27 February 2006

If virologists could name movies...

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Virus Structure
Father of the Publication I (and II)
The Apoptositor
The Glycoprotein Transporter
Finding Neuro
Love Vaccine No. 9
Bird Flu Little
Brokeback Dimer
Charlie and the Hepatitis C virus
101 PCRs
Outbreak is Not So Bad
Harry Potter and the Freezer of Secrets
Bacterium Strikes Back
Nightmare on Podium

Ok must get back to preparing my talk now. It isn't as funny as it was in my head, but I can always improve it. Feel free to suggest stuff.

26 February 2006

You're a verb? You must be doing something right

These days people talk about Googling something. For those who have been living in a cave for the past few years, "Googling" means looking something up on the internet. One of the statements of universal truth that I have heard is that if you're being spoken of as a verb, you must be doing something right. Today I heard someone say that he was going to Cesar a dog. I assume this means that he is going to use Cesar Milan's dog handling techniques to teach the dog to behave well. That man is doing something right. Purists may dislike his approach, but they work. I'm a great fan of Cesar's because he's rehabilitated many problem dogs who would otherwise have been put down. For the non-dog people out there, it's a matter of great heartbreak to owners if they have a dog that gets taken away or put to death. Well, Cesar's methods work, and they've saved many people from depression.

I've come a long way from knowing nothing about dogs last year this time to actually being related to two now, ha! Thanks to Cesar Milan and several dog books, and of course BooBoo, Ginga and their assorted relatives :)

24 February 2006

3-D web browser

I checked out this cool web browser from Ubrowser. It lets you browse the internet in 3-D! So if you want the webpage you are seeing as a cube, a flag, a sphere or just old fashioned flat, you can do this. It makes the site you are visiting look like it's on real paper!

Some screenshots:



Well, nobody would want to browse like that, it's hard on the eyes, but I think it would be a great technology for a slideshow widget or program on the desktop.

And now for some shameless self-promotion - the site I was browsing was our dog blog.

Malayali names deconvoluted

I recieved this the other day by e-mail from Itty Boben Jacob Elias Kuruvilla:

It has been a well kept secret for eons, shrouded in mystery and mazes of deceit, but finally Itty Boben Jacob Elias Kuruvilla from Pazhookaville, near Thelmasherry, Kerala has consented to let us publish this classified Mallu formula, on the naming of Mallu christian kids.

1. Select a combination of both the mother and fathers names. Eg: Suresh and Sharon = Susha or Joseph and Beena = Jobi.

2. The addition of a ‘mon’ (meaning son) or ‘mol’ (meaning daughter) is optional. eg: Sushamol, Robison

3. To attach a modern anglicised feel to the names, the mol or mon can be replaced with boy or girl. eg: Jobiboy, Sushagirl.

4. For the politically correct Malayalee family, mol and mon can be replaced by the universal ‘kutty’(child), which can be used for both boys and girls! Eg: Jokutty, Susikutty

Even parents having combination names can still give their children suitable names eg: Libi and Jobi = Lijo However, in the scenario where the parents already have combination names that cannot form more comprehensible child names. Eg: Itty and Amukutty, would produce only Itam (which doesn’t even sound like a name) or Amit (which is like Northie and stuff !!!), then

a. Use an English word like Baby, Merry, Titty, Pearly, Smiley, Anarchy, etc.

b. Use a combination of two English names that you think sound cool (but never cool enough) like Meredith + Gina = Megi, or Sharon + Darlene = Sharlene

c. Use a name from the Bible (and not Nebuchadnezzar ! Use one that even velliammachi can pronounce !) like Jacob, Sam, John, Joseph, Mathew, or Jijo !

d. Use a name that sounds like a cuss word but isn’t. Eg: Boben, Prussy, Shagi, JustinTimberlake etc.

Note: The use of the letter ‘j’ is useful in the naming of sibling where names that sound alike are a novelty. Eg: Ajji, Sajji, Majji, Bhajji and Nimajji, or Sijo, Lijo, Jijo, Anjo, Panjo, Banjo

If you are not rolling on the floor with laughter by now, then you probably don't know any Malayalees. Also, I didn't write this, don't know who did, whoever it is did a great job and should be on the Great Indian Laughter Challenge.

21 February 2006

Some Help Finding Osama bin Laden

Since I said not very good things about the US government in a post recently, I want to make amends and share some intelligence about possible disguises that Osama bin Laden may be using. This intelligence was received by email and I cannot reveal my sources. Hope this helps in fighting the good fight, or at least in keeping the troops entertained so they continue.

Dell, what the Hell?

Dell, what the hell? Apparently, Dell computers are suing a guy called Paul Dell for setting up a website in 2001 called dellwebsites.com. Paul Dell is a website designer, has nothing to do with computer hardware, doesn't use any symbols on his site that look like Dell. Probably Dell will lose the case, but the cost of defending himself may prove too much for the guy. The owners of Dell computers are unaware that there may be other people with the same last name as Michael Dell, the founder. Not a company I would trust to make a computer for me. Anyway, the quality of Dells has gone down so much in the past year, with lots of people I know whose computers crashed conveniently right after the warranty period ended, that it's probably not worth buying a dell at all. It's literally Hell. At least until they stop trying to steal website names from other people, or they improve their product. Some of Paul's friends have set up a blog with updates, best of luck to them. If this goes on, then I can imagine lots of people being sued for having names that happen to be trademarks of some corporate entity. When will it stop? I hope the courts award all the money dell is asking for to Paul Dell, along with compensation for making money from his name on their websites.

17 February 2006

Will the real superpower please stand up?

I remembered that I meant to write about this issue when Chris Choney commented on my american sports post below. I am disappointed with the way that the USA has chosen to exert its considerable power and influence in the world. It seems to take decisions based on how much its government will profit in monetary terms and everything else be damned. Their actions supporting dictators around the world have resulted in many countries being under some form of military rule, with the general population disenfranchised and unable to pursue life, liberty, or happiness. The american dream has cost the people of Africa and some Asian countries very dearly. The current situation is no better, with the USA stampeding around the world causing great upheaval, truly the 1000 Kg elephant. The underlying reasons for this doormat-like treatment of the world are that the leaders of the USA see themselves and their country as separate from the world, the vast oceans disconnecting them from the rest of mankind. The politics causes them to think in terms of just the next 4 years and they decide to pollute the environment, increase greenhouse gases, and in general degrade the quality of life for everyone else and ensure an Earth bereft of many species. They are just not willing to sacrifice a small percentage of economic growth to ensure the future. Of course, they may be right, and we may find alternative sources of energy / planets to move to with all of the hightened economic activity, and I hope that this is the case.

I was one of these people who thinks that should India become a superpower, we would behave differently from the United States. But would that really be the case? In order to gain such power we have to make decisions that are quite difficult given our moral standpoint of 'satyameva jayate' (truth alone triumphs). In order to keep such power we have to make decisions that will compromise on our basic belief systems, as the next potential superpower will have to be stopped from reaching our stage. I hope this is not the case, and that we will manage a multipolar world where powerful nations are not engaged in denying technology and education to weaker nations, but are active participants in the development of these nations. The dream of the United Nations is to have a peaceful and prosperous world, and this should be the dream of any superpower. India does not have such clout in the world yet, and it remains to be seen whether it ever will. If it does, I hope that it acts differently from the superpowers of the past and tries to think about the long term future of the world, not just what would keep its politicians in office after the next 5 years. I wish such a country would keep the dream of Pandit Nehru alive, with armed conflicts giving way to peaceful negotiations among the enemies. The United Nations was created so that nations would not have to go to war with each other but could iron out their differences over a few pints of New York's best bitter.

Why should India be any different from the USA? The attitude of the people themselves is different, with the study of the impact of any decision involving the whole world as well as taking into account the opinions of various factions. This is necessary for survival within India itself, as every day people have to deal with others who may not speak the same language, have the same religion, etc. This creates a mini-UN that all Indians have to negotiate even as they are taking their first baby steps. India is a superpower in cricket, generating most of the revenues as well as the fans. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has recently been throwing its weight around as a result to ensure a more equitable distribution of profit. To do this, they want to play more games with the top cricketing nations, and less with the developing nations. So Bangladesh is out in the cold because their visits to India do not generate as much money as, say, Australia or England. This would be good for profits, but how about developing the game of the other countries? The weak sides can't play each other all the time, that way they do not learn anything. More competition is good for the game as it spreads in different countries and the Indian board should not just focus on narrow interests as the US government is doing. Well, since they just started, maybe they will think of spreading the game in other countries as well, but right now, the Indian board is doing things in its own best interests, not necessarily world interests. I support them in their stand to make the distribution of matches more equitable, as the cricketing seasons seem to revolve around the convenience of Australia and England right now, but they should definitely arrange to play teams that are not as strong, otherwise they will never get better. Of course, cricket and the world stage may be completely different things, but it is the attitude of the people running it that are in question here.

In conclusion, I think that the next superpower has to be a mature country that takes into account the aspirations of the world and not just its leaders. I think that probably India would do a better job than the USA when it gets to this position, because it already has to do it for one-sixth of the world population and so it has lots of experience. As long as the Indian cricket board is not running the government at that time :)

16 February 2006

Jai Dhoni!

OK I shall 'blog' my own horn here. MS Dhoni not only looks like me, the guy apparently also has a German Shepherd Dog (called Sam). I think he is my long lost brother. OK OK so he only looks like me sometimes, and his doggie probably looks nothing like Ginga, but that's my claim to fame right now so I'm sticking with it. Jai Dhoni! Ok I couldn't find a picture to prove it, but I'll add one once I find it. Good luck for the game guys. Translation for non-cricketers - he's a good cricket player, plays for India, one of the rising stars.

मैं खुद ही अपनी प्रशंसा करना चाहता हूँ, मुझे माफ़ कीजिए। मेरी शक्ल धोनी साहिब से मिल्ती जुल्ती है, और उनका भी एक जर्मन शेप्हर्ड कुत्ता है। शायद हम खोए हुए भाई हैं। अच्छा, ठीक है, हमारी शक्लें सिर्फ कभी कभी ही मिलते हैं, लेकिन यही मेरी एक खासियत है जिससे मैं सारी दुनिया मैं जाना जाऊँ। अब समझे, इसीलिए मैं कह रहा था कि क्षमा कीजिए।
उम्मीद है कि हमारी टीम अगले दो खेल को जीत कर आए। कल जीत गए तो अगले खेल में नये बच्चों को खिला सकते हैं।


My first Vlog (or video blog) is up at the GingaBoo site. Click here for direct link.

14 February 2006

Name change

At the risk of sounding like Seinfeld, what is the deal with place name changes? I can kind of understand changing the names of cities right after the former colonial masters have gone but 50 years later? That's a bit much. So Bombay becomes Mumbai, Calcutta becomes Kolkata, Madras becomes Chennai and countless other places that don't come into my radar. Do the ruling parties of these states really think that they will get more votes if they change the name? It's just confusing to people who want to talk about the place and get there. "Are you going to Mumbai, sir?" "No, I'm going to Bombay." It's amazing how much local politics plays into such issues. The whole Mohammed cartoon thingi, to pick a recent example, wouldn't have gotten to where people get killed without some local politicians deciding that they can get a few more votes by misinforming the generally uneducated / miseducated public about what is or is not an insult to their religion.

Those guys who run the show in most countries would disagree with me that an educated public is a better public. I think education brings empowerment, the power to seek your own destiny, the power to realise when things are going wrong, as well as the power to speak out against anything that seems to go against the interests of the current rulers. Inevitably, those countries that have succeeded have been those that were able to determine the truth, as well as challenege existing misconceptions with that knowledge. That is the recipe for success today, the ability to create, to innovate, and those things cannot exist in the absence of government sanction, even if the knowledge that is gained brings down individuals in that particular government. Again, we come to the paradox that in a democracy, the people who want to rule most are the ones that are least suited to rule.

11 February 2006

If you don't exist virutually, are you real?

I think this is the question of the future. I have found that most of my friends whom I communicate with can be reached via the internet. E-mail, webpage, messaging, some form of virtual communication. If I lose track of them, I can always find them by doing a web search. The people who have no web presence whatsoever are very difficult to communicate with. Their lives come to me in snippets handed down from friend to friend. With the death of snail-mail as an effective means of communication, a virtual existance is the only guarantee of communication. I fear this will get worse as time goes on and the longer I don't know what the lost are doing, the harder they will be to track down. There is always phone, but people seem to move around so much that without a someone@something.somethingelse(usually shorter) address you can't keep track of the phone number either. When will cell phone companies realise that it's better to stay with the same person and give them the same number even if they are in Papua New Guinea or in Colombia for a reasonable price? What is however disappointing is that despite my presence on the servers that make up the world wide web, none of the friends whom I am not in contact with search for me and come here. Perhaps they are so busy with their lives that they have forgotten about their friends. Perhaps they have decided that since I keep showing up and telling them what I think on here, I am safe and they have no need to be in touch. Are there two communities of people now that are growing apart? In regular touch or not in regular touch?

मुझे लग रहा है कि मेरे जो दोस्त ई-मेल या इन्टरनेट पे नहीं मिलते, उनसे मैं कभी बातें नहीं करूँगा। उनकी ज़िन्दगीयों मे मैं बिलकुल शामिल नहीं हो सकता। उनके कारणामों के बस थोड़ी सी महक आती है, वह भी तीन-चार दोस्तों के पास से। दूरभाष का उपयोग तो कर सकता हूँ, लेकिन लोग आजकल इतना घूमते हैं कि उनका दूरभाष पर मिलना बहुत मुशकिल है। अगर आप गूगल पर नहीं मिलते तो क्या आपकी ज़िन्दगी मेरे से छुपी हुई है? उससे ज़्यादा मुझे तक़लीफ होती है कि मेरे पुराने दोस्त मुझे इन्टरनेट पर नहीं ढूण्डते। मैं तो हूँ दुनिया की कम्प्यूटरों मे, मुझे क्यों नहीं ढूण्डते मेरे दोस्त? शायद उनका कहना है कि अगर इन्टरनेट पर हो तो हमें क्या ज़रूरत लिखने की, आपकी ज़िन्दगी तो हम जानते हैं। इससे ज़्यादा मैं सोच रहा हूँ कि वह लोग इतने जुटे हुए हैं अपनी ज़िन्दगियों मे कि मुझे भूल गए। कभी कभी तो याद आती होगी उन्हे भी, शायद वह यह देख कर यहाँ आयें?

09 February 2006

Stand Off

Here's Steve Coll talking about the 2002 incident where India almost went to war with Pakistan following a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. It's a good summary of the U.S. viewpoint. I may be biased, but I get the feeling that he's not quite sure what the role of the U.S.A. was in stopping India from going to war. Also the war option seems to be something that the Indian leadership discussed theoretically, but did not want to go through with. So, I'm not sure if he knows what the role of each of the players was in getting concessions to stop a war that really was not going to happen? Wonder if there's anything in his upcoming book about the rumours that the U.S. Navy had jammed Indian naval communication systems so they had to stop the blockade of Karachi that would have started the war... well I guess that would probably be too classified for anyone to talk about. This is when I wish I knew someone in the know.

Steve Coll : Stand Off

This week in the magazine, Steve Coll examines the moment, in 2002, when India and Pakistan almost went to war—with the potential for the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict since Nagasaki. Here, with Amy Davidson, he discusses the tensions on the subcontinent, the role of jihadis, and the nuclear black market.

I stumbled on this by accident as my current bathroom reading is Steve Coll's previous book, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. It's really good so far, but I have to go really slow so that I remember most of what I read in it. After I finish that I have 10 books from African authors. My bathroom will love me.

07 February 2006

Chikungunya Picture

I noticed that given the recent Chikungunya epidemics, people are looking for a picture (and landing on this site). There is no picture of Chikungunya that exists; however there is a picture of Sindbis, which looks exactly like Chikungunya below:

This is a cutaway showing a slice of the virus so you can see all the cool stuff that makes it up. I am trying to understand how the inside of this puts itself together, the pretty stuff in the centre of the picture that are arranged in 5's and 6's.

06 February 2006

American football world cup?

Despite spending about a decade in the U.S., I haven't been able to understand U.S. sports. Well, I understand them, but I don't enjoy watching at all. You see, I always compare them to cricket and football, and they fall woefully short.

Baseball is really limited when you compare it to cricket, there seem to be only 2 ways to hit the ball and since the ball doesn't bounce, there's only 3 ways to throw it (as far as I understand). Too limited, and it's hard to cheer for some team from some state somewhere in the U.S. I mean if it is Bulgaria versus Ireland or something then I could find a team to cheer for but given the limited scope of the teams playing and the small number of variations in the game, I could never follow it.

Basketball is OK, but again, very limited when compared to football. The object of the game is to score more points than the other team, but despite having a full court to play on, there is no midfield whatsoever. Not even a pretence of one. The team that doesn't have the ball defends in their D all the time. No wonder everyone keeps scoring, they have hundreds of points scored all the time and the main thing seems to be for one or two players to throw the ball from inside the other team's D. I mean if you get that close and there's no goalkeeper then there's nothing stopping you. Usually the team that loses is the one that fails to do a return score because they mess up for some reason. So I haven't been able to appreciate basketball either. They really have to get rid of those time-outs. For no reason each team can stop the game at any time that they want... a total of 6 times per game. Ridiculous.

American football just seems to be an excuse for advertisements to be shown. Each team is composed of two teams, when they lose the ball they actually switch to the backup team. A whole backup team, it's crazy. And they keep stopping the game for no reason (other than the aforementioned advertisements). The name of the game itself is annoying, as they never seem to let the ball leave their hands. They only kick it some of the time, and it's not even a ball, it is some sort of oval contraption. A ball by definition has to be round. The other thing is that the coach seems to communicate with the team the whole time that they are playing. Now where I come from the coach's job is to train the team and it's up to the team to use those tactics on the field. It's very strange. If they found a way to reduce the stoppages, it might be a better game. But then, why not just play rugby?

So I haven't been able to understand how to appreciate any of the US sports yet, but I am trying. The other annoying thing is that their annual finals are always called the world series or world cup or something to do with the world, however, no one else in the world plays the game! It's absurd. They could call it the North American trophy, it would be more accurate. Of course you probably cannot find any other country willing to play the game ha ha ha. Not enough advertisers :)

I am trying however to appreciate the finer points of these games, I might learn to enjoy them and if I do I shall proudly eat crow on this very blog. My time is short though, as I'll leave the country as soon as I get the degree. Have to see more countries, and I'm dying for the lack of quality cricket and football and not to mention sunshine and warmth. Anyway, during the superbowl, which is sort of a US final for American Football, two teams are playing and I'm supporting one that has some guy called Farrior in it. I figure that he's a long lost misspelt cousin of mine or something. Lova is supporting the other team because that has a Loofa in it. Such are the things we resort to to enjoy the game. Anyway the Farriers are defeating the Loofas approximately 2-1 right now. It's a little hard to tell though, because each goal is about 7 points and it's unneccessarily complicated. Anyway I'm calling it 2-1 for the Farriors right now. Ha, Zambia/India beats Madagscar/France with about 20 minutes left in the game?

03 February 2006

Danish Cartoons and Islam

OK so there's a big furore over some cartoons that appeared in a Danish newspaper in September. The cartoons featured the Prophet Mohammed, and people got quite worked up about it so I decided to search around and figure out what all the fuss was about. Thus far I have the following:

The Danes' point of view:

"It's a cartoon, it's funny. Wasn't meant to offend, it's our freedom of speech to say what we want, we make fun of all the other religious figures as well and if you don't like it, don't read it."
"Well the cartoons were in poor taste but the whole country shouldn't be penalised for what one newspaper published. It's allowed according to the law and it generates discussion so what's the big deal?"
Several muslim points of view:
"Depiction of the image of the Prophet is not allowed because it may lead to deification of the messenger, rather than the lawmaker (as has happened in other religions)."
"The cartoons themselves are not funny as they depict various incorrect stereotypes of Islam."
"It is not correct to say that this is a freedom of the press issue. The newspaper is indulging in hatemongering, and we've had enough vilification of the religion and its' followers for the past few years. Anyway nobody condones nazi propaganda so why is this freedom of the press?"

Interesting. I think both sides have a point. I think publication of the cartoons was in poor taste as it exacerbates an already strained relationship in many of the european countries between the majority and minority communities. The thing is that religious criticism hits people right in the guts and many have a visceral reaction to criticism of their beliefs. It's ok to criticise if you yourself are part of the religion, but most people don't take well to outsiders doing the criticism. That holds for any religion as far as I know, except the one that I'm inventing (very easy religion, be nice to everyone / everything, grow your hair, and don't believe anything until you've proven it :), I expect to have a billion followers on the planet Warrier in 2000 years.

I don't think it's right for some countries to recall their ambassadors and boycott goods made in Denmark just because one of their newspapers printed something that offends. It's ok according to their laws. I mean what would the Saudis do if people stopped buying their oil because women are not allowed to drive there or something. Plain silliness, but I don't think that the cheese farmers had anything to do with insensitive cartoons. Also the violence and so on is not on. Nobody's faith in what the flat earth society had to say a few thousand years ago about how the world works will be shaken by a few cartoons. Neither will any supreme creator get angry about cartoons and deny entry to anyone to anywhere, what kind of a supreme being can't take a joke? Why would the supreme being even invent jokes if s(he) can't take them?

So, in summary, it was plain silly to publish the stuff, but once published, it was better off ignored or brushed off with a smile, and maybe some cartooning of the publishers involved in the blasphemy - eye for an eye and all that.

Anthony Gonsalves

आज बहुत पुराने गाने और फिल्मों के लाइन याद आ रहे हैं, तो पेश है,

"My name is Anthony Gonsalves,

मैं दुनिया में अकेला हूँ,
दिल भी है खाली, दर भी है खाली,
जिसमे रहेगी कोई हिम्मतवाली,
जिसे मेरी याद आए, जब चाहे चली आए,
जिसे मेरी याद आए, जब चाहे चली आए,
रूप महल, प्रेम गली, खोली नम्बर ४२०

Excuse me please."

"आपका तो लगता है बस यही सपना,
राम राम जपना पराया माल अपना"

"बसन्ती, तुम्हारा नाम क्या है?"

"प्रीतम आन मिलो"

"तीन खड्डे और जलती हुई घास, इसका मतलब एलिएन (Alien)"

"मैं पल दो पल का शायर हूँ, पल दो पल मेरी कहानी है,
पल दो पल मेरी हस्ती है, पल दो पल मेरी जवानी है।"

"एक चतुर नार कर के श्रिंगार,
अय्यो गोडे तेरी... यह गोडा, चतुर, गोडा, चतुर, येक पे रहना, या तो गोडा बोला या चतुर"

"पाप से धरती फटी, अधर्म से आसमान,
अत्याचार से काँपी इनसानियत, राज कर रहे हैवान,
जिनकी होगी ताक़त अपूर्व, जिनका होगा निशाना अभेद,
जो करेंगे इनका सर्वनाश, वह कहलाएंगे त्रिदेव।"
... और इसके कई अनगिनत मज़ेदार वर्षन

बुखार की वजह से न जाने क्या क्या याद आता है, अगली बार कुच्छ अच्छा सा लिखूँगा।

01 February 2006

Revenge of the virus

Couldn't be in lab for much of today, had a bad cold, felt very sick so took the nyquil and slept for 7 hours at home during the afternoon. This is a strange cold, with headaches and body ache and lots of fatigue. Very tired again so will sleep some more, hopefully it gets better tomorrow. I probably should have taken it easy on sunday when it started, instead of running around in lab like a maniac and it might not have been so bad today. It's the virus' revenge for working against them!