Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Modeling - HMS Victory - first step.

Where do I begin?  To start off with, I got a gift from my husband for Christmas.  It's a model set of the HMS Victory - over 2000 pieces.  I was so excited.  I've always wanted to do modeling and this was going to be a perfect project.  I've dabbled in it before with an HO scale train set and that was before I knew what I was doing and all.  Anyway, I bought myself a work table and set it all up and was ready to go.  My husband explained to me that the instructions were in French.   Yes, the language!  No, I do not speak or understand it!  The guy at the store had said that we could download the English instructions online.  Very funny indeed and Merry Christmas to you too!  No, an hour of searching for instructions, and all I came up with was a company that was out of business and the instructions that looked like the picture on the left.

Yes, I felt a bit disheartened, but then I got on Google translate and slowly worked my way to step 1.  I'm also using an app called Word Lens and I have a start.  So, here's step number one on the right.  Oh!  I could take a picture of what the finished ship is supposed to look like, but I thought I would try to blog while I modeled.  Perhaps my ship can grow with this blog and I'm hoping you guys encourage me through this process.

I'm supposed to take the ship and paint certain areas of deck 1 and 2.  As you'll see in the pictures, I've painted them green.  It's supposed to be light green but oh well, life goes on.

There were these windows that needed to get the ends of them painted and so here's what this looks like.  It was not easy painting these windows, let me tell you.  I know they are not exact, but it's as good as I can get it.  Steady hands come in handy, but it's still hard.  This project is going to teach me a lot of patience and I'm learning when to stop and when to say, good enough is good enough.  I had one more picture, the one before I painted the windows.  I will try to post it at some point.

Oh, my next assignment involves loops.  Yes, loops.  I have to make loops out of string and run them through the small dots near the painted areas on levels 1 and 2.  I have to figure out the French exactly so I can follow the instructions accurately.  It involves cardboard and that's all I know.  Still working it all out.  Hang in there with me and as I get closer to this project and get through steps, I'll post.  You guys can tell me that I'm crazy, but this is my idea of a great time.  I'm loving it so far, French and all.

Best wishes as always,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO)

Am I old?  Or am I old?  I don't know.  When I was offered 2 tickets to the TSO, I thought, "orchestra!  Yay!"  So, I thought.  When I think of an orchestra, I was thinking in terms of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra or perhaps the Boston Symphony Pops.  No, I did not think 'concert'.  Should I have?  My husband told me that the show would not be like a traditional orchestra.  He said that it would be altered.  He didn't know either, that altered really meant, completely twisted upside down, with the elimination of clear musical sounds.  It basically meant loud electric guitars, drums (no offense to the instrument), high amps of sound and what you get is just that - loud sounds.  The musical element was missing.
I personally feel old because the loud concert sound seems like a generational thing.  A generation with a screaming mess in their heads and this is how they express it.  They can't discern what the issue is.  They just want to express the bombs going off in their heads in the form of music and that's what a concert essentially is.  Again, I'm old because I long for the olden days when music was better and I'm sure this generation will long for the days of the TSO when they would think this music was infinity better than what would be playing at that time.  I don't even want to go there.  May the Lord spare me from the concerts of the future!
Anyway, back to this post.  I've been learning to play the violin for several years now and I'm horrible at it.  The instrument however is something I understand.  I know what it takes to make a sound and I know how hard it is to play certain pieces and more importantly I do recognize and love the sound of the violin.  Well, they had one woman playing the electric violin.  I have heard a live electric violin before and when played tastefully it sounds brilliant.  This was not that.  This was myself, trying really hard to discern the sound of my favorite instrument and match it with the player.  How could I when every sound was blasting so loudly from every corner?  Which was which instrument?
A bit off track, but there's a couple of reasons for this, I will talk about my experience in playing with the Town and Country Symphony Orchestra here in my neighborhood.  In my attempts to become a better player I joined this orchestra and I played second violin.  I wasn't very good and my schedule was just too tight for me to continue, but I played a whole season with them.  One of the musical pieces we played was the L' Arlesienne suite (don't recall the spelling).  If you've heard this piece of music, it's spectacular when played by an orchestra.  When you heard the TSO play it, you know how to take the most charming orchestral pieces and ruin it.  I recognized the music and I'll give them that much credit but by amping it up so much and adding all the other unnecessary instruments and clouding the melody, I was disappointed.  I guess, I've never been one for remakes of originals, so this was not my cup of tea.  Although, I feel myself craving the need to hear the original L'Arlesienne suite again!
I know I've been dissing this concert I went to, but I'm not completely right.  I enjoyed about 20% of their concert.  When I realized it was a concert, I could sit back and wait for moments that I could connect with.  What  did I enjoy?  There were some slow songs there not riddled with a million instruments, and you could make out the words and the emotions of the songs and that was nice.  What else?  The story in the form of letters was very sweet.  The piano piece at the end was very good.  I did feel it was a bit loud but it was brilliant.
I must mention the spectacular lights and the controlled fires they had going.  If you had a fountain, and you controlled where the water went, except this wasn't water but fire, then you would see what we saw.  Gas burners suddenly light up and shoot a flame across and then the flame almost dives into the air and disappears.  There were several at one time and that was truly wonderful.  I wish they didn't have as much loud music to accompany it.  I wish they had just enough to enhance the special effect.
They had laser lights going all over.  The light show element of it was very good.
That made 2 concerts this year.  Both were not on my original agenda, but I just happened to get invited to them.  I think I'm a bit too old for concerts.  I feel bad for the original people who were supposed to go who couldn't make it.  They might have enjoyed it a lot more, but as for me, I will stick to musicals and theatre and live shows, rather than head banging, screaming concerts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Learning to write

I'm in love.  Life is rosy.  It's difficult to juggle two marriages simultaneously and nurture both equally, but I'm managing.  Love calls for it.  Funny thing is that my husband approves of my second marriage.  In fact, he encourages me to spend more time there.  It doesn't get better than that.  Can it?  If I were to say there's some trouble in paradise, given the situation, one would think, of course.  How do you manage to juggle two marriages?  Is that even legal?  Well, I'm Muslim, although being a Muslim woman, that's a whole different story, and I've effectively managed to digress again, but back to my story.
I think I've pretty much given you everything you need to know about my second husband.  It's my writing.  One can argue that he is truly my first husband and my husband that came from a wedding ceremony is technically my second husband and we are not going to talk about my earlier divorce or I would be quite confused with keeping track.  Wow!  For a minute, my life sounds absolutely spectacular, I want to be in it, but it's not what it seems.
There is trouble in paradise and it's not with my legal husband.  It's this other guy.  My writing!  He comes and goes as he pleases and sometimes treats me poorly.  The worst part.  He's not faithful.  He spends more time with others and gives them gifts and leaves me empty handed at times.  I will say that he's been more responsive since I have started this blog.  I have gotten some action (if you know what I mean), but ahhhh how do I get more?
Humans are inherently competitive and I know I'm not supposed to compare myself to anyone, but I can't help it.  I see several people write and their work flows.  When I say flows, it's smooth, like milk poured on a table top with no boundaries.  It's not like my raging river that ebbs and flows and jumps and then suddenly dries up at the shore and it's just a mess.
I read other's works and it's so eloquent and I come back to mine and wonder what happened?  My english teachers would be sorely disappointed.  It's not just about getting a bout of creativity.  I've noticed my language structure dwindle even in the presence of inspiration.  Here I go again, comparing my work to someone else's.  I feel less than myself.   I must remember the post I wrote called, "Mine!  Mine!  Mine!" and let my second husband be the way he is.  He is mine and he may not treat me the same way as he does the others, but he's still mine.  He treats me differently and that makes me special in my own right.
As the new year is coming up, I really shouldn't muse about my writing deficiencies or fallbacks.  It's time to move forward.  Onward to better blog posts, or at least attempt at better ones.
I hope you all have happy holidays and will see you next time.

Christmas spirit

I just read a cool article by a Muslim guy who talked about how much he loved Christmas and everything about it.  He talked about how all we Muslims had was Ramadhan and while it's spiritual and peaceful, it's not "fun".  He talked about how he loved all the Christmas lights and how the trip to the post office was fun because they would drive by houses with all the bright lights and it would be something special.  I did not even consider writing a blog about that but then again I always think and wish Muslims lit up their homes for Ramadhan.  It would symbolize Ramadhan.

In case you think I'm copying the idea of Christmas lights, let me tell you where my idea originated from.  Over 20 years ago, when I lived in Dubai (a Muslim country), my parents had a string of lights that we put up around the one tree in our front yard.  I can't remember when it became tradition, but I think it was when our family members mentioned that it was a great idea to have those lights up for Ramadhan.  Here I am in America now and lights are tradition for Christmas and only Christmas!  If someone puts up lights at any other season, I know the usual comment is, "it's too early for Christmas".  I, on the other hand crave for a time when every Muslim would put up lights for the whole month of Ramadhan.  That would, I think, make a statement.  I feel, it would make Ramadhan more special than it already is to Muslims.  It would also give Muslims some identity as Ramadhan is not secular and not everyone celebrates it.

Speaking of lights, I will say the best lights on a home I have seen ever is not on any home I've seen in the US.  It was a house in Dubai, for a month or so starting with their house warming.  This whole house was lit up.  Whole house.  I wonder how they walked through the door without having to move the strings of lights hanging down.

I do digress.  The truth is that I too love Christmas and the tunes that go with it.  It fills you with warmth and happiness like no other season does.  I go through Ramadhan.  There are days I'm filled with peace but then there are times I'm not.  Ramadhan in the summer is quite hard, I'll admit it.  I was talking to a friend of mine and she said the same thing.  She said she was not able to get into the spirit of Ramadhan with the heat and the fasting.  Most Muslims would consider this post sacriligious but I wonder.  Why is it that Christmas is so much more fun?  Can Ramadhan compete?  Should there even be a festival like Christmas in Islam?

I feel that Christmas is a secular holiday and not religious anymore.  I know of families who celebrate Christmas but dislike Christians and do not go to the Church.  They celebrate because it's just what you do.  In my neighborhood there are 2 homes from Hindu families who have Christmas lights out.  No, they are not changing religions.  Christmas no longer belongs to any religion.  Christmas is about gifts, giving and receiving.  The funny thing, however, about Christmas is the spirit of the season.

Kids are off from school.  That makes them inherently happy.  Give them gifts and increase their happiness.  Also, it's the holiday season, where a lot of families go on vacation.  It's a break time.  Who doesn't love a break?  Most people are super happy with the break and time off that wherever you go people are happy and happiness is infectious.  This season becomes a giant big happy infection.  It's a pandemic, is what it is.  You can't help but smile back at someone who is smiling at you, irrespective of religion.

Can Ramadhan compete?  No.  Not in this country.  As long as we don't have a national holiday for Eid, how can Ramadhan compete?  Christmas is a national holiday!  You could argue that it's religious prejudice.  Why does everyone have off for Christmas?  Why can't Eid or Hanukkah be a national holiday?  Then we all would celebrate it and embrace it.  It would be synonymous with a break, and don't we all love breaks?

The last question that I asked was if there should be something like Christmas in Islam and answering this would be going against the highest power of all, God!  If I'm a true Muslim and I believe Islam is the way then I should not question what God has ordained for me or not ordained for me.  If I do not have a "fun" religious holiday, I can't go up to God and ask, "how about giving us a fun holiday?"  It's just not Kosher, oooop, sorry, I meant Halal!  I know there are Muslims who complain about copying Christmas traditions and yet we try to with Eid gifts and all.  I don't know.  Sometimes, I think it would be good to be an original, but then again, the fun of Christmas is something that is worthy of copying.  What do I know?  I only sit here and type my random thoughts, waiting for the one day when my blog readership explodes.  Still waiting.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The introvert disguised as an extrovert!

Most people who have known me would say I were an extrovert.  So much so that I would say so myself.  Why not?  I love being with people and being at family parties and having a gala time.  A year ago, I was tested.  I did the Myers-Brigg.  I had to answer a series of questions and then I had a trained MB coach to go over my results.  I don't recall the other categories, but I clearly remember the E or the I.  I was an introvert.

My coach asked me if I felt the results were accurate.  I stated that the other categories seemed correct.  I was convinced, however, that I was an extrovert and the results were wrong!  She told me that the results are just a marker and that is why we had the interview to decide on whether I was what the test result came out to be.

She asked me why I felt I was an extrovert.  I explained about how I loved to be around people and how loud I was and how I was the life of the parties with my family.  Clearly, I was an extrovert and the results were wrong.  She listened and told me that when people take the test, they fall on a scale.  Say 1 - 10, where if they were say 7 and above, they would be an extrovert, 3 and below an introvert and a 3 to 7 would be a range where they could be either.  It's the center of both.  I'm just mentioning it for sake of explanation.  Yes, there's a scale in MB but it's a range.  It's not a definitive number like I talked about.  She explained to me that I was not in the center range.  She stated that I was very much preferentially an introvert.  She said that based on the tests, I was not even close to being an extrovert.

That blew my mind and deflated my balloon at the same time, if it's possible.  One, I was confused about the results.  Two, deep down I have been told over and over that I was an extrovert, I identified with it.  I felt like I did not want to be one of "those" people.  Not one of those introverts!  Being an introvert, was a bad thing in my book.  Introverts are socially inept and are loners, or so I felt.

I continued to talk to her and she asked me not to freak out.  We could discuss this further.  She asked me more questions.  I don't totally recall the questions she asked me but the way I understood it was totally different from what I had known.  It all boiled down to energy.  Where an introvert and an extrovert gets their energy?  When asked what I preferred to do when I was very tired, I said, I would like to sit in silence and either read or write a book with a cup of tea.  She said, "there you go!  introvert!"  Huh?  She said it wasn't a person's ability to be with people that made someone an introvert or an extrovert, it's a matter of where one gets their energy.  Is it from hanging out with a lot of people or is it from being with very few people?

I understand myself better now.  I understand my frustration in meeting a lot of new people all at the same time.  I understand my stress of having to perform like I'm an extrovert when I'm really an introvert.  I understand why I dissect movies and stories and tend to be philosophical.  I used to feel something was wrong with me.  Friends would tell me to let the movie go.  It was just a  movie.  No!  It was more to me.  I had to process it for long periods of time and there was nothing wrong with that.

Funny, recently I took up knitting.  I sit at home and in the silence just knit.  I do not have the TV on, I do not have music on.  I just sit there and knit.  As an extrovert I would have thought myself crazy.  I'm embracing my introverted side and it's great to learn more about oneself.  Haha!  Why do I enjoy sitting here and blogging and would do it when I'm super tired?  Introvert, for sure!

I know I haven't written in a while and now you guys are being inundated with blogs.  It's just that I've been busy and my extrovert side was getting an exercise and now I'm taking a break from it.  Back to being myself for a bit.

Best always,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A divided human race

As most of you know, I'm originally from India.  I was born there and I left when I was 10.  I spent the next 6 years of my life in Dubai and now I'm in the US.  I guess, ever since I got to the US at 16, I was asked the one question that eluded everyone here.  "Where are you from?"  As simple as the answer seems, I would be perplexed.  Where was I from?  Should I take the 10 years of my life and my birth place as the answer.  What about Dubai?  I did come from there?  What about the US that I was living in at that moment?  In all honesty, I still struggle with this one.  Home is the US.  The reason I know it, is because my close family is here.  I miss my home when I'm away and so home is the US, but where am I from?

You are probably hitting your forehead at this moment thinking that I'm really stupid.  You may think, that's the dumbest question.  The answer lies in where I was born.  I'm from India.  Am I?  Is that the simple answer.  Deep down I don't want to be Indian, and I don't want to be Arab (from Dubai) and I don't want to be American either.  For me, deep down, I feel these are dividers.  These are markers of judgement.  I want to be a citizen of this world.  This whole world is as much yours and it is mine.  We are all from planet earth.  Do we really need to divide it further?  If an alien invaded us, we would all stand together and state proudly that this was our planet and we were humans and we were from EARTH.  Too bad we have to wait for an alien invasion for our unity.

The reason for this post is not just about the country of origin.  I am very disturbed about judgements based on race and religion.  Let's say that I completely agreed that I was Indian.  Does this mean that as an Indian I would not be divided from another Indian.  Would I find unity by being an Indian?  Not true!  I cannot admit to loving and being "from" a country that is so based on skin color that it makes my own skin crawl with centipedes.  Yes, I was born in India and grew up as an Indian, but in this same country I would be looked at as a "less than" because my skin color was darker than Aishwarya Rai or the other super fair actresses.  My prospects for marriage would also dwindle based on this same issue and within the same country, we would divide ourselves.  So, I could be Indian but still segmented into a "group".  Division.  Isn't it great?  Yes, I'm being sarcastic.

Do we remember when Miss USA's parents were of Indian origin and Miss USA was too dark by Indian standards?  I remember reading articles about how people in India were surprised they picked her!  She wasn't even considered attractive there because she was dark.  This bothers me a lot.  Of course, I've been dark all my life and have had to deal with people making fun of me.  It's horrible.  And I've read articles written by other dark women from India about how they felt.  It's all the same.  I know I'm digressing into an issue of color now, but really it's all about prejudice and judgements towards other human beings.

In the United States, we still have a race issue whether you admit it or not.  It comes from years of slavery and power or stupidity - whichever way you want to take it.  And then there's more.  There's the division due to body type.  If one is obese, they are looked at differently than one who is not.  Forget "obese".  There are body types that may be considered a bit chubby?  Not even close to being fat and yet, people will discriminate and divide based on that.  I hate to admit that in my own family I have members who look at prospective brides or grooms based on color and furthermore, in the side of my American family (my husband is caucasian) there are members who base similar prospectives on body types.  Which form of discrimination is acceptable?  NEITHER.  Discrimination is discrimination.  Period.

When we have these issues on a minor level, what do we have on a major level?  We have races hating races and we have holocasts and wars and religious profiling and eradications and we have a giant big mess.  I do not know how to fix this situation.  It's horrible.  I do feel that the only thing we are in control of is ourselves.  I feel each and every one of us needs to look at the mirror and face our demons and confront our fear and our prejudices the best we can.  This world is headed to doom.  It's really sad.  So, please join me in creating a chain of people who choose to be enlightened.  People who choose to make a difference by making a change in ourselves first.  I'm not perfect.  Not close.  I just want to work towards self-betterment.

Wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful new year ahead.

The jeans conundrum

I have talked about fashion before and how clueless I used to be.  I'm OK now, I think.  Considering that I'm wearing something totally hideous today, I still think I'm alright.  The difference is that, today, I know I'm wearing something hideous.  The funny thing about clothing and fashion is that it's all subjective.  It's all in the eyes of the beholder.  They talk about the 80s coming back.  And if I would have saved all my clothes from that era, I would be rocking it right now.  Then again, when I tried to wear those clothes 10 years ago, I was very much the outsider.

The thing about fashion that has eluded me is its superficiality.  I think I've been anti-fashion since I was a kid.  I felt it wrong to judge someone based on their looks but rather on their merit.  I've also been anti-make-up for the same reason.  Of course, things have changed as I've aged.  Make-up has become my friend and I've rationalized it as an art.  I enjoy the challenge of a look and so I'll think of make-up as an internal personal growth rather than an external superficial cover.

The topic of this blog post is really jeans.  I was in a conversation with my cousin about why jeans was considered as casual wear in the United States.  She stated to me that in Europe, the doctors wore jeans and a white lab coat and it was perfectly acceptable and the US folks would go to Europe and tell the doctors to dress appropriately.  Why?  Why are jeans not acceptable?  When I think of denim, it's a sturdy material.  It takes a beating.  It's perfect for the work environment.  You don't have to worry about special care for your work clothes.  You just throw your jeans in the wash and go.

No!  In the US, it's taboo.  One has to wear silks and wools and things that look good to work.  What is the definition of things that look good?  That's a different topic, but back to jeans.  I could wear a blue navy suit perhaps, or a blue navy pair of pants with a jacket to work.  That would be fine.  However, if I were to wear a dark blue pair of jeans and a matching dark blue jeans jacket, it would be unacceptable.  I'm still trying to figure this out.  I don't even have possible explanations.  The only thought that comes to mind is that jeans have traditionally been worn outside of work in laborious situations and hence people think it's not appropriate for hoity toity types?  I do not know, but I wonder.  So, I post this one out there and have you all help me understand the rational as to why jeans are considered as a casual and non-work type clothing.