Thursday, November 27, 2008

26th November, 2008 Bombay

Another ordinary day coming to an ordinary end or so we thought....take a peek here

With each strike these treasonous entities are getting emboldened. We need a hardened, inflexible approach to apprehend,tackle the perpetuators and speedy dispensing of justice for those guilty.

The authorities need to send out the message loud and clear that such outrageous acts of aggression will not be tolerated.

And we as ordinary citizens are left with feelings of raw anger, helplessness,confusion and sadness for those who became victims of the attack.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Annie Lennox morning dose


How many times do I have to try to tell you
That I'm sorry for the things I've done
But when I start to try to tell you
That's when you have to tell me
Hey... this kind of trouble's only just begun
I tell myself too many times
Why don't you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut
That's why it hurts so bad to hear the words
That keep on falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth
Tell me...

I may be mad
I may be blind
I may be viciously unkind
But I can still read what you're thinking
And I've heard is said too many times
That you'd be better off
Why can't you see this boat is sinking
(this boat is sinking this boat is sinking)
Let's go down to the water's edge
And we can cast away those doubts
Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out
Turning inside out turning inside out
Tell me...
Tell me...

This is the book I never read
These are the words I never said
This is the path I'll never tread
These are the dreams I'll dream instead
This is the joy that's seldom spread
These are the tears...
The tears we shed
This is the fear
This is the dread
These are the contents of my head
And these are the years that we have spent
And this is what they represent
And this is how I feel
Do you know how I feel ?
'cause i don't think you know how I feel
I don't think you know what I feel
I don't think you know what I feel
You don't know what I feel

"Sweet Dreams Are Made of These"

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something.

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something.

Hold your head up - Keep your head up - Movin' on
Hold your head up - Movin' on - Keep your head up - Movin' on
Hold your head up - Movin' on - Keep your head up - Movin' on
Hold your head up - Movin' on - Keep your head up.

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.

Hold your head up - Keep your head up - Movin' on
Hold your head up - Movin' on - Keep your head up - Movin' on
Hold your head up - Movin' on - Keep your head up - Movin' on
Hold your head up - Movin' on - Keep your head up.

Sweet dreams are made of this... (4x and fade)

Friday, November 21, 2008


Bar Stool Economics by David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings) .
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings) .
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20,'declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'

'Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I wanna be Will Hunting!!

Some years back while on one of my rare channel surfing sprees I came across the movie on TV, Good Will Hunting and I fell like a ton of bricks for Will Hunting. And by some sort of correlation for Matt Damon ....sighhhh..... And that does not happen very often, believe me you. In fact hubby dearest is resigned to this transgression :)...I don't obsess as much about George Clooney as I do about Matt Damon!! And on my persistant insistence hubby did watch the movie and loved it!!

But coming back to topic....I wanna be this Will Hunting, well the ameliorated varient minus the emotional cross he bears.......naahhh what the heck, for being as prodigiously gifted, I could live with that too.

Just hear/read this dialogue from the movie....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm gonna be 32 till I die ( with due apologies to Bryan Adams)

I started my 42nd last month !

And along with my 5.5 year old angelic (nah impish...nahhhh cherubic) wonder going under the guise of my kid, on a special earthly mission to teach me a thing or two about patience, and an amazing (pretty close)hubby, we make an interesting threesome. :) But more on that some other time!

So what the "42 going on 32" is this all about! Many pals virtual and real (first encounter) world could have sworn that I was hovering somewhere in the vicinity of mid 30's ( the right side what else!)

Was it perhaps I am a puerile frothy specimen of the Giddy Thirties rather than in possession of the relative antiquated profundity of the Roaring Forties ?
Perhaps hearing kiddo's age they do a quick mental arithmetic to slot me ?

I dunno, I did not ask........

Methinks my Peter "32" Pan complex is something to do with my air of suspended existence which has something to do with moi getting married at 32!! My creaking body (nah just kidding) may disagree, I have not aged in that esoteric realmish sense since I turned the 32nd page. I have been leading an unconventional life with an unconventional husband leading to unconventional attitudes!

So there, I'm gonna be 32 till I die!

Bryan Adams - "18 Till I Die "lyrics

"I wanna be young the rest of my life
never say no - try anything twice
til the angels come and ask me to fly
I'm gonna be 18 til I die - 18 til I die

can't live forever that's wishful thinkin'
who ever said that must of bin' drinkin'
don't wanna grow up I don't see why
I couldn't care less if time flies by

18 til I die - gonna be 18 til I die
it sure feels good to be alive
someday I'll be 18 goin' on 55! - 18 til I die

anyway - I just wanna say
why bother with what happened yesterday
it's not my style I live for the minute
if ya wanna stay young get both feet in it - 18 til I die

a 'lil bit of this - a 'lil bit of that
'lil bit of everything - gotta get on track
it's not how ya look, it's what ya feel inside
I don't care when - I don't need ta know why

18 til I die - gonna be 18 til I die
ya it sure feels good to be alive
someday I'll be 18 goin' on 55! - 18 til I die
ya there's one thing for sure - I'm sure gonna try

don't worry 'bout the future - forget about the past
gonna have a ball - ya we're gonna have a blast
gonna make it last - 18 til I die"

A very old conversation /gtalk.... with gals from diverse backgrounds (pardon the spellings)

"OK now for the reason as to why I went missing....well I was actually in Houston on the hunt looking for my cousin sister who ran away from home last week! Yup my chachas 19 year old daughter left a note in her room on new years saying that she wants to live independently and wants to face the world on her own and the only
hint she gave us was that she’s going to Houston but didn’t tell us exactly where. My chacha basically has disowned her but seeing my chachis state I went with her to Houston hoping to find my cuz. We came back empty handed Sunday night. She has called twice since then only to tell us that she’s gotten herself a job and an apt and is doing fine. I always knew my aunt and uncle were a little strict with their kids but not to the point where the kids wud wanna run off. I think my cuz has been watching a lil too many movies. Honestly I’m not surprised because she was a pretty wild girl. I’m just feeling sorry for my chachi...she was her only daughter. We haven’t told anyone the truth. Just told em that she’s enrolled in a univ in Houston and is living on campus. Dekhthe hain kab thak baath chupthi hai. I cant help but think back to the times when my chachi wud refuse her daughter to go anywhere with me or my sis saying that we will corrupt her and were bad influence! Is hi waja se we never
got close to my cuz..mahino baath nahi hothi thi. I think thats whats really killing her..saare bade bol saamne aa rahen hain. But I still have nothing against her. No mother deserves to go thru what she’s going thru. Lets c IF my cuz ever comes back. I know aisi baathen uchaalna nahin chaahiyen but as u know I have a habit of pouring my heart out in front of u I couldn’t stop myself"


"S, soo sorry to hear about your cousin such things are always embarrassing and tough on the family, but the parents do need to be a bit open minded, I remember my
mom being a lot like your chachi, perhaps even worse, I remember being a little girl and my brothers friends used to visit, I used to refer to them as Bhai but the moment they entered our house my mom used to lock me up in the bedroom and forbade me to come out until they left, I used to be locked in the room for hours, Also like your cuz I was never allowed to go out with anybody, I too wanted to do the same thing run away, but I had my brother who supported me, he stood up to my parents and allowed me to go out with my friends and party, now when I am home on the weekends he's always behind my back as to why am I sitting at home when I can go out. So it is understandable as to why your cuz took such a step, my brother and I always had a saying "if you keep a bird caged up, it won't be long till it breaks free the first chance it gets" but I do feel for your chachi, hope all turns out well "

"S, that is heartbreaking for your chacha-chachi.. but then I am sure the girl is also feeling the same way, but you know what, who can you blame? .. the parents for being extremely strict? or the girl for leaving home, both are right in their own place... I am an only child and my dad was so strict with me that I was NOT allowed to go on a bike with any of my girl friends.. forget boys. No boy was allowed to call home...I had to wear a bindi and have my hair oiled ... and be the girl that will find a good house because of that 'look'. How I HATED it.. but then at the same time, he always made sure that I was working towards being self reliant and that I had to be independent. He always used to say, once you get married, its upto you and your new family... and now I wear no bindi, have NOT oiled my hair since Aug 1995 and chopped my hair in many styles...
he does not say a word now, because he knows I am married and living the way I want. It is hard for a child to be following rules of the house and when the rules get extremely strict, rebellion is bound to happen and no one can stop it. I hope the family comes together at some point and appreciate being with each other. Hope your cuz continues her studies and work and not fall into the teen habits of extra..frolicking"

"Wow S that is one difficult family situation! But it was really nice of you to accompany your chachi to look for your cousin. Hope they are able to sort it out soon and find some kind of a resolution which is a win-win situation for everyone.

The teen years are the hardest and the most challenging for a parent and maneuvering around and finding a balance between our culture/value system and beliefs and the ones they have to face here can be a bit tricky. Been there done that once and doing it the second time around."

"S,....that is some family crisis!!! All the more tuff coz u would be torn ...who does one commiserate with.......shattered parents or a frustrated daughter. The only upside would be that ur chacha,chachi get to introspect and maybe review their norms & for ur cuz to understand the value of independence. Hopefully she does remain in contact with some family member and work towards making a good future for herself. And perhaps given time they'll reconcile & see eye to eye on atleast certain issues."

"Thanx for the replies...I know what u all r saying. I guess my cuz was feeling a lil too suffocated in the environment she was in and probably had no other will be wrong of me to judge her. Eventho I still cant see what it was that was so unbearable for her but then again I wasn’t the one going thru it. I hope I was in better terms with my cuz thaake mein uski side bhi sun sakthi. Right now weve just heard it all thru my chachis mouth.I really pray that she stays strong and firm in her decision and doesn’t end up regretting it cuz knowing the pathan my chacha is he'll never let her back in the house again no matter what. I’m soooo glad my parents are waaay more open minded and complete opposites. Except for the no bf
thing they’ve never 'forced' any rules on us sisters...I never felt like I was being treated diff just cuz I was a girl.

This whole episode has really scared me. I had always heard stories bout girls rebelling but now that its hit home its a comp diff it that difficult to raise daughters? Chalo jab mere bachen honge thab dekha jaayega hehe."


" S,--I am also very sorry to hear about your cuz & the difficulties for your family. You have been more of a support then you might ever know, to your family. One, lending your support and time when others are in need, is a gift enough. But over and above that, to do that without recrimination, or the "I told you so," aspect is very important. You are there for your chaachi and family...!! Good for you. I had a close Pakistani friend in High School-- and her parents were so strict that when she got into a fantastic school, away from home -- they uprooted her whole family to move so she could live at home and go to school. A sacrifice yes -- but also a harsh reality for her to face. It alienated her parents from her, she rebelled, and moved out anyway. I remember still her father calling me to speak to her... to tell her to come home. I just didn't know how to balance that request! Eventually they reconciled -- but her choices were hard for her parents to swallow...
N and Si, have given some awesome insight into the whole scenario--from both a female and parental point of view. Like many of you, I too have faced my share of NO's from parents -- due to being a girl. When my brother could things such as going to homecoming WITH A DATE, and go to Beach week -- I was never afforded the chance to go. Even when my parents knew my friends. Now, when I think back to all my brother got into to-- I shudder to think if my parents had known. But, being the girl, I had to explain and reassure when he didn't. What now is a joke amongst other Indian friends-- the whole Prom, homecoming thing -- back then, it was hard. BUT, strikingly so, as I entered college, my parents began to understand that I needed to do things. And have been remarkably encouraging and supportive. And for that, I will always be grateful. Today, If I want to get on a plane and take a trip-- my mom is the first to --why don't you go here.. or there. I do my best to reassure them that they have taught me well -- for their personal peace of mind -- and I hope that I can find a happy medium for myself, in between.
Looking at it from a cultural standpoint-- this topic has been hashed through age groups. Parents are the ones who say -- look what they are doing, and kids say - why are they so strict. We have movies to chronicle the experiences --from Bhaaji on the beach to American Desi --- I guess its so much a part of the immigrant experience. Not that our parents wouldn't be that strict in India -- they might and could be. But I do know that those tendencies are doubled when they come abroad. To preserve the culture -- when often times it alienates instead. No easy answers. But N, what you do, and how you teach your son & daughter -- from chores to attitude -- these are the ways to subtly ingrain equality. I love your approach. "

"I had a STEREOTYPICAL tamil brahmin upbringing.............. very traditional, very ritualistic, very old fashioned............ I DONT REGRET ONE THING ABOUT IT.
Got lots of sleep, kyonki kabhi dating nahi kiya, baal mere waist se bhi 4 inch neeche tak coz he wudnt let us cut it.......... learnt every little nuance of how to grow up a brahmin........... passing everything on to our son............. without any guidebook
Had a joint family lived with grandparents until they passed away when I finished college........ the best memories a child could ever want....... bed time stories, snacks, pampering........ clothes, toys............. didn’t share one thing with my sisters while growing up...... dadaji loved the three of us to death, bought us our first watch, first earrings, first geometry boxes............... wudnt allow us to play outside after 7 PM............. had to wash our hands and feet when we came in........... learn to sing when we were 6!

I want the same parents and grandparents again and the same childhood all over again
3 girls........ no boy so cant say if he wud have had more privileges, considering how my Appa is he wud have been stricter on the poor guy so............

Pati ne koi restriction nahi daala hai abhi but I cant say I am overjoyed or I feel like my life term prison sentence was cut short on the day I was married or anything...........itne saare extra freedom se maine kiya kuch bhi nahi hai

Ya I watch movies that end at 1 or 2 AM and return home with my girlfriend, hang out with his bachelor friends whether he is in town or not....... go shopping when ever I care to, wear shorts....... sleeveless, everything Appa wudnt allow........... but its not giving me nirvana......

The joys from growing up are unparalleled

The one reason could be.............. I get to see my folks once a year for two weeks
Aur woh cheez SAB dukh, sab angst, sab pent up grudges khatam kar deta hai..........
Everyday I have them in my life is precious now..........."


"That sure was lovely exchange of thoughts on racism and upbringing. I have absolutely no experiences with racism....anywhere. I may sound racist when I say this... the school that my daughter goes to.. a Montessori school is filled with Indians... In a class of 25, I see about 15 -16 Indian kids... I dont mean to be rude, but I dont see a healthy mix of kids or different cultures. But if I ever to take her out and put her in a regular day care.. she would be the minority.... Not sure which one would be better.

As far as upbringing goes..I was brought up in a mixed environment of tradition and modern thoughts. My parents would let me do anything I wanted as far as a career was concerned. Of course, the career did not include modeling and other ultra progressive ones.. and neither did I have any inclination. I had to be home by dark.. was the rule when I was in school. Did not have many sleep overs, as friends were literally in the quarters that we were living in. Dad would be my escort everywhere if I had to go after dark. He is very possessive of me... I guess being the only child played its part. I did not agree with him about the dressing. That was the only major difference we had. We talk a lot about women issues and how we can help them in our own ways and which he does. More than my mom, its my dad who prepared me for the relationships with my in-laws after marriage. Trips to grandparents places are always memorable. Loved the train -bus journeys we had to take to get to the beautiful coastal andhra villages full of coconut trees and musical way of talking Telugu. If anybody has watched the movie 'Morning Raga'.. that is my mother's hometown and they pretty much have shown the natural beauty of the area.

I may show differences in the way I discipline my kids.. and am not sure if its because it is a boy and a girl or because its their behavior that demands different methods. I def agree with N, I will make my son do household chores... he NEVER ever volunteers but when he sees his litter sister having fun getting the clothes out of the dryer he joins in.. or getting the table set of dinner etc..."

"Regarding racial discrimination & the rest……me thinks that issue of discrimination in these times has lost "color"……we have all sorts but the moment the color of skin is involved it takes on a whole new dimension. Whatever it may have been in the past , for being "racist" now , I believe the motivations are more economic, prevalent more among the uneducated and those who feel threatened and suspicious of all "aliens". It is not a manifestation of the Aryan / Caucasian belief that they are a superior race coz of the color of their skin.
My colleagues at work often used to complain that on their visits to Europe , they was a subtle difference in the manner they were treated by their European counterparts……I personally did not experience any such acts of discrimination so have a sneaking suspicion that most of this divide lurks in our own minds and has basis in our own insecurities as far as our color goes and we often misconstrue & read more into what may be an innocuous gesture/word/behavior. But I may be totally off the track having never lived for an extended period of time overseas.
Coming back to big brother, Shilpa S, the "racial slur"……wonder what is the profile of a typical participant. And after all it is a reality show so what do u expect….cooped up with strangers. Haven’t seen the program either desi or phirangi ,but what I gathered from the video clip of the said matter is that it is over hyped tripe. And the reactions from various quarters.......……..activists /the intelligentsia /feminists need issues, politicians need mileage, personalities of indian origin need to take a stand, media needs stories, big brother needs viewer ship/ big bucks, people need controversies, SS needs publicity… there we are!!!
Well that was my dose of " a 2 minute analysis" as hubby dearest calls it. Xcuse my rambling
Bout upbringing…….I have no major grouses. I had a pretty liberal upbringing….my Dad (do I miss him…he passed on very unexpectedly 3 yrs ago…he had a regular day and late evening after dinner his heart just stopped beating ,he was gone in secs) was more liberal than my Mom, she’s too cautious. All through I have had the freedom to pursue my own. And if that meant getting home very late, it was acceptable. (Also I guess Bombay probably being the safest city in India for women until recently has something to do with it) .I was granted that choice but I had to work hard to justify this freedom and late nights were not to party but to work towards some goals . And liberal upbringing connoted more than being permitted to wear certain types of clothes or wearing my hair short (which I still do). I traveled extensively and even when I moved out of Bombay to work there was no objection. Both my 6 yrs older sis & me were extended equal opportunities to the point that if my sis had not been provided with sumthing I sure wasn’t getting it. But then the rebel, somewhat iconoclastic that I am ,I got to live a different life than my sis and am I glad for it, ever grateful to my parents . As my mom in law likes to say I’m the right blend of traditional & modern.
Bout gender divide , I been noticing around me this generation bro-sis siblings……the sisters are not taking biased attitudes sitting down…they just refuse to comply and the parents are also breaking the age old mold of treating their sons as the crown princes. "

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is for you, whose virtual moniker is inspired by the barbaric gangleader in Mad Max :)

You know who you are.......

Thanks for introducing me to HDR

Thanks for the several interesting chats on topic,you music and movie buff.

Thanks for helping me choose my new Dell desktop configuration.

Thanks for the fun anecdotes shared.

Thanks for all the "entertainment", you are a pal !

Short and not so saccharine, I hope

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Movie Reviews...will keep adding as and when

THE NAMESAKE (from my archives :))
Mira Nair in the Namesake displays her savvy in giving that perspicacious edge while narrating a story .All the elements of a good story existed,but some of it was lost in translation. What I thought was lacking was the screenplay adaptation of the book and perhaps the editing.

Irfan Khan, he is BRILLIANT as Ashok Ganguli.......from the bengali inflections to a T,the subdued persona, the subtle charm, the sagacity, the father, the husband. He is a versatile actor.....seen another of his movie(don't remember the name) as a villain ......he was absolutely chilling.

Saw a couple of Tabu's recent TV interviews ......she came across as unsophisticated,almost rough-hewn,unadulterated,displaying matter-of-fact profundity and her face,body language mark of singular talent.She seamlessly transformed herself into her onscreen role b'coz Tabu IS Ashima Ganguli.

Both Tabu & Irfan made a beautiful couple with their non effusive love , tenderness, caring.

Kal Penn as Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli portrayed the myriad tones of his character with competence.

There were 2 occurrences in the movie that moved me to tears,copious, b'coz it struck a very personal cord.

All in all I would say watching the movie was like sitting in a Lexus on mirror smooth highway for 1.5 hrs in air conditioned comfort...almost monotonous pace , the view outside striking most of the way ...but did not feel the spirit,the sparkle!! I think Jhumpa Lahiri's written version in conjunction with Mira Nair's celluloid version may do the trick for me.

Tales of Holiday Nightmares (courtesy the Sunday Times travel section)

Isn't travel great? The world is a playground of delights: all hotels are luxurious, all journeys are trouble-free, all meals are delicious and without serious gastrointestinal consequence.

Yeah, right. We may spend much of our time concentrating on the positive – after all, it's our job to bring you the best holidays in the world – but we also know that things don't always go exactly to plan.

When our own trips mess up, they do it in style.

Mishaps leave us stranded on remote antipodean islands; the natives are spectacularly unfriendly; buses take unscheduled detours down hillsides; dinners end up digesting our insides, instead of the other way around.

TASMANIA: debacle down under

IF YOU go all the way to the bottom of the world, you get Australia. If you go to the bottom of Australia, you get to Tasmania. And if you go to the bottom of that, which I admit is a bit of a long shot, you get Bruny Island. Drive to the end of that and you're at Adventure Bay: one of the most romantic camp sites in the world. Romantic... but remote.
What a place to spend not only my last night in Australia, but also my last night with my Australian girlfriend. After three years together, we had finally used up all our visa options. It was either marriage or a thanks-for-the-good-times hug goodbye. Sensibly, we'd chosen the latter, but it didn't stop us squeezing in one last fling. As long as I was on the first ferry to Tasmania in the morning, I'd make my flight to Sydney. There would be time for airport tears before the connecting flight to Los Angeles, then London. I'd be drowning my sorrows at the Fox and Spanner before I knew it.
We arrived at Adventure Bay in the late afternoon and sighed that morose/happy sigh specifically reserved for times when everything is perfect and everything is rubbish at the same time. The beach was incredible, the sunset was lining up to be a corker, the albino kangaroos were hopping around like little marsupial cupids. Not that we needed any love arrows. We were already deeply in love. Oh, cruel world.
Then, it all went wrong. I got out of the crappy old Beetle. She got out of the crappy old Beetle. She went to lock the doors and there was a horrible snapping sound.
No, not her perfect, shapely wrists. In retrospect, that might have been better.
The key. The only key. In the lock. So the car containing all our clothes and camping gear was locked. And we had no key to drive it back the next morning.
"What the hell did you do that for?"
"I didn't do it on purpose. It just broke."
"How can it just break?" "Shut up." "Shut up." "I'm glad you're going back to England."
"So am I." "So am I." Or words to that effect. I stropped off to fetch the camp-site owner but he wasn't there, so all we could do was sit on the perfect beach, not talking to one another, on the last night of our lives together, trying to work out what to do.
Then I stropped off to phone the car-rental company. No, he couldn't come over in a speedboat. Yes, he would charge us £190 if we broke a window and another £190 if we left his car on bloody Bruny Island. But he was mates with the captain of the car ferry. And he would give him the spare key to bring over on the first ferry.
If we caught the second ferry and drove like maniacs, we'd get to the airport 10 minutes before the flight was due to leave. To catch the second ferry, which left at 7.30am, would involve getting a lift at 5am from Adventure Bay to meet the 6am ferry, then getting a lift back to Adventure Bay with the key and driving back again. Since there was nobody around, not even a camp-site owner, any sort of lift seemed unlikely.
So I stropped a bit more. Then, as the sun continued to dip, the camp-site owner arrived. He didn't play the blame game. He went off to get a coat hanger, broke into our car, then gave us half a bottle of whisky to settle our nerves. He then agreed to drive me to the ferry port the next morning.
We held hands for sunset. No, not me and the camp-site owner, though he did deserve a hug. Me and my key-snapping Aussie girl. Apart from everything, it was perfect.
At 5am I was up, but the camp-site guy wasn't. So we left at quarter past. His car was worse than ours and progress on the dirt track was slow. I was willing him to floor it, but he'd been so helpful already, I couldn't insist.
We arrived as the ferry was pulling away. Frantically, I looked around for a key-shaped parcel. Then I noticed the captain waving as he headed for the horizon. He must have left it at the office.
I ran to the office but it wasn't open. I ran to a payphone, dialled the ferry company and got patched through to the boat.
The captain was as friendly as he'd looked. "G'day. Don't worry, I've got your key."
"But I need it here!" "Don't worry, I'll bring it over on the 7.30."
"Why didn't you leave it?" "Thought it would be better to give it to you in person."
"Noooooooooooooooooo!" I reached Hobart airport four hours and three furious arguments later. The plane had left two hours earlier. I was doomed. All my onward flights would be invalid and I couldn't afford another ticket. Maybe I should marry her after all?
Then the desk clerk, who had been tapping away at her computer, said something desk clerks never say.
"I've booked you on the next flight, and I've got you an exit row right at the front, so you can get off quicker. They'll rush you through at Sydney. You should be fine, doll."
And I was. Well, I wasn't. In the panic, we never said goodbye properly. Not me and the clerk. Me and my Aussie girl. All because of a broken key.

ZANZIBAR: a case of ferry belly

IT WAS the start of a six-week trip from Kenya down to the Victoria Falls. We'd spent some time exploring Mombasa, but our journey proper would begin with a two-hour ferry ride to Zanzibar, to take in a spice tour.
The day before, I'd had a delicious meal of locally caught fish and what might have been goat curry. As curries are wont to do, this one was lingering. But still, it was only a curry.
I can handle a curry. So off I went to the ferry.
Now, back then, I'll admit, ferries and I didn't always get on. It was the up and down, you see, and the side to side. But I was dealing with both until the curry got involved.
Just as the boat performed an enthusiastic lurch to the left, followed by a compensatory whoops to the right, my stomach made it known that something was amiss.
The lavatories were at the side of the boat, just so you wouldn't be denied the full rollercoaster effect if you happened to be indisposed for a moment. I entered at a fair rate, dived into a cubicle and felt the blessed thrill of release. I breathed a sigh of relief. Which was my first mistake.
That breath told me two things. First, these toilets were none too well ventilated, and second, they were none too well cleaned. They stank of many days' continual use, by many people – not all of them well. I did what all hardened travellers would do, and retched.
It was then a simple race between me and the contents of my stomach. And while the contents of my stomach only had a foot or so to go to reach the finish line, I had to grasp and secure my shorts, unlock a door and make it to the sinks across the bathroom.
I won. Just. But the effort involved had triggered something downstairs, so I just needed to pop back to the cubicle and... oooh.
This wasn't fun. Still, at least the ferry had stopped rolling all over the plaaa... Oh hell. Quick, where's the sink?
I'll spare you the rest. If this were a movie, you'd fade to black, and then rejoin me, wrapped around the toilet bowl. Sobbing. At some point, I had lost a race and was now wearing my curry. I had, in fact, given up on races altogether and had spent an hour and a half locked in my cubicle, alternating between vomiting and... something else, worse.
Towards the end, with no liquid left in my body save my own blood, I had retched, dryly, for nearly two minutes, totally unable to draw in a saving breath. To anyone unfortunate enough to be watching this movie, it would have looked as if I were trying to expel my toes through my mouth, such was the force of that desperate but empty barf.
Finally, as I accepted this was to be my legacy, that this was how I was going to be found – dead, half-naked on a toilet floor and covered in something that might once have been curry – I heard a blast on a horn. Unless they'd got some fancy new gear on the River Styx, that must mean I'd arrived, alive, in Zanzibar.
I had stared death in the face and it had stared back – confused as to why it was meeting me half-naked and covered in curry – and had turned, at the last minute, away.
I got gingerly to my feet, abandoned my T-shirt and made my way off the ferry to join the rest of my party, having made a silent but profound vow never to get on a boat again. As I walked up to the rest of the gang, one of them turned and said: "Oh, there you are. You look rough. Anyway, we're off for something to eat. Curry?"

NEPAL: a spin in a bus

I'LL NEVER forget that goat. I don't go so far as to pray to him, but I do say a Hail Mary for his salvation once in a while. I owe him that much.
When my wife, Jaqui, and I were backpacking, we always took the local buses: so much more authentic than the tourist jobs, you know (and cheaper). Bit crowded, though. When we boarded in Pokhara, we managed to bag a couple of seats – never an easy thing to do in Nepal, where no vehicle is overloaded until the axle breaks. By the time we moved off, people were hanging from the luggage racks.
The Nepalese like their personal space as much as we do, and nobody relished the crush. In fact, the only passenger who seemed happy with the arrangement was the goat, which had ended up standing next to me in the aisle. To him, the bus was a smorgasbord of culinary possibilities. He started by chewing my trousers, and when I batted him on the nose, moved on to nibble at a stray flap of sari.
"Be nice to him," said a voice. "He will die tomorrow."
The speaker was a kindly, middle-aged man who owned the beast. He was heading for the bus's last stop, the town of Gorkha, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The upcoming Kali festival was a big deal there, and the many-armed goddess liked a ruminant tribute on her special day.
"You are very lucky, you are coming at a holy time," he said. "Many goats will be sacrificed in Gorkha tomorrow."
He gave me a huge smile. Jaqui winced. I smiled back – I'm not big on goats, and I'd taken against this one. The goat gnawed at an armrest unflappably.
Time passed. The man smiled again. I dozed. The goat chewed. And then the driver overshot a turn and we rolled down the hillside.
Being inside a packed bus as it tumbles down a steep slope is an interesting experience. The world goes dark, then light, then dark, then light. The noise is deafening. You see your fellow passengers from intriguing angles. It does hurt, though. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to hang onto something, but taken by surprise, I spent much of the time airborne, bouncing off seat backs, metal and flailing limbs. I don't know how long it went on, but it made a lasting impression. I still can't look at a working tumble dryer.
With a final crash, the bus came to rest on its roof. (I later heard that we'd rolled three and a half times – I wasn't counting.)
Through the shattered windows, we crawled out onto a patch of level ground by a river. Miraculously, nobody had been killed. Jaqui didn't have a scratch, but deep cuts meant I had a compelling view of the inside of my arm, and passers-by could inspect the back of my skull. A horde of concerned locals packed me and the rest of the walking wounded into trucks, cars and carts to be taken to the nearest clinic, which was located (naturally) in a disused cricket pavilion. Shock can be a wondrous thing: there was no anaesthetic left, but the 24 stitches hardly hurt at all.
That said, I wasn't in a good frame of mind when I hobbled out and almost tripped over the damn goat. He seemed fine, and was grazing on a cardboard box. His owner had his arm in a sling, but incredibly he was smiling more broadly than ever.
"I thought I'd seen the last of your bloody goat," I grunted.
"Oh no, we are all very healthy," he beamed.
"Well, he won't look so smug tomorrow when you kill him."
The man looked shocked. "No, no, he will lead a long and happy life. He is an emblem of our good fortune, the goddess has smiled on him. My goat" – and he turned to the animal with evident pride – "is now a holy goat."
To my shame, I snorted and staggered off. Looking back, I wish I'd been more gracious. There's no way we should all have survived that crash, and a Kali-favoured goat is as good a reason as any.
Perhaps it was just the goddess's way of saying she'd had enough goats for now, thanks. Next time she has a message for us mortals, though, I hope she just sends a text.

FRANCE: a mugger's guide

AT 19 YEARS old, I'd never heard the term Zus. It was, explained the detective, the acronym for "Zones Urbaines Sensibles", or sensitive urban zones, which is what they call the parts of France that the government cannot control. It hadn't felt very sensitive to me, attacked by three thugs as I left a bar on the Rue des Convalescents in Marseille. They'd taken my wallet, my rucksack and my boots, and left me unconscious in the gutter. Which was why I'd woken up in hospital.
I suppose I could have called home, secured emergency funds and been down the Wasp and Badger in time for last orders, but that thought escaped me at the time. Penniless, shoeless and wearing a bloodstained shirt, I was sent to Secours Catholique, a hostel for the homeless in the shadow of the Autoroute du Soleil. They gave me a toothbrush, a pair of secondhand trainers and a bed in a dormitory full of Serbs.
One should always try to escape at the earliest opportunity, and despite my delight at the discovery that French homeless shelters served wine with dinner, I scarpered.
My first lift on my long journey home took me to Avignon, where I slept in a Photo-Me booth at the railway station before jumping a goods train that a trackman had told me was heading north to Lyon.
He was wrong. It took me 50 miles southwest, across the Rhône and through a rosy Mediterranean dawn to Montpellier. I walked out of the city to the A9 motorway, where a morose veterinary-products salesman called Georges picked me up and gave me his sandwich.
It was raining when we reached Lyon and, after chainsaw-wielding psychopaths, heavy rain is the hitchhiker's worst enemy. It was getting dark when an elderly priest gave me a lift to a village bang in the middle of nowhere. His housekeeper served me rabbit for dinner and I slept on a hard bed that smelt of lavender.
I spent most of the next day trying to avoid a weaselly fellow hitchhiker, who said he'd deserted from the Foreign Legion and had a habit of hiding when police cars drove past. A white van stopped during one of his absences and I left him on the outskirts of Villefranche, heading north with flowerpot sellers Eric and Agnès.
I told them my story and they took me to lunch: civet de sanglier (wild-boar stew) in a Relais Routier roadside restaurant. When they dropped me off on the Paris périphérique, Agnès tried to give me 100 francs. I couldn't possibly, I said. Eric insisted. I resisted, so he threw the money out of the window as they drove off.
Then I got arrested for hitchhiking on an autoroute. But instead of taking me to le nick, the gendarmerie drove me around the Paris ring road to St Denis and the A1 north.
Sometime before midnight, Claudia picked me up. As beautiful as she was tearful, she was heading home to Lille after catching her fiancé in flagrante delicto. Chain-smoking, she pushed the pedal to the metal and said maybe it would be better if she just slammed the car into a motorway bridge. We stopped for coffee at the suicide hour, somewhere in Picardy, and she changed her mind. She wasn't going to kill herself. She was going back to Paris to kill him instead.
It took me all day to get to Calais. I walked along country lanes and through battlefields buried in a mist that hung like mustard gas, the tops of the memorial crosses poking through the shroud. I ate apples for breakfast and skipped lunch, arriving at the ferry terminal at sunset.
I'd gathered 190 francs in donations since leaving Marseille, and the ferry crossing cost 220 francs. I explained my predicament and said I'd forward the balance – £3 – once I got home. The clerk refused, the supervisor refused, and the ferry sailed without me.
I could have tried a different ferry line or borrowed from another passenger. Instead, I threw an almighty strop and stomped into Calais to drink my repatriation fund. I was 150 francs into it when the barman asked why I was so miserable. I told him the tale and he cancelled my bar tab. Then he started a whip-round that brought in 260 francs, and said I could crash in the flat upstairs.
Next morning, I caught the ferry and after spending 60 francs on two full English breakfasts, I had 20 francs left, which bought me two spins on the fruit machine. And a £50 jackpot. The truck driver who gave me a lift from Dover told me that with luck like that, I should put the whole lot on a horse. But that would have been reckless.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let Computers Compute. It’s the Age of the Right Brain

(Article from Sunday Times)

Imagination is more important than knowledge."
— Albert Einstein

I'm of two minds. As a matter of fact, so are you. And until recently, corporate America wasn't doing much to take advantage of one of them. But now that we're hip-deep in what has been called both the "Creative Economy" and the "Conceptual Age," no one can afford to ignore the artist within: the right hemisphere of the brain.
Although popularized in the 1980s by the artist Betty Edwards in her book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," the right-brain-left-brain dichotomy originated with the research of the American biologist Roger W. Sperry in the 1960s. Through studying "split brain" animals and human patients, whose brain hemispheres had been disconnected (in humans, this was done to prevent severe epileptic seizures), he found that each side of the brain plays its own role in cognition. The left side, home of the human language center, is the outspoken logical, linear half of the equation. The right side, home to spatial perception and nonverbal concepts, is the nonlinear, high-concept source of the imagination and of pleasure.

The two function cheek-by-jowl, constantly sending signals back and forth through a bundle of 200 million to 300 million nerve fibers to help balance learning, analysis and communication throughout the brain.

But now that computers can emulate many of the sequential skills of the brain's left hemisphere — the part that sees the individual trees in a forest — the author Daniel Pink argues that it's time for our imaginative right brain, which sees the entire forest all at once, to take center stage.

"These abilities have always been part of what it means to be human," notes Mr. Pink, who synthesized his ideas about the new role of right-brain thinking in his 2005 book "A Whole New Mind." "It's just that after a few generations in the Information Age, many of our high-concept, high-touch muscles have atrophied. The challenge is to work them back into shape."

Why bother? Because much of the left-brain-centric work that the Information Age workers of America once did — computer programming, financial accounting, routing calls — is now done more cheaply in Asia or more efficiently by computers. If it can be outsourced or automated, it probably has been.

Now the master of fine arts, or M.F.A., Mr. Pink says, "is the new M.B.A."
He's not the only one saying it. When General Motors hired Robert A. Lutz in 2001 to whip its product development into shape, he told us about his new approach. "It's more right brain. It's more creative," he said.

"I see us as being in the art business," he said, "art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide transportation."
When a car company like G.M. is in the art business, every company in any other industry is, too.

So it makes sense that business executives are turning to the original pop culture icon of right-brain thinking, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," for guidance into their right minds. Ms. Edwards retired in 1998, but her son, Brian Bomeisler, teaches scores of corporate and public workshops each year.

The list of companies Mr. Bomeisler has worked with is a Who's Who of the Fortune 500. "That corny phrase 'thinking outside the box,' that's what I do for corporations," he says. "In teaching them how to draw, I'm teaching them an entirely new way to see. They unbox their minds and absorb what's really there, with all of the complexity and beauty. One of the common phrases that students use afterward is that the world appears to be so much richer."

During a two-day workshop with Halliburton Energy Services, Mr. Bomeisler watched as a team's drawings slowly revealed an obvious solution to a longstanding problem. Team members realized from drawing that they had been enjoying their special status as a task force and had become so fascinated with the problem before them that they were in no hurry to solve it. This was resolved after management set a strict deadline and promised the group equally intriguing problems in the future.

That ability to help others see from an artist's perspective was the reason Ms. Edwards decided to write her book, she said in an e-mail message. "My main task in writing the drawing book was to dig down underneath everything I knew about art and drawing to try to find the most fundamental level of 'thinking' that goes on in drawing," she said. "What was I seeing, how was I 'seeing' what I was seeing, and how was I transforming those perceptions into a drawing? It makes my brain hurt even now to remember the effort required by that seemingly simple task."

That alternate way of thinking has traditionally been marginalized in corporate America, as it has been in the rest of our culture. Dr. Sperry, who had a doctorate in zoology, noted the prejudice in 1973 when he remarked: "Our educational system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere."

Mr. Pink hopes his latest book, "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need," will help set things right. Promoted as "the first business comic book," the paperback is drawn as if it were a Japanese manga novel. In the story, the office cubicle dweller Johnny Bunko is taught the true rules of the career game — including "There is no plan" and "Make excellent mistakes" — by a superhero fairy godmother who appears when he breaks open a pair of chopsticks.
THE primary moral to the story, Mr. Pink says, is this: There's power in making career choices for fundamental reasons, such as doing something you love, instead of instrumental reasons, like hoping a job will be a steppingstone to something else.
It's a message Dr. Sperry seemed to understand when he accepted the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1981. "The great pleasure and feeling in my right brain," he said, "is more than my left brain can find the words to tell you."

Communist Jokes

A man is thrown in a Soviet prison cell and the other inhabitants of the cell crowd round him. "How long you in for," they ask. "Ten years," the new man laments. "And what did you do?" "Nothing. I did nothing". "You liar," the prisoners shout. "For nothing you get five years."
A man dies and it is judgement day. "I am afraid you have not made it to heaven. But you can, as a special favour, have a choice of hells".
"What do you mean, a choice of hells?" "You can go to the capitalist hell or the communist hell".
"Ok, fair enough, but what's the difference between them?" "Well, the capitalist hell has fire and brimstone and torture." "And the communist hell?" "That has brimstone and torture and fire".
"I don't understand. They sound exactly the same. Which should I pick?"
"If I were you I'd choose the communist hell."
"Why should I do that?"
"Well, you know what these socialist places are like. Sometimes there's no fire, sometimes there's no brimstone, sometimes there's no torture........."

A man goes to car showroom and orders a Lada. The sales guy tells him there's a bit of a waiting list but the car will be available for collection on June 24th 2017. The man asks
"Morning or afternoon?"
"Why do you care?" says the salesman
"Because they are coming to connect my new phone line in the morning"
Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev are on a train crossing Siberia when it breaks down.
"Do not worry, comrades!" cries Lenin. "The people will throw off the chains of their capitalist overlords, and get the train moving again!"
The three wait for a few hours. The train doesn't move. Stalin gets up.
"Comrades," says Stalin, menacingly. "Do not worry. I will shoot every third man until the train starts moving again." He goes out, and comes back several hours later covered in blood. The train still isn't moving.
Brezhnev gets up, a patient smile on his face. "Comrades," he says, gently. "Do not worry. I have the solution to all our problems. Let us just *pretend* the train is moving."
Three workers find themselves locked up, and they ask each other what they're in for.
The first man says: "I was always ten minutes late to work, so I was accused of sabotage." The second man says: "I was always ten minutes early to work, so I was accused of espionage."
The third man says: "I always got to work on time, so I was accused of having a Western watch."
A man from Soviet Russia, a man from Soviet Poland and an American are on a train.
The Russian is bored. He looks around, reaches up to the shelf and takes down his suitcase. He opens it to reveal countless bottles of vodka. He takes one and throws the rest out of the window. He takes a swig from the bottle and throws that out of the window as well.
The Pole and the American are amazed. "Why did you do that?" they ask. The Russian shrugs his shoulders and says "Where I am from we have plenty of vodka."
The American, not wanting to be outdone, reaches up to the shelf and takes down his suitcase. Inside are countless packets of cigarettes. He takes a pack and throws the rest out of the window. He then takes a cigarette, lights it and takes a drag. He then throws the cigarette and the packet out of the window.
The Russian and the Pole are amazed. "Why did you do that?" they ask. The American shrugs and says "Where I am from we have loads of cigarettes."
The Pole looks a little uncomfortable, thinks for a moment and then throws the Russian out of the window.
A rare visitor to Soviet Russia in the '50s wants to get the view of the man on the street. He accosts a number of strangers and asks them "What do you think of Stalin?". Each avoids his eye and scurries away until one man, saying nothing but with a barely perceptible nod, signals to the visitor to follow him. Understanding the need to keep his distance he follows the stranger up the road, onto a tram, another tram, a further walk and finally a third tram to a desolate industrial zone. He follows into an abandoned building where he finds his man in a concealed corner and joins him there. "Actually" he says "I quite like him".
Leonid Brezhnev pays a state visit to France and he's given a VIP guided tour of Paris. He's conducted round the splendours of the Élysée Palace, but remains as stony-faced as ever. He's shown the masterpieces of the Louvre, but the curators fail to get any reaction out of him. He's taken to the Arc de Triomphe, but displays not the slightest interest. Eventually, the official motorcade drives him to the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where Brezhnev finally stares up in amazement and astonishment. He turns to his French hosts and asks in bewilderment: "But, Paris is a city of 9 million people... surely you need more than one watchtower?"
- Adam and Eve were Communist. Who else could be naked, have nothing to eat but one apple between them, and think themselves in Paradise?

- A Deviationist is someone who keeps going straight as the party veers to left or right.
the definition of ecstasy. An American, a Frenchman and a Soviet citizen are discussing what true ecstasy is. The American says it's a cold beer during the World Series. The Frenchman claims it's a good lover, a good bottle of wine and a gourmet meal. The Soviet citizen says they have it wrong. Ecstasy is having the police knock on your door at 3 a.m. and say "Pyotr Ivanovich, come with us." Real ecstasy is being able to reply, "I'm sorry, Comrades, but Pyotr Ivanovich lives one floor up." However, TRUE ecstasy only occurs if they, by some miracle, do not arrest you for not being Pyotr Ivanovich.
What's 300 feet long, grey and eats cabbage?
The queue outside a Russian butcher's shop.
2) A Soviet schoolteacher is told her class will be visited by a Commisar so she drills the kids on how to answer any questions. The Commisar arrives and asks a little girl who she is and what she wants to be when she grows up. The girl replies "I am Natasha, my father is the glorious Red Army and my mother is the wonderful Russian state and when I grow up I want to be a tractor driver". "Very good" replies the Commisar. "And what about you?" he says to a little boy. He replies "I am Vladimir, my father is the glorious Red Army and my mother is the wonderful Russian state and when I grow up I want to be a cosmonaut". "Very good" replies the Commisar, then he points to a little Jewish boy at the back of the class. "And what about you?" "I am Reuben" he replies, "My father is the glorious Red Army and my mother is the wonderful Russian state. "And what do you want to be when you grow up?" asks the Commisar. "An orphan" replies the boy.
When told atomic war has broken out, go home , put on a white sheet and walk slowly to the nearest cemetery. Why slowly?
So as not to start a panic.
Q. "Why do the KGB operate in groups of three?" A. "One can read, one can write and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals."
It was 6.00 am on a cold winter's day in Moscow, too many degrees below zero and with an overcast sky threatening snow.
A long, begraggled but orderly queue had formed overnight between the snowdrifts outside one of dilapidated outlets of the official Soyuz Stolichnaya vodka distributor.
At 10.00 am, an hour after its official opening time, a little hatch in the paint-peeled door opened up and a Soviet commissar announced "The workers of the Stolichnaya Vodka Co-Operative are presently stranded in the snow and the delivery will be late. Our heros will prevail against the anti-Soviet weather - but the vodka must rationed. There will be no vodka sold to the loyal Jewish citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics today!"
Obediently the Jewish citizens of the USSR left the queue and the little hatch in the door closed.
At 11.30 am, the little hatch opened up again, and the commissar announced, "The anti-Soviet weather has been vanquished, but the heros of Soviet labour have now to repair the engineering of the delivery van which has been damaged by anti-Soviet saboteurs. There will be no vodka sold to the citizens of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic today!" And so the citizens of Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic duly left the line.
The weather grew even colder and it started to snow...
At regular intervals throughout the day, the little hatch would open and the commissar would announce the latest incident to have held up the delivery of the vodka, each time announcing that certain loyal citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to leave the queue.
By 5.00 pm, citizens of the Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Estonian SSR, Georgian SSR, Kazakh SSR, Kirghiz SSR, Latvian SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Tajik SSR and Turkmen SSR had all left the queue as instructed and the only people left waiting were the ethnic Russians of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.
At 5.30 pm, just before official closing time, once again the little hatch in the door opened and the commissar's head popped out to announce that reactionaries working along the Soviet benzine pipeline had prevented the duly repaired delivery van from filling its tank and thus reaching its destination. As a result, there would be no vodka sold that day, even to loyal citizens of the Russian SSFR.
Freezing cold, covered in snow, hungry and tired, one Russian turned to the person behind him in the queue and said in a whisper, "Those bloody Jews get all the luck!"
Two men walk on a Budapest street in December 1950.
One sighs, "It's unbearable!"
A third man, walking up to the that point a little behind them grabs his arm.
-You are arrested on account of dispersing hostile propaganda against the People's Democracy.
-But I was merely commenting on the cold!
-You are lying. The cold is bearable.
A Jew was stranded in a Moscow trainstop and needed to find a telephone. He asked the man next to him "are you anti-semitic?" and the man quickly replied "of course not, what an awfull thing to ask." The stranded Jew asked several more Russians the same question, but they denied being racist. Then he asked a man, "Comrade, are you anti-semitic?" and he replied, "hell yes, I can't stand them!" The Jew looked at him for a moment and said, "finally an honest man, here would you watch my luggage while I go find a payphone?"
Three prisoners start talking about their crimes.
First one: "I criticized Comrade Ivanov."
Second one: "I defended Comrade Ivanov."
Third one: "I am Comrade Ivanov."
Another anekdot:
Lenin dies and goes to Hell. A couple of weeks later, God is at the fence and sees the Devil, who is looking a bit upset. "Hey, Satan! What's wrong?"
"Oh," says Satan. "It's that Lenin character. What a pain in the rear!"
God says, "Well, I'm not very busy right now. I'll take him for a while."
Satan perks up. "You will? Thank you very much!" He boots Lenin over.
A couple of weeks later, Satan runs into God, who is walking along in a business-like manner. "Hey, God, how are you doing with Lenin?"
God answers, "First, that's Comrade God. Second, there is no God. Third, I can't stop to talk. I'm late for a Party meeting."
Two Soviet police spot a man walking at night.
The first policeman warns the man "Comrade! You have 15 minutes to get home before the curfew."
The second policeman pulls out his gun and shoots the man. "Why did you do that, he had 15 minutes to get home?" the first said.
"He wouldn't have made it, I know where he lives!" was the reply.
Supposed to be true: A group of National Geographic photographers and writers were staying at a Moscow hotel, and had a good party one evening. As they partied, one spoke loudly into the lamp: "We are having such a good time! It's such a shame you aren't!"
A moment later the phone rang, when someone answered all they heard was the sound of a champaigne cork popping!
Putin: "Congratulations Svetlana Medvedeva on your husband's landslide election to President."
Svetlana: "My God, Vladimir Vladimirovich! My Dmitry President! When did that happen?"
Putin: "Next March."
Mikhael Saakashvili: "I'm sorry to complain again Mr President, but Georgia's gas pressure is rather low again."
Vladimir Putin: "You've got gas, Comrade President! I'm sure that wasn't supposed to happen this week."
Early in 2003 President Putin visited Azerbaijan.
Putin: "… and how are things going Comrade?"
Ilham Aliyev: "Terrible, Mr President, terrible! Drug-running is totally out of control here, the people are starving through lack of food and fuel, the Gabala radar station just fell down, and the Generals are threatening mutiny.
"The Council of Europe is threatening to throw us out again, I suspect someone else is creaming off more of our oil profits than I am, and the UN is trying to freeze my private Swiss bank accounts.
"It doesn't matter how often the other broadcasters' transmitters accidentally break down, I still can't get anyone to watch AzTV.
"Despite my best efforts, the opposition still think "freedom of speech" means that they can say what they like.
"The Caspian is so polluted I can hardly get any decent caviar nowadays.
"The Armenians are revolting, our prisons still aren't big enough, my father is very ill in hospital, I think my wife is having an affair, and my dog died."
Putin: "Oh no! Not that lovely Borzoi that I gave you last year. You must be devastated."
An Englishman, an American and a Frenchman were all telling Communist jokes.
Well, said the Englishman, this ones about the fact that the Soviet people from 1917 until 1989 never ate anything but potatoes. That must be true, said the American but mine's much funnier than that. It's about the fact that the only job you could ever get in the USSR was to be a tractor driver. Not bad, not bad, said the Frenchman. But mine's a real corker. It's 1968. It's the height of the Cold War and unbeknown to the West, one third of the population of Russia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria was actually working in a factory that wasn't producing anything, one third of the population was being arrested by the KGB and the last third was actually locked up in the Lubyanka.
That's not funny, said the American. We spent a lot of time and energy fighting that war. Sorry, said the Frenchman. Let's try and think of another enemy. Yes, they all said, and went off to buy some cheap Chinese made clothes while looking up at the sky to see if any Muslims were going to fly a plane into one of their skyscrapers.
Amazed little boy: Daddy! Daddy! Why are we still telling jokes about communism twenty years after it ended?
Daddy: Just in case anyone would ever be tempted to think there was any validity in Marx's analysis of Capitalism's abject failure, as the dominant economic system of the last 500 years, to feed and clothe the world.

A man wants to write about life in prison, so he stands in the middle of Central square and shouts something about the head of the nation being stupid. He gets arrested and thinks he'll get a scentenced for offence, but instead gets 10 years for uncovering government secret.
There was a long, long line outside the rationing station, and those part of the queue waited in an unmoving line for hours. Eventually, a man, so fed up with waiting, broke away from the queue and yelled out "I cannot wait any longer! I'm off to assassinate Stalin!", which was recieved with a round of cheer and support.
He returned a few hours later, and rejoined the queue. His comrades asked "How did you go?"
He replied, "There's an even longer line to assassinate Stalin"
Pole joins meat line which is closed.
Joins cheese line which is closed.
Joins bread line which is closed.
Joins vodka line which is also closed.
When the sign is put out and the door closed at the vodka line, he tears off his hat and stomps on it, tears off his coat and shirt, shows his scars, and yells to the rest of the line, "this is the scar I got at Krakov, this is the scar from Berlin, I am a hero of the Revolution and of the war against the Germans, and I have no meat, no bread and not even vodka. For what have I suffered?"
The crowd applauds and encourages him, but an officer of the secret police steps up and reminds him, "you are right, and times are hard, but remember, not so long ago . . ." and the officer uses his hand like a pistol, puts it to his own head and pulls the "trigger" and his head flops over to the side. "Just go home, comrade, and forget this, and we will do the same."
So he goes home and collapses in his chair, and his wife says, "what's wrong?"
"It's worse than I thought. They've run out of bullets."

Great Moments in Physics

The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen.

"Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."
One student replied:
"You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."
This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed.

The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.

For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn't make up his mind which to use.
On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

"Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer."

"Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper."

"But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqroot (l / g)."

"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up."

"If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building."

"But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor's door and say to him 'If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper'."

The student was Niels Bohr, the only person from Denmark to win the Nobel prize for Physics.


Winners of an annual New York Magazine contest were asked to take a well-known expression in a foreign language, change a single letter, and provide a definition for the new expression. Here are the winners:

Honk if you're Scottish.

Can you drive a French motorcycle?

We're wild and crazy guys!

I came, I'm a very important person, I conquered.

I think; therefore I am a waffle.

The cat is dead.

Life is feudal.

The king is dead. No kidding.

Death styles of the rich and famous.

Support your local clown (or politician, your call)

I am three years old.

Our cat has a boat.

Fast French food.

I came, I saw, I partied.

A fast retort.

Love; greetings; farewell; from such a pain you should never know.

Tons of luck.

Don't leave your chateau without it.

I'm bossy around here.

Seize the meat.

"The Travails of Single South Indian men of conservative upbringing" or "Why we don't get any......"

Read this sidesplitter right through:)
(this has been passed onto me by a pal)

This one is truly, awesomely funny..................

Yet another action packed weekend in Mumbai, full of fun, frolic and introspection. I have learnt many things. For example having money when none of your friends have any is as good as not having any. And after spending much time in movie theatres, cafes and restaurants I have gathered many insights into the endless monotony that is the love life of south Indian men.

What I have unearthed is most disheartening. Disheartening because comprehension of these truths will not change our status anytime soon. However there is also cause for joy. We never stood a chance anyway. What loads the dice against virile, gallant, well educated, good looking, sincere mallus and tams? (Kadus were once among us, but Bangalore has changed all that.)

Our futures are shot to hell as soon as our parents bestow upon us names that are anything but alluring. I cannot imagine a more foolproof way of making sure the child remains single till classified advertisements or that maternal uncle in San Francisco thinks otherwise.

Name him "Parthasarathy Venkatachalapthy" and his inherent capability to combat celibacy is obliterated before he could even talk. He will grow to be known as Partha. Before he knows, his smart, seductively named northy classmates start calling him Paratha. No woman in their right minds will go anyway near poor Parthasarathy. His investment-banking job doesn't help either. His employer loves him though. He has no personal life you see.

By this time the Sanjay Singhs and Bobby Khans from his class have small businesses of their own and spend 60% of their lives in discos and pubs. The remaining 40% is spent coochicooing with leather and denim clad muses in their penthouse flats on Nepean Sea Road. Business is safely in the hands of the Mallu manager.

After all with a name like Blossom Babykutty he cant use his 30000 salary anywhere. Blossom gave up on society when in school they automatically enrolled him for Cookery Classes. Along with all the girls.

Yes my dear reader, nomenclature is the first nail in a coffin of neglect and hormonal pandemonium. In a kinder world they would just name the poor southern male child and throw him off the balcony. "Yes appa we have named him Goundamani..." THUD.

Life would have been less kinder to him anyway. If all the women the Upadhyays, Kumars, Pintos and, god forbid, the Sens and Roys in the world have met were distributed amongst the Arunkumars, Vadukuts and Chandramogans we would all be merry casanovas with 3 to 4 pretty things at each arm.

But alas it is not to be. Of course the south Indian women have no such issues. They have names which are like sweet poetry to the ravenous northie hormone Tanks.
Picture this: "Welcome, and this is my family. This is my daughter Poorni (what a sweet name!!) and my son Ponnalagusamy (er.. hello..).." Cyanide would not be fast enough for poor Samy. Nothing Samy does will help him. He can pump iron, drive fast cars and wear snazzy clothes, but against a BrainDead dude called Arjun Singhania he has as much chance of getting any as a Benedictine Monk in a Saharan Seminary.

Couple this with the other failures that have plagued our existence. Any attempt at spiking hair with gel fails miserably. In an hour I have a crown of greasy, smelly fibrous mush. My night ends there. However the northy just has to scream "Wakaw!!!" and you have to peel the women off him to let him breathe. In a disco while we can manage the medium hip shake with neck curls, once the Bhangra starts pumping we are as fluid as cement and gravel in a mixer.

Karan Kapoor or Jatin Thapar in the low cut jeans with chaddi strap showing and see through shirt throws his elbows perfectly, the cynosure of all attention. The women love a man who digs pasta and fondue. But why do they not see the simple pleasures of curd rice and coconut chutney?

When poor Senthilnathan opens his tiffin box in the office lunch room his female coworkers just dissappear when they see the tamarind rice and poppadums. The have all rematerialised around Bobby Singh who has ordered in Pizza and Garlic bread. (And they have the gall to talk of foreign origin.)

How can a man like me brought up in roomy lungis and oversized polyester shirts ever walk the walk in painted on jeans (that makes a big impression) and neon yellow rib hugging t shirts? All I can do is don my worn "comfort fit" jeans and floral shirt.

Which is pretty low on the "Look at me lady" scale, just above fig leaf skirt and feather headgear a la caveman, and a mite below Khakhi Shirt over a red t-shirt and baggy khakhi pants and white trainers a la Rajni in "Badsha".

Sociologically too the tam or mallu man is severely sidelined. An average tam stud stays in a house with, on average, three grandparents, three sets of uncles and aunts, and over 10 children. Not the ideal atmosphere for some intimacy and some full throated "WHOSE YOUR DADDY!!!" at the 3 in the morning. The mallu guy of course is almost always in the gulf working alone on some onshore oil rig in the desert. Rheumatic elbows me thinks!

Alas dear friends we are not just meant to set the nights on fire. We are just not built to be "The Ladies Man". The black man has hip hop, the white man has rock, the southie guy only has idlis and tomato rasam or an NRI account in South Indian Bank Ernakulam Branch!!!

Alas as our destiny was determined in one fell swoop by our nomenclature, so will our future be. A nice arranged little love story. But the agony of course does not end there. On the first night, as the stud sits on his bed finally within touching distance and whispers his sweet desires into her delectable ear, she blushes, turns around and whispers back "But amma has said only on second saturdays..."

The little red hen for today's world:

She called all of her Democrat neighbors together and said, 'If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?'
'Not I,' said the cow.
'Not I,' said the duck.
'Not I,' said the pig.
'Not I,' said the goose.
'Then I will do it by myself,' said the little red hen, and so she did. The wheat grew very tall and ripened into golden grain.
'Who will help me reap my wheat?' asked the little red hen.
'Not I,' said the duck..
'Out of my classification,' said the pig.
'I'd lose my seniority,' said the cow.
'I'd lose my unemployment compensation,' said the goose.
'Then I will do it by myself,' said the little red hen, and so she did.
At last it came time to bake the bread.
'Who will help me bake the bread?' asked the little red hen.
'That would be overtime for me,' said the cow.
'I'd lose my welfare benefits,' said the duck
'I'm a dropout and never learned how,' said the pig.
'If I'm to be the only helper, that's discrimination,' said the goose.
'Then I will do it by myself,' said the little red hen.
She baked five loaves and held them up for all of her neighbors to see. They wanted some and, in fact, demanded a share. But the little red hen said, 'No, I shall eat all five loaves.'
'Excess profits!' cried the cow. (Nancy Pelosi)
'Capitalist leech!' screamed the duck. (Barbara Boxer)
'I demand equal rights!' yelled the goose. (Jesse Jackson)
The pig just grunted in disdain. (Ted Kennedy)
And they all painted 'Unfair!' picket signs and marched around and around the little red hen, shouting obscenities.
Then the farmer (Obama) came. He said to the little red hen, 'You must not be so greedy.'
'But I earned the bread,' said the little red hen.
'Exactly,' said Barack the farmer. 'That is what makes our free enterprise system so wonderful. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government regulations, the productive workers must divide the fruits of their labor with those who are lazy and idle.'
And they all lived happily ever after, including the little red hen, who smiled and clucked, 'I am grateful, for now I truly understand.'
But her neighbors became quite disappointed in her. She never again baked bread because she joined the 'party' and got her bread free. And all the Democrats smiled. 'Fairness' had been established.
Individual initiative had died, but nobody noticed; perhaps no one long as there was free bread that 'the rich' were paying for.
Bill Clinton is getting $12 million for his memoirs.
Hillary got $8 million for hers.
That's $20 million for the memories from two people, who for eight years, repeatedly testified, under oath, that they couldn't remember anything.

Einstein and God


I trace the lines that flow from God."

On Thursday, according to an AP story brought to my attention by my friend and researcher whose code name is Flounder, an authenticated letter written by Albert Einstein to the philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954 will be sold by Bloomsbury Auctions in London. In the letter, Einstein writes about his religious beliefs. Since his death in 1955, theists, atheists and many in between have engaged in an intellectual tug of war attempting to yank Albert over to their side of the God debate. There is real passion in their efforts to use Einstein as their champion, their expert witness, their proof that really smart people can also be really religious.

The Einstein-as-theist folks have brought forward quotes, some authentic, some invented and some with a murky provenance at best. The problem with authenticating most of the quotes attributed to Einstein is that definitively proving he said it is much more difficult than proving that he didn't. The most famous Einstein-the-believer quote is, "God does not play dice with the universe." If you don't like gambling metaphors there is the musical, "Could such a great symphony as the universe have no conductor?" My favorite possible Einstein quote is from a possible letter he might have written to Gandhi (if it is real, it was probably written to Rabindranath Tagore, whom Einstein met). In response to the simple question from Gandhi/Tagore, "What do you do?" Einstein's is said to have responded, "I trace the lines that flow from God." He is said to have remarked about atheists that, "I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth." In his book "The World as I See It," Einstein wrote: "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

The Einstein-was-not-really-religious crowd generally do not claim that he was an actual atheist, but rather a deist, to wit: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not a God who concerns Himself with the fate and doings of mankind." However, the auction of his letter to Gutkind has given them new ammo. In the letter he wrote, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

There are also some pointed remarks about his Jewishness, "For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions." There is, however, a compensation, "The Jewish people, to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity, have no different quality for me than all other people."

The point of spiritual importance to me about all this is the revealing belief that intelligence is the best proof for God. The implicit assumption animating the Einstein debate is that if the smartest person of the last hundred years believed in God, who are we to doubt God. I think this assumption is profoundly misguided.
What Einstein believed is that laws, not caprice, govern the universe. This is the fundamental and scientifically shared belief of all religions. This is as far as science can confirm God. There are, however, other ways to get from the God confirmed by both science and faith to the God of love, compassion, justice and hope. The experts in this second step to God are not really smart people but really good people. These people are not experts in physics but experts in compassion—people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and John Paul II. From them, and from thousands more whose names are not in Wikipedia, we can learn of the power and reality of a kind of human goodness that expands our moral horizons, just like Einstein expanded our notions of the unifying laws of the universe. Immanuel Kant referred to this two-step proof for God in his "Critique of Practical Reason": ''Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them, the starry heaven above and the moral law within.''
For the starry heaven proof I am happy to go to Einstein. For the moral law within, I go to Father Peter Le Jacq, M.D., a Maryknoll priest who runs the Bugando hospital in Mmanza, Tanzania. Peter is a genius of the human heart. He told me that one day that during the Rwandan genocide, a refugee woman walked up the hill to the hospital. She wore a dirty sun dress and a large hat and was walking awkwardly in just one shoe. When he reached her she collapsed in his arms. In time she told him how she had been raped and how her husband and children had been hacked to death before her eyes. In time he softly asked her if her torments had made her lose her faith. She replied, "Oh, no father! You see, there is God in me, and there is God in you, and if there is God in you, there is hope in you."

I do not know her name, nor does Peter, but she is the equal to Albert Einstein in matters religious. No, she is superior to Einstein. She is my proof that God exists, not just out there, but also within each of our broken and needy hearts.

"If there is God in you, there is hope in you."

Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum—that which was to have been demonstrated).

For those who love the Philosophy of Ambiguity...


































Washington Post Jocose

Washington Post's STYLE Invitational....

The winners are:-

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

12. Karmageddon: It's when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes, and it's a serious bummer.

13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you

14. Glibido: All talk and no action.

15. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

18. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners in this category are:-

1. Coffee (n.): The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.): Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate (v.): To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.): To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly(adj.): Impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.): Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.): To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.): Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence ( n.): Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.): A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.): A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.): The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n.): A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster(n.): A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.): The belief that after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.): An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.