Friday, May 29, 2009

That Quizzy feeling...

What is the capital of Czechoslovakia?

That is the kind of question people usually expect to face at a Quiz. Atleast people who haven't attended any quiz before, and atleast a few people I know. So one gets to hear all kinds of stuff about their Quizzing prowess, like "Dude, I could've been a great Quizzer, but my memory really sucks.", "I just can't remember all that stuff", "I was a good Quizzer at school, but then I forgot all that stuff".... BULLSHIT!!

All this from people who've mugged and memorized full periodic tables, and loads and loads of textbooks in their school and college days. As for me, I have a memory of a Goldfish, as many of my friends would agree, and yet that doesn't have anything to do with my Quizzing, not much atleast. So what is a good Quiz question like? Give a try:
Who about what ?
I think it is timeless because it's about making love in the summertime. There is a slight misconception it's about a year, but it's not. It has nothing to do about a year , it has to do with a sexual position.
What comes to your mind reading the above? What could it be, a movie, a book...? The answer is surprisingly simple to deduce.

It says there's a confusion about it being about a year or about making love. What year could be confused with a sexual position? You don't need to be a pervert to know it's a reference to 69, though it helps. So what's the answer? Summertime and 69... Obviously, it's the song Summer of '69, and it's Bryan Adams saying that. The validity of the claim can be verified from the fact that the lyric at the end says "It's me and my baby in a 69."

Now was this something you needed to remember? It's not a well-known fact outside Quizzing Circles anyway. Here's another:
The discovery of _____ dates from the 1890s when a German (Hans Henning) offered it as a medicine. It's other properties were discovered later on. In the United Kingdom ____ was manufactured at the Research Department at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, where new projects were identified as 'Research Department No.' followed by their identification number. For some reason, this project not given a number or kept 'unknown' either with the intention of adding the number later, or for reasons of secrecy. What are we talking about?
Now how do we go about doing this? It's obviously something well-known and prominent. And why has the naming pattern of the Royal Arsenal mentioned in the question. Let's see, what they would have called it: Research Department No. "Unknown", or Research Department X, which shortens to RDX. There you are, RDX!! And the best thing about such questions is that now you also know that RDX was once offered as a medicine in some form, and why is it named so.

Though good questions are usually long, even brief questions can be good.
What is the greek word for circle of animals?
You don't need to say "It's Greek to me" to that. Think about it. Try.

Something ancient, connected with animals, and a term one would be expected to be familiar with. Where do you come across a circle of animals connected to the ancients. Zodiac Signs!! The word is Zodiac.

And of course, the visuals:
Where would you come across the above sight?
You see a chimney with white smoke, a chimney with black smoke, and huge gathering watching intently. Where in the world does a chimney get so much attention?

A new pope has been elected. Now don't tell me you were unaware of the tradition.

I have covered many types of common quiz questions, and how one can go about deducing them. These are obviously much much simpler than most questions asked at Quizzes. Also, I shall hope to talk more about Quizzing like basic connect questions, Long Visual Connects, theme based questions etc. in the future. I had earlier made a "workoutable" Quiz with Varun for the Quiz Club at IIT Kharagpur, you can have a look at it. I also frequent a lot of Quiz Blogs, so you can give those a try as well. Also, do step out and attend a quiz to see what I have been talking about. Hopefully the quiz master's remarks will also justify my inclination towards bad jokes. :D

And by the way, every question may not be as hollow as its seems. You see, Czechoslovakia isn't a single country since a couple of decades, it's two countries now: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. No country, so no capital. Don't tell me you hadn't heard of that before.

And before I forget, my favourite Quiz Blogs:

and some 40 others that I've bundled up on Google Reader.

OK then, Happy Quizzing !!

(Title Courtesy: Rainbow_Warrior - Quizzer/ Skirt Chaser, IIT Kharagpur)


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Common Cement

I'm just doing what I do when I come across something worth sharing... and when I have no time or ideas for a new post and still want to maintain a respectable frequency. Here's the second best commencement speech I've come across, second only to Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement speech. Incidentally neither of these possess a college degree.

Please, please, please go through it. Funniest common-cement speech (by a non-aluminium) I've come across, Ellen DeGeneres taking on Tulane University's Class of 2009.

Thank you, President Cowan, Mrs. President Cowen; distinguished guests, undistinguished guests - you know who you are, honored faculty and creepy Spanish teacher. And thank you to all the graduating class of 2009, I realize most of you are hungover and have splitting headaches and haven't slept since Fat Tuesday, but you can't graduate 'til I finish, so listen up.

When I was asked to make the commencement speech, I immediately said yes. Then I went to look up what commencement meant. Which would have been easy if I had a dictionary, but most of the books in our house are Portia's, and they're all written in Australian. So I had to break the word down myself, to find out the meaning.

Commencement: common, and cement. Common cement. You commonly see cement on sidewalks. Sidewalks have cracks, and if you step on a crack, you break your mother's back. So there's that. But I'm honored that you've asked me here to speak at your common cement.

I thought that you had to be a famous alumnus - alumini - aluminum - alumis - you had to graduate from this school. And I didn't go to college here, and I don't know if President Cowan knows, I didn't go to any college at all. Any college. And I'm not saying you wasted your time, or money, but look at me, I"m a huge celebrity.

Although I did graduate from the school of hard knocks, our mascot was the knockers. I spent a lot of time here growing up. My mom worked at (?) and I would go there every time I needed to steal something out of her purse. But why am I here today? Clearly not to steal, you're too far away and I'd never get away with it.

I'm here because of you. Because I can't think of a more tenacious, more courageous graduating class. I mean, look at you all, wearing your robes. Usually when you're wearing a robe at 10 in the morning, it means you've given up. I'm here because I love New Orleans. I was born and raised here, I spent my formative years here, and like you, while I was living here I only did laundry six times. When I finished school, I was completely lost. And by school, I mean middle school, but I went ahead and finished high school anyway. And I - I really, I had no ambition, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I did everything from - I shucked oysters, I was a hostess, I was a bartender, I was a waitress, I painted houses, I sold vaccuum cleaners, I had no idea. And I thought I'd just finally settle in some job, and I would make enough money to pay my rent, maybe have basic cable, maybe not, I didn't really have a plan, my point is that, by the time I was your age, I really thought I knew who I was, but I had no idea. Like for example, when I was your age, I was dating men. So what I'm saying is, when you're older, most of you will be gay. Anyone writing this stuff down? Parents?

Anyway, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and the way I ended up on this path was from a very tragic event. I was maybe 19, and my girlfriend at the time was killed in a car accident. And I passed the accident, and I didn't know it was her and I kept going, and I found out shortly after that, it was her. And I was living in a basement apartment, I had no money, I had no heat, no air, I had a mattress on the floor and the apartment was infested with fleas. And I was soul-searching, I was like, why is she suddenly gone, and there are fleas here? I don't understand, there must be a purpose, and wouldn't it be so convenient if we could pick up the phone and call God, and ask these questions.

And I started writing and what poured out of me was an imaginary conversation with God, which was one-sided, and I finished writing it and I looked at it and I said to myself, and I hadn't even been doing stand-up, ever, there was no club in town. I said, "I'm gonna do this on the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson"- at the time he was the king - "and I'm gonna be the first woman in the history of the show to be called over to sit down." And several years later, I was the first woman in the history of the show, and only woman in the history of the show to sit down, because of that phone conversation with God that I wrote. And I started this path of stand-up and it was successful and it was great, but it was hard, because I was trying to please everybody and I had this secret that I was keeping, that I was gay. And I thought if people found out they wouldn't like me, they wouldn't laugh at me.

Then my career turned into - I got my own sitcom, and that was very successful, another level of success. And I thought, what if they find out I'm gay, then they'll never watch, and this was a long time ago, this was when we just had white presidents - this was back, many years ago - and I finally decided that I was living with so much shame, and so much fear, that I just couldn't live that way anymore, and I decided to come out and make it creative. And my character would come out at the same time, and it wasn't to make a political statement, it wasn't to do anything other than to free myself up from this heaviness that I was carrying around, and I just wanted to be honest. And I thought, "What's the worst that could happen? I can lose my career". I did. I lost my career. The show was cancelled after six years, without even telling me, I read it in the paper. The phone didn't ring for three years. I had no offers. Nobody wanted to touch me at all. Yet, I was getting letters from kids that almost committed suicide, but didn't, because of what I did. And I realised that I had a purpose. And it wasn't just about me and it wasn't about celebrity, but I felt like I was being punished... it was a bad time, I was angry, I was sad, and then I was offered a talkshow. And the people that offered me the talkshow tried to sell it. And most stations didn't want to pick it up. Most people didn't want to buy it because they thought nobody would watch me.

Really when I look back on it, I wouldn't change a thing. I mean, it was so important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is, is to be true to yourself. Ultimately, that's what's gotten me to this place. I don't live in fear, I'm free, I have no secrets. and I know I'll always be ok, because no matter what, I know who I am. So In conclusion, when I was younger I thought success was something different. I thought when I grow up, I want to be famous. I want to be a star. I want to be in movies. When I grow up I want to see the world, drive nice cars, I want to have groupies. To quote the Pussycat Dolls. How many people thought it was "boobies", by the way? It's not, it's "groupies".

But my idea of success is different today. And as you grow, you'll realise the definition of success changes. For many of you, today, success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity, and not to give into peer pressure. to try to be something that you're not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person. to contribute in some way. So to conclude my conclusion: follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else's path, unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path, and by all means you should follow that. Don't give advice, it will come back and bite you in the ass. Don't take anyone's advice. So my advice to you is to be true to yourself and everything will be fine.

And I know that a lot of you are concerned about your future, but there's no need to worry. The economy is booming, the job market is wide open, the planet is just fine. It's gonna be great. You've already survived a hurricane. What else can happen to you? And as I mentioned before, some of the most devastating things that happen to you will teach you the most. And now you know the right questions to ask in your first job interview. Like, "Is it above sea level?" . So to conclude my conclusion that I've previously concluded, in the common cement speech, I guess what I'm trying to say is life is like one big Mardi Gras. But instead of showing your boobs, show people your brain, and if they like what they see, you'll have more beads than you know what to do with. And you'll be drunk, most of the time. So the Katrina class of 2009, I say congratulations and if you don't remember a thing I said today, remember this: you're gonna be ok, dum de dum dum dum, just dance.

See you next week.


Sunday, May 17, 2009


I have lost friends, some by death, others through sheer inability to cross the street.
--Virginia Woolf
One cannot stop gaping at how technology has changed our lives, and wondering what it will bring on next. Yeah yeah, we all know we can chat with people sitting half-way around the world, voice chat with them in fact, with video as a matter of fact, while reading their blogs and looking at their picasa web albums, and all this using a phone perhaps. And facebook and youtube and twitter. And a lot more. Add to it the fact that today's World Telecom Day (Purely a coincidence, believe me), I'm sure this is what you've been reading in the newspaper, and news feeds all day long. So easy to stay in touch with friends, from the comforts of your room. Staying in touch...

By the way, when was the last time you actually talked to these people? And I mean talk, not chat (which at one time meant the same thing). Face-to-face. An actual, real conversation. Or saw them, and I mean not on a computer screen. Or looked at their pics, held in your hands. Gave, or received, a gift, brought by a mailman. Or a greeting card, in a colored envelope. Or a letter, in their handwriting, on a piece of paper. When was the last time you actually touched a person?

Now don't slam the typical shut-up-you-oldy-it's-the-21st-century stuff on me. You very well know what I am talking about. Technology may be a boon for those miles away from their loved ones, but has it not sent the loved ones closer home, miles away. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not chatting with you on G-Talk if you're sitting in the next room. I am not sending you an egreeting if I can walk a little and knock on your door at the midnight hour. Or send a card, the paper-type. Or a gift. Which will stay with you forever, or atleast for some time, and about which you'll know took me more than thirty seconds to send. Which you won't delete at that very moment. Which you can always see, and touch. Which will always bring back memories, of that birthday, and of me.

Am I the only one nostalgic about the touch we've lost? Don't you miss meeting friends. The Partying. The mailman. The letterpad. The handshake. The birthday card. The fountain pen. The Touch.

It's cool for friends far apart to stay in touch this way. But when you're close enough, you only lose touch by pinging, scrapping or writing on my wall. No donut for you.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Horoscopes, Personality Tests, Facebook Quizzes...

If you're interested in astrology, then let me begin by telling you that I was born when the sun was in the Capricorn House of the Zodiac.

By the way, have a look at the following description:
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
Do you believe the above Personality Analysis applies to you?

The description above is not unique to me, or you, but you do believe it applies well on you, right? Well, if you're a Capricorn... or not!

In 1948, the psychologist Bertram Forer conducted a Personality Test amongst his students, after which he gave them each a unique personality analysis supposedly based on the test results and asked them to rate it on a scale of 0 to 5 on how well it applied to themselves. On average, the rating was 4.26, after which it was revealed that each student had received the same analysis, the passage quoted above.

The interesting part is that Forer had assembled this text from horoscopes.

This is called the Personal Validation Fallacy, according to which, we very easily believe personality descriptions supposedly tailored specifically for us, and deem them accurate, while they are actually vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. It can be used to explain the widespread acceptance of astrology, fortune telling, and personality tests.

Another interesting result is that the result of such Personality Quizzes and Horoscopes are held in higher esteem by the subject if:
  • The subject believes that the analysis is uniquely generated for them
  • The subject believes in the authority of the evaluator
  • The analysis lists mainly positive traits
I don't say I'm not a narcissist. Just that I'm not the only one.

Facebook Quizzes, anyone?

Peace... :P

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Conversation - Swine Flu/AIDS

90 people get #swineflu and everyone wants to wear a mask; A million people have AIDS & no one wants to wear a condom !!
This was my last twitter update as well as facebook and Google Talk status message, when I received a ping on the same from an outspoken friend of mine from college, Vijay (name changed). Here's a transcript of the same:

Vijay: You do realize tht swine flu spreads thru air..but HIV does not

me: But the stats still stand correct
Millions do have AIDS
and you realize AIDS is everywhere in the world, and Swine Flu just 15-16 countries
the number of ppl susceptible to Swine Flu is still smaller than the number of those having sex all over

Vijay: well...thts a matter of choice..if wanna play unprotected...but thts not the case with swine me not sayin AIDS is a small issue......
if u knw and still take risk...its a diff thing rite?

me: Yes, thats the point
Ppl r willing to take risk for AIDS, which they are much more prone to, while they're willing to go to unprecedented limits to avert SwineFlu, the probability of getting which is one in a hundred million

Vijay: the reason is...ppl feel they wont get HIV tht easily..or tht their behaviour is alrite....the thing is when it comes to the point where u need a condom....u r accepting tht ur bejaviour is not the one it ought to be...

me: What behaviour?

Vijay: wht i mean is....u need condom=>u dont know the history of ur partner...=>u most probably r with a hooker..

me: That's probably the very reason beind such statistics relating to AIDS

Vijay: but the thing is unlike HIV....even if u knw abt swie flu....u cannot be safe without wearing masks...
just by being on ur best behaviour u cannot counter it

me: Actually, you cannot be safe even wearing a mask

Vijay: well u r better off with it....the other option is to do wht mexico did...
shit down
tht was a typo :D

me: Masks are unnecesarry
[Only people in contact with a sick person are advised to wear the mask. Also, the mask isn’t a 100-percent guarantee.--CNBC]
As for the better off thing, tht applies to condoms too

Vijay: u still dont get ma point....ppl who know about HIV...and still get it (xept thru blood transfusion) are choosing to get it...
not the case with swine flu

me: So getting AIDS is "better" than getting Swine Flu then?

Vijay: no....if u get is ur fault!!HIV i.e..(again in most cases)...and am not sayin tht they shud to be left to thier defenses.....

me: And they would apply a condom if they were conscious they were getting AIDS
*or that they were "choosing" to get it

Vijay: xactly...those who knw about HIV an still get it...are choosing to get it
just sayin tht the two situations cannot be compared

me: Yes, but millions are doing it, without being aware that they may be contracting AIDS
while the same may be buying masks

Vijay: thts a question of awareness.....nt ..abt "want" to use a condom,
and they r usin a mask..coz they knw

me: most college students are aware of AIDS
So are most proffessional sex workers
yet all of em dont use it (or dont "want" to)

Vijay: then collg students r choosing to hv it..

me: Not that I care abt their lives in particular, but they shudnt
they may go on to give AIDS to others
future spouse, blood transfusion, common needles/blades

Vijay: so its abt awareness
I think they shud make it legal for HIV status certi shud be made compulsory

me: neways, while we're all worried to death abt an estranged and rare disease
Why doesn't AIDS make headlines?

Vijay: we are more worrid abt swine flu..more thn we apparently care abt HIV coz..we can avoid the latter almost certainly thru self control

me: But we dont

Vijay: Y doesnt HIV make headlines.....coz it spreads maily thru sexual promiscuity...and thts not somethin we like to talk abt....

me: Well, why not?
Anyways, do you read my blog?

Vijay: Sometimes

me: Well, our chat will be going up on it.

Vijay: ?

me: I will publish our chat history on my blog, with some edits in a few hours

Vijay: K, sure... keep ma name out tho..if u can....

me: Sure, "name changed". Btw, any preferences for a false name?

Vijay: leave tht to u
i trust ur sense on tht :D

me: hehe, k then

Vijay: chal..byee

me: k, bye

I really don't know what to make out of the conversation, just felt it's worth sharing.

By the way, while the swine flu outbreak was recently raised to a phase 5 alert level, AIDS is an official pandemic(a higher alert level). More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since it was first recognized in 1981, while another 35 million or so currently live with HIV. Infact, while the total number of confirmed deaths due to Swine Flu till date is twenty six (and about another seventy suspected), atleast another one lakh sixty thousand (or one hundred sixty thousand) have died of AIDS in the same time. (5 people die of AIDS every minute, so count yourself)

I hope you enjoyed reading my conversation with Vijay (name changed). And believe me when I say, your comments are, more than ever before, welcome.