Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time break out the champagne and sparkling cider... and the snow shovels. We woke up this morning to what sounded like a low-flying jet but was only the friendly neighborhood snow-plow doing the rounds. ('Tis a great advantage to have a township councillor with a house in the neighborhood. All roads get plowed and salted with great alacrity.)
In my favored New Year's eve ritual, I'll be snuggled up in my comforter, soundly asleep as the ball drops down on Times Square and fireworks go off in synchrony.
Happy New Year 2010!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Death of Santa

It's official. M declared a few days ago "I don't believe in Santa. It's just Amma and Appa getting us gifts."
It's a rite of passage whose time has come. Last year, M chose to postpone the sad event, even as doubts started setting in. Whispered comments from her elder brother. A secret hunt to locate gift-wrapped boxes. But she still wanted to believe that it was a jolly old man in red who dropped in and left the gifts by the tree.
This year, as she snuggled up to me, she asked "What did you get me this year?". I mumbled, "Nothing."
"But what did you get me?", she persisted.
"Go to sleep."
In the morning, she jumped into my bed, strangely mournful. It was bright outside, high time to rise and get my morning cup of coffee. I padded downstairs after brushing my teeth. M decided to go down and read a book while I got breakfast ready for her.
"Aren't you looking at the tree?", I asked with elaborate carelessness. She fairly flew to it.
"Hey, presents! Oh man...why is my present so much smaller than S's? What is it?"
She unravelled the long piece of giftwrap, impatient yet still careful. The box opened to show her a new point-and-shoot camera, something she had wanted for her own for a long while. She ran up to her room, while I put in the batteries and set it up, returning with a little trio of foam hearts, held together with cellotape. "For you, Amma! You're the best!", as she jumped on me with a bear hug.
Santa is dead. Long live Santa!

PS. She woke up S and took photos of him opening his present with her new camera: a cotton candy machine. Much fun was had by all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lights On (or Off) Please!

Ours is the only house in the neighborhood without the mandatory Christmas lights strung around the outer contours. We put out assorted tacky stuff for Halloween because the kids have amassed quite a collection. But our 'celebration' of the spirit of the season is restricted to the indoors for other festivals.
Of late, the local display of lights hasn't been quite the same. The culprits are the new LED lights, ranging in color from an ice-cold white to a pestilential deep blue that annoys the senses much more than the old-fangled bulbs and faint yellow undertones of incandescents. These home-owners concur, and are persistent in their attempts to purchase and hoard the old-fashioned types before they are driven off the market by Global Warming Cap-and-Trade emissions agreements.
Which begs the question, why don't we put any lights at all? I could claim a sort of nostalgia for the flickering lights of candles and oil lamps, so much more nuanced, mysterious and beautiful than the unwinking glow of even incandescent bulbs. (The latest innovations at the local temples don't impress, falling as they do into the latter category. Maybe they will look even less appetizing when they make the switch to LED light bulbs.)Never mind the fire hazard.
In India, we used to set out the lamps for Karthigai, not Deepavali in our house. Deepavali was a time for new clothes, crackers and fireworks, but nothing more than a couple of lamps lit. Karthigai was the time when we had rows and rows of lit candles lining the terrace, clay and bronze oil lamps lined up in the front, near the door. Remnant fireworks from Deepavali marked the celebrities, which normally puzzled most of the neighbors who didn't follow our calendar.
But best of all, in my opinion, is the shimmering glow of the moonlight, especially after a fresh snow, when the whole landscape lights up with the reflections. The simple darkness that allows the stars to blaze in all their brilliance, undimmed by the lights of a thousand urban streetlights.
Of late, I've become hypersensitive to the slightest glimmer of light as I fall asleep, surrounded as I am by a gazillion gadgets winking and blinking in red, green and blue. I would use an eye mask to block them out, but it can get claustrophobic under one. Oh, for the soft velvety darkness that cradles me to sleep, circadian rhythms unchanged from a million years of evolution!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Email Nag

Dear S,

This is why...

soda is bad for you.

: New study showing that HCFS or fructose causes problems in people's abilities to metabolize food properly, increasing fat formation and decreasing insulin sensitivity (diabetes precursor).

: List of foods containing HCFS, (see list of pop drinks)

Eat wisely, :-)


S was mystified by it and demanded the Cliff's Notes version. I tried to condense it into understandable terms and said "Go back and read the email now."

Tomorrow's the quiz. Let's see how much he scores.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cool Cat

Meet Rich Kitty (original design by M, handstitched by yours truly, just for the fun of it).
She is owned by the Queen of England and lives a luxurious life. Here, she is portrayed lounging on her favorite chair, with a photo of her playing ball on the wall behind. Note her special black gloves and the bows on her head and tail. They denote her special status as the Queen's kitty. According to M, she is rich, but not spoilt, since she knows that the Queen is vastly more important than her.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Great Hamster Conspiracy

This year's must-have toy is something by the unlikely name of Zhu-Zhu Pet. It's a little semi-robotic hamster with a few different modes, and comes with a host of accessories that involve assorted tubing, running tracks etc. The hamster itself is supposed to retail for about ten dollars, but is currently being 'scalped' for an average of 30 dollars or more from the lucky few early buyers who have managed to corner the market.
Today, being a slow news day, I suppose, the focus was on "Group contends popular Zhu Zhu Pets unsafe". A group called, brainchild of a professor of environmental sciences, had tested assorted models of the fluffy ones and determined through hand-held X-Ray fluorescence machine readouts, that a couple of tested Zhu Zhu Pets exceeded the permissible safety standards for antimony and tin.
The science behind these XRF devices has been challenged by other manufacturers, and research conducted on XRF results vs. conventional lab results show that the results indeed are closer to the accurate values of the total heavy metal contents, as opposed to the tests used by the manufacturers in their labs, which result in lower detected values because of 'incomplete digestion' of the samples.
Take it from me: I've read through the complete document trail, so you don't have to.
The XRF results are probably reasonably accurate for metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, total chromium. For antimony and tin, these were considered 'contaminants' in the samples used to establish the results, so there is no clear indicator of how accurate the antimony and tin readings are with respect to conventional lab examination of the same metals.
Should everyone wish to dispose of their hard-found Zhu Zhu pets, I will be happy to "take care" of them for you for a price. Please contact me at ;)

Alas for my promising plans to start a black market in peddling Mr.Squiggles, Zhu Zhu Pet extraordinaire- the fluffsters have been cleared as safe toys by the federal authorities. Apparently, the XRF method is merely OKed to be a screening test, not an actual accepted test to determine the 'soluble' amounts of heavy metals, which would be of greater concern to your kid who likes to lick and chew on toys than the 'total amounts' determined by the X ray fluorescence method.