Things that just continue to evade you

I don’t know about most of you, but there are loads of thing that continue to evade me. As much as I try to catch them, they whizz past me making a whooshing sound. If I were to make a list, even a quarter of it would be longer than ‘War and Peace’. (BTW … Peace is another thing that evades the world today. But that’s a topic for the newspapers of the world to write about)
Ok, coming back to my list.

This picture, that I recently saw in a magazine reminded me of one of those things. Actually it is a skill, and the lack of it gas been reaffirmed over the last couple of weekends – An utterly evident inability to get a coal barbecue going! What would I give to get a roaring BBQ like this one going –

Anything at all.

I have tried every trick in the book, on Weber grill company’s website, every type of coal, lighting fluid, kindling and brand of matchsticks available in every supermarket. Every nook and corner in the garden has been experimented with to shade or expose the grill to or from sun, wind, shadows, birds, bees or pollen in the air. I have even tried changing the chemical composition of the air surrounding my house. But nothing has worked. To get a BBQ dinner ready for 7 in the evening, I have to get started at 9 in the morning. But come dinnertime, there is one pathetic little piece of coal weakly glowing in the corner of the grill while I am caked in soot and surrounded by heaps of meat and veggies beautifully marinated with the choices seasonings and a bunch of friends rumbling stomachs standing around grumbling with empty plates in their hands, staring at me.

After a few hours and many beers, one of them will usually come over and yank the tongs out of my hands. And in less than 10 seconds, there will be a roaring fire and that empty grill top will be groaning under the weight of meat and veggies sizzling away to glory.

When the same thing happened last weekend, I quietly slipped away and tried to hide my face in the latest copy of ‘The New Yorker’ (which for the life of me, I still don’t remember why did I subscribe to). There another picture stared at me. This one ….


In one swift stroke, this brutally swept aside every other item on my list and perched itself right on top.

At first I thought this was a joke. But no, this magical thing really exists. Apparently here’s how it works – You can order a big stack of DVDs, run through them on your expensive HD blu-ray player and 4K TV, and a few hours later, you will emerge a connoisseur of fine art! As simple as that.

Really?

It’s mindboggling that there are organisations that spend their time making stuff like this.  And more importantly people are willing to spend their money on this?

As I continue devote every Sunday evening for the rest of my life trying to get that BBQ going, I will stay happy and content in my ignorance of why does Monalisa’s smirk make it the best painting ever made.

Dylan said “Don’t criticise what you don’t understand.” While I fully agree with this philosophy, I will make an exception for this one. I have bigger fish to fry … or rather, grill.

Have a great spring.

Something has been lost

Dear someone of great importance who has lost something of terrible significance. You will be glad to know that all your recruits are immersed diligently in the search for that IT. And they are earnestly following your three commandments.

  1. Be relentlessly dedicated: Any free time one gets must be devoted to this search. And if one ignores the other things might seem of more importance (like your work, interests or family), the reward maybe higher.
  2. Remain Inconspicuous: One must conduct this search in such a way that no one raises as eyebrow should they discover that you are searching for IT.
  3. Focus the search area: Once must search for the IT in one place and that one place only. If you are found searching elsewhere, you will be out of this race.

Somehow the IT seems to have remained elusive so far, but that should not be a cause of concern to you. Anywhere one looks, everyone can be found immersed in the search.

All over the world, a typical day now roughly looks like this. Millions of people start their day and immediately begin the search. They are at it while walking, waiting for their train or the bus, while travelling, while eating, sitting in their office/home or doing any of the mundane things that life demands. When something or someone interrupts them, they look up with a grudging sigh, give that interruption an evil eye, reluctantly abandon their search to quickly deal with that irritating interruption, and get back to the search. This interruption could be any of these things –their train or bus arriving, which is also filled with people also engaged in the search. Or when someone talks to them or while walking, they bump into someone who is also conducting that search unaware of his or her surrounding. Or when they drop the food they are eating while conducting the search. The list of these interruptions is endless, so I will not bore you with the details.

And that one place that you asked everyone to look for IT, is still the same – those little Glowing Rectangular Screens that you have given to everyone.

But can I ask you why is so hard to find that IT? Inspite of everyone continuously staring into these Glowing Rectangular Screens (which we mere humans call smartphones), this IT has still not been found. Do you think this search will ever be successful?

Maybe you have not really lost anything, and are just fooling us. Maybe this IT was something that was ours all along, which you wanted. And with this search that you deceived us into conducting for you, is nothing else but a way for you to take that IT from us.

I think I now know what this IT is – this is our time, our intelligence and our ability to harness it fruitfully elsewhere. And looks like you have succeeded in your venture.

I hope that we can somehow abandon this search, and take back what rightfully belongs to us. It’s going to be hard, but I know we will.

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‘Pokemon Go’ to be banned in Switzerland!

PokeMon Go

In what will come as a big shock to all the ‘Pokeman Go’ fans in Switzerland, it was announced today that the hugely popular game ‘Pokemon Go’ will be banned in Switzerland as of Sunday 21 Aug 2016. Banning means that ‘Pokemon Go’ will no more be available for download on the app store, all the Pokestops and the captured Pokemons will disappear.

What’s more important is that all the people (especially kids) who have installed ‘Pokemon Go’ on their phones or iPods, must uninstall it before midnight on Sunday. If this is not done, their phone or iPod will turn into a Pokemon and capture them.

There are two reasons why ‘Pokemon Go’ is being banned:

  1. Many kids have entered chocolate factories while hunting for Pokemons and have fallen into the tubs where they are made. And people who buy them in Migros or Coop complain that these Chocolates don’t taste sweet any more, but they taste like children, which they don’t like.
  2. The second and the most important reason is a girl called Ananya Luthra (also called Zuks) has been spending too much time on this game. Nintendo, the company, which makes this game, wants her to spend more time playing with her friends, so they agreed to ban the game.

So, to remind you again – all kids, especially Ananya must uninstall this app immediately after reading this!

The sinister plan behind daylight savings time (the one that they dont wan’t you to know)

If you live in Europe, you would have noticed that Daylight Saving Time (DST) started last Sunday and the clocks moved forward by an hour. Well, not all of them – only the super intelligent electronic clocks moved forward on their own. If you still have some old-fashioned analog clocks, they were blissfully unaware of this phenomenon till you reached up to them, dislodged them momentarily from their hanging place and turned a small knob of some kind. That circular motion moved a cylinder helically around its axis, which turned the arms of the clock to display the proper time.

Of course, all the above was true if you were aware of the fact that DST started yesterday.It is possible that hundreds of people were blissfully unaware of this (much like the clunky analog clocks) and only realized this fact when they missed an appointment, a plane or a soccer game. The whooshing sound made by that mysterious missing hour in the day, as it rushes past you, is a puzzling sensation. Having experienced it a few years back when we moved to Europe, I can vouch for it.

But why does this happen? Why should we move our clocks forward an hour in Spring and move them back an hour in the Autumn? You can blame it on William Willett an Englishman, who was one of the first and most vociferous supporters of DST back in early 1900s. He argued that it saves energy, promotes outdoor leisure activity in the evening, reduces crime etc.  Many people are in favour of this, the most obvious choices being retailers, outdoor sports enthusiasts etc. But in reality, the most enthusiastic supporters of this concept are sleepwalkers. The extra hour of sunlight helps those early owls to ‘see’ better as they embark on their sleep walking rituals. This enables them to reach the altar of Hypnos (the god of sleep) bright and early and be among the first ones to collect the juiciest dreams being doled out, before Morpheus (the god of dreams) barges in. It is a widely known fact that Morpheus does not own an electronic clock and does not read newspapers, thus is never on time anyway. 

And of course, there are the opponents to DST. They argue that actual energy savings are inconclusive, it disrupts morning activities, causes people to lose sleep and is generally a hassle. I am firmly in their corner. The most obvious opponents of DST are burglars. The added extra hour of sunlight robs them of the opportunity to rob other people of their precious belongings. Because of their nature of work, the burglars cannot afford to be too vociferous, so they tend to keep it quiet and grudgingly live with this inconvenience. The only time their voices are heard is around springtime when some dumb burglars, who do not own an electronic clock (much like our man Morpheus), land up at their robbing rendezvous an hour earlier than planned and are pummeled unconscious by the puzzled homeowners who have sat there wondering why can’t they get sleep and why have the burglars arrived early today?

All this conjecture is fine, but we seem to be digressing from the point of this post. What is the real reason for DST? Let me get back to that ….

DST was not introduced because of all this hullaballoo about saving energy etc. This was an idea thought up by clock manufacturers to boost their sales, after the famous ‘Clock depression’ that prevailed through the 19th century. Many theories exist about why the ‘Clock depression’ happened. The foremost being that in the 19th century people were generally starting to come to the conclusion that time and space are an illusion and the time for clocks had passed. So to keep track of an illusionary thing, no one was buying real clocks. Another reason doing the rounds was that clocks, with their incessant sound of ‘tick-tock, tick-tock’ were the prime cause of untimely insanity among the masses. So doctors started prescribing patients to get rid of their clocks and put sun-dials inside their houses instead. But once people put a sun-dial inside the house, it did not show the time of the day as it did not get any sun. So it further reaffirmed the first belief that time is really an illusion, and the vicious circle continued.

Once people had a clock, there was no need for them to replace it. It just stayed nailed to the wall, tick-tocking away. Typically the clock didn’t break or start smelling after a few years, so the clock manufacturers had little repeat business. But all of this changed when Mr Willett,  a builder by day and a clock manufacturer by night, came up a with cunning plan. This nefarious plan rested on two arms.

  • Firstly, we should artificially change the time a couple of times of year. He figured if it is given a scientific sounding acronym like DST, which has the word ‘saving’ in it, people will think it is of paramount importance and will agree to follow it.
  • Secondly, he introduced a new global design standard for clocks. The new standard ruled that the knob which you need to turn to change the time would now be placed at the back of the clock, and not on the side. And the hole or the hook by which the clock is hung to the nail on the wall, should be made inconceivably small and be hidden away in an unreachable place so that it is practically impossible for you to hang the clock back on the wall, once you have taken it off.

Both these standards were passed unanimously in the annual horological conference of 1907 and have worked like a charm since then. Every year, millions of people try to change the time on their clocks around spring and autumn. Having successfully fiddled with the small knob and changed the time, they are then unable to hang the clock back properly on the nail where it was originally stationed. The imperfect alignment of the nail and the hole, induces the Newtonian laws of gravity and causes the clock to fall to the ground, spectacularly smashing it to smithereens and giving people a small glimpse of what ‘Big Bang’ would have been like. The guilty man (another statistically proven fact – it is always the man who performs this annual ritual) then looks to redeem his honour in front of his family by buying another clock and hammering a new nail. The vicious circle continues and the clock manufacturers continue to rake in the moolah.

I was one of the people who fell prey to this ancient nefarious plan and smashed our clock last sunday. On my twitter feed, I read about this exact accident being repeated in places around the globe. The otherwise pristine streets of Zürich were riddled with broken clocks being thrown out of their windows by the disgruntled owners. All this was celebrated by the clock manufactures at their lavish parties at the glitzy ski resort of St. Moritz. 

The clock makers have made billions out of this annual ritual and are now the secret owners of the many of the largest holding companies in the world. One of the lesser chronicled sagas of global business is the economic rise of the clock manufactures in the 20th century. The following graph shows the rise in fortunes of the clockmakers since these momentous changes were introduced.

 

Apple, never the one to lose out on a business opportunity, has quickly recognized this and is said to be working on an iClock. Since they yet do not own the patents for the clock design passed in 1907, the iClock will have some cunning features to overcome the issues faced by folks like you and me.

  • To honour Steve Jobs, it will be surrounded by a black rubber casing (like his turtleneck sweaters) to cushion the inevitable falls
  • The user will be able to circumvent the knob and change the time via an app (though the app will only run on the iPad 5, which you will need to buy separately)
  • The entire back side of the clock will be a giant black hole, which will be backward compatible with any nails or walls manufactured since 1907

All the clock-breakers and Apple fans the world over have hailed this revolutionary move and crowds have already started thronging outside Apple stores, waiting to get their hands on the iClock.

The clock makers on the other hand, are reportedly building a new super telescope so that they can spot Darth Vader’s ‘Death Star’ in the far reaches of the galaxy. They hope to convince him to use the dark side of the force to make sure that Apple’s plan does not work and the clocks still continue to fall and break around DST. 

Who will win, only time will tell. Till then, leave those clocks alone and enjoy the extra hour of sunshine and the beautiful spring weather.

Music !

Heard this conversation in a movie I watched recently.

———————-

Q – “Do you like Music?”

A – “Do you breathe?”

———————-

What a fantastic answer … ain’t it.

If I were to think about it for myself, I would fall into the same group. Music is one of the pillars of my life. Since I lack the ability to be able to play an instrument or sing, I devote my energy and whatever free time possible to consume music – literally. Plus that spares the family the ordeals of listening to my heartfelt but drastically tuneless outputs.

At possibly anytime of the day there’s a song that’s playing over and over in my head. This happens when I am relaxing, travelling, most stressful moments, when I have to make important decisions, when I am analyzing something, subconsciously processing feelings, information or a course of action. This happens without an iPod or a phone constantly blasting music onto my eardrums, which for some reason I can’t stand. I  prefer to listen to music as singular activity. Sit down and listen to it, pay attention, give it respect…. It keeps me sane and grounded. I wouldn’t be the same without it.

Since music is so important, I want it to sound good when it is played back.  Thus the forays into audio gear – Electrostatic speakers, tube amps and stuff.

The choice of music I delve in is pretty eclectic. It ranges from Phish (a musical genre in themselves) to Dylan to Beautiful south to Blues to Sufi and everything else in between and sideways.  An intensely emotionally charged and powerful piece sung by Abida Parveen inspired me to jot this down. The purity of her voice, the simple words, the sparse but striking musical arrangements emerging like a dream from the electrostatic panels of the incredible Cadence Amaya speakers was a riveting experience.
 
So what’s the point of this post? Does one talk about breathing? … perhaps we need to ….

Morning encounters with noisy goblins

There are times when you are stuck between the devil and the deep sea. On a hot summer day this choice is easy to make. I would take the sea over the devil any day. Sipping a cool drink on beach while the waves of the sea gently lap at your heels,  is a much pleasant alternative to the red skinned, two horned devil pricking you with a pitchfork.

But the choice between pink goblins or noisy ones is a slightly more tricky one…sometimes even a non-choice, as you cannot really avoid any of them. You see, both of them invade into your early morning slumber. The slumber tastes especially sweet on a cold winter morning when it’s -10 degrees outside and just the thought of stepping down from the bed sends a chill down your bones. If you have a daughter, you are bound to run into the pink goblins sooner or later (famously elaborated in my last post). And if you live in Switzerland, then on every last school day of the year before the christmas holidays there is no escape from the noisy ones. Try what you may, they will track you down faster and more accurately than a heat seeking missile.

Switzerland and noise are like chalk and cheese … hardly to be spoken about in the same breath. Yet once a year at precisely 6 AM in the morning, the streets of practically every town in Switzerland turn into a cacophonous orgy of noise, clang and din. Rumor has it that Martians and other funny looking bug-eyed aliens routinely bypass earth on this day for the fear of their delicate spaceship controls being fried off by the high-pitched noises emerging from an otherwise calm alpine nation.

Some of you must be wondering what could the possible source of this noise be? Fret not, as you are not alone. Many theories have been put forward to explain this phenomena over the last few years. Some of the common misconceptions that typically do the rounds are as follows :

  • All the Swiss cows fart in unison on that day
  • The millions of cheese factories have their annual cheese cauldron cleaning day
  • A secret chip implanted in all the cuckoo clocks gets activated and they go off simultaneously
  • The funkily named subatomic particles have a head on colliding party inside the Large Hadron Collider
  • All the swiss watchmakers throwing down their delicate tools with a relief that over the upcoming holidays they will not have to work on those darned minuscule watch parts
  • All the bankers count their gold coins together trying to prove off that ‘My pile is higher than yours’

But as you have guessed by now, these theories as interesting as they may sound, are nowhere near the truth. The real reason that yours truly has discovered is as follows. On the last school day of the year before christmas holidays, the swiss school kids get a license to shock the hell out of poor souls peacefully slumbering in their beds. A typical street scene on that morning looks like this.

All the kids dress up in their warmest clothes, bring out the noisiest substance in their home (which is often themselves) and run to their school in the wee hours in the morning when all is still dark. There they are greeted by the teachers who wait for this day eagerly every year. On this day the teachers, who have suffered all year round at the hands of the kids, have the possibility to give it back to their parents, using their own kids as a means. Carl Jung called this syndrome ‘You oughtta know!‘. Alanis Morissette then famously plagiarized the words of his theory and conjured up a smash hit.

And smash and hit is what the kids have a license for that morning. The otherwise docile kids walk around all the streets banging away at their metallic instruments and screaming at the top of their voices. The louder they clang, the more appreciation they get from their teachers and other kids. The wackier the instruments they use the produce the sounds, the higher up the kids move up on the ‘Cool wall’. If you want to make it big on that day and be a star, old pots and pans banged together will not do. If your dad happens to be a heavy beer drinker or your mom an obsessive tomato sauce freak, the byproducts of their passion can come in very handy that morning as well.

Drunk on the motley sounds gleefully produced by their noisy orchestra, they march on. The procession continues till the time the kids either grow ravenously hungry or their instruments break or every single person in town is woken up and comes out begging and pleading for some peace and quiet. The kids are then rounded up by the teachers and led back to the schools for a hearty breakfast before they are unleashed on their parents for the rest of the vacation.

This tradition has been apparently going on for a few hundred years is lovingly called ‘Schulsilvester’. The intent being to welcome the new year and drive away the old one.  How far that is true is anyone’s guess, but the streets are surely a lively place to be on that morning.

Here’s to a smashing 2012 !