Brand Inundation

I went to the supermarket yesterday to get myself a toothpaste. After crossing several shelves, I finally found the toothpastes’ rack. There were hundreds of brightly colored and neatly arranged rectangular parallelepipeds proudly staring at me, subtly hinting their numerical dominance. But I wasn’t there to be overpowered. I had a preference. I had a brand name in mind. “Just pick it up and drop it in the basket.” — That’s how simple I thought it was. But I couldn’t be more wrong. Only if selection was that easy.

My brand was Colgate. So, I went past the other brands and found myself staring blankly at the bright red facade of the great Colgate wall. Here’s what I found in the Colgate inventory.

  • Colgate Dental Cream
  • Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief
  • Colgate Max Fresh
  • Colgate Active Salt
  • Colgate Total
  • Colgate Sensitive
  • Colgate Kids
  • Colgate Herbal
  • Colgate Cibaca
  • Colgate Fresh Energy Gel
  • Colgate Max white

Wait. I thought I’d just pick up the ‘white paste’ and get the hell out of that place. And what’s ‘Dental Cream’? Am I supposed to smear it gently over my teeth after which a motley crew of intelligent atoms spring into action and kick the plaque’s ass? And then there’s ‘Sensitive Pro-Relief.’ I knew the ad on TV where an excessively charitable, white-aproned doctor hands over toothpastes to the passers-by, asks them to try it out for a week, and then waits for them to come back only to tell them that their dental weakness has been reduced by 99.9 percent. Where’s the doctor? Never mind. Perhaps Pro-Relief was what I regularly used. But wait. What’s the difference between Sensitive Pro-Relief and Sensitive? Does Colgate Sensitive ‘lack’ pro-relief? If Colgate Total ensures total protection, what do the other pastes do? I hate gels and Continue reading

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Words originating from Greek Mythological Characters

You can gain interesting insights and memorize words better if you check the etymology. Many words in English have fascinating, and sometimes even weird origins (check the etymology of Avocado, for instance). An interest in etymology is self-perpetuating; all you have to do is give it a kick start. This post deals with a few words originating from Greek mythological characters. While listing all of them is certainly a herculean task and something beyond my ken, this is a humble attempt to share a few words off the top of my head.

  • From The Creation Myth: According to the Greeks, the entire universe was initially empty i.e it was void of any physical existence. They called it χάος (Chaos). Gaia (the mother Earth) was the first to come into existence from this void. The prefix “Geo” has its origins at this point and comes from the Greek word γη or γαια (Gaia) meaning “earth.” But Gaia wasn’t the only entity to come out ex nihilo — she was followed by Tartarus (underworld), Eros, Erebus and Nyx (night). Eros, the Greek god of love, according to some sources, is responsible for the existence of the word Erotic [from Erotikos]. Nyx, on the other hand, had children named Hypnos (sleep) and Nemesis (retribution) along with 4 others Nyx’s children are the etymological ancestors of the words Hypnosis and Nemesis respectively. Among the other primordial deities were Aether (responsible for the origin of Ether — meaning, the upper regions of space) and Chronos (responsible for the prefix Chron- meaning Time).
  • Tantalizingly true: There was once a Greek demigod named Tantalus — the son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto. He was invited to Mount Olympus by Zeus, the ruler of gods. Tantalus, drawn away by the abundant supply of Ambrosia (Nectar), stole it to give it to his friends back on Earth. In addition to that, he invited gods to his place and served them the flesh of his own son, Pelops. He also revealed some secrets of the gods to his subjects. If Tantalus were living in the present-day world, he would be charged for infanticide, cannibalism and human sacrifice and be locked up till death. But the punishments given back then were far more severe. After facing the wrath of Zeus, he was sent to Tartarus for eternity where all the scrumptious delicacies hang within his mouth’s reach but move away as soon as he attempts to eat one. The worst part is, he would never die — he’s locked up for a futile eternal quest. Hence, we have the word Tantalizing — the act of tormenting or teasing (someone) with the sight or promise of something unobtainable. From the perspective of an etymologist, the moral of the story is…placing yourself at the extreme ends of the good-bad dichotomy makes your name eponymous with a (sometimes) frequently used word. (If you are really unlucky, you’ll find your name denoting something you despise — see Orwellian). Continue reading

Chessboard in CSS

This is my first attempt at CSS and I’m glad that the end result is satisfactory. As soon as I finished learning the basics, I got the idea of creating a chessboard (or checkerboard) using CSS — after all, I’ve been getting too much inspiration lately. The following tutorial is quite easy to do and is aimed at beginners.

Creating the board — There are multiple ways of doing this and one can use div or table to get the end result. I used table. The first step involves creating an 8×8 table. This can be done using the <table></table> tags and inserting 8 cells (td’s) in each row (tr) and doing the same thing 8 times. Though it may seem long, it’s just a simple copy-paste job (and there’s no alternative either).

Single Row (to be placed between <body> and </body> tags ):
<tr><td></td><td></td><td></td><td></td><td></td><td></td><td></td><td></td></tr>

Once you’re done with the 8×8, it’s time for styling using CSS. For this board, the length of each square is taken as 50px with a silver colored solid border of 1px size.

CSS:

td
{width:50px;
height:50px;
border:1px silver solid;
text-align:center; (Text align is necessary for a proper alignment of unicode)
font-size:40px;}(Font size for the unicode characters)

table tr:nth-child(odd) td:nth-child(even) {
background: #000;
}
table tr:nth-child(even) td:nth-child(odd) {
background: #000;
}

As you can see, the board makes use of nth-child selector to select alternate <td>s and <tr>s. Without that, we’ll end up having a board that has the same initial pattern getting repeated 8 times.

One can find all the individual chess pieces in unicode. So, we can add additional identifiers to place the chess pieces on the board. Using gradients to fill in the checks is the most effective way; but because I used black and white, the unicode characters are red and green for this example. One can replace the chess pieces with circles and arrange them accordingly to get the checkers board.

Here’s the complete code along with the end result.

http://jsfiddle.net/7GmCv/ (or) http://jsfiddle.net/sarath_a/gvZNA/

The Credibility of History

How can one say for sure that everything they’ve learned in their history class is actually true?

There is no straightforward answer to that question, but there are a few parameters that help us determine the authenticity of what we read or listen to. True history (and timeless literature) is something that isn’t influenced by following factors.

  • Socio-Political: Influence of the then societal and political conditions
  • Literary-Historical: Influence of other literary works or baseless historical facts that tend to obscure reality
  • Autobiographical: Influence of the writer’s own views

Whenever someone reads a historical work, they need to question themselves if the given work is influenced by any of the previously mentioned factors (for instance, Glimpses of World History tends to take a socialist stand — after all, it is an epistolary work and cannot be taken as an authentic source) Pieces written in blogs or articles found online are usually influenced by the writer’s own views and that’s the inherent defect of all the blogs in general — lack of authenticity (This can be taken as the classical example of simulacra generating reality) We cannot know for sure if what’s written is indeed true because even the ‘facts’ we usually know are the ones we’ve read elsewhere. All we can do is trust the research done by historians and draw additional (logical) conclusions based on the poetry, paintings, and relics of a particular time.

So whenever you’re in an argument with a person who makes a baseless statement, the best thing to do, when you don’t have an extremely convincing source either, is to stop the argument altogether before it enters the Nietzschean space; because many historical facts take erratic swings on the pivot of trust. The sensible thing to do is to select some widely accepted and honest ‘referees’ beforehand or drop the discussion altogether.

It is understood that there are many conspiracy theories floating around online. Abraham Lincoln’s Internet Wisdom (“The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity”) has a funny way of putting this. While some of them can be debunked by a logical analysis, proper observation and reliable evidence, the remaining, based on how adamant your opponent is, can seldom be proved. Sometimes, you should just accept the naivete of others.

Finally, to quote a reputed journalist on the whole issue:

Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be doubt about the most enormous events. The calamities that are constantly being reported — battles, massacres, famines, revolutions — tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. Probably the truth is undiscoverable but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or for failing to form an opinion