Showing posts from July, 2005

Finding The One

I have not done the math to reach the depressingly cogent and irrefutably scientific argument for why I will never find "The One". The signs are not encouraging from my own experience. For me the pool is much smaller. It is comprised of horizontally and follicularly challenged, over-weight, desperate for sex and emotionally distant men.
A former land-lady, the friendly neighborhood grocer and co-workers have tried to set me up without success. J sizes up men sooner than I can and pronounces them "yucky" even before they are out of ear-shot. Thanks to her limited vocabulary I have realized how nuanced and apposite the word yuck can be .

Pod Culture

I am not the proud owner of an iPod and will likely never be. By the time my four year old comes of age there will be something cooler, hipper, hotter around and she will want that instead. In the meanwhile, I am a bemused onlooker marveling at all things than the Pod can be, do and spawn - including a sub-generic culture and accoutrements such as a muff dock. Has the Pod been infused with life lately ? If so the Pod-shrink may not too far behind. Quoting from a nice essay on what the iPod stands for

"But there's more to the iPod than a personal statement. It contains my entire musical collection, a life's worth of memories, opportunities, juxtapositions and discoveries. Its epic storage capacity feels almost archival, like a tiny library of Alexandria, automatically organized and with optional belt clip.

I envision archeologists, thousands of years and many great wars from now, unearthing my corpse to find, to their great amazement, my still intact iPod clutched in a desic…

Famously Lost

Until a few hours ago, I had thought that few could get as lost as I can in a new city. One time it took me four hours to drive from the airport to a downtown hotel - the distance was less than 15 miles. My reputation for being directionally challenged travels ahead of me and friends are more than generous in their expectations of when I may be able to make it to my destination.

In context of some unrelated discussion today, L said she had never been to DC though they had lived two hours away from there for years. Nothing remarkable about that but she added "Except for that one time my husband, and the two kids ended up in Washington DC by mistake." Now that was intriguing - to end up in a whole different city inadvertently is more than I can claim to have done.

Apparently, they had just moved to Richmond and the pet fish were sick from travel. She asked her husband to swing by the neighborhood Petsmart for some supplies. Apparently, he missed the exit and wound up on the free…

Wireless Turing Machine

The cell phone looks more and more like the universal Turing Machine. Now there is Cellevision too. It can already compute, photograph, play music and can even be your personal oracle. They remote control computers and household devices

To have access to all of my life and worldly goods from anywhere in the world is more empowerment than I am ready or able to handle. That said, I can't even begin to fathom the consequences or the myriad of entrepreneurial opportunities this can spawn. I sense a latent gold mine for those with more perception that I have.

Cultured Meat

This article on cultured meat makes the product sound like a silver bullet. We know from experience that touted silver-bullets come with a list of unpublished disclaimers - sometimes a caveat emptor.

While I love the idea as much as I do the Boca burger, the facts seem starkly one-dimensional. For one the thought of food being created artificially in a lab leaves a very unwholesome taste in the mouth. It is one thing to texturize vegetable protein to make it took like meat and quite another to start at cellular level on a petri-dish and transform that chemically into "food"

Maybe the next thing would be to grow faux chicken nuggets on a tree and blur the distinction between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food and its sources completely.

Book Spoilers

Happened to stop by at a book spoiler site and thought it was really neat. There are books I don't have the time or inclination to read and yet would not mind knowing the storyline briefly. A spoiler addresses that need perfectly.
From the author's perspective it is a mixed blessing. Some of their potential readership could be eroded - specially for stories that rely totally on a cliff-hanging plot.
I would not expect for instance Gabriel Garcia Marquez to loose readers because someone wrote a spoiler for Love in the Time of Cholera. It would be the reader's loss entirely to not have known the beauty of his language and the artistry of his story-telling. Maybe a spoiler could proselytize a new band of readers to Marquez.

Television Elimination

That someone has seen it fit to propose Four Arguments to Eliminate Television is rather affirming for me. I was already convinced. When J was an infant I did have a TV. I made her sit facing me, her back towards the screen when I watched something. After a while, that became her way of "watching" TV.

She played with her toys, climbed on me, gurgled and cooed while the boob tube spewed content to her back. For more than a year, we have not had a TV at home and I don't plan on changing that. Not having known the medium, J does not miss it and I don't for the lack of time. It is an arrangement that is working perfectly well for both of us.

Writing And The Digital Pen

Many of us who went to high school and university before personal computers turned ubiquitous had pretty handwriting. Our lecture notes were functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. I for one had very decent writing once. I find it hard to believe that when I look at my totally illegible scrawl of today.

Thoughts that once flowed unhindered through the tip of the trusty Parker, are now obstructed unless aided by Word. The idea of the digital pen appeals to me because it brings together two rather disparate worlds.

There is all the advantages of the state of art technology along with a the lost charm of putting pen to paper. You can feel words flow through your fingers to create a thing of beauty on a blank sheet of paper and have it turned into a block of text for a word processing application. Writing is freed from its utterly mechanistic existence.

Flashback And Instant Gratification

In the 80's the Rubik's Cube was a rage. Almost everybody had one and tried to solve it to various degrees of success. Back home in India (and I am sure elsewhere as well) anyone who could solve it was a feted hero - neighbors, co-workers, relatives and friends were given the glad tidings and from there the good news spread further afield. We read about people around the world who had solved it at fascinating speeds and wondered what they knew that the rest of us did not. People still recount the nostalgia

Our children would not know the agony of puzzling over a innocuous looking cube for hours, days and sometimes months not knowing how it worked - and then finally giving it up to gather dust as a paper-weight. They would have the Rubik's Cube solver online to put them out of their misery right away - an instant gratification.

Popping Babies

J's best buddy Ryan has given her a crash course on human reproduction. J was gracious enough to share her new found knowledge with me last evening as I cleaned up in the kitchen after dinner.

"Mommy, they took Ryan's Mommy to the emergency room and popped out the two babies stuck in her tummy" she said to me in the course of recounting the events of the day.

"I wonder how they popped those babies out" I asked her in all seriousness.

"Well, the doctor opened her tummy, popped the babies out and put her tummy back in " she says making Ryan's Mommy sound like one of those egg laying clockwork toy hens. I burst out laughing.

"Do you think it hurt a lot when they popped the two babies out ?" I ask her.

Obviously Ryan did not have anything to say on the subject of pain fascinated as he has been with the fact that his Mommy popped out two live babies from her tummy. J had not even thought about pain.

"How do you think the babies got into he…

The Literary Essay

Sarah Kerr's prognosis of the ailing genre of literary essay would have rung true for many of us who read this Slate article in 1999. It was an apt observation for the time.

"Our job is to diagnose the current health of the literary essay, and since diagnosing is a stressful business, let's not beat around the bush. Here's what I think is going on. It's clear that our patient, the essay, is operating well beneath his full capacity. He's not as robust or playful as he used to be; his vision is a little cloudy; and lately he's been clinging to known routines, which could be an indicator for some form of depression. However, and let me emphasize this, I see absolutely no reason to despair. After a thorough going-over, I can tell you his brain is functioning normally. I see no alarming growths, viruses, inflammations, or arterial clogs. There's nothing fatal going on here--nothing that some exercise and a change of scenery couldn't cure."


Workplace Incentives

Having been a consultant for the better part of ten years a new gig is about as exciting to me as a doing the laundry on Sunday. In the first hour of day one , I make sure to check out the kitchen and ladies' room. From experience it tells a lot about the client's general health and attitude towards the hired help.Some of the nicest places to work had an assortment of coffee and tea in the kitchen and bathroom stalls big enough to squeeze in a queen size bed and still have room left over.

This is not while the tech bubble was burgeoning and every shop in town was plying their staff with a la carte breakfasts to jump-start their day. These are Phoenixes that have risen from the ashes after the bubble burst - dependable companies with fleshed out business plans and the wherewithal to remain profitable in hard times.

My latest one has woefully inadequate supplies in the kitchen. I have to invest in my own tea and maybe a tea-stick while I am at it to make it a little more fun. The …

Star Far

If I'm walking the streets of a city
covering every square inch of the continent
all its lights out
and empty of people,
even then
you are there...

Since you left me at eight I have always been lonely
star-far from the person right next to me....

From Franz Wright's "Flight"

I have felt "star-far" from people, events, the flow of life around me for years now. The circumferenceof my world turning smaller until it contains merely me and mine. Only I had not known to express the feeling as being "star-far".

Impossible Desiderate

An artistic bamboo bike or precariously high heeled shoes are equally pointless for someone who cannot use such beauty and grace gainfully. Yet, possessing the impossible and impractical may well be one's desiderate. In relationships, this is to chase a mirage that fades to reappear tantalizingly a little further.

Against better judgment one goes dangerously out on a limb hoping to reach an assumed destination. Upon finally exhausting all possibilities and having traveled the distance it may turn out to be the wrong address - a case of mistaken identity.

A Poet's Word

Jane Hirshfield - Excerpt from "Rebus" (Given Sugar, Given Salt)

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table....

This rebus - slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life -
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see....

Reading this left me wondering what I have fashioned out of the clays that were doled out to me in this life. Some have made it to the kiln and have assumed forms only less final than death. What continues to spin on the wheel, evolving with time and whim still remains to be formed, colored and created. I try to view the process with detachment, compassion and occassional love.

The Uber-Mommy

In a article titled "The Missing Joy" in The New Republic the author Ruth Franklin quotes Marjorie Williams "American women - can-do daughters of their country's optimism - still secretly nourish a poignant hope that there is An Answer to the dilemma of work and family. On a personal level, and as a matter of social policy, we often seem to be waiting for the No-Fault Fairy to come and explain at last how our deepest conflict can be managed away"

The observations in the article translate fairly well for working mothers anywhere. We are all waiting for the No-Fault Fairy. In the meanwhile, we have collectively succumbed to the Mommy Mystique which is also quoted in the article from a book by Judith Warner - Perfect Madness

" The Mommy Mystique tells us that we are the luckiest women in the world - the freest, with the most choices, the broadest horizons, the best luck, and the most wealth. It says we have the knowledge and know-how to make "informed de…

Remote Controlled

Technology promises to bring the who-controls-the-TV remote dilemma in our homes to an end in short order. With that a couple will have one less thing to dispute about and yet ironically be far apart when really so near. Watching the same space but seeing very different things ."It's two hearts living In two separate worlds" turned wholly tangible. If anything this proves, there is no win-win situation if two people don't agree with or without technology.

Reading Lao-tzu

The Tao-te Ching by Lao-tzu could well be talking of modern day corporations and governments. Here is an extract from a translation by James Legge

1. Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves; not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves; not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder.

David Ogilvy said in contrast and as a means to a very different end "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants."

2. Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.

3. He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those who have knowledge,…

Rain Like Home

It's raining like it does at home. The sky ripped by lightning and angry thunder bolts. The rain falls in a constant slant of water, a sheet of diaphanous grey. A man sits in his white pickup on the parking lot, headlights and wipers turned on, watching the rain. Other than him and us no one else sees nature in her feral splendor.

I remember monsoons from years ago, rain falling down a flowering jasmine vine, crows getting drenched on the clothesline, Sal leaves glistening brilliant emerald, water coursing in harried rivulets down its gnarled trunk. The smell of tea as Ma pours it out of the pot into delicate bone-china cups. I am of age. We are now friends who can sit together and talk for hours over a cup of tea.

Other memories come from thoughts of tea and rain - their intimate mix. A and I sitting in our living room. The sky is dark and it's pouring outside. I ask him "Can I get you some tea ?" He smiles "No, that would mean five minutes less of your company. …

Potter Mania

As Harry Potter mania gathers momentum, I can't help thinking what J is missing because she's too young to know or understand. The separation between magic and reality does not exist for J quite yet. Maybe her time will be right with the next book in the series. While I am not queuing up at the bookstore on the night of the 15th to get hold of a copy, it won't be too long before I read. I showed J the official JK Rowlings website and she seemed quite fascinated by all the bells and whistles in it. Children of J's generation segue from the on-line to the off-line world effortlessly and accept variety and diversity in both as natural.

While a lot has been said on the subject of Potter-mania, one nerd's point of view is interesting to anyone in the technology business. He says "Much of the Harry Potter books' charm comes from the quirky magic objects that surround Harry and his friends. Rather than being solid and static, these objects embody initiative and ac…

Without ICE Numbers

Over the years I have had to fill out many forms that required local emergency contact information. Once the answer was reflexive - parents up to a point and then husband. Today, I ask for time to get someone to act as an emergency contact. I may have moved to this new town and state not even a week ago. Reading about storing emergency contacts on mobile phones threw me into a wistful mood. I think of the men who have professed love for me and then suddenly, unaccountably yet expectedly blanked out of my life, their number erased from my address book along with their place in my heart. I think of friends gathered and scattered as I have wandered from place to place, names and numbers that remain but will likely be gone some day when I can no longer remember why they are still relevant. I think of one name in my address book that goes back twenty years. Though many thousand miles seperate us, that would really be the number to call in case of emergency. I feel grateful.

Gym Zeal

My friend H claims that he suffers withdrawal symptoms if he does not do his six miles on the tread-mill every evening and he is not nearly a gym-rat. Even weekends and holidays are not exempt from his routine. He eats a lot of junk, sleeps in till noon on Sundays, indulges constantly in spur of the moment liaisons with random women - not exactly an embodiment of a wholesome lifestyle.

K will run ten miles in Indian summer with her running buddy and hit an ice-cream parlor upon the aftermath making sure calories burnt equal calories gained. I ask her "Why ?" and she says it eases the guilt of binging on whipped cream and worse. Remaining forever size two is possibly her life's whole purpose.

With the gym-types one hears the words will, control, endurance, moderation, discipline, sin and guilt once too often. Words more often associated with orthodox and doctrinaire religions as a writer in The Economist points out.

Of Ringtone Overkill

Cellular phone ringtones are turning into a musical genre and a public nuisance to boot. An uber-techie I once worked with had a husky voiced woman urge him "Come On Baby Get The Phone" each time it rang. It cracked up everyone in neighboring cubicles at first but soon we grew tired of the suggestive come-hithers. Another woman had the ET background score to announce her teenager's calls and Fur Elise her boyfriend's. Without a snazzy ringtone one can start to feel socially inept amid people who drip globs of attitude each time their cellular rings.

Golan Levin, now a professor of electronic art at Carnegie Mellon University says of ringtones "It can be a vehicle for creative expression both on the part of the composer and the part of the person who uses it. The ringtone has a clear connection to everyday life, and because of that I think it's a vital form." For those who disagree, there's always vibrate - and that would include me

Narrative Medicine

The doctors we end up liking and referring to our friends are invariably good listeners. They seem enraptured by our litany of woes sound like it were music to their ears.
The idea of narrative medicine is perhaps a formal way of making more successful listeners and communicators out of doctors. Being able to reference literature in the context of one's medical condition and have the doctor clue in to the allusions could make connect two human beings at a very fundamental level.
When a nurse seeks "to dissociate my living from your dying" she talks of her susceptibility to suffering around her. She is not emotionally impervious as is mandated by her profession. Bringing down the barriers that exist between care giver and receiver could be therapeutic for both.

Reading And Storytelling

A few years ago, I caught a dozen pages of Paul Coelho's The Alchemist at my cousin's while waiting for her to get ready so we could go shopping. I did not feel any wistfulness at having to leave it unfinished. This evening at B&N with J at Storytime, I picked the book again from where I had left off and in finished it. After having heard so much about this book, my disappointment was complete. I am in agreement with one reviewer at Amazon who says "The major weakness in "The Alchemist" is its fluffy, nebulous, feel good philosophy."

When one book leaves me high and dry, I pick up another from a diametrically opposite genre to make up for my loss. I am aware that the idea is lacking in logic but do it anyways. To compensate for Coelho, I pick up a tale of unbridled hedonism in a dysfunctional society - Hitomi Kanehara's Snakes and Earrings and am ready to puke by the end of page fifty. I have a long way to go before I can appreciate visceral violence…

Translated Poetry

I was not familiar with the name Patricia Boneo until I read this lovely translation of a poem by this poet. The Google verbatim translation of the original leaves much to be desired - obviously.

How I wish I could read and understand the original and not have to loose anything to translation. Yet just knowing the language may not be enough - it must take a complete cultural immersion to be able to emote like the native.

In all the languages that I will never know and all of the cultures that will remain alien to me, I would have not known as many ways to express myself or understand another's expression. The sheer magnitude of my loss is humbling.Premonition
I'm afraid I've a premonition:
You would come back,
Invade me, destroy me
And then go away.I see your betrayal
When you come to me,
You make my soul restless,
And I pray for protection.

You do not know me,
My soul is full of grief,
That's why I cry.

Would you go away
And hurt me no more.

Wasted Water

A few things fill me with as much gratitude and sense of abundance as a warm shower. Even after many years I do not take it for granted - maybe I never will. It must have to do with growing up in a country where water is scarce. We watched our domestic help filling up buckets, running helter skelter to get through the morning chores, cleaning, sweeping, washing before the taps ran dry.

Yet conservation is not quite in our collective gene. The same domestic would leave overflowing buckets unattended for hours as she chatted with her friend unable to see the direct relationship between waste and want. The notion of sustaining an ecosystem on wasted water is too sophisticated to be appreciated by an impoverished, illiterate person like her.

A lesson for her even if considerably declasse, is in order and long overdue. As the author says rightly "If the question was about water shortages, the answer probably lies in local solutions, micro successes, raising awareness, involving people a…

Shrinking Lotuses

This story about the evolution of snow lotuses started a different train of thought. About how experiences in our lives shrink or expand our minds. How siblings grow up to be completely unlike each other though they were raised equal by the parents and in identical circumstances. A bamboo shoot in my living room that has traveled twelve hundred miles with me in the recent past, is far from dead but sprouts no new leaves. Hope has perhaps been deficient in my home lately. The struggle to live and root is more predominant as evinced by the dense growth of roots in my plant. Maybe we pick up cues from all forms of consciousness around us - the plant from me and I from the plant. J wants to go to the bookstore and I take her there just to please her. I end up pleasing myself even more. I read, she plays, she laughs with joy. We share a Harry Potter inspired berry drink and some pound cake. She wants to sample every book out there and does not have the patience for me to finish reading any…

The Word Realize

J has been learning Phonics for a while now. At first she made excellent progress but somewhere along the line, her pace slackened. I have not paid attention to her lessons for want of time. Last evening, I took stock of the situation and was admittedly disappointed because J is capable of much more than she was doing. What is more she was not being her usual eager, chirpy self as she went about her lessons. It looked more like a chore. That learning was no longer fun for a curious child like J was worrisome.

I was mad at first thinking she was being lackadaisical only to annoy me. But there was that look on her face that made me reconsider. She was missing her usual brightness. I engaged her in conversation until I found out that a teenaged assistant teacher had said "J can't read" as her assessment on her work. With that J assumed she really could not and stopped trying to. She heard that as "J will never be able to read". Her will to accomplish had died immed…

Out Of Earworm Hell

For the better part of two years now, I had an earworm stuck in my head. It lodged itself while I was sitting in N's living room chatting with her and her Mom over a cup of Chai. They had Zee-TV playing on the box that we were not mindful of for the most part. N's toddler G was watched the colorful moving images with intermittent interest as he ran amuck the living room with his many toys. All at once a young male voice caught my attention. It was an ad for an upcoming music show. He was one of the contestants. One bar of the song and he was off air. The tune stuck but I had not paid attention to the lyrics. Needless to say his voice was terrific - obviously a rising star in the musical firmament. Over the next few days that I was at N's, the same ad spot came up several times and each time, the tune worked deeper into me. I managed to catch three words of the lyrics but wasn't sure I had heard right. Each time, I told myself I should check with N or her mom, they woul…

Moving Deja Vu

Yet another relocation seems inevitable. I have stopped counting the number of times I have uprooted and replanted myself and J in the last few years. My wanderlust seems to have taken on a life of its own quite beyond my ability to control. Sometimes wishes come true in a way that makes you wonder if that was a good wish to have made. My travel bug has proved a mistake to that extent.

Along with a move comes the madness of apartment hunting. I have started to consider my options and found a hack between Mapquest and Craigslist by chance and was amply pleased. Next up on my wish list is to show the traffic congestions en-route home to work to daycare and possible detours so one is able to make an informed choice on the location a new home. Some math involving cost of toll, gas and parking for different options would not hurt either.

Slinging Ideas

For ideas that never acquire wings because the people that think them up don't follow through, sharing it with the world is a chance to see some results.

Using LEDs in jewelry first occurred to me over ten years ago as I am sure it has to many others at different points in time but only a couple of people seem to have taken a shot at actually creating it.

Equally fascinating is the concept of a woman's shoe with interchangeable heels. This is something most women will welcome and appreciate even if advantages of wearing ready-to-buddy interactive skirts does not make quite as much sense to them.

The small inconveniences of the common person (be it not being able to afford diamonds and craving for a bright sparkle, suffering varicose veins from constantly teetering on stilettos or needing a comforting hug from a loved one when they are not near you) spawn rather interesting ideas. Someone with subject matter expertise can infuse them with life. The web brings the two together open…