The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Month: September, 2013

Roald Dahl day

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So apparently, today is Roald Dahl day?

That’s very cool. I wonder how many children still read Roald Dahl today? I grew up with Dahl’s books, and went on magical journeys with the various characters through different books. I definitely tried to move objects with my eyes like Matilda did; I fantasized about one day opening a bar of Wily Wonka chocolate containing a golden ticket inside; I wondered what frobscottle would taste like.

Dahl’s books are one of those rare kinds that introduce children to the joys of reading and holds them there.

My introduction to Dahl began in second grade, when a friend and I missed our school buses back home because we were busy cleaning the classrooms after school ended. The next day, the principal called us to his office, and apparently he heard of our deed. He praised us for being hard-working kids, and gave us each a Roald Dahl book. I received The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me while my friend got The Twits. I distinctly remember coming up with my own tune (that I still remember how to hum today) to the song that the animal trio sings in the book.

Eventually, I went on a path of devouring all of Dahl’s other children books. My favourite definitely was Matilda, where the idea of a precocious kid with supernatural powers appealed to me, and many times I have tried (even today, sometimes) to move things with the power of my eyes and concentration.

In middle school, we had to read Roald Dahl’s collected short stories, and I didn’t know Dahl wrote anything other than children’s fiction. Apparently he also wrote a couple of adult short stories too. We had to do a book review by presenting  a story from the collection in class — I pantomimed Lamb to the Slaughter,  where I was Mary Maloney, the murdered husband, and all the characters in that story.

Even today, when I’m up for some light reading, I would usually gravitate towards children books, with Dahl being a hot favourite. His well-fleshed characters and engrossing plot makes for an easy read and most definitely an enjoyable one too.

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Extreme Alternate Olympics

In today’s weird post of the day, I bring to you: Male Ground Swimming Freestyle.

Following this, we have Ski Jump – Pairs. with the American team coming in fourth.

original[1]Image from kotaku.com

Finally, we finish off with a little bit of horse racing.

I remember

I remember a day when I travelled to Australia, the year was 1999. I was in fifth grade, and the school band was going on a trip there for an exchange. We breezed through the gates with nary a snag. Security took minutes; I didn’t have to undo my belts or shoes. I had a bottle of shampoo in my backpack, because I forgot to pack it into my luggage. I didn’t have to throw away my bottle of soda. Kids could even visit the pilots in the cockpit, occasionally, or so I’ve heard.

I came back with lots of souvenirs: I had a model of a sarcophagus with a mummy inside; I had this wooden block toy that unfolded upon itself endlessly, held together by straps; I had a letter opener, fashioned after a sword. I had them all in my backpack.

But then, I remember, two years later, everything changed.

Liquids had to be put into tiny ziploc bags, bottles of water had to be thrown out. A fear of assault by nail clipper gripped airports around the world, and many an errant nail could not be clipped on the flight. Like a polite guest at an Asian household, we had to remove out shoes to enter a doorway that shot invisible waves at us, painting a portrait of us in greens, yellows and reds (if you caught a glimpse of the screen after you’ve stepped through). Belts were undone, pockets had to be emptied, veins were throbbed as frustration and annoyance coursed through them as an ever-expanding line of people waiting in the queue fumed at that one person who had a little trouble repacking his things back into his carry-on at the end of the scanner conveyor belt.

All because on this fateful day, twelve years ago, two skyscrapers came tumbling down, brought down by aeroplanes driven by religious fervour.

So much sassafras, New York Times

nytsass

Image taken from New York Time’s A Viewer’s Guide to the N.Y.C Mayoral Candidates

The New York Time’s coverage of New York’s mayoral elections is surprisingly… sassy. They’ve summarised each candidate by categories such as by their boldest idea pitched or their biggest blunder so far. Take a look at the some of the cheek the Times has put into describing each candidate.

Boldest idea

Weiner: Single-payer, universal health care in New York City.
De Blasio: Universal prekindergarten, paid for by a tax on those earning more than $500,000.
Albanese: Variable toll prices on bridges, based on hour of the day and availability of mass transit.
Quinn: Building 80,000 new units of affordable housing.
Liu: Raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour.
Salgado: Creating a city-issued identification card for undocumented immigrants.
Thompson Jr.: Hiring 2,000 new police officers.
Lhota: Transferring control of bridges and tunnels from the M.T.A. to city government.
McDonald: Get the city to buy from local suppliers.
Catsimatidis: Bringing the World’s Fair back to New York.
Carrion Jr: Giving parents online access to student academic and disciplinary records.

Biggest blunder

Weiner: Where to begin?
De Blasio: Keeping a campaign staff member who sympathized with a killer of four people and cursed at the Police Department on Twitter.
Albanese: Hasn’t committed it yet, but we are watching.
Quinn: Opposing family-friendly paid sick-leave legislation until its backers outmaneuvered her. Can women forget that?
Liu: Incessantly reminding voters of the scandal surrounding his campaign.
Salgado: We’ll tell you once candidate forums start allowing him on stage.
Thompson Jr.: “No new tax” pledge may be impossible to keep. (See police officers, 2,000 new.)
Lhota: Calling Bloomberg an “idiot” in earshot of a reporter.
McDonald: Scaring off donors by breaking campaign finance rules.
Catsimatidis: Hmm. His plan to give bullies their own school?
Carrion Jr: Failure to persuade Republican leaders to let him on their ballot.

What you will find endearing

Weiner: The candor of a man with nothing left to lose.
De Blasio: His son’s epic Afro.
Albanese: Refuses to take donations from lobbyists or developers.
Quinn: Having a lesbian with that accent in Gracie Mansion.
Liu: His brothers are all named after a Kennedy.
Salgado: Ends conversations with “God bless you.”
Thompson Jr.: His earnest attempts at Yiddish.
Lhota: Tipsy posts on Twitter, like this one: “Oops! Yankees 10 (not 18), Sox 3 (too much wine).”
McDonald: The story of the Doe Fund, his nonprofit job-training organization.
Catsimatidis: His tendency to tear up at any moment, Boehner-style.
Carrion Jr: A fluency in Spanish now missing from City Hall.

What will grate on you

Weiner: Four months of penis puns in The New York Post.
De Blasio: Occasionally lapses into liberal-activist speak.
Albanese: Sometimes holier-than-thou claims of independence.
Quinn: That wall-piercing laugh. Just wait for it.
Liu: Populism that can border on pandering.
Salgado: Depending on perspective, the intermingling of faith and politics.
Thompson Jr.: Does he ask a lot of rhetorical questions? Yes, he does.
Lhota: Mr. Giuliani’s return to the campaign trail.
McDonald: The candor of a first-time candidate. Asked about Asian businesses, he praised his local masseur for cheap relaxation.
Catsimatidis: Mangled syntax.
Carrion Jr: Dull debate performances.

Relationship with Bloomberg

Weiner: Antagonistic.
De Blasio: Chilly.
Albanese: Nonexistent.
Quinn: It’s complicated.
Liu: Outright hostile.
Salgado: Once stood next to him for a photograph.
Thompson Jr.: As variable as the weather.
Lhota: Technocratic kinship.
McDonald: Philanthropic. The mayor donates to his charity.
Catsimatidis: Billionaire neighbors.
Carrion Jr.: Cordial.

Nightmare scenario

Weiner: TMZ tracks down that sixth woman.
De Blasio: Anthony D. Weiner enters the race.
Albanese: Finishing last.
Quinn: Becoming another Bella Abzug, who was the race’s undisputed star in 1977 but squandered her commanding lead.
Liu: Taking the stand in the trial of his former campaign treasurer.
Salgado: Mr. Sharpton leaves MSNBC and runs for mayor (again).
Thompson Jr.: Black voters defect to another liberal, like Bill de Blasio, whose wife is black.
Lhota: New Yorkers fall in love with John Catsimatidis.
McDonald: Will be forced to give back thousands in campaign contributions.
Catsimatidis: Major food poisoning outbreak is traced back to Gristedes.
Carrion Jr.: Latino Democrats somehow hear about Mr. Salgado.

Bottom line

Weiner: Mayoral campaigning as group therapy.
De Blasio: With the right campaign, he can squeak into the runoff.
Albanese: His best shot was probably in 1997.
Quinn: She is the front-runner. Until she isn’t.
Liu: Long hours on the trail will only take him so far.
Salgado: Pray for him.
Thompson Jr.: Expect a late surge to put him in the runoff. (His rivals do.)
Lhota: Long-shot Republicans have a knack for becoming mayor in this city.
McDonald: If lightning strikes.
Catsimatidis: It will, at the very least, be entertaining.
Carrion Jr.: He is a Republican nominee’s dream — unlikely to win, but certain to lure away Democratic voters.

White chrysanthemums

shiroihanaGrandma

This white chrysanthemum

I want to give to you

 

We have a winner here

DC Comics rocked the world with its misogyny by asking readers to submit a panel for a contest, a naked Harley Quinn committing suicide, and jezebel.com pounced on it. This was soon after DC Comics forbade Batwoman from getting gay married, resulting in its creative team leaving.

From jezebel.com,

In order to be considered, one must draw four panels: in the first, Harley is attempting to get struck by lightning, in the second she’s wearing a bikini made of chicken in the hopes that alligators will devour her, and in the third she’s attempting to get swallowed by a whale. The fourth is, by far, the worst:

Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.

While most of the reactions have been of disgust and shock, reader Penabler puts his needs-carriage before the high horse:

I find this reprehensible but as a starving artist I still submitted for this contest. Here is what i did for:

“PANEL 3
Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever. ”

ku-xlarge[1]Nailed it.

I think we have a winner here.

Thoughts from Four Weddings and a Funeral

4weds2

There is nothing sadder than the laughter uttered
at the remembrance of a funny memory of a dearly departed
which is then immediately swallowed
because one is reminded that
the dearly beloved is no longer there.

magnetpoetry1

When even banks flee from college loans

From CNBC:

The largest bank in the United States will stop making student loans in a few weeks.

Even banks, who have been known to fish around troubled waters for revenue, such as with mortgage-backed securities during the subprime mortgage crisis, are pulling out of providing further loans to college students who want to take out a loan.

Why? Because college tuition is mounting, and as college students take out more loans to be able to afford that, only to graduate into joblessness or low-paying jobs that are insufficient for them to service their repayments, many default on their loans, causing banks losses.

I bet the student loan sector is so dismal that even the most creative of banks cannot re-package it into a lucrative derivative product. Unless the investors are really that daft.

With over $1 trillion in outstanding loans, the second highest in the country, over $8 billion in default, and about 13% of payers defaulting within  three years of servicing their loan, no wonder JP Morgan Chase wants out of this rapidly-collapsing market.

And of course, loans from JP Mogan Chase are a variable prime rate subject to market forces, unlike federal loans, and should interest rates go up, more students are likely to default and less students will be willing to take these loans out.

It is not so much that the jobs students are taking are less capable of living a standard life than they were decades ago; job wage increment has been slight but at least still barely keeping with inflation (2-3% wage increase vs 2-3% inflation) in the past two years. Compare that with tuition increase in the past two years, which has increased by 4-5%, plus state funding for colleges have fallen 15% in the past six years.

The problem is most definitely with the free-wheeling increase of tuition costs with no seeming checks. I have written about this previously and how if we are to maintain the momentum of development and progress in the country, something must be done to the incendiary college side of rapidly rising tuition costs, rather than just working on the palliative side of the solution of providing more government aid.

The most hassling form of instant food

ramen burger1The instant ramen noodles are supposed to be quick, painless, and above-all, hassle-free. But when someone came up with the idea of turning ramen into burgers, what he ended up with was a craze that caught New York and the internet by storm.

Since they were introduced into the Western world (there have been several ramen burgers floating around Japan years already), people have put up recipes on how to make their own, since getting in line for one in New York takes hours.

I simply took one of the recipes online and made it, and I must say for the effort, the result was underwhelming.

It tasted alright; it took a little getting used to to biting into a soft noodle cake rather than a firmer bread bun, and implementing umami into the burger by adding scallions and soy sauce made it taste like the Asian meatballs my grandmother used to make.

But multiple skillets and pots were used in the process, many ramekins and much counter space were sullied in the attempt to create this — the exact antithesis of the instant ramen: mess-free.

Would I make it again? Maybe for a hoot to impress somebody. Would I make it again for myself? I don’t think I would.