Saturday, October 31, 2009

Costume Quandaries

M: "I want to be a mouse this year. I'll wear the grey sweatpant and sweatshirt from last year's 'animal concert'( She was an elephant, with a small paper mask). I'll make up a hairband with mouse ears and go around as a mouse."
She was a black cat with black turtleneck/pants/tail/purchased glittery cat-ear hairband, last year.
A butterfly with wings and matching antennae-like headbands the year before.
I still haven't been able to persuade her to go as a '50's girl, bright pink jacket, poodle skirt and all, a costume still sitting in the closet from one her first grade school dance shows.
So, I hightail it to the local JoAnn Fabrics store, hoping against hope that the 'mouse/rat mask with headband and tail' combo is still there and now on sale, discounted at least 50%. It is.
I gleefully hand over 5 dollars for the set (original price 12.99, though I fail to see if anyone might have been insane enough to buy it at that price.)
M tries on the headband. It consists of a pair of pink centred ears with grey plush backing, grey plush all over the band and a grey plush strip running down in front, with black felt nose and nylon whiskers.(See pic) But the positioning is wrong, covering up good part of her eyes and extending too far down for comfort.
"Never mind, you can wear it just at the school parade", I suggest.
M:"No, they don't allow masks at school."
Me: "But this isn't a mask that covers your face!"
M pouted. "I like the ears, not the funny thing in front."
Sighing, I give in, pulling out a pair of scissors and carefully trimming away the offending feature. It's now a plain headband with grey/pink plush ears.
This evening, I will walk her around the neighborhood, while her brother has finally tired of the Halloween hoopla and decided to play it cool this year.
He will be sprawling in front of the TV, all legs, with bowlfuls of chips scattered around strategically, watching "The Sixth Sense" DVD.
No more costumes and 'Trick or treat' for him. No more aluminium foil robots, no clowns, Grim Reapers, Darth Mauls, Harry Potters or Invisible Man. All the costumes of yesteryear have gone to the thrift store donation bags, except for the robot, which sits high up on a garage shelf.
S is too sentimental to get rid of that one.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Not a fear of phyllo pastry, but an excessive fear of leaves. I think my husband has it in severe form. It's the ailment of the month, when our maples and oaks start shedding copiously, even as they look spectacular in their orange pinks, golden yellows and brown orange tones.
" We need sponsors for the trees, to rake and bag their leaves, otherwise I'm going to look for a tree-service to come and cut them down", my husband announced in high dudgeon.
"Why, when we have been doing the leaves every year for the last ten years or more?", I ask, baffled by this sudden declaration.
"I'm just fed up with it this year!"
And so we are out bagging leaves like our lives depend upon it...or at least the trees' lives.
We have already gotten up to bag # 30, as we finish up under the yellow maple. And yet, with all this hyper-efficient timesharing arrangement that I've worked out this year with S, my husband still moans "There's still leaves under the oak. You have to get those out of the way!" Now, the oak in question is on the far end of our lot, and is scheduled for a major leaf drop only a week from now. I see no reason to expend my efforts on the grass near it just yet.
If it was me doing the complaining, one might have called it 'bitching', but since it isn't, I'll just call it 'emotional blackmail' of sorts, and complain about it in this post;)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another Personal Tag

To all desi readers : Happy Diwali!
Via Remya:

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
Need to dye the front hairs again.

2. How much cash do you have in your wallet right now?


3. What’s a word that rhymes with DOOR?
Bore, core, fore, four, gore,hoar, lore, more, pore, roar,sore, snore,spore,store,tore,wore,yore...and how could I forget, as a Winnie the Pooh fan...Eeyore?!

4. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
Do I have a Missed call list? My cell phone is strictly for emergencies only, so nobody really uses it, even me.

5. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
The standard Tmobile ring. That makes me different from all those moms at dance class who have assorted tunes, and makes it that much easier for me to figure out that it's my phone ringing, if it rings at all.

(BTW, who started this tag, a Sprint or Tmobile PR person?-too many cellphone related queries!)

6. What are you wearing right now?
Pink fleece top and plaid pyjamas.

7. Do you label yourself?
All the time. But the labels change every few hours or so.

8. Name the brand of the shoes you’re currently own?
Dockers and Reeboks.

9. Bright or Dark Room?

10. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
New Kid on the Block.

11. What does your watch look like?
gold and silver bracelet type. no-nonsense dial.

12. What were you doing at midnight last night?

13.What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
"Your TMobile balance is about to expire. To refill, blah blah blah...."

14. What’s a word that you say a lot?
Hullo. ( My coworkers have learnt to dread hearing this. It means that I'm about to plague them again with questions which don't have easy answers.)

I'm trying to wean my 4th grader from constantly using 'like' all the time, but I fear I'm on the losing side of the battle.

15. Who told you he/she loved you last?(please exclude spouse , family, children)
Since we are excluding spouse, family and children, I would have to go with Timmy the cat (at my friend's house.) He purred and rubbed himself on my leg the last time I was there, and that's the feline "I Love You".

16. Last furry thing you touched?
See above.

17. Favorite age you have been so far?

18. What was the last thing you said to someone?
Go to sleep. To my daughter.

19. The last song you listened to?

"Varamonru thandarulvai"- raagam Shanmukhapriya, Aadi taalam, sung by Maharajapuram Santhanam.

20. Where did you live in 1987?

21. Are you jealous of anyone?
Not any more.

22. Is anyone jealous of you?
Don't know, don't care, either.

23. Name three things that you have on you at all times?
spectacles, small hair band, earrings.

24. What’s your favorite town/city?
No particular favorites.

25. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?

It's been a while since I wrote anything other than checks...I might have last written a proper snail mail letter about 10 years ago.

26. Can you change the oil on a car?
No, why bother when that's what service stations exist for.

27. Your first love/big crush: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
crush :- Never heard anything - was a stranger.

28. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
Incipient headache, likely sinus related. Must get up now and take medication to ward it off.

29. What is your current desktop picture?
Icebergs by a lakeshore (Windows 7 Nature backgrounds)

30. Have you been burnt by love?
No. I've had it easy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Target Moon, Meteor Showers and Stardust

'We're bombing the moon!'
'Come attend the party', to paraphrase the Nasa blurb inviting the general public to the LCROSS Impact Night festivities. (Free admission, limited tent space, Please bring your own Blankets, Chairs, and Snacks.)
And so the crowds gathered to watch what was projected to be a spectacular 6 kilometer high array of plumes at the point of impact, as the NASA LCROSS mission crashed into the lunar crater, in a bid to search for water.
Wait, I thought India's Chandrayaan mission had already produced data indicating that there was ample water (not the H2O variety, but a similar chemical composition termed Hydroxyls, from which water as we know it could be generated for consumption by Lunonauts of the future.) But,but, what about all the money we have spent on the LCROSS? How can NASA let that money go waste. Bombs away!
Any way, we now have proof that there was indeed an impact, no magical vaporization of the incoming object by a hidden race of lunartics, who have lived hitherto undiscovered, peacefully, all these millenia:)
(The picture of the thermal image on impact is from the NASA website.- Seems like a wash in terms of actual difference in the 'before' and 'after' pictures. One almost needs to crunch the numbers on the pixel distribution before determining there was a significant increase in heating of the lunar surface after impact, rather than a clear visual indication of difference.)

It reminds me of a much-hyped 'spectacular shower of Leonids' that was mentioned in a large newspaper article, way back when I had first come to the US. My husband and I set out, along with another astronomically-inclined friend, to a large park to the north of Pittsburgh, hoping for the requisite dark skies to see the spectacle. We waited, scanning the patch of black sky just above, eager for a sight of multiple flashes of twinkling light.
"There's a shooting star!" I pointed out a single moving flash. About 5 minutes later, "There's another." About 10 minutes later "I saw two flashes!" And so it went on, for another half hour, till we realized that the 'spectacle' wasn't really forthcoming, just isolated flashes every 5-10 minutes or so.Plus, I was freezing. So we packed up and trudged back to the parking lot, determined to let no more hyping articles entice us into doing this again.
Every year, like clockwork, the obligatory article shows up in the newspaper (maybe they even recycle the article, with changed dates and such), trumpeting breathlessly that a 'grand spectacle awaits all those who dare to venture out after dark'. We smile at these and stay firmly indoors.

Work on the Stardust mission goes on,long after the main mission of collecting dust from comet Wild 2 is done . The NASA press release highlights that glycine, one of the building blocks of life, was discovered in the comet. But on a side, more 'dusting' of the results are still being done by a mini-army of avid 'stardust' hunters assembled over the internet. I'm one of them, and love to skim over the Virtual Microscope pictures, trying to identify candidate tracks of possible interstellar dust particles.
The ultimate reward would be to be the first to identify one such particle, in which you get to name the particle (Hmm....should I name it after my kids, a compounded Sanskrit version of Stardust, or maybe after a deity ...Talk about counting chickens before they are hatched!)
For now, I'm happy enough to make it to the top 500 of the 27,000-odd members of the 'dusting crew'. The interest has dropped off since the first phase got over last year, with candidates identified, extracted and examined. Unfortunately, none of them were of extraterrestrial origin, so the search still continues.
I use it as a sort of soothing activity, when I feel the need for a quiet break between the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Maybe, I'll even get into the top 100 list, which at least qualify for a mention on a webpage ;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Tag with a Mission

The above web video is an effort to raise public funding for Dr. Sudhir Paul's further research into a promising approach towards a true HIV vaccine. He is the husband of my friend and co-blogger Ruchira Paul ( Accidental Blogger).

-----Cut and paste below while passing the Tag ---------------

Mission Anti-HIV

As Dr. Paul says in this video, the 'abzyme' approach to attacking the virus at the special weak point could pave the way to developing a low-cost and highly effective approach to attacking the HIV virus, and in the long run, other deadly or debilitating viruses. (More information is available at the website for the Covalent Immunology Foundation.)

Rather than just rely on funds from mega-pharmaceutical companies, the foundation is making an appeal to the general public to contribute small amounts of money, believing that the power of the numbers on the internet can help finance this research and pave the way to a lower-cost vaccine than can be generated via corporate funding alone.

The results of the Thai AIDS vaccine trials have been much trumpeted in the news media, even if it helped only 23 less people get full-blown AIDS in the experimental group with the placebo group, with a grand total of 16000 people in the trial. However, doubts are beginning to set in on whether those results might be purely statistical in nature, rather than a real breakthrough.
Dr.Paul's approach could very well be one of the more promising current modes of attack against the HIV virus.

So, I'm tagging you, my friends in the blogosphere, if you are convinced, to please consider passing on the above information via your blog, and to tag five others in turn, so this can spread like...well, a virus.

Sujatha @ Blogpourri
Kochuthresiamma @ Pareltank
Usha @ AgelessBonding
Jenn@OfCabbages&Kings - I know your's is a humor blog, but some things are worth risking the occasional serious post, such as fighting HIV ;)

(Use the Youtube URL ::, as an embedded object, if possible.)


Another video that shows the precise mechanism behind the 'abzyme' approach in greater detail:

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Love of an Old Book

It was a small volume tossed carelessly in with the rest of the frayed spines on the Public Library bookshelf. "Love of Seven Dolls" by Paul Gallico.
He was one of my favorite authors as a teen, and this was one book that intrigued me, with a faded rendition of a full-skirted girl looking at what appeared to be a puppet show on the cover.
I borrowed it frequently, whenever I felt the urge, over the next several years. I must have been the only person in the city who took out that particular book, judging from my ability to always locate it on the shelf, whenever I wanted it.
The years passed, but it remained one of the books seared in my memory, even though the story, in retrospect, doesn't seem that remarkable now. On a rereading, some of the story seems rather dated, but the charm of the main plot still shines through.
After much deliberation, I decided to see if I could locate a new copy of it for my home library. It was out of print, only available through second-hand book sellers. So I turned to the likes of and and placed an order for the least expensive hard-bound edition I could find.
The book arrived, among others that I had ordered at the same time. This had a faux leather cover, with the name of the book and the mysterious legend ALYCE PEKORS at the bottom right.
I couldn't resist checking for the name on Google. And, the history of this particular carefully-preserved copy fell in place.
The original owner of this book was Miss Alyce Pekors, the longest serving US civil servant in Singapore, who died in Michigan last November.
From a newsletter with a memorial article:
"Of course, much of the details of her “working” life prior to taking the administrative role with the Navy in Singapore were never discussed among her many friends. She brushed off enquiries with Lauren Bacall like aplomb. By her very nature, she was reminiscent of an interesting earlier era.
Whether it was her Isadora Duncan impersonation as she drove her vintage MG around town (of course, it wasn’t vintage when she first bought it), or her Givenchy and pearls Audrey Hepburn look when she entertained, Alyce was always one classy lady."
She must have loved the book very much to have taken pains to have the original paperback replaced by a custom hard-binding.
Now the book sits on my shelf, bringing with it a whiff of the chequered life of the one who owned it before me. We are strangely bound across space and time, through this slim black volume with gold lettering.