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Ode to a Flame Lily

I just woke up from a dream where people were looking at a newly published book in English, and on one of the introductory dedication pages of the book was the translation of a Tamil poem. Both the book and the poem were as imaginary as the dream itself, but the first verse caught my attention and filled my senses:

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Distractions during shelter-in-place

Most people have daily stresses during this time of Coronavirus. Working from home is lucky compared to the impact on livelihoods and health. Social distancing is necessary but does have its own little impact. For the moments where you have time to connect with friends online and recharge by taking your minds off of the state of the world, here are some options:

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More Instant Pot & other recipes

Now that people are sheltering in place and cooking, it’s good to record some more recipes. It’s even better when they are the kind that can easily scale up (can be made in pots of any sort).

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Instant Pot recipes for Tamil food

Here are some recipes for Tamil food using the Instant Pot. They represent the way I’ve been making these dishes recently for myself.

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Learning about staying safe from COVID-19

Daily life in the West has finally been undeniably, indefinitely disrupted by the current COVID-19 strain of Coronavirus. It’s important to take precautions, but the situation isn’t so dire yet that we can’t learn a little more about what & why. Here is the more useful information that I’ve come across so far.

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How we write down languages

Writing systems — the ways in which we write down a language — are fascinating.  They may not be as diverse and surprising as all the animals and plants of the world, but you likely may be surprised to learn just how differently we have found ways to write down information, each with strengths and weaknesses.  And if you don’t get all the details right, then what you end up telling the world is not “follow your heart” but “coward”.  Oops.  (Countless examples exist that could fill up several blogs — it turns out failures in cross-cultural appreciation & appropriation go both ways.)

People believe that, in the timeline in human evolution, language evolves first as speech, and only later does writing evolve to record it down.  For example, when new words (ex: slang) or spoken forms derived from spreading process (ex: “gonna”, “hafta”) get coined, if they persist long enough, they will become normalized and enter the vocabulary.  Whether these new words are defined as “official words” depends on if you have a prescriptivist or descriptivist view of the situation, but that is a small example in our own experiences where we see writing changing according to speech.  (Btw, Shakespeare was a master of introducing crazy, made-up words into a language.)

What is fascinating are some of the more apparent examples in recent history in which we make choices on how to write, or change how we write, a language, and the implications those choices have.  Or in one case, it’s the other way around — it’s the act of recategorizing dialects as separate languages through how we write.

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Interviewing for a tech job

When I interviewed for my current job, I didn’t pass the interviews on the first time that I tried.  When I applied again 1 year later, I passed, but I had changed my strategy in preparing for the 2nd time to correct all the mistakes I made during the 1st time.

There were other factors of my growth as a programmer beyond the whiteboard problem practice that helped equally as much, if not more so, in my success in the 2nd round of interviews.  But the whiteboard programming aspect is more immediate and usually more stressful.

To help others who may need the help in the way I did, the following is a summary of how I prepared the second time:

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How the Basque Language Has Survived

Another wonderful episode from the World in Words podcast is “How the Basque language has survived”.  There are many interesting points in the episode, making the whole thing worth listening.  Below, I’ve picked out one small section from the podcast that is interesting and inspiring.

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Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy available on pre-order

A friend of mine has just finished a novel / book of interlinked stories in which the Tamil experience is an important factor.  It begins with an Eelam Tamil family grieving about the end of the war in Jersey and connects stories across time/place. There’s also a chapter/story called “The Office of Missing Persons,” which directly deals with disappearances.  The book has gotten really positive reviews from some well-known writers in the literary world.  It’s coming out in a month, available on pre-order (links below).

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Favorite Tamil & South Indian restaurants of the SF Bay Area

By now, I have visited enough Tamil & other South Indian restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area to have some favorites (and not-so-favorites).  Here are my favorites, “honorable mentions”, footnotes, and disclaimers.  Enjoy!