Thursday, April 06, 2006

preppy morons

What I don't like about newspapers is really, the content. As much as I doubt the authenticity of the journalistic content, the addition of what is currently 'reader's viewpoints', where they perhaps want to elicit some form of interaction with the viewers or to appear transparent, or to appear more liberal in their cause of freedom of speech, is really starting to bug me.

There are a few quite distinctive categories of people who write in, you have the overzealous types who want to write in as much as possible as self advertisement of their apparent intelligence and insight, you have the frustrated ones who don't really know where else to write so they decide to vent, and there are those who really have no basis for writing in but they decide to write anyway, because they can.

That's not so bad. What bugs me is the mind your English section. This is basically a section on what is supposedly a tool to improve your English, but it is really ending up as a damned witchhunt to identify and eliminate, and make fun of signboards and people with bad or incorrect grammar. You get people writing in, criticizing articles in the papers, or things they've heard, or words they see on signs. Let me ask you one thing, does that really improve your quality of English? Frankly speaking, I couldn't care less about grammar, I honestly don't know about verbs, adjectives and all that technicalities of the language. I just write what sounds right, you know what I mean? Simply because its natural. Nitpicking, however, isn't natural.

We are now living in a time where things are constantly changing; the weather, global warming, the internet, the way we communicate. What defines the method of delivery as right or wrong? For example the birth of Ebonics, scoffed at by purveyors of good English does not stop the rapid adoption and use of the variation of the language. Who is to say that the structure is grammatically incorrect if everybody adopts it as an effective method of communication?

When I was thinking of a title to call this blog, I wondered if using the word 'moron' was appropriate, so I looked up the definition on Wikipedia and I came up with a very amusing description. I quote, 'Moron was originally a scientific term, coined by psychologist Henry Goddard from a Greek word meaning "foolish" and used to describe a person with a genetically determined mental age between 8 and 12 on the Binet scale. It was also once applied to people with an IQ of 51-70 and was a step up from "imbecile" (IQ of 26-50) and two steps up from "idiot" (IQ of 0-25).' Unquote.

I guess that's not too bad at all not to be at the bottom of the food chain.

The wrath of the habanero

A couple of years back as I was browsing along the aisles of a certain frequented supermarket, I came across this section where I would classify as Mexican. Jars of refried beans, salsa, tortillas and taco sets lined up in various bright red and yellow color coordinated packaging. I had always liked tacos, probably one day I'd want to cross the border from US to Mexico, have a taco or burrito from one of the many mobile stalls and then drink tequila the whole day. At that time, I never really knew what the fuss was about, at that time tortilla wraps weren't as popular as they are now so availability was scarce. I decided to get a bag of tortilla chips, and a jar of Hot Habanero Dip to go with it.

Of course these things came with a meter on the jar, ranging from mild, hot to extra flaming hot, or something to that extent. Being a Malaysian, I had to take the extra extra hot one, but of course. But when I tried it after I got back almost immediately I wondered what all the fuss was about. Yes it was tasty, it was different. I was never born with the culture of dipping chips in anything so the whole idea was quite refreshing. Then of course it became second nature to check the label out and see what its made of. Its mostly run of the mill stuff, tomatoes, peppers, onions, that kinda thing, but one thing made it hot, Habanero.

Habaneros are believed to have originated from Cuba, and this tiny little pepper is pretty small at about an inch long, and its usually in orange or red in color. Now, when I set out to make my own salsa sauce at that time there weren't any habaneros available, simply because they don't grow them here, nor do they import them either. So I substituted my salsa with red chillies and of course our cili padi. I ended up with a great tasting salsa, it was spicy, it was flavorful, and honestly, a lot more delicious than the one I bought in the jar. But for some reason I couldn't achieve that level of spiciness no matter how many cili padis I put in.

Fast forward to the present, I recently found habaneros in the supermarket. The little orange things were being promoted. I think they're found a way to cultivate them here, alas boxes upon boxes of it sit on top of each other. I think they aren't or can't really get very popular here because it doesn't exactly sit very well with our cuisine. The habaneros have a very thin outer layer, almost like a red chilly, put them in your mouth and bite, and you'd first taste a burst of fresh, fruity, citrusy sweetness, but what follows is an intense heat that radiates from within, leaving you gasping for air in shock. That's quite unlike the cili padi, where you immediately feel the burst of spiciness and it ends there, simply because its less complex.

So yesterday I started to make my salsa again, but this time discarding the cili padi from the recipe, replacing it with a LOT of habaneros. I didn't know how much, so I figured I'd put in as many as I can. I spent the whole evening slicing and dicing, and I thought, hmm, my hands aren't burning like it should, because for cili padis you'd feel the burn during preparation. I figured I'd just wash my hands later and get back to my work.

I created a whole pot of salsa dip that seriously kicks ass.

Then I did the laundry, and took a shower. Now, about half an hour after that did I start to feel an intense burn on my hands. This is the most insane pain you can ever feel. Considering I have a pretty high tolerance of pain, this pain, just like the flavor, radiates from within. My hands started glowing red, and I tell you I couldn't tell hot water from cold. The intensity just got worse. I ran my hands thru running water, I dipped it in hot water (bad pain), dipped it in warm water, put it on an ice pack, wrapped it in a towel, put it in front of the air-con, rubbed it with aloe vera gel, rubbed it with herbs (andrographis paniculata), rubbed it with basil, rubbed it with toothpaste, and wore my winter gloves. Nothing really worked. I tried meditation (you are not feeling the pain, your hands are fine, you are at peace with yourself, you are at peace with your body), but you really can feel the heat emanating from your hands. Is it real? I wrapped a moist towel over my hands to find out, then moved it closer to my face. I could feel the heat on my face, meaning that I am not really imagining that my hands are burning, they *are*!

In the end I really gave up, and went to sleep from the pain and exhaustion.

I woke up the next morning, a lot better, but still feeling the tingling sensation of numbness in my fingers. At least I've regained the use of my fingers to type this blog today. But I really think they ought to place warning labels on those things before they sell them commercially to innocent people like me. But the next time you think of making your own salsa make sure you wear gloves or be prepared for a 6 hour burning sensation.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Personal detachment

Its an interesting feeling, that you are attached to the things around you, be it materialistic things like cash, cars or clothes, or people, or habits or addictions like cigarettes and coffee, or alcohol induced happiness, or the rush of meeting new beautiful people. These are all attachments, they make you feel glorious, powerful, untouchable. But what if one day someone or something takes all that away? What would you have left? How would you feel? Would you feel depressed, alone, and weak? If so, then you join the ranks of everyone else too consumed in the rat race of urban life that ultimately you have forgotten the meaning of true happiness, or contentment.

Many years ago I participated in an unforgettable camp, it was somewhat an outward bound school type survival camp, where we were taught skills, to overcome our fears, to be observant, to be confident, and to rise above these elements in the form of challenges. One of the things I remember being drilled into us was, 'I will not remain in my comfort zone.' The comfort zone is defined as all of the above things, your bed, your air conditioning, your money, your phone, ultimately everything that makes your life comfortable. Over there, we slept on hard, simple beds, too tired to complain about comfort, we slept on wooden planks in tents, getting bitten by what I wrote in my review as 'gung ho mosquitoes', because they really did attack you no matter how much insect repellent you attempted to apply. But we slept anyway from exhaustion. So much so that after the camp ended when I got back, I slept on the floor, perhaps as a way to reminisce about the whole ideology, or simply because it felt good to be detached from all these things that didn't seem to be that important anymore.

Its from there that I cultivated my mentality of being detached once in a while from my comfort zone. All the things that make me, me. Quite a number of people have commented that I have all these things around me, perhaps that is why I am happy. But honestly speaking, that doesn't really make a person. So I started being detached recently from all these things, I kept thinking of 'what if' scenarios, and then I was at that place again, where everything was simple, everything was essential, and then from there on I would build my life again, assembling everything from ground up. Making sure that I don't end up being consumed in the things around me.

Perhaps it helps to be a little jaded too, so that one remains unaffected in the event unfortunate events happen, I've written before that things do happen to me, so much so that I've grown accepting of these events as part and parcel of life, so whether I like it or not, I'd have to deal with it eventually. But it gets easier to deal with it when you know where you stand, when you know what's important to you, what you can live with, what you can live without.

Just yesterday someone asked me, 'How are you?' Such simplicity in words to elicit a similar answer, 'I am good.' But said in an honest manner, it really is self-explanatory. However, what he does not realize is that I am not happy because of the material things that I have, but rather from what I've learnt over the past few weeks about myself, about love, and about life. True happiness is knowing that you'd still be happy and living life irregardless of comfort zone.