About Readers' Paradise
The Pleasures and Possibilities of Being Single
I live in a society in which we treat single women with pity ("oh poor thing did not find the right match"), fear ("she is a madcap spinster - been alone for years... must have been frustrated"), or condescension ("there must be something wrong with her - that is why she has been single"). While bachelors (single men) may be pitied (in a different way though - "look the guy can't have home cooked food"), the attitudes towards single women range from bad to worse. The same does not go for single men. Single women are more often thought to be lonely and other people have trouble understanding that being single can have its own pleasures, and possibilities. Marriage or living together might have its advantages and that doesn't mean that being a single woman cannot be advantageous! It is rather sad that we raise our daughters to believe that without marriage and motherhood, they will remain incomplete. We keep getting defined by what is lacking in our lives rather than by what is good about us.
The Problems in getting Reliable Scientific Results
Science is facing a problem of flawed data and flawed analysis and hence flawed results. Researchers are under pressure of being productive - churn out as many papers as possible: more the published papers, the better is the reputation of a scientist. Funds are granted on the basis of how productive a research lab is. What takes a beating in the process is science. To quicken the scientific process, data is cooked, and mediocre processes and methods are applied with the sole aim of getting result (however incorrect or badly researched it might be) as fast as possible. And, these are not the only issues plaguing science. The article talks about the problems and possible solutions.
Elementary my dear Sherlock!
There was a phase when I fell in love with capsicum and would put the vegetable in almost everything I cooked. It tasted fine most of the times but once when I added chopped capsicum while steaming sprouts, the two ingredients were just not made for each other at least in the way I used them to prepare a dish. That was probably the end of my love affair with the vegetable. Certain ingredients go very well with each other and some just don't. Besides that if you understand the basics of cooking - knowledge of taste changers or spices, the right time to add an ingredient while preparing a dish, the right temperature for cooking a particular dish, understanding of the tools used for churning out a variety of dishes etc - trying out new recipes can get you good results faster.
IBM's app is designed to help you to cook well. It is called Watson. If you tell Watson what ingredients are available with you, Watson will show recipes that have those ingredients. You have options to make the ingredient a major ingredient or a side one. Here's a chef who used Watson for a week. He got some interesting results.
Are you Sherlock chefs ready to take assistance from Watson then?
The darker aspect of World War II
War is disastrous for all warring groups. The Second World War brought to light newer forms of torture in the form of concentration camps. However, though much has been written about those terrible acts - and they were terrible - much hasn't been written about crimes or war happenings that are too disturbing to talk about. A lot of these latter crimes - such as rapes, child suicides, cannibalism of the dead, and rearing and slaughtering war prisoners to be eaten - happened or were done not by Germans but by others including the allied powers. Perhaps that is another reason why these disturbing acts haven't been talked about more. Here's a historian who braves to find and document this dark part of history:
We are neither authors nor slaves of ourselves
Today's article is review of a book - Freedom Regained - by Julian Baggini. The idea of free will - that we are not controlled by external forces such as god or genes but we are free to choose our next reactions, our occupations, our wishes, and so on - has been floating around for a while now. The book discusses what scientists, philosophers or laymen think about free will as in does free will mean having the freedom to choose? The idea of freedom - this writer says - is wrong for many people who believe that freedom is giving up responsibility or that it is complete absence of constraints. What then is freedom?
Destruction in pursuit of Big Oil
The movie Avatar tells us what our greed does to natives whose native-lands are made of important and useful resources. There are other movies as well such as Blood Diamonds that depict the bloodshed involved in the quest for diamonds. An important resource today is oil and governments are ready to overlook almost any kind of hazard to the natives or environment to get that hands dirtied with this rich resource. Even a powerful, and "citizen-friendly" nation is no exception. In Alaska, oil drilling, coal mining and nuclear testing are playing havoc in the Arctic affecting marine creatures and natives such as American Inupiat population.The article gives an idea of the damage and deaf ears of the beneficiaries.
Boys are in a mess
I quite agree with a colleague of mine that boys are made for outdoors; they aren't made to be holed up in the house and spend hours before technology such as television, phones, or computers. I remember a father of a three or four year old boy toddler expressing his concerns about the child being quiet and less social. I was happy that he was thinking about it. Boys don't have to be feminized but they must get equipped with skills such as social skills, and getting enough physical activity; it is also important for them to have a father/mentor who demands excellence or challenges them to perform better, and can guide them in dealing with "boy-challenges". It is time that we find ways to get to our boys rather than losing them to technology and feminization.
The Petrol Car
There are so many things we take for granted. Take our automobiles, for instance. How they come to life with the turn of a key or the press of a button! How the entire internal mechanism works to keep the car going, or how gear shifts and braking works. How we pay through our noses for the convenience of a car - the frequent trips to the petrol pump, the maintenance and service charges. (And I haven't counted the expensive disco lights, a music system, modern gadgets, or other decorative car accessories!)
Although the context of today's article is european, we might just learn a lot of new things about our 'old' petrol car in terms of its working, and cost economics.
Tee hee, heehee and hahaha
Communicating emotions through written language is not easy. It takes use of different words to convey different levels of emotions. With rampant texting, messaging, and emailing, our e-language must convey exactly how we feel. For amusement for example, I replied with "ha ha" when a reader said something amusing. If I say "ha", can that become ambiguous in meaning? I mean, would that mean sarcastic "ha" or funny "ha" (the hindi "ha" would mean something completely different). Here's a writer who is having fun with LOLs, ROFLs, heehees, hahas and their kin:
Readers' Paradise - February 2015
Readers' Paradise - March 2015
Readers' Paradise - April 2015
Taking in Ta'izz
You know what happens when you live in a place for a long time? Simple. You get used to the place so much that you stop noticing the regular but interesting stuff or the seemingly ordinary happenings and activities around you. However, if you travel to a far-off land, You become more attentive and you seem to notice everything - even what seems mundane, ordinary or routine to its native people. Travel lends different perspectives. Sometimes, travel also opens our eyes to the sameness of human beings everywhere despite the differing cultures, religions, races, professions, food or environments. In a different land, you are a learner whose eyes explore the horizon ready to allow new perspectives to take shape.
Here are few pages of a travel diary written by a traveller travelling to a less frequented place - Yemen. It is a well written writeup and you will find yourself travelling with the author to the Yemeni city of Ta'izz exploring the place and talking with the locals. Check out the amazing photographs as well. Trust me, your travel with the author is going to be a great experience!
Data Drives Music and The Joyful Blues
My spouse once tried some app which could recognize music after the app "heard" the music for a few seconds. Well, it did fail sometimes. But, when it could recognize the track (show the title and the singer of the track) especially an unfamiliar song, it (the app) wowed his audience. Shazam is one such popular app. The developers of Shazam built an algorithm that would create a unique acoustic fingerprint for each track. It is used by around 20 million users; music directors can use the captured data to find popular songs playing around the world and also upcoming/young talent. Music companies are increasingly becoming data-driven and there are upsides and downsides of this trend.
Warning Future Humans About Radioactive Waste
Treasure hunters are travelling across the globe in search of precious stones and new sources of perishing resources. They come across a land which has colourful artwork and symbols that they have never seen earlier. The hunters belong to a race that like humans is curious. They are intrigued by the symbols and want to decipher the meaning. So they return with their exploring and digging tools. They toil day and night, and finally their effort bears the supposed fruit - their digging tool hits metal. The hunters are excited; they start digging furiously and unearth cans and cans of strong metallic canisters. They call in the experts to open these cans. After much effort, the cans are opened. But to the dismay of hunters, the cans just contain some strange material. Worse is to come as people in and those living kilometers around the site start reporting sick or start dying. Without realizing, the hunters have opened Pandora's box of radioactive material buried more than twenty thousand years ago by us humans.
Scary, right? So, what must we do to warn future generations of toxic radioactive waste - especially waste that would retain its poisonous effects for 24,000 years! In that time frame, it is possible that languages, culture, generations, civilizations, or even humans would change.
Secularism versus Ultra-Orthodoxy
India is a secular country - surely on paper. The way religion becomes a reason and foundation for politics, judiciary, and people, India is definitely far away from being truly secular. Same is the case of Israel and Algeria. Why orthodoxy wins against secularism in these countries is one of the central points of discussion in today's article. Talking about a good book, the author argues about the merits of the book and what else could have been talked about.
The role of a professor
I do remember many of my teachers. Few talked about a lot of things, often trivial or irrelevant and coursework took a backseat; few were limited to only coursework; a few of them were terrible and wouldn't even have much idea of their own subject; and few, of course, were amazing teachers - their classes had the right balance of coursework, relevant information, and some beautiful insights. Few teachers were approachable - I could talk with them inside and outside the class and they were willing educators. In the article today, the author, a professor himself, raises questions on whether students remember their teachers after passing out of college, whether they create opportunities to speak with their professors outside the class to gain insights on things other than coursework, or whether students come to college solely for the purpose of making a career or also to look for a meaningful education. What is the role of a professor today? Has the role of a professor changed and become limited to only giving instruction in the class?
Designing Machines for Addiction
" Everything that engages us, all pieces of content are engineered to be interesting"
As gaming industry and governments realize that there is more money through slot machines in casinos, more casinos give space to these machines. The machine designers record data of their customers to find what rewards can entice the customers to play more and therefore spend more. The designers also look at making the screens curvier, or the themes more emotional. The music played is also well researched. Players play for hours on end to get into "the zone" - getting into the flow of the game so much that no other thought occupies the mind apart from pressing the lever (button/s) in a bid to win.
The tech world is warming up to this addiction game as well. As apps vie for the user's attention, the app-makers want to learn from game designers how to get the user's attention frequently and increasingly. Here's more on the psychological mind games:
Anger and Cooking Meat
You cannot cook meat tenderly and timidly - this author cum cook says. If you do, you are a bad (meat) cook. You have to be violent to your meat so that it turns out well. See the interesting violence unfold here:
The Traceurs of Parkour
The first memorable chase sequence in the movie Casino Royale finds James Bond chasing a villain who sprints, jumps and almost flows through the dangerous landscape. This sport Parkour got a boost from that James Bond movie. Parkour is dance and athleticism combined to give its practitioners - often called traceurs - a monkey-like flexibility and movement to bounce off hard structures such as buildings, railings, and poles. Today's article talks more about this free running sport.