Monday, September 26, 2011

American Beauty

Once you give a piece of your heart to someone, you never really get it back. It might break and cause you pain, but the love never goes away, does it? The good thing is that heart break removes all expectations, and time removes the hurt and the pain, leaving behind only fond memories and love - just love, free of desire or hope or want.

It really is hard to stay mad when there is so much beauty in this world.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A place of my own

Michael Pollan wanted a space to work - a place to be alone in the woods with his thoughts. And he wanted to build it himself - to move away from the abstraction of words and writing, to the reality of building something with one's own hands. "A place of my own" chronicles his quest.

While the subject of his book is building a room from scratch, it reminded me of my daily cooking. I think of cooking as something that I do to get away from thoughts, and into the physical world. The food I make exists in real life, in a way that my research does not. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.

And like Michael Pollan, I too found it difficult to get away from the world of words. The cooking hobby leads to reading cooking blogs, tips, stories. And to forming communities of people sharing grocery shopping, menu plans, and success recipes.

Pollan finishes the roof, walls, windows, but eventually concludes that a thing you build is never complete. Reality changes you just like you changed the dream into literal existence. The journey, destination, and meaning of existence get intertwined along the way, until you are defined by the thing you were trying to define.

A thought-provoking read. (Thanks Wolf for a neat gift.)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat

From Tina Fey's Bossypants :

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun. Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you. As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere. To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.

The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up!” and “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.”

MAKE STATEMENTS also applies to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with your actions and your voice. Instead of saying “Where are we?” make a statement like “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” Okay, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula” may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:

THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field. In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox. 

I love Tina Fey, and Bossypants was a great book. Her "prayer for my daughter" is already doing the internet rounds, but this passage really appealed to me, mostly because I think its a great philosophy. So the next time someone asks me to do something "crazy", I'm totally saying "yes, and ..."

* Improv will not reduce belly fat.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Loving a Men you

Last week, I interviewed for a scholarship. And in the middle of all the serious questions about my research and computer science, the interviewer wanted to know about my hobbies. I thought it was too neurotic to mention in an interview, but one of my favorite hobbies is to read restaurant menus. I think I could (and do) read menus every day for hours on end.

Reading a menu is like peeping into a giant world of possibilities. There could be a 100 different choices you could make, and in a 100 parallel universes, you could be trying out each one of them. A menu then is a summary of all the great choices you could be making in the next 5 minutes. And for a foodie like me, who can imagine each dish in her head, all piping hot and spicy, or silky smooth and chocolaty, a menu is very often more fun than the meal itself.

Take for example, IHOP. I love pancakes and have wanted to visit an IHOP for 2 years now, but have not yet tried it out. If and when I actually get there, I can eat only one thing. Maybe I will get the New York cheesecake pancakes. Or the strawberry banana danish crepes. Or the veggie overload. But I certainly can't eat all of the above.


I can look at their menu and imagine eating it all though. Or imagine cooking it all :P


Or maybe go to Per Se's menu, and wonder if the food will live up to the hype. Or will it be as gross as it sometimes sounds? Would winter be a better time to check out the tasting menu or summer?

Beyond a particular point, a menu stops being about the food, and becomes more about the adventure of it all. Like virgin territories, unexplored menus provide excitement, danger, and the thrill of new experiences. Its about imagination more than taste. About dreaming more than living.

Oh how I love menus !



Friday, March 04, 2011

Nicknames et al

I don't know if you noticed, but blogging has slowed down for the last one year or so. And no, it's not because "I've been so busy living life, I don't have time to blog". Life has not been super eventful - no books or kids have been produced, no new passion or religion has been discovered, and no life-threatening stunts have been tried.

Well ... one potentially life-threatening stunt was tried, almost two years ago. I got married. And one of the well known side effects of this marriage thing was that all the joy and fun in life now involves The Husband. So all the cute stories, the funny stories, the exciting stories - they all involve him.

And as is well known in the blogging community, it's awkward to keep using "The Husband" each time you want to blog. It seemed to me that writing a story without naming the hero was impossible, so all blogging was shelved while I hunted for a suitable name. And the hunt for a suitable nickname has been on for the last two years now. (Yes, the PhD has made me such a procrastination expert, I've been procrastinating this too.)

The standard ones like TH (The Husband), SO, do not reflect the bliss and ardor that I think the nickname should display. Hubby is a little too ... cute. HWMBO seems a little outlandish, even (if I may say so) a little bit untrue.

So today when I went to Frugal Girl(FG)'s website, I noticed she referred to Mr. FG, and I thought ... thats kind of a cute nickname. Thats what I will do too! The blogging can now restart finally!

And thats when I realized what my blogging nickname was.

Any other recommendations for nicknames anyone?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Years 2011

The new year started with a bang. Karaoke, sev puri, pani puri, ragda pattice, cake, pulao, dancing, falling, laughing, pictionary and taboo. And fireworks over Manhattan at midnight.

Sleep at 4am, wake up at 10.

Cake for breakfast. Cake for lunch :)