Thursday, January 25, 2007

False Alarms at Work

About once a week, normally on a dull, lackluster afternoon, we’ll all be interrupted in the office by a loud jangling and clanging noise. Much like a fire alarm. In fact exactly like a fire alarm, for that is indeed what it is. It’s a loud irritating sound; one that might easily get on your nerves and make you want throttle your cubicle mates. Or one that might cause you to stick that yellow pencil lying on your desk right into your ear (and I don’t mean the soft eraser end) -- anything to make the noise stop. The only reason one might actually tolerate such a cacophonous auditory abomination is that it’s there to save our lives. Supposedly.

One might, not unnaturally, expect such an intimation to be the cause of much panic among the denizens of the office, none of whom are fire-resistant. It would therefore, if one were to be present within the confines of the building when the alarm goes off, come as quite a surprise to see employees display no greater concern toward it than a slight frown and a vigorous shake of the head (to get the noise out of their brains). But no wild dashing toward the exits, no mad grabbing for the fire-extinguishers, no crazy leaping out of the windows, no insane “Osama’s decided to target Poona now!” yelling. Not even the calm, single file exodus that one might expect during a fire-drill. Just frowning and shaking. And some pencils bending and some necks choking.

The alarm generally lasts about 30 seconds. Our puzzled observer might spend about another fifteen-twenty minutes in a state of amused bewilderment, before a loud voice is heard on the Public Address System.

“Excuse me, may I have your attention please. This is the ______ Access Control Speaking. The alarm that you just heard was a false alarm. I repeat, the alarm that you just heard was a false alarm. We are all safe at work. Thank you.”

Yes, folks. Every single time. (I’ve seen about 4306 false alarms since I’ve started work here. As for real fires, I haven’t even seen a candle flame.)

Now, I don’t really have a gripe against the false alarms. I know Rob (imaginary co-worker I make up to protect real identities) likes to go for the odd cigarette or two in the closet next to the washroom, especially on dull, lackluster afternoons, when there’s little else to do. I just have this niggling suspicion that he might in some complex way, which I am too ignorant to ever fully comprehend, be responsible for setting off the alarm.

But here’s what I DO have a grudge against -- it takes FIFTEEN minutes to announce the alarm’s bogus? If the alarm’s legit I want to be screaming like a little girl and running for my life as soon as I possibly can. Not after I’ve waited fifteen minutes. Not after the flames start to make my chair painfully hot to sit on. Not after my hair catches fire. What frightens me is that we’ve all got so used to this regular false alarm crap that no one even moves from their place any more. And one day those fifteen minutes might just be too late.

Remember, I’m not talking about planned fire-drills over here. We’ve never had a fire-drill. I guess when (okay, “if”) the actual fire does happen we’ll all just use that two-step process I mentioned above.

Step 1: Scream like little girl. (If you are already a “little girl”, just scream. Then file lawsuit against company for “Exploitation of Child Labor”.)
Step 2: Run for your life.

(All this AFTER you’ve been burned to a toast in those fifteen minutes.)

And finally, it’s interesting to note the last line in the announcement: “We are all safe at work.” Last time I heard the announcement, I stood up and looked around. Sure, everyone was “safe”. But the only living creature “at work” was a mouse in the corner. (Oh, and Rob in the closet.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Me For President

“Ladies and gentlemen, and all you other people reading this too, I hereby solemnly declare my intention to run for President in the 2008 American presidential elections. Thank you.”

Yes, that’s it. I’ve “thrown my hat in the ring” and “jumped in the fray” or whatever other overused media cliché takes your fancy. It seems to be the “in thing” right now, and why should I be left behind?

Okay, let’s face it -- I’m Indian. That seems to bear heavily against my chances. Common logic would suggest that a retarded beaver has more chance of getting elected to the White House than an (Eeww!) Indian. (Some people might even say one beaver’s already proven that. Twice.) But let’s not forget that these are times of extreme out-sourcing. Isn’t the Presidency just a job after all? And aren’t all American jobs being sent to India? If I can answer your calls about why that paper plate you put in your microwave seems to have yellowish flames emanating from it, then I’m guessing I can decide on your national budget too. (It’s almost the same thing. Really.)

My next “problem” would be that I’m unheard of to the average Joe on the American streets. I believe this is a good thing. It seems to me that most voters vote “against” rather than vote “for”.

“Well, Joshua’s gay. But’s Harry’s a gay pedophile who’s likes to strangle little boys once he’s done with them. I know whom I’m voting for!”

“Hmmm... John’s is an incompetent idiot but his opponent’s a woman. Go John!”

If the voters haven’t heard of a particular candidate, they don’t have an “against” against him. This is totally in my favor. Right now the Americans seems so cheesed off about both the Republicans and the Democrats that I believe a “weird, brown guy with a slightly tacky accent” might just stand a chance.

Of course, as the old theory goes, the taller guy with the better hair normally wins. I’m reasonably tall and I’ll get a haircut. Put all that together and this ought to be a cinch.

Policy making might prove tricky at first -- assuming I do get elected -- especially since I am not aware of the nitty-gritty of American politics and don’t really understand the basic needs of the American populace. However, I think I’ll be able to manage pretty well with a coin to flip and a couple of dice to roll. I’m sure I won’t do any worse than the current administration, at least. As far as foreign policy is concerned, that’s pretty simple. Don’t go to war in/against any country where the general population likes to use car-bombs. (Also, become good friends with Jon Stewart and Jay Leno. But that’s not as important.)

Nominations for my “running mate” are now welcome, as are cool campaign slogans.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Don't Like This Ad (Okay, Maybe Just a Little Bit)

Here’s an advertisment I came across today.

The small print at the bottom corner reads, “Don’t Abort The Girl Child”.

The advertisement’s pretty neatly designed and it gets the message across. I’m not guru on the subject of advertisement and I shall refrain from making any further comments on its style, color scheme etc, but suffice it to say I think all of that’s good. But... .

I have a problem with the advertisement on two issues. Well, it’s really just one issue when you think about it, but I’ll put it across as two. Sue me for that if you want.

1. By drawing a comparison with Kalpana’s brother -- who “runs a small business in Karnal” -- the advertisement assumes an extremely stereotypical (and in my opinion, wrong) definition of “success”. What is it trying to say? Does it imply that Kalpana was “more successful” than her brother? Or that I shouldn’t abort a female foetus BECAUSE it (she) may turn out to be an astronaut at NASA unlike its (her) brother who MAY only end up as a small scale businessman? That doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

Let’s look at things objectively -- for argument’s sake. Are they trying to say that Kalpana Chawla’s life was “worth” more than her brother’s? Economists have their way of applying a value metric to human life, and according to their measure I believe Kalpana’s life may well have been worth more than Mr. Chawla’s is back home in Punjab. But again, that doesn’t prove anything. (At least, he’s still alive.)

2. More importantly, if abortion of the girl child (or any child for that matter) is wrong [1], then it is wrong for reasons based purely on principle and NOT because of what that child may or may not achieve. Assuming that the Chawla family could only raise one child of the two (I don’t know how many children they actually have, but it doesn’t matter) and assuming that Kalpana’s life is worth more than some unheard of businessman in Punjab, does that mean it would have been okay for them to abort the son in favor of the girl? (We’re also assuming they knew what each would end up as.) Probably not.

I guess at the end of the day, all the advertisement is trying to say is “Give your unborn daughters a shot at life because they’ve as much of a chance of flying into space (and then being done in by a faulty piece of foam) as your sons”. In that case, I just wasted a lot of breath over here. But what the heck! I had nothing better to write about today anyway.

[1]: I’m not saying that abortion is wrong -- that’s a matter that’s open to debate as far as I’m concerned, with strong, valid reasons both “for” and “against”. I’m saying IF it were wrong, THEN... .

Monday, January 22, 2007

My New Ambition In Life

(Alternatively titled -- "Why I Wish I Was Named Zystemimes Zestyis")

I guess it would be fun to be the “Most Famous Person in the World” with a particular name. I’ve always been a fame-seeking kind of chap. Given a choice between wealth or fame, I know I’d pick fame. I’m assuming, of course, I’m in a hypothetical world where I couldn’t use my money to buy fame or my fame to make money. In other words, if I could have one, and only one, of the two, I’d pick fame.

Some [last] names are common. For example, who would you say is the Most Famous Smith in the World? I don’t know. I know the Most Famous Clinton in the World is a lying, intern-bedding, former president whom most of us hate and yet most of us love. (The only person who could have beaten him to it was probably aborted sometime early 1998 or is a grade-schooler living in anonymity somewhere.) Either way, we all know who the Most Famous Lewinsky in the World is.

The winners for Jordan (Michael over Peter André’s wife), Hemmingway, Gates, etc are easy to pick. Who wins Johnson? Or Williams?

It’s easy to see that your chances are pretty negligible unless:

1. You’ve got a name that isn’t very common, and
2. There isn’t already a VERY famous person with the same name.

Considering that let’s where I stand. Arnold’s not too common, but unfortunately for me someone’s already nabbed it. I’d have to assassinate a President using only a water-pistol and with my eyes closed and follow that up by making love to his wife while letting his children watch, to have any hope of winning that category. I don’t see myself attacking people with water-pistols just to achieve my silly ambition, though I might be willing to sleep around after that. Bottom line, I’ll have to satisfy myself with second place in the “Arnold” list.

There is, however, some good news. I don’t know any VERY famous people whose last names are D’Souza. (I’ve checked and Google doesn’t seem to either.) There are a few enterprising individuals with this name scattered here and there, but it’s safe to say there’s no Clinton. So that’s my current plan -- to become the Most Famous D’Souza in the World. Now, all I need to think about is how. I’m guessing drinking 23 cans of beer in 2 hours should about do it, but I’ll give it some more thought.

This is my new ambition in life (until the next one comes along, at least).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Book and Other Short Stories

I’d like to write a book someday. It seems like one of those cool things to do and more significantly it satisfies the following two important criteria:

1. It will earn me some money, and
2. [I think] I can do it.

There are plenty of little problems along the way though. For example, I haven’t a darned clue what I’m going to write the book about or even, for that matter, which genre of literature it should belong to. My Experiences With Women seemed like a good idea for a while, but like I’ve said before somewhere, I’m not a big fan of fantasy fiction. A Dull and Boring Teenage Life, on the other hand, is very writable, but I’m not sure I could even convince my own wife to spend her money on buying something like that. (And let’s not forget that we’re talking about a lady who’d buy a pair of shoes just because they’ll “look nice next to that other pair in her wardrobe”.)

Humor sounds doable. I could possibly write something funny. Well, funny to me at least. And therein lies my next problem. Most of the things that crack me up rarely have much effect on too many other people. I guess if it’s EXTREMELY funny, I might be able to con myself into buying 853,000 copies of the book. But that would make me the first penniless person to be famous since -- ummm, K-Fed. And I don’t want to go there.

I need a sure-shot plan for getting rich by writing, and that too one that doesn’t call for too much talent. If you think that’s impossible, I have one name for you -- Sidney Sheldon. Anyway, here’s my plan. I’m going to write a suspense novel. It’ll have a long, winding plot. There’ll be plenty of sex, lies, scandal, murder, smashing-in-of-skulls-using-crowbars, and maybe even some violent crime. There’ll be hot, rich bombshells, and dirty scallywags and the occasional hooker thrown in. Someone might die somewhere along the way (though I’m not promising you anything just yet), and some new characters may be born. Everything that you can think of will be there in the book.

Now here’s the REALLY brilliant part of the plan. I end the book right in the MIDDLE of the suspense. Then a year later, a release another book -- one that promises to put an end the suspense created by the first one. Everyone who’s bought the first book will just HAVE to buy this one. And those who want to buy this one will have to buy the first. (Double profits! Yippee!) Once again there’ll be everything in it! Everything, that is, except the ending. That I shall save for the third book of the series, where I’ll shall reveal that I’m actually saving it for the fourth book. I’m not sure I can fool an entire population of stupid, book-buying idiots any more than that, so there won’t actually be a fifth book. People might start to get a little cheesed off with me after this, but by then I’m hoping to be rich enough to buy the planet Mars, where I’ll be safe from the suspense-charged masses crying for my blood.

Now I crawl into a little thinking-hole to conjure up a good name for the hooker.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Little White Lies on Your Dashboard

If I were a car manufacturer, I’d just make every speedometer display a speed that’s about 15-20% more than the actual speed of the vehicle.

Speed, as I see it, is more about the number than anything else. I can’t prove this in any way, but I’m fairly certain that someone who loves high-speed driving would be happier if he were driving at 120 but thought it was 150 than if he were actually driving at 150 but thought it was only 120. Like so many other things, it’s all in the mind.

Of course, this is only true if the error in the reading isn’t large enough to be noticed. For example, you couldn’t show a 30 as a 90 and expect to fool too many people other than maybe George Bush or Britney Spears. And even they’d start to suspect something after a while. But call an 80 a 90 and it would take an Ayrton Senna to tell the difference.

So basically I could now advertise my vehicle as having a top speed of 200 instead of a plain, boring Gramma-driving speed of say 170 and I’m sure that would get more people to buy my car. More importantly, this is probably the most efficient method to keep people within the speed limit since Edward II decreed that all carriage-drawing horses must have only three legs. If the street sign shows a limit of 80, you know you’re going to be doing 85 at least. But now that that 85 is merely a 75, no police radar gun’s going to stop you. (Assuming the guns measure the right speed.)

It also becomes far easier to impress chicks sitting in the passenger or rear seats. For them -- more than anybody -- speed’s DEFINITELY just a number.

“Hey! Check this out, babe! We’re doing 190!”
“Whoa! If I blow you right now, would you PLEASE slow down?”

If I were girl, I think I’d pretend to be impressed no matter what speed the guy’s driving at. Call me chicken if you may, but I’m not sure I want to die just yet, and I believe “Slow down, I’m impressed” is a slightly better option than “130? Pfft! My mentally challenged cousin drives faster than that!”

I think car manufacturers already DO ensure that your car shows you a higher speed than you’re really at, but just in case they haven’t already thought of it, I’m going to suggest it the next time I meet someone from the automobile industry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jobs That Really Should Exist (But Don’t)

I think creating unnecessary jobs may not be the worst thing in the world. It keeps more people occupied, and that means there are less people who are looking to cause trouble. This all works on the “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” principle – one that you have to admit does have its merit. As long as I’m occupied with something, I can stay out of trouble fairly easily. But if I’m REALLY bored, I probably wouldn’t mind chopping the danglers off a passer-by just “for the hack of it”.

So toward this cause, I hereby propose the following new jobs at any office (preferably one that operates like mine):

1. Blank-page photocopier:-
Anytime you want like 5 blank sheets of paper and all you have is ONE blank sheet of paper (God forbid), you can always call on trusty Ol’ Jim – The Blank-page Photocopier guy. Of course, you can have cool code commands like “Run me a 505x69 on this A4”, just to make his job a little more interesting.

2. American English – British English Translator:-
For someone who was brought up on a healthy diet of pure, unadulterated Queen’s English, these danged Yankee coots with their funny accents and their corrupted ‘English’ can be quite a nuisance. In steps your ever-ready American-British Translator, Mike, to insert the necessary ‘u’s’, change the ‘er’s’ into ‘re’s’ and call a ‘cookie’ what it REALLY is – a BISCUIT!

3. Human Temperature Regulators:-
These are the chaps who are brought into the office and positioned in regions where the temperature is too low. As we’re all aware, the temperature regulation at most offices is in shambles and people are regularly complaining about the place being either “hot enough to poach an egg” or “colder than a polar bear’s tits”. Now you can regulate the temperature in your cubicle yourself, by placing the necessary amount of these Human Temperature Regulators around you so that the body warmth they generate provides the exact amount of heating you require. (If the place is already too hot, just bring in one person and ask him/her to fan you. Also stop working, switch off your computer and reason with your boss that it was generating more heat than it was worth.)

4. Scapegoats:-
I really think people should be hired just to perform this, and only this, task. How nice it would be to muck something up and then just go, “Oh, it was all Matt the Scapegoat’s fault!” Then the boss just fires Matt from that module, moves him to another one, and brings in a fresh, new Scapegoat into the first module to take the blame for the next FUBAR. The Scapegoat’s “done his thing” and everyone’s happy.

I’m off to think of new ways to save the world now.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bad Ankle Turns Good

I broke my ankle yesterday. It hurts a lot and it isn’t much fun not being able to ride a motor-cycle or walk around without hobbling like a senile, octogenarian. But for all its curses, I’d have to say it’s probably the surest way to an easy lay.

To start off with, all the hobbling and limping (with some grimacing and teeth-clenching thrown in) attracts the attention – and more importantly, the sympathy – of all sorts of chicks. So normally, females who’s just pass me by with a smile or maybe a nod-hallo, are now stopping to inquire how my “poor little cutie sweetie-weetie ankle” is doing. I must admit this feels nicer than it sounds.

Of course, conversation then slips to inquiring how this so unfortunate a tragedy happened to come about. That’s when I mention I hurt it playing basketball (okay, so it was “human basketball” to be scrupulously precise, but no one’s heard of that anyway). That’s the magic word really – “Basketball”. After that, there are so many chicks queuing up with the express intention of humping you that one actually needs a coupon-system if one is to avoid complete and utter chaos.

If my ankle never heals, it would be too soon.

(Oh, I’m not sure if this is relevant, but the doctor tells me the pain-killers I’m on may cause delusional hallucinations. Oh, wait! Damn!)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Seven Colors of a Straight Man

I’ve always wondered what an easy way to spot gay men is. Some possible methods off the top of my head would be:

1. Does he sleep with other men?
2. Does he prefer man-on-man porn to regular?
3. Does he own a George Michael album?

However, it’s fair to say that none of these could be reasonably described as “easy”. They would necessitate access to either his bedroom/computer/album shelf, and I have neither the time nor the inclination for any of that. And yet, I think I’d like to avoid the embarrassment I faced the last time I set up a friend with a girl and found out he was “that way”. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it.)

I think I’ve finally come up with a decent solution to this problem. Ask the guy to identify the color of something that’s lying nearby. It works best if you choose an article of clothing. Your shirt, for example. His answer ought to clue you in to his sexual orientation.

It’s a pretty well known fact that most straight guys can recognize about 7 colors -- red, blue, green, yellow, black, white and brown. Gray is “a bit of blackish-white (or whitish-black, depending on how dark it is)”, maroon is “just another red” and orange is “that color which is also a fruit”. Simply put, men don’t care too much about different shades.

So if Tim describes your shirt as one of the above 7 colors, you know he’s straight. If he uses a word that you haven’t heard before, that’s where you start to suspect all might not be as it appears. For example, if he calls it “beige”, “ocher”, “peach”, “lilac”, “aquamarine” or something like that he definitely drives on the wrong side of the road. No straight man knows that these shades even exist. (If he describes your shirt as “pink” or “lavender”, the two of you would make an excellent couple.)

Elton John apparently uses the term “pastel shades” in everyday conversation.

(Just for the record, all the colors mentioned on this page -- except the seven safe ones -- were obtained by Googling “colors and shades no straight man would be aware of”. I did not know they existed until 7 minutes ago. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Saddam Joke of The Day

Q - "What do you say to Saddam just before you yank the trapdoor open?"
A - "Shi'ite Happens!"