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Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Note to all our culinarily gifted friends: multiply by two when you're cooking for this blog. 

And you can use this handy Recipe Adjuster Program to help you out.

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Googling Googol 

Edward Kasner, the mathematician, asked his little nephew for a name for a very large number (10 raised to the 100th power - or the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros), and little Milton famously answered "Googol."
Now, it is part of net lore (the official Google version is here) that the company was to be called Googol, but thanks to some goof up at the VC's office, it became the name we love to verb (Google frowns on this, incidentally).
Anyway.
Now that Google is on the brink of its IPO, Kasner's relatives are apparently seeing a googol zeros.
Here's a snippet from an article in the Baltimore Sun:
# As you know, Google now plans to make an initial public offering and expects to raise $2.7 billion. Does that fact make you more determined to be compensated?
Peri Fleisher (Kasner's great-niece) You don't need to give us anything. Just let us participate as insiders on the IPO. I don't think it's a lot to ask.
# Might you consider legal action?
Peri Fleisher I don't know if there is anything we can do. A cousin is going to start exploring that. I don't want to come across as threatening. Most of the people in our family are pretty intellectual and no one in our family has been really aggressive. But again, we're not wimps or wallflowers. If we do have a legal right, we're certainly going to exercise that. And now is the time. Google is big and popular now, but who knows what's going to happen when they go public. There are other companies are on their tails. Now is the time to capitalize.
# Do you use Google as a search engine?
Peri Fleisher I do. I also use Yahoo. After I was interviewed on [National Public Radio's] Talk of the Nation, I Googled myself, but it didn't come up. When I Yahooed myself, it came up immediately. It took longer for Google to post it.
Aside from risking Google's ire by using the G-verb, Ms Fleisher is also being slammed on the net, with varying degrees of bile and spelling quality. Here, here, here

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We think we'll start Zigzacklyster 

First there was Friendster (and the other YASNSs like Ryze, Orkut, LinkedIn, Ecademy and so on and on and on. And even reactions like Introvertster. Now, ladies, gentlemen, bloggers and blogreaders, there is dogster. And soon, Hurree and Partner will be happy to hear, there'll be Catster and Mousester and maybe PetRockster. And how about Hamsterster? (This just in: Da Goog tells us that there is already *shudder* a hamsterster.)

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Junk in the mail 

Ooh. We just found something that took us back decades. Remember those ads in the back of the phirang comic books? The X-ray vision glasses, the fake dog poo, the sea monkeys... Ever wondered what the products were really like? Check out Mail Order Mysteries. In fact check out the entire site.

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Call me a shlimazl, or even a klloshar, but i have this altahmam, this saudade for gezellig. But i've never indulged in selathirupavar, and so, shaddup, pochemuchka. i mean, i am an ilunga, but don't push it.
Today Translations asked a thousand people on its network to nominate words that were problematic to translate, and then asked 50 of them to vote for just one of the top contenders. The winner was Ilunga (Tshiluba word for a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time; to tolerate it a second time; but never a third time. Note: Tshiluba is a Bantu language spoken in south-eastern Congo, and Zaire). The ten English words rated hardest to translate: plenipotentiary, gobbledegook, serendipity, poppycock, googly, Spam, whimsy, bumf, chuffed, and kitsch.
Via Boing Boing by way of Backward City (Go there to see an interesting comments thread - but don't forget to come back here and add your own! This blog is sure Indian readers will have at least a few word to add aside from the Tamil selathirupavar, which means a certain kind of truancy. What kind i wonder?).

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Stick your thumb into this. 

The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.
That's the Guinness World Records’ standard in the category of mobile phone text messaging. The old world record was 67 seconds, but young Singaporean Kimberly Yeo had the 26 words down in 43.24 seconds. This blog predicts an Indian record-holder soon. (Oh, we managed 93 seconds first try, with one error.) [via Boing Boing and the Bartman.]

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Friday, June 25, 2004
For the diaspora 

Your Man In India, "a concierge services provider in India for people worldwide." And no, this blog doesn't make any money from referrals. Not principles, the blog assures you, just laziness.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

To: Prime Minister of India
Cc: Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

To,
The Honourable Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi,
India-110 011

CC: Kumari Uma Bharati
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Vallabh Bhawan
Bhopal

Honourable Prime Minister,

We would like to bring to your notice that 20 years after the Bhopal gas disaster, the Indian Government still has pending responsibilities toward the rehabilitation of the environment and lives of the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
The toxic wastes that lie within the abandoned factory and in the solar evaporation ponds represent an ongoing source of pollution threatening the health of people living in 10 municipal wards near the factory. Remediation of the contaminated sites and groundwater is an urgent need.
On March 17, 2004, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, USA, presented the Indian Government with a unique opportunity in the matter of remediating the environmental and groundwater contamination at Bhopal.
In reinstating the case of Sajida Bano et al v. Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson to the Southern District Court of New York, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals has said: "... we believe that the district court should be free to revisit its dismissal of the claim for plant site remediation in the event that the Indian government or the State of Madhya Pradesh seeks to intervene in this action or otherwise urges the Court to order such relief." According to the U.S. Court of Appeals: "...the record contains no communication from Madhya Pradesh or the Indian government indicating its receptivity to an order of a United States court compelling work on the property."
It is estimated that a proper remediation of the site and its surroundings would cost hundreds of crores of rupees, especially if best practices were to be adopted. In the matter of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy v. Union of India & Ors, the Supreme Court has reiterated that "The legal position regarding applicability of the precautionary principle and polluter pays principle which are part of the concept of sustainable development is now well settled."
By making Union Carbide pay for the site remediation, the Indian Government is in a position to make Bhopal a demonstration of the best practices in remediation of contaminated sites, and build capacity within the Indian regulatory and scientific systems to deal with such problems elsewhere.
This matter is of considerable urgency given that the deadline for receipt of such a letter by the US Court of the Southern District of New York is June 30. The Government of India can either submit a letter or send a short amicus brief to the Court. In March 2004, the Honourable President of India was apprised of the US court order, and a copy of the same was presented to him.
We urge you to take urgent action in this matter, and hope that your office will respond by sending a communication to the US Court at the earliest.
We also urge the Government of Madhya Pradesh to immediately implement the directive of the Honourable Supreme Court of India issued on the 7th of May 2004, based on the Supreme Court Hazardous Waste Monitoring Committee’s recommendations, to provide pipelined water as “expeditiously as possible” in the areas affected by water contamination and to ensure immediate supply of drinking water to these areas through tankers.
Looking forward to your cooperation.
Sincerely,

Go here to sign the Greenpeace India petition to the Prime Minister.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004
It's not just bloggers who have way too much time. 

Plus points: unabashedly opiniated, and amusing to boot. Negatives: for a site that stands in judgement on aesthetics, unimaginative, rather crude page design and some of those icons need work; way too many typos. But that's just us. Go see this comprehensive rating of the world's flags and make your own call.

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OH, ALL RIGHT 

"...Cummings' name should have the usual caps, and so we hope it will continue. We hereby proclaim it to be so, and we hope the dismal lowercase custom will disappear from the face of the earth."
From Norman Friedman's NOT "e. e. cummings".

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What lovely hands you have, my dear. 

Hm. "Men typically have shorter index fingers, while women typically have shorter ring fingers. But, Clark found in two separate studies, women whose fingers exhibit the more masculine ratio are more willing 'to engage in casual, uncommitted sex.'"

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Monday, June 21, 2004
Stop the presses. 

Mass marketing no longer works, said Larry Light, McDonald's chief marketing officer. "Brand journalism" apparently, is "the end of brand positioning as we know it."
More from the AdAge article:
He went on to say that effective marketing should use many stories rather than employing one message to reach everyone. In effect, he declared that McDonald's was abandoning the universal message concept. ... "Any single ad, commercial or promotion is not a summary of our strategy. It's not representative of the brand message," he said. "We don't need one big execution of a big idea. We need one big idea that can be used in a multidimensional, multilayered and multifaceted way." He went on to define brand journalism, which he also referred to as a brand narrative or brand chronicle, as a way to record "what happens to a brand in the world," and create ad communications that, over time, can tell a whole story of a brand.
Now someone go break the news to P&G and Levers. [via Seth's Blog. And go read his comments here.]

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Hello Kitty Thongs 

No kidding.
Hello Kitty has launched co-branded fashion licenses such as its Hello Kitty by Samantha Chang lingerie and jewelry designs from Tarina Tarantino.
On AdAge.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004
All the world's a stage, and all the poets are getting their work read by actors. 

A friend who who attended the reading that launched Dom Moraes's Typed With One Finger told me that the evening was spoiled for her because Dom didn't read them himself; she thought the actor who took the microphone, rich baritione and all, was no substitute for Dom. Perhaps the poet was too ill by then to do the reading, but i take her point: his "rich soft, plum-cake tones," "pure and strong, the words perfectly articulated, not a single misstep or hesitation," were a trademark of the man. [Both links via Kitabkhana. RIP, Dom. And cheers.]
Christina Patterson at The Independent had
an experience that was, by all accounts, much worse. A Poetry Performance Company. "One by one, they massacre them, these poems I love." Enjoy. [via Arts & Letters Daily.]

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Paying the Bill 

The Guardian on Clintonmania: "Clinton speaks at a booksellers' convention about My Life - queues form eight hours before he takes the stage! My Life tops Amazon's bestseller charts weeks before publication! My Life publishers increase print run from one million copies to 1.5 million! My Life audio book set to outsell Harry Potter!"
And there's also a prediction:
"Sunday 20 CBS's 60 Minutes devotes its entire programme to an interview with Clinton.
Monday 21 The Guardian and Time publish first print interviews in UK and US.
Tuesday 22 1.5 million copies of My Life go on sale as Clinton appears on Oprah and Panorama.
Wednesday 23 Clinton brings NYC centre to a standstill with a signing at Borders.
Thursday 24 Clinton revisits his glory days with a 'town hall' meeting, to be broadcast on every Viacom radio station as well as on AOL.
Friday 25 - Wednesday 7 July Clintonmania sweeps the US, as his book tour visits cities."

Meanwhile, there are leaked chapters out, as well as this scathing review by Michiko Kakutani in NYT[*]: 'As his celebrated 1993 speech in Memphis to the Church of God in Christ demonstrated ... Clinton is capable of soaring eloquence and visionary thinking. But as those who heard his deadening speech ... at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta well know, he is also capable of numbing, self-conscious garrulity. Unfortunately for the reader, Mr. Clinton's much awaited new autobiography "My Life" more closely resembles the Atlanta speech.'

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If, like us, you cruise a lot of blogs and news sites, and, like us until very recently, you did it via a dial up modem, you spend a lot more time on the web than you think you should.
Well, besides treating yourself to a nice fat-pipe connection, you might want to get yourself an RSS reader, "programs [which] are hybrids of a Web browser and an e-mail client, allowing Web users to peruse hundreds of information sources in one place. Instead of surfing dozens of sites for the latest news or blog postings, aggregators let people read headlines from those sources in one window." Wired News reviews four leading readers to get a sense of which tools are the best for keeping an eye on breaking developments on the Web. This blogger swears by Bloglines, by the way. And if you're wondering, yes, Zigzackly can be read offa one o' dem thangs. See the "Site Feed" link on the left, under the Creative Commons license. Or copy this link to your RSS reader: http://zigzackly.blogspot.com/atom.xml

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There is hope for a better world 

The decision will doubtless come as a blow to Microsoft, which pulled out all the stops to get the city to stay with proprietary software. According to a document seen by USA Today, among the concessions the software behemoth was prepared to punt Munich's way were undercutting a Linux bid by $12m; letting Munich license some stripped-down Windows and offering training and support for nothing.
Munich's local government says its year-long trial has proved a success, and it is sticking with open source for its desktops. It is, apparently, the biggest ever move from proprietary software to open source.
p.s. You might also want to humour us by reading this article and visiting this site, which was once known by a much ruder name. And, not, it's not just for the giggles; take a look at the left panel when you're there, for answers to the typical dweeb question, "what else is there besides MS?"

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Infy / Al Qaeda 

Indeed, these are the two basic responses to globalization: Infosys and Al Qaeda.
Infosys said all the walls have been blown away in the world, so now we, an Indian software company, can use the Internet, fiber optic telecommunications and e-mail to get superempowered and compete anywhere that our smarts and energy can take us. And we can be part of a global supply chain that produces profit for Indians, Americans and Asians.
Al Qaeda said all the walls have been blown away in the world, thereby threatening our Islamic culture and religious norms and humiliating some of our people, who feel left behind. But we can use the Internet, fiber optic telecommunications and e-mail to develop a global supply chain of angry people that will superempower us and allow us to hit back at the Western civilization that's now right in our face.
Just found this Op-Ed piece on NYT[*]. Sprinkled with typical western generalisations (and yes, we know that now we are generalising), and, IOHO, there seems to be a tendency to equate globalisation with westernisation, but it does argue an interesting case.

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Friday, June 18, 2004

A long, long time ago
I can still remember
How those bloggers used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance,
I could get in some blogstress's pants
And maybe she'd enable my denial

But Technorati made me shiver,
With every takedown I'd deliver
Bad news in the Inbox,
Telling me how to enlarge my cock

I can't remember if I boo hoo'd
When I read about ET's shoes
But something made me wanna take a snooze
The day the blogging died
Wander over to Guest Blogger Jimmy's post on Old Hag for the rest.

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All aspiring artists must learn to deal with rejections.

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Missing Reagan? Mark Fiore has a consoling animation you might like to see.

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4(2) DNA 

Q: What is the origin of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, and how would you make one on Earth?
DNA: Unfortunately there are a number of environmental and weapons treaties and laws of physics which prevent one being mixed on Earth. Sorry.
Q: Did you ever think that you would be so successful, or that what you wrote would cause all of this?
DNA: Bzzz bzzz. Meaningless unanswerable question alert.
Q: All the women in DNA's books remind me either of the women in the Georgy Girl or the women in the movie Blowup .. coincidence or young adult infatuation with the Redgrave sisters?
DNA: This must be the single weirdest question I've been asked in twenty years.
From Memorable Questions and Answers with Douglas Adams.
And an interview with Nick Goldsmith (producer) and Garth Jennings (director) of the eagerly awaited (by this blog at least) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy feature film, by MJ Simpson, author of Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, the site Magrathea, and “the world’s leading Douglasadamsologist” [The Observer] and Jim Lynn, editor of H2G2. From the sound of it, they won't Hollywood it too much. And finally there'll be a movie i'd happily wait in line for. Also see: this and this and this.

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Help me get 5 million dollars out of Nigeria and i'll give you 20%. Ok, 30%. 

The New York Times has a story on how the scammers are getting scammed. By a strange coincidence, exactly a year ago today, my friend Clinton Lee of Best Price Computers, in the UK, was featured in The Register for pulling off just such an exploit.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Kurt Vonnegut on on America ('there is not a chance in hell of America's becoming humane and reasonable'), vocal Christians ('"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!'), The Passion ('Ask the devout Roman Catholic Mel Gibson, who, as an act of piety, has just made a fortune with a movie about how Jesus was tortured. Never mind what Jesus said.'), Bush ('When he was 41, he says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop gargling nose paint. Other drunks have seen pink elephants.') and more. Via the Desi Bridget Jones Diary.

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Knew i shoulda got them Infy shares 

The masters of innovation, technology, and strategic vision - 40 companies driving the global economy. The Wired 40.
Infosys is at Number 11.

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Chip Kidd interviewed by Keith Phipps at The Onion A.V. Club.

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"You're out of here, Supermaaaargh!" 

Would you believe, Comic Book Idol?

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Another -hic- coffee? 

Found on http://www.reason.com/sullum/052804.shtml
>'If ... you think coffee is no big deal, you must not be aware of the fact that the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has identified caffeine as a gateway drug. Last year it reported that "girls and young women who drink coffee are significantly likelier than girls and young women who do not to be smokers...and drink alcohol."'

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Another voice 

Also sent this article out recently, and Ingrid Srinath, Chief Executive of CRY, wrote back:
While this particular article is not the best argued one on the subject, the broad gist tallies with the experience of CRY partners on the ground. There's a dangerous and insidious trend towards privatisation of basic social services like education and healthcare leaving vast numbers uncovered. This is accompanied by a naive faith in technology and the corporate sector as the messiahs of this century.
This despite the proven failure of the model in any economy you choose to compare ours with. Nobody seems to mention that 90%+ kids in the USA for example go to public (i.e. state run) schools. Or that even the limited privatisation of these schools there (outsourced management) has been an abysmal failure. Or that the free-market model there is mitigated and compensated for by the social security safety net.
Governments are, however, severely strapped for funds and have little choice but to agree to the conditionalities of the new "moneylenders". The alternatives viz. widening the tax net and cutting administrative flab are far more unpopular, tedious and slow to deliver tangible results.
Have you noticed that the media now rate government performance based on stock market movements and FDI rather than any measure of development? Isn't it odd that all the so-called BRIC economies are all either erstwhile/ present communist/socialist countries rather than more market-driven ones? And that West Bengal now ranks 2nd on the absurd FDI measure?
If the only thing these election results do is invite re-thinking on unbridled liberalisation a la Naidu and unfettered fascism a la Modi they will have served a useful purpose imho. Apologies for the diatribe but you did request comments!
Ingrid also sent us another link, which she describes as "the first sane piece of election analysis i've come across."

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Development and The Roy 

Saw this on a blog and mailed it out, asking for comments.
Everyone has something to say about development. I speak about DEVELOPMENT here, as in the development of a country, about its growth, its social
issues, its political causes, its environmental concerns and its economic strategy. As they should. I am all for it. In fact there is no two ways about it. Development is for the people by the people, of the people.
Otherwise is there really development. But when everybody who is a somebody walks around espousing on what development should be for everyone else, I think there is some confusion there. Development is serious business. Never mind that the government of many developing countries do not take it
seriously, or that NGO's who are supposedly sharing the burden are over
worked and underpaid and many times confuse it with being mere do gooders.
But development is serious business with a strategy, with a budget, with a goal, with a method, with an end.
Arundhati Roy is a case in point. I read her book on the Narmada issue a while ago. Excuse me! I worked on the Namada project as a young intern after my Masters in Communication. If you are going 'glamourise the issue and sell it in lyrical form then at least for gods sake get all the issues right.
Work on your central message. Understand the political dimensions, the social upheaval, the environmental repercussions and the economic
underpinnings of that project. And speak of it in technical terms. For you do not see a book for lawyers speaking of the labor policy in poetic language. We want to pass on a message to the World Bank, to the Government of India. We want to say, give us back our rights but singing it out in verses is not going to cut it.
I have seen Medha Pathkar age in the pursuit of this bigger cause and then I see Arundathi Roy establishing her celebrity status in this cause. Something is not right here.
I am not saying that all the development books out there have got their
ducks all lined in a row, but when a celebrity of whatever standing goes out there and makes a statement, then it must have credibility. Just because someone is a well known development practitioner you don't see them rushing off to act in a film.
I worked in a well known development organization a while ago. During one of our annual meetings the Vice President told us he has an issue, he would like our help in resolving. He said that every week he gets a call from some high flying executive who is at the brink of a nervous break down. Send me to one of your offices in your developing countries, they cry, we will fund ourselves and do whatever we can to help. What should I do, he asks. Tell them, I suggested, to walk down the stairs and help the homeless man at the corner, or volunteer in their child's school, or play ball with their kids.
You don't see me having a mid life crisis and rushing off to help a lawyer help defend an accused in a murder trial. We are qualified professionals I say, having paid good money to learn to run this business, the business of development, let it not be said that we are running a workshop for do gooders. We do development.
For I have been at the receiving end of this. A trying-to find-myself person tagging along on our trips to a village. Aww how sweet they are, the children are so darling, the people are so hospitable, I am so touched, I feel so welcome. Huh. Huh. Huh. We are not here to feel good about ourselves. Development with a human face of course, but not with a fawning one. We are here to look, to see, to listen, to discern to assist, to strategize. We are here to do development.
If you are looking to find yourself, please do it in a lawyers office. Ask him to write up a will, leave us all your money and go live in the mountains and find your way slowly back home. Let those of us who know this business run it.

And A Nonny Nonny (that's two "nonnies") said this:
Yah. Whatever. I generally avoid commenting in public on LeRoy BleedingHeart. This is the age of the media slut. We have not yet degenerated into into open cannibalism and slavery but at the same time, compassion has become just another yawn-cue -- there's none left to go around, considering that we all prefer to watch chimps being rescued than care about Ethiopian babies starving on-camera. In such a situation, the only people who get attention are those who are good-looking enough to rate air-time -- and if they spout heart-ache about the environment, all the better. We can have our environmental cake and eat it too, yum! I believe LeRoy's true predecessor was Lady Diet -- she too found her true calling in posing with Les Miserables, gaining immeasurable quantities of brownie points for herself while sharing a leedle teeny weeny ray of her spotlight with the darkling doomed.
Ay me. Nuff said! I shall return to my ebony tower to sharpen my claws.

Got more to say?

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Poetry 101 

For a variety of reasons, we went looking up poetic forms, and we found this on the Wikipedia.
So now we want to know:
How many of these have you heard of? (Zz: 18)
(To you who write) how many have you tried? (Zz: 5. Or 6, if you count Vogon Poetry.)
(To the hi brow lit types) any missing?

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Horribly designed page, but worth a read: A Guide to Critical Thinking About What You See on the Web.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Just catching up with some stories from Wired.

Remember the Moog? Well, it turned 40 a little while ago, and Noah Schatman was at one of the birthday parties. "Molitz trilled a slinky solo so deep in the pocket of the groove that audience members had to dig into their pants to get it out. Then he climbed into the higher register, uncorking a series of extraterrestrial tones that could only be described as R2D2's acid trip. As the horn players blared the fanfare's final notes, Molitz' Moog bleeps increased to heart-attack rate. The audience hooted. And something old had suddenly been reborn"

Information Overload.How the experts unwind.

And after that, they're gonna work on flies, roaches and Britney Spears.
This one's for The Babu, who has a couple of bouts of malaria every year. The UN is experimenting with using nuclear radiation to eradicate the malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.

Offer Documents we'd like to see
Joanna Glasner raves about Google's SEC filing.

And did you know that NASA's lunar colony plans date back to '69?

Oh yes. You can pick up some nasty infections on the net. So it doesn't matter if you're on the AIDS pill. And you can't blame condom fatigue.

And lastly, there's a theory that the HIV virus crossed over to humans via the polio vaccine.

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Wanna play? 

And when you're through reJoycing, perhaps you'd like to tell us what your ideal literary journey would be? Rafting down the Mississippi reading Huckleberry Finn? Wandering Kim's Trail? Walk Herriot country? Visit 221B? Do tell.

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Oh to be in Dublin, now that Bloomsday's here. 

A pint with the eggs and bacon! Ah well. Not to worry, they're celebrating here, there's readings here, and the Guardian is hosting a Bloomsday Blog, to which you can "complete the Ulysses blog with a new, post-feminist soliloquy for Molly. Email your version of Molly Bloom's soliloquy, plus your comments and suggestions for our Bloomsday blogger, and we'll include the best in the blog."

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Oh, those Russian experimental novelists. 

We took our iPod along for the ride. We loaded it with 700 of our favorite songs, we selected the "random" option, and we let fate choose our music, Diana Krall followed by Mavis Staples followed by Waylon Jennings. We also downloaded some non-music: Adam Gopnik at the Commonwealth Club, David Sedaris at Carnegie Hall and, because we knew we'd never read it any other way, "The Brothers Karamazov."
"The B.K." is a very long book -- Dostoevsky never uses one adverb when three will do -- and is interspersed with long speeches about the existence of God and the meaning of consciousness. My mind tended to wander in the soft hum of the highway, so sometimes I was confused as to who was speaking to whom. The book is about the activities of about 10 people in the same Russian town, so there aren't a lot of signposts for the inattentive listener. Still, I was liking it.
"Isn't it interesting," I said to Tracy, "how experimental this seems for a 19th century novel? Notice how everyone talks about Dimitri, but we never actually see him."
It was not until Pennsylvania that we realized that we had neglected to turn off the "random" feature of the iPod, so we were getting chapters in arbitrary order, the plot entirely in the mischievous hands of fate.
We loved the part at the beginning, where everybody died.

John Carrol in the Sanfranciso Chronicle. (Warning: lots of popups.) (via: Cult of Mac)

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Got a few minutes? 

Some stats from Time Management Facts and Figures by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore.
-90% of those who join health and fitness clubs will stop going within the first 90 days.
-9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings.
-There will be 2 million marriages in this country this year and 1 million divorces.
-95% of divorces are caused by a "lack of communication"
-The average working person spends less than 2 minutes per day in meaningful communication with their spouse or "significant other".
-The average working person spends less than 30 seconds a day in meaningful communication with their children.

-On an average day, there are 17 million meetings in America.
(this one's for the authors among ye)-95% of the books in this country are purchased by 5% of the population. 95% of self-improvement books, audio tapes, and video tapes purchased are not used.

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Yaaaa-hoooo 

The big boys are fighting back. Yahoo is now offering 100 MB free storage. (2GB for paid users!) MSN's Hotmail hasn't jumped on the bus yet - still 2MB.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Sir TBL makes some REAL money off the web 

Tim Berners-Lee gets the Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation, € 1 million ($1.2 million). Small change when compared to what blokes like Sergey and Larry, Marc, Jeff, and of course His Billness, make, but we're glad.

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Three Thumbs Up 

Low culture has a black take on this story.

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Home, James, and don't spare the seahorses. 

Richard Branson drove to France. And he didn't take the Chunnel. Now i'm hoping my pals Shama and Guido Bothe get this project into the water soon, so i can do another of these.

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Deep, er, Throat revisited 

Are you, like me, one of the six people on the net who hadn't seen the Washingtonienne blog? Some kind soul took the trouble to bring it back for us. Welcome to the Washingtonienne Archive.

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Doing it for The Gipper 

The Washington Monthly takes a look at Reagan's "legacy."

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But Jacko knew this all the time 

Apparently chimps are more closely related to us than scientists have conventionally accepted.

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As the Fandango dancer said to the Hawaiian... 

Time to say to graçias to His Babuness for manning the breaches here despite countless deadlines (Hurree does insanse amounts of work without appearing to), a book in the final stages (er, am i allowed to out you like this?), cats - and The Partner - to be fed and played with, guests to be entertained, and so on.
So all together now, all two of you, "Hurree, onek dhanyabaad." (Er, did i get that right? The Babel Fish has some regrettable lapses in the languages it covers.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004
How to get your story into The New Yorker 

1) Take the "Kolmogorov-Smirnov Two-Sample Goodness of Fit Test" and the "Pearson Correlation Coefficient Test."
2) Or do it the old-fashioned way: ask your good friend Salman Chacha or Jhumpa Mashima to hold the Fiction Editor's arms behind his back while you stuff your deathless prose down the front of his shirt.
(* New York Times story: registration required, but worth it.)

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That warm feeling... 

"When we adopted the description 'Business Literature', we wanted to send the message that this was not just about writing for the daily press, writing for the weekly magazines.
The use of the word literature was intended to send the message that this is about writing a book."
"Writing books of this sort is a little a bit like springing a leak in a dark suit – that you get a warm feeling but not a lot of people notice."
I did not make any of these up (though I wish I had). These are actual quotes from an actual report on The Blake Dawson Waldron Business Literature award. I like the bit about "the use of the word literature" (in what, his PowerPoint presentation?) almost as much as I like the simile about "springing a leak in a dark suit", which ignores the minor fact that there are some warm feelings you just don't want to experience unless you're kinky about diapers.

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He Ordered A Hit On Who?? 

"A 15-YEAR-old schoolboy has become the first person in Britain to be convicted of inciting somebody to murder him. The boy, who may only be identified by the pseudonym John, invented a cast of characters in an Internet chat room as part of an elaborate plan to commission his own killing, the Manchester Crown Court heard this week."
I blame the decline of the public school system and the death of bullying. In the old days, he would just have had to refuse to toast some senior guy's muffins.

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Block(heads) 

The thing about hate sites, like the recently blocked www.HinduUnity.org, is that they love being banned. They want to be banned. They're there to be banned. They're hoping to be banned because nothing makes them feel more vindicated, more martyred and more virtuous. I know the guys out there at this particular rabid, Islam-hating, woman-fearing band of brothers: they've sent a lot of mail to the Babu as well as to his offline avatar. (Funny, that, how all hate mail sounds the same. I used to wonder about this until I discovered that most hate sites thoughtfully provide a cut-and-paste, One-Size-Fits-All Hate Spewing Form.)
I'm all for promoting peace and goodwill and noble thoughts through the Net, but the Mumbai police's decision to ban the site makes little sense. I don't like the idea of stiffnecked government officials deciding what we can and can't read--and when you ban a site like Kynhun (an e-group that discussed the petty corruption of petty officials in Meghalaya as well as the possibility of seceding from the Indian union), you create a genuine grievance out of a minor kvetch.
All that banning websites accomplishes is to put little men with hate in their hearts on the fast track to learning about anonymisers and mirror sites. The Net has a simple rule: if you don't like it, don't go there. And the first thing we did when we heard about the HinduUnity ban was to hit the cache and revisit a vile site we'd have avoided like the plague pre-ban.

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All hail the Swiffer! 

While I was away, Mark Morford was boldly going where no man has gone before: into the murky world of household cleaning products.
"These silly new products, these sexist new ads, are merely a small but nasty sign, like a malignant lump, a festering murmur, in the karmic heart. Just more proof of how we are still being trained not to care, still trained since birth to believe the supply of paper and wood and plastic and petroleum is inexhaustible and that America is the land of abundance and it will all last forever and, besides, most of us will die well before there's any 'serious' problems, right? So who the hell cares, and leave it to the next generation to figure out. Now pass the giant tub of foam packing peanuts. Mmm, landfill.
As it is with toilet brushes and brooms, so it is with our national agenda, our environmental policy, our war motives. In other words, there is a straight and unwavering line connecting the Scrub N' Toss with our environmental policy, our worldview, our motives for war and destruction. The world is our commodity. This is the message, the American standpoint. The world is our giant toxic overlit soul-sucking Wal-Mart. Restrain it at your peril."
Inventoried my household. We have a) one broom, made of twig-type stuff, which lasts for six months b) several dusters, washable c) some MagicMop shit which disintegrates into furry pulp the first time you use it d) an absolutely brilliant Neem and Citronella spin on phenyl which is available only in Calcutta, thanks to a Bengali proprietor who doesn't understand why anyone outside the state might want to buy it and e) many cats who produce toxic but environmentally sound emissions. Our big problem is garbage bags. Cats=cat litter=many garbage bags, however politically incorrect, required. Someone source me jute garbage bags and I'll be a happy Babu.

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Words

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce a masterpiece. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
~ Eyler Coates

to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting
~ e e cummings

In three words i can sum up everything I've learned about life.
It goes on.
~ Robert Frost

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
~ Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

I fell in love – that is the only expression I can think of – at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.
~ Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet, short-story writer, and playwright, "Poetic Manifesto" in the Texas Quarterly, Winter 1961

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
~Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.
~ W. Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
~ Al Rogers

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
~ Henry Winkler, actor (1945- )

Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.
~ George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), novelist (1819-1880)

Either you think - or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

There is no remedy so easy as books, which if they do not give cheerfulness, at least restore quiet to the most troubled mind.
~ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, author (1689-1762)

Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.
~ Satchel Paige

Fake it till you make it.
~ (Heard on West Wing)


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