Saturday, March 11, 2006

The SchoolTool lesson

Open source projects are not easy to execute. The team often constitutes people from different parts of the world; many of them are often volunteers; there are bound to be differences in focus between the person who funds the project and the people who work on it; and more than anything else it is bound to test one's team skills to the maximum extent.

In his blog, Mark Shuttleworth talks about the lessons he learnt from the SchoolTool project. See http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/date/2003/11/

As a freelancer, I found this lesson extremely relevant. I learnt not to focus on "my writing" but on the needs and style of the magazine. The magazine's editors know their publication better than me (although I do attempt to study a publication before writing for it), therefore any suggestions from them will only make my work gel better with the magazine. I always invite such comments and suggestions for improvement from the editors and gladly incorporate them in the article. I'd rather rework an article and present one which fits the bill perfectly, than an article which is "originally mine" but sticks out like a sore thumb in that magazine :-)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fifty writing tools/tips

I wonder if doctors get so many doubts about medicine as I get about writing! Maybe because it is my profession, I am constantly looking for tips or pointers for improvement. Despite writing day in and day out, I am sometimes stumped about where to break a paragraph, or when to use a semicolon and not a full stop, and many more such seemingly trivial (but certainly non-trivial) doubts.

I almost jumped for joy when I found this link on Lifehacker. Roy Peter Clark provides us with 50 wonderful tools/tips for writing better. Whether you want to learn when to end a sentence, or how to retain readers' attention, this is the resource to check out.

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/fifty-50-tools-which-can-help-you-in-writing.html

My favourite was "Writing Tool #23: Place Gold Coins Along the Path"

Also visit www.poynter.org for a lot more resources on all forms of journalism.

What it takes for a technology magazine to succeed

Yesterday, Niyam Bhushan (www.niyam.com), Consulting Editor, BenefIT (www.benefitmag.com) shared with me his insights about what it takes for a technology magazine to succeed. With his permission, I share his views for all to benefit...

"Lemme tell you that journalism is a 'people-oriented' skill and career. Somewhere along the line, many seem to have forgotten that, and I don't blame them. We are all often like little boys obsessed with little toys to get the larger picture. Hence technology-journalism suffers in this country.

In technology-journalism, people are the core, and technology is optional. That is the cause of the huge success of Wired magazine, and the demise of Byte magazine, and the superniche circulations and dismal sales figures of technology publications.

Thank God, women's magazines are about men and how to handle them. :-) If they were only about women, no women would buy them. 'Truth lies in the opposite,' in the words of Dogen, the great zen master."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Let's leave our footprints in the sands of time

"If a man is called to be a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will pause to say, here lived a great street-sweeper who did his job well," said Martin Luther King Junior. Whatever we do in life, let's remember to do it well and with total dedication so that we leave our footprints in the sands of time.

Cameron Moll's 10 lessons for freelancers

My brother forwarded this to me today morning. After 6 months of freelancing, Cameron Moll shares with us 10 of the greatest lessons he learnt. Excellent tips. Fellow freelancers, do find time to read this... http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000643.html

Monday, March 06, 2006

Veggie Au Gratin in a jiffy

This is my favourite recipe for making Vegetables Au Gratin using a microwave oven. It works every time :-)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups boiled vegetables (carrots, beans, peas, sweet corn, and cauliflower florets; alternatively you can use sweet corn alone - it tastes fantastic)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp maida
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk (depending on how gooey you like your white sauce)
1 small onion (peeled)
2 cloves
Freshly ground black pepper - according to taste
Salt - according to taste
And loads and loadsa Mozzarella cheese!

Method:

1. In a microwave bowl, heat the butter for 40 seconds.
2. Add the maida, mix well, and microwave on high for a minute.
3. Add the milk, onion and cloves, mix well and microwave for 4 minutes or till it thickens into white sauce consistency. Remember to stir once or twice in between; otherwise the sauce will become lumpy.
4. Remove the onion and the cloves.
5. Add the boiled vegetables, salt and pepper to the white sauce and microwave for a minute.
6. Top with lots of grated Mozzarella cheese and microwave for 8 minutes or till a brown crust forms.

Serve piping hot with crisply toasted garlic, onion or herb bread.

My friend gently chided me this morning for getting the name of this recipe wrong. Au Gratin means "covered with bread crumbs and sometimes butter and grated cheese, and then browned in an oven: potatoes au gratin." (Reference: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=au%20gratin)

Well, I guess it's all a matter of preferences. If you like the texture of bread crumbs, add a good measure of it along with the cheese before baking. However, I feel bread crumbs steal the attention from cheese. So, I prefer to make vegetables au gratin sans bread crumbs. I guess serving it with crisp toasted bread makes up in part for the omission.

Significance of the number 108

The number 108 is very significant in Hinduism and other Asian religions too - the rosary has 108 beads; many slokas have 108 verses or enlist 108 names of deities; as a special prayer people circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum in temples 108 times; and so on.

At the temple the other day I was wondering why the number was so special, and started playing with some simple mathematics. Sum of the digits in 108 is 9. Divide by 2, you get 54 (5+4=9). By 2 again, you get 27 (2+7=9). Keep on dividing by 2 and the sum of the digits of each quotient, is 9!

A Google search unravelled many more wonderful explanations. Check out...

http://www.astrologyforthesoul.com/vp/mysticalnumber108.html
http://www.rudraksha-ratna.com/articledt.php?art_id=107
http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/2005/10-12/pdf/hinduism_15.pdf
http://www.vedicheritage.org/Arch%20More%202%20MarApr%2003.html
http://www.salagram.net/108meaning.html