Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The WMP shuffle

Ipod shuffle guessing game from brimful. I set my windows media player (for want of an ipod) on "shuffle" and wrote down the first line of the first twenty songs that played (barring repeated artists and first lines containing song titles). Your job: identify the song or the artist and enter it as a comment. As the guesses come in I'll cross the songs off. No googling ! Here's the list :
  1. Pebble by pebble, sand grain by sand grain, shore turns to sea, shore turns to ocean
  2. Gonna close my eyes girl and watch you go running through this life darling like a field of snow David Gray "The one I love". Exactly cookiemonsta.
  3. Huh! Yeah, we're comin' back then with another bombtrack. Think ya know what it's all about. RATM "Know Your Enemy". Right band maisnon..
  4. In the next world war, in a jackknifed juggernaut, I am born again Radiohead "Airbag". ads got it.
  5. I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair to travel to Carterhall
  6. The night was black, the roads were icy, snow was fallin', drifts were high
  7. The waiting drove me mad. You're finally here and I'm a mess
  8. Pearl Jam's "Corduroy". That's right brimful. I'm not ashamed to be a PJ fan.
  9. Here comes that awful feeling again. Welcome the ugly animal. I hold my breath to watch you swing R.E.M "Circus Envy". Exactly maisnon !
  10. I need an easy friend. I do, with an ear to lend. Nirvana's "About a Girl". brimful again
  11. You're in an all-girl band. Your futon's second hand. Your parents understand, but you don't care Barenaked Ladies "Alternative Girlfriend". Great job Maitri !
  12. I don't want to hear you whisper I don't want to orbit your world ...Cake "World Of Two". Maitri again.
  13. Everyone has choice when to and not to raise their voices. It's you that decides which way will you turn
  14. Oh I do believe in all the things you say. What comes is better than what came before
  15. It's happening all the time when I open my eyes I'm still taken by surprise
  16. So this is christmas and what have you done. Another year over a new one just begun John Lennon "Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)" Good job andrea.
  17. West indians, black americans, west indians, black americans
  18. I never felt magic crazy as this I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea Nick Drake "Northern Sky" Great job Manoj !
  19. Are your garments spotless are they white as the snow
  20. When I'm walkin' these streets. And I'm countin' my steps. And I'm draggin' my feet 'cause I ain't ready yet Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris "I Remember You" Great job Amelie-Freak !
  21. Baby, I really, really love you now. I think you should stop your cryin

Monday, March 27, 2006

Jambalaya / Paella / Pulao

Some googling in relation to my previous post lead me to the Wikipedia page on Pulao/Pilaf, which they describe as :
a Middle Eastern and Central Asian dish in which a grain, such as rice or cracked wheat, is generally first browned in oil, and then cooked in a seasoned broth. Depending on the local cuisine it may also contain a variety of meat and vegetables.
Down at the bottom of the page under "See Also", they list Paella and Jambalaya. It hadn't struck me before how similar these three words are to each other. Surely they have a common root ? Wikipedia says that the root dish is Persian or Uzbek:
One of the earliest literary references to Pilau can be found in the histories of Alexander the Great when describing Sogdian (an Eastern Iranian province probably the birthplace of Alexander's wife Roxana and geographically situated in modern Uzbekistan) hospitality
It's easy to believe that it spread to Iberia to become Paella :
The Arabs probably introduced Pilaf to Iberia. Spanish paella was more than likely a standard Moorish method for cooking rice - with no wasted water, important in desert regions like North Africa.
And I'm convinced that Jambalaya is a distortion of the same word. But not everybody thinks so:
It may derive from the Spanish dish paella, possibly brought to Louisiana when Spain controlled the territory comprising the future Louisiana Purchase, although many other theories exist, including the notion that it is a combination of the words jambon (French for ham), à la (French for in the style of) and ya-ya (West African for rice).
Perhaps it's a mix of several words, if that's possible.

In related news, "some scholars think" that the words for Rice in many European languages is derived from the Tamil Arisi :

Indian scholars claimed that the word for rice in Western languages had a Dravidian root and that ris, riz, arroz, rice, oruza, and arrazz all came from arisi (Pankar and Gowda 1976).
Yes, discovering similar words in different languages is my idea of fun.

You call this a date ?

Last week was Norooz/Nowrooz (Persian new year) and my Iranian friend brought some food to the office. When explaining what went into it he said he didn't know what it was called in English but in Farsi it was called "Tamr-Hindi". "Tamr-hindi" ? Tamarind ?

Yes, it turns out that the word Tamarind is derived from the Persian/Arabic for "Indian Date" : Tamr=Date and Hindi=Indian. And further, everybody from the Portuguese to the Latvians to the Japanese refer to it by some variant of "Tamarind".

But they're all wrong, according to this site:

Native to tropical Africa, the tree grows wild throughout the Sudan and was so long ago introduced into and adopted in India that it has often been reported as indigenous there also, and it was apparently from this Asiatic country that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it "tamar hindi" (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names. Unfortunately, the specific name, "indica", also perpetuates the illusion of Indian origin.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pi stories

Apparently today, March 14th, is PI.-day (3.14, get it ?). Actually, as my Greek Calculus instructor once informed us, PI is correctly pronounced "P" (just like the equivalent English letter). [In a related story, a Greek physics grad student teaching assistant told me that he once got back evaluations from his students which said that he did a good job at everything except pronouncing the Greek alphabet correctly !]. But back to PI.

Not long ago I was called in to mediate a dispute between an 8-yr old girl (my cousin) and her mechanical-engineer father. My cousin's teacher had told her that if you wrote down the decimal expansion of PI, the sequence of digits would go on forever without repetition. Her dad then took out paper and pen and divided 22 by 7 and showed her that the digits did in fact repeat. I, of course, had to inform them that the teacher was right and that PI is only approximately equal to 22/7 and, in fact, is irrational (even transcendental) and therefore can not be expressed as an integer over another integer (in the process perhaps causing long term damage to the sacred bond of trust between father and daughter). I suspect the assumption that PI is exactly equal to 22/7 is more common among people who learnt math without calculators.

I'd like to say that I took out pen and paper and wrote out the proof of the irrationality of PI, but sadly they had to take it on faith. I did find it on the internet later though. Before I direct you to the proof, I hope you notice the time-stamp on this post. Getting the post in exactly at 3.14 1:59:26 was a complicated task involving synchronizing the clock on my PC to Blogger's clock and then making sure that the first key was hit just as the second digits turned to 26. Ok, here's the proof thanks to Helmut Richter.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Four of Each

I'm back ! The pleadings of my hordes of devoted readers have been heard ! First I shall fulfill my obligations as a tagee (thanks badmash), even if several months late. If the blogosphere was full of people like me, memes would never spread --- good thing or bad thing I don't know.
  • 4 jobs
    1. Shelver of books at gigantic university library: mindless tasks made bearable by Walkman and the gaining of library-related trivia (ex. Tchaikovsky is filed under "ch" not "t").
    2. Undergrad Teaching Assistant: lead discussion sessions and tasted the heady feeling that comes from knowing more than everybody else in the room.
    3. Undergrad Research Assistant: Varied programming/computer-related tasks often related to automating laboratory data-gathering.
    4. Grad-Student/Researcher: I could do this forever and you wouldn't have to pay me that much more really. Sadly it looks like this too might be coming to an end soon.
  • 4 movies: This is a little hard. I don't have all-time favorite movies. So I've made this a list of 4 movies I can watch repeatedly (if it's on TV for example). I had to look at the imdb list to remember some names.
    1. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
    2. Austin Powers
    3. Office Space
    4. Pulp Fiction
  • 4 places I've lived
    1. Houston, TX
    2. Chicago, IL
    3. Kodaikanal, India
    4. Cochin, India
  • 4 TV shows
    1. The Daily Show
    2. The Colbert Report
    3. PBS: Frontline
    4. This American Life (Ok, it's not TV but it's one of the best things on the any media. Check out this week's incredible show "Habeas Schmabeas".)
    Phew! That means I don't have to list the more embarrassing ones.
  • 4 vacations
    1. Muscat, Oman (surprising nice secluded beaches)
    2. Mahabalipuram, India (annual childhood family winter-vacation)
    3. Coonoor, India (annual childhood family summer-vacation)
    4. Colorado, USA (memorable spring break)
  • 4 foods
    1. Appam and stew
    2. Chicken biriyani
    3. Injera (i.e. Ethiopian appam)
    4. Chocolate-chip cookie dough ice-cream.
    Note to badmash: I promise I didn't copy items 1&2 from you.
  • 4 places I'd rather be
    1. In my grand-uncle's vallam in the river beside his house.
    2. Doing "the 3-day hike" in the Palani hills near Kodaikanal.
    3. Traveling somewhere I've never been: an "Amazing Race"-like world-wide trip preferably.
    4. In a real city: London perhaps.
  • 4 sites
    1. Sepia Mutiny.
    2. Google
    3. Gmail
    4. Sitemeter :)
  • 4 bloggers whom I'm tagging: Since everybody's done this already there's nobody left to tag.