Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blogging vs. Getting a life

A few posts back I had someone (obviously anonymous) asking me to get a life in the comments. Now this is a touchy issue, but it seems to me the more of a life one has - the less one blogs. Or at least this is very true for me.
Lately I find that sometimes I have multiple (more than one is still multiple, right?) options for spending evenings and not all of them by myself. And wonder of wonders, I am getting busy at work, doing initial background reading on a case before it gets - well not boring, but just a little blah.
So I am posting about what is essentially half a tiny thought rather than my usual almost a whole tiny thought. Anyway that is all for today folks and I will leave with a link that I as a Bong found myself nodding vigorous agreement to!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Funny money

I sent a check (through e-billpay at my bank) for $16.90 to my almost-former University to pay off a library fine, so I can get my degree (finally!). Can you believe that it came back? Why on earth would they send back a check??!!! Would you send it back if you got a check in the mail? Would I? Not on your life. Unless... unless it was accompanied by one of those sneaky letters that say that you will be automatically signed up for some completely useless service, at a very reasonable $59.99 a month if you cash the check. I am most irritated.

Friday, February 18, 2005

My driving exploits: Some acknowledgements!

First, I would like to thank the DMV in Illinois for giving me a driving license, a sort of permission to scare the bejesus out of scores of fellow-drivers and other passersby.
Secondly, I would like to thank various friends and one driving school instructor who taught me to drive. Their names are being withheld to protect the innocent.
Last but not the least, I would also like to thank the DMV in California who gave me a driving permit in the name of their fair state, only yesterday! With my grad school days not so distant in my memory, some intense mugging* of the California drivers' handbook from 12:45 AM to 1:15 AM seemed to be perfect way to ace the 10 AM test in 15 minutes. {Takes a bow}

* Mugging in this context just means to read and learn by rote, especially for next day exams whence one can regurgigate and promptly lose all conscious memory of the subject matter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My driving exploits: Part I

I lived in Chicago for six years before moving to LA. Chicago was easy in the sense one had the El or the Metra to take one everywhere that one wanted to go. At a pinch there were friends with cars.
LA however, is very different. There is not even the pretence of a public transportation system, or at least not in the westside where I was planning to live. Santa Monica has its Big Blue bus service but there is no way to depend on it for going to work or getting groceries especially at odd hours.
So what is a girl to do? Well, this girl proceeded to take driving lessons and got her license in Illinois the day before she moved to California! Hurrah - you would think. Well, not exactly.
So there I was armed with a day-old driving license and I go into a car rental agency and rent a week-old car. Whoa, did they just gave it to me like that? Yes they did, and all I had to do was give them my credit card, sign up for full insurance coverage (this is very, very important) and get the keys in my sweaty palms.
So then, I get into a nice looking car parked in the rental lot, right next to a little sunshade held up by a metal post. I switch on the ignition, put on my seatbelt and press down on the brakes, and shift the gear from parking to reverse and then take my foot off the brake gingerly. Nothing. I take a quick look around to see if something obvious had gone wrong. Nope. Nothing. I decide that its because the car is parked on a gentle slope and move my foot to the gas. Yes, you heard me right. A tentative poke at the gas, hmm it seems to work, why don't I push harder. And I did.
It had been less than five minutes of renting the car and I had pretty much destroyed its front right bumper and lights as the car had swung around to hit the post in a good imitation of greased lightning. Did I forget to mention that I had the steering wheel unstraightened? Will the gentle reader at least stop laughing long enough to ask me whether I was hurt?
Thankfully, nothing sentient was hurt except my dignity. It was just that the full insurance I had purchased had come in handy much sooner than even my paranoid self had expected. I scurried back inside the rental office, signed an accident report form and meekly accepted keys to another car and drove off, this time making sure to release the parking brake before trying to move.

Monday, February 14, 2005

New friends!

So I met another blogger for lunch yesterday. I will let her describe the momentous meeting herself. It was great fun meeting somebody new and interesting, interested in food and with a lot of the same cultural and social backgrounds that make it easy to converse. We spoke the same language (and I do not mean Bengali or English) and that made it very easy.
In the process of writing the above paragraph I was pondering the fact that I do not make references to my personal life on my blog normally. I mean I don't talk about my love life (its presence or absence), my friends or my family. It is an interesting balancing trick where I try to write 'about myself' without really talking about 'myself'.
Why do I do that, I wonder? Would I prefer being more open? Mmm, NO! That would not be like me at all. To put it in terms of a hallowed cliche - we are like this only!

Friday, February 11, 2005


Just to give a bit of a background for this post, I am from Calcutta, that erstwhile (and current) hotbed of unionism and frequent strikes and hartals. Right now on the other hand I am in my 23rd floor office in Los Angeles right next to Beverly Hills High School. Of all places on the planet I would have expected this to be the furthest from my hometown's quirks.
Now comes the cool part, all afternoon today I have been hearing faint vocal rumblings from the street outside which I ignored initially as traffic and then as the rain. When I could no longer ignore the stridently familiar cadence of the shouts, I had to take a look out of the window. The Hotel Century Plaza, where the US Presidents hold press conferences and stay in while visiting LA, has a group of protesters outside. They are in blue raincoats, carrying placards and shouting slogans while walking around the hotel entrance. If I close my eyes, I am back in Calcutta, stuck in a traffic jam in Dalhousie Square. I know exactly what they are shouting - 'Management er kalo haat bhenge dao guriye dao! Hai hai, management jabab dao' (with apologies to readers who do not understand Bengali) and so on, except its all in Spanish...

Catching up

A Very Long Engagement turned out to be very similar to Amelie in mood with the addition of a World War I track. The war sequences were absolutely unromanticised and almost cartoonish in their details. The contrasting vision was that of the beautiful French seaside village where the chief characters come from. Visual wittiness and quirky characters make the movie very entertaining. On the other hand there is not much else to the movie that I want to spend the time writing about! Oh, except an unexpected cameo from Jodie Foster looking older but so appropriate. They said she was Polish in the movie - maybe to cover up an accented French? Unfortunately that is not something I can proffer an opinion about.
My thai dinner at Sanamluang was not very good and it was all my own fault. I saw a restaurant full of happy diners eating noodle dishes and what looked like an appetizer plate of croquettes, and I ordered barbequed pork on rice. Well duh. Better to eat the Pad Sie Ewe the next time.
Wednesday evening was Shrimp Enchiladas at the West L.A. outpost of La Serenata De Garibaldi. Excellent food, I thought. And was told by people who know, that a. it tries too hard, b. its too expensive and c. its just not that cool. As the place was tastier, cheaper and cooler than any Mexican place I had been to before (weep, Chicago!) I felt suitably chastened and promised myself that I would seek out the cheaper, better and cooler places. Eventually.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Things to do

Does it make sense to put a 'to do' list on my blog? Hell, why not? So here goes:
1. Call up the tax lady suggested to me by my friendly office accountant. I HATE doing my taxes and this year will be a particularly painful one with multiple states and residency status and what not. Ugh.
2. Set up an appointment for the 6 month check-up for my car. Now I am the kind of person who does not go to the doctor unless I have to. Remind me again why I have to do this for a car???
3. Laundry. Blech. (No not bleach...)
4. Call Ma. Ok this is not a bad one.
5. Start making some headway on creating at least one academic paper out of my dissertation. Yes I know my advisor said two. In July last year. Which is why putting down one in my list is probably doable.
6. I need a brownie - now!

Going to Hell

And, so I succumb to what seems to be every other blogger's solution to bloggerly sloth, take a quiz at quizilla. Here is my take on going to hell.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Well that's it for the moment. More coming later about the movie last night and dinner.

Monday, February 07, 2005

More intrepid(ity/ness?)

Well I am off to see A Very Long Engagement starring Audrey Tautou and more interestingly to me, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. His Amelie is definitely better known but it is his dark apocalyptic comedy Delicatessen that I enjoyed more. One of his favorite actors is Dominique Pinon who appears in all his movies and is excellent as the "outsider" who gets dragged to the heart of the movie - well at least in the two that I have seen!
I have The City of Lost Children waiting in my Netflix queue but given how long my queue is I have no idea when I will get around to seeing it. And before someone suggests it, no, I do not like to rearrange the order of the queue or even look at it too often - its nice to be surprised by the DVD in the mail!
Anyway, going to see a movie may not appear to be too intrepid an undertaking, but I have to drive to Hollywood and watch it at Arclight which bills itself as a place for movie lovers. In Los Angeles that translates to assigned seating, no one allowed to enter the hall once the movie starts and vigilant ushers who vigorously enforce the no-cellphone rule. Ah, bliss. It does involve a longish drive but lets see how that works out.
Afterwards I plan to go eat at one of the cheap Thai eateries in East Hollywood. To submerge the feeling of guilt I am telling myself that at least the gluttony is related to correspondingly less sloth on my part. Hopefully a report will follow tomorrow.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

And importantly...

The pizza is now where it belongs, in the trash.

The unread books

I have a very distinguished pile of unread books adorning my bedside. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah York is so very much a book that I should want to read it is scary. However I seem to have read the first 30 pages and am hoping for an extended convalescence or something so I can really bite into that one. Given that work has not been especially busy lately, I do wish I could read at work. It is probably not one of my best ideas though.
The next book that I am reading (or at least carrying with me everywhere including restaurants) is A Darker Place by Laurie King, who really is one of my favorite mystery authors these days, along with P.D.James and maybe Dennis Lehane. I like my mysteries on the dark side evidently. This one is a very smooth read and it will probably be done by the end of this week. The nice thing is I have not read too many of King's other novels besides the Kate Martinelli ones and the earlier Mary Russell books. I shall have a grand time catching up I hope.
Another book that is on my bedside table (or would be if I had one, its an upturned carton from my move of six months back) is Labyrinths by Borges. Yes I know it is criminal that I have not read anything by Borges before this. Seriously though, this is a book that I am really enjoying partly because of how amazing it is, and partly because I can take my time and savor it piece by piece. Then I have a couple of others that are unopened as of yet though I am really looking forward to reading them There is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and the Douglas Hofstadter et al edited The Mind's I.
Hmm, I realise that makes only five, but that is because I just finished ELizabeth Peters' Crocodile on the Sandbank which is of course the start of her Amelia Peabody series. It was a very nice quick read, two hours at a coffee shop over white chocolate mocha read in fact! This could be one series I could get into, though I will surely be disappointed by about the third book in the series, going by past records.
P.S.: Oh but I forgot, I also bought Bulgakov'sThe Master and Margarita and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. So those are in a bag and out of sight but on the floor next to the bed too.

I should be writing more.

Coming soon, all the gory details of boring California life. Six unread books and half a pizza on the dining table. Uff.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Adventures in Dining Alone - Part I (the good)

Being single and having all of two friends in town is a rather sad situation. Hence the dining alone.
So there I was last evening, disgusted with life. The above mentioned two were respectively down with a feverish cold and out on a flight to the east coast. The intrepid eater-out that I am, I decided to treat myself to a "nice" dinner all by myself. The restaurant is a place called Amuse cafe about ten minutes from where I live. They are very well known for their small-plates which are more or less Tapas sized servings of very good Californian cooking.
I had a caramelized onion and Gruyere tart (decadent and oh so good) and some grilled octopus with salami served with a mustardy sauce and a pesto-ish sauce (very nice, but not ecstacy inducing). I could drink only a ginger vanilla lemonade (really really good - I am not that fond of lemonade normally - but this was sweet enough but with a tinge of spiciness... mmmmm) as I was driving. As an aside I am still not sure about my driving skills with even a glass of wine in me, there are perhaps stories galore there but that is for another day.
I ended up with an excellent panna cotta with strawberry sauce. This was pretty much the highlight of my day - the panna cotta was light as air yet dense and the strawberry sauce was fruity yet refreshing. Just thinking about it makes me smile today :).
The only problem with dining alone is one never knows what to do while one waits, between courses or for the check and so on. I shamelessly eavesdropped on the conversation in the next table. It was all about why the older of the two women HAD to get a porsche convertible and what her husband had to say about it. Normal Southern California dinner table small talk that is.
So that was dinner, and it came to under $40 including taxes, tips and valet. Funny thing was two could have easily eaten for about $55 or $60. Evidently there are distinct economies of scale to eating out. Unfortunately!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

So where was I?

Ok, I would love to create a blogroll of the blogs I read everyday. Some of these are political, like The Daily Kos and Atrios. I also read quite a few blogs which belong to friends or friends of friends and so on, Ani and his blogroll for example. Then there are some Desi and/or litblogger types, like Amardeep Singh, Bookslut, Caferati, Jabberwock and Hurree Babu.
So how do I do that? It should be idiot-proof so that I can't delete it inadvertently while playing around with the template or something.

Stupid me!

I have just managed to type up half a post and then delete it in an extremely moronic way. Grrrr.