Humour

Travel Story, Continued

I walk into the room… and on the table, is this vase full of gorgeous orange roses!

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And a cake decorated with fresh strawberries and marbled chocolate pieces… inscribed with the message, ‘WITH BEST COMPLIMENTS’.

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On closer look, I’m even more surprised… propped up against the cake is a card bearing my name! So it is not a mistake after all!

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As if on cue, there is a knock on the door. The guy at the door introduces himself as the assistant manager of the hotel. He wants to know whether I liked the flowers and the cake. I assure him on that count. Yes, they are beautiful, but why? Why? He is honest with his answer… ‘Ma’am, the general manager saw your note and he was very angry with me. He has asked me to get your opinion reversed before you leave the hotel in a week. Ma’am, I’ll bring any colour flowers, any cake you want… you have to give me a good service comment before you leave’.

All this came pouring out in a stream. Finally when he stopped for breath, I told him nothing of that sort will be necessary… I’ll be happy to write a note appreciating the good service as long as the service is good. No flowers or cakes will be necessary for that. ‘No ma’am, I have to make sure you are happy. Otherwise, GM will be very annoyed with me. You have to write a note when you leave, ma’am’. It takes much reassurance to finally get rid of him.

And goodies keep appearing in my room on a daily basis. Flowers, fruits, chocolates…

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Gerberas in a bamboo vase…

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Big bunch of red roses…

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Red roses, white asters and yellow sprays…

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Another lovely gerbera…

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A solitary red rose, chocolates, fruits…

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Yellow roses and purple orchids, fruits, chocolates…

The march of the goodies continue through the week, increasing my discomfort with the whole situation. I can’t wait to get away from the place.

Soon, it is the weekend. A close friend of mine is visiting me, to do some sightseeing. She will go back Sunday and I’ll be leaving on Monday night. We spend the whole of Saturday checking out the historical and touristy places of the city and get back to the hotel by late evening. Too bushed to go out for dinner, we decide to go to the hotel dining room. The dinner is good, with live musical entertainment.

And it is Monday and checkout time. I can see the assistant manager hovering in the background, in case he needs to remind me of the good feedback. But he has nothing to fear; there has been no further fiascos on the service front. I’ll be writing that ‘note’ he so much wanted.

Though this is an official trip, I ask the front desk to separate the room and food expenses as I’ll be using my personal card to pay for the expenses for my friend. I get the accounts for food and it doesn’t look right. It’s way more than what I had expected. I do a mental calculation again, and yes, it is almost twice what it should be. I ask to see the individual checks. The man glances through them before handing them over to me and tells me, ‘ma’am, it is the check for the Saturday dinner’.

I zero in on that bill and see that it is a huge one… I mean really huge. A dozen or so beers, big platters of chicken and fish and plenty of desserts. Apparently the check for a large party. I look at the signature at the bottom and of course, it is not mine. I point out this little discrepancy to the front desk man.

He calls for the waiter in charge of the table, there are whispered conferences, of course joined by the assistant manager. The front desk man comes back to me with a sheepish face… ‘ma’am, there was some mistake; it was the check for another table which was accidentally placed under your account. I’ll right away prepare a new one’.

I look around for the assistant manager… he is nowhere around. Happily, I realise… I have seen the last of him! 🙂

~Ria

 

05 Sep 2014

More About Fun Beliefs

So what were we talking about? Yeah, superstitions! It is amazing how widespread these beliefs are and how many situations and topics they touch upon.
 
There is no question that these beliefs originate in the fertile imagination of people who are quite conversant with the social norms and conventions of the time. As a result, many of these beliefs are aimed at guiding people’s behavior in the socially desirable directions.
 
My fifth grade class had undertaken a project, under the guidance of our science teacher, to investigate the origins of superstitions. Her inference was that what we call superstitions today had logical reasons behind them, at sometime in the past.
 
One of the ideas that we looked at was the common local belief that if you look in the mirror with oil on your face or hair, you will get black spots on your face! And it all seemed so simple after we had a serious guided discussion about it…
 
In olden times, mirrors were a luxury item found only in rich homes. And where would they be located? Of course, in the ladies’ chambers along with rich draperies and silk beds. And what would happen if someone goes there with oil on their face? They are bound to get oil on these fabrics. But are many people likely to listen to that logical argument? No way, they want to see how their oily faces look in the mirror! But would anybody risk getting black spots on their faces for that fleeting look? Of course not! A perfect example of skilful mind control, I would say. Though no longer relevant today, the belief lives on!
 
Many of these beliefs are harmless and definitely chuckle-worthy. Take for instance, these amusing ones…
In Philippines, after visiting a dead person in a funeral home, you are advised not to go directly back to your home. You guessed it; the spirit of the dead might follow you home! So wander around a bit, go get a coffee, or just go for a very boring movie. I think the aim would be to convince the spirit that following you is not all that fun, after all!
 
A common belief in Korea is that the spirits of dead people do not go straight to their destination, but linger around for 6 weeks. So unless you want vengeance from a ghost, do not speak ill of them; they can hear you! (Nothing is said about misguiding them as to where you live, though!) 🙂
 
This might interest the dog lovers among my readers… you know I’m talking about you! In Germany, when a pet dog dies, its body is buried under the front door step, in the belief that the dog’s spirit will continue to protect the home from thieves. Talk about eternal burdens… the poor dog has to be at work even after death!
 
It is considered lucky in Venezuela for women to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s eve. Maybe because the color of gold is yellow? Okay okay, let’s not take that thought any further. 😉
 
And Philippinos believe that wearing polka dot designs on New Year’s day brings you money. This was told to me by my boss who is from Philippines. Yep, I have taken a selfie in all polka dots on last New Year’s day and plan to send that to the boss close to bonus time!
 
Do you like soft boiled eggs? Make sure that you poke the spoon through the bottom of the shell after you finish eating the eggs. At least, that is what the Brits are supposed to do, to release the bad spirits.
 
If you are part of a Russian family eating dinner, it is better to be careful about your cutlery – do not drop any of them to the floor. For, if you drop a fork or spoon, visit from a female guest is imminent. If you drop a knife on the other hand, a male guest is bound to visit you. And I refuse to ponder the implications or possible origins of that belief…
 
This one caught me by surprise… I have attended weddings in Denmark and this never happened. Still, it is fun to imagine… 😉
 
Apparently, it is a tradition in Denmark for the bride and groom at a wedding to cross dress, to confuse the evil spirits and keep them at bay.
 
I have no idea what the Hawaiians have against bananas, a perfectly harmless fruit. It is believed that if you bring bananas on a boat will bring bad luck to the fishermen and others on the boat. I would really love to know the origin of this belief, but can’t even make a guess.
 
The list goes on… it is fascinating when you take a serious look at these beliefs or superstitions. That is, as long as you don’t take them seriously. But it is real hard for many people to let go of beliefs that they have grown up with. Most often, education has nothing to do with it… the believers themselves will agree that it is not logical. Still, some lingering shadow in their mind will make them turn around thrice when a black cat crosses their path or throw some salt over their shoulder if they ever spill salt. To each, her/his own…

 

~Ria

 

26 Aug 2014

Some Advice for My X Readers

The only regret I have while writing this post is that I won’t be able to see the faces of my friends when they read this… the curled lips, disdainful eyes, and the general expressions of disbelief… Still, I’ll be hearing about it, I’m sure.

 

Seeking and receiving advice is a part of social life. So here is some advice for my readers with two X chromosomes. (And a word of caution to my XY readers: you take this to heart and grin too much, you do so at your own peril!)
 

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

 
Hit the ceiling yet? Here, read the rest of it for yourself. BTW, this advice doesn’t come from me; I have no desire to invoke a lynch mob to come after me. This is apparently advice provided by a ladies’ magazine called Housekeeping Monthly, in the 1950s. To be precise, published on May 13, 1955.
 
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The third bullet point there, I don’t think it was intended as it sounds today!
 
And there is better yet to come. How about these?
 

  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
  • Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

And here is the full list…
 
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The last one is my favourite… yep, ‘A good wife always knows her place’. The only disagreement could what that place actually is! 🙂
 
This document in various formats has been in circulation for a while. And of course, its origin has been subject to deep enquiries. And the conclusion? It’s a fake! An out and out fabrication! Reasons for such an assertion are the facts that there was no publication with the name ‘Housekeeping Monthly’ and the picture used here has been taken from the cover of a magazine named ‘John Bull’ published in 1957. Also, the text of this has been circulating for a while before it first appeared in a published format.
 
So… considering that this was done as a kind of joke, who do you think would have come up with it? A man or a woman? Maybe it was a man, fingers on keyboard, in a daydreaming mood, indulging in a fantasy… giving words to his wishful thinking! Or could be a woman making absolute fun of what some men would expect from their wives if they could just make it so! What do you think?

 

~Ria

 

12 Aug 2014

Found on Amazon…

These days it is common to look at product reviews and compare price value equations before we make any purchase decisions. Who even selects a place for lunch or dinner without consulting Yelp? However, read customer reviews for entertainment? Whoever heard of such a thing? But trust me, there are customer reviews that read like National Book Award winners… and they are on a site that most of us visit regularly, amazon.com, world’s largest online retailer!
 
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There is this product, a banana slicer, that is available for sale at amazon.com. A simple tool to slice bananas into even sized pieces. This banana slicer has 4832 customer reviews. Till today. That is important because the comments have been coming for seven years, and I’m sure that count will go up. So what is there to write about a simple banana slicer, you ask? Aah, here is a sample…
 
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Did you see? More than 50 thousand people found that review helpful! That is, including me! 🙂 And 458 of them wrote comments on the review. And the comments are pretty much in the same vein as the reviews.
 
Here is another interesting one…
 
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How did it happen that such a large number of customers were interested in writing reviews of this product when on an average, a product on the site gets less than 50 reviews? It is what I would call viral reviews. I mean, the comment tendency must have spread like a virus among the customers!
 
The first review of the product is dated May 19, 2007. A regular review; good product, as advertised. And it continued till March 2, 2011, with a few reviews appearing over the years. Then, the fun started with this one on Mar 3, 2011.

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And, it never stopped… gets better and better. The imagination, time and effort that goes into these are commendable.
 
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And this is the latest one…

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These are the five star reviews; there are single star reviews as well, which are equally hilarious.
 
Here is a link to the banana slicer reviews. Don’t forget to check out the comments on the reviews. Also, the 456 questions that have been answered.
 
There are some customers (writers) who specialise in reviews which are a lot more than reviews. Here are a few links you may like.
 
A collection of 41 reviews

Huge collection of 111 reviews

Small collection, but hilarious
 
P.S. I liked the reviews so much that I couldn’t help ordering one… no, actually two! 🙂
 
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~Ria

25 Apr 2014

Is today your day?

Did you expect anything interesting to happen when you went to check your mail at Gmail? How long did it take you to identify ‘Shelfie’ – Sharable Selfie – as this year’s April Fools’ Day joke from Google?

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The tradition of celebrating April 1st as Fools’ Day has been in existence for a while. Though there are several stories going around about the origin of the tradition, the most popular one places its origin in the late 16th century. When Europe started following the Gregorian calendar, the start of the new year was moved to January 1st from the earlier April 1st of the Julian calendar. However, some of the population refused to accept the change and continued to celebrate New Year on April 1st. The rest of the population made fun of them, calling them fools, and played pranks on them… or so goes the story. Is there a very pertinent hidden moral to this story? Like, you are a fool if you fail to embrace change? 🙂 But, I digress…
 
Today April Fools’ day has become more of a corporate occasion, with companies vying with each other to come up with the funniest ad, blog post and tweet. An ‘app’ to unlock an iPhone by rubbing a beard over it, a service to rent out your desk space, an inflight service where passengers can select their on climate (Cancun Afternoon, Standard Day in Los Angeles, and Chicago Polar Vortex, among the choices), homes with chocolate floors… these are some of the interesting products and services advertised on April 1st, 2014.
 
Netflix joined in with its offering of two new entertainment offerings – rotisserie chicken and sizzling bacon, which could be enjoyed online. And Youtube too got in the April Fools’ Day game with a video that claimed credit for every viral video on the internet, including Harlem shake and planking included.
 
My favourite one is an announcement from the St. Petersburg/Clearwater tourism office about sightings of a ‘Manaphin’ off the coast of Florida. Of course, in this day of hybrid names like ‘cronut’ and ‘dossant’, one can easily make out that a manaphin can be nothing other than a cross between a manatee and a dolphin! Look at the perfect timing of such a creature appearing exactly on such a day as April 1st! 🙂
 
Of course, it all started with Google. And theirs are the best ones yet. Google’s first April Fools’ Day joke, the MentalPlex, was an advanced search service where users could do a search by projecting a mental image of what they wanted to find whilst staring at an animated gif. And on the search results page, users got awesomely funny error messages. Samples include:
• Error 01: Brainwaves received in analog. Please re-think in digital.
• Error 666: Multiple transmitters detected. Silence voices in your head and try again.
• Error 006: Query is unclear. Try again after removing hat, glasses and shoes.
 
Another one, in 2008, was Google Book Search Scratch and Sniff. To use it, users were asked to place their noses close to the monitor and click Go, which will load the odours. After several attempts, when the hapless users will click Help, they were taken to a page that described the origins of the April Fools’ Day!
 
This year, politicians in Washington DC decided to join in the fun. The Whitehouse announcing the creation of the President’s Council on Beards, Ted Cruz getting a tattoo of Churchill with a cigar, the Republican party claiming the colour blue, Bill Clinton changing his twitter avatar… all happened this year.
 
And a last one that only a local can enjoy… Democratic strategist Joshua Henne named himself Governor Christie’s spokesperson and announced a press conference in Fort Lee, advising attendees to arrive very, ‘very, very, very early – as traffic has been known to build up at the nearby George Washington Bridge during rush hour’… 🙂

~Ria

01 Apr 2014

A bit of spamology…

Spam comes in all kinds and flavours… And it falls regularly into our email boxes promising various things. But one thing common to all spam is that they all seek to deceive us. And it is up to us to protect ourselves from such deceit, which is not all that difficult. While recognising the nuisance they are, I have often been amused by the ingenuity of many spammers.

By and large, the spam business is founded on the concept that human beings are evil by nature. And the spammers are counting on the fact that people will be tempted to act by their greed, even when there is cause for suspicion.

Outside of the phishing scams, job offers, pharmacy pitches, offers of loans and the straight forward ones that tell you to open the attachment, you can put most spam into certain categories.

The pious lady who has millions to distribute to the poor and is asking you – a perfect stranger – to take charge of their millions and use for charity as you see fit. Here it is abundantly clear that the person is counting on you to jump at the chance of getting your hands on someone else’s money. And the later request for some immediate cash from you towards setup expenses will surely follow. But even then, your greed for the unearned millions is expected to blind your judgement.

Then there is the bank officer who has boat loads of money under his control. Either one of his account holders died without leaving an heir or the heirs can’t be traced. And he has identified you as the one person who can pose as the heir and claim the money. Of course, to be divided between the two of you later. You are counted on to be tempted by the free millions, despite the danger of going to jail for impersonation!

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And people with all kinds of schemes for getting money out of Iraq/ Syria/ wherever… all zeroing on you for assistance. And very often they will have links to real news reports lending an appearance of authenticity to the emails.

Very common are the ones that announce that your email has won a huge amount of money in a Coca Cola/ Toyota/ whatever lottery. All you need to do is complete the form so that the money can be transferred to your bank account. Of course, we all know what is going to happen to your account once the email is responded to.

If you had any doubts about the smartness of the spammers, just take a look at this…

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Compensation for spam victims! 🙂

And don’t forget the damsel in distress, the young beautiful girl, whose parents passed away leaving her all their savings. Now, she is looking towards you to take care of her and her millions. Here the appeal is not only to your greed…

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There are other damsels too, who write to you addressing you as dearest or darling, because they saw your email on a search and want to make you their special friend. And the first thing they promise is to send you their pictures as soon as you respond to them. 🙂

Not forgetting the ones that promise to expand your various body parts, with scant attention to whether you are male or female. And most days you are bound to get both varieties!

Look at this… this guy is releasing the first instalment of my inheritance funds to the tune of one million to me! Can anyone blame him if he asks for some small change – compared to the millions I’m going to get – just to make the arrangements, as he is sure to do? And the blank ‘To’ field indicates that this email was addressed to thousands of people at the same time!

 

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Have you ever really lol-ed at a piece of spam? Read this and tell me… could you stop laughing?

 

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I had to explain to my colleagues why I was laughing… And now anyone has just to mention pink crocs for laughter to break out!

~Ria

13 Mar 2014

In search of tribal treasure…

The car flies along the Mysore road. My cousin Bala is driving and the roads are delightfully empty as it is a Sunday morning. We are headed for the Lambani tribal settlement on the outskirts on the city. This tribe makes beautiful metal jewelry and embroidered cloth with mirror work, well known for their excellent craftsmanship. We are hoping to see the making of the lovely artefacts and to buy some, if available.
 
The progress is not so fast though, as we have to stop frequently to ask for directions. Many of these stops turn out to be exercises in character assessment as it seems inconceivable that anyone would willingly say ‘I don’t know’ around here. So one has to gauge whether the directions given are anywhere near dependable, based on the person’s apparent confidence, his body language, whether he looks you straight in the eyes…
 
From the highway we turn onto a paved road; just barely paved. Soon the going gets worse as the paving disappears from under the wheels and the terrain gets increasingly tough. Soon the path becomes two ruts hardly visible among the high grass, climbing up and down hillocks. The vehicle is lurching from side to side, the bottom often touching the ground with scraping noises. I’m getting more and more uneasy, as I’m the instigator of the plan. The other occupants of the car – Min and Bala’s wife Su – have this scared look on their faces and are looking uneasily around.
 
Soon the trees on either side are brushing the car and we can hear scratchy scrapy noises. Any indication of a road or path is almost gone. There is all kinds of discussion in the car… what if we get stuck somewhere, how will we turn the car around, what if we are not welcome where we are going… Su and I try to dissuade Bala from going any further. And Min looks like she is ready to scream at the first indication of trouble.
 
But apparently Bala is looking for adventure. We have come this far; now we don’t want to turn back without seeing the village… the road is sure to get better further along, says Bala the eternal optimist.
 
All of a sudden, the car bursts out into a clearing. Far off across the flat ground we can see some kind of construction. Just as we start looking around from the now stopped car, there is this loud whoop and flurry of action. A bunch of men, all dressed in tribal finery and shaking huge spears, rush towards the car from across the clearing. The loud shouting and yelling fill the air, combined with the noise of their running feet. Bala makes a tight circle with the car and in the blinking of an eye, we are driving helter skelter out of that clearing. As the car turns, we catch a quick glimpse of a huge cauldron, steam rising out of it, set on three gigantic stones with a roaring fire under it, in a corner of the clearing. It is being stirred by a bunch of women who are standing on stilts so that they can see into the pot. That is all we see and that is enough to set us out of there at the speed of thought…
 
Aah… I guess my imagination ran away with me… The story up to the point where we burst into the clearing is all true. We find ourselves in a grove of young mango trees, with some construction happening at one end of the grove. We speak to the people there… yes, we are on the right track; the Lambanis live around the area. No, they do not carry on their traditional arts anymore, at least not around there. And at this time, mid-morning, most of them will be at their work places.

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Young mangoes – mouthwatering stuff!

So, a wild goose chase, but we thoroughly enjoyed it! 🙂 And the day provided many other enjoyments as well. On the way where we stopped for breakfast, we got to taste moode idli, a delicacy of the locale. Made of a mix of rice and lentils, it is steamed wrapped in pandanus leaves.

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Moode Idli

Also, we stopped at Janapada Loka, a cultural center set up to nourish the arts and crafts of Karnataka. Founded in 1994, it is located on the Bangalore-Mysore Road on a 15-acre campus.

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Statues inside the gate of Janapada Loka

Artists in residence perform and conduct training in the traditional dance forms and music. Bangalore University has recognised Janapada Loka as a research centre.

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Dancers at the Janapada Loka

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The day we visited, there was a Yakshagana performance scheduled at Janapada Loka. But unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for that as we had to go see the Lambani settlement… 🙂

~Ria

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With sincere apologies to the Lambani people. The above story is no indication of the behaviour of the friendly and peaceful tribes; it only proves the influence of popular fiction on my imagination.

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24 Feb 2014

The Groundhog Has Its Day…

In old old times… in a small village, used to live a farmer and his wife, who had two grown up daughters. The daughters were married and settled in far away villages. One day the farmer decided to go on a trip to visit the daughters.

The elder daughter and her husband, who were farmers like him, received him with all honours. And had to say this about their well-being: ‘If it doesn’t rain within the week, we will be ruined; our harvest will be destroyed!’

With a heavy heart, the farmer set out for the younger daughter’s house. The younger daughter and her husband, who were potters, were equally glad to welcome him. And had this to say: ‘If it rains within the week, we will be ruined; our pots set out to dry will be destroyed!’

When the farmer returned home, he said to his waiting wife: ‘Regardless of the weather, one of our daughters will surely be ruined!’

Weather has always been a determining factor in human life. Early cave dwellers had an anxiety ridden relationship with weather, perceiving it as unexplainable and way more powerful than themselves. The fear-laced respect towards changing weather has led to a wish to predict the weather, if not to control it.

All civilizations have sayings and proverbs related to weather, aimed at predicting. Examples: ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning’, ‘When the goose flies high fair weather. If the goose files low, foul weather’, ‘Seagull, seagull, sit on the sand, it’s never good weather when you’re on land’, etc.

Among the many means of predicting weather, observing the behaviour of animals has been an early one. And much to humanity’s credit we still follow the age old traditions! 🙂 As is evident from the celebrations associated with Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2nd, every year, the main location being Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. 2014 marks the 128th Groundhog Day celebrations there. The custom has its origins in the folk belief that on this day the groundhog, a marmot that typically lives in burrows, peeps out of its abode to check the weather. If it sees its shadow – if the day is sunny – it goes back in and the winter will last another 6 weeks; if no shadow is visible, it will venture out and we can expect an early spring.

So what if Punxsutawney Phil emerged from Gobbler’s Knob, exactly at 7.28 am on February 2nd 2014, and predicted another six weeks of winter this year? Isn’t the ceremonial consultation of Phil an occasion for some old fashioned pomp and splendour? And doesn’t it bring visitors to an otherwise sleepy town and help out local businesses? And don’t forget a fairly good movie with Bill Murray playing a TV weatherman covering the Groundhog Day. The fact that dear Phil has been more wrong then right in the past in predicting the length of winter is beside the point! 🙂

And don’t think that groundhog related festivities are over with the predictions… far from it. There is the Groundhog Picnic, Groundhog Club Banquet, Groundhog Ball, a Celebration Tent filled with fun and entertainment events, Phil Phest featuring a yard game tournament… whatever your preference, there is something for everyone! And of course, you can buy memorabilia like t-shirts and beads and whatnots to take home. And the list of corporate sponsors for the events is pretty long. Take a look at all the details at the Groundhog Day Home here.

The belief that groundhogs (and other animals) are capable of predicting the weather was carried over from Europe by the Germans who settled in the south eastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. The earliest reference to Groundhog Day in the US is in 1841.

As any person who has achieved great success, Phil also has had to content with imitators and competitors. Several other groundhog personalities have emerged in recent times – no pun intended – to get in the business. Buckeye Chuck in Marion, Ohio, Birmingham Bill in Birmingham, Alabama, General Beauregard Lee in Lilburn, Georgia, Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh and Queen Charlotte in Charlotte, both in North Carolina, are some of the Johnny-come-latelys in the weather prediction business. Isn’t it so true that success breeds imitation?

And of course, Washington DC has its own version of Groundhog Day, with Potomac Phil, a stuffed groundhog playing the main part. No, no… no comments on stuffed beings in DC, please! 😉

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By the way, the name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location ‘ponksaduteney’ which means ‘the town of the sandflies’.

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03 Feb 2014

What is in a name? Seriously?

I am a great fan of AWAD (A.Word.A.Day), a daily subscription email list founded by Anu Garg of wordsmith.org. There are certain words that I might not have ever encountered but for the daily AWAD email. Petrichor jumps to mind… that lovely indescribable scent that emanates from the parched earth after the first rains, finally got a name when it dropped into my inbox one fine morning. Bringing with it, memories of monsoons and school reopenings which for some inexplicable reason coincided most of the time. But I digress…

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Last week’s AWAD theme was toponyms – words derived from the names of places. Got me thinking about how place names came into being. Also, about interesting place names.

It is easy to imagine the need to identify geographical locations in communications, even in cave people days. ‘Big mammoth felled at rock mountain; come, join the fun’ would prevent a lot of that mammoth going waste, you can imagine. 🙂 And most of the earliest place names were based on geographical features, naturally. That trend continues to the present day with innumerable names like Glendale, Riverside, Hillview, etc.

A lot of place names were carried over from the old countries by immigrants who were nostalgic for the lands left behind. New York (earlier, New Amsterdam, when it was owned by the Dutch), Lancaster, Brunswick (New, North, South), Rochester, Stamford, Berlin, Copenhagen… they are all present. When I was travelling in Egypt, the tour guide asked us why we had to have a Cairo and Alexandria in the US. The only answer we could give was that the US is a true melting pot! 🙂

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Many of the current place names are derived from their original names used by the native Americans, which again were based on geographical features. A prime example is Manhattan, from ‘manna-hata’ meaning ‘island of many hills’ in the language of the Lenape tribe. Massachusetts (by the great hills), Connecticut (place of the long river), Hoboken (where pipes are traded), Passaic (river flowing through a valley)… very interesting to take a look into the thousands of such names.

Then there are place names that exist in every state, sometimes more than once in the same state. Middletown, Harrison, Bloomfield, Fairfield… can you think of any state that does not have towns with these names?

Then there are the truly interesting place names. Like Cut and Shoot in Texas, Casa Blanca and Moriarty in New Mexico, Hell in Michigan, Real and Loving also in Texas (two towns, not Real Loving!), Caliente (meaning ‘hot’ in Spanish) and Steamboat in Nevada… the list goes on. Not to forget Blue Ball and Intercourse in Pennsylvania, so inexplicably close together!

But my favourite is Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. According to my friend Google, the city called Hot Springs changed its name to Truth or Consequences, the title of a popular NBC radio program, in 1950, in response to a promise that the program will be aired from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Voila! Hot Springs got a new name!

The most poetic and literary place names I have come across belong to Columbia, Maryland. Columbia is a planned community with self-contained villages and its localities are named after places in the literary works of well-known American authors like Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Walt Whitman, etc.place-names-word-cloud10

Kind Rain, Scarlet Petal, Rising Moon, Deep Calm, Open Sky, Tawney Bloom… can you imagine any more poetic place names?

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Interesting thought…

According to Wikipedia though the word Manhattan has been translated as ‘island of many hills’ from the Lenape language, the Encyclopedia of New York City offers other derivations, including from the Munsee dialect of Lenape: manahachtanienk (‘place of general inebriation’), manahatouh (‘place where timber is procured for bows and arrows’), or menatay (‘island’). Which one would you think is most apt? 🙂

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27 Jan 2014

An interesting dog situation

We have a dog situation at our condo. In fact, it has been present for a while. Only, now it has grown so big it can’t be ignored anymore!

To start at the beginning… Ms D, who lives on the third floor, has a dog. And this dog, Tigger, has a violent temper. Any movement in the corridor in front of the apartment would send the dog into a frenzy of hissing and barking and scratching on the door. According to neighbours, this would happen regardless of whether the dog was alone or D was in the apartment.

The Condo board has received a number of complaints about the noise and disturbances created by the dog, which I’m personally aware of, since I’m a board member. Several times the board president Mr J has had conversations with D about the behaviour of her dog and the need to curb such behaviour. And every time, D has assured him that she will do whatever it takes to keep the dog under control.

BTW, the board president is a very patient man, quite unlike me. 🙂

Then, it was late summer. During the summer, we had converted the open space behind our building into a garden with a picnic and barbecue area. How better to celebrate better than with an ‘adieu to summer’ party? At the monthly condo meeting the details were laid out… pot luck party; people bring stuff to be grilled. Salads, soda and cookies to be provided by the board. A grill master was chosen. We were so close to adjourning the meeting with the question, ‘any other business?’

L promptly put up his hand… ‘I have a complaint’. And most of us knew what the complaint is; it is not the first time Tigger has featured prominently at our condo meetings. Sure enough… ‘You all know the lovely dog that lives opposite to me… I can’t take it anymore. It only has to hear me take out my keys and it starts hurling itself at the door. And the barking… one would think its throat would burst any moment. And it doesn’t cease even after I’m inside my apartment!’ He got up and enacted the dog running at the door and hurling and scratching at the door. I have to say. L is a great mimic and despite the seriousness of the complaint the whole group burst out laughing. L continued, ‘Just tell her… I don’t care if I’m being politically incorrect, I have to say this: I’m Chinese, my wife is Korean, aaaand we eat dogs. If her dog disappears one day, don’t bother looking for it.’

With all seriousness, J turned to him… ‘L, if you bring any meat for the weekend’s barbecue, we will have to refuse it’. And all I had to say was, ‘L, I have never tasted… please invite me!’ Needless to say, we all had tears in our eyes from the laughing.

More talk with D ensued; she promised that she will keep a close watch on Tigger and there will be no more disturbance from the dog. Personally, I didn’t see much hope in that promise, but for a while all was quite on the third floor.

Then I went away for two weeks during the Christmas holidays. ‘Ria, you missed all the drama!’ These were J’s first words when he met me in the entrance hall, even before I could wish him a happy new year. And he explained… One day L was waiting for the elevator. And who would be in the elevator when the doors opened on the first floor? Of course, it had to be Tigger and D! Apparently taking advantage of the fact that  D’s hands were full with bags and things, Tigger lunged at L, who is convinced the dog now has a personal vendetta against him. Long story short, choice words were exchanged between the two, I mean L and D. And the board has received not one, but two formal written complaints! And later we watched the whole episode on the security camera in the elevator lobby.

So now the question is, what can/ should we do? Stay tuned for further developments.

P.S.

From the above narration, every word of which true to the last syllable, if you pictured Tigger as a Pit Bull or a Rottweiler or something of that kind, the error is all on my part. I should have made it clear sooner… Tigger is some kind of terrier, Havanese I believe, who stands tall at 12 inches! And, if I was not afraid of violating Tigger’s privacy, I would surely have added a photo of him here!

~Ria

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Monday’s lunch…

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06 Jan 2014