May 29, 2012

IZ 121: questions from the Infinite Zounds blog

I run Infinite Zounds, a daily quiz blog on topical themes.

I put together a set of 121 questions from the blog, from the period of 2010-11. There are 4 sets in all (and they include answers). Here be links to them:

Set 1: India, Sports, SciTech

Set 2: Books, Entertainment & Media, Language & Etymology

Set 3: VIZuals, Connections, Awards, & Obits

Set 4: Business and Economics, Social Sciences, Culture)

May 25, 2012

The Brain-fever bird

It's 3 am. It's frightfully warm inside; the doors and windows are shut to keep the mosquitoes outside. You can almost hear them knock. It is cool outside, they're bar-hopping, and would love some house-warmth and a pint of warm blood. Finally, the heat gets to all of us, the baby most of all, and I open the balcony door to let in the assassins and the cool breeze.

Soon, the baby gives her discontent a rest, allowing the night sounds to be heard. I hear it: it's a three-note phrase. Where have I heard it before? In a quiz. Didn't I ask a question on this?. Ah, how appropriate: it's the brain-fever bird.

The bird is so termed because of its distinctive call - listen to it and you can be easily persuaded into believing it's chanting brain fever", "brain fever", "brain fever". Aptly, for one with such a febrile name, the chant becomes more and more urgent, rushed, and high-pitched.

"Brain-fever Bird" is much more evocative than "Common Hawk Cuckoo", you will agree. It's also very easy to notice, once you've heard the call. You can prepare yourself by listening to this:

Yes, Vani Jayaram was not this monotonous in "Guddi":

They say that you can't find birds in cities anymore, but we've seen a lot of birds around us. With the help of a good book (like this one), some binoculars, and by the simple expedient of keeping your eyes and ears open, you'll be surprised what you can spot in the nearby tree (that's assuming, you have one handy).

May 21, 2012

And there were ten

This blog recently completed ten years. In 2002, inspired by George and feeling the need to stake claim to a little street corner on the information superhighway to persist my writing, my brain-dumps, my 'musings' (the word-of-the-year in the early days of blogging), I began this blog. We must have been one of the earliest Indian blogs; soon, more and more people joined in, and the resultant detritus can still be seen in the world wide web.

A quick glance at my posting frequency over the years shows an alarming decrease since 2008. Unlike many, I wouldn't blame it on the lack of time or interest, but on having moved into what in hindsight was an ultra-heavy reading phase. I had nothing to say, I was just hoovering up data, information, insights from books, essays, and yes, blogs. Then Twitter became the default home for the one-line throwaway. I look back and marvel at the relative longevity, the linkability, and the survivability of blog posts.

Blogging and I, we took each other places. I took part in a book blog, a story writing blog, a blog on the Pune Times of India, my IIT-B 'core dump' blog, and a blog on Vishal Bhardwaj. Closest to heart are my quizzing blogs: a unusual quizzing-tragic-blog that became a key marker of the BCQC's online presence, and my daily topical questions blog, Infinite Zounds.

And this one, of course: using which I experimented upon millions thousandshundreds tens of readers. During moments when I wonder what I can do, I can always go back to the blog and say: I can do that.

Anniversaries such as these are a great excuse to indulge in some miniscule personal vanity. So the next few posts on this blog will be a collection of some of my favourite posts. We're so old, we need to be recycled.