zigzackly's omnium-gatherum *
|Quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur|
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We, the Media;
Son of CSF.
Now and then, when Hurree needs a holiday, i pinch-hit at Kitabkhana.
We endorse, approve of, and throughly adore:
Other Thieves of our Time
D Mervin Ffingir writes, and having writ, moves on:
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Microsoft has launched a tool that helps non-native writers to write better English. "It is not, strictly speaking, a machine translation tool. It is more akin to the grammar checkers familiar to users of common word-processing programs—but enhanced to work with people not native in English. ... Using large numbers of Chinese and English texts, Zhou and his colleagues have learned what mistakes are common and what the writer probably intended. Using this quantitative approach—large sets of texts rather than complicated language rules—they also join the statistical trend from the last couple of years. It has proven far more effective than expected."
Advice for free: we hope you're not still using that sodding paper clip, Bill.
His main public is located not in the Spanish-speaking nations but in the Anglo-European countries, and his reputation derives almost entirely from the iconic place he once occupied in politics--which is to say, he's 'the greatest poet of the twentieth century' because he was a Stalinist at exactly the right moment, and not because of his poetry, which is doggerel.From Bad Poet, Bad Man, by Stephen Schwartz at The Weekly Standard.
When David Anez used a collection of pictures from a popular video games as a placeholder while he worked on his real comic, he didn't know he was inventing a genre. One listing of comics based on these "sprites" (that's the nerd word) has "more than 1,200 entries," says this Wired article. But, like the article, we also wonder what will happen when the legal blokes scent money here. If that doesn't bother you, you might want to check out Arnez's How To Make A Sprite Comic.
Also on Wired, also on comics, but more recent: that beep on your celphone? It could be your daily dose of Garfield coming through. A supplier called GoComics will message them to you at about US$3 a month. Worth it? Tell you what, give us them dollars, and we'll send you links to the best strips of the day, every day. Ok, two dollars? A dollar?
There's a part of us that's geeky, and another part that writes poetry. Evidently, on April 1st, our inner geek won, because we were charged up with the Gmail announcement to the exclusion of all us. So, today, to make up, we won't say anything about the Goog's valueing its IPO at US# 3.3 billion, and make amends by telling you that on also April 1st, Foetry launched. Since then, according to Stephen Burt at the Boston Globe, Foetry (who announce themselves thus: "American Poetry Watchdog, Exposing the fraudulent 'contests.' Tracking the sycophants. Naming names.") has been raising hackles, comment and quite a bit of dust. Says Burt, "Foetry reads like a cross between the Drudge Report and Consumer Reports, anonymously investigating (and spreading) rumors to further the cause of transparency." There's much debate both for and against the site, apparently, and as the report goes on to say, "Perhaps the clearest point Foetry proves is one neither defenders nor detractors notice. Randall Jarrell wrote 50 years ago that the loudest controversies in the arts were matters "from which the art could be almost wholly excluded, leaving nothing but politics and public morality." The chat and the charges on Foetry's message boards are all about poets, but rarely about their poems: Aesthetic matters are almost completely absent, as they would be in a court of law." Read the story here. [Via A&L Daily]
Monday, July 26, 2004
The report of the 9-11 Commission (more formally, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States) is available online. The report, which spreads blame across two administrations, uses language that's a welcome deviation from the constipated prose one usually gets from such bodies. It features section headings like: Chapter 1: "We Have Some Planes" and Chapter 7: The Attack Looms and Chapter 8: "The System Was Blinking Red".
Here's the intro to Chapter 11, FORESIGHT—AND HINDSIGHT
In composing this narrative, we have tried to remember that we write with the benefit and the handicap of hindsight. Hindsight can sometimes see the past clearly—with 20/20 vision. But the path of what happened is so brightly lit that it places everything else more deeply into shadow. Commenting on Pearl Harbor, Roberta Wohlstetter found it “much easier after the event to sort the relevant from the irrelevant signals.After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling since the disaster has occurred. But before the event it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings.”
The AWOL Machine (Alcohol With Out Liquid™), created by Dominic Simler, is based on the premise that "by mixing spirits with pressurized oxygen, a cloudy alcohol vapor is created which then can be inhaled." So, you get all the kick, but don't get a hangover. And ingest no carbs.
We never had a problem with those, actually. We just wish someone would invent something that stopped us being pompous, lachrymose, and just plain silly when we're pissed.
With your permission, we'd like to push a personal project.
It started with an idea we had, to do something like The Noon Quilt, an online collobarative writing project we participated in many years ago. We thought we'd invite creative people to send in short entries to a web page that would become a virtual greeting card for India. The entries could be in any form that the web supports, linked by some connection to India's existence as a country. Unfortunately we got this brainwave a little too late to do anything about creating the page and back end that would make it possible, so we got, though we say so ourselves, innovative.
Ryze event listings are normally used to invite participation in physical events, but we decided to try an experiment, using the Guest List as the medium, so to speak.
Ryze members can use their RSVPs to either contain their entries or link to them.
Here's a few extracts from the Event Page.
Here's the one-line brief:The List stays open up to 23:59, IST, August 15th. If you're a member of Ryze, all you have to do is stroll over to the event page to say "Happy 57th, India!"
If you'd like to become a member, just pop over an join up - it's free, and damn useful, even if you don't want to join in on this thing of ours - or mail us, and we'll send you an invite.
By the way, anyone who's willing to host this elsewhere, as in with a proper URL, hosting, some back end support, go over to the Non Quilt page, check out the source code (it's in PERL, and free to download) and get back to us. Quick!
Sunday, July 25, 2004
My friend has an idea that there should be all-male golf courses that feature nude women on the course. But the women wouldn’t be like the strippers at outings (topless females pouring beers, taking wagers, tending the flags, flirting), they’d be more like wildlife. You know how cool it is when you see a deer running across the fairway, or standing near the tee box? That’s his idea. You might not see any for a few holes, then all of a sudden you’d hear a rustling in the trees and see two of them running back into the timber. A few holes later, you might see one standing in your fairway, then she’d run off when you got ready to hit your t-shots.from this post at Life at TJ's Place (which we just discovered, and which has quickly become a fave) by "Kevin," who is "the assistant manager of a gentlemen's club in the Midwestern United States, called TJ's Place, which is not the real name of the club." (Gentleman's club = strip club, BTW).
Kev writes with rare humour and warmth. We think he's going to be one of them bloggers-with-a-book-deal soon.
Here's some more samples:
"Interesting fact: touch a pen or a coin to a mirror and look at it kind of from the side—if there is a small gap in between the object and its reflection, it’s a real mirror; if the points meet, it’s a two-way and someone is on the other side, watching you touch a coin to their mirror and wondering what the f*** you’re doing." "Curly looks like Curly. He sells and services video games and juke boxes and pool tables (including ours). He also doesn’t drink. Curly is in love with one of the dancers, Jamie, and has been for years (she’s one of our veteran dancers who was here long before I started). He’s not gross about it, though. Jamie is very nice to him and doesn’t take advantage of the fact that he would give his life for her. They’re good friends, but it’s the definition of an unrequited love." And there's... oh go trawl his archives. We just did, and we're still smiling.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
'If you put 'free tutoring' on the banner, nobody's going to come in,'' said Scott Seeley, the director of operations, who established the center with Doug Bowmen, its educational director. 'But if you put 'superhero' - we're already getting a constant flow of people asking questions.'A Brooklyn non-profit uses its super powers to help kids.
Leaving New York, we flew out of JFK. That's the same airport my father flew into almost 41 years ago, when he arrived from India. Though I doubt he (or any man of his generation) would phrase it this way, I suspect he was looking for the same thing I was looking for when I arrived in New York. A place to be, a place to belong, and a chance to take some chances. He'd headed west leaving behind everything and everyone he'd ever known, and all I'm losing is the chance to have a good bagel as often as I'd like. But I like to think I've got some of the same spirit my father does, and that part of honoring my love for both him and New York is to chase adventure wherever it takes me.Anil Dash's evocative post on leaving New York City brought a torrent of thoughts to the surface. A little more than thirty years ago, my father came to Bombay to train for a promotion he had just received. A few years later (Next year will make thirty! Egad!), the rest of us were able to join him. And i think to myself, i've lived in five cities, almost a sixth, moved home ten times, had three proper jobs and sat at thirteen different office desks.
(The desk i'm typing at now being the one steady factor. It's the same one i've had since i was in school; bought second-hand, it is now scarred and stained and requires a special technique to open one of its drawers.)
Yes, i've always considered myself quite the nomad. But the fact is, that none of those shifts were moves initiated by me. They were dictated by Dad's job transfers, his retirement, limited term leases, other necessities, but i've always been the passive one. Even the 'almost a sixth,' to a city i'd long planned to move to, but never did. Even that was because of a Certain Person who lived there. The fact that i didn't make up my mind and just pick up sticks and go may have had something to do with her deciding to move. Right out of my life.
And i wonder, all those passive moves, did they leave in me a desire for some permanence? Something that makes me reluctant to move on, move up, just move? i know i've never shown the gumption Dad and Mum did, moving away from all that was known and loved and familar so that their children could have a better life. And they had the same excuse i did for staying put. One grandfather was in the Army and the Telegraphs, the other in the Railways, and both of them had moved around the country as children. Dad's family even lived in Burma, and fled from there just ahead of the armies of the Rising Sun. Ancestors moved too, to India from various parts of the British Isles, and god knows where else.
Me? twice i let job offers abroad slip through my fingers. And once, as i said, with that certain person, i suspect my inertia lost me something precious. Even now, older - so much older - and hopefully wiser, my biggest ambition is to own a home of my own. Roots. A haven.
Yes, i love to travel, and i hope to see more of the world than i already have. But i lack that true wanderlust, that real pioneering spirit that shapes the world. Perhaps i need to change that. Perhaps i'd better start by at least getting a passport.
Damn, i have rambled on. Not to worry, i'll shift back to the usual pretentious first person plural and third person from the next post on.
Monday, July 19, 2004
"TINA: Louis, you know I agree with you that existence precedes essence, but ...well, I just want to tell you I've been reading Nietzsche lately, and I don't think I can agree with your egalitarian politics any more.From The lowest-rated Jerry Springer show ever at Philosophy Now. [Link courtesy Mahesh Murthy at Ryze]
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Some extracts from The Future Dictionary of America, which has contributions from Dave Eggers, Joyce Carol Oates, as excerpted in NewYorkMetro.com:
Cheney Effect [chay nee ee fekt]n. the manifestation of personality changes brought on by the reception of a transplanted organ, usually the heart. JEFFREY EUGENIDESThe book is scheduled to be out next month.
Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before. For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year ... For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.From Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father. [Via rebecca's pocket]
BugMeNot.comhelps you "Bypass Compulsory Web Registration." Check it out!
Saturday, July 10, 2004
SlashNOT. Can't improve on the site intro: "Parody or Satire? You decide." Geeks do have a sense of humour.
Friday, July 09, 2004
We've been seeing this book a lot on Page 3 (The horror! We've admitted to looking at Page 3!), and even though we heard about, and even played the promo game on the book's site way back when it first came out, but we still haven't read it. Are we missing something?
The strangest part, for an Eastern reader, as I’m sure many of you found, was that reading the book became an interactive game. Many points it raised may be revelatory and shocking to the Western reader but are so internalised by Indians that we start second-guessing the author on what argument or evidence he’ll produce next. And we’re usually right!Renuka Narayan in the Indian Express on the Da Vinci Code. [Link courtesy Sunil R Nair.]
Dash's strategy differed greatly from that of the first-round winner, named a month ago, who claimed his victory through the use of backlinking, a technique in which the required words on other people's sites were hyperlinked back to his site.A while ago (we know we read it, but we can't remember if we linked to it, and we want dinner now, so we're not gonna trawl the archives), The SEO Challenge invited webmasters and site owners to use any method at their disposal to score the top Google ranking for a made-up term, "nigritude ultramarine." Wired News reports on the final round.
David Pogue at NYT takes a look at Redmond's latest gambit for world domination[*] Yeah, yeah, we don't like MS. But you've kinda figured that out by now, right?
Last week, Microsoft identified the object of its latest obsession: Google, the No. 1 Internet search page. (Google, you may recall, is preparing for an initial stock offering with an estimated value of $25 billion. Nobody bats around numbers like that without attracting Microsoft's attention.)
"I make a little money writing, and most of what pays my bills comes from speaking engagements. Sometimes, I do keynotes or panels, and sometimes organizations bring me in to brainstorm with them about smartmobby stuff in addition to a briefing or talk. I've been invited to speak in Bangalore in March, 2005. The inviting organization can pay my transportation costs, but not a fee. I'd like to spend at least a week in India, a country I've always wanted to visit, but have never had the opportunity. But I can't afford to lose a week or more of work. Are there organizations or businesses in Bangalore who would be able to pay me less than my usual speaking fee -- and no travel expenses -- to brief their people about Smart Mobs and my latest endeavor -- The Cooperation Project? Use this form to contact me"Howard Rheingold, the Smart Mobs guy, is planning a visit to Bangalore in March 2005. And Dina Mehta (on whose blog i found this, plans to figure out if she can make it worth his while to visit Bombay. Email her, or leave a comment at Conversations with Dina if you have any suggestions. Does this snag me an invite if it works out, Dina?
Thursday, July 08, 2004
"For years, he spent several hours a week memorizing thousands of Scrabble-approved words that were often meaningless to him because he didn't need to know their definitions." The "he" referred to in this article (in the NYT, on online addicitions, subscription required) is the director of the Compulsive, Impulsive, and Anxiety Disorders Program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. We understand this. We have gone through many addictions on the net. Starting with chat and IM, where we realised we had a problem when we did a 14-hour marathon, then just surfing and, ahem, research, then scrabble, and now, sigh, blogging.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Ah. A motherlode of Calvin and Hobbes links. You know where to find us for the next few hours.
Now a famous film-maker a while back said something about 'Everything you need to know about film you can learn in a week.' He was being generous. You can learn it in 10 minutes.Check out Robert Rodriguez's 10-Minute Film School
Dave Barry read The DaVinci Code, and has this to say:
"The key to The DaVinci Code is that it's filled with startling plot twists, and almost every chapter ends with a ''cliffhanger,'' so you have to keep reading to see what will happen. Using this formula, I wrote the following blockbuster novel, titled The Constitution Conundrum. It's fairly short now, but when I get a huge publishing contract, I'll flesh it out to 100,000 words by adding sentences.read on:
Well, not exactly, this blog hasn't been around that long. But looking through the ol' inbox, we found this. Dated September 2001.
A quite different view
Remember that the defence industry in the USA support Bush. Many overseas newspapers accept that the only reason that the USA is in Saudi Arabia is that they (the industry) need someone to buy weapons, they need a war.
I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done." And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.
I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.
But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country.
Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of Widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.
New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban--by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.
So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear
and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hide-out. It's much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.
And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants. That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, that's even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours.
Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
Monday, July 05, 2004
"With the knowledge web, humanity's accumulated store of information will become more accessible, more manageable, and more useful. Anyone who wants to learn will be able to find the best and the most meaningful explanations of what they want to know. Anyone with something to teach will have a way to reach those who what to learn. Teachers will move beyond their present role as dispensers of information and become guides, mentors, facilitators, and authors. The knowledge web will make us all smarter. The knowledge web is an idea whose time has come."From "ARISTOTLE" (THE KNOWLEDGE WEB) By W. Daniel Hillis on Edge.
Fascinating reading - no, let me say required reading for anyone interested in teaching and knowledge, and how technology can change things, is already changing things. And do read the Reality Club responses at the end of Hillis's piece. This blog's brain still hurts from all the ideas and points of view. Perhaps that's the reason we haven't been to Edge in a while. Makes one feel so darn inferior and shallow.[via Kitabkhana.]
Just stumbled across a utility that helps you file away and remember stuff you see on the net. Furl claims to be "your memory on Google. Anything you save can be found again in a split second. No filing system to remember. No pages to flip through. Enter a query and find what you need"
Since one of the reasons we blog is to give ourselves an online always-on database of interesting sites we see, perhaps we won't be using that soon. But then again, perhaps it does have one advantage. It saves pages for you, which solves the dead link problem, or the other one, sites that offer an article free of charge for only a limited time before storing it away in pay-per-view archives.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
One more Wired link: Jonathan Keats traces the provenance of one of the net's oldest. most persistent email hoaxes. (Warning, Spoiler ahead!) Delicious irony: the best candidate for the originator is a chap called Mack.
"[ 1 ] A movie may not injure the book it is based on, or, through inaction, allow the book to come to harm.
[ 2 ] A movie must obey orders given it by Hollywood PR departments except where such orders conflict with the First Law.
[ 3 ] A movie must justify its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law."
We're happy to tell you that there's another movie we're looking forward to seeing. A movie adaptation of Asimov's I, Robot is due at a big screen near you. Wired also has a piece-by-piece guide to the globe's most advanced bots, and an interview with Will Smith, who stars in the movie.
"Search giant Google has updated the program policy for GMail on Monday adding clauses that ban the sale, trading, reselling or exploiting of GMail accounts for commercial purposes."The Beep reports that the little cottage industry in Gmail invitations is now no longer legit.
"Alberta sits atop the biggest petroleum deposit outside the Arabian peninsula - as many as 300 billion recoverable barrels and another trillion-plus barrels that could one day be within reach using new retrieval methods. (By contrast, the entire Middle East holds an estimated 685 billion barrels that are recoverable.)"According to this Wired magazine article, Washington's finest are crawling all over Canada's permafrost. And even W has learned to say "tar pits." Given the conventional US disdain for the Canucks, and the bad press Halliburton's been getting, we think that Canadian's will soon be 'liberated' from the influence of the Queen. Maybe in time for the elections?
Ooh, sorry. How could we forget that the Frozen North is bilingual? And that the second language is native to a country that blotted its copybook (and that after all that sterling work helping the founding fathers of the US and giving them the Statue of Liberty) by not joining in the War on Oil Producing States? Awright then. Now they'll have to speak Freedom.
Happy Fourth of July.
Friday, July 02, 2004
And from another Ryze post, this interesting contest:
You might also want to mosey over to this article in the Times of India, in which Anjali Joseph writes about the energence of the Indian graphic novel. Aside from talking about Rohit Gupta (the guy behind Apollo Bunder) and his forthcoming graphic novella on the Godhra massacre, and the riots that ensued in Gujarat, also tells us that Sarnath Banerjee's Corridor has sold out its initial print run and is going into a second, and that Jerry Pinto is working on comic versions of four Goan stories with artist Pria Agni for a forthcoming anthology on Goa.
The article also quotes V K Karthika, Commissioning Editor of Penguin Books, who complained that despite Corridor's success, Penguin has had to do the legwork to approach authors and artists. Apparently, commissioning illustrations from artists - who make better money in fields like animation - is a pain in the butt, so (Certain readers of this blog to note!) they would seem to prefer author-artists.
While wandering around our other playground, Ryze, we stumbled across Gautam Malhotra, who chucked up a corporate career to start Green Devices, which, as the name suggests, experiments with eco-friendly doohickeys. He, with NID-trained pal Tilak Lodh, makes and sells what they call a "plant-and-play" mounted solar lamp, which they say is is the world’s only LED (Light Emitting Diode) based street lamp. In this story in the Indian Express, he says, "The basic model, which may be scaled up later, gives as much light as a 15-watt fluorescent lamp. Just buy one, dig a hole and forget it, it will take care of itself for years." (The lamp is called The Monster, by the way.) Next on the list is the "Ugly Duckling Series" for gardens, which should be out in two months. Green Devices is looking for investors. We will post a link as soon as we find one.
Note: [*] = The site linked to requires registration.
Zig's on TwitterFollow, all ye who must know more.
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.