Friday, February 29, 2008

Japanese "We Are The World"

I haven't been able to stop watching this video. Check it out here!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quote of the day

" The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”
--- Jack Kerouac

A blog bit of melodrama

Today I woke up nice and early, ready to work, ready to seize the day. I opened my computer and started looking at my RSS feeds and burst out crying. I'm not PMS-ing, nothing cry-worthy has happened.

I hate it when I get emotional for no good reason. It makes me more upset than the actual reason for which I may be crying. My persistent efforts to remind myself how lucky I am and how strong I am (or should be) help me not complain about anything and reinforce that I have no reason to be upset. Over the last year or so, I have been a sponge, absorbing many strenuous conversations of friends with "real" issues; issues in light of which my "issues" are so stupid.

So if I feel low I don't really let anyone know; putting things in perspective makes me feel ludicrous about my emotions. I lift myself up by realizing that compared to other people's mountain size problems, my so called problems are not even the size of an ant. So I shut them down and distract myself by taking a walk or going dancing.

I think that mindset, although most of the time holds, occasionally cracks to reveal a weak and vulnerable me, a me that I feel has no right or reason to surface, a me that I'm embarrassed to show to friends, a me that only my family will understand.

To add to that, what I think is only now rising from deep inside my subconscious is: nothing I am doing in my life really matters. Not to me, not to the people in my life, not to the world. All my time and energy is being spent unwisely; my ability to contribute, my immense capability to give, is being wasted.

It's a strange feeling of being deep and hollow at the same time. I don't like it. I don't want to talk about it. As is stands, it's frivolous and until I can add more context to it or come up with a solution, it's a pointless conversation.

All these ridiculous and uncalled for emotions have resulted in me being selfish with the strangers or acquaintances I have been meeting these days. Just like I'm selfish when I write on this blog.

It's easier to let your guard down with random people because you really don't care how they feel (you hardly know them), and they -- for some reason -- want to know how you feel. It is them whose time you are willing to take without worrying about the time you give them. How messed up is that.

I suppose, as I've written about before, sometimes you just need a cry.

Anyway, I feel better after writing this. To anyone who has bothered to read through -- thank you. Now I will get back to work.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bamboozled again by Richard Branson... he comes up with a coconut-oil and algae solution for cleaner skies.

I love this man.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Frivolous Cravings

The plan for 2008 was to notch-up the content of my blog. I have a few readers who I bombard with my mindless rants, so I thought it's high time I write on topics of more consequence.

The more I think of that, the more frivolous posts come to my mind, many of which I have been avoiding. With the million things I need to get my mind into, a blog with regular earth-shattering content does not seem likely -- so in the mean time I will continue with the meaningless points I regularly bring to this blog.

I'm embarrassed to say that the two things that I have not been able to get my mind off these days is Cherry Ripe and Bisto Gravy. Not hunger in Africa nor the state of street children India, but a chocolate and meat gravy have been occupying my thoughts.

For those of you who don't know what Cherry Ripe is: it's the world's best dark, cherry, coconut, and rum filled chocolate. Actually, it doesn't have rum, but the cherries are so fermented and their mixture with dark chocolate give it a strong taste of alcohol. Rumour has it that if you eat a bar and take a breath test, it will come positive for alcohol. Seriously! It used to be my staple breakfast when I lived in Australia; it is, sadly, not sold outside the country. I had an Ozzie friend in Dubai who would annually bring me back a dozen extra-large bars of Cherry Ripe. Pure, cheap, joy. Sigh.

Another craving that began in winter is for Bisto gravy. Yes, instant, chemical-filled, brown powder that when mixed with hot water turns into thick, delicious gravy. In the UK and in Dubai, our cabinet always had Bisto gravy. Other than with steak, vegetables and mash potatoes, I would eat it with the chicken from my mum's Vindaloo, rice, bread, and noodles. I LOVE Bisto gravy and am shocked that it is not available in Madrid.

When I go to Dubai this time, I will bring back Bisto gravy. Cherry Ripe *deep sigh* I'm just gonna have to live without. Life is tough, eh?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Varying Perspectives

Sarina: Hey, Abha! How was your birthday? What did you do?

Me: You know me, not a birthday person. Was quiet and nice, Chinese food with boyfriend, nothing special. How was your birthday? What did you do?

Sarina: Ah nothing much either. Quiet and nice, I went to the Maldives with boyfriend, nothing special.

Me: Right.

Oh universal energy that surrounds me, don't ever let me be so inappreciatively blah about things.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Perspectives: Homeless in Madrid

I spent my afternoon yesterday walking around Madrid city centre with a group of people, distributing sandwiches to the city's homeless.

I went with much ganas. Prepared to feel a lump in my throat, prepared to listen to terrible life stories, prepared to give them time and a smile.

Although I appreciate my life, I often feel that I lose perspective as to exactly how lucky I am; small, stupid problems often get the better of me for no good reason, so I also took this as a personal exercise to regain perspectives.

Run by Kelly, the activity falls under a group called Oasis (although affiliated to a church, you are not expected to be or do anything religious to participate) whose unofficial motto is "make poverty personal".

The idea came from the fact that in Madrid, there are enough social services and charities that take care of basic needs: food, clothing and temporary shelter, but nobody takes the effort to relate to the homeless, talk to them, build friendships. This is their focus that has the ultimate goal of getting them off the streets. Talking and building relationships gives them dignity and encouragement to feel normal and perhaps motivate them towards a better life. Awesome people, great intentions, a beautiful thought.

The group has a route across the centre and they know all the homeless they meet by first name, that was heartwarming to see. A bag with sandwiches, juice, fruit and a muffin is an excuse to approach them.

What was interesting about my experience was that I felt everything but sympathy towards these homeless people. Majority of them were smart, literate and physically fit -- no good reason to be on the street.

For instance: there was an ex-chef, Spaniard who lived in London for 10 years and spoke fluent English with a posh accent; a Cuban dude who has traveled the world, who was capable of having a political conversation and talked to me about Rabindranath Tagore; and a middle-aged lady with a mentally ill husband who had the audacity to ask us for a fragrant soap for her face!

A handful of them had no interest in our sandwiches. "We are not hungry now" was the main reason. What about dinner?

Of course, I understand that nobody wants to be on the street and their personal reasons as to why they are I may never comprehend, but I couldn't help thinking that these people aren't helpless -- they choose to be so. This shut me down. Although the thought behind the activity is wonderful, were we only encouraging these people to stay on the street?

I know this is probably not justified, but I couldn't help comparing the situation to that of India. In India poverty is real to a disgusting, tummy-churning extent. With over 700 million people below the poverty line, everyone can't get jobs and there aren't enough social services. Of these people, majority live in slums, some of them beg (they are normally children, suffering from leprosy, or dying of disease) but most of them who are physically capable, don't. They are all illiterate.

Coming back to Madrid, there was the odd person who the system had royally fucked: a couple from Bulgaria who came to Spain to make money so they can get their son operated. Nobody was ready to give them a job here as their papers were not in order, nor did they have enough money to sort them out. They tried for about 2-years; now they are on the street with no money to eat, let alone go back. There was also a dude from the Czech Republic who claimed that all his money, ID and belongings had been stolen. He didn't speak a word of Spanish or English, jobs were therefore impossible, so he had no option but to beg until he got enough money to head back to his country. He's going to be around for a long time!

What shocked me was the one guy I thought was the most helpless of them all (he has no hands, they are cut off from his shoulder), didn't want to talk to us, nor take our food. He earned a living begging by rattling a glass in his mouth and anytime spent not doing that was compromising his earnings.

All in all, I was left befuddled after this exercise. I didn't care about their plight, as to me, most of them were capable of fixing their situation. Their comfort with being reliant on social services and the thought that they probably have no intention of getting off the street -- laziness, habit, old-age, whatever -- made me not want to help them.

Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe I'm from a culture that is not letting me empathize with these people. I'm quite delicate at heart, so my rigid and cold reaction to this was surprising to me.

I think the efforts and intentions of Oasis are fantastic, I truly wish them all the best. If their work can help get even one person off the street (which it has in the past), it's all worth it. However, I don't see myself going back.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

US$40 for a bottle of water?

If you can see yourself paying this for water, there is something seriously f***ed up with you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's possible to make $100K as a writer... needs to be treated as a business.

A good dose from Science Fiction writer John Scalzi who made $164,000 writing in 2007.

It's the subject of my latest post on Written Road -- check it out here.

Bush may move to Dubai?

Today's Gulf News says: "Sources close to the planning of the presidential trip reveal that Bush instantly fell in love with Dubai. He even alluded to the possibility of perhaps moving to the city as part of his White House plans."

Did anyone else catch this snippet of information while he was in Dubai? Did you have a reaction?

Anyway it's probably the most insignificant line in the entire article that focuses on Dubai's political neutrality, but I couldn't help imagine the possibility.

He would probably live a precious life in Dubai. I see him sipping expensive bubbly at the Bush Tent of the Dubai World Cup; with VIP seating at the Tennis Open, having countless photos with the Sheikhs; on page two of Gulf News business section playing golfing at the Montgomery; on the cover of Ahlan! as he decides to spend a night at Trilogy; running the Dubai Marathon; chief guest for sport's day at Choueifat International School; skiing down the slopes of the Dubai snowdome at Emirates Mall with a santa hat; smoking sheesha on a terrace at the Madinat; and being spokesperson for the American Hospital.

He would take up much space in the newspapers, so the Khaleej Times will come out with a weekly supplement called the Bush Times. Then 7-Days will come out with another one called the Bush-Basher.

He would drive the Lincoln Navigator. (Yaay, Ford -- weren't you always looking for an ambassador in the country?)

Blissful retirement refuge in luxury I'd say.

(Okok ridiculous line of thought. Will get back to work now)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Google.Org, Gandhi and Social Capitalism

I was wondering when Google will sprout with a philanthropic angle to it's functioning and was happy today to find Google.Org. I was happier to see it's inspiration -- none other than our very own Mahatma Gandhi.

The question that was posed to Google was the obvious one: we have loads of money we can give for good causes, and there are loads of great organisations all over the world who can benefit from our donations, how do we decide?

A good question to ponder for all of us wanting to donate.

The answer came from a Gandhi talisman: "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it?"

According to an article on Google's grass-root efforts in Slate magazine:
"...less than one-third of the money that people gave to nonprofits in 2005 went to help the economically disadvantaged. The world's poorest are virtually ignored by the philanthropic giving of some of the world's wealthiest citizens. So our first criterion had to be Gandhi's talisman: How will our work help the poorest and weakest of the world?"

The second question Google looked at was something that needed to fit in with it's philosophy of "think bigger": Is the potential initiative a big enough idea?

Basis that they say (in the article): "...the initiative now includes stimulating financing to small and medium-sized enterprises by finding ways to lower transaction costs, deepen capital markets, and catalyze the flow of other money along with our own."

And finally, in terms of addressing whether Google has the expertise to run such a philanthropic initiative successfully, it decided to use the efforts of its (close to 17,000) employees in an hybrid-philanthropic system where there is complete integration between Google and Google.Org.

A pretty straight forward 3-step plan huh.

It is very interesting to see such big organisations divert a good amount of time and energy towards social causes -- I think Microsoft takes the lead with that. It's also interesting to see the rapid rise of social capitalism and the growing importance of it being fundamental for the success of a company. The objective? With the huge recession in the global economy, organisations with a large amount of money and resources will have to play lead in large-scale social movements, not only to make a real difference in the world, but to be successful as an organisation. Much pressure for this comes from world leaders.

Perhaps there is much more hope for the world than we realize. All of a sudden, I don't despise the multinational monsters.

Stop. We don't like it. Really.

Why do guys think that making kiss and hug sounds over the phone is better or more effective than saying "kisses", "besitos" or "big hug"? And whatever happened to a simple old-fashion BYE!?

I find it a complete turn-off, not to mention repulsive, when I hear a "muah" on the other end of the line. It doesn't sound natural, nor does it sound normal, nor do you make those sounds when you actually kiss someone on greeting them so why it's necessary over the phone is completely beyond me. (No it's not creative, nor is it original). Writing it is acceptable, but sounds over the phone...BIG NO NO.

Hugs over the phone are worse. OMG I used to have a friend (big on hugs, obviously) who would call me every morning and "sound me" a hug over the phone.

What does a hug over the phone sound like? I don't even know what a hug sounds like in person but this friend's imagination made it sound like the sound you make when you wake up in the morning and do a long cat stretch; this he would fill with words describing how I must imagine him coming out through the phone to give me a hug.

Yes, he was a bit mad. Yes, he did it with much love and affection (which I truly, truly appreciated), but yes, it was the most annoying thing EVER. Of course, I could never say that to him so I accepted it as part of a routine I had to deal with every morning.

So yeah, if you do any of these things, trust me, people on the other end unless they tell you that they love you doing that, THEY REALLY DON'T LIKE IT, and DEFINITELY DON'T think it's attractive, so just stop!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Quote from Juno (the film)

I just watched Juno and it's one of the best movies I've seen in a LONG time. It's hilarious, yet not stupid, meaningful yet not heavy, it will often make you laugh out hard and sporadically make you cry as well. The script is fantastic; every other line was original and had impact.

Here is one of them that made me a bit teary eyed:
(Juno asks her father whether it's possible for two people to stay together for the rest of their lives. This is what he said in reply)

"Look, in my opinion the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what-have-you. The right person is still going to think the sun shines out of your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with."

Will review the movie shortly, (if not here, somewhere! :) will keep you posted once it's done.

Friday, February 08, 2008

How much I've been writing

Something randomly possessed to me calculate the amount of writing...ok ok...blogging I've been doing over the last few months.

For those of you who don't know: I write regularly for 4 travel blogs, and one magazine, and my own personal blog.

Over the last 4 months, I have been averaging around 16,000 words a month; 16,000

And that word count doesn't include my personal blog.

(why is my font getting bigger as I write?)

I am shocked. I really didn't realize that's how much I am blogging. I think it's a lot - it comes to almost 500 words a day, everyday, including weekends. Explains why I perpetually feel suffocated sitting at my computer, it's because I'm almost always looking at it!

Suddenly I feel like I've been very productive lately. Especially keeping in mind that I also teach about 15 hours a week AND still have a social life.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

One of those days!

Today has been one of those days where you wake up bright and early, motivated, ready to seize the day and all that rubbish, make a constructive list of things to do, and land up doing everything BUT what's on that list. ARGH.

Not to say that what I did wasn't productive...ummm...well actually, it wasn't productive at all. But it's Saturday! That's what I'm telling myself. But when you work for yourself, everyday can be Saturday and that realization takes no time to ruin your evening as you are left full of guilt for not having accomplished much.

See, my time spent = money earned. I.e. no productivity, no money. Great way of living you'd say, but it's tougher than you realize. To be self-disciplined is one thing and to be motivated at the same time -- all the time(!!!) -- is another thing. To the extent, that today I almost envied people with a proper job, as they can afford to mess around some days, waffle and be completely unproductive -- it's not going to affect their paycheck.

Sigh. Oh well. There's my little rant for the day. I'm not going to try to be productive anymore and am going to cook instead. Tomorrow is another day.
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