Venus flytrap

A (for Aaron Aardvark)

These days, most kids born to people I know seem to have names starting with A. One of them is my sister’s kid, and being the doting uncle that I’d like to picture myself as, I wouldn’t want to change anything about him (unless of course it turns out that he prefers Vivek over Vadivelu).

However, I wonder about the plethora of names beginning with A in the sub-4 ft. brigade today. What’s the logic? It can’t be that it helps the kid go earlier when names are sorted in alphabetical order, for a number of reasons:

  1. If everyone’s got a name starting with A, it’s the second letter in your name that begins to matter. As it stands, if you name your kid “Baa” after the nursery rhyme, he’s still gonna be the last on the list.
  2. If they’re sorted in alphabetical order of last name, what are you going to do? Change your family name to Aardvark?
  3. If it’s important, then why not use numbers? Lower ASCII value, right?

Just for the heck of it, I’d like to come across a kid named ZZ Top. I’ll even buy him a fake beard for his birthday.

E (for what, exactleee?)

I can kinda-sorta understand when someone takes the word Shop, decides that it needs to get a little fancier, and uses the word Shoppe instead. The free dictionary tells me that it’s a variant of the word ‘shop’, and since I will believe almost anything I see on the Internet, I can live with that.

But Shoppee? Drive around Chennai and you’ll find scores of them. There’s a Singapore Shoppee on the way to Mahabalipuram, for instance. I’ve spent countless minutes wondering why. The possibilities I came up with were:

  1. Numerology: Just about any bad spelling decision can be blamed on this practice these days.
  2. Strategy: The shopkeeper took evening MBA classes but was so tired after a long day at the store that he fell asleep during strategy class. All he remembered at the end of it was the word differentiation.
  3. The French Connection: The guys setting up these stores are all from Pondy, where they spell Kangeyan as Kangueane and have streets like Rue de Manakkula Vinayagar. They figure, if we aren’t gonna pronounce the first ‘e’, we have no business complaining about the second.
  4. The Art of Living: If you can prefix an extra Sri, you can suffix an extra ‘e’ as well.

W (for Women)

I’ve noticed this in a number of garment stores and it’s never really made sense to me. Why do they put nipples on female mannequins?

Check out any store where they have a dress in the display window. Is this some sort of quest for anatomical perfection? And how come it happens only with female mannequins? You don’t see male mannequins with strategically filled out trousers anywhere, do you?

Disclaimer: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” — Albert Einstein

As Havelock Vetinari once said, if you’re gonna have crime, you might as well have organized crime. With all the black money getting hoarded in numbered Swiss bank accounts and holding companies in Mauritius and God alone knows where else, maybe we ought to simply acknowledge this parallel economy and be done with it.

Aside: What’s with the term “numbered Swiss bank account” anyway? I’ve seen it in a bunch of places and it’s always puzzled me. All my bank accounts, none of them Swiss, none of them groaning under the weight of ill-gotten gains, are numbered. What’s so special about numbered Swiss bank accounts? And what is more, it gets mentioned only in connection with large sums of money. How does it work for some Herr Gottlieb flipping burgers at the McDonalds in Zurich? Does he have a named bank account? Does it get named after him, or do they just pick out a name at random? Is there a minimum balance restriction to get numbers?

Now, back to the business of organized black money. What if we allowed people to quote their assets as complex numbers? You know, in the form: x + iy. x, the real part, could represent the white money, while y, the imaginary part (for legal purposes anyway), could represent the black money.

Once the system takes hold, politicians could use the complex number system to talk about the number of votes they received in an election. Accountants (of the Enron and Satyam alumni variety) could build entire annual reports in the complex number system. Swiss banks don’t have to worry: they could just quote the imaginary part for numbered accounts and the real part for named accounts.

One problem with the whole thing is perception: when someone says that the real part of his net worth is 50 lakhs and the imaginary part is 2000 crores, it sounds so disproportionate that it causes people to get all outraged and wonder what brand of dog food the country might prefer. Therefore, I propose that we introduce a new currency unit called black rupee, defined as being equal to 1 mole of normal rupees. (1 mole = 6.023 * 10^23, in case your experience of high school Chemistry was limited to gazing at that cute girl/guy on the bench across from you in class.)

Now, all that remains is for us to understand how the real and imaginary parts interact and change from one to the other. Hopefully, one of the wonderful people involved with IPL will have some time during the post-season lull to pull out their complex analysis textbook and give me a tutorial. Watch this space for further mathematical revelations.

One of the customs in a Bengali wedding is for the groom’s family to give fish-shaped sweets to the bride’s family. Apparently, this is a modified version of the original custom where they used to give an actual fish, usually a large one.

Which makes me wonder: If Connie Corleone had married, say someone named Prithwiraj Basu instead of Carlo Rizzi, would the wedding festivities have been brought to a halt by the threat that the custom implied?

I spent the extended weekend vacationing in Singapore. Quite an interesting place — might write a travelogue post later if I feel up to it. Anyway, one of the things I noticed was something called a “fish spa”. So I asked a friend what it was and he said it involved getting a pedicure by putting your feet in a tub full of fish and letting them nibble away at the dead skin on your soles. Assuming, of course, that the fish got themselves a copy of the Times Food Guide for Human Feet.

Which makes me wonder: Is there a viable business model that combines extreme sports and spa treatments? An extreme fish spa, if you will, where you put your feet in a tub full of piranhas and see if you can get a pedicure without ending up like Venus De Milo with a toenail-chewing habit?

No, I haven’t seen it. And no, I don’t have a burning desire to see it either.

What I was wondering about was this. The reviews (1, 2) of Kambakkht Ishq on rediff mention that the movie involves a bickering couple —  a stuntman and a doctor. So does it borrow, by any chance, a reel or two for Pammal K Sambandham, that Kamalhassan starrer where he plays a stuntman and Simran plays a doc?If anyone who has seen PKS happens to see this one, please do let me know. I’ll even pay for your therapy sessions.

While on the top of not-so-promising Akshay Kumar movies, I happened to watch Chandni Chowk to China recently on TV. Aside from the fact that it mixes Manmohan Desai, Kung Fu movies, The Three Amigos and a few fish-out-of-water movies into some sort of diabolical chow mein, what struck me the most was how easily this could’ve been a good movie.

There are around 20 minutes in the middle when Akshay is going through the manddatory training sequence at the hands of a Chinese ex-cop who happens to be Deepika’s dad. It is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, and Akshay’s comic timing is just spot on. Why the hell couldn’t the rest of the movie maintain that standard? <Sigh>

I woke up early on Monday morning a week ago so I could watch the Oscarcast on TV. Most of it was fairly standard — Kate Winslet’s dad whistling and Philippe Petit balancing the statuette on his chin were the highlights for me. By my reckoning, that’s slim pickings. My wife missed most of it, so when we watched the retelecast in the evening, I noticed a couple of things:

  1. Dustin Lance Black’s speech (Best Original Screenplay, Milk) was snipped a little bit from the morning, specifically the part where he tells all the gay and lesbian people out there that they are beautiful creatures of value, or something on those lines.
  2. Sean Penn’s speech was also snipped. Which part? The ones where he uses the phrase “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns.”

It turns out that the STAR TV network did this across Asia. Once my commie, homo-loving son-of-gun self got over its outrage, my cynical self told me that I should know better than to expect unbiased coverage. At the very least, I should know better than to expect it twice in a row.

So here’s my open question for the day: If we we have a Celebrity Death Match between Sean Penn and Rupert Murdoch, who will win?

Penn’s experience in tactfully dealing with the paparazzi makes him the odds-on favourite. However, Murdoch’s handiness with a pair of scissors means that, if he has anything to do with it, we’ll never really know how many blows Penn actually landed on him. 

What do you guys think?

Open question #1: I saw a “Buy One Get One Free” offer at a shoe shop the other day (Cosmos Mall in Bangalore, if you have money to burn and feel particularly pyro today). Do they mean pairs of shoes, or is it like the “Free Hotmail Account” offer I saw ages ago at a Net surfing place in Kolkata?

Open question #2: There’s a brand of bottled water (Manikchand, I think) that has the term Oxyrich on the label. Now, we’re talking water, right? Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, last time I checked. But an Oxygen atom looks like Godzilla next to the Hydrogen atom, so two of them still doesn’t mean much. So how the heck does Manikchand manage to make water more oxygen rich than it is?

More later. Do write in if you have any more open questions to add to this list.

The tag for this port is a reference to my favourite open question of all time: If you eat a dish made out of Venus Flytrap, can you consider it vegetarian? Maybe Sharanya Manivannan could answer this one :-D


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