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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Inside a Cult

It's been a while since I provided an investigative reports of any kind. So here it is - an incisive, close look at the inner workings of a demonic cult. The Cult of the Snuggie.
You might have seen the ads on the TV, in unguarded moments, when your defenses are down ( worse than the Steelers in the 2009-2010 season), when it shows smiling people clothed in blue or red strangely soft-looking robes that go on backwards, as they plunk themselves down in front of the TV with books in hand, or popcorn bowls or remotes. It's the blanket that has arms.
I fell prey to this siren song, and found myself gravitating strangely to the piles of blue boxes arranged neatly at the store. This was as I desperately cast about for a gift for my husband's birthday. A voice kept sounding in my head, and I, zombie-like, heeded it and carried the box of the Snuggie to the cash register.
The same voice later instructed me to purchase a Steelers' logoed polo shirt and pants. I suspect that may have been residual Snuggie conditioning in action, and surely has something to do with their so-far lousy and jinxed performance on the field this year.
My husband recoiled in horror at the evidence that I had fallen prey to the cult, and refuses to touch the robe, if he can. It sits gathering dust on a side table, except when S decides to borrow it.
M took one look at it and wanted to try it on, but it was too large for her. I promised to hunt around for the kid version of the robe, the Snuglet. Since I couldn't find one, I walked into the local fabric store, picked up a yard of remnant fleece and found a suitable pattern with which to construct one for her. It took a little bit of creative piecing for the sleeves, but looks and functions perfectly fine.
Yesterday, as I roamed the aisles of the Kmart, I chanced upon a display stand for the Snuggies. Completely empty. The cult of the Snuggie is spreading insidiously. (These were on sale for $9.99, and evidently borne away by the rampaging hordes who stood in line for hours before entering the store in the wee hours of the morning.)

---- (special undersnuggie report from the halls of Snuggiedom by Sujatha)--------

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Very Turkey Thanksgiving

We had visitors today over for a feast.

A flock of wild turkeys investigated our backyard, munching on the remnants from the bird feeder, while the squirrel cowered on the oak, watching till they left.

Gobble, gobble. Happy Thanksgiving from F-n-S and a gaggle of gorgeous avians!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Food Fad

Actually, that should be Food Network Show fad. Now that the political scene has waned into typical bickering among media outlets over how deep Obama's bow was and should have been or how red Sarah Palin's lipstick is and ought to be, Click goes the remote.

I land and pause at the latest death match on the Food Network channel. It could be the "Challenge" show, three teams of ordinary American families making Thanksgiving meals from scratch, or "The Next Iron Chef", where culinary combatants wield their knives and food processors in an attempt to blitzkrieg their way into Iron Chef status. Or it could be the semi-professorial, semi-wacky mysteries of how to generate syrup, fudge, soft or hard candy or such in 'Good Eats'. The whole family is addicted to these shows now.

Of particular interest is the 'Iron Chef' shows, based on a Japanese original. The presiding person is someone called the Chairman, who barks out commands and waves his arms in windmilly-chop-choppy motions, presumably borrowed from the Japanese version. He is a source of much merriment and entertainment as he presents the chef to the panel of judges "Chef Cora" or "Chef Besh", with a sharp karate chop that barely stops short of the judge's jugular.

Sous-chefs frantically whisk and toss, challengers almost sweat into the sauces as they frantically mix and plate the dishes, barely finishing microseconds before the countdown runs out and they raise their hands in the air "Time's up".

The script is always the same, with excited commentary on the hustle about the 'Kitchen Stadium' :
A visiting chef 'challenges' one out of four or five Iron Chefs and is then presented with the 'secret ingredient' which could be eel, garlic, chives, swordfish, cranberries....the more exotic, the better. The chefs strive to incorporate this ingredient into just about every dish of the four or five course meal they prepare, sometimes resulting in hilarities such as eel ice-cream, steak flavored pudding, etc. And they get roundly basted by the judges for such inappropriate daring as well.

Will the Iron Chef win, or will the challenger? So far, it's been a good bet to assume that the Iron Chef does. Only occasionally does the show veer from script to award the prize to the challenger( which isn't even quite clear...do they get cash, or fame or more Food Network shows?)
That's my perfect idea of relaxing after a busy hour in the kitchen chopping and dicing for dinner- to watch others do the same in high definition TV to feed the viewers' needs for drama.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Conversations with a Bot

I had placed an order for some books at Betterworld.com, which resells old library books and recently asked about the order's delayed arrival. The books arrived yesterday, so I shot off a quick email to let them know.
First reply :

"Hi Sujatha,

This is an automated message to let you know that your message has been received. A Better World Books human will be replying to you shortly.
Thanks for your patience!
Sincerely,

Indaba, the Super-Cool Email Robot"


Next email:

"Hey Sujatha,

We're just checking in to see if you received your order

Miss Happiness Godden
) from Better World Books. If your order hasn't blessed your mailbox just yet, heads are gonna roll in the Mishawaka warehouse! Seriously though, if you haven't received your order or are less than 108.8% satisfied, please reply to this message. Let us know what we can do to flabbergast you with service.

Humbly Yours,

Indaba (our super-cool email robot)"


to which I replied:

"Hi Indaba,

Miss Happiness arrived in good shape and promptly within a few days of shipping. Now, the only thing we are missing is 'Little Peach' ( Just kidding, 'Little Peach' is a little doll that gets left out in the mailing in the story, not real life.)

Are you sure that you are an email robot? I thought robots aren't supposed to have a sense of humor.

--Sujatha


To which I again received:

"Hi Sujatha,

This is an automated message to let you know that your message has been received. A Better World Books human will be replying to you shortly.
Thanks for your patience!
Sincerely,

Indaba, the Super-Cool Email Robot"


-------------------------


I can tell this is going to be a fun correspondence ;)


---------------

From my comments:


Alas, it was a sweet but short relationship. To wit, the final correspondence came just now from Joe at customer service, suitably respectful and impersonal in tone:

"Hi Sujatha,
We appreciate you letting us know that you received your order. We hope that you'll visit BetterworldBooks.com the next time you need something good to read.
If you were happy with our service, please be sure to spread the word among your family and friends.
Happy Reading,

Joe,
Better World Books"
---------------------

Farewell, sweet Indaba!


---------------


Just now, I received another email from Joe, who appears to be an email robot as well. Here's what it said, in response to my email about Miss Happiness.

""Hi Sujatha,
We appreciate you letting us know that you received your order. We hope that you'll visit BetterworldBooks.com the next time you need something good to read.
If you were happy with our service, please be sure to spread the word among your family and friends.
Happy Reading,

Joe,
Better World Books"


I'm mad! I want my Indaba back. So I have now sent them this email in response:

"Where did Indaba vanish? I want Indaba!

--Sujatha"


Maybe Indaba will now reply....I'll keep you posted.

---

Sure enough, Indaba is back!

"Hi Sujatha,

This is an automated message to let you know that your message has been received. A Better World Books human will be replying to you shortly.
Thanks for your patience!
Sincerely,

Indaba, the Super-Cool Email Robot"


Ad...infinitum...


Or, not.

"Dear Sujatha,

Don't worry, Indaba hasn't vanished. He's just on vacation... to Bermuda, I think. He returns every time you order a book through Better World Books.
Sincerely,
Joe
Better World Books "

So Indaba must have been emailing me from Bermuda. Wow, talk about a work ethic!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Secret Ingredient

that will deter the squirrels and the chipmunks that had been monopolizing the new bird feeder.

Good old chili powder.

After much soul-searching, I mixed up a batch of mixed bird seed with chili powder and shook it around so most of them were well coated, poured it in the bird feeder, went back inside the house and watched the squirrel march right up expectantly to its much-anticipated feast. Two sniffs and one scratchy second later, the squirrel scampered down the railing and proceeded to bury its nose in the dewy grass, presumably in hopes of washing off the offending chili powder.

The chipmunk watched this from a distance and merely stayed away from the feeder, which had definitely offered it a very convenient perch a day before.

Today, the bird feeder is empty, after having hosted assorted cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, and titmouses. No sign of the squirrel.

M was upset:"Why did you put chili powder in the birdseed? Poor squirrel and chipmunks! They will go hungry."
"They had the seed in the feeder from the day before, the birds hardly got anything that day," I protested.
"Won't it hurt the birds, if the squirrel doesn't like it?"
"Don't be silly, it doesn't hurt our tummies, how will it hurt the birds? In fact, it wouldn't hurt the squirrels' tummies, either. The squirrels don't like it because the powder irritates their skin, and will keep away because of it."
M was dissatisfied, until I promised to alternate the chili-laced birdseed with normal birdseed, just to permit the squirrel and chipmunks treats on alternate days. That is, if they ever try to come back for more.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Return of the Prodigal Bird Feeder

The bird feeder that I bought earlier this year as a guaranteed squirrel-stumper has hung empty for several months. I had no interest in converting the deck into a squirrel spa. Every now and then, a sad sparrow or chickadee would stop by and frantically check the empty bird feeder, flying away in disappointment. The cardinals disdained this feeder, being unable to perch and eat in comfort on the wiry mesh surrounding the feeding port.The only regular attendees would stop by to drink some rain water from the bird bath and refresh themselves with the occasional ablution.
As I stopped by the Home Depot for yet another dozen leaf bags, I caught sight of a bird feeder with standard perches and a sort of small seed platform at the base. This was in metal, with a copper finish.Hmmm...my major problem with the earlier feeders of this type had been that the squirrel would lean on the perch, and eventually rip out the plastic perch, causing a large hole in the feeder that made it useless. Maybe this would do the trick. At about $20, it was four times the price of the ordinary plastic ones, but could possibly withstand the squirrel leaning on it with all her might.
The now-refilled feeder sat outside untouched for about 2 days, looking disappointingly full.
Yesterday, finally, I saw a chickadee perch on it for a few bites, then moving to a nearby branch and singing out 'Food's here, chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee!" for five minutes before flying away.
A little later, a female cardinal perched on the lower platform comfortably, picking away at the seeds. A couple of sparrows watched, sitting on the deck railing, as they waited for a turn.
The next day, the squirrel was back, leaning on the platform, carefully picking what she wanted off it, from the spilled out seeds. She paid no attention to the faces and noises I made behind the window, leisurely ate a few sunflower and cracked corn seeds, sipped some rainwater and took off into the yard.
Today is day 4, and the bird feeder still looks about 2/3 full. I'm hopeful that this one will survive the squirrels and get through more than a few winters, at this rate.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another Contagious Virus

I got mine from Kochuthresiamma (Pareltank), who evidently caught hers from Lekhni, who caught hers from Shefaly... and so on down the line.
This is the 'Blogthemitis' virus. I remember looking at all those new themes and thinking my blues were too blue for comfort, my fluffy clouds too bright and decided to try out a new theme. This theme is the blogger theme 'Mr. Moto' ( and yes, I refuse to pick Mrs.Moto because it's all pink in a shade that I can't abide.)
I was tempted to mess around with other templates on blogcrowds.com, but succumbed to the easy way out of picking an existing Blogger template, just so that I didn't have to lose all my little lists and widgets.
That's a project for the winter months, and a new look to be unveiled in the spring, when the next bout of Blogthemitis strikes.