Recurring Decimals…..

Everything here is irrelevant

Archive for the ‘DesiPundit’ Category

Off failing iPhones and fawned upon iPads

with 2 comments

As they say, if you can’t beat them – join them. So fair warning: this post contains iPad-related stuff.

As much as I was inured by the recent avalanche of bytes over the impending release of Apple’s iPad, I just couldn’t take it anymore on Saturday, and simply decided to be internet(thusly,  iPad coverage)-free. But  this perhaps made the iGods (oh yes – there is very much a religion where Jobs is the messiah) angry.  Before the end of the day, it had to be that I actually got to hold and try out an iPad at the Apple store!

Here’s the story:

So I was happily spending the day driving top down on a beautiful sunny day through windy roads leading to the desert, taking snaps of wild-flowers growing on cacti, followed by a nap in the backyard hammock and such suitably non-iPaddy stuff, when – wouldn’t you know it – my iPhone started showing the white screen of death! As my favorite saying goes – karma’s a bitch (okay second favorite saying, and note to self: stop using cliched sayings). So faster than you could say irony, I booked an appointment with one of them Apple ‘geniuses’ (Apple – I hate you for that [1]).

And since I was already there in the Apple store – where any craziness for iPad purchases seems to have subsided and replaced by  a teaching session for  a bunch of geriatrics on how to use the machine –  I couldn’t resist temptation and actually got to playing with the thingie for a while.

Sigh! As the god said – so it goes.

————————————

Seeing as I am bothering to write a post that involves the iPad, might as well cover some of my impressions:

Honestly, this stuff is a technological beauty. The apps open much faster than they do on the iPhone/Pod, display is stunning, especially for playing HD movies, and contrary to what what a lot of people have mentioned, I thought it was quite compact and light.

Personally of course, I have no use for a device that doesn’t come with a camera, doesn’t allow me to multi-task, and doesn’t allow me to transfer data.  As for the supposed 10 hours of battery life, I can only emit a hollow laughter. I am sure all the fanboys will buy one have bought one already. I can see a great use for college students, if they can download all their text-books into the iPad (will be a great interactive experience e.g if in a biochemistry book, you can click on an animation showing protein movements and likes). The one interesting demographic could actually be the elderly people not as much used to computers. I can already think of several relatives in India who are not quite comfortable with the pressing of keys , the clicking of icons etc.  The simple touch interface might allay their fear.

So, perhaps a ‘granny computer’ then.

—————————————–

Oh, I was able to get a replacement iPhone, not before arguing with a Genius about how I  do know how to handle a smart phone and the white-out wasn’t my fault (even if the crack in the screen was – but the phone had been working perfectly with the crack for several months). Of course, the new iPhone had to have a white out screen this afternoon again! Fortunately, it was temporary and the problem fixed itself. No idea what caused it.

—————————————–

[1]: Apple, as much as I really like your products, I need to point out that pimpled teenagers (or punly middle-aged ladies such as the one I got talking to), pompously trotting around with nerdy air of superiority does not a genius make. I know, what’s in a name you say, but a bit of honest honest nomenclature will not hurt.

Advertisements

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

April 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Why I prefer my Martini stirred..

with 3 comments

…not shaken; because vigorous shaking introduces…err… stuff into the solution which could actually cure me. And I don’t want to be cured of my alcohol addiction.

Essentially, that is what this woo-ridden atricle by Dana Ullman in HuffPo explaining Homeopathy is trying to claim (via). It’s filled with gems like:

Further, the micro-bubbles and the nano-bubbles that are caused by the shaking may burst and thereby produce microenvironments of higher temperature and pressure.

Of course, what he is saying has to be true – after all he talks of nano-doses and nano-pharmacology and micro-environments (why didn’t he go to pico and femto ? Those sound even sexier and is actually more accurate to describe homeopathic dosage levels) and Quantum Medicine (I gotta take myself an online degree in that one)!

Sadly however, Ullman missed the clincher: James Bond drank his martini shaken and the shaking introduced super-bubbles into his drink and that’s how he managed to sleep with all the random women. As stated, I drink my martini stirred, and ergo no liaisons with alluring women.

After all, that makes as much sense as the rest of the so-called evidence.

Seriously  folks, there is very little in the way of scientific/medical evidence that homeopathy works. And before people who have been ‘cured’ by homeopathy start flaming me, let me state that I come from a family where ‘allopathy’ was always a last resort. And I too have been purportedly cured of a skin infection with homeopathy. However, at that time, my diet also changed and my mom started making me eat a lot of neem and turmeric etc. I’d think that these latter items which have actual ingredients and not some infinitesimally diluted and vigorously shaken nano/pico drop of water might have done the curing.

Unfortunately, most of the support for homeopathy seems to stem from such anecdotal evidence and not from rigorous double-blind studies that would convince skeptics (alas, some people – check the comments on HuffPo – have even come to regard double blind studies as a big-pharma conspiracy).

I have no problem if people want to indulge in homeopathy to waste time and money, but it becomes dangerous when people ignore good medical advice thinking they are getting a cure, or when homeopathy falsely advertises cure and/or prevention (e.g this earlier bad advice on H1N1 prevention by homeopathy which was being touted by a celebrity on Twitter).

So call it magic, call it a miracle, but explaining homeopathy with some technical mumbo-jumbo doesn’t make any sense.

(also read Dictatorji’s earlier post on homeopathy and astrology and the comments therein )

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

December 15, 2009 at 11:51 am

Shoddy journalism by Sagarika Ghose on Global Warming

with 29 comments

Last night on her Twitter account, Indian journalist Sagarika Ghose posted the following:

Is even the science of climate change dodgy? is there any evidence that CO2 is bad for us? who says the climate’s changing for the worse?

I am not sure where to begin parsing the statement, which displays either a stunning naivete or a sly dishonesty  calculated to get people charged up. Either way, it is quite appalling.

Actually, what is really appalling is the way she then goes about trying to prove her point.

Considering she works for CNN-IBN, which must to their disposal have at least one computer connected to this technology called the internet, where there exists these sites called Google and Bing that can be used to quickly search any topic. Not to mention that she must have at her disposal some sort of a research team, or the ability to get in touch with the relevant specialists for researching.

But what does she do when called for evidence of her statement? She retweets from some other guy offering up Bjorn Lomborg, the thoroughly discredited Danish academic as her source for anti-climate change (e.g see this, this or this).

If you are going to argue such a controversial issue, it pays not to be lazy – not to mention incredibly lame – enough as to cite Lomborg as your anti-climate change source! Heck, she could have even gone the Dubner-Levitt pathway given it has been on the news so much recently!  This is just stupendously shoddy journalism.

I have no problems with Ghose formulating a question for a proper debate – after all it is a supposedly free country with freedom of speech (though one of her contemporaries at least, has some sort of a problem with the definition of free speech, but we will let that go for now). However, it is inexcusable that she goes forth and makes statements that could be proven to be laughably false with the most perfunctory research.

Could it be that she is simply indulging in cheap sensationalism to improve ratings of her news channel? Quite possible given that she framed her question in the context of India’s role in reducing green house emissions, and whether

we [are] about to retard our industrial development because of america’s demands that we cut carbon emissions? (link)

Trying to whip up a bit of nationalist pride and sentiments against the US does no harm to ratings.  Statements such as, “Interesting point raised last night: our problem is poverty, not climate. lets first get rich, then we can go green.” are lame but sure to be a hit with the masses. Even then, it is  rather sad what she does to a complex discourse.

Consider that most die-hard skeptics now agree that climate change is real, and there is even a major consensus regarding the anthropogenic contribution to climate change. But how to solve the issue is however a highly charged debate involving as it does socio-economics and politics of a wide variety of country. For Ghose to reduce such complexity to levels stooped by the likes of Fox News and cronies is an incredible low.

(Thanks to Sakshi for many of the links)

update: Found this link with an incredible amount of resources to satisfy anyone’s climate change questions. I am not asking Ghose or anyone to absolutely agree with everything said here, but at least the person should argue on some intellectual basis.

——————————————–

1. On these lines, it is quite unfortunate that TV journalism in India has been reduced to screeching hosts and overexcited, juvenile on-site reporter.s Ghose is married to Rajdeep Sardesai, whose histrionics during the Mumbai bombings were rightly criticized. Much has also been said about the media’s culpability during the 26/11 siege of Mumbai.

2. On a lighter note, Ghose’s naive question “ is there any evidence that CO2 is bad for us?” reminds me of Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachman trying to argue that global warming is of no concern because carbon-dioxide is natural and causes no harm!!

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

October 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm

FCB: Gourmet 50’s Cocktails – Frangipani

with 3 comments

Not sure if it is related to their upcoming demise, but Gourmet magazine online is doing a feature where they publish their 20 favorite cocktails of each decade, starting from the ’40s. They are upto the 90s now.

Simply gazing at the wonderful photos are probably worth the time by itself, but it is wonderful stuff for any cocktail connoisseur and additionally, a good lesson for aspiring mixologists.

Being Gourmet magazine, they also obviously get their preparations right:  Martini is  to be stirred (not shaken), the vermouth is ‘to taste’ (and they stress this fact) with nary a mention of vodka. We can but only appreciate.

All the other cocktails similarly exude class and style  – no tropical forests hanging out of brightly colored, over-sweetened drinks calling for 10 different liquors!

So suitably inspired, I have got it into my head now, of trying out all the cocktail recipes posted on the site and then blogging about it!. Of course, given my record in such matters, ‘all’ might be rather stretching it. But this is alcohol we are talking about – so I will give it a fair go.

I wanted to start with a drink I’ve never had before and settled upon this rum-based recipe from the 50s: Frangipani. A combination of being intrigued by the name and the fact that it used gold rum, which I have rarely tried before, and Maraschino liqueur, which I wanted to try out for a while, made me go this one.

Image from Gourment

Image from Gourment

I had this theory that there might be some sort of  Sanskrit roots to the word Frangipani (pani = water and all that), but as far as I can find out, Frangipani refers to a tropical flower (and a few other stuff). How that relates to the cocktail, I have no idea and the web is sparse on details.  The only other mention of it as a cocktail has a very different recipe. As Gourmet put it, the drink  is a variation of the Hemmingway daiquiri:

A cynical cocktailian might look at this as a dumbed-down Hemingway Daiquiri (or Papa Doble, as it’s sometimes called), but substituting more grapefruit juice for the lime and the sugar actually results in a very different drink. Look for Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur.

This is how I made it, based off the Gourment recipe :

  • 1 part Golden Rum (I used the Dominican brand Ron Matusalem)
  • 1 part Pineapple Juice
  • 3 dashes Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo, as suggested in the recipe, I was lucky enough to find it at BevMo)

Give it a few nice hard shakes jig in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass.  The toughest part of making this drink was getting the Maraschino Liqueur right: three dashes mean dashes – pour a bit too much and the drink is overwhelmed by the honey-almond taste of the liqueur.

In terms of taste, it is indeed a very different drink from the Hemmingway Daiquiri – and much sweeter as expected with the pineapple juice. I also  thought that the juice and the Maraschino liqueur hid the taste of the rum (but then perhaps I need to get myself a better quality or a  more aged rum).  Overall, even though I don’t like my alcohol too sweet,  I can picture myself drinking this while relaxing outdoors on a weekend afternoon. The drink could be a a nice after-dinner cleanser as well.

As such, I also made my own version of the drink by increasing the portion of run to 1.5 parts and then adding a dash of lime juice (in the form of clarified Key lime) to have a bit of balance.

Not looking as tempting as the image from the magazine; Photography skills still need work :Pp

Not looking quite as tempting as the image from the magazine; Photography skills still needs work 🙂

Not a bad start really. Cheers.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

October 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Twitter killed the blogger ?

with 8 comments

Not that I was very persevering at it, but the advent of Twitter seems to have cut into my already dismal state of blogging. Most off-the-cuff remarks I might have considered putting into a blog [1], I now find myself finishing in 140 characters or less. An example would be the early morning (by Australian time) Champions League final game between Barca and Man U. that Barca won through some superb midfield play, which in other circumstances,  I might have devoted a paragraph or three, I Twittered (Tweeted? Twat ?) about.

For lazy bums such as myself, 140 characters or less is just too tempting; get the rush of sharing your  (half-formed) thoughts with the world out of the way quickly – thoughtful analysis and introspection be dammed.

Then there are other advantages: you have a list of people who follow you on Twitter, and with judicious calculations of whether they are online (or will be) or a  knowledge of their interest, you know you will attract their attention to your Tweet (Twit?). With blogs, it has recently become a crap-shoot: your RSS feeds (wow, that sounds so 2005-6ish!) could be on the subscription list of hundreds (mine isn’t), but most people, I suspect, dont bother reading beyond the first 140 characters anyway. However, this could be a problem with Twitter too: there are those insanes that ‘follow’ hundreds and thousands, and I have no idea if they actually read a quarter of them. But at least you are assurred of being skimmed over by a few, versus the neglect of all.

On balance however, I am not a big fan of Twitter. So call me old-fashioned and stuck in the Web2.0 age, but here goes some reasons:

First, I have noticed that the overall productivity of quite a few of my favorite bloggers has declined since the advent of widespread Twitter usage. This is a personal loss – I do get their Twitter updates, but often it gets lost under a mountain of trivial stuff. Blogs – I can read at leisure. Twitter – early mornings, I cannot be bothered beyond the 5th, or the 2nd if I haven’t had my coffee yet. So I assume I am missing out on the richness of much rants, fisks, and other such goodies.

Second, the tendency of many Twitters (Twats? Tweeters ?) to go on a self-absorbed chronicling of their everyday mundane activities is often disgusting, not to mention boring as hell (ok, so that was the third soy-latte-chai you had today morning, now get over it and be a man by ordering a triple-shot Venti or whatever abomination).

Finally, while Twitter can be put to good use in quick dissemination of information (e.g during the Mumbai blast) – or for interesting updates on the go with iPhones  (e.g. a  few droll observations by the ever reliable gawker from a suburban pub tonite) etc., the total misuse or worse, cluelessness, of the platform by many is absolutely irritating. A well known blogger and journalist I was following for a while suffered from the worst case of verbal  diarrhoea I have had the misfortune of reading – his opinion seemed to be that the 140 characters limit was a simple inconvenience, easily abrogated by breaking up a blog-sized posting  (never pithy to begin with) into 30-40 Twitters!! I exaggerate of course, but not by much.

So unfollow these people you miserable Luddite twat, I hear the cry goes. Rest assured, my Twitter following is kept at the bare minimum: I think I follow a little more than 30 people (!) – four of them are celebrities, or people who I consider celebrities (Stephen Colbert, Kal Penn, Mindy Kaling and Samit Basu), a few were reciprocal followers (I have stopped this now, unless I know the person) and why they wanted to follow me in the first place I don’t know, a couple are institutional Twitters (e.g NIH, CDC) and I plan to expand into this soon, and the rest are people whom I used to follow on their blogs, some I have met personally as well.

As such, I don’t think that Twitter is a very bad thing, but hope it will be put to better use.

Anyhow, there ends a not very brief rant. And now, excuse me while I link this to an Twitter update 😛

——————–

[1]: Even on a good week, less than 50% of putative blog posts actually get past the drafts stage.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 28, 2009 at 7:55 am

About the complaints on Obama’s interference in Detroit

with 5 comments

The government has no business involving itself in business.

That is the popular refrain you will hear from fiscal conservatives/libertarians and such. Personally, I don’t disagree with the sentiment. Even in these tough times, I believe that the economy is best served by private enterprise with limited interference from the government. Plus, anyone growing up in India through the 70-80’s  observed first hand how governmental involvement creates inefficiency in business  (e.g. land-line phone companies) and how too much red-tapism destroy entrepreneurial spirits (or limits it to a dedicated or privileged few).  So in general, I am all for the government keeping their fingers off private businesses.

Except, when they have a right to it, by virtue of ummmm…….say few billion dollars invested ! I am of course, referring to all the hullabaloo over Obama’s recent sacking of the GM CEO Wagoner. Predictably, a swathe of right-wing bloggers (even some liberal ones) are upset over what they perceive as the administration’s needless meddling. The Corner sums it up thus:

GM is now Obama’ s company. If it closes, it will be on his say-so. But Obama is a politician, not a CEO. So his first concern is to avoid bad political fallout, which means he will prop up the company for as long as it takes, regardless of what makes economic sense.

This is very much on the lines of emotion expressed by Don Boudreaux in an editorial on USA Today earlier this month (he was talking about bank nationalization, but the idea is the same):

Politicians’ incentives differ radically from those of private owners. Few politicians look past the next election or beyond the familiar interest groups whose support is crucial.

(A very typical line that is often parroted by a certain eminent Indian libertarian blogger as well.)

All this is mildly amusing.  I wonder if people writing these stuff have any idea about the irony: Last time I checked, the current financial mess was created not by politicians, but private businesses, or rather the heads of certain private businesses. And the reason it happened is that these CEOs, just like politicians, were looking at short-term incentives – lining their own pockets with bonuses without considering long-term ramifications of their risky investments.

Similar short-sightedness have contributed to the fall of  the Detroit Big 3.  Rather than compete with foreign automakers by designing better vehicles in terms of quality, reliability and fuel-efficiency, they have been content to sit on the sales of poorly made gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks and lobbying to block any legislation that impact fuel efficiency.

——————————-

The problem is that the government should not have been involved in this mess at all (although when such a large number of people’s jobs are on the line, it is difficult for a modern government to be hands-off – and remember that while people are blaming Obama, the major bailouts  were passed by the Bush administration). But now that it is involved having paid the dollars, you cannot complain about its involvement, for good or bad.

—————————

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

March 31, 2009 at 7:53 am

Quick Oscar-nite musings

with 7 comments

A big pat on the back of those who actually stayed awake to watch the entire Oscar’s night live; I had recorded it and even with the benefit of fast-forwarding through really boring bits and the commercial breaks, I wish I could even say ‘meh’ !

This was undoubtedly one of the most uninspiring, insipid and boring Oscar ceremonies I have witnessed. Allright, so Hugh Jackman can sing, he can dance, he can self-reference during his song and dance routines, and yeah, yeah…he is the sexiest man alive, or something. But he did not bring anything extra as a host – the best one could say is that he was not as irritating as Ellen Degeneress two years ago. But that’s not really saying much.

And, that was the best choreography they could come up with for O saaya and Jai Ho: A bunch of dancers in ethnically confusing pink dresses !? Jai Ho was slightly better, but only just. they should have left it to the professionals in Mumbai ?

The moments barely enjoyable included bits of the opening routine, Tina Fey and Steve Martin’s banter, and Jerry Lewis’ acceptance. Of course,  Jai Ho to ARR and Gulzar for winning Oscars.

Finally, Kate Winslet: For fugs sake – stop the crying already and show some dignity. Meryl Streep was sitting not very far – she has won the award three times and nominated a zillion times, learn something from her.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm