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Showing posts from April, 2008

The man who grew a finger

What's it about: Lee Spievak lost half a finger in an accident, applied regenerative medicine ('pixie dust'), and now his finger has regrown. Contains video depiction. Here's the link. If you're interested, check out this as well. Comments: Fascinating stuff. Maybe this might even become mainstream in the future. Caution: the images aren't for the faint of heart. Here's a video:

Life without a computer

Our trusted laptop has finally stopped working. It was one of those kinds of things that survived only due to lack of competition (it was the only one we had in Vancouver) but went on to flourish in terms of other functionalities (it was our most accesible excuse for cursing the whole wide world). The recently deceased sported 256MB of RAM and a 1.0GHz Celeron processor. You get the idea. Right now we're desperately hunting for a new computer with the zeal of homicidal cults seeking new recruits from orphanages posing as endearing parents. It isn't proving very fruitful, and we've discovered that buying a computer in Dhaka was a hell lot cheaper (repeat: hell lot cheaper) and certainly less complicated. In other words, I'm at a loss. My legs refuse to move when I'm walking, my eyes have sunk deep into their sockets for the weight of many unshed tears, and my gloomy attire has so far been ignored by my dear friends only because they're familiar with my absent-m…

Iron Man movie: first review

What's it about: Are you kidding me? Just follow the link if you're interested. Click here for a trailer.

Comments: If you haven't heard, the latest superhero to grace the silver screen is Marvel's Iron Man. Now I never really was a big fan of the Iron Man comic books, but the movie reportedly has some smashing special effects. I'm cool with that. This is also the first movie totally funded by Marvel.

More details: Strong points of the movie includes Robert Downey Jr.'s acting (that's him in the picture; looks kinda funny, doesn't he?), special effects (not just the explosions, and particularly Downey Jr. getting used to his suit), and a nice storyline that allows room for character development and witty dialogue. You also have Gwyneth Paltrow making a comeback after four years (her character's name is Pepper Potts... another one of Stan Lee's amazing alliterations, à la Peter Parker and Bruce Banner). Everyone's saying it's a sure blockbu…

Adding a line break in Excel

I keep forgetting this! To add a line break/create a new line in an Excel cell, press Alt+Enter. Problem solved!

Really Useful Stuff: Acronis True Image

Don't turn away before reading this: this is probably the most underrated and most useful piece of software that could make you happier person. Ever. Okay, you're done, free to go, don't need to know more. Or do you?
















For many years (many years ago) I used to think Acronis True Image had something to do with Adobe Photoshop. Well, let's just say I don't believe ignorance is bliss anymore. True Image basically takes a snapshot of your hard disk or partition (snapshot = image. Got it?). The snapshot, in turn, is a compressed backup of your partition or hard disk which you can uncompress and roll back to. So if you've saved a snapshot, you can always restore it whenever viruses or any sort of muckamuck is making your life miserable. Voila! All problems solved.

Don't worry about document files or your Outlook configuration. You can actually exclude/include folders to restore. And: you don't need to make complete backups all the time, you can make incremental b…

Eating out

This is actually long overdue. I'm a foodie, there's absolutely no doubt about that, and here's where I share my gastronomical adventures with you. However (here's where things get interesting), my focus is not on expensive food: I'm looking for a good meal for around $5.

If you're from Vancouver you know that's crazy. A 'meal' is generally described as something wholesome. But the price tag inevitably puts the 'meal' in the fast food category. Not always true! There are lots of local shops that serve great food. And some of the big chains come up with their own surprises from time to time.

I'm not promising that the food will always be around $5, or even $10. Quality comes first! But of course, the lower the price tag the merrier: after all, the 'food' that gets served in restaurants costs a fragment of the dish itself.















Here's proof that I do enjoy food. (Look at him gleaming in the picture, the cheeky bastard. You don't kn…

Can you influence a baby's sex?

Update:Apparently, yes! Check out this NYT post. I'm still intrigued by the fact that the two articles got published roughly hours apart. What's it about: the state-of-the-art practices of couples in the UK attempting to predetermine the gender of their kids. Comments: this is amusing. You also get to know it's not legally possible, and get a bit of historical insight. Read it here.

Guess what they stole

Updated What's it about: the chaos that's broken out in Congo. People are beating up sorcerers, accusing them of "stealing" their male organs with black magic. I'm not joking, it's all over the radio over there, and the police have arrested 13 suspects. Comments: need one say more? Check it out here. If you like it, check out this as well.

Top 100 Web 2.0 products 2008

What's it about: an assortment of the 100 most popular Web 2.0 sites and tools, courtesy of Webware.com/CNet. Comments: If you're looking for useful websites and web-related software this is definitely worth a look. CNet is traditionally geared towards big names, so the biggies were obvious (Facebook, Google, Firefox, etc). The less popular ones are the ones to look up. I was very surprised SmugMug.com (an excellent photo sharing site) didn't turn up in the list, though. Check out the Webware summary, the related Download.com blog, and here's the top 100 list.

Possible UFO sighting at Phoenix, Arizona -- video

Just out (well, actually I was a couple of hours late to catch up): strange objects emitting bright red light appeared in Phoenix, Arizona skies yesterday at around 8pm local time. The lights aligned themselves in different patterns, and were too precise to be talked away as being flash fires or something similar. The local Air Force base said the lights weren't part of any Air Force activities. Now, was this a real UFO sighting? Well, the image quality is certainly quite good, something they admitted on the news. And lots of local residents, including journalists and air traffic controllers, claimed they witnessed the event. Check out the video for yourself. Here's a link to the source.

Classic Bollywood rain song

A fine example of a classic Bollywood rain song. For the uninitiated: until very recently, rain songs were the steamiest parts in Bollywood movies (closely followed by rape scenes, which were, strangely, very popular). Nowadays pretty much everything goes, but there was a time when the actors weren't allowed to kiss on-screen (scandal magazines filled the void of our imaginations), so they tried to do everything else to keep you interested. Fans of this song (featuring Amitabh Bachchan and the late Smita Patil) will religiously tell you that it's very romantic. The tune is catchy on my Hindi-tolerant ears, but in polite disagreement, I never can stop laughing at it. Go on, take a look. PS1- the guy who appears at the end of the song plays the owner of the hotel where the other two work. At the end of the movie, he turns out to be the long-lost brother of the tall guy. PS2- my wife tells me that this was once voted the sexiest Bollywood song ever. PS3- sorry if this post …

Really Useful Stuff: Dictionary.com

I know, you're probably surprised and feeling humored. Dictionary.com is so commonplace it can't really be listed as a RUS, right?

I disagree! Sometimes the most commonplace things lose their versatility, because, well, they're so commonplace. That's where this post comes in. Dictionary.com has a couple of very useful stuff under its belt, which haven't enjoyed halfway-near the same popularity as the word definition check-up feature.

There's a Thesaurus, which is actually very good and is perhaps something you've heard of. We're so used to resorting to synonyms our word processors serve us. Not necessarily the right thing to do: lots of similar words have vastly different contextual usages, something your word processor won't tell you.

The site's Encyclopedia will hardly turn up in search engine results, but is very handy. In fact, there are a lot of entries you won't find elsewhere -- even on Wikipedia! If you're studying linguistics, for …

How to put your broadband on alien steroids

Yes, you can -- literally! Except for the part where you're thinking about little green men. But trust me, you could boost your broadband speed by as much as 300%. The trick is to access web content via third-party proxy servers dedicated to this kind of job.

You can either go for OpenDNS.com or Google Web Accelerator.

What you have to do:
For OpenDNS.com, you can sign up for a free account. The site will then provide you with two IP addresses to use, as well as with all the necessary pointers. Alternatively, you repeat the following steps on your computer:

1. Go to Network Connections on your computer (via Control Panel), and select 'Properties' of your existing broadband connection:














2. Select 'Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)' and click on 'Properties'.
3. Enter the following DNS addresses as shown, then press OK.
208.67.222.222 (resolver1.opendns.com) 208.67.220.220 (resolver2.opendns.com)










The images are from Astalavista, so sorry if they're not too pretty. Y…

Why languages can't be learned

What's it about: An explanation about a very simple thought experiment that shows that learning new words requires some sort of assumption. Comments: This is a short, smart read. Linguistics doesn't really sound like the most interesting of disciplines, but this article gets you hooked. Also contains links to an ongoing language experiment.

A climate change nightmare for Bangladesh

What's it about: How climate changes will create a huge humanitarian and economic crisis in Bangladesh within the next few decades. Comments: Irrespective of wherever you live, you're not safe from the effects of climate change. It's pretty likely that during our lifetimes we will witness tremendous environmental changes and subsequent hostilities -- a global water crisis, tsunamis and long winters are just for starters. If you're concerned, check out this Reuters article.

Picture of a cancer cell

I had forgot what a cancer cell looks like, when I came across this Guardian article. It's about a potential radiation vaccine that could revolutionize medical science. The image is of a brain cancer cell.

Really Useful Stuff: RAMBooster 2

I'm a multi-tasker -- I like to listen to music, work on a document and surf the internet from my computer at the same time. And I bet you're one too, which makes RAMBooster 2 a worthy candidate for your software arsenal.

RAMBooster frees up stale memory on your computer. Windows isn't the best thing out there at memory reallocation, so RAMBooster frequently ends up working wonders. Once installed, it will run in your system tray; the icon color will change according to your system's RAM consumption, so you know that you need to right-click on it and free up some RAM when the icon turns yellow. You can also schedule RAMBooster to run automatically whenever your system memory drops below a certain level. It's a nice feature, but I'm happy driving with a stick.

From my experience, I didn't really like RAMBooster very much when I first installed it (a previous version). After many bouts of trial and error, I realized that I was trying to free up too much RAM -- …

Time management à la Saadi

In his youth, Saadi decided to be a student for thirty years of his life, then a poet for the next thirty, and a philosopher for the thirty years after that. He died of old age on the precise date the last thirty years had ended. Saadi is still remembered as a polymath, one of the greatest Persian poets of all time and a great Muslim humanist.

Quotations:
"I fear God and next to God I mostly fear them that fear Him not.""To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than a thousand head-bowings in prayer.""The rose and the thorn, and sorrow and gladness are linked together.""When the belly is empty, the body becomes spirit; and when it is full, the spirit becomes body.""Every leaf of the tree becomes a page of the sacred scripture once the soul has learnt to read."

Really Useful Stuff: Diigo

If you ask me, Diigo is the best thing to come out of Web 2.0. It's not a Digg-alike: the name stands for Digest of Internet Information and Other Stuff.

In short, Diigo is a social bookmarking site that comes with an optional toolbar. But: you can highlight content in webpages (the way you can highlight text in Microsoft Word or FrontPage); add comments (as sticky notes); find people who have similar interests as you (who have bookmarked similar webpages), and most importantly, the page you bookmark will be saved to Diigo's archive, so it'll never vanish even if the site returns a 404.

And that isn't even half of Diigo's features. The thing is still in its infancy (the latest is Diigo 3.0 beta), so not many people know about it. All in all, it's a great research tool.

Hop off to Diigo's website to get started or view an introductory video. Here's my Diigo profile.

For: Ground-breaking social bookmarking features
Against: Minor bugs (deleting cookies will re…

Why do people enjoy horror movies?

I'm just back from watching The Ruins. These days when I go to the theatre to watch a horror movie, I no longer concentrate on the scenes intended to cause the most trauma. I spend my time looking around, observing how people react.

In Doomsday, when a man is being burnt alive to feed a horde of post-apocalyptic cannibals, the audience is cheering. It's supposedly cool when the Jigsaw Killer in the Saw movies succeeds in making people fall into his gory traps, and people are also cheering when they watch a man being amputated with a hunting knife in The Ruins.

What's so funny about these scenes? I watched carefully to make sure there weren't any hidden directorial tricks involved -- some sort of comic undertone or the likes. Were the actors smirking when they were performing these horrifying scenes? Did the background music turn funny? Were the victims in these movies acting in a comic manner?

No. Nothing, nil, nada. All these extremely repulsive and horrifying scenes wer…

Original 'last lecture'

I know, I already have a post on Randy Pausch's talk on Oprah. This is the original 'last lecture' series at Carnegie Mellon, immortalized by Dr Pausch's brilliant speech. It's pretty long (1 hour 44 minutes, includes other speakers), but is certainly unmissable stuff: guaranteed to make your day shine through all your black clouds. In case you want to send this link to your loved ones, use the envelope icon below (on the line that starts with 'Posted by'). Spreading hope is, after all, no mean task.