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 -

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).