27.6.08

Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

(Warning: This may or may not be true)

My family has a long history of being involved in the making, distributing and selling of tea-sets. And because I was the first son (but second child) of a first son (but second child) of a first son (but second child), it was but natural that I would become a saucer-er*.


* If you don't know what that refers to....siiiiigh.

26.6.08

Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

Misfortune
n., Having too many friends*.

Which, when combined with variables such as free time, work, distances, time differences, and families, leads to limits on the amount of detailed attention that can be lavished on each of them. And which eventually leads to a gentle fraying of the intangible bonds that kept you linked with them, leaving you with a vague feeling of guilt, loss and missed opportunities.


* Rather than too few.

23.6.08

Times there will be,
when think you will -
What right have I to this mine life,
what deeds did I to live so good,
for so happily long?

And what of those who suffer,
and hurt,
and waste away
in their miserous worlds?
What then, or who,
did they do wrong?

And if, as they so despairingly proclaim,
they did naught,
but yet do pain,
then might you wonder
if you are not bounden
to curse the bountiful today,
and sink your hands into the muck
of shared sorrow?

Yea, times there will be,
when think you will -
What right have I,
when others have so little left?

Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

Job Satisfaction
n., A state of mind that makes you grin till your cheeks hurt, and which can be caused by being able to work on your laptop and being able to listen to "Beautiful Day", while watching through the garden windows as a gorgeously sunny summer day unfolds.

This state of mind can be maintained for a lengthy period of time by remembering that this is just the beginning - and that from now on your commute will take about 20 seconds, no freezing winds will try and blow you off the bike anymore, and that the hot cuppa can be made just as you like it. AND you get paid for it. Oh, and Wimbledon's live on telly.


PS. No hexes, please. Especially if you're having a crappy day at work.

18.6.08

Lives on Trains - 7

"...And that's why I'm so happy, and they're not."
"Because you....suck the joy out from their souls..."
"Yep"
"And you can do that because you're really a....god?"
"No less."
"A god."
"Had it the first time."
"A train god."
"Nail. Head."
"And you hate everyone who travels by trains because they use them?"
"You really are good at this!"
"Ahh.
Right.
.....so why are you telling me this?"
"Weeeeeell, anybody who reads Winnie-the-Pooh can't be all that bad".

12.6.08

Lives on Trains - 6

She watched the empty bottle rolling around the floor, being jerked around incessantly by the interplay of momentum, direction and resistance. After a while, she began trying to predict which way it would go next, but the bottle almost always confounded her with its wild and rapid changes.

She waited for a long time, but nobody claimed it for their own, and neither did anybody pick it up and put it somewhere safe. The bottle continued its sad little dance, forced to go wherever the fates decreed, till finally a young boy stomped down on it and ended its misery.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Much later, she realised she had been watching the story of her recent life - tossed around by intangible forces that took her wherever they pleased; discarded by those who no longer felt she was useful to them; with nobody around to help pick her up and give her at least a few moments of stability.

She wondered what, eventually, would crush her too.

11.6.08

Manual of Life - World Improvement Idea #23

The creation and implementation of a genetic modification process, through which all post-puberty males experience a faux-period at least once a year.

Since the logistics and biology of actual menstruation would probably prove too complicated, this would mean males experiencing (and being reminded of) the accompanying physical pain, mood alterations, and general stress that women go through every month, for an average of 40 years.

Assuming men were allowed to choose how many months they could experience this in a year (X), the level of severity experienced by men at each such event (P) would be:
P = (Total amount of pain experienced by a women in a year)/X

Thus,
the level of pain at each faux-period would be inversely proportional to the regularity of said period, and an average man would experience the same amount of pain as an average women in a year.

Gay men could be excepted from having to undergo this every year, but would still have to experience it at least once in their lifetime.

9.6.08

X marks the tome

Something Aishwarya blogged about here (para 2) keeps coming back to me. The practice of not acquiring a book you really want by just buying it through the easiest means possible. She calls it sportsmanship, but I cannot help think of it more as a Zen treasure hunt. ******************************************************************

A long while ago, I'd realised that if I continued to buy books at retail prices, I'd pretty much be in serious debt for a long, loooong time to come, considering the rate at which I buy them.

And much as I like places that stock books in nice, clean rows, and offer the added pleasure of being able to lounge around and read (with a cuppamocha to boot, natch), I increasingly find such shops a little...soulless. While it's nice to know that you can get about the same level of service and choice at any branch in any city, and while the sight of such outlets may be mildly comforting on a dreary journey to an unknown city, there's something so utterly boring about that in the long run*.

Besides, I've always been fonder of the smaller places, where the quantity and selection of books are available are governed by mysterious and unpredictable laws. Run by odd little men (in all this time, I've met just two women bookshop-owners). Tucked away in some back alley, with undefined working hours. Where a nodding acquaintance results in books being sold on credit, even if your name (let alone your address) is not known. Where a list of obscure and hard-to-find books somehow are resourced and produced for you, with just a hint of a smug smile.

But in time, even getting books from such shops becomes a tad boring, because you know that they're resourceful enough and well-versed enough to stock the kind of books that will sell, and that you're looking for. And so in time, I've found myself turning to the Holy Grail of Unpredictable Book Hunting - street-vendors and charity shops.

Aishwarya talks about making "silly noises" and behaving in an "idiotic" manner when finding a much sought-after book in a shop. Well, "silly noises" doesn't quite describe the reaction when, after countless hours spent tramping through dusty roads, scanning precariously perched piles of books in stall after stall after stall, you find that one book that completes the series you've been accumulating for over six years.

There's something Zen and ironical about this whole process - that the growth of your personal hoard depends entirely on your level of commitment (mania), the discardatory whims of other people, and the element of pure chance of the book being there when you visit, and not having being bought by somebody else before. You learn to accept things as being beyond your reach, and yet being attainable if you make that little extra effort, and walk those extra 300 feet**.

And there are so many plus-es to this system -
# If they're found in a charity shop, then the money is going towards the betterment of somebody, somewhere.
# If they come from a street-stall, then that's helping someone who has to struggle daily against the vagaries of municipal laws, the police, and the weather.
# It's like adoption for books. All those poor abandoned orphans, with no parents to take care of them, waiting for someone like me to swoop in and rescue them and take them and put them up in a nice setting with lots of fellow playmates. Who needs babies? My little books don't poop, they don't wail, they don't need lots of feeding. All they ask for is an occasional cleaning and some regular love and affection.
# It also leaves me more money to go buy even more books. Yay.

It also helps that increasingly, I tend to favour not-new books. While there's something intimately exalting about the smell of a new book, there's something far, far more comfortable about a second-hand one. I believe they fit in more easily with the other books on my shelves, who are more likely to welcome a smudged-and-thumbed self-effacing copy, than they would a pristine and snooty new kid on the block.

So, it's come to the point where I only get books from a "new" bookshop if it's a present for someone, or if I really need it and can't find it anywhere else. Otherwise, I've gone beyond mere book shopping and into the realms of book collecting.


* You only have to visit any major urban area in the UK to see where that will lead and why it's not the best thing - the consolidation of the marketplace due to the decline of smaller chains has become so advanced, that every high street feels almost identical. Sometimes it's hard to tell just which town or city you are in - if it weren't for the monuments.
** I'm not entirely sure whether the fact that I can live with waiting to find volumes Four and Five of a nine-volume fantasy series for a period of three years, is because that's how I am, or because that's how the process has made me.

6.6.08

Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

Where one tells more about oneself.

(Warning: This may or may not be true (it's all fun here))

If you're sitting next to me while I'm on the phone, you won't be able to make out what I'm saying, although the person on the other end will. Not unless I'm deliberately yelling due to a bad connection. I am that private. And it is a very useful trick.

5.6.08

Lives on Trains - 5

He waited for the train to arrive, trying to decide where to sit today.

*******************************************
He took a new seat every day, moving around within and through the carriages, always selecting one that had at least one other person sitting across or besides him.

He would then remove the book.

The trick was to get it out in a way that made it seem as if he was trying to be inconspicuous in an embarassed sort of way, but was failing to do so. The almost-but-not-quite-casual looking around, the fumbling and sliding out of the book from the bag, the attempt to open it to the correct page while trying to hide the cover - inevitably, someone would be piqued (and nosy) enough to try and see what the title was.

He watched their reflections to capture every detail of their reactions. The scorn, the amusement, the derision, the outrage, the rejecting disinterest, the spark of mutual interest, the mental bookmark on "To Read" lists, the surreptious hiding of their own material, the smug raising up of their book to make the title quite visible.

The judging of him.

Always hopelessly off the mark, of course. Although...there was that one time, when that middle-aged woman (a tabloid in her hands) had looked up at him with a slight smile and a nod, recognising another tease who got their thrills by laughing at the gullibility of people's assumptions.

*******************************************
As the train pulled in, he checked his bag, making sure the copy of Winne-the-Pooh was safe.

3.6.08

Consider this.

The current (estimated) average birth-rate in the world is 20.3 births per 1,000 people per year. Going by estimates of a current world population of 6.5 billion people, that's about 132 million people being born each year, or 11 million each month.

Meanwhile the mortality rate is about 8.3 deaths per 1,000 people per year. Which means about 54 million dying each year, or 4.5 million a month.

The difference = (about) 78 million people being added to the population each year. Or around 6.5 million people a month.

The point? Nothing really. Just doomsday-mongering. And how's your day been?

You don't have to belong, to care.

Subset:
You don't have to be (a) female to be a feminist.

Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

Sacrifice
n., Deciding not to buy any more books until such time as you finish reading all the books that you currently possess, but have not yet read.

Related:
Are-you-Serious Sacrifice - Deciding not to acquire books and films/music.
You-Are-Serious Sacrifice - Deciding not to acquire books, films, and music.

Also see: Patience; Sheer idiocy.