Elephant Droppings

Friday, May 05, 2006

Consolidation, Not Expansion

Since our CEO was feeling rather magnanimous today, he ordered Chinese lunch for the whole company (that would be around 8 people). Usually, during such free lunches we get Middle Eastern cuisine (Israeli kosher food -- hummus, falafel, shawrma, pita, and the rest) (I *love* that food), or pizza (I *hate* that food), but probably today he was feeling adventurous, and also if he had ordered one more MidEast lunch, there could have been a riot here since most of my colleagues heartily detest it.

The lunch was from a Hunan restaurant near-by (a plus point as far as I am concerned since they know the meaning of 'spicy'), and consisted of regular Chinese dishes - a lot of beef, pork, chicken, and tofu. At the end of it, when we opened the fortune cookies (the small snacky things that conceal a piece of paper with your fortune on it), our Marketing Manager Dan suggested that we all play a game. Each of us would read out our fortune, and add "in bed" at the end of it. Everyone agreed since it sounded fun. So we had stuff like:
  • "The coming year will find you in good fortune." + "in bed"
  • "Your talents will be much appreciated by your employer." + "in bed."
  • "You know many ways to please others." + "in bed." etc
But the one that had all of us in ROTFLMAO positions was my friend Borya's fortune. It read: "Consider consolidation of your resources, rather than their expansion."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Death To Relativity

After a couple of beers, I started to worry about my death...

You see, I am a Hindu, and so assured of eternal life. I mean, Hinduism says one is destined to a cycle of life and death, eternally. Death is always followed by a reincarnation in another form, and this new form is decided by your
karma (deeds)in the old form, or something in these general lines. The only way one can break out of this cycle is by reaching moksha (salvation), and in my current incarnation I stand no chance of reaching in the general vicinity of the same, so my next life is all but assured, ergo I should not be worrying about my death in normal circumstances.

Since I don't know any theology, all the above made perfect sense for me. My body is nothing but a collection of atoms¹, and as long as they work together I live this life. When they are tired of one another, when they stop co-operating with one another, I stop living this life. It does not mean that my atoms die. They go away and create other bodies - men, women, caterpillars, polar bears, toucans, and squids. I will live in all of them, and that would be my rebirth. (In a past life, some of my atoms might have been a part of a left upper tooth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex -- eminently possible; who could deny it?) So I need not worry about my death, which is but a temporary phase of life.

See, the problem here is
Albert Einstein . For wasn't it him that proposed that matter can be converted to energy? What will happen if all my atoms get converted to energy? Like rays of light, for example? Won't they then go away forever from this beautiful earth? What, then, about my rebirth? Worst of all, if my rays get caught in a black hole, what will I do? Die forever?

That is what is I am worried about now...

1. This collection of atoms is known as atman in Hinduism ;)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bathroom Humor

[The long drive to and fro work, and the exhausting work load mean that the only time I get to read books is the time I spend in the toilet.]

I have just finished reading Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore. I had never heard of Christopher Moore before this book. What happened was that from my Blogger profile, once I clicked on the name of Carl Hiaasen, a favorite of mine, to find out who else likes him. In the list that was generated, there was one person who liked 'zany authors like Carl Hiaasen, and Christopher Moore'. Afterwards, I went to the local library to get anything written by Moore, and what I got was Island of the Sequined Love Nun.

The story line is as follows: Tucker Case is a the pilot for the personal jet belonging to the owner of a multimillion-dollar cosmetics company. A moment's madness causes him to do a rash act on/with the plane, and the resulting accident causes himto almost lose his genitalia, and he is banished to Micronesia by his employer. A missionary in one of the islands is looking for a pilot, and Tucker apparently fits the bill. The island, Alualu, belongs to the Shark People, and the missionary Sebastian Curtis, and his wife are working among them. The islanders do not have much contact with the other islands. To reach the island, Tucker has to overcome many obstacles, including a typhoon. His main help in the endeavor is a transvestite Philipino navigator named Kimi. In the opening chapter in the book, we see Tucker and Kimi hanging upside down from a tree, while an old cannibal is preparing his oven (oom) to cook them (the cannibal refers to his human prey as "long pigs"). They are rescued from the cannibal by the rest of the Shark People. The Shark People are a cargo cult, and Tucker's appearance have some special significance for them. I don't want to describe the whole plot, but suffice it to say that something very sinister is going on in the island, and the missionary and his wife are in the thick of it. How Tucker rescues the islanders from their plight is the story of the book. In addition to the human characters, the book also features a ghost and a talking bat. Other characters are Jake Skye, Tuck's mentor, Jefferson Pardee, a reporter, Mary Jean Dobbins, the owner of the cosmetics company, Malink, the chief of the Shark People, and Sepie, the village mispel, and Sarapul the old cannibal.

I took more than a week to finish the book. One reason was the lack of time. Secondly, I did not find the book very interesting, so there was no urge to finish the book at the expense of other mundane things like work etc. :) Christopher Moore weaves a very complicated plot. He tries to be funny too. There are a large number of one-liners, and an equal number of absurd scenes, which should have caused the reader to guffaw. Probably, that was the failure of the book. The author tries so hard to to make us laugh that we don't feel like laughing. True, he tries bonhomie, and backslapping with us while grinning himself, but even when he is grinning we can see the veins on his neck bulging with effort. A humor writer trying desperately to make his audience laugh is a huge turn-off indeed. The other problem is that Moore tries to do everything at once, every trick in the book. The effect is that of the Masala Mania that afflicts me once in a while -- I'll be cooking and then I'll start adding a little from all the spice bottles that I can lay my hand on ("a little of that cumin, a pinch of clove powder, a little bit cardamom, some hot sauce"), and the result will turn out to be invariably unappetizing. When Moore chooses to go easy on the language, the writing turns out to be better. The best scene of the book, in my opinion, was in the last chapter, when the old cannibal exacts his revenge. It was pure salt and pepper and no masalas, and it was downright chilling.

In spite of the negative comments above, I have not given up on Christopher Moore. Sometimes, the first book does not do enough to introduce one to the author. By the time one reads the second book, the author's style has become familiar, and one would be able to appreciate the book better. So I am hoping that the second book will turn out to be much better, and that Christopher Moore will join Hiaasen and Dave Barry as another of my favorite goofball writers.

Random Stabs

  • A really funny Desi blog I stumbled onto the other day is Poo Talk. Check out this, and this to see what I mean.
  • I love snacks. [According to the Chinese astrology, people born in the Year of Monkey are like that; it figures.] The other day, on a shopping trip to Costco, I bought a large jar of Blue Diamond Bold Almonds. They are almonds in wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and soy sauce. Put into mouth, each one of them gives the typical 'kick' of wasabi. I took the jar to my work place, and people descended on it -- it was finished in two days. Now I am into the second jar which, wisely, I am keeping at home :)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Of Cabbages and Kings

Back from a hiatus.

While I was away,
  • Got fired from the last job. I still believe it had nothing do with my blogging activities using the work computer. They wouldn't do that, would they?
  • Collected unemployment benefits for the first time in my life. The last time I was in between jobs was in March '98.
  • After a month's unemployment, got hired at a new place. A long way off from home.
  • At the new place, I am putting to test the theory "Blogging from one's work computer never got anyone fired." If the posts suddenly dry up hereabout, it would be elementary to deduce what could have happened.
  • The new work place is real small, a startup. The first thing I had to do upon joining was to assemble my desk and chair! Only around 10 guys in the office, and no women so far. Loud profanities pepper every conversation, technical or non-technical. Company-provided lunch (invariably Middle Eastern cuisine, since the CEO is from Israel) once in a while. All in all, it's been fun so far.
  • I still have a lot of fond memories from the previous company. I came to the US as an employee there. At the time I joined there, I was newly married, and clueless about life in general. By the time I left there, I had become older, more mature, a father, and still generally clueless about life.
'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How much is your blog worth?

Find out from here. Apparently, they will be able to put a dollar value based on some arcane statistics. I did not understand all the calculation. Think of it as some kind of a magic number. When I tried giving this blog's URL, it reported 0.00 dollars, which was pretty much my assessment as well; no surprises there :)

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Finished reading this collection of stories by Melissa Hunt last night. As a matter of fact, till the time I finished it, it never struck me that this was a series of short stories with the same central character -- I had been thinking that this was a novel. The stories revolve around the life and acquaintances of Jane Rosenal, an aspiring editor. The effect of each story on me was similar to that of a barbiturate -- the sleep they brought on me was immediate, deep, and nightmare-free. For that, I am grateful to Ms Hunt. Other than that I can't find any good words to speak about it. All characters had the same two-dimensional, made-of-cardboard look. They mouthed the same wisecracking lines over and over, ad nauseum. The book was described as "irreverent, and wickedly funny". I am a sucker for the irreverent, and for the wickedly funny. But this book was neither. Probably the person who wrote the comment was. He or she had some fun at my expense.

The first story is set during the teen years of Jane. It is about a love affair and its subsequent break-up involving Jane's elder brother. The second one is during Jane's youth, when she and her fiance goes for a vacation at a place that belongs to some lady friend of his. The third one involves Archie, the elderly man with whom Jane has two affairs. The next story does not have Jane in it. It is about a neighboring family. The last one is probably the best. It is a run-of-the-mill romantic story: boy meets Jane, they fall in love, Jane does not want to lose him, so plays hard to get, the boy gets tired of these games, finally "all is well that ends well". If that is the best among the lot, you know what to expect of the others.

There were no scenes or lines that really stood out. The book was the literary equivalent of Sunil Shetty's expressionless face. Since I am brimming with goodwill (it is a Friday evening, afterall), I give it a 3 out of a possible 10.

Now I need to cleanse my soul with some beer. Sam Adams, here I come...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Really Short Story

Many bloggers were tagged with the 55-word-story tag in the past weeks, and we got to read a number of little stories. Some were quite interesting -- my favorite is the one by silverine in the comments to this post. All this "short storying" reminded me of a joke:

A famous British newspaper once held a short-story writing competition. The only condition was that each entry should contain the elements of mystery, sex, and royalty. There were a large number of entries, but the shortest one was really short. It read: "The Queen is pregnant. Who did it?"

Friday, October 14, 2005

Deadly Vehicles

I was in the car with Zhang, one of the guys in my work group -- I had to drop off my car at the dealer's for some maintenance work, and Zhang was giving me a ride back to work.

Zhang had mentioned earler that he was planning to buy a minivan, a necessity here in the States when the number of children exceeds one.

Now, one trait that the Indians ("Desis", in Indian slang) and the Chinese share is their affinity for Japanese-made cars. Every Indian guy I know own a Toyota, Honda, or a Nissan. Of course, once they come into some moolah, these are replaced by cars from BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus. A sure sign of an Indian- or Chinese-dominated community is the rows and rows of Accords, Camris, Altimas, and their ilk.

So coming back to the thread, I asked Zhang whether he had decided on any model. Considering Zhang's ethnicity, the contenders were Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Nissan Quest. He told me he is leaning more towards the Odyssey, a cavernous vehicle which will never fit into the Indian roads. Though generally a hater of minivans, I was a bit partial towards the Quest. I mean if I were looking at the business end of a gun barrel and had to pick one of these minivans or lose my life, I would have chosen the Quest so to speak. Basically, Quest is the sleeker looking among the above pachyderms. So I asked Zhang why he was not considering the Q.

His answer surprised me. He said the Chinese people generally avoid buying Nissan vehicles. In Chinese, apparently "Nissan" sounds eerily similar to a phrase/word meaning "You are dead"! Among the various Nissan models, Altima is considerd the worst because in Chinese there is an unpleasant exclamation (similar to "Ayyo" in Malayalam, I guess) that sounds exactly like Altima.

This reminded me of my classmate from the college years, "Motta" (egghead). Motta's parents promised to buy him a motorcycle when he got admission for engineering. He had his heart set on a Yamaha RX100 (we are talking 1980's here). At the last moment, just before purchase, his grandmother threw a wrench into the works -- since "Yamaha" is "yama ha" ie the Hindu God of Death, she said Motta couldn't buy that. No amount pleading from Motta could change her mind. Finally, he had to settle for a Hero Honda.

American Scenes

This too is America.