Scattered Brainings XVI

27 07 2012

* Anyone else have a routine they follow when they first arrive at work? For me, it’s simple: I go through my e-mails, have a mug of tea… and have a look at some comics & memes on my favourite sites. It only takes about 5 minutes, if that, which makes me feel a little less guilty about going onto these sites in the first place. At least I’m a diligent worker for the rest of the day.

* Smudgy might be against healthy snacking. Why else would she steal the apple I wanted to take along to work from the kitchen counter… twice? Oh, wait, that’s right – (a) it was small enough to be considered a toy, and (b) she’s a cat, so she does whatever she wants. Like sleeping on my brand new coat before I even wear it.

* Not having drowned thus far during aqua aerobics feels like a great accomplishment to me. Yeay exercise!

* I know you’re supposed to feel flattered when people think you’re younger than you really are. I’m just wondering at what point in your life this is supposed to be complementary and when the guesstimated difference is a bit too extreme or even astonishing. The women in my aqua aerobics class thought I was only 15 or 16 years old! (I’m told it’s because I’m so small & ‘skinny’.) Now imagine their expressions when they hear that I’m married and how old I actually am. The shock value / surprised faces are really quite amusing.

* The weather is cold, and for the past week I’ve been wearing not-really-heat-inducing jerseys at work with the sleeves rolled up because I feel warm & semi-claustrophobic. I’m too young to be getting hot flashes, right?

* Pink macaroons taste like Bakers Zoo Cookies. If you live in South Africa, go buy one at a Limnos Bakery and tell me I’m wrong. They are awesome!

* We’re watching the second season of GAME OF THRONES at the moment. While interesting, I can’t help but want to groan in joint despair and annoyance when we have to see another person’s naked form and all that hoo-ha. Get on with the story already!

* Also, has anyone else joked that Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly are like Frodo Baggins & Samwise Gamgee in LOTR? Come one: Samwell – Samwise? Both a bit portly, well-meaning, supportive and a true friend? Jon and Frodo each with their own type of burdens to bear and roles to fulfil / adventures to go on? No? Just me, then…

* Is it weird that I find it weird that people don’t think it’s weird to have a whole conversation while in cubicles/stalls at a public/work restroom? Weird.





Scattered Brainings XV

26 01 2012

* What ever happened to common courtesy? Have we become so consumed in our own lives and problems that we cannot be bothered to even be the slightest bit friendly? We have an open plan office setup at work. At some or other point in the day, you are likely to cross paths with most of the people in your section, like when you go to pick stuff up or make copies at the printer. The least you can do is to give the other person a smile, or at least a nod of acknowledgement when they say ‘hullo’ to you (though saying ‘hullo’ back would be preferable). Many times, this does not happen. I’m not asking you to be the nicest person in the world, but if I say ‘hullo’ to you, would it really kill you to say ‘hullo’ back? I’m now at the point where I’ve given up trying and don’t greet certain people when I see them because I cannot elicit a response from them. Time to bake some murder muffins

* About a week ago, one of my colleagues asked me how I was doing despite – and I quote – “the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look” that can be seen on many a face when referring to the upcoming submissions. Being me, I immediate wondered how this would translate into fashion – what would the key colours, style and accessories be for that definitive deer-caught-in-the-headlights look? What will make you look confused, scared, and ‘cute’ all at the same time? (Confession: I think I may be losing it…)

* Saw this on Facebook and just had to share. As a Scooby-Doo fan, I approve:

* Last week, while dining out, my Significant Other asked me: ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ This is one of the most annoying/ scary/ shrug-inducing questions ever uttered by man. I had this sudden urge to answer, “About two and a half months away from turning 30”, but decided against it.

* Don’t you just hate it when something silly/ annoying gets stuck in your head for days on end? You have that song playing in your mind when you wake up; it sneaks in every hour or so while you’re busy working; and it might just make another appearance before you go to sleep. Oh, and don’t forget the accompanying imagery! I watched a certain YouTube video that has been ‘harassing’ my mind for perhaps over a week now. I have four words for you: “Every day I’m shuffling”

* I’m a bit worried (already) that I won’t reach the goal I set myself for my 2012 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. Last year I was able to read 145 books (yes I did!), with my initial goal being 100.  This year, I’ve decided to set the bar at 100 again, and then see how it goes. I was off to a bad start since it took me nearly two weeks to get through one book – not because I’m a slow reader, but simply because it failed to fully capture my attention. Luckily I’ve been able to pick up the pace and am ‘on track’, according to Goodreads… yet things are going to be super busy until mid-March here at work. I’ll just have to catch up…

* Paper cuts. (Enough said?) I am the self-proclaimed queen of paper cuts. It’s not that I get a paper cut every day or anything like that (although, yes, there are often days when they appear out of thin air and leave me exasperated as to their precise origin). It’s just how things turn out when I do get one. When I get a paper cut, it has to be exceptional. Take Tuesday, for example. Three paper cuts… on the same finger… at the Exact. Same. Time. (!!!)

* Yesterday morning on our way to work, I told my Significant Other that I’m not meant/ cut out for writing. (Haters gonna’ hate?) I just feel disconnected from my writing. Stephen King says that if you have any hope of becoming a successful writer, you should read a lot and write a lot. I’ve got the reading part down pat, yet I am lacking in the writing part. I have been consumed by the schools sector of the written word… I still enjoy reading other people’s manuscripts (not only at work, though it is part of my job – I’m talking about actual ‘real-world’ novel writers) and doing some editing/ providing feedback… but that makes me feel… I don’t know… like a hypocrite? They say those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach… or edit. Which has always bugged me. Because if you yourself cannot write, how can you teach someone else to do it and tell them what is right/ wrong (or grade them on it, *cough* one of my university lecturers *cough*)? In any case, I think I need a big nudge to get me started on my own writing again.

* Being home alone in the evening makes me want to bake and watch a Disney movie (usually THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG or TANGLED). Why is that? I ended up baking raisin-and-flaked-almond oats bars last night… and watching THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG… again…

Topped off with melted chocolate chips!!

* I say the word ‘um’ a lot… at work… while talking to my line manager. This annoys me. It reminds me of an English lecturer we had at university who would say “and, um…” before/ after Every. Single. Sentence. Not the best way to focus on PARADISE LOST, I can assure you.

* Since I have a pear-shaped figure, does that mean I should only eat pears? Or can eating a different fruit help change my shape? *Ponder* I’ve heard of people who are pear or apple shaped, but not a word about any other fruit. If you were banana shaped, would you be bent? Are small, plump/ round people grapes? And what about really large people – are they watermelons? I’m thinking about this too much!!





Dystopian delight

26 09 2011

 

Warning: this will most likely end up being a lengthy blog entry.

I have come to the realization that I take infinite joy in reading dystopian novel(la)s.

[Or should that be ‘novel(la)s that explore a dystopian society/ state/ world’?]

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell; THE LONG WALK and THE RUNNING MAN by Richard Bachman (actually Stephen King); the HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins; the CHAOS WALKING trilogy by Patrick Ness; THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner… the list goes on and on.

‘Joy’ in the opening sentence of this blog entry – quick, go read it again, since I’ve probably distracted you with the list of book titles! – seems to be an ironic word to choose, since people who live in said societies rarely know joy, living in the awful future times and circumstances as they do…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, what is this Dystopia I speak of, you ask?

You probably all know the word ‘Utopia’, which refers to an ideal world or kind of paradise. Greek: eu (good) + topos (place). Compare this to the Greek dys, meaning “bad”/ “ill”, and you’ll see that Dystopia is the complete opposite of Utopia. In fact, I’ve read that it is regarded as “the evil twin” of Utopia.

In a dystopian setting, you usually deal with a society that lives within a social control system – a system under which they are oppressed, controlled, and living in fear of saying a word of protest against the corrupt ruling government. There is great suffering, pessimism and uniformity – the people of those times being manipulated to serve the purposes of those in power, often becoming indistinct through strict presiding regulations. Bubbling far below the surface, there is talk of a revolt, or rising up against the oppressors and building a new society.

Brutality is implemented for amusement; survival a daily hope. Friends are pitted against each other, sometimes having to take sides to ‘ensure’ their continued existing – more of the disturbing sort of amusement that those in power revel in. What could be better than spinning fine threads of false hope, then tangling everyone up in the web of deceit and resulting difficult choices?

Take THE HUNGER GAMES, for example: where the Capitol selects two young people (one male, one female) in each District to compete in what can be seen as ‘the most dangerous game’ – an arena where your survival depends on being the last person not killed. How do you kill other innocent people? How do you kill someone from your own district?? How do you keep from being killed, yourself, having to depend on your own skills to procure food, water, weapons? And all this while the entire world watches your every move, sees every killing, every hardship… and are glad that it isn’t them in there.

Because that’s how the government works: keeping you in captivating horror, making you believe that this is how the world should be and that you are powerless to stop them. The social norms set in these times might be disturbing and cruel, yet the people have been brainwashed to believe that it should be so.

Of course, propaganda also comes into play, making people believe that the government/ state is just, that things are how they should be, that they are being taken care of and that all rules must be obeyed without question…

Queue the hero/ heroin of the story to take a stand, to not give in, to survive and rise up and renew hope for a better world and sometimes even unwillingly rally others to join in the fight.

All of that said, why would anyone enjoy reading these types of books?

Is it because we want to see good triumph over evil? Do we take pleasure in seeing those misusing power get their comeuppance? Are we glad that at least we do not live in such extremely oppressive times? Or is it because we can feel a spark of ‘recognition’ in what is being written – that we can, to a certain degree, relate to what is said?

These novels are set in the future for a reason: they look at social trends we are currently living in, then take them to the extreme, thus serving as a sort of warning by showing us the ‘what would happen if’ situations (i.e. the horrifying consequences and ramifications that today’s world and technologies could have on the future – always with the worst case scenario depictions…)

These books want us to be voyeuristic, to see what could happen to society by injecting bits of the familiar and building it up to uncomfortable proportions. You know how they say familiarity breeds contempt? That’s pretty much what’s happening here.

I could probably make this blog entry run on forever if I start talking about how wonderful I think the HUNGER GAMES trilogy is, how scary it would be to take part THE LONG WALK (mental breakdown practically assured), how I wish things could have turned out differently at the end of the CHAOS WALKING trilogy… but that can wait for another day. I think I’ve loaded your minds with enough noise… errr, ‘information’ to make you not want to think about society and our own corrupt governments (fat chance of that) for quite some time.

But I hope I’ve also interested you in these types of novel(la)s. If I can get more people reading, it will be reward enough for me 🙂

Oh, and did I mention how these types of novels often have an ending where issues are unresolved or you don’t feel satisfied with how things turned out/ are left unexplained/ just don’t ‘feel’ right to you?

Yeah, that’s always lots of fun.





On the (interesting) subject of cupcakes

13 09 2011

After I posted the pictures of the rainbow cupcakes on my blog last week, I started pondering: where does the cupcake’s origin lie? Are there any interesting facts about it? When/ where do you serve cupcakes? I’ve probably put more thought into a simple cupcake than most people would give it (other than the obvious fact that it’s ‘pretty’ or ‘tasty’).

So, by doing a little bit of research, I learnt that no one is actually clear about the origin of the treat (its unknown status perhaps adding to its appeal?), but that recipes for the small cake have been in print since the late 18th/ early 19th century. Two hundred years of dainty delights! [NOTE: the Americans claim that they contributed the cupcake to the world of confectionary. Why am I not surprised…] I can just see the women in London during the Season, all a flutter at the treat– fanning their faces, sipping their tea, and remarking on how clever and light these small cakes were:

“How ingenious, my dear Miss Standish, for it could fit in my very teacup!”

“Quite so, Mrs Blake. Indeed they are so pretty to look at, and so small, it might break one’s heart to take a bite.”

“But they are so light and delicate, you see, that they will suit my constitution well – my strength is quite depleted after our journey from Bath, so much that I find myself faint without sustenance.”

“Have another, Mrs Blake, for the bit of sweetness does seem to have brought some rosiness back to your countenance. It would be a shame for you to miss the Duke’s ball tonight.”

“Why thank you, dear child. It would not do for us to be absent… I must ask Mrs Dentley for the recipe of this delightful treat! Indeed, it will be the talk of the ton – I would not be surprised if the Prince Regent himself shows up tonight to compliment her on her excellent taste.”

Okay, I might have gotten a  bit carried away and really stupid, but at least be glad that I didn’t spin a Banbury Tale and have them talking about fairies and mini tea parties *laugh*

What makes a cupcake such a delightful little thing? For one, it usually isn’t very sweet, unless you count the icing (aka frosting) it’s decorated with. One reason why cupcakes might seem and taste ‘plain’ against other confectionary is because the first cakes were more bread-like, i.e. not (very) sweet. [If you think about it, the original dividing line between (cup)cakes and bread is fairly thin, since they use pretty much the same ingredients.] Very basic ingredients – such as butter, eggs, flour – were used, and they only sweetened the cakes up a bit afterwards with honey, nuts and (later) dried fruit.

Oh, and of course they were named ‘cupcakes’ because they were baked in pottery cups, moulds and small bowls. But you probably deduced as much, didn’t you? What you likely didn’t know is that there’s another reason why they were called cupcakes or 1-2-3-4: because the recipe called for cupsful of the ingredients – a cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, four eggs… cups, cups, my kingdom for some cups!

Since a plain cupcake isn’t too sweet, it’s a great treat for people who don’t have a sweet tooth or who might get headaches due to the richness of some cakes. Rich chocolate cake + layers of sticky sweet mousse icing in between + decadently dark gateaux on top = worst. migraine. EVER.

Cupcakes work well for birthday parties, where mom can put a small amount of icing on top, thus reducing the little tykes’ sugar intake (which usually results in a high) and making her job of quieting them down much easier. Cupcakes feature at a kitchen tea/ tea party (where half the fun is ‘ooh’-ing and ‘aah’-ing over the various bite sized nibbles that have been prepared… the other half in eating them); Stork Parties (little treats celebrating the little bundle of joy about to arrive, perhaps signifying how plain and vulnerable it may seem, but what a delight such a sweet little thing can bring); and any other occasion that you can think of.

They are also popular at weddings! Cupcakes are small enough to satisfy everyone, plus the ‘packaging’ allows guests to take them home – it’s not like you need a plastic container to put them in, like a piece of cake, since cupcakes usually come in their own shiny/ aluminium/ paper cups. They are less messy than a large cake, what with people cutting it to pieces, getting crumbs all over the place, smearing chocolate/ icing/ mousse/ gateaux on the organza table runners you hired… you get the idea 🙂 It adds a bit of personal touch, showing that you thought of everyone and that you wanted to ensure that each person would get one (which isn’t always the case with cake; sometimes it even seems like such a bother to hang around waiting for a small slice…)

But enough about that. I promised you a few interesting facts, so here they are:

* The World’s Smallest Cupcake was baked in Great Britain and measured in at 1.5 cm (h) x 3 cm (w)!

* The first cupcakes were covered (‘frosted’) with lard to serve as a kind of gravy… *shudder*

* Winston Churchill suggested that cupcakes should have sweet frosting on top (thank you!!!)

* Apparently Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – by John Lennon – is actually about cupcakes. Huh…

* …and H.P. Lovecraft stated that an overdose of cupcakes led to him creating Cthulhu. Sure, locking yourself in a basement and getting high on the sugar from 12 cupcakes results in weird hallucinations of mythical creatures for all of us.

* There are more than 500 different kinds of cupcakes. That’ll keep cupcakes enthusiasts busy.

* There’s a record for someone consuming 29 cupcakes in 30 seconds. (I wouldn’t want to be his stomach.)

* Cupcakes, along with other baked treats, have been banned from schools in NYC in an attempt to decrease the rising rate of obesity. The sad thing, however, is that some of those kids’ parents are irresponsible and then load them up with as much sugar as their little hearts’ desire (without them getting a bit of exercise or a healthy diet).

* Cats lack the gene that permit mammals to taste sweet things… and yet, my cat seems to like cupcakes (along with other sweet treats!) Guess if you present a cat with something to eat and it doesn’t seem ‘dangerous’ or ‘offensive’, it won’t give two meows about whether it can taste it or not… So keep it all to yourself!! *nom nom nom* [Perhaps now people will stop taking and captioning pictures of cats with sweet treats. The only time it would be ‘suitable’ is if you bring in some irony/ sarcasm. Kitty is not impressed by your cute cupcake. Not. At. ALL.]





Licence to thrill

23 09 2010

While on my way to work this morning, I noticed that the car in front of us (my Significant Other and myself) had a personalized number/ licence plate, which read PEACE 1. Nice little message for people reading it – perhaps a bid to get people to believe that you are a peaceful person or believe/ hope for peace – but sometimes I wonder what’s the use of this personalized bit of plastic/ metal/ whatever number plates are made of.

Personalized plates don’t come cheap, after all, although some of them are amusing to read. It’s like that joke about the snail that got himself a car with a number plate that read S-CAR, and whenever he went speeding by people, they would say, “Wow, would you look at that S-Car go!” Corny, I know, and not necessarily amusing, but you get what I’m driving at (no pun intended).

My cousin has a sexy little black car (convertible? I know you can let the top down) with a licence plate that reads MASCARA. Suitable, since the car is such a dark black colour, almost sashaying down the road, blinking it’s headlights like a wink once those indicators come on. My cousin is an absolutely gorgeous person (physically), lovely on the inside, quite short, and just as confident as mascara makes some girls feel after application (or even the notion of ever having a car like hers).

A friend of mine’s licence plate reads PH0EN1X – a nickname/ avatar he uses whenever he’s playing games (WoW, Starcraft II, etc.) A phoenix is a quite powerful symbol – a majestic creature who, at its death, bursts into flames, only to be reborn out of the ashes. A survivor. Arguably the greatest of mythological creatures. It is a symbol of rebirth, immortality and renewal –something man can only dream of, though this does not mean that he doesn’t strive towards it. Man. A generalization for mankind, but it most cases in both history and mythology, it is men who seek out power or who hold positions of power, thus it would be man (literally) who seeks the power and companionship of the phoenix – the fire bird, the greatest and leader of other birds… Which is why I find it interesting (though I’m not saying that this is what my friend aimed it) that this friend of mine whose licence plate reads PH0EN1X is male. Ever striving towards greater (and the greatest of) things…?

You get licence plates with people’s names/ nicknames, company names, abstract things (love, peace, serenity), even stupid things that are related to sports or what I would assume to be inside-jokes. Still, it’s that person’s licence plate, so whatever puts salsa on his/ her enchilada, I so go for it – make it as spicy as you want.

This, of course, leads me to wonder what I would choose, if given the opportunity of having a personalized plates. What would best describe me? What do I want other people to think of me? Should I try to be witty, sarcastic, honest, playful… or simply opt for my name and have done with it? I absolutely love cats, yet I’m not too sure how mentioning that on the plates would really be effective/ cute/ sane.

So I think, if I had to ‘get me one of those’, I’d have to opt for my one nickname: DONSIE. For those of you who don’t understand Afrikaans, a “donsie” is like a small, soft feather – almost a bit of fluff, really, the very soft downy feathers you find blowing into your house sometimes. Apparently this nickname is to show how cute, soft, and teeny-tiny I am – so small, in fact, that the slightest breeze endangers me of being blown away. It might sound silly, but I really like it 🙂

If you had a licence to thrill (no, not that kind of licence, and nothing like James Bond), what would yours read?