Monday, November 7, 2011

Off to Oz

I've decided to put on my pointy black hat and corrupt munchkins with my marvelous Wickedness.



In other words, I'm taking another long break from Teh Internetz in order to focus on things that are desperately vying for my attention.  Things that may or may not have to do with talking Animals, a man behind a curtain, and being green.

Kiss me goodbye, I'm defying gravity.





Friday, October 21, 2011

FF - Cracked.com + 6 Misleading Assumptions You Make About Quiet People


It's been a while since my last post, but I've been traveling as well as painfully losing wisdom. (One tooth down, one more to go in a couple of months. :( )  I was going through Cracked.com today, and found an article that really hit home, mostly because it's a source of a lot of frustration for me, and I feel like commenting on it. (Oh, by the way, Cracked.com is an excellent website to procrastinate with.  It's got loads of interesting lists that are often hilarious.  You should check it out!)


The article that made me jump up, point to my monitor and yell "THAT is what happens to me ALL.THE.BLOODY.TIME!" is: 6 Misleading Assumptions You Make About Quiet People

I'm a quiet person, and not because I lack confidence or because I don't know what to say. I just generally prefer not to talk so much -- though I used to enjoy talking people's ears off years ago.  It's different when catching up with friends or engaging in a one-on-one conversation on a topic that I'm interested in, of course, but most of the time I enjoy simply observing people.

So, being a quiet person, a number of the listed assumptions have been made about me at some point or another.  I've had people ask with annoyance "Why don't you just talk more??".  I've had people try to force me into becoming the center of attention at gatherings.  I've even had to say "I'm shy" a number of times even when I'm not feeling shy, just because people don't understand anything else.

It was pretty refreshing to read this list, especially #3: Quiet people want to be left alone.  It's true, most of the time (at least for me), but I still really do enjoy meeting up with people I like and socializing.  However, I tend not to be able to handle more than a couple of hours, not because I don't enjoy their company but just because I don't have the energy left.

This quote explains it well:




One common definition of the introvert/extrovert divide is that extroverts gain energy from being around people, whereas introverts spend energy when hanging around people. So parties make introverts tired, even if they like everyone there and are having a good time. It's like playing a pickup basketball game with your friends. You might have a hell of a time, but you're going to be very tired after an hour (or in my case, a minute) and have to call it, and go home.

So, yes.  For those of you who've got annoyed with me for leaving early or 'switching off', there you have it. ;) And the article also goes on to say that introverts can't handle socializing every single day.  It's true!  And no it's NOT because we're a bunch of depressed people who want to curl up in bed and sleep the day away and whinge about how unfair life is (another common misconception, and one that the article doesn't address).  Hell, while I do enjoy a lazy day in bed every so often, I go nuts if I don't buzz about with some sort of activity, be it exercising, reading, writing, or learning something new.

#2 is "Quiet people are mad at you".  I can't tell you the number of times people have asked if I'm mad at them, just because I'm relaxing my face muscles and not smiling, and I have no clue what they're talking about.  I'm like, "Eh? What gave you that impression?"  Although, I suppose I can't blame them. I do often get quiet when I'm angry as well. :P  Whoops.  I suppose they should look at my eyebrows or something, instead.

However, I must say that #1 is absolutely wrong: Quiet people are smarter/deeper than you.  Of COURSE we are!  Pfft.  That's not a misconception.  Our brains are too busy solving complex puzzles and plotting world domination to talk to to the likes of you.  No?  Don't believe me?  Ah, well. It was worth a shot.





Friday, October 7, 2011

FF - The Chronicles of an ABCD

Today's FF is of my neglected blog, The Chronicles of an ABCD. It's about India.  Sometimes even *I* forget that I have it.  I plan on updating it more regularly now, at least twice a month, unless Mr. Lazy Procrastination decides to pay me a visit.

For those of you who don't know, ABCD stands for 'American Born Confused Desi'. Yep. That's what I am. I finally decided to admit it. ;)

A few of my non-Indian friends have asked me questions about India, and rather than repeating myself for common questions, I'll just point them to the blog. Provided I remember that it exists.  I'll also post about certain ABCD thoughts and experiences I've had, and my general outlook on life in India.

Here are some of the more-visited posts:

What's India like?

The Ten Indian Traffic Rules

Fair and Lovely (Indians are obsessed with fair skin)

What Cricket Means to India

Where are you from?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SS - Information Flood

Thomas Herbrich is an amazing photographer. This is one of my favourites from his gallery:


On his website, he describes how he put together each photo.  For this picture, he photographed a thousand printed pages, reduced them to 6 cm in height and photocopied them.  These pictures were then stuck on styrofoam sheets, and laid out as shown.  He shot the wave and the person separately.

Isn't it lovely?  The rest of his work is definitely worth checking out as well.

Friday, September 30, 2011

FF - Pottermore

As a huuuge fan of Harry Potter I had to sign up to be one of the beta users of Pottermore.  I recently got my acceptance email!  

It's been fun, but there's not much to do there once you've gone through the first book, apart from brewing a few potions and learning a few spells.  I was fairly disappointed at the lack of interaction and the fact that house common rooms were nothing but noticeboards, but overall the graphics are great and it's a fun way to kill time, at least for a few days.

I was sorted into Slytherin which was not at all surprising! I've known for ages that I'm a Slytherin, so I'm very pleased.  My husband's a Gryffindor.


This is a screenshot of the gateway. It displays the journey through the books.  Only the first book is active right now. Each node is a chapter, and the tiny avatar squares show the progress of people you 'friend' who are currently online. User names are automatically generated for people when they register (mine is FlightDraconis122) but if you 'friend' someone you know, you can add a nickname so that you remember who they are.

For those of you who haven't heard of Pottermore or haven't gained access to it:

Each important moment in the first Harry Potter book is illustrated, and objects are hidden in the illustrations to collect and store in a trunk -- things like chocolate frog cards, books, galleons (these are added to your Gringott's vault automatically) and potion ingredients.  A lot of the chapters include J.K. Rowling's explanations behind names as well as background stories of certain characters, details we don't get to see in the books.  Those are quite interesting and inspirational!

As you move from chapter to chapter, you get to do the things Harry did, including buying a wand at Diagon Alley and getting sorted into a house at Hogwart's.   Once you've gone through all of the chapters, you can brew potions to gain house points, or you can practice spells so that you can eventually challenge people to wizard's duels -- for now, the duel option is disabled.  They're probably working on it.

Overall it's pretty fun, but I feel once the novelty wears off I won't visit it much due to lack of activities.  I've heard the second book is scheduled to come out only in 2012, which is disappointing. I'm not sure what we're supposed to do till then. :P

Friday, September 23, 2011

FF - 3 fun music sites to procrastinate with

This site lets you conduct a beatbox band.  Quite fun!

Here you can compose a song for a whale and have an orchestra perform it!  You may just make a new friend. The animation is awesome.



3. Ball Droppings
On this website the source of music isn't your keyboard or webpage buttons you click: the music is created by balls bouncing against lines you draw using your mouse.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

QS - The Atom




More often than not, when I tell someone that I've studied physics, they look at me as if I'm some sort of alien.  Or a genius.  Or a mixture of the two.  Unfortunately, I am neither.  
Since a couple of people have asked me for posts on basic physics, I thought I would start with the atom.  

A lot of people seem to get scared when they hear the word 'physics'. Perhaps you're one of them.  But I've got news for you: physics isn't scary. It's actually a rather beautiful subject.  A student of physics is a student of the universe; studying physics consists of figuring out how this universe ticks.

Now, a lot of what makes physics 'intimidating' is the math.  All those scary equations, and yes, I admit even I feel like hopping on the next spaceship to the End of the Universe when I see one I haven’t studied. But without using math as a tool, there's only so far you can delve into the workings of the universe.  However, we're not going to discuss math here.
Unless you have studied physics at some point or like to read up about it for fun, you probably only know that an atom consists of electrons revolving around a nucleus.  And that the nucleus is made up of neutrons and protons.  
Well here, goes.
Interesting things you may not know about atoms:
-- Atoms look NOTHING like this:
First off, an atom is made up of space. Lots and lots and LOTS of space.   99.9% of an atom is space. Suppose you were holding a nucleus that is blown up to the size of a golf ball.  The nearest electron would be around one kilometer away from where you’re sitting.  That's how much space there is!
This excellent video clip explains why we appear solid even though we’re all, literally, full of space.
Secondly, the electrons that revolve around the nucleus aren't really tiny spheres that move around in space like planets. (Though, planets aren't actually perfect spheres, but that's a whole 'nother story.) 

Depending on what type of experiment we perform, electrons behave either as particles or as waves. That means they look at our experiment and then decide to respond just like light does or just like billiard balls do. So, basically, they're both, despite how unimaginable that might seem.

-- As of now, we think electrons are fundamental particles.  That means if we take a teeny tiny knife and slice one open -- provided we're actually able to isolate one and cut it like an apple -- we won't find anything inside.
-- The two particles that constitute the nucleus -- protons and neutrons -- aren’t fundamental.  They can be broken further, and they do into little things called ‘quarks’. Each of them has 3 inside.  The combination of the 3 determines whether the particle is a proton or a neutron.
-- If you asked an atom how tiny it is -- a question I suggest that you refrain from asking to non-atomic folk -- you may be surprised to hear the answer.    Atoms are supremely tiny.  A single drop of water has about sextillion atoms of Oxygen -- that’s 1 followed by 21 zeroes --and double that amount of Hydrogen atoms!
Can you imagine how many atoms are in the ocean?  On Earth?  In our universe?
But, interestingly enough, atoms, and therefore visible matter, constitute only about 4% of our view of the visible universe. 
The Greeks were correct when they said atoms were the building blocks of matter.  However, ‘atom’ comes from the word ‘atomos’ which means “indivisible.” That's misleading, as we now know.  They can be divided.  

And who knows? Perhaps they can be divided further still.





Images from:
http://www.msad49.org/ljhs/WonWorld/MightyAtom.html
http://www.123rf.com
http://iain.codejoust.com/2009/05/wallpapers-galore/

Monday, September 19, 2011

Design Spew

So, I've decided to start logging my Photoshop adventures in the form of a blog: http://designspew.blogspot.com

This will help me keep track of what I've done and what tutorials I've looked at.  It will also allow people to give me feedback so that I can improve, and perhaps become a kick-ass graphic design hobbyist one day!



This is my latest experiment. I've logged it here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NUMB3RS

You know, I think my husband might come to regret introducing me to NUMB3RS. It's a tv serial in which a math professor uses mathematical models to help his brother, an FBI field agent, solve crimes.  And I'm OBSESSED.

What thrills me is that a lot of the models the math genius employs are soft computing techniques I've heard about or studied or even used!  I end up smacking my husband without knowing it, in excitement, shouting things like "OH MY GOD HE SAID SUPPORT VECTOR MACHINE!! I KNOW WHAT THAT IS!"  As a result, the poor guy is left very bruised -- though slightly amused. :P

The models are explained using very simple, lucid analogies, so just about anyone can understand them. Even if you're someone who is afraid of the word 'math' you should watch at least one episode.  You may just form an appreciation of how beautiful it can be!  I know that watching this show has made me miss some of my favourite courses in college even more.

And then, of course, I end up daydreaming about how bloody awesome it would be if I were a kickass math genius whom the FBI turned to for help.


Image from http://atnzone.com

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SS - Water drops and polka dots



So. Beautiful.

Photographer Licht~~~~ on Flickr captures various backgrounds refracting through water drops. Take a look at the rest of his Microworld album -- it's friggin awesome!

Friday, September 9, 2011

FF - Goodreads

Goodreads is my latest geeky obsession.  I have always been an avid reader, but have never really kept track of what I've read. Until now, that is! Goodreads provides virtual shelves for people to keep track of what they've read, what they want to read, what they're currently reading, etc.  Adding a book to my shelves gives me a thrill that is similar to what I feel when browsing libraries.

Just about every book that you can think of is listed, along with reviews and ratings. Authors often have pages for themselves, so you can view the books they like.  There's also an option to recommend books to people you've added as a friend.



  If you're obsessed with reading, you should really, really sign up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TCT - 10 Interesting Mental Disorders

Have you ever wanted to open a pressure cooker before letting it stabilize?  I know I have.  Of course, I know that it would be dangerous and that there would be one hell of a mess to clean up. Doesn't keep me from being curious, though.  I wonder what would it look like, how it would sound, and whether the food really would reach the ceiling.

Yesterday, I stood staring at my pressure cooker, desperately wanting to open it...  and I wondered just why I held back.  I somehow doubted that every other person in the world would have restrained themselves if they were suddenly overcome with curiosity.  

Yes, many many of them would have been aware of the danger factor which would, in turn, leave them floundering in a state of unrequited curiosity, but I bet quite a few of them would have taken the risk.  Everyone has different levels of restraint, for whatever reasons.

My thought process went one step further: I wondered if there were certain mental conditions that actually made people take risks based on curiosity.

And suddenly it dawned on me that just about every potentially dangerous (or dirty!) thought could be amplified and linked to something someone does and maybe enjoys out there, whether or not they’re aware of it.  The reasons could be extreme tastes, mental disorders, etc. Rule 34 comes to mind, i.e., that a fetish exists out there for just about any conceivable subject, but I won’t go into that here.

Overcome by curiosity - and this time I didn’t restrain myself! - I decided to google interesting mental disorders.  I’ve put together a list of the strangest or funniest ones I could find.  This list is subjective, of course.

Here goes.




1. Gamomania. a disorder that causes people to make spontaneous, preposterous marriage proposals - even to random strangers. Let’s hope that if you marry one you’re open to a polygamous relationship!

2. Doromania. an obsession with giving gifts.  Kinda makes you want to find one to befriend, huh? Although it wouldn’t be as fun if the person decided to give paperclips and bottle caps.

3. Cotard Syndrome. People with this syndrome believe they don’t exist. Yup.  They think they’re dead. 

4. Body Integrity Identity Disorder. People with BIID believe that they will live better lives if they remove one or more of their body parts.  Usually, they don’t try to remove the body parts themselves; they simply pretend that they don’t have it, like pretending they don’t have a left arm.

5. Capgras' syndrome. If you are convinced that someone is using polyjuice potion to impersonate a close friend or relative, then you might be suffering from this syndrome.  It involves a delusional belief that someone close to you has been replaced by an imposter.

6. Autassassinophilia. This is a disorder that causes some people to get aroused only when in grave danger.  I wonder how someone with this syndrome would feel about opening a pressure cooker before it’s ready to be opened...

7. Folie à deux (French for “a madness shared by two”).  This is when two or more people are living in close proximity and symptoms of psychosis are shared by them.  Imagine! Some delusions can be contagious. :-O

8. Foreign accent syndrome. Yup.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Usually, it follows a severe brain injury, such as a stroke. I think I would find it extremely funny if someone developed this syndrome without any sort of injury.

9. Strange fears.  Originally I had written Androphobia (fear of men) here, but then I realized that there are tons of strange, inexplicable and often hilarious fears out there.  

10. The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine. First of all, I just love the name of this one.  Secondly, it’d be awesome to have someone with this mental disorder at your beck and call, because it means that they jump up and obey any command you give them.  Even if you tell them to drown themselves, but that’s just mean.  Imagine telling someone to learn how to make the world’s best cup of coffee and have them make it for you every single day.  Sigh.  Now, off to find my husband...





Sunday, September 4, 2011

SS - The Royal Mile

A friend of mine and his bike often go out adventuring.  I stole a picture of the Royal Mile from an album of their recent explorations and played around with it using Photoshop:



It's not *exactly* what I had in mind, but it's pretty close! I've rekindled my Photoshop obsession, and have probably looked at eleventy-one tutorials over the past few days.  Let's see how that goes.

The original.




Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hot Chocolate


Here is a short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago (~700 words, ~5 min. read). It was inspired by the following picture  from one of Ozlem Yikici's writing prompts.




Hot Chocolate

I hate it when Mama gets her hair done.  It’s so hard to sit in one tiny corner of the stuffy, smelly salon, especially when it’s snowing.  I tell her it’s awfully cruel to keep a child trapped inside when there’s a white world of wonder waiting to be explored.  But she just laughs.  An evil laugh.  She’s evil.
I’m supposed to keep from pressing my nose on the window and making fancy breath patterns on the glass, and just sit still with my storybooks like a proper little girl.  Even the little girls in my storybooks are allowed to go play outside.
How absolutely monstrous of her to keep me from the snow!  She says that I’m too little to cross the street by myself, that the horses and carriages will not see me until it’s too late and that by then I’d be as flat as Aunt Margaery’s notes.  I just know that would never happen, though.  The constables in their sharp uniforms and shiny brass buttons would protect me.  They might even agree to have a snowball fight with me! Mama’s paranoid.
Oh how much I could be missing, sitting on this uncomfortable hard chair, swinging my legs back and forth, next to this horrible row of gossiping ladies!
Why, a unicorn could be frolicking about just outside right now! Unicorns love snow because snow is white just like they are.  I would have hot chocolate with the unicorn.  I’d name him Cocoa, because hot chocolate is brown even though he’s white, which is what Papa would call ‘ironic’.  I would ask him to make snow angels with me. But I can’t and it’s all Mama’s fault.
The bare trees outside could be lonely and cold, right now.  No one ever pays attention to trees once their leaves have fallen off.  I could be chatting with them, keeping them company so that they forget all about the snow that’s caught in their branches.  But, no, I’m stuck inside this salon.  Oh look, Mama’s giggling with her friend.  Doesn’t she realize it’s snowing outside? Mama obviously doesn’t care about the trees.
I could be missing a lady passing by in a pretty pink carriage.  She could be wrapped in red furs to match her red lips.  I’m sure she would take pity on me if she saw me.  She’d tell me to climb on up and snuggle me to keep me warm.  Then she’d take me back to her manor, which would have rooms and rooms and rooms, and feed me tarts and tea.  Mama never gives me tea.  She says tea is for grown-ups.  I’m sure the lady’s tea wouldn’t be as bitter as Mama’s tea.  I tried it once and hated it. I bet tea’s not supposed to be bitter at all.
Right now, little dwarves could be frantically searching for stones along the road.  Everyone knows dwarves collect stones for their rock gardens.  But they are so simple and daft that they get confused when it snows because they can no longer find stones.  And then they become careless and wander the streets in daylight, forgetting that they’re not allowed to let humans see them.  But I haven’t ever seen one, yet.  I could be missing my chance!  Silly Mama.  She doesn’t know anything. I would help them find stones, I would!
The road could be turning into a frozen river with mermaids and brightly coloured fish trapped underneath, so that it would look like a painting on the ground.  But I’m missing it.  By the time we leave the salon, the river would be covered with snow and the road would look ordinary again. I hate Mama.
I bet that right now a snowman is landing his hot air balloon just across the street.  He could be calling children for a ride!  Oh, I just know he’s out there and -   
“Come, princess!  You’ve been such a patient little girl.  Let’s go to the cafe and have hot chocolate with marshmellows and plan the snow castle we will build at home!”
You know what I think? I think Mama’s the best person in the whole wide world.


Friday, September 2, 2011

FF - Physics and Physicists




One of my favourite blogs on the web is Physics and Physicists by ZapperZ.  If you want to know the latest happenings in the world of physics along with lucid explanations and links to good resources, then you should definitely check it out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TCT - Printing in 3D

I had heard of 3D printing before. However, I had assumed it involved printing creative cut-out patterns for complex objects to create 3D shapes by hand, the way we used to make cubes out of paper in elementary school.

Turns out I was completely wrong, and 3D printing is actually pretty friggin amazing! 3D printers *literally* create objects in 3 dimensions by solidifying layers of powder in specific patterns. The 2D patterns for each layer are obtained by using a computer to 'slice' the object into virtual layers - typically 10 layers to a millimeter. The platform that the powder rests on moves downward so that the layers are solidified exactly one on top of the other, thereby re-creating the original 3D object.

Here's a clip from Nat Geo Amazing that explains and demonstrates the process beautifully -




Oh, the possibilities!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

SS - Black Hole

I spent the last 16 days in a black hole.  I'd been minding my own business, frolicking about in space, when alluva sudden I tripped and fell into a black hole.  Yup.  That's clumsy li'l me.

Well, more accurately, I was out visiting relatives and I didn't trip at all - though I did bang my shin  while climbing onto the top bunk on the train (ouch!) - but that's hardly an interesting story, right?

I knew our good friend Google would assist me with the visuals of the story behind my absence, so I googled 'fantasy black hole images' and ended up finding this gem of a wallpaper:



It's from coolvibe.com, which, in their words "is a site dedicated to showcasing the best and most inspirational digital art from around the web — be it science fiction, fantasy, retro, 3D, illustrations, vector art, and virtually everything else."

They have amazing stuff, which you should definitely check out.  Here's the link to the black hole wallpaper.

Friday, August 12, 2011

FF - How Rhinos See the World

Ever wonder what it would be like to look at the world through a rhino's eyes?  Well here's one way to do it without the risk of getting slaughtered as you try to crawl into its brain:

Click here to see how Google would appear to a rhino.

from http://rhino.vidfu.net/

Visit http://rhino.vidfu.net/ or directly add a website's address to the end of it to view the website through the eyes of a rhino.

SO. AWESOME.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Authors I Admire

A dear writer friend of mine and I were talking about celebrity role models, and we both concluded that we prefer saving our energies of admiration for authors and people in our own fields to most actors/actresses and social celebrities. I'd be a LOT more star-struck meeting Stephen Hawking than, say, Tom Cruise. Put me in a room with a great author or someone with significant contribution to the world of soft computing and McGonagall would call me a babbling bumbling baboon.

Though I'd probably be a *tiny* bit star-stuck if I were to suddenly come face to face with Julie Andrews or Natalie Portman or Aamir Khan...

Anyway, I thought I'd actually compile a list of some of the authors that I really admire, and why I look up to them. This is by no means a complete list; I'm sure I'll think of 10 more the moment I hit submit.

JK Rowling in the café where she first began writing the Harry Potter books







- J.K. Rowling for being able to write something that is so simple and yet so complex, something that touches people of all ages, and not giving up despite being rejected by many, many publishers.  She started out struggling financially and writing at a cafe, and ended up adding words to our everyday speech in a few years.  The terms 'muggle' and 'Hogwarts' are known all over the world; The only other non-Indian books I've seen able to do that in India are the Enid Blyton books, and those are for children. Her characters are believable, her hero is flawed and lovable, and the wizarding world is so intricate and nicely entwined with our own that we think to ourselves "Oh MAN! If only!!"

- G.R.R.M. for the way he writes, though he's not one of my absolute favourite authors.  He apparently just writes.  Just keeps going no matter where it takes him. Well, of course, there's always a bit of note-taking and planning, here and there, but I've heard that he prefers to just write.  His work tends to get chaotic, yes, and I'd rather my own work be less chaotic, but the more I've learned about novel planning, and character tools over the past couple of months the more I've realized that I'd like to just be able to WRITE.  I love planning in real life.  Planning TOO much in my writing world suffocates me.  It's just not my thing.

- Margaret George for the amazing way she researches her work, and how believable she makes her historical fiction novels. She writes about her adventures in research on her site.  I haven't visited her site in ages, but from what I remember, it was awesome. I have only read one of her books: Helen of Troy.  However, it was so amazing, that I exchanged emails with her a few years ago. Her replies were very motivational.  I haven't been able to find her books in any stores here, but now that I have a Kindle, I'll look for e-books.

- Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan for their fantasy.  I want to write fantasy like they do, full of realistic, intricate characters and scenarios.  I would also like to be able to write an epic series, but I doubt that will happen... :P

- Oscar Wilde for his humour and satire, and his ability to articulate in interesting ways how society works

- Philip Pullman for the way he wrote His Dark Materials, which talked about god and the church without sounding preachy. It was a very well spun sci-fi fantasy tale.

- H.G.Wells  for The Time Machine, a piece of sci-fi that is ageless.

Which authors or celebrities do you look up to?



Picture from:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1066469/JK-Rowling-worlds-earning-author-cool-3m-week.html#ixzz1UiRfXfWc






Sunday, August 7, 2011

SS - Little Monk at Play

When my husband and I were exploring Gangtok, I spotted this little monk-to-be playing with a ball on a string. He was so engrossed in his play that he didn't even notice me, and I couldn't resist capturing it.




Here are the rest of the pictures we took.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Away, Away to Gangtok!

I am off to Gangtok for a week!  It's a beautiful place up in the Himalayas.  I've been there before, but only for about 3 days.  This time I intend to explore a lot more - provided the rains cooperate.

If you would like to read about it, here's a post I wrote after my previous visit.  Gangtok is also where I met two people who had climbed Mount Everest.  I wrote about it here.

Cheers!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

TCT - Game of Thrones, Brain Movies, and Readaholism

Did you know that in the 19th century, reading novels was likened to having a drug habit?  

Kinda makes sense if you think about it.  It's addictive, especially when you're so engrossed that you lose track of time and surroundings, and to them that addiction was worrisome. Of course, being addicted to reading doesn't really come with the negative side effects associated with drug addiction. For instance, there's no strain on loved ones - unless you count them having to crane their necks over the edge of a book to catch a glimpse of you at the dining table as 'strain'...

Reading has always been a great source of enjoyment for me.  I've always preferred curling up with a book to watching a movie.  Lately, I've been reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - an epic fantasy series.  I read the first book Game of Thrones last year, but picked up the second only recently, after having watched the HBO tv series based on the first book.

The television adaptation was *excellent*.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they really stuck to the book as much as possible and that most of the characters fit their roles perfectly.  Tyrion Lannister, kept me giggling; Daenerys Targaryen and Arya Stark were simply brilliant; and I even wanted to punch the clementine-faced whiny prat Prince Joffrey in the face!  Tyrion actually got to do just that in the second episode:



One of my favourite scenes, I must say!

Because the characters, scenes, and sets of the HBO series fit the story so well, I can picture the events of the second book much more vividly than I normally do while reading books - and my imagination is quite vivid, if I may say so myself. As a result, reading Clash of Kings is like watching a long  movie for me, minus the eye strain.  It's friggin amazing!

So, why is it that we can lose ourselves in books?


Neurological studies have shown that the brain processing required by books is more than what is required by other media like television, but that's actually why we are more likely to block out distractions while reading.  The countless number of times I've wanted to chuck popcorn and coffee at obnoxiously loud people at the theater forces me to agree.

It has also been found that we are more likely to lose ourselves in light fiction or narrative non-fiction books than other types, and that we tend to 'find ourselves' in the fictional characters we read about.  It's empathy on a whole different level, apparently.   However, no one really knows exactly how the brain processes reading and how we visualize what we read.

In the words of E. B. Huey:
To completely analyze what we do when we read would almost be the acme of a psychologist's achievements, for it would be to describe very many of the most intricate workings of the human mind.

I did find a couple of interesting articles on the subject but I'd like to learn more:

Books that look promising:
The Psychology of Reading by Keith Rayner, Alexander Pollatsek
Visualizing Psychology by Siri Carpenter, Karen Huffman

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SS - Professor McGonagall

As you probably know, part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on the 15th.  I watched the first show on the first day - how could I not?  I even took my wand.  Yes, I am that kind of fan.  

I fervently waved the wand towards the screen whenever things got tense, so I like to think that it is because of me that Hogwarts remains standing and that Voldemort is dead.  Well, I'll give some credit to McGonagall too, because she was freakin' awesome.  Okay, okay, so was Snape. But, yeah, it was mostly me.  You're welcome, fellow Harry Potter fans. :D

A quick Google search to find a good representation of McGonagall led me to these fantastic Magic Cards, made by moonchildinthesky on deviantART. Here's the professor:



It's actually an animation.  Check it out here.

There's another reason I like this artist.  I have a soft-spot-bordering-on-obsession for Disney (yes, I admit it) and moonchildinthesky makes excellent Disney portraits.

You should check out the rest of this artist's galleries!

Friday, July 22, 2011

FF - Celtic Mythology

Over the past two days I've been reading a lot about Celtic Mythology.

The stories are absolutely lovely, but let me tell you, a lot of the names given are awesome but unpronounceable!  I sat staring at my screen trying to say them out loud and ended up tripping over my tongue a number of times.  There are names like 'Mygdonia' and Lacedaemonia' and 'Cappadocia' and 'Hyreania'.  Complicated much?





The two sites that I spent HOURS perusing were:
- http://www.pantheon.org/ - which has all sorts of mythology
http://www.maryjones.us/index.html - which has a collection of old Celtic texts.

I also found http://www.gods-heros-myth.com/cmain.html, but haven't had time to go through it carefully. It looks promising, though, and I did take the image from it!  The picture is of a mythological being whose name complexity I'll leave for you to determine youself.  It is - wait for it!


...The Green Man.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TCT - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a child, my mother would ask: "Radha, did you break this?"

I'd promptly reply with: "No Mommy! Radha did!" and then I'd point to the evil, invisible twin that was standing next to me, now better known as Just Air.  

from disneyfriends.net

I was a terrible liar as a child, and that, unfortunately, has stuck with me through the years.  Not that I endorse lying or anything; it's just a useful skill to have at times.  Especially when you're trying to pull off a prank.

I love to act. I really do.  I enjoy the feel of stepping into someone's skin and prancing about a stage as him or her.  It's so much more fun than getting up in front of an audience as myself - something I really can't do without feeling the need to sprint to Timbuktu.  I've been told that I am a decent actress (even won a couple of awards in college and whatnot, if I may brag!), and I've also been told that I'm a lousy liar.

So, I get "You're such a good actress, why can't you just lie well?" when someone wants me to tell a friendly fib for them, which happens, surprisingly, quite often.  The thing is, the two don't really feel the same for me.  I'm still 'me' when I lie so it's hard to put on an act.  I also tend to giggle at inconvenient moments when the fib is particularly amusing.  I just have to come to terms with the fact that the p-poker face is something I will never be able to do.




When an article in Scientific American Mind popped up about 18 things that make a good liar, I was intrigued.

 Most of their points seem obvious when you read them, but I doubt that if we thought about it ourselves we'd come up with more than 5.  And so, here they are:

(1) manipulativeness. "Machiavellians" are pragmatic liars who aren’t fearful or anxious. They are "scheming but not stupid," explain the authors. "In conversations, they tend to dominate, but they also seem relaxed, talented and confident."
(2) acting. Good actors make good liars; receptive audiences encourage confidence.
(3) expressiveness. Animated people create favorable first impressions, making liars seductive and their expressions distracting.
(4) physical attractiveness. Fair or unfair, pretty people are judged as being more honest than unattractive people.
(5) natural performers. These people can adapt to abrupt changes in the discourse with a convincing spontaneity.
(6) experience. Prior lying helps people manage familiar emotions, such as guilt and fear, which can “leak” behaviorally and tip off observers.
(7) confidence. Like anything else, believing in yourself is half the battle; you’ve got to believe in your ability to deceive others.
(8) emotional camouflage. Liars "mask their stark inclination to show the emotional expressions they truly feel" by feigning the opposite affect.
(9) eloquence. Eloquent speakers confound listeners with word play and buy extra time to ponder a plausible answer by giving long-winded responses.
(10) well-preparedness. This minimizes fabrication on the spot, which is vulnerable to detection.
(11) unverifiable responding. Concealing information ("I honestly don’t remember") is preferable to a constructed lie because it cannot be disconfirmed.
(12) information frugality. Saying as little as possible in response to pointed questions makes it all the more difficult to confirm or disconfirm details.
(13) original thinking. Even meticulous liars can be thrown by the unexpected, so the ability to give original, convincing, non-scripted responses comes in handy.
(14) rapid thinking. Delays and verbal fillers ("ums" and "ahs") signal deception, so good liars are quick-witted, thinking fast on their feet.
(15) intelligence. Intelligence enables an efficient shouldering of the “cognitive load” imposed by lying, since there are many complex, simultaneously occurring demands associated with monitoring one’s own deceptiveness.
(16) good memory. Interrogators’ ears will prick at inconsistencies. A good memory allows a liar to remember details without tripping in their own fibs.
(17) truth adherence. Lies that "bend the truth" are generally more convincing, and require less cognitive effort, than those that involve fabricating an entire story.
(18) decoding. The ability to detect suspicion in the listener allows the liar to make the necessary adjustments, borrowing from strategies in the preceding skill set.
I definitely fail at a couple of these points; a fact that should satisfy the people who continue to insist that I should be a good liar just because I'm a good actress.

One thing I really enjoy doing and like to think I'm decently good at is improv.  I like to hold nonsensical conversations on just about anything and steer them in interesting directions depending on the responses I get. But lying outright?  I still suck at it.

...or maybe this whole post was a lie.

Don't look at me like that!  Radha wrote it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

SS- Secret Cove

When I was out on my secret mission, I found this secret cove:



Isn't it beautiful?

What happened was that I stopped at my parents' place between 'tasks', and ended up going through some of my old documents.  Apart from finding interesting stories that I wrote when I was five years old in which grandmothers slapped little country boys for not paying attention to the circus (yeah, dont ask...), I found a bunch of folders with Christian Riese Lassen's artwork on them.

I had forgotten how much I loved those folders!  I asked our all-knowing friend, Google, and found his website to look at more of his paintings.  And that's when I found Secret Cove.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Top Secret Mission till June


I have been called away for a top secret mission that may or may not involve a freckled unicorn, a time-traveling water bottle, and a neutron star.  I won't get back till the end of June.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

SS - A Rose from Hubble

On its 21st anniversary,  the Hubble Space Telescope sent us a beautiful rose:


Rather sweet of it, wouldn't you say?

The photograph is of two interacting galaxies called Arp 273.  Read more here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

SS - Carl Warner's Foodscapes

British photographer Carl Warner makes awesome landscapes with food.  He calls them 'foodscapes'.  Here's one of my favourites:



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Singing Sheep, Dreams, and Getting Ready for Work

The process of waking up is painful.   One moment you're a sorceress with superhuman powers ruling lands and manipulating minions, and the next moment reality comes crashing down on you and you realize you're an average human running on negative adrenaline trying desperately to simultaneously get dressed and gulp down breakfast in an almost futile race against time to get to work.  Well, at least that's how it is for me.

from xkcd.com

I am one of those people who dream vividly.  Full story plots with complex characters, even more complex situations, and background music to match the mood.  I swear, Hollywood would *weep* with joy if there was a way to record my dreams.  Alas, I don't make the effort to write them down and often forget them as the day progresses.  There are a few that I do manage to remember, and they often inspire my story writing.

Admittedly they make more sense when I'm actually asleep.  For instance, I have no idea why a singing sheep from a Swiss village would follow me into the basement parking lot of a mall to meet a woman in sunglasses from the Russian mafia carrying a baby in whose diaper is a wad of $1 notes, all of which happened just after I had assassinated an evil witch at the top of a mountain who was brewing a plague in her massive cauldron on a bonfire.  No, I'm not exaggerating at all.  This is exactly the fabric with which my dreams are made.

I sometimes have a sort of sleep paralysis when I wake up from a heavy nap, during which only my eyes move, and the real world and my dreams overlap.  Some time ago, I woke up knowing that my husband was in the next room, but at the same time knowing that a group of monks doing yoga had decided to use as their classroom our apartment, which was part of a castle ruin in what I assumed was Italy, for the smell in the air was that of pasta sauce, and in my sleeping head that's apparently what Italy smells like.  I kept trying to call out to my husband to tell him that they needed to go away because I had to get ready for work.  And then I finally got out of bed, got ready for work, and left in my car, only to find that I was in my pjs, and was still, in fact, in bed.

This happened again, this morning.  I thought I was ready for work, and then woke up to find that I really, really wasn't.  It was extremely disappointing.  And painful.