Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On Vacation

After travelling mostly in eastern seabed and midwest - this my my first west coast trip. Would be driving around a lot , have good food and hope to get nice pictures.

Happy holiday folks!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Honorable men, all of them

He is a career politician. Not someone who has a career and decided to be in politics - that does not happen in India. His career is politics. One day you are the chief minister - next day you are gone. Someday from the sugarcane fields of Maharashtra he thought he would be the prime minister. He tried it being in the congress , being against the congress and being with the congress. Nothing worked. That's what the name of the game for him. He is an honorable man.

And then he wanted the next best thing. He thought he could be in the power of the cash rich and oh so influential BCCI. He of course had noble intentions in mind - after all if politics is such an important part of everything around us ,why cricket would be left behind? So like a politician he planned his moves well and eventually landed the top spot. He is an honorable man.

Now did I mention he was a chief minister before? He was of course used to ruling with his own men. So immediately after being "sworn in", he had to let the men he did not like go. That's the first thing he did. They may have been good selectors. They might have probably harvested young talent in a big way. But they were not his men. That's all mattered to him. He is an honorable man.

In politics he always did that. People close to him got the plum posts.So its no wonder that he felt its time to give players from his state with immensely forgettable records another chance. And the only way to do it was removing someone he did not like. He had to take those decisions. Tough times call for tough decisions. After all Mr.Pawar is an honorable man.

And so is Mr. More. Opinions change with time don't they? Sometimes not disturbing an winning combination is the right thing. Sometimes it needs to be done. Fairness is just a dictionary word , is not it? I'm sure with a heavy heart he realized that allegiance rather than performance would have to be the criteria. Poor soul - he loves his job.

So lets play some politics too.Why don't our own CPI(M) threaten to withdraw support to the central government unless justice is done? If they can get so agitated over gas price hikes and issues to do with provident fund, this is much closer to heart to the people of Bengal. We had governments collapsing for much trivial reasons in the past! And a staunch opponent like me would probably vote for them next time around if they can do that!

P.S - This wont do anything - but just a way to vent your anger -
http://www.petitiononline.com/ganguly/

Arnab, as always has an excellent post on the episode where he says how its just "not cricket"!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Eight and counting !

Just randomly searching for Gainesville in weather.com , I came up with eight Gainesvilles in continental United States. In case you dont believe it, here is the screenshot -


But note - we are the only one having an airport. Although I would prefer not going into that in details!

Next : Try searching for Springfield!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Scary Scenario

Let us just forget the details for a moment. We all knew that air security folks are panicky. But what happened yesterday signifies how scared these people are. Agreed the guy behaved abnormally - and air marshals could not risk lives of so themselves and so many other people not knowing what the he was actually up to. So forced to act within split seconds , they acted on the side of caution. You cant fault them for doing what they have been taught to. And I am sure they don't deserve to go through the trauma of knowing that they killed an innocent man.

But this much more than that. For the last couple of years - I have flown domestic around the country a lot of times. And I do fit the classical description of a terrorist , a brown skin , single guy in mid twenties, sometimes unshaven, mostly disheveled, flying in a busy route. But I have never been subjected to any additional screening. Yes , I repeat , my experience with TSA has been unexpectedly good. And all these while , I have seen elderly white ladies subjected extensive search. Does not that look weird? A simple sanity check would convince anyone that those people just cant be those elusive terrorists.

Racial profiling is bad. It would reflect badly on policymakers. But that's precisely what needs to be done. Its very improbable that a white man with his wife in tow would be a potential threat - he may be a crackpot , but he wont be a terrorist. But sadly- the system is unable to judge that now. And that is a dangerous situation - if they can shoot a white guy - they can shoot anyone they deem a threat. A lot of times people do behave unexpectedly in airports , even if they are not mentally sick , but just the general travel related stress does crazy things to normally sensible people. Now you know - those can turn deadly. Not a comforting thought.
Now I'm a proud owner of a new shining Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ5. Just have to figure out how to take pictures with this one.

And I still love my Kodak Easyshare CX6330.

P.S - Birthday wishes to Kathakali (5th December) , Rumi (9th December) , Shibani (10th December).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

13 years after the day that changed everything ...

... or did it ? I remember as a schoolboy I was trying to follow the events of that evening - but those were the days of 9 pm (or was it 8:45?) Doordarshan news. No breaking news , no 24/7 online updates. So as the Kar sevaks strode into the structure that they used to call a mosque , there was a total information blackout. Nobody knew whats going on - every other news bulletin giving conflicting signals. This little kid was really tense , could not concentrate on study , eager to hear something. Finally the rumor became official. Our honorable prime minister came to address the nation and he had to confess - that structure is no more.

It meant different things to different people. But till date , that remains to me the most important event in independent India's history. I'm not against any community - but that was the first real protest against the priority treatment meted out to the minority community in a so called secular country. For a while that changed the entire political landscape. Ah those were the days!

BJP swept into power in UP. Won almost everything there in a Lok Sabha election that followed. And riding that high , ABV became the the prime minister , first for 13 days , then for more. And we stayed up till late to hear his mesmerizing speeches.

All good things must come to an end. And it did. BJP of today is so ideologically removed from the BJP of then - sometimes I cant even identify with them. Politics and power does strange things to ideology.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Misplaced Enthusiasm?

A few days back I met one of the enthusiastic volunteers of this society - who are doing good work for the underprivileged kids in India. They were hosting an event and wanted to put up a poster in our department. Fair enough - I directed her to one of the all purpose student post it boards. But that was probably not enough visibility for her - so she wanted to paste it in places mostly used for academic activity and hence more prominent. I objected - politely pointing out that this is exactly not something connected with the academic activity of the department. Then she came up with this amazing statement , " but its (substitute the name of the organization)". I should appreciate her devotion to the noble cause of trying to make a difference. While I may or may not feel that is indeed the right way of achieving some result , thats beside the point. But what I find simply audacious is the attitude of since-I-think-I-am doing-something-great-for-the-humanity-you-should-think-like-that-too.

This is by no means an isolated example. Whenever a natural calamity happened - we were pestered by "volunteers" , who came in all shapes and colors. While their effort to help out the distressed folks was laudable - but to force people by saying stuff like why they are drinking a Pepsi rather than donating was not. Does donation not imply a "voluntary contribution"?

Or think about the spam mails I receive oh so often asking me to donate for some terminally ill kid. While most of them are hoax mails , as a simple sanity check would tell anyone , should not people ever think before populating the forward to field with all his contacts? Did he donate? In all probability no. So why send it to a hundred other people who would not probably do anything about that except hitting the delete (or forward) button either? Is it a kind of self gratification to show people that "I care"?

Its great if you are doing something worthwhile. If you are sincere , and want to spread the word , do it in a way that respects other people's sentiments , not by trying to create a social pressure. Don't try to make people feel they are worthless if they are not getting as involved. People have different priorities , and unless you can appreciate that , I get a feel you are more concerned about satisfying your bloated ego rather than actually caring for humanity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dressed to Kill!

It true that I was thinking about writing something along this line for a while. But then its also true that Arnab's this post has woken me up from the slumber and provided the necessary impetus.

He talks about being politically correct in job interviews , among other things. I remember being asked at NTSE interview , what do I think of Gorkhaland. That was the time when Ghising and the CPI(M) leadership made friends with each other after mindless violence over the years. I did not call a spade exactly a spade - but did not hide my acute displeasure for Mr.Ghising - which the folks there evidently did not like.

Anyway thats beside the point. Fortunately or unfortunately I never faced any job interview - so I dont really have the "insiders" perspective. But which I always used to find very amusing in our campus is - in the sweltering heat and humidity of our good old Kolkata , the job aspirants dressed impeccably and sweating profusely waiting for the campus interviews. I always felt they wearing a white formal shirt with a tie and without a coat or a blazer makes one look like a salesman (and was not the most jobs were in marketing?). Not to offend anyone - but will anyone please tell me how that funny attire became so mandatory?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

My Black Friday Experience

Last year a gang of us attacked Officemax for its eminently useless but free after rebate stuff - and after running around the store , pushing people away and grabbing most of the stuff returned home victorious. This year - could not find that many enthusiastic people . And at this time of the year - Gainesville is always a dead town - so I thought whoever remained would invade Bestbuy first and reached the local Circuit City just half an hour or so before the store opening hour. And whoa! I found myself behind a hundred or so people! It was sheer madness once I entered the store. Here my extensive "research" for the past couple of days came in handy (thanks to http://www.bf2005.com/ - it was so helpful). I knew what I wanted ( not those amazingly cheap crappy laptops - they were all apparently "out" by midnight!) - but still missed that free Samsonite camera bag or the computer screen cleaner. And to add insult to "injury" , I ended up in perhaps the slowest moving checkout line in the entire country.
That led me to change the "itinerary" a bit - instead of heading for another round of jostling , went to an unusually quiet Sams Club and grabbed the free breakfast ( as someone famously said - there is nothing like a free lunch, but I dont mind free food anyplace anytime!) they had. I was anyway too sleepy by then - staying up the whole night and waiting to place orders online at the right times was clearly taking its toll. But still could not resist the temptation to be at our only mall - did not really find anything too tempting then though. Its another story that I went back to the mall later in the evening after having a good sleep!

And I realize, I actually enjoy the early morning madness!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Bowled by Google!

A couple of days back I was in this talk by a Google executive. I could not resist asking him the question which I had in mind for a long time - how does Google show the "cached" pages. I could never think that Google actually stores all those webpages in their server - but that's what they do. Think about it - that is effectively backing up the entire web!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Black Friday !

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, is historically one of the busiest retail shopping days of the year. Many consider it the "official" beginning to the holiday season. The "black" in the name comes from the standard accounting practice of using red ink to denote negative values (i.e., losses) and black ink to denote positive values (profits). Black Friday is the day when retailers traditionally get back "in the black" after operating "in the red" for the previous months, often by cutting prices considerably. In addition, most retailers will open very early. [Wikipedia]

So we are there again. The day the consumers are supposedly the king - even if they have to wake up early and get into literal streetfight with complete strangers to grab the mostly useless but deeply discounted items. And one day when "black" something is not a politically incorrect phrase! Or is it?


( I found this somewhere in the web - could not resist putting it up here. No copyright violation is intended!)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thought of the day

A popular advertisement line says -
There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's Mastercard.
Let me tweak it a bit. And I come up with -
There are somethings you need money for. For everything else, there's Google.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"JRS" in Prison!

Now thats what you call a real stunning news.
http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/1-11072005-566629.html

He is one of the legends in the field. And he won the ultimate recognition way back. He was supposed to be spending his time in Florida now - enjoying sunshine and the beaches. Rather he does this.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Classical Dilemma

This happens all to often. Especially for poor lonely creatures like us. We go online , meet some supposedly nice guy or girl and after using up a few hundred or so free night/weekend minutes feel like meeting them. But in most cases (s)he is possibly a thousand miles apart - and both of us being overworked and underpaid graduate students - we accept that its not going to work out. End of the story? Not quite , especially if one of the persons lives in a place worth a visit. So then you have the extra motivation for having a trip down there - and probably you will find some other souls to accompany you too. And honestly - vacation are more fun and less expensive in a group unless its a romantic one. And there comes the tricky part - what do you do with your virtual friend? Do you really want to tell your buddies about this person - and make yourself a target of ridicule if your virtual friend doesn't live up to his/her online image? And suppose (s)he does turn out to be a real nice company - then can you screw up the travel itinerary to spend more time with him/her - annoying all others in your group? Its no lesser a dilemma for the other person too. Knowing that your virtual friend is coming with a gang of real friends by itself is intimidating - making your way into a group is always oh so difficult. Then you are not sure of the expectation level is - whether you can ask him/her out for a coffee alone or join them while they are in a museum? Ideally you wanted him/her alone - and you are feeling disgusted to be forced to deal with a crowd - but you also know that this is the only chance you got to make an impression - (s)he is not going to visit your city again soon. I have been at the either side of the divide - forcing my friends to waste a few hours so that I can meet my chat friend and looking on while one of my friend's chat friend toiled hard unsuccessfully to impress her!

Neither was much fun for the anyone!

P.S - Birthday wishes for Sanchayeeta (15th November).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Done!

So after immensely bugging and persistantly boring everyone around (and that doesnt only include you "online" folks) I am finally done with my first Physics talk. It went so fast - both literally and figuratively - I went over my slides as if they are going to disappear in thin air in the next instant. The whole thing was over even before I looked at my entire audience once. But the feedback was not so bad and some people did ask some questions and encouraged me off the stage - that was so considerate of them! The next one would be much better - I promise!

And then this was a perfect excuse to continue my mission to explore all the restaurants in town. Went to this place called Bonefish grill and funnily enough - ordered a variation of Grilled Chicken with Smoked Salmon and Martini.

I love good food. And they taste better or Friday nights.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Using Drell Yan to probe the underlying event

Yeah - that is the title of my talk tomorrow. Or later today.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Practising to Talk!

A host of constructive suggestions. At least I would like to see them that way. The big day is less than 48 hours away!

Among other things , finally finalized my long-waited-oh-so-tempting-west-coast-road-trip-plan for December. Hopefully more details coming soon.

My take on a few important things happening here and there :

Ganguly getting "royally" ignored by the Indian selectors - I hope he wont turn into another Dhanaraj Pillay.

IIPM Saga - I have came across countless blogs / mails. Move on folks - IIPM people are here to make money - and as long as students think studying management is the only way to glory - they would be exploited.

Volker Report and all that crap - Should not we know it by now that we should not differentiate between politicians based on race, sex, nationality or sexual orientation ?

T.O saga - Garbage in, garbage out.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Cellphones Suck!

World would be a better place if people realize -

That just because I am carrying my cell does not mean that I am available and have to take every damn call.

A call is not necessarily more important than the person sitting in front of you.

A call waiting does not necessarily mean the waiting call is more important than the current one.

And if I dont take a call - it is generally not a deep rooted conspiracy to offend that person.

I do not ride buses to get updated on stranger's personal details - neither do I go to movies to hear all these ringtones.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Have you ever wondered why people order a "big" Coke at places where they can take a "small" one and have free unlimited refills?

P.S - Birthday wishes for Arpita (31st October) , Satabdi (2nd November) , Ranjani (2nd November).

Monday, October 31, 2005

A "Physi-Cal" Adda!

Someone totally unconnected with Physics gave me this amazing link - where Prof. A.K. Raychaudhuri is interviewed by Parthasarathi Majumdar, Soumitra Sengupta and Jayanta K. Bhattacharjee.

Although I never had an opportunity to know Prof.Roychaudhuri personally - he inspired over a generation of Physicists from Kolkata - to say the least. There are many people who do good work - but beyond his research - he was an outstanding teacher in the sense of the term , according his students - which includes my father and uncle too - in my family. And this video was taken on July 2005 - just months before he passed away - makes it more special.

But to me - its more touching - because of the interviewers. Soumitra Sengupta , formerly of JU , now in IACS , is perhaps the reason why I came to Physics at the first place. Looking back at the summer of 1997 , still undecided about the career path - his inspiring lectures at JBNSTS summer school - which more often than not went beyond the scheduled hours - were one huge reason for me finally going in Physics. Then in spite of his busy schedule - we always had "SSG" as our mentor in JU days. Jayanta K. Bhattacharjee of IACS , much better known as "J.K.B" seemed to have an unofficial responsibilty of getting JU students started with some research in their undergrad years - and I was no exception. I must admit that due to other commitments - many times my effort did not live up to his expectations - but he was always so patient and encouraging - it was a real learning experience to work with him. Partha Majumder - of SINP , formerly of IMSc , had been a family friend - and he is an integral part of the Kolkata Physics circuit - but personally I did not have too many chances of interacting with him.

They called it an "interview" - but its more like an "adda" session. Adda is an integral part of Kolkata culture - and physicists are no exception. It was a nostalgic feeling for me to hear all those familiar voices discuss anything and everything - and somehow rekindles the focus for Physics again.

And before I forget - here is the link -
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7361442212004324371

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Have to Talk!

I always complain about life being monotonously predictable. But yesterday I realized may be that was a good thing - at least academically. We have this annual thing called UF-FSU High Energy Symposium - where in a semi informal setting - High Energy Theorists from Gainesville and Tallahassee discuss their work. Now me - a total newbie - have been asked to give a 15 minute presentation in 2 weeks time. I am sure it would be a good "learning experience" for me - as I was consoled - but the basic problem is I dont yet have work which I can claim as my own!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Congratulations and Celebrations!

As my friend in Chicago said - she doesnt care if its the Cubs or the Sox - they just want a win. And now they have a one - after 88 long years. That was when first world war was on and most of us were not even born. After Boston's fairy tale win last year - you do get a sense of deja vu.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Of Sox , Wilma and the Goddess

Back after a long unforced hiatus. A graduate student's life always remains largely uneventful - but events of momentous magnitude are happening elsewhere.

Recap: After Boston's curse-breaking-run last year - its turn of Chicago White Sox this year - they cant possibly lose the World Series now.

We escaped Wilma's wrath being in North Central Florida - but the damage to South Florida was significant.

Gators lost in Baton Rogue in a game where our offence was non existent - and the season appeared all but over - but Georgia's QB injury is giving us a glimmer of hope before the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" (Yeah thats how annual Florida-Georgia game is referred to).

I planned to write something about the Orlando Durga Pujo, where we were a couple of weekends before. But then I realized - the traditional attractions of a Durga Pujo were overwhelmingly missing here - the Pujo part is highly non classical - the ambiance is utterly American and worst - hardly any female to attract my attention. The food was good - Khichuri in the afternoon and Luchi at night - so I wont really complain - but its more like a day out rather than a socio-religious occasion. Still I would applaud the fine people who put in so much effort to make this happen.

Monday, October 17, 2005

J.D.Park still #1

From Today's Telegraph -

The highest number of suicide deaths — seven — has occurred at Kalighat and Jatin Das Park stations. Central station has so far seen six suicide attempts and three deaths.

Phew! I always thought we, the proud passengers of Belgachia came second. I am actually surprised to see Kalighat rising up the ranks so fast - J.D.Park always has been a safe heaven for people jumping on the tracks. But I remember a Belagachia station employee saying proudly - we are number two. Things have apparently changed in last couple of years.

There is actually a method in madness. Its very obvious why J.D.Park tops the list. After the busy strech of central Kolkata Office goers- the footfall here is very small during the peak hours. And I dont know why - the people who commit suicide are always determined to harass maximum number of people - so they always choose busy office hours. And the overall ambience of J.D.Park is very encouraging - kind of dim lights - long platform with stairs at both end - and always quiet. But Kalighat or Central should not even be in the list by the same logic - where as Belgachia kind of fits in. But either way - I am so disappointed to see our position slip.

P.S - I actually witnessed a suicide in Rabindra Sadan station during 1994 soccer World Cup. I am absolutely sure I dont want be in a similar situation again.

Friday, October 14, 2005

So Near Yet So Far

Nobody knows if it was supposed to be that big. But somehow it turned out to be that. The most recognizable reward for a Physicist (or for an Economist and so on). Like any other subjective award - its often not fair - but that has not taken off the glitter a bit. The Swedish Prize as it colloquially referred to, is still the ultimate laurel in the field.

And amazingly - we almost had a winner this year. Like many of the illastrious Physics programs across the country - we dont have Nobel Laureates walking down the hallway - so this indeed means a lot to an emerging program like us. The Physics Nobel this year has been partially awarded to Roy Glauber from Harvard "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.”. UF Physics and Mathematics Professor John Klauder helped to work out the mathematical theory of this phenomenon.

Part of the citation reads: “The mathematical formalism of quantized fields was developed in parallel with Glauber’s work on their applications. E.C.G. Sudarshan drew attention to the use of coherent state representations for the approach to classical physics; at this point he refers to Glauber’s work. Together with J.R. Klauder he proceeded to develop the mathematical formalism of Quantum Optics; their approach is presented in their textbook. After the initial contributions, many authors applied Glauber’s results to the rapidly evolving experimental situation in optical physics, thus creating the field today called ‘Quantum Optics’.”

We felt that Klauder deserved more than just a mention - afterall Glauber used and extended his formalism of Coherent States in Quantum Optics. But alas that did not happen. And we still await a Nobel Prize winner from UF Physics.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New England Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not always - these pictures do not do full justice to the the amazingly scenic landscapes I travelled across.
http://community.webshots.com/album/475141210RXaSOI

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Boston and Beyond ...

They say New England is awesome in fall. And they are so right. Although colors were slightly late this year and we ran into unusually bad weather during the weekend - the drives through scenic routes of Vermont and New Hampshsire were so pretty - and as always Boston has its own charm.

I landed in Boston on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Boston is a city meant for walking - all the travel guides warned me of aggressive drivers and bikers and even of aggressive pedestrians. What they forgot to add was often non existent and mostly confusing road signs. Driving in Boston, like any other big city is not fun.

But walking through the streets of the city sure is. I have been to Boston before - a quick Thanksgiving trip in 2003 was my first visit to any big American city. I have been to so many cities after that - but I must confess - Boston is an unique experience. Its not only about the feel of history associated with it - but the predominantly European architecture, enlightened population (After all which other city has two schools like MIT and Harvard down the same street?) - the overall ambiance is what makes Boston so special. They have red line going along the sidewalks connecting most of the major historical landmarks - it is named the freedom trail - and its difficult not to get lost in the past walking down the trail - starting from the golden dome of Old City Hall to Boston Commons to the the ever popular Faneuil Market Halls - passing through old cemeteries and churches. It leads you across the river Charles to the old shipyard and Bunker hill monument.

Did I mention the Faneuil Hall? To me - its the centre of Boston downtown. A throbbing shopping and eating place - with foods stalls from different parts of the world lined up inside the Quincy Market - spending an evening here is an integral part of the Boston experience.

I headed to Amherst, a quiet college town in the western Massachusetts at the end of the day. My friend there married his longtime sweetheart in the summer - and it feels kind of weird to see close buddies actually getting married!

Next day we went up via route 2 to the Green mountains region of Vermont - and travelled from Bennington to Brattleborough through scenic route 9. A little delay in the arrival of the peak color meant places in lower elevation just started turning yellow while the foliage up the elevation was a mixture of green, yellow and orange. Bad weather made it difficult to click too many photos though. We stopped at the little town of Brattleborough - its one of those small towns full with eateries and antique shops with a distinct old world charm.

The weather played spoilsport on Saturday. So we just just took the route 2 to Boston - which was although not brimming with colors - was nice anyway - specially for eyes used to Florida (An aside: there is a place called Florida in Massachusetts) greenery. The state routes in that part of the world are so much prettier than freeways - you cruise along winding roads and little picturesque towns.

We decided to head up north on Sunday. The sky was overcast - but it was better than last two days.We took the interstate 91 straight up - then turned into New Hampshire via route 25 and then onto route 112 - better known as Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountain region. And it was awesome.Once we were at a higher elevation - it was a riot of colors all around us - from bright yellow to sparking orange to ruby red and evolving crimson. Standing there -looking at the foliage - the pictures you get are so grossly inadequate to convey the wonderful settings. Now I know what brings so many people to these regions every year in fall - just to be a part of the spectacle is an experience I would saviour till next time. We came back via route 302 to interstate 93 to interstate 91 again - they actually take you to all the way to Canada if you continue going north.

After all these fun - came the bad part. My flight back on Monday night was cancelled - and to take the early morning flight out from Logan - I ended up spending the night at airport. And after a while - it was pretty "India-esque" - with people sleeping on the floors!

P.S - The state motto of New Hampshire ,which appears on state's automobile licence plates is "Live Free or Die"!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Be Right Back!

I am off to a weekend getaway in New England - hopefully would be back with stories and pictures!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No "Word" Please!

I know everyone faces this.Working on your linux terminal - you receive some real useful information in word format. Either you have to go back to Windows or look for some non standard software in linux platform to retrieve the information. Even in Windows - if you are one of those people who refused to pay microsoft and do not appreciate software piracy - you are stuck with some bulky open source software which rarely behave seamlessly.

Time to change things. Stand up against the practice of sending word files and expect everyone to read them.A good place to start is here -
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html

Monday, October 03, 2005

Stranded in US

From The Telegraph -

America’s desperate Indian wives - Achievers at home become dependants (sic) in land of no opportunity.

“I had a very good impression of America, that there are equal rights for women.... It’s not that I feel lonely. I feel unnecessary.”

Most people I know would refuse to admit this as a problem. In this politically correct world - its indeed difficult to do so. A man's ego would get hurt real bad if his wife is unhappy in spite of all his attention. After all , they would point out, how many of their buddies are in the US of A?

And the situation is worse with F2 visa people. At least the H1B folks have the money - may be money can't buy you happiness - but it sure makes life slightly more comfortable. But think about the poor overworked and underpaid graduate students - whose pay check in most cases is barely enough for them live decently and make an annual trip back home. When you add to that responsibility to of taking care of their spouses - I dont think that leaves too much breathing space in there. While I unequivocally appreciate their dedication to their partners - I just dont feel comfortable with the idea of a girl sitting at home whole day doing nothing productive.

Yeah - I have actually said nothing productive. Which most people dont seem to realize is that there is a dramatic difference in lifestyle between India and here. Although I personally still dont "like" it - but I realize a lady can be a "homemaker" (an aside: I feel homemaker is a far better word than the much more used housewife) there and still be mostly content. Thats not only because there are so many things need to be taken care of at home - but there is a support system around you. Your family and friends are just a phone call away - and you are so used to the surroundings that you can go out independently and do whatever you feel like.

But its hardly like that here. Whether its a shabby graduate student dwelling or a well decorated family apartment - there is nothing much to do at home except for watching TV and browsing Internet - which obviously gets immensely boring after a while. In most cases there is nothing to do either even if you go out - public transports are virtually non existent except in major cities and the surroundings are cruelly unfamiliar with strangers all around. Life is fun in USA only if you have the means to enjoy it!

And all these while - as the Telegraph story so realistically points out - it makes you "feel useless". Your husband has a gruelling work schedule - and he has a social life beyond you. Most of the days he would come back home dead tired - hardly in a situation to spend some quality time with the poor creature waiting at home. Your life has to revolve around him - after all thats how you are here - but his doesnt. And you cant expect it to get any better.

So whats the solution? To ease the Visa norms? I would strongly disagree. With American economy losing jobs badly - outsourcing and all that reasons - the first priority is to get jobs for the Americans. After all its their country! But then again you cant expect people not to be with their loved ones. Like a thousand other problems in the world - this has no apparent generalized solution. But unlike most of those - this does affect me personally.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why I dont miss Pujo

This is that time of the year. Whenever I have a conversation with anyone from back in Kolkata - they would inevitably ask whether I miss pujo and then without paying any attention to what I say - mumble some sympathetic words.

Let me get this clear for once and all.Ladies and Gentlemen - I do not miss pujo.Yes - I repeat - I do not. And now having made it amply clear - let me explain why.

I am an atheist. Now I know pujo is more of a social occasion than religious - so me not believing in the powers of the Goddess is not the issue here. You miss something only when you actually realize other people are enjoying it while you cant. Being 10,000 miles away from Kolkata - immersed in work - chasing deadlines - you never realize its pujo. Pujo is not only four days of pandel hopping - its the expectation from months back, the shopping, the preparation. The overall ambiance makes pujo what it is. That whole ambiance is absent here - nothing around me tells me its pujo - so pujo days pass like oh so normal days for me.

Ignorance is indeed a bliss sometime.

P.S

A blowout loss. Getting a feeling that more the things change - more they remain the same.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another Saturday. Another Game.

Go Gators. Beat Crimson Tide. We need this win badly.

What do you do...

...when things dont go your way?

You wait for them to "become" right or should they wait for you to set them right?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Not Quite a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time ( fairy tales are supposed to begin like this) there lived this guy somewhere in US. He came across the oceans from Kolkata, hoping to get a Ph.D sometime in his chosen subject. As like most of these students, he found it difficult to have a social life initially and was drawn to the fascinating world of Yahoo Chat rooms. Not everyone was nice - as long as he could see faceless people from around the globe talking and singing in Bengali, he did not really care. And one day he came across this girl - she was one of those kids who were born over there in Kolkata - but pretty much grew up here as an American. She spoke Bengali with a funny accent but understood it perfectly. She was doing her Ph.D too and in a real good school. They liked talking to one another - and soon went beyond the confines of instant messaging. Both made full use of their free weekend and night minutes - staying up till early morning oh so often. She liked the way he spoke Bengali and saw life from an entirely different perspective than hers. He liked her self confidence and sheer unpredictability. They talked about everything - from her Italian boyfriend in Boston who she cant marry to her broken family - and he about his fears in a big bad new country. They poured their hearts out to each other. She said she was an amazing skater and a fitness freak - and taunted him about his lethargy for workouts. He made fun of her fear of driving. They planned to meet sometime in near future. Everything was going great. Or too great perhaps? It was too good to be true!

After a few weeks, which flew past like a pure dream - something went terribly long. They had an usual wonderful conversation the night before - everything was so right. But next night, she did not pick up the phone. She never did again. She did not reply to his mails nor provided any explanation. She just disappeared from his life - never to get back again. No , the guy has no idea till date why she did what she did. Was it something the guy said unconsciously? Was she feeling vulnerable that she started liking the guy too much? Did something dramatic happen in her life ?

And yes - she is a real person.

(P.S - This was in early 2004 )

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What makes a graduate student really happy?

Take a wild guess. No its not the promise of more money/less work from the advisor or an invitation from Europe for an all expense paid summer school. Its neither publishing something in some journal nor a job offer after graduation. If you are still wondering - its free food in any shape, size and variety. Starting from free coffee and cookies at weekly colloquium (even if one sleeps the whole hour and walks out not understanding a single word) to free pizza in Female Physics Forum meeting (who cares what happens there anyway) to the leftover food and wine in a conference - everything is equal in our eyes and quickly pounced upon. I wonder why departments don't realize that the easiest way to graduate students heart is through their mouth !

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Whats wrong with JU?

From today's Telegraph - JU (as in Jadavpur University - my Alma mater) administration claims -

"Most of our courses meet international academic standards. We must be more ambitious and target students from the US and Europe."

Are you kidding me?

JU would be JU -

As long as "sem" would just mean the final examination in student lingo.
If you ask anyone on campus "sem kobe?" (roughly translated as - when is the semester starting?) the invariable answer would be the end term exam dates.

As long as browsing the catalogue would be closest to the books a student can get in the library.

As long as the computers are there for display only - students wont be trusted enough to let them use those.

As long as the they believe in "every student is born equal" so should be taking the same courses.

As long as the departmental web pages use the same bland template with an alphabetic listing of faculties names.
A name is just a name unless there is other relevant information!

As long as the administrative guy you want to meet would not be "in his seat" or "busy" sipping tea and gossiping.

As long as research means recycling other people's results - at least for a majority.

As long as political affiliation would be the main criteria in recruiting.

Undergrad education in JU is good - in fact we had one of the best undergrad Physics program in the country - which placed students in top institutes/ universities all over the country and abroad - and Engineering was second only to IIT's. Its not that students in US on an average are much brighter - on the contray they are not. But until one has a fair idea about the education system in US or Europe - how flexible it is and how much respect students get - these claims are simply audacious!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday Morning Blues!

I hate Mondays. Especially when I have to wake up at 8 am to come to school. Seriously that's not fun.

But blogging is fun! The only problem is the life is so amazingly monotonous at times - its difficult to come up with something I can talk about. None wants to hear about the classes I slept through, the assignments I could not to finish , the deadlines I failed to meet and the girls who refused to date me ( Just kidding - good boys don't date girls!).

How times change. I have this friend from my high school days - back then he was a vociferous communist - heaping scorn on "America" for every vice in the world. Fast forward to present - he is working with some software company here, and enjoying life in general. This is not meant to be an indictment - he is a really great guy - but to show how all of us have inherent inconsistencies. I know most of us would stay back here or at least try to - but when asked they would vehemently say how much they love India and their family and how they just can not tolerate the American mindset.

I just don't think these are contradictory. You can love India and do a lot for it if you want to , no matter where you are. And if you are selfish - care about your career and a comfortable life (which I probably am) you wont do anything for the society wherever you are!

P.S - Birthday wishes for Shubhoshree (22nd August) , Saswati (8th September) , Debashree (20th September).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What A Win!

I know this is getting too much. Three consecutive posts on football - and most of my readers (I am sure they exist - why don't you nice folks put a comment in sometime?) just don't appreciate football. But can not be helped - that was perhaps the only thing which was on my mind the entire weekend - afterall such high stakes game don't take place too often.

The offence was mediocre in most parts. Chris Leak did not throw for a touchdown pass after ages. Two of our best playmakers on either side of the ball suffered potentially season ending injuries. But we made plays when we needed to. Our defense and special teams could not have played any better. The key moment came when after review a Tennessee catch at our 1 yard line was called incomplete on a 3rd down play and their field goal was blocked in the next play. That changed the whole complexion of the game. And this team showed true character to hold on to the advantage.

But lets not get carried away. This team is not yet a national championship material. We should win the SEC - giving us a BCS bowl game. That would be a great year for us - and then with Leak in his senior year next season - we should be going all the way.

But after last few years of disappointments and close loses - this win almost ignited Gainesville. I went for a drive along the University Avenue just after the game ended - it was choc-a-bloc with traffic, honking like crazy, with delirious fans clad in orange and blue clapping, cheering and singing. This is what makes college football so special - the passion, the intensity - which you can never see in professional football.

(And I promise - I wont mention the word "football" in my next three posts!)
We made the BIG plays and we WON.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Go Gators

This is as big as it gets. An early season game featuring Florida and Tennessee with Southeastern Conference, possibly National Championship implications on the line. And when you throw in the fact that how Tennessee stole the game last year from us helped by some extremely poor referring - the plot thickens. The entire town is talking only football - and the student tickets are being sold at triple digit amounts.

This Florida team is much improved from last year's which almost won at Knoxville. Everyone loves talking about Meyer's offence - but defence has so far made big plays. And as long as we dont make stupid mistakes or turn the ball over - I'm sure this team wont suffer those infamous 4th quarter meltdowns - Leak should lead the gators to a memorable victory and give his Heisman aspirations a big push.

And did anyone notice what Ron Zook is doing this year? He has already lead fighting Illini to a 2-0 start (which is more wins than what they achieved in the their entire last season) and getting ready to battle UCLA this weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Born Into Brothels by Zana Briski : A Review

Last night had a chance to watch this much talked about documentary film.It is mostly shot the red light areas of Kolkata - but what makes it so touching is that it entirely deals with the kids from there. The film opens pretty quietly - giving a chance to the viewer to get used to the surroundings - a separate world within the city - as she describes it. Then slowly we get to know the protagonists of the story - the little kids who are growing up there suffering all the abuse seeing all not so nice stuff going on.

The story moves forward when "Zana Aunty" hands them click and shoot cameras and teaches them basics of photography. And from the dingy bylanes of Sonagachi to Calcutta Zoo to Digha, wherever they go, they end up getting some real nice pictures as they learn the techniques of composing a frame and all that. When one of them says she loves taking pictures but doesnt like picking the good photos from pile - I am sure a lot of us can identify ourselves with that little girl!

And all through this - we start getting friends with the characters - some of them are so unbelievably spontaneous in front of the camera. Sometimes the dialogues do appear way too mature for those little kids - but I guess that much artistic leeway can be given. As their photos start getting the attention- Zana tries to put them into residential schools. Its not an easy job to convince the parents to let go their kid - sometimes a potential "earning member" of the "family" - but her relentless effort does get rewarded to an extent - although we learn later that most of them do not continue their studies.

Its not a sensational story - just capturing images from day to day lives. But the photography is amazing and incredibly real - and the sheer liveliness of those kids brings a smile to your face. And since the setting is undeniably Kolkata - my home town - all the sights and sounds do make me nostalgic. After all how many times I get to watch a film with that familiar settings sitting 10000 miles away from home!

Its a pity that political powers did not allow the film to be screened over there. The film is entirely focused on the children - not at all a reflection of Kolkata and never pretends to convey any political message. Its just a human interest story - viewed through the eye of an westerner - where the settings play a passive role and the those deprived children for once take the front stage.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Its a Mazda 626

Okay, I was cheating a bit. It was a photo from the Honda dealer's website (which unfortunately showed my shining silver color car as white) with Wade Raulerson Honda written somewhere. So to clear any confusion - its sadly not a Honda - someday I would love to own one - but for now I have settled for a 2000 Mazda 626. Its as big as a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Accord and is loaded with all the nice stuff plus a V6 engine.

I hope to get some better picture of it soon!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Weekly Wrapup!

For the past couple of weeks I have been really sporadic in coming up with new entries. Thats partly because all the associated hassles with the start of a new semester (as any fellow suffering graduate student would understand) and partly because I cant decide what I want to talk about.
Last weekend I was there when "Urban legend" begun. The team looked sharp but not as sharp to make them a national title contender as yet. Time will tell how the season shapes up - but being at the Swamp (thats the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the uninitiated ) among 91,707 screaming fans is surely an experience.
Then the Sunday trip to the Clearwater was fun too. It boasts of really pristine white sand - and water is not too deep for a while into the sea.that allows people like me with zero swimming skills to enjoy the water with getting swept off my feet!
Although she lost, I must admit Sania Mirza was awesome. I was watching her earlier round matches live - and she has no fear. She dictates every point - they are either decided by a winner from her or by an unforced error from her again. If she works on her serves a bit, she can be right up there. It really feels proud to see an Indian matching stroke for stroke with all those superstars - Leander Paes did that in Davis Cup matches - but doing that consistently week after week requires much more than just skill.
Anyway thats all for today. I really want to write a political blog next !

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Conversation!

A Few days back I had this online conversation with someone, who hails from Pakistan, of Kashmiri origin and goes to college in Gainesville.

Someone: just wondering... why do you hate Pakistan?

Deepak: Its nothing personal - I know the ordinary people are not to blame for this - but I feel that cross border terrorism in Kashmir is being instigated and helped by Pakistan government- and that doesnt appear very nice to me.

Someone: well again...I have read a lot of your "personal" statements.. and some of them...or I mean a lot of them are pointing to a normal citizen, its just sad to know how less of a knowledge u have abt Kashmir..I am a Kashmiri...and no I am not taking no sides (India or Pakistan) but its just not only Pakistan..as a matter of fact...mostly its Indian army who is doing the things that dont look nice to u!

Deepak: Thats the "normal" excuse...which I refuse to believe...in our land we have a right to do whatever we feel needed to eliminate terrorists... its hypocrisy at its best when Pakistan trained terrorists blowing up places and killing people is not considered as bad... its not physically possible for any army to get rid of terrorists "cleanly" - the inconvenience caused to the general population is unfortunate to say the least but unavoidable.

Someone: wow wow Deepak..wht do you mean by "our" land.. that aint your land...it not pakistan's either... its our... it belongs to us...and we want you and Pakis to leave...like right now... and Pakistan isnt training no body....wht do you have to say abt your "nice" ppl in Gujrat... I dont think that shit is happening to Hindus or Indians in Pakistan... no account of nothing like that... you are just not well informed... go and join PSA...u might learn something... also people are thinking abt opening KSA (Kashmiri student asso.) you can join that too... no one will stop you...unlike ISA...

Deepak: Religious fanaticism in any form is condemnable - what happened in Gujrat IS bad - unequivocally. But there is a reason why so many people support the BJP (and anti-minority one may add). Certain policies/laws practised by succesive goverments just lead to using the Muslim community merely as vote block - which definitely lead to repurcussions. I am ready to give you the details if you want.
Kashmir is definitely your land - since your are from that part - but its also part of a republic, namely India, whether you like it or not. India consists of people of vastly different ethnic/cultural groups - and I'm sure Kasmiris, irrespective of their religious affiliations would be welcomed into the mainstream.
About Pakistan supporting terrorism - well we are biased by our allegiance - a debate wont lead to anywhere.
As an aside - I get to hear a lot about how beautiful that place is. Someday I wish I would be able to visit it without worrying about getting shot. I also believe people are inherently nice and most of these political problems are caused by a small number of people looking to settle scores.
And I dont think one needs to join any "SA" to learn about things.I surely would want know more and thanks for your "help"!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

An Obituary

I gathered all the stuff from there leaving a empty coke can, and a few cents here and there. All those cassettes which I never played, the documents which had to be there in the glove compartment, a pressure gauge brought for 99 cents months back and the finally the parking decal. Then I climbed into it one last time, revved up the engine, turned on the AC full blast. But I had nowhere to go - sat there for a few minutes with the engine running. Felt like the old times. Even the gas tank read full.

It was still drivable. Only the rear part was badly damaged - but nobody would fix up. People don't fix things here - they dispose it off and buy another. But you cant let go the memories so easily. I effectively learnt driving in it. So did a few of my friends. We explored the beaches and scenic places and the eateries in and around Gainesville in that. All the memories came flooding - the people who are no longer here, the places we went. The first long drive was to Cedar Key in Gulf coast sometime in January - and ironically the last one was too.

But those are all past. I turned off the ignition, unlocked the doors, left the key in the visor as instructed by the insurance guy. They called me a while later. When I would go back at the end of a long day - it would be gone. My first car. A white 98 Nissan Sentra. They would take it apart and auction the parts. May it rest in peace!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Would New Orleans exist tomorrow?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Breaking News!

Last friday evening at around 5:30 pm. My car was hit from behind by a Dodge pickup at a traffic light while I was coming to a stop. Not really his fault though - we both skidded a bit in the wet conditions. Fortunately we escaped with almost no physical injuries - but as one can see my Sentra was not so lucky.

Miami Trip: A Wrap Up

Day 1: Driving a minivan is so cool. You sense the feel of power, the taste of authority over those little cars! Started early from Gainesville, reached Orlando by noon, picked our friends up, had a nice Indian lunch and headed for Miami. After an immensely uneventful drive for a couple of hours or so - things started to get exciting. The crazy traffic at Miami on I95 is something you need to see to believe. The drive over the bay is nice though - taking you to the Miami shores across from the city. Spent the first evening in looking for parking , settling down at our crazy little guest house, and having good Cuban food for dinner. Called it a night early.

Day 2: The plan was to start early for the scenic drive to Key West. As it happens with so many people (there were 8 of us) it got a little late. Also the car developed slight problems - so we had to make a detour through Miami Airport to exchange the offending car. So we ended up being to hungry even before midway - stopped at this wonderful "Fish House" in Key Largo. Then went for the glass bottomed boat ride over the Coral Reefs - I been to similar rides before - but its always an experience. Again hit the road at late afternoon - reached Key west just around sunset - and unfortunately missed a goo view of that. But in the morning some of us did manage to catch a glimpse of beautiful Miami sunrise over Atlantic - so no regrets on that count. Drove back to the hotel after having dinner at one of those typical Key West seaside eateries.

Day 3: Friday in Miami!Unfortunately a thunderstorm was threatening the beach - and had to leave early. But thats not before we accidentally landed up in the Gay section , got drenched in rain and a had decent season of "people watching" (No offence - even the lonely planet guidebook lists that as one of the things to do in Miami!). Miami beach is unique in the sense that for a mile or so into the sea - the depth remains practically constant - one can just walk into the sea without getting hit by hard waves (unlike Daytona - which has a wild sea!). Had to hit the pubs at night. Landed up in this pub - and after having a good many tequila shots - one guy got too drunk - and was escorted out by the bouncers and then we had a tough time getting him back to the hotel without things getting too bad. Some experience!

Day 4: Drove to Key Biscayne - climbed atop the wonderful lighthouse there. The ride back was anything but uneventful though.

P.S - Miami trips have a history of throwing some surprises and intimate developments. I got a feeling that this one was no exception.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Back Again!

Stopped and clicked pictures at a strange place named Yeehaw. Was thrown out of a Miami beach pub. Climbed to the top an old lighthouse at Key Biscayne. Had wonderful Spanish and Cuban food. Thats my Miami trip in a nutshell. Hope to be back with a longer version and pictures (if anyone cares!) pretty soon.


P.S - Here are the photos - http://community.webshots.com/user/dipthought4

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Break!

Next post should be a travel log of my Miami trip. Starting Wednesday early morning - expected to be back on Saturday late night. They say what happens in Vegas stays at Vegas - but I guess Miami still doesnt have a similar reputation!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Why Hindi?

This is one issue really close to my heart. Numerous times I have faced this question - why I don't speak Hindi in spite of being an Indian and Hindi being the "National language" of India. Let me make one thing very clear - Hindi is just the "Official language" of India - which is by no means equivalent to being a "National language". You can have a "National language" when most people in the nation speak that language. Like Canada has English and French - and almost everyone speaks either of these two. But in India - less than a third speaks Hindi as their native language - and as I gather from some random website coming out in my google search "India's schools teach 58 different languages. The nation has newspapers in 87 languages, radio programmes in 71, and films in 15" ( I dont claim any responsibility for the accuracy of these figures - but that gives the idea) - surely there cant be any one language for all the people. And there is not any natural reason for Hindi to get an elevated status - just because most of the prime ministers happened to be Hindi speaking is not a good enough reason for me.

People argue that we need one languor to get the feeling of unity. That's the ideal scenario may be. But unfortunately we are diverse bunch of people - one cant just forcefully unify them. And I have a right to speak my language as much as guy speaking Hindi is. And when he wont speak Bangla talking with me, why would I try speaking Hindi? I really applaud Southern states in this regard - they refuse to communicate in Hindi. I really do not understand why Bengali's, even when they are in Kolkata - try to speakin a pathetic Hindi to outsiders. Why would they do that? Do they think when they are in Allahabad anyone is going to help them out in Bengali? When I'm in a Hindi speaking region I have to try to communicate in Hindi (which is fair), then the people coming to Kolkata have to learn Bengali. Period.

English is a different issue altogether. Whether we like it or not - we were ruled by the British and our education system still in a lot of sense reflects the British influence. So the educated people across the length and the breadth of the country can communicate in English - and the best part is that's almost nobodies native language - so gives no community a sense of alienation. And I like it that way.

I have nothing against Hindi or people speaking the language personally. And I'm sure it is a rich language. But so are Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and a host of other languages. And since I cant learn them all - I see no reason to give Hindi a special preference. Its the language of a just a group of people. Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, August 15, 2005

An Email

Just saw this mail in our new incoming students yahoogroup.

Hi, This is ******. I have been standing at the Gainesville airport, but noone has come to pick me up. I will be here for another 15 min. after which i will check in at some hotel. Please contact me ASAP. Thanks.

How times change. Was this guy carrying a laptop or what?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Indian Invasion

They move in groups,speak in hushed tones, often carrying maps. They appear horribly confused, giving weird looks to things around them and would spend hours at Walmart, staring at every "made in China" product, performing mental arithmetic. Yes you got me right - this is that time of the year and our pretty campus is invaded by Indian newcomers.

And then they would look for non smoker, non drinker roommates. Considering the fact that most of them are coming from some engineering colleges - I just cant believe everyone practised so much restraint. And after a few weeks they would hit the pubs at downtown. Hypocrisy at its best.

The biggest thing I hate about Indians is they are so judgemental and interfering. Its one thing if you have some ideas about how things should be - but its entirely unacceptable to expect everyone else to follow that. In USA you realize how fiercely independent and protective of privacy everyone is - and however you blame everything American for all the malices of the world (Why you are here then, anyway?) - you must appreciate the nicer things of the American way of life. You neither have the right to label me a bad human being if I eat beef and pork nor you can laugh at me if I watch "football". And most importantly - if I say I am busy this evening - you are not supposed to ask me in a conspiratorial tone what I am up to.

And its time to grow out of the labels - ABCD's are hardly a confused bunch of people. Somehow most of us tend to think that ABCD's are some sort of alien creatures with a massive identity crisis. Thats as far from the truth as it can be. Some of them are proper Americans for all practical purposes - some of them know Indian culture better than a lot of "convent-educated" snobs. Basically they are diverse bunch of people - gelling into the American society seamlessly - thats surely not their fault. I wish I can say the same thing for FoB's too - but so many of them are so determined to live as aliens and keep distance from the mainstream as if they are trying to create a spot of India here- I just cant do that. Its not about picking up the accent - although I would admit that helps - but about doing things the way the people do and expect you to. Unless we can do that - we would remain "outsiders"!

(P.S - I am technically an ABCD , effectively a FoB , so cant accuse me of bias!)

Looking Back: My Chicago Trip(s)

Okay, I just cant find anything to talk about. My mind is totally blank. May be too much sleeping, good food and no work does this to your brain. So I'll cheat a bit and recycle my past travel experiences, specifically about Chicago. Its almost like my second home here - been there so many times.

First time it was in the December of 2003 - just 6 months after I came to US. I had an evening flight and a drunk musician from New Orleans was right beside me. It was fun talking with him - I forgot what exactly he talked about - but I kind of remember the experience! He also told me to look towards the left while the plane circled the compact and well lit downtown - I have been to many cities later - but Chicago from above looks awesome - the whole city looks like a well lit grid - with the bright sky scrappers standing right beside the Lake Michigan. This trip was special for a few other reasons too. I was supposed to meet an online friend - but due to some lapse in communication ended up waiting for half an hour or so in falling snow in front of the deserted Sears Towers! Also visited the home of another friend in Chicago suburbs - it was my first time in a home in USA as opposed to the shabby and frugal graduate student apartments we are used to.

My next Chicago trip was as hectic as it can be. Joan Baez was performing at Northwestern campus on a weekend - I decided to go on Thursday - reached directly to the concert from O'Hare. It was April of 2004.

Third time it was when a three of us Siliguri guys decided to have a reunion of sorts at there in September 2004. Next time I drove down to Chicago from Columbus, Ohio via Urbana-Champaign in April 2005. And Finally just a week after that - I had to visit Fermilab in Batavia which is just an hours drive from Chi-city.

They say familiarity breeds contempt - thats surely not the case with my affection about Chicago. I love the city and feel so at home. (University of Chicago was my dream school!). I like the throbbing downtown, the crowded magnificent mile, view from the sky scrappers and the fireworks at Navy Pier. The food at Greek town, Indian delicacies at Devon area and Chicago's own deep crust pizza are added attractions. I even love the L,the mostly elevated subway system. The art museum and the stained glass museum at Navy Pier are amazing - so is a walk alongside the lake. The only thing I would hate is the crazy traffic on I-90 and Lake shore drive - but thats inherent to any big city.

If you plan to visit a true American city - you just cant go wrong with the windy city!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Coke or Pepsi?

If you have seen those annoying pop ups saying "vote for your favourite drink and a win a $50 gift card" lately , I assure you its not about that. If winning fifty bucks was that easy - I would not have been staring at my huge credit card debt now. But thats another story altogether.

And frankly I dont care about this cola war. The TV advts were sometime funny - but thats all about it. I drank Slice and Mazza while I was in India without any specal preference to either. I grew up when MNC's were still not allowed - and the market was ruled by Thumbs-Up, Limca and Gold spot - before the first two were taken over and the third died.

I must confess that Limca was an awesome drink to have with Vodka. It just gelled so well. Same goes for Thums Up and Rum. I dont know if that adds to their market value. I have a close friend working at Coke - I should ask her someday.

When I was at Coke HQ in Atlanta - they let you taste coke and a host of other beverages from host of other countries. After a while - they all tastes the same. May be thats what they want to prove. Or do they?

Anyway after a multimillion (or is it billion) dollar deal with Pepsi - our campus is being taken over by them. All the coke vending machines are being uprooted and carried away. The campus Wendy's has stopped serving Coke products. And all these while people maintain that Pepsi is gross. Whose drink is it anyway?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ah Those Locals!

Somewhere I came across this comment by an angry Mumbai resident -
So a fare paying Mumbai commuter is equated with the ticket less traveller in Kolkata because at the slightest provocation the Kolkatans burn trams and buses, so they have to be listened to.
I know my fellow Kolkatans wont take this too kindly. They would start with how Kolkata is the most livable city (As long as you just live conforming to every social norm), how the people are most helpful (Sure, there is never any dearth of people to enforce a strike or road block) here, and how it has been neglected by the central governments (How many of the last central governments have been supported by left again?). Rather than going into such serious issues let me talk about my Kolkata local train experience, which in a way mirrors the overall state of the city!

I used to stay in this place called Sonarpur in the southern fringes of the city. The only reasonable way to go anywhere else from there was by these local trains. Now to say that they were crowded would be an understatement - you have to push, shovel and fight just to grab something to hold onto - exposing yourself to all kinds of verbal and physical abuse, pickpockets and people caring weird stuff, like live goats and rotten fish. In a few minutes you would be completely drenched in sweat - barely balancing yourself in the mad rush of people getting up and going down. And as our Mumbai friend rightly says - most of these people never bought tickets. I remember one conversation I overheard - there used to be these special ticket checking drives once in a while - and a few people apparently jumped off the running train to run away from that and ended up badly injured- so this guy sounds very agitated and says something - which would loosely translated mean - why bother the persons traveling without ticket? Check tickets of those guys who have bought it. That's the attitude of Kolkata local train passenger for you!

And the same group of passengers once beat up the stationmaster because one day trains ran on time. Wondering why? Pretty simple actually - the trains always ran late - and people were used to that so much that when it actually came on time - they missed it.And the easiest way to protest against anything and be noticed is to sit on those track- even if it is totally unrelated -like the American interference in Cuba or Genocide in Sudan.How many cities can boast of such responsible citizens?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Why do you do it?

In my brief career in Theoretical Physics (Okay,what I am doing is more of Computational than purely Theoretical - but that doesn't change what I am going to talk about) I have to face this question again and again. Would it improve the quality of life? Does it have any industrial application? And when they don't get an affirmative answer to any of these - then comes the clincher - why do you do it then?

Tough question. Someday the things we do might lead to something beneficial for the general public. And a lot of times it does. Those monster particle smashers lead to medical use of much smaller accelerators. But that's not the reason we do it. Proving or disproving the existence of Higgs is not the thing people talk about with their morning coffee. And an overwhelming majority of people's life wont slightly be affected if Standard Model or String Theory stands the test of time. Neither they care about where are all the Dark Matter is. So why do we do it then?

As Feynman says "Theoretical Physics is a human endeavor, one of the higher developments of human beings" - we do it because we want to do it. To find out how things really work at the deepest level gives an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. But wait - how many of us would go that far? Few breakthroughs stand the test of time -and most of us would be spending our lifetimes without doing anything fundamental. That raises another question - is it worth it? I guess it is. Just being part of this endeavour is a great feeling - in any field few go on to make the headlines-it cant be any different here. Even when you have not discovered it - knowing that you are among the select people on the planet who can actually understand it (What they call Popular Science is mostly crap - will talk about it in another post later) gives us that wonderful feeling. And that's our biggest reward. We don't do it for the people - we do it for ourselves!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Football on my mind!

Its just a month to go before the start of yet another football season. For those uninitiated - I'm talking of football. No, that's neither soccer nor rugby. I am sick and tired of hearing - "Oh that is rugby" - when I say its not soccer. If you don't want me to scream hysterically and yell obscenities at you - dont ask me that again. Its as different from rugby as archery is from shooting.

Anyway football is a big thing at these parts of the world. And anything less than a national championship run is looked at as an unsuccessful season. And that's what I experienced in last 2 years - loses,loses and more loses. A significant percentage of those came at last few minutes. Teams making huge comebacks at our expense while our man Ron Zook looked on. And then it happened - he was sacked.That made national headlines. Yes - football is that important here.

I was looking at old gator games. 95 win against Auburn, 96 win against FSU. Those teams had a certain bounce in them. The class of 92 entered as #1 in the nation and exited as #1. They all hated that man - but Steve Spurrier knew a few things about offence. Those teams played like - score as much as you can - we will outscore you. Not like the teams I saw in last year - whatever we score - we will let you outscore us!

Urban Meyer brings a lot of hope to the gator nation. His offence might finally do justice to the talent of Chris Leak. But we open against a Wyoming - a dangerous, potential top 25 team - who beat UCLA at a bowl game last year and returning a host of starters. If we clear that hurdle - we host Tennessee in 2 weeks at the Swamp. Probably two of the toughest games in first three weeks - considering how depleted Georgia and FSU are. Let us hope for the best and fear the worst!

Go Gators! And please go all the way. If not this year - next year at least. I want to see a national championship during my stay here.

P.S - Birthday wishes for Debarati (31st July) , Rupsi (1st August) , Sayan (1st August).

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Farewell Season in Gainesville - A Personal Post

A couple of years back - around this time of the year - eight of us landed in this sleepy university town traveling all the way from Calcutta. We hardly knew each other then - but the common apprehension of landing at a totally alien place meant we would soon be friends. I am reproducing parts (with minor editing) from the mail I wrote immediately after landing here - it sounds so naive now - but somehow I love this mail!


As I said...finally I'm in Florida...after an eventful journey...

It started disastrously at Calcutta airport...when due to carelessness of my travel agent...my Indian airlines flight ticket to Delhi got canceled...and that specific flight was overbooked...so I was accommodated in the next flight...which was a good 3 hours later... ( the irony is...it was I who literally set up the group and planned the journey...I was stuck...while others had no problems whatsoever !)...landed at Delhi at 10:00 ( effectively it was my my first experience of flying...and I was so hassled and and worried about how things would go in Delhi...since I was all alone...never really felt that!)...from that point on...it was sheer madness...carrying all those h-u-g-e luggage to domestic to international terminal...then to Air-France counter...and it was late...I checked in at 11:30...for an international flight at 12:35...that was really cutting it too fine...in fact I was the last person to be checked in.Immigration and customs didn't pose any problems at Delhi...so could catch up with the others while boarding...we all had separate seats though...mostly window...
once the plane is in the air and settled in a steady height...you no longer feel you are so high up...only during take off and landing...I was getting a queer feeling...how could these monsters go up so casually (!) ... Bernoulli's theorem and all that...but its tough to convince oneself...
Anyway both the Air-France flights were nice...with good food and better drinks...( in fact in the first one...from Delhi to Paris...I was a bit shy...so only went for 'fruit juice please'...but no such inhibitions in the Paris - Atlanta flight...champaign and wines tasted real good with typical continental cuisine...
Paris CDG airport is really vast ( so was Atlanta Hartsfield)...we had a 4 hour stopover...spent our time roaming in duty free shops and drinking a cup of coffee at $2...it was the first time I spent green bucks! By the way...coffees here tastes horribly bitter...we emptied 5 packs of sugar in Paris...still it was like an ultra strong coffee!! Next time I spent green bucks was in a fast food store here...ordered a 'medium' Sprite...and could not finish even half of it! ( note to myself...NEVER buy anything bigger than 'small' !)
One cant really see anything from thousands of feets above...we could only catch glimpses of Atlantic near the coastline...otherwise it was all cloudy...but did get a beautiful view of Paris...including the Eiffel tower...
The funniest part of the journey was from Atlanta to Gainesville...it was cute ATR-72 propeller driven plane...with only 4 sits in a row...and one has to actually board the flight by going down an emergency exit staircase...walking to the plane on the tarmac...and climbing up...in fact our plane was delayed by some technical problem...so we all had to deplane after getting ready for take off...and it was a real experience running around the airport in rain...



Anyway - that was it. It was so nice to have those people around in the initial days - when you need people to talk to most. Eventually I did make other friends and drifted apart from some of them due to different reasons - but that remains a sweet memory. And after a couple of years - three of those eight - and incidentally those three I was probably the closest with are leaving Gainesville. The circumstances and reasons vary wildly - I don't even want to go into that - everyone made personal choices or were forced to - but it just feels so weird. I still remember that first evening in Gainesville - and the subsequent days - meeting in front of Century tower - going for lunch together - shopping at Walmart - endless addas and potlucks - playing Dumb Charade and "Killer" - later the unforgettable (for so many reasons though!) Miami trip - it all feels like just yesterday. I wish all of them best and hope we would keep in touch.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Quick One: Bankruptcy and Frequent Flier Miles

A CNN report suggests Delta might soon follow United into bankruptcy ( and they are not the only ones - Northwest is making heavy losses - US Airways and ATA has already filed for "chapter 11") - that leaves me worried about my skymiles and mileage plus miles. So I did what I do to dig out any information about anything - a simple google search. The first site I came across strongly advises to use up all my miles and second one claims rather than being a liability - these frequent flier programs are actually hidden assets to the airlines. So what do I do?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"Go Baby Go"!

Americans can be surprisingly patriotic at occasions. As Discovery blasted on to the space leaving a cloud of smoke behind - the people gathered there, some camping overnight screamed, clapped and waved American flags. It was more than just a space shuttle launch - it was a symbol of American pride.

This is something makes this country unique. Unlike many other countries - they don't wear their patriotism on their sleeves. In fact most of the times they exhibit a strange ignorance about things happening outside their lives. Not many know much about the outside world - as it was so painfully apparent in last Novembers presidential election. But whenever something happens - a crisis the whole nation magically stands informed and united. Last fall when Florida got ravaged by hurricanes - the loss of human lives were minimal. People were asked to evacuate and everyone did. People were asked to move into the shelter and everyone did. And within hours of the storm passing by - Florida was "open for business". Everybody did what they were supposed to. This is something remarkable about American people - whatever way "we" view them - these people have a tremendous sense of duty. And an equal amount of American pride too. Its tough to see in normal circumstances - but it was clearly visible yesterday when discovery was cheered by the crowd.

And yeah - it was an amazing spectacle even from 10 miles away. The sound came minutes later - when the discovery was already a blob in the sky leaving a smoky trail. My camera with only 3x optical zoom did not do any justice to the scene - but being part of the moment was the most important thing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

All the Best - Discovery!

I think its the dream of every child to be on a space mission ( I'll talk about the "other" dream - being a train driver some other day!) - and watching hours of Star Trek reruns makes it look so easy.But for most us it remains just that - a dream only. Few persons successfully conquered the final frontier and the history is ridden with names of heroic astronauts who didn't quite do it all alive. NASA in spite of its successes has always bogged down by dramatic failures caused by simplest of things. Challenger went into flames minutes after it was launched - and Feynman serving on the inquiry commission so famously explained how it all happened. Then decades later Columbia could not make it safely to home - again caused by something as trivial as a small piece of protective padding falling off. And the smiling pictures of those brave men and women in their orange suits left an indelible impression in the mind.

Years after that tragic event - NASA started gearing up for another launch. And being with a couple of hours driving distance I felt I cannot miss the spectacle. But sadly after negotiating some crazy traffic and reaching at space mountain park, Titusville - just across the river of Cape Canaveral launch pad - found out that the launch is scraped. While it definitely is the right decision - considering that safety is the the most important factor - was disappointing nevertheless. But tomorrow is another day and they are going to try it again. It do leaves a creepy feeling to know that they are going ahead with it in spite of really identifying or fixing the problem which caused the abort first time - I guess they know what they are doing. So I would try to wake up early and be there when Discovery hopefully would light up the skies on its way to the space!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Another idyllic weekend goes by. Schumacher's demise continues. Lance bids adieu after yet another win. A Tsunami warning which not quite materialises. Cryptic codes staring at me. A bong gathering with food and gossip. More the things change - more they remain the same.

10 questions newcomers ask and the answers they deserve!

Q. What are my chances of getting an aid?
A. None.Zero.If you were that good - you would have received one anyway.

Q. How do I fill up the DS form(s)?
A. Are you illiterate? Cant you read the instructions?

Q. Can you pick me up if I not land in the airport there?
A. Why not.Why dont you ask me to pick you up from your home?

Q. How many bags I should take? (Or BA is allowing an extra bag , can I take one on Delta too?)
A. Do I look like a travel agent/airline official to you?

Q. These are my scores - what are my chances for admit?
A. Oh those are your scores? I thought you copied and pasted the line from somewhere.

Q. I cant find this book in India.Should I must buy it there?
A. Why are you coming here again?

Q. Are the health tests mentioned mandatory?
A. There must be a reason why they took care to prepare the form and send it to you.

Q. I need a veggie , non smoker , non drinker roomie with no late night parties.
A. Just stay at home.

Q. How can I get SSN from here?
A. Let me know if you find a way.It would be so useful.

Q. Will it be a problem if my application reaches after the deadline?
A. Not at all.It just might end up in the waste paper basket.They talked about "deadline" right?

Added later - Q. Do I need to bring a years supply of essentials?
A. If you think you are coming to an uncivilized part of the
world - dont forget a tent.


P.S - If you come across another equally "dumb question" - share it please!

Looking back : My Kolkata Quizzing days.

[Disclaimer: This post is by no means influenced by the anti-parnab campaign going on in the blog-world lately. I only had one occasion to be on a Parnab Quiz - where he did stump me with a "Kolkata Physicist -no connections" question - and overall the quiz was pretty skewed -but I guess it was an "experience" to see the guy doing the entire quiz from his memory!]

Quizzing was a passion from schooldays and it was Siliguri school quiz circuit was an ideal starting ground. One big regret is in spite of winning almost all the major school quizzes - Siliguri Boys' School was never invited to the Bournvita Quiz Contest hosted by Derek - and the Don Bosco team that went from Siliguri was comprehensively beaten by us (Ankan was my most frequent partner in those days - pity he did not quiz at all after his school days) at more than one occasion! Either way the transition from school to college quiz in Kolkata was a little demanding and it was not until a year me (with Arpita) achieved out first win at Calcutta Medical College. It was a typical college quiz - we boarded the metro from Rabindra Sarobar when the quiz should have been underway but still was a couple of hours "early" for the quiz. Cleared the written prelims and none seemed to notice us in the final until we sneaked in a win past the more established teams in the last round! And in this quiz - a guy named Arnab Jyoti Pal came from nowhere and "sat" on our team - that was my first introduction with "loga" as he was known and his gang. This definitely helped in a big way to shape my confidence - and it became a ritual to bunk classes and be there at any college quiz we could find. It was never the lure of the prizes - which was non existent on Kolkata college circuit anyway - but the thrill of quizzing which was the motivating factor. And these were places for "social interaction" too - where you start meeting other members of the circuit - get news about the next quiz - make contacts and all. And Kolkata college quizzes were hardly inter-college in the sense of the term - people from different colleges used to sit in a team - so it was all the more important to make right contacts - after all being part of a good team ensures that you are almost never left out from the finals. And there were people - who were in all probability not college students - but took part nevertheless - like "professional college quizzers"! Richard Mistry (who forever stayed on Hazra Law "campus"), Gautam Bose, Priyanku Mitra, Indranil Choudhury - to name a few of those omnipresent college quizzers - I am sure a lot of us still remember all the stories you got to hear about them! It was the same set of people who went to every college quiz - waited for hours for the quiz to begin - and shared gossips from quiz circuit - resulting in an unique bonhomie!

I moved beyond the college quiz when Landmark started those once in a month sunday early morning quizzes - and the best quizzers in kolkata were all there. Souvik Guha with his nonchalant brilliance, Gautam Ghosh with his arrogance, Mrs.J with her deep knowledge of Indian Mythology, C.P Singh with all his glamour, Tatha with his impeccable knowledge of Hindi Films - and many more who used to dominate the Open quizzes. I also got to know Soubhadra and Sudeep more and more in those days - they were pretty good quizzers on their own rights - but friendships with them extended beyond the quiz circuit. Landmark (and the dingy Apex quiz club at a photographic studio in Gariahat) was the centre of Kolkata quizzing in those days and it was great to be a part of them. Open Quizzes in D.I and Argus were fun too - qualified to semifinals/finals a few times without major success - they were backyards of beer guzzling veteran quizzers - but open quizzes were more than just winning and losing. Being at those grounds with legendary Neil O'Brien or R.M.Sen conducting quizzes - and then heading for a pub after the quiz with the gang - I wont trade those experiences with anything.

Later I was actively involved in resurrecting the J.U Quiz Club (which was later named enquiry) with Paddy, Subho and Arijit - the weekly quiz sessions there resulted in a renewed interest in quizzing among freshers - and for the first time in a few years - JU was again actively represented in different quizzes. Also tried to host the Quiz along with Arpita in the Science Faculty Fest - unfortunately with an ignorant crowd ( quiz is rarely the most popular event in a college fest) and all the attention focused on Choreographed dance or something similar which was supposed to come next - we had to cut short the quizzes abruptly - much to the disappointment of the quizzing fraternity - but we hardly had a choice.

My best quizzing moment came in the CCFC grounds at the "La Femme" Quiz organized on the occasion of Women's day or something - and they had Basu (Arguably one of the best quiz masters in the country then - and it was my first time facing him). It was an open quiz with all questions relating somehow to "women"! The Ju team composed of Venerable Amit Dey (who was at his best quizzing form then), Pritam (A late replacement for my usual teammate Arpita) and yours truely. We qualified pretty strongly - but were languishing at the bottom after halfway through the quiz. Then something happened - in penultimate two rounds - we really got going - and moved upto 3rd. Then came the Basu speed round.And we maxed it - Amit Dey had the microphone and I remember shouting him down for an answer - such was the adrenaline rush at that stage! And then the unthinkable happened. The great Gautam Ghosh and Sanjoy Mukhejee buckled under pressure in their rapid fire round. We did not win it though - but a close second after a such a disastrous start - and Arpita cheering us all the way in the last few rounds - it was so out of the world. I was so proud to be a JU-ite on that day.

If that was the best moment - the crowing glory came just a few months before I left for Florida. I was almost out of quizzing by then - but the JU team composed of Arijit , Amit , Dipyaman (Sayan was a late replacement for him in the actual quiz) and me qualified for the special invitation round of BBC University Challenge India. We went all the way to Delhi - it was an awesome experience to be on the sets with Basu - although quizzically we did not put up that good a show - losing rather tamely to University of Edinburgh. The sad part is I was here when they broadcast it and I have no photos even from the quiz.But still a nice way to end an eventful Kolkata quizzing career.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Its so confusing!

Now dont get confused by that. I am not worried about the fate of the universe or about paying my credit card bills ( Okay - I "am" concerned about them too - but thats not the point!). I just wonder what shape this blog should take. It has to be personal (whats the point of a blog otherwise? we have CNN!) without getting intense. It has to be humorous without getting obscure.It has to be cynical (because I am) without getting raunchy. And a host of other criteria which I cant remember offhand - but pretty sure that they exist. One safe way would be to make it a travel-blog (since I do travel so much) or a photo-blog (as they say - a picture is worth a thousand words!) but that is making things too simpler and probably predictable - which I presume is not a good idea. So here I am - stuck with a "blog" - without having a proper direction. Sounds familiar? You bet it is.