James Ramya Rajan

This post from Ben Werdmuller on the anxiety of catching up with social media resonated with me a lot. I am also on the same path — uninstalling apps from phone and posting only on this site.

Social, I love you, but you’re bringing me down

Posting in a space I control isn’t just about the principle anymore. It’s a kind of self-preservation. I want to preserve my attention and my autonomy. I accept that I’m addicted, and I would like to curb that addiction. We all only have so much time to spend...


📺 Slow Horses, Apple TV+ ★★★★★

A poster for the TV Show Slow Horses

Last week, I finished the 3rd season of Slow Horses. IMO, it is one of the best spy series on TV. It is not stuffed with action, but rather more like tense spy drama. It has a lot going for it — good writing, cracker dialogues, great characters and actors, good ol’ British humour and crafty twists.

My earlier benchmark for good spy drama on TV was Spooks (2002-2011). I know it is a couple of decades old and I am dating myself here, but it’s characters — Sir Harry Pearce and Ruth Evershed, were immortalised by their actors. One can draw a parallel for that relationship in Slow Horses between Jackson Lamb and Ruth Evershed. Each character in Slow Horse is an odd ball and their quirks add so much to the drama!

Cannot wait for Season 4 to be streamed!


🥾Hiking Gunung Datuk, Negeri Sembilan

Yesterday I went hiking up Gunung Datuk with a friend and his hiking group. This was my first long hike in KL and in a while too.

A board at the trailhead of Gunung Datuk that provides an overview of the trail A hiking group walking among big tree roots as they start a hike

We started climbing about 7.15am and summited around 1h 45m later. The initial part, with the rocky trail and the jutting out roots was the hardest part.

The strong winds at the summit gave us a welcome break from all the exhaustion. After a quick round of snacks, we went up to the viewing point and clicked a few pictures.

A board at the summit of Gunung Datuk stating that you are there A panorama shot of the view from the summit A man atop a rock at the summit of Gunung Datuk

We came back down in 1h 15m. While climbing down was less exhausting, it was strenuous on the knees. The hiking poles were put to good use to transfer some of the weight on to them!

Overall it was great hike. Looking forward to do many more in the coming months!

#MalaysianDiary


📽12th Fail, 2023 ★★★★½

Poster for the movie 12th Fail, where the protagonist is standing among a sea of people

Watched this movie a couple of weeks ago. Loved it. Everything was almost perfect. The story arc, the characters, the actors — everything worked out for me. Also having seen the preparation for UPSC up close, and the toll it takes on students, the struggles they go through, the heart wrenching stories of those who put in their all, this movie really brought it all out very well and it brought back a lot of memories of those times.

The casting was just spot on. Vikrant Massey just lives the part and convinces you. I had only seen him earlier in A Death in the Gunj. Looking forward to his other projects.


Good tidings! The Supreme Court of India has struck down the use of Electoral Bonds effectively immediately and make public the information of all the contributions made since 2019. 🙌🙌🙌

Electoral Bonds were an opaque system that enabled anonymous donations to political parties. While the claimed intention was to make political funding legitimate through mainstream banking channels, it was far from transparent as the donors were kept anonymous.

I hope the next amendment makes all parts of donations to political parties public information! 🤞


Happy Valentines day! ❤️

We made brownies that both The Missus and #OhBoy loved. They call it the WBB — World’s Best Brownie.

The reason I am telling this is to share the wonderful recipe from Serious Eats by Stella Parks / Bravetart.

Check it out —

Glossy Fudge Brownies Recipe | BraveTart

I was a software engineer till 2004, when I was actively writing code. Then MBA happened and the most code I ever wrote was in Microsoft Excel. And for the last decade and half in product management, the most I would do is read documentation to understand how something worked or sit with my development team to logically debug an issue (sometimes much to their annoyance!).

But over the last few months I have gotten back to coding, thanks to ChatGPT. It has been such a good companion for me to code with. No more reading through documentation or looking for boiler plate code in StackOverflow or GitHub to kickstart the development. All I need to do now is to keep explaining in plain English what I want, copy the code, tweak parts of it to my liking, run it, throw back the error at ChatGPT and then let it provide alternatives. Rinse and repeat.

The next decade in software engineering and development is going to be pretty wild!


The school was closed for #OhBoy, so we took a bus ride and stopped by at Bukit Damansara for a coffee. Our usual coffee shop was closed, but there were huge cheers from the pubs around. It is Super Bowl night, so we are here watching a game neither understand. 🤣

#MalaysianDiary

Little boy watching Super Bowl 2024 at a pub.

Copper Grillhouse, TTDI, Kuala Lumpur

A few weeks ago, we were invited to the inauguration of the newest restaurant in TTDI — Copper Grillhouse. It is the international avatar of the famous Copper Chimney chain of restaurants in India. They specialise in North Indian and North West Frontier cuisine.

Photo of the first page of the tasting menu of Copper Grillhouse, which gives an overview of the history of the restaurant chain. The menu of the 5 course meal that was served at the opening of Copper Grillhouse restaurant in Kuala Lumpur

Overall we enjoyed the 5 course meal and the celebration. Here are notes on some of the dishes we really enjoyed.

For starters we had Kadak Roomali Roti and Chandni Chowk Chaat. I’ve always relished the soft, chewy and cloth like thin Roomali Rotis, but this was the first time we had them crisp, in the shape of a wok. Also it was topped with a generous amount of Butter and spice powders, making it a tempting eat.

Kadak Roomali Roti, a crisp wafer thin bread topped with melted butter and spice powders. A glass tumbler, layered with boiled potatoes, boiled chickpeas and spiced up with chaat masalas and yoghurt sauce.

From the Tandoor Grills we limited ourselves to just had Paneer Tikka and Chicken Tikka, as we didn’t want to fill ourselves before the main course. The Chicken Tikka was really tender and the dry mango powder (aamchur) in its marinade gave it a nice tang!

A platter of tandoor grilled chicken served with coriander yoghurt chutney

Between the courses, there was a nice performance by traditional Malay dance artists!

Malay artists performing a traditional dance

For the mains, we had the Lasooni Corn Palak. Lamb Rogan Josh and Gosht Dum Biryani. The gravies came with a bread basket. While the palak (spinach) was tasty with the kick of fried garlic, it had something grainy in it like sand, so we just let it be. The Lamb Rogan Josh was just perfect in every way. The gravy was deep red, silky smooth, tangy and spicy. And the meat was soft to the touch. We lapped it up.

Servings of Corn Spinach gravy, Lamb Rogan Josh, Dal and a flat bread basket

By the time we came to the biryani, we were stuffed. We decided to taste just a spoon of it, but ended up having way more! 🙈
It was one of the highlights of the evening for us.

A bowl of lamb dum biryani served with yoghurt raita.

We finished it all with one of the excellent Jabeli’s I have had in the recent times — crisp, not too sweet and mildly tangy.

A plate of jalebis in chrome yellow colour

We were invited to the event, so we have no idea of the prices of these dishes. But we really enjoyed the food and would highly recommend it!

#DiningOut #MalaysianDiary


I am pretty pleased that I finally found a way to collect quotes from all the notes in my Obsidian Vault. I am using Dataview to query it out.

All thanks to GPT4. We went back and forth with the code, the errors, the gaps in the logic and finally after a day I am pleased with what I have now!

Hope it is useful to those looking for something similar. One thing to note before you proceed, my quotes all use Markdown Admonitions syntax of >[!quote] and has the tag #Quote


async function loadQuotes() {
    let quotes = [];
    const pages = await dv.pages("#Quote");

    for (const page of pages) {
        const content = await dv.io.load(page.file.path);
        if (typeof content === "string") {
            let inQuoteBlock = false;
            let quoteBuffer = [];

            content.split('\n').forEach((line) => {
                if (line.trim().match(/^>\s*\[!quote\]/) && line.includes("#Quote")) {
                    if (inQuoteBlock) {
                        addQuote(quotes, quoteBuffer, page);
                    }
                    inQuoteBlock = true;
                    let titlePart = line.split("#Quote")[1] || "";
                    quoteBuffer = [`<b>${titlePart.trim()}</b>`];
                } else if (inQuoteBlock) {
                    if (line.trim() === "") {
                        addQuote(quotes, quoteBuffer, page);
                        inQuoteBlock = false;
                    } else {
                        let formattedLine = line.trim().replace(/^>{1,2}/, '').trim().replace("[!quote]", "").replace("#Quote", "");
                        quoteBuffer.push(formattedLine);
                    }
                }
            });

            if (inQuoteBlock && quoteBuffer.length > 0) {
                addQuote(quotes, quoteBuffer, page);
            }
        }
    }

    quotes.sort((a, b) => b.rawModifiedTime - a.rawModifiedTime);
    let numberedQuotes = quotes.map((q, index) => [index + 1, q.quote, q.source]);
    dv.table(["#", "Quote", "Source"], numberedQuotes);

    function addQuote(quotes, quoteBuffer, page) {
        let modifiedTime = page.file.mtime ? dv.date(page.file.mtime) : 'Unknown';
        quotes.push({
            quote: quoteBuffer.join("<br>"),
            source: `[[${page.file.name}]]`,
            rawModifiedTime: page.file.mtime || 0
        });
    }
}

loadQuotes();


📺 Killer Soup, Netflix ★★★★

Poster for Netflix series Killer Soup with actor Manoj Bajpai and Konkona Sen Sharma

Finished this TV Series last week. We quite enjoyed the over the top acting, paired to a dark comedy and thriller setup. Every actor seems to be having a good time in their roles and it was fun to watch them all.

What did not work well for me was the constant switch in languages, that was totally out of sync with the milieu and background of those actors. But that is a minor irritant and this is worth a watch!

As Sucharita says in this video, the core plot is inspired from a real life incident, which in turn was inspired by a movie scene. What a full circle the idea has gone through!


A view looking up from inside the car through the sunroof on a rainy evening. The glass roof has rain droplets and the buildings above are blurred.

Through the sunroof on a rainy evening!


📽 Lion King, 1994 ★★★★★

Poster for the movie The Lion King

#OhBoy has been curious about movies off late and has been asking us questions about cinema halls, do those things happen in real to those on screen etc. We explained movies to him by drawing parallel to photos and videos on mobile phone.

We want him to experience the big screen, but have not been able to choose a movie appropriate for his age. So we decided to show one of my all time favourites — The Lion King. It also helped that he had a book version of the movie, handed down by his cousins. He knew the plot, so we were spared the usual flurry of questions 🙈

At the end of it, he really enjoyed the movie and I am glad that his first film was one of my favourites!


📽 Fighter, 2024 - ★★★½

Watched this movie at a premiere event here in Kuala Lumpur. While I absolutely hated to sit through Pathaan, I really liked this one from the same director.

A decent storyline, well acted and really high quality aerial fight sequences worked for me. What did not work for me were the villain, the caricatured Pakistani armed forces and the last hand to hand combat sequence. But as a overall package, there is a lot going for the film and I came out satisfied with the time spent on it :)


Chinese New Year decorations in our condo

Red lantern decorations for Chinese new year celebration

#MalaysianDiary


📽 Man on the Run, 2023 - ★★★

Over the last two years in Malaysia we have been hearing about the 1MDB scandal, but never got to know the details of it. This gives a good primer into what it was all about.

While it gives a good overview on the scandal, my gripe with it is more about the storytelling. It could have been better.


Der Backmeister, TTDI, Kuala Lumpur

After a good hike at the the Bukit Kiara trails at TTDI, we went to the Der Backmeister @ TTDI for a well earned breakfast. The place was full of folks digging into their food and that was a good sign!

We ordered their The Big Backmeister which was a mix platter of Ham, Salami, Breads, Buns and choice of eggs. When ordering the kind lady at the counter was attentive enough to ask how many folks were in our group. It was a big platter enough for 2 adults and a child.

 A big platter of cold cuts - ham, salami, cheese, along with a basket of breads, butter and jam

We also ordered an Avocado and Egg Sandwich on Ciabatta, which was a huge. We asked them to pack the left over and they kindly obliged.

Their Caraibe Dark Chocolate deserves a special mention. It was just yum!

A glass of frothed milk, with coins of dark chocolates in a quarter plate

The staff were polite, chatty, accommodative and attentive. 😍

#DiningOut #MalaysianDiary


📽 Kaathal – The Core, 2023 - ★★★★

This was our first movie of 2024!

It is a wonderful family drama. Reminded me to the 70's and 80's cinema, where family drama with a simple plot line was shown with a lot of heart.

The film too tugs your heart all through. Everyone did or does things as a product of their situation and it is beautifully brought out. No one is blamed, everyone is compassionate and everyone is accepting.

While the quick acceptance all around is almost unbelievable, that the topic of homosexuality is the core of this mainstream cinema and that the macho-man of Malayalam cinema, Mammooty does this role, makes you look past all that and welcome this movie with a smile. Everyone in the cast is spot on, particularly those in role of the father and Thankan.

Hope the success of this movie, helps more such topics to be discussed in mainstream cinema!


Came across this post by @annie

While I loved the initial thought,

The love I give doesn’t depend on the person I’m loving. It depends on me.

What I loved more was the inversion she does in the later part.

Other people love me the way they love me because of who they are. Not because of who I am.

Check it out

Love depends on me

Today through @maique’s post I got to know about Pika, a new blogging platform. But what was more interesting was the company behind it—Good Enough.

They have some tiny delightful products—Letterbird, Quack and many more.


We welcomed the new year in a train, sleeping in our upper berths. A new experience for us, but also very appropriate since we will be travelling from Malaysia to another country this year.

We reached Madurai as the last leg of our India trip. The morning was spent in a quick visit to Meenatchi Amman temple.

This was promptly followed by a visit to New Shri Ram Mess. Basic but tasty meals on banana leaf.


John Oliver’s take on Elon Musk. John is brilliant as always—data and journalistic commentary wrapped in humour.


Christmas 2023

Merry Christmas! 🎄

Usually Christmas is at home or with family, but this time it is mostly on the road. Initially I was bummed by this, particularly it went contrary to our careful planning of comfortable travel and being with family.

But now I’m seeing this as the spirit of the season, after all the little Christ was born on a travel and in a short stay in the middle of nowhere.

I tell myself, it is important to remember that one is surrounded my ones they love. And that is all that matters.

❤️


The nativity setup at our condo for the holiday season

#MalaysianDiary


A neighbour who makes excellent Caramel Custard, dropped by last evening to give us a large one. We were so impatient, that we realised no photos were clicked only after we had sliced it up 🙈

Everything was perfect—firm but soft to slice, not too sweet, just the right amount of bitterness. Easily the best caramel custard I’ve had.

#MalaysianDiary