Showing posts from February, 2006

Going Green

I often catch the "Live Green Go Yellow" tag line of the GM ad on my commute and every time I wonder if that's really such a great thing. Instead of depleting the reserves of oil and natural gas around the world, we will now have corn farms overrun the land at the expense of biodiversity.

Our problem is that our need for energy is insatiable - we can never have enough. Promoting biofuels as the silver bullet seems to imply that it is now okay and possible to desire an infinite amount of energy. This defies the very sustainability that biofuels tout. What if every inch of arable soil in the third world was punished with an unending cycle of corn crops and forests cleared to make room for more. Where before we may have known to stop from the fear of oil peak, now there would be no reason left to do so. Its only too easy to grow more corn.

This whole "go green" business is reminiscent of an indulgent parent giving in their child's demand for a bigger, better to…


Learnt a new word today - idolspize

The half and half feeling of envy and adulation is not new or uncommon - all it lacked was a neat nomenclature. Nancy Friday talked about it in her book Jealousy even if that's not what she termed it. Now instead of fumbling for an approximate emotion that straddles jealousy, envy and rivalry you can exactly call it idolspizing. Words like these could be the emoticons for complex thought processes.

Was watching Staking With Celebrities on TV at the gym. Something about the exultant audience and the sore, injured celebrities performing in the rink reminded me of Roman gladiators with spectators baying for blood. Maybe this is idolspize too.

Gratis Shrink

In which it takes a random Desi guy all of ten minutes and a few sentences typed in a chat session to psychoanalyze me. Talk of precocious perspicacity ! Unfortunately he does not prescribe the cure for what ails me. Even so anyone out there who is paying top dollar for therapy should get in touch with me so I can refer them to the Gratis Shrink par excellence

Him: hi
Me: hi
Him: a pic

Comments - Brilliant opening line. From experience these have inevitably gone south.

Me: too early for a pic i think.yes i do have pictures
Him: really.always nice to see the person..
Me: i'm sure.if there is mutual interest to proceed further a pic will follow
Him: interesting profile u have
Me: thanks :)
Him: ok.perhaps a pic may cause the interest to rise
Me: i am sure it will and thats exactly why i think it should wait a little
Him: fair enough.seem very clear on what u want
Me: too clear actually. manage to scare most guys at one million paces
Him: looking at your profile here - you need to respect …

What J Said Or Asked

"The moon is playing hide and seek with the clouds. The cloud is counting to twenty thousand" - J's explanation for a moonless night and why we won't see the moon for a longish time.

"The computer thinks that's my favorite song and does want not play the other ones" - reason why the Autoplay will not work on her CD and only the first track will play.

"My eyes are turning brown Mommy, will you still love me ?" - anxious on first discovering that her eyes are really dark brown and not black like she had thought.

When J wiped my cheek with her hand after kissing me I asked "Why did you wipe it away ?" "Because it was not pretty. I'll give you a pretty kiss and you can keep it".

"What animal would I be if I had one thousand teeth ?" on being told that children don't have as many teeth as adults do.

"This is not a losing game. If you're out you still can play. Racing is a losing game" consoling me when…

Wanting Goldfish

I often stare longingly at goldfish in bowls that belong to other people wishing I had the nerve to own one. I've come close to buying a goldfish but have backed off terrified of it dying on me. Given that I love sea food, I can't explain why one dead goldfish should pose such an onerous burden.

I don't want to be responsible for a dead goldfish - specifically death resulting from neglect or ignorance. Their owners tell me that its chancy - that there are no rules. Some live forever others die unaccountably.They have no magic formula they can tell me. Its a risk you take when you have a pet fish.

Reading the title how to make a Goldfish live for decades thrilled me. Maybe there was hope yet. By the time I was done, I knew I could never make the grade - its altogether too complicated. My best bet is to get a goldfish chia pet and place it in a place in a glass bowl.

Grass And Trees

Saw these stunning pictures of temples overrun by trees. As the author describes it

It is amazing what nature does over time. These enormous trees are standing right on the buildings. There is something fascinating with nature reclaiming buildings, the decadence.... something similar to Piranesis early work...

And there is the other extreme where nature is coerced into meek submission. Every inch of land is landscaped beyond recognition.

Grass doesn’t just grow anymore, it has to be aerated. Beds must be mulched. Paths require lighting. It’s as if we want our yards to be as groomed as a Crate & Barrel living room. The catalog offers outdoor furniture as well, so this just might be possible.

Pretend Money

Today I read about some serious money won in a lottery and the income tax laws pertaining to income from winning virtual games on the internet

The net income post taxes after the money was divided eight ways in the case of the lottery winner was simple enough to work out, but not so the taxes applicable to virtual income. By when I figure that one out I may even be able to understand how and why a quantum computer works better when switched off.

Well meaning friends tell me that I need to acquire some fiscal smarts the lack of which is painfully evident to them. I tell them that I am pinning my hopes on J. In a few years she will have enough math for me to introduce her to basics in investing. She can start small and hopefully she'll get a kick out of making her money work for her. Until then I just have to remain clueless about all things fiscal including taxes on "pretend" money.

Propelled By Fear

Irrational exuberance clearly energizes and so apparently does fear as demonstrated by the slime-bot.

The Physarum polycephalum slime, which naturally shies away from light, controls the robot's movement so that it too keeps out of light and seeks out dark places in which to hide itself.

Reading this article reminded me of an Alistair McLean book I had read eons ago - Fear Is The Key. I must have made a subliminal association between fear, key and resulting action. I can't remember anything about the story after all these years.

There is coiled power in fear and it does produce extreme and largely destructive behavior. The mechanics of the slime-bot makes me wonder if fear in humans can likewise be harnessed to some productive end.

Overgrown Child

My friend A and her teenaged brother T were with us this weekend. This is the first that I was seeing T and my reaction was one of distinct discomfort. Maybe because he is at that uncomfortable cusp age between boy and man.

As much as I tried to think of him as a child (which he is) I could not. He has an adult male's body and the mind of a child that really he is. As long as he acts his mental age all is well - but every once in a while his hormones seem to take over causing his behavior to alter dramatically.

I tried hard to think about other teens I have known recently and could not recall anyone else who acted the way T did. Maybe I had not spent enough time with those kids, maybe I had not observed them closely enough. Given that T has been on a steady diet of processed and genetically modified food since birth, I wondered this was a case of precocious puberty. Lack of reading, TV and gaming addiction did not help either.

I was relieved to see him leave this evening. I cringed w…

Shrill Expose

Finished reading Greenspan's Fraud by Ravi Batra and Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country ? around the same time. I think I would qualify to be intended audience for both of these books since they aim at debunking myths and exposing falsehood for the benefit of the common person. It only helps that the reader's subject matter expertise is not presumed by either.

Ravi Batra starts out well enough but around midway one wonders if his real agenda is to promote his own economic philosophy. It is a fairly one sided diatribe just like Moore's book and as much as you want to take it seriously the lack of a balanced counterpoint rankles.

Moore raises a few laughs makes some great points but the over the top narration of his dream involving his great granddaughter is more vaudeville fare than documentary. Quite unnecessary I thought. Overall both books do their cases much disservice by overstating it and could use some serious editing not to mention a second dimension.

Smell Of Talc

In the middle of trying to decipher my writing on the shopping list and minding J as she trotted away to an aisle of her choice, a smell almost gave me a jolt. Fragrances often trigger nostalgia but this one was different. I swung around to see who has wearing Ponds Dreamflower Magic talc.

She was my race and age group but nothing else appeared common at first glance. Dreamflower Magic was launched when I was in college. The bathrooms in the girls' hostel used to be redolent with its smell in the mornings. Many of us loved it - I found it too strong to wear it myself. Coming of age, independence, celebrating femininity, great friendships, first loves, first heartbreaks are associated with this smell.

Unlike Cuticura Exotica and Lavender Dew that many of my mother's generation wore, there is something brashly feminine and emancipating about Dreamflower Magic that resonated with my generation and our willingness to overstate rather than understate our presence. The smell left behi…

Cats And Women

My friend E is visiting with us this week. Among other things she has to pick up her two cats from another friend who has been catsitting for her for a while. After an overjoyed J and E got caught up on everything J, she asked me about the latest on the men (if any) in my life. Her advice to me- "Get some more into the hopper" E is surrounded by girlfriends who are out looking for the elusive "one". She adores her cats and has not dated for years. Maybe she will agree with Eunice de Souza's Advice to Women.

Advice to Women
by Eunice de Souza
Keep cats
if you want to learn to cope with
the otherness of lovers.
Otherness is not always neglect --
Cats return to their litter trays
when they need to.
Don't cuss out of the window
at their enemies.
That stare of perpetual surprise
in those great green eyes
will teach you
to die alone.

Tags Of Note

While waiting at a traffic light this evening, I saw a car with the number 7777 on its tag. I wondered what that number signified - maybe a date of birth and a pretty unique one - July 7th 1977. I hoped that was true. Maybe this person was born at 7 minutes past 7 too.
I have a friend to whom the number 110 returns time after time in her life. The street address, the number on a random application form, her cubicle, the amount on a bill she has to pay, the time on the clock when she looks at it.
In any event a 7-7-1977 at 7 minutes past 7 for a birthday is a very rare thing . I might have seen this person in drive past me in a Mini Cooper this evening.
I am always intrigued by tags with personalized numbers - it makes me wonder what made that number so significant and how the person arrived at that combination. If it was derived from a single event or individual or was melange only they would know to decipher. It's amazing how much can be conveyed in four or six digits and yet nothin…

Spring Fever Shots

"Luke loves J, Briana loves J, Tommy loves J, Taylor loves J, Megan loves J...why does everyone keep loving me ?" asks a frustrated sounding J as she reads the cards in her Valentines Day goodie bag. I burst out laughing.

Me: "Is it a problem if everyone keeps loving you ?"
J : "Yes"
Me: "Why ?"
J:" Because I want only two people to love me"
Me: "So what about the other people ?"
J: "Too bad for the other people. I don't want them to love me. Why does everyone want be my friend ?"
Me: "What's wrong with that ?"
J: "Because its too much friends"

I imagine she feels overwhelmed by the surfeit of love because she does not know how she can possibly reciprocate. She likely feels maxed out with having two special friends. Maybe we should get our children inoculated against excessive levels of romance in the air

Dollops Of Love

J's daycare has a Valentine's Day card exchange. Ms L said hand-made cards would work perfect too. Lacking the time, I hit the nearest Dollar General and was not disappointed. Love is very cheap as it turns out.

Almost every relationship is represented in the love-fest except pets. Maybe a pet store would be the place of that. Being the evening before, the store was doing brisk business - clearly the preferred choice of those who have to dole out love by the dollop to the crowds.
Once home, J was assigned the task of picking a card for each friend - we had ten different kinds. Except for her current best buddy she did not care who got what and her interest followed a diminishing curve until at last we came to a certain kid called S that J never talks about. Love is hardly equal or democratic even at four years old.

J will be bringing home ten cards and a ton of sugary treats tomorrow as will all her friends. If only every child was on a healthy diet of love and care instead of th…

Craving Paan

For some odd reason, the Banarasi Paan is on my mind today. I'm not sure what this sudden craving for paan means for me or says about me. Looking around to be satiated by sight if not by smell and taste, I ran into a plethora of paan information.

Thankfully I was spared the purple prose food critics resort to when they describe the orgasmic high of eating at a fancy restaurant. I discovered that paan can be used in regular cooking and that a patent is being sought for the Banarasi Paan.

There is a thriving discussion board on the subject of paan and paan eating which refers to an essay on paan by E.M Foster. I'd love to read that. Yes, it has been blogged about too, by Boing Boing no less. When thinking paan can paan masala be far behind ? One technophile has the cool idea for eliminating the plastic waste of paan masala pouches using the idea of Nature Capitalism. He says:

Of course my technophilic entrepreneurial mind began conjuring up futuristic schemes for paan masala pack…

Shared Musical Loves

J sings along with KT Tunstall as she sings Black Horse and Cherry Tree. She loves the woo-hoo refrain that is the song's signature. When we first heard KT on the radio, we heard this number. From the way J had fallen silent, I knew she was hooked - just like I was. We have made musical connections many times in the past - J and I.

She has introduced and hooked me on some catchy kiddie tunes like The Erie Canal and Bingo. Most music of sentimental value to me seems to make an impression on her-sharing it with J imbues it with even greater significance for me. This is somewhat akin to reading memorable a book , revisiting it years later with changed perspective and renewed passion.

I love the way J will stop her prattle to listen to music that catches her fancy. It alerts me to a moment of beauty that would have otherwise passed me by.

Overcompensated Myopia

A story I heard on NPR recently triggered deja vu. The story was about the Jobs Bank for idled auto-workers in Lansing, Michigan. The program pays idled workers just for their time. They could sleep, chat, watch TV or play board games - it does not matter what they do as long as they are in the premises of the Jobs Bank. To keep this alive on one hand and go off on a layoff and plant closure spree on the other seems very schizophrenic.

I used to work for a mammoth public sector company in India in the 90s. This was right after graduating from engineering school. A typical day started at 8:30 at the cafeteria where we were served breakfast. Around 9:00 we settled into our cubicles. There was absolutely no work to be done. People sat playing Solitaire on their work stations or reading magazines. There was no internet back then. To send an e-mail you either had to be the Unix admin or one of his cronies.

At 9:30 a siren would go off to announce the first tea and coffee break of the day. W…

The Second Year

Very interesting article on chemistry between couples and the scientific basis for it downgrading from lusting to cuddling over time. Wonder if there is anecdotal evidence of break-ups occurring on or about the second year anniversary as well. Should that date happen to fall in the dread month of January, its fate seems pretty much sealed. This seems to be the modern day version of the seven year itch - thanks to convergence, connectivity and speed its takes only two.

Tagged - 7 Things Meme

I have been tagged by Bleu . The rules are that I tag 7 more people. Turns out that some of the very tag-worthy people I know are not bloggers and the bloggers have been tagged a while ago ! I maybe able to do a couple but seven could be hard.

7 things I wish to do before I die1.Visit Kailash Mansarovar lake.
2.Live a year in Tibet.
3.Learn Hindustani Classical vocal music.
4.Own a cottage on a hill overlooking the ocean.
5.Meet my first love and tell him I never ever forgot.
6.Read the complete works of Aurobindo Ghosh.
7.Die on a spring morning while playing with my grandchildren.7 things I do not enjoy doing1.Grocery shopping.
2.Wondering what to wear on the first date.
3.Dropping a book I'm reading to answer the phone.
4.Making small talk with strangers in parties.
5.Orienting non-desi friends to desi food at an Indian restaurant lunch buffet.
6.Counting calories while at Cheesecake Factory.
7.Preparing Powerpoint presentations.
7 things that Attracted Me to
2.The demise…

Of Wells And Heaney

Read Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney again today. I love his poetry but this one in particular is a favorite.

Growing up, the well was significant to me too -from the time I first saw one as a child and was forbidden to go near it. In the intervening years from then to girlhood, I remained fascinated by its depth, darkness and mystery - believed nymphs lived below the water, beyond where eye could see. In a time of youthful exuberance being drenched in summertime by water drawn from a well formed the best memory of "touch" - second only to being kissed for the first time when I turned into a woman.

But all through the years and life's rites of passage, like Heaney,

I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

Personal Helicon
for Michael Longley

by Seamus Heaney

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss…

Cultural Travesty

First off, I don't profess to be a connoisseur of Bharatnatyam. However, I have seen quite a few recitals by dancers of repute to be able to discern the difference between a class act and a below par performance.

This year on the occasion of Diwali, the Desis at work got together to present to a company-wide audience an afternoon of Indian music and dance. The main draw was of course the free Indian food. As we sat there working our way through viscous dal makhni and the de rigueur tandoori chicken and nan, a thirty-ish desi woman in full Bharatnatyam regalia took the stage. Even the most jaded in the audience looked up from their food to watch.

Watching her perform made me wince with embarrassment - identifying myself as I did with the culture she purported to represent to a crowd of foreigners in a foreign land. The other desis in the audience did not seem visibly perturbed. I have in the past had Desis hold forth on Hinduism and specially religious symbolism (replete with inaccur…

Magnified Aberrations

I recently read Ben, in the World by Doris Lessing and found myself reminiscencing about some other books. It was not too hard to see the common thread that runs through all of them.A Prayer For Owen Meany by John IrvingA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy ToolePerfume by Patrick SuskindMetamorphosis by Franz KafkaIn every story the protagonist is an outlier or turns into one. They set an uncontrolled chain of events in motion by just "being". Their aberrations are not as unusual as they are extreme. Ben has the body of a middle-aged man at eighteen, Owen Meany has an inadequate voice, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume has no smell of his own and Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces is a slob of epic proportions. By turning into a roach, Kafka's hero renders conformity impossible.

While society grudgingly tolerates non-conformism, extremely deviant individuals get pushed beyond the brink. They represent the threshold of our collective abilit…

A Time For Change

A year, ago I had started this blog to write in particular about a relationship that had recently demised. It was one of those that leave a bleeding wound, heal over time to become an unsightly scar - the kind of scar that might make a stranger ask you "How did that happen ? It must have hurt a lot" You pretend it is nothing and make light of it.

We used to talk of unconditional love then, M and I. I asked him once :

Isn't divorce a result of conditional love being lost? We start out hoping for the other to be a near replica of an ideal we have etched in the mind forgetting only too often that we ourselves are fallible. Then there is all the baggage we accumulate from tears unwiped, hopes belied, expectations unmet, silences misconstrued - everything that the family law attorney summarizes in such legalese as "insupportable and irreconcilable differences" - is that not all about Eros deified as love ?

And he replied:

Divorce is not a conditional love being lost. I…

Unpurchased Happiness

J has been attending a music, dance and exercise program in daycare from the time she started there. It used to free at first and then cost a little extra. I did not mind because the money spent was more than made up for by J's anticipation of this class on Thursday all week long. The excitement in her voice as she recounted what she was taught for days after, made it all so worthwhile.

Yesterday, I was informed that the rates had been hiked about three times. There were not as many kids enrolling, new management at daycare was no longer willing to chip in and so parents had to pick up a much higher tab. While I can still afford to pay for it, I felt strongly about not doing so.

For a week preceding the enterprising program director has been on an enrollment drive. The children are being told to tell their parents to get them enrolled and are being given brochure ware to take home. Other baits include stickers, tattos of the company logo and rubber stamps and a free tee shirt for pa…

Ring Toned Isolation

Now that ringtones are a legititmate branch of pop music, audtions and awards should not be far behind. This would be the elevator speech of music. Fifteen to thirty seconds to make your mark. Everyone gets a shot at being a composer and airing their work - quite a bit like how blogging gives anyone a chance to write and perhaps be read.
While technology makes such egalitarianism possible, it dilutes the pool of consumers for the vast pool of produce that it results in. In an infinitely connected world, we increasingly form our little electronic cocoons announced perhaps by a self-composed ringtone. Instead of that brief instance of bonding with a perfect stranger whose phone plays Chanson Boheme by Bizet to announce calls just like our own phone does, no connection will happen at all . It would not be such a big loss except for the theme of isolation that underscores this and much more .