Sunday, August 31, 2008

Getting g33ky 'bout getting Jiggy

Sex in an MRI machine?!

That's apparently what the Discovery team got a couple to do, and the result is this wonderful documentary (Anatomy Of Sex) that you _all_ want to watch :). So instead of sending you all emails with the link, I figured I will just post it on my blog :).

Click here to go to the video. Note that you will also have to "launch the NinjaVideo Helper" in order to see the video. Don't worry, no spyware as far as I could figure out. Remember, after the buffering is completely done, you can always right click and save as divx :).

and yes, you're most welcome ;).

P.S. G33ky blog page with pictures from the research papers.
P.P.S. Youtube link.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Holy Windmills Batman!

Proving that there are no free lunches in this world, scientists have shown how windmills are killing Bats! [ref: Digg]

Apparently, the low pressure regions created by the spinning blades causes the blood vessels in the bat's lungs to explode!

So, what to do -- I suggest somehow warning bats no to get close to windmills. Perhaps by installing ultrasonic bat-repellants?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama - a Gay Child?

Or so says the guy in this "moment of Zen" :)

And this next video montage... gotta admire the professional quality, and the satire in the "promised one" assumption :)


And finally, how the US economy is actually _helping_ some americans [funny, and sad]

Disclaimer: I no longer think much will change if he gets elected, but still like him more than McCain :).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Of Portals and Pointers

I have talked before about how I _love_ portal. And now, here is some g33ky detail on how it works [ref: /.].

And in other sciency news, here is another post on how animals apparently point north! [ref: /. again]. Maybe there is some wisdom after all in the rule my parents have about not sleeping with my head towards the North.... hmmmm. [NIH link abt magnetic material in humans]

OK then, me off to sleep now, not pointed towards North :).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Moving On, with Cold Feet

So I moved out from my hostel, la clarière, to my studio in Puteaux (I guess it makes me a Putéolien].

The new studio is small, but spacious. It is also furnished, meaning that the nice owners have given me not only a sofa/bed and other furniture, but also utensils -- saucepans, spatulas, spoons, forks, plates, the works!

This studio is definitely better than the hostel room, primarily because of the much faster internet and the lack of noise, in addition to the proximity to Paris :). [BTW, the first thing I did after putting down my first suitcase -- install internet :)]

The only thing I did not realize was that I did not have my blanket while coming from the states! The hostel blanket having been returned, I was left blanketless on my first night at the new place :-|. Since I discovered this only at 10pm after coming back from a Janmashtami function, there was no store open for me to purchase one.

Needless to say, il a faisait très froid dans la nuit [it was cold in the night], mostly because my feet got cold :-|.

The good news, I got a blanket the very next day [i.e., yesterday], and all is well now :).

Next step: Buy a bicycle.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Reasons to Feel Humble

What is black and white, can fly without machines, and can recognize itself in a mirror?

No, not batman doused with some white paint, I am talking about a Magpie, as this new scientist post demonstrates.

What I liked a lot was the way the researchers prove it without a doubt. They placed a colored spot under the beak of a Magpie, so it could not see it directly. When the Magpie was shown a mirror, it began scratching at the dot, recognizing itself in the mirror. When a black spot was used, so that it was not visible in the mirror against its feathers, no scratching happened. Pretty convincing.

Next step in my opinion: Take two magpies in neighboring cages, put a dot under one's beak, and see if the other one begins scratching -- to make sure that it clearly understands that only the "other" magpie has the dot :).

The funny part is, in our arrogance, we humans had believed that self-awareness is possible only if the brain has a neocortex, but birds don't have one. Go figure.

In other related news, in addition to being able to be trained to paint, Elephants have shown how they can add numbers, and differentiate two quantities, even when they are close-by like 5 and 6, and not just like 2 and 6, as even Salamanders can!

Still think we humans are "God's special creatures"?

P.S. Watched Ice Age 2 last night. Good movie :). Apparently mammoths speak like Raymond, and vultures speak like George Oscar Bluth ;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Your GMAIL might be insecure!

According to this post [ref: ./], your gmail account credentials can be hijacked if you do NOT enable HTTPS for all transactions with gmail.

So go to your gmail Setting page now, scroll all the way down, and choose "Always use https" in your "Browser connection:" setting.

Click "Save Changes", sigh, get back to email :).

To drive the point home, here is the text from this comment on /.

Unless you SET THE PREFERENCE, you are insecure, even if you MANUALLY type in [] always.

Because unless you SET THE PREFERENCE, google does NOT set the session cookie to be SECURE.

This is what Mike Perry's tool does: it takes any of your OTHER connections, redirects it to [] so your browser spits out the session cookie anyway, and then can redirect you back (so you don't know what happened).

Google's SSL mode for gmail, UNLESS YOU SET THE PREFERENCE, offers you NO protection against an active adversary. And since someone snooping your traffic at starbucks can just as easily inject packets, IT OFFERS NO PROTECTION EVEN IF YOU MANUALLY TYPE IN HTTPS ALL THE TIME, UNLESS YOU SET THE PREFERENCE!!!!

What are you waiting for, go secure your gmail!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Full interview -- Shabana Azmi on India, Kashmir, and Muslims

Here is the full text [and videos] of the interview I talked about yesterday. Haven't gone through all of it yet, but figured I should let you all know ASAP :). A huge thanks to S for the link.

P.S. Happy birthday Pushpendra!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shabana Azmi on India, Kashmir, and Muslims

Shabana Azmi will be talking to Karan Thapar tonight IST on CNN-IBN [news post here, video promo here]

From what I read, she will be talking about how she is worried that the latest clashes in Kashmir are being communalized, and the govt is not doing enough to stop them. She also mentions how if they are not stopped, this could spread all across the country, and therefore speedy action must be taken.

Apparently, she also talked about how she and Javed Akhtar, and Saif Ali Khan could not buy houses in Mumbai because they are muslims.

Responding to suggestions of discrimination against the Muslim community, Azmi said with a tinge of bitterness: ‘I cannot get a house in Mumbai. I wanted to buy a flat in Mumbai and it wasn’t given to me because I was a Muslim and I read the same about Saif (Ali Khan).’

She also talked about how India is a very good place for Muslims, but at the same time, both muslims and non-muslims need to work towards fixing some very real-problems that they are facing.

The most interesting part of all this for me was the media coverage. Here is what google news showed me at the time [note the headlines]

Note that what is unfair to muslims ranges from "Indian democracy" to "Indian polity".

In my opinion, the best coverage of this is in the Sindh Today, a non-Indian newspaper, which chose to run a more content-based article, much longer in length that the other articles I saw. So far, even the comments are sane, unlike many I have seen on timesofindia and rediff etc.

No point pulling quotes from the article, but here is the summary. Also, I strongly recommend you to read the entire thing :). Go on, click it.

New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Indian Muslims are in a ’safer place’ as they have a ’stake and space in Indian democracy’ as compared to Muslims in other parts of the world, feels noted Bollywood actor Shabana Azmi; but she is unhappy that there is still discrimination against the community.

P.S. Links to videos of the interview will be appreciated.
P.P.S. Also, as usual, comments most welcome. If this issue is truly as big as it sounds, then we all need to do some thinking.

Friday, August 15, 2008

You may now salute the flag

[Thanks to having fixed the hostel's internet, I can finally upload the pics :)]

One week ago, Sandrine drove us all to Sébastien's Wedding in the south of Paris. The pictures are finally online for your viewing pleasure :) [the album is here -- start the slideshow to see bigger pictures]

And today morning, I went to attend the Flag hoisting at the Indian embassy in Paris. Thanks to the vacation schedule of the trams [yes, 15th august is a national holiday in France, but for entirely different reasons ;)], I reached a bit late.

There were loads of people there, and I got to meet the gang from the Orkut group. We went on to have a small picnic in a nearby park, discussed politics, and played tons of dumb-C. Good times :).

Here's to the wonderful new friends I made today, and to more such G2G's!
[the album is here -- start the slideshow to see bigger pictures]

update: Pics from Vaibhav here

Thursday, August 14, 2008

61, and counting

'tis been 61 years since we started to "redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially."

In the past 61 years, we have come a long way, done some good things, and some bad ones. Are we closer to the goals we had in mind when we got this much-touted "freedom" thing from the Brits?

I'm not sure, and I think I will reserve a detailed article on that topic for later. For now, I am going to be at the flag hoisting at the Indian Embassy tomorrow morning, and then a get-together [G2G] with the "Indians in Paris".

And to you my friends, I give you this [song idea: P and M]:

Jai Hind!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Can I please depose your leader?

... is the question Jon Stweart asks. After all, it is America's turn to oppose Russia which has performed incursion into a different sovereign country.

For the best part, skip to 3:25 :)

And then, this is Jon Oliver "in Europe"

ah, sweet hypocrisy, so sweet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to end an argument with your wife


"I can't win. I won't win. I don't want to win"

or so says the association mentioned in this article which talks about new divorce rules in Japan.

From the article:
A change in Japanese law this year allows a wife who is filing for divorce to claim as much as half her husband's company pension. When the new law went into effect in April, divorce filings across Japan spiked 6.1 percent. Many more split-ups are in the pipeline, marriage counselors predict. They say wives -- hearts gone cold after decades of marital neglect -- are using calculators to ponder pension tables, the new law and the big D.

So guys, be safe, admit defeat in household arguments :)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Finally, some SMSense!

I have always found the american cellphone system to be weird. One pays for incoming minutes, as well as outgoing minutes. While at some level, it can be explained [one always has the choice to NOT take a call], the idea of paying for outgoing and incoming text messages [SMSs for the non-americans] was completely crazy to me.

Note that I am not pro-free-lunch. For example, if the phone company gave me an option to delete the message without reading it, so as to not pay money for that message, I would be perfectly OK with it. Add to that the fact that people can buy "unlimited" messaging for a fee, and you can see how you can get a close friend bankrupt by just spending $20 a month for your own unlimited messages. I have often said to my friends that there is a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen there :).

Well, finally, at least in the same continent, someone has shown the guts to actually bring about such a suit [via /.].

And in other news, the following clips show how the current US election is turning up. I love that Jon Stewart chose to point out Obama's change in stance for off-shore drilling owing to public opinion polls, but I wish he skewers Obama more. [disclaimer: I am rooting for Obama in the elections, but I hope he was less of a 'politician']

And the Coal-bear gives you the right-wing perspective on this:


À bientot!
P.S. At Guantanamo Bay, a panel of six military officers convicted Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver, of providing material support for terrorism but not guilty of conspiracy charged. [reported earlier here]. Make sure to listen to the audio clip at the NPR page.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

You say potato, I say suburban edible stem

Civil war or ethno-sectarian competition? Torture or enhanced interrogation techniques?

Jon Stewart tells how in the eyes of this administration, a rose by any other name, can be pretty much anything!

Funny, and sad :-|

Can _your_ potato glow in the dark?

While appreciating the so-much-better tasting and oh-so-subsidized lunches at INRIA, I often think about the Genetically Modified [GM] food in the USA, and of the identical-looking tomatoes that are now available in Patna and elsewhere in India. I also note that my fellow labmates here lament the fact that even the vegetables in France are not safe from pesticides, and the occasional contamination from GM farm-lab pollen.

On that topic, I would like to draw your attention to two interesting news stories on the NPR front page recently.

The first is about Honduras, where farmers are embracing GM technology.
He pulls the husk from one ear and shows off the gleaming rows of white kernels. There are no worms in this corn, which is remarkable, because such worms are everywhere in this part of Honduras and Rubio hasn't sprayed any insecticides.

"No, the only thing we need here is the seed, the fertilizer and the herbicide," he says.

Remember that something similar happened in India with cotton, but there are issues [not including the fact that the husks cannot be fed to sheep anymore]
Others scoff at this prediction. Most farmers in Honduras, they point out, are too poor to spend much money on expensive corn seed or anything else that would boost their production, including fertilizer or irrigation.

The second news comes from China, where an ex-stockbroker has decided to farm organically. He has an interesting perspective on bugs:
Luo says he expects to lose one-third of his crops to bugs and another third to birds — leaving just one-third for him to sell.

"Those bugs have the right to stay here. They're part of the food chain. If we kill them, then there will be no birds on the farm," Luo says.

"Eventually, there will be only human beings on the planet — and it will be a silent spring," he says, evoking Rachel Carson's seminal book, which brought environmental concerns to the attention of a broad U.S. audience.

Sadly, he is not making a whole bunch of money, as expected:
For example, vegetables that have been grown without pesticides often sport holes in their leaves — where bugs have eaten. Luo says his customers know to expect that.

But such "imperfect" vegetables could "never be sold on the conventional market," he says.

Luo has about 50 buyers for his weekly market baskets. He used to make most of his money serving organic lunches to visitors. But that business plummeted after the May earthquake.

Lets see how it develops.
P.S. Yay for the 'motherlode' of Gorillas recently found in Congo [with videos], and prayers that they will now not all be killed by loggers, poachers and Ebola :-|.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fake divorcee, non-terrorist driver, and Dragons in Ostrich-land

Today, I bring thee several news stories worthy of thy attention:

First, from NPR's wait wait, I came to know of the story of the guy from Kolkata who tried to get a divorce by using a rent-a-wife.
Sanjib Saha presented a woman as his wife in a lower court in the eastern city of Kolkata this month. Both said they sought a mutual divorce, something the court granted immediately.

I have seen enough movies when men and women hired spouses for one reason or the other, but hiring one to get a divorce, that's new!


Secondly, the US govt continues to claim that the driver of Bin-laden was involved in planning the terror attacks of 9/11, although the alleged "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) himself said that the driver was just that, a driver.
"He was not a soldier, he was a driver," Mohammed said according to a redacted English translation of his Arabic.

He described Hamdan, who has a fourth-grade education, as a "more primitive (Bedouin) person" who did not share bin Laden's ideology but wanted his money and was "only searching for pleasure and money in this life."

"He was not fit to plan or execute. But he is fit to change trucks' tires, change oil filters, wash and clean cars and fasten cargo in pick up trucks," said Mohammed, who called himself the military official responsible for overseeing al Qaeda cells abroad and "the executive director of 9/11."

Of course, I can totally imagine GWB's lawyers saying that this testimony does not count since KSM was tortured :).


And finally, an NPR story that talks about the rise of Chinese business in Africa. I also firmly believe that Africa is still the last unexplored frontier, and China, like a very smart big power, is rapidly assuming economic control over large parts of it. The question is, can the African people, esp their governments, wake up in time negotiate good deals?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Welcome, and Thanks for your Laptop

I saw a link to this Washington Post article about how the US govt can take your laptop indefinitely at the border without any proof of wrongdoing. [ref: /. ]

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
I had commented about this in the past also.

Don't say I never warned you ;).

P.S. some people have claimed how making a copy of your harddrive was only like "looking" at the shirts in your suitcase, but I guess this one definitely qualifies as stealing/taking/robbing-me-of my shirt!