Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sambar for Techies

After my roommate who used to do all the cooking moved to his new flat last month, I decided to try my hand at cooking. It wasn't entirely out of necessity. I just didn't want to give up the opportunity to test my cooking skills on the remaining guys. I‘m not much of a vegetarian, so I had never cooked sambar before. So after checking out a few websites and blogs to get an idea of how it’s done, I finally went out and bought some sambar powder and vegetables. At first try, I put in too much sambar powder. Second time around, I forgot to precook the Muringaka and ended up burning the sambar while waiting for it to get cooked. As with software development, the best way to learn cooking is by trial and error. I had just learned two ways of how not to make sambar. Don't put in too much powder, you can always add more later if needed. Same goes for salt. And precook the tough vegetables in a pressure cooker along with the lentils. Having learnt these two lessons, I managed to get it right the third time.

So here is how I make sambar. Chop all the vegetables. Use whatever vegetables you can find. Cook the tough vegetables (basically everything except tomatoes and ladies finger) in a pressure cooker with a cup of lentils and sufficient water till the whistle blows once. Adjust the quantity of lentils depending on how thick you like your sambar. More lentils, thicker sambar. After that’s done, pour a few spoons of oil into a sufficiently sized cooking utensil. Crackle half a teaspoon of mustards. After the mustards stop crackling add the chopped tomatoes and ladies finger. Sauté over a low/medium flame till they start to turn soft. Add a few spoons of sambar powder. (Get a pack of sambar powder, no point trying to reinvent the wheel.) Add the precooked lentils and vegetables. Add tamarind paste and salt to taste. Mix everything together. Then taste to see if you need more salt or sambar powder. Finally add some curry leaves and let it simmer for a few minutes. The results shouldn’t be too bad.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

From Sthreesamajam to Podhuyogam

After the Qurbana today, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Bava thiumeni's Kalpana(decree) allowing (if I understand it correctly) women to attend the Podhuyogam (administrative general body meeting of a local church), albeit without voting rights. Its a small step, but definitely one in the right direction. Well, actually, its a big step considering how difficult it is to introduce this sort of reform in a traditionalist community such as ours. For far too long, people have misquoted St.Paul and the Bible and Tradition to keep half the church from having any say in administrative matters. And the church has been deprived of the services of many capable individuals, just because they happened to be women.

My guess is that the churches in the diaspora that will be the first to welcome this move. I doubt if it really means much to the churches back home in Kerala. But the message is loud and clear. We, as Orthodox Christians, cannot condone discrimination. Eventually, I hope to see a day when women have full voting rights and actively participate in the management of churches and church institutions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Je Twitter, donc je suis.

"Je pense, donc je suis", wrote René Descartes. In Latin, that would be "Cogito, ergo sum". In English, it translates to the famous quote "I think, therefore I am". (PS: Just trying to appear intelligent:) If only it were that simple.

What is more important though, is that others think of me. It would be nice if they thought good things about me, but far more imperative to my existence is that they think of me at all. Like the old saying goes, "Above all, one wishes to be loved. If not loved, then respected. If not respected, then feared. And if not feared, then atleast hated. But never to be forgotten". It’s no fun being the invisible boy.

This is where Twitter comes in. I’m not referring here to the particular service but to the phenomenon that it has spawned. People like to snack on info. And people need people. Put those two together and we what you get is something a lot like Twitter.

I don’t expect it to be the next killer app or anything like that, but it’s definitely not a passing fad. In fact, this article in Wired seems to suggest that Twitter could perhaps be a sneak preview of something totally new – a world where computers become an extension of the human mind – Augmented Cognition.