Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

I know many of my readers don't know why I have kept the title of my travel blog as "Munchausen Adventures." As a child I saw a movie which stayed with me till date. It was about the adventures of a German Baron

Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen (11 May 172022 February 1797) (often spelled Munchausen in English) was a German baron born in Bodenwerder, who in his youth was sent to serve as page to Anthony Ulrich II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and later joined the Russian military. He served until 1750, in particular taking part in two campaigns against the Ottoman Turks. Returning home, Münchhausen supposedly told a number of outrageous tall tales about his adventures. He died in his birthplace of Bodenwerder.

According to the stories, as retold by others, the Baron's astounding feats included riding cannonballs, travelling to the Moon, and escaping from a swamp by pulling himself up by his own hair (or bootstraps, depending on who tells the story)

The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen (or Baron Münchhausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels) by Rudolf Erich Raspe — a collection of tall stories published in 1785, based on the German adventurer Karl Friedrich von Münchhausen, but with many debts to earlier works. The tales were adapted and re-published in German by Gottfried August Bürger in 1786 as Wunderbare Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande, Feldzüge und lustige Abenteuer des Freyherrn von Münchhausen and became much more popular in this edition.

Terry Gilliam adapted the stories into the 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen [sic], shot in Belchite, Spain, and at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome. The film starred John Neville as the Baron

and nine-year-old Sarah Polley as Sally Salt. Supporting the Baron as his faithful crew were Eric Idle, Charles McKeown, Winston Dennis and Jack Purvis. The film also featured Uma Thurman, Oliver Reed, Jonathan Pryce, Sting and Robin Williams (credited as Ray D. Tutto).

The film begins in an unnamed and war-torn European city in the late 18th century (dubbed "The Age of Reason" in an opening caption), where, amidst explosions and gunfire from alarge Turkish army outside the city gates, a fanciful touring stage production of Baron Munchausen's life and adventures is taking place.

Backstage, city official "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson" (Jonathan Pryce) reinforces the city's commitment to reason (here meaning uniformity and unexceptionality) by ordering the execution of a soldier who had just accomplished a near-superhuman feat of bravery (Stingin a cameo), claiming that his bravery is demoralizing to other soldiers. Not far into the play, an elderly man claiming to be the real Baron interrupts the show, protesting its many inaccuracies. Over the complaints of the audience, the theater company and Jackson, the "real" Baron gains the house's attention and narrates through flashback an account of one of his adventures, of a life-or-death wager with the Grand Turk, where the younger Baron's life is saved only by his amazing luck plus the assistance of his remarkable associates: Berthold (Eric Idle), the world's fastest runner; Adolphus (Charles McKeown), a gunman with superhuman eyesight; Gustavus (Jack Purvis), who possesses extraordinary hearing, and sufficient lung power to knock down an army by exhaling; and Albrecht (Winston Dennis), a fantastically strong man.

When gunfire disrupts the elderly Baron's story, the importance of saving the city eclipses the show. The Baron wanders backstage intending to die, until the exuberantly enthusiastic questioning of Sally Salt (Sarah Polley), the young daughter of the theater company's leader, convinces him to remain living.

Insisting that he alone can save the city, the Baron escapes the city's walls in a hot air balloon constructed of women's underwear, accompanied by Sally as a stowaway. The balloon expedition proceeds to the Moon, where the Baron, rejuvenated by the adventure of escaping to the moon, finds his old associate Berthold, but angers the King of the Moon (Robin Williams), who resents the Baron for his romantic past with the Queen of the Moon (Valentina Cortese). A bungled escape from the Moon brings the trio back to (and beneath) the Earth, where the Roman God Vulcan (Oliver Reed) hosts his guests with courtesy and Albrecht is found. The Baron and Vulcan's wife, the Goddess Venus (Uma Thurman), attempt a romantic interlude by waltzing in air, but this cuts short the hospitality and Vulcan expels the now-foursome from his kingdom into the South Seas.

Swallowed by an enormous sea creature, the travelers locate Gustavus, Adolphus, and the Baron's trusty horse Bucephalus.The Baron (who again appears elderly after being "expelled from a state of bliss," in his words) struggles with the conflicting goals of heroism and a peaceful death, before deciding to escape by blowing "a modicum of snuff" out into the sea creature's cavernous interior, which causes the sea creature to "sneeze" the heroes out through its whale-like blowhole. Back ashore, the Turkish army is located but the Baron's associates are now too elderly and tired to fight the Turk as in the old days. The Baron lectures them firmly but to no avail, and he storms off intending to surrender to the Turk and to Jackson; his cohorts rally to save both the Baron and the city.
During the city's celebratory parade, the Baron is shot dead by Jackson. An emotional public funeral takes place, but the denouement reveals that this is merely the final scene of yet another story the Baron is telling to the same theater-goers who were attending the theater in the beginning of the film. The Baron calls the foregoing "only one of the many occasions on which I met my death" and closes his tale by saying "everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after."
An ambiguous finale reveals that the city has indeed been saved, even though the events of the battle apparently occurred in a story rather than the film's reality. The Baron rides off on Bucephalus. As the Baron and Bucephalus are bathed in the light of the sun parting through the clouds, they apparently disappear, and the credits roll over a triumphant blast of music.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Party games - a variation of passing the parcel

At Pooja's party yesterday she made us play a different sort of passing the parcel. The theme of the party was flowers. We passed a pillow and when the music stopped the person with the pillow, picked a chit from a bunch, in which names of different flowers were written. then the flower's name was spelled out. The person on whom the last letter of the flower came. He/She has to sing a song which has the words फूल, कलि, or names of flowers like बेला, चंपा etc.
If the song is sung then the person who had the pillow when the music stopped is out. and if the song is not sung then the person on whom the last letter came, is out of the game. We had fun playing this game.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Parenting - Kids are dogs, Teens are cats

While young children are dogs ... loyal and affectionate ... teenagers are cats.
It's so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It
puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt
painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.
Then around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old cat.
When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who
died and made you emperor. Instead of dogging your doorstep, it
disappears. You won't see it again until it gets hungry ... then it
pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up
at whatever you're serving. When you reach out to ruffle its head, in
that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you then gives you a
blank stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.
You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be
desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of
depressed. It won't go on family outings. Since you're the one who raised
it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you
did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your
efforts to make your pet behave.
Only now you're dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now
produces the opposite of the desired result. Call it and it runs away.
Tell it to sit and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward it,
wringing your hands, the more it moves away.
Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you must learn to behave
ike a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door and let it come to
you. But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection too. Sit
still and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not
entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.

One day your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big
kiss and say, "You've been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes
for you."
Then you'll realize your cat is a dog again!

Author unknown
Thanks to Nidhi
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vaccination against Cervical cancer - all women between 10 -45 yrs should get it.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in women in India. Till now we only had screening of patients with papsmear and of late HPV ( Human Papilloma Virus)infection detection, to control the disease. The presence of a vaccine would definitely lead to a greater control of the disease.
The trick is to become vaccinated before exposure to the virus occurs. Thus earlier the better.
Glaxosmithkline has launched it's bivalent vaccine, Cervarix against Cervical cancer last month in India. Merck launched its vaccine Gardasil, a quadrivalent vaccine in India a few months back. The question now arises which vaccine to be the vaccine of choice.
  1. On the face of it a quadrivalent vaccine seems to be the better choice. In reality that is not so. The vaccine protects against the HPV viruses 16,18, 6, 11, of which only the first two are responsible for cervical cancer, while the other two are responsible for genital warts.
  2. On the other hand Cervarix gives protection against 16 and 18. It is better because, there is cross-reactive protection against the virus strains 45 and 31, two other viruses causing cervical cancer.
  3. Cervarix is formulated with AS04, a propriety adjuvant that boosts the immune system response for a longer period of time.
  4. Both vaccines are against the human papilloma virus but Cervarix seems to be more effective against cancer cervix.
  5. Cervarix can be given to females between 10 to 45 yrs old, whereas Gardasil can be given to females between 16 to 26yrs only.
  6. Both the vaccines are given in the schedule of 0,1,6 months. Cervarix is the costlier one being priced at Rs.3200 per dose.
Cervarix seems to win against Gardasil because of its stronger immune response and broader protection

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Starting a blog on blogger

I am sure the better platform to start a blog is blogger. Go to blogger.com and sign in with your gmail account.
Assuming that you have decided on a template for your blog. Which can be the one of the most difficult decisions to make. Blogger templates are 2 column ones, but as you start blogging you feel a lot of space is blank on the screen and can be put to better use, with the addition of another column.

  1. Switch to a 3 column template. Many templates are available on the net my favourite is Ashwini Khare's modifications of blogger templates. There are other sites which are offering blogger templates for free, they are worth checking out for the three columns.
  2. Hide the Navbar.
  3. Burn a feed. Its easy now just go to feedburner.com and you can burn a feed. Then goto site feed in settings and put in your feed address in postfeed redirect URL all your feeds would be directed to your feedburner feed.
  4. Insert a Subscribe by email easily done through feedburner using the html code in the layout.
  5. Add this.
    This button at the end of each post makes it easy for the reader to share your post through the various popular social networks.
  6. Yahoo media player.
  7. Insert any webpage with iframe.
  8. Embed high quality youtube videos. To embed a high resolution version of YouTube clip in your web pages, first make sure that “Watch in High Quality” or “Watch in HD” link exists next to the YouTube player as most videos are only available in standard format.Next copy the YouTube embed code and append &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 (for high quality) or &ap=%2526fmt%3D22 (for 720p High Definition) to the URL value of the movie parameter in both instances.
  9. Add Link Within to show related posts at the end of your post.
  10. Add the sharecount button for facebook
             <script src="http://widgets.fbshare.me/files/fbshare.js"></script>


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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blogger vs Wordpress

The idea to start another blog came to me on 3rd March o9, on my birthday despite having a travel blog and a medical blog I still felt the need to share certain things which fell in neither categories. So I decided to start another one. I would call it a personal blog. When Shaleen saw me starting another one last night his instant reaction was- oh my god another one!

It took me all this while to form a picture in my mind regarding the shape it would take. I decided to use another platform than the Blogger for this. I have been curious about Word press for a long time now. Though I started with a wordpress blog I decided to revert to Blogger. My familarity with its platform is the main reason.

The differences between blogger and wordpress are

  1. Wordpress has 3 column blog templates as its templates in Dashboard. I had to really struggle so hard to convert my blogger ones to 3 column templates with the help of Ashwini Khare , I managed to do it only this March.
  2. Wordpress has an option for including music, in all posts which I could not find in Blogger. In the main template there is an option to put in an audio link.
  3. I just hope there is no limit to the capacity of the blog space at Wordpress. I just saw that I had used some part of the 3GB space allotted to me. i hope it is on a monthly basis. With blogger space is no problem at all
  4. A poll can be added very easily in wordpress I could see no such option in Blogger. There is may be a widget for it.
  5. I adore the add and arrange page elements feature of blogger too much. I think I'll stick to blogger
  6. Starting a blog is definitely much more easier in Blogger for a non geeky person than in Wordpress.
  7. Putting in google adsense is easier in a Blogger blog.

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