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Unlike’ly

Facebook has a like button. The like button is rampant, and gives you the possiblity of liking pretty much anything, from someone’s wedded life to possibly thier terminal cancer diagnosis. And once you like something, much unlike you’d expect, it gives you an option of “unliking” the same thing.

So I wonder, what it is to unlike something. It is pretty much unlike any other form of un- based negation: you can undress someone who is dress, someone unwell can recover and become well; some stuff that were once a luxury and unnecessary have now become necessary; and many went from being employed to the un-prefixed version of it when recession hit them.

But to “unlike” something is to redefine English, unlike any other common misplaced word. It’s so commonplace that we don’t even realise that instead of saying, “I don’t like this anymore,” we decide to “unlike this.” Also, you can “unlike” something you once liked but just don’t appreciate anymore without necessarily disliking it. Too much for your liking? Go find something unlike this then.

P.S.: I do strongly support Krish Ashok’s suggestions to Indianise the Like button, unlike Grammar Nazis who believe in changing Aashai mugam to Aasai mugam.

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Thodappa kattai!

Now, this might sound like an abuse to anyone like me who’s grown up in Chennai Madras watching thamizh cinema, and I am confident Samosapedia would agree with me. What, they don’t? Bloody buffaloes, they deserve a thodappa kattai. Anyhow, I am not here to abuse anyone, or take any. In fact, this blog post has nothing to do with thodappa kattai in an abusive connotation.

It all started when my friend asked me last week, “Vignesh, in India, you don’t have aspirateur?” to which I responded with a proud, “why of course we do! We even have one at my parent’s place.” And then comes in response, “then why don’t people use it? I thought it didn’t exist in India. People use that thing, why?”

What thing, you might wonder. It is none other than the Indian broom stick, or jhaadu, or thodappa kattai. This blog post is just about its history, geography, therapy, and more! But while I kept thinking “oh this would make an amazing blog post,” I had to respond to my friend who was standing wondering what great logic millions of Indians share about the thodappa kattai. So I put on my thinking hat:

Think baby think

And I tried to come up with an explanation; many in fact:

  • No no, in India there’s lot of dust on the floor. And a vacuum cleaner can’t clear it out. Neither does a broom.
  • It’s good for health. Really?! Stay bent down, screw up your back, very nicely put.
  • We use the vacuum cleaner for removing cobwebs in remote corners of the wall & ceilings. So, that bans you from using it on the floor?
  • It’s cheaper to use brooms. You have the darn vacuum cleaner at home already. Why won’t you use it? What’re you trying to conserve, electricity?
  • We have servant maids at home. So you can’t train them to be more efficient.

And then it had to be, “we’re just used to it.” Finally, an answer that even I’m sick of. That’s a sure shot conversation winner. But after some time-wasting with google, I figured it is perhaps a style statement. BigStock certainly thinks so:

Thodapamista! There’s a whole series of photos by the way. Visit the page and you’d see how trendy it is!

I think I can actually go on and write a whole new entry about this series of photos. Thin sleeveless blouses, matching handle to the broomstick, kitch colours, it’s perfect for the common Indian bride-seeking boy! Oh darn, I’m deflecting again. Alright, as promised, I present to you, the history, geography, and therapy of it.

History: well I know it comes from the store. Why does it matter who invented it? If you want one, you can buy from Bison Cleaning Products Pvt. Ltd. And their brand name is in fact consitent with my earlier abuse to samosapedia. Another interesting fun fact about the Indian broom is that you have to tune it first. Because the new broom releases more dust than it cleans. In tamizh, we term it poo kottaradu (meaning the falling flowers). I’ve seen the maid in our house scratch the newly purchased broom against a coarse surface until it wears out. Just beats me!

Geography: it seems it isn’t limited to the Indian household. This England-raised Irish Liz Scully woman has extensively written in her smitten dust trilogy, in three parts, namely part one, part two and part three, on India, dusting and maids in India dusting.

Therapy: See photo on top, if it doesn’t help, buy yourself a broom and hit yourself with it. Slipper would also do. Make sure it’s torn. If needed, I will provide you with worn out slipper.

The new face of spam

Here’s how Wikipedia defines spam:

Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately.

And here’s how wigs&muscles defines spam:

A misunderstood evil.

In case you didn’t get the huge hyperlink, please read the post here: http://wigsandmuscles.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/spam-a-misunderstood-evil/

Now that, in my books is one way of spam. “How?” you might think. Well what is that Nigerian prince or those estranged widows from Ivory coast going to do with all the money they have? Not to mention all those ways by which you can grow your penis longer than the Great Wall of China. Anyway, here is the essence of this post: with evolving technology comes evolving spam. Some, due to creeping around technology, but most due to our sheer brilliant ignorance. And we, as Indians I think very proudly go on with it (count me in, count me in!). Digress not.

So, spam. The inspiration to this post came up when I saw the fifth post on facebook in which people mentioned they wished to stay connected “privately” with their friends and family. In fact looking at that I remembered there are a number of letters I am to send all my close friends and family with whom I do intend to stay connected at many levels. Focus, focus. I second College Humor’s take on the issue, very nicely put: facebook laws for idiots.

So we were talking about ignorance. We often do things out of ignorance, and spread spam without even attempting to understand if it is actually true: be it promoting Child Line India to be a waste food collecting gang; or like all those doctors who are waiting for our likes and shares to save little children’s lives; or delivering justice to people who committed big crimes. The reason doesn’t matter, it probably gives us a sense of accomplishment in saying “I did my share to help some random person.” And computers are just the perfect tools for spreading them, as would SMBC agree with me.

These are, I am sure, the new kind of spam. Spam, to me, is any unsolicited useless piece of information that gives you no earthly pleasure. Since our inboxes are well filtered by our email service providers, spam has also probably evolved: to eat into our ignorance. I wonder what the spam of the future is going to be (thinking along with my extinct buddy):

Image

I have a problem. I get distracted easily. Very easily. And my attention span is becoming shorter than that of a goldfish. Speaking of goldfish, it seems it isn’t true that their memory lasts only five seconds – ask wikipedia. Speaking of wikipedia, it’s amazing how they run that website without advertisements, and how something free could have so much of reliable content. Speaking of content, if only their contribution system was more user-friendly and didn’t look like a geeky computer programming page, I would have also contributed. But yeah, I shouldn’t talk about giving reasons – I’m just lazy. And now I’m wondering how my line of thought is drifting so fast! Much like how Sheldon Cooper explains his train of thoughts. And then how he dreams of trains in the episode “The Herb Garden Germination” (The Big Bang Theory s04e20):

Sheldon: I’ve been thinking about Dr. Green’s efforts to make science palatable for the masses.
Leonard: What about it?
Sheldon: Nothing. I’ve just been thinking about it. Now I’m thinking about fractal equations. Now I’m thinking about the origins of the phrase ‘train of thought’. Now I’m thinking about trains.
Sheldon: Now I’m thinking about Jello. . . . Oh! Back to trains. Whoo whooooo!

So you see my point? I get distracted quite easily. In fact, I drift away while talking, which would be much seconded by my dear friends. I do, however, in most cases, come back to where I broke off. So why this article: distraction is probably what keeps my mind running! So here’s a nicer example of what pushed me into facebook in the middle of a working Friday. Okay, don’t laugh at me saying who works on a Friday in France – I’ve had my bad experiences, but here’s what happened this Friday:

It all started when a friend of mine asked me if I had access to a scientific article. This one, to be precise:

Image

Well, we didn’t have access. So I thought I’d ask some friends of mine who might perhaps. My trusted Trio – well, the three people I keep bothering every second day with some favour or another – one from a cold Sweden, and a couple of Etas-Uni-ers. And they didn’t either. I could have closed the story then, but never give up, right? So I looked at the article again, and noticed that the authors are from Cornell. Wondering whether the University might have subscription, I went into facebook to look for any friends I might have at the Unviersity – none presently there. But then I thought while I’m at it, I might as well see what’s happening on facebook. And then stumbled upon this picture on facebook:

Icky nonsenseYes, it’s one of those pictures that you cannot un-see once you’ve seen. And my friend is good at making sure he hits as many people as possible with such atrocities. And to add to the distraction, I had to see a comment about how that resembles someone who’s eaten too much of noodles. So that got me reminded of the movie se7en – and the first crime in it – murder for the sin of gluttony. And then a few more videos on the movie, how Kevin Spacey surrenders, and gets shot by Pitt, and a couple of other youtube videos on Spacey – and then I remembered electrophoresis. Got back. Ah work, if only you would accommodate all this loss of focus!

P.S.: This blog post took over an hour to type – it included a skype talk in the middle, some motivation from friend to complete a blog post saying that it isn’t energy consuming, and 30-40 mins of wikipedia, google, and wikipedia on google. I think it’s time I call it a night. Before it hits morning. Sigh!

Yes, I know a lot of friends who read the Times of India for entertainment. My good friend Mashank Shasaldan in fact gains kicks out of finding the creepiest articles, invariably lascivious in nature, and pings me on Gtalk going “dude, check this out.”

The news did catch my eye today, for one, Ajmal Kasab was hanged today. I’m sure you can read enough in the blogsphere about what his emotions were before he was hung, but I sought for the more traditional news channel, and bumped into this article on how secretively he was finished. They’re sending letters by courier to his family. Seriously?! I wonder what the letter would say:

Dear Smt. & Shri. Kasab Sr.,

Your son Ajmal was caught four years ago for killing a lot of innocent civilans, and setting a few buildings on fire. Justice has been served. He has been hanged until death today, in secrecy. FYI.

Regards,

Secret Justice system of India.

But what was more interesting was the comments that followed, a few of which were very carefully penned, empathising with the families of all those lives he is said to have claimed. But before I could read a couple of them, my attention was attracted towards big badges that TOI gives its dear readers. There are influencers, word smiths, networkers, movie buffs, etc., a detailed wooing elaborated right on their website:

Image

So without wasting more time into even trying to understand what each of those “rewards” mean, I am going straight to the skewed comment that caught my stray eye. I saw Mr. I am Nobody from the United States Of INDIA (yes mind the upper-case emphasis to patriotism). He quite represents the quintessential abusive anti-islamic commentator, if I may. I’m positive that he would answer any question of mine with his sentence beginning with the clause “I can able to”, but I’m not going to judge him either. So here’s one of his eye-candy comments:

From what Indiatimes suggests, his comment has an ‘influence’ value of 7 on a scale of <unknown>, and he is a “wordsmith”, and has a network badge because he has 76 “followers”. God save him. Even if it be Allah. Because what I see from his posts is that he is anti-islamic, rather quite baseless, and what got me laughing was when I scrolled over one of these badges for an explanation:

That thing’s (I’m sorry Mr. Nobody, I can’t imagine you are human anymore) name in this page is “Pedophile Mohammed” – yes, spelt correctly. I can understand you can’t screen each comment ToI, but you have to get your things in place. And this definitely isn’t the first article I’ve seen where the comments section flow in with abuses. Please put in a screening filter mechanism before comments are so highly propagated, or fucking close the comments section. Sigh!

Anyway, this wasn’t what got me blogging after nearly two years of silence. There’ve been a lot of factors – a change in my lifestyle, thinking, etc., that’s gotten me to write again.

And before I finish, it’s Nick‘s birthday. And one thing I know that he enjoys is writing. The guy has a passion for it. Nick, I’m dedicating (not this post – it’s an excuse for something not even remotely readable) “my return to writing” to you. Happy birthday dude! I hope you have a great year ahead!

Far into foreign land

I’d like all of you to read the title with a classic tamizh accent, hence reading faar-into faarin.

This bootiphul post (or so I assume it shall turn out in the end), is dedicated to all those friends of mine who have bravely ventured into the western world (not just the U.S.A. any more) and have become a class of people whom I’ve termed <term-under-construction>. So here’s how you know you have friends far into foreign land (a little guide).

1. You get added on skype and make more video talks (thereby seeing more of them) than you did all your life you knew them.

2. You see albums of places unheard of (so far), in the likes of Williamsburg on the WabashKirkstall Abbey, and Burlington Coat Factory!

3. You get updates on the weather forcast.

Ooh! You knowvaa? It is minus two here, and it’s not even winter. Apparently fall itself is colder than usual this year. I don’t know how I am going to survive yaar . . .

(quite an oxymoron, to have both the aa suffix and yaar in the same quote – but I suppose that covers dialects all over India – top to bottom ;))

4. You see some of them relinquish their religion

5. You see pictures of birthday parties celebrated in style, with Indian music being of core attraction

Cartoon brilliantly drawn on Microsoft paint, by me. 😀

6. You hear their reminiscing of simple Indian things

Oh how I wish I could eat the parathas at the dhaba outside college, drink chikkoo shake from that juice shop, give clothes at the laundry outside, get my hair done for less than 10 euros, . . .

7. You see their patriotism rise ten fold *after* they’ve fled the country

Yes, that’s the Indian tricolour, a bit garbled though. Picture in colour courtesy Kolor.

8. They celebrate events that were once totally foreign to you (and even to them)

Easter island picture modified from Marek Zochowski’s here.

9. They attend Halloween parties without costumes

Disclaimer: I’ve been through most of these myself, so do not misinterpret this post for a rant about my being within the country – I’m loving every bit of it (well most of it, at least)!

Furthermore, it’s amazing to have friends abroad while you’re still within the country. It gives you a fair enough exposure to how things happen outside, and especially if you’re in the scientific community, it fetches you publications! Thank you all, for your continuing support! 😀

Finally, my apologies to not having posted anything in almost a month. November began with much hope in my blog-life, and I thought that I would be posting more often. However, some amount of logical discussions with my boss drove me into resetting my priorities. I’ve been genuinely busy with my work, and blogging by all means is secondary to a few more important things (my own priorities by the way). No these aren’t some paruppu peter statements, and I shall post whenever I find time.

It’s a noble Nobel prize

Spoiler: I am not discussing this year’s peace prize. If you really really want to know how Obama did it, read Ramesh Srivats’ or take a look at Jai Iyer’s. Since it has been given away, I see no point in going on ranting about it. Not that this is the first controversy over peace anyway!

And since controversies always hog the limelight, the rest of the awards given away this year was almost hidden. Being the bio-geek that I am, I am directly jumping over to the prizes in Chemistry and Medicine this year. Two reasons why:

  • Nobel prizes in both chemistry and medicine were awarded to research carried out on bio(techno?)logy. One set of people for deciphering the ribosome structure & function, and another one for discovering the telomerase.
  • What? Wasn’t that a good enough reason? Here’s number two, then: I am somehow not all that attracted towards controversies – everyone writes about them, and a lot do way better than I do (the two referred in the opening paragraph for examples). Plus, literature is just beyond my simple mind.

Now that’s settled. So coming back to this year’s two prizes in discussion, both the groups’ got their prizes much after their work was done. I’ve read about the structure of the ribosome in every book prescribed, and I was just ignorant when we had our teachers rambling on about telomerases.

GEEK ALERT. For the benefit of those with a non-bio background, here’s your lesson:

  • The body’s made up of many tiny little cells, and each cell has tiny molecules called proteins which basically do all the work: talk to other cells, break down the food you eat, take care of harmful things that enter your body and stuff like that. So within a cell, proteins need to be manufactured, and these ribosomes are factories in which they’re synthasised.
  • I’m assuming everyone who’s seen Mani Ratnam’s Aayuda ezhuthu would be aware of Surya speaking of DNA, chromosomes, XX, XY, blah et. al. So basically all *information* about you (like the colour of your eye to your left/right hand habit) is stored in your DNA (a copy of which is present in every cell in your body), and telomerases are a certain type of proteins (refer previous paragraph) which make sure the DNA size is maintained.
  • See, it isn’t all that cryptic!

Ah, yet another diversion. So moving on, like I was saying: both these awards have been given away way after the work was actually done. Why’s there such a lag in awarding the prizes? Was it because no one’s done anything in the past one year or does it take so much time to recognise work? It seems that people need to stand the test of time on top of their achievements before the most prestigious award is bestowed upon them (the *most prestigious* tag still intrigues me). And in certain cases, history has shown us that certain times even several nominations are insufficient to win the prize (this one’s an interesting article I came across on the Nobel prize site itself). Furthermore, awarding the prizes posthumously has been of great debate. So with much ifs and buts running around the Nobels, what’re we all hyping it up for?!

P.S.: This post’s long been sitting in the drafts bin of my dashboard. I just never managed to complete it till the point where I lost track of where I was heading. My apologies.