Saturday 29 July 2006

Statistically speaking

0.3% of bloggers really do write for themselves.
30% of towel users use the same towel for more than three weeks.
47% of officegoers say The Times of India is a better lunchtime table mat when they're eating at their desks than any other paper. The combination of newsprint for absorbency and glossy paper supplements to prevent seepage is unbeatable.

Where did we get these figires from? They're a DRE estimation.

Wednesday 26 July 2006

No, honey, I don't want to go to another bloody wedding

Guests arriving with presents found themselves cajoled by Blood Kumar and his wife Mangalam to join the blood party, held at a corner of the wedding hall in a busy part of the city.

Sunday 23 July 2006

Speaking of freedom..

FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) has an Action Alert out:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. “That’s just a policy.”
The alert goes on to describe stuff that would seem natural in a police state, like security guards refusing to allow a reporter to give a victim her business card, not allowing photographs or interviews, and being "chased by the guards in golf carts, who said they would be taking down our license plate and that we couldn't return."

FAIR recommends that you follow the advice on FEMA's website which
urges citizens to report "allegations of civil liberties or civil rights abuses" to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who is Richard L. Skinner.

Inspector General Richard L. Skinner
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Link courtesy Prem Panicker via email.

More light at the end of the tunnel

Regular readers of this blog (hola, zig!) will remember the link we posted in May about the gentleman who had a light bulb (wattage not specified) removed from, um, the end of his digestive tract.

Awab Alvi points us to this story on Yahoo, about a similar case in Multan:
Mohammad, who is serving a four-year sentence for making liquor, prohibited for Muslims, said he was shocked when he was first told the cause of his discomfort. He swears he didn't know the bulb was there.

Friday 21 July 2006

"e-mail has become the new snail mail"

E-mail is so last millennium. Young people see it as a good way to reach an elder _ a parent, teacher or a boss _ or to receive an attached file. But increasingly, the former darling of high-tech communication is losing favor to instant and text messaging, and to the chatter generated on blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
Read on.

[via Nancy's status message.]

Thursday 20 July 2006

As Martin Niemöller didn't say

When the DoT came for the religious fundamentalists,
I remained silent;
I was not a religious fundamentalist.

When they blocked the leftists,
I remained silent;
I was not a leftist.

When they came for the libertarians,
I did not speak out;
I was not a libertarian.

When they came for the litbloggers,
I did not speak out;
I was not a litblogger.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The original

What the heck, since we're ripping off the good pastor, we might as well continue to sermonise ponderously. Here's what we wrote to the Bloggers Collective early this morning, with a few links added:
Congratulations! (and a but..)

Pat yourself on the back.

It is absolutely fabulous that the pressure created by we few, we happy few (as of the time when the news of the blanket ban being lifted came out, this group was just 357 people strong) has pushed the ISPAI to rethink the ban. Hopefully, it will also make the Government rethink its policies.

Which brings me to the "but.."

Much remains to be done. Remember, it could be your blog tomorrow, getting banned all by itself, with no horde of angry bloggers coming to rescue you.

There are threads on this group and a page on the wiki about a possible Public Interest Litigation. There is also a lot of information in both places about the Right To Information act, as well as plans to file petitions. Please follow those threads, and keep the momentum going on this movement in favour of free speech for all of us.

Gifts from Pakistan

Please see:

InBlogs, a creation by Yasir Memon and Naveed Memon, which will provide the same service to Indian blog readers as pkblogs was doing so stoutly these past few days.

And also:

The Grease Monkey script by Mansoor, designed for Firefox users.

In this email to the Bloggers Collective from which I learned of these goodies, Dr. Awab Alvi, Pakistani blogging community stalwart, says
We seriously thought it was because of a thick and stubborn headed Pakistani
government that resulted in such a stupid move but seeing the Indian
Government react similarly it seems all governments are the same when they
want to implement decisions always without due thought and consideration.

Reading a few emails in this group just recently it seems the Indian
government might actually come to its senses and finally lift this blockade
surely a big relief to the world, but until then we would like to present
the Indian Blogging community with yet another tool to be used on their
websites which converts all Blogspot links into a URL utilizing the proxy
servers of
This tool can be downloaded from the the Don’t Block the Blog website, and is credited to Adnan Siddiqui

The good doctor (his specialisation is dentistry, by the way - never thought we'd say nce things about a dentist) goes on to say
We share all these as a gift to build better friends across the border and hope to shed the image of hatred and violence and give way to a peaceful co-existence between to lovely nations.
Doctor Saahab, shukriya.

The marginalien gets a driving license

Go along for the ride: 1, 2, 3. The saga will, no doubt, continue here.

For those of you in india, the same links, pkblogs-ised, 1, 2, 3. The saga will, no doubt, continue here.


It's pretty awesome that a small (357 as of this writing) rag-tag group of vociferously disagreeing, rude, loud, opiniated, individualistic soap box orators can get the monolothic powers that be to (or at least their scapegoat) to back down and be sensible.

Whew. Too long, that sentence, especially after the last ten days or so of manic activity around the Mumbai Help blog and wiki, the Bloggers Collective and the Bloggers Against Censorship wikia. Will come back and write more about this, we will (be still your beating heart), unless, of course, someone pays us to do so first. Which reminds us. We have shitloads of deadlines to meet, and all of those people know this URL.

So you go read them links. Especially the BC archives. Much fun. We shall go back to the salt mines.

Tuesday 18 July 2006

Extra, extra! Indian Industry's feelings have been hurt!

Just found this while looking for something else chamber Assocham issued a strong statement saying the movie, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, shows Corporate India in bad taste by portraying industrial houses as 'ruthless and heartless', other industry bodies like CII and Ficci chose to keep mum and distance themselves from the issue.

'It's merely a work of art, and nothing more should be read into it,' a Ficci official said.
The movie in question is Corporate, and no, we haven't seen it, so we have no idea if it is, as the FICCI official claims, a work of art.

Flash! Mr Bhandarkar and his producers should use this in their publicity: "a work of art - FICCI"

Friday 14 July 2006

Frothing at the mouth a bit. Incoherently at that.

Indomitable. Unquenchable. The Spirit of Mumbai. [cue violins]

Enough already. You're making me throw up.

A city is a place. A geography. Like a state. Or a country. A municipal ward. A neighbourhood. Boundaries we create. We. Human beings. People.

Tell me, the stuff you saw the other day, the stuff you lived through, tell me now, did it seem all soft-edged and romantic?

Don't get me wrong. I'm awed, choked up, by the heroism. By the struggle against the odds. My heart breaks when I see the pain, the grief. But that's human beings being the best that they can in the face of other human beings being complete evil bastards. It's just the good in all of us showing through. Ain't got nothing to do with the geography. If it did, hey, there's enough heroism to see on a day to day basis on your way to work. If it did come down to the city, why aren't we crying everytime we see babies play in the muck besides the railway lines? Why aren't we breaking down when we watch a legless human being drag himself from car to car at traffic signals asking for money? Why aren't we frigging appalled and stung into action by children working for a living?

Stray thought. So you're pissed off about the TV channels shoving gore on to prime time. Or you're upset about the invasion of privacy. Oh you're disgusted about the way they're promoting themselves on the coat-tails of suffering. Tell me now, they're just showing a different aspect of that same spirit that we love to call the Spirit of Mumbai. They're Getting Down To Business. They're making the most of whatever opportunities life throws their way. They're seeking a share of your viewing time because that't their business. It's the same reason why you took a train to work on Wednesday. Because you must. Or lose out.

Another stray thought. I was exchanging SMSes with a friend. She asked about some Sri Lankan lads I know. She mentioned that one of her friends had been blown up at the Elephant Pass a little while ago. Over there in the "Emerald Isle," they've been getting it in the neck so long it's a part of life for them. You must talk to Morquendi sometime. Anyway.

My friend—the one who I started out the previous paragraph with not the Lankans—said, wouldn't it be great if this was the last of it for the year? Wouldn't it be nice if we had a a year's global armistice? A year without wars, terrorism, bombs, fighting?

A year, I said, A year!? Why not Peace In Our Lifetime? (I talk like that sometimes, In Capitalised Words.) The odds are better for a year, she said.

Is that what we're down to? Hoping for a few months of peace? Oh the humanity.

Oh, and that's a phrase I found reverbrating in my head the last couple of days. I looked it up, but I'm still not clear what it actually means. I'll give you Nilanjana's take instead. She said it better: I don't know what it means, but I know exactly what he meant.

Where was I?

Oh yes. The Spirit of Mumbai. We'll hear a lot of this in the weeks to come. How brave we are. How we never say die. (Tell that to the poor sods who got blown up.) Me? If I had my druthers, I'd prefer that we didn't have to prove ourselves in this way every few years.

Man. I really shouldn't write when I'm angry and depressed at the same time. It gets me into deep shit.

I'd better stop.

Thursday 13 July 2006

Writers against Terrorism - call for contributors

My friend Danish Husain has started a collablog called Writers Against Terrorism. An extract from the first post:
This blog is an attempt by writers to address issues of terrorism, fanatacism, bigotry, war, censorship, human rights violation, women's rights and any act which violates the idea of justice and fairness.

I invite you to post your comments, opinions, ideas and issues pertaining to these. Let's come up with suggestions to make our world safe and terror free.

If words are your forte and you think have something worthwhile to say and contribute to this blog then shoot me a mail at dan[DOT]husain[AT]gmail[DOT]com
We are one of the contributors, though we haven't had the time to post there yet. We'd be happy to send you an inviation too. Leave your email address in the comments, or mail us at zigzackly[AT]gmail[DOT]com.

Tuesday 11 July 2006

Not rocket science

Awright. So two rockets deep-sixed over the last couple of days. Never mind. We'll still put one on the moon. And Rediff's got a contest going to figure out what you think Chandrayaan will look like.
What do you think Chandrayaan-1 will look like? What should it look like? What kind of special design does it need? invites all budding space scientists out there to enter this rediff contest and design a spacecraft for this lunar mission.

Sketch your design of the spacecraft's exterior and interior. Scan and e-mail them to us by July 25, 2006, 0900 hours IST.

We will send the 20 best, most realistic and most practical designs to Dr G Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO, who will choose the top five entries.

Five winning designs will win special Rediff Shopping vouchers worth Rs 10,000 each.

The five winning designs and the other shortlisted entries will be published on

So hit the drawing board folks!

E-mail your designs to

Yahoo, meanwhile, is working on the pill

An idea whose time has, er, come.

[Via Amit]

Monday 10 July 2006

Leave Travel Assistance

Maria Giovanna, a.k.a. the Filmiholic sent us a link to this New York Times article on travel writing.*
In the interview, Mr. Kohnstamm, a travel writer, described the experience as one of "the darker realities of the job." He added that he stared death in the face on an assignment when the brakes of his car failed on an icy road in the Andes. Other realities of the job, he said, were "being broke, spending massive amounts of time staying in fleabag hotels, and there are aspects of the writing that are just data entry."

It's summer now, and countless travelers are fumbling their way around the globe, heads buried in guides published by Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Frommer's among others. Probably few stop to consider what goes into producing travel guides or even who wrote them. And as it turns out, many of the intrepid young writers scouring the planet doing research for next year's crop of guidebooks never stopped to consider what those jobs would entail, other than the romantic — and often overstated — prospect of being paid to travel.

While the phrase "travel writing" may invoke thoughts of steamer trunks, trains, Isak Dinesen and Graham Greene, or at the very least, well-financed junkets to spas in Rangoon for some glossy magazine or other, writing budget travel guides is most decidedly yeoman's work. Most who do it quickly learn the one hard and fast rule of the trade: travel-guide writing is no vacation.

"Many underestimate exactly how much work goes into making a guide book," said Jay Cooke, an editor for Lonely Planet. "Some potential authors think it would be fun to travel and get paid for it. But they're expected to write tens of thousands of words. It's a big, big job, and it goes far beyond journal keeping on a beach somewhere."
See, as we told you, it is a lot of hard work. :)

Awright, awright, we haven't gone though any of the bad shit the article describes, and with the exception of being unable to sit comfortably for a couple of months because we had a few minutes of stupidity, and getting chewed by mosquitoes in various parts of India, we quite enjoy our little breaks.

Psst. Shameless self-promoting plug time. We have a little piece on Bombay in the rains in this month's issue.

Zizou, Zizou.. could you?

Saturday 8 July 2006

"Pepperwater fic" was the best we'd come up with

But the erudite Professor A Singh has a far better descriptor:
the "Opal Mehta's Arranged Monsoon Marriage Under the Curry-Smelling Mango Trees" school of masalafied Indian fiction
Delicious. Now we must quickly memorise it so we can drop it into conversations.

My logo is bigger than yours

There's these awards, see, a spoof, kinda thing. How it went was they asked their readers to send in the best, er, logos that show, or seem to, the ah, um, not to put too fine a point on it, a penis. And now, they have, um, put up the winners.

Fetch! Sit! Down boy! Beg!

That, me children, is the way to train your significant other.

So says Amy Sutherland. And you've got to believe her. She wrote the book. Well, a book. It's called Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers.

Seriously though, the stuff she says makes sense. Reward behavior you would like to see more of. (Though the flip-side, ignoring the stuff you don't like, isn't easy for most of us.) Understand your exotic animal bit o' fluff. If they're doing things you don't like, find other stuff they like to do that would make it impossible to get up your nose and encourage that instead. Examine your own behaviour and see whether you're contributing to the problem. Elementary stuff, I would have thought. But with our track record, we should shut up now.

Old persuaders

A wonderful nostalgia-inducing collection of Indian press advertisements on Cutting the Chai.

Installments one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.

Link courtesy Neha.

Thursday 6 July 2006


Common Cold
~ Ogden Nash

Go hang yourself, you old M.D,!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
In not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

I [heartate] blogs

Take the Weblog Author Personality Quiz. [Caveat: it's one of those bad-mannered quizzes that doesn't cough up results till you fill up all the answers. And it's 20 questions long, each one with 16 answers to choose from.] [Caveat to the caveat: the 16 alternatives are mostly funny and worth the read even if you don't take the quiz.]

And read this. It's a potty-mouthed rant, with bad grammar and too little humour to make it amusing, but it makes some good points. It dates back to 2002 so apologies if you've seen this before.

Added later: We really wish that the writer had made his points in a less vituperative manner. Because many of them are really good ones.

Of course he makes statements like " has become very clear that only people who are insulted by this essay are the ones who see themselves as falling into the categories I describe above as negative. People who match these criteria tend to send me emails with random insults.."

Our problem is not that we mind being insulted. It's just that we vastly prefer that it be done in lucid, and in a perfect world, elegant prose. Or poetry for that matter. Bad language for its own sake ceased to be funny in the 9th standard. Well, okay, a little later. We were a late-blooming idiot.

Be very afraid

This, boys and girls, is a US Senator debating a bill in a Senate Commerce Committee.
I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?
So you want to talk about the consumer? Let's talk about you and me. We use this internet to communicate and we aren't using it for commercial purposes.
They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Now we have a separate Department of Defense internet now, did you know that?

Do you know why?
Now I think these people are arguing whether they should be able to dump all that stuff on the internet ought to consider if they should develop a system themselves.

Maybe there is a place for a commercial net but it's not using what consumers use every day.

It's not using the messaging service that is essential to small businesses, to our operation of families.
From 27B Stroke 6. Link via email from Ingrid Srinath.

Full audio here.

Pliss pliss pliss also see hilarious follow-up post which explains why the internet the Senator's staff sent him took five days to get to him.

Tuesday 4 July 2006

If you have children's and young adults' books you'd like reviewed in The Book Review..

A note from Jaya Bhattacharji at Zubaan

Apart from being a Senior Editor/Marketing Manager at Zubaan, I am also the Guest Editor of a monthly book review journal called The Book Review.

The Book Review has been published from New Delhi for over 30 years now. I am responsible for the special issue on Children's and Young Adult's Literature. It is published every November.

The issue is a collection of book reviews and articles about children's and young adult's literature within India and South Asia, published in English and other regional languages. Every year, we request publishers to send us books for reviewing. If it is possible, then please write to me at: jaya[dot]bhattacharji[at]gmail[dot]com All genres are welcome - fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, comics, reprints of classics etc.

I have been the guest editor for this journal for six years now. In recent years, we have noticed that this particular issue is practically sold out as soon as it hits the stands as it is not only the regular subscribers, but schools, educationists, academics, teachers, parents etc who buy this issue and preserve it for the entire year or beyond.

Hope to hear from you soon,

With best wishes,

Wassup, duck?

Our favourite duck's long blog silence is explained.

He's been hard at work on his Sarai Fellowship project.

If you're into SF&F and speculative fiction, you'll love these interviews: Anil Menon, Ashok Banker, Cheryl Morgan, Gotham Chopra, Jai Arjun Singh, Jaya Bhattacharji, Jeff VanderMeer, Manjula Padmanabhan, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Matthew Cheney, Payal Dhar, Rana Dasgupta, Sarnath Banerjee, Thomas Abraham, Vandana Singh, Zoran Zivkovic.

And then there are Samit's essays, IWE and genre, The Indian superhero, The South Asian diaspora and speculative fiction, Indian children's literature and speculative fiction, Comics, graphic novels and Indian spec-fic.

Right. Good on yer, laddie. Now get back to work. We await book three with bated breath.

No frogs were harmed in the making of this blogpost

You've probably heard some self-styled management guru spout this one:

"Take a pot of hot water and a frog. Throw the frog into the pot. What do you think will happen? The obvious, of course: the frog will jump out. Who likes hanging around in a pot of hot water? Now ... [t]ake a pot of cold water, put the frog in it, and place the pot on the stove. Turn on the heat. This time something different will occur. The frog, because of the incremental change in temperature, will not notice that it is slowly being boiled. Unfortunately, many organizations, as they grow, begin to resemble the boiled frog."

Fast Company's investigative team, the "Consultant Debunking Unit", put the frog story to the test.

a three-pronged garden tool being dragged across a slate surface

Didja shudder? Didja?
The original recorded, pre-digitised sound was not actually of scraping fingernails, but of something known, from previous experiments, to be very like it. In a footnote, Halpern, Blake and Hillenbrand confide that "the instruction set used in this study included a description of [a] three-pronged garden tool being dragged across a slate surface. Virtually all subjects shuddered upon reading this portion of the instructions."
Marc Abrahams in the Improbable Research column in the Guardian, tells us about a study called "Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound". Or why we shudder at certain sounds. Here ya go.

Sunday 2 July 2006

"Direct descendant"

Why do people say that? Is it possible to be an indirect descendant? You're either descended from someone or you're not.

Archimedes and his death ray

Ancient Greek and Roman historians recorded that during the siege of Syracuse in 212 BC, Archimedes (a notably smart person) constructed a burning glass to set the Roman warships, anchored within bow and arrow range, afire.

The story has been much debated and a number of attempts to recreate it have been made over the ages. While some attempts have apparently been successful, the death ray is oft dismissed as myth.
Some people at MIT went about proving that it could indeed have been fact.

Well, we were bored

What Famous Leader Are You?
personality tests by

Saturday 1 July 2006

"This wall will soon be in paperback online"

Ah, the memories..

Why they make sequels instead of Son of Superman

This tongue-in-cheek 1971 article by Larry Niven explains why it wouldn't work if Supes and Lois (or Lana for that matter) got it on. Go, read.

(Niven, incidentally, introduced the Flash Crowd in a story by the same name, which, 30 years later, evolved into the Flash Mob. Sorry. Digression.)