Feb 28, 2008

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

As you have probably gathered from the banner of my page, I have a brother. But I rarely talk about him. It's not because I don't love him, it's because a lot of the time I don't understand him. When asked what he does, I will promptly reply "he works with computers." When asked what his undergrad major was, "he studied computers." When asked what he's made out of, "... computers?" He's kind of too good to be human true.

He works hard, he saves his money. He practices martial arts for the discipline and exercise. He goes home to eat dinner with our parents on a regular basis. My brother is a gentleman and a scholar. So what do I call him? Monster.

"Hiya, Monster!" My voice on the phone is all innocence and little-sisterly love.

"Hello. What do you need?"

"Monster, I am shocked. Shocked. What makes you think I need something?"

"Um. Because you called me?"

*guilty silence*

"If you don't have a question, I should get back to work..."

"Wait! Tell me of this thing you call Blu-ray, and how I can make it my own!"

"Okay, do you have a pen and paper?"

"Um, yes." I don't mention that I'm driving whilst juggling pen, paper and cell phone. That sort of thing just makes Monster worry.

I should try to be a better sister to him, I just can't figure out how. There's nothing Monster needs that he doesn't accomplish himself. I'm not saying he's perfect - just so close to perfect that sometimes their mail gets mixed up.

The one and only time I was able to be of any help to him was when we were children. Even at eight years old, Monster was full of moral rectitude. On the playground he took turns, was always humble in victory and gracious in defeat. This, as you can imagine, did not endear him overmuch to the other boys. One of his cohorts took to calling him an unimaginative yet mean-spirited nickname. Monster merely turned the other cheek. He wanted to set a good example for his baby sister.

Then I arrived on the scene and kicked that little boy's teeth in.

Some of you are appreciating the irony - I've given my brother this ridiculous nickname, yet if any one else attempts the same I open up a can of whoop-ass. Others of you have stopped hoping for consistency, and therefore have much more realistic expectations of me. And that's why Monster and I get along so well - he knows I'm a sarcastic weirdo with anger management issues, and loves me anyway. So thanks, big brother! And happy belated birthday.

Feb 26, 2008

Why I Changed My Layout

2:12 PM Wistar: i got chosen as a featured blogger for the Festival of the Book!
me: wow, congrats
Wistar: the guy contacted me, and i sent him a link to your blog
guess he thought it sucked
2:13 PM me: um, thank you?
Wistar: they're starting small, so they only wanted really great blogs
i guess he saw me mentioned in the newspaper, or something
me: well, congrats
your blog is very witty
2:14 PMWistar: thanks!
aww, and yours is too. but mine looks more professional, so it stood out
me: aha
Wistar: yeah, you need to do something with the layout
me: probably2:15 PMWistar: get Darren to install you with a wordpress theme
me: but i've not been on blogspot a year, i don't want to change now
Wistar: wordpress is the best!
and we can probably get your posts transferred
if not, no big loss
me: ...
do i have to have my own domain, though?
Wistar: don't be so cheap
any blog worth its salt has its own domain anyway
2:16 PM me: uh ... huh
well, thanks for the advice
i have to get back to work, now
Wistar: okay
i'm going to go eat a pint of ice cream and pass out on the couch

Please note that the above is only loosely based in reality. That is to say, Wistar and I did have a conversation via Gmail chat this afternoon which may or may not have included the word "blog." What do you think of the new look?

Feb 22, 2008

Cowboy up, Sri

Thanks to everyone who called/emailed/messaged me with kind words. To everyone else: screw you, jerkwads. Heh, just kidding. Maybe.

On a much-needed lighter note, I have been traveling again. No, this is not the much-anticipated Adventures in India (With Pictures!) post. I am referring to my recent trip (read: two weeks ago) to North Carolina ... which is almost like a foreign country, right?

I started my trip to the Vale of Humility by driving to Wake Forest University (which, incidentally, is no longer located in Wake Forest, NC) to visit my freshman roommate, Erin. She and I had a tumultuous relationship while living together. To wit, we would get into physical fights which invariably ended in me dragging her battered carcass into the hallway and locking her out. I also had a private joke (with myself) about her pet dachshund, about which I would laugh for hours on end. Oddly enough she did not want to room with me the next year.

Somehow, we are still good enough friends for me to invite myself over on my NC trip. Freshman hallmates are like that - they stick with you like the smells from the underclassman cafeteria, and no matter how many times you wash your hair or change zip codes you can't get rid of them. Erin and I spent a merry evening catching up, bemoaning our love lives, and making fools of ourselves trying to imitate the dancing from Hairspray (which I highly recommend as a movie and a workout video). My secondary theme song, after "Invincible" by OK Go, is now "Run And Tell That!"

Seaweed is my personal hero.

The next stop on my NC tour was the house of Harp Lady and BPH, married friends from undergrad. They are what you'd call Crunchy Granola, and are constantly filled with delight at the various everyday joys life has to offer. Despite how it sounds, this does not make you want to throw up and die. I always have fun with Harp Lady and BPH, mostly because they take me to the most interesting places. This time we visited the Carnivore Preservation Trust: no lions, but tigers and bearcats, oh my!

I so want a stuffed bearcat! Wait, that came out wrong.

The best part of my trip was that, because I was feeling under the weather, Harp Lady and BPH drove me to the grocery store, fed me orange juice and let me have a nap. Maybe getting married instantly makes you a responsible adult. I sure hope so, because at this rate it's the only thing that's going to help me.

Next time, Reliving the Glory Days: Sri "does" Richmond.

Feb 19, 2008

In Memoriam

January 13, 2008
Vijayanagar, Bangalore

'Do you recognize me?'

I am sitting at my grandmother's bedside. She barely seems aware of her surroundings, much less of me. It is possible (likely) she will never again look on my face and know who I am. When she does find the strength to lift her head her watery gaze passes right through me. But what did I expect? Our lives have only intersected at a handful of points in time. My grandfather did not acknowledge me, towards the end. Why should she be any different?

My tears are unnecessary and unwelcome. She is ninety-one years old. Her strength is gone - it flowed out of her and into her children, her grandchildren. I am part of her living legacy, foreign and strange as I am. Rangana's daughter.

When someone finally remembers to introduces me as such, her almost-blue eyes fix on me. Slowly, one wrinkled hand emerges from the rumpled bedclothes. I take it tenderly, hyper-aware of her fragile bones. My hand feels healthy and too heavy in comparison. She mumbles something even my mother, who speaks Tamil (her native language), can't decipher.

She pulls her hand from mine, and then extends one gnarled finger towards my chest. Shakily, she traces the embroidered pattern on my kurtha. I lean forward and allow her to do it. After a moment, her hands drops and her eyes close.

Everyone tells me that she is healthy for her age. I've caught her at a bad time. But part of me thinks this will be the last time we see each other. And there is not enough time; there will never be enough time for us to know one another.
My grandmother died yesterday.

Feb 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Yes, everyone - not just sickening couples whispering sweet nothings to each other over candlelit dinners. This day o' luuuuuuuuuve is for all of us! And to help you celebrate, I'm sharing an amazing (and, incidentally, vegan!) chocolate cupcake recipe I found.

I don't know
, you may be muttering. I'm not much of a cook.

Baking from scratch is not hard, people. Do not be afraid if you don't get things exactly right. Keep in mind my baking motto, YCMAE: You Can't Measure An Egg. This means that the people who write recipes have no way of knowing the exact volume of everything you need - every recipe has wiggle room. So let's begin!

Sweet Chocolate Cuppin' Cakes a la Sri

Phase One - Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar (OR 1/2 cup Splenda for baking, with half the calories!)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 tsp vinegar

Vinegar? you ask, understandably confused. Yes, vinegar. Don't panic, mama knows what she's doing.

1. My very favorite thing about this recipe is that it has one mixing step, which is this: combine all ingredients and blend with electric mixer until smooth. Though, I do like to stir the dry ingredients before adding the wet to ensure an even distribution.
2. Fill cupcake cups 2/3 of the way - 1/2 is not enough, 3/4 is too much. But Sri, you might frown and say, what about YCMAE? Look, if you wanted coherence go ... uh, somewhere. Else.
3. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. This will give you plenty of time to whip up some frosting!

Phase Two - Frosting
1/2 cup shortening (vegetable shortening works just as well, with no trans fat!)
1 tsp vanilla extract (note - any other extract, like lemon, would work just as well)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons soy milk (or regular milk, if you're not married to the whole vegan thing)
Red food coloring (optional)

1. Beat together the shortening and vanilla.
2. Add one cup of sugar while beating.
3. Add one tablespoon milk. And beat again. If you don't have an electric mixer, your arm is going to fall off right about ... now.
4. Alternate sugar and milk slowly until desired thickness is achieved.
5. Add two or three drops of red food coloring and tah-dah! Pink equals love.

Phase Three - Decoration
Let the cupcakes cool during one whole intro from Veronica Mars (didn't I mention Weevil Navarro was a key ingredient?), or about ten minutes. My frosting came out so fluffy that I had to apply it with a spoon ... mmm, delicious. Now, use some hideously dark purple gel icing from the store to write "VD" on all the cupcakes and coat generously with red sprinkles. The idea is to evoke the image of, without actually depicting, oozing sores.

What? You recoil, bewildered. Wait ... what?

Shhhhh, I told you. This recipe is for everyone. Refrigerate the cupcakes overnight to let the outside of the frosting get a little crusty. Serve them to your friends and coworkers with a smile. And have a very happy Valentine's Day.

Feb 12, 2008

I participated in the Democratic primary, and all I got was this lousy sticker

Sorry for not updating sooner, I've been out of town and under the weather. But adventures from India are coming soon! In the meantime, allow me to remind my fellow Virginians to vote in the primary by 7pm today. It's quite easy - you just have to go to your usual polling place and let them know which ticket (Democratic or Republican) you wish to vote on. Once you get in the booth, you'll have the chance of vote amongst any of your party's "major" candidates - but keep in mind that only Dems Clinton, Obama, and Gravel (who?) and GOPhers McCain, Huckabee, Paul and (randomly) Keyes are still in the race. Point of interest - according to Project Vote Smart, there are over 300 announced/potential presidential candidates.

I vote at my local Elk's Lodge, along with the senior citizens from a nearby retirement community. There are always some amusing characters in lines at my polling place. This morning, I held the door for a tiny foreign woman in a fur coat.

Tiny Foreign Woman: [noticing my youth and skin tone] Obama?
Me: Um...
TFW: Yes! Obama!
Bald Man: No, Hillary!
TFW: Hillary's okay, but Obama is the best!
Me: (small voice) Can I just vote now?

If you're still undecided, try this presidential match game from USA Today. Take your results with a grain of salt - I consistently got matched with Dennis Kucinich. Even though his appearance on the Colbert Report was nothing short of awesome, I only like him as a friend. I actually got matched with Gravel over Clinton and Obama, but I couldn't conscience throwing my vote away like that... sorry, Mikey. Call me when you don't have to take the bus to your campaign rallies.

Feb 6, 2008

Primary Primer

If you're like me, you're writhing in indecision over who to vote for in the Democratic primary: Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama. This question keeps you up at nights and you view February 12th, the date of the Virginia primary, with a mixture of giddy anticipation and gut-churning dread. Some may laugh, but I think they'd be surprised at how many people are like me.

The problem isn't that the candidates are so different on the issues. Take this quiz from MSNBC - out of the nineteen issues, Clinton and Obama only differed of four (though one could argue that the fault lies with MSNBC). This article in the New York Magazine is one of the best I've found highlighting the differences between Clinton and Obama. It comes down to how they view the climate of Washington, D.C.

Clinton is, for lack of a better term, a "beltway insider." She's seen the worst that D.C. has to offer in regards to partisan politics. If elected, she'll duke it out with the Republicans for four (to eight) years. We may see a return to the no-holds-barred politicking of the late 90s. On the bright side, she'll be damn good at it.

Obama is a uniter, not a divider. He has a great vision for our nation, to transcend petty politics and bring us all together under the common flag of progress. He is change. He is idealism. And he may fail. Utterly. We'd love another JFK ... but can we afford another Jimmy Carter?

But beyond the "realism vs. romance" debate, it's important to keep in mind the bigger question: Who Is More Electable? With McCain as the Republican front runner, we've got to keep an eye on more conservative Dems(1). Whether Clinton's pragmatism or Obama's promise has the best chance of derailing McCain's Straight Talk Express remains, at least for me, to be seen.

Honestly, I'll be happy if 2008 sees a Democrat, any Democrat, in the White House. If either a woman or a black man gains the Highest Office, I'll be thrilled (And who knows? - maybe we'll see a female minority president in my lifetime. *cough*Sri2020*cough*). But if the Dems can't get it together and score a win after the two-term nightmare that has been Bush Jr's presidency, I'm moving to Canada(2).

(1) If you're reading this, Dad, I'm on to you. I've found the McCain press clippings under the mattress. Don't try to deny it.
(2) No, not really. I will continue to resist the siren song of socialized medicine for a while yet, my chickadees. Never fear.

Feb 1, 2008

TV Blog Update

Links to my January entries in the collaborative TV blog, TV Sluts. No, I didn't help pick the title.

Strike Watch, Episode V (1/2/08) Freaks and Geeks
From India, With Love (1/21/08) Indian singing competition
... and that is why I love him (1/24/08) Jerry O'Connell spoof of Tom Cruise Scientology video
I'm A Supermodel Apologist (1/29/08) Make Me A Supermodel