Dear Jonathan

NOTE: The first part of this narrative is a letter to Jonathan from his grandfather. He imagines that somehow, his future children survive the Holocaust and his grandson Jonathan (whom he hopes will be named after him) will be born years later. The letter is meant to provide Jonathan with an account of the Holocaust and the joint invasion of Poland, and the lives his grandparents lead.

The second part of this narrative is a letter Jonathan writes, wishing that his grandfather could have to read it. It is an account of current developments in Ukraine, including the invasion of Crimea in 2014.

The characters, and the fact that the grandmother Zosha is pregnant are the only elements taken from the book Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. I have written in parts of German/Polish/Ukrainian history and cultural references that I think are relevant to my narrative, and that are not taken from the book. All the descriptions and character development are fictional elements I developed.

Just for your reference, Trochenbrod was in Poland but became part of Ukraine after the invasion. The characters in the book are of Ukrainian descent.

DISCLAIMER: I am not promoting or condoning any political viewpoints, this is meant to be a creative piece that reflects the culture and history of two characters in the book Everything is Illuminated. I used this piece as an outlet for my writing, reflection on world events, and simple frustration at senseless conflict, whether during WWII or today.

 

I dedicate this piece to all the students, children, Red Cross members, doctors, teachers, civilians, and soldiers, Ukrainian and Russian, who lost their lives during the Annexation of Crimea in 2014. May we think of them every night that we are able to sleep in the knowledge that we will wake up the next morning.

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September 1st 1939

Trochenbrod

Dear Jonathan,

The paper is getting darkened by soot and dust as I move my grandfather’s vintage Crescent Filler pen across crumbling yellow. I have tried to write this letter many times, I have started it many times, but I always ended up leaving it under the white tablecloth that your grandmother Zosha always asks me to clean but I never do. She is a good woman, your grandmother, but she always puts too much salt in the varenyky [1]and sings too loudly on Saturdays. I knew these things before we were married, but I can live with them because I had never met a woman who could fill the room with happiness by smiling with her eyes.

 

I don’t know if we’ll see the Ivanenko twins playing on the street corner today. I don’t know if the milkman will deliver our milk tomorrow, and if we will have our customary conversation about whether or not he’ll find a wife before winter comes. I don’t know if this letter will reach you or not, but I know I must write it. At this time , Zosha is still pregnant with the baby, but I know that baby will grow up, in another place, in another time, and have you, my dear grandson Jonathan. I know they will name you after me because the bombs that fall from the skies as dark as the bottom of the ocean will explode into a thousand shiny pieces and make their way into my heart. I know that the soldiers with shiny boots and metal belt buckles inscribed with ‘Gott mit uns’[2] (God with us) will pierce the night with their screams once again, and they will haunt the dreams of my brothers and sisters after they find our punctured bodies being eaten by the crimson earth.

 

We got a telegram from my cousin Perchov this morning. He says they are marching through Poznan, on the western border with Germany, they who have Panzer III tanks[3] and their dive bombing Luftwaffe[4] planes like fireflies above us. Time is slipping between my fingers so I must  write faster. The house has shaken many times and it will shake again but I do not know when.

 

If you find a way to watch a film called Triumph des Willens[5] (Triumph of the Will), I hope you do. I hope your generation and the ones after you find a way to preserve and record films. Triumph des Willens is a movie, moving pictures of black and white madness, of hate and lies and toe cringing frustration. There is a very famous woman in Germany, Leni Riefenstahl, with short hair and expensive jackets. Her eyes look like burnt glass, and she makes movies for the Führer, one of which is Triumph des Willens.

 

“A people that does not protect its racial purity will perish!”, say the colourless people in the movie.

“In the past, our enemies persecuted us and have removed the undesirable elements from our Party for us. Today, we ourselves must remove undesirable elements which have proven to be bad. What is bad, has no place among us!”, say the moving shadows on the screen.

 

I don’t want you to believe it. I don’t want anyone to believe it. I don’t want anyone to say it ever again. Not the baby, not you, not anyone who survives this sinking crater that is falling deeper into the ground every day and is getting smaller and smaller by the minute. Trochenbrod is no more a town than it is a crater, a black mark on the map that they will erase with one of their fancy Pelikan erasers. Trochenbrod will be gone, because we do not have a place among them.

 

I write this letter to you because you must know. You must know why I am probably not going to be there when you wake from your sleep, wrapped in blue and white embroidered cloth that your mother wove, and cry into the night. Why I will probably not be there to give you sweets under the table when your father isn’t looking. Why I won’t be there to teach you how to say Happy Birthday in Ukrainian, because you may be learning another language – maybe Russian, or German, or French, or even English. If you have not been taught, we say Многая літа, like this, mno-ha-ya, li-ta. It means ‘many years’, and that is how we say Happy Birthday to one another. Mnohaya Lita, Jonathan. Remember why I am not here. But remember why you are. Despite burning roofs, and the sound of bones, and the sound of peaceful sleep driven into oblivion by those black and green tanks, you will have journeyed a long way to survive. You are a speck of life that does not yet exist, but I know you will and I love you even before I can say your name out loud.

 

I write this letter to you to tell you that I am very, very sorry I cannot be with you.

And I write to you to tell you why.

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I leave these folded pages under the white tablecloth that your grandmother Zosha will ask me to clean once again, but I will not do it so the cloth does not get the letter wet and wash away the ink. I will leave it here, and I do not know how, but I hope that this letter crosses many hands and many years to reach you.

 

Your grandfather,

Jonathan Safran.

 

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February 23rd 2014

Simferopol, Ukraine

Dear grandfather,

There is bad news, but there is also some good news.

I made it. I am here. My parents survived, and I was born in America. I live there, I grew up there, and there is one picture of you and grandmother Zosha standing in a field. I don’t know what colour the grass was because it is a black and white picture – if only you knew the kinds of N60 cameras and Blue Ray discs that we have now. There is a copy of Triumph des Willens in the local library, and on the internet. I will explain what the internet is in another letter, I am writing so many of those because there are pages full of memories and questions floating around in my head that I wish I could talk to you about, and even though you can never answer them, I write anyway. Maybe it is more for me than it is for you, but I write to you because it is important.

 

I watched Triumph des Willens, and I watch the streets of Simferopol from my window now. They are not very different, and that is where the bad news starts.

 

I have travelled to Ukraine to look for any last remnants of Trochenbrod. I know that they probably do not exist, but I have come to look anyway. As I sit in my hotel and eat my second plate of potatoes, I can hear things that you would have wished never existed.

 

Ukraine is being torn apart and sliced like the pieces of a very large, very expensive piece of chocolate cake. It is big, and looks good, so everyone wants a piece, but it is also expensive which means that nobody wants to share, even if someone promises not to take a big bite.

 

There is still an invasion, but not by Germany. There is still pain, and lost children, and suffering bearing down upon people so much that they feel they are breathing with iron lungs. It doesn’t matter which leader of which country has given up this country, if you really want to know it is the USSR, which is now called Russia. It doesn’t matter which human being, with the law in his hand, blind to the world and deaf to his people, and with a bleeding hole in his chest for a heart tore down the significance of what it means to be human. There are green and black tanks again, but with a different language written on them. There are no soldiers with black spiders on fields of red on their arms, but there are soldiers with blue and white uniforms who use bullets as equalizers. Rich, poor, men, women, children, dogs and cats, girls and boys, farmers and street performers, students and teachers, people who hold hands, and people who laugh at each other’s misery, they are all the same in the face of death. The land you walked on and the air you breathe is being polluted by blood once more, and a large piece of my heart is glad that you are not here to see it.

 

I did miss you, grandfather, on many occasions. When it was my twelfth birthday and everyone said Mnohaya Lita to me. When the big kid with shiny blue shoes and teeth that looked very sharp was punching me repeatedly behind the bleachers in the basketball courts, every single day. When I ate so many sweets that one of my teeth fell out, and my mother made me eat broccoli and carrots for an entire month. When my father would make varenyky with cherries because I do not eat meat, and they would be just a little too salty.

When I look at that picture of you and see my smile reflected in yours.

 

I am writing to tell you that I am also very, very sorry. I am sorry for you, I am sorry for grandmother Zosha, for everyone who didn’t see the end of the war or the light of day after October 1939, for the entire town of Trochenbrod, for this place that seems to have no rest.

 

I am sorry that things have not really changed.

 

There are doctors outside my hotel room, and they are talking amongst themselves very loudly. I hear them saying that there is only one bag of O- blood that has to run through the veins of five teenagers. They are saying that the soldiers outside are refusing to let medicine and aid be passed through the windows. They are saying that one of the doctors, a woman with glasses that had only one lens intact, was shot outside the hotel because she was bandaging a ten-year old’s head. He didn’t make it either. They say his friends called him Taly.

 

I am so sorry grandfather, that everyone dies for everyone and everyone dies for nothing.

 

I think about going back to America and writing more letters to you, and perhaps a book. I think about staying here and trying to reason with men who seem beyond reason, I think about staying here in the country you called home and smelling the flowers that perhaps you did too. I think about staying here, with that photograph of you and grandmother Zosha, and going to bed, the sounds of gunfire and planes and thundering feet lulling me into an endless sleep.

 

I do not know what I will do. I do not know what will happen to this place and to everyone who calls it home. I do not know what will happen to your home.

 

But I am sorry, that things have not changed.

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With wonderful memories of a past you gave me, and foolish hopes for a future I am not sure I can give to the children whom I could raise in another life, in another time,

 

Your grandson,

Jonathan.

[1] Traditional Ukrainian dumplings, made of dough and stuffed with a range of things including meat, onions, potatoes, pickled cabbage or even cherries.

[2] Translation from German: God with us. The SS and Nazi soldiers had this inscribed on their belt buckles, as Hitler was a rather ardent Roman Catholic.

[3] Panzer III were part of a series of German tanks used in WWII.

[4] Luftwaffe  was the German Air Force during WWII, and was dissolved in 1945.

[5] A seminal movie commissioned by Hitler and directed by the award winning Leni Riefenstahl, this is considered one of the key texts of German war propaganda. Released in 1935, it contains excerpts of speeches given by the Nazi Party. Hitler was also the executive producer.

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Acceptance. Denial. Acceptance. Help.

In conversation with a bipolar patient.

bipolar-disorder

Every time I experience a low, I wonder if it’s just me being weak. Whether the low is mild or severe, that thought visits me and maybe it’s natural to feel this way and maybe it’s not. I don’t know what ‘natural’ is sometimes.

When I’m on a (hypomanic) high, I don’t remember all the details. I know I get extremely angry and impulsive at times, but it’s the lows that get to me.

Am I just weak?

Am I just not able to deal with things like everyone else can?

Am I just not as strong as everyone else?

So this really does mean I’m bipolar. Does it?

Do I have to linger on my thoughts like this, when others would give them a passing glance?

Am I just being self absorbed?

Is there nothing really to focus on?

So many questions. Doctors far away. New doctors- not very comfortable with them. Don’t know if I can trust them yet.

On noticeboard- signs of lows. Signs of highs. Emergency contact numbers. What to do if symptoms surface.

I feel this person’s presence in the room- this unwanted, sad, heavy minded and heavy hearted person. I don’t know how to help her. I don’t know what to do with her.

Some feelings are creeping back- hands being disassociated from body. Are they hers or mine?

What can I do to make her happy?

What can I do to make her go away?

What can I do to wake up to a world I know, once again?

For now, breathe.

Just breathe.

Is your mood affected by early sunsets?

In conversation with a bipolar patient.

 

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  1. Do you think your mood is affected by seasonal changes?

I didn’t think it would be, but my mood suddenly switched earlier today  from being average to feeling lower than I usually do. I can’t put my finger on it, but I am willing to consider seasonal changes as having some effect on my behaviour.

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2. What do you think you can do to alter your state of mind?

Exercising more is definitely one way to go. I haven’t been able to exercise as regularly as I usually would because of work constraints, but I’m getting back to normal tomorrow and I hope it’ll have an effect on how I feel. Another thing I could do is be in contact with someone I trust or someone I can confide in and make sure they know that there are or have been changes to my mood. Notifying my healthcare providers is also something I should do, except I’m not sure if writing to them about what could be a tiny, trivial mood swing is warranted. I’ll definitely have to be more aware of myself as well.

3. What else do you think you can do?

More chocolate? It is supposed to help, but I can’t rely on that. If I start relying on chocolate it will affect the way I feel about my body and that won’t help me at all. I could try it in small amounts I suppose.

4. If seasonal changes are indeed affecting you, is there anything you could do to minimise their effect on your health?

Soak up as much sunshine as I can, I suppose. That may not always be possible on weekdays, but I should get out during the day as much as I can.

Good luck, and let’s hope your little problem stays little!

Everything but skim milk scares me

You know one of those days that you can only describe as “aaaaaaaarrrgggggghhhhhhh” ?

It’s one of those days.

Without talking about why I’m feeling blah, I’m going to try and describe why I’m feeling blah.

Yes, I know. Logic has taken a serious hit today. Look at my Spock bobblehead on my desk.

“It’s only logical.” What is? That I would feel a little angry and a little frustrated at being right? Yes.

What am I right about?

Let’s talk about it in terms of milk.

I’ve always held on to skim milk. It’s comfortable, I’m used to the taste, and it always makes sense to me. Everyone says I need to try 1%, 2% or even 3%, but I’ve got my own share of problems and opinions. Whenever I’ve ventured outside of my comfort zone and tried 1% or 2% milk, it’s hit me bad. It leaves a horrible taste in my mouth, I always remember trying other kinds of milk as a horrible experience, and it makes me want to stick to skim milk.

I tried to give em a chance, but they’ve always disappointed me, so I go back to skim milk. Because it’s safe. Because I can depend on it. 1% and 2% are unreliable.

I can’t adopt a new philosophy on dairy because I don’t have the time, can’t be bothered, and don’t want to disrupt my life.

My life has to be about me, and if I change the variable of skim milk, everything can potentially change.

And I don’t want it to. I need to focus on my life right now and I don’t have room for change.

Recently, someone asked me to consider the possibility of 1% milk. Try it for a week, they said.

Once again, I was proven right. Skim milk is the way to go.

Because 1% left a horrible taste in my mouth. This was the 5th or 6th time that I’d tried it, and I knew it would leave a bad taste in my mouth, so I was prepared for it.

But I was still 1% disappointed.

Alright, just 1%. is that warranted?

No. It’s not worth it.

So does my day have to be ‘aaaarrrrgggggghhhhh’?

Is it ok to feel that way?

Even if it is 1%?

Maybe.

But you know what, I was stronger after the first time, the second , third and fourth time, and now I’m even stronger. I know what to do, I know it’ll get better with time, and as I’m typing this out, I actually feel better that I learned that once again, skim milk is the way to go. I feel better that I learned something, and more importantly, I feel stronger after today.

I actually feel excited and proud of myself because now I know exactly what to do so the 1% goes down to 0.

I actually feel happy, as I’m writing this, because this made me stronger- even if it is in a very little way. If I hadn’t been proven right all this time, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the 7th time I tried 1% milk.

Now that I did, I won’t be as affected as I have all those other times.

And the next time I do, I won’t feel even 1% horrible.

And I can always rely on skim milk.

Just this one time, just this one time, I’m going to insert a generic, cheesy picture here.

Because I feel like it.

Because I’ve got my skim milk and I feel stronger.

I’m still scared of other kinds of milk, but I won’t be as scared the next time.

Because I choose to be stronger. And happy.

A few questions about the EU migrant crisis

Yes, I’m going there.

It’s been hanging over my head ever since the first doomsday-esque headline popped up on BBC, and I’m going to go over the questions I have about the EU migrant crisis.

Deep breath. Here it goes.

  1. Europe has its own share of problems ( and a huge share of other countries’ problems too) right now. Failing currency, Greece bankrupt and other countries not performing phenomenally, bailout conundrums, and now perhaps the worst migrant slash refugee crisis since World War II. I’m going to try and mention World War II fewer times than I am now, but who are we kidding? Most refugees don’t want to stay in Hungary or Serbia. Most of them want to go to Germany. Why?Is that because Germany has the only close to normal economy right now, or because Angela Merkel “said a first step had been taken but a permanent quota system for receiving refugees was necessary”.
  2. Asia is booming right now, and most countries have a pretty good record for political asylum. Most.  Why not head to Asia, where economic opportunities are plenty, and far removed from Syria or Iraq?
  3. Strengthen the EU’s external borders- to stop more migrants coming in or to prevent ISIS from boarding a train? If it’s the latter, the EU would have, or should have strengthened the borders on day 1. Why now?
  4. “The UK prime minister called for more to be done to stabilise the regions where the refugees came from.” Interestingly, the UK is not open to receiving refugees, and if I’m not mistaken, opted out of the plan that Germany came up with. So is David Cameron calling for countries closest to the middle east to strengthen their borders to prevent any chances of the UK having to take in migrants?

Image courtesy of BBC.

More to come.

Meanwhile, pennies for your thoughts:

EU leaders debate migrant crisis

What it’s like to try and get into Europe

G

Vampires: From a well read Dracula to a sparkly teenager.

As a litt. student ( I never consider my education as being over even after I’ve taken the classes and gotten the degrees), I have a personal hatred toward the entire Twilight Series. It affects me perhaps more than other people who have not read Bram Stoker’s original ( and first) version of our blood sucking Count, because a certain Ms.Meyer killed the whole idea, completely dead and still like Dracula’s victims. It completely went to hell, without any chance of being salvaged, and one of my greatest fears is that people of any age will remember a teenager with skin that sparkled in the sun as the first vampire figure that ever existed. It puts to shame, well, the entire Cullen family ( and I hate that I know the name) does anyway, to the educated and ambitious Count Dracula; who had a library bigger than half of London, wanted to invade foreign shores and very amusingly cause panic among the English who were paranoid about invasions from the continent, more specifically from the French or the Germans. Seeing as Dracula is neither, Stoker probably aimed to create a new reason for the English running around in circles with their hands in the air and screams issuing from their mouths that would make Banshees and Justin Bieber fangirls cute in comparison. There was something rather cosmopolitan about Transylvania and I sometimes wonder if the mix of the Magyars, the Huns, the Germans and the Hungarians gave birth to a culture that was as dark and unknowable as the creature that could crawl up walls and ceilings without batting a blood thirsty eye.

Credits: thefoxisblack.com

So what happened?

Why wasn’t he good enough? Why change a perfectly interesting character into a  teenage dream brighter than the sun?

Credits: https://unrighteousfury.files.wordpress.com

There’s nothing wrong with adding a touch of modernity to classic art; and goodness knows I’m grateful for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as much as I am for Dr. Conan Doyle’s man. I like them both, and I don’t think Mark Gatiss ruined it for any of us ( that’s what I’d like to believe anyway).

Courtesy of Google
Courtesy of Google

So yes, why, I ask myself. And you.

I was reading a rather interesting BBC post this morning; link’s here if you want it:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150727-from-dracula-to-the-strain-where-do-vampires-come-from

It all started with this- it made me talk about something I’ve been thinking about for years, and years, and years, and years. Much like the immortality of all vampires, Count or not.

One of the many things I’ve got against Twilight is how it completely flips the male-female paradigm and sits on your table as an anti-feminist, more religious than called for bound book that worships the idea of virginity. Mina and Lucy cross seas and the Count’s female ‘friends’ bring to mind the proper love ins of the very first hippie generations who dug their toes into the soil that Jonathan Harker feared in good old Transylvania.

Bella Swan and her Cullen conundrum presents itself to a lot of teenage girls, and it sure as hell is conceptualised by an institution that tells women what to do with their bodies and when. It tells 30 year old women and 16 year old high school sweethearts that taking control of their own bodies and making their own decisions despite what the leader of their flock or their parents waiting anxiously by the door at six every evening think of em or what they tell em. As always I’m not saying my opinion should be or is axiomatic.

As you were.

Another problem I’ve got with Mr. and Mrs. death baby is that they’ve sort of changed Dracula from an enigmatic, foreign character into a high school wallflower. They’re supposed to be feared, but they ask for empathy at the same time. Why does he look at the girl whose talent is easily outstripped by Elmo and the Muppet Babies, why can’t he sleep, why is he tormented when he’s around her, and why do you want him to get closer to whatshername during Biology?

He’s mysterious, he’s enigmatic, he looked better as Cedric Diggory, but you also root for him in some way.

Cause he could just be that kid who leans on the wall next to the water cooler and stares off into the distance with perfect, clear amber/green eyes and never speaks a word. He’s mysterious, he’s interesting.

And he’s also a kid at school.

Credits: https://houseofpaper.files.wordpress.com

That’s what changed.

Loving Stoker’s Dracula was out of the question; being in love and entering an intimate relationship was as forbidden and ridiculous as trying to land a job in Europe with a non EU passport. It ain’t gonna happen.

But our resident man of mystery in Forks, wherever it was (shot in BC, by the way), fell in love. He wanted to make it with Bella ( charmingly original names, don’t you think?) , he wanted to marry her and she was attracted to him. It was forbidden on one level, but it was also something the reader would want. In their heads, in the heads of a lot of people, they want the relationship to work because it’s forbidding nature makes it all the more special. Not like James Franco and the 16, (or was it 17?) year old Instagram chippie, but like Romeo and Juliet except without all the good writing and sophistication.

Don’t judge a nation or a generation by what they read, they said. My professors and many other people before them who put pen to paper and found the pot of fame at the end of the rainbow of insanity.

Alright. But let’s try and keep Dracula alive, because his immortality isn’t going to save him in the era of One Direction ( or as I like to call them, No Direction), selfies, any number of shades of grey, or Lucas Films being sold to Disney.

Credit: http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com

You don’t have to be high brow or have two litt. degrees; read whatever you like. That’s the liberal lefty side of my head talking.

Just remember where it all came from. When Robin Williams and a gaggle of school boys recite Captain Oh Captain, think of Walt Whitman. When you see t-shirts with “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”, think of Oscar Wilde. When you hear or read “Live, laugh, love,” smile if you like. I prefer to actively control my increasing feeling of nausea, but that’s just me.

Read Twilight all you like, but remember where it comes from.

Remember Dracula.

G

Random facts, mostly from QI, on a blah day.

Also, most of em taken from the 1,411 QI book of facts. Here goes. Even if you’re not amused, I’m hoping I will be. Knocked sideways.

Also, thanks to the QI elves for sending me the book, free of charge.

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1. There are 1,411 tigers left in India.

2. According to Julius Caesar, the most civilised people in Britain lived in Kent.

3. The technical name for an ice-cream headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Walk away from Ben and Jerry.

4. Wine can be ‘aged’ by passing it through an electric field for three minutes.

5. The first person to smoke in Europe was sent to prison for being possessed by the devil.

6. Fruit flies take their time over difficult decisions.

7. The Great Wall of China was funded by a state lottery.

8. The DC Comics character Snowflame got his superpowers from cocaine.

9. Martian sunsets are blue.

10. The most commonly awarded grade at Harvard is an A.

11. The Chilean word for plumber is gasfiter.

12. The US Patent Office insisted on proof that the Ouija board worked before granting the patent in 1891.

13. ‘Yahoo’ is an acronym for ‘Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle’.

14. Wine drinkers pour 12% more wine into a glass they’re holding than one that’s sitting on the table.

15. Crisps/Chips packets aren’t full of air; they’re full of nitrogen.

16. During the First World War, German and Russian troops agreed a ceasefire and joined forces to fend off attacks by wolves.

17. Vikings who died in bed rather than in battle went to a special afterlife where it was always foggy.

18. There are 60 people in Venezuela whose first name is Hitler.

19. The Romans used lemons as mothballs.

20. Apple inc. is worth more than Sweden, Poland or Nigeria.

G

Spock-ology, or Spock logic: Things I’ve learned from Spock.

No surprise I’d write about this.

Space,the final frontier. And Spock, the final word on life and logic.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Insufficient facts always invite danger. True, true and true. Insufficient data lead to me a more disasters when it comes to social interaction. Insufficient data about people. Insufficient data about visas ( no matter how much research goes into it). Insufficient data on the nature of human relationships. insufficient data leading to horrible judgement of character. I could go on and on all day, but I won’t.

2. In critical moments, men see exactly what they want to see: This might be stepping a little bit on Oscar Wilde’s defence against the La Bouchere trial in 1890, but it’s true and I might as well get a t-shirt made. Who said that was the sign of elegance? Ah yes, Brian Cox. Conformational bias. Often, I’ve seen only what I’ve wanted to see and ended up half conscious in the middle of the night while trying to find the bathroom switch or crying while getting to know the loo better. I don’t need to cite more examples.

3. (This one is from Arthur Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes, but i want to put it in here anyway) When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.  Amen to that.

4. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one: Completely with Spock when it comes to political or social things, but when it comes to everyday life I’m not really going to get the keychain or the mug. Sometimes, I ( and a lot of other people) don’t put ourselves first as often as we should. Do things for yourself once in a while, drop your plans with whoever and take a nice long drive, switch off your phone and read your favourite book or go for a long walk in the rain, make some hot cocoa and ask your best friend over. Or just go to the beach and look at the sunset with nobody but a Long Island Ice Tea.

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Sometimes, it’s just enough to take a deep breath and think about how wonderful it is that your life is only about you and nobody else. Your life is yours and yours alone.

Image of Spock courtesy of Google.

G

My beef with censorship

I’m in india right now, visiting the old family.

Censorship is ridiculous everywhere obviously, ( remember the ban on certain kinds on porn in the UK, all directed towards women? Shocking, I know).

Things that are censored here don’t even make any sense. Wrote a couple of strongly worded letters to the Censorship board and a few channels, I’m pretty sure they’re going to end up in the kitty litter.

It just seems like they gave a bunch of words to some idiots who bought their first dictionaries on their first day and they got to work. Horribly. A six year old with a copy of Green Eggs and Ham could have done a better job.

Here’s a list of things they censored, which makes me want to reach into their throats and pull out their voice boxes. Ain’t gonna happen, but a girl can dream.

1. Boobs: It’s censored when it means what it means, for lack of a better word I’m gonna put mammary glands here, but it’s also censored when it comes to terms like ‘Booby trap’, or ‘you’re a boob.” Half the sentences can’t be heard or read in the subtitles, so all I hear are a bunch of people stuck in a tunnel with rubbish cell phone coverage.

Oh, and sometimes, they’re replaced with “breasts”. People who can walk and talk at the same time wouldn’t take too much time to figure out they’re synonyms.

2. Nipples: censored when it comes to men and women. Why is that a horrible word? Doesn’t everyone know they exist? And, more importantly, the more they censor that word the more they make gullible ones ( men and women) think they should be ashamed of saying them or acknowledging they exist. It’s like the Pasta fairy- the Pastafarians?Oh no no, the Spaghetti monster. That’s right. Some of em who aren’t quite in their right minds worship this thing.

If that can be around, so can nipples. It’s ridiculous censoring one and taking the other seriously as a religion.

3. 3. Sex/sexy.:The latter isn’t censored as much as the former, go figure, but yeah it’s muted and the subtitles say “pretty” or “beautiful”. This is prime time TV I know, and I don’t know how many 13 year olds watch Friends or The Big Bang Theory, but that is a word they already know ( and I ain’t talking about the kids from South Park). Parents, they know. You think they don’t, but they know. Ask ’em, and they’ll look at the wall behind your head or at their feet, or they won’t deny it. Either way, they know.

4. Butt: Often censored completely ( audio and subtitles) and sometimes replaced with ass.

I’m probably going to write another strongly worded letter before I take off even though I know it’ll be used as recycled paper to print on or actual catnip, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Ah, and they censor alcohol labels. Kids know they’re not orange juice.

Wake up, parents. And tell the censorship board to come back to 2015 from their 1876 desks.

If you’ve got anything to add to the list, give us a shout.

And yes, I actually do have a beef with the censorship board here. Eating cows is taboo, just like saying some words on this list or more that they’re going to come up with by picking some out of a goldfish bowl.

All images courtesy of google.

G

A breakdown of the Higgs boson particle and what we can expect from CERN next

I’m going to go into the facts and the technical bits first, but what I really want to do is breakdown the Higgs boson for someone who doesn’t have an astrophysics degree or even a functional knowledge of the subject. I don’t have the degree, but I’ve found that I can find my way around in the sky while getting lost walking down the street from where I live. I’m going to use my amateur knowledge on this subject to make it easier to understand than explaining why anyone with the last name Kardashian is famous and/or remotely relevant.

I really, really liked Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw’s Why does E=mc²? and what it did for me. It helped me understand the theory of General Relativity ( the one that Einstein wrote, not the archaic one that Aristotelian physics took a jab at; I mean it was something considering he published it in 348 BCE but he wasn’t a fan of heliocentrism, so I’m not buying his T-shirt). So, back to Brian Cox and Jeff Foreshaw, they wrote a book that explains the theory of General Relativity in beautiful, simple language that an amateur like me could understand. Incidentally, it’s worth checking out their other co-authored book, The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen.

So after I lay out the facts, I’m going to attempt to explain the Higgs boson in a simple, non-migraine causing way. I’m no Brian Cox for sure, but I’m going to try. I’m just as close to getting to where CERN astrophysicists are as I am to starring in the sequel to Frozen. ( Note, my mum made me watch the thing and I’m probably going to need therapy).

i’m going to try and make it so easy that you don’t have to use any of the words mentioned above to explain the Higgs boson. Although if you want to, that’s a completely different matter.

Anyway. Sleeves rolled up.

The facts and the pesky little technical bits

It seems weird at first, but the discovery of the Higgs boson completes and leaves gaps in the Standard Model of Physics. In 2012, the ‘discovery’ of the Higgs boson was an achievement alright, one of the greatest accomplishments of human civilisation ( which makes up for less impressive products of the human race such as Eat, Pray, Love, Catholic nuns teaching science ( true story), the Teletubbies, Justin Bieber and the United Nations Security Council).

The discovery of a particle in the mass region 126 GeV meant that CERN found a Higgs like boson ( because that’s the average predicted mass of the Higgs), but Run 2 of the Large Hadron Collider which just started this year will be able to tell if that particle is the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard model of Physics or if it falls beyond the Standard model. There were a few posts and news articles lamenting the death of the Standard model, but I think that it’s progress whether the Higgs boson falls within or outside of the Standard model. Process of elimination, see?

 

So run 1 yielded great results for science and for the Standard model, but run 2 at CERN is aimed at putting the pieces of the supersymmetry theory together, y eureka! Standard model explained and extended by supersymmetry. There are a few glitches that CERN has pointed out though, including the rather problematic issue of pinning down the exact mass of the Higgs boson and explaining why it is so light, whereas in theory, its interaction with other particles in the Higgs field would make it considerably heavier. Except, in new collisions in the LHC, if particles predicted by super-symettry do show up, they would cancel out the remaining mass of the Higgs, making a light Higgs boson possible.

The original CERN on super-symmetry article explains the whole thing in an exponentially elegant way, so definitely gotta read that one if we’re to understand the way we make sense of the physical universe.

Erm….What? 

To some of you who might wonder ( and to those who aren’t, I apologise for explaining stuff you already know), and to some of whom I’ve seen trying to pick out India in a map of North America; a tradition started by Christopher Columbus, the Standard model is not an EU dress size. I’m going to try and break it down ( pun intended).

Brian Cox very eloquently explains the analogy that scientists at the time gave to Margaret Thatcher in 1986, if I’m not wrong, gotta look it up, but they basically said that the Higgs boson is like a famous person who enters a room, where the entire room and the people in it make up the Higgs field. When that famous or popular person ( they cited Thatcher as an example, shockingly :P) enters the room, everyone is drawn to them and there is a huddle around that person. That’s like the Higgs boson, it gives other particles mass by drawing them closer and interacting with them.

That’s as eloquent as you can get, but I’d like to take a stab at another one, which I’m sure will be  along the lines of what Justin Bieber is to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

The explanation can be found in many different ways that are more often than not staring at you in the face. For instance, AA would be the Higgs boson for people who remember the alphabet as starting with A for Absinthe, B for Bourbon , C for Chardonnay…you get the idea. Doctor Who would be the Higgs boson for Whovians, and Who-Con would be like the Higgs field I suppose. I’d like to think that the Higgs boson is eloquently complicated but simple enough to understand through everyday analogies; drawing on the one that Brian Cox cites, obviously.

I don’t know if that makes any sense.

But I hope that makes things a lot less obscure than they were before you read this.

Images courtesy of Google, Tumblr and dreamstime.com

I’m off.

G.