Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cricket and wisdom and katamari, oh my!

Due to an epic World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan (India won!) and a not so epic wisdom tooth tantrum (ouch! :'( ) I will simply share a link that lets one katamari web pages:

Don't get hooked.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

SS - Are these the world's ugliest animals?

A few days ago I was linked to a gallery on NY Daily News called "The World's Ugliest Animals".  Some of the animals were atrocious, even scary-looking, but a few of them I actually found cute, like the snub-nosed monkey and the baby aardvark.

The one that made me choke on my morning cup of green tea was the naked mole rat:

This little fella looks hilarious!  The blobfish made me cringe and giggle as well.  Here is the rest of the gallery.

Which ones do you think don't deserve to be on the list?  And which ones made you wonder if they were created by a, perhaps, drunk Mother Nature?  

Friday, March 25, 2011

FF - Places to go when you want to switch off your brain!

Sometimes we need to just shut our brains down and read light things for a good laugh.  There are a number of sites out there made for this purpose.  I shall list three, here!

Funny Yahoo Answers compiles all the stupid, hilarious questions out there that people ask on Yahoo Answers.  Honestly, reading some of these questions makes me lose faith in humanity. :P

An example:

Kinda sad, isn't it?

Others are:

My Life Is Average - ...because everyone lives a dull, mundane life.
I Can Has Cheezburger? - where lolcats and their like live.

Note: some of the content on these sites may not be appropriate for young'uns.  Or particularly owly old'uns.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ruskin Bond

Recently, a friend gave me two of Ruskin Bond's books: The Room on the Roof and Vagrants in the Valley. I'd heard a lot about this Indian author of British descent, how he wrote his first novel (The Room on the Roof) at 17 years of age, how he won the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize that is awarded to British Commonwealth Writers who are under the age of 30 because of it, how his style is "simple and elegant"...but never did make the effort to read anything by him, until now.

Honestly, I don't know just what I think of his writing style. On one hand, his imagery is amazing. His opening lines of The Room on the Roof are:

The light spring rain rode on the wind, into the trees, down the road;it brought an exhilarating freshness to the air, a smell of earth, a scent of flowers; it brought a smile to eyes of the boy on the road.

His words and poetic sentences make it easy to imagine what's going on. On the other hand, I prefer hardcore realistic scenarios to ones that seem derived from a fairy tale. Yes, I know I'm a big fan of fantasy, which, to some of you raising your eyebrows at me right now is probably pretty close to 'fairy tales', yet the fantasy stories I like are the ones in which the characters are very real and three-dimensional. Apart from the fact that some of them can smite demons in the blink of an eye, control storms and/or grant boons. But they bleed like the rest of us, which is what counts.

Granted, I've only read the two books I mentioned above, which are about a 16 year old orphan named Rusty. The interactions between Rusty and his best friend are a bit too mushy for my taste. They're like brothers, and hold each other while sleeping, cry on each other quite often, and talk about romantic things like the moon - not really something I can easily picture 16 year old boys doing, since when I think '16' I think of my teenaged cousins, who would hate to be hugged so much and would probably decapitate me if I talked about how beautiful the sunrise is. Rusty also fancies his friend's mother, which isn't an unusual thing in itself, but his affections are returned and not only that, his friend is fine with it. This all sounds perfectly alright when I'm writing it out like this, but the flowery words make it sound unrealistic and dreamy.

Not that I didn't enjoy the books. I did, once I finally understood the writing style and accepted it. In fact, I'd recommend them to people who enjoy light reading as a break from real life stresses or to people who like to experiment by reading different styles, but he's not one of my favourite authors, even though some say he's the Indian Wordsworth, and there are thousands of people who hang on every word of his. Perhaps I'll change my mind if I read a few more of his works...

I do want to read one more book of his: Susanna's Seven Husbands. It's apparently about a woman who kills her first 6 husbands. Again, it doesn't sound realistic, but I'm quite curious to see how Bond has applied his characteristic light, poetic writing style to a story that sounds so intense. It was recently adapted to the Indian big screen in the form of 7 Khoon Maaf. I plan on watching that as well. 

What I'd really like to know is: Have you ever read anything by Ruskin Bond? If so, what did you read, and what do you think of it?

Linkity link links!
Wiki article

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SS - Cinderella's Ride

I often go on these crazy desktop wallpaper web-hunts, and collect a bunch of images I like.  As a result, my wallpaper is changed a helluva lot, even up to a gazillion times on a particularly restless day.  What can I say?  I love awesome images but get bored of them very quickly and web-hunts are a great way to procrastinate!

On one such wallpaper web-hunt, I found this collection of 35 wallpapers. Some are not so great, most are pretty neat, but the one that really caught my eye was this one:

This wallpaper is called 'Cinderella's Ride' and was made by Cocacolagirlie on DeviantArt.  I'm a complete sucker for Disney, and though Cinderella isn't one of my favourites (FYI, Aladdin is the BEST MOVIE EVER!), I love it nonetheless.


Friday, March 18, 2011

FF - EarthSky and the Supermoon

You've probably heard that tomorrow night we will witness a 'supermoon'. That's a fancy name for 'the closest full moon of this year'.  It'll be big and beautiful and absolutely amazing, and we'll even get to see Saturn with the naked eye!  Curious about the supermoon, what it really is, and what its consequences will be, I surfed around and came across an awesome site:

Eris. Click for source

An excellent explanation of the supermoon can be found here. Also, if you're wondering whether the rumour about said supermoon causing the earthquakes/tsunamis in Japan is true, then take a look at this article

I have fallen in love with this site.  Though they do have articles on biodiversity (can sharks smile?), health (fungus and scorpions to cure malaria??), and other science subjects, what I like best about the site is the 'space' category. They even tell you how to recognize constellations and what to expect when you look up at the stars every single night

That's actually something I'd really like to learn.  I want to be able to say "Haha! Jupiter looks like it's riding Pegasus!" rather than "If you squint really, really hard, that glob of stars looks a bit like an inkblot!"

EarthSky really is a brilliant science site, full of awesome photos and videos, scientist biographies, and lucid explanations, so you should definitely check it out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Part 2

I found  these satellite images of Japan that show villages before and after the tsunamis hit.  You'll find that a number of them have been completely swept away. They've literally been wiped off the map. :(

I also came across this article written by a nuclear engineer at MIT giving the real story about what's been happening at the nuclear reactors in Japan.  The media has created an unnecessary panic across the globe, and they're focusing too much on the reactors, when there are other more critical dangers in Japan.  Most of the reporters don't know anything about physics, so it's refreshing to see things being explained properly.  I hope you take the time out to read it!

Also, please don't believe the texts and emails that have been circulating like crazy! No, we are not at risk of getting caught in a 'radioactive rain shower' - a media-coined term. You're more likely to get hit by a flying ninja-raccoon! Adhere to the Guide's wise words: Don't Panic. :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SS - Japan

The Japan disaster that began on March 11th has had most of the world holding its breath in shock and fear.  I know I've been pretty heartbroken about the whole thing.  And it just keeps getting worse! 

So, today, I decided to share a picture of the wreck - one that really hit me:

Everything from the rubble behind this poor woman to the look on her face to the blanket wrapped around her - the only protection she has against the cold weather - really reflect what's been going on.   This is from a BBC news slide show.  Do check it out!  The images are just as powerful and sad as this one.  

I'd also like to comment on how small the world seems because of social networking sites.  People all over the world have been able to follow the horrifying events as they occur.  I hope that knowing the whole world is praying for and supporting them will add to each survivor's strength at least a bit.

Friday, March 11, 2011

FF - My Cardboard Life

Reading webcomics is probably the number one way I procrastinate.  Well, it shares first place with sleeping and making coffee.  Most of the webcomics I read don't appeal to people who are easily offended, or who don't enjoy jokes about serious issues.

However there is one that will appeal to just about anyone.  My Cardboard Life is a comic by Philippa Rice, made out of paper, cardboard and just about any other material she can get her hands on.  It's super creative and it makes me giggle out loud at times.  Not to mention, it's often puntastic!

Click to see the larger version

You should read it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

QS - Smell

As a hygiene/clean freak, the sense that makes me most uncomfortable is smell.  Let me explain.  You smell something icky.  You know that the only way for you to smell something icky is by your brain receiving a piece of ickiness to interpret.  Which means a piece of ickiness somehow gets inside of you without you being able to control it.  The very thought of that makes me want to curl up under a cover and never leave my house again.

I decided to find out just how the olfactory system - the system of the sense of smell - works.   There are a number of different articles out there explaining it excellently.  Volatile (easy to evaporate) substances release molecules that float around in the air which enter your nose and latch onto neurons (nerve cells).   This is why you can smell, say, food and not metal. Metal isn't volatile.  Additionally, not everyone can smell everything. If your DNA says you can't smell camphor, then your brain won't be able to interpret that smell. 

A signal is then sent to your brain so that you can figure out what the smell is.  Absolutely terrifying isn't it? Think of all of the things that get collected in your nose until they're flushed out as snot. Actually don't. :(  

In order to make myself feel better, I made a diagram explaining how *my* olfactory system works.  If I keep telling myself that Narty the Neuron Gremlin gets lonely sitting inside my nose, then I won't feel so bad being able to smell nasty things:

As much as molecules of ickiness flying up my nose creeps me out, I wouldn't do away with smell. There are so many pleasant things to smell out there, and many are attached to sweet memories.  Fresh laundry.  Warm pancakes.  Eucalyptus.  

There are certain smells that make me remember random things from my childhood.  Like the smell of freshly baked muffins.  My aunt used to make them whenever I slept over at her place.  She'd bake them in such a way that they'd be the first thing we'd smell when we woke up.  My cousin and I would then race kicking-and-screaming downstairs to the kitchen, somehow convinced that the second one to reach wouldn't get any muffins...

What are some of your childhood smells?

Further reading:

Nose image taken from here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SS - Badwater Basin, Death Valley

I stumbled across this beautiful photo of Death Valley in California some time ago:

This was taken by Dan Desroche and submitted to National Geographic. NatGeo has amazing photo galleries, and they add pictures everyday.  This was one of December's best photos!  

Friday, March 4, 2011

FF - Your Life's Theme Song

I was recently linked to a site that randomly selects a song.  The song that is played becomes the theme song for your life!  Here it is:


When I clicked on it I heard Dissidia: Final Fantasy - Messenger.  It's a beautiful track, and pretty apt.  I tried it again a couple of times, and it turns out that they have a pretty decent collection!  Try it out and see if what you get fits. Feel free to share what you got!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remarkable Teachers

I've really lucked out when it comes to teachers. Most people have just one or two inspiring teachers to talk about, while I have at least five. But this post isn't about all of them. Just one particular teacher.

Professor Varma was an absolute gem. He wasn't even one of my school/college teachers - he was an old, retired university director when he volunteered to teach me Hindi 9 years ago when he heard from my grandmother that my Hindi sucked.

He was the first person, outside of my family, I'd ever met who was completely addicted to learning. And in no time he made ME addicted to it as well. His house was FULL of books, especially those leatherbound, beautiful ones you can only afford after saving up for them your entire life. I mean, he'd order new books every other week! Even after our Hindi lesson was over and he'd turned his attention to the computer games he was so cutely addicted to ("This alien shooting game is so much fun, Radha!") I'd spend hours reading at his place. There was one particular book I kept gravitating towards, and he gave it to me without a second thought when he noticed how much I borrowed it. He was that generous.

When going over...
the names of vegetables and fruits in Hindi became tedious we'd move on to debates on things like science, religion and music. His intelligence far surpassed normal people's, he had an incredible sense of humour, and despite living alone and suffering from health issues he was ALWAYS positive.

He was like Dumbledore. Minus the long silver beard. 

I had just moved from America, so India was a bit of a cultural shock for me. Not only did this teacher of mine ease my transition, he taught me how to appreciate this country. And not only did he teach me about India, he made me realize through subtle examples that learning continues till one grows old, that time is precious, and that it's really important to be happy no matter what happens. (Admittedly the last bit is hard to remember, at times. :P )

Professor Varma recently passed away. He was old and suffering, and I'm trying to not be very upset about it, because I have the amazing memories and the things he taught me to fall back on.

But I would love to hear more stories about inspiring teachers! If you're reading this, do share some of your own stories!