Manual of Life - Disconcerting Phenomena #34

Disorientating words
Oft-spoken words, which when read, have the ability to seem completely alien and unheard of, or be translated from the script of another language.

Despite much staring at them, these words often cause the reader to have a temporary lapse in being able to pronounce them in their commonly-accepted manner, or, in severe cases, almost believing they aren't 'proper' words at all.

egs., ocean fallen lured


Some quarantines are worse than others

Especially if you happened to be a carrier of typhoid in the early 1900s. Apparently, you got admitted to a mental asylum. I didn't even get admitted to a hospital when I got my attack.


Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

(You want to know more about this here blogger? Fine. Warning: This may or may not be true)

In the spirit of experimentational research, and in the interests of expanding the boundaries of culinary knowledge, I once decided to see what a mixture of all the possible dairy/egg-based byproducts (that I could lay my hands on) would taste like.

To this end, I prepared - and ate - a sandwich with a filling of butter, soft-cheese spread, thick cream (proper malai), mayonnaise, and condensed milk*.

It was....interesting.

* Condensed milk on toast....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.


A few last friendly thoughts

...for now.


While saying all that I did last week, I ignored to comment on the fact that there are indeed some people who can, and do, maintain regular contact with old friends - over the years and across the world. There's a friend of mine who knows people whom I should know better than he does, having originally come into more contact with them than he did, simply because he kept in touch with them - and I didn't.

A key factor behind this ability seems to be the way a person behaves socially in person. Not on the phone, not by mail, not on chat or blogs or forums (although those also do obviously matter, to some extent). Such people are the ones who're more likely to initiate a conversation with a stranger at a party, or get chatty with people alongside them in queues wherever, and are more likely to ask people what they do and where they come from....and happily provide details in return. People like me, on the other hand, will be the ones who are quite content to know details about somebody when they feel like telling us those details (not that we're any less curious), and will be happy to sit at a party on our own and just watching and listening. Needless to say, standing in queues is an entirely quiet can't-you-see-I-have-my-don'tpesterme-face-on affair.

There is probably a lesson there, but pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbrpppt.

There are also those who know how difficult it is to maintain relations with friends (and family), and who may or may not be very sociable in-person, but who make it a point to try hard to maintain those relations - even if the ones they're maintaining with are too lazy to do so. My father is one such, and everybody in my extended family agrees that he's probably the only reason many of us know what's happening with each other, because he tries and calls and meets them as often as possible. Me....I just ask him, and go back to my lazy ways.

There's a lesson there too, but heck.


I'm tempted to stick to this classification from now on, to make things easier to deal with -

Best friend(s)
Close friend
Good friend
(just a) Friend
Friendly, but not friends


The Thin Edge of Philosophy

"Well? What're you waiting for?"

(chuckles...briefly) "Look at you. Demand, demand, threat, demand. Me, me, I, me. Do you ever look beyond yourself? Do you ever stop to think about the rest of the world? Have you ever just once stopped and thought - maybe there's more than this. Maybe there's something greater and grander to life than this. Maybe there's a better reason for me being alive. Or, have you considered this, maybe there isn't? Maybe there's no point to it all, no point to going on like this, just...surviving and not really living. After all, what are you but one more person on one more street in one more neighbourhood of one more city in a world full of them, and that whole world nothing more than the merest speck in the eyelashes of time. Have you ever thought of that? That you're nothing, I'm nothing, we're all nothing but a loop that's been lived out again and again and again. Have you never wondered how many people before you have done, and how many more after you will do, the same things you have? Felt the same things you have - and how many have thought about how many have thought about these things. Don't you ever feel like a ghost - like nothing's real, like nothing you see or feel is really there, like...."


"Now tell me....does that feel real? Or is that pain, that blood, this knife all just "imaginary"? ...(sigh)... You could've just handed over your wallet quietly you know".


(I normally avoid forums, blog-festivals, and the like - especially when it comes to contentious topics. Hey, I get enough aggravation just from thinking about toothbrush bristles, ok. But I just had to write this when Aishwarya put out a call for entries to the Feminist Carnival of SF&A. Unfortunately, there were some issues (all your fault, Kyle Payne!), and it was felt that it was perhaps better left out. But she asked me to post it anyway - so here you are)


Let's make this simple - Men* can't handle female sexuality.

Oh sure, men are quite happy with 'sexy' sexuality. Which means we have no hassles about having an attractive bosom shoved in our face while we're sitting on a busy train/bus. We have no problems about being forced to endure looking at low-cut tops and high-hemmed skirts. We have no insecurity about getting an unexpected eyeful of interesting intimates. And we certainly have no issues with being subjected to spontaneous dances of a lascivious nature.

That sort of stuff men can deal with. What we can't deal with, however, is 'realistic' sexuality. And the freedom to talk about it.

The type where the woman explains exactly what it means to be female. Where she wants to discuss how just much effort it takes for her to look like she does. Where she aggressively defends her right to wear a tiny top and shorts because it's bloody hot, and objects to your staring at her because you think she's actually trying to show off her assets. And then slaps you for daring to try and flirt with her, just because you think that's what she really wanted, because why else would she be dressed like she was. Where she wants you to be ok if she just wants to have sex, but doesn't really want you around all the time. Where she tries to explain that yes, she does masturbate on occasion, and no, she's not going to enact it for you, and hey, if you don't like the concept, well there's always Anne Summers. Where she demands that you realise that just one of you successfully completing a two-person hands-on mission is not acceptable, and no, she'll be damned if you can go to sleep before you help her sign off too.

Oh, sure, some men may try.

Some men will stand there while the women in their lives try to explain the merits and demerits of shaving as compared to waxing, or talk about how much their back hurts when they have their period. But they're not really listening - they're blocking it out, or trying really hard to think of something else to avoid having to actually take in what's being said. Like Sachin thumping Australia in Sharjah '98. Yeh. At the worst, it's like white noise, where they can see the lips move, but they hear only static.

And why is this?

Well, you could blame social conditioning. You could blame genetic differences. But I believe it's simply because deep down, it just makes men....uncomfortable.

It makes us uncomfortable to realise that women too have hair growing on their faces, and if it was left alone, some of them could go around sporting goatees too. It makes us uncomfortable to realise that those eyebrows were not naturally formed that way, but instead required tedious painful sessions of being plucked at or being teased out by a piece of thread. It makes us uncomfortable that that soft silkiness that's being currently stroked probably required a few cheek-clenching minutes of intimacy with hot wax.

It makes us uncomfortable to realise - and know - that the only way a woman can stop hurting like we could never understand pain for one-fifth of every month** for around 40 years is to have a baby - and go through all the attendant pain and trauma of that process. It also makes us uncomfortable because being the tinker-types that we are, we can't help but the judge the whole monthly process as being rather...inefficient***. And, we know we daren't ever even mention that thought.

And perhaps, most of all, it makes men uncomfortable to realise that despite all our bravado and talk of strength-of-character, most of us know we would succumb - and rather quickly - if an unknown but attractive woman made an indelicate proposition to them. But that if the roles were reversed, our egos - not to mention our bodies - would take a battering from the almost-certain rejection.

So....no, men can't handle the the real nitty-gritty of female sexuality.

And if you want to test that out, during your next period, try describing to the first man you know just how big a clot had just forced its way out of your body. And watch him squirm for three seconds as he begins to picture it - before self-preservation kicks in and he starts remembering those sixes to long-off that Tendlya thumped off McGrath.

* Defined as all heterosexual and a sizeable portion of gay men.
* On average.
*** As opposed to it being on a need-to-procreate basis.

Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

Tragic Irony
n., Knowing that you are the next (and last) Prophet/Saviour/Messiah, come to help rekindle the potential of humankind and usher in an age of peace and progress, by uniting all the peoples of the world through one unmistakeable and unambiguous message

....and not being able to remember what that message was.


Friday Fun: Fact/Fiction

(A gradual stripping off of the anonymity cloak. Warning: This may or may not be true)

I am (unofficially) a Lucid Dreamer.

This is a condition where a person is regularly aware, while dreaming, that they are in a dream. This leads to often being able to control said dream, being aware of how much time has passed by in the 'real' world, regularly having dreams-within-dreams (usually through false awakenings), and being able to remember the dreams after waking up.

Not only do I have a strong dream recall capability*, I also have intensely vivid dreams - in full Hi-Def clarity with digital surround sound - every time I sleep** (am unsure if they're related). Which leads to my often waking up more tired than when I went to bed, usually in a contorted physical position related to whatever activity was being undertaken in the dream. I quite often also startle myself (and anybody close by) awake with random and loud bursts of laughter, and continuous but quiet*** snatches of conversation.

The Lucid Dreaming is sometimes so strong that I have begun to suspect that this life is a dream, and it's all levels upon levels of false awakenings.

....did I mention it does wonders for boosting your paranoia levels?

* Not only being able to clearly remember dreams I've had, just after I've woken up, but being able to remember them for long periods of time - sometimes years. They're as strong as memories. Heck, they could be memories. That's it! I wake up in another life in another dimension when I sleep! I have found the secret of reality!!
** This could be one of the reasons keeping me thin. Brain activity = energy consumption = calorie demolition?
*** Remember what I said about phone calls?


Ummm...NOT the last of the 'friendly' posts

So, if you reach a stage where you look at your contact book (mental/offline/online), and realise that many of those in it are no longer your 'friends', and you don't really know what's happening with them, what are your options?

Well, you could shrug and concede that life is full of shite like this, and downgrade your hopes and expectations into - the chance occasional meeting, getting your updates about them through once-in-a-way group mails, gossip from mutual contacts, and their social network listings.

Or, you could take the view that some of this is partly your fault too, because you too are someone's 'lost' friend. And so you make an effort to call/text/e-mail/meet/chat with a select group of such friends, on a more regular basis, for a given trial period. Try to be more involved and aware of each others' lives. Find ways to meet socially, even if in the midst of large groups. And if all that works, then continue it with those friends, and include more friends slowly.

Or, you could just say - the heck with it. The friends I have today are the friends I really want, and need. Take everybody else off your 'regular contact' list, and social network groups, and just be involved with those few. Everybody else remains somebody-you-once-knew-well.

And then go find new friends. Just so you can repeat the process....nobody said life had to make sense, did they?

I'm edging towards option three. Simply because I suspect that while I'm quite capable of keeping up with - and taking a keen interest in - my friends' lives if I can meet them regularly, I somehow can't build up the energy to do this long-distance thing with everybody. 'Tis a pity.


There's nothing as interesting or satisfying as discussing the nuances of a subject that is currently occupying your attention. Also, yes, potentially highly boring to others. But we'll ignore that. Which is why we continue wondering about friends and friendship.

In the last post, when KM commented that "there's also some who make you go "huh? why the hell was I hanging out with this guy in college?", it touched on something I've been thinking about a lot recently.

Namely, how do we form friendships with certain people?

A simple answer is this. But that's a little too simple. After much pondering, the conclusion I've reached to the above answer is this -

1) Proximity
2) Chance
3) Compatibility

How so? Thus so.

Your oldest...your first friends are likely to be people who lived nearby. They would then be followed by friends from school, then college, then work. And other places you might have lived through your life. 'Tis human nature. You see someone day after day after boring day, and you eventually strike up a conversation, and it goes from there. It's the sheer regular presence of someone that eventually makes you get along with them. And it's only when you have time away from them that you really that, in many cases, you don't really know them, and that you're not really friends, just friendly*.

Then there's chance (and circumstance). Meeting friends of friends. Children of your parents' friends. Relatives of your neighbours. Being introduced to someone at a party. Striking up conversations in a train. At a bus-stop. In the supermarket queue. At a bar. Random, unforeseeable meetings where you realise that the person across/besides/on top of you** is actually worth keeping in touch with.

And there's compatibility. Where you choose the friends you make on the basis of a mutual interest in something. Cricket. Quizzes. Pratchett. Indie-rockers. Food-blogging. Alcohol-photography (heh). Where you decide to go to clubs/forums/meetings where you know there will be others of a similar bent of mind to yours, and you select to become closer to some of them.

Of course, whether these friendships last, or how deep they are, is a different matter altogether.

So. Now you know. Today's "Gosh! That was obvious" session is now over. Please deposit dakshina in the room to your left marked 'Give as much as you can'. Thank you, and many papayas to you.

* Which is why if you no longer live where you used to, and happen to go back, and bump into somebody you spent months and years playing alongside, especially in the long summer days, you sometimes realise you have nothing in common - had nothing in common - except the fact that you could see each other's windows.
** Whaaaat? It happens.


Sometimes it feels we've been drifting apart, these past few years. And it seems likely that we're going to just keep drifting apart even further, unless by chance and circumstance we happen to find ourselves living near each other again. And then, these ties will be briefly refreshed, and remembered anew, and things will seem bearable again.

But otherwise, this is what we'll be reduced to. This occasional catching up on each others' lives. With nothing really in common anymore, except the time that we once shared. And the knowledge...the belief...the hope...that if we could but meet often, it would all be the same again, or better, that we would be closer than ever before.

And we know the other will always be there, for times that simply require another. And we know the other will share, joyously or sorrowfully, whatever is so big that we have to share it. And we go our ways knowing that, knowing that we're there, out there, somewhere.

...but even though they may not really be lost, I still can't stop hating how much I miss my friends.


Friday Fun: Food Fiesta

Yep...you read it right. It's back - just not every fortnight though (which means I'll have to go re-label the old posts - gah!). Just when the mood strikes - which will only be on a Friday. Shall be interspersed with the Friday Fun Fact/Fiction, and maybe Friday jokes. The day shall be for fun. Friday Fun. See?

So - this is for OTP, and Space Bar, and Cynic, who complain about making something quick and easy. It's healthy, it requires NO cooking, and it's scrumptious.

And most of all, it's for Pri, who never cooks any of it and loves to make fun of all the ideas (my butter-and-rice still rocks, btw).

Easy Couscous Dish

Time Required:
10-30 minutes (depending on method)

Keep Ready (for 2):
Couscous, one cup
Olive oil
Cucumber, small one, quartered slices
Tomatoes, two, medium chunks
Red onion, half, sliced
Spring onions, two, chopped
Coloured bell peppers, one in total, sliced
Olives, pitted, handful
Raisins, handful
Feta, cubed
Green tabasco sauce
Lemon juice
Coriander, chopped roughly
Mint leaves
Oregano, pepper, salt

The couscous can be prepared in one of two ways. The first, most common, and easier method is to place the couscous in a bowl with an equal amount of boiling water, cover the bowl and leave for 5 minutes, and then add some oil and separate grains with a fork. The couscous is fine if made this way.

However, the fancier, better, and traditional (or so I believe - help me out here, Szerlem) method is to steam the couscous, which helps it absorb the moisture gradually, and fluffs it out beautifully into plump, individual grains. To do this, use a normal vegetable steamer. Failing that, put the couscous into a steel bowl and simmer it in a pressure cooker - without the whistle on. Failing that, place the couscous in a colander, and put it in a water bath. For any of these three methods, give it at least 15 minutes, and ideally about 25 minutes*.

While the couscous is getting ready, chop up everything else.

When the couscous is done, add some olive oil and mix well. Then add everything else in, season to taste, and garnish with coriander and slices of lemon.

Serve, with triangles of toasted pitta, and (of course) hummus.

Why you should try this:
People, no cooking. And it has vegetables. And it has a wonderful blend of sweet and spicy and savoury and crunchy and ...err...softie (?). And couscous is far more nutritious than rice, and lighter to eat as well.

This dish is ideal for the summer as a side-dish; or, if you make enough, can serve as your main course.

Focus on:
1) Add as many or as little of the ingredients, but make sure there's enough variation of colour.
2) The Green tabasco sauce. This is just...wow. And it totally transforms the dish.
3) Lemons are preferable to lime - it just is for this dish.

1) If you can't find couscous, use bulgur wheat. Not quite the same though.
2) If you don't have feta, try some holoumi. Or, as a last resort, paneer - but this has to be firm paneer. And you should grill it.
3) If you can't find green tabasco, try some green jalapeno sauce.
4) If you like it spicy, add some sliced jalapenoes, or some chopped green chilli.
5) Add some cooked prawns, or some falafel.

* This one food show I saw (Rick Stein perhaps) found this place in .... somewhere... where they steam the couscous for four hours. But they were gorgeous.


Manual of Life - Little Known Disorders

Voluntary Social Stasis
aka Doireallymatteritis

A self-inflicted process in which the person deliberately draws back from social contact, in order to determine their real value to the rest of the world. This disorder is quite common, and four in five people will have lived with it at some point in life.

The onset of the disorder is usually caused by sudden bouts of doubts about the individual's necessity to - a) other people; b) the wider scheme of things. Early warning signs include a tendency of the individual to incessantly ask questions such as "Does anybody really care?".

VSS causes varying reactions, but within a known narrow range. It results in the restriction or avoidance of any form of social interaction and awareness - reading or watching news reports, offline or online interaction with friends and family, keeping to their room, and so on. A surly, disaffected expression is, however, common to all sufferers.

The duration of this disorder also varies depending on each individual. Most cases can be treated by showering extravagant affection and attention on the individual, and using the stockphrase "But we really love you". However, if left unattended, this disorder can get prolonged into the dreaded Permanent Reclusive Distancing, also known as Surlybuggeritis.


Calling all idiots - you are not alone!

I love this story! Just what did they think was going to happen when they called the number? And then they complained?!

I'm split between whether it just highlights how intense SF&F fans can get, or just how deluded people can be. Or both.


Sports trivia

This might very well be my first sports post, but it's really more of a quiz trivia post.

Consider this.

Borg played right-handed, so does Federer.
McEnroe played left-handed, so does Nadal.

Borg was the "Ice Man", Federer is the unruffled one.
McEnroe was pumped up and emotional, Nadal loves bicep-flexing cries of Vamos!

Borg and McEnroe wore headbands, not caps, so do Federer and Nadal.

Borg won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title beating McEnroe, in a five-setter that pushed him more than he had been pushed in a Wimbledon final before.
Federer won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title beating Nadal, in a five-setter that pushed him more than he had been pushed in a Wimbledon final before.

Borg was runner-up to McEnroe, while going for his sixth straight Wimbledon title.
Federer is likely to meet Nadal in the final*, while going for his sixth straight Wimbledon title.

There are differences, I admit.

Borg almost single-handedly popularised the two-handed backhand, while Federer is one of the few left with a single-handed backhand.
Borg was going for his 12th Slam title, Federer's going for his 13th.
And crucially, Borg came into Wimbledon having won the French for four straight years, while it's Nadal who holds that streak in the current game.

But it's interesting, is it not, to wonder if history will repeat itself?

Also, if you are, who're you rooting for - Rafa or The Fed?



Not that I wanted him to win at first, but hey, he sure as heck earned it.

...the next time I do trivia-analysis, I'm gonna bet on it.

* Much as I love the theatre that Safin provides, he's not as lovable or as tragic a figure as Ivanisevic was, so I'm hoping for the hoped-for matchup in the final. And good weather, of course!


She watched as the hanging corpses twisted in the gentle breeze. Savaged beyond the point of stubborn resistance, they slowly stiffened under the burning glare, which would leave them dessicated beyond all recognition.

She smiled.

Another batch of clothes, washed clean.


Cruz Smithy
Le Guinese


* Colin
**** Robin