It’s time for season 6! Breakups and reunions…

October 19, 2009

Yay, TV series hiatus time is over and many shows are well into their new seasons. I was recently browsing a gallery on Entertainment Weekly entitled “20 shows you’re breaking up with” about which shows readers were… well it’s in the title. Then I realised, I am totally breaking up with some shows this year, and I feel that its all been decided for me in the season premiers.

A number of juggernaut shows are hitting their 6th season this year and I found big differences in how two mainstay medical shows are aging. One is getting a bit tired and grasping for story lines and the other feels like we’ve only just begun to nick the surface. I have watched every episode of Grey’s Anatomy and House, but I’ve always seen a House episode is an hour of well-crafted, intelligent TV that requires my full attention and Grey’s as more of a watch-it-while-you-fold-laundry type show. After the season 6 premiers I feel pretty sure I’ve lost interest in Grey’s Anatomy but find myself more intrigued by House than ever. Where it feels very obvious that Grey’s Anatomy cooked up in a kitchen with many prodding cooks, House seems like it was written by one author, who thought very deliberately about the script.

After 2 bumpy seasons, sticking it out with Grey’s Anatomy hardly seems worthwhile anymore. I was somewhat amped after the pretty brilliant and shocking season 5 finale. But since the publicity machine around the series ruined any plot unknowns there were no surprises in store with season 6. SPOILER ALERT Big non-surprise, George died, Izzie lived, people organised a funeral and, in the one moment that got me sniffly, parceled out his organs for donation. I’ve read that Izzie’s laughing fit at the funeral was the perfect laugh-so-you-don’t cry moment. But I found it bizarre and the dialogue only served to point out how overworked the plot has been lately (“George died! I got cancer! And you (Meredith) got married on post-it!”). Amongst everyone going through their own 7 Kubler-Ross stages of grief (real original underlying theme by the way), the Chief was comically sparring with Callie and trying to save face with the board. But on his way to his Big Important Meeting he finds himself (un)comically at rival Mercy West’s door where it dawns on him that he should merge Seattle Grace with Mercy West. So that means a whole bunch of new characters and the diluting the screen time of the existing characters we would only love to see more of (how many more Georges have to be sidelined before sanity returns?). I know this was supposed to be the big shake up of the series but it was not handled in a way that made sense and I’m unmoved.

But there was something that makes up for all the multi-writer schlock and aaall the bad season premiers (hello Gossip Girl!). Something that restored my faith that there can be some truly great storytelling on TV. HOUSE, how constant and undisappointing you are, even when you did that weird reality show knock-off thing and sidelined the original beloved team in season 4 you were still totally watchable. So season 5 ended with House’s mind playing dangerous tricks on him and he voluntarily admitted himself to a psych hospital. And that is just where we find him, fresh off Vicadin withdrawal and being generally belligerent and cruel to the other patients. The whole two hour premier is about House in the hospital – no cases, not Princeton Plainsbourough, just House, his crazy roomies and his therapists. I watched this episode during an airport layover, on a plane and, finally, when the jetlag ensured I was totally awake at 2am during which I had tears – lots of them!. It has a brilliant storyline and was like a great big reward for all viewers who have watched House be relentlessly awful and unchangeable for the past 5 seasons. After getting to know the character so well, you can anticipate his reactions to the hospital, but you will be floored by the way things actually go and come to not know what to expect at all. The casting of that Law and Order guy as House’s therapist was genius, I found it totally believable that this guy might have the gravitas to get through to House and I’m excited that it seems like he will be around for more episodes.

withdrawal is a bitch

withdrawal is a bitch


Jessy Beatriz

September 25, 2009

After getting back from India I spent an outstanding two months at home in Cape Town. It was great hanging out with my family and friends again after basically five months away. It was a pretty busy time full of good and bad: I agonised over the direction of my PhD, had warm sunny work days at C & A’s, attended the funeral of a very controversial relative, and the 80th birthday of another, drank green tea with S, had D & R’s kitten scald me with hot coffee, hung out with S & little C, took J (intern friend from US) around Cape Town and spent most weekends hanging out with my sisters. But the first and most important event of the 2 months was meeting my first every niece. I missed her birth by, what like week. But its all good because I am rather chuffed that she, like me, is an April baby and I did get to see her the day she was born over Skype (“Look that’s your Tia Ilda in the laptop!”). So here we are meeting for the first time:

first timers

first timers

Yes, we both look a bit confused! Her: “Who is the new face?” Me: “Is she going to barf/cry on me?” I’m not much of a baby person (don’t love ’em, don’t despise ’em) but I did get attached to her very quickly. She has very large ambiguously coloured eyes and silky, silky hair. One of my favourite things about her is her repertoire of sounds: grunting, gurgling, murmuring and her..erm.. burps, which are rather phenomenal and usually lead to much giggling when they emerge from something which looks so like a cherub. So here she is, Jesse Beatriz:



a typical absence

September 7, 2009

Well some things in life are unfortunate and come with high probabilities – good TV shows will get canceled, Lindsay Lohan will wear leggings and/or booties, charming politicians will probably disappoint us and new bloggers are likely to lapse on their updates. Even though I hoped to keep this blog going with at least a couple updates each month, I have to face facts and admit that I am in the herd of “lapsers”. I haven’t peeped in 2 months and 2 days! So what has been taking up my time online? Researching XNA game studio and narrative linguistics (for the FiD) and getting through my stupidly large collection of pictures from India. The latter is finally done and I’m trying to get most pics tagged. They can be found on my flickr stream…

sari shop girl

sari shop girl

Heftier things have been taking up my time in real life – I got home from India and met my gorgeous niece and hung out with my gorgeous friends. Then, two months later I came to Seattle  to see Dave (after a way-too-long 5 month separation) to embark on the long-in-the-waiting adventure of house hunting, buying and moving. For all these events I will be putting pictures up on flickr and blogging. I also plan to blog a bit about my MSR India internship and a few snippets from India itself … ok?


Anyone there?

Oh well serves me right for making this space so uneventful lately 😛

Gossip Girl taps ICD4D

June 4, 2009

Gossip Girl is a total guilty pleasure of mine. Initially intrigued by its being set in two posh, private Manhattan schools, I knew after watching the pilot that this would be my mindless TV joy. But recently I was unable to suspend my disbelief when GG’s world of shiny things attempted to fuse with ITC4D. Preppy cad Gabriel and his faux socialite sidekick Poppy (a name that’s even more fun in Afrikaans, doll) have been running all over New York pitching a business idea so obviously profitable that they have heaps of rich folks falling over themselves to invest after only vague elevator pitches at swanky cocktail parties. Problem is it’s all a con and they plan to skip town with the money. But that’s besides the point – what is their super convincing idea? Its very vaguely described as “backing a company that wants to provide wireless access to the developing world”. The really fun this about this idea is that the investors don’t seem to be in it for the warm charitable glow, but because it is set to triple their money “by the end of summer”. As fang-toothed Gabrielle tells a googly-eyed Serena van der Woodsen this startling prediction at a party, she responds with the following blithely unaware gem:

yes that's chuck in the background looking rightfully suspicious

"Come on, without you how else will all those African teenagers send in posts to Gossip Girl?"

Yes because that’s what African teenagers really want Serena – to gossip about whose shack has the shiniest tin roof. Later, as Gabriel schmoozes with more potential investors, he explains:

"The governments, the ISP's and the big companies need to use these satellites. We can be the only game in town" and implies that the free wireless is a happy consequence of the big business "Doing well by doing good"

"The governments, the ISP's and the big companies need to use these satellites. We can be the only game in town"

Satellites? I am so intrigued but, oh no! Before he can explain more about those pesky techno details, he puts on the money squeeze:

“There’s a ticking clock, some of the major Internet corporations are looking to do a similar thing. If we act now we block them completely and we make at least triple on our investment”

Are you convinced? Lily Bass was:

"You can tell your backers I'm in!"

"You can tell your backers I'm in!"

After 5 seconds of thought? Perhaps that last husband of Lily’s should have thought twice about leaving his Trump-esque fortune and company in this lady’s hands when he croaked.

In the next episode this delicious con continues with Poppy stepping up during a swish lunch with Georgina at the Russian Tea Room spinning more wireless yarn while drinking martinis and eating caviar:

business lunch

business lunch

G: Who knew you could bring wireless to third world countries? What a great job!

P: Yeah it’s really more of a passion that a job. I mean it gives so much to the children.

G: Of course! I mean they can look at faraway places and read Bible stories. Oh! They can download Kirk Cameron movies!

Ah, it’s all about the children, Kirk Cameron movies for development, yay! Having been recently immersed in ICT4D during my internship at the Technology for Emerging Markets Group and attending ICTD 2009, this was a total laugh. The idea that wireless internet for people who probably don’t even have computers could be a free side effect of a profitable business in Africa where governments needed some other awesome ass satellites. That browsing the internet to look at faraway places and Bible stories would be its main mode of improvement for poverty stricken children. The preposterous idea that people would have the speeds needed to download whole movies (using which computers and what storage if I may ask).

But I am too harsh, truly I expect GG writers to be experts in Manhattan and debutant balls, not technologists so all is forgiven. (Though I do wish they hadn’t rushed it in the end, I would have liked to see the take down of Gabriel and Poppy rather than have it tacked onto the final episode as a btw)


what i miss about India

May 22, 2009

Well this was meant to be a post entitled “What I will miss about India” but I never got round to writing it while I was still there. So now that I’ve been back in South Africa for 2.5 weeks, I’m no longer predicting what I think I will miss but can report on what it is that I actually miss, and I’m limiting myself to five things…

1. Autos (as in auto rickshaws). They are loud, dangerous and the most convenient thing ever for getting to wherever you want to go whenever you want to go (as long as you have a fairly good sense of humour about having to argue for a fair fee often which is fun in and of itself). Some of my best memories of India are in autos. Staring out quietly from a speeding auto with the wind gushing though one open end to other. Late night rides in pimped out autos with blingy disco lights, piled four people in a three-man auto laughing our heads off and mimicking the honking of all the cars around us. Surprisingly coherent conversations yelled from one person to another through the engine din and swirling hair. And of drivers, some stoic, some downright sneaky buggers and other ready to show you pictures of their family kept under seats.

2. Flowers everywhere: garlanded every day fresh as offerings. Used as decor, floating in bowls of water and strung up in ladies’ hair. The smell of jasmin and the deep pinks and yellows. Watching people riding around motorcycles delivering flowers and garlands.

3. Temples everywhere: I don’t buy Hinduism but I respect how many temples there were and how many opportunities there are for worship in everyday life. I walked past a temple everyday on the way to work and found it had a calming influence and reminded me that starting out the day with a fleeting prayer was pretty good.

4. Food: Dosas made from a batter of fermented lentils and rice, gluten-free and delicious with coconut chutney. Fresh green coconuts with their tops hacked off with a machete and with straw dunked inside for drinking. Crazy sweet sweets made from nuts, ghee and milk, hello Mysore Gold! Fresh fruit juice made entirely of fruit especially the litchi juice from Cool Joint in JP Nagar and Malleswaram’s mango and sugar cane juice. Outdoor food markets which their piles weird never-before-seen-by-me fruits and veg and pyramids of eye-searingly colourful spices.

5. People: What lovely folks I was lucky enough to get to hang out with. I miss the many dinners, chats, charts (snacks) and enlightenments. People in India are friendly and lovely – even though, at first glance, there’s an unfriendly demeanour they are super welcoming.




May 6, 2009

Last week was kind of crazy. I finished up my last round of experiments for my project at MSR India on Monday, then on Tuesday I furiously recorded data into spreadsheets and started working a presentation for my final pow-wow to the TEM group. The pow-wow pretty much consumed Wednesday and afterwards it was off to a farewell/birthday party consisting of about 3 hours of high-energy Bollywood dancing at Zero G. This is touted as one of the most happening places on the Bangalore night-life scene, particularly on Wednesday nights when they have their famous Bollywood night. Zero G is a club on Laverly Rd. right at the top of a building. The place is half outdoors and half indoor and the setting is pretty swcheet. The amusing thing about Bangalore’s night-life scene is that it comes with some serious restrictions which, I think, are meant to curb garrulous hard partying. The weirdest of these restrictions is that drinking and dancing may not occur simultaneously – yes this is not a joke, the Bangalore police commissioner is very dedicated to protecting the eyes of unsuspecting innocents from the wild, uncoordinated flailing that might occur when a good buzz (or more) is set ot music. Another, recently imposed, restriction is that everything – clubs, bars and many restaurants close at 11:30pm – 11-freakin-30!! After this time no more alcohol is served, no more dancing may take place and people are expected to scurry to their burrows like good little boys and girls. This meant that at 11:30pm, the last song was announced, lights were cruelly faded up to bright and, after a minute or so, people started blowing whistles to encourage us to leave. Not really the nicest mode of parting I must say. But what made it better was that, once outside waiting for cabs, everyone sang happy birthday to me at midnight 🙂

Zero G was followed by a midnight dinner at the Taj Hotel’s 24 hour restaurant Mynt, which was all very pretty and fancy. Conveniently there was a piano in the hotel lobby and Kentaro regaled us with what one might describe as a peice of music on the opposite end of the music spectrum to Bollywood hits. I think we probably had dinner till about 2am during which there were two casualties, David and Divya, who simply fell asleep at the table. The life of a Microsoft researcher is brutal like that – don’t know say that no one ever warned you!

After getting to bed around 3am, I dragged myself out of bed on Thursday (my actual birthday) to begin my last day at MSRI. There were last minute meetings, data backups, administrative tasks (which were a bit tricky since it was also Admin day and all the admin folks were away on a fun day) and, finally, packing up of my desk *sigh*. Thanks for a great 3 months and an awesome farewell TEM!

you can call me Tia Ilda

April 23, 2009

That’s right folks on 21 April 2009, a very fat, healthy (and hungry!) baby girl was added to our family. I’m an aunt for the first time! Sadly, I was not able to be there as I’m in India for two more weeks or so but I got see her over Skype (if and Skype marketing people are reading – I’m willing to sell my story for a feel good ad campaign ;).

Anyways I’m very happy that everyone is so healthy and well and I can’t wait to meet little Jessie Beatriz in a mere 10 days from now. Malzetov Isabel and James!

my first week in India

March 20, 2009

I am, again, going to rely on e-mail conversations I’ve had for a blog post. Cara mailed me asked me this:

How are you? What is India and where you are living like? How are the people and what are they making you do? to which I responded:

I am fine. India is loud and crowded and colourful, the place where I’m living is sparse and spacious. The people at first glance seem kind of unfriendly in their mannerisms but in actuality turn out to be extremely friendly. The are making me sit in an air conditioned office with free coffee and read lots of papers while I come up with a research project to do.

In general I have had an up and down time settling here and at first was feeling pathetic and lonely. When I arrived I had a weird impression of the place I’m staying as being not that nice. In actuality it is pretty fancy in that it is clean and spacious and has hot water and is also in what is considered a swanky area which is quite boring quiet but just a short walk down the street and you start to reach very alive over crowed streets teaming with auto rickshaws, shops, people, cars and motorbikes. It turns out that someone extended their stay in the place I was supposed to be in so I got put somewhere that is bigger and slightly closer to the office – its a big apartment with three rooms and I’m in one of the rooms. It has its oddities like peeling paint and weird plugs and switches that don’t seem to do anything. For my first two nights there was one other guy staying in one of the other rooms who helped me to order dinner walked me to the office on my first day since I had no idea where it was. But then he moved out and I’ve had the place to myself which has been a bit lonely. At the same time work has been a matter of “Here are all these people doing cool work with access to such and such under-privileged community, read up on their work and come up with project”. The food is *all* spicy *all* the time and I, at first, I was eating that much because there was only so much I could handle. But now I’m getting really into it and, actually, eating vegetarian here is awesome because vegetarian is the rule rather than the exception and they have a huge variety of veggie dishes.

lonely apartment

lonely apartment

Towards the end of the week things got better, the other interns (who have all been here for a while already) are actually very friendly despite seeming a bit unapproachable at first. So where I was holed up alone in my huge apartment in the evenings at first (because I’ve been advised not to walk around along after dark), the latter part of the week was way more social. I was invited to watch the cricket (where I had to shamefully fess up to not following cricket much to the horror, and I do mean horror, of the MSR director) and then I went out to explore a nearby Malleswaram complete with open air market and temples and noise with two new friends from the office. Today I went out with my mentor, Ed, and his wife, Page, who recenly arrived here, we explored the streets some more and got most excellent food. And finally over the weekend I discovered that I had a new roommate. Also I went out to meet with an NGO I might work with and afterward went to CTR (Central Tiffin Room) which is reputed to have the best butter dosa in Bangalore.

flower emporium

flower emporium

saturday garlanding

saturday garlanding

All in all an interesting week!

India is ___

March 15, 2009

I’m going to totally cheat on my first post about India and steal the wit of a my good friend Dom. After my first couple days here I got a lovely mail with the following charming multiple choice question:

India is _____

(a) absolutely terrible and I WANT MY MOMMY!!!
(b) ok, except for the fact that there’s nothing to eat except curry
(c) all a little hectic now but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it
(d) 50/50. The place I’m staying is a dump but work is cool
(e) 50/50. The place I’m staying is cool but work is painful
(f) absolutely amazing!!! I can’t believe I was nervous about coming
here! I’m never moving back to SA. I’ve even got a Binda and a Sari!
(g) so uptight that I’ve been arrested for sitting next to a man on
the bus and am currently in prison, unable to answer your mail

My response after the first couple of days was b and little bit of e because, at the stage, I had not yet built up my immunity to chillies and had yet to decide on a project to work on.

Here is my first glimpse of MSRI on my first Monday morning:

first contact

first contact

More updates to follow!

A Relaxing Blitz

February 27, 2009

After spending almost two months blogging my 11 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land in full, glorious painstaking detail, I take some delight in posting about my trip to Redmond/Seattle in a one normal sized post…

I had fun. I got to hang out with Dave, Fabian and my bunnies a lot. I drank coffee a lot.


Victors Coffee, Redmond
Victors Coffee, Redmond

mediative koko

I worked of my PhD a lot but still didn’t finish everything I wanted to. It was autumny when I arrived…

red, red, red


…but then it snowed a lot in time for Christmas (and in time to just about bring public services to a halt and keep people holed up at home). I bought a pair of awesome boots and gloves which served me very well.

it started gently...

best boots evah


back yard blizzard

Dave learned to drive and we got lost many times on the freeways, byways and parkways. We went hunting for cupcakes and home-roasted coffee beans and found some fine specimens in neighbourhoods such as Ballard and Kent.

Cupcake Royale, Ballard

We bought strange, exciting mushrooms, chard and cheese from Pike Place Market. I found the supermarkets totally intimidating at first with all the unfamiliar and super enthusiastic branding and sheer amount of corn based products. People were generally disarmingly friendly. I watched more bad reality TV than I should have and had a seriously bad nightmare that I was one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. I learned a whole new vocabulary where a “biscuit” is more like a muffin, “pancakes” are more like flap jacks and “crepes” are more like pancakes. I miss it muchly am looking forward to the Seattle summer 🙂

a lazy winter