29 July 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Ampersand

This is one of those equal parts cocktails like Negroni. I had not heard about this before – so I tried to read up the literature behind it. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a lot written about this. There is a mention of this drink back in 1935 in a cocktail book. So, we know it predates that date. And the best of sources suggest this probably started with some bar in New York City.

The traditional drink uses Tom Gin. I went with the London Dry style (Akori) that I am still experimenting with. The traditional recipe also calls for Brandy which is what I have used. But I note that many of the modern recipes seem to go with Cognac instead of Brandy. Sweet Vermouth and ORange Bitters rounds up the rest of the ingredients.

Not so strong in the palette, it surely hits a little later. Also, the nose is decidedly orange. In the length you can certainly detect the brandy.

29 July 2017

How his lime green shorts almost lost us a deal!!

“That must be him”, said Anand.

I turned around from the table that both of us had sat down at with a glass of wine waiting for somebody I had not seen for nearly two decades. “Sure it is”, I said.

The perennial smile was still there! That facial hair (which, of course is a mandatory feature for males in Portland) was still being sported. And when he opened his mouth – that booming voice was still intact.

Unmistakably Walt Buehring.

You see, this week Steve Martin (remember the gentleman that I managed to meet for a couple of minutes at Atlanta airport a few weeks back?) had helped me find the co-ordinates of our common colleague from the nineties – Walt, in Portland. When I was in Portland this week, after our partner dinner was over, I grabbed Anand – who was also a colleague at that time and we are again team mates now – and went to a bar to meet Walt.

It was a very long evening remembering the old days and it did not seem like we were done when we had to leave. There were a lot of memories to cherish, a lot of fun to ruminate over and lot of colleagues to update each other on. I have a lot of remembrances of Walt from those days – all those nightly builds, regression testing frameworks, porting of software and so many more.

“Do you remember our first story?”, I asked him.
“Which one was that?”
“How you almost lost us a deal with your shorts”.

Walt immediately broke into his big booming laughter. Anand kept curiously looking at both of us.

“Tell the story to Anand. I will get you started,” I said and then turning to Anand I started…

“This was in July, 1995. On my first day in the new company as a developer, the head of development – Dan Stenger – went around introducing me to the various team members. We came upon a room that had the door closed. Dan gently knocked and then opened the door. If I remember correctly, the door was usually kept closed because the developers inside – Walt being one of them – used to smoke inside. I know, these days, one cannot think about doing that.

In any case, Dan introduced me to this bearded, always-smiling guy and said – Walt, why don’t you tell Rajib how you almost lost us a deal?”

And like this day, Walt had laughed aloud then and explained to me as he did to Anand on this day…

“Anand, what had happened was…”, Walt started lighting up another cigarette (yep, that has not changed either), “one night I was working very late. And since it was late night, I had come back to office in casuals – and I mean lime green shorts, when I say casuals – and was pounding away at the code. Completely unknown to me, our company founder had just finished dinner with a prospective foreign (I think European) customer and had come back to the office together with the customer to pick up some of their stuff.

Upon seeing light in my office, they had swung by to say Good Night. Everything went hunky dory.

Except we found out a couple of days later that the potential customer had decided against us. Apparently they thought that employees coming in lime green shorts to office (mind you, this is very late at night) was not the sign of a professional company.”

As Anand grinned hearing the story, Walt looked at me – “Do you know the other reason why the customer was against us?”


“Apparently, our founder had not offered wine while sitting down for dinner. The customer had to ask for it. That did not go down well with them!”.

Now, it was my turn to laugh. You see, we were a start up those days. We might have been very passionate about what we did – yes, even in our lime green shorts – but we were not the most sophisticated folks then.

We did mature over time. And we did get that customer back. And the company did succeed a lot.

“Too funny,” I said, as all three of us were trying to wipe off the grins from our face!

And that is how life always turns out. The small incidents, the side stories of the intense times that you spend together with somebody almost always are the lasting recollections you will keep with yourselves.

It was great to see the good old Texas boy living life on his terms. He is singing in multiple bands, writing songs, enjoying the North West landscape and weather…

Good for you Walt! For all the cheerfulness you brought to our office two decades back, the hard work that you put in and selflessness you showed, you deserve every bit of the best things that life has to offer you.

And more, I might add.

29 July 2017

One more from Ghalib

“Koi ummeed bar nahin aati
Koi soorat nazar nahin aati
Maut ka ek din mu’ayyan hai
Neend kyun raat bhar nahi aati?”

Roughly translated.. (Improvements always welcome…)

“I don’t see any hope coming my way
Nor a visage of a solution meets my sight
That death will come one day is definitely true
Then why is it that I cannot sleep all night?”

27 July 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Gin #16: Akori Gin

The gin, from its name, would sound like it is made in Japan. That it is not. In fact, it is distilled – London Dry style – near Barcelona, Spain.

However, it does have a lot of Japanese influence in it. For starters the base alcohol is made from rice. While I have had gins made from corn base, wheat base and once even sugarcane base (remember the one from Colombia?), this is the first time I had something that was rice based.

The botanicals, other than the usual suspects, have some Japanese influence too in that it has dragon fruit, ginger, citrus and kumquat.

The nose is predictably fruity – as is the palate. Middle of the rung gin, in my opinion. I enjoyed it more with Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water.

26 July 2017

The icing on the cake in Florida

Words like Florida and “icing” are difficult to put together. But there was really a “cool” reason why we chose last week to make our annual visit to Fort Lauderdale. Because that afforded us a chance to meet Madhumolli and her family – Debjit and Damayanti who were visiting the US of A from their abode near London, UK.

Madhumolli and I were batch mates back in Durgapur. We never were in the same school but had common friends and then over time we became friends ourselves. There is an old story here that I insist mentioning – that those days she could not stand me (apparently, she had standards 🙂 ) and to this day, she has fought my storyline tooth and nail 🙂

We are very different people – she is the quiet and strong types and I am the … Well, let’s just admit she is the quiet and strong one. She loved medical sciences. I loved engineering. And sometimes they did not mix too well. There was something I had said once when I went to visit in her hostel in Calcutta Medical College and she simply grabbed hold of me and started dragging me to the next building – which was a morgue!! It was not that difficult to drag me. In fact, I will go ahead and admit that I was (and am) the garrulous and weak type!! 🙂

Madhumolli’s mom, incidentally, was Sharmila’s Bengali teacher in eleventh and twelfth grade.

Over the years, I have kept up with her by phone and personal visits in UK and Kolkata whenever I got a chance. My last meeting on July 11, 2013 was a memorable one. You can see the picture here… (http://www.rajibroy.com/?p=3385). After a day full of meetings, I had quickly changed into my running clothes and then hauled myself to Slough to keep an old promise I had made to her daughter. She had started running the previous year and I showed up to keep the promise of running with her next time I was in London. In all that excitement, we got Debjit – who had just arrived from Brussels – to run with us for some distance – in his office clothes!! And I turned around immediately, came back to the hotel in London and after a shower went out for a customer dinner!

Almost to the day, four years later, we met again in Fort Lauderdale. Most important, we were there with Damayanti the day she turned eighteen!! It was also very interesting to watch Natasha and Nikita exchanges notes with Damayanti on each other’s countries!!!

We met twice during our stay in Fort Lauderdale. Had the most enjoyable time!!!

This picture was taken as the lovely dusk enveloped the beach where we went for a walk…

26 July 2017

Portland trifecta

Had a lucky break with relatively less cloudy sky. The plane took off from the Portland airport towards the Pacific Ocean. And then banked right to take an about turn – giving me one of those rare sights from the window seat.

Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams – all in the same frame. The picture was taken from about 20,000 feet and climbing and about a 100 linear miles away from Mt. Rainier with an iPhone…

23 July 2017

Back to the future…

This is where our US journey had started. Nearly a quarter century ago, after getting married in a court of law in India, we had headed out to the US. And this was the airport that we finally had stopped our journey in. After thirty hours of flight or so, I was completely dazed and thoroughly ill equipped to understand anything foreign (e.g. I had entered a “Restroom” at the airport thinking that is where I could catch some rest during transit 🙂 Don’t blame me – in India, we called them “Toilets”).

In any case, our entire married life has been in the US and it all started at this airport in this country.

We come back to this airport every single year.