Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Boys Will Be Boys

This past weekend, seeing as how it was a long weekend, we went shopping. One of the usual stops for my brother and I is the local game store to check out some of the latest games, seeing what bargains we can find or what catches our eye. As with most game stores, this one at Montgomery Mall had several booths set up with games for customers to test. As we entered the store we noticed that there was one young boy, probably no more than ten or eleven playing a game while his younger brother watched. As my brother and I browsed the store, we could hear the growing frustration of the ten year old.

Finally at one point, the ten year old threw down the controller in disgust and began chewing out his brother about distracting him and causing him to die. His younger brother took this as a cue to begin his turn at the game. His brother said he'd stand by and do the same thing as his brother did to him. The younger one began playing and the ten year old began to tap his younger brother on the shoulder incessantly. Needless to say, the distraction proved too much for the younger one and he quickly lost his turn. Thus the argument increased in severity with both brothers accusing the other of causing the problem. The argueent quickly escalated to the point that despite the dull roar of hundreds of voices from the mall filtering in, all we could hear was the childish arguing of these two kids.

Nary a parent in sight, the store manager took it upon himself to switch off the machine to end the argument. That only served to further increase the cause for argument with both brothers accusing the other of being the cause for the machine to be shut off. They exited the store to the happiness of most of us in there but I quickly realized that no matter how old the kid, certain traits just never seem to leave some people. Why do I say this? Because just as I saw this argument by two kids whose combined age wasn't even eighteen, I have seen grown men, whose combined age is over 65 argue in the same manner at a picnic.

We were playing a game of softball when one accused the other of playing unfairly. The argument began and soon the tranquility of the day was interupted by two grown men arguing over whether a ball was hit foul or fair. You would think that at their age they'd be able to work through the differences very easily. I mean it was just a friendly game we were playing during a picnic in the park. But the way the argument was going, you'd think it was the last game of the World Series being played out in Shenendoah Park.

Oh well... I guess no matter what, boys will be boys.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

For the First Time Ever! (Again!)

So by now, most "Star Wars" fans out there will have heard that this September, George Lucas will be releasing the original "Star Wars Trilogy" on DVD in it's unaltered form. This, according to most reports, after succumbing to the tremendous pressure put upon him to do so. Now the only pressure I can see is that it's been a year since Episode III was released, the coffers are running a bit light so it was time for a refill. Now I'm a self-professed Star Wars geek. I collected the various paraphenilia as a kid and have boxes of stuff tucked away in my closets and in my parents basement. Later in college, I guess I outgrew that phase and came to enjoy the movies in a different manner. I guess you could call it nostalgia for my childhood. After all, these were movies I grew up with. For years, I only had my VHS copies which had been watched over and over and over again. When the announcement came out that the movies would be released on DVD, I was ecstatic.

Like many fans, I was disappointed that they were releasing the original movies in their special edition format. It was a bit sad, but at least we would now have the movies on DVD. The movies were released in box set and you had to purchase all three. Now for a fan like me that was okay, but what about the folks who aren't such big fans? They were stuck shelling out $50 or $60 for the set. Ah well, they'd at least have the definitive edition right? Cut to a year later. Lucasfilm releases a second set with just the three movies for less than $30! Now how do all those folks who shelled out twice as much money feel? Pretty rotten? Cheated? You betcha. Now no one probably went out to purchase the new set right? Not exactly. Those who didn't shell out money the first time went out and got it. And so did the completists; they're the ones who can't let a single item with the Star Wars logo on it get past them. This includes everything from boxer shorts to coffee filters.

Now word is again filtering out that the original movies will be released in their original formats this September. Those who love the movies, who grew up watching it, who can quote from the film at the drop of a hat are once again faced with the issue of paying another $30 for the movies. Can you put a price on your childhood? Is it worth spending the money to get the movie we grew up with? Some would argue that it isn't worth the money, others would argue to the contrary. Whatever the side, the fact is that someone must have done the analysis and discovered that no matter what, it's a winning proposition.

And it's not just "Star Wars", but almost every movie that is released on DVD is generally either released in several formats at the same time, or a new edition is released some months later. Why does Hollywood do this? Why make us double dip for movies they know we are going to buy? I don't need ten different versions of the same movie! Maybe eight versions but certainly not ten! Again, the reason for it must definitely be some sort of economic analysis. As an economics graduate, I have to believe that someone did a supply and demand curve analysis and found that they can make a profit on the new release DVD.

Look at the movies out there and you'll see it all the time. "Lord of the Rings", "Gladiator", "Apocalypse Now", "Blade Runner" and on and on and on. Pretty soon it will be that no one remembers what version of the movie they saw in the theatres because they will constantly be bombarded with the director's cut, the anniversary cut, the producer's cut, the actor's cut, the gaffer's cut. What about my cut?... of the profits that is.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering Our Heroes on Memorial Day

The movie "Superman Returns" will be opening about a month from now. Growing up I was fascinated by the characters of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. I thought they were true heroes in that they put their lives on the line for people they didn't know. They served the public for the greater good and darn it! they had some cool costumes. As I grew up, my fascination with them reduced somewhat but I still enjoy the movies and watching the occasional cartoon with my three young cousins. I often found myself wishing I could be a hero like that. With the powers to make a difference in the world. As I grew I also realized that these kind of heroes don't exist and may never exist. It was sad to realize that. But heroes do exist.

On this memorial day I wanted to take a moment to remember the real heroes. In this picture, beautifully illustrated by Alex Ross, we see Superman and Krypto the Super Dog taking a moment to see the real heroes too. They are doctors, firemen and policemen among others. Not shown are the soldiers and warfighters of this country who continue to put their lives on the line for our country and it's ideals.

These people are the real heroes. They put their lives on the line for the greater good. They serve their fellow man and citizens by giving their time and their talent to those who can benefit from it. The rewards they earn may not be much monetarily, but it is more than made up for by the appreciation they must earn from literally thousands of people who they help every day.

A true hero doesn't have to change the course of mighty rivers on his own, or change the rotation of the Earth. It's all the little things that make the world of difference to the lives they touch. Helping a sick relative get better. Saving a loved one from a fire. Protecting our streets from crime. Protecting our nation and our friends from threats. It doesn't matter what country they are allied with, these everday heroes can be found everywhere. The don't always wear uniforms but they all have one accessory in common and that's a good heart. They do it for the greater good and not because they expect monetary compensation. They do it for the greater good and not for the glory. They do it for the greater good because it's the right thing to do. We may never know all their names and we may never have a chance to thank them all. But on this day, let us remember all of the heroes out there. They may not have capes or their own comic books, but they are and always will be heroes nonetheless.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Monaco... Pinnacle of Racing

Formula One is considered to be the pinnacle of auto racing. There is a certain mystique that surrounds it. The cars, the teams, the names and the locales. When one mentions Formula One, you can't help but think of Ferrari, Mercedes, and of late, Renault. Names like Schumacher and Alonso fill your minds, and for those who have loved the sport for a lot longer, the names Fangio, Senna and Mansell create images of the consumate driver. This weekend the world will be watching the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco. If Formula One is considered to be the pinnacle of auto racing, then Monaco is the name most often associated with the sport. The race through the tiny streets of Monte Carlo has been virtually unchanged in the past 50 years. The circuit is a bit safer than it was back in the 1960's but on the whole, the circuit is not all that different than it was way back when.

That being said, it is a testament to the skill and poise of the drivers to drive their machines through the twists and turns of Monaco for dozens upon dozens of laps. Anyone who says Formula One, or racing in general is not a sport should consider this. Imagine sitting in a recliner less than a foot off the ground dressed in a fire resistant suit driving around streets barely two car lengths wide at over 150 MPH for the course of about two hours. The G-forces that these drivers experience are something akin to riding a roller coaster in a perpetual high speed turn. Consider that the turns in a roller coaster are banked to take some of the force off of our necks and transfer it to our butts. No such banking in Formula One.

No power steering either. Such niceties add weight to a car and when you're racing you don't want to add any more weight than you need. You wouldn't run a marathon with bags of groceries in your hands would you? So why add weight in a racecar. The amount of upper body strength needed to handle the wheel is extraordinary. The muscles in the neck are stressed to their limit. Shake hands with any race driver and two things should stand out. Their grip will be very firm and their neck will be quite large. How can it not be?

People argue that there's no athletic prowess needed in Formula One or in racing at all for that matter; they argue that the car is what makes the difference. Not true. Look at McLaren and their ace driver Kimi Raikkonnen. He's got the talent and the skill to drive the car to the limit and beyond. Put him in a bad race car and he'll drive it as hard as he can and make a differrence. Last year's race at Imola was proof of that. Driving a car for that long is hard enough; driving it with major problems is harder still. When you race at over 100 MPH with nothing protecting you but a few inches of metal skin, you have to be bold and skilled. To see this exemplified, tune in to the race this weekend on CBS.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Low Ego? Yeah Right!

Have you seen the new commercial by Volkswagen for their new Passat? I'm sure you have. It's the one where a couple are driving around town in their Passat as people in high end cars such as thinly veiled Bentleys, Vipers, and Mercedes SLK's. As the happy couple drives by, the drivers of these cars are shown to be leaning out of their vehicles with megaphones explaining why they have the car they do. They shout boisterously about how, "My daddy didn't hug me as a child," or "This makes up for my shortcomings" or any other such ridiculous statement. And once again we see that those of us in higher end autos are being slighted.

Volkswagen and it's customers are more than welcome to make such statements. There's nothing wrong with them wanting to express their opinion. But for them to state that Their cars have 'low ego emissions' is in itself a sign of some egotism. Study psychology even briefly and you will learn that ego is one of the main concepts almost 'built' into a human's psychological make up. Think of it as being Microsoft Windows and how it is loaded into virtually every computer that you purchase (except Apples because.... well.. their 'special'). For the Volkswagen people to imply that high-end owners are insecure, rich snobs; well... once again they are generalizing. Sure there are drivers out there who drive 'bling-bling' cars for the sake of showing off. These are the people you see out there primping and preening as they drive down the road. Bass rocking the windows of their car and those unfortunate enough to drive next to them.

For the minority of egotistical drivers out there to end up giving the rest of us a bad name is just ridiculous. I mean how is it possible that we are all that way? I own a Boxster. I own it because I enjoy driving it and it is my escape from the every day commute that I do. I loved my Civic, but I love my Boxster even more because it is a fun car to drive. Do I show off? I don't think so. I don't think you can deflate anyone's perceived ego any more than by carrying a shopping cart full of groceries to the car and loading it in the trunk. You won't necessarily see me dropping the top in order to move a bookshelf from one location to the other, but you also won't see me out there waxing the car with a diaper every hour either.

Turn the mirror on yourselves Volkswagen. Go Google for Street Racing or visit any forum on car modding and you will find tons of posts by Jetta drivers who can 'burn the streets' or 'outrace anything out there'. They will post pictures of their cars with ground effects or with meaningless spoilers added on. (On a quick side rant --- people, we don't ever drive fast enough around here to warrant a spoiler... you don't need it!) They boast about how their cars are faster than anything the Japanese manufacturers can develop. They will brag about how they beat a Porsche or Corvette or Mustang off the line. If that's not a clear textbook definition of ego then I don't know what is. Guess I better get back to my old psychology books and study up. Or perhaps I better send a copy of the book to Volkswagen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Clothes Make the Man

One of my daily morning dilemmas during the work week is what to wear to the office. I am fortunate in that our office is not one that requires us to don a shirt and tie every day; but neither is it the type of office that allows jeans, flip-flops or shorts either. So, most days I am to be found dressed in slacks, khakis and a shirt. Now the dilemma that comes in is that you have to change it up and mix things up so that you don't feel stale. What I mean is that you can only wear that combination of navy blue Dockers with sky blue polo shirt only so many times before you yourself get sick of it. Don't get me wrong. It's not like I have a total of five shirts and pants and I alternate those throughout the day but figuring out clothes that match when you're half asleep and getting ready to rush out to the door to the office is a major problem. Especially for us guys.

Our typical stigma as guys is that we generally grab whatever clean shirt we see in front of us and throw on any pair of pants before walking out the door. Now I can do that too, but I know enough to say that complimentary colors work better than non-complimentary colors. I mean after all, who wants to look like a painters pallette? So okay, we examine the clothes hanging in the closet (or laying around the floor... whatever your particular case may be). Khaki colored pants? Okay, in that case most any solid colored shirt should go okay. Next question. Did I wear this shirt already this week? Did I wear this color this week? What day of the week is it?

Okay, so now that's done. That's a major hurdle out of the way. So now do we dress in our chosen attire and rush out the door? Do a last minute check. Are the clothes pressed and ironed? No? Does it matter? Well... it should. I believe that clothes make the man (or the woman... we're typically politically correct around here... though I should have said 'clothes make the person'). If you show up with your pants and shirt all wrinkley, your hair mussed, your shoes untied, you then portray an image that may not be anything like you in reality. But if you take a bit of time to press your shirt and pants, tie those laces (or cheat and get slip ons) and use a comb every so often, the difference will be astounding.

Studies have shown that most managers will get an impression of someone based on their manner of dress and their looks. If you show up for a job interview in corporate America wearing jeans and a t-shirt, chances are you won't get the job unless you are a certified genius or going for head of the IT department. It may not be the best way to take an impression of someone, but our natural human tendency is toward visual appeal. If you show up with mustard stains on your shirt you will give a different impression than you would if you show up with a clean shirt. Who knows? You may luck out and have an office full of people who enjoy mustard! Hmm, that's something to ponder the next time you start thinking, "Out damn spot out!"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Coffee Peeves

Let me start off by saying that coffee is not a requirement for me. I can go any morning without a cup of coffee and I will not be dragging around after two hours, nor will I be dozing off at my desk. That being said however, nothing starts your day like a hot cup of coffee. How can I not be affected by coffee yet consider it a good way to start the day? Well simple! I drink coffee in the mornings because it's a good way to warm up. Although we are approaching summer quite rapidly, some of those cool mornings, it's nice to have a hot cup of coffee to warm things up. It's more of a psychological thing these days. Still, despite not being one of those hardcore drinkers who would like to have coffee pumped into them intraveneously.

Working in an office, coffee becomes a religion. Many worship at the alter of the coffee pot but there are some who choose to defile their savior and treat it with disrespect. What do I mean by that? Well, let's take a look at typical scenarios that one always runs into in almost every office. There's the duty of making the first pot of the day. That usually falls to either myself one of the other gentlemen in my office. Being first or second into the office means that by default I am usually tasked with making the first pot. I never mind making it because it gives me total control over how strong or weak to make it. We usually go through this first pot by about mid-morning. Again, typically, the last person to finish off the pot will make the next one. However, almost every office has a handfull of jokers who will pour the last cup and then walk out with nary a feeling of guilt.

I can't tell you the number of times I or a member of my team have walked in to get a cup before a meeting only to get piddly drips from the pot. Ugh! You talk about frustrating. What about the guys (and ladies... I'm not saying you don't do it too!) who remove the pots in mid fill to fill up their coffee cups? Some would argue that it doesn't matter, the coffee will eventually be poured out of the pot anyways, this just skips that interim step. Still, it's the principle that matters! The rest of us wait patiently with mugs in hand, and Joe Rush-about comes in and takes some before the rest! Beware! The next time I'll slip in the decaf and then brew a pot of regular for the rest of the civilized drinkers.

How about the messy characters? Who are they? Well they're the ones who will make coffee (or in some cases tea) and leave their mess all over the counter for the rest of us to wallow in. They start pouring the sugar as soon as they pick it up and leave a mini trail so that those of us coming in later can follow it like our own trail of bread crumbs a la Hansel and Gretel. They steep their tea bags and then leave their tea bags on the counter. What's up with that? I can't imagine the way their kitchens must look at home. How much effort does it take to move a foot and throw your tea bag away? How much effort does it take to wipe up your mess? Apparently too much.

We also have creamer in the fridge. We usually have something like CoffeeMate or something to add to our coffee. Typically the bottle says to shake before pouring. Now there are those who pour the creamer but don't close the top all the way. Then when those of us coming in later go to give the creamer a good shake, we have our own little cream rain shower. How refreshing.

Lastly, one of the greatest sins that has occasionally been committed at the 'temple of the bean' is the brewing of decaf in a pot of regular. I cannot tell you of the outbursts that have resulted from someone doing such a thing. Needless to say such mistakes are few and far between but if you ever witness the wrath of a coffee drinker given a cup of decaf, you will know what anger and vehemence are. So gentle readers, keep those coffee mugs warm and have a nice cup of java.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Two Steps Forward Means Three Steps Back

I have been using the same laptop for the past four years now. I'm sure there are some people out there who spilled their coffee just now after reading that line but the laptop serves its purpose and works fine but there are occasions where the laptop seems to be slowing down a little bit. Much like a dog, computer technology ages a lot faster than we humans do. I began considering looking into getting a new PC or laptop and started doing some research. Now I am not an expert like my father or some of the other computer junkies that I know out in the real world, but I am good at research, so I began looking into it. I knew what I wanted and what I needed and I checked out what little extras I would want. Dell offered up some good options and I was seriously considering it.

A little further research revealed that the next generation of processor is getting ready to come out and, like Kirk on "Star Trek", you can always do with more power. I began to weigh options and continued to do my research. In picking up magazines that were literally weeks old, I came to realize that the technology that was currently being offered up was called 'cutting edge' only a few weeks before. And now, it was considered archaic, slow and outdated. What to do? I could wait for the new processors to come out but who's to say that Intel, or AMD wouldn't come out with their new hyper-fast processor a week after I place my order? Murphy's most common law is that "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." A corrollary to that law is the law of computers. "Buy any computer and it will be outdated by the time you complete the transaction."

Even cars don't depreciate as fast as computer technology. Anyone who argues that it isn't worth buying a car because of the cost depreciation obviously has never owned computer hardware. For those that want basic functionality like e-mail, internet and word processing, even the slowest computer will suffice but I want cutting edge. No, I want bleeding edge. I want the capability to rip music, to download files faster than I can click, to edit movies, to play the fastest games, to burn DVDs. I want all these things and I want it to be modern for at least a week before it goes the way of the dinosaur. I recently watched the original "Mission: Impossible" movie, before Tom Cruise did his sofa jumping and all. In the film there's a line where the computer expert talks about using computers with dual pentium processors. That was cutting edge then. It's barely worth mentioning these days. So you see? Even the top Mission: Impossible guys are struggling to keep up with the most advanced technology.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Road Less Travelled

Robert Frost, in his famous poem 'The Road Not Taken' writes about how when confronted with two paths and how after taking the route less traveled, he is happier for having gone a different way. There are so many interpretations of the meaning of this poem that it will undoubtedly continue to be interpreted in the generations to come. However, the theory I like is that Robert Frost was making a commentary on men in general. What makes me say that? Well... let me explain.

Traffic in Northern Virginia is a nightmare. The region has virtually exploded and where Dulles Airport was once considered the end of civilization, it is now the center of it for the area. As such, the roads are still designed to sustain much less by way of traffic and vehicles. Gridlock is the order of the day... any day... and it is next to impossible to drive around the area without running into some traffic or the other. Some people prefer to sit in traffic and get there when they get there. Me? I'm a mobile person. I like to move. I love to drive and I love the feeling of rolling down the road. One day I ended up stuck in traffic We hadn't moved in ten minutes and I still had twenty miles to go. Suddenly I saw a side street with a familiar sounding name, I decided to take the side road and see where my new road would take me. After all, you can only stare at a green Neon with the license plate, "I STNK" for so long!

Being a guy, I didn't bother to worry about knowing where this road went or whether it was faster. I had this inherent desire to drive down that road to see where it would take me and what new things I could discover. In the tamed wilds of suburbia it's not necessarily as big an adventure but you never know what you'll get down that road. It was my own 'box of chocolates' a la Forrest Gump. So I ducked down the side road, passing houses, and schools. Strip malls that I never knew existed came and went. The winding roads were built for me as I hugged the curves in my Boxster. The twists and turns in the road seemed to indicate that I was moving in a roughly parallel course to my previous, traffic jammed route. I was ecstatic. My discovery of this road was to be lifesaver. Up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light. A traffic light. Looks like I was back to a main thoroughfare. I decided to see where I was.

Perfect! It was the road which I had been on previously. Let's see how much farther down the road I had travelled by taking the road less travelled. Suddenly I see it, the green Neon. I've only gone a mile or two farther. My road less travelled actually loops out of the way and ends up only a mile farther down the main road. No wonder it was less travelled. Had I bothered to refer to a map or ask the locals for direction I could have saved myself a trip. But taking that path, I was afforded a bit of freedom for a brief time. I may have still been stuck in traffic, but at least now I'll know what lies down the road less travelled.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch?

I have worked in the corporate environment since the age of 14. I conveniently bypassed working in places such as McDonald's or the Gap or other such 'traditional' places because I wanted to work towards something that would eventually help my career. That and the fact that the paychecks were so much better. As such, some of the niceties associated with 'office life' have entered my consciousness and have become more of expectations rather than extra special treats. Case in point? Catered lunches.

Anyone who has spent time in corporate offices will tell you that on occasion there will be a meeting or seminar where higher ups will be brought in to attend. Since they are the guests, they are provided lunch at the company's expense. Normally, most good office managers will estimate more food than will be required. And that's a good thing. It would be bad form not to have food for everyone in attendance. But what about the rest of us 'peons'? Obviously we're not invited but does that mean we don't get to partake? Nonsense! Of course we do. There are certain rules to deal with is all.

For example, in our office yesterday there was a pretty big meeting that called for a catered lunch. There were various sandwichs and chips and sodas. But my eye was on the dessert tray. Here they had one of my weaknesses. Chocolate brownies topped with M&M minis. I have a mild addiction to chocolate and those brownies drive me mad. I happened to be in the lobby when the food arrived and like a sixth sense... I didn't see dead people but I saw chocolate brownies with M&M minis. All afternoon I kept hovering close to the area where the food was kept. Now before you all get judgemental on me... at least I have the courtesy to wait for the guests to have their share. Some folks just show up and nab what they want regardless. That's bad form right there.

So I waited and hovered; trying hard to spot a window of opportunity in which to go and nab my brownie. I constantly had my coffee mug in hand whenever walking to the printer in case the brownie was free so then I could get it and a steaming cup of coffee. I waited for about half an hour after lunch was eaten to go in and make my move. I swooped in and nabbed that brownie and was out before anyone was the wiser. I was savouring my first bite when I run straight into my boss. She looks at me as I drop crumbs of brownie from the side of my mouth. I gulp the first bite and then blurt out. "Evil brownies." She looks at me for a second and then says, "Well I hope you didn't finish them all, I was on the way and was waiting for someone to make the first move." So we both quickly went back and snapped up another piece.

Limiting ourselves to brownies was a respectable move. We didn't overdo it and we left plenty for the rest of the guests. There are occasions when some guys go in and nab one of everything before retiring to their desk. They figure it is the company's responsibilty to feed them. Me on the other hand; I don't think it's their responsibility but it's a lovely little bonus. Now if you'll excuse me... I seek to raid the kitchen for leftovers!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fact or Fiction.... or Fact?

With all the hubbub surrounding the release of the movie "The Da Vinci Code" I just had to respond. It seems that many in the Catholic church are up in arms over the film which is based on the runaway bestseller that has topped the charts for months. For those of you who have not read the book, seen an advance preview of the movie or have been living in a cave for quite sometime, the book, in a nutshell is about the search for the truth behind a theory regarding the very foundations of Christian religion. I don't want to give too much away since not everyone will want to have the story ruined before they experience it. But having read the book, and with the intention of seeing the movie, I just had to put in my two cents.

Many in the Church and affiliated organizations are calling for a disclaimer to be added to the beginning of the film that will state that the movie is based on a work of fiction and should not be interpreted as being true. The author of the book, Dan Brown, has stated repeatedly that the book itself if fiction based on historical documentation. That's a non-denial denial if I ever heard one. That's like saying, "I didn't steal the car, I took it without permission or even knowing who the owner was." Many believe that the masses will see this movie and automatically assume this to be the truth, after all, the movies are the end all be all truth behind everything. If that were the case then we should use the Hubble Space Telescope to check out a galaxy far far away and see how Luke Skywalker and company are doing. We should be able to go to some morgue or laboratory in New York and see King Kong's skeleton.

The bottom line is that it is a movie, it is a work of fiction and it doesn't need to be blatantly spelled out for people. From my understanding, organizations in the book, such as the Opus Dei, are not depicted very accurately but then again when have the movies been totally accurate? If we're going for a fair shake for every color, creed and culture then I would ask Steven Speilberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford to record a new introduction to "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in which they explain that the 'Hindus' depicted in that film are not Hindus at all but members of a small and obscure sect, the Thugees, that died out hundreds of years ago. I can't tell you the number of times I still get asked if I eat snake or monkey brains. The only thing I do use to my advantage is the 'fact' that Mola Ram had the power to take someone's heart out of their chest. Don't mess with me man, your Tiger Style Kung Fu is no match for my Cricket Style Mola Ram!

We are now in such a sensitive society that we can't do or say anything in public without the fear coming from some sector. Say anything and you're bound to offend someone. Who knows, maybe my line about the Thugees will offend someone who is trying to revive the cult. Even if that's the case, I will still stand by what I said. That didn't represent my whole culture yet many people believe it does and many of us have been dealing with that depiction for years now. Who knows... maybe in time it will finally die down. In the meantime what can we do? The movie is coming out on Friday whether we like it or not. I don't think that at this point the studio will cave to the wishes of the protesters out there. They can do little at this point to stave off the onslaught that will undoubtedly occur once the movie opens. What they can do is open up dialogue regarding the characters and situations and storyline. Some priests have said that this movie can serve the purpose of starting dialogue regarding the true tenets of their religion. A very valid case. I used "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" as a means of trying to educate others with misconceptions. In all cases, the only way this education will work is if the 'mis-informed' party is interested in seeking the truth.

Will "The DaVinci Code" offend some people? Most assuredly. Will the movie be a success? Most assuredly.... well... with all this hype aren't you going to go see it? Will it raise questions and spring desire to seek the truth? Most assuredly. Will people actually go out and seek the truth? Not likely... at least not until Dan Brown or another author writes about "The True Da Vinci Code". Will the Thugees come after me? Most assuredly... that's why I'm brushing up on my 'heart extraction' skills!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Chopsticks Calling It Quits?

I pride myself on being able to use chopsticks when eating Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese food. I started eating with them several years ago and over time my technique has been perfected. I don't think I eat anywhere near as fast as some folks do, but then again I don't eat with them every day. Many people ask why I don't just use a fork; well, the simple reason is because I believe that 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do.'

Most places around the area that I have been to usually provide you with your dishes for the various sauces, and of course, a knife, fork and spoon. Now if this place is going for a more authentic crowd, they will first only serve you chopsticks. If it's classy they'll give you expensive reusable chopsticks. If it's somewhat classy, they'll give you reusable plastic chopsticks. If it's middle of the road, they will give you disposable pre-separated wood chopsticks. If it's one of those normal everyday places, they will give you the 'stuck-together' wood chopsticks that must be torn apart prior to use. But now, that practice may soon come to an end.

An article I read the other day stated that China, the largest exporter of wooden chopsticks -- no surprise there! -- is going to start raising the prices of their chopstick exports. The reason for this is that the Chinese government has imposed higher taxes on chopstick manufacturers due to the fact that the sheer growth in chopstick usage worldwide has led to a growing deforestation of China. Now if that isn't an example of cause and effect I don't know what is. Just as oil costs have increased due to rising consumption in China and India, chopstick costs have increased due to increased chopstick usage in the United States. The reason? Sushi!

Sushi is big in the United States as well as in Japan. I order it this way because we Americans are a little late to this particular party and so to make up for lost time, you will now find a sushii restaurant on almost every other corner. It's getting so that you can go from Sushi to Starbucks without every having to step on the road anymore. Throw in an occasional McDonald's and you've got a slice of Americana! So now, due to rising chopstick costs, many restauranteurs are choosing to either raise prices (to account for higher chopstick costs) or switching to reusable plastic chopsticks.

That's not the most cost effective means for many companies but it may be the only way to keep food costs down and affordable for the general public. So what to do? Well, the places that continue to use the wood chopsticks will undoubtedly begin screening customers prior to providing them chopsticks. Determining whether or not they are 'chopstick-worthy' so to speak. It will be a major cultural and lifestyle shift for many people. Who knows how it will affect the sushi business here in the States. All I can say is... there's something inherently wrong with wanting to eat sushi with a fork.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Day Madness

So another Mother's Day has come and gone. Seeing as how my brother is out in California I do double duty to make up for his absence. He's still really good about it and calls Mom and sends her gifts and cards which is always good. Although she misses him, I'm sure she takes comfort in the fact that he misses her too. My dad and I always make sure that no matter what, we make the day special for her. Yesterday's Mother's Day foray was no exception and we had a pretty nice day together. One of the gifts I got from my parents that I'm always thankful for is my desire for punctuality. I know it can be a pain if others have to wait for me so I always try my best to be someplace that the time I'm supposed to be.

This desire is not limited to personal appointments, but gift buying as well. As such, in anticipation of mother's day I had bought mom's gift well ahead of time in order to avoid the inevitable madness that would have been in place in stores on the day before Mother's Day. Still, since I felt like getting out of the house on Saturday I went to the mall just to walk around and mostly do some people watching. On day's before major gift giving days like this, it's just too funny to see the madness that seems to enter people.

We entered the mall through a store and immediately upon entry there was a different vibe in the air. The ladies shoe department was abuzz with literally hundreds of women who were strutting around on heels that were too large or trying to squeeze into shoes that were way too small. In the perfume and make-up department there was a mad rush of people falling over one another trying to get the salesperson's attention. It was like the madness you see during winters in Washington as people struggle to buy that last gallon of milk before an inch of snow falls. The ladies clothing departments were no exceptions. Clothes were flying off the racks, not to be purchased but to get out of the way!

And all along the aisles, seated at the feet of dressed up dummies, holding bags and bags of purchases, gently rocking strollers back and forth with cranky children crying or complaining were dozens of intrepid husbands. They braved the madness to spend time with their wives in order to make the day special. They probably wouldn't be setting foot in the mall again until Christmas Eve when many of us do our shopping but they were there nonetheless supporting their wives and helping their kids make sure that no matter what, Mother's Day ended up being a special day. To those intrepid husbands and father's I raise my coffee mug in salute and just remind you... your day is coming up next month. Best Buy, Circuit City and Lowes-type stores will never be the same!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Alternative Exercises

Friday night I was invited to an old family friend's house for dinner. It was a nice evening that I spent catching up with folks I have known for over 20 years. In Indian culture, virtually everyone you meet is either an uncle or an aunt regardless of whether they are your blood relations or not. In my case, I have a handful of blood relations in this country, but I literally have dozens of uncles and aunts who have watched me grow up. Pranav uncle, Niyati auntie, Manoj uncle, Amita auntie, Raju uncle and Mohna auntie are all family friends who have known me for years and they tend to dote on me like true family.

As such, they knew me during my chubbier days and over the course of conversation we arrived at the topic of exercise. We all universally agreed that exercise was probably one of modern man's least favorite 'induced' activities. I mean come on! Running in place on a treadmill for upwards of an hour? Peddling a bike that doesn't go anywhere? Lifting weights with no outcome other than to give us sore muscles? What's the point and why torture ourselves so?

Scientists and doctors love to come up with explanations but there is still the matter of this being activity with no real reason behind it. I mean if you enjoy getting sore and lifting until you can't lift anymore, more power to you. But for those of us working adults out there, like myself or my 'aunts' and 'uncles', we need to accomplish something at the same time. So our conversation came to alternative exercise methods. According to some studies put forth by Manoj uncle, a person can burn 1200 calories during the course of the day without really doing anything. Right there is a major arguement for lazing about. Unfortunately, just like with regular exercise, it doesn't do much for accomplishing the day's goals. Scratch that one and move on.

Pranav uncle suggested mowing the lawn. Now there's an excellent one. You're pushing a couple of pounds of metal around the yard for a couple of hours. You will definitely break a sweat and for us guys, the smell of gasoline makes it seem like an even manlier task. I guess this is how some NASCAR drivers feel on Sunday! Okay, good one! Now what about inside the house? Well, have you ever emptied a dishwasher? Many people wash their dishes and then leave them in the dishwasher since they will end up in there anyways. True, but you are again denying yourselves opportunities for exercise. Bend down, get the plate, stand up, put it in the cupboard. Perfect aerobic exercise!

So you see? As my 'family' pointed out to me, one needn't spend hundreds of dollars a month or year going to the gym. A domesticated bachelor can get the same workout for a lot less money, and knock out some chores at the same time! ;-)


Friday, May 12, 2006

You Owe Me More Stuff

I know that we Americans are a litigious society and that is one of our rights as Americans. When we don't feel we are being treated fairly we can go to the courts and have our day to say what we want to say. Now that's not to say that every case out there is worthwhile or even worth spending our tax dollars on. Fools who drink Starbucks coffee extra hot while attempting to change gears while applying make-up in heavy traffic deserve to be burned when they spill their coffee. The same goes for people who blame the pickle... the pickle!!!... inside a McDonald's hamburger for sliding out of the burger and burning them while driving!

Is this entry to be about burning food items and beverages? No... but close. This has to do with a line from our Declaration of Independence; the line which states that 'all men are created equal'. You see, way back when, the Founding Fathers made sure that the country they were establishing left us guys on top and in control. And any attempts to do otherwise would be met with swift retribution and consequence. The latest attempt of someone trying to deny us this right comes from Anaheim, California; home of the California Angels baseball team. Many teams during many games during the season have free giveaways. The gifts range from free baseballs, to hats, jackets or other memorabilia. In recognition of Mother's Day last year, the team's giveaway was a free Angels totebag to ladies over the age of 18.

Problem? You betcha! You see, a baseball fan, Michael Cohn, felt that this was sexist and wrong so he sued the team for $4,000 per violation of the equality law. Nevermind that this was a ladies totebag; nevermind that the team gave him four totes; and nevermind that this is one of the most ridiculous suits to come to court in recent memory. It's the principle that matters darn it! We live in a country where if a man wants to walk around with a ladies tote bag then he will be able to walk around with a ladies tote bag.

Call me old fashioned but I still harbor beliefs of chivalry, of holding doors open for ladies, of women and children first in emergencies. Sure there are some men, and women for that matter, that would kick my butt for even suggesting such a thing but then again that's my principle. And just in case any of you are thinking of kicking my butt, remember, I do Gumdo... that means I have a sharp sword in hand! ;-)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Coming Soon... From a TV Near You

So word coming out of Hollywood right now is that the popular 1980's television show, "Knight Rider" will be making it's way to the silver screen in the near future. Being a child of the 80's, this was one of the staple shows that I watched growing up. Sure it was campy and cheesy and often time repetetive, but it was pure escapist drama made for an hour long adventure every week. That's pretty much what all television was and was meant to be. These days all we get on television is reality. It used to be that we would turn on the TV to get away from reality. Now we turn it on to see more of it. So where do we go to watch television then? Why to the movie theatre of course.

The proposed "Knight Rider" movie is yet another in a long list of movies being brought back to the big screen for 'possible growth into a franchise'. There's nothing wrong with bringing a television show to the big screen provided the material and the source is treated with respect. One of the biggest problems I had with the original "Mission Impossible" was that Jim Phelps (originally portrayed by Peter Graves) was the team leader, not the criminal mastermind as shown in the film. Those who had watched the original show on television were dismayed that this could happen and I didn't blame Peter Graves for not wanting to reprise the role. For the sake of shaking things up we can't ruin things like that.

Movies like "The Brady Bunch", "Starsky and Hutch" and others of similar ilk tend to poke fun of the era in which they were based. That's fine and that's definitely one way to go about it. But for the people who grew up watching the show or remember it fondly, it's almost like a slap in the face. Now some would say that it's just a television show and that it shouldn't be taken so seriously. Well... if you want to see outcry about something like this, what if they decide to remake "Star Trek" and have Ben Affleck playing Kirk, Mike Meyers playing Spock, Beyonce playing Uhura and such. The Trek fans out there would go ballistic!

So now with "Knight Rider" coming to the screen, I can only imagine what the story line will be. The original creator of the show, Glen Larson, is supposedly writing in so there is at least a glimmer of hope that the show will remain relatively true to its roots. I just find it ironic that to see television we're off to the movie theatres. Is it any wonder then that DVD rentals and purchases are what earn Hollywood money these days? Why shell out $8 a person to see a TV show in the theatre when you will be able to rent it in a few months for about half that and watch it with a room full of friends? As a financial analyst and economics graduate, that makes fine fiscal sense to me!


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's Scary How Hard You Can Laugh

After getting home last evening I was watching a guilty pleasure movie. A movie so bad that it's good. A movie that is just screaming for comments and insults and mayhem. A movie that instills confidence in the folks over in Hollywood and faith that whatever else, they are interested in putting out quality films that will stand the test of time. What movie would that be? Why it would be "Jaws: The Revenge". I remember the day way back when, my dad came home one evening and said that they were going to be releasing "Jaws '87". At the time I didn't know what he meant. Later on I came to realize it wasn't the 87th film of the series but rather the year the film was coming out.

At this point I hadn't seen any of the films other than the first. I hadn't seen Jaws Meets "Jaws 2" which was basically a teen slasher film set on sail boats in the middle of the ocean with Roy Schieder acting like Abraham Van Helsing. And I vaguely remembered "Jaws 3" which was set in Sea World down in Florida. Another rather forgetable film. When "Jaws: The Revenge" was just coming to video, I decided to catch up with the series and get set to go on. I should have left things where they lay.

So part 4 opens with a narration, (if you're watching the television version) which explains how some forces of nature are just beyond explination. It's almost like a subliminal comment on how bad some sequels can get. We go straight into establishing that Roy Scheider will not be seen, since he's died of a heart attack. His youngest son is now a deputy on the island and while out on duty, is eaten by a shark. Those darn Brodys, they can never catch a break. So now we're down to two original Brodys. Michael and his mother. In "Jaws 3" he was a maintenance tech at Sea World. Here he is suddenly a marine biologist in the Bahamas who hangs out with Mario Van Peebles and pilot Michael Caine (slumming for a paycheck after a fresh Oscar win no less!).

So after spending a bit of time explaining how the Bahamas are free of Great White Sharks and how they could never be there... lo and behold, one arrives in no time flat. And not just any shark. The one from Amity arrives to do some munching. How inane can you get? The beauty of this movie is that it is a sharp contrast to the original. In the original they couldn't get the mechanical shark to move appropriately so they edited around it. Here the shark worked perfect, so you get to see tons of shark shots. By the end, there's no fear left since nothing is left to our imagination other than wondering why we're still sitting and watching the film.

At points you can almost see the hole at the bottom of the shark whereby it was controlled and manuevered. Some of my favorite scenes in this movie include the various slow motion montages that would make Michael Bay proud. People being eaten in slow motion, slow motion reaction shots, slow motion plot. It all works out so well. Wooden dialogue that would make George Lucas blush with envy. For a 'horror' film, I've never realized just how hard you can laugh.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Whining and Dining

My family has had a long tradition of going out to eat at least once a week. It's not always a fancy place and it isn't always limited to once a week but it is something we do on a regular basis. My mom works and when she comes home, she's usually to be found in the kitchen in the evenings preparing dinner. She often says that it's relaxing for her but every once in a while, dad likes her to take a break and relax and it's a good way for all of us to be able to just sit and talk while being catered to.

Just as our choice of restaurant varies, so do the various experiences we've had. As I said, we've been dining out for years now and so we've accumulated a number of experiences. They range from very pleasant to downright frustrating. This past weekend we had a pleasant one. We were in Tysons at the Olive Garden. As we walked in it was awash in a sea of humanity. People were practically falling out the door and climbing over one another to get inside. We waited the 45 minutes that they quoted and were finally shown to our table. We had been waiting for our table long enough that we had decided what we wanted by the time we sat down. Meals ordered, we sat enjoying our salads, bread and conversation. Time passed as it does and we realized our meals were taking a little longer than anticipated. Our waitress kept us informed and shortly thereafter the meals arrived.

We could see that there was a crowd not only waiting but dining as well so a bit of a delay was to be expected and seeing as how we were enjoying the evening we didn't make a big deal about it. And after all, the meals didn't arrive after a very long time. Still, at about the time we were finishing up, the manager came over with the waitress and informed us that since dinner was delayed in arriving, she was going to treat us to dessert. It wasn't necessary nor was it requested, but because the manager and her staff were interested in keeping their customers happy, they ensured that we would leave that evening having had a good experience.

Contrast that with an experience we had at a different location a few years ago. The place was not all that crowded nor was it a particularly busy night, however, after placing our orders and getting the salad we sat and waited. And waited, and waited and waited. Finally the waiter arrived with our meals. At least the meals for three of us. My mother's dish didn't come out and the waiter assured us that it would be right out. After that he disappeared and I mean disappeared in a way that would make Houdini proud. We waited for mom's dish to arrive and finally she insisted that we get started eating. But my dad wouldn't stand for it. He marched straight into the kitchen and in a voice that would make James Earl Jones shudder, demanded to know, "Where's my wife's dinner?"

The manager immediately rushed over and attempted to pacify my father. She started giving the usual reasons, 'these things happen,' 'we'll get you your dinner right now,' and many others. Finally when the meal arrived, nearly 45 minutes after the rest, the manager came over again and hoped that everything was satisfactory now. When asked, she then agreed to give us dessert. The difference in the two cases is that the Tysons manager did it of her own free will and the other one did it because she felt compelled to, as if doing us a favor.

My family rarely complains about the service unless it is really shoddy. In the case where we were left wondering about mom's dinner for 45 minutes it was tremendously shoddy. Even then we didn't whine or complain and yet we still had to ask for something to make up for our waiting. It's a small thing, but it's what makes a difference to patrons. I know there are tons of folks out there who have had similar experiences and all I can say to you is, have a little whine with your cheese, dinner will be out shortly.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Haven't I Heard This All Before?

The storm surrounding Kaavya Viswanathan's book "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life" seems to have died down a bit from a week ago. For those not familiar with the situation, Ms. Viswanathan is a teenage author who is currently attending Harvard University. At the age of 17 she was signed to a $500,000 two-book deal which made her the talk of the campus. Unfortunately, shortly after the first book was published, rumors and eventually evidence came to light that the book in question contained passages very similar in style and tone to an earlier book, "Sloppy Firsts" by Megan McCafferty. Although the later beook is not a direct lift of the earlier work, there are enough similarities that the publishers immediately withdrew the book from the shelves, the contract was torn to shreds and Ms. Viswanathan (and Harvard's) reputation has been somewhat tarnished.

Is all the hoopla surrounding this case justified? To a degree... yes. In school and college they always teach you to cite your sources or list your references. I realize that for a research paper or a thesis it's different than when you're writing a book or a novel. Still, if not the author themselves, it is the responsiblity of the publishers to make sure that there aren't similarities or direct quotes from a book. It is difficult to catch such things and regardless of what others may say, I don't believe that Ms. Viswanathan's actions were intentional. When one is inspired by works of another author, one tends to use their style in an effort to be like that author. And sometimes when one is so familiar or inspired by a work, it becomes such a part of your consciousness that when we start writing, the thoughts seem more like our own than of the work that inspired it.

In this case, Ms. Viswanathan did come forward and admit that her work was similar and partially quoted from Ms. McCafferty's work. Now that the whole situation is out there, and now that the books have been pulled from the shelves, and the contract Ms. Viswanathan had has been completely rendered moot, one must wonder if there is any point in bringing a lawsuit against her. Had she made money off of the sales, it would have made sense but in this case she made no profit off the work other than what she had stipulated in her book contract.

I mean if we are going to go after authors for such actions then there are so many others who need to be put on the spot. Authors such as Dave Brown of "The DaVinci Code" fame and Stephen Ambrose, author of numerous historical books were both accused of lifting their book ideas from other authors. Dave Brown was recently exonerated in his case; whereas in Stephen Ambrose's case, the judge found that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the author had lifted passages from another source without properly citing it. Now if prominent authors can be accused of this, and can further be found guilty of committing these acts, then is it really fair to ostracize a teenager? To say that this student has blemished the name of Harvard University is a falsehood. I cannot believe that there are no other cases currently pending in the campus's Academic Integrity review council. I suppose there are, but just not of such national prominence.

Lessons learned under the scrutiny of the media and the public are often the most lasting ones. Hopefully Ms. Viswanathan will not be disuaded from continuing her enjoyment of writing. I'm sure that in the future she will read and re-read all her works to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Read Between the Signs

When it comes to relationships and reading the signs, as hard as it is to admit, we guys are a bit slow on the uptake at times. There are plenty of places to go to get help with these matters. Online advice columns, blogs, and newspapers are all often filled with ideas and theories behind signs that men and women give eachother and how to read them. One could say that it almost borders on medical advice. However, as with any medical study, there are often conflicting results which leads those of us out in the real world to encounter some... interesting situations.

For example, let's take a scenario based on an article I read. One of the signs that many articles tell you to keep an eye out for is how a woman plays with her hair. If she casually brushes it out of her eyes, it means she's interested and wants to see you fully. Simple right? Well, some articles state that if she brushes her hair with her right hand it means she's interested. If she brushes it with her left hand she's just passing the time. But what if she's a lefty? The article then says to make note of the watch. It will be on the opposite wrist of her non-dominant hand. So from the hair we move our eyes to the wrist. Okay. So then we establish that; what next? The feet!

If her feet are crossed and pointed at you that means she's interested. If she's shaking her feet then she's even more interested. If they are pointed to the floor she's ready to leave, if they're pointed to the floor and shaking she's looking for an excuse to run from the room. Right. So we've already got several things to keep track of. What now? Her lips. If she's pursed her lips it could mean many things. First, naturally, is that she's interested; second, her drink is too hot and she's about to spit it out; or third, that's her natural expression. How can you tell which it is? Use your judgement and hope for the best! Of course that means that all of us guys take it as a positive sign of interest. Next, if she licks her lips that means she desiring a kiss. Of course it could also mean that her lips are dry but we're reading the signs right? We guys will always read them the way we want!

Doing good so far? What next? The wrists and hands again. Apparently if she shows you her wrists then she's interested in having you hold her hand. Then again it could also mean she's waiting for the waiter to give her her change so that she can run! Finally we arrive at her eyes. If she's staring long and hard into your gaze then she's definitely interested. If she raises her eyebrows after you raise yours then she's definitely interested. If you wink and she winks back then she's definitely interested. But one things for sure. With our eyes wandering everywhere else before finally landing up at the eyes, she'll probably take that as a sign too. She'll likely assume you're sizing her up and will point you to a sign.... the exit sign.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mission: Imitable

Recently, some relatives of mine dropped in for a visit for a couple of days. It was nice to see two of my cousins who I had not met in ten years as well as my aunt and uncle. As such, we spent a lot of their visit catching up on things and generally enjoying the time together. My cousins are a few years younger than me and since I am the older among most of my cousins, I am usually the de facto 'gang leader'. Our conversation turned to movies as it often does and my younger cousin began to sing the praises of Tom Cruise and his exploits in the "Mission Impossible" movies.

I think it is genetically hardwired into almost every male to want to be like the action heroes and stars that we see on the big screen. Growing up I can't tell you how many times I had imaginary adventures as Luke Skywalker fighting off the forces of Darth Vader or as Superman saving people and generally acting heroic. In this case, my cousin was jokingly telling us how he was quite capable of replicating the adventures of Ethan Hunt in the movies, in particular the mountain climbing portions. He kept telling us how he's been trained by the CIA and works out with them on a regular basis to keep active field agents in shape. We jokingly played along with him when we got it in our heads to test him out.

Close to my parents place is a Dick's Sporting Goods store where they have a four story climbing wall. We drove over and got my cousin outfitted appropriately and then sent him off on the wall. Every few feet he would look down at the rest of us and proclaim that he was getting tired and yet we kept pushing him. He started going over to the easier 'green' path to climb up the rock but he was quickly teased and admonished by those of us on terra firma for trying to take the easy way out. It was quite comical to see him climbing up at a timid pace hoping to reach the top in one piece. He made it approximately 3/4's of the way to the top before getting a touch of vertigo.

As always in a male group, the teasing began and though we encouraged him for reaching such heights as that we didn't let him live it down. Neither did the staff at the store. They had seen him gearing up and several of the girls working the front desk told him that they would be able to see him from the front of the store and they were hoping to see him at the top. Being all of 15 years old, the attempts at flirting with him flew over his head faster than a Concorde at top speed. When we returned without having reached the top they asked him if he had. He said that he had indeed touched the top of the wall. They asked why he hadn't hit the buzzer. Pride kicked in and again he said he had and asked if the buzzer was really all that loud. They told him that it was loud enough to be heard throughout the store. He said that it wasn't functioning which was why they didn't hear it. They got ready to call the back to have the buzzer tested when my cousin finally broke down and said that he hadn't reached the top. They gave him sympathetic smiles and wished him better luck on future trips up the wall.

Upon his return to the ground and our departure from the climbing wall area, we noticed a little girl gearing up to have a go at the wall. My cousin insisted on hanging about just to see. His male pride would not allow him to be undone by a girl. When she chose the slightly harder path that my cousin had also taken he was a little unnerved thinking that this was a sign that he would be second behind a girl... a little one at that. He began saying that he wanted another go. As we watched, the little girl made her way up. Each foot she went higher, the more my cousin pushed to have another go at it. The little girl finally slowed up and came back down having reached a point 1/4th of the way up the wall. Pride intact, my cousin triumphantly led us out of the store. I wonder if Tom Cruise had these issues growing up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Today the Soda... Tomorrow the Seltzer

In a very civic minded move, the major soda companies in the United States, namely Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Cadbury and the American Beverage Association, signed an agreement to stop selling sugars in school. This coming on the heels of the finding that soda is one of the primary causes of youth obesity in this country. This is not meant to imply that soda is the only culprit, but the one with deep enough pockets that they can afford to take the potential loss in revenue. Do I think this is the right move and that we are going to see healthier and happier kids? Probably not.

When I went to middle school way back in the early 1990's the most exciting thing for us was the fact that we now had our own soda machine. There was only one but it was a sign of our journey to adulthood that we had access to it whenever we wanted. Sure the faculty limited students to sodas at the end of the day or at lunch but we knew it was there which was quite comforting. In high school we had dozens located all over the school. Free access and unlimited quantities. So did that mean we saw heavier students in high school. Not really but there were some. Can we blame this on the fact that soda was there? No because have you ever seen the crap that they serve in some schools? There were days in school where I couldn't eat anything because it was so bad. Not only from a taste standpoint but from a nutritional standpoint as well.

I realize the difficulty in coming up with meals that are quick to prepare, tasty and good for you but there are standards that we can hold to. So okay, assume that we fix that and get healthy tasty food into schools. Therefore, logic would say that with healthy food and healthy drinks, America's children can be healthy once again right? Well, what about the fact that recess is quickly becoming part of the history lessons in school? When I had recess it lasted for at least half an hour and two or three times a week we had P.E. Now recess is being reduced to nearly half that and P.E. is becoming an option which not many kids want to take. After all, who wants to be all sweaty and grimey in school right?

But soda, that's the way to go! Take it out of schools and start selling seltzer water and milk, I'm sure everyone will love that! That is until the realize that heavy doses of seltzer water can cause ulcers.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Being a Domesticated Bachelor

Last night after returning home I realized that I absolutely had to do a load of laundry after I saw that I didn't have quite as many clean shirts as I thought. Now for some bachelor's that could have posed a major dilemma and would have been grounds enough to call in sick the next morning. However, being a domesticated bachelor, I handled the problem in a fairly decent manner and ended up doing quite well.

What is a domesticated bachelor you ask? Well, it's a term of my own design and creation (or so I believe) and it has to do with the type of bachelor lifestyle that I, and a growing number of other bachelors, have come to adapt to. Previously, most bachelors fell into a set of stereotypes that have persisted to this day. Some of these stereotypes include: leaving clothes lying around the house, allowing dishes to pile up in the kitchen, not doing the laundry thus requiring shirts to be turned inside-out on a semi-regular basis, storing nothing but beer and pizza in the fridge.

This month marks three years since I moved out on my own and have been living without any of the support structures (i.e. Mom and Dad) which I had previously had. However, in all that time some of those lessons that are instilled by most parents, namely cleanliness, were ingrained into my psyche and I realized that having grown up in that environment that I couldn't leave that lifestyle so easily. Now what do you do when you're the only one in the house? You take on the responsibility yourself.

It can be a trying experience the first time you attempt to wash a load of laundry, wash the dishes and put the in the dishwasher, or cook something more than a microwavable meal, but it is a true feeling of triumph when you can do it. There are subtle added bonuses to being a domesticated bachelor as well. There is a hint of appeal in it. Girls seem to sense that you are the sort of guy who will pitch in and help around the house, not just generate a mess. Someone who will lend a hand rather than conveniently disappear.

A number of guys I know fit into that category. They are married now and have reverted back to living with their mothers. They expect to be cared for in the same manner and eventually begin taking for granted the work that their wives do. It's a sad state of affairs but one that seems very slow to go away. Fortunately, I have not been raised that way and I see the benefits of having these domestic skills.

I can go to a grocery store and pick up precisely what grocery is needed, I can clean my clothes in addition to my car, I can cook something beyond cereal, I can do a lot of the things that define me as an independent male. And as such, I think I'm a better person for it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

'Star Spangled Jhanda'???

I know the first question a lot of people will have is what is a 'jhanda'? Well, it's the Hindi word for flag or banner. Now that that's straightened out, on to the topic of my rant for today. That is the singing of the national anthem in another language. British music producer Adam Kidron unleashed a torrent of emotions in people when he came up with the idea of having a Spanish-language version of the 'Star Spangled Banner' entitled 'Nuestro Himno' or 'Our Anthem.' Now then, there's nothing inherently wrong with that but it brings up a whole lot of other concerns in my mind that lead me to conclude that this is the time to set a precedent and stick with it before things start taking a turn for the surreal.

My parents are both immigrants. They came to this country from India in the early 1970's. At the time, they arrived to this country knowing that they wanted to remain here. As a result, they adopted the ways of this country and embraced the differences knowing that everyone here had a chance to do well. English was the language of the country so naturally they spoke English. They continued to speak their native language, as do my brother and I, but we sing our national anthem, the American national anthem, with pride and respect and in English.

Does this mean I'm against the Immigration Reform Movement? Not at all. I believe that Immigration laws need to be reformed since there are people from all over the world trying to come to America but because of a few who choose to bend or break the rules, those abiding the rules are made to suffer and wait. My brother and I were lucky enough to be born here but I know that there are many others who are nonetheless looking to come to the country and achieve the same things my parents have had the opportunity to do.

What does this have to do with singing the national anthem in Spanish? Well think about it. Spanish is only one of literally hundreds of languages spoken throughout the country. If we're going into Spanish, why stop there? Why not German, French, Hindi, Korean, Japanese or Chinese or any of the other languages that can be heard in the ethnic neighborhoods of the country? Some would argue that Spanish is a common language due to the number of people coming in to the country from Central and South America. Okay, I see that. But why not go with French as well? Those darn Canadians may be coming across the border and we may not realize it eh?

For the sake of arguement, supposing we do allow this to happen and we start hearing the national anthem in Spanish at various events; how long do you think it will be before we start hearing cries for the national anthem to be sung in this language or that language. Can you imagine how long the national anthem will last at various sports events? There will be a program listing what order they'll be sung in. Squadrons of fighters will be needed for flyovers at the appropriate times. And the next thing you know, the 50 stars will soon be replaced by mini flags of every country represented in the United States!