Super hero role models

Can you guess my nephew’s two favorite superheroes:

Hulk Smash! Iron Man Puny!
Hulk Smash! Iron Man Puny!

Him: “Hulk is sooo much bigger than iron man”

Him: “If I eat green vegetables, will I also become like Hulk?”

Me: Yes

Me: “What colour vegetables should you eat to become like Iron Man?

Him: “Red, yellow and McDonalds”

Me: *Facepalm* Advertising to kids – insidiously subverting the next generation 

Singapore, here I come.. Oct 1st – Nov 9th 2013

As I was ranting about the Spanish embassy in India, I got news from the hyper-efficient Consulate of the Republic of Singapore. They took the paperwork that I submitted [once!] and granted me a visa.

I will be in Singapore from Oct 1st to Nov 9th, with planned trips to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam [They will become planned once I plan them!]

Sometimes it is good to “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Spain gets in the fray: Bureaucracy edition

I was invited to speak at the International Congress of Nutrition, which was being held this year in Granada, Spain. I was invited to present the results of our systematic review on “food interventions for the prevention and treatment of moderate malnutrition”. My travel and hotel expenses were being covered by Tufts University, who was hosting the symposium titled, “Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) Symposium: What works in prevention and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition: A systematic review of meta-analyses“. I was excited; I love Spain.

I’d been to Madrid in 2011. We spent a week walking around the city – art in the museums, boating on the lake in Parque del Retiro, getting a bad caricature done of us at the Plaza Mayor, riding the the cable car to Casa de Campo, great paella at a hole in the wall eating place neat the Quevedo station, [yum] eating hot chocolate con churros at Chocolateria San Gines at 11 pm, and last but not the least, watching Real thrash Lyon 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Oh yeah, the conference I attended was fine too.

I expected that Granada would be as much fun. Of more importance to me, I was excited to present my findings to the who’s who of the nutrition world. The Government of Spain stepped in to quash that dream. This is my story.

Spain, like most countries, has outsourced their visa process to a private agency (VFS Global; hah! they are global only in name, their inefficiency is as Indian as they come). I looked up the website, and was told that the whole process would take two weeks. I started the process 3 1/2 weeks before I was supposed to leave. I went in to the visa office. I waited for an hour till my turn came up. The lady took one look at my passport and said that I would not be able to apply. It was the old “passport is issued in the United States so you cannot be an indian resident” ploy, one that I heard previously. When I explained that I was a recently returned Indian citizen, and I had a bank account to prove it, she shrugged and insisted that I could not apply for the visa in India; it would have to be in Boston. Having heard this resident schtick before, and mentally tearing my hair out, I asked to talk to her supervisor. I waited and waited… waited for another hour, and there was no sign of aforementioned super. When I asked again, I was told that he was in a meeting and it would take too long and it would be a waste of your time to wait. This was followed up with a “Could you please give us your phone number and we will ask the Spanish embassy and get back to you?” She noted my number on a scrap of paper so I know that there was no hope of receiving a call from them. I took the matters into my own hands; I went home and called and emailed the Spanish embassy. I waited three days before I was able to connect to a live person and not a recording. When I explained how VFS Global had turned me down even without looking at my letter of invitation and support, they asked me to come in to the embassy. I went in, showed my papers and was told that my bank statement was not proof of address; I would need another document to show that I resided in India. Holy Moley! These guys were in it too!  They did not even look at the Congress invitation or funding letters. And they advised me to go in to VFS again. I went back and was turned back again.  I tried to get other documents and I was rebuffed. This was crazy! In effect, if I were not an Indian resident, I would have had an easier time getting it. If I had more time, I could have faked it as a Boston resident travelling in India and requiring a Shengen visa, but I would have run into greater problems with proof of US visa [given that I had just cancelled my US visa].

In the end, I gave up, and wrote one of the most difficult emails of my life – to my colleagues at Tufts, explaining why I could not make it. I had my game face on for the world, but inside I was seething with disappointment, frustration and anger. I was feeling especially victimized by the Fates!

When I’m feeling this way, I hear Louise’s most oft used phrase in my mind: “That too shall pass”.

My talk was on 15th September. It has passed. I heard back from Irv and Shelley – the symposium went off very well, notwithstanding my absence. Irv saved the speakers sign, the placard with my name on it. I don’t feel terrible anymore. It too has passed.

As Barry Obama says in his poster, “Hope”.

Earworms of the week

Kelly Clarkson is one those artists whose songs are always playing on Boston’s pop station, 106.7 FM. You hear it, and then promptly forget it. But for some reason, this week has been an invasion of KC’s songs. And the common theme around these songs seems to follow the heartbreak – get over it- become stronger path. I never took to the theme but that voice! Now that i’m sitting down and actually listening to the songs, I find the voice captivating, atleast this week!

And Adele and her appoggiaturas are always a go-to when I’m  trying to “feel” something/anything:


And Lady Antebellum and their booty call anthem:


Well, those seem to be my themes of the week!

In other Junk news…

iPhone 5S may be unlocked with more than your fingerprint. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read the last two paragraphs:

Lastly, I went with the most secure body part I could think of – and all I will say is that I had to take off my pants. Unlike the knuckle and elbow, however, registering my nether region was a breeze. (It was quite chilly, in fact.) And not only did I successfully register this private part with relative ease, I was also able to use it to unlock the device. I think you can understand why there isn’t a video of this one.

H/T: Anne Laurie

Shock and Not-so-Awe on the streets of Bangalore

Just shock, no awe involved!
I noticed this “interesting” sticker/decal when I was going around town this morning:

Huh? WTF
Huh? WTF

The decal under the license plate says:

[OOPS P==C]”

I’m assuming that the young gentleman is asking us to replace the P with the C, making the new phrase… ...wait for it….

I’m Racist

[Yes, definitely a better choice of word <sarcasm> ]

Play-on-words #FAIL on so many levels.

If he was going at a slower speed, I would have asked the young woman sitting side-saddle to disembark with haste, the jump-fall-roll technique would work in a pinch.

From the Wikipedia page on Sildenafil (Viagra)

It is here. This excerpt is from the non-medical uses for Viagra – “A boutique bouquet”, if you will.

Cut flowers

Israeli and Australian researchers discovered that 1 mg of the drug dissolved in a vase of water can extend the shelf life of cut flowers, making them stand up straight for up to a week beyond their natural life span

I wonder if the section authors intended to write it this thinks it was deliberate.

PS: I’ll be back soon with rants and photos!

The Typewriter

Sati sent me this email forward with a link to a video that I have to share.

First the text:

Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was an American composer of short, light concert pieces; many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler. As with all his other compositions, Leroy Anderson wrote The Typewriter for orchestra, completing the work on October 9, 1950. This particular orchestration was performed in a June 12, 2011 concert by members of the National Orchestra and Chorus of Spain in Madrid. The (typewriter) soloist is Alfredo Anaya.

This was the video linked to the text;

If you love laughing [let’s face it, who doesn’t?] and/or music, consider your 4:34 minutes well spent!