Friday, December 23, 2005

Car died today, got pissed off at a truck and going to India

This post is about the three things mentioned in the subject line.

1.> My car died today. She is in the garage. I had to get her towed. I had to rent a car. I was late for work. I had to withdraw money from an ATM not from my bank. I had to pay a surcharge of 3 dollars. It made me mad.

2.> Millions of UPS trucks were on the highway. They were all in the fast lane. They were also in the slow lane. They were driving at low speeds. They were'nt letting anyone by. It made me mad. Then they disappeared. I was then stuck behind a truck with ProFish written on it. It made me mad too. I was mad because I was late for work and my car is in the garage and I was driving a rental car and I was stuck behind Profishguy.

3.> I am off to India. I will take the train to the airport. I will take a train because there are no limo services operating on Christmas day. I am not happy. The reason I am not happy is before I bought my ticket to India I called up the limo operator and asked him if they operate on Christmas day. He said, "We operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year." I asked him but do you operate on Christmas. He said "We operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year." This time he said it with a hint of impatience. I called them up yesterday to book my limo. They said we do not operate on Christmas. I said "But you operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year." They said no, we do not operate on Christmas. I repeated with a hint of impatience, "But you operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year." They hung up on me.

4.> Bonus topic not mentioned in the subject line : My office had a Christmas party last night. I found out that people in my office prefer my company to that of our receptionist. It made me feel warm inside. But that could also have been the alcohol.

5.> Another bonus topic : I might blog from India. It depends on how many moments of sobriety occur during the trip. Hopefully not many. In case I don't, happy holidays and have a happy new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The "We" Blogs

There's this new breed of blogs that's cropping up all over the place. I call them the "We" blogs. These blogs are run by (supposedly) more than one person, group blogs colloquially speaking. Most of these blogs purportedly specialize in political analysis, some of them even excelling in the clarity of their viewpoint and it's verbal dissemination.

However, the most distinct characteristic of these blogs is that the individual bloggers who post on such blogs never use "I" in the first person. It's always "We". For instance, a blogger belonging to one such blog might say, "We, at, have asked Iraq to do a great deal in a short time." Or, for example, "We have never lost sight of the fact that we at this blog are more than one person. Really, we swear and attest to that. WE."

What's with this "We"? No really, does this "We" mean that every blogger posting on that blog is guaranteed to agree with the opinions of every other blogger posting on that same blog? Do these bloggers meet every night to be on the same page with respect to each other's positions on everything and iron out any discrepencies just so that they can continue to use "We" in every blog post without possessing opinions that contradict those of their fellow bloggers? Or how about if a member blogger disagrees publicly in the comments section of his fellow blogger's post. Does he get a "We" ultimatum to stop using "We" until such a time as his opinions reconform with those of the other blog members?

The truth is that using "We" in a blog post appears to impart to the blog a false sense of authority. Mentally, if the blog reader thinks there's more than one person supporting the idea being expounded by the blogger, he is more likely to be swayed by it. But how presumptious is it for a blogger to force his opinions on every other blogger posting on the group blog? If that were true, why even have multiple bloggers? Just get rid of 'em all except one, who could be used to fill up your comments page just so that the blog appears to have an audience. But you may still use "We". To denote respectability that is, instead of plurality.

Phrases I don't much care for

"Wow you have a lot of time on your hands"

This phrase is often uttered by people who wish they originally had the bright idea of doing whatever it is that I am proudly showing them. And why, when I do something extraordinary, does the possibility of my being an idle wastrel need to be raised at all? Can't I do something as a hobby? Does my life have to consist merely of my work related activities and day-to-day chores? You know what pal, no I do not have a lot of time on my hands. I am good at multitasking, in fact, even as I'm typing this post, I am simultanously driving a car, cooking dinner and giving a hobo a hand-job. How about that? Did that answer your question?

"Grow up"

I'm doing the best I can. If I could do it quicker, I would, trust me. But no matter how much I grow up, you still won't be one of my favorite people in the world.

"Get a life"

I'm touched by your concern about me not living a life that is upto your high standards of perfection, but really, it's not as bad as it looks. Anyways, I went to the Walmart, they didn't have any other decently priced lives in stock.

"It is what it is"

No kidding! I thought it wasn't really what it was, it was actually something else and that it just looked like what it actually wasn't.

"I'm just an ordinary guy"

You're lying. You think you are God's gift to the planet and you are having a hard time not shouting it out to the world.

"Stick a fork in me, I'm done"

I hope you have a first aid kit handy.

"Say what, now?"

What the fuck does that even mean?

"I'm like, you know, like, it's like, you know,........"

Get to the fucking point before I blow my brains out with, you know, like, this revolver that's, like, you know, pointed towards my head n stuff.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Trains, buses and taxis

"You know, I have always wanted to do something my entire life and now I probably won't be able to do it ever", I said to my wife as we drove over a railway bridge.
"What's that?"
"I always wanted to drive a train engine. I'll probably never get to do it now."
"You know, when you are a child you have your entire life ahead of you and whatever ambitions you might have, there's always a possibility that you might be able to fulfill them before you are done and gone. And then you grow old and then suddenly one by one, you realize that you probably won't be able to do some things at all. I mean, look at my dream of driving a train engine. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I cannot envision a scenario in which it will be possible for me to get inside a train engine and drive it."
"I see".
"You see what I'm saying?"
"Yes, I see what you are saying."
"It's like a door has been closed for me for ever now. Previously, I could have hoped that I would someday drive a railway engine, but now there is none left."
"What's stopping you from doing that?"
"How do I go about doing it? I can't just walk up to an Amtrak engine and ask the driver to let me in."
"You can tell him it's been your lifelong ambition to be a train driver and hope he is a sentimental kind of guy".
"But it's not my lifelong ambition to be a train driver. I just want to drive it once."
"You don't have to tell him that. Your chances would probably increase if he thinks you want to be like him."
"Yeah, that's true. You think I would stand a better chance of driving an engine in India?"
"I don't know."
"I guess train drivers in India could be bribed or something to let me drive."
"Do you really want train drivers in India to become bribeable so that someone else can drive? What if you are travelling on that train?"
"Yes. You are right, it's a bad idea."

Time passes by.

"I think I could get a bus driver to let me drive a bus."
"You know, even if I can't get a train driver to let me drive his engine, I'm sure a bus driver would allow me to drive his bus."
"I guess so."
"Why's that so, though?"
"I don't know, I'm just talking."
"'Cause you know, you could probably do a lot more harm driving a bus around than a train. 'Cause a train's not gonna run off it's rails no matter how you steer it."
"You are a brilliant man."
"But then, on the other hand, a bus might be easier to drive than a train. Still, it doesn't have the same attraction to me as driving a train."
"That's good, you should never settle for something less."
"Do you think a train has a steering wheel?"
"You should ask the train driver to let you in and have a peek."
"That brings us back to square one. I don't think that's possible."

More time passes by.

"It should be easy to steal a bus if I really wanted to drive it. Many people have actually succeeded in doing so."
"I think being a career criminal is one door you definitely closed when you got married."
"Yeah, I guess so."

Some more time passes by

"I don't think I would want to drive a taxi."
"Did you drink a lot before we left?"
"Why would I even want to drive a taxi? I am driving a taxi right now. There's nothing exhilarating about driving a taxi."
"What are you babbling about?"
"Where are we going anyways?"
"The John Harvard's brewery."
"Yeah, that's right, I just missed the turn."
"You are not a very good taxi driver."
"I am pretty sure I would be a good train driver though."
"Lets stop talking now."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

From sweaters to cars

Woman sits in her house trying to decide on a Christmas present for her husband. She shops on her laptop, looking at, hell, a lot of stuff mostly crappy, stuff I wouldn't be seen dead in a ditch with like sweaters and golf clubs. Fuck golf. But she can't make up her mind. Poor procrastinating woman, always putting things off right upto the last minute. I think she's the same woman from the commercial. I guess once she's done with the commercial she just banishes from her mind doesn't she? But anyways, I digress. She suddenly sees a Lexus parked outside her window and fucking hell, it suddenly hits her. Why not buy a Lexus for the boy? 'Cause, y'know, it follows that after setting a Christmas budget for sweaters and golf clubs, what could be more rational than jacking it up to include a $ 35,000 car instead?

Give me a fucking break.

Monday, December 19, 2005

John Spencer died

John Spencer died this weekend. John Spencer, formerly of LA Law and currently of The West Wing (but formerly for John Spencer himself, since he's dead), was an actor I was a fan of ever since my obsession with LA Law back in my days in the mother country.

I was watching last week's taped episode of The West Wing this weekend, in which they were thinking of firing Bradley Whitford and giving his job of managing Jimmy Smits' presidential campaign to John Spencer, and I was like, fuck guys, he's gonna die next week, don't give him Bradley Whitford's job, and they were like, hell Bradley ain't doing such a good job, and like, John Spencer's the best in the business, and I was like, man, don't you people understand, he's not gonna be there to manage Jimmy Smits' campaign 'cause he's gonna be dead, don't do that, trust me, but Jesus, the stupid congressman from Illinois just had a bee in his bonnet about giving John Spencer the job, and he kept pushing for it, and I was jumping up and down in front of the television set going, you fools, you'll have to change your entire fucking script if you give him the job 'cause I'm telling you I'm speaking from the future and I'm telling you he's dead.

But then, John Spencer, who I think had a premonition about his impending demise, looked Jimmy Smits in the eye with the kind of cynical, jaded emotionally exhausted expression he always carried around with him and said, "No, I think Bradley's gonna be doing a great job, so lets not fire him", and it was then that I stopped jumping around the room in excitement and calmed down enough to realize how much of a dork I am.

But John Spencer is dead, and I'm sad, because I knew him for 8 years and he was a really good actor.

Rest in peace, John Spencer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Indian buffets

Most Indian restaurants in the US offer Indian buffet lunches in the afternoon where you can eat as much as you want as long as you do it within the premises of the establishment. The buffet is exactly similar to buffet lunches or dinners in India, with one difference which is key to the point I am about to make here. In India, the process of eating at a buffet is as follows. You take an empty dish, fill it with food, consume all the food, then go back to the buffet and refill the same dish with food and repeat till you feel you have had your money's worth. Or till your stomach is full, whichever has a higher priority in your mental outlook.

In the US, things are slightly different. You take an empty dish, fill it with food. Then, when you feel the need for obtaining more food, you leave your previous dish at the table, take a fresh dish and then fill it with food. So you may not use the same dish to get a refill, for whatever reasons. Probably to ensure that regurgitated food does not have a chance to fall off a used dish and contaminate the stash of fresh food.

Now, Indian restaurants here follow two different lines of thinking with respect to bread, most commonly parathas or naans. Many restaurants have a single stash of parathas, which is a part of the buffet, from which everyone has to take whatever they need and come back for more. Restaurants that follow a different line of thinking actually bring freshly made hot parathas to every table. The advantage of this method is that everyone gets fresh parathas since they are made and brought to the table according to it's need. The disadvantage of this method is that the parathas that are not consumed by the people eating at the table get wasted, since they cannot be used by anyone else.

Now my point is this. The second method of distributing parathas, which appears to be less cost efficient to the restaurant owner, is usually followed by more upscale restaurants, while most restaurants stick to the first method. But if you ponder a bit more about the logistics of the entire thing, you realize something very strange. That the second method is actually more cost friendly. And it's due to the following reason. What people do is that they fill their plates with food and add, say one or two parathas, since there is no more space in the plate. And once the paratha is done, then the rest of the food in the plate becomes useless. The person then discards that uneaten food on his plate and goes back to the buffet to get a new plate and refill it with a fresh batch of food and parathas.

In the second method, since the parathas are at the table itself, discarding of food does not happen. Hence, even though some parathas might be wasted, costlier food such as fish or meat is conserved. So, if you really think about it, upscale restaurants are actually saving money on their more expensive food items while wasting money on relatively cheaper parathas. Strange innit? In addition to these direct benefits, there are also the indirect benefits of customers being happy to receive personalized hot parathas, which add to their satisfaction with the service. And this also makes them consume more parathas compared to other dishes, thus basically filling themselves up with flour instead of meat.

That will be one observation to file into the deepest recesses of my brain in case I ever decide to go into the hospitality business.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I wasn't reclining in a bathtub. I wasn't even awake. But last night, at about, heck I don't know, let's say 2:00 am, I woke up from deep slumber, expostulating in a language unknown to mankind ( I might have been saying "eureka" in Greek) with a smile on my face. Why did I engage in such bizarre behavior? Because yesterday I had spent an entire day pondering over a problem at work, concluding at the end of the day that it was impossible to solve it and somehow, when I woke up, I knew the answer to it.

I fell asleep not even thinking about the issue. I had banished it from my conscious. Which is why, as I woke up mumbling incoherently at 2:00 am, imagine my surprise when I ascertained that sometime during the night I had solved the problem that had been preying on my mind. And I hadn't even been thinking about it. Somehow during the night, my subconscious, frustrated with my conscious's ineptitute in dealing with the problem, had hijacked the aircraft of my brain, taken over the controls and had steered it to the solution.

And then today, I came back to work and found that fuck, my subconscious was a genius. Not only had it come up with the correct answer, it had probably saved a full day's worth of my time today. It kind of made me wonder if society would be better served by me staying asleep and letting my subconscious work for it's betterment rather than my conscious being in charge and doing jackshit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


This post at Dog Journals reminded me of those cool one-step-above-the-cycle-in-the-vehicular-food-chain mopeds that could be seen, and probably are still seen scurrying about the Indian cityscape in a most industrious manner. I think every family in India has boasted the possession of at least one moped during it's entire lifetime. And why not, in a society of fuel conservation and high gas prices, what could make more sense than a motored vehicle that can magically turn into a bicycle on command once it's fuel runs out.

But one thing the moped isn't famous for is its speed. In fact I remember once I was riding double-seat with a friend on his moped, trying to climb up a hill. It wasn't even a real hill, just an upslope. And then, as we began the climb, a stray dog, a number of which populated the roads and lanes of my city, in fact sometimes outnumbering it's human populace, no doubt, attracted by the sight of an easy target, decided to chase us. The only problem was, and surprisingly, it turned out to be a problem he had to deal with, not us, that the moped just couldn't make it up the hill. And so the chasing dog would miscalculate our speed and wind up ahead of us, where, he would then wait with an expression of utter disgust while we apologetically huffed and puffed up to where he was, where he would again resume his chase, and the cycle would repeat. Finally, he decided we were too pathetic to be preyed upon and left us alone, no doubt, with the mental dissatisfaction of time ill-spent.

But a moped is also unique in that you can pile an extraordinary amount of humanity on it and it will still battle inertia to assume some form of motion. I remember during high school, four of us once piled upon a moped and went for a ride. And the driver, just to be a douchebag, began to swerve it from side to side. And being a douchebag that he was, he miscalculated the swerve, the moped began to wobble and pretty soon we found ourselves sprawled on to the tarmac groaning and bleeding. God that was painful, probably the most painful fall I've ever had in my life. Although the moped itself, apparently untraumatized by the experience, got up, dusted itself and cycled off without us. It was a gutsy son of a bitch.

Mopeds still exist in India. And nothing showcases India's inherent contradictions better than a skinny guy on a moped, holding the handlebar with one hand while speaking on a state-of-the-art cellphone held in the other. 21st century glamor and 19th century guts going hand in hand in apparent technological harmony as does the rest of India. And that, my friends, is what drives this great country.

Taking it slow

Usually my commute to work is a blur. I stay 30 miles away from my place of work and my drive consists mostly of interstate, passing through hills and woods and all that good stuff. But I never see any of that because as I said, it's all a blur to me since I'm doing about 85 mph all the way. My style of driving really leaves me with no time to sit back and enjoy the scenery, but heck, when you are speeding, along with the possibility of death or being pulled over, the adrenaline rush itself is worth it.

But today, after my car suddenly began to give off a strange squeaky sound from the engine, I decided to take it slow. So today I did a nice, comparatively benign 75 mph and took the slow lane all the way. You might say, buddy, what's the fucking difference between 85 and 75 mph? To you, I would say, sir, while 75 mph might merely cause my insurance agent's collar to itch uncontrollably, 85 mph would make him wallow in a fairly deep puddle of his own sweat.

But you know, it was worth it. For all my impatience with things not whizzing by as fast as they should, it afforded me a quiet moment to contemplate and look at things. For example, I never realized that the countryside I passed through looked so incredibly beautiful covered with snow. It was so beautiful it could quite easily make a poet out of anyone. And trees, man do trees, even those barren winter trees improve their appearance with a carpet of snow and icicles of, well, ice clinging to their branches.

And I saw a few houses on the side of the interstate that I had never seen. Nice cozy houses ensconced in the mountainside, deep inside woods, usually invisible from the interstate due to all the tree cover, but now clearly visible because of all the leaves having dropped off in winter. I wonder if these people bought their homes in summer, didn't even realize they live almost on top of an interstate and then come winter, one day they woke up and saw drivers peeking into their bedrooms as they drove by.

But when you are looking at scenery while driving, it's important to steer clear of other drivers who are indulging in it too. When the traffic in front of me suddenly slowed down for some reason, the guy in front of me who was busy gawking at the birds and the bees realized that a bit too late and screamed to a halt in a blur of smoke and fucking stupidity. He just saved a bunch of money on his car insurance even though he didn't switch to Geico.

And then there was another guy in the right lane who, regardless of the road curving to the right, continued on his original trajectory which unfortunately, as I predicted, would be taking him on a crash course into my car. But rather than alerting him to that fact, I just accelerated and drove past quickly. After all, if people want to die, they should be allowed to do it, who am I to dictate my terms on them? All we should do is get out of their way and allow them to perish in peace. And as I passed him, I saw that I had made the correct decision since he was speaking on a cellphone.

You know, when I grow up, I'm gonna be a steamroller operator and then one day I'm gonna just round up everyone who drives and speaks on the cellphone simultaneously, put a gun to their heads, divest them of their cellphones and ... just throw all those phones off a cliff, I guess.

But yeah, so it was a good drive today. Saw scenery, saw someone almost get killed, saw someone almost kill me and reached the workplace on time.

Public service message of the day : Doesn't matter if you do 85 or 75 mph, it takes you the same time to get to work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bombay Moon

Beautiful picture taken by Pablo at Spanish in India of the moon in Bombay shining over the Arabian sea. I've never been able to take any pictures in the dark.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hallowed ground

Anyone fortunate enough to be present on the third floor of my office building yesterday would have been treated to a sight of inordinate hilarity. At 11:35 in the morning, a woman walked out of the office at the far end of the hallway, walked up to the men's room on that floor and walked inside. I am pretty sure she was a woman because she looked like a woman, was dressed like a woman, walked like a woman, giggled like a woman as she hurried back out in a distraught way and blushed like a woman, acknowledging her error. Also, only a woman would be liable to misinterpret the sign clearly proclaiming "Men's Toilet" on the door. By this, I do not mean to label women as a species capable of acts of such foolishness. All I meant is that a woman would be more likely to suspend her belief in the credibility of the printed word, instead, opting to verify it's accuracy through personal experience.

Her unprovoked incursion into the men's room irritated me. For ages, women have preserved the sanctity of their ablution center by keeping it out of bounds for men, only periodically providing tantalizing glimpses of what secrets lie behind those closed doors, when they enter or leave that hallowed ground. And for centuries, men have been taught through rigorous training at their mother's knee, high school peer pressure and movies featuring Johnny Lever that the only fate worse than death for a man is to be caught inside a ladies room. In this context, a woman, on the other hand, blatantly entering the domain of male urino-defecation seemed to me outrageous. I resolved to correct this wrong, wreak vengeance on behalf of all malekind, so to speak. I would grasp this opportunity to peek into the ladies room as my revenge in order to satisfy my curiousity as to what artifacts of mythology lay inside.

Firm in my resolve, I advanced in my quest and planted myself in front of the ladies room door. Placing a palm on the door, I pushed it forward. No squeaks of righteous indignation assaulted my presence. I entered the room. It was small, but comfortable. It contained a sofa, a coffee table, magazines lying on the coffee table, a karaoke machine with huge speakers and a bar. It looked more like an airport lounge than a place meant for discharging human waste. But hold on, this seemed to be just the outer waiting room, There was another door. I walked over to it, curious to see what lay beyond. Strains of music filtered through. Gathering courage, I pushed it forward and plunged inside.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the bright light. Strange as it may seem, the sun was shining in this bizarre land. It was a land of meadows, of bright red flowers and gurgling streams of urine. Birds were twittering and squirrels were running around chasing cheerful wads of multicolored toilet paper that were flying around in the cool fragrant breeze. A little white pony ran out of nowhere and began chewing on a low-hanging soap-on-a-rope dangling from a porcelain tree that stood next to the washbasin made of pure gold.

A number of stalls were scattered about with dulcet music emanating from them. The toilet seats were made of leather, covered in fur and a loving masculine voice would periodically compliment the occupant of the stall on the progress she was making in her endeavours.

All this was a bit too much for me to assimilate. I spun around, grabbed the door and was out of there before you could say feverish imagination. "So that's why women spend so much time in there", I thought to myself. Suddenly it all made sense to me. And then I felt the triumphant glow of being the only man in the world who would ever possess that bit of knowledge.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Digging out

Mother Nature didn't disappoint, it did snow last night into today morning. At 6:30 am today it was a full-on blizzard with wind and snow and vague sounds of things hitting the roof and what-not. We got about 6/7 inches of snow and although it wasn't enough to keep me home all day, it at least gave me the chance to go to work late after making myself a nice big breakfast.

Digging the car out of the snow is fun. It's like a game. The objective of the game is to accomplish the following : To dislodge the car from it's remote location deep inside its snow coccoon and make it travel-ready with the least amount of manual labor and time involved. I have whittled this game down to a science. This is how I do it.

Most people spend a huge amount of time scraping mountains of snow off their car using a snow shovel. That is just foolish and time ill-spent. My technique in doing the same involves wearing a waterproof jacket which covers most of your frontal body area. What you do is the following. You stand on the side of your car with or without an adoring look in your eyes. Then you open your arms wide as if to give your car a massive bear hug. Next, you jump on your car, hugging it passionately, so very very closely as if to invite it to enter your very soul. Then, you slide your entire body along the length of the car, taking along with you all the snow that sits atop it. Repeat it on the other side. Trust me. This will save you at least 5 minutes of shovelling time.

Then, the next thing to do is to shovel the snow in front of and behind the tires and you are all set to go. If that doesn't work, keep shovelling till it does. It usually ceases to be a fun game if it doesn't work after the first shovel.

As expected, the authorities had not bothered to plow the roads after the storm. But they did take some measures. What they did was station police cars at the entry to the highway so that no one could get onto it. No, really, that's what they did. Instead of assigning plowtrucks to clear the highway, they assigned cop cars to shut down the highway. Now that's called innovative thinking.

Friday photos


The "High Peaks" region in the Adirondacks. The Adirondacks are a huge area of wilderness in upstate New York. Great spot for hiking.


Grain silos in Vermont while returning from the Adirondacks. If Kerala is God's own country, Vermont is where God goes on vacation.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Snow in the offing

So apparently it's going to snow 4-9 inches here beginning tonight and ending tomorrow noon. This will be the first snow of the season. Well, to be accurate, we already had a couple of inches of snow earlier this week, but that was mere nipple-tickling foreplay compared to the humongous ejaculatory deluge of snow we are expected to receive tonight. Hopefully I might find it impossible to dig my car out in the morning, thus not having to show my face at work tomorrow.

Since I have lived in the ice-ridden bitterly cold New Hampshire tundra for a couple of years, frequently, I find myself feeling a bit of condescension towards the citizens of Pennsylvania who are, to me, a species that have not quite adapted to snow as well as I have. For example, when you know it's going to snow heavily, the typical New England snow connoisseur lifts his windshield wipers so that they stay above the windshield. Why do they do it? Who the fuck knows? All I know is in New Hampshire, everybody used to do it. So I know it has to be done, and so, I do it too. It's my own private piece of elitism. And then when I see people here with their wipers clinging to their windshields during a snow storm, ah you poor saps, I say to myself, smiling from the knowledge of being wiser than the common man.

Also, clearing roadways after a snowstorm is a concept alien to Pennsylvanian mentalities. I remember in New Hampshire, even during the snowstorm, snow plowing trucks used to patrol the highways continuously, and once the snowstorm was over, life returned to normal within a matter of minutes. In Pennsylvania, they have a slightly different world view. Snow plowing trucks only appear once most of the snow has already been melted due to the intense heat generated by cars that skidded into each other and the highway median and then exploded in balls of flame. Although that is a decent enough snow-plowing technique in theory, it leads to a lot of irritating traffic jams in practice.

But my wisdom in dealing with snow has come from bitter experience. The first time I experienced snow was when I was a graduate student in the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I woke up, noticed something was amiss outside, opened the door and saw white shit over everything. So to celebrate, I did the only possible thing any male does when confronted with something inexplicably wonderful. I borrowed a friend's car, asked a couple of other friends to pile in and drove around aimlessly.

The friend, whose car I borrowed, was then vacationing in India (curiously, the same friend who almost self-immolated himself). Note that I had no experience of driving in the snow. I did not even possess a license. I did not apply the knowledge I had gained in my Mechanics class in engineering to realize snow might reduce the coefficient of friction between the tires and the road. So I basically took no precautions and drove as usual.

Soon I found myself along with the car and my idiot pals at the bottom of a ditch. It was kind of cool in a way. If you haven't crashed somebody else's car, you should do it at least once during your lifetime. It gives you a sense of utter helplessness when the car suddenly develops a will of its own and insists on driving itself in the very direction you are trying not to go, regardless of your steering wheel acrobatics, and then you brace yourself for the crash, and finally, when you are in the ditch, you actually feel better because the ordeal is over. And through it all, you are saying to yourself "Thank God that wasn't my car".

This crash was a good crash. Good because I didn't really total the car. Secondly, the car was already in such an advanced state of decrepitude that totalling, if anything, might actually have improved it's appearance. The only thing seemingly wrong with the car in it's post-crash appearance was that a pretty sizeable portion of the planet had gotten stuck in the space between it's bonnet and its body. There was an entire ecosystem within that chunk of earth, including a bird's nest without its residents, a couple of squirrels and a hibernating bear. Being the avid environmentalist that I was and still am, I did not harm the ecosystem. I left it alone.

I then called up my friend in India and informed him about the crash. "Is it totalled?" he asked hopefully. No, I replied. I could sense his disappointment through the phone. Ah well, I guess I had failed him. But it would always snow again right? Funnily enough, I never drove his car in snow again. Because even though I wanted to help him total his vehicle, I wasn't sure I would be able to crash it again without inflicting harm on my own person. And when all is said and done, driving into a ditch is no picnic in the park.

Comments enabled

Comments have been enabled on a trial basis. You may say whatever you wish. Invective will be tolerated, encouraged and in some cases, might even be augmented. And to the hate mail writer who criticized me on the lack of comments on my blog, no sir, this is not because of your taunts so feel free not to bathe in the glow of success.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A confession about my medical credentials

I have a confession to make. And here it is. When I posted about plastic surgery and my recommendations of things to refrain from indulging in after it is done and over with, I did so regardless of the fact that I did not possess any medical qualifications to do that. I am not a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse, not even the receptionist lady who asks you to go to the inner waiting room to, well, wait. In fact, I am not a professional in any field, not even the field I am supposed to be a professional in. Also, my website has not been accredited by the American Institute of Plastic Surgery. And I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that I wouldn't even know if such an institute were to exist or not.

So that being said, I have been informed that my recommendations nevertheless, are still valid and should be implemented in practice. In fact, I now feel quite a bit of pride in having been able to offer highly competent advice on post-operative care for a medical topic as complex as plastic surgery without having had any kind of professional training whatsoever. And they say it takes 7 years to get a medical degree. Hah! Suckers!

I am also thinking of diversifying my pretend medical practice into other areas of expertise, one of which is dog-bites. I am fairly certain of what to do when one gets bitten by a dog. The reason why I am fairly certain is because I was once bitten by a dog and even though it's been quite a while, I can still remember the steps I had to follow to cure that ailment.

Step 1 : Kill the dog with your bare hands. It's ok if you get bitten again. Hey, you've got nothing to lose. You've already been bitten once, so you might as well make a day of it. Getting infected by rabies is like being convicted for murder. You cannot be convicted twice for the same offence.
Step 2 : Wash the wound with some kind of disinfectant.
Step 3 : I do not remember if you need to tie a tourniquet or not. No, that's for snake bites. I'm no expert on snakebites so I won't comment on that.
Step 4 : Rush to the nearest government-run hospital. Take a route you know will be free of stray dogs. After all, you don't want to spread your rabies around in case you have it. After spending two days in the waiting room, get 14 injections in your buttocks. Do not utilize those same syringes to satisfy your cocaine cravings. Purchase different ones. Don't be a cheapskate.
Step 5 : Stay away from all dogs in the future.
Step 6 : After you begin to have nightmares about you having a love affair with Dracula, who curiously seems to possess the face of a dog and culminates in him sinking his teeth into your neck, start seeing a therapist.

So there you are. That is all for now. Hope that helped. Although if you have been recently bitten by a dog, have not yet seeked medical attention and are sitting at your computer reading this in a nonchalant manner, I would advise you to get up, wipe the foam off your mouth that should be in the process of forming there right about now and follow my instructions detailed above. So be gone, dear patient, and be well.

Next up : How to cope with people who mistake humor for expert medical opinion.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Plastic surgery

Yesterday, on Anderson Cooper, CNN was showing a segment on plastic surgery and people who had undergone it. The ones who got it done to improve their looks that is, not the ones who had it to replace a nose bitten off by a stray dog. So they showed a "before" and "after" picture of this woman who had supposedly undergone the operation and you know what, the only difference in her appearance, as far as I could tell was that the "before" picture had her scowling like a truck driver with hemorrhoids, while the "after" picture had her beaming like an 82 year old virgin who just got laid.

In short, the only way plastic surgery helps you is in making you think you look good. 'Cause a self-satisfied smirk can make the ugliest person look somewhat less hideous.

And after the picture parade, CNN had Dr Sanjay Gupta on to ask him about precautions that should be taken after having had plastic surgery. You know, usually I have the utmost respect for fellow desis in the doctoring business, especially those who appear on American television without reminding Americans of Apu, but goddamn, check out his post-surgery rules :

1.> Try not to talk with your face clenched.

How the fuck do you clench your face?

2.> Try not to pull your face down.

Here he enters somewhat weird and creepy territory. The first thing that popped into my mind on seeing this rule was that god-awful scene in Poltergeist where the guy stands in front of the basin mirror and starts picking and pulling his face apart, pieces of which fall into the basin, till he's left with nothing but a bare skull. Scary-ass scene that was.

But since I was dissatisfied with the good doctor's rules, I came up with my own ones on what not to do after having had plastic surgery.

3.> Do not stick pins into your cheeks.
4.> Do not slap yourself repeatedly while wearing heavy workman's gloves.
5.> Do not hammer nails into your face.
6.> Try not to get mauled by a bear. If mauling appears inevitable, take precautions to restrict the mauling to your lower body area.
7.> Try not to fall face down on the floor for no particular reason.
8.> Do not step on a pitchfork, causing it to rise up and wallop you in the face.
9.> Do not jump headfirst into a pit of boiling lava.
10.> Do not attempt a Babushka. A Babushka being that cute Russian ritual where you take a small amount of vodka in a shot glass, set it aflame and pop it into your mouth while it's still on fire. Although I think the Russian version of the ritual involves firearms and striped baggy pants. A friend of mine from college tried out the non-Russian version once, but instead of popping it into his mouth, he threw it all over his face and clothes, turning into a ball of flame which we then had to put out using blankets. So anyways, don't try a Babushka right after plastic surgery. In case trying it out is absolutely essential, do it before surgery so that you get your money's worth.
11.> And finally, try not to smile too broadly, regardless of how pleased you are with your new appearance. Remember, if your smile is too broad, it might meet at the back of your head, causing it to fall off.

Update : Disclaimer.

Update 2 : The following sequence depicts a close approximation of a Babushka gone haywire. This is pretty close to what happened to my friend. Except he didn't belch flames from his mouth, simply because the fiery liquid didn't have a chance to enter his mouth.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Movie version of Shantaram to begin filming

Uh-oh. That gives me a year to finish the book which is lying at this very moment on my coffee-table in an intimidatingly bulky manner. It's my second attempt to finish it, my first attempt having ended miserably with it's return back to the library. This time, I shall prevail.

But Johnny Depp should be awesome in this film. Fuck, I would pay good money to watch anything he does. Wonder which Indian actors will be cast in the film. Should be interesting.

Overpass Graffiti


This bit of graffiti is on the side of an overpass on the Valley Forge - Philadelphia Schuylkill bike trail. Every time I pass this, I keep wondering what the cultural significance of a lizard (or a baby alligator) riding a chicken is, and what CUJO #1 is supposed to convey. Hopefully someday I shall find out.

What no-talent musicians hear when they play

I am a bad guitarist. No, wait, hold on, I USED to be a bad guitarist, like 5 years ago. Now I'm just a terrible terrible guitarist. I can play other stuff too, like pretty average keyboards, somewhat good drums and I've got a voice that is the aural equivalent of a finger in the eye. But as to playing the guitar, I suck in style.

So the other day I retrieved my old guitar that had been stashed away in the closet for a while, and in a fit of nostalgia, took it out and attempted to recreate the no-talent musicianship I knew I possessed. But a reality-check awaited me. Not only could I not figure out which chord is which, I couldn't even remember which fucking fret, when plucked would be the "C" note. And it was then that I realized that musical talent isn't like riding a bike. Once you lose it, you lose it. And also, you can't fall off a musical instrument. Unless, of course, you are playing the drums. Although, the stool you are sitting on technically, isn't a part of the drum set. Or is it? But, anyways, I digress.

Yesterday, I was watching a film about Def Leppard, the hard rock band of the 80s and 90s. Incidentally, the band that first turned me on to metal. And during a break, there was a promotional VH1 commercial which showed a no-talent guitarist just like me, trying to play Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". The guy was barely able to crawl up the stairway and was hitting every step on the way. He was quite awful. And it was at that moment that I realized, Christ, is that what bad musicians sound like to other people? Is that what I sound like when I play the guitar? No way, man, I sound much better than this. But do I really? Because in theory his technique pretty much mirrored mine. The main principle of that technique being to pluck every note randomly till you find the correct one, then pluck that note, move on to the next one and repeat this sequence of operations.

And then, I realized something very interesting. When you are trying to play a song on your guitar, or anything else, when you hit a bad note, correct it and continue playing, you, the musician, do not actually "hear" the bad note you just played. 'Cause what you hear at that point is the song which is playing in your head, which you are trying to recreate on your guitar. You see what I'm saying? As far as you are concerned, the bad note you just played never happened. So you continue on with your song, safe in the belief that your musical output is of outstanding quality. And when you are done with your abysmal musical performance, you sit there flushed with the success of your recital and wait for audience adulation, which, in most cases, fails to materialize.

Till now, I used to attribute this lack of applause to audience jealousy. No one likes to see someone do well at something they themselves are bad at, right? But now I know, that's not the case. The reason we, bad musicians, fail to get our due is because there is no due to be gotten. We just sound terrible. And we should realize that and move on.