Sunday, 14 August 2005

Mousetrap - 15

Talk to the Fish
Babel Fish Translation
In Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker books, characters pop little “Babel fish” into their ears. Benign parasites that live on sound waves, they give their hosts simultaneous translations of any speech form found in the galaxy. Thereby neatly pre-empting any quibbling about how different species could understand each other. Named in affectionate homage to this narrative device, this free service lets you type in text, or copy-paste from a website, and get instant translation to and from several languages. It won’t match up to expert human translation, but will give you a fair idea of, say, the caption to a picture on a Portuguese site. (For a giggle, try this. Copy the translated output, feed it back to the Babel fish, and translate it into a third language. Repeat as many times as you like. Then translate the output back to English.)

Reader’s Jest
The Digested Read
The Guardian has some of the finest books coverage on the web. And this little section of it has long been a personal favourite. It “condenses” entire novels into around 500 words (that’s a little less than this column, unless the desk slashes it, in which case, a little more). And in the process, takes lots of pot shots at the writer, the genre, and the lit world in general. And the icing on the cake: at the end of each piece, you’ll see the “The digested read ... digested.” A one line review that, in general, tenderly massages salt into the poor author’s lacerated ego.

Fw Heaven
Here, gentle reader, is a motherlode of pictures with which you too can be like your cool friends, blocking everybody’s office servers, or limited inbox free email accounts (or just the whole darn world wide web), with large emails full of funny pictures. Warning: very frequently contains adult content.

Blog love
If you want to know what the hot topics du jour in the blog world are, or, for that matter (and that’s what most of us bloggers use it for), to see if anyone is giving you any link love, Technorati is the place to go. Enter a word or phrase, and see how many blogs have mentioned it, and in what context. Type in a URL, and you find out whether anyone has linked to it. Of course it confines its search to blogs, and only those within its database, but then, the only opinions most bloggers care are those of other bloggers.


Blog of the week

Gadget envy
The ultimate boys’ toys site. And no, not that way. It’s technically a blog, but it’s much, much more. “Everything related to gadgets, gizmos, and cutting-edge consumer electronics,” it promises. You get news, reviews, rumours, buzz, pictures that will provoke more drool in some men than Pamela Anderson’s home movies. And, perhaps, less wrath from their Significant Others. First port of call for any gadget geek.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 14th August, 2005.

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