Friday, 13 May 2005

Mousetrap - 2

A little potty
Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak’s wonderfully quirky little site is the web face of his real life museum in Delhi, and a delightful, um, convenience stop on the information superhighway. Unfortunately, it’s a rather small site. Just a few clumsily designed pages, featuring an essay by the learned doctor, a fawning tribute to him, and an over-before-you-know-it stroll through the virtual museum. But you get to see France’s King Louis XIII’s throne (and I am not being funny here), a portable toilet designed to look like a stack of leather-bound books, commodes with arm- and back-rests… Do use the feedback form and ask the webmaster to expand the site.

Speaking of toilets, where do you think you’d find Schrodinger's Toilet Seat? Try the halfbakery, where all the ideas that haven’t spent enough time in the oven find a home. It is a “communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users.” Aside from that toilet seat that is neither up or down, you’ll find a Zen photocopier, Custard-Filled Speed Bumps (speedbreakers to us), glow in the dark beer, and lots, lots more. You can browse without registering, but will have to sign up to contribute or comment. (Hat-tip to Karthi Marshan.)

Myth Universe
Encyclopedia Mythica
An encyclopaedia of mythology, folklore, and religion, it offers as much to the serious student as it does to the casual surfer. Myths sorted by region, folklore in various categories, the site can keep you occupied for hours. It also has an image gallery, a fantastic bestiary that covers all manner of mythical creatures from different cultures, a gallery of legendary heroes, and even a growing set of genealogical tables. The site also has a section on Hindu mythology. And you can subscribe to its RSS feed. No, that’s not what you think. That stands for Really Simple Syndication (among other things), which is a way to read fresh news or blog feeds via a feed reader.

Forward this
I wish I had a buck for each time I get one of those mails telling me that Microsoft, or even Mr Bill himself, would reward me financially for forwarding a certain mail, or the one about the woman who’s husband is suffering from a rare disease (with a Bombay phone number too!), or any number of warnings about worms and virii that reappear every few months. For the frequent offenders I have a particularly nasty mail that one can’t reproduce in a family newspaper. For the people you can’t offend, however, I send them to this site. A pretty comprehensive, categorised listing of hoaxes, chain letters and urban myths, it’s the polite way to tell people they’ve been had.

Blog of the week,
Improbable research
You’ve heard of the Ig Nobels? The prizes that reward scientists who have conducted actual research into phenomena that, well, lets just say the cures for cancer and the common cold don’t feature in the list. Anway, the people behind the awards also send out a newsletter, and recently, like everyone else and his uncle, they started a blog. This one, updated fairly regularly, is a good place to start your daily aimless ramble around the web.

This column will explore the wilder, wackier, weirder corners of the world wide web. Feedback, suggestions welcome. Mail

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 13th May, 2005.


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