Monday, 28 April 2008

PC vs Mac

I was surfing the web one morning this week before work. Then I found and had to borrow the following quote for my Facebook status:

Irim : The character of the Mac guy is smug. He is condescending. He's that uber-hipster you love to hate. If you own a Mac, you might want to slap yourself.

This prompted Greg to ask me if the characters in the infamous advert were Mitchell and Webb from the Peep Show.

I was pretty certain they were, and in googling to find my answer, I found an article that expresses my feelings on the subject of Macs.

He is so right about Mac users - any of my friends who have converted to Macdom have just become that little bit more insufferable - defending Macs without giving real reasons, with the exception of Rachel, who is still a bit OTT about her Mac love.

Fair enough, I cut my teeth on PCs and so, they were always going to be the favourite. But their slightly rumpled, thrown together look with their wonderfully reliable workhorse personality continues to endear them to me two decades on. I know I can trust them.

Macintoshes look fabulous, true. They have an easy operating system - and I will agree that the Mac O/S is far better than Bill Gates' Windows - but I find that pretty as they are, I feel restricted by Macs. They don't run the same range of software, they freeze up far more often, and if you were to ask them to run huge, long processes, they'd get up off their irritatingly plastic asses and run screaming. Style, not a whole lot of substance.

I like my computers the way I like my men - substance over style. Every time.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Deeply ashamed...

Last week, the pope said the words Americans have been waiting to hear for over half a decade. From the Guardian:

Pope Benedict XVI today said he was "deeply ashamed" of the child sex abuse scandal that rocked the US Catholic church, just hours before he was to arrive on his first journey to the US as pontiff.

"It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said aboard a special Alitalia airliner, nicknamed Shepherd 1. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children.

"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the 81-year-old pope said, pledging to keep paedophiles out of the priesthood.

FINALLY. And he used the right phrase: "keep *paedophiles* out of the priesthood". Not "keep *gays* out of the priesthood." They are NOT related - most paedos are married, heterosexual men. So why are most victims of Catholic priests boys? In part, opportunity - altar servers tend to be boys, especially in more conservative/orthodox parishes. Also, as both conservatives and liberals will agree, over half of all Catholic priests are gay: therefore, statistically, it's far more likely that a paedophile priest will be gay. It's just down to the composition of the pool.

So we have a promising beginning. But words are only that - a beginning. What actions will follow? Will those who covered up get punished, or will they just get moved to the Vatican like Bernard Law of Boston:

"Law was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape." To be specific, the cardinal admitted in a deposition that he knew that the Rev. John Geoghan had raped at least seven boys in 1984 before he approved Geoghan's transfer to another parish where other boys were at risk. Further disclosures revealed that the Rev. Paul Shanley, who at one point was facing trial for 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, had been moved from ministry to ministry in what amounted to an attempt to protect him. Law himself lied to a West Coast bishop about Shanley's history and certified in writing that another rapist priest, the Rev. Redmond Raux, had "nothing in his background" to make him "unsuitable to work with children." (Slate)

Again, conservative or liberal, Law's actions were beyond immoral, they were heinous. He violated the most fundamental premise of the priesthood: to protect the flock. That should have seen him - and those like him - defrocked immediately. Preferably publicly excommunicated. Instead, he's living in comfort in the Vatican, the heart of the Church.

You've taken responsibility, Your Holiness. Thank you. But what next? If you're not quite sure, allow me to offer a line from Jesus himself:

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.
—Luke 17:2

In which case, you'd best start finding more than a few millstones...

Saturday, 19 April 2008

If you move...

Somehow, this seems deeply appropriate for the Indian subcontinent right now. I picked it up from Reiza, whose blog I was catching up with today.

Pakistan is falling apart and breaking the hearts of everyone who loves her. Sixty years on, it's time to admit that ripping apart the subcontinent, tearing people from their mixed neighbourhoods and the deaths of millions - in the name of religion - have all been in vain.

Pakistan is a failed state. Bangladesh, despite having some of the most fertile land in the world, is one of the most poverty-stricken countries.

We forgot the most basic principle: divided we fall, united we stand.

Drop the borders and come home. It won't be easy, but we will be one people, one land again.

And then, as the song goes, when you move - when WE move - as one, the country will move.

Cheesy video? Absolutely. (Over to Yaq for the full translation, since his will be more poetic than mine.) But it's such a beautiful demonstration of how we react to obstacles: we whinge, we turn around and go the other way, we whinge some more and refuse to push through.

But if ONE person faces the obstacle head on and decides to start pushing their way through it, others join in, and what had seemed impossible becomes certain. It show how collective responsibility - and triumph - begins with individual responsibility.

The subcontinent is just a starting point. When we ALL drop our borders and move as one, there's no telling what we can do when the spirit of Ganesh moves through us to remove obstacles.

Heaven on earth sounds like a good start.

So, chalo.

Teh best Baibl tranzlashun evur...Srsly.

I have gone through many versions of holy books and God in my search for the Truth...Trinity, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Baldur...
I've finally discovered the truth - God as Ceiling Cat. It's just so...right.
I tried God as Father and Trinity. Honest, I did. But there were huge gaps right from the creation story. Compare the Judaeo-Christian story with Ceiling Cat's:

Boreded Ceiling Cat makinkgz Urf n stuffs

1 Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.

2 Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.

3 At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.4 An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin.

I'm greeted at the beginning: "Oh hai". Wouldn't you say that to one of your followers? "Oh hai, glad u wantz to findz out how u wuz made." Of course you would. Even though they were reading, it would be like talking to them. That's a God thing.

Ceiling Cat was boreded. That answers the eternal question, "WHY make heaven and urf?" Why not? Especially if there's nuffin else to do.

"He did not eated them." I always wondered that. God must have been hungry - creation was a lot of work. Why hadn't God eated his creation? Now I know it was a struggle, and he didn't, it makes me love Ceiling Cat so much more. He hadn't eated us because he so loved us, he sent us his only son, Jeebus.

"Invisible bike": far more sensible than breathing on the waters. I mean, how far can a breath travel? Bike, as long as he wasn't riding it on the pavement (which he wasn't, b/c it wasn't created yet) - fabulous, green solution.

And separating light and dark - no problem for kittehs, which was a huge relief for me.

Enough of Genesis. Another section of the Old Testament I had problems with was poor translations of the 23rd psalm - 'drooping spirit' indeed. Compare that with this:

1 Ceiling Cat iz mai sheprd (which is funni if u knowz teh joek about herdin catz LOL.)
He givz me evrithin I need.
2 He letz me sleeps in teh sunni spot
an haz liek nice waterz r ovar thar.
3 He makez mai soul happi an maeks sure I go teh riet wai for him. Liek thru teh cat flap insted of out teh opin windo LOL.
4 I iz in teh valli of dogz, fearin no pooch,
bcz Ceiling Cat iz besied me rubbin' mah ears, an it maek me so kumfy.

"Letz me sleep in the sunni spot", "Makez mai soul happi", "maek me so kumfy" - isn't that what a parent would do for his child? How much more then would our Ceiling Cat father in heaven do for us??

One section I've always struggled to understand is the whole thing about the robber and sheepfold and gates. Confuzed. But Ceiling Cat's son, Jeebus/Jesus makes it all clear:

1 Jesus say "k gais i is for srs, if ur in shepfold and u no goes thru dor, u is r0bbr.
2 but if u can goez in thru shepfold door, is ur shepfold.
3 cuz that means shepfold dorman see u and all ur sheepz hearz u. cuz u give shepz names and takez them from shepfold
4 and so the shepz hearz name and folowz cuz is shepfold gai an hear liek teh shepfold gai.
5 but if iz no shepfold gai, sheepz no folow cos is no shepfold gai and no sowndz like shepfold guy so shepz are like: run awai! is no shepfold gai!"

It's so simple now - if you don't enter through the door, you are a thief and the sheep won't follow anyone who is not the shepfold gai. And this is so clearly the informal way that Jesus would address his friends: "K gais, I is for srs," letting them know they needed to take notes.
And their reaction is so predictable, it's refreshing to have it uncensored:

6 Teh gaiz wer liek "wtf u talkin bout sheepz 4? i has no klu wat u meanz."

Can't you just hear Peter's whiny little voice? Rock, my a**. Mud, more like.

And Jesus' willingness to reiterate and reassure:

7 Jesus sez agn "k, lsn srsly gais, i iz shep door.
8 Erleer peepz was r0bberz, n sheepz was like: i no lisn 2 u.
9 I iz door. (I iz opn door, so u no need 2 compln, k?) U goes thru me, u iz ok, n u go in n u com out n u getz nice gras n stuf.
10 R0bberz d00dz steelz ur stuff n kilz u. I iz here so u can has lots of lif.

"I iz opn door, so u no need 2 compln, k?" - a neon sign with clear instructions.

And finally, the reason for all people to come to Ceiling Cat and Jeebus:

25 We were n00bs, but Jeebus takes teh n00b awai.

Absolutely. As long as that isn't a mistranslation that is meant to read "Jeebus takes the b00b away", all is well - because no one is taking my b00bs, not even Ceiling Cat. They rock.

But as for n00bness, well, we can all afford to lose that. Rock on, Jeebus and Ceiling Cat.


Friday, 18 April 2008

The rewards of cataloguing

One of the big ones is being on the cataloguer's mailing list for emails like these:

Dear colleague,

On lcn 10109488 (The Complete tales of Henry James), which is a
twelve-volume work, you have a piece linked to a part record for a v.13:

XXX Main Libr 813.46 13 v.13 Available

Please could you check your copy and amend the holding? Thanks.

Best wishes,



Cataloguing god of one of the foremost university libraries in the world.
Get it? Good. Now FIX it!


I couldn't stop laughing, and as S. is a friend, I emailed him back with:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Maybe it's the very rare v. 13 out of 12 that very few people know about... a ghostly one...

(Think "Turn of the Screw")

His response?

Now now. We mustn't mock those poor people who never learnt to count beyond the number of their digits.
I'm sure that's in the 11th commandment somewhere ("Mockest not those who should be lost to natural selection"), but as I'm already coveting Ruth's pencil skirt, I might as well keep heading down that slippery slope...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Desi dinner

On Thursday night, 13 March, my friend Yaqoob invited me to dinner. As it was the first time I was actually going to witness a South Asian male cooking, the only option was acceptance.

He said that a couple of his neighbours would probably be joining us. I wasn't really thrilled with the idea of a couple of flighty college students intruding on the evening, but the draw of Yaq standing in front of a stove was too strong to resist.

I arrived slightly early for 'Pakistani time' - about 15 minutes after our agreed time of 8pm (no excuse, I'd gotten caught up doing some quick work for the priory). When we got to Yaq's room, there were two other young South Asian men there: Rahul, a fellow Washingtonian of Sindhi descent studying immunology; and Anirudh, a Delhi lad studying law. Rahul, true to his American origin, was extroverted, enthusiastic and sweet. Anirudh was quieter and far drier, with a sharp eye and an equally sharp wit.

Hmmm. *Three* South Asian men, where I'd only expected one. I'm not great with subcontinental men at the best of times. It didn't look good.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The conversation sparkled: mixed Urdu & English, South Asian gestures and references flowed effortlessly. There was amicable competition among regions - as the lone Punjaban, I got to slag off Urdu, which was being vaunted as 'such a beautiful language' - one I consider style and no substance. Punjabi, on the other hand, has grit. It's a cheeky member of the Indo-European family, daring to be tonal and earthy. The sound of Punjabi is unmistakable: as a Punjaban, anytime I hear it, my head swivels so fast I nearly give myself whiplash, and despite being American born, I'm at home.

As a Lahore born NWFPer, Yaq supported me on this one, talking about his Lahori Urdu and how he wanted to speak Punjabi, whilst the other two clucked their tongues and shook their heads knowingly.

Then Rahul made a fatal error. He said, "You know, I really love bhangra music."

"Really?" I replied, attempting to look harmless. "Bhangra music is fantastic, innit - and it's PUNJABI."

Silence. Game, set, match - Irim and the Punjab.

The next topic of conversation, of course, had to be our host and his new girlfriend. As the president of the (uber-Catholic, conservative gay men in denial) Newman Society, Yaq had adopted a certain way of being, and I was a bit worried that she was a beard. That fear was allayed when Rahul and Anirudh gleefully recounted the story of walking into Yaq's unlocked flat, knowing she was there - and Yaq rushing to the door, his jumper somewhat, erm, disarranged (
helpfully pointed out by Ani: "It looks like you have put your jumper on in a hurry").

Since I can't keep my mouth shut, time for me to chime in. Yaq kept trying to reach his girlfriend. First her flat, then her mobile, then her friend's flat. I suggested he was being a typically controlling South Asian male and that he should stop. As his searching became more frantic, I jokingly floated the idea that perhaps she wasn't at her friend's at all, but was actually seeing someone else.

Even as he laughed and denied it, you could see Yaq's tension skyrocket and his attempts to reach F become more determined.

Ani looked at me with a mixture of awe and fear. "I think you've pushed him over the edge. That's just the primal fear for South Asian men, isn't it?" (Men everywhere, of course, but South Asian men are in another league when it comes to obsessing about it.)

Sweetheart, I cut my teeth on the South Asian male psyche. Driving them round the bend is like taking candy from a baby.

It turned out F was at her friend's watching "The West Wing". Yaq mentioned to her that I had said he should leave her be and give her some space, to which she responded (so I could hear), "EXACTLY!"

After that, the only thing left to bait Yaqoob with was religion. I suggested that I might become polytheistic because the world looked like it had been designed by committee and because most monotheistic religions ignored a darker side of God, represented by the likes of Kali. This elicited a "Polytheism is cool, man," from Ani. Yaq started singing the Credo, which made me even more shameless - when he sang 'unum Deum', I said, "But I'm not sure..."

But it wasn't the sparkling conversation or Yaqoob baiting that won the evening. That came much earlier, when dinner was served.

As mentioned earlier, Anirudh is a Tamil Brahmin, eliciting images of vegetarianism, cow worship and meditation. Knowing Yaqoob had made a meat dish, I asked Ani if he'd have enough to eat. He said he wasn't a vegetarian; that Hinduism had no rule that you should be. He said that it was the English who had created this image of the 'Hindoo'. That led to a fascinating conversation, and food was temporarily forgotten.

Then Yaqoob served up, and I asked, "What kind of meat is that?"

"Beef," he responded, as he ladled a portion onto Ani's plate.

Rahul and I gasped involuntarily: despite Ani's comment, this was a step too far. Pictures of Ani ending up as a dung fly in the next life despite his Brahmin caste danced in my head. He couldn't possibly eat a sacred cow.

"Ani!" I exclaimed. "You can't eat that!"

Nonchalantly scooping up chawal and curry with his fingers, the Delhi denizen drily declared:

"It's not an Indian cow."

Sunday, 6 April 2008


I love snow. Living in England, I *miss* snow. Those of my readers who have lived through Minnesota winters or have lived in Canada will probably be putting their heads in their hands right now - sorry, guys.

Why? Not just for the lost school days, both as student and teacher. Nor is it for the sheer beauty of a pristine, blanketed world and the flakes floating down through the sky. In part, it's for the enforced hiatus: as a natural introvert with a strong sense of duty towards others, I love the excuse for solitude under a duvet, with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book (which may stay unread on my lap as I watch the snow fall and just daydream).

Most of all, it's for the silence - by my reckoning, the world is far too restless with too much surface chatter and noise. Snow muffles sound, both physically and by forcing people to stay home. In that stillness, you can hear what's beneath the surface and catch the fleeting sound of creation's heartbeat.

When I lived in Maryland, in the Washington suburbs, we'd almost always be along the snow/rain line, which often meant ice, slush or rain. But some winters we'd hit the jackpot and we'd measure snowfall in feet, with white flakes drifting out of the sky for days, blanketing the world and bringing a preternatural hush to one of the world's busiest cities.

I've not seen snow like that for a dozen years. Yes, we've had the occasional drifting of flakes, maybe even for a few hours, but no real accumulation in this part of the country. This morning...

...this morning was different. My eyes opened in that greyness between darkness and dawn. When I couldn't get back to sleep in 10 minutes, I looked at the clock.

6 am.

I groaned. "IT'S SUNDAY," I thought. "GO BACK TO SLEEP, PLEASE." No dice.

"Maybe you need to go to the loo," an inner voice whispered.

"I've been potty-trained since wide ties were originally in fashion. I think I'd know," grumpy me replied.

"Just GO," came the reply.

This conversation went on for another 5 minutes before I decided to stop wasting time and just go.

I scuttled down the hallway to the loo. As I snapped on the light and blinked sleepily, I idly looked out the frosted glass window into the garden.


"NO," I thought, as it had been sunny and well above freezing the day before. "It's not possible."

Then my no-longer-sleepy eyes flicked upward to the sky - the pinky-grey sky that only ever means one thing. And it ain't rain.

After a loo break that broke the world record for women (I was probably almost as quick as a man!), I tore back down the hall to look through the window in my room.

And there it was - a silent world covered in snow, with flakes drifting down out of the sky at blizzard speed. I watched in wondering silence for a while, then grabbed my phone and took a picture. Then watched some more. Finally, I snuggled under my duvet and closed my eyes with a smile and a prayer of thanks for the beauty, a wish finally granted, for that moment of stillness and connection to creation - which I would have missed without the nudge to nip to the loo, so thanks for that as well.

As I drifted into the twilight world between waking and sleep, I realised what I loved the most about these six-sided ice crystals.

Snow is a prayer.

The ping-pong song

It's Jacquetta's fault. She got me addicted.

The 'ping-pong' song is the nickname of a song by Enrique Iglesias - 'Dimelo' (Tell it to me) in Spanish or 'Do you know' in English. It's called that because of the ping pong ball used for percussion. The video is hysterical, a parody of a video director's thinking process, with (bleeped out or not) Enrique saying to his manager, "Ese cabrón está loco
" (cabrón technically means 'male goat', but its slang meaning is much more useful/colourful: "f***er" or "a**hole").

It's catchy, it's cheeky, and to quote Jacquetta: get ready to shake that booty... :)

As usual, I preferred the Spanish version. The Spanish chorus goes:

"Dímelo, por que estas fuera de mi

Y al mismo tiempo estas muy dentro
Dimelo, dimelo, dimelo
Dímelo sin hablar y hazme sentir todo
Lo que yo ya siento
Dimelo, dimelo, dimelo"

Rough translation:

Tell me why you're so far outside (distant, if you like) me,
at the same time you're such a part of me (I was NOT going to use 'inside me'. NOT.)
Tell me, tell me, tell me
Tell me without speaking and make me feel everything
that I already feel
Tell me, tell me, tell me.

Now, the English chorus:

"Do you know what it feels like loving someone that’s in a rush to throw you away.

Do you know what it feels like to be the last one to know the lock on the door has changed."

I'm not one for insisting that translations be exactly the same as the original - it's impossible to fit the words to the music. But is it too much to ask that they at least be as interesting?

Ok, yeah, this is a pop song. It is Enrique. 'Interesting' is relative. But honestly, you'd think that songwriters could do a bit better.

Or maybe not.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

1 April 2008

Marvelous. Simply marvelous. I loved this so much, I must have been Loki in a previous life.

This morning, I put out an email and facebook status with the same theme: my decision to become a member of a religious order.

Here's the email in full:

Well, it looks like God finally got me.

Last night, after months of thought and prayer, I came to the inescapable conclusion
that the Catholic Church is the One True Church and that maybe I need to bend to
authority a little bit more and just let God do some work.

It's just...TRUE. Maybe it's time I made my life a little easier and went with the flow.

And I've decided that since men seem to be a fruitless area for me - I do seem to pull in
the emotionally unavailable/wounded ones who just won't look at/deal with their own
issues squarely in the face - I'm done. There's just no point in wasting what I have to
offer on men who can't appreciate it, accept it and just love me for who I am - all of it.
You can't have the wonderful bits without the irimtating ones. And I'm so through with
walking on eggshells and the emotional games.

So I'm looking into religious life - why not? It's an easy life - structured, food, shelter,
someone always telling you what to do. I've struggled long enough. Now it's time to

So it looks like the convent it is. I'll keep you posted.

And if ANY of you believed ANYTHING but "I do seem to pull in ... emotional games"
(minus the "I'm done" - I just love men too dearly to, as Joseph would put it,
"put them down"):

1. Check your calendar and time of day.
2. You haven't seen me in a while or haven't known me
for very long.

To the OPs - hope the chapter is going swimmingly well. VB, welcome home!

Lots of love to all of you on April Fool's Day. Now if you'll excuse me, there's some
iconoclasty for me to be getting on with...

Almost immediately, a response from a favourite cleric: "That's very naughty!"

As he IS a religious and I couldn't read tone over email, I responded cautiously, rather than in my usual cheeky tone.

But the response that is probably going to be untoppable comes from V (not the VB mentioned above):


That was the funniest and absolutely scariest April Fools that anyone has
ever played on me.

I was about to get some wild horses and a carriage to come and drag you to your senses. least the giving up men part was believable.

I need go and change now, as I wet myself near the end of that email!



PS. If you ever did decide to become a nun, I'd still love you just as fervently. So :P

Looks like we both need Depends (or Attends, depending on where you are), as I wet
myself at the end of her email.

Just one thing, V - you say I'm a bitch like it's a bad thing...