Sunday, 20 January 2008

Mousetrap - 134

Be sharp
No prizes for guessing this is for the music buffs. As the name suggests, it’s a take on the Wikipedia model of collaboration, in this case a searchable, user-editable, and steadily expanding ‘collection of tunes, melodies, and musical themes.’ The entries include sheet music, audio files, and plain-text information. It also features a search engine that helps you find a piece of music—and this is so cool—even of you know nothing about it except the tune, or even the beat. There’s a virtual piano keyboard, or you can tap out a beat on your computer keyboard, or you can hum, whistle or sing to the computer. Being rather tune-challenged, to put it mildly, I had some rather weird results. Others, more musical than your columnist—admittedly a huge category that includes most of humanity, even the baseball-hatted chappie who sings through his nose—have reported better results. Go try it and write in about how you fared, okay?

Words are all I have
Since one is in this musical mood, and the neighbours haven’t complained—yet—here’s another site for you tuneful folks. Unlike the gazillion lyric sites out there, this one gets into what them words really mean. No, wait, that’s inaccurate. It doesn’t have the lyricists expounding on their intent. What this is a forum, where members come in and post what they think song words mean. Much debate and discussion and all that, and you don’t have to sign up to read what they have to say. The site stats, as of this writing, say the database covers 31,878 artists, 14,502 albums and lyrics for 369,577 songs. Most of it is songs sung in English, but I did find a few songs from the Hindi film industry as well. No ‘Eena Meena Dika’ though. One still searches for meaning..

The way we were
Historical Maps of India
One of the things I’ve never liked about our country is the paucity of good maps. That’s partly because of some kind of government regulations, I am told; security risks or summat. Pretty irrelevant, that, in an age where satellite imagery is easily available, and for free at that, on the web. Nothing fancy on this site, no Google Earth zooms and pans and fly-bys. It’s just a collection of links, but what a collection! The owner has painstakingly assembled links from all over the interwebs, pointing to scans and reproductions of maps going back to the 18th century. The area covered extends beyond the ‘India’ in the page title, with much of the neighbourhood that was under European colonisation included. There’s even a world map from 1772!

Self -portrait
10 x 10
Every hour, this the site automatically generates a grid (10 x 10, natch) of 100 words and pictures that ‘matter most on a global scale, and presents them as a single image, taken to encapsulate that moment in time.’ How does it figure out what matters? It scans feeds from several international news providers, and picks out the 100 words that appear most, factoring in some complicated linguistic stuff. What you get is a snapshot in time, a sort of patchwork that reveals much about the world and what we think is important. You can click through, look deeper, muse, fulminate, mourn, rejoice, whatever; that’s up to you. Fascinating way to spend some time, and kind of addictive, I must warn you.

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, 20th January, 2008.

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