Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Wiki'd World 2: Sino-Ludhianvi Cuisine's Signature Dish

Till the early '70s, when the Taj opened up Golden Dragon, with chefs from China serving up spicy Sichuan fare, Chinese food in India was based on Cantonese cuisine, which was relatively bland, or its more Americanized version. With punters clamouring for this spiced-up Chinese cuisine, more downmarket restaurants with Indian chefs cooking Chinese food were caught in a bind. This person (in the foreground, in case you got confused), who was working at a restaurant called Frederick's at that time, came up with a solution that involved using Indian cooking techniques with Chinese sauces to make a spicy curry that was passed off as 'Chinese' food. The dish he came up with (and the name he gave it) has spawned a whole host of variants that form the backbone of Sino-Ludhianvi Cuisine - aka Punjabi Chinese. Since then, he's gone on to open up a chain of upmarket restaurants serving Chinese cuisine and made a tidy buck. Who is he and what did he come up with?

Got this from an old 'Rude Food' article by Vir Sanghvi. A bunch of the articles have been put together into a book of the same name, and they make for pretty interesting reading.They also make me wish we had the HT in Bangalore as well instead of just TOI and Hindu (Deccan Herald doesn't count). So far we've only got Mint, but it's a start.
PS: If you're reading this, I'd like some feedback - too easy? random? hackneyed?

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Stuff of Dreams

Also the kind of trivia that quiz questions are based on. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. I saw this late, but it still is a cool news story. To think that Luke Pomersbach can get called up to play international cricket because he happened to be fit and in the vicinity, and that too when he was serving out a ban from playing state-level cricket for drinking. If it were baseball, Disney'd make a movie out of it, though they'd leave out the drinking part (and probably make him seem like a complete rookie rather than someone who's been steadily coming up the ranks).

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Emancipated Punjabi Hip-hop

That's Hard Kaur singing 'Sexy Boy'. Found this while trawling YouTube. Brings back memories of Mumbai, where they used to play this approximately every half-hour in the gym that I went to for a couple of months. Think fat, sweaty, middle-aged aunties, buffed-out gym instructors in tight tees and this song blaring out on the surround sound at approximately 7.30 in the morning. I still managed to stick it out for 2 months.

Emancipation can have some scary consequences.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Not Quite the Madding Crowd

Just finished reading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Very good reading, and I now wish I knew how to pronounce his name correctly, so I could drop it in intellectual conversations.

Wiki'd World 1: King of Wishful Thinking

I thought I'd start putting up quiz questions, but I figured that's not much fun on the internet, because all one has to do is Google the answer. So instead, I'm going to try this – I put up some obscure bit of trivia, and the objective is to get whoever who reads this (all 3 of them) to go off and read up on Wikipedia and/or elsewhere on it. Hopefully it will make for interesting reading. If I'm lucky I might even get some feedback on this and I might put up an update later.
Anyway, here's the first post. The image below is from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series of comics about the Dream Lord (he's the one in the black outfit with the black speech balloon) (issue #31). The guy that Dream's speaking to is Joshua Norton, who was a real-life personality. So the question is: what happens next?

Incidentally, if you get a chance, do try to get your hands on the comics, or indeed any other comics written by Gaiman. His stories aren't half bad either, though I think he's got the same problem that Philip K Dick had – he writes quite a bit, so not all of the work is consistently good. It is consistently different though, which is a good thing if you're bored of what you've been reading.

Tsk Tsk. Not quite Ad Dei Gloriam eh?

KK alerted me to this, and I found the article on TOI's site: DU teacher molested me: US student-Delhi-Cities-The Times of India
It's a woman, so this has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Society. Never thought the Sanskrit department at college would have such issues.

Valson Thampu's quote:
...Thampu said, “We can assure you that we will respect the dignity of women and
there will be no harassment of women in the college.’’

Note the use of the future tense.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Terry Pratchett has rare, early-onset Alzheimer's

Link here: Discworld News © PJSM Prints from http://www.pjsmprints.com/. Original link through BoingBoing .

Text of the announcement reproduced below:


I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of earlyonset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, Iexpect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell.I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case Iwould only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Laid up in Lutyens' Delhi

In Delhi currently, confined to bed thanks to a ligament tear around the ankle that's resulted in my foot being stuck in a cast all the way from my knee to my toes. Picked up the injury on Saturday playing cricket with a few people from work, including, thankfully, my boss, since it meant that convincing him to give me leave was relatively easy. Chased a ball, lunged forward, landed on a rock that did, forwards. Didn't think it was so bad at first, but by evening I was hobbling around on one foot. Dad was in Bangalore on work on Sunday so we we nt to a doc who poked around a little, took a cursory look at an X-ray and pronounced it to be an inversion of the ligament (at least I think that's what it is, his handwriting was a little illegible). After trying unsuccessfully to get some kind of hep stocking kind of thing (“you know the kind of thing females wear in English movies?”, as he thoughtfully explained), he wrapped the leg up in cotton and slapped on the plaster of Paris. Dad insisted that I fly to Delhi with him, and since I didn't particularly like the idea of spending a week alone at home hopping on one foot, I came over quietly. Flying with him has advantages, since I got transported around on a wheelchair instead of hobbling on crutches around the airport. Felt a little strange though to have the airport staff tell us that they had to do the same thing for Vajpayee and Somnath Chatterjee when they came down to Bangalore. Made me feel like chipping off the cast and claiming it's only a small twist and then hopping away manfully on one foot.
The compulsory bed-rest in Delhi hasn't been so bad so far – less Metamorphosis, more Return-of-the-Prodigal-Son-who-otherwise-pretends-to-be-too-busy-to-come-home-to-visit-his-Parents. Except for the fact that the toes on my left foot (the one with the cast) freeze a little sometimes, life here has been much more cushy than in B'lore. Must make sure I don't start liking it too much-otherwise I might be more amenable to all the senti I'll get on how I should move back to Delhi to spend time with the parents while I still can and how then I'll have someone to look after me in this big, bad world. It's tough to counter-argue that you're trying to stand on your own two feet, when one of them is stuck in a cast and you're laid up on your backside.
Anyway, I hope to catch up on some reading and loads of TV. Maybe even get more blogging done.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Go Speed Racer Go!!

I came across this via Autoblog, and I must admit I'm strangely excited. The Wachowski Brothers are doing a live-action version of Speed Racer, with Susan Sarandon, John Goodman and Christina Ricci. Brings back fond memories of watching Cartoon Network after school. From the trailer it looks like the movie will keep a lot of the look from the cartoon intact, including the Mark 5 laden with gadgets, and Speed's tight blue tee-white pants-white helmet ensemble. However, it won't have the wide-eyed pert-nosed look that the original Japanese cartoon characters had (except perhaps for Christina Ricci), nor the stop-start dialog, or that soundtrack -'Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer Gooo!!'.

As far as matching up to expectations go, the movie won't just have to meet the standards set by the original cartoon, it'll have to match up to 'Mock 5', the Dexter's Laboratory episode paying homage to Speed Racer - one of the best Dexter episodes. You can watch that here.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Will you Make Friendship with me?

Cory Doctorow writes about How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook . To quote:

"...Having watched the rise and fall of SixDegrees, Friendster, and the many other proto-hominids that make up the evolutionary chain leading to Facebook, MySpace, et al, I'm inclined to think that these systems are subject to a Brook's-law parallel: "Adding more users to a social network increases the probability that it will put you in an awkward social circumstance."... You'd think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It's not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there's a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I'd cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, "Am I your friend?" yes or no, this instant, please... "
(Link to original article via

I have to admit he has a point. Although it must be said, Facebook scores over Orkut in that it allows only 'friends' to view your profiles etc. The latter allowed just about anyone to scrap you (or at least it used to), which meant that almost any single woman claiming to live in India would get scrapped by strange engineers from Dindigul (or for that matter frustrated engineers from anywhere; let me not be parochial) about how she was sweet and asking if she would like to 'make friendship' with him.

As a counter-point,
here's a paper on "The Benefits of Facebook "Friends:" Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites", where they found that

"...Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N=286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital. In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction."

Then again, the "users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction" could just be your creepy ex-co-workers, or engineers from Dindigul.

Monday, 12 November 2007

From He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to "The Love that dare not speak its name"

Now that JK Rowling has outed Dumbledore, I can't help but speculate on why she did so. After all, unless he had a secret stash of wizardly Viagra somewhere, old Albus seemed to have been well past his days of romance and you-wave-my-wand-and-I'll-wave-yours. Maybe it's to show that the Potter books have a (liberal) moral undertone and will teach kids the importance of tolerance, and not just silly pseudo-Latin phrases. However, that does lead me to ask the question - where's the token black character? There are characters of Indian, Chinese, Eastern European and Elven descent but no blacks as far as I can tell. Is this because:
a) Ms. Rowling wanted to avoid the obvious jokes about 'black magic';
b) Black kids perhaps don't buy books about wizards because they'll be accused of 'acting white'; or
c) Snooty Public Schools in England, even those for wizards, rarely admit blacks?

This does make me wonder though, about whether the media would have gone after JRR Tolkien for a sound-bite, were he alive. After all, Merry and Pippin would have definitely provided fodder for speculation ('Mr. Tolkien, would you say that 'Merry' was not just his name, but also an allusion to his orientation?') and perhaps there would be rumours that Frodo's burden may not just have been the Ring, but his feelings for Sam...

Brokeback Mordor, anyone?

Batman gets into Microfinance

For those of you who want context, that's from Shadow of the Bat #075, part of the Cataclysm/Aftershock storyline...

For those of you who want to read Ben Bernanke's speech on microfinance in America, click here.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Brides and Prejudice

"...when parents are involved in mate choice, sons are significantly less likely to marry college-educated women and women engaged in the labor force, after controlling for individual and family characteristics. I show that these effects are driven, at least in part, by parental preferences and cannot entirely be attributed to correlation between arranged marriages and unobserved characteristics. These results suggest that lowering the incentive for parental control in mate choice may improve investments in women's human capital in India."

That's from the abstract to this paper by Divya Mathur,who's pursuing her PhD at the University of Chicago (link via Tyler Cowen at www.MarginalRevolution.com). Reading through the paper makes me laugh for the most part. I can see how this would sound like a really cool paper for anyone based in the US with a limited knowledge of Indian society and culture.
I think she over-simplifies things when she states that "Parents prefer a daughter-in-law with inferior human capital attributes because this allows them to extract a larger share of household resources, even if the size of the “pie” is smaller than it would be if the daughter-in-law had higher human capital." I don't think extracting 'a larger share of household resources' would be the major motivating factor in middle and upper class households in Mumbai (which is the set of people she studied/surveyed). I would say it has more to do with maintaining social status. Perhaps a further analysis could be the preference for arranged marriages amongst families that regularly watch Ekta Kapoor's saas-bahu soaps versus families that watch(ed) Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin.
My favourite line from the article is the concluding sentence:

"This suggests that developing infrastructure for the care of the elderly, improving social security, encouraging retirement planning, and thereby lowering the incentive for parental control over son’s marital choices, may be an effective mechanism for increasing investment in women’s human capital."

Sounds like an extremely roundabout mechanism to bring about an increase investment in women's human capital.
Especially when you consider this:

"Women put greater weight on the intelligence and the race of partner, while men respond more to physical attractiveness. Moreover, men do not value women’s intelligence or ambition when it exceeds their own."

So we might see increased investments in women's grooming products in India instead...