Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Photo Blogging : The Schuylkill River Trail

Don't look now and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think spring is here. Okay what the heck, go on, look. Too late, it's back to freezing again. Look again tomorrow. It's expected to be nice and sunny and warm. But don't look on sunday because it's supposed to be cold and rainy. Monday is expected to be like saturday, tuesday like monday and fuck wednesday because no one cares about wednesday. So coming back to spring, I expect cycling activities to commence this weekend. Luckily, Philly, if not the biking capital of the US, is at least the biking capital of Philly with a number of decent biking trails within stone-throwing distance, although if you are going to throw a stone, make sure you aim for the speed-cyclists and not the leisure bikers. The biking trail that I patronize the most out of sheer laziness due to its close proximity to me is the Schuylkill River Trail from Valley Forge to the Philadelphia Art Museum along the banks of the Schuylkill River, a distance of about 25 miles.
The trail begins in Valley Forge Historic Park where George Washington amassed his troops during the revolutionary war while preparing to attack Philadelphia, which had been captured by the British and whose residents were now being forced to spell color with a "u".
On its way to Philly, the trail passes through Manayunk, a semi-pretentious neighbourhood which apparently is the place to be in if you're a young puppy, or, as it's known nowadays, a yuppy.
People travel to Manayunk to bike on a very small section of the trail along the Manayunk canal which makes perfect sense because that section of the trail is generously endowed with crumbling factory buildings like this one which makes for a very scenic ride.
But to be fair, the trail also has sections like this one where the buildings get momentarily obscured by foliage.
Finally, the trail breaks out onto Kelly Drive, where the beautiful people of the city hang out to showcase their beauty and also to stay beautiful by engaging in various activities of physical exertion such as roller blading, biking and canoing. The following is the spot on the trail where the highly anticipated Philadelphia skyline makes its first appearance.
Further along the way, you pass this sculpture of a man shielding his eyes from the sun while humping an eagle, a testament to willpower and physical exertion.
Finally, the trail ends at the Philadelphia Art Museum which is a great place to spend a day in. One of the best exhibits in the museum is an entire authentic South Indian temple which was moved here and reconstructed one naked sculptured breast at a time.
Of course, you don't have to stop biking once you are at the Museum of Art. You could continue on into downtown Philly along this avenue lined with the flags of all countries except India, which the New Jerseyites keep stealing come every Independence Day to hang outside their own homes.
On the way, you pass City Hall with the statue of William Penn on top, who is famous for having his statue on top of City Hall.
Just behind this marvellous No Stopping sign which I really did mean to include in the picture, you can see a flock of people who've just exited a theater on Broad Street after watching a play.
This is the Kimmel Center, cultural center of the city. I am not sure what happens in there but some day I mean to find out. Maybe this guy knows, in fact, I am pretty sure that he does, so why don't you just ask him instead.
As for me, my ultimate destination is almost always South Philly, Heavenly Abode of the Cheesesteak Deity.
I hope this travelogue will inspire some of you to travel to Philadelphia for taking its sights and sounds in and Mayor John Street out with you when you leave. If so, may the spirit of the Lizard riding a Chicken aid and abet you in your endeavours.
Related post : The Delaware Canal Biking Trail.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Please go ahead

Yesterday as I came in to work, I saw a couple of cop cars parked in front of the building. Okay, something to look forward to, maybe a burglary, or oh man, dare I dream, could it be...arson, I thought to myself as I carefully parked my car in such a way that my blown headlight would be hidden from the long viewing proboscis of the Law.

Inside was a blaring alarm and a police officer interrogating a woman who, it seems, had set the burglar alarm off by letting herself into the building but omitting to enter the code for its disarmament. So it looked like it was going to be a normal day after all, at least for me. I moved on.

Today as I drove in to work and got out of my car, I saw the same woman standing outside the building with her keys in her hand. Obviously, she was going to make a reattempt at entering the building without setting the alarm off. She looked at me with hope in her eyes as a knight who would rescue her damsel ass from the alarm dragon. But I didn't feel like being interrogated by cops so I decided that this would be a great time to do the dime check on my tire treads. I knelt down. After waiting in vain for me to materialize, she resigned herself to her fate. Keys in hand, she walked into the bowels of the building.

I guess I took the coward's way out but what to do, frequently that is the only way not lined with thorns, loud blaring noises and prison cells.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I want this job

Everyday I pass this guy on the turnpike. It is the ramp from I-76 onto I-276 where they are constructing some potholes and narrowness. Everyday it is the same guy, a black guy holding a donut in one hand and a "SLOW" sign in the other. And as far as I can tell, his duties appear to comprise solely of holding the "SLOW" sign upright and preventing it from falling to the ground. I would like to have his job.

Of course, I am not claiming that this is all that his job involves. He also has to hold himself up and not fall to the ground which could be difficult if your center of gravity were to be skewed by a donut. Plus, I don't know if his job description also includes looking out for blind drivers who cannot read road signs and running behind them, yelling at them to slow down. But honestly, how many blind drivers do you encounter on the road in Pennsylvania, with most of them not venturing outside their home base in Pune, MH.

The reason I would like to have this job is because I feel I could do it better justice than the black guy. I would use the professional skills I developed through four years of undergraduate study and two years of graduate study and apply them to this particular career. If I were to be employed as a black guy holding a donut and a SLOW sign, and trust me, right now it's just a dream with no sign of ever coming true, I would first construct what we mechanical engineers call, "a stand", and mount the "SLOW" sign on it using what we software engineers call, hands. Then, after receiving a commendation and a salary increase from my supervisor for my out-of-the-box thinking on my first day at work, I would go home and consume the donut. That would leave me with fourteen hours to kill before I would have to go back to work and check for any termite damage to the stand.

Yes, I am pretty sure that I would like to apply for this job. Are these jobs on Someone please let me know.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Breast feeding

Every once in a while here in Pennsylvania, there erupts a controversy over breastfeeding. Someone breastfeeds someone else, oftentimes a baby, in a public establishment, and then gets ejected from said establishment for doing so. This is then followed by extensive media coverage of the incident which is entirely devoid of pictorial coverage, which in turn is then followed by a pro-breastfeeding rally by area women who try to force the public establishment to change its titular policy.

And so it happened again a couple of weeks ago. This time I was paying attention to the teevee and they said that the offending establishment was a mall and the rallying women had a statement to make. The statement said that people should not get offended by breastfeeding because of the asexual nature of the act due to the presence of the baby.

I disagree with this reasoning on multiple levels. But before I do so, I would like to clarify my position so that I don't have hordes of feminists descending upon me like libertarians upon feminists, or demonic fire-breathing asp-tongued locusts upon libertarians (just so we give those libertarians something to think about). In short, personally, I have no problems with women breastfeeding their babies in public either conceptually, visually or in principle (since I am not lactose intolerant).

But here's the thing. Anti-breast-display laws were created for people who get offended by the sight of breasts. And when these people see an uncovered breast, why should we expect its offensiveness to them to be mitigated by the presence of an attached baby? If you say that certain people should not be offended by breasts in certain circumstances, then shouldn't you actually be laying the onus of not being offended on all people in all circumstances without being selective about it? In other words, all aboard the naked train.

Secondly, isn't a baby like the very epitome of human sexuality? When you see a young couple with a baby, isn't your first thought "Hmm... goddamn, these people had sex".

Now for the solution. Instead of asking people to not be offended by breasts or asexual babies, how about we study the problem in purely legal terms. The only time a breast is considered to have crossed legal bounds of propriety is when it has let the areolus escape through heavy security and into the scorching glare of the public eye. In fact, if there's anything that repeated exposure to E! TV has taught us, it is that the legal system is actually pretty permissive in its view towards breast-display, even allowing women to lay it all out there as long as the critical area is covered by some form of opaque material. But when a woman is breastfeeding her baby, the area in question would always be covered by the baby's mouth, with the baby in most situations being opaque unless it was sired by the Invisible Man and thus, in legal terms, a breastfeeding woman would not be crossing the limits of decency.

I wish breastfeeding advocates would put forth their legal argument in support of public breastfeeding instead of trying to appeal to human emotions using the "inoffensive" and "asexual" arguments. After all, emotions can vary from person to person. But the application of the Law is universal.

Back of the menu

Ever so often when you go to a restaurant and begin to flip through the menu, you find that either you do not wish to partake of the items of food advertized within or would have liked to, but cannot afford their purchase. So you continue to flip and you flip some more till you reach the end of the menu. And then, in a final burst of optimism, you turn it over and look at its backside, space usually reserved for business hours and spilt food, even though bitter experience reminds you of the extremely low probability of menus in pamphlet form possessing a secret affordable / delectable food section spirited away on their backsides.

Ever since this blog was nominated for the Indibloggies, its readership and feed circulation has doubled in volume. I have a gut feeling that for most of you people who just tuned in, this blog is kinda like the back of the menu. I applaud your persistence in continuing to scour the web for reading material and optimism in hoping that this blog might have whatever it is that you are looking for, and even though I seriously doubt it, I hope you find it here and welcome you with both arms wide open, a carrot in one and a stick in the other, don't ask, it's a long story.

But for those millions of you who came here looking for sympathy and advice on "how to keep hair from falling out" and found flippancy instead, I can only hope that laughter being the best medicine and all, it helped your hair grow back (the lack of it causing you to pull at your hair, h/t S in the comments).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Phone call

In the past, I have had people I know, casual acquaintances back in India, who, after coming to the US for a visit, would send me a mail saying "I am in the US, call me".

I don't understand why someone's being here in the US should be a bigger incentive for me to call him than when he's back in India. The telephone rates are about the same. If I didn't call you when you were in India, chances are that it wasn't because of the seven seas separating us. The reduction in physical distance doesn't make a whole lot of difference when you are speaking to someone on the phone. Current technology still does not allow you to shake someone's hand or slap his back or make obscene gestures at him through the phone line. And it's not like being in the same country makes your voice sound more melodious or your personality more agreeable on the phone.

I think the only difference between talking to someone in India and the same guy after he's landed in the US is that you have more flight-related material to sustain your conversation, leading to less awkward pauses than usual, thus making it a social opportunity to jump at. So when did you land here, I landed today, how was your flight, it was long, was it 16 hours, yes excluding the 5 hour stopover, did you fly through London, no I flew through Paris, oh really, I thought you flew through Frankfurt, no, I flew through London, did you fly Lufthansa, no I flew British Airways, oh, I thought you said you flew through Rome, no, I flew through London, so how do you like it here, I've only been here a couple of days, so did you watch the weather channel yet, you don't get it in India, no I don't have a tv, which is why I'm talking to you right now.

And so it goes, this conversation between two virtual strangers, the only bond between them being their simultaneous presence in the same country which is not their homeland. And when it is done and receivers have been replaced back on the hook, both begin to realize why they never called each other up as often back in India in the first place.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Never begin on a high note

So yesterday the wife and I went to this bar that has an after 9:00 half priced appetizer and drink special. Goddamn it was a nightmare, keeping ourselves hungry till nine. Well, no one said that being a cheapskate would be easy. So anyways, as we pulled into the parking lot, the male half of an elderly couple whom we had just avoided running over, began to walk towards me. I thought he was about to beat me with his over sized fedora hat but the fault was mine so I got ready for the thrashing.

But he had other things on his mind.

"One of your headlights is out", he said pointing to my car.

I was kind of relieved because I did say it was an over sized hat, didn't I?

"Oh yeah, I know, I was gonna get it fixed this weekend, thanks for telling me", I said to him.

"No problem", he said and walked away with a friendly smile.

"Look at that", I said to my wife, "How friendly these Americans are. If we had been in India, the guy would have said to me, hey since one of your headlights is out, can I have the other one?"

My wife found my observation funny. She complimented me on my sense of humor. I felt ecstatic.

Now here's the problem with your wife complimenting you on your sense of humor. After that point in time, every other joke, to her, looks like a lame attempt to live up to her compliment. Plus, it sets the humor bar too high for the rest of the evening.

And so it happened that when we were changing bar seats after we realized that the lights were too bright where we were and the wife had to make a couple of trips to move all her stuff and I asked her, "Do you want me to hire a moving van", it failed to spark any mirth. And when she had trouble finishing her spinach dip and flat bread and I asked her, "Are you okay, is the spinach dip eating you, after all there are four of those flatbreads and just one of you", she said "You know, you don't seem as funny anymore."

Moral of the story : The showcasing of your sense of humor should occur at the very end of the evening. Or, as George C explained it to us, "Always leave on a high note".

Or, alternatively, you could quit cracking jokes at your wife's expense.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I remember the day as well as the exact time of the day when I realized that I had turned into a sell-out. It was yesterday afternoon 3:00 pm and I was just about to write a blogpost on why I am not crazy about cricket anymore and why, when you think about it in an unbiased manner, the game kinda sucks.

And then luckily, a couple of seconds later, I realized that it would be a very foolish thing to do because I would get lynched in the blogosphere, ostracized in society and probably lose half my readership, 100% of which is, in all likelihood, a raving demented fan of the game, and then, in a delicious irony, the blog would fill with the chirping of crickets. Not to mention the fact that I would also lose my Indian citizenship and have to move to Antarctica because the US doesn't seem to particularly want me either. So out of these concerns, I scrapped my plan. And then a further couple of seconds later, I realized that I had become a sell-out. And now if anyone is interested, I have a kidney to sell as well and how about you abuse me as you're ripping it out of my body cavity because I have no more dignity or self-worth anymore.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Sigur Ros : Flugufrelsarinn.

These guys are from Iceland and they sing in Hopelandic, which is a mixture of Icelandic, English and Piglatin. They strum their guitars with a violin bow, creating waves of sound that are vividly reminiscent of the icy volcanic landscape they arose from. Simply gorgeous.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, we had a major snowstorm.

Now I have to confess, I have never experienced a major shitstorm. And based on first-hand accounts of people who have been in one, I know that it can get pretty nasty out there with all those flying flaky turds being driven into your bare skin by gale-force flatulence, as you wonder to yourself, where, oh where could all that shit be coming from. But on the other hand, I have experienced a major snowstorm. And therefore, this much I can say with confidence : I would rather take a major shitstorm over a snowstorm of equal proportions any day of the week.

The thing is, once the shitstorm has passed out of your neighbourhood and the colo-rectal clouds have parted, making way for the sun to shine through, all you have to do is wait for the shit collectors to come by and delicately scoop up the soft piles of precipitation amassed at your front door for processing in the manure factory. On the other hand, once a snowstorm is done, that is when your problems begin. Snow has no takers because snow has no industrial or horticultural applications. Therefore, in the event of a snowstorm, it is up to you to dispose of all that snow in front of your apartment and more importantly, around your car.

I have already spoken about the proper methodology to adopt in shoveling your car out of the snow. If I remember correctly, I scoffed at people who use snow shovels and if my memory serves me right, I advocated the use of a technique involving locking into a tight embrace with your car and moving back and forth along her length in order to free her of all that snow. I said this would be enough. Well, it isn't. Sometimes, more drastic methods are required.

So coming back to this major snowstorm which culminated in sleet, ice, freezing rain and every other kind of rock-like substance that water can possibly turn into, it resulted in my car getting mired in the muck. No matter how much snow and ice I shoveled, it was not enough. My frozen hands began to ascend to heaven, leaving the rest of my body behind, my chest hurt with my heart screaming to be let outside to join my hands in their journey and my nose froze shut. Finally, it got so bad that I couldn't make out if the water dribbling down my face was melted snow, sweat or tears and I was hoping it would be melted snow or sweat because I had never cried before while shoveling snow and my parents wouldn't be proud to see me reduced to this sorry state. Men who work out in a gym everyday are not supposed to cry.

Finally, after shoveling for about half an hour, I managed to grind my car out of the quagmire. But it appeared that my car had suffered severe injuries in the process. She had begun to vibrate in several places. And the moment I touched 50 mph, my steering wheel began to bounce up and down like a fetus inside a pregnant woman running a marathon. I guess I had misaligned my wheels.

According to my limited knowledge of misaligned wheels, the misalignment is a direct result of the wheels of your car ceasing to agree on major issues of the day such as geometry, vehicular direction, world politics and the role of women in modern society. Hence the vibration.

It meant that I had to drive to work at 50 miles per hour which I have never ever done, and it made me feel ashamed to drive this slow on the turnpike. More so because I had a long line of cars behind me. So in order to explain to them that I really had no choice in the matter, I turned on my slow blinkers.

And that was when the car behind me flashed its headlights at me. What the fuck? I had turned on my blinkers out of consideration and I get flashed? It's like if you yell at someone in your office and you keep yelling and the other guy listens in silence and then you go home, come back the next day, apologize to the guy and then he screams at you, what the fuck are you yelling at me for. So I slowed down some more in the true American (Indian) spirit.

Coming back home, I stopped at the post office in my apartment complex. They call it a post office, it looks like a post office, it's got an American flag flying outside and it is called a post office. But it is not a post office. It is a building containing our mailboxes. So I parked in front of the post office, went inside, retrieved my mail and got back inside the car. And then as I tried to pull out of the parking spot, the wheels began to slip and slide on the icy ground and the car began to spin about its own axis, kinda like the earth, which was also spinning around me. Fuck, I said. Fuck, I said again. I kept saying fuck for a while. It was either that or shoveling some more and I chose the former.

After a while I stopped saying fuck and began to gun the car. I gunned it some more and I rotated my steering wheel left and right to try and get a grip on the road surface and gradually it began to move very very slowly. But the moment I stopped gunning it, it came back to a halt. And it began to beep. Now what, I thought to myself. Again I gunned, again it came to a halt and beeped again. It was as if it was trying to tell me something. It was then that I observed that my hand-brake was in the engage position. That, in all probability, was the reason behind the reluctance of the car to move, and not the ice.

Yes, it hadn't been a good day for my car. First the ice and then me. But the next day turned out to be better. It had so happened that my twisting and turning at the post office had re-misaligned the wheels into perfect alignment. The vibration was gone and the car was as good as new.

Sometimes it does take two wrongs to make one right.