Sunday, December 31, 2006

Back to the Beginning...

Two offerings for the beginning of the year: this dandelion puffball and a few links. The puffball is for you to wish on and the links are to ... punish you for believing that dandelions can grant wishes!! Okay -- okay -- my little joke. About three days ago, while clicking around, I wandered over to WIRED magazine and read their top story for that day. It was about enhancing one's performance with particular reference to mental abilities. It turns out we were all wrong to think that after the age of thirty we lose brain cells at the rate of knots -- well, yes, we DO but ... there's evidence that the brain can be kept limber and maybe even be coaxed into bulking up a little by doing "mental exercises". Well, whatever: I have always loved puzzles and am ALWAYS looking for sites where the games are reasonably interesting. From WIRED, I got this link to get a statistic for brainabilities and from there I arrived at GAMES FOR THE BRAIN which is where I've been exercising hard ever since! I particularly recommend the MAHJONGG SOLITAIRE... HAPPY GNU EAR everyone!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Chanumas, Everyone!

VT 2006, by Manjula Padmanabhan
A clever friend wished me "Happy Chanumas" this year and I decided he'd got it right -- blending Christmas and Chanukkah to make an interestingly non-secular greeting-word appropriate to the season.

The photograph is of the sunset that filled the sky on Thanksgiving evening, in Vermont. As always the photograph barely does justice to the real thing but I thought I'd share it anyway.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New for me!

Last night on Animal Planet, David Attenborough blew me away (though he didn't know it, did he?) by featuring an animal of which I had not the slightest awareness -- it's called an Amazonian BUSH DOG -- an unusual creature in several ways. It's the only aquatic canid, has webbed feet and is female-dominant. Quite a trip! The film shows the short, stubby Alphettes running through the woods and marking their territory in the time-honoured way (i.e., by peeing) -- except that in order for a female to do it, the little critturs arch their backs, balanced on their front paws! MOST BIZARRE!! Makes you wonder what sort of mood Mother Nature was in the day she created them ...

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Joke

This came to me in a spam-post -- it was supposedly a comment left at one of my posts of last year, so hardly likely to be a genuine post -- yet the spammer had the good sense to include a fairly amusing joke. Since I moderate comments, I can choose to reject the comment -- and of course I have -- but here's the joke:

During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the
criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be

"Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a
teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to
empty the bathtub."

"Oh, I understand," said the visitor. "A normal person would use the
bucket because it's bigger than the spoon or the teacup.

"No," said the Director, "A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a
bed near the window?"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Back From My Longest Blog-holiday Yet

Yes I AM alive! It's hard to explain how blog-holidays occur ... It starts with a gradual lapse of interest in the Internet because of using someone else's dial-up connection, followed by an increasing need to clear e-mail back-logs, which results in less overall time surfing or engaging in any non-e-mailorious activities ... and soon ... no blogging at all. *sigh*

Well, I'm back in harness now and also back in Delhiberate. Returned on Tuesday afternoon, on possibly the only flight to scrape through the fog that day, thank goodness. I'd had a surreal journey on account of a 14-hour stopover at Heathrow -- a scheduled stopover, but surreal nevertheless. Everyone told me I should take the opportunity to run into town and spend time with my uncles and cousins BUT ... I had realized well in advance that I wasn't going to be compos mentis. Look at this way: my Virgin Atlantic flight left Boston at 19.45, arriving in London around 8.00 a.m. after a 7 hour flight. Do the math: it means that as far as my body-clock was concerned, it was 2.45 a.m. While it's true I'm a night owl, and am often awake at that hour, I'm not really capable of social interactions at the time! So I figured I might as well save my relatives the annoyance of talking to a walking corpse (i.e., me) and just hang about the airport.

For company I had a newly acquired electronic Sudoku game and also a tiny MP3 device (lest anyone grow envious, NO, this was NOT an i-Pod or any of its fancier avatars, but a tiny little thing called a Zen Nano, 1 Gb and fairly user-UNfriendly) onto which I had downloaded an entire audio-book of shortstories. There were the shops in the arcade and a very lively Starbucks outlet and a selection of other eateries as distractions, but of course, like every tired traveller since the dawn of time, the only thing I REALLY wanted was a place to lie down and sleep. Heathrow isn't entirely hideous in this respect because it's got vast seating areas and some banks of seats are created in such a way that it's possible to recline full-length (i.e., four seats in a row with no armrests separating them). But only a few are like that and of course they are ALWAYS occupied, so I had to make do with being curled up like a prawn, using my backpack as a cushion, over the seat adjoining mine. There were lots of other transit-prawns strewn about the place, so I didn't feel even slightly self-conscious.

Between playing Sudoku, listening to stories and guzzling various Starbucks products, I managed to stay afloat. The flight boarded at 20.45 -- and it was packed to the rafters -- and my seat mate happened to be a rather portly Sardar. The seats were right at the back of plane -- the very last two -- and for that reason, slightly narrower than the rest. This meant that the two of us were squished together like incestuous Siamese twins and I am ashamed to say I actually considered asking the nearest hostess for a change of seat -- not because my fellow passenger was unpleasant in any sense, he REALLY wasn't -- but just that his physical size and the miniature seats guaranteed that I would be a basket-case by the time we landed. Very fortunately, he must have had the exact same idea -- and he acted upon it more speedily than me by finding a friendly Punjabi lady who was willing to exchange places with him. Once he and his mates were sitting in a row, they proceeded to spend the entire flight (a) getting drunk (b) trying to get further drunk but being frustrated in this attempt because the steward announced that they had run out of drinks (c) staggering about in the vicinity of the toilet.

Considering the 14-hour ordeal, you'd think I might have just fallen asleep, but ooo nooo, I am far too much of a movie hog. I'll watch the inflight movies on a plane if I have to pin my eyelids back, rather than sleep through! Especially on the London-Delhi flight (yes, this is an unabashed plug for VA, an airline I absolutely ADORE) is that you get FIFTY FILMS to choose from and you can watch 'em at your own pace, fast-forward, fast back and over and over again, just as you wish. I had already decided I was going to watch a movie called LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE -- I'd read about it on the Boston-London flight, on which it was NOT on the menu -- and I was thoroughly satisfied. It's about a totally dysfunctional family on their way to California from (? Albuquerque, I think) in their even more dysfunctional van, just so that their youngest member, Olive, can compete in a beauty pageant for the under-teen set. Olive wears big-frame glasses, is tubby around the waist and may even have a mild case of buck-teeth. But she's got a container-load of personality and ... well, I'm not about to give the plot away! Alan Arkin plays the role of the grandfather from hell -- but a sweet-pickle hell -- just like the rest of the family, mad but in a curiously adorable way.

The flight circled above Delhi for at least an hour, waiting for the fog to clear -- it looked like a blanket of fleece beneath us -- but once we were down, the queue at immigration moved so fast I was through it and out the other side before I'd had time to wake up. E was at the airport to collect me, and soon enough I was home and having lunch. After which I dove into bed and slept for about two days ...

There's really SOOOOO much to tell, especially about my time in Vermont, that I just know I'll never get around to it. So I'm going to end* this post with a photograph from the Fellini-esque Thanksgiving dinner we had at Stone's Throw Farm, at which the item featured in the picture at the top of this page was an ingredient. Believe it or not, that is a MUSHROOM ... an oyster mushroom, grown by the person holding it, Glen. I was completely mesmerized by the sheer size of the thing -- and it tasted great too. Glen also talked at great length about the fascinating life and times of a mushroom-farmer -- but it'll take much too long to go into all of that, so I won't. I'll just have to return with pictures of the turkey and the sunset and the pig and -- oh! I've just GOT to end this post RIGHT NOW! I promise I'll be back quite a bit sooner than I was the last time.
[*-- though I placed it at the BEGINNING. I didn't want visitors to miss seeing it merely because they found the rest of the post boring!]