother Paresh Uncle, Rita Aunty, my grandma, and I were up till 3:30am in my room just talking about things. These are the things I miss the most. We were talking about everything, from how my uncle envies my dad because his loving & faithful friends will give my dad all the time and energy in the world, to how handsome my grandpa looked during the Quiz Show in his cream suit with dark red shirt. He was quite a looker in his day.

Not having slept much tonight, I'm still kinda groggy but there's something else too. This morning my mom didn't sit by my side for half-an-hour to slowly wake me up. Nor did my dad snap his fingers twice to ensure I went from Dead-Asleep to Wide-Awake instantneously. The last two times I came to visit my family, I was the center of attention. Now, I'm just another guest in the wedding among hundreds of guests. My dad is quite possibly the most just person I've ever met and true to his nature, he is providing exactly the necessary amount of attention to everyone; no partiality. He has a lot to organize and plan, so barely has any free time. Also my mom is busy. From dawn till midnight, she is arranging food & refreshments for guests and making my sister looks pretty, so I haven't had much time to sit down and talk to her either.

Last night was funny. Around midnight while many of the guests were still in our rental flat #107, my mom called me to her room because she wanted to talk. I was sitting next to her and in 30 seconds she was sleeping. I stood up to leave but she held my hand and told me not to go because she wanted to talk. 15 seconds later, she's asleep. Rinse-repeat 5 times :) I waited 5 minutes to make sure she was definitely asleep before I joined my dad/uncle etc. in my room where we talked till past 3am.

Today is the Mehendi Rasam Ceremony - application of Henna. Imma get a temp tattoo! Tonight is the Disco Nite at Cloud 9 :-P Imma get my groove on!

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Sat, 21st Jan '06, 4:25 pm::

We just got back from the Mehendi Rasam. And now I have a kickass video to show what I've been up to. Here's a short clip of me dancing with Ridhhi, daughter of my dad's friend Jaytu Uncle: Chirag & Ridhhi - Song: Kajra Re. That was a little over one minute. The music and dancing went on for over four hours non-stop! Everyone danced - from my grandparents to maternal family to grandpa's sisters. To be frank, I can't really dance that well (as should be evident from the video); but I am no longer shy of dancing when the moment is right. For years and years I used to stand on the side under the false assumption that only people who dance well should dance. Only recently have I learnt that you don't need moves or skills to dance, just a big fat smile on your face and your hands up in the air. I'm not winning any dancing awards but I sure as hell had fun dancing with my aunts & uncles, grandparents, my parents, and of course, my little sister.

Actually, akin to most Hindi movies, the dancing at the Mehendi Rasam wasn't preplanned. Everyone spontaneously broke into synchronized choreography. The preplanned dance is tonight at Cloud 9 Nite Club :) And I need to get some rest before that.

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Fri, 20th Jan '06, 11:35 pm::

Event 1 of 4 successful! Tonight was the Zara Hat Ke Quiz Show at The Regency Terrace and went on without a single flaw. The show was hosted by Shobhit Desai, invited specially from Mumbai, and the computer aspect of it was designed and presented by my sister. My sis controlled a little laptop and the image was projected on a 15ft silk screen. The Quiz Show consisted of eight unique rounds, mostly based on Indian Movies or our family pictures. E.g. Round 1 was "Jodi #1" (meaning Couple #1). Kinda like the game of 3-cups, you would see pictures of four members of my family (grandparens, uncle, aunt) on the screen, then they'd be covered with small discs, and after the discs move around all over the screen, the audience members would guess which two discs hid which couples - quite an interactive exercise. That was just round 1. There were 7 other rounds, each more engaging than the other - all designed by my sister with my dad's suggestions. Here's a cute pic of my mom & sis after the show.

About thirty more guests from around the country came in today and we had over three hundred guests tonight at the show. I was supposed to pick up a few guests myself but I wasn't feeling too well early in the morning. The change of weather has had some effect on me so I'm taking things easy - there's three more days of non-stop activities.

My buddy Vishal came in from Gujarat today. It's been over three years since I saw him. Glad to see that he's still the same. I'm very tired so I'm gonna go relax now.

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Thu, 19th Jan '06, 2:30 pm::

Have you ever had grapes with milk? Yeah. I'm special. That was my lunch. Well it was an Indian-style fruit-salad, so we all had little pieces of fruits (apples, grapes, bananas etc.) mixed in milk. It was surprisingly good. There were also puris (small round fried tortilla-type) and four vegetable dishes, including masala alu-dum (spicy potatoes) and the guests seemed to enjoy it all.

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Thu, 19th Jan '06, 12:25 pm::

Word of the day: Hectic! Fifteen more guests flew in today. The guest houses are now being occupied and we have twenty or so guests coming in tomorrow by train. My dad has tabulated the arrival dates, room allocation etc. for all the guests so it's quite well organized. My Alpesh Mama (mom's cousin) will be coming in too! It's been years since I saw him.

Yesterday we didn't do much except go out for dinner to a Rajasthani Restaurant: Teej. The decoration was simply unbelievable. All the walls and ceilings were finely hand-painted - took them six months to complete the paint job! The food was exactly what I was craving for - tasty, spicy, and very filling! It was so heavy that today I'm not gonna eat anything, maybe fruits at most.

Tomorrow is the first official day of ceremonies - Grah-Shanti in the morning and Zara Hat Ke Quiz Show & Dance Floor in the evening. My dad's working so hard it makes me wonder where he's getting all his energy from. As for me, it's very different than what I was once used to. He had trained me to organize activities & events, deal with different types of guests, salesmen, workers, and of course put forth the best show possible. Now though, I feel quite incapable of executing everything up to his standards. I think the synchronicity of event planning and execution between him and myself peaked about six years ago when we organized the Yagna. Ever since I moved to US, I've slowly lost my people-skills, I guess because I'm no longer working daily in the market face-to-face with all sorts of people.

Ok back to present. My dad & cousin are setting aside the gifts for tomorrow. Every time a guest arrives from outside the city of Kolkata, they get presented with real leather wallets and purses with their names etched in golden ink. The initial few guests also received flower bouquets. As my dad is getting the gifts ready, I'm making multiple copies of the important phone numbers list - from the cell#s of all the six chauffeurs to the contact numbers for the five venues, guest houses etc. I didn't really expect my little sister's wedding to be on such a huge scale. So it's quite overwhelming.

One thing I realized amongst all this chaos (especially when you sleep in a different bed every night and shower in a different bathroom each morning) is that little things you never thought much about previously, now make you feel at "home." Like the Woody's HeadWax Web that I've been using for months now (no, this isn't paid product placement, I just LOVE it that much). Or the familiar menu system of any Nokia cellphone that I use in US, also extremely popular here in India. Little things like this, make me feel comfortable when so many unfamiliar things happen at the same time.

In addition to all the fun things, a lot of things obviously happen that make me go what the $^$#%?! For instance, I don't know or remember many of the guests that are arriving because I probably met them when I was 12, but they know everything about me. So of course, they force me to play the guess-game. You know, they come up to me in front of five people and asked "Guess who am I?" And I stare at the 70-yr old grandma point-blank and do my best to not say "Laquisha?" It's tough holding back sarcasm and substituting it with respect when you know for sure that they know you're not gonna recognize them and are doing it just to make you feel embarrassed in public. Of course, it's just harmless fun but sometimes I really want to speak my mind. But then I have to stop myself because I'm not in Florida right now. And in India, you NEVER speak your mind to elders, especially if they're older than your parents.

Lunch time now, fruits for me. I really can't eat any more Indian food. I want milk and cereal!

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Tue, 17th Jan '06, 9:40 am::

I'm being called. It's like people actually love me here and WANT to talk to me in person instead of online or on the phone. I'm so not used to this much attention. Rather, I was used to this much attention but over the course of 5-6 years, totally forgot how much everyone cares about everyone else.

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Tue, 17th Jan '06, 8:45 am::

After a heavy lunch yesterday, my dad decided to show us all the venues & guest houses. I'm pretty sure that he had already planned the tour 2 months earlier, as with everything else during this entire wedding event. The initial marriage ceremonies have just started; the marriage is on 22nd. Here is what we saw yesterday:

  1. Rabindra Guest House: This one is a stone-throw's away from our house and all the elderly guests and close family will be staying here. In addition to our own apartment (Flat #204) and an additional vacant apartment (#107) in our own building, we have two floors in this guest house. All the meals are prepared by the Maharaj (Chef-on-hire) and served in Flat #107 at least four times a day.
  2. Fanindra Guest House: This one has three times more rooms than Rabindra Guest House and our extended family and out-of-station friends will stay here. It is closer to the event venues than our house, which makes sense because most relatives & friends will just join us at the events than our house.
  3. The Regency Terrace - 20th Jan, Evening: The 'Zara Hat Ke' (Something Different) programme will be conducted here. It's the 30th and the last quiz show that my sister has designed and will present as a Mehta. I'm sure she will continue to create and present more shows in her new married life too. With a capacity of about 250 guests, the venue is a beautiful garden constructed above the 5th floor of The Regency building, which real trees, grass, and even a waterfall fountain. You gotta have fountains! In all honesty, the only way I can do justice to the breath-taking beauty of this location and others, is by showing the pictures of our ceremonies when they are held there. That'll have to wait till I get the entire wedding-site up.
  4. Rangoli Banquet Hall - 21st Jan, Morning: The Mehendi (Henna) ceremony will take place here. There's space for about 300 guests in this beautiful marble hall. The hall will be decorated Rajasthani-style with Chunris & Dupattas (silk-thin shawls worn by Indian females).
  5. The Cloud 9 Nite Club at Astor - 21st Jan, Evening: We drove past this and didn't see it from the inside. My dad said it's a pretty decent nite club with the same DJ/music/dance-floor setup that everyone is familiar with. The Disco Nite guests will be served by full-time bartenders.
  6. Maharaja Banquet Hall - 22nd Jan, all day: Here be the marriage. I've been told that instead of the traditional square-block design, the mandap (traditional marriage booth/stall) will have a curved top, kinda like a dome. The bride, groom, parents/siblings, and the priest will sit inside the mandap for the 3 hour long wedding ritual. Hopefully I will not be required to sit down with my legs folded yoga-style for the entire time. I think this hall seats about 500 people.
  7. Moksh Banquet Halls - 23rd Jan, Evening: The reception venue with three connected halls, can hold about 700-800 at most. The theme for the decorations is floral design and ice-sculptures. We have arranged for a mocktail bar in an adjacent hall with the dinner being served in another hall. This is the last function of the wedding; the first one that my sister will attend as a Sheth.

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Sun, 15th Jan '06, 9:50 am::

Happy Brithday to my sister Roshni!!!

It's been years since I was with her for her birthday. We had midnight cake :)

Family & relatives have started coming in. Last night my cousin Nishant/Baboo came in around midnight. While waiting for an hour or so at the Howrah Train Station for his train (that was delayed for 9 hours), I got some time to talk to my dad's friend Jaytu uncle. He noticed how much of polar opposites my dad and I were, especially when it comes to fundamental choices and outlooks in life. It's comforting to know that people actually see in you the things that you prize in yourself.

This morning more folks flew in from Mumbai. My dad's elder brother, Paresh Uncle, his daughter Nikita & her hubby Mehul are here. So is my grandma's sister Pravina Masi.

Today our family is supposed to visit my sister's fiance's house and give all our gifts to her as part of the marriage - a ritual called Aanu. It's unlike dowry in the sense that the tons of gifts we give, are by our own choice, not demanded. These are the gifts that the girl's family wishes her to have in her new married life too. So it's boatloads of miscellaneous stuff from a brand-new Jaipan Food Processor and Mikasa Crystal Dish set to the Xing He Hong Yi Coffee Tea Set and Scotch Brite. I think we'll begin with bags and bags of clothes and then gradually offload the hundreds of little and big items. Lots of fun hauling ass today.

But for now, it's breakfast time - South Indian style. Idli, Vada, Sambhar, Coconut Chutney.... mmmmmm!

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Fri, 13th Jan '06, 11:20 am::

[Indian Standard Time] - Hello from Kolkata, India! My flights from US to India were pretty smooth and much more relaxed than last time. Highly recommend Continental Airlines. It's been only a few hours but I'm already overcome with so many different emotions and feelings. It's very bizzare. A lot of the things that seem so different to me here today were natural to me just a few years ago. For instance the stray dogs on the streets and highways that cross traffic across lanes as carefully as any human. I'm sure I'll get used to everything within a day or two but initially it feels so unique. Like the little warm face towels they give you in the domestic flights here. Ha. Well I'm glad I'm here safe with all my lugage, without any troubles.

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Tue, 10th Jan '06, 12:05 am::

Just a few days till I fly to India!

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How to Dress Appropriately by a Straight GuySun, 8th Jan '06, 3:00 pm::

How to Dress Appropriately by a Straight Guy:

I've noticed that a lot of my buddies don't really know how to dress appropriately for different occasions. It's not that they're too dumb to dress well; it's just that every single fashion tip that comes out of any reputable media concentrates on turning straight guys into castrated metrosexuals. There is something weird about a guy that spends over $250/month on nasal-care products. However, that doesn't mean straight guys shouldn't take care of how they look. Instead of specific fashion tips, here's a few general things that every guy should know:

  1. Dress for the occasion: Sounds simple but way too many guys chose to ignore it. I know you're an elite hacker but please, unless you own the company, put on at least business casual (ironed shirt & khakis) for occasions that demand formal attire. If you don't own a pair of khakis because you're always in an informal environment, perfectly fine. But if you are going to be interacting in formal business atmospheres, buy yourself a pair or two. Next, don't wear a suit to a fishing trip. Wear jeans to friends' house parties but not to their weddings. And if there's going to be photographs, shave. If you don't know what to wear for a formal occasion, don't feel embarassed. Just call the organizers up and ask for the proper 'Dress Code' for the event.
  2. Dress for the looks: Yes, wearing good clothes will not suddenly make you more smart, responsible, handsome, or trustworthy than you really are. But "it's not a sin for a guy to want to look good or wear nice clothes" says SMH. Wearing nice clothes is not vanity and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
  3. Dress for the weather: Dark clothes in winter and light clothes in summer. Pretty simple. Don't get drenched in rain if you're going to be at an indoors event for long. Exception to light clothes in summer: Late night events.
  4. Late night events: Once again, if you don't know what to wear, call the night club up and ask for the proper dress code. Don't be shy or hesitant. It would REALLY suck if the bouncers don't let you in because you wore sneakers. A dark full-sleeves shirt, light beige khakis, and matching leather/suede shoes will work pretty much anywhere. If it's a country music club, jeans it is. If you like to be the center of attention, nothing wrong with being slightly gaudy. Wear that Hawaiian shirt as long as you're not going to be kicked out.
  5. Proper Grooming: Very basic stuff you should stick to whether you're going to be around people or not: Make sure your breath doesn't stink. If going to a formal event, shower, wash your hair. Wear deodorant no matter what. If you sweat profusely, try stronger deodorants. Use cologne if you're going to be indoors. Wear a good wrist watch if you can.
  6. Matching Clothes: This is a tricky one and any random girl is better at this than the most sophisticated guys. From my experience, stick to similar shades. Beige/khakis/browns go well with white and black. Blue, white, and gray go well together. Red/yellow/orange go well with blue. Avoid pink unless you can carry it off confidently.
  7. Dress in layers: If it's not too warm, wear a jacket or shirt over your t-shirt. It's like getting a second LCD - tremendous performance boost with minimal input.
  8. Cross-Cultural Dressing: No, not CROSS-DRESSING but rather wearing clothes from different cultures. This is an important one and very rarely discussed. If you're an American, trying on Indian Dhoti for the first time will be quite an experience. If you've never tried on a Japanese Haori, it'll feel quite different from shorts and tees. First you have to decide whether or not to even wear them for occasions that demand it. In most cases you do have a choice and if you aren't comfortable, feel free to pass on the golden opportunity to accidentally expose yourself to the entire wedding party. However, if you don't have a choice (you're the groom or very close to the couple), take hints from other guys. Let a pretty lady dress you up but ask the guys on how to carry yourself. Sitting, especially on the floor, will take some practice. And most probably there's no easy to unzip fly. Take a few minutes and learn how to walk, sit, stand-up, and of course, unzip - however that might be. Remember: By dressing up in the customary attire, you are in a way, showing your respect for the culture. Exception: Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Mr. Bean, and anybody catastrophically clumsy.
  9. Don't be fabulous: Last but not the least, don't overdo it. Know your limits and learn what you can 'carry off'. The key to dressing well is not just buying and wearing good clothes but also feeling and looking comfortable in them. If you can't be comfortable in a tie, don't wear one. For guys, dressing up has ALWAYS been about being comfortable. Corsets were for Medieval Damsels. Khakis with stretchable waistbands for Modern Men.

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Screw ChopsticksSat, 7th Jan '06, 6:30 pm::

My friend just asked me if I can eat with chopsticks or not. I replied with a resounding NO. I don't like chopsticks. Not because I don't have the dexterity to handle them without spilling noodles all over myself, but rather because the output/input performance ratio is extremely low. Eating with chopsticks is like raking leaves with a pool cue stick. Sure with practice you can do it pretty well, but why bother when more efficient, more elegant solutions exist? Namely, forks and sporks. Forks aren't any more complex than chopsticks. The simplest form of a fork is two chopsticks fused together for 80% of the length that remain seperated at the other 20%

It is understandable that thousands of years ago when metallurgy was in its infancy, making wooden chopsticks was far easier than metal forks. But now I just don't see the need for it. My friend argued that chopsticks are the only tools that provide the ability to pick something up without damaging it. Of course, that's a moot point because in 0.5 seconds it's going to end up in your mouth where you intend to inflict maximum damage.

We're still debating but I gotta admit, I really do fail to see why a primitive form of wooden cutlery is better at delivering different types of food than modern hybrids.

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Thu, 5th Jan '06, 1:00 pm::

I just spent 5 minutes trying to remove a period/pixel that kept showing up in all my HTML pages at the same absolute location. Finally I wiped the speck of dust off my LCD screen. Just goes to show that sometimes it matters what's on the outside too.

Quote for the day: "CTRL+C;CTRL+V is the sincerest form of flattery." - Chirag

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Tue, 3rd Jan '06, 10:45 pm::

Taylor took a few pics of me in freezing water the other day when we (Tay, his gf Kaela, & I) went to the beach.

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Mon, 2nd Jan '06, 4:45 pm::

Here's a Survival Guide to Ph.D that I'm reading right now and will hopefully appreciate sometime in the future.

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Mon, 2nd Jan '06, 4:35 pm::

I've been having an awesome New Year's weekend with my friend Tay & his family/friends. Went to his house last night and had some good dinner. Going to the beach in a few :)

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Sun, 1st Jan '06, 2:35 am::

Happy New Year everyone!!! I just got back from the St. Pete Pier with my friends Taylor, Kaela, Chad, Megan, and Taylor's parents. It was absolutely awesome. I'm way too tired to be online anymore but just wanted to say I hope 2006 is awesome for everyone! G'nite and Happy New Year again :)

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