The Good-Food Calorie Link-inator

If you stop for coffee in the mornings, there are souls standing there looking like they know they should be there. They obviously did something right to get there, but what to do after that is displayed like a puzzling Exclamation mark preceded by a Question mark on their face. Take a beaker full of coffee and send the brew through a funnel and they will stir and show some spirit. It takes a few minutes, but they eventually get buzzed up as I like to call it and crack open their day.

coffee
coffee

Curious that I should have written this without knowing that is was National Coffee Day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Coffee_Day

One morning I decided to take the high road on nutrition and scorned coffee & tea with the air of a medieval lord. Yogurt, I decided, is the thing, and headed out towards a solid breakfast. Live cultures,  probiotics with a spot of fresh fruit. I felt like just the thought of it was chasing all those terrible toxins away. I shivered at the thought of caffeinated beverages. It was as I was surveying some grape yogurt that my nose twitched in an alarming manner.

I turned my neck to aid the nose and saw that there was an egg-making section in the place. The husband is a great show-wizard in the art of egg making. He beams at his audience, he instructs, he builds suspense as to how he is going to toss the omelets and catch them. The audience watches bewitched as the omelets fly in the air and then they push the heart down, for it pops up to the mouth with all the suspense.  In a fitting finale, the omelet spatters but mostly lands in the pan. He good-humoredly says,  “Well, almost!”. The admiring audience then cleans away the soggy remains on the floor, the egg-shells are swept from view, and the chef presents his masterpiece.

Why I say all this is because, I don’t know whether you have stood around watching eggs being made. It is fascinating. Also crowded. The populace likes seeing the egg-toss. But that day, the egg making station was empty. So, I made for it and ordered a sunny side up just because I could, with out waiting in line.

The lady misheard me and made me two eggs sunny side up, left them a bit longer than she would have liked and I found myself staring at two fried eggs instead.

You know how we tell our children not to waste the food on their plate because poor children are starving in other parts of the World? In fact, the thing has been drummed into my psyche for so long for so many years that I leave a very clean plate. Maybe it is time for all good men and women to analyze this statement. I did not want any eggs, but landed up having two beaming up at me simply because the line was empty. Now, I could well not waste it because of those starving children.

Never one to raise hands for a breakfast, I felt a bit squeezy. A friend I know told me that mint tea always soothes the squeezy stomach, and so there I was with the kettle and teabag at the end of it all. So much for turning my nose up at caffeine.

Now, since I did not waste any of the food, all that is required is find a way to transport these calories to the starving poor.

“Do you hereby consent to transfer your breakfast to this starving, poor, poor child ?”

“Yes I solemnly do.”

Good Food Link-inator
Good Food Link-inator

Off the calories go zipping through the Good-Food-Calorie-Linkinator to nourish the child. The recipient has a holographic effect of eating the eggs, that trigger good memories depending on how  well the patron enjoyed his calories,  thus physically and psychologically satisfying the receiver. If one has truly enjoyed it, so will the receiver of the calories, and if one has just forked them down like a robotic arm lifting garbage, the receiver does not enjoy it all, and his giver-rating goes down. That way, one can indulge occasionally, and feel good all around.

Sigh! I never see folks skip over to the treadmill because it is empty and exercise. Why do we not exhibit the same iron control with food?

The Hippoceres Giving-It-Nicely Service

I deposited myself fluidly through the doors in the last second before closure. The trains in the USA insist on closing the doors, thereby denying folks like us to use the hang-on-by-a-strand-and-heave self onto train later technique. I can’t say I was in a frightfully enthusiastic mood as I plopped myself onto the only remaining seat. I turned and looked at the person sitting next to me and saw I had drawn the stiff corporate pant.

I had to drop some documents off at a government office and then face a regular day. I sat contemplating the task ahead while opening my book to read. Nothing that a good book can’t fix I told myself sternly and set to reading.

Minutes into the journey, he (the s-c-p, the stiff corporate pant I mean) whipped out his phone. A purposeful gleam emanated from his glassy eyes. I moaned. I think I can figure out when my quiet commute gets thrown out the window. He called his team in India, and far from having a how-are-things conversation, took a piece of mud and flung it with whim across the seven oceans. Ocean beds shuddered as they transmitted the bits from him to the unfortunate team on the other side. He shouted at them,  and then looked about impressively.  Nobody cared. I scowled. It made not the slightest difference to him. He talked on. He promised to call them all separately and ‘give them nicely’ for not running a report or some such thing.

He sounded like one of those folk who make mental lists of jumping on people, telling them in precise language how they failed as individuals, and how they would improve in life if only they were to listen to him and follow his instructions alone. I heard a goodish deal of his side, which meant that the stuffed mushroom thought nothing of hogging conversations.

“Hello Kavya?”

She probably said Hello, and that was about all she was allowed to say. If I knew her, I could have messaged her directly and told her to put down the phone and continue doing whatever else she was doing, with no loss. He started with the I’ll-show-you-who-is-in-control early enough. “What did you tell Gopal?” he bellowed.

I rummaged around for some cotton, fake-coughed a bit and stuffed my ears, but it did not help. What was required was one of those vacuum shower stoppers, not cotton. I could still hear every word:

“He said that you said that,” and on and on he went how about she was wasting her time. The passengers near me felt a bit sorry for Kavya, whoever she was. Luckily for her, she had no idea she was being publicly shelled like this. I mean, if you are whipping the air out of someone’s lungs, at least have the civility to do so in private, what? I threw him a dirty look. It simply evaporated like a droplet of water in the Saharan desert.

Soon, the bore lost the fun out of ripping Kavya and I tried to read again. He played on his phone for a few minutes. War horses need rest and restoration between battles. A minute later, he called Gopal and started by telling him what Divya told him and how he ‘gave her nicely’. The train was too full now for me to move away from this spot of misery, even if it meant standing on a one foot.

Say what you will about the steel glinted glass, he kept his promise. He made seven different calls and in between every call, he logged back into his game and riled himself up a bit more and got on with his ticking-off. He told every one of them again that he planned on calling every other member who had not delivered something, to ‘give them nicely’.  After throwing his weight about like a dancing hippo in the local discotheque frequented by rhinos, he disconnected the call, looked pleased with himself and treated himself to a long round of playing a game on his smart phone.

hippo

I almost cheered when his stop came and he went out with a triumphant stride. Clearly, the hippoceres thought his day started on a productive note.

I ruminated for a bit about the phrase ‘give one nicely’. A very Indian expression is it not, to give one nicely while doing the exact opposite? What a super-fatted-bore!

Maybe like Russell said:

Civilized life has grown altogether too tame, and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.

If the s-f-bore had to fight off a few dogs and then run a mile before he leaped onto the train, and then was barely able to hang on, he might not have had the need to ‘give everyone nicely’.

It turned out that the document drop off at the Government office was an egg drop too. I was sitting there an hour after my appointment time, and fiddling my thumbs watching the videos of ‘Incredible India’ play over and over again. The guy at the counter before me was waving his hand impressively and making a lot of noisy gestures. I could not hear him of course(I preferred the music).  There is something hypnotizing about those videos like ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’.

My stomach gave a threatening rumble before I finally washed up in front of the clerk (Are they still called that?). She looked peeved. Maybe the guy before me gave her nicely, I thought. She rummaged through my stack of documents for a minute and then said she could not help me because we required another form with notarized signatures of all players in the game. I gurgled and tried asking if my signature alone would do. She shook her head firmly – It was a no-go.

My stomach squeezed itself with hunger, and I thought to myself savagely that now is the time for all loud men and women to come to the party and ‘give everyone nicely’: I  wondered if Mr. Hippoceres would lend his services.

“Hello! May I speak to the Hippoceres Giving-It-Nicely Service please?”

“Yes Ma’am. Who would you like to give it nicely to today?”

Where To Go During The Third World War?

We had been to attend The Physics Show a few weeks ago. Living in an area housing the world’s most frightful technologists does that to you. One scientist tells his neighbor, who tells his friend, an engineer, who tells his friend, a Biochemist, and from there it passes on from one to another, all bound together by the loose brackets of a parent. Before long, there is a list of folks beating it up the hill to The Physics Show. If you peered closely at that hill, you would have seen me there with the daughter and some friends. I can’t fool the public into believing that the Opera and Broadway are competitors, but the general populace was surging to the show.

The Auditorium was atop a steep hill, and the populace was huffing and puffing like Po the Panda stopping for water breaks every now and then. I felt like I was on a strange padayatra (Journey by Foot) to see a Gingko Tree, growing amidst a grove of Japanese Cherry Blossoms, atop the Great Wall of China. The holy path only required one to sprinkle a few drops of the holy Ganga-jal along the way, to make the ritual complete.

Pada Yatra to see Gingko Tree amidst Grove of Japanese Cherry blossoms on the Great Wall of China
Pada Yatra to see Gingko Tree amidst Grove of Japanese Cherry blossoms on the Great Wall of China

The populace making their way up the hill were mostly enthusiastic folks of Asian descent: Parents of Chinese, Japanese & Indian descent with their reluctant progeny.

The show by itself was reasonably good. The scientists did their best to enthuse the children. “If you can’t have fun doing Physics, you can’t be having much fun doing anything!” they boomed on stage. All the parents laughed heartily and clapped at this, while the 5 year old boy sitting in front of me turned and stared at me as if asking, “Really?! You can laugh at this, but not at the Tom & Jerry show I was uprooted from for this lark?”. It looked to me like he was having a lot more fun ogling at these specimens who laughed for that joke, than anything else. I detected a judgmental gleam in his eye, and did my best to cope with it by ignoring him and enjoying the atmosphere instead.

I scanned the crowd to see the number of children in the 5-7 age group. There were even a few 4 year olds and I hoped they were taking one for the sibling and not because parents hoped that training started early.

The scientists talked about Electricity, Temperature and Atmospheric Pressure. But the best attempts to educate drew the biggest engagement when the team on the stage fried themselves deliberately or made their hair stand up. It was hilarious to see the hopeful expressions on the faces of the well-intentioned parents, while the children enjoyed the parts of the show that looked like circus performers out at tea-time.

A few days later, the daughter and I were out and about sauntering around the neighborhood. The waning summer had few butterflies and we made them proud by flitting from one topic to the next. We were talking about progress, science, the European refugee crisis, the recent fires, dodo bird extinctions and so on. The gentle Dodos helped me steer our conversation onto humans and humanity’s path and how our Scientific progress always has a good and a bad fallout. I told her about what Albert Einstein said, “The Fourth World War will be fought with sticks and stones!”.
I went on to tie the plight of the Syrian refugees to explain how civil unrest, war etc always lead to horrifying effects on people.

“So, Albert Einstein said that the Third World War will wipe out everything as we know it right? So, then we are okay isn’t it?” she asked, her face crinkled with worry.
“Alas! Even if it is a big bang annihilating life in the end, the hurtle towards that instant itself is a long and difficult journey involving much heartbreak and agony. It will be a long drawn out affair with millions of people losing their loved ones, suffering with injuries and wretched atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and anxiety.” I said. .

The daughter was quiet and somber. A rare occurrence.I did not relish this Doomsday Scenario either. We walked in silence for a minute.
“Well then the only way out is for people to go to Oregon then.” said she after a few moments in a final sort of voice..
“Eh?! You mean the state of Oregon?”
“Yes” she said. “Oregon – above California.”

God knows I have braved enough conversations, but this still had me stumped. “Why Oregon?”
“Well. Only there you can kill yourself legally, and put an end to misery right?” said the daughter.

Enlightenment dawned. A few days before this, we had been discussing the case of Brittany Maynard (http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/opinion/maynard-assisted-suicide-cancer-dignity/) and we told her about Euthanasia and how it was legally allowed in the state of Oregon.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia_in_the_United_States

So, if ever there is a Third World War and a lot of people are suffering, you know where to go.

Glad to have that straightened out.

Wildfires, Droughts & Other Things

A visit to the grand old trees of the West is always a humbling experience. Last week, it was the turn of the Sequoias. Most folks check climatic conditions, pull up traffic conditions and ensure that the travel route is free of terrors, man-made or otherwise. I like efficient folks like them. We are just not one of them.

So, obviously, there we were, entering the beautiful forest park only to have the ranger look us strangely in the eye and ask whether we knew we would not be allowed into most of the park.
“Why is that?” I asked
His eyebrow twitched a bit showing us that his base, unchecked instinct was to utter an irritated tut, but his excellent training made him stamp down firmly on that instinct and instead answered with a civil nod.
“Well, Ma’am. There is a forest fire on the Kings Canyon side, so you may not go.” he said
“Will we be allowed tomorrow?” I said swiftly updating plans for the next day to see if we could do a shabby run of Sequoia and Kings Canyon the next day. The ranger sized me mentally to be one of those tick-it-all-from-the-list types and gave me a pleading look. He said that the park had been closed for the past month and the only grove we could visit was Grant Grove, for the fire was burning relentlessly on the King’s Canyon side.

All the way up to the parks, I had been in a feeling of sinking unease. The river beds along the 3 hour drive had all but dried up. The lands lay caked and what respite greenery could have provided was all but missing in the urban factory areas spewing out dense smoke. I remembered our last drive up to the same national park and I remember exclaiming at nature’s bounty every few miles. I also distinctly remember leaving the car windows open so I could hear the river crashing down below in the canyon. There was nothing of the sort this time. Just an eerie quiet. I had never seen California this dry. I found myself worrying whether the Sequoia trees would survive the massive drought that lay upon us when the husband reminded me that these trees have been through it all, and are far better equipped to handle nature’s adversities than we are. It was true. Our entire generation is but a blip in the forest’s existence.

Sequoia Trees
Sequoia Trees

I looked around to see folks clicking photographs relentlessly on their phone and cameras. Hundreds of photos every minute. Some of these photographs will be liked, some of them may not even have the privilege of being edited/uploaded, but they existed all the same. I thought to myself, not for the first time that to the grand old trees of the West, we are like those pictures. Mere blips on the timeline. Some of us may achieve more notice from those around them than others, but that does not mean we weren’t there.

As we walked around the tall, squat Sequoia trees in the grove, I succumbed to that beautiful feeling of peace. We watched the chipmunks chattering away and our attempts to imitate them got us a chipmunk-shelling in time. We listened to bird calls and wondered why there were so few. We squealed at sighting an occasional mule deer. Most mule deer might have been startled out of their own grove, but this hardy fellow turned and gave us a pose.

It was all so serene, it was hard to believe the fire was raging just a few miles away. It was a sage thought. The wildfire has now spread to the Grove where we loitered around a week ago and my heart skips a beat thinking of the teeming life we had seen there and how it all suffers.

http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_current

How much of this agony we inflict upon our environment and how much of it is part of the natural cycle that Earth follows?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/09/15/the-summer-of-2015-was-earths-hottest-on-record-nasa-data-show/

Can A Bark Spark The Media River?

How many of you have barked in your lives? If you haven’t ever. Try it now. Bow Wow. Good.

Now imagine one time you came off sounding (to a dog) like you need to get your act together, for you sounded like a sheep trying to talk pig. Not just that, the word spread in the dog community that bark they heard from you on that day was a menace to dogs in general, and decided to hunt you down. Relentlessly. They get all the stray dogs in town, get the domesticated ones to break their leash and come after you. All because that day when you barked, it sounded like a sheep-ish pig snorting.

You could try to leave, but world over, canines are incensed that a person who barked like a pig is allowed to live at all. There are dogs in every part of the world, and no matter where you turn, you are besieged by angry dogs.

They do not know whether you are a person who loves dogs in general or not so much. They have no idea whether you are for or against animal cruelty, or if you care about the environment, whether you are friendly, loyal, caring or warm. From that moment on, there is a canine war against you – for you have been singled out.

You try telling them that you really do things well in life. You run, mew, walk, sing, read, say “Down boy!” with aplomb, walk-like-a-penguin, spend time with your friends, family and other animals, are loyal, forgiving, funny, easy, curious; but that bark that insulted dogs removed every other aspect of your personality.

This to me, is what the mutating self-righteous internet-user base has become. We all watched with horror about how the world went after the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, we know what happened to Foy.

Was this how the world always was, or have your tolerance levels waned, I asked myself as I sat quietly with a notepad in my hand admiring the view of the lake before me and idly jotting down bits and pieces of conversation I heard as people ran, jogged or walked around the lake. There were so many seemingly innocuous statements I overheard that could cause a storm when taken out of context. Like this one for instance:
It all comes down to what your mother has fed you over the years.

This simple sentence could go viral within minutes in a hundred different dimensions.
Feminist groups going: Why should moms be held responsible for the feeding?
Indignant moms going: The mother always knows best!
Disgruntled fathers going: Hey! We know a thing or two about nutrition too!
Young folks going: Please! Stop. We know how to feed ourselves.

can a bark spark the media river?
can a bark spark the media river?

But what this misses is context, tone of voice, reaction of those involved, an explanation. This is what I overheard from a family of three walking together briskly. That sentence could have been advice doled to the teenaged-son on good nutrition and exercise, or an offhand compliment to the mother in that family, or the father’s own story about how he associated certain memories with what he ate at his mother’s kitchen, or the line from the latest Hindi movie they watched.

It was not always like this. Somehow, with shorter message contents competing for our attention, our attention spans seem to be becoming directly proportional to our tolerance and our ability to assume the best in people.

Maybe next time we stop and make an effort to think that maybe not all is as bad as it sounds. (Well….except in Donald Trump’s case in which case, you may quack before you bark.)

Can We Fight The Media River?

I called and spoke to my parents the other day.

It is always a pleasure to chew the fat with the old father. We were talking of this and that – me trying desperately to get a word in edgeways. Grandfather and grandson talk like they are releasing cannon balls from the top of the fort, and that they must somehow made it heard to the populace 1000’s of metres below about the cannon balls before releasing them. People with voices, even like mine, sound like bleaters on the side. Finally, Dusty Crophopper, that wonderful firefighter who is also a racing world champion and works as a crop-duster (if a plane can be that useful, why can’t we?), needed to tend to a fire rescue operation and flew off with his owner and I was allowed to carry on talking to my father.

Dusty Crophopper - The Useful plane: Firefighter, World class racer, crop duster, best friend & model citizen
Dusty Crophopper – That Useful Plane! Firefighter, world-class-racer, crop-duster, best friend & model citizen

We spoke of this and that and the father took to criticizing the evening leeches who sucked blood and happiness from his being, namely evening Tamil soap operas.

“Well…nobody is asking you to watch them.” I said fairly. “You have so many channels, you can always watch National Geographic.” I said.

To which the mother quipped, “Given a choice he has the news going on in endless loops, and all day long there is apa-sagunam(bad omens). Somebody murdering somebody – all on Friday evening. Who wants that? ”

I wonder if it is okay on other days for bad omens, but know better than to ask her that. The mother has a special place in her heart for Fridays. She has complex algorithmic suggestions that would do well with some refactoring. The lot of us are constantly flouting these rules, with or without knowledge, and getting in trouble. I try to classify them simply.

The Friday Algorithm
The Friday Algorithm

“Well..you could watch the financial news then.” I said. I never learn I tell you, I must be as dim-witted as a drunk banana slug. There is no point in providing suggestions, for people are going to do exactly as they please, but I blunder on happily every time.

Anyway, there was a small scuffle at the other end of the phone about financial news and stock markets during which time I was called on an emergency rescue operation of Dusty Crophopper who flew so fast, he crash landed behind the sofa with the owner in close pursuit.

By the time I was back to the conversation, the father was in a melancholy mood. “Wasting time is so easy these days”, he said. I agreed. He continued on, “It is increasingly sad to expect the younger generation to overcome monumental demands on their time to waste it and use it towards something constructive. When you were young, there was only a television to grapple with.”
I disagreed.
The television was nothing to grapple with when I was young. There was no grappling there. Anyone who has spent even an hour watching “Vayalum Vazhvum” at 6 p.m. will provide ready testimony to the fact that it was phenomenally more rewarding to pretend to study. The benefits were multi-fold. You could drool and day dream all you wanted, you had your room to your own devices and authority figures off your back, for weren’t you studying? Also, when you came out refreshed, you sat yourself down to a wonderful dinner where nobody told anybody about the benefits of hard work, because the poor child has just been working really hard. It was marvelous.

https://nourishncherish.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/india-and-love/

Doordarshan
Doordarshan

I told him so and he laughed heartily.

In today’s world, I’d be sorry to be a kid laden with homework, when there are more Television programs than people have the energy and time for.
Link here:
http://nextdraft.com/archives/n20150831/the-great-tv-overdose/
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/business/fx-chief-ignites-soul-searching-about-the-boom-in-scripted-tv.html?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=website&_r=0
Quote: The number of new shows this year could, for the first time, surpass the 400 mark.

The laughs from comedy sitcoms are far more numerous than ones your own friends and family can come up with around the dinner table.

When Television gets boring, there is a wide variety of apps and games to amuse oneself for we live in a psychological bubble.
Link here: for tech bubble vs psychological bubble.
http://nextdraft.com/archives/n20150901/we-are-in-a-bubble/
I quote:
This time it’s not a financial bubble. It’s a psychological one. The psychological bubble makes you think that because you can code a photo app or design an algorithm to get me to the airport a little quicker, that also qualifies you as an expert on every other topic.

As if all this was not temptation enough, there is also the phenomenal lure of facebook, twitter, youtube, pinterest and instagram.

chasing chicks social media
chasing chicks social media

It is enough to make anyone feel helpless. I sometimes feel like a mute spectator to a torrential river devised to distract you from everything including distractions.

Which brings me neatly to the most entertaining hour of my social media simulation experiment. Coming up next – stay tuned.