Tuesday, August 18, 2009


1. Idiot's Guide to Answering the Queen's queries - Economics On why no one saw the crisis coming.

2.15 patriotic songs (Hindi) to listen on Independence day Not very patriotic myself. But I like good songs:)

3. Michael Foody on why he likes Twitter Quoting him , "The freedom to be mediocre most of the time is something that is necessary to be excellent ever and twitter gives me a way to be mediocre. And that’s why I like twitter."

Swaminomics on some Swine Flu & related stats from India

5. Driving Test Flowchart

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Holistic soothsayer!

During my teenage years, I had a fascination for all pseudo-sciences. Turned out that this was normal - most of my peers shared these interests.

1st read up Linda Goodman's Sun Signs. And started categorizing people by their DoB. Augmented this with Indian star signs. So now everyone was mapped on to a 2D matrix. And then added palmistry to the repertoire. Didn't really believe all this, though it didn't stop me from trying it out on every possible subject.

Later got hooked into Graphology after seeing a TV programme on it. Bought 3 books on it. Now this was more interesting for 2 reasons.
1 - It appeared scientific.
2 - Unlike the zodiac, very few were familiar with this. So it hasn't been widely ridiculed yet. And I could easily pretend to the local expert in school.

Finally added Kinesics to this list. And turned into an integrated cold reader. Took a few years to realize that this was all Bovine Scat.

After this I had taken to debunking practitioners of such arts. Usually they would be specialists in only one of the forms.

Sunita Menon seems to be a generalist. Her calling card reads 'Clairvoyant, healer, counsellor, psychic, guide, philosopher and mentor'. She's most famous however as a Tarot Card reader. As part of the independence day celebrations, the Indian Embassy in Muscat started of with a talk by this celebrity psychic. Celebrity status clearly enhanced by the likes of Karan Johar & Ekta Kapoor being her regular clients. In Kapoor's dud Krishna Cottage, the seance played by Rati Agnihotri is named Sunita Menon.

The widely covered tamasha at the embassy was billed as the "Exotic Indian Science of Tarot Reading". This appears flawed on many fronts. Tarots are not of Indian Origin. They came up in continental Europe merely as a game. Later when it spread to the British Isles, it started getting used for divination. Hence the references in the Harry Potter series, and probably the most famous - Solitaire in Live & Let Die.

I guess it can be called 'exotic' in the sense that it is 'foreign' to this part of the world. And it's as much 'Science' as 'Intelligent Design'.

Her show seemed to have impressed the audience, going by the newspaper reports. Keeping with her ilk, she doesn't appear to have definitely forecast anything during her talk, despite numerous queries. The only prediction that is not completely vague is when she said that the US would take another 10 months to come out of the economic depression, Europe even further, and India & the Middle East have already started coming out. Waiting to see if this happens. Though it'll be difficult to define what exactly needs to happen to certify that the depression is over.

Like everyone and their uncle, she claims to have forecast the market crash as far as 2 years ago. If she knew so clearly, why didn't she go short, and make some serious money out of her forecasting abilities?

Dial 419

In the 1920s many people apparently got letters for a prisoner incarcerated under a false identity in Spain. The writer sought help to get him released and promised a share of large riches in return. Known then as the Spanish Prisoner Con, this has morphed into different forms, and refuses to die.

Nigeria has of course taken over as the hotbed for such schemes. But amazed that there are still people who fall for this. This man feels ashamed that the perpetrator comes from his land, sullying his name as well. And I feel embarrassed that the victim is from my land:(

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mapping the World - Wikipedia style

Open Street Map - The Free Wiki World Map, is a map site which allows users to update street maps. Similar to what Wikipedia is trying to do to the standard encyclopedia. This site primarily depends on users uploading GPS tracks to add and update the streets. Plus the various tagging options - 1 way, unpaved streets, malls, restaurants,...

The maps can of course be downloaded and used at will. No fees, as far as I've understood.

Looked at some of the places I regularly visit. Not all streets have been captured yet. All the more motivated to get the GPS out on my next trips.

Some new applications have come up that make it easier to edit the maps. One such is Walking Papers which allows one to print maps, draw on them, and scan it back to Open Street Map.