Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dasavatharam Review

On Saturday night I went out to see Dasavatharam, a new Tamil movie starring Kamal Hasan. The movie, originally slated for Deepavali 2007 release, has been in the works for a long time and it certainly shows. Despite the critiques many have put forth, it is a quality work, especially given the budget it had in comparison to many American films. Pentafour did a lot of the CGI, and having been to their studios I have seen that they are quite well equipped to handle a job as this and they did quite well. While its certainly not LucasArts, for the majority of the movie there weren't blatant differences between the real and CGI aspects. Kamal takes on 10 roles in the movie, the most ever, and interaction between the characters is significant. While some roles are somewhat superfluous (in the sense that they aren't needed for the story but to reach 10 they are), most play a good role in the plot development. For example there's a Japanese character whose role seems very peripheral, but I must concede that they did a great job making Kamal's eyes look oriental. Other roles are: a tall, amicable Muslim man, a Telugu detective, President Bush, a Sikh singer, a CIA agent, an old lady, a bioscientist, a staunch Iyengar in the 12th century, and a Christian looking to end cultural depravity. The plot is a bit of a stretch, since it seems that salt would kill such a powerful virus, but it gives "reason" for the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (which I didn't know they were calling that...). Overall, it has a good effect and is entertaining at the same time as an action movie. 4.5/5

Friday, June 20, 2008

Frozen Yogurt

This week instead of my usual nightly pearl milk tea (bubble tea, tapioca tea, PMT) run, it seems I've made a switch - the new thing to do is frozen yogurt? I was surprised to learn this as I have just returned back to the Valley for a significant time since last summer, and trends here are certainly as ephemeral as the old dot-coms were. Anyway, there seem to be a great variety of styles of frozen yogurt (in texture, temperature, color, taste), toppings, store environments, and pricing structures. So far I've only gone to Yogurtland and I Heart Yogurt, which are perhaps the two opposites in structure and style. Yogurtland is very much modern, chic-style design with lots of glass and steel, self-serve, charged by the ounce. On the opposite hand, I Heart Yogurt has fewer options but rotates them so there's a new set of flavors daily, with more traditional toppings choices (as opposed to the fruit and great variety at Yogurtland). The interior design is rather simplistic. Personally, I liked the I Heart Yogurt the best, but I have yet to check out the other two - Tartini and Froyo. More on this breaking story later!

On a sad note, "FinestBlackBeatz" has been temporarily shut down - supposedly the guy running it is an engineering student or something?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

North Beach Festival

Today I went to the North Beach Festival in San Francisco, CA. For the next few months I'll be covering events and other happenings in the Bay Area instead of Philly. Anyway, it was a great festival showcasing San Francisco and its great diversity. There were booths peddling various flavors of jewelry, clothes, art, and yes - food. The jewelry ranged from authentic cultural types of jewlery (I saw some South/Central American stuff) to more stylistic, urban jewlery. The clothes were all over the place, from humorous T-shirt vendors to ridiculous-looking summer BBQ wear with odd patterns on it to alternative cultural icons on organic cotton tees and tanks. My favorite of the day was a series of baby shirts that said, "I'm <1,>, what's your excuse?". The art was also great, with many artists and photographers showcasing both international pieces, abstract, and many San Francisco ones. Several aspiring photographers could also been seen going up to Coit Tower, which was a stone's throw up a steep hill from the north edge of the festival. The food was great too - everything from mozzerella skewers to corn on the cob to many ethnic delicacies, as well as a host of vendors selling different marinades, oils, and sauces that they had concocted. Personally I was tantalized by a Spicy Teriyaki Ginger sauce, which I'll try out sometime this week and post what I came up with.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Last summer I had the chance to visit a pretty cool company called Powerset through a series of free lunches at various companies in the Valley, titled "Lunch 2.0". I started reading their blog which chronicles some of the issues which they are tackling and some oddities about language, which struck me as interesting. Now they've come up with something for their sematics-based search function called "Factz", which links the search to various related Wikipedia articles and shows you where the word came from in the sentence. For example, a search on epigenetics, which I'll be starting some research on soon, links to "Factz" under a subtopic of "factors". Impressively enough, clicking on that actually mentions exactly what I'll be researching - epigenetic phenomenon and their relation to the causes of senescence.

You can also search questions, which seems to be the strong suit of Powerset's search tool over most other mainstream ones. For example, a search of "What did Dwight Howard win" links to Factz about the Slam Dunk contest and the 2008 All-Star Game.

Check it out it's pretty cool!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Haru Sushi in Philly

Yesterday I got the chance to visit a nice sushi place in Old City (Philadelphia) with a really cool Japanese twist on some standard desserts. Out of the many cool options, I chose the "Strawberry Cheesecake Tempura", mostly because it sounded cool and I didn't want just another ice cream or chocolate lava cake. However, the tempura did frighten me a little bit - how would fried food like that go well with something sweet and fruity? I've had fried bananas before and those turned out well, but I was nevertheless afraid. What happened was pretty cool - much like the fried cream cheese that some people enjoy so much, this had tempura batter surrounding a filling of cheesecake, along with a delectable strawberry dipping sauce. For a non-fusion restaurant, that's pretty impressive. The rest of their menu options are reasonably priced and from what I had (the few vegetarian rolls), you don't sacrifice quality. Check them out at 3rd and Chestnut or online (they have multiple metropolitan locations) at

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Health Law Conference

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a Health Law conference for professors (I got a special registration) held at Drexel University. It was quite interesting, though I was not able to attend too many of the sessions. Either way most of it would have been legal jargon and over my head, but it is nice to think of lawyers as something other than blood sucking parasites that ruin doctors' lives, as they are usually portrayed. Rather, it seems that most lawyers in the health field genuinely care about patient care, human rights, and global health just like physicians and nurses do. They ponder deeply about bioethics and new and emerging problems, sculpting the law to be able to tackle these novel issues. What I found most interesting yesterday was something that I had heard about in the news but only really heard in detail about yesterday during one of the plenaries. Supposedly, many people have been requesting voluntary amputations of either their legs or arms for reasons such as "it doesn't feel right on my body" or "I would feel freer without it". Is it legal and ethical for a surgeon to provide such a service? It is similar to part of the testimony delivered in Roe v. Wade, since home abortions were extremely dangerous and attempted far too routinely. One can only imagine the horrors of a botched home amputation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why don't more people blog?

Blogging has been found to be have calming effects for those with chronic diseases and cancer patients. Furthermore, it gives one an outlet and contact with potentially many people. And, if you're good and people like what you have to say, you can make a few bucks. Why could it be that most people don't blog or even read others' blogs? While blogging has gotten much publicity and many people know of their existence, only 25% of Americans will ever read a blog in a given month. Are the blogs out there just not satisfying people as well as their favorite magazines and newspapers are? As far as I'm concerned, for specialty interests, blogs are as good as they get. It gives you a direct link to someone in that niche community and allows you to share and exchange ideas. Some of my best music comes from suggestions given on blogs. A lot of what I know about the world of electronics does, and new cars, etc. And time isn't an issue - Americans are spending increasingly more hours at their computers, often just checking their email or fantasy baseball/basketball/football teams. So what gives?

Monday, June 2, 2008

The First Protein

Which of the well known critical cell proteins would have formed first and started a cascade that would lead to life? I'm not too well read on prebiotic synthesis and other such matters, but it seems to me that it would have been very beneficial for DNA polymerase to be created at the very least. Thus at least some DNA would be replicated, which seems to be the very minimum for life, right? At the same time to make most proteins you need some sort of a ribosome as it is difficult to carry out the reaction needed to polymerize amino acids in a normal environment. This is the function of one of the units of the ribosome (forget whether it is the 70 or 30S). Anyway, just a musing - any thoughts?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Guerilla Radio

So I was on the radio today, as a guest DJ with my friend Tim Plunkett. I must say it's pretty cool that Drexel has its own radio station, and being on the inside I got a cool tour and some nice factoids as well. Supposedly Drexel has the largest private record collection on the East Coast (rivalled by the Library of Congress). Even though several other colleges have their own radio stations, Drexel's is very much student oriented and popular as a result, voted top reggae station for several years. There's actually a live DJ for most hours of the day with most shows being about 2-3 hours, which is a pretty good variety of music. I was pitching in today with some Indian remixes of bhangra, pop, and Hindi songs to complement Tim's rather eclectic tastes as well. Check out WKDU at 91.7 FM in the Philly area or online at