Friday, May 25, 2007

Bits and Bytes

Bits are binary digits, the smallest increment data in the computer holding values 0 or 1: corresponding to electrical values of off or on.Bytes are units of measurement of digital information containing eight consecutive bits.

My introduction to computers began 15 years ago as a student of Electronics. We conversed electrical theories and had an appetite for dismantling any major electrical appliances. On the other hand, our counterparts, the computer engineers, the considered elites of our school, never paying attention to our gimmicks were always in conversation about "see" and "see ++". We tried to ignore them by undeniably believing that everything is electrons. We wore Navy blue lab-coats and had multimeter, capacitors and breadboards in our pockets. While they had nimble fingers, carpel tunnel syndrome and white lab coats. Our first blow came, in our final year when I happen to be friends with one of "them", a possible interpreter trying to bridge the gap. I had to write a thesis of 100 pages and was shuttling back of forth between departments in search of a type-writer, when she suddenly uttered those words of wisdom - why don’t you use computers. You know, you can do this in a day. Believe me, there I was, ready to manually write those pages- and I was being offered help by one of the elites.

The computers in our school were separated and secluded in a building , enjoying their Mai Tai's in crisp and cool air from the air conditioning systems- Not like electronics lab, dusty and filled with tiny oscilloscopes displaying those sinusoidal waves reminding us of a long due vacation in the ocean. A contradictory world!. With certain amount of coaxing and some amount of begging, I convinced a couple of friends to accompany me to this adventure to the "other world". We reached the lab on our assigned time slot and was welcomed by huge of pile of shoes in its front door and a group of disgruntled computer engineers with raised eyebrows - why are they here?? The computer room was filled with tiny boxes with some lights blinking. We were engulfed by cool air and were calmed by peaceful silence. It indeed looked like a shrine!!! As we were newcomers to this world, we were assigned a helper, one who out of pity decided to take some time off of his busy schedule to tell us more about this world. We were led to the corner of the room and were surprised by a small box sitting in front of us. It was like standing in front of the Himalayas, empowering and overwhelming. Folks, it was a windows 95 machine. My heart was pounding with excitement. We cramped into the tiny corner, all 4 of us. Back in those days, it was 1 computer for 4 people. Our helper showed us how to use Windows- and a software called Microsoft word which will help us in writing our thesis. Time flew by as we typed and typed our pages into the computer, we were informed that our time slot was over and were asked to leave. We hurried past our neighbors, which we noticed only now and was about to leave the room. Our hearts were giddy with excitement; our minds were filled with stories of our expedition, for our peers. As we rushed, I couldn’t help but notice that none of our elite friends were present in the room, but rather in a tiny room inside this one, with monitors, colorless. A shrine inside a shrine??? Probably my wandering eyes or my questioning look gave it away, our helper answered me. Those computers are not for you guys. They are unix machines. My heart sank knowing that I still am not a member of their world. A long way to go!!..With a swing of the front door, we were back into our world of dust and sunlight. It was like transcending from heaven. My introduction was over. I was at peace finally. My friendship with the computer world has stayed with me for many many years in my career and has become a buddy in my culinary journeys. As I sit in front of my computer, many years later, spattered with tomato stains and surrounded by the warmth of curries brewing in my stove, I am ecstatic with two simple passion of my life - my curries and my computer.

So fellow readers, here are some crunchies and munchies for you. Beware, these are not for the faint hearts!

Simplistically yours,

Hot And Tangy peanuts

What You need:
Peanuts – 1 cup
shallots – 4 nos
Serrano Chillies -
4 nos.
Lemon juice – ½ lemon, small size
Cilantro - a bunch finely chopped.
Masala powder – ½ tsp. Any brand will do. I used the one prepared by mom.
Bell peppers – ¼ size of bell peppers (various colors) finely chopped.
Olive oil
salt to taste

What To Do:
Preheat the oven for 4000 degree. Mix peanuts with lemon juice and olive oil. Roast them in the oven for about 5 - 10 minutes. Make sure that it is not burnt. Mix it with salt and masala while it is hot. Finally, add rest of the ingredients and combine it well.

Spice Snack Mix

What You Need:
Chickpea flour – 1 cup
All purpose flour – 1 tbsp
Potatoes – 2 nos
Peanuts – a handful
Curry leaves – a bunch
Salt to taste
Kashmiri chillie powder to taste
Vegetable oil to fry

What To Do:
Heat oil in a large skillet to medium-high heat. Mix chickpea flour , all purpose flour with water to make a smooth paste. Not too watery, not too tight. I usually use sevai press / Idiyappam press / Murukku press /
“Achu” to make this dish. They come with a wide variety of shape templates. I haven’t figured out a different method yet. But the search is still is on. Fill the press with the dough and press it into the oil. Cook for a couple of seconds until is golden brown. Drain on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Add salt and chillie powder while it is hot. Repeat the same for potatoes, peanuts and curry leaves.

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