Monday, December 6, 2010

Fog Harvesting

Image by: Evan Leeson/ecstaticist
Small communities in Chile, Peru  and South Africa are harvesting fog for their water needs.  Fog harvesting is an ancient technique of collecting water -- dates as far back as 2,000 years ago when people collected fog water dripping from trees.  Serious harvesting started only a hundred years ago.  The idea for a mesh fog collector probably came from observing dew on a spider web.  Apparently, humidity changes the structure of the protein fibers of a spider web creating knots in them.  The water droplets slide down the smooth part of the fiber in-between the knots and collect at the knots.

Encouraged by the success of this project,
two German conservationists, Kai Tiedemann
and Anne Lummerich, tried the same technique in
Bellavista, Peru a settlement close to its capital city Lima.  Lima gets only a few drops of rain a year but a thick fog covers the city eight months in a year. The Germans who run an NGO called the Alimón enlisted the help of the members of the community in building these meshes, planting the trees, laying the gutters and creating a reservoir/tanks for the water.  Alimón is a Spanish term for 'working together'.  This project would not be possible without the participation of the entire community.  For more on the work of this NGO click here.

The 200 people that live on the steep slopes of Bellavista had no running water and are considerably poorer than the residents that live downhill and enjoy municipal water.  They spent one-fourth of their incomes on water which was delivered to them in trucks.  Fog harvested water has very little impurities and is much cheaper. A single net alone catches about 560 liters of water.  “At the beginning,” Lummerich said, “the people from the village thought Kai carried the water uphill during the night to fill the tanks, because they couldn’t believe there was so much water.”

Funnel shaped contraptions tied to Tara/casuarina trees also collect fog water; they drip down into gutters or tiled channels and transported storage tanks.  What is wonderful about fog harvesting is that people actually plant trees and there is no threat to the environment. 

It is also heartening to know that communities bond when there is a common cause.

The fog harvesting pictures on the blog are from this National Geographic website

Update 4/7/2013: Thanks to for featuring my post on their forum!!  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cop Cuts in Camden, NJ

Camden plans to lay off half of its police officers and a third of its firefighters this fiscal year. What is to happen to this city that had the highest crime rate in the country in 2008? Although 2009 saw a little improvement, the city is still the second most dangerous place in the US. It has a population of about 78,000 and these alarming crime statistics:

Year to Date (November)
Murder 49 35 33 45 53 30
Rape 56 47 66 67 66 55
Robbery 822 702 771 781 813 690
Agg Assault 897 898 818 865 832 915
Burglary 1,159 1,020 1,178 1,128 1,218 919
Theft 2,775 2,332 2,424 2,311 2,680 2,036
Auto Theft 1,357 955 1,180 1,161 993 922
Arson 172 142 129 115 120 122

(Source:  Camden Police Department, UCR Status Report and Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, Rutgers University)

Camden against Downtown Philadelphia Backdrop
And what of the police officers, firefighters and other city workers who will be laid off?  How will they support their families and their mortgages?  Camden depends considerably on state aid; it has no tax base to raise revenue or cover its deficit.  From 2002 to 2010, the city was forbidden to raise property taxes.  PILOTs  or payments in lieu of taxes, were approved by state appointees so that large corporations in the city did not pay much taxes.  The New Jersey state budget cuts have further crippled the city.  Since the state takeover in 2002, not much effort has been put into luring investors here; the city has now been dropped like a hot potato. Whoever comes here these days, visits the aquarium or the Rutgers University (never after dark); the glory days of Campbell Soup, Lockheed Martin and RCA have long since been erased from its memory.  All we can look forward to are days of lawlessness.  Gangs will get a firmer foothold, and people who want a better life will just move. 

Camden--Near Drop
I think the government should now think in terms of planned demolition of the city.  Urban planning to bring about urban renewal. Maybe that will provide more jobs?  Companies could be persuaded to build around the Rutgers University campus providing employment to new graduates thereby extending the safety zone in the city.  Schools hours could be extended, so children's activities could be supervised.  They would have no time for gangs and would learn a little civic sense.  Salaries are a small price to pay for the overall mental and economic health of the community. Society needs growth--maybe this is the way to help it grow.


Friday, November 26, 2010


Thanksgiving is fun for everyone except the turkeys.

Each year, the President of the United States "pardons" two turkeys on Death Row. Here is the story of the first official turkey pardon.

The National Turkey Foundation and the Poultry and Egg National Board, since 1947, have presented the President with a turkey each year at a White House ceremony.  And the Presidents have always eaten it.

JFK was an exception; he said, "Let's just keep him". In 1989, the senior Bush started the practice of pardoning turkeys--two a year.  Till 2004, the pardoned turkeys were sent to Kidwell Farm (also ironically called Frying Pan Park),  a petting zoo in Virginia.  But now they go to Disneyland as the honorary grand marshals of the Thanksgiving Day parade. They are even given names.  This year's chosen ones are Apple and Cider.

I don't see what difference it makes to pardon two turkeys a year when, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


One of the funniest things that I ever saw is this video on Youtube on how to cheat in an exam.  It involved a scanner, a coke bottle and some glue.  Mystified?  Well, here it is

First of all, it bothers me that the author of the above video gives it a serial number.  There are many more of these.  And then, I think the students could better utilize their time simply memorizing what would fit on the teeny Coke bottle label. 

Yet another student teaches to cheat by writing notes on a stretched rubber band. What?  Are they going to write on the heads of pins next? 

Professor Quinn of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, caught 200 of his 600 business-course students cheating in a midterm exam. 

He offered the students an ultimatum: Come clean and take a four-hour ethics course, and your records would be wiped clean. If they chose not to come forward, they'd run a risk. 

The risk of expulsion, that is. The move to make these students attend a class on ethics was a stroke of genius.

 Also, all 600 students had to redo their midterms.

Student Konstantin Ravvin accused the university of "making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if they want to teach us some kind of moral lesson." (Mind you, a moral lesson!! Who needs that?)
"This is college. Everyone cheats, everyone cheats in life in general," Ravvin said. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn't cheated on an exam."

Really, the Professor has nothing to worry about.  Those that do not learn the "moral lesson" his way, will learn it the hard way.  And then maybe they will learn that they are, in fact, only cheating themselves.  As Kiki Kho, a producer of similar "cheating" videos said, the viewers don't really have to follow the videos.  If they do, it is all their own fault.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Google does not know Gandhi

Usually, Google acknowledges the birthday of a great soul by including an art banner about him on its home page.  I am disappointed that there was no art for Mahatma Gandhi.  The two 'O's in "Google" would have done nicely for Gandhi's glasses and the 'g's for his ears. 

Gandhi's favorite hymn was "Vaishnava Janato"--that carried a message of equality of all men and their obligations towards one another.  Let us listen because we have yet to learn how to live with others in harmony.

Happy Birthday, Gandhiji!

R.I.P. Tyler Clementi

courtesy of
Tyler Clementi's suicide confirms two things: that man is essentially a hostile being and that education does nothing for him.  Education does not seem to teach tolerance but breeds arrogance instead.  It was not enough that Tyler was minding his own business--he neglected to be watchful of others minding it for him.  Not content with a giggle or a snicker, the voyeur had to publicly humiliate Tyler.  What are schools teaching children?  What are parents teaching their children? Why is their energy so misdirected? Thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace, private lives are on public display, cyber bullying is rampant. No one takes the responsibility of controlling the content on these sites.  No one even cares until something extreme like this happens.

My elementary school would set aside an hour every day for "Moral Science", a period dedicated to teaching children decent, moral behavior and social etiquette.  It wasn't my favorite part of the day, but I think that is what is missing in children's lives today.  Decency has to be taught and cultivated.  And their energy should be properly channeled. Children do not play out on the streets nowadays; tag and hide-and-seek are lame games. No one uses a punching bag to vent his/her frustrations on. Even Playstation and Xbox are getting obsolete now that there is more fun in being mean on the internet.  Let us wind-up the toys and watch them run pell-mell!! Let the mind games begin.

Read more:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Design"-er Locks

  Stephen Hawking in his book "The Grand Design" says God did not create the Universe and that the Big Bang was inevitable according to the laws of  physics.
   But how does he account for this?  Even he would agree that this grand design is not wholly the work of "Head and Shoulders" shampoo.  Troy Polamalu, the star of the Steelers football team, had his 36" long curly Samoan hair insured for one million dollars.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New photoblog

I have a new photoblog, Indelible. Please be sure to check it out!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Doppelgängers ?

Geraldo Rivera of Fox News(left) and Argentina's World Cup 2010 Soccer coach Diego Armando
Maradona (right) , separated at birth?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

McChrystal the McStupid, McFired, McSurprise!

Gen. Petraeus, left:Gen.  McChrystal, right
Maybe General McChrystal wanted his two seconds of fame; he was certainly not making much headway in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Rolling Stone magazine (to be sold this Friday June 25, 2010), he made inflammatory statements about President Obama and some of his key administration officials.  It is inconceivable that an experienced, 55 year-old  General no less, is unaware of the consequences of such an interview. Or did lack of insubordination in his own military 'empire' lead to delusions of grandeur?

He is out.  General Petraeus replaces him.

Read the entire interview to be featured in Rolling Stone magazine here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Electronic Odysseus

"PHOTOS on an underwater camera that washed up on a beach in Florida have revealed it's epic ocean journey and also led investigators to its owner.

The waterproof plastic case of the Nikon camera was covered with six months' worth of crusty sea growth, but the camera itself was almost pristine when it was found in May." (Washed up camera almost pristine June 17th, 2010)

The camera had traveled more than a thousand miles from Aruba,  with a sea turtle for company for a while. Note the term "pristine".  All we need now is for Nikon to make cellphones.  Four of my cellphones have been victims of "death by drowning". They've been laundry accidents and that couldn't have been worse than an ocean voyage!

Part of the camera's voyage was captured by this sea turtle, which turned it on with its flapping fin.  Smart turtle! Wanted to bore its relatives with home videos, no doubt.  A captive audience while they are laying eggs on a beach somewhere.

Go to to see what the camera captured.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Right Wing Manifesto?

I read something on "The Daily Beast" (June 14, 2010), which I simply must share verbatim ac litteratim. Among the comments to an article on  Al Gore's silence on the BP oil spill issue was  this  right wing "manifesto" as seen by the reader.  Desertpenguin writes:

Right-wing power points defined:

1) The right-wing defines itself by its enemies.
2) It's more important to have enemies than friends.
3) Make enemies wherever and whenever possible so you can have someone or something to fight against.
4) Don't bother with solutions, just attack.
5) If asked for a solution, change the subject.
6) If asked for a solution, give a simple reply to complex problem.
7) If asked for a solution, reply emotionally, not rationally.
8) Only offer solutions that benefit yourself.
9) Lie.
10) If you don't like someone, attack them.
11) If someone makes a mistake, attack them.
12) If someone makes a mistake and apologizes, attack them.
13) If someone disagrees with you, attack them.
14) If someone who disagrees with you is factually correct, attack them.
15) The only reason to unite people is to attack others.
16) If you're not correct, don't admit it.
17) If you're not correct, minimize, belittle, and criticize others.
18) The most important goal in any situation is winning.
19) Use every opportunity to win.
20) Rationalize everything in order to win.
21) It's not enough to win; everyone else has to lose.
22) Never be honest, trustworthy, or respectful, unless it benefits yourself.
23) Use distortion, disinformation, and name-calling to attack others. Repeat endlessly.
24) Don't ask others for their opinion.
25) Don't consult with other on matters you're not familiar with.
26) Argue, don't converse.
27) Regard all situations as us versus them.
28) Regard all situations as black or white.
29) Attack anyone who doesn't see all situations as black or white.
30) Be fearful, angry, bitter, resentful, cynical, paranoid, untrusting, and unloving. Insist this behavior is the correct way to act.
31) Use religion as a means of attack.
32) Hurt others when given the opportunity.
33) Accuse others when you feel guilty about your behavior.
34) Voluntarily associate only with people like yourself.
35) Intentionally avoid anyone who looks, thinks, or acts different from yourself.
36) If you can't avoid anyone who looks, thinks, or acts different from yourself, attack, belittle, or marginalize them.
37) Always generalize about the appearance and behavior of others you're not familiar with.
38) Think of groups of people as enemies, not as individuals.
39) Never admit that your enemies are actually people with the same wants and needs as you.
40) Always demonize your enemies.
41) Always blame others.
42) Never trust others unless it benefits yourself.
43) Never agree with others unless it benefits yourself.
44) If others confront you with the truth, deny it.
45) Refuse to be patient and never admit to understanding your enemies point of view.
46) Never admit to any inappropriate behavior.
47) Never admit to having any character defects.
48) Always claim to have appropriate vaules even when talking, acting, or posting inappropriately.
49) Always use forums to express yourself in a negative manner.
50) Only take responsibility if it benefits yourself.
51) Take responsibility for results you had no part in.
52) Never waste an opportunity to act superior.

I was amazed at his perspicacity.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And the Fan Band Played On....

I was watching the 2010 World Cup soccer  match between Germany and Australia on television and was terribly distracted by this buzzing noise, like some 10, 000 bees.  I had to mute the set, turn on closed captioning and suffer a time delay in the commentary.  I had begun to think the noise was in my head.  I couldn't see any organized kazoo blowing among the spectators, but turns out I was not looking for vuvuzelas. The vuvuzela , which is made to replicate the call of an elephant, comes across as a drone on television. In real life, though, the noise reaches 144 decibels, equivalent to the sound made by a passenger jet.

Because the vuvuzelas create a wall of sound,  there has been little of the usual chanting, singing and roaring that are a staple of soccer games everywhere else in the world.  TV viewers are getting increasingly annoyed and want them banned.  However,  FIFA President Sepp Blatter refuses to play ball, so to speak.  "I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound," Blatter said in a Twitter post. "I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country."  So that's that.

Fans in South Africa seem to be having a great time! Everybody here has the vuvu.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today, the street -- tomorrow, the world.

Learned to bicycle three weeks ago, in my 49th year.  Of all my accomplishments (am not telling), that's the one I am proudest of.  I felt cheated somehow, that no one bothered to teach me before.  Before Malini, that is.  She came armed with knee guards, elbow guards and wrist guards.  And I borrowed Mukunda's helmet.  Malini held the bike, ran alongside me, and what did I do?  I ran over her foot a couple of times.  I decided then to learn quickly, to avoid further accidents.  The hardest thing about cycling is not to zig-zag.  I need the entire width of the street to myself.  I still cannot stop wobbling or make turns. I had one major fall a week ago when I took my right hand off the handlebar to scratch my nose.  The bicycle careened to the left and I fell quite comprehensively in an undignified heap in the middle of the street.  This morning I had to share the street with a man walking a dog towards me.  I came to a stop 10 yards away and waited for him to pass by which took about 15 minutes because the dog was curious and stopped to look at my ankles.  The man gave me a strange look, so I had to explain to him that I was a new cyclist.  He understood the entire situation instantly, gave me some advice about the brakes and moved on leaving the street free and clear once more.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kowloon Walled City

The Kowloon Walled City park  is a beautiful, green, serene park with waterfalls and fountains right at the edge of Hong Kong city, China.  It is difficult to imagine that  the park was once this.

This is an aerial view of the Kowloon Walled City before its demolition in 1993.  A pulsating, vibrant community, in a no-man's land  governed neither by the Chinese nor the British, it grew cancerous and had to be destroyed.  It boasted a chequered history.  Originally, it was a fortress built by the Chinese as a military outpost.  For many years soldiers and their families lived within the walled city and civilians set up businesses to serve them.  The soldiers  abandoned  the fortress when the British occupied Hong Kong, but the civilians continued their life there .  The Japanese conquered the territory in World War II, and they broke down the walls of the fortress to extend their airstrips.  When they left in 1945 at the end of the war, squatters occupied the area and the city grew even more rapidly.
Refugees from the Communist China settled here, so did Hong Kong's organized crime syndicate, the  Triads. ''Driven from mainland China, the Triads set up shop and start living like kings, while Hong Kong’s upper crust comes in for the sex, drugs and gambling.'' says Coilhouse Magazine + Blog  Over time, 500 buildings of uniform height, each 12 to 14 stories high, were built on an area approximately 200m X 150m so close together that no light could penetrate the city. Its nickname was Hak Nam--the City of Darkness and it was home to over 35,000 inhabitants making it one of the most densely populated places in the world.
 "The health authorities kept away. So the City just developed its own legion of ad-hoc clinics and dental surgeons. In the absence of telephone and utilities companies, the City’s inhabitants just by-wired their own electricity and connections. The same nick-it-yourself approach applied to plumbing and water. As a result, a tangled network of pipes and wiring dripped and hissed above the city’s dark, dank walkways. Cheap amenities for the residents, and, considering the extremely limited access, either in or out of the compound — a potentially catastrophic fire-hazard. " (Darran Anderson, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, 5/19/2009)

Before the walled city was demolished, photographers and journalists were allowed to wander in it freely and these pictures taken by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot are the reason for this post. For more  pictures of the daily life in this city visit the website

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Auf wiedersehen to Auschwitz? Hopefully.

WARSAW (Reuters) – The former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, with its museum exhibits, was in danger of flooding Wednesday following days of heavy rain that have brought devastation to southern Poland....
The open-air site is divided into two sections covering a combined territory of more than 200 hectares (500 acres) and includes some 155 buildings, the gas chambers, 300 ruined facilities and hundreds of thousands of personal items...
"We are continuing actions aimed at safeguarding the area of ... Auschwitz II-Birkenau," the museum authorities said in a statement.
"Overnight, high water levels on the Vistula ... broke the security barriers," the statement added. "The flood waters neared the western end of the site, threatening to inundate it as well as nearby villages."

I don't see the loss of Auschwitz as a great calamity.  The place has been a symbol of hatred, persecution, of insanity.  It is hardly a Mecca for the families of the victims, but it could be an inspiration to future madmen.  I think a memorial to the victims at that site would be far more appropriate than to keep hatred, anger and bitterness alive by keeping Auschwitz alive.  Maybe God is using nature's fury to tell us to move on.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"My Life and Hard Times" by James Thurber

It's really difficult to finish James Thurber's books.  Almost impossible to read even one chapter at a single sitting.  By the end of the first paragraph, I am laughing so hard I just cannot continue.  "My Life and Hard Times" was my Mothers Day gift and it is such a treasure. 

The book was written by a middle-aged Thurber but of events that  took place before he was 25.  "The sharp edges of old reticences are softened in the autobiographer by the passing of time--a man does not pull the pillow over his head when he wakes in the morning because he suddenly remembers some awful thing that happened to him fifteen or twenty years ago, but the confusions and the panics of last year and the year before are too close for contentment", he explains. Thurber had the unique ability to bring out the humor in what must have been the most painful situations in his young life. The years at Ohio State University seem to be tinged with disappointment because that was when he was made painfully aware of his handicap--he just did not have great eyesight. At age 7, he had lost one eye while playing "William Tell" with arrows and the other through "sympathetic opthalmia". He couldn't look through microscopes, he could not participate in gym and he could not enlist in the army.  Although he recalls with amusement his weekly visits to the draft board medical examiners, the reader can detect a growing disappointment  in him as he kept getting rejected and a subsequent relief when the armistice was called.

Thurber's early life was a revolving door to bewildering eccentrics.  I wonder how much he laughed reminiscing about the Get-Ready Man "a lank unkempt elderly gentleman with wild eyes and a deep voice who used to go about shouting at people through a megaphone to prepare for the end of the world. 'Get ready! Get read-y!' he would bellow, 'The Worllld is coming to an End!'"  Somehow the man got mixed up with a production of "King Lear" and while the protagonist wandered blindly through a storm with Edgar, the Get Ready man added to the mayhem..King Lear would have lent a helping hand to fulfil GRM's dire predictions.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!  (King Lear, Act III, scene ii)

I think the play would have lost its appeal once the old gentleman was ejected.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2

I saw Iron Man 2 this weekend.  I give it a 3 star rating out of 5.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was cute, as usual, but the rest of the movie was hopeless.  Villain Ivan whatsit (Mickey Rourke)--a big disappointment.  Why do the bad guys have to look so ugly?  Granted he was in hiding but this guy is building something complicated that is sure to destroy the world and he must have shopped for the ingredients.  He cannot find a comb? How did he get the gold to put between his teeth anyway?  He didn't have gold teeth--his regular teeth had a sort of gold border to them.  I looked carefully.

What was wrong with the movie was that the pièce de résistance was introduced too early --the main gadget, the electrical whips that Tony Stark had to battle against made its appearance in the second scene.  The movie could have started with minor inventions that fail, and then


bring this up after a lot of tinkering MacGyver style.  But no, we saw them on the Monaco race track and then it was ho-hum when they were brought back at the end of the movie.

The Iron Man 2's take off (for flight) was a curious exercise.  He would keep his arms straight and stiff by the side with the palms horizontal and do an utterly fairy dance before the boosters whatever launched him into space.  What was that about? And Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), can the name be more spy-like, is quite comical with her choreographed fight scenes.  After punching out each guy she would pause to give a Charlie's Angels kind of pose.

This movie is a lesson in you cannot have too much of a good thing. Hundreds and thousands of these Iron Men invade the screen towards the end only to die in the Unisphere Globe in Flushing, Queens NY. Built for a World Fair, the globe remains a symbol of creativity.

Why are superheroes such lonely, misunderstood people?  Tony Stark was no exception.  He felt his dad denied him his love and thank goodness Stark Sr. always had his video camera focused on him--we could prove junior wrong right away and in this movie without having to drag on this theme to the sequel.  Anyway, at least this movie had its brilliant flashes of humor which is why I gave it 3 out of 5.

Who the heck was this Nick (Samuel Jackson)  guy? Turns out, there was a scene at the end of the credits of the first movie where they introduced him?  I wish someone had told me that.  I was smarter this time.  I sat till the end of the movie and sure enough there was this little extra scene which was clear as mud. But that is for Iron Man 3.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Math Help-- ICoachMath

For parents of kids in K-12 grades who need (extra) coaching in Math, help is at hand.  Click on this link

Icoachmath is a product of High Points Learning, Inc. and this is what they have to say for themselves:

High Point Learning Inc. offers quality web-based educational solutions to K12 School Districts, Schools, HomeSchool families, Parents, and individual students. Developed by a team of mathematicians and technology experts, HPL products combine state of the art technology and proven learning methods to help K12 students 'Retain Classroom Learning' and achieve higher test scores in Math. Based on the time tested principle "Practice Makes Perfect," HPL's educational programs act as robust reinforcement tools and are designed specifically to help students strengthen their math skills through self-paced, guided, and online interactive practice. Immediate feedback and real-time performance tracking allows teachers and parents to target each student's unique challenges with ease.
HPL focuses on each state's curriculum standard and helps students achieve high score in state exams (CRCT, PACT, HSAP, PSSA, CSAP, KCCP etc.), to help schools meet and exceed Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Requirements.
HPL suite of programs including HighPoints Math, HighPoints Score, iCoachMath, and HighPoints SAT, provide an Online platform to empower K-12 schools, teachers, learners and parents to proactively prevent low test scores through immediate intervention and prescriptions for success in Math education.

I found that repetitive exercises are the best way to learn Math. Icoachmath has an exhaustive store of challenges for children.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Life Is Short. Don't Be An Idiot

Ashley Madison is a dating service for married people who want to cheat on their partners.
Its slogan--"Life is short.  Have an Affair"

This is a full page advertisement in the New York Metro newspaper on May 4, 2010. Why on earth would a man object to his wife turning into his mother? You would think that is what he wants. If he doesn't, what does he care about Mother's Day?  What is this ad? It seems to contradict itself.

This company's aim is to put some romance back into a guy's life. Is it aimed at pleasing men? All the adverts display women in various forms of undress and so, although the company professes to cater to both sexes it seems to lure men to beautiful sirens. 

People are sure it is a scam. Why? Because the same women appear in the database of several online dating services. Excuse me? You are having an affair and you think you are being scammed? Life is Short, alright. Just wait till your wife finds out.

People are too idle. If they have money and are looking for things to do, they should go to help at the nearest homeless shelter, the Boys and Girls Club of America, or volunteer to be tutors and mentors. Its a shame that they want to indulge in behaviour that will only lead to hurting those closest to them and its a shame that there are avenues for them to do it. The CEO and the founder of the company, Noel Biderman says "Some people say it (the extramarital dating service) promotes promiscuity. But if you don't do it, you get behavior that's way more harmful to society. Infidelity has been around a lot longer than Ashley Madison." With this kind of logic, maybe he is doing well to steer the scum from voluntary work--the kind of work that needs dedication and self-sacrifice. Biderman would not know anything about such work either. The world would be safer without them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Drills, Spills and Chills

Don't offshore oil rigs have a main shut off valve?  Yes? So why is it that 5,000 barrels, that is, 200,000 gallons of oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day? The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, 42 miles southeast of Louisiana's port Venice, exploded on April 20, 2010. Oil rigs do use a device called the blowout preventer (BOP), a system of hydraulic valves and pumps that caps a well before it starts gushing.  "There are electrical systems driving the hydraulic pumps, with air system backups. There are battery backups for power," David O'Donnell, an oilfield equipment consultant said. "Somehow they lost it all, or didn't have enough time to activate."   Brazil and Norway use BOPs that can be activated by a unique sound wave when the electrical signal fails. The cost of these acoustic trigger is half a million dollars and it seems that US drilling companies have enough misplaced faith in their back up systems that they do not invest in this last resort.  Well, that'll learn ya.

Who is affected by this accident? Definitely BP.  They will be spending billions of dollars, first to stem the gush, and then to clean the gush and for starting the gush in the first place.  The oil, once it reaches the land, will be impossible to get rid of and yes, Rush Limbaugh, the environmentalist "wackos" are right this time, aren't they?  The oil will kill thousands of living things. Oystermen, shrimpers, and fishermen in Louisiana are planning to sue BP, as the oil spill spells the ruin of a lucrative fishing industry in that area. The ground will absorb the toxins which will just lie there for years and years, probably get into our drinking water and definitely affect our crops. 

This is the season for marine animals to breed. Instead, they are soaking up the thick, sticky, crude oil.  The spill is spreading towards the Florida coast affecting 400 different species of animals, marshland, and of course, the ocean.  Maybe now is the time to really focus on corn ethanol as the alternative fuel.

For the 10 animals most in danger due to the oil spill, check out this link

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day!!

The distress cry "May Day" has nothing to do with the May 1st celebrations.  And it does not have its origin in banks going under.  Its from the French "m'aidez" which means  "help me".

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stem Cells--New Hope

It's exciting to hear that the first FDA-approved phase I clinical trial is under way for the pioneering stem cell treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), a condition for which there has not been a cure.  Thanks to Nueralstem, Inc which provided the spinal cord stem cells, new hope has been given to ALS sufferers.  ALS is a progressive fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain, leading to the degeneration and death of the motor neurons in the spinal cord that control muscle movement.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Burkhas, Barbies & Boobquake

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior Iran cleric was quoted as saying by the Iranian media.

How he has suffered! Same as the other Iranian cleric who was caught on tape doing “nasnas” with a woman who entered his home chador-clad. No immodesty there, so why did he stray?

What occurs to me is, if we are to believe this cleric person (who is our connection to God), Pamela Anderson could annihilate the earth by just being herself. You go, girl!!

However, before we condemn these ridiculous clerics outright, we should approach this problem as a scientist would. Jennifer McCreight, of Purdue University, Indiana put this cleric’s theory to test. She gathered a huge crowd of women dressed immodestly (lots of cleavage) on the grounds of this University. Nothing happened there, but... there was a huge earthquake (6.6 on the Richter scale) in Taiwan. Wow!! Can that be a coincidence?

All kidding aside, we should have a role model for our women in Iran. Who better than Burka Barbie, or Chador Barbie.

The company director of Laird Assessors from The Wirral, Cheshire, said:

'Bring it on Burkha Barbie, I think this is a great idea. I think this is really important for girls, wherever they are from they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them.

Angela Ellis, a great fan of Barbie dolls, with more than 250 Barbies in her collection proudly remarked,
“I know Barbie was something seen as bad before as an image for girls, but in actual fact the message with Barbie for women is you can be whatever you want to be.”

What? Little girls have to aspire to be burkha/chador clad? What kind of message is this?

Rosie Shannon, from Save the Children, said all the proceeds from the auction will go to the charity. She said:
'We are delighted Sotheby's and the designer chose to auction the burka Barbie dolls for our charity.'

We need more such women like a hole in the head. We fight the feminist cause in the USA and abandon women in other countries so we can make a profit?

Read more in the Mail Online

Not to worry…

Televangelist Pat Robertson, who leads his own independent Neo-Dark Ages movement here, has other explanations for such natural disasters. He claims that Haiti’s earthquake was caused by the country’s pact with the devil to drive the French away from their land.

At least, he has more respect for women.

Belgium has taken the first bold step to alter the life of the muslim woman.  The home affairs committee of Belgium voted unanimously for the ban of partial or full covering of the face in public.

The Guardian  reports:
Daniel Bacquelaine, the liberal MP who proposed the bill, said: "We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen.

"It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society."

Violators of this ban could go to prison.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saturday Night Live's Best---MacGruber

I've watched Saturday Night Live for 25 years now.  It has helped me appreciate comedy, human oddities and, of course, acting.  I did not immediately take to Coneheads or the Blues Brothers, but that is because I was brought up in a staid, inhibited environment.  I thought these actors were crazy!!  Crazy but attractive, hmm? Television soon became my social history textbook. I learnt more from tv shows than actual experiences.  I lapped up the talk shows-- Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Arsenio Hall. Loved the Danny Thomas Show, Patty Duke show.  St. Elsewhere, Dallas and Dynasty, the A-team and of course, MacGyver.  Nowadays, I don't say MacGyver--I wonder if anyone does--it's indubitably

Poor MacGyver!  He went, as Simon Cowell would say, from a hero to a zero after SNL made a spoof of this show. But its oh so funny.   MacGruber is as inept as MacGyver is inventive and resourceful.  MacGyver kept me on the edge of my seat wondering how he would finally turn the blades of grass and a garden hose into a working helicopter...But here is MacGruber (Will Forte), a study in contrast. Lookee...he is with the one and the only MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson).

Also watch MacGruber in the Super Bowl 2009 commercial for Pepsi.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Egyptian Ants vs. Grasshopper World

Ancient Egyptians left no stone un-carved. There are hieroglyphics on every rock, stone and pebble in Egypt. Reminds me of Wordsworth's:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
                 To me did seem
            Apparelled in celestial light...

Read hieroglyphics for "celestial light".

If there were mountains, they dug tombs in them.
If they found rocks, they made obelisks.  They dragged these rocks hundreds of miles on the roads, rivers--absolutely obsessed with construction. And their entire lives were spent preparing for death.  I am not sure they ever just enjoyed themselves.  Life was serious business.

Modern Egyptians are now digging up stuff the ancient Egyptians left behind.  The man above is gainfully employed (he extracted a dollar baksheesh once I took his picture).  This photograph was taken at the site of Djoser's step pyramid, Saqqara, where excavations are still going on.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I've too much on my plate...

New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has introduced a bill to ban New York restaurants from using salt in their cooking.  The New York Daily News claims, "If State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the only salt added to your meal will come from the chef's tears."

"It's time for us to take a giant step," Ortiz said on March 10, 2010. "We need to talk about two ingredients of salt: health care costs and deaths."
It is Ortiz's intention to increase awareness of the harmful effects of excess salt in our foods.  The campaign's goal is to reduce the intake of salt by 50% in the next ten years.

If this bill is passed, a fine of upto $1,000 could be imposed on violators.

Chefs are not happy.  Tom Colicchio of the show Top Chef, says, "Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that."

It is exactly what Assemblyman Ortiz fears might happen if they did eat salt.

On the other hand, practically speaking, salt plays a specific role in cooking.

Shirley O. Corriher, a food scientist, writes in “CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking,” that even the minimum amount of salt plays four important roles in the development of dough: "It enhances flavor, controls bacteria, slows yeast activity and strengthens dough by tightening gluten."
Katherine Mangu-Ward of, a free-market themed blog, says:
Pasta water must be salted, for instance, to flavor the noodles themselves. Salting onions at the right moment is key to successfully caramelizing them. Salting eggplant before cooking reduces bitterness in the final dish. And then there's brining and pickling, not to mention the vital importance of salt in the science of baking.
New York is no stranger to such bans.  A ban on the use of trans-fat was imposed in 2008. 
A tax on soda is in the works.  Ortiz will take care of his people, whether they like it or not. 
Well, salt or no salt?

Hypertensive that I am, I must selfishly agree with Ortiz, but I do feel the pain of those for whom cooking is an art form.

 Read more:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Egypt's Pride: Doctor Peseshet

The first woman doctor ever belonged to Egypt. Her name was  Peseshet; she was not only a swnwt (woman doctor) but also a imyt-r hm(wt)-ka (woman director of the soul-priestesses) and lived around 2500 B.C.  Nothing much is known about her except that she was the mother of Akhethetep in whose tomb her stela (carved or inscribed stone slab) was found.

Women of Ancient Egypt could enter any profession they liked, unlike in modern times.

The picture on the left shows some of the instruments she may have used.  Most of these tools were used for embalming as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grilled Eggplant Egyptian Recipe

picture courtesy of: TheBon

In Egypt, eggplant is roasted over hot coals until the skin is charred. One can char the eggplant directly over the gas flame, turning frequently with tongs until the juices begin to ooze out or bake it in a 425°F oven for 30 minutes.

  • 2 large eggplants
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Char eggplants over gas flames until soft, then allow them to cool. Peel the eggplants and let them drain in a sieve. Purée the eggplant in a food processor with the lemon juice, ground cumin, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tahini (sesame) cream.

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame) paste.
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin.
  • 1/2 cup yogurt.
  • Juice of 2 1/2 lemons, or more to taste.
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Salt to taste.
Mix tahini paste, cumin and salt. Add the yogurt and lemon juice gradually, beating vigorously to make a smooth thick cream. This can all be done in a blender, which makes a smooth tahini cream. Garnish with parsley, and serve with babaghanoug.

Recipes modified from the Egyptian Daily News

Monday, March 15, 2010



Ugadi is the first day of a new Hindu lunar calendar. It is believed that Lord Brahma started the Creation of the Universe on this day, the first day of the month of Chaitra. It is spring time, time of new beginnings, fresh life, new hope and gladness in our hearts.  Who can say it better than Robert Browning in "Pippa's Song"?

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven
The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven—
All's right with the world!

People wash and clean their houses for Ugadi, decorate them with mango leaf streamers and "muggu" which are geometric patterns drawn on stoeps (Dutch spelling) with rice flour paste. They wear new clothes and visit temples for the "panchangasravanam" or the reading of the annual calendar. They make Ugadi pachchadi, a concoction that consists of six flavors (sweet, salty, sour, spicy, tangy and bitter) symbolizing the ups and downs of life.

The lunar calendar follows a sixty year cycle, divided into three groups of twenty each. The first twenty are attributed to Brahma (srishti or creation), the next twenty to Vishnu (sthiti or continuation) and the last twenty to Shiva (laya or dissolution). We are now in the 24th year of this cycle and are moving from Virodhi to Vikruti samvatsara.

May we all have a happy new year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


...and a song about King Tut

8.6 million people visited Egypt last year. All these people caused major scuffing of walls and wearing away of paintings. Try not to breathe or sweat while you are there, because the humidity and perspiration are ruining the buildings. Tourism brings in many many piastres, so it is imperative something be done to preserve these treasures.  Egypt is looking into rotational or limited opening of key sites. I am glad I am able to go before all these changes take place.

In an unrelated story, the boy King Tut, it is now believed, died of a broken leg. What an anticlimax...the leg wound became infected and that is what killed him. Stories of murder are just not true. He was not attacked for reverting to polytheism--all the theories about conspiracy, tunnels, asps, high priests with dangerous daggers are all figments of someone's imagination.   A shard of bone was found in his skull but researchers now believe that was caused by the embalmers accidentally dropping the body. It is so hard to find good help!!
This video of Steve Martin in Saturday Night Live is a homage to the boy king...

If you are not able to view this, try this link:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A review of "Midaq Alley" by Naguib Mahfouz. My Egypt Tour begins.

I start my tour of Egypt with a study of its best writer, Naguib Mahfouz, Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1988.  Midaq Alley was one of his early novels set during the Second World War.  The novel is about the residents in Midaq Alley, an impoverished part of Cairo city. The World War has wrought changes in the city: It  brought electricity (the new radio in Kirsha's cafe), it brought money (mercenary soldiers) and it brought a collapse of the traditional value systems.  And no one in Midaq Alley escapes these influences. There is no single protagonist in this novel, but one dominant theme--self-indulgence at any cost. It is no wonder then that these people face the tragic consequences of their desire for money and sensual pleasures.  Critics claim that the novel is about the conflict between the past and the present and the ever changing value system.  But I disagree.  It is about human failings, and about overreach.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2 States -- Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat's "2 States" is about true love's not-so-smooth course.  It's about the problems Krish, a Punjabi, and Ananya a Tamilian Brahmin, face when they want to get married and the families are opposed to it.  However, the two seek their parents' approval and choose not to elope. 

They meet in IIM Ahmedabad.   Krish is an  IIT graduate and Ananya is a graduate in economics. They live together for 2 yrs there. Story shifts from  IIM Ahmedabad to Chennai where Ananya parents are and then to Delhi, home to Krish's parents.  Krish finds a job in Chennai and ingratiates himself with A's family by doing the parents and her brother several favors.  Takes Ananya to meet his mother -- father is discounted.  Father is a military man with an evil temper, beats his wife.  Some childhood trauma is described which accounts for the strained relationship between the father and the son.  (When Krish was a teenager, he struck his father.)  Mother is important  to him, so he won't have her upset.  Ananya has quite a formidable task ahead of her when she visits Delhi with Krish.  They attend a wedding -- last minute complications regarding dowry threaten to stop it.   Ananya rounds up the youth including the groom and gives them a talking to. Lo! the wedding is on again.
It was a feel good novel, an Indian Mills and Boon.  I liked Chetan Bhagat's easy flowing style.  There was no awkwardness in dialogue.  He even got a few chuckles out of me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nationalism -- Pride or Prejudice?

Is it necessary to be patriotic when the country is not at war?  Or do we hang on to the sentiment in hopes of it becoming a habit so we are prepared for war?  Why should we feel patriotic at all?  Patriotism or nationalism has its roots in ethnic identity.  Or maybe even in the more fundamental unit, the family.  Men have supported huge families and are taught since their embryonic stage that blood is thicker than water.  It's a clever ruse devised by mothers who don't want to let go.  And of course, there is always this lame duck in the family that requires extra attention.  It was necessary to support an uncle out of a job and a girl that never got married.  When the family no longer demanded full attention and there was enough money to spare, people helped their neighbors.  We choose to bond with neighbors of similar backgrounds, religion, language and culture. It is not easy for us to coexist with those that are not "our kind".  However, we are also tied to each other by a shared "pride" in our land.

Once we've moved past the bias of "kind" and identified ourselves with a heterogeneous community, we are at loggerheads with the establishment--the same establishment that we now praise to other countries, we resent in private.  "Belonging" at this point becomes ambiguous. It seems our social interaction expands in concentric circles and the nation is at the edge of this galactic dimension.  I'll tell you why the nation is the least favorite uncle.  Nationalism calls on its citizens to make sacrifices.  No one likes to make sacrifices.  No one wants to buy substandard products to boost a nation's economy.  No one wants to go back to the villages they've left, or to give anything back to communities they've worked hard to escape from...The idea looks noble and grand on paper but is not really practical or enforceable. Insular economics doesn't help a nation any.  The solution  is in opening doors to people with new ideas, imitating concepts that have been proven to work, inviting other countries to share.  We need to grow beyond religion, culture and boundaries of land. Cannot look back to roots. Otherwise, we promote fascism where race dominates the individual and the military suppresses any opposition.  Do we really need to learn the lessons of World War II all over again?

Nationalism is absurd.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lunar Embassy, the Ambassador to Lunacy: An Update On the Moon

When I first wrote about men colonising the moon, I did not realize that someone had already thought of it.  It seems that back in 1980, Dennis Hope found a loophole in the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty which allowed him to claim ownership to parts of the moon and other celestial bodies.  He established his company called Lunar Embassy and is now selling plots of lunar real estate.

(Would you believe HIM?)

According to
In addition to their lunar plot, buyers receive a deed, a site map, a copy of the lunar constitution bill of rights and a copy of Hope's declaration of ownership filed with the U.S. government. There's also a 30-day money back guarantee.
Nonetheless, other speculators have laid claim to the moon as well. One in Texas that peddles moon plots suggests buyers book a ride into orbit aboard the space shuttle and hitchhike the remainder of the way to the moon.
Mr. Hope assures his buyers that they will not get a fake Rolex at twice the price.  This is hilarious.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ishqiya--No John Galt

Saw Ishqiya last night. Didn't understand the movie till I was half way through, and then I realized that's what the director intended. But it was all very vexing. The actors were barely clear in their speech, the dialect was obscure. I cannot imagine any South Indian understanding any of it. Seems to me Hindi has evolved since I left Delhi in 1976, but on second thoughts, I think it WAS the speech delivery that was at fault. I am not referring to the Gorakhpuri--Nasiruddin Shah wasn't speaking that, was he?
To me, any gun is a bandook. Never heard of a tamancha before. Sign of the times--language has to include instruments of daily use.
The character of the leading lady as a seductress (Vidya Balan) was wholly unusual for a Hindi movie. I see one Hindi movie a year and I feel totally bewildered with all the changes. Its like progressing from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds.
Men wore more make up than women (woman).
The movie was disappointing-- it had so much potential for violence.  The jeeja is an ass; he should have killed when he had the chance and gone after Verma himself, unravelled a huge arms smuggling scheme and blamed his own bossy wife for it.  But the makers wanted everybody to look good (with infidelity being the only major flaw). Which reminds me...Hindi movies do harp on infidelity. Nowadays it seems accepted; sign of machismo. Hmmm. The movie came complete with kinky sex games.

I was hoping Verma would turn out to be a John Galt.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Like A Phoenix

I had to change the name of my blog--from priyamsmusings to priyamsez. I found the previous name did not express the true nature of my blog. I was not really musing--maybe amusing--but what I was actually doing was saying stuff. Thats not the whole reason either. I was shocked to find "musings" was a word often used by bloggers. What is everybody musing about? We need a little more action and a little less musing. I'll do the thinking for the rest of the world. Remove poverty (shift it a little bit to the right over there), eliminate hunger, educate girls, do this, do that and watch "Ishqiya". There...I did my part. The rest is upto the other bloggers.

We need more Bill Clintons. He is a doer.

Priyam Sez, "I'll update soon!"

Hello, everyone!

I've changed my URL to I apologize to what this must do to your poor RSS feeders!

Look forward to more posts from me, soon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


 formula for working out how to fit your car into a tight parking space.

According to Prof. Simon Blackburn this is a foolproof formula for making your car fit in the tightest parking spots. So, my dear readers, add your measuring tape and the calculator to the survival kit you pack in the trunk of your car. Yeah, right! I can imagine what a help this might be when I am attempting to park in the narrow streets of New York City with all those cars honking behind me and the juicy epithets spilling out of their open windows.  Not for anything will I venture out measuring stuff.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I was watching an episode of NOVA on television today titled “What Darwin Never Knew”. Actually, it turns out that there is very little that Darwin did not know. However, scientists can today provide evidence for the theories that Darwin propounded. They now have proof that all life is a process of evolution and natural selection. They even believe that all land animals have evolved from the fish. D-uh, isn't that what we Hindus always knew? They have compared the DNA of various species and traced the path of evolution.

Scientists can now study the genetic code of animals and tell which gene is responsible for a particular trait in that animal. The study of the DNA is fascinating. All genetic code consists of an infinite number of patterns formed by the arrangement of four kinds of bases—Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) and Cytosine (C). The particular arrangement gives us our unique traits. Cracking the genetic code has helped to isolate genes and their characteristics.

Researchers went back to the Galapagos Islands to do what Darwin did—study the different kinds of finches. They too found that the same species of birds may have different kinds of beaks depending on their habitat. What kind of beak they have is dictated by the DNA. The DNA has the ability to switch off certain genes and turn others on. The gene switches are not genes but can activate the genes that are responsible for the trait. Phew!! I hope I got it right. Nobody knows yet what makes the genes turn on and off. The most amazing part of this research was that all embryos—of all animals look alike initially—they compared the embryos of reptiles, birds, fish and mammals. It was really hard to tell them apart. The human embryo had vestiges of gills, and reptiles of limbs. The gills developed into the three inner bones of the human ear and the limbs of reptiles just vanished. The gene switches get active after a certain stage and turn things on and off in the embryo.

Given all this, why hasn’t anyone discovered what causes cancer? Scientists can cut DNA, inject glow into a fruit fly from a jelly fish and create new species of fruit flies—but they cannot isolate the trigger that produces cancer? I find that very hard to believe. They have isolated 23,000 different genes in the human body. They know which protein is responsible for muscle building, which is responsible for hair. What’s left to investigate?

Furthermore, it is scary that new species of animals can be created in a laboratory. How long will it be before we produce real life Frankensteins?  Can science fulfil its responsibilities towards the human race and its role on the planet or will it become an uncontrollable instrument of mutilation/mutation?