Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why I don't follow sports

Yesterday I went out to lunch with some guys from work. As is generally the case in these situations, the conversation turned to football. I don't mind at all when that happens - it means I can have some serious alone time with my food. Football is a better subject than work. Or cars. I have only one requirement of my car - that it not break down in the middle of the night on an eerie stretch of road. But since I own a car, I am expected to know at least a little about cars. And care enough to contribute to the conversation. Or at least listen intelligently. But with football, I've found, they usually look at me with pity and move on. Well - not these guys. They decided to give me the benefit of doubt. They said - well maybe you find baseball more interesting. Uh - no. Or basketball, if you follow that. Sorry. At this point I decided that some explanation or excuse was necessary. I told them that it was probably a fascinating sport, but that I didn't understand it. They tried to explain the basic rules of the game. And explained that the excitement was in the game, and in all the personalities and drama that surround the game. The thing is - I know that. And I don't want to get into it. I could probably become an ardent football fan if I wanted to. But I don't want to.

I used to follow cricket - but that was not a conscious choice. I grew up with it. Everyone around was crazy about it. When there was a match on, there really was no choice but to follow along. Passions would run high. I remember when I was really young - maybe 4 or 5 - I would cry every time one of our players got out. From the reaction of the adults around me, I figured that something really bad had happened - maybe someone had died. Of course, I stopped being quite that emotionally invested as I grew up. I didn't promise god my hypothetical first born - if only my team would win the match. Or even get tension headaches. Well, not often. But I knew all the players in all the teams - their names, faces, histories. The rivalries in the game, the big and small dramas. The players I loved and hated. I followed the game even when there was almost no hope. When despite having one of the best teams on paper, we would lose almost every match spectacularly. Even then I loved the game. Until there were a bunch of match-fixing scandals. Those matches where whole nations had agonized with each ball and with each stroke of the bat, those matches had had their outcome decided even before the toss. And so I stopped caring.

It's a lot of work - being invested in a sport. When you follow a sport, you become more than a passive viewer. You become part of it. It's not - they're going to play. It's - we're going to play. And with cricket, it's much simpler to decide who 'we' are. It's your national team. Football, baseball and basketball don't have anything that simple. There are so many teams. For someone who moves around a lot, that means divided loyalties. And then there is the practice of trading players. Makes loyalties even more complicated. And many teams are owned privately, so they're really businesses. And business isn't about emotion, good sportsmanship, or even winning in the conventional sense. It's about making money - win or loose. So I don't want to follow a sport. I'm too cynical. And that's a good thing - or I might really have cared about the whole Barry Bonds thing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wildfire

I am one of the lucky ones so far. I live in one of the few pockets in San Diego which have not been burnt or evacuated. It has been an unbelievable two days. I have not seen the fire live. But I have been breathing in the smoke and ash. And all the television channels have been blanketed with pictures of flames. House after house burning. Reduced to rubble. Lines of fire; smoke covering the whole sky. Forests with a ring of fire around them and lines of fire within them. Mountains alight. They say that these wild fires are natural. That they occur because nature needs to periodically clear the brush. Clear out the dry wood so new vegetation can spring up. The problem is that we live in the middle of this dry wood.

I have been hearing from friends and colleagues all over who have been evacuated. Who have been seeing news reports saying that houses in their areas are burning - and who don't know if their house has survived. As people started leaving their houses in response to evacuation orders, I think a lot of them used the Cedar fire as a guide. The areas that were safe then - they probably thought would be safe now. After all, the Cedar fire was the worst San Diego had seen. But as the fire spread, and became worse than the Cedar fire, they were evacuated again. And again. Friends who have been staying with me have moved 4 times in two days. Their home is still in a mandatory evacuation zone. Their 2 kids don't know what is going on - just that they are having a fire drill every few hours. A lot of people have similarly had to move multiple times as evacuation areas have spread. From hotel to hotel. From friend's house to friend's house. All the hotels were booked to capacity pretty quickly. Shelters and evacuation sites sprang up everywhere. One of the most amazing, and heartening, things has been the tremendous volunteer response. I was remarking to some friends last week that I didn't know what it was with San Diego. Why did almost every event seem to have a lot more volunteers than were needed or anticipated. Was it that San Diegans volunteered a lot, or that the events were not as well organized as they could have been? I guess the answer is - San Diegans volunteer a lot. In all the craziness, it has been very heartening to hear the frequent announcements that 'no more donation are needed today. We will accept new donations tomorrow.' Every day. Same thing with the need for volunteers. The Qualcomm Stadium evacuation site sounds almost - almost - like a party. If you can ignore the fact that a lot of these people might not have homes to go back to. But since they have absolutely no control over that, they might as well get comfortable. And a lot of people are trying to help them forget their situation and get comfortable. Hundreds of volunteers, in addition to distributing food, clothes, blankets etc, are providing child care, are entertaining kids with balloon animals and face painting, are providing massages for people, are providing yoga classes. What can be done is being done.

The fires are still raging. Evacuations have been lifted from a few areas. A few new areas have been evacuated. They have started publishing lists of the houses that have been destroyed - and they are long lists. But I believe the worst is over. I believe it won't spread too much more. I am going to sleep tonight. I am going to turn the TV off for the first time in two days. And trust that if I do need to get evacuated, the reverse 911 system will work. I think this is optimism is being inspired partly by exhaustion, but mostly by a genuine belief that between the city and county and state and federal firefighters, and the forest service helicopters and the navy jets , they will beat back the fire. Till nature decides to clear the brush agian.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Everywhere I go today on the blog sphere, people are talking about Blog Action Day and the environment. The Nobel Peace Prize timing worked out well too. It's 'love the environment' day - hopefully week and year too. Which is all good - I found some interesting new blogs about the way people are trying to make a difference. The most convenient - no effort, some cost - way seems to be to buy carbon credits. So if you're the kind that likes throwing money at a problem, that's the way to go. And it's a good first step, since it gets you to calculate your carbon footprint. Gets you thinking about all the ways you are destroying the environment - and didn't even know it! I think I skimmed an article a while ago on how the whole carbon credit idea works. You buy credits from these companies who have people planting trees somewhere in the world to offset your emissions. I think. Or was that someone making fun of the concept of carbon credits? I don't remember. But more trees is always a good idea. I wonder if the trees have to emit oxygen in approximately in the same geographic area where you are emitting carbon. Does the thickness of the ozone layer even out so it is uniform everywhere, or is is thinner in some places and thicker in other, greener places? More stuff to research - and I'm sure some blog out there will explain it today.

The more interesting blogs are the ones that talk about making changes in your daily habits. The more radical ones - radical in the sense that I don't think I could do it - are about people who have drastically cut down on their use of electricity, carry out bags, toilets etc. The less radical ones give you ideas on recycling old jeans, eye glasses etc. And of course, the comment sections are full of not just admirers, but also detractors. As well as heated debates about whether urban or rural living is more environmentally friendly. If you live surrounded by farms and tress, are you necessarily more environmentally friendly? Interesting debates. The other kind of comments that caught my eye - people saying - we've been doing this since the 60s. Where have you been? And it got me thinking. Hey - I've been doing it too! Or used to - I've actually been moving towards being less environmentally friendly, just when it's becoming fashionable to be more so. Need to move back to my old ways - as much as I can. As I said - I used to do it way back when. Not since the 60s, since I hadn't been born. On the other hand - what can be more environmentally friendly than not existing and polluting this environment? But I digress - I had been following all these environmentally friendly tips - and didn't even know it!

Here's how - I grew up in a society where every thing was used, reused, and then reused again. Till it literally fell to pieces. Then the pieces were used. Everything was reborn many times - new incarnations with new purpose. Everyone saved newspapers and magazines. And sold them. And they didn't have to go out of their way to do it - a guy would walk by once a week, calling out to anyone who had newspapers to sell. It was win-win for everyone - you felt good about not wasting your newspaper - specially if you hadn't read anything but the comics! The guy who bought your papers won, since he resold them for a profit. And the environment, of course, won. Cold drink bottles were made of glass. And you couldn't just walk away with them. You had to finish your drink and return them to the shop. Or pay a deposit to make sure you returned them later. And the deposit was not a pittance built into the price the way it is now, so you don't even consider it a deposit. If you were having a cold drink,it was because you wanted to sit there with friends and/or family and share a drink. Or because you wanted to take a break - sit in the shade and finish your drink. No drive through-drink while you drive system. Same thing with clothes. You would wear them. If they were in good condition, your siblings, cousins etc might wear them. If you didn't have any of those, or if your family was too fancy to share clothes, you gave them to the people who worked for you around the house. And you knew them personally. So you knew what could be mended, what would be appreciated, and what was too shabby to be given. There were no Goodwill type organizations whose operations had to be funded. Clothes didn't have to be in such good condition that you wouldn't want to give them away. And clothes that were mismatched, or not quite up to the standard of the people who worked for you could be exchanged for utensils. And the person who did this barter with you would in turn sell them to someone who put them to other uses - like stuffing mattresses or comforters with the reworked cloth. And clothes that could not be bartered - well those could be used in so many ways - to wrap other clothes in, to wrap precious items in, to make patchwork jewelery cases, as rags, as dust cloth etc. I've heard the arguments about whether the water and power used to wash cloth makes it a bad alternative to paper napkins. Well - the water issue stands, but the only power used to wash them was man (more often -woman) power. When you bought vegetables - or any groceries, for that matter, you carried your own cloth bags to bring them back in. I bought a cloth shopping bag from Trader Joe's last month and thought - we've moved forward so much, we've moved back!

But I don't do a lot of these environmentally responsible things today. I don't subscribe to a newspaper, so I don't have to feel guilty about not recycling the paper. But I don't recycle bottles religiously - since I would have to carry them to the recycling bin myself. And I haven't been able to find it even thought I am sure I have walked around the entire parking structure where they are supposed to be located at least 3 times. I gleefully wash my clothes and dishes using machines. And use paper napkins to wipe the smallest of spills - with only a slight twinge of guilt. I drive my gas guzzling car everywhere, even though I work only about 6 miles from my apartment and could - potentially - bicycle to work. Well, I bought a bicycle a few months ago, so I'm going to start using it more. On the plus side - I still have a hard time throwing away clothes or books. I can donate books - libraries are quite happy to take them. But I wear my clothes till they reach the point where even Goodwill won't take them. And still I feel guilty throwing them away. Same with shoes. And what about things like lamps? I have been using the same lamps for 8 years now - even though I hate them. They're those cheap fifteen dollar Wal Mart lamps. I Finally threw one of them out yesterday - and felt really bad throwing out something that was in perfect working condition. That's all I've been able to throw out after moving apartments - but now I know I'm not just a miser or a pack rat. I'm environmentally responsible. Saying that no longer sounds like an excuse - because everyone's doing it! The next think I'm going to do - stop all the junk mail. Not just because it annoys me - but because it's killing trees.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Waiting for Harry Potter

It's 6:40 PM, and I have been checking the UPS website constantly. Every hours since morning. Every 5 minutes since 5 PM. And now every minute. What does 'IN TRANSIT TO FINAL DESTINATION' mean? Will my book arrive today? Or is it just a meaningless status message meant to raise - and then dash - hopes? I wait in an agony of anticipation. I've already done google searches on UPS delivery pattens. I find that they could deliver as late as 10PM. I find that there are others out there like me, trying to find out what 'In Transit' means. When something starts travelling, isn't it always 'in transit to final destination'? I want to surf more - read more. But I am afraid. Afraid that there are spoilers out there - like the New York Post. Afraid that even in just skimming search results or message boards, I will learn the plot line. It is now 7 PM. I should give up and leave the house. Tomorrow is soon enough. But I can't. When will it get here?

7:26 PM : More google. Found some discussions that say that UPS and USPS have signed a deal (found the press release for that). More important - the post said that 'OUT FOR DELIVERY' means that UPS will deliver. 'IN TRANSIT TO FINAL DESTINATION' mean that USPS will deliver. If that's true - and I'm still holding out the hope that it is not - then I won't get my book today, since the post office is closed. If I don't get my book tomorrow, amazon should not only refund the cost, they should pay for the emotional trauma they are causing me. ;)

8:12 PM: I am now (almost) resigned to the fact that my book will not arrive today. I need to get on with my evening. My evening might include a quick peek into the local bookstore... but other than that, I am no longer waiting. Till tomorrow...

11:10 PM: Still no book. Went to 2 of the Barnes And Nobles in the area to check out the parties. Lots of kids, and some adults, in costume. A very happening atmosphere for a bookstore! They were giving out numbers and wrist bands for people to wait in line at 11PM. When the line shrunk to about 4 people, I got a number - just in case. I was mostly interested in the goody bag - a key chain and stickers. They had lots of them, so I didn't feel like I was shortchanging some actual child to indulge my inner child. As I waited in line, people behind me were loudly discussing their theories of what would happen next. And I was dreading the moment when someone who'd read the leaked plot would give it away. How stupid would I look with my hands over my ears? Should have taken ear plugs with me! Luckily I got away without hearing anything. Decided not to wait in line and actually try to by another copy from B&N though. Tomorrow is soon enough.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy new year

The first real day of the new year. January 1 never really counts - it is a day of transition. Still on the threshold between the old year and the new one. A day to recover from the revelry of the previous night. To get back from vacation. Or to make resolutions. January 2 is the real beginning of the year. The day to get serious. The gym was full today - not a single empty machine to be found. People fighting for every inch of carpet space. A lot of newly enthusiastic people full of purpose and resolutions. Let's hope things are back to normal soon!

My new year was pretty laid back this year. Watched a few movies. The Good Shepard - did not like it. Somehow, it gave me the impression of a movie trying too hard to be deep. The Holiday - one of those feel-good movies that seem to come out around the holidays to tell heartbroken or lonely people - this could happen to you. You could get dumped before Christmas, and be part of a big happy family by new year's eve. Good light entertain met though. The Pursuit of Happyness - good movie. Uplifting - specially since it is based on a true story. The guts it takes to say - i could stay in a rut, barely making it, but I'm not going to. I'm going to go for broke, risk losing everything - actually go 2 steps down from barely making it - all because I believe in myself, and know that eventually things will get better. I was slightly disappointed when I researched the guy after watching the movie though. The one little fact they changed in the movie - to make it more stark? - seemed important to me. The movie stresses - multiple times - that the internship was not paid. That's a huge gamble to take on yourself - to go into a training program where you spend all the time you could have spent earning - and to not get paid anything for it. In fact it paid about $1200 a month. And since that is $300 a month more than I made in grad school... of course, I didn't have a child to care for full-time, and that makes all the difference. But still - I wish they hadn't changed an important fact like that, and then stressed it. It wouldn't have taken anything away from the story if they'd kept it as is.

The movie made me think of a book I listened to recently. Yes, I still love my iPod, and use it to listen to books on tape. Anyway, so I listened to 'Benjamin Franklin - An American Life'. I've been meaning to read a Franklin biography for a while - he seems like such an interesting character, and has lived such a very full life. And so many witty quotes are attributed to him! It makes a great story. And again - very inspiring. I also found the end of the book interesting. The author discusses how Franklin goes through periods where he is loved, and periods where he is belittled. It's an interesting debate, and always compelling. Practicality vs Romanticised Philosophy. The argument that while Franklin achieved great things, perhaps he was always a lot more merchant than scholar. Too involved in the mundane and the practical rather than the abstruse and philosophical. That his interest in something as sordid as making money takes away from his achievements. That his step by step programs to improve himself are too - ordinary. Tying back to the movie - if the aim of someone's life is to improve their own lot, and to make money - to own a red Ferrari - does that make the story a little pedestrian? A little less uplifting than the story of someones struggle against an illness, for example. Neither are for other people, but does the red Ferrari angle taint the first, and the threat of impending death give the second a halo? Or are both still equally great stories about hope, and the triumph of the human spirit?

Another interesting book I read over the new year's holiday - 'What to Do Between Birth and Death - The Art of growing up.' One of the more interesting articles dealt with 'eternal youth' or the people who can not give up adolescence. It said that 'Adolescence is the time before such choices, when all things are possible because nothing has yet been decided. The eternal youth clings to this stage of life, and is unable to commit to anything actually available. The one situation dreaded thought life by such a type of person is to be bound down to anything whatsoever. There is a terrific fear of being caught in a situation from which it may be impossible to slip out again. Every just-so situation is hell." Sound familiar to any of the commitment phoebes out there? :) On a similar but less serious note, I listened to parts of a book called 'Do it. Getting off your Buts.' The part that sticks to mind is where they keep stressing that you need to pick your goals, and that despite popular belief, you can't have it all. That choosing a goal means that you are giving up other goals, and that is the only way you will achieve something. Interesting- almost seems like the universe is sending me a message. Now, all I need to do is pick a new year's goal. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A new love

I bought an iPod yesterday - a Red one! It's such a little darling!

I have been thinking about getting one for a while, but I didn't really want to become a pod person. Plus - all the cool kids already had them. And I'm too cool to be part of the cool crowd.

I briefly considered getting a SanDisk MP3 player - it made a lot of sense. They're the market leaders in tiny memory devices. And thiers has not just an FM radio, but even a voice recorder. Plus - it's not 'cool'. But, sound sense and good reasoning notwithstanding, I had already fallen for the Nano. I just didn't want to admit it. Then Microsoft announced the Zune. Now Microsoft tends to get my back up, so I immediately decided that I would get an iPod. Plus - the Zune doesn't look anywhere as good as the Nano. Not that I'm biased or anything. And as for the WiFi 'social networking device' - I'm not that social. I'm stand-offish, and so are my gadgets. So I fianlly accepted myself as one of the pod people.

When I went to the Apple website, I found that Product Red had just been launched. It seemed like a sign. Now I get to buy a shiny new toy - and feel all better about myself becasue a tiny tiny fraction of the money will go to charity. And, I don't have to agonize over color choice! I looked at the video iPods for an hour. Same price, more functionality. But they're ugly compared to the Nano. Next choice - 8 GB Nano - but it's not available in red. Decisions, Decisions. Of course I picked style over substance - was that ever in question? Plus, remember the ten bucks for AIDS. So 4 GB it was. I spent some time thinking of things I could get engraved on my Nano - the front runners were

'I can resist anything but temptation.' (Oscar Wilde has great one-liners for all occasions!)
and
'If you can talk you can sing. If you can walk you can dance.'

But - once I decided to buy it, I could not wait for engraving. I had to have it NOW!

I've already loaded 2.5 Gigs of songs. A lot of my friends happend to be in the rec room downstairs this afternoon, practicing for a show. So I got to show my Nano off! I even got to use the stopwatch functionality to time a sequence - I was very excited to discover that! I'll probably never use it again - but it's good to know that it's there is I ever need it. I'm going to install iTunes on my work computer tomorrow and sync my calendar and see if I like that feature. And I can set time zones - that'll come in handy when I travel!

So - next on the agenda - a name for my Nano. The front runners are Tansen, Laila, Aamrapaali and Simba. I'll live with it for a few days before deciding on the name. Send me suggestions if you have any!

Ok - i'll stop now before I sound completely crazy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sleepless

The night is half over, and I don't want to sleep. Why is that? I'm sleepy - and I love to sleep. But I want to hold it off, just a little bit longer. To prolong today a bit - to hold off tomorrow a bit.