Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Pop Phenomenon

'Haven't you read the Twilight series yet?', my friend asked, as we chatted over a cup of tea."It's all the rage now. My 11 year old wanted to read it, so I got her the series. She's read all of them, except the fourth one, which I didn't allow her to read, because of a couple of rather more graphic scenes than she can handle at her maturity level."

I had already read 'The Host' by author Stephenie Meyer, and had been favorably impressed. For a popular author, she had a good sense of how to phrase the inner voice and it lent itself well to the sci-fi backdrop of 'The Host', about an alien host injected into a human body, which unfortunately has not completely lost the original soul dwelling in it, written for the adult market.

And now, everywhere one looked, especially in the print media, the internet websites, 'Twilight' was being pushed as the next greatest invention after the Harry Potter phenomenon, and it draws from much the same demographic- primarily girls who came of age as they waited breathlessly for the next JK Rowling installment. All those hormones had to be channeled somewhere after that franchise outlived its usefulness, with the postponing of the new Potter movie release certainly not helping.

So, in rushes the next publisher's darling, a made-for-the-movie tie-in vampire-teen romance in which the heroine embodies (as another critic astutely put it) Jane Eyre lite, while the hero (named Edward) is a conflicted Edwardian-gentleman-morphed-into-eternal teenage vampire, who despite the traditional biting propensities, fights against his attraction/desire for Bella .

Seeing that many teens at the dance class were religiously glued to the various books in the series as they sat waiting for their turn at rehearsal, I tried to reserve a copy online at the library, when it came up with '546 of 546 holds'. At this rate, I might be able to get my hands on it about one year from now, even with the multitudes of copies in the library system. I gave in and picked up a copy at the local Kmart, figuring it was easier to return if I chickened out on reading it due to lack of time.

The movie advertisements seemed to have worked their magic, along with the cult-status of the books propagated through a million MySpace and Facebook pages. The box office verdict has been astounding: almost $70 million raked in for the first week, already well over the modest $46 million or so budgeted to make the movie. A sequel is in the pipeline, after all there are 3 more books waiting to be filmed.

I sat down to read the book, and finished over the course of one afternoon. My verdict: perfectly targeted to its main market, overfilled with hyperventilation and breathless moments but vastly tamer than the average teen crush novel. Zero humor. Again, this is Book 1 of 4, so I didn't get to any 'graphic' scenes. But then, after skimming through the whole book in a few hours, I didn't really feel like doing the same with the rest of the series.

(I'm overdue for a re-reading of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Those had much better writing and inner voices, even if the times are a couple of hundred years before the present era.)

In the interest of honest reporting, I dutifully checked out the movie trailer online, and think that the book is less annoying. The trailer is typically a compedium of most dramatic and action-packed moments, but this one didn't capture my interest despite following the formula faithfully. I will wait for the DVD rather than attempting to view it on the big screen.

I think I prefer any violence on paper(or DVD, thanks to the fast-forward), it's so much easier to gloss over. I remember remarking the ubiquity of fighting scenes in the Lord of the Rings. With books, you can choose not to visualize certain scenes, but in films molded by directors and screenplay writers, you are forced to see their visualizations which may totally clash with yours.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

But not the shopping kind.
The kind induced by terrorists who prey on innocent people, owe no loyalty to anything but the violence that they hold dearer than faith.
The fighting that still goes on, more than 50 hours after the first shot was fired, devolving into a nightmare that continues through the bright daylight and nights that follow.

Why do these things continue to happen?

With the bombings on the trains and in the markets, the horror of the moment was condensed to a few minutes and hours of tragic aftermath of rescue.
With this new urban warfare, the method of terrorizing the public mirrors the horrors of Columbine and Breslan, executed on a grand scale of citywide locations. Who plans and executes these, to what purpose?

We have no clear answers now, but I hope that the authorities will be able to get to the bottom of these, sooner rather than later, unburied by ponderous commissions that take years to come to conclusions, initiating rapid action to create rapid-response units to deal with this new kind of war.

Terror never sleeps, it just naps before its next rampage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Pestilential Plague

Now, don't run away. You can't catch the cooties through your internet browser, or at least that's what my hubby says. Not that I completely agree. After all, it was a simple search and innocent click on a site that professed to offer some song lyrics that triggered it all. But the infection may have been residing for long in some innocuous email that was in my inbox, waiting for the magic key that opened the Pandora's box to my internet browser.

Weird popups of unmentionable human parts, that I frantically clicked on the little X to get rid of, advertisements advising me that my PC was infected and needed their services pronto to get rid of the infestation, then poltergeisty happenings on my PC such as ghostly openings of the CD tray, excessive hard disk accesses. Yikes, my PC is possessed! Call in the Ghostbusters!

After a fair amount of head-scratching and cautious readings of Wikipedia, runnings and rerunnings of my antiviral and antispyware software, I've come to the conclusion that it's much easier to find a needle in a haystack than to catch a Trojan that hides/changes its name and lurks in your c:/windows/system32 folder.

I only think that the bug has gone away, when it jumps up again, showing up as different weirdly named files on my system. I can watch the shenanigans, but can't delete these completely no matter how hard I try. "Out damned spot" say I, a latter day Lady Macbeth. Alas, the spot will not out.

I'm still hopeful that a fancy new update of my antiviral and antispyware software will come out any day now and deal with the Trojan like a providential St.George slaying the dragon (Please pardon all the overdose on mixed metaphors, that's what happens to one's brain out of sheer boredom when all I've been seeing on screen for the last few days is the never ending hunt for Spybot Search and Destroy's nemesis.)

Failing that, I will have no option but radical surgery, cut off the offending part by reformatting the disk and reinstalling my operating system and other applications. It's 'hard werk' but I'm prepared to do it for the benefit of the country and the world at large.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Not-A-Tag Tag

 Updated 2/17/2015.

From Sujatha @ Blogpourri:
(And I thought that you said you weren't doing or passing on tags. Maybe we should add that to this list as the 151 thing to do;)

150 things to do before you turn 30 or 40 or 50 or...

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink:
Nope, will not happen. Can't hold my alcohol beyond a couple of tablespoons worth, and dislike the fumes, as well.
02. Swam with dolphins:
First, need to learn how to swim.
03. Climbed a mountain:
i.e. if climbing to the top of the smallest hill in my neighborhood counts.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula: Love spiders, wouldn't mind holding a tarantula, but have only handled miscellaneous household and garden arachnids.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights. Or at least a brief glimpse of them, when they showed up in Pittsburgh.
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg:
There's one building up in my fridge from the chunk of ice clogging the ice dispenser. I'm sure it will reach iceberg status in another month or so.
19. Slept under the stars:
Kinda, sorta: I used to be able to lie on my terrace at home in India and see the Milky way in all its glory- no more now, with the pesky street lights that were supposed to be a civic improvement.

20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower:
That was a major rip-off. The Perseids were supposed to be more spectacular than that, considering that we braved the freezing cold and long drive to get to the dark skies needed to view them.
23. Gotten drunk on champagne:
Nope, see (01)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse:
Indirectly, with some kind of pinhole viewer, projected on the walls of the room since we didn't have the special viewing goggles.
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking.If the zumbarobics/dappankuthu variations that I do with a group of friends trying to get active in winter count.
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign:
Not sure if 'Finder's Keepers' qualifies for this , but I did 'find' a poly bag banner replacement for my missing political yard sign crumpled in some bushes on a morning walk.
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Taken a midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow:
Tried for a couple of yanks on the udder, then gave up. After that, the only 'milking' experience was that of using a breast pump, if that qualifies.

56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke - love the Cameron Diaz scene in "My Best Friend's Wedding"
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain

65. Gone to a drive-in theatre
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on a television news program as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents.Well, cremated, same idea.
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently

95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over.
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking with the windows open

103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a TV game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. States
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper

129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
Had to dissect these for the 10 std. exam. Oh, the expression on Sr. Y's face when mine scampered away before I could pin it. Chaos ensued, and they eventually got me a really dead one.

133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head

149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Yesterday morning, we woke up to the first substantial snowfall of the season. The ground was covered with about half an inch of snow, blades of dormant grass still scarring the white blanket, leaf imprints left where the random leaf had been blown away from its resting place. M was quite thrilled "Snow, it snowed!" she shrieked joyfully. "Hooray, I get to play in the snow!"
"Not so fast, you've got to get ready for school now."
Having put the damper on her plans, I watched as she trudged off despondently to the bathroom to get ready for school. At the bus stop while we waited for the bus, she engaged in secret confabulations with A, her friend from across the street, ducking behind the large oak trunk as I approached.
There was a little more snowfall during the day, adding another half inch or so to the already thinning accumulation. So, when M got back from school, she dumped her school bag at the door and insisted "I want to go out and play in the snow with A!". I kept an eye out for them, as they were playing in the front yard that opens onto a busy street. A little while later, I could hear M shouting as she rolled a small ball. A had a larger snow ball, screaming as she tried to prevent it from rolling down the slope.
The light was waning and M shivering with cold as she finally stepped inside after the hour. "I'm cold!" she wailed, ripping off her shoes, socks and gloves covered with ice crystals. "Maybe you should try sitting by the warm spot in the family room." I suggested (That would be the first vent for our furnace's duct system, the warmest spot in the house.) "No, I want some hot cocoa."
By the time she was done with the hot cocoa, it had darkened quite a bit, and all I could see of their hard work outside was a faint impression of a snowman. Never mind, it would last all night, assuming some neighboring teen didn't get it in his head to decapitate it.
So, this morning, I went out to take a few pictures of the first snowman of 2008-2009. He looked very cute, with a pine sprig nose and twig mouth and eyes. M told me that they had named him Frostkins, so here are the results (unretouched) from his glamor shoot.(Click on the photos for a slightly larger version.)

Monday, November 17, 2008


I was sitting on the sofa in the waiting room of M's dance class,just pretending to blend in with the myriad cushions and coats thrown randomly behind me. I suppose that must have been good enough camouflage, for who should come rushing in but a 13(or so)-year old girl in dance uniform (salwar kameez with dupatta tied across.), followed by a tall young older teen boy in an outsize salwar kurta.
Boy: "Why are you so late today?"
Girl: "What the fluff do you mean?"
Boy: "What the fluff! I just asked you why you missed the first half of the folk dance practice."
At this point, it seems to have registered upon him that I wasn't part of the furniture, so glancing quickly at me, he enunciated loudly for my benefit again "What the fluff!"
:roll eyes:
Maybe I ought to change the name of the blog, knowing that this apparently new unGoogleable usage of the term 'What the F_" being replaced by "What the Fluff" in teen circles is not far from joining the list of unmentionable terms. ( I even suspect S might be using this in social situations when he hangs out with friends)
Then again, what the Fluff... I cornered the name of my blog before this usage, so I'll let it stand.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Feminist Tag

"Are you one?" asks Kochuthresiamma of Pareltank.

I scratch my head,dunno what it means exactly, precisely, and set off on a search for the meaning of the word in the dictionary and Wikipedia.
First the dictionary :
1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
In principle, I definitely agree that there should be political, economic and social equality of the sexes. As to organized activity on that count, I'm all in favor of it, though I don't feel any urge to join those ranks explicitly. (Yes, I know, Lazy Me!)

Now for the Wikilink:

Feminism is defined as the belief of the political, social, and economic equality of women. It is a discourse that involves various movements, theories, and philosophies which are concerned with the issue of gender difference, advocate equality for women, and campaign for women's rights and interests.[1][2][3][4][5] According to some, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves.[4][6] The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s and the third extends from the 1990s to the present.[7] Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements.[8][9] It is manifest in a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism.

And so on, and so forth...

My head is spinning, and I don't want to try and tax my brain too much, having already addled it by reading about the underpinnings of the Wall Street crisis not too long before lunch.

The question was simple: "Am I a feminist?" The answer ought to be simple, but it isn't.

As a working mother, many years ago, did I take off early from work for doctor's appointments without a qualm? Was I a strict 9-to-5 employee who wouldn't lift a finger after 5 pm and would race to get to the car and drive to the daycare? Was I a hyper-competent professional despite that? Yes, absolutely. I did it knowing that the price I paid was one that I had already paid in terms of the '70 cents to the dollar' pay for women and the chance for rapid advancement. If feminism means that I can focus on my work with somebody else to do the heavy lifting when it comes to family, that would be nice, but I'm not completely sure that it would solve my anxieties regarding not knowing what is exactly going on with my kids.

Do I believe all household chores should be equally shared? As a household 'manager', I've found it more to my advantage to apportion jobs according to expertise and inclination. I handle the inside tasks (cooking, cleaning), while the outside (mowing, pruning, leaves, mulching) falls to the males. Yes, we do very rarely interchange our areas of work, just to keep a handle on how to do stuff should the need arise (my son and husband do their own laundry, know some basic cooking, how to mend using the sewing machine, etc.). My daughter will learn how to do all of these too, when she's old enough. These are life skills, not necessarily male or female chores, or maybe that's just the luxury of thought and attitude that I have had, living in the United States where it's not a cultural taboo for sons to help with the dishes or daughters to mow the lawn.

So, there you have it. I'm an opportunistic feminist. I defer to the MCPs when it suits me, kick them where it hurts when it doesn't. It's all about having my way with the least resistance and unpleasantness for all parties involved, which strikes me as a reasonable philosophy to live by, whether male or female.

And I pass on this tag to :

"Are you a feminist?"

Ruchira (I'm sure you could address this on A.B.)
Sujatha (Blogpourri)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So Many Sujat(h)as

As I was responding to comments from Sujatha @Blogpourri and she was engaged in a back and forth with Another Sujatha (not me, though) in an old post of hers from 2005, I was reminded of the multiple Sujatha problem that we all face.

In school, I was unique in my class, unlike the Susans and Lakshmis. The confusion started for me after I started work and there was a Sujata in my department. She was my senior in the department by several years, and shared a similar sounding initial. The phone for the room which we shared sat on my desk and answering calls often went like this.
"Can I speak to Sujat(h)a?"
"Which Sujatha?"
"Sujatha mumble, mumble, E"
"Sorry, didn't hear the initial, did you mean E or B?"
"OK, I want to talk to the 'old' Sujatha."
At this point the 'old' Sujata would walk over pronouncing in definite terms "I wish they would stop calling me the old Sujata and you the new Sujatha , it sounds really weird and doesn't make me feel any younger." as she took over the handset.

Now, where I live, there's another Sujatha who came here much before me, but our mutual acquaintances prefer to distinguish us by attaching our husbands' names to ours. While the Indian community in greater Pittsburgh is by no means huge, we still have about 4 or 5 Sujat(h)as, of whom I'm personally acquainted with 2.
Add to this the fact that my professional last name is my maiden name, while I go by my married name for school purposes, and it makes for more confused conversations whenever I'm at a local place like the bank or library. "Oh, your name is Sujatha! Is it a common name among Indians, because I know another Sujatha who is on the PTA."
Err... that would be me, unless she's talking about the other Sujatha who lives in an adjoining school district, but I believe that she might not be as active as me in her kids school PTA., since she is employed full-time.
Or, "Your name is Sujatha! How pretty! I remember seeing it on a car license plate at Giant Eagle."
Err... that would be me again.

Maybe I'm the only Sujatha that gets around all over the place here!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Return of Fluffy

Now that we can stop obsessing over the elections and push polling and electoral vs. popular vote counts, it's time to jump to the next thing all haggard moms planning the Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers need: A generous dose of me-time and an under $1000 shot of Radiesse to perk up those sagging chins.

Seriously, according to this columnist:

You deserve to look and feel fabulous. With so much to do during the holidays, in addition to hard economic times, is there a way to achieve fabulous? Of course.
We are not talking extremes here. During the holidays you don't want to try any type of cosmetic surgery with long recovery times. You want to be able to attend all the holiday functions rejuvenated, not swelling, bandaged and poor. How do you tell your children that Santa can't come this year because mommy has one less chin ? Depending on your budget, there are a lot of options.
For those willing to spend less than $1,000, Radiesse may be the answer. Radiesse is a dermal filler for the cosmetic treatment of facial wrinkles and creases, stimulating the body to produce additional collagen and volume.
Right, the economy is going down the drain, but you can plump up the chin (and the pocketbooks of those dermatologist and/or cosmetic surgeons) by shelling out the greenbacks.

Have no moolah to spare for those pricey injections? Then you can use the following tip:

Before you throw it down the drain, use leftover wine at the bottom of your holiday glasses to make your skin flawless. Spread the wine (can be red or white) over your face, leave on for 10 minutes, then gently wash off with water. Your skin will tingle. The acid in the wine will act as a peel and take off dead layers of skin.
Wow, no money for injections, but money for wine evidently. Will this technique work with dregs from a can of beer for the truly budget minded?

(It does remind me of an old women's magazine I read a long time ago, where the standard 'beauty tip' ran thus- "Take a rotten (tomato, cucumber, papaya, mango....etc.), crush it and mix with yogurt and apply to the face for 10 minutes and wash off."
This was before the advent of important sounding 'alpha-hydroxy lipoic acids derived from natural fruit' as the prime ingredient of all those yummy colored lotions and potions in tasteful pastel bottles.)

If even beer or wine is out of the budget, consider the following alternatives : Fasting, exercising and Kegels while standing in long shopping (or Food Bank) lines, guaranteed to cleanse your body and flatten your stomach. The columnist assures you that you will fit into that slinky ball gown like a banana fits in a banana skin (Sorry, wrong analogy for a person supposed to be fasting.)

And now for the piece de resistance:

Breathe -- yes, breathe. It will calm the body and give you more energy. K_ R_, co-owner of B_Yoga Studio, offers a selection of classes specifically designed to relieve holiday stress. All classes begin with seated meditation, and you can even become liberated through yoga by candlelight.

Talk about fluffy articles- just as we were exhorted to shop to defeat the terrorists, now all we need to do is focus on facelifts to lift up the flailing economy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And Finally Obama-day!

After 20 months of campaigning, millions of dollars in money spent, and the best ground game in the history of US politics, Obama has won the presidency of the United States of America by over 7 million votes and an electoral vote landslide.

He wasn't my first choice as the Democratic nominee, but by the time the race had narrowed to a choice between Hillary and Obama, I opted for the latter, feeling frustrated at Hillary's shrill and negative tone. Despite questions about his lack of experience I had more confidence in his judgement than Hillary's. After he became the Democratic nominee, it was amazing to watch the slow implosion of the McCain campaign in a manner similar to that of Hillary Clinton's primary campaign. Yes, he did it again (not without an assist from the circumstances and failing economy.)As it turned out, the same induced negative campaigning tactics by McCain vs. Obama's disciplined message of Hope and Change may have carried the day in a larger sense.

The pitfalls ahead for a new administration are so numerous that the road will probably collapse before the destination is reached. Obama will have to rebuild the roads before we can get to where he wants to take America, literally as well as figuratively.

Being in Pennsylvania, a 'battleground' state, I had the privilege over these last few weeks to see the Obama ground game in all its glory and nitpicky detail. I went into a campaign office to collect a yard sign, and walked out having signed up to volunteer instead, in whatever capacity I was willing to offer, data entry in this case.

From then, it was a vicarious glimpse into the daily walks and phone schedules of hundreds of volunteers in this office- Doors knocked, phone calls made, registrations made, painstakingly, day after day."Do you support Sen. Obama for President? Are there any questions about the issues I can help answer?" All graciousness when declined, buoyed up hopes when assent. The numbers kept creeping up slowly and encouragingly in this relatively conservative corner of PA.
To keep the volunteers' spirits up, we had special access tickets and rallies galore, Obama, Michelle, Obama, Michelle, Hillary, Bill, Hillary, Bill- all taking to the stage to trumpet the need to work hard to get out the vote and make sure that Change Happened because We the People had had enough of More of the Same.

Hurrah for the next President, and Hurrah for us!

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Hillary-day!

If it is Monday before the elections in Pennsylvania, it's raining politicians. Today, it was Hillary's turn, and what's more, in a speech on local TV, she promised another dose of Obama in the evening.

I had just finished a parent-teacher conference at M's school, and decided to check in on the campaign office for any data entry needed, though much of that work has been completed. I parked in the usual lot behind the building, noting with apprehension that the car next to mine had been ticketed. I put in two quarters, rather than a single, figuring that gave me half an hour at least and walked up the sidewalk. A black suited gentleman with earphones waved his arms at a police official just ahead. What was going on?

At the entrance, a big crowd of people stood to one side, with a lady I knew in the office smiling at the entrance. I mouthed my question to her 'What's going on?' A young fellow came up to me and explained 'Hillary will be here soon, they want all people to stay on that side.'

I duly complied and rather than taking up a prime spot I burrowed into the far end of the crowd. I stood next to a Chinese-American lady with her two daughters, the younger in a stroller and smiled as the little one tried to grab her older sister's sticker. I had been passed one earlier so I pulled mine off to give it to the little one, and rummaged in my purse for a button that I had handy, but never worn.

We fell into a friendly conversation about our kids as we waited. Half an hour passed, no sign of any 'black SUVs'. The police cordoned off the lane closest to the sidewalk where we stood. The TV camera crews had arrived and were positioned in the prime location near the entrance.

I started getting nervous about my parking spot. I slipped away to the other side of the building in an effort to put in a couple more quarters, but couldn't reach the parking lot: Fence and level difference in the way, I could only peer down at my car's windshield. No yellow ticket on it just yet.
I went back to my original post, and not a moment too soon.
In short order, a pilot cop car with lights flashing, followed by a champagne colored SUV . Hillary had arrived! She alighted not 5 feet from where I stood. The crowd clapped and shouted in appreciation. We proffered our hands and she shook them all. I managed to tell her "Thanks for all you've done," and heard her 'Thank you" in response as she continued shaking hands on her walk to the entrance.
(Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, but this was my cellphone camera, but it will have to do for the impromptu photo-op.)
She was inside the office for the next half hour, talking to field organizers, and other 'higher-ups' in the campaign hierarchy, addressing a bevy of cameras with a short speech before leaving. I did manage to get a second photo as she left, which you see on the side.

As soon as the caravan of vehicles had made their turns back onto the main road, I snuck under the rope and hightailed it to my car in the back parking lot. Mercifully, no tickets. Yay, I got to shake hands with Hillary Clinton and escaped a parking ticket narrowly on the same day. It all comes from being in the right spot at the right time!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

M came shouting into the room just as I was working on the computer. "Amma, come quick, a bird crashed into the glass window and is lying on the deck!"

I rushed to the scene to see a sad sight. A robin on its side, breathing heavily and strenuously, little legs sticking out under it. "What can we do to help it? Can we put her in the box that I made for injured animals?" M offered eagerly.

As I put on my jacket and shoes to go out the deck, I thought the better of it and decided to check what wisdom the internet has to offer on caring for dazed birds and preventing them from crashing into glass windows in the first place.

"Place it in a safe spot, to prevent cats and dogs from getting to it as it recovers." Fair enough, so we grabbed our gloves in addition to the jacket and I opened the sliding door, which squeaked loudly from the lack of grease on its tracks. The robin startled and stood upright, a tiny drop of blood on the deck near where it had lain.

"Good, at least it can stand up on its own. Maybe we should wait now and it will move away."
M was all ready for action, "When can we pick it up and put it in the box?"
"I don't think that would be a good idea now. Tell you what, let's get some water and seeds for it in bowls. Maybe it will help it build up its strength."
So off we went to fetch it some water and birdseed.
This time as I opened the sliding door, it perked up and flew to the deck railing and stayed there, trembling slightly. I grabbed the bag of seed and the water bowl and stepped outside to refill the bird feeder.
The robin stayed at her post, turning her head ever so slightly as she registered my movements to remove the feeder from the hook. She watched cautiously as I refilled it and placed it back, anxiously hopping two steps away as I cleaned out the bird bath and refilled it with clean water from the other bowl.
The robin remained for a few minutes longer, enough for me to snap a photo of M in the foreground with her, and a couple of zoomed in photos, till she finally mustered the strength to fly off into a neighboring oak, vanishing into the brown leaves.
Hope that you feel better soon, little robin!

(We added Christmas clings to the glass window, assorted carolling snowmen, Christmas trees, sleds, etc. Hopefully, this will keep the local avians from mistaking the glass for a fly-through zone.)