Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Horsey Truth about Railroads

Received this in an email today. It's long, but worth reading!


The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did 'they' use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet,8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what Horse's Ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because that's what the Imperial Roman army figured. Chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now, the twist to the story.

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launchpad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

- And - You thought being a HORSE'S ASS wasn't important!


I laughed so hard when I read this!!! But then I wondered, how many things do we do today simply because that's the way they've "always" been done? How many things we just blindly follow without even once asking why?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lost in Subtitles!

So last night, my sister and I sat down for a long-awaited (at least by me!) bonding session, or what she calls, "sistah-sistah bonding" :) Now, don't expect any heart-to-hearts or baring of souls; we bond over movies! We've got certain "classics" - movies that we've watched (and watched and watched and watched....) during lazy summer afternoons, usually with a game of Scrabble on the side.

One of these classics is the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. We've got DVDs of all three, bought before they were released as a set. Unfortunately, the third movie DVD doesn't work, so we had the difficult (sigh!) task of choosing between the first two. We finally settled on the second one - The Two Towers - for its superbly filmed battle scenes.

Halfway through, my sister decides to switch on the subtitles ...... there are certain dialogues neither of us have caught, despite having watched it sooo many times. She activated the subtitle feature and then......a split second of stunned disbelief, before we burst into laughter!!! See, the DVD is um, not-so-original, and was made somewhere in the Far East, and whoever provided the subtitles was obviously not well-versed in English, so this action-packed epic instantly turned into a hilarious comedy!!!

Check out the names of the characters:

The tiny Hobbit hero Frodo Baggins became "Flordor Barkings"
The human hero Aragorn became "Alarwang"
The elf Legolas was "Keglax" or something like that.
The creature Smeagol becomes "Smartfy" (really can't see the leap of thought to this name).
Dark Lord Sauron's monstrous army of Uruk-hai were oddly referred to as "Bitch-Men"!
And finally, the best of all, the wizard Gandalf the Grey - "Grey Magic Person Gandofu"!!!

The dialogue was no less. Sadly, I can't recall most of it, except for this gem, where Aragorn is explaining to his immortal Elvish ladylove Arwen (thankfully her name was only missing the 'r'), why they can't be together:

The actual line is "I am mortal, you are elf-clan".

Subtitle: "I am ordinary, you are evil"!!!

And that was another riot: all references to elves somehow ended up as "evil"! Even the F-word found its way into one dialogue!!! Now I haven't read the books, but I'm guessing there's no way its mentioned in the mythical masterpiece!

So here's a suggestion: if you have DVDs from suspect sources, try watching it with the subtitles on. You might find the dramas and thrillers turning into comedies and the comedies getting even more comical :D

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Quirks :)

Tagged again, this time by Renu. The Rules are:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs, letting them know that they have been tagged.

Right, so brace yourself for the quirks:

1. I am drawn to the colour red. Its my absolute favourite colour family and I can never have enough of it, so much so that during my college days, there were times when I would step out with a red t-shirt, red handbag, red shoes, red hair clip, red jewellery and even a red cell phone, prompting my beloved sister to inquire if a tomato had vomited on me! The dressing has toned down a tad these days :), but I still have plenty of reds all around me ..... just look at the name of this blog, for instance! Its not the white moon or the yellow moon, but the red moon that especially fascinates me, which kind of takes us to Quirk 2.....

2. ...... that its not just the moon, but the whole sky that I love (does that sound a bit crazy???) I am an avid, ardent, absolutely passionate skygazer (not that I know the first thing about astronomy or even care to know for that matter). Dawn sky, morning sky, noon sky, evening sky, night sky......I love it all! I skygaze quite frequently during the day, to the point that I sometimes forget what I was doing or saying before the sky caught my eye, which leads to Quirk 3....

3..... I am addicted to my camera....have been for over a year now. I could see the sky looking a particularly gorgeous shade of blue, or see an amazing cloud formation, or see trees and their flowers looking especially lovely against the sky, or see......just about anything beautiful, and I'm off running for my camera. I briefly studied photography in college, but just vaguely recall terms like 'f-stops', 'aperture', 'shutter-speed' etc. As with the astronomy thing, I'm not sure I even want to learn about photography...... I'm happier muddling about on my own and manically keep clicking away, much to the frustration of my family (though recently hubby has also started clicking stuff that appeals to seems that I've infected him with the photo bug too......(evil laugh!!!)).

4. I am a doodler. Put a pen and paper in my hand and almost right off, I'll start doodling away. I love applying mehendi and am constantly trying out different designs, so its quite a common sight in my house to see newspapers, post-its, (my notebooks from college) and other miscellaneous papers covered with the typical mehendi motifs as well as whatever weird patterns emerge from my mind.

5. I detest spending time in beauty parlours. I could never understand how some women spend soooo much time in these places for the most frivolous of reasons. All my life, the only reason I entered a parlour was to get my hair cut. Thanks to my mother, I am quite particular about taking care of my skin and hair, but it is all based on natural, DIY kind of stuff. It was only after my wedding date was fixed that I got my first official facial and massage, and it was only for my engagement that I first got my eyebrows plucked. A massage once in a while actually would be quite nice, but I absolutely hate the fact that I now have to go to a parlour twice a month to keep my eyebrows neat. All that time and effort spent in going and coming, when I could be doing something else, anything else.

6. Right from when I was a child, I have loved making chapatis - the flat Indian bread. I remember hounding my mother, my grandmother or whoever else was rolling the dough out to pleeeeeaaaase let me help. They all thought the fascination would die out as I grew older, but till date, it hasn't. I enjoy the whole process, right from kneading the dough, to rolling it out and the final cooking. I actually find it very relaxing, and even when exams were around the corner, I would still ask my mom to keep a few aside for me to roll out. But the best part is when I make phulkas (a variation where you put the chapati directly onto the flame and it fluffs out into a sphere). For me, the moment where it expands into that sphere is extremely fulfilling, almost like attaining nirvana!

So there you have it, 6 quirks from the quirk. To continue the quirkiness, I tag some of the GT gang: Sha'ira, DR, DC, Lirun, Moi and NZM.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hell's Chicken

Well, I'm back for a month-long sojourn in the sandlands, and quite determined to capture slices of life this time round (as best as I can manage without being clobbered by my camera-weary family). Stepped out to pick up some good ol' Lebanese food last night......

...... and here it is, one of the sights that warms my non-vegetarian heart :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Book Tagged

At long last my Internet troubles have been resolved, and what do I find when I rejoin the blogging world???

My very first TAG, courtesy of Reflections. So, without much further ado, here are the Rules:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2) Italicize those you intend to read.

3) Underline the books you really love (and strikethrough the ones you hate!).

4) Reprint this list in your own blog.


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Naboko

v63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (children's version.....does that count???)

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnights Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - quite a few of them, though I have to say I prefer Hercule Poirot.

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

My Score - a paltry 10/100. I am a voracious reader, but usually of the romance novel and action-packed thrillers a la Clive Cussler with the occassional spiritual lift from Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma and the like. My forays into "classic" literature have been few and far between, the last one being a four-day immersion into One Hundred Years of Solitude about a month ago. Brilliantly written, but quite disturbing......I have only just shaken off the after-effects. Catcher in the Rye is next on my list, but I'm in no hurry to pick it up.

In the meanwhile, I tag:



Thought Warp