Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back off the edge of the world, and cbeebies part II*****

Subrato Bagchi is the gardener at Mindtree. He takes care not of the trees and plants in their corporate office garden, but of the mind trees that the organization nurtures. Quoting from the website - "In this new role, Bagchi spends one-on-one time with the Top-100 leaders at MindTree on their ‘personal-professional’ issues to expand leadership capacity and build readiness for taking MindTree into the billion-dollar league. In addition, Bagchi works at the grassroots by making himself available to its 45 Communities of Practice that foster organizational learning, innovation and volunteerism within the organization". I don't really know anything about the organization. He writes a column for various magazines and papers, in which he hasn't caught my attention, if I have ever come across them. He has also written a few books, which I haven't read. But, I found this post - Go, kiss the world! yesterday, and perhaps you should read it as well. More on this later then.

Going back to BBC, as I promised, am following up with details of a few pages from it which we like :) Today, the music and song section, which is among the first things we explored. You can check out the songs according to the characters/shows, the themes (eg. counting number songs, songs to make games with or theme songs from shows), whether you want to just watch and listen, or read along, or join in; and finally, by name, in alphabetical order. Some songs like those from the Tweenies show, are just songs with a little repeating animation in a tiny window, but others, like the Boogie beebies Karaoke are full screen. Boogie beebies does a wonderful job of making a song and dance about the everyday things - riding a carousel, or a football game for instance. Just the thing for young children who really should not be made to repeat what goes by the name of dancing in movies nowadays. Gyrating pelvises and suggestive gestures carried out by children made up for the tv are quite frankly obscene, not cute, but it seems to be the Indian mindset nowadays that this constitutes 'talent', so who is to argue? Anyway, I would suggest exposing kids to this kind of dances as well, if you are so inclined.

Do remember however, that the actual videos from this program are in small windows, low resolution even for high bandwidths, and not downloadable so if you want to watch them again, the whole slow process starts fresh all over. That said, they are still something to watch!

The Autumnwatch and Springwatch songs are larger good quality videos, and the autumn harvest song is especially watchable for its lilting bhangra style music.

Also check out the Razzledazzle songs in Razzledazzle says - meant to inculcate the sense of rhythm in the very young. Very tiny songs but loved even by infants. There are other musical games here as well, if you follow the link to Razzledazzle home. From each game, or song, you have the choice of returning to where you came from using either the back button on your browser of the list of pages you've been on recently at the bottom of the page itself, or going on and exploring the home page of the character or show you have chosen.

Another favourite is the alphabet song with Chris Jarvis - nice song, with one animal for each alphabet, and there are couple of associated games as well. Unfortunately, it is not loading currently on this machine so you don't get to see the animals below -

If you want musical games, go to the music and art themed selection in the fun and games section and explore. In particular the animal soundscapes game was a great favourite, but others are no less likeable. Check them out!

The url for the music and songs section -

P.S. From the Lion King 1 1/2, the following -
"Pumba, question! Is it possible to fall off the edge of the earth?" as Timon rides on a floating Pumba down a river towards what appears to be a straight line of nothingness.
"Er, technically no..." and they promptly fall down the huge waterfall afterwards.

So also my question, assuming you have done your homework and read the link I gave you earlier in the lesson. Reading that post, a speech given to the class of 2006 at IIM, I was struck by the distance one needs to back off to be able to achieve this kind of outlook on life. His parents, with all their own concerns and worries, still had this ability to look at their own lives in perspective. Try it. Back off from your current concerns of what you have to do the next moment or how you have left the door open and it is draughty, or when you are going to go play the next soccer game. Back off from the day to day life, from your Life This Year, back off and keep walking backwards to see your past zoom into the perspective of nothingness. Stand back, emotionally and mentally, and review your life again in terms of the successes you have achieved, and by what parameters. What paradigms did you use to define yourself, to know your wants and desires, and to fulfill them? The larger the distance, the better the clarity of vision, whether it is the past you are looking at, or the present. When do you start seeing things differently?What is the distance needed, and at what cost? What do you gain, and what do you lose? And, at what distance would one fall off the edge of the earth, and is that fall into the abyss of despair or the Shangri-La of paradise found by Timon and Pumba?

P.P.S. Some of the photos above have been digitally edited just a tiny bit for a better fit, but are otherwise quite authentic.

P.P.P.S. Why does blogger have issues with simple things like changing the font colour? I have tried and tried and it refuses to change colour of some of the sentences above. Weird.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sleepy spectratone***

Sorry for not posting yesterday. Still recuperating, and although wrist is nearly ok, have another battle raging on the sleep front. So, will catch up later, and post double. Promise :)

Today's little leaf is just this one spectratone. Move your mouse and see the music light up under it. Fun for little kids just handling the mouse randomly, and for a lot older ones who might be piqued enough to explore more of music, or its relation with light... An animation by the San Francisco animation group (SFPG).

Their URL -

Tracking links you can also reach their page about history - useful resource for homework for middle schoolers. But that is incidental.

P.S. Have you seen any of Matt's dance videos yet?

His 'journal' is of course titled "Where the hell is Matt?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tolkien on cbeebies*****

The Road goes ever on and on
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Roads go ever on and on.
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever on and on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,

My evening rest and sleep to meet.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.


Do take the golden Shire with you as we visit the next section -
the land of the curious and new.
(No new free rhyme here;
blogger trouble with formatting!)

Part II

Imagine my bookmarks hanging, like Rapunzel's hair, from the tallest tower of the witch's castle.

Imagine Rapunzel having a bad hair day. Hair so frazzled and irregular and frayed that instead of the silken rope, it looks like a mossy root.

Imagine this root suddenly sprouting leaves, shedding its own iden
tity for another, becoming a tree in inverse.

Imagine this tree become real life, grow uneven extremes. Sections affluent in lush greenery, vivid flowers, buzzing bees and cooing birds. Many branches covered modestly with foliage, a trim of pretty buds here, of hovering butterflies there. And large areas denuded of all but the basic cover, winter in the clinging of tenacious leaves.

Ok, done? Now tell me, how do I classify these sites??? There are the singletons, the lone leaves, the single pages which have appeal for a young one, but are otherwise unencumbered of anything remotely approaching kid-sites. Like Mauki. Then there are the green branches all on their own, a cluster of games, or animations, or stories, but limited. No further. Like Fun baby games online. Or Kneebouncers. There are the flowering shrub like heavier ones, the well designed stand alone sites complete in themselves, like Poisson rouge and Uptoten. Each has many interlinked games or other components which make any other aid superfluous if using these for teaching. And then there are those which are trees in themselves, branching, bearing fruits, dedicated networks of education or fun, or both. Like most of the tv network sites, including today's BBC.

How can I even begin to talk of BBC in one post when each page deserves one? Is it fair to dedicate one post to one page which has no merit save its own, and another to a directory of pages, each better than the last? I truly don't know, and that is why I had been shying away from taking this up before. And yet, I don't want to waste time by posting just one page per post, because you can explore the site on your own, look up the links. For instance, go to cbeebies from the home page above, and you reach this -

Fun and games, music and songs, drawing and painting, arts and crafts - anything you can think of, all available according to the show, the theme, by name, by usage of keyboard or mouse. What more can you want? Links to the characters' websites when not on BBC itself. All of impeccable quality, and with detailed attention to details, including those necessary for the edification of your hapless toddler. Go spend a day, or two, exploring, and then I will talk of our favourite pages here. Go on!


P.S. - "It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots," said Tolkien of his master creation, the Lord of the rings. A leaf caught in the wind: what a beautiful metaphor! An idea blown soft as a dandelion in your vision, and in days or months or years of your age, but oh, in the magical twinkling of time within, there is a jungle standing, all gnarled roots and tangled boughs. At some point in time, the idea begins to have a life all its own, dictates its direction, determines its own validity. All you have to do, is to begin.

P.P.S. - Tolkien poetry has been rearranged in part I to allow for my theme to come through. I apologize to his soul with due reverence. I am sure he would understand. Lacking the hard copies of the books just now, I borrowed these lines from

P.P.P.S. - Today's post has been topsy turvy in that the main thought became the post script and vice versa. Do you see why? While on questions, another one. Today's two sections are linked; do you see how?

P.P.P.P.S. - No post tomorrow, to allow for a bit of rest to my wrists suffering from RSI :) And to allow you to visit cbeebies :)

Emily and Babloo

Meet Emily today. I wonder if you are already acquainted. Perhaps you have seen her in the Times, or maybe met her online? If you haven't, I suggest you check here, the page she resides on.

Meet also, Babloo, the monkey whose antics crashed my browser once and made me lose the entire post I had written and was fine tuning. The only reason I am still featuring it here is because I haven't been able to find any other multilingual Indian website with animations/audio presentations, and I was wondering if you know of others?

The site is designed for children from 3 through 12, so it is sectioned according to age and language. There are nursery rhymes and oh, let me quote the site itself - "
The multi-lingual and audio-integrated content has bright animated pictures and comprises of folk tales from India, nursery rhymes, significance of festivals, Indian Panorama, all about Olympics, magic tricks, safety and good manners for children, reference park, health awareness, online games for kids, puzzles, mathematical brain teasers, amazing facts... and much much more". Pretty impressive, if only it would work! The few times I have used it, I have found only the hindi alphabet (vowels only) to be functional, which was good, and a few of the English nursery rhymes. The rest of the links are broken, and worse, being in a pop up window, there is no back button on the toolbar so you have to keep using backspace on your keyboard. Even that doesn't work sometimes, in which case you can just refresh the original page. I haven't checked the other languages, but I guess they are in a similar state. In fact, that is what I was going to try when it crashed my firefox :(

So, all in all not recommended unless you are in a totally rainy day scenario in which kids are bickering for something NEW. Unleash them here, let them deal with the hanging browsers (would it fare better on IE? Now that is a thought, but I am through trying now), and blame that on them. But oh, do let me know if you have a better experience, and also if you can figure out how to contact the site! This is the only site I know of which doesn't even pretend to have a contact address.


P.S. So, coming back to Emily, what did you think of this advance in animation technology? Shall tomorrow's movies feature such humatoons, replacing actors which age, throw tantrums and are not available any time of the day and night? What happens if acting itself gets phased out because of this? Shall we see people dying to express themselves on the stage, on film? A dark story here perhaps, if you let yourself imagine. Me, I am through with writing another post when the first one was lost #$%@ So, good luck, and active imagination!

P.P.S. No, I did not forget to star Babloo - it just doesn't get any.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sadness and the visible body****

There is something so very pervasive about sadness, the way it warps and distorts everything, each perception, each emotion, each action. With or without reason, when it strikes, depression is debilitating. Looking at it from the outside, you see gossamer soft web, and you think how silly of that person to not shake it off with a healthy shrug and straightening of the shoulders. Looking in through some dusty windows, you wonder how is it that this little thing can cause so much of paralysis - of thought, will, emotion, action. It is only when the weight of its steel claws falls on your shoulders do you realize that its very breath is poison, sapping your soul and eroding your reason. And even if and when you do know that you are unhappy, from whatever cause, would you admit to it? Would you? The thought of admitting to unhappiness, unfulfillment, failure or unbearable pain, brings with it such a shame that most people will go without human company rather than tell someone they are hurting. Even if they were not overtly 'depressed', a condition which gets its own retarding brakes on any appeals for help. You are supposed to be happy, more so in situations of your own making, like marriage, or a job. All the others you know appear to be either too perfect to confide into, or too 'unsuitable' to discuss things with; you want to avoid pity and the alms of sympathy that people may give, not understanding, not quite knowing how your words are just the surface of something so deep it can't be expressed in something less than a novel, judging from their own complete little worlds, discussing with their perfect spouses, family or team-mates.... You know, perhaps, the cause of your misery, and you know the way out is simply OUT, but cling on, unwilling to leave some little sanctuary of the known for the vastness of the rest of the world, hoping for some miracle or some healing, some hope or new feeling, and dread someone telling you, with shock and horror and righteousness in their voices, of how wrong you are. How would they know, what it is like to be you, what the other variables in your life are like?

Think about it. More later.

I had planned to go through the regulars in my bookmarks first, followed by the less frequently visited sites, and then go on to new finds, but I find myself making an exception so soon for the visible body. This is a free site with interactive 3 dimensional models of the entire body, run by Argosy publishing. This site is so amazing that even though my computer lacks the resources right now to install and run the full program - it runs on your Internet Explorer but you have to download the entire system set before to facilitate a smooth experience - I am going to rave and rant about it. I haven't seen anything close to it on the net, and not on that many medical textbooks either! Well, actually no textbook can allow you to click and drag images so you can look at the chosen system from all angles, to strip away or make transparent overlying tissue to peek inside at the deeper systems, or to zoom in and out. It is quite simply, fun, and astounding! Here are a couple of screenshots, but the link is to the parent site -

The minimum system requirements for running this well are - 1 gHz Pentium 3 processor, or equivalent, 512 MB RAM. Windows 2000/XP (32-bit), DirectX 7.0+, 3D-enabled video card, Internet Explorer 6+ (32-bit), Anark Client plug-in 4.0 and Adobe Flash Player plug-in 8.0+ At present it will only run on Internet Explorer on Windows, but they are going to make it compatible with Firefox and Mac soon. Also note that currently Anark is rather dicey on Vista - some bugs reported.

And oh, did I mention that they are already starting to offer some physiological information as well, about how things work? So all in all, its a great teaching tool with the feel of a game, especially if you introduce it right. Just let the tots get on to the site, move things around, discover and get familiar with the body, and wait for them to ask you questions. No, don't tell me that kids are not interested or able to comprehend such matters. At one year plus, mine was able to understand and point things on a map of the house, and at three, one diagrammatical representation of the digestive system as above made the journey of food pretty clear.

Oh, the url -

Time for P.S. -

This cartoon, part of the Between Friends daily strip done by Sandra Bell-Lundy of Canada, appears in your papers today. I have copied it from Seattle Times. If you are a regular follower of Between Friends, the story of four friends in forties, and the stories that touch their lives, sometimes with humour and sometimes not, then you would be familiar with the characters above. The black haired lady is Maeve, a succesful and smart executive, who is divorced, but accedes anytime to her ex-husband's demands to baby sit his daughter from another subsequent marriage, which has also ended in divorce. Her friend in this cartoon is someone from her high school who married a guy Maeve had apparently stolen from her, then dumped. And in the first meeting, she did break down, mostly with anger, but now, on their second meeting here, is denying that there was anything wrong at all. How difficult it is to trust! To believe that you are truly unhappy, that you need help! This was the reason I got to thinking about sadness and depression and marital discord in general today. Such a complex thread, so difficult to unravel.... I salute Sandra for taking on this subject! I am sure she will do a great job of it, because I have been reading her strip for the last four years at least, and her characters are warm, multi-dimensional, quirky, sweet, and really nice people. If you didn't know - as I didn't till a few months ago - that she has a blog as well, here it is -

P.P.S. And when you are out of that deadening depression, you yourself look back with wonder at the little things that paralyzed you, the tiniest of obstructions that held you back, and the ease of communication once you did manage to speak out. Here is wishing health and cheer to Tamara, and all those whom sadness has struck dumb.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Memory loss and Fun baby games***

Here is the story for the double post yesterday. Late last night, when sleep was actually knocking me on the head with a hammer, and I was getting nauseous just from that headache, I completely forgot that I had posted once already yesterday. So I struggled to start late night, and by the time I finished, it was already past midnight, and it felt like defeat. Sometime today it dawned upon me that I need not worry - the new post could be counted upon as today's and I didn't have to write anything, hurrah! But darn, blogger it seems dates the entry by when I start writing, and it is still in yesterday's quota. So, we are back to square one, and it is close to midnight today as well. Never mind, sundays are holidays from now onwards. Posting optional :)

Why is it that blogger/blogspot doesn't have any smileys whatsoever? Interesting, eh?

Today's site is Fun Baby Games Online, run by Rina Ward, who also owns and runs, and The former sells maternity and early childhood related items, and the latter Japanese giant hornet juice to increase athletic stamina. The lady herself was part of her national triathlon team back in the 90s, and is still interested in scuba diving and the like. Not quite an average mama, eh? The site has been set up in 2005, but doesn't seem to have been updated since.

In appearance, the site is simple, and average. The reason it is still on three stars is the fact that its few games are for toddlers who sit in your lap and bang away on the space bar. Its been difficult to find games like these, compared to games for older children. Pressing the space bar will show your baby the alphabet, or numbers, or other baby faces, or some fishes, or smiley faces or animals. The games are simple but pretty quick in downloading, which is such a bonus for low speed connections.

In addition, for the new moms, there are also useful links about finger rhymes and other nursery rhymes, play doh, face paint and other such recipes, puppets, sign language, flash cards, and exercises for baby and mummy both.

The url for the home page - Follow the links on the left side, and from the online baby games page, get two more by clicking on games for toddlers right near the bottom of the page. Explore the other links as you please :)

P.S. I love post scripts, and usually save some tasty little tidbit for the last, like dessert. Something that deserves a little focus on itself. So I hope that those who are featured here do not get miffed by being in the footnote, so to say. But today, as the main course in itself was so bland, haven't anything good to offer here either :(

P.P.S. My net is acting up, and it seems like this entry will have to wait a lot to get posted. Or maybe not. Keep hoping!