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Posts from — October 2012

My Dogs Decoded

Yesterday I came across this video by NOVA – ‘Dogs Decoded’ on one of the doggy groups I follow on facebook. Had some time on hand so I sat down to watch. It was a very interesting video and if you have a dog you should watch it.

As I watched the video a lot of things about my three dogs became clearer. A lot of things that I know about my dogs is not unique to me any more. Che and I have always said Cuckoo speaks and she’s not the only one in the world, most dogs do. So as I watched the video I made a list of things I learned about my dogs.

1. The expressions on both sides of our faces in any situation are not identical. We tend to see more of the right of a persons face then left when talking to them (left gaze bias). This is because the right side of our face shows more of the emotion we are feeling than the left. Dogs understand this too and tend to focus more on the emotion on the right of our face. Its helps them read our emotion and respond to it. This explains why I can’t con Cuckoo with fake anger, there’s too many parameters. :)

Our dogs understand us. Thats a very simple statement but holds a lot of meaning. Dogs understand our social ques, they understand gesturing – our pointing with fingers or eyes. Combine that with their reading of our facial emotions and you have mans best friend. 😀

2. Out of the three dogs I have, Cuckoo is the most communicative. She almost talks – each bark is different and means different things. You could almost have a conversation with her.
Dogs use barking as a language. Frequency, tonality and interval between barks vary to form a wide variety of meaning. A research facility in Budapest recorded the sounds dogs make in various situations and played the sounds clips to test base of dog owners. Dog owners almost always identified the dogs situation and behaviour correctly. So the bark of a dog is not just noise but a package of information to help us communicate. Then why do we debark dogs? :(

3. Spending time with my dogs always is an upper, it makes me feel better. The rottenest day gets better when I’m with them. Senti’s my special in this area. I have a need to nuture and Oh how I enjoy mothering him 😀

In Sweden a doctor has poven that Occitocin is reponsible for the bonding of babies with mothers. When we are petting dogs we release occitocin and so do dogs. This peptide causes a feeling of well being and bonds us to our dogs. Occitocin is good for us – it reduces the heart rate and blood pressure and can lead to lower levels of stress.

4. There’s always been this debate about dogs being decended from wolves. Research finally proves dogs are tamed domesticated wolves.

Soviet scientists over the last 50 years have run an experiment with silver foxes. They took the tamest foxes in each litter and bred them with other tame ones. They also did the same with the most aggressive ones. 8 generations later the tame foxes had started looking forward to human contact. 50 generations later they are starting to show characteristics of dogs. On the other side the agressive ones got more aggressive with each generation. A good reason to always ask to see the mother and father when getting a pup, it’ll say a lot about the dog we get.

And here’s some interesting trivia from the video.

There are more pet dogs in the world than babies, nearly 1/2 a billion.

Research proves that dogs can extend our life. People who have dogs are less likely to have a heart attack. If they have a heart attack they are three or four times more likely to survive it.

A border collie in Austria near Vienne understands over 340 words. That means she can correctly identify 340 items in a pile! She can also recognise new objects from just images shown.

October 9, 2012   3 Comments

What is the Assamese Mekhla Chadar?

I bought a Mekhla Chadar yesterday. A friend has opened an Ethnic Wear store (Ankh Creations) and I stopped by to wish them luck. While Pallavi showed me all the various types of sarees she had (Sambampur Silk, Bhagalpur Silk, Muga Silk and more), a red piece kept catching my eye. To satisfy my curiosity I asked to see it. It turned out to be a very pretty mekhla. All I knew about a mehkla is that its a traditional Assamese dress.

So what is a Mekhla Chadar?

Mekhla Chadar is the traditional attire of Assamese women and is made up of three pieces (like the South-Indian half saree) – a skirt like a sarong, a blouse and an additional piece of cloth draped over the shoulder. The mekhla skirt is a thicker garment whereas the chadar is lighter to make management easier.

The skirt is a wide cylinder of cloth that is folded into pleats to fit the waist. In the usual 6 yard saree the pleats are folded to the left but in a mekhla the pleats fold to the right. One end of the chaddar is tucked at the pleats, the rest is taken around the waist and thrown over the left shoulder.

The mekhla (or the skirt) is known for its shine that comes from the muga silk unique to Assam. In the good old days these were woven at home by the women. Girls were taught how to weave on a loom and handlooms were found in every household. It was a part of their training along with growing rice and vegetables. When you think about it, it makes sense – if you can grow your own food and make your own cloth, you are independent, you can take on the world :)

The mekhla has beautiful wide borders, the designs inspired by nature and is made in all colours. Red is a particular favourite for weddings. Traditionally it was made of cotton, muga silk or pat silk but today you also get it in synthetic mixes. In the old days each house wove its own unique designs on the mekla and gamcha (a towel-like garment), quite like the Scottish tweed.

The famous silks of Assam are grown at Sualkuchi 32km. from Guwahati. The entire village is engaged in weaving silks and it is often called the Manchester of the East. Apart from the Muga, other silks like Eri and Pat are also grown here.

October 6, 2012   No Comments

12 Things You May Not Know About Grey’s Anatomy

I hate waiting for new season when I like a series so when Grey’s Anatomy started a few years ago and I run out of seasons to watch I gave up on it. But now that its in its 9th season and I have a lot of seasons to watch, I’ve started rewatching it from the beginning again.

I like medical drama, to me medicine is fun and if it wasn’t for having to study for almost 10 years I might just have become a surgeon. While I’m watching the series, I’ve been doing some reading. Here’s some interesting trivia I found.

1. The name of each episode is the title of a song by a popular artist. Quite a few are named after songs by the Beatles and R.E.M.

2. The series title is a reference not only to Meredith Grey but also the anatomy book by Henry Gray – “Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body”. Before the show was aired it was supposed to be called “Complications”.

3. When I saw the pilot I didn’t see Karev and wondered about why he was missing in the five assigned to Bailey. Karev was not originally a part of the pilot script. He was added later as an afterthought to be a companion to Dr. O’Malley hence his scenes for the pilot are re-shoots and digital alterations.

4. Sandra Oh who plays Dr. Cristina Yang was initially looking to audition for the part of Dr. Bailey.

5. Isaiah Washington (Dr. Burke) had originally auditioned to play the role of Dr. Shepherd. Glad the casting crew saw otherwise coz he’s so not Shepherd.

6. The poster Meredith puts up asking for a roommate says “Bush supporters need not apply”.

7. Dr. Christina Yang is an MD-PhD, she graduated first in her class at Standford University.

8. The first person to call Dr. Shepherd “McDreamy” was Christina and Meredith was the first to call Dr. Sloan “McSteamy”.

9. Izzie’s full name is Isobel Catherine Stevens and Karev’s full name is Alexander Michael Karev.

10. Katherine Heigl was supposed to come back for the season’s finale after she took time off during season 6. But she didn’t and her last episode was: I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.

11. The five original interns get married through the series. Meredith Grey to Derek Shepherd, Christina Yang to Owen Hunt, Gerorge O’Malley to Calliope Torres and Izzie Stevens to Alex Karev.

12. Bailey’s original five also go through surgery at some point in the series. Meredith for appendicitis and liver donation to her father, Christina for an ectopic pregnancy, Alex for a gun shot, Izzie for cancer and George after he got hit by a bus.

If you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and think you know all about it, here’s some GA quizzes you can try. :)

October 4, 2012   No Comments

My First Ever Sponge Cake – A Coffee Sponge Cake: Recipe

A few days ago I tried to make my first sponge cake. It turned out fairly well though I’d want it spongier so I guess I’ll keep experimenting until I get it right.

Here’s the steps I followed for my Coffee Sponge Cake

Ingredients –

175gms – flour
125gms – sugar
125gms – butter
2 eggs
1 tbsp – instant coffee power
½ tsp – vanilla essence

Method –

  1. Heat the oven to 180deg. C.
  2. In a bowl mix the butter and sugar. I used granulated sugar (a baker told me that works better than icing sugar). Beat it intermittently until the sugar melts. This may take a little time so you could leave the mix standing and beat it every 5 minutes until its done.
  3. Add the eggs to the mix and beat it again until it all mixes well and looks a little fluffy.
  4. Add the flour into the mix in portions while continuing to beat.
  5. Add the coffee powder and vanilla essence.
  6. Beat the mix until is has a drop consistency. To check the consistency either use the beater or a spoon. The batter should fall off the spoon in blobs, it should not drip and neither should it stick to the spoon. If it drips add more flour. If it sticks add a couple of teaspoons of milk.
  7. Prep your baking tin. To do this rub the inside of the tin with butter and then add flour and shake the tin until you have a fine layer of flour sticking to the butter. Shake off any excess flour.
  8. Pour or ladle the cake mix into the mold and gentle tap the mold to level the batter.
  9. Bake the cake for 25 minutes at 180deg. C.
  10. Check if the cake is cooked by inserting a knife into the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked, else bake for a few more minutes. Baking time changes from place to place so it takes a few attempts to find the perfect time needed.
  11. Remove the cake mold and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  12. Invert the cake mold and gently tap to remove the cake and let it cool for another 10-15 minutes.
  13. Now eat and enjoy! :)

I did a few other experiments –

  1. After lining the mold with butter and flour I added a bit of sugar at the bottom before adding the cake mix so I got a cake with sugar on top.
  2. After removing the cake from the mold I added more sugar at the top and put it back in the oven. This gave the cake a caramalised top and a slightly crunchy crust with a soft center.
  3. I wanted a chocolate center so I poured half the batter in the mold, then placed a strip of dark chocolate in the center keeping away from the walls of the mold and added the remaining batter on top. Note though that when checking to see if the cake is cooked you need to insert the knife slightly off center so you don’t come away with a knife covered in chocolate.

Here are three recipes I referred to while making my cake –

Really Easy Sponge Cake –
Sponge cake – BBC Food Recipes
Simple Sponge – BBC GoodFood

October 3, 2012   No Comments

Movie Review: Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 1 & 2

Gangs of Wasseypur part 1 released on 22nd June 2012 but Che and I were busy winding up and packing to leave for Thailand so it was almost impossible for us to see the movie. Now imagine our delight when we got back a month later and found that one of the multiplexes was running part 1 along with part 2. This was not to be missed so off we went to a back to back screening of the two parts of Gangs of Wasseypur.

These are hindi movies so as it is they are long but with two parts they are beyond longer. That said there is no part of the two that you will not enjoy. Anuragh Kashyap delivers again with a set of movies that are not to be missed.

There is a lot of violence in the movie but even that was fun to watch. Jeez did I just say I enjoyed violence? Well, yes I did. It was tastefully done and went with the story.

The story is set in Wasseypur near Dhanbad in North India. This part of India has got tossed around between states and that has had an impact on its people. Wasseypur has a large population of Muslims of two different castes and the story is about a vendetta between the two with a third benefiting from it all.

The actors have done a good job in portraying the characters. The women in the movie are shown as strong women and have a role to play. They are not just there for scenic purposes. I loved watching Nagma played by Richa Chadda as she berated her husband and stood by him too. There is a domestic scene between Sardar and Nagma as she vacuums the house that is just adorable. Then there was Moshina played by Huma Qureshi who has character and style.

Don’t miss these this set of movies and preferably watch them back to back as there is a lot of detail in part one that helps you understand part two.

Aside – Overheard in the toilet during interval – ‘Kya bakwas film banate hai aaj kal’ ‘What rubbish movies they make these days’. This has kinda become my test for movies. If people think its rubbish it might just be good. After all people want to watch mindless movies these days where you can come to the theater leaving you intelligence behind at home. Not necessarily a bad thing, I watch mindless movies too but then I wouldn’t watch an A. Kashyap movie on a mindless day!

Read more about the movies here –
Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 1
Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 2

October 2, 2012   No Comments

A Week of Lovin’

Last week was a wonderful week. Sitting down to blog was just difficult with all that was happening around me. My Mom-In-Law was to visit and that had me up-in-arms initially with an entire plan to clean the house. Well, clean I did but not completely to plan. I let a lot slip through after the realisation hit that she was my Mom; I clean when my own Mom visits but I definitely don’t do a Monica so why now?

And she was Mom, oh so Mom; she didn’t point out all that was not done and even offered to help me clean the fans. I have a fear of ledges so ladders freak me out. My fear doesn’t stop me from climbing ladders but I do need a little help; someone has to stand down there and hold the ladder 😛

Spending time with parents has become important in my life lately. Life is too short to miss out on family and love. I don’t know if I’ll be around tomorrow or if they will so I want them in my today. Every moment with them is precious. There is so much I have to learn from them – making Sambar from one Mom and Biryani from the other. They have stories galore to tell; there are more stories than time available to us it seems.

Mom was here for four days and the days flew. When she left it felt as if she had just arrived. Saying good-bye was more about saying come back soon. Mom do you hear me? Please come back soon.

Other highlights of last week were book review requests. I’ve been reviewing the books I’ve read on the blog. I have a huge back log as of now and need to catch up fast. My goal this year was to read a 100 books. I’ve read 65 books until now but reviewed only 16 books. Shame on me! I need to bridge that gap soon. But anyway, here are the two books I have got review requests for –

Tendrils of Life by Owen Choi
Roll Of Honour by Amandeep Sandhu

And I’m excited! This was the first time an author wrote in asking for a review and I’m honoured. It takes a lot to write a book (I know I’ve been trying for a while now) and it takes even more to ask for a truthful review. Being critical of someone else’s work is easy, but accepting that criticism is difficult. Like Ego in Ratatouille says “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”
Both the books deal with some very painful subjects and I’m looking forward to reading them soon.

The other latest news is that BBMP in Bangalore has made garbage segregation compulsory. That means a lot of new learning. Until now everything went into trash from veggies to dog poop. Now I have a lot of questions – how do I dispose my fallen hair and dog hair for starters. I’ll do a post on my learning here soon :)

Do you have any tips on garbage segregation and disposal?

October 1, 2012   2 Comments