April 30, 2010

Bye April..

And so the time has whooshed by. Who out there can believe that 4 whole months, an entire third of this year, 2010 has flown by at the pace that it has? I for one, can’t. With each passing month the ‘final’ year of the PhD gets more stressful.. but this is some form of weird ‘pain’ that I am enjoying. Maybe the possibility of finally starting to see the vague end of the tunnel, still far far away makes each step ahead more enjoyable. After all, the darkest part, the dead center has been left behind. Alright alright.. enough metaphors.

On a brighter note, Paris has quite literally sprung into Spring. Though the time changed a month ago, the weather underwent it’s share of dramatic change only about 10 days ago. And the change was dramatic, shooting the temperatures to the mid 20s, eliminating the need for the security of a jacket and worse, bringing on the first beads of sweat this year. And with that, the trees seem to have bloomed all in one weekend. Ah Paris.. with better weather, there’s just more things to do. But of course they have to be restricted to the weekend,t hanks to the lack of time otherwise; Also today signals the end of the vacances scolaire which means that the trains can be expected to brimming, beginning Monday.

Happy May Day/Labour Day in advance to everyone. For the past 2 years, we enjoyed a long weekend and indeed an entire sequence of them in May. This time however, most “holidays” occur on Saturday. Hmph.

Bon weekend at any rate.

April 28, 2010

The journey or the destination?

I was watching this interview of Harsha Bhogle's at IIM-A. Before going further, I must admit that I haven't yet watched it fully. I only saw the first few minutes, the part where he brings up the question of what is more important to everyone... the journey or the destination? And it set me thinking...

How do we view this almost chicken-n-egg-like question? Most people immediately tend to blurt out that it is the destination that indeed holds more of a value than the journey. The journey passes but the destination endures, and so on. But I also think that past a stage in life, we start looking at this question a little differently. We can draw many examples from everyday life to illustrate that in some cases journey trumps destination and vice versa. Here's a classic one -

For the scrimping grad student in US who's going to India on vacation - destination trumps journey. He could have 3 stopovers, save $500, reach India 35+ hours later and still be ultimately happy. Good deal!

For the high-flying executive who has money to spare - journey trumps destination. He can travel to India (or elsewhere) as he likes... he chooses the least stopover-most comfortable route, and probably in business/executive class. $3000? No problem.

Ultimately it's down to perspective, I guess. And somewhere down the line when you arrive at the conclusive math that comfort matters, the journey becomes as important as the destination. While this may seem like some weird adage applicable only to the literal journeys, spare a thought for just a moment in some other scenario.

Take completing your Masters Thesis. The actual destination is the degree itself - the conferring of the title of the "Master of Science" on you... obliterating all the crap that you may have had to endure in your journey to get there. Maybe the sleepless nights... the torturous mathematics, the relentless experiments.. all key components leading up to your defense. But no.. in the real world scenario, that is strictly just the turbulence of the airplane, which you would endure, was it in Economy class or in First class. But those friends... those night-outs together, those chai times, the midnight birthday celebrations, your entire experience out there in a new country with your new-formed associations... that's what you remember as your journey... not the other parts. And that's the part that compares to the free alcohol and legroom of the real world First-class travel analogy to the cramped seating and boring food of the Economy class. Touché.

Sting of the spurn..

PS: This post needn't make sense to all.. this is for you, FGIL.

How long does it take to sink in that something isn't working? No matter what parameters you tweak, what other attempts you make, to accept that that project/trial has officially met it's end? You'll say it depends on the magnitude. I will agree. However even after you realize that it's over, how long does it take to bounce back with a renewed attempt at making it work but through different means? I'd say immediately. I am met with disapproval. I step down to saying sooner than later then. There's that pensive, uncertain nod. Maybe, maybe not. I say there's no point mulling over split milk... kickass and jump on the moving train. Though I am certainly right, I am met with doubt and uncertainty. And finally I learn the true meaning of being able to take the horse to the river and not being able to make it drink. There are some things that have to be done for oneself. Only a thirsty horse is going to drink. Wait for the thirst to overcome you. Unlikely as it may seem now, you too shall drink.

April 27, 2010

That moment of clarity..

I am an amazing multitasker, if I say so myself...  I can do a variety of things all at once, each involving a  different dominant faculty of life, if you know what I mean. But sometimes I wish I wasn't. Not just that I could give my undivided attention to one task and sort of know I've done it.. but more so that even though I've probably done it, I should remember that I have. 

Take a typical morning for example... While leaving home, customarily, I grab a variety of things on the go. This includes a typical range of things, from house keys to ipod to my finger-slit gloves to cell phone and what not. And no, I don't "prepare" these things at a "usual" place so I know nothing is forgotten or any of that. More often than not, I trust my instinct to grab the most important things and if the trivial things indeed got left behind, nothing was lost. But sometimes, sometimes the important things plague your mind... and by virtue of habit you are sure that you did the right thing... but that one question keeps you guessing for a while till you can confirm it. 

Did I turn off the gas stove? Did I lock the door? Are the windows slammed shut and bolted? Did I turn off the lights in the hallway? Did I leave the water running? Some of the more important things you wish you knew the exact answer to. But as plagued as you are with uncertainty, you also know that as a creature of habit, 99 times out of a 100 you certainly did the "right" thing. Still, even the 100th confirmation would be a bit nice. And that's why these days I opt for the moment of clarity. A pause at the doorstep.. a half second review of things to see if everything "looks normal". A glance down at my hands to see if I have the house keys before I slam the door shut and lock myself out. And then I leave, now certain that if indeed anything was left undone, it wasn't major. That's all it needs - one moment of clarity. Peace.

April 26, 2010

Cheers CSK!

I had to blog about this... Having started out with lukewarm interest in the IPL, looking back I realize that it successfully occupied almost all of my weekends over the past 6 weeks. And it was surprisingly comforting to sit in front of the laptop/TV and watch a match that was so entertaining because of its short format.. you didn't have to endure the middle over drag, etc. For purists this might be pure blasphemy.. but not for the likes of me. The shorter format was simply more entertaining. And throw in all the antics of Lalit Modi, Shashi Taroor, all the franchises, all their it girls, all those cheerleaders and the songs, the DJs, the terms DLF Maximum, Karbon Kamaal Catch and City moment of success, you had an exceedingly entertaining, enough-to-bitch-and-rant-about on FB cocktail. And really one doesn't expect much more than this from these things.

For a while there at the league stage, I was convinced that the matches had been fixed. Too many teams were competing for the 4 semifinal berths and it almost seemed implausible that all of sudden many times rose like phoenixes from the ashes and were all neck and neck on the points and everything. That being said, supporting CSK through the initial league phase became stressful too, given their sudden slump in performance in the middle of the tournament when it looked unlikely for them to repeat their accomplishments of the last 2 editions and make the semi-finals. And just when I had switched loyalties to MI, in came Hussey and Bollinger into the CSK team. While Bollinger did make a significant change to CSKs bowling presence, I really think his entry changed fortunes for the team and suddenly they were pulling victories out of thin air... and here they are now IPL Champions 2010! Congratulations to the team for a fantastic team effort and really, if there was any Tamil citizenship, Dhoni would be a shoo-in for his excellent work as a motivating captain. (Ok, I did tire of him and the references to the red-light "areas"(yes yes, he meant the traffic signal) where people spoke to him in Tamil, etc etc..)

But here's what irks me.. With this format of the game and with things happening so rapidly all along, the organizers are not giving the spectators enough time to rejoice or savour the moment that their teams did well (or drown oneself in denial or disappointment if they didn't). Instead, they organize back-to-back tournaments which doesn't let you rejoice the game, but instead dread it. I, for one, am not looking forward to the T20 World Cup, though it would be funny to see teammates of the last week compete against one another this time together for each of their countries.

Come on organizers... let us miss some action to look forward to the next series. After all an overdose of anything can't be good. Anyone listening?

April 25, 2010

Mini pizza

Ah well… as is becoming usual, I had the whole, wide bright Sunday to myself. And having made pizza last week and it having been a phenomenal success with the husband, I decided I would try a mini-version today for lunch. So bright and early, I went out to get the fresh ingredients to get me started..  But first, here’s a sneak peek at the finished product -
So.. yumm yumm? Let’s get started! For the dough, you need..
Ingredients How much
All purpose flour 1 pkt = 250g
Salt 1/2 tsp or to taste
Water 125 ml
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Baking powder 1 tsp

And for the toppings, please use your imagination or whatever you have in your fridge. The 2 main things you need is pizza sauce/tomato sauce – I used some leftover Italian pasta sauce or you could make your own and cheese – preferable mozarella to get the nice texture. But I had an open pack of low-fat shredded Emmenthal lying around and ended up using it to finish it off.
1. The dough is pretty simple. Mix all the ingredients up and knead them together to make a smooth dough.
2. Let it sit a while as you prepare the rest of your ingredients (cutting, shredding, etc.)
3. Preheat your oven to 240°C.
4. Once you have all your ingredients sitting ready, grease your baking pan, add a baking sheet/aluminum foil if required (and grease that too).
5. Make small, smooth balls with the dough in your hands and press them down on the baking tray. There’s no need to use a rolling pin. You can just flatten them with the palms of your hands and get the same approximate thickness overall. The dough rises in the oven and so make sure it’s not too thick.
6. Once you’ve arranged maybe 4 of these crusts around your baking tray, you can start piling on the toppings.
7. Go in this order – pizza sauce, veggies/meat, etc and finally cheese. When the cheese melts, it binds all the ingredients together. This is how it looks pre-baking.
8. Now, just bake! It takes about 12-15 minutes in the oven. The crust needs to cook well as do the raw vegetables that you’ve put in there. Position the tray somewhere in between. And after about 10 minutes, switch to “broil” to get the cheese browned on top. And voilà,
(Apparently my “broil” isn’t working or I don’t know to work it yet :D)
However, these were perfectly delicious and took no time to make. And with just one mini pizza, you are full enough and if you’re real hungry, two should certainly do the trick. So, what are you waiting for? Go baking and Bon Appétit!
PS: Needless to say, make it any size you like.. But happy munching!

April 22, 2010

When Nature unleashes...

I see that America has declared war on Iceland. Apparently they are accusing them of harbouring a “weapon of ash eruption”, courtesy, Ten of the best Iceland volcano jokes.

If you've been remotely abreast with the latest news, you know by now that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano of Iceland erupted last week, and while it only spewed ash high up into the air and thankfully did nothing fatal to anyone (we'll talk about the repercussions of the glacier it is melting sometime later), it did disrupt the entire European airspace for about a week.. While I am currently not traveling any place, sometimes I wonder if the chaos caused by nature need be compensated by the poor airline companies who've lost billions in canceled flights and stuff, as is. On the other hand, unless you're stuck in some remote location with no civilization, I am not sure it would be too boorish of me to question if people really have to camp at the airport inconveniencing themselves and others rather than extend their stay (yes yes it adds to the expense of the trip and everything, but big picture, people!) and find a cheap hotel or something. Asking for reimbursement on canceled flights is one thing but asking for accommodation compensation is taking it to ridiculous heights. After all, it is a natural disaster. And considering the suddenly escalated number of airplane crashes over the past year, it comes as little surprise that the airspace control is playing it safe. If there's one crash in the scheme of things, guess who gets blamed once more? Really for them, it is damned if they do and damned if they don't.

On a lighter note, how does it affect me?

1. The Indian store is sort of barren and pathetic looking this week. No fresh mounds of kothamalli, no kariverpulai or pachai milagai. None of the fresh produce has arrived. Everything's probably sitting elsewhere and rotting. I heard they have a very fishy situation in the UK. The stench of rotting fish has taken over Heathrow's storage central. Which begs the question.. couldn't they just sell this stuff to the local markets or something? I am sure there's a million import/export formalities, embargo and what not to limits I can't fathom... but most times, simple is better.

2. The professors are all here. Well, it is vacances scolaire (the 2 week break for students (which unfortunately doesn't include PhDs) every 2 months - yes yes, become a student in France) and so normally the professors stack up the work on us and vanish for the vacation. But thanks to canceled flights, everyone's here.

3. Tickets are skyrocketing and the railways are overcrowded. Maybe because of the current dip in the flights, any place you look to travel, the tickets are sky-high priced. Besides the fact that the train stations are overflowing with stranded passengers trying to find some way out of this damned Paris they got into. Funny how a week-long "dream" vacation to Paris (or any other place) can become a nightmare if extended by another week....

Enough said.

PS: Happy Earth Day! And let us hope Mother Earth settles down and doesn't unleash any more wrath on us. But I suppose, it's a give and take policy. Let's save the Earth and she'll save us. :)

April 19, 2010

Malai methi matar

I had a packet of frozen methi that wasn’t transforming into anything magical by itself.. and seeing it sit there long enough, meant, well that I had to be making something interesting with it. And the result, one of my favourite Mughalai dishes – Malai Methi Matar. Of course it has one “healthy” substitution for the authentic fatty ingredient. But if you like what you see below, you can read on..
So here’s what you need -
1. Methi A fresh bunch or a frozen pack, thawed (approximately 500g)
2. Green peas 1/2 pack, thawed if frozen or 300g fresh
3. Onion 1 medium, finely chopped
4. Tomato 1 medium, finely chopped
5. Green chilli 2 small, coarsely chopped
6. Malai/Fresh cream 1 cup (I used plain 2% milk)
7. Oil 1 tablespoon
8. Dry spices 1/2 tsp each of coriander powder, jeera powder, garam masala, a pinch of turmeric and salt to taste
9. For tempering 1/2 tsp each of mustard seeds and urad dal

And now?
1. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds and urad dal, allowing them to sputter.
2. Put in the onions, allow them to cook well at a low flame, whilst tempering the curry with salt and turmeric.
3. Meanwhile, grind together the methi, the tomatoes, the green chilli and salt as per taste.
4. Next add the peas to the onions and give it a good stir. Close the skillet and allow the peas to blend in with the onions for about 2 minutes.
5. Now toss in all your dry spices and stir well.
6. Once the peas get cooked well, add the ground methi mixture. Now close the lid once more and allow it to cook well for at least 5 minutes of medium flame.
7. Once the methi has wilted considerably, bearing evidence to having cooked fully, lower the flame and stir in the milk/fresh cream/malai into the mixture, adding it a little bit at a time.
8. Bring it to a slow boil and turn the gas off.
That’s it.. it goes amazingly well with parathas and rice alike. So, Bon Appétit!
Note: This subji usually has a greenish-white gravy. Adding cream will give you a far smoother and thicker consistency than adding milk (of course it has it’s negative perks as well). Also, it is traditional to grind in some cashews to add to the white gravy. If having the sinfully good taste is your priority, go for these omissions and enjoy this dish the way the Mughals supposedly did. Enjoy!

The art of being silent

Some people are by nature, quiet while some others like me have to express every opinion under the sun, relevant or not. However, I am living proof of the fact that this urge is directly proportional to interest in the matter and inversely to maturity. And it definitely wanes as time goes on. More than talking at opportune moments, what requires true skill and mastery is knowing when to shut up. When it was with our parents, we all knew that imminent gut feeling when in the brash course of things we said a sentence too many and just knew that we'd crossed that invisible line of respect and unquestionable authority. What's worse is when you just know that the next statement would definitely far far cross the line and yet, yet you have to say what you have to say. It's sort of like you can see the entire scene unfold in front of your eyes moments before you actually say something that'll trigger it. And knowing what you know, you'd think you could be smart enough to shut up. But no, that will-power is not something that everyone's blessed with. And if you could, you would. Instead, you choose the harder way out - saying whatever it is that you need to say and hoping against hope that something will change in the drama that unfolds. Perhaps a pleasant surprise and no drama? Most often, you aren't lucky enough. People will behave in exactly the same way they have always behaved. Did you happen to change and not say something at the inopportune moment? If that was unlikely, the exploding reactions on the other side is just as unlikely. They don't say for nothing... there are times when silence has the loudest voice.

So in short, learn to shut up when it'll serve you best. :D

If I were a school teacher in India...

You know how you fondly reminisce the days of school, all those fun and carefree days and what not? But is there something you'd have liked to change (for the better or worse) from your experience there? I went to a school that was fabulously well-known for its academic prowess, so much so that the "IIT"-headed folk promptly joined us in Class XI and our school welcomed them with outstretched arms... after all once the IIT results were published, the numbers were all that mattered.

Over the years I recollect reading a familiar announcement on the school notice boards or more so hearing about them at the school general assembly -  "We proudly announce the acceptance of 35 students of class XII into the IITs this year". And that was that - a big deal. And it didn't matter that about half of them had left schools that had brought them so far to join ours in search of sheer academic success over the last 2 years of high school. All that's well and good and seeing as I am happy where I am right now, I am not here to bitch about the school or it's honed talent at the academics. But I'd certainly have done things differently before it all got to high school and to the point where all that mattered was if we were bookishly brilliant or not.

If I were a school teacher in India I would -

1. Mix 'em up - I'd make sure that the boys and girls were encouraged to sit next to one another and know each other as people rather than as genders. I don't know about your school but our school didn't say anything per se about boys and girls sitting next to each other or talking to each other... but because of the frowned upon nature of the deed, you could hardly see it happen, not that this led to dramatic repercussions.. but why isn't there something as innocent as friendship between the genders? I never got it. I still don't. And I feel that it added to the gender frustrations and could be avoided if the boys and girls just grew up as friends. And if it did bloom into romance at a later date, why would the school care?

2. Culturally promote - "Culturals" or the intra-school, inter-school events of typical singing, dancing, word wars, adzaps, etc were a big part of growing up. Indeed participation in such events is probably the only credit to mixing with kids from other schools and about the only time that we weren't forced to keep up with our academics (they didn't coincide but of course we were expected to up our performances by the time the fortnightly wrongly named assignments (to mean tests) came up). But I guess being culturally brilliant earned you the "cult" status amongst your peers but little recognition from the staff. Some people are good at all these other things but it took the scores on tests to score with our teachers. I sure hope that out-of-the-book talents were recognized and encouraged to let them bloom.

3. Encourage diversity - In interests, in activities, in the classroom and elsewhere. I don't know if you've noticed... but in India unless you belonged to the Medicinal or Engineering fields, people directly assumed that you failed to get the marks/scores that were required to make the cut-off. No, it was not possible for a high-scoring student to opt for the commerce/arts/literature/etc. branch out of interest. And indeed the choice was questioned so many times that it probably confused some who weren't entirely sure themselves. WTH?

4. Bring on the counselors.. - I guess the pre-college counseling was a misnomer too. It was more of a mathematical possibility of matching the "available seats" to your score/ranking and whether you desired a "free seat", "payment seat" or were willing to shell out far more cash for a "management quota". These were standard terms used at the Engineering counseling, where they counseled you for nothing... all they did was match your financial liability to the branch you thought you wanted at the college that was most convenient to you or well-ranked or both. Rather it would've been enormously beneficial to have someone to talk to before you chose your branch in school to choose the stream of study you were likely to follow.Actual counseling. Someone who could tell us where our aptitude lay, what we might be happy and good at doing and what career path that would lead to and how we could get there. Instead, all mature 15 year olds we were expected to choose a path that would define what we became for the rest of our lives. And it's only sheer coincidence if you currently enjoy what you do, for seriously you couldn't have known better.

I am sure there's a lot more to crib about as far as the educational system is concerned... Any cribs/words of appreciation for your schools and teachers? Please share.

April 18, 2010

Chilli cheese toast

Ah today was one of those weekend mornings… S gulped down a rapid breakfast and made his way to his cricket ground to usher in the start of the cricket season.. which means I’ll have quite a few days like these to myself to entertain myself as I deem appropriate. While I plan to usher in my own days of being a Parisian culture-monger, taking in hidden views and finding precious bistros (and report back here), today was decidedly lazy. And I was pretty bored with the good old cereal that I’ve been having day after day for breakfast. My tongue yearned for something tasty, simple and different from the monotone of cold cereals and plain toast and I got reminded of those days back in college when we used to go SM’s after college or for sleepovers and Gops would make us chilli cheese toast. With my mouth watering from sheer recollection, I decided to put my cravings to rest and whipped up a 5 minute quickie.


The ingredients of this one are just what they should be – sliced up green chillies (these are the European, none-too-spicy version) and low fat shredded emmenthal. The cheese took care of the salt and chillies, the spice. And I popped them into the oven for about 5 minutes @175°C (till the cheese melted and the bottom toasted) and here it was – a scrumptiously delightful breakfast.

Tip: If using Indian green chillies, please go low on them. As for '”low fat” cheese, not sure how it works so reserve this breakfast for one of those indulgence days.

On a different note, here’s wishing Priya and Vamsi a fabulously happy married life!!

April 10, 2010

The underlying racism..

 Note: This post relates to significantly Asian, specifically Indian opinions and views. I donot presume to understand the workings of the "western" minds, especially in these matters. Also, try not to take me too seriously.

Many people know they are racist.. yet others don't see it at all until something springs up on them and they have to express an opinion. And those who are racist realize that it's probably "wrong" and try to justify themselves by citing political/cultural/national differences, which is what creates the racist view in the first place. And racism has come a long way from just categorizing the discrimination between "races" to now outlining the differences in caste, religion, colour, nationality and what not between different people, everything now being referenced under the umbrella term of "racism". And why am I harping about this now? The whole Sania Mirza - Shoaib Malik wedding story which has everyone who is anyone rattling off opinions. What? You didn't know of this impending wedding? Time to get out of the cave you've been living in and get real with all the news here. Yeah, so like I was saying everyone has views - from discussing the fact that she'd be his second wife to of course the main deal, he's Pakistani. Of course I am sure it's vice versa when taken from the viewpoint of the people of Pakistan (she's Indian). And the blatant irony of this deal is that no one would be the least bit concerned, flabbergasted, shocked, disturbed or vaguely interested beyond the basic gossip columns if either of the two had been of any other nationality. The deep-rooted history between the two countries is what makes the news that much more interesting to most of the two countries. Will they now advocate peace? Will one apply for citizenship of the other's country? Will this abate some of the tension between the countries? Will either of them play their sport under a new nationality? These are only some of the zillion politcial questions being asked in lieu of a matrimonial union. And while I have discussed this matter with many of my friends, their view is surprisingly consistent. And without giving away too much, I can say a lot of them have been shocked with their own racist views on the matter.

But leaving behind that elementary piece of news to be best dissected by tabloids as we await candid shots of their wedding that'll take place next week, I think the news provides the perfect foil to look into the inherent racism in in each one of us. From the fact that the older generations still view people from other (read lower) castes differently from their own. And the merit? You're born into it. Sort of like discriminating a cat from a tiger... same family, a whole different story. While most of the discriminations in socio-economic situations have faded over the past years, allowing people across castes and religions to make uninhibited progress in careers and what not, it remains ominously distinct, especially in the matrimonial domain... which is one of the main reasons the Shoaib-Sania union is creating waves. Seeing as it involves two different nationalities, not to mention, the two different nationalities, leaving people reasonably perplexed.

Ok skipping right over to another blatantly obvious racist comment situation - you see a couple, an attractive dark man with a beautiful blonde girl. What's the immediate reaction?  If you didn't think "What does she see in him?" congratulate yourself on being the minority liberal in a majority unintentionally racist study group. What's your true reaction to this question and others? I look forward to your comments.


You know how some people feel very depressed to come back to an empty house? I kinda agree when you know it’s going to be empty forever types.. like if your significant other is out of town or something. But on the contrary I prefer having the house to myself for an hour or two before the husband comes. It gives me some time to kick off my heels, chill with some chai and get some lone time, watch some random TV, cut up whatever veggies I prefer and what not, simply lost in my own thoughts for that hour or two. In such cases solitude is heaven and helps you deeply appreciate the company when it arrives. This isn’t to say that I don’t love coming home to the husband.. indeed I do but this is only the other best-case scenario. Anyone out there agree?

April 8, 2010

Yes, we collect shotglasses…

Sure the scientist in me had to surface :)

Note: For those gliding by, please notice the beaker and then make the beaker-scientist relation :D.

April 6, 2010

New age socializing

It seems like no matter what, we find new and innovative ways of doing good old things... Look at reading books for example. I bet the forests are thanking us now that so many books are going entirely electronic. And with Kindles and Ipads alike vying for the top spot in  the ebook reading experience, things are poised to get as "real" as ever. But that's not what this post is about. Instead it's about how technology has clawed its way into our everyday lives as well.

The other day we met friends for dinner after a terribly long time. And after all of 5 minutes of "catching up", I glanced at the table that seated 10 of us to see at least 5 cell phones, Iphones and Droids alike, whipped out to "share" the latest apps (applications) and cool stuff on the phone. So much for the days of "what's up" and just gossiping over dinner and plain anecdoting and what not. Nope... now it was all about the cool games that the accelerometers on these devices afforded, or that application which acts a constant post-it to remind you of things on the go. Or something else or something else.. there are always new apps and there will be and this has  now graduated to become an excuse to play with one's own gadgets under the pretext of socializing. And guilty as I am of constant Facebook status updating, I would also be amongst the first people to comply with full acquiescence to a gadget-free evening. Game, anyone?