Deep’s Lord of the Stings: Tattoos and other Wild Adventures

Hey y’all!

To catch you up on what’s happening: Sandeep, a small hairy woodland creature from the quaint countryside of Sugar Land, Texas and Mark, the ancient white wizard from the icy plains of New Hampshire, have began their perilous trek across Middle Earth in a rental car. It should be a lot of fun, especially after seeing the last Lord of the Rings a couple of days ago in the most amazing theatre (think iMAX) in Auckland. The screen and the sound were huge, and we got to see the movie gloriously earn all 11 of its Oscars. It seems fitting that I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie a month before I left for Tonga, and now after my own incredible Peace Corps journey is over I can witness Peter Jackson’s stunning conclusion to the story. I experienced a little bit of deja vu when we walked near the Auckland harbour… two years ago, fifteen group 62 people traveled out to the harbour for a visit to the Sky Tower during our 8 hour layover in Auckland before we left for Tonga (I put the cab ride on my credit card for us, and some of you chumps still owe me money!). It was so cool!

One thing about the final Lord of the Rings that troubled me was the ending. Frodo eventually decides that after his epic travels, he is longer able to live in the Shire as the journey has changed him too much. He leaves Middle Earth and his companions on an elven boat across the ocean never to return. After everything I’ve experienced in Tonga and the Peace Corps, am I going to need an elven boat away from Texas and everything I used to hold so dear? Perhaps!

Speaking of changes, I now sport a HUGE tattoo on my right arm. Think of a pathetic little armband tattoo and taper it eight times around your right bicep. There you go… you’re tattooed Sani style. Right before we left Tahiti, we went to a guy named Roo’nui who had a wicked laugh and a penchant for insulting other not-so-legendary Tahitian tattoo artists. Despite his frequent marijuana breaks, he had done an awesome job on Mark’s leg turtle tattoo the day before, and I had no doubt that he would do a great job on mine. He took three hours to sear the hardships and the celebrations of my Polynesian experience into my skin. The front of the biceps was not too painful… it was like a hundred molokov bites (I actually have a molokov in one of my tattoo bands!) firing off at the same time. The tattooing of the tricep area, which is one of the most sensitive areas of your body, was even worse and as close as I will ever get to experiencing the pain of childbirth. I knew something beautiful was being created in this process, but it was the most excruciating experience of my life. I think it’ll be a while before I do it again. It’s awesome to know that when I get back into the intense pace of life in the USA, I’ll be able to pull up my sleeves and remind myself of a place where work isn’t all that important. 

The food on this trip has been incredible. I’ve had a diverse assortment of steaks, salads, pitas, pasta, kebabs, hamburgers, and sandwiches. I’ve been to small little cafes and exotic one-of-a-kind restaurants. While I miss Akikos very much, the variety of foods that we’ve had in Tahiti and New Zealand and in the air (I admit that I love travelling mainly for airplane food!) are astounding. I feel like I have taste buds coming alive that have been dormant for the past two years. While I sometimes get the craving for some lu and ufi, I can usually get over it by consuming some pepper steak and a nice salad. Yesterday, we went to Wendy’s for a terrible hamburger combo, followed that up with a decent Burger Fuel Bastard Burger (massive!) for lunch, and then went to an amazing restaurant called Valentines for dinner. Imagine all of the top 5 dishes from every palangi restaurant in Tonga and stick them in a buffet for $10 US then toss in unlimited drinks (beer, wine etc.) for $5. Valentines was sweet, so check it out if you’re ever in Auckland. 

Before we left Tahiti, we went on a few more great tours. On our marine tour, we watched tons of dolphins beside our boat and we went out to a reef reserve where we fed the marine life. I actually fondled an enormous shark for a few seconds before I got in trouble for stepping on a huge sea turtle! We got to see the best surf spots in Tahiti where a surfer could spend five minutes on a wave before it broke. The view of Tahiti from the boat was unbelievable. The rugged mountain ranges have all been sites of several movies and even the houses and hotels (one was built right over the water) add to the beauty of the island. The next day we took a land tour that wasn’t quite as impressive, but we stopped off at a juice factory and I had 12 different liquors and wines! Ifo aupito! New Zealand hasn’t failed to disappoint us either. We were considering going on one of the big tours here, but we decided to form our own tour instead – the Keep Left tour. You may see some of our bumper stickers or road signs when you are in New Zealand someday. So far we’ve travelled through Auckland, the Coremandel peninsula, and Whitianga. They are stunning. The long stretches of road on which we travel dive through mountains and over bountiful farm land. Every few minutes we stop to take pictures and usually a dozen other cars stop behind us to do the same thing… we think people may be trying to join our Keep Left bandwagon. Even the bustling towns are stunning with such an awe-inspiring backdrop. This is my impression of New Zealand even before we’ve gone to the south islands of New Zealand where such classics as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hercules, and Xena have been filmed. The best is yet to come. 

I’ve been spoiling myself shopping as well. Over the past year, my feet have suffered through shoes that have been too small, and shoes (from Fiji!) that have fallen apart in a week. I went to one of the best shoe dealers and purchased the most expensive running shoes I could find (New Balance 1221s… praise the lord!) and even the most expensive socks. Mark and I went digital camera shopping and I couldn’t wipe the big grin off my face as we walked into well stocked electronic stores. I’ve gone post card crazy and have sent out a ton of them to my friends and family. I’m aching to go back into a Borders book store and purchase a few dozen paperbacks. The one I went to in Auckland had five floors of novels, DVDs, and music! Walking into a gigantic Foodland store in New Zealand leaves me in a state of nirvana. Life is good!

I will toss up some pics up on my website at including tattoo pics if you’re curious. Tell me what you think of it! Let me know if you need anything from New Zealand and keep in touch. 

Take care!
Love, Sandeep (the RPCV formerly known as Sani)

From Tonga to Tahiti

Hey y’all!

I am in Tahiti right now and seriously missing Tonga. I miss my 24/7 free internet access and my laundromat! I did laundry by hand for the first time ever and I was sweating like an hour of Body Combat at Teufaiva Gym. I’ve spent the equivalent of 15 American dollars for 30 minutes of Internet time over the past three days! And food in Tahiti is expensive. No Akikos here. People complain about how little we can purchase for our monthly allowance in Nuku’alofa… you should see what three days in Tahiti has done to my entire readjustment allowance! While Mark thinks that we are living the high life, I feel like I’m roughing it for the first time in the Pacific.

This place is awesome!

Tahiti is stunning especially the outer island of Mooria which we are on right now. Tonga is probably more beautiful overall, but Tahiti really caters to tourists with a clean, hospitable environment. The beaches are nice but don’t hold a candle to what’s up in Ha’apai or the Niuas. Tahiti is not conservative at all… the girls sun bathe topless which is pretty cool, but for some reason I find the Tongan wet t-shirt swim attire more appealing. Nothing was closed on Sunday, and customer service exists although I don’t know how to take advantage of it anymore. Everyone speaks French and very few people speak English, so it has been tough communicating with Tahitians and other tourists. Tomorrow, Mark and I will be feeding sharks, turtles, and dolphins. We may also head to the top of the mountain range crater and take a bunch of pictures. There is also a black pearl manufacturing tour we will go on. There lot’s to do here, and as long as we can pay our bills we should be very busy.

I’m having a tough time dealing with the fact that I’m no longer in Tonga anymore. I keep expecting to wake up and be back in homestay! I’ve got another two months of traveling before I go home, so I’ve got a lot of time to reflect on the experiences of the past two years. So far, I’ve realized:

  1. I am not the same person who left America two years ago. I take a glance at my website which was a snapshot of me two years ago, and realize that it doesn’t fit me anymore. In two years, I’ve moved at least a couple steps up from sociopathic wierdo.
  2. I still don’t know what to do with the rest of my life. For some reason, that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to but it probably bothers me twice as much as it should.
  3. Life is meaningless without Troy. I must find a new muse to inspire me. I’ve decided it’s going to be that stunning girl in “Lost in Translation”. Life seems so much better already!

While I ponder these issues, I plan to enjoy my world trip (after Tahiti, I go to New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cyprus) and I want to keep in touch. Please keep me informed about what’s going on in your lives and I will do the same. I’m going to send out a group email at least once every three weeks while I am traveling so if you want to be removed from my list, let me know. If you know someone who wants to be on the list, but was left out due to the fact that I don’t have their email address, please send it to me. My email address is no longer…. it is now and will be for the rest of my life. I may be clearing up the pictures off my website once I get back in two months, so grab whatever you want from and do it soon.

I love you guys, and I miss you all. If you are ever within a 100 miles of my current location (see my up-to-date contact info on my website), you will always have a place to stay and eat if you want it. 

Take care!

Love, Sandeep (the RPCV formerly known as Sani) 

Hobbies (Prior to Peace Corps)

Here’s a list of some of my hobbies in no particular order!!  This includes sports, favorite bands, favorite people, and a whole bunch of other junk.

Digital Photography

My first camera ever was a digital camera that I bought after countless hours of research online.  After seeing a friend’s Nikon 950 digicam in action while I was in Florida, I knew I had to have one.  Digital photography is absolutely incredible.  Its great taking a picture of a person, and then checking your LCD instantly to see if it came out right.  Its fantastic to take three hundred pictures in one outing, stick them on your PC in seconds, and then take it out for some more action without having to wait for them to get developed.  Its also awesome to take the pictures and Photoshop them to perfection to truly capture the moment.  But the greatest thing about it is that I can fit a lifetimes worth of pictures on one CD (which is nice if I ever have to evacuate a burning building… or flee from an invasion).

My first digital camera was an Olympus D450Z and I recently traded it in for a Canon S110.  Despite its minute size, it’s built out of steel and has awesome picture quality.  But with digital photography, it takes more than great equipment to get the perfect shot.  Even Adobe Photoshop can only do so much.  If you’re interested in learning more about digital photography, check out .  I also highly recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements if you are looking for solid image editing software without going broke.

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Musical Taste

I love all types of music, but I have a particular affinity to techno, classical, and rock.  My favorite groups are Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, Tupac, Prodigy, Offspring, Loreena McKennitt, Cirque du Soleil, Bach, Clifford Jordan Quartet (jazz), Missy Elliot, Gravity Kills, and Weird Al.  I like anything with beat or rhythm that conveys energy.  Slow music drains me.  I’m a big fan of movie soundtracks with classical music such as ones for the Gladiator and Lord of the Rings.

I’ve also begun to enjoy some forms of country music.  I’m really enjoying Charlie Daniel’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia.  I like Shania Twain, but I’ve heard she’s not really country!

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I have to admit that this is another one of my quirks… I love listening to music through headphones.  I like them better than speakers or even live shows.  There’s something about their isolation and detail that makes me feel like I’m getting a private screening of a musicians best performance like I’m a special VIP!!!  I’ve gone through dozens of headphones in my quest to find audio bliss with pricetags ranging from $5 to $500.  I’m so nuts about headphones, that I’ve purchased dedicated amplifiers for them.  But I’m not alone.  Check out or for more headphone fanatics! I’m also going to share some secrets with you.  The two best headphones I’ve ever used (and the only ones I currently have) are the Koss KSC 35 and the Etymotics ER-4P.

The KSC 35 is the most comfortable, best sounding active use headphone I’ve ever used.  I have it on my head while I’m working out, running, doing laundry, etc.  They are a hundred times better than anything out there for active use and they only cost $30!  They may be discontinued soon, so buy them soon!  They are open headphones and don’t block any noise in and out of them which is usually good for most situations. 

On the other end of the spectrum I highly recommend the Etymotics ER-4P earbuds.  These closed (block outside noise) headphones cost $270 and look cheaper than the KSC 35s mentioned above but have the most incredible sound qualities I’ve ever heard.  They are difficult to put in the ear and tend to attract earwax (yuck!) if your ears aren’t perfectly clean (I’m neurotic about this).  They also SHUT out everything in the environment around you such as planes, rockets, TVs, noisy roommates.  This allows you to create your own little heavenly audio experience regardless of your surroundings.  They are awesome!

I go to for most of my headphone purchases as they tend to have decent deals.  You can also get them from other headphone users in the marketplace of the headphone community sites I mentioned earlier which has saved me considerable amounts of cash!

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I’m a huge fan of college football and college basketball.  I think college sports are played with more passion and enthusiasm than anything in the professional leagues.  I do enjoy watching NBA games, but pro football doesn’t do it for me. I abhor baseball (playing it’s not that bad, but watching it is torture).  Golf is great, but it’s become too Tiger-centric.  He’s too good!!!  As far as athletes go, I think Iverson is unbelievable.  While I question his attitude, I really admire his energy.

When I get a chance, I enjoy watching women’s tennis as well.  With the Williams sisters, Hingis, Davenport, and Capriati,  Women’s tennis is so much better than men’s tennis. They’ve got real personalities and they look great!

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Weight Training / Running

Running has always been a passion of mine.  There is a point during a long run where your current worries melt away and you can focus on what is truly important.  I run for this “high” and it really helps me deal with life.  I used to run track and cross country in high school, and although I was never very good, I enjoyed it very much.  Interestingly enough, my mile times and my pleasure from running have actually gotten better over time, and I think I may do pretty well in the Boston Marathon in 2005 if I keep it up.  Currently I plan to escalate my running till I get 50 miles a week, at which I will begin hill workouts and further improve my mile times.

My current workout routine is a mix of size and tone sets.  I am attempting periodization, but I might just shift to the retro workouts if it doesn’t get me the results I need.  My goal is to someday get 250 pds * 8 reps * 3 sets on bench (which is my weakest area by far).  That’s as far as I want to go. 

I’ve kept a journal of my training for two years now, and I believe that its an important asset to my workouts.  You’re really the only person who knows if you’ve been faithful to your workout and the only one who really cares.  The journal keeps me in line even if I’ve got a partner to work with… it’s a permanent reminder of when I’ve been lazy and when I’ve been effective.  It’s empowering to see how far you’ve come since the day you started a training program!

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Web Design

As you can see, web design is another one of my passions.  I believe that a well designed web page is the true indicator of how serious the person/organization is.  After all, a web site is open to the entire planet… if someone wants to be taken seriously, they better make the best online impression they can.

I’ve been working online for six years, and it started off as a hobby that I never truly believed would take me anywhere.  For six straight days I was obsessed with creating my first web page.  I read an entire book about Photoshop 4.0, HTML, FrontPage and a whole bunch of web technologies.  I never imagined that those skills would give me opportunities well beyond anything I would learn in class!!  I’ve worked on several commercial websites, including some coldfusion sites for NASA, and I’ve been part of many successful and unsuccessful online ventures. 

I think the best is yet to come in terms of web design.  We have not even begun to tap into the power of the Internet, and web designers are in the forefront of molding this incredible resource.  I can’t wait for the day when I can truly create some incredible websites without having compatibility issues between IE, Netscape, and the evil known as AOHelL (America on Line for those not acquainted with its misery… good for you).  Its a pain designing for the lowest common denominator.

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Politics / World News / History

I am a news buff and my favorite topic has always been politics.  There is no such thing as the perfect political system and the proof of this is our wonderful United States of America.  The basic premise that it is a country of the people has already been challenged by the last election, and I am certain that the fact that more people are placing our system under scrutiny will make it crumble. With the recent attacks on the US, more and more liberties are being pushed back on our list of priorities in favor of security.  Also interest groups, the unchecked media conglomerates, and lawyers will rip us apart.  Every political system is based on trust, and trust is waning. Why?  Because people are noticing that the system created 200 years ago isn’t really evolving fast enough… its being exploited and no longer fits the spirit of the founding fathers.  That being said, its still the best political system in the planet.  Sad fact.  I’m going to miss seeing it change while I’m in the Peace Corps and I think that the USA I will come back to is going to be very different from the one I left.  What is my political affiliation?  I’m a liberal with conservative values!!!  I typically vote democratic (my stance on most issues is democratic), but I admire the character of Republicans such as John McCain and Colin Powell.

I also love world news.  US News is pretty uninteresting except for the occasional wackiness, but the world around us is becoming a very fascinating and troubled place.  The false sense of security our Americentric news systems give us are a far cry from the events in the Middle East and South Asia.  I have a feeling that this sense of security will vanish soon as well.  It took its licks during the September 11th crisis, but the country is closing itself up again.  I’m not looking forward to it, but its time that we realized that the US is still part of this planet… and it is no longer the world power that it used to be.  I’m a big fan of the European Union, and I think that it is the beginning of a global trend in international politics.  Mergers!!!

History also fascinates me.  I love reading about the historical conflicts between regions and the origins of war.  I love reading about war because it seems ironic that war is a means of achieving peace.  Sure, you can sign treaties and have non-violent protests, but it seems like the only conclusive agreements in history have been written in the blood of soldiers on battlefields.  What is it about the human race that places land and ideology above the lives of our species?

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Videogames / Computergames

I love videogames and computergames.  I know that these games are the only things really pushing mainstream technology today.  I don’t really enjoy playing them as much as enjoying how intricate and amazing they are.  There are several games that I think push the boundaries of imagination and are driving us closer to getting to a virtual reality.  And thats the pinnacle of any game… to make the player feel attached (or addicted) to a virtual world through the eyes of a virtual hero.  Here’s my list of top ten games getting us to this utopia:

  1. Star Control II – The greatest villains of all time, the greatest game music ever, the unbelievable story universe, and epic battles.  This game came out ten years ago, but I have yet to see another game with it depth.  You can probably find it free on the web somewhere.
  2. Civilization – If you haven’t played this game, you need to.  Its graphics are outdated and there quite a few sequels out there, but it offers more replayability than any game. Essentially, you take control of a race and attempt to create a glorious civilization by building wonders, conquering and spying on enemies, conducting trade, inventing new technologies… its historical and its strategic maneuverability are awesome.  I remember the time when my Mahatma Gandhi laid waste to Rome with a batallion of catapults.  Unfortunately a hundred years later (in game time) Stalin broke our treaty and destroyed my capital city with a battleship 🙁 
  3. Baldur’s Gate / Planescape: Torment – Awesome role-playing games.  If you’re used to the linear crap that is the Final Fantasy series (relax, I like them too… especially VI), then the pure control you have in this game may not be for you.  After a while your characters will feel truly alive… especially when two of your fighters team up and kill your mage!!  I haven’t played the Baldur’s Gate sequel, but I hear it offers over a hundred hours of game play in its main storyline!  Planescape has one of the best stories I have ever seen in a game.  Check it out too! 
  4. tie: Metal Gear Solid and Diablo – Metal Gear Solid is the closest cinematic type game where I’ve felt that I had some control over the main character.  Its production values are so high that I still consider it the epitome of great console game play.  Diablo came out a while ago too, and truly revolutionized the role-playing genre.  Point and click to attack… its simplicity while offering depth was a predecessor to the games listed at #3. 
  5. UFO Enemy Unknown – This game took off the same time the X-Files did.  Conspiracy?  Maybe, but I absolutely loved it.  The surprise attacks on my base by aliens, the raids on alien headquarters, developing blasters off of alien tech, and protecting civilians from the alien threat.  Some of my most memorable moments were when I came out with a surefire way to wipe out an alien species only to have my away team destroyed by a new variant.  I’ll never forget the time one of the aliens brain washed Scotty into blowing up himself and his comrades with a grenade.  That was priceless!!  ..sob..  poor scotty..
  6. Soul Calibur – I had never really been blown away by the way a game looks before I saw Soul Calibur.  For a long time, this was the reason to own a Sega Dreamcast.  Friends would come over for hours just to look at the gorgeous battles.  The controls were responsive and easy to master.  The greatest fighting game of all time!!
  7. Virtua Tennis – The second best reason to own a Dreamcast!! The graphics were great and four players could duke it out on a game that was incredibly easy to play and fun to master.
  8. Half Life – The game that redefined the first-person shooter genre by introducing a plot that involved more than blowing away the bad guys.  Although the ending is suspect, the game was thrilling.  Did that hostile just chuck my grenade back at me?  
  9. Master of Orion – Civilization in space.  ‘Nuff said!!
  10. tie: Chrono Trigger and Skies of Arcadia – Chrono Trigger was an awesome game with incredible music and a fantastic storyline about a group of teens who save the world by traveling through time.  You could fight the final boss at any point in time, and when you finished the game, you could play through it again retaining your old stats!!  You could also try and discover each of its 12 unique endings.  Its sequel unfortunately wasn’t as good (Chrono Cross has the most convoluted storyline ever).  Skies of Arcadia was the best RPG for the Dreamcast.  Had awesome ship battles, incredible graphics and a good story.  The characters were really fleshed out and not cookie cutter like most Squaresoft heroes!!  

There are so many titles that almost made this list, and probably would have made the list on another day.  I think that the X-Box is going to beat out the PS2 and gamecube in the long run for no other reason than Microsoft is unstoppable!!!  As far as my favorite console of all time, I have to pick the Sega Dreamcast although it will soon be out of commission.  Never have I seen so many fantastic games from a console underdog.  May you rest in peace, my faithful Dreamcast!!

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eBay is the world’s leading online auction service and I am an ardent believer that the average price of an item through eBay is its true market value.  It is the ultimate marketplace!  I use it religiously to buy and sell my items, and often get more money for an item than what it cost me.  I  have no doubt that I can purchase a used good (one that retains value such as headphones or used video games 🙂 etc.) and sell it without a loss after carefully playing with it for a while.  I’m always shocked by how much people are willing to pay for an item… I guess with millions of potential bidders, there’s always going to be one that thinks any price slightly lower than retail value is a good one.

Make no mistake about it – eBay is a seller’s market.  They don’t ship until they receive the cash, and they have the power to describe the item as they see fit.  The only thing that keeps the buyer safe is the seller’s reputation and their (the seller’s) desire to protect it.  Feedback is the key to keeping people honest on eBay and it works extremely well.  I’ve been using it for 3 years and my feedback rating is pretty good!  Check it out by clicking here.  It’s a source of pride for me and I would never do anything to endanger it!

Here are my tips on using eBay.  I hope you find them useful!

As a buyer, only bid at the last possible moment with the highest amount you are willing to pay.  If you email the seller, make note of how long it takes them to respond as this reflects their ability to deliver the product to you as well in a timely manner.  Make sure your seller has good feedback.  No feedback is a sign of trouble as no one can vouch for the seller who may be legitimate or may be trying to rip you off.  Bad/neutral feedback is also a cause for concern (although there may be underlying issues) because it usually takes an extreme case for another buyer to post it.  Typically though, the seller is expected to leave positive feedback for the buyer once they receive the money and the buyer is safe from reciprocal negative feedback if they feel like they got cheated in the end.  Most problems end in either neutral feedback, no feedback, or a resolution outside of eBay.  I haven’t had too many issues with purchases off of eBay, but I can honestly say that its far too typical for the final value of an item to be higher than what you can find it for at some online store using an online coupon.  Make sure you check out bargain sites before you make a bid on a product.  Despite that fact, eBay is still the best as you get the item for the lowest price based on your available info and the seller typically gets the highest price that they can get for it. Its a win-win.

As a seller, make sure that your auction listing is detailed and has great pictures of the product.  You do not want to appear unprofessional… this is still a business transaction! Do not understate problems with the product, but be willing to provide more details if someone inquires via email.  NEVER put a poor title on a product.  If the product has already been listed in several past auctions, look at the title that received the most bids.  Use the keywords in that title for your auction as well.  This will prevent potentially disastrous auctions.  Also never use reserve auctions as they will turn away potential bidders who may not be willing to risk bidding to a possibly high reserve price.  Instead, make the lowest amount you are willing to accept for the item its starting bid value.  I typically start my auctions at $5 as I trust eBay to get me the best possible market price in the end.  Lastly, when dealing with items that may attract younger audiences (such as video games or comic books) be wary of bidders that seem childish.  They may be underage and could screw up your auction.  Sadly, with adult auctions I feel the same way about users with email addresses.  While this may be a horrible stereotype, AOL users tend to need more direct guidance in completing auction requirements and following through on commitments. Remember that you can cancel bids and block bidders… I typically do that if I feel worried about a particular person with zero or negative feedback.  Check and respond to email about auctions as soon as possible as it helps the bidder feel confident about bidding on your item.  And when the auction is over, send the bidder an email about payment options ASAP and send the product immediately after receiving the money.  Its good etiquette to provide positive feedback to the bidder once you get the money, and then ask the bidder to give you feedback once they receive the item.  Protect your reputation at all costs if there is an issue or it may hurt future auctions and eBay purchases!

I highly recommend that you do not start selling on eBay until you have at least a 30 feedback rating.  This means that you should make positive and fast transactions with eBay sellers and request for feedback until you have a decent reputation.  Once you are at that point, sell away and enjoy the magic of eBay!  A little money can go a long way.

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I’m a nut for technology.  I always want to buy the latest and greatest technology for my laptop etc.  I’ve gone through at least five mp3 players and had a number of non-Palm PDA’s.  I prefer spending on technology over getting food, beds, and any other overrated necessity.  All of last year, I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor of my apartment while I bought a ton of cool stuff for my computer system.  This was compounded two  summers ago when I purchased a non-essential top of the line IBM Thinkpad off of eBay for a huge price tag… I had a lot of explaining to do.  Here’s my current setup:

  • IBM T20 Thinkpad… Pentium 700, Titanium reinforced surfaces, 512 meg of ram, 14.1 inch screen, thinklight, s-video out, dvd player, 18 gig hard drive, 12 gig secondary hard drive, internal modem/100 bt network card, S3 Savage 3D Mobile Chipset…. this system is awesome even if it isn’t top of the line any more!
  • Compaq Ipaq 3650 – The color PDA that almost makes me want to through away my laptop.  If it had a real hard drive, it would be no contest.  Way better than my old REX 6000 although it is a lot bigger.  It’s taken over my life!  I even have a magnetic VAJA case for it that acts as my wallet.
  • Sony MZ-R700 Minidisc Recorder – Minidisc retains all the sound quality of CDs in a small package, and with the new MDLP technology around 2 hours and 30 minutes of music can fit on one cheap minidisc.  You can also put 5 hours of voice on it.  Sold my beloved Rio 500 because I can do mp3’s with this device.  The only problem with it is that everything is in realtime… I can’t transfer 2 hours and 30 minutes of music on it in seconds.  It takes 2 hours and 30 minutes!  But it makes up for it in build quality and battery efficiency (50 hours on one AA!!!).
  • Canon S110 Digital ELPH – 2.1 Megapixels of Digital goodness!! This camera takes excellent shots that are fantastic for websites!  It’s a pocket sized wonder that takes great 1600 by 1200 pics and 30 sec movie clips.  I’ve got a waterproof kit for it that will let me take pictures underwater as well.

This is a very, very expensive hobby… but all of these items are well used and are absolutely necessary!!! 🙂

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Personal Mission Statement

According to Stephen Covey, the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a Personal Mission Statement is “a powerful document that expresses your personal sense of purpose and meaning in life; it acts as a governing constitution by which you evaluate decisions and choose behaviors.”  Before I created my own personal mission statement, I questioned the importance of such a document.  People think its weird and funny stuff, but having a mission statement always gives you an evaluation criteria for making life decisions.  Five years later, I can see that it has shaped every aspect of my life. 

My Personal Mission Statement

In pursuit of excellence, my mission is to lead my life with integrity and, by seizing opportunities and using all available resources, to discover my massive potential for enriching and improving the lives of those around me.

I follow this mission with a vivid sense of my priorities. I work towards my future by choosing the long-term objectives over the short-term pleasures. Along with lots of careful planning, this allows me to maintain a positive direction in my life and a positive attitude. I shall implement habits that aid my mission, while recognizing and changing the habits that hinder it. But most importantly, I shall efficiently focus all my personal resources on my educational, athletic, and emotional goals without procrastinating or settling for the status quo.

I acknowledge that my greatest resource is the people who fall within my circle of influence. Life is a journey and every person chooses a unique path. I facilitate my mission by helping others find a better route and by not being afraid to follow someone else down the right road. I will practice what I preach. Duplicity towards others cripples my effectiveness. I will exercise congruency in action and in word.

I understand that experience is the best teacher and that action is always better than regret. Inaction is a choice in itself, and it has its own consequences. If I fear failure, I fear real success. Failure is merely an opportunity to understand the changes necessary to continue my journey in the right direction. I realize that I have many steps to climb to achieve true success; climbing even one a day will eventually get me there. Standing still will not. The opportunities for growth are always available; my job is to go out there and grab them.

There are those who make things happen, there are those who watch things happen, and there are those who wonder what happened.

I, Sandeep Koorse, make things happen.

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America’s Sense of Security Post September 11th

I’m not sure exactly when it happened… whether it was the smell of ashes and burning flesh, seeing fear in my father’s eyes for the first time, or watching the first ten years of my life go up in flames… somewhere during the turmoil of the Persian Gulf war, I lost the ability to feel safe. After the terrorist attacks two weeks ago, I could sense that millions of my fellow Americans were going through the same painful process. The events of September 11th have wrecked our sense of security, and its as important to heal those emotional wounds as it is to rebuild from the physical devastation of the attack. I’m speaking to you today as a fellow victim, and the purpose of my speech is to tell you my story and help you cope with this unpleasant feeling.

When I was three, my family moved from California to Kuwait when my dad started working for a big oil company. For eight long years, Kuwait was our home. It was gorgeous the population was incredibly diverse, and apartment complexes stood like a an oasis in the desert sands. But that all changed very fast. On August 1st, I went to sleep thinking about school starting in a few days. I woke up on August 2nd 1990 to the sound of gunfire and Iraqi military aircraft. We spent the next six weeks glued to CNN seeing everything around us turn into a living hell. It felt so unreal like it was all part of some bad movie. I remember watching people get slaughtered outside my window and all of us kids cleaning out the basement in case there were any more bombing raids. I had to watch my parents starve to make sure that my little sister and I had enough food. We finally got airlifted out of Kuwait with only one suitcase for the four of us about six weeks after it had all begun. Despite the fact that we were starving, and we had no money or friends, we were finally out of the war zone. But I never felt safe. Every time I told this story to friends, they couldnt relate to this feeling and I envied them. But things have changed now.

On September 11th, our biggest concern was getting through our first presentation in this class. But fate had other plans and we sat and we watched the destruction of the World Trade Center one airplane after another. It felt so unreal like it was part of a bad movie. This new war is changing everything. For the first time in centuries, the casualties of war arent soldiers fighting in a distant land, theyre innocent civilians in our big cities. And we could be next. I remember the hysteria when someone mentioned that UT could be a target because of Bushs daughter people started breaking down. Theres another war going on right now, and its in here. Its us versus our own paranoia and fear.

So, this brings me to the entire point of my speech. What advice can I give you with my 11 years of dealing with this issue on a daily basis? How can you get back your sense of security? You cant. Its impossible. The paranoia is going to be there every time you get on a plane, every time someone you love visits a major American city, every time you read about terrorism elsewhere in the world. Regardless of the extent, everyone was affected by this tragedy. So how do you deal with this? You have two choices you can either let the fear and paranoia conquer you or you can accept it because you certainly cant ignore it its human nature. It took me a long time to accept it because I was young and it was tough to let go. But when I did, every moment of my life became more precious. Its a lot harder to take life for granted when you know things could change at any moment.

The last thing I want to do today is dispel some of the myths some people are throwing around. They tell us that getting rid of a single man or organization is going to fix everything. And Im going to tell you right now, even if I had brought Osama Bin Ladens bloody head on a stick as a prop for my presentation and then waved it screaming God bless America it wouldnt change a damn thing. What weve lost, we can never find again because it was like our tooth fairy our sense of security was just an illusion. salesforce marketing cloud Dan Rather said that on September 11th 2001, America lost its innocence and I disagree. We lost our ignorance. But we will not lose the war.

Short Term / Long Term Goals 2001

I’ve got a lot of plans and goals, but I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out how I’m going to attain them.  I’m worried about the uncertainty, but I know that I have some very clear lifetime goals… knowing my destination should help me find the right path.  Don’t laugh!!!

Short-Term Goals | Lifetime Goals |

  Short-Term Goals (next 10 years)

There are several things that I would like to get done in the next few years.  I have several academic goalspersonal goalsprofessional goals, and physical goals.  These are liable to change continuously, but they will always reflect progress toward my lifetime goals.

  • Academic Goals – If I do go to grad school, I really want to go to Stanford and get an MBA.  Currently, I would also like to learn more about US government and constitutional rights, just in case I want to pursue a political future.  I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the governor’s mansion here in Austin, and I think I’d like to be there someday.  
  • Personal Goals – I would like to devote some time to self- improvement because it seems like all my time is spent meeting deadlines that someone else has come up with.  I almost feel like someone else controls my destiny, and all my personal deadlines are always pushed back in favor of their plans.  I want to make efficiency my most recognized strength.  In order to be more efficient, I need to be punctual.  I also need to control the number of simultaneous projects that I’m involved in…. perhaps by setting limits.  Too often, I struggle balancing my projects and time.  My spiritual goal is to find my theme song.  Every show on television has a theme song, and it really defines who they are and their motivations.  I believe that every person should find their theme song too… site subdomains . I’m still searching.
  • Professional Goals – My Peace Corps assignment should give me some time (as it is a two year commitment) to think about a long term occupation.  After the Peace Corps, I hope to either start a business or work as a strategic or net consultant (my skills may be 2 years out of date).  No matter what I choose when I return, my heart is dead set on founding a successful company within this ten year time frame.  I hope to someday teach as well or head up a national non-profit organization.
  • Physical Goals – I plan to place in the top 100 at the Boston Marathon sometime in the next decade.  I’m an avid runner, and I love the thrill of competition.  I am also an avid fan of weight training, and I hope to at least achieve 3 sets-8 reps of 250 lbs bench by the time I turn 25.  I want to max squat at least 3 times my current body weight, dead lift 5 times my mass, and have perfect abs.  I have a long way to go!

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  Lifetime Goals

For my lifetime, I hope to either:

  • create the first true online elite university.  I want to bring all the best professors together to teach at this university and have open admission to millions of students world wide.  The cost to attend this university would be minimal, but the number of students would make the professors the highest paid people on the planet and all students would have the opportunity to learn from the best.
  • create the ultimate internet think thank, where hundreds of people from around the world would be paid millions to sit around and generate ideas.  “But Sandeep!” says you “What’s so special about that?” Well, this think tank would be completely open source.  Along with the full time thinkers, millions of people could participate.  The full time thinkers would have to go through an intense application process and would be paid via company offerings.  They could share these offerings with people outside this circle who contribute to the full fledged development of ideas.  The ideas would be offered to all those who were interested for free.  The catch: implementation would be left up to the companies that pick up the idea.
  • create an online portal that would catalog the products available in brick and mortar stores.  Instead of waiting for a product to ship to you, you would be able to find it in a store near you.  You would no longer have to call stores, or window shop.  You could search for a product and within seconds find the closest stores to you that had it in stock… and you could either get a map to that store or have it delivered to you!!!
  • become the first Indian-American Senator from the State of Texas… or maybe I’ll settle for governor.  I’d want to chair the committees on environment, education, mental health, internet issues, and national security.
  • become the head of a major non-profit organization such as the Red Cross, Peace Corps, America’s Promise etc.
  • something else not on this list 🙂

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Insurgency in Kashmir

  The Reasons for the Insurgency in Kashmir

There are several views on the principle factors that contributed to the insurgency in Kashmir in 1990. The Pro-Indian view is that Pakistan supported Islamic fundamentalism that ignited trouble in the valley. The Pro-Pakistan view is that India refused to provide the people of Kashmir with the right of self-determination. Some believe the insurgency was the result of the destruction of the Kashmiri ethnic identity due to different nationalistic ideals. Historical transcripts and accounts also provide some useful information, but all of these arguments seem to ignore one or more aspects of this crisis. The most complete reason for the insurgency is Sumit Gangulys theory of political mobilization against institutional decay.

Political mobilization occurs when people have political knowledge and desire political participation. Institutional decay occurs when political systems crumble. Although the older generations accepted corruption as commonplace, the younger Kashmiris were outraged with the state of Kashmir prior to the insurgency. They were generally very literate as their education up till the university level was free. They were also well informed as Srinager was the third media center in India, and newspapers, television, and information flow freely among Kashmiris. Despite being literate and well informed, Kashmiris did not have a true political voice due to the fact that democratic ideals in Kashmir were crushed time after time. This is especially evident when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ignored Kashmiri views and dismissed Farooq Abdullah after she believed that he had consorted with her competition. The TADA acts were also abused in Kashmir to oppress people with the excuse of stamping out terrorism. The National Conference, which was established by Sheikh Abdullah, was so closed to newcomers that the new generation was not able to use it as a means for change.

The lack of economic opportunities despite the superior education level also frustrated the Kashmiris and many joined Islamic fundamentalist groups. Madrassas that taught Islamic ideals became commonplace and they were taught by Maulvis from Assam who came to Kashmir to escape Indian oppression. The Maulvis had suffered through many killings in Assam, and thus had a strong anti-Indian sentiment. The Kashmiris also learned about the success of intifida from Palestinian Liberation Organization students who studied in Kashmir during the late 70s and early 80s.

Politically, things went from bad to worse after the Rajiv-Farooq accord where Rajiv Gandhi promised to make Farooq Abdulla chief minister again if he worked with the congress party in exchange for aid for Kashmir. sub domains . Farooq agreed to this arrangement but the Kasmiris no longer saw him as a man of the people but instead as a tool of an oppressive government.
A new party called the Muslim United Front (MUF) emerged that wanted to challenge secular ideals and help Kashmiris attain rights. In the controversial election of 1987, Farooq was dubiously elected in a hostile environment where many were discouraged to vote. This increased hostility in the area tremendously and it reached a crescendo with the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, who was the Union Home ministers daughter, by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front in December 1989. The insurgency had begun.

The literacy and political awareness of the Kasmiris helped them recognize the institutional decay all around them and when they found no way to make changes through a government that failed them, they chose to react violently. peta dunia Without the element of institutional decay or political mobilization, the crisis in 1990 could have been averted. This argument explains both the motives and the timing of the crisis.

Governmental Impact on Wartime Discrimination

 Messages of Tolerance or Fanning the Flames of Racism?

“Our war on terrorism has nothing to do with differences in faith. It has everything to do with people of all faiths coming together to condemn hate and evil and murder and prejudice.” 
– President Bush on October 11th 2001 at his first Primetime News Conference

Although I am not a Muslim American or an Arab American, President Bushs message of tolerance had a powerful and calming effect on me. The weeks since September 11th had been very difficult for my family as we realized how vulnerable we were to discrimination due to the fact that we shared several common physical characteristics with the nineteen hijackers who struck the World Trade Centers. Two days after the attacks, I was subjected to several misdirected insults as I walked down the streets of Dean Keaton (as I had with no incidents for the five long years that I have been a student at this University) and I felt very afraid. I was born in California, and despite spending eight years in Kuwait and returning to the US as a Gulf War refugee, I had always considered myself an American. At the time of the incident I had just been selected to represent the United States overseas in the Peace Corps, but for the first time in my life I questioned whether I was really part of this country. Although President Bushs message and efforts have alleviated many of my fears, I wonder how effective these actions are in times of crisis. Historically, what impact did governmental policies have on racial intolerance during international conflicts? Over the course of this research paper, I intend to examine the policies of the three branches of government during the two World Wars in order to find a correlation.

The first case of wartime discrimination that merits analysis is World War I, which most historians consider rife with violations of civil liberties especially for the German American community. America jumped into World War I after Germanys policy of unrestricted submarine warfare had destroyed several of their neutral ships. President Woodrow Wilson was aware of the racial tension that would rise as a consequence of his declaration of war and made note of that in his famous speech on April 2nd 1917:

We shall, happily, still have an opportunity to prove that friendship in our daily attitude and actions towards the millions of men and women of German birth They are, most of them, as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any other fealty or allegiance If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with a firm hand of stern repression

While this executive declaration was assuring to German Americans at the time, the question of loyalty foreshadowed the dramatic legislative actions that would follow. On April 6th 1917, Wilson issued twelve regulations for alien enemies – immigrants who had not completed the naturalization process and came from opposition countries. This was followed by eight more regulations on November 16th 1917 to further curtail their actions and provide for internment at detention centers. While this affected recent German immigrants, the majority of German-Americans would not suffer until May 16th 1918, when the notorious Sedition Act of 1918 was passed as an amendment to a previous espionage act. While not being specific to any ethnic group, this act officially made any expression of discontent illegal and was often used against German-Americans. The Creel commission, created during World War I to promote American interests, also created tremendous anti-German hysteria through its pro-war propaganda. In all, six thousand people of Germanic origin would be interned in the US over the course of the war.

Socially, these policies created an aura of distrust towards German Americans and especially towards institutions that catered to Germans. In 1917, the Federal Government censored German American newspapers, outlawed German language schools, banned German American theatre, burned their literature, and items of German origin were renamed. The two million member National German American Alliance (which represented their interests) was also outlawed by Congress in 1918. The judicial branch of the government had also taken an anti-German American stance with an increasing number of convictions using the Sedition Act. Things were looking very grim for German Americans.

The case of Robert Prager in 1918 is an example of all of these excesses. Prager, a coal miner of German origin who was undergoing the naturalization process, was accused of uttering disloyal remarks and was lynched by a patriotic mob despite the intervention of the police and the mayor. When the leaders of the mob were taken to court, the jury acquitted them and the town celebrated their patriotism after the trial. This disturbing incident shows its political undertones by its portrayal by the media. An April 5th 1918 article in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat was titled German Enemy of the US Hanged by Mob with the subheading St. Louis Collinsville Man Killed for Abusing Wilson. It was no coincidence that Wilson signed the Sedition Acts a month later, indirectly putting his stamp of approval on the mobs actions. Many of these moves would set a precedent for the next major conflict: World War II.

Historians refer to the Second World War as the Good War. However, for people with genealogy going back to enemy countries, it was more hardship and suffering. Much of what occurred with the Japanese American population is well documented and recognized by scholars. After the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor on December 7th 1941, President Roosevelt issued a blanket authorizing the attorney general to detain dangerous enemy aliens. Many Japanese Americans were arrested even before they were declared dangerous enemy aliens by an executive order on December 11th 1941. With the Public Proclamations, Civilian Exclusion Orders, and the creation of the War Relocation Authority in 1942, the legislative branch forced Japanese Americans on the West Coast into internment camps for the duration of the war. The judicial branch echoed these anti-Japanese sentiments by supporting the decisions of Roosevelt and the War Relocation Authority in the Supreme Court cases of Hirabayashi v. United States (1943) and Korematsu v. United States (1944). All of this proceeded on the basis that all Americans of Japanese origin were traitors and that was how the public perceived it as well. But there were other, less publicized victims of wartime discrimination during the Good War.

While the hardships of Japanese Americans during World War II are well known, many other ethnic minorities faced similar circumstances and have somehow been ignored. Proclamation 2526 called for control of German alien enemies and Proclamation 2527 was to regulate Italian alien enemies. Over 31,280 people of European decent were forced into internment camps from both the United States and Latin America with a large majority of them being Italians and Germans. In some cases, the interned were Jews who has escaped the conflict in Europe only to be placed in a detention camp in the United States. While these detainees were not subject to other legislative or judicial constraints due to their status as alien enemies, it was still a significant population that was pushed into hardship. But there were other minorities who did succumb to harsh legislative policies. Other victims of wartime oppression were political opposition leaders (who were typically of German origin) through the Smith Act that was similar to the Sedition Act of 1918. Black Muslims also faced a great deal of trouble for identifying with the Japanese as victims of white oppression. Court cases to determine the constitutionality of these issues often ruled in favor of the government thereby shedding its required neutrality. However, the government has attempted to atone for its domestic actions in recent years.

In order to compensate for the wrongs of internment, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that offered redress of $20,000 to more than 81,000 Japanese Americans for their forced relocation. Last year, Italian Americans were recognized for their treatment during the war as well. On August 3rd 2001, Senator Feingold of Wisconsin introduced the Wartime Treatment of European Americans and Refugees Study Act to Congress in order to explore the trauma that German Americans faced in US internment during World War II. This is a vast improvement over the lack of restitution for the victims of wartime discrimination during the First World War.

In conclusion, our government has played a huge role in the treatment of minorities during the worlds greatest conflicts. However, it has traditionally been the tool of exclusion rather than a promoter of tolerance. In times of war, the government must achieve a difficult balance between civil rights and national security while answering to the concerns of the majority. Considering that an October 21st 2001 CNN-USA Today Gallup poll showed that there is a 49%-49% split from Americans in regards to a special Arab ID card, there are reasons to be worried. While the United States usually makes amends for its mistakes once they are recognized, I would rather be safe than become a cruel footnote in American history.