Friday, March 31, 2006


Scott Adams describes the impressive comeback of James Blake to tennis.

An excerpt...
Blake’s ranking bobbed up and down, peaking at 22 in the world. He shaved his dreadlocks and gave up his sex symbol image along with millions in potential endorsements. (I’m guessing his hair was prematurely thinning.) Then in 2004 he had the year from Hell. He ran into a tennis net post and broke his neck. Then he got a shingles virus in his face that paralyzed it on one side. Then his dad died.

There was some doubt that Blake would ever play tennis again. He watched the major tournaments from his couch and wondered about his future. In time, his body recovered, and he felt that he had been given a second chance. He grabbed it by the neck.

He then goes on to describe the epic battles that James Blake fought to get to the finals of the Indian Wells tournament, and then proceeds to describe the final between him and Roger Federer...

Against all odds, Blake blazed to a 4-1 first set advantage against the all-time greatest player on earth. It seemed as though nothing could stop him.

And then something happened. The momentum shifted. The rest of the match was all Federer. Blake seemed to fade away, settling for runner-up, but his effort that week was enough to put him in the top ten in the world.

But what caught my attention was Blake's statement at the end of the match...

At the trophy ceremony, Blake spoke to the crowd. He said that in 2004, when he was in the hospital with a broken neck, only one tennis player sent him a note to wish him well. It was Roger Federer.

Enough said...Roger Federer is now among my top favourite players in Tennis (the ones that I have grown up watching) now...Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Marat Safin, and my all-time favourite Pete Sampras ! Up until now I had my doubts as to whether he belonged to that august group...that simple act on his part ensures that he deserves his place among the greats, not just for his tennis, but for his spirit !

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free market upside down !

Globsescan has a report about how people in the various parts of the world think whether a free market economy is the best or not. This is particularly useful in view of the recent protests in France.

Interestingly, the results seem to be a bit lopsided. One would think that traditional so-called "free-market economies" such as Europe, America, etc. would have popular opinions biased in favour of the free market approach, whereas traditional "closed economies" such as China and India would not favour it. But as the graphs show, that is not the case !

We see that in France, the majority do not favour the free-market idea ! And surprisingly, India and China and are front-runners among nations that support it ! Of course the United States is there as well.

While most other European nations (Turkey apart, again suprisingly) also support a free economy and free markets, the difference between the two factions is not very large (60-40 on an average). One would have expected a large majority of people to overwhelmingly support it among the more "developed" nations.

Also, the large support for this idea among India (70%) and China (the leader at 74%) is interesting. Both have had some closed form of econony or the other for a long period of time and still have their economies until tight control, while trying to open up slowly.

My thoughts on this are that perhaps the current "free economies" have tried various methods to achieve free economies but have maybe learnt the difficult way that it doesn't serve their purpose, at least in a short time frame. Perhaps what is required is a long-term approach to the idea...and when I say long term, I mean even a handful of decades is short-term ! But then again, politics being what it is, such an approach may not be altogether possible, because politicans are susceptible to the vagaries of their vote banks and even if a small section of the voters are hurt by a free economy, even for a short term, they are not averse to quickly reigning it in with countermeasures. This will not help the cause for free markets anywhere!

Also, India and China have a large number of nouveau-riche who with the more open societies and quick money made from the hot new techology sectors would really love the markets to open up, if not for anything else, but for the abundance of choices that will be available, so that they can spread some of their riches to attain a more aflluent lifestyle. They have known the weariness of closed economies and the government control of markets that come with it and the sad customer service obtained in the bargain and are probably edgy enough to try and drive the markets to open up. Interestingly, the study above only sample the urban markets...would they have gotten a different response had they tried to take a peek at the vast majority of people who stay in rural areas ? Perhaps...rural people and markets tend to be more socialistic and protectionist than urban markets...people tend to believe that with more choices, their own industries might get wiped out...altogether not a false assumption. But I think that if these folks figure out the concept of quality and better service, they can probably provide intense competition to any global threats, simple with local products are very good and can probably be cheaply manufactured and costs kept low, simply because they are local ! So, after the initial shakeup, the really smart entreprenuers will find a way to come up and provide smart, localised services.

So, the idea is, in a globalised world, one should be able to find that local niche that enables you to build up a business and perhaps consolidation also works...the classic example, is probably Verghese Kurien's "Operation flood" idea, which opened up the entire country to a few villages in Gujarat, simply by consolidating all the local small-scale milk industries of the state !

On a tangent, the above results also included thoughts on whether large companies should be regulated by the government (see second figure). The results, again suprising, considering that the average majority agreed on the free-trade idea, show that most people like the idea of regulation of large companies by the governments ! But as I mentioned, it is a tangent...nothing really to do with economics...perhaps more to do with ethics and a social life...people being vary of large entities that have just money as a credo and a bottomline.

Original link (to the figures) via Sepia Mutiny.

Billions ?

I came across an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, about the disparity between the American and European definitions for a billion !

In the U.S., it's a thousand million, or one followed by nine zeros. But in much of Europe, a "billion" -- or a word spelled similarly -- is a million million, or one followed by 12 zeros. The disparity grows along with the size of the numbers: A trillion stateside is a million million, but it's a million times greater in Germany, for instance.
And this was pretty interesting as well...
The conflict arose from "an entire perversion" of the original meaning of the names for large numbers, according to an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. It was a change "condemned by the greatest lexicographers," mathematicians John Horton Conway and Richard K. Guy wrote in "The Book of Numbers." About 500 years ago, French mathematicians Nicolas Chuquet and Estienne de la Roche put forward the definitions now standard in most of Europe. They used Latin prefixes for one, two, three and so on, and the scheme had a pleasing symmetry: An increase of one in the prefix meant multiplying the number by a million. To find the number of zeros in a number, take the prefix and multiply it by six. So a million had six zeros, a billion had 12 and a trillion had 18. Numbers below a million were spelled out -- 135,000, for instance -- so why not call 135,000,000,000 135,000 million? The scheme was eventually extended to centillion, or one followed by 600 zeros.
Bernard Comrie, now the director of the department of linguistics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, had an interesting experiment in mind...
Noting that the U.K. had largely shifted to the U.S. definition following a 1974 announcement by the government of prime minister Harold Wilson, Prof. Comrie wrote, "I speculate on how a British bank would interpret a cheque made out for one billion pounds. Unfortunately, the cost of such an experiment would exceed the resources I have allocated to this research. Suggestions for funding will, of course, be gratefully received."

But the banks apparently put that one experiment down with...
The Royal Bank of Scotland defines billion as one followed by nine zeros, spokesman Mike Keohane told me, "which is the accepted standard in the U.K." David Dooks, director of statistics for the British Bankers' Association, confirmed to me that British banks define "billion" the American way.
So, it is only the public who are at fault for thinking that a billion is a million millions ! Wonder if that is why many Europeans are snooty about their bank balances !

Check out Wikipedia's entry on the names of large numbers.

Impatient Dutch !

The Dutch labour party has proposed that educated women, i.e. ones with college degrees, should be fined if they decide to stay at home instead of joining the workforce !

MP Sharon Dijksma, deputy chairperson of the PvdA's parliamentary party, believes the punitive measure is needed to stimulate more women to join the workforce. She outlined her ideas in 'Forum', a magazine published by employers' group VNO-NCW.

"A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work - that is destruction of capital," Dijksma said. "If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at the cost of society, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished."

The MP said a fine for non-working mothers is a logical consequence of the PvdA's intention to introduce a 'feudal system', under which graduates repay money dependant on their earnings. "If someone chooses not to work, then a substantial repayment is in order," Dijksma said.

Hmmm...don't the Dutch make claims about having freedom of expression and choice, and all that supposed nonsense ?

As Chequer-Board asks...
Stay-at-home mothers could agree to make use of their degrees by home-schooling their children. Think that would fly in the Dutch parliament?
Well, if women won't make much of the opportunities provided to make them "equal" in society, then perhaps we should force them, eh ?

This was also an interesting statement in that article...
A high proportion of Dutch women traditionally favour working only part-time or staying at home to care for their families.
Original link via Pajamas Media.

Cross posted on Ek Cup Coffee.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Down boy...down !

A nose spray to keep men calm !


The hormone, called oxytocin, is released by women’s brains during labour and to stimulate milk during breast feeding.

Researchers also found that a drug used to treat baldness had a similar effect in countering anger built up by the action of testosterone.

Scientists have long known that increased testosterone provokes aggressive behaviour. Less well understood is whether even mildly stressful social interactions, such as feeling distrusted by a stranger, can trigger surges of testosterone. if we could just have liberal doses of this at our regular coffee-shop rendezevous !

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dressing down...

Sarat often keeps mentioning that I have "sold out" because I dress differently - in his words, i.e...or rather I sometimes think about what I am going to wear and make a conscious effort at times to dress well. This got me thinking about the sterotypes and images that are often cultivated by people.

When I wear certain clothes, it is not to make a statement, or to prove a point or to just show off. I do so, because I can be considered to be one who is a bit fussy, borderline obsessive-compulsive about certain things...I often get irritated and angry if even the small things do not come together and stay out of clothes, by natural extension fall into this category. If I wear a t-shirt and the round neck collar movies, behaves in a fashion that I dislike, then I try to avoid round-neck t-shirts from then on..I like shirts for the simple reason that they have collars and fit well around my neck and are not bothersome to me...and when I pick the shirt that I am going to wear, I have to pick the rest of the attire to ensure that everything fits just right...they are not completely off and make me look foolish - the jeans/trousers/shoes/jackets/etc. Even if something small is out of place, that thought would niggle me all day ans keep me distracted...which is why, I do not mind spending that extra 5 minutes every morning to decide on what to wear.

The problems arise, because of varying colleges of thought that go that certain apparel is inappropriate. Even during my undergrad days, there was this irritating idiot (who was supposedly a friend and then wasn't...but that's for another day) who used keep taunting me for not just wearing some old t-shirt and isn't the case that I do not wear that kind of attire...I just choose to do so or not do so...which was his point...according to him, one should just throw on any old clothes that one finds and not bother. Honestly, if I held a book under his chin at any point of time and asked him to describe his own clothes, he would be at a complete loss ! He doesn't really bother about what clothes to wear and what he is wearing at any point of time. And for some reason, it seemed to irk him that those around him would actually take time off their precious day to decide on such mundane matters !

The point I am trying to get to, is that people form sterotypes...according to some, if you are a student in an university, then you should be totally nonchalant and not take the time and effort to dress well or maintain your appearance...if you do so, then oddly enough, you might be considered to be a rebel ! And this is among the people that the rest of the civilised world considers to be rebellious ! Tolerances for being different are very low in this community that is supposed to be most liberal ! This thought of mine, of course, is echoed in another post of mine regarding abortion !

I also noticed that Unix and Linux gurus seem to have an unkempt appearance - ragged, long beards and bad choice in clothes and even at times, personal hygiene. Gamers and game developers sport long hair and ponytails and wear off-beat clothes...then there are the business majors who try to dress in a dapper fashion...if you wish to break in to any of these communities and do not fit the ress code or behavioural criteria, then perhaps you are a rebel ?

Of course, this goes back to a question that keeps rising up in my mind on facing such hypocritical attitudes from people (and as the picture shows)...
How does it matter ?

Economics of hatred.

Jane Galt writes about an interesting economic idea - the economics of hatred ! She quotes work by Edward Gleason.

So, an economist's definition of hatred...
"is the willingness to pay a price to inflict harm on others." In laboratory settings, social scientists have observed subjects playing the "ultimatum game," in which, say, with a total kitty of $10, Player A offers to split the cash with player B. If B accepts A's offer, they divide the money accordingly, but if B rejects A's offer, both players get nothing. "In thousands of trials around the world, with different stakes, people reject offers of 30 percent [$3 in our example] or less," says Glaeser. "So typically, people offer 40 or 50 percent. But a conventional economic model would say that B should accept a split of even one cent versus $9.99, since you are still better off with a penny than nothing." (If a computer, rather than a human, does the initial split, player B is much more likely to accept an unfair split”a confirmation of research conducted by professors at the Kennedy School of Government. . .)

Clearly, the B player is willing to suffer financial loss in order to take revenge on an A player who is acting unfairly. "You don't poke around in the dark recesses of human behavior and not find vengeance," Glaeser says. "It's pretty hard to find a case of murder and not find vengeance at the root of it."

Another interesting point...

The psychological literature, he found, defines hatred as an emotional response we have to threats to our survival or reproduction. "It's related to the belief that the object of hatred has been guilty of atrocities in the past and will be guilty of them in the future," he says. "Economists have nothing to tell psychologists about why individuals hate. But group-level hatred has its own logic that always involves stories about atrocities. These stories are frequently false. As [Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels said, hatred requires repetition, not truth, to be effective.

Then there is the mention of the race-based violence against black people in late 19th century...all of which was based on propoganda by rich people to avoid the spreading of wealth amongst them.

So, finally what it comes down to, in my opinion, is that the reasons are not always evolutionary or natural or a fear of being can also be individual greed...ok, there might be some that argue that greed is also a facet of survival, but then again, is it always the case ? I mean, is greed for everything based on the survival instinct ?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Artificial muscles.

Ray H Baughman has created artificial muscles ! He is a professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas. An excerpt...
Dr. Baughman's advance, reported in the current issue of the journal Science, is that his new muscle fibers double as fuel cells. Just like real muscles, they power themselves instead of relying on external electrical power. Chemical energy also delivers a greater bang.
And the details...
He and his colleagues have made two types of artificial muscles. One is a nickel-titanium alloy coated with platinum, which causes the fuel — currently methanol, but hydrogen or alcohol could work, too — to react with oxygen, producing heat. The metal shrinks; the muscle flexes. The artificial muscle can apply 100 times as much force as real muscle.
The second artificial muscle, currently less powerful, is made of a sheet of nanotubes, tiny but superstrong cylindrical molecules of carbon. The reaction of fuel and oxygen releases electrical charges that repel each other and cause the nanotube sheet to expand.

Life !

A discussion has been brewing on Ek Cup Coffee about abortion for a couple of weeks now.

Meeta, Sarat, DC, Radha and a host of others (not necessarily online) at our daily coffee roundup have come down on the side of favouring abortion. Considering that we're all academics used to a liberal life and open to discussion, I thought that my personal views about being pro-life would have been appreciated as being different and at best a point of interesting discussion...but what a rude shock I got from a variety of people...somehow this another issue (that of my hatred for tomatoes...but that's another post in itself) showed me human characteristics that I have never experienced before.

At an earlier point in my life, I might have been what some consider pro-choice as well. I was all for the couple making the choice and it seemed logical enough for me. But certain incidents in life (and quite earth shattering to put it mildly...but won't go into the details here...hopefully the readers appreciate my sense of privacy) made me respect life...human life...a great deal. This is the reason why I against euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, suicide, murder, etc. In my opinion, the only reasons for killing other individuals, is self-defence, and the only reason to perform an abortion, is if the mother's life is at risk. And these are emotions I feel about strongly...and they often been brought to the forefront from time to time, as in the Terry Schiavo case, as in the cases of the death penalties that have been handed out around the country and the world, and also in the raging pro-life and pro-choice debates.

I have noticed that many people take it personally when I air these the community that I am in at present, I can safely vouch for the fact that I am in the abject minority ! But then again, at a university, we all think that we should be liberal and against the establishment, etc. And the fact that pro-life proponents are usually religious, right-wing fanatics who believe they are doing good due to a higher calling, does not help my case. Interestingly, I have never mentioned that any of these views or ideas should be enforced upon people...what most people forget in the heat of the moment, is that I have always stated that these are my opinions and ideas and I don't intend to impose them on people. Every single time, folks feel like they have to try to mend the errors of my ways and convert me to their thinking ! And the funny part is, most times, these are the very people who claim that individual choice is supreme and oppose religious conversions vehemently ! This dichitomy of thought astonishes me at times...and leads me into an angry from which I cannot extricate myself easily at times. And the funny part is, I am not always angry at the people or their views...but at my inability to make them understand my position and the fact that I am not imposing my views upon them. I always prefix the words, "in my opinion..." before I make such statements, and yet these are conveniently ignored. People repeat the same arguments over and over to try to convince me, even if I have replied to these arguments multiple times before...perhaps in anger, we are all one...there are no sides...all of us go into a downward spiral and can't extricate ourselves !

Somehow people don't seem to take up the reasons why I have taken such a position. I have stated that I hold human life sacred...they refuse to take this explanation and launch into derogatory retorts...
"it is not his can he know ?"
"he is just a fundamentalist !"
and so on...this also astonishes me. If I have just stated that I value life, then why is there a doubt about my intentions ?

So in the case of abortion, instead of replying with answers such as...
"I believe that the child growing inside a woman's body is human and alive, and it can dream and feel pain. I also believe that it is more than just an appendature of the woman's is more than is another individual that cannot defend/speak for itself and we are extinguishing its rights..."
if I had said...
"You are murdering a defenceless baby by hacking it to pieces or smashing its skull !"
would that have been a fitting reply ? Would that have forced a drastic image on my detractors and made them keep quiet ? Perhaps ! But that is not what I want...I do not want them to "shut up" or change their views or anything...I do not mind having a logical discussion, until the very moment that someone crosses that line and takes it personal (but that is for another post entirely !)...

There are other arguments that are made for abortion...
"if the woman was ready to have an abortion, then she never really wanted the kid and it would prevent unwanted children from being born and reduce crime, etc..."
For this I have just one response...CRAP ! If someone does not want the child, then they could put it up for abortion, or give it to foster homes and the myriad other options that there are available in a country like the US, where you know that they will make a serious attempt to care for the children. In the same vein, we can just state that we execute deformed, sick, elderly individuals as well as the criminals...after all, they're a burden for society right ? How about orphans ? Well, they would grow up to become criminals and gangsters and the kind...this train of thought has only one logical conclusion...and many others have wandered down that path...A certain Adolf Hilter comes to mind !

So, I would like to end with a statement by the great Isaac Asimov that sums up quite a bit of what I think...
"Violence is the last resort of the incompetent."
This captures the essence of my thoughts...we are performing violent acts against those unborn children, against the people on death row and the people whom we take off life support ! Just because it is state-sponsored, or allowed by law, doesn't mean that it is right...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Living maps.

American scientists have created a map of the Americas, using DNA strands !
The mini-map measures just a few hundred nanometres (billionths of a metre) across, smaller even than some bacteria - a scale of 1:200 trillion.
Of course the whole process is not only for aesthetic purposes...
They tell the journal their technique could find uses in the emerging field of nanotechnology, which aims to develop novel materials, devices and systems by manipulating individual atoms and molecules.
Other images have also been created...

Men's bill of rights !

No taxation without ejaculation !

Apparently the National Centre for Men filed a suit in Michigan to make a man's right to make a reproductive choice ! From their website...
Our lawsuit will be filed on behalf of Matt Dubay, 25, a computer technician from Saginaw, Michigan. The state of Michigan is seeking to force Matt to pay child support for a child he never intended to bring into the world. Matt insists that the child’s mother repeatedly assured him she could not get pregnant and, also, Matt says that she knew he did not want to have a child with her. Matt is asking for the reproductive choice he would have had if he were “Mattilda.”
Some "suggested amendments" to the bill of rights...
Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of mandatory parenthood, or prohibiting the free avoidance thereof; or abridging the freedom of masturbation, or of non-procreative mutual gratification; or the right of the people peaceably to cuddle, and to petition one's partner for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II
A well-regulated libido, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to sleep and merely bare arms shall not be infringed.

Amendment III
No penis shall in time of peace be quartered in any vagina, without the consent of the owner of the penis, nor in time of excitement, but in a manner to be prescribed by the owner.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their penises and testicles, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no dependents shall issue, but upon ejaculation, possibly accompanied by oath or affirmation, and particularly into a place and a person to be adequately researched.

Amendment V
No man shall be held to answer for a pregnancy, unless on a presentment of evidence of paternity; nor shall he be twice put in jeopardy of owing child support, unless he failed to learn the first time; nor shall he be compelled to bear wetness against himself, without due process of consent; nor shall private parts be taken for his pubic use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all paternity proceedings, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public test, by an impartial laboratory technician of the State and district wherein the intercourse shall have been committed, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the wetness against him; and to have the assistance of men's rights groups for his defense.

Amendment VII
In sales of condoms, where the value in controversy shall not exceed twenty dollars, the right of purchase and diligent use by a man shall be preserved, and no failure to exercise that right shall be otherwise re-litigated in any Court of the United States.

Amendment VIII
Excessive child support shall not be required, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted, such as pregnancy, delivery, recovery, breastfeeding, diaper changing, obtaining parental leave, arranging or administering child care, and getting up at night or staying home from work when the child is ill.

Amendment IX
The enumeration of these rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by men, such as the right to petition for, finance the development of, purchase, and use male oral contraception.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to women by nature or the Constitution are reserved to their dates respectively, or to the couple.

I am all for it !

The class divide in politics.

What distinguishes a Republican from a Democrat ? An interesting op-ed piece by E J Donnie Jr. in the Washington Post, titled "What kind of hater are you ?" tries to understand what drives people to vote one way or the other. According to him...
Democrats see Republicans as a collection of pampered rich people who selfishly seek to cut their own taxes, allied with religious fundamentalists who want to use government power to impose a narrow brand of Christianity on everyone else.
Republicans see Democrats as godless, overeducated elitists who sip lattes as they look down their noses at the moral values of "real Americans" in "the heartland" and ally themselves with "special interest groups" that benefit from "big government."
Interestingly the economically priviliged voted overwhelmingly for President Bush in the last election! But, what of the argument that the so-called "wealthier", swank states like California, New York, Massachussets, Washington, etc. vote traitionally democratic ?

He cites the recently published but popular paper titled "Rich State, Poor State, Red State, Blue State : What's the matter with Connecticut ?" which makes some interesting observations...

Yes, Bush carried a lot of poor states -- but with heavy support from the rich people who lived in them. The class war is being waged more fiercely in the Republican states than in the Democratic states. The income divide is especially sharp in the South, where it is reinforced by a strong racial divide.

"In poor states," Gelman and his colleagues write, "rich people are much more likely than poor people to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, but in rich states (such as Connecticut), income has almost no correlation with vote preference. . . . In poor states, rich people are very different from poor people in their political preferences. But in rich states, they are not."

Astounding is it not ? Well, the above claim seems obvious now that one has read it...but honestly...did you really think about it before you read the above paragraphs ?

The following was an amazing "discovery" for me as well...
The paper's authors also take a nice swipe at the media, arguing that reporters tend to overemphasize the role of rich Democrats in elections. Why? Journalists, they write, "noticed a pattern (richer counties supporting the Democrats) that is concentrated in the states where the journalists live," notably the environs of Washington and New York. The class polarization in such deep red states as Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi goes largely unreported.
Now that does explain a lot for me...well, it seems to be prevalent now...the media bias colouring their reporting and the public being taken for a ride...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sleep !

A friend sent me a wonderful poem that captures the ideal mood for not just me, but probably all graduate students worldwide...
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth
Where the two worlds touch
The door is round and open.

Don't go back to sleep.

by "Rumi"
Except maybe, that for all of us, the last line should be...
What a wonderful time to fall asleep !

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Authentic" British dish... Chicken Tikka Masala, according to British politician and former Secretary of State Robin Cook !

As one popular legend goes...
it was created by a bemused chef at a Bangladeshi restaurant in London, when an obstinate customer insisted that Tandoori chicken be made with gravy ! He just dumped a can of Campbell's tomato soup all over it and cooked it a bit and returned it to the delighted customer.
Here's the "official" description, as much as there is one...
Chicken Tikka Masala is Chicken Tikka in a masala gravy (commonly referred to as a sauce). There is no standard recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, but most are variants of a tomato gravy (using puree or even ketchup) with cream or coconut cream and various common spices.
Apparently, it has become so "Indian" that almost every Indian restaurant serves it worldwide (well, except maybe the vegetarian ones), and is supposed to have replaced Tandoori chicken as the flagship Indian dish, although, obviously not of authentic Indian origin! Well, I guess that Indian techniques went into its preparation, but you know what I mean...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Real-life Bonds !

British police is now beginning to use a Bond-style pen that helps cut down on paperwork and give officers more time to carck downon crime...or eat doughtnuts.

An excerpt...
The pen works like a normal ballpoint but it has a camera under the nib, which records what the officer has written. The data is then sent via a mobile phone to a central force computer where it is automatically converted into text.

Alien invasion in Kerala !

Kerala was privy to a onslaught of red rain in late July 2001. Initially it was expected that the cause was some red dust in the atmosphere...then the equation changed...the structure of the dust, turned out to be cellular !

A scientist from Kerala, Godfrey Louis believes that it was actually alien cellular life that hitched a ide on a comet and then fell to the earth as the comet disintegrated in the earth's atmosphere. He has even written a paper about it. The abstract of the paper...
A red rain phenomenon occurred in Kerala, India starting from 25th July 2001, in which the rainwater appeared coloured in various localized places that are spread over a few hundred kilometers in Kerala. Maximum cases were reported during the first 10 days and isolated cases were found to occur for about 2 months. The striking red colouration of the rainwater was found to be due to the suspension of microscopic red particles having the appearance of biological cells. These particles have no similarity with usual desert dust. An estimated minimum quantity of 50,000 kg of red particles has fallen from the sky through red rain. An analysis of this strange phenomenon further shows that the conventional atmospheric transport processes like dust storms etc. cannot explain this phenomenon. The electron microscopic study of the red particles shows fine cell structure indicating their biological cell like nature. EDAX analysis shows that the major elements present in these cell like particles are carbon and oxygen. Strangely, a test for DNA using Ethidium Bromide dye fluorescence technique indicates absence of DNA in these cells. In the context of a suspected link between a meteor airburst event and the red rain, the possibility for the extraterrestrial origin of these particles from cometary fragments is discussed.
Reactions about this vary...some excerpts are...first the favourable view...
‘If they’re not living cells, I don’t know what they are,’’ said Milton Wainwright, a microbiologist at the University of Sheffield, UK quoted in New Scientist. ‘‘Maybe this is the beginning of something amazing.’
...and then the opposing view...
A point that goes in favour of sceptics is that these "biological forms" do not have DNA and there cannot be living cells without DNA. Some scientists have proposed a theorey that its blood from bats or pollen from trees.
This apparently links to the panspermia theory - one that believes life on earth came from space, and then seeded earth. Although the jury is still out on that one.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Real-time flight new levels !

Some amazing new can view aircraft landing and taking off in real-time, courtesy of Google Earth ! In the words from the website...
Be sure to zoom in towards each field and tilt the camera up from the runways to watch them land !
Original link via No Se Da.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Europe divided...

After the cartoon controversy that started in Europe and spread across the world, the new divide...Vodka wars !

The Polish, supported by the Danish (they just can't stay off any controversy can they?), Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Finns, Swedish and the Germans, have a complaint...they want the promiscuous definition of Vodka to be tightened...
The Polish side says that vodka should only be defined as an alcoholic beverage derived from cereals or potatoes. Any loosening of this definition, argues Poland, leads to ingredients such as grape marc being used, which result in a final product that has different ‘organoleptic characteristics
Hmmm..."organoleptic characteristics", is probably fancy speak for "different tastse".

Apparently Hungary and the Brits do not want any such definition...the Poles, though, have a very valid question...
why vodka should have a more watered down definition than, say, whisky or rum
I mean, after all, V does come before W, doesn't it ?

Original link via Pajamas Media.

Cross-posted on Ek Cup Coffee.

New "Axis of Evil" recruit !

The new member of the axis of evil - Georgetown University. Apparently they now have a course on...get this...
How to build a nuclear bomb !
It is part of a year-long course titled "Nuclear Technologies and Security" !

And the response from Washington...
"It definitely sounds like there's a proliferation concern there," a somewhat startled senior White House official said after hearing about the program.
Hilarious to say the least...and in their very own backyard...for those that are not familiar with Georgetown University, it is located in Washington DC !


I am a member of the Minstrels mailing list, and I got this gem on it today...
"Looking Out"

It must be odd
to be a minority
he was saying.
I looked around
and didn't see any.
So I said
it must be.

-- Mitsuye Yamada

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Ode to Hangover"

by Dean Young.
"Ode to Hangover"

Hangover, you drive me into the yard
to dig holes as a way of working through you
as one might work through a sorry childhood
by riding the forbidden amusement park rides
as a grown-up until puking. Alas, I feel like
something spit out by a duck, a duck
other ducks are ashamed of when I only
tried to protect myself by projecting myself
on hilarity's big screen at the party
where one nitwit reminisced about the 39¢
a pound chicken of his youth and another said,
Don't go to Italy in June, no one goes to Italy in June.
Protect myself from boring advice,
from the boring past and the boring present
at the expense of an unnauseating future:
now. But look at these newly-socketed lilacs!
Without you, Hangover, they would still be
trapped in their buckets and not become
the opposite of vomit just as you, Hangover,
are the opposite of Orgasm. Certainly
you go on too long and in your grip
one thinks, How to have you never again?
whereas Orgasm lasts too short some seconds
and immediately one plots to repeat her.
After her I could eat a car but here's
a pineapple/clam pizza and Chinese milkshake
yum but Hangover, you make me aspire
to a saltine. Both of you need to lie down,
one with a cool rag across the brow, shutters
drawn, the other in a soft jungle gym, yahoo,
this puzzle has 15 thousand solutions!
Here's one called Rocking Horse
and how about Sunshine in the Monkey Tree.
Chug, chug, goes the arriving train,
those on the platform toss their hats and scarves
and cheer, the president comes out of the caboose
to declare, The war is over! Corks popping,
people mashing people, knocking over melon stands,
ripping millenniums of bodices. Hangover,
rest now, you'll have lots to do later
inspiring abstemious philosophies and menial tasks
that too contribute to the beauty of this world.
Original link via Slate.