Sunday, 6 January 2008

Mousetrap - 132

So, all hangovers taken care of and messed up your first cheque by writing the wrong year yet? Happy New Year, from the bottom of this little column’s, well, for lack of a better word, heart.

A watched kettle never boils
Kitchen Myths
The web is host to more myths stated as serious fact than any other medium. And many sites specialise in busting those myths with reason, research or just plain scorn. Says this site author: “The same sort of thing happens in the world of food and cooking, although on a much smaller scale. This page is my answer.” So you have the skinny about such stuff as baking soda used to absorb odours in the fridge, the alleged dangers of microwave cooking, and my favourite, how much alcohol is really left in a dish after cooking (not zero, as the conventional wisdom goes, I’m delighted to report), among many others. And should that pall, the site also has recipes. Eat up. [Link courtesy Ashwan Lewis]

You genius, you
The Blog Readability Test
Just a wee bit of frippery. Enter a URL (not necessarily a blog), and the site will tell you what level of education is required to understand its content. You, dear reader, will be glad to know that the site where I archive this column requires a genius reading level. Sheesh. So that’s why I don’t get fan mail.

For the record
Vinyl Sleeve Heads
This column is clearly not in a serious mood today. You want serious? G’wan, go back to the op-ed page. Right, it’s just us chickens now. This page just has.. but wait, I’ll have to explain something to the young ’uns; you old-timers hold on a sec. Now, kids, before mp3 players and CDs, people used to listen to music on things called records, which were discs, much like CDs, but large and black and made of vinyl, which were sold in covers made of thin cardboard. How big? Well, enough to cover your face. Now where we? Yes, It’s a simple page, nothing but pictures of people holding up record covers in front of their faces, usually with album covers that feature a face. And yes, it’s much funnier than it sounds. Go see.

With the grain
Free Rice
I must have had at least a score of friends pointing me to this link over the last couple of months, so perhaps you’ve heard of it by now. Nevertheless, you have a bleary-eyed columnist here, who needs to sleep. And this site’s stated objective is a winner: to give to the needy. Also dear to my heart is the method, a word game, where you get words in increasing degrees of difficulty, and you have to choose the correct meaning from four options. (Rather like the old Reader’s Digest word power games, except that here you don’t get a few lines of explanation and contextual use in the Answers page.) For each right answer, the site donates twenty grains of rice to the UN, paid for by the advertisers whose banners appear on every page. With every three words you get right, you advance one level. For every wrong answer, you drop one level. The site says, ‘This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.’ My ‘outer fringe’ is now 49. What’s yours?

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

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 6th January, 2008.

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