To this day I have never lost an imaginary argument. Here is how you can win:
Stare your opponent in the eyes as you say something clever. Be as loud as possible. Remember this is not reality, so be aggressive.
Take Your Time
Don’t rush. You have all the time to deliver the most dashing and powerful reply. Your opponent has to wait for you to finish. No one can interrupt you.
It’s Completely okay to make mistakes
Even if you don’t get it right the first time, you can always go back and start all over again. Until you get it just right.
In the 1920s carefree world of millionaires in South of France, a young woman by the name of Sophie Baker has mesmerized a wealthy family. She speaks to their dead relatives, and claims to get ‘mental impressions’ about people. Stanley, a combative, arrogant atheist is invited to expose her as a fraud. This means he has to live in the beautiful lush mansion and go on picnics with gorgeous Sophie Baker. They swim on beautiful beaches, cruise the coastline in sports car, eat tasty pastries, dance at lively parties, all this while, trying to figure each other out. How is all this being funded? In the rich scene, no one talks about money. You don’t have to go to Orbitz and look for cheap tickets. A french butler takes care of everything, dinner is always served. Magic is always there under the moonlight. This world of the rich is presented in magnificent detail and just for this, this film is worth it.
There is some philosophical stuff there, about how superstition can have a calming impact on an old rich widow, how a harmless lie about the spirit world is better than the intellectual chaos and never answered questions. When I was in Karachi, which is very similar to South of France, I was invited to a lunch, and after the scrumptious meal, the discussion turned to ghosts. Everyone at the table had an incident to share about some ghost or unnatural creature. It seemed like bad manners to interrupt with questions. One story was that some people had died on their way to a party, so on some evenings their ghosts would appear, nicely dressed walking to that same event. How can we interrupt such greatness! I think there was an understanding that yes, some of this might be bullshit, but let’s just keep going while dessert is served.
I have noticed though, that these ghost stories take a huge hit in America. Desis don’t talk about those creatures as much. It’s probably more challenging to see a ghost behind Walmart or near Macy’s because everything is so well lit! Karachi still has that playful attitude towards electricity, which can open the gates to the spirit world.
Scientists managed to erase memory in rats but then they followed these amazing actions by restoring that very memory:
We can cause an animal to have fear and then not have fear and then to have fear again by stimulating the nerves at frequencies that strengthen or weaken the synapses,…
What wonderful things could we do with such brain control? Maybe walk into a restaurant and you are served a Forget Fortified appetizer. FFA. Now you have no memory of what a pancake is. The fragrance of maple syrup, the hot melting taste of it. You are born again as a pancake virgin. Taste it for the first time.
So what is writer’s block? I think it is the loss of meaning. Whatever it is that you are writing should get you excited. It should make you weird; you should be in your own world and people should wonder why you are not moving even though the traffic light is green. They should ask why you are standing in the self checkout counter, staring at an apple, talking to it. Your creation should overwhelm you and others should be irritated by your presence.
It is so huge that a million planet earths can fit inside the sun. It takes light hundred thousand years just to leave the core and reach the surface of the sun. And then in eight minutes the light reaches us. Each second, this magnificent giant creates the energy of 10 billion exploding hydrogen bombs. Check out the documentary. Look, you need to do this.
Ambassador Lumon represents the planet Bobotron which has sent an invasion army to earth. Ambassador Lumon has a masters in invasion economics and a doctorate in the field of world domination.
Aliens from the planet Bobotron (pronounced: boh-boh-tron) have invaded earth. The reason for this audacious behavior? Government shutdown.
“Let’s face it. We were looking for an opportunity,” said ambassador Lumon who is a green man with large eyes and a frank attitude. “You can’t keep parks open, even the zoo is closed! We felt this was a good time to step in and present the people with a new option.”
Reports are coming in that Bobotronians were walking around in the malls, entering stores, and simply taking whatever they liked. Store employees were too scared to do anything and quickly announced a 100% alien discount. When reporters approached ambassador Lumon, he agreed to do a press conference at a local bakery. “Do you come in peace?” was the first question shouted to him. The ambassador smiled and said, “Of course not!”
Million of miles away, alone on the planet Mars, our friendly robot, the Curiosity Rover scooped some martian soil for analysis. It has been concluded that this soil sample contains water! About 2% of the soil on Mars is made up of the good stuff. Laurie Leshin is the study’s lead author and made some exciting remarks.
“These results have implications for future Mars explorers. We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars. When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water.”-Dr. Laurie Leshin, Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
So would you go to Mars? And what would you pack for this journey? It’s completely different from any other destination. I think the traveller to Mars is someone who wants to shed the past. They would feel lighter on the red planet both literally and at an emotional level. The newness of that place would overwhelm all their regrets. On this new world, they would become very busy with survival. They would focus on growing potatoes and tomatoes in a Martian greenhouse. Maybe they would open an Italian restaurant and it would do really well because chances are slim of finding two Italian restaurants there. Everyone will feel original.
I love this image from Apollo 15 mission to the moon. Astronaut James Irvin stands next to his ride. That moon car has personality. If you hangout with astronauts, then you probably shouldn't call it the moon car. The proper name is Lunar Roving Vehicle or LRV. Why couldn't they call it the moon cruiser? Because they are serious people doing serious things. Apollo 15 was the first of the Apollo missions which demonstrated the ability to spend more time on the moon and with greater surface mobility. The LRV is powered by an electric engine, so you don't have to worry about finding a gas station. NASA had four of these LRVs built, with the cost coming to just 38 million dollars. Who are we to complain about our car payments? The LRV was a great succes, allowing astronauts to reach different locations where they did moony things. At approximately 4:46 p.m. on August 7th, Apollo 15 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. It landed 335 miles north of Honolulu. The Apollo flight had lasted for 12 happy days and seven delightful hours. Out of these 12 days, the astronauts spent three days on the moon.- (Image credit to NASA.GOV)
We really need to focus on these kind of adventures instead of fighting stupid wars on earth.
Posted in History, Science
Tagged moon, NASA
The Mexican Pizza at Taco Bell. Observe the three cheese blend and the two crispy pizza shells which combine to create delight
I know the millions of people reading this blog will say that I am wrong. How can Taco Bell make such amazing pizzas? They do. But you have to eat it immediately. The pizza is made in a steaming oven which melts the three cheese blend to tasty perfection. The three cheeses are sprinkled with diced tomatoes so they add a nice chewy texture. All these toppings go very nicely on the crispy pizza shell. I usually replace the meat with beans and the flavor is just as good. I think this is one of the best fast food menu items out there. Sprinkle some fire sauce on it, and believe me, you are in heaven.
Posted in Food
Tagged pizza, taco bell
Noble families of Rome struggle for power in this absorbing drama. Sometimes an 11 year old boy will be married off to some princess in a far away land. He cries but is told to be a man. Sometimes a girl will be married away to a nobleman and she doesn't even know it. This is how they were doing it in 1492.
In wine there is truth, in much wine, opportunity.
– Rodrigo Borgia
In the year 1492, the powerful Borgia family struggles for power. The pope has just died and Rodrigo Borgia dreams of becoming the next pope. So do the many other cardinals from the noblest and richest families of Italy. There is a lot of sex and violence (sometimes too much) but I think they wanted it to be realistic and not like Shrek. Enter the candle lit world of the Italian nobility; the cobbled streets where you might bump into an enemy from a rival family. Sword fighting just happened a lot. In one scene the young Cesare Borgia, is threatened by his enemy who points a finger at his chest. Cesare does not forget this and later when they fight again he says ‘was this the finger that you pointed at me?’ And then chops it. At the same time this finger chopping young man has a very intimate relationship with God. He whips himself in church because he feels guilty for sinning. But he has made it into a process. First he does the bad deeds then he punishes himself. It is a dangerous kind of spirituality where chopping is inflicted on man but forgiveness is asked from God.
The setting is magnificent but it is a dangerous place. A prayer here, a stabbing there. Anything is possible.
In one scene a cardinal pretends to have a vision and talks to God while others watch him with respect. He uses the opportunity to conveniently receive the most suitable messages from God. So while we see the inner workings of the powerful men who represent the church, we see the human side. We see them eating fish, writing letters, loving and deceiving. On one side there is constant reference to God and holiness but they also kill, chop fingers, bash heads, and tell lies. Yet each of them still believes in a higher power, each praying for success. While the power struggle may appear to be chaotic, there is a rough and functional democracy at work. The next pope can only be selected by a majority vote of cardinals. This meeting to decide the next pope is known as the papal conclave. Here sitting on long tables covered with red cloth, the cardinals vote, while the regular people riot on the streets of Rome. With no one to represent God, the unruly mob feels they are on a vacation from morality. Meanwhile in the conclave the cardinals argue, and sometimes even punch each other. They also know that one of them will become pope, and when that happens, they must bow down to this chosen one who will speak for God. And every man wants to speak for God.
So the white looking thing next to the broccoli is yuca. It is delicious! The round thing next to the potatoes are eggplants. I take one bite of a broccoli then add onion and green pepper into my mouth. This keeps things flavorful. It was a good lunch.
So I have lasted 22 days without eating meat! I don’t miss it. I had an amazing thing for lunch today. Yuca! It is a little bit like potato but more tasty! I am inspired now by a documentary called Forks over Knives. It was recommended by a family friend who has experienced dramatic changes after going on a vegetarian diet. The documentary is a mind changer and features people who reverse diseases by going on vegetables and avoiding meat. The good thing is that once I decided to go vegetarian, I started looking for things I can eat. I became a Marco Polo in search of new vegetables. It turns out there is a lot of variety in this beautiful garden that we call earth (that’s how I talk now). Last night I was at this grocery store called Lotte which has all kinds of weird stuff waiting to be tasted. My next thing is Kale. It sounds like a character from Krypton. It shall be eaten.
Posted in Food
Tagged vegetarian, yuca
The Pharaohs of Egypt were considered living Gods and getting old was a bit of a problem. They attempted to become young again by performing a ritual. The Pharaoh would wrestle with a young man, and also run around to show everyone that he was born again as a young man.
Ancient Egyptians were so in love with life that they wanted to wake up again after death with all the daily comforts. This is why we find furniture in their tombs. They wanted to take the couch into the afterlife. While these things may seem odd to us, Ted Anton’s book reminds us that our attitudes to aging remained weird up until recent times. In the 1920s people associated fertility with youthfulness. So desperate were men to revive their youth, that they had goat and monkey testicals implanted into their bodies to increase fertility. Things got less weird when in the 1930s a professor demonstrated that mice lived 40% longer when they ate 30% less food. This discovery energized scientists and they thought maybe they can better understand this thing we call aging. In 1974 Congress did something brilliant. They created the National Institute of Aging (NIA) to study and research this ancient enemy of mankind.
The 1970s were exciting times, when disco music was making an entrance. People were experimenting with bell bottom jeans, bad haircuts and very large collars. Now thanks to to NIA, humanity would for the first time engage in an organized effort to study the mysteries of aging. Conferences were held. Sandwiches would be eaten. Yet these never went beyond long discussions and speculations. And while these thinkers talked to each other, the world ignored them. Questions remained unanswered. Why do we get old? How does this aging thing work? Can we reverse it? The scientists needed a breakthrough so they could take it to the world and say, ‘see we are getting somewhere.’
This great turning point in history was provided by humble worm! A scientist by the name of Tom Johnson studied the worm and its reproduction in the lab. While everyone else was dancing disco and watching shows like Colombo and Rockford Files, Tom Johnson obsessed over how long worms lived and how they were different from their siblings. He discovered that every time worms reproduced, a percentage of children lived 50% longer. A great moment in history had arrived.
In 1979, scientists did not attempt to find out if life extension in worms was being caused by a single gene. They did not have the swift technology to explore the nineteen thousand genes present on the worm’s six chromosomes.
It could now be stated that a single gene was responsible for a longer life. Suddenly the world woke up to aging research! Larry King sent a limousine to Tom Johnson’s house to interview him on CNN. Tom Johnson refused because he did not want popular fame but was seeking recognition from the world of science. He felt that Larry King did not represent science. Johnson wrote scientific essays calling this gene age-1
. In 1988 Johnson stated that age-1 actually slowed down aging. The ancient Egyptians would have been delighted! Johnson wrote a scientific paper to the journal Science
but they did not send him a limousine. They just kept silent and for 18 months he heard nothing. Finally they published his paper in 1990. His discovery was worth millions. Read about this fascinating journey in Ted Anton’s book:
So I had a realization. I never liked salads and I still don’t. I like things when they are cooked. Eating salads had convinced me that vegetables were a side item or something you had before the “real” meal. As a vegetarian over the last 20 days, I have been forced to make vegetables my main meal. So having a salad and then eating more vegetables did not make sense to me. I like cooked vegetables. So once I had this realization, I look at eggplants and tomatoes differently. Two nights ago I went to a dinner at my friend’s house. His mother is a great cook and she had made some delicious things, like eggplant in yogurt, and a traditional spicy cake which is eaten with a chutney. Once I had these, I had no longing for meat. The trick is to cook the veggies into something tasty, so that you eat lots of it and are satisfied with life and don’t feel like crying.
So I broiled these veggies. They include squash, brussels sprouts, zucchini, broccoli & tomatoes. See how colorful and scrumptious they look! The cherry tomatoes explode with flavor. That weird thing on the right side is squash which I bought from a local grocery store. I baked that for 20 minutes and it was good with lemon. Was it out of this world? Do I crave it? Of course not! Its's not french fries. Point is that these things fill you up and the pleasure of vegetables is enjoyed even after the meal when you remain alert, feeling light and strong.
In the documentary Vegucated we meet three regular New Yorkers who agree to go Vegan for six weeks. They are not models but just normal regular folks. The documentary maker shows them how to live a vegan lifestyle. It was fun watching them change their eating habits and one of the participants was under tremendous pressure from her family. She even cried tears of pain but managed to last as a vegan for six weeks. All the participants improved in health. Blood pressure on one of them became perfect. Cholesterol levels dropped more than 20 points. Inspired by their effort, I thought, maybe I should try going vegetarian. I am on day 14 now. Of course its much easier to be a vegetarian than to be a vegan. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary a vegan is:
a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (as leather).
So that’s not me! I love dairy products like cheese and chocolate milk and chocolate and chocolate ice cream . But one thing I am bringing to the picture is unhealthy food. Two nights ago I had the cheesy taco pizza at Taco Bell. I am also eating burritos with cheese and sour cream. It helps me forget the meat. My greatest test came at Five Guys where I would become a Jedi.
Five Guys Employee: Can I take your order?
Minhaj: I’ll have a vegetable sandwich please.
The Devil: Are you crazy? A burger with no meat? What’s the point? Why even try this vegetarian thing?
Minhaj:I am in control.
The Devil: Oh snap!
The veggie burger at Five Guys is almost the same thing without the beef pattie. You get the lettuce, you get tomatoes, you get cheese, you get mushrooms and you get that empty feeling. To compensate for the lack of meat I ate a few hundred peanuts.
More and more I am becoming against the idea of slicing a sesame seed bagel because the upper half always gets all the sesame seeds. The lower half of the bagel is immediately downgraded in our hearts and minds.
Sesame seed plants were first grown in Asia or East Africa. Ancient Egyptians were using sesame seeds in making very tasty bread. They had to. They needed a break from building those very large monuments. The Chinese also burned sesame seed oil to make high quality ink blocks.
In the legend of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, sesame seeds are mentioned. They opened the door to a cave filled with riches.
Sesame seeds are mentioned in ancient legend because people believed that sesame seeds possessed magical powers. Some of us still believe it.
In the 1990s, 500 armed bank robberies were taking place every year in England and Wales. Last year in 2012, only 69 armed bank robberies were recorded. This huge fall is not limited to bank robbers. Car theft is dramatically down as well. In 1990, in New York, 147,000 cars were stolen. Number of cars stolen in New York in 2012? Less than 10,000! What is going on? Are people becoming nice? People in developed countries are now safer than they ever were since the 1970s.
In the 1990s conservatives predicted that divorce and single parent families would cause a rise in crime. Wild and crazy youth with no sense of humanity would go on a rampage. Some had predicted that as people of different ethnic backgrounds would come together in cities, there would be violence. Blondes would fight with brunettes. We would need Batman. They were wrong. The new generation is better behaved, less likely to get drunk in public and less violent. They do like Batman but only at the movies where the youth eats buttered popcorn in a peaceful manner. Sometimes they text but mostly they comply with expectations of decency.
This growing niceness has held true even as we experience a world recession. So how did we get here? Is it because we throw more people in prison? New York defies this logic, where prison population has fallen by 25 percent since 1999 and the crime rate has fallen faster than many other cities. Netherlands and Germany are reducing their prison population and crime is falling. First time offenders in England and Wales have fallen by a whopping 44 percent since 2007. Why and how you ask? The Economist explores this happy puzzle.