Sunday, 4 September 2005

Mousetrap - 17

Don’t take my word for it
The Skeptic’s Dictionary
“A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions (and how to think critically about them).” That’s it in a nutshell, really, but I get paid – not much – to write this column, so... a great listing, conveniently sorted out under topical indices, as well as alphabetically. Or you could just do a random search. You’ll find the odd (I use the word advisedly) Indian godman there, and new age guru too. Oh yes, while you’re in the mood, go see the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India’s web page. Terrible looking site (may I redesign it for you chaps?), but you should go visit.

Independence Day
One of the site’s banners says: “If email chain letters are your idea of staying in touch, don’t touch me!” BreakTheChain lets you input text from chain letters you get and test them for veracity. The site has a forum and a newsletter, like any site worth it’s web space, but it also has a library or interesting articles, and a couple of apps that let you generate your own chain mails, just to show you how easy it is. All in all, using the site is a polite way to let people know you’ve been had. (Of course you could use my method: ignore the frequent offenders; in fact, junk their mail unread, all of it.) [Link courtesy: Joan Pinto]

Flags of the World
Know what vexillology is? It’s the study of flags. And if those symbols of old fashioned notions (to us netizens, that is) like borders and countries turn you on, come right aboard. It boasts of more than 52,000 flag images, including civic and personal flags and banners. And yes, you get vexillological terminology explained, information about books on the subject, and links to other sites along the same lines. Oh yes. There’s line drawings of flags to colour in. Imagine there’s no countries...

In a more serious vein
Indian Blood Donors
A resource I’m conflicted about. They list current requirements prominently on the front page, and ask for volunteers to join in and list themselves as donors. So far so good. But they do not state how they work – whether there’s a database that contacts volunteer donors automatically, how much personal information is revealed (they ask for a lot) – and they don’t have even cursory information about donation on their site. Their hearts may be in the right place, but I’m wary. The hack I’d recommend? Go see the donors wanted listing and get in touch direct.


Blog of the week

Daily Lush
Need one say more? (One must. –Ed.) A newish blog, and it features well-written long pieces about various aspects of booze. Glasses, drinking stories, bar bets and so on. Sip through the archives by subject, or just go post by post. Recommended reading for the thinking sot. Have one for me this weekend. Better still, buy me one, why don’t you?

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, 4th September 2005.

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