Sunday, 21 August 2005

Mousetrap - 16

The ultimate shopping site
Private Islands Online
Got a few million stashed away, sahib? Dollars? Yes, dollars. US. Yes? Come weeth me. I ’ave a leetle something for you. Your very own private island. Right here, we have this wonderful spread in Nova Scotia for 150,000 Canadian dollars – for you, 149,000. More tropical? The Bahamas? Let me see, 35 acres, 7 mill US? Oh, nearer home? I have a bargain. Sri Lanka. US$ 200,000. Hop, skip and a boat ride from the airport. But you’ll have to keep the environment protected. Excuse me. Hey! You there! Yes, you, the newspaper writer. Don’t get your hand on the merchandise! Run along to the downloads section now. There’s some wallpaper there you can take. Yeah, yeah, no charge. These columnists I tell you! Ah, B’wana. Now where were we? Fiji perhaps? [Thank you, Sujoy Mukherjee]

This site isn’t a keeper. That is, it’s not one that you keep going back to see what the latest updates are. But it is worth a visit. It is a deadpan slash job on the typical consultancy corporate site – take my word for it, I’ve designed similar – and well worth ten minutes of your time. And do try the “contact” button. Form and all.

Imagine there’s no copyright
Open Clipart Library
A completely free, “open” library of clip art that you can download and use in your presentations, projects, email, website, what-have-you. The limitation is that the site mainly favours the .svg format (scalable vector graphics), which means that you’ll need an application that can read that kind of file. But you’ll find .jpgs as well. The project also invites submissions, provided, of course, that you place them in the public domain.

Swatch closely now
Colour Lovers
If you’re an artist, artistically inclined, or just need to decide on a colour scheme for your home, this is a fun way to interact with like minded souls, pick their brains, and perhaps make some contributions yourself. The colour values are given in hexadecimals, so you can use the codes for your sites and blogs. Or – pretty please! – go change some of those ghastly default Powerpoint templates. (You’ll have to register to make comments, or contribute, but anyone can browse the palettes.)

Blog of the week

Blogging blogs
First, the west appropriates the word “pundit.” Then, a blog that recommends sites uses the word in its URL (I’m referring to It becomes a worldwide hit, and the P-word, like the “gate” ending suffixed to scandals, is now used by a bunch of imitators to indicate what they do. And, now, in burst of irony, a group of Indian bloggers brings the word back home for their CollaBlog (that’s a word I invented). That apart, DesiPundit has very quickly become an excellent introduction to the Indian blogosphere, and its recommendations will, I think, over time, have similar effects on the sites they point to as the original Pundit. And since I intend to raid their larder often for this column, I might as well send them some traffic first, right?

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, 21st August 2005.

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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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Sunday, 7 August 2005

Mousetrap - 14

Browse the planet
Google Earth
One of the more recent offerings from Google’s prolific labs, this is hours and hours of fascination. You’ll need to download the app first, and you’d better have a broadband connection. And from then on, you have the power of satellite imagery and maps at your fingertips. You can (only works for some parts of the world) get to see what it feels like to zoom in from outer space right into a particular street. Or try an orbit – adjust your height from the surface (I’d recommend going high enough so that the earth’s curvature becomes apparent), tilt the “camera,” then keep the mouse firmly pressed on one of the arrow keys. And bingo, you’re floating above the planet. Oh yes. A special bonus. Do also see Google Moon which offers you views of the lunar landing sites. Go to maximum zoom. There. Now you finally know what the moon is really made of.

Great minds think alike…
idea a day
“Where ideas are free,” the site says. And it delivers. Launched at the turn of the century, the site delivers a fresh user-contributed idea every day (it’s on Day 1814 as of this writing). And the thoughts contributed range from the recipes for world peace to flavours of chewing gum. The archive is a bit of a pain to browse through (a flash page, for heaven’s sake!), and offers only a limited look-see, but you can vote on ideas, get a free subscription, or even submit your own idea. Except that the site’s owners get the right to use it in their book (there’s one out already). Now that’s an idea.

…but some are, thankfully, unique
Totally Absurd Inventions
The USA, besides being arguably the most litigious society in the world, where you can sue a company because your coffee was hot when you spill it in your own lap, also seems to encourage some decidedly, er, different inventions. This site features inventions that hold actual US patents. There’s a portable spittoon (hang on, we could use some of those, here, right?), there’s a bird-powered blimp, there are “shin skis,” which look kinda fun, actually, and there’s even, believe it or not, a wig flipper. Really. Go see.


Blog of the week

Everybody hurts
I discovered this site just a couple of weeks ago, via a link found I don’t remember where, on a night when I was doing the lonely-as-a-cloud thing on the web. I spent an hour reading every post. The blog features postcards – collages, sketches, photographs, mixed media – and is a visual treat. But that isn’t why I’m recommending it. PostSecret is about secrets. You are invited to confess to anything that you’ve never told anyone before, via a home-made postcard mailed to their postal address. So, go see it for the range of confessions, for the creativity in the way they are expressed, and, most of all, because it tells you, no matter how low you’re feeling, that you’re not alone.

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, 1st August, 2005.

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