Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Walden Pond

" deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Small world

They breezed in, they breezed out. They fought and bickered and squabbled endearingly. They passed a wide range of politically incorrect comments. Perhaps that was forgivable considering one of them was over seventy and the other nearly so. They'd missed their connecting flight at Newark. The next flight was at 5 pm. They'd landed at 6 am. The 16 hour trudge from Bombay hadn't served them so well. He'd had to keep getting up to go to the restroom; on one such occasion he'd left his windcheater on his seat and the guy next to him ("one useless fellow he was") had lifted the armrest and lain down across the two seats, adding insult to injury by borrowing his windcheater unasked and balling it up into a pillow. On another occasion that he'd gotten up the same gent had placed a half-empty glass of water (no, not half full) on his seat, so when he returned to his seat he unknowingly sat on the glass wetting himself "everywhere 1 2 3 4" as he put it, making gestures in all directions. The flight attendants hadn't been the best, and the ground staff at Newark had been downright bullies. "All of them black and one fatter than the other," said she, comfortable in her own not unsubstantial skin. They hadn't been convenienced by the security check either, "making me take off my shoes socks shirt banian even", and figuring out how to make a pay phone work had been a nightmare. For one, they didn't have coins, and no one would give them any change. Until the Good Samaritan they met after 45 minutes of their hunt, the man who passed them two quarters so that they could call their son to tell him of the delay. The son who let his sister know. The sister who called her friend my sister-in-law at 10 am, four full hours into their nightmare, imploring her to drive the half hour into Newark and bring them home for lunch before they embarked on their cross-country connection. And so they sat in the living room as my sis-in-law rustled up some upma, bombarding a politely sympathetic me with the tales of their recent plight, apologizing for "inconveniencing" me by making me show them the way to the bathroom.

Slowly they settled and caught their breath, she embarked on tales of her grandchildren. And suddenly realized that she couldn't find her pocket diary. The one with all the phone numbers in it. Which she'd taken out to call her son. Which she now realized she had probably forgotten at the airport.

She made as if to go back to Newark to look for it.

We dissuaded her.

It took some doing.

Then she remembered that she had written her son's credit card information right across the front page of that diary.

My sis-in-law called her friend to get the son's number. The friend called back with the number. The son was called; a message was left. The son called back and was informed. He said he'd cancel the card. He hung up, then called back. He berated his mother. Her face fell further. Then she blamed her husband, for "reminding me so often you always make me nervous". H edefended himself by saying that if he didn't remind her she'd forget. Then he asked, "are you sure the passports and boarding passes are safely in your bag?" She rolled her eyes and took them out. "You cold have left them outside last time I asked you to check," he justified. And started telling me all about how he used to make coffee in his 1950s British coffeemaker. A fifteen minute narrative, crowned by the passing phrase,"It has rollers, you see, for rolling. They roll."

Then he explained to me why she shouldn't have taken her phone diary out to make the call. "You should always write numbers in big letters in sets of three. On pieces of paper where you can find them." He fished a couple of loose scraps of paper from out of the bulging breast pocket of his shirt to demonstrate.

Then he unpacked and packed his shoulder bag. It was missing one side strap, and the shoulder strap seemed as if it didn't belong to the bag. "Yes, yes, one strap had broken. But I have many at home. When I go home I will fix it." He'd just come from home for a year's visit. "This shoulder strap was also breaking and I was at my tailor's shop so I asked him for a belt."

She observed his performance and commented to me: "Yiver uncle iss livving in the 19th century."

They had their lunch, drank some tea, and then left to get driven back to the airport. All the while they talked, bickered, squabbled, and passed the occasional politically incorrect remark. On their way out she discovered he'd left his windcheater hanging across the back of a dining chair. Her eyes lit up - she said she wouldn't remind him until he stepped out of the house. They stepped out of the house. She'd forgotten to remind him. I reminded her, saying, "Jacket". Her face fell. So did his. I fetched the jacket. They said their fond goodbyes to the stranger they'd met just a few hours previously.

Somewhere in the relentless conversation we'd learned that they're related to the new wife of my old cubicle-mate and friend.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Indic Numerology

Among other passing thoughts:

Why is it that when these celebrities fiddle with the spellings of their names for numerological reasons, it's only the English spellings that get diddled? Why, for instance, do we not see creations like "प्रेयीथी झिन्न्ताह"? Is numerology not script-invariant? Or do I not read enough of the vernacular press?