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Archive for December, 2008

How not to make a Pancake


Write about what you know the best :D.

Its unfair sometimes how I just can’t get cooking right. Everytime I forget the disaster of my previous attempt and try a new one.. I’m back to square one. The first chapathi I ever made caught fire. I had to chuck it in the sink and douse the flames. My mom didnt even know till that day that they were inflammable. Beyond being funny, this is nothing to boast of. Cooking is so basic yet essential, and it irks me that I just dont seem to get it right. My poor kids will have to survive on Maggi and peanut butter sandwiches (Hmm.. not too bad a proposition). Anyway, being in the US of A and in command of a kitchen I attempted a US breakfast and shall faithfully recount what should not be done, by personal experience of course.

Pancakes require very basic, distinguishable ingredients. Flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, milk, egg and melted butter. You can find good recipes online, and I suggest following them word-to-word if this is your first attempt.  

Dont’s #1: There is a fine distinction between tablespoon and teaspoon, very perceptable in the final product. Do not add too much baking powder, unless you want the pancakes to blow up.

Dont’s #2: Chose a bowl that you think will fit all ingredients, and when mixing will not throw it all out.

Dont’s #3: Salt and Sugar are similar in this country. Be very very careful adding them.

Dont’s #4: There is a fine distinction between tablespoon and teaspoon. Only 1 small teaspoon of salt please!

Dont’s #5: Melting butter is not a piece of cake and the microwave doesnt always work well with it.

Dont’s #6: Its not ok!

Dont’s #7: There’s a reason pancakes are small and not spread out like dosas. The larger you make them, the more likely they are to break when you flip, and the more eager they are to spread all over the pan.

Dont’s #8: Electric stoves do not sim immediately (I suspect they ever sim actually).

Do’s #1: Enough Chocolate syrup and a kind enough room-mate make awful pancakes seem better.

—-~—- 

All in all its a fun experience. I shall try again and not lose phaith. Perserverance, right? And anyway.. its always good to leave scope for improvements :).

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A First Christmas


Christmas came quietly this year.

No Secret Santas, no paper stars

and no malls covered in green and red.

 All thats needed for the day to pass by as what it is.. just another day,

But it doesn’t.

A friend wishes  “Peace on earth to people of good will”. 

Goodwill? I wonder,

Is there still some of that left in us?

Yes. Regardless of the injustice we witness

there’s something good in this world

and its worth fighting for.

And tonight, white or not

christmas came,

as evidence of the good that’s been,

and the good that’s yet to come.

——–~——-

Christmas previously meant holidays, cousins and cold weather. This time around however, I was fortunate to experience a more traditional christmas with my host family in Blacksburg. (I was very close to letting christmas pass me by, spending the day on my own. Luckily, it turned out quite the opposite). I had a good dinner with a warm family, listened to their ‘home-stories’, gave them some of mine and played songs around the christmas tree. Somewhere in the middle of listening to the guitar strum and the dog sigh I felt that happiness can be found in the most natural of things.. a family. And christmas or not, the world’s a pleasant place after all. 

Wishes for a wonderful season to all.

The Adventures of Cycling


More like the romance of cycling. I doubt there is any other exercise that frees the mind as much as cycling outdoors does. The inspiration for this piece started as I rented out a bike, to ride across campus and give my final exams. Exam done, I figure why not wander around a bit before heading back to the dorm and preparing for another day, another exam. Thats just half the reason. I’ve been eyeing the bikes (american for cycles :P) ever since I knew they could be rented out. Its just that the weather’s so darn cold. If its not cold, its wet. If it is warm and dry, I’m probably out of town. Anyway, the spark of spontaneity paid off and I was cycling aimlessly (which in my opinion,  is the only way one must cycle).

I’ve never explored the scape beyond the college and my extent of exploration was only as far as where the buses could go. It was pure joy, in having no boundaries and being free to go wherever it pleased. The scenery was mostly barns and fields with the regular assortment of cows, horses and cosy lil cottages.  The unsteadiness of riding a bike after so long and the cold wind were hardly discernable once I was out of sight of civilization. I must have biked a long way, cause even the wayside cows seemed to notice as I biked along. Of course, the ride was not all hunky-dory. I was out of breath after about 20 secs of cycling and I constantly found myself on the wrong side of the road, trying to get back to the right side, and then eventually losing judgement on which confounded side of the road ppl ride here. I was almost sure that I might have reached the next county, when surprisingly a familiar student apartment complex loomed ahead. Turns out I hadn’t come that far after all.

I shall leave the county for my next adventure on the bike. And eventually, I shall bike all the way to the mountains :D. Ok, maybe not that far. Nevertheless, I was glad to know that the Don Quixotic tendencies I’ve inherited from my dad have not yet been buried by reason and age.

And here’s my passing suggestion: “Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live.”  ~Mark Twain

November Snow, December Rain


At which confounded corner of the earth can we find snow in November and rains in December? My corner, apparently. And the last time I checked, the monsoons weren’t quite fond of the blue ridge mountains. Ah, I’m gonna shrug off the anomalies to good ‘ol global warming, who has been taking the flak on just about anything, from erratic weather to the economic recession.

At the beginning of the day, I’d imagined I’ll write about glorious rain that’s not a mere drizzle but loud enough to be heard as you wake up. In fact the morning was pretty good, the rain just like it feels back home. The afternoon was just right too, for big research and watching the rain fall outside. Murphy must’ve peeped into the lab while I wasn’t looking, else I cant explain how such well-mannered rain turned so heavy the min I left the building. Or how of all the days the bus skipped my stop today. And how by the time I reached home, I was thoroughly drenched on one side and totally numb throughout. I think I’m ready for some snow now. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I wont complain when it snows, but I wouldn’t mind some snow now anyway.

At the end of it all, the day was not that bad, getting soaked included (Now that I’m warm). The campus looked beautiful, and the Drillfield seemed to be floating in lights. Something about rainy days.. doesn’t go on like all others. What shall nature make us witness tomorrow? A spectacular sunset over the mountains with people oblivious to it? Snow powdered paths and frozen steps? Who knows. I dont even want to know. Guess I shall just let things be and go my way, with the satisfaction that I wrote 3 paragraphs all starting with ‘At’ :P.

A Class Divided


When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, many thought his movement on Civil Rights had suffered a great setback. One teacher in Riceville, Iowa knew that King’s death cannot be explained in any other way to her 3rd grade students unless they understand what it means to be Discriminated. The following link is of one of the most requested programs in FRONTLINE’s history, a documentary by William Peters called A Class Divided. 

Jane Elliot is the teacher who developed this blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise. I was surprised while watching  it, that such an elegant experiment could change perception in kids so easily. It’s also very harsh on the kids, and I’m not sure the agony was worth their learning. More interesting was the final part of the documentary “How Adults React”. Discrimination, sadly, is present everywhere. In India, in the US or anywhere else. There must be something so flawed in the human nature that it can accept playing a part in discrimination. Is it because we are so diverse? But even then, why do we resent it? Its good to know that this exercise helped so many people understand and be above this feeling. There’s still a chance for us.

To wrap up, one of Jane Elliot’s quote: “We don’t need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables – the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers – to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.”

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Religulous After All


** Spolier Alert: Nothing I say can spoil the movie for you guys.**

Bill Maher’s new movie, Religulous is his take on faith and religion. His very satirical and hilarious take on Religion. But that’s also where it lacks, the movie is just his take. In short, a cynical guy roaming around the world in search of people who believe in religion and then making his point in its mockery. Its interesting, to say the least.. and also extremely entertaining. Hell, I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the movie. The guy’s a genius, and sadly a biased critic too. He very bluntly asks how anyone can believe in a being like God. (I personally don’t think its too hard). He starts off really well and the movie is absolutely enjoyable as he quotes G.W Bush “I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That’s what I believe. And that’s uh, been part of my… foreign policy.”

/*My favourite is this guy:
Bill Maher: You’re a senator. It worries me that people are running my country who believe in a talking snake.
Senator: You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the senate though. (The guy looked like he regretted saying it as soon as he did.. at least :P)*/

Maher has a point. Its hard to justify blind acceptance of books written by people long ago regardless of how tall their claims are. But he takes a very literal, where’s-the-proof-for-this approach. A lot could be allegorical in the holy books, not meant to be interpreted literally. I can’t agree with the way he’s chosen to put forward his opinion either. Too rude. And he never really gave the ‘other side’ a chance to say their story. Those poor unsuspecting faith holders. The movie loses a lot of steam as he adds many bogus quotes. Like the Da Vinci Code, I’m sure he’s taken creative liberties for the sake of a thrill. For ex; Krishna born to a carpenter and baptised in a river?! I have my doubts. Don’t believe the facts in that movie, at least not until he cites them credibly (this sounds suspiciously like my advisor :P). The movie ends at a very dramatic note, at which my regard for it fell.

But then, its a movie after all.