Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to fake NRIness

So I was on a flight to India last week. It would be my first time back home since I came to the US more than a year back. I knew, or at least I thought, that everyone was waiting expectantly for my return. I imagined the crowds, the paparazzi, the flashbulbs, the screaming. Ok I may have gone a little too far, even for my standards. Anyways, as the flight taxied off the runway at JFK, I began to think on how I must make an American impression on the people I would meet during my stay. So here are my 10 ways to fake NRIness. It is the #1 bestseller in Goa.

1. The fake accent. It is the most obvious one and I need not elaborate further. Let’s just say that some people start working on it the moment they land in the US. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case with me.

2. Yo clothes. Again, very common and obvious. I am sorry this is sounding like a Times of India article where they state the obvious. But I would like to emphasize that an ‘I Love NYC’ t-shirt is a must.

3. An Apple product. Make sure you have an I-Pod, Pad, Phone in your hands, ears, mouth, etc.

4. Use American vocabulary like trunk for boot, elevator for lift, gas for petrol etc.

5. Exclaim on a regular basis ‘Is this how they do it in India?’

6. Use sunscreen before going out, even at night.

7. Talk about how similar India is to what is shown in the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

8. Keep emphasizing on how hot it is and how you are suffering from jet lag, even after a month.

9. Once in a while, make the mistake of giving dollar bills while making payments.

10. Distances should be in miles, weight in pounds, and temperature in Fahrenheit.
It is okay if you use pounds for distances also. As long as you sound exotic it should be fine.

Good luck to my US returned readers and fans. All hail the fake NRIs.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Counting your countless blessings


My life is great. I am so thankful for everything in my life. I have listed some things that most of us can relate to. I think if we make our own full list, it will never end as God blesses us everyday!

I thank God for the gift of faith. Without faith, my life would be empty.

I thank God for the free and safe country I live and have lived in. There are so many people who wake up in the morning unsure if they will be killed or end up in jail by evening.

I thank God for grad life. I know it is tough, but I think about how many people would give everything to be in my place? Many people work much harder than me for much lesser rewards.

I thank God for good parents. They love me dearly and despite their humble backgrounds gave and continue to give me everything they can.

I thank God for my brothers. They were, are, and will always be there for me.

I thank God for my friends. There are so many people who are alone in this world.

I thank God for great health and an able body. Isn’t it awesome feeling to run like the wind or to soak in a sunset?

I thank God for giving me food, clothing, and shelter. Think about the time when you missed lunch for some reason, or forgot your coat on a cold windy day, or if you had to sleep at a railway station.

I thank God for keeping me safe from natural disasters. Picture the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Indonesia, the hurricane in New Orleans or the floods in Pakistan.

I thank God for the ample water around. Is there anything more necessary, fun and refreshing than water?

I am blessed and I thank God that I realize it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Halloween - Eat, drink and be scary!

“Halloween!” and what comes to mind? Costume parties. People dress up in weird tacky costumes and make lame jokes and comments about each others costumes for 5 minutes and then everyone hangs out/parties as usual. Ok, ok, I guess haven’t been here long enough to appreciate American culture and so I still feel the idea of dressing in costumes is almost, hmm, stupid. But then why bother? Just shut up, go with the flow and have fun!

So what did I dress as? Now, costumes are for people who don’t want to be themselves, either because they don’t like themselves or because they really want to be someone else. Now the narcissist that I am, I think I am the best specimen of the human race and so why would I wanna be anyone else? Hmm, but if I dressed as myself, I would be ‘not-dressed’ and so a party pooper in the eyes of the rest. Apparently even the best are not immune to peer pressure. Alright, lets get a costume. $50 for a use-and-dispose quality, made-in-china costume. The patriot in me reasoned, why should I boost the Chinese economy?

Cheap solutions? Dress as a vampire and act mean. Nah, I can’t be ‘mean’ because I am not your ‘average’ guy. I needed something personal, fun and creative. So for one of my friends’ party, I dressed as my friend himself and made some lame jokes which were well appreciated in my opinion. Great party by the way, Pranav and Amanda. Good food and booze, but there wasn’t enough eye candy. So I had to feast on halloween candy instead.

And for Reid and Hannah’s party, I dressed as a text book, in honor of the long conduction homework sessions, which while not resulting in an A grade, gave me a great bunch of friends. My pick up line, suggested by Charlie, was supposed to be, ‘did you know that the integral of ‘e’ raised to ‘x’ looks like sex?’ I think I can use such a line only in my dreams, but there too, girls end up giving me wrong phone numbers. I think I should be happy with Reynold’s numbers and Nusselt's numbers. Maybe I should get a pick-up truck to pick-up girls. Ok, I am digressing from the topic here.

Side note: Pumpkin carving is a Halloween tradition too. It is can be fun if you are good at carving. I am not. But then what am I good at? I will talk about that some other time.

So that’s Halloween for you, through my spectacles. If it doesn’t sound right or fun, I blame my spectacles.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exploring the Heart of the Earth at Glacier National Park


A long endless drive, through the flat plains of Western Minnesota, North Dakota and Eastern Montana, finally came to an end as the majestic Rocky Mountains came into view. We were greeted with bright sunshine and crisp mountain air. It was my first time in the mountains. I was excited. I was awed. There they stood in front of me lofty and imposing, timeless and serene.

This was a hiking and camping trip. So everyday we climbed some mountain or hiked some trail. A trail up a mountain can be inspiring, it can be daunting. I have a new found respect for mountaineers. You are at the base of a mountain and think to yourself, ‘well, this is a couple of miles, should be done in a jiffy’ and then two hours later your are still climbing. Your brow is soaked in sweat, your nose is bleeding due to the high altitude. Every sinew is stretched, every muscle is exerted. If hiking is not tiring enough, try backpacking when you have 40 pounds of gear weighing you down. Backpacking requires a badass attitude. And a body in great physical shape. Luckily I am blessed with both.


Nature is so beautiful. The sound of wind and water. The sound of silence. The sight of lofty mountains. The sight of tranquil blue lakes. The smell of wild flowers. This was nature’s own canvass. Painted to perfection. You had to catch your breath before it was taken away by the breath taking views or the thin high altitude air. To quote John Muir, “in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I realized we are caretakers of a truly beautiful world. We can never own something so magnificent. It is our job to preserve it for posterity.

And then there is the ever cool camping experience. Sleeping in tents, cooking outdoors, campfire and s’mores. And on this camping trip I had no cell phone service or Internet access for a week! It was a get away in a true sense.


I thank God for giving me an opportunity to see some more of his amazing creation. Thanks also to the Center for Outdoor Adventure at UMN for organizing the trip and to all my friends on the trip for making this trip so much fun.


A brief description of our hikes.
Day 1: Garden Wall (4 miles). It was a warm-up hike, to get our feet going.
Day 2: Sunrift Gorge - Siyeh Pass - Siyeh Bend (10.3 miles). Elevation at start point - 4640 ft. Elevation at top - 8240 ft. Elevation at end point - 5840 ft.
Day 3: Grinell Glacier (11miles). Elevation at start and end point - 4860 ft. Elevation at top - 6560 ft.
The first 3 days were day hikes and we camped at Rising Sun campground.
Day 4: Packers Roost - Flat Top Mountain campsite (5.7 miles). This was with the 40 lb. of gear. We has an elevation gain of 2640 ft. over 3 miles.
Day 5: Flat Top Mountain campsite - Sue Lake - Flat Top Mountain campsite (13.9 miles). Maximum elevation 7600 ft.
Day6: Flat top Mountain campsite - Packers Roost (5.7 miles). This again was with all the gear.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Running a Marathon - Half the story

I will tell only half the story of running a marathon because I will tell you the full story of running a half marathon. So hows one go about running a marathon? As Barney in HIMYM said, “Step one, you start running. There is no step two.” I think I need to elaborate a little more.

I registered for the race after I surprised myself with a rather comfortable 8 mile run with my friend Clare, who is training for a full marathon. A spur of the moment decision led me to register for the twin cities half marathon. Now I needed to set a finish time goal. I felt 2 hours was a challenging as well as a realistic goal. Also a time of 1:59 is so much better than 2:01. So the goal was set.

Next step, training. There is this cool website mapmyrun.com which allows you to map running routes and keep track of your training sessions. I didn’t have any fancy electronics to keep track of my running speed. I made note of various landmarks and their distances along the route. And I had a watch to check the time. I must confess I wasn’t very regular with my training sessions. Common, how many of us like to wake up at 6am to run for almost 2 hours and then have a long tiring graduate student day ahead? But when I ran my last training run I was fairly confident of achieving my 2hr finish time goal.

Finally it was race day. The Fourth of July. The race began at 6:30am. And within minutes it started to rain. Oh dear, I had not run in the rain before. I thought of the positives. It was cooler and the sun wasn’t out. There would be no need of a shower after the race. I wouldn’t have to stop to drink water. But there were some problems too. My clothes became heavy. My pants started slipping with the weight. My specs fogged up. I didn’t wanna bump into anyone and transfer my precious kinetic energy to them.

As the race wore on, I got used to the conditions. The field also thinned out. I upped my pace a little bit. I couldn’t run too fast as all the streets had speed limits. I puffed my chest when I passed another runner and looked the other way when I was passed. Anyone going slower than me was a moron and anyone going faster was a freak. I stuck to a pace of 8:47/mile for most part.

Finally the finish line was in sight. I was well within two hours. My training had borne fruit. I thought of how great an achievement it was for me and of all the food that awaited me beyond the finish line. And then after nearly two hours, I was done! I can’t imagine how people run a full marathon in about the same time. I don’t think I have the sauce in my ......., knees to do a full marathon.

Results:
Finish time: 1:53:50. (winning time 1:13:15)
Ave pace: 8:42/mile
Overall place: 494/2375 finishers

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Licensed to vroom vroom in USA

Step on the gas, floor the accelerator, put the pedal to the metal. I so wanted to zoom on the awesome American highways. I finally got going with the formalities of getting a DL over the summer. I think I am allowed to drive with my Indian DL but I wanted to be safe and get a DL here before driving around.

I used to drive in India. So this wasn’t a completely new experience. But there were a few novelties. First, they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road here. But then you also sit on the wrong side of the car. So that cancels out. Although once I made a mistake of turning onto the oncoming traffic side of the street. Then there is the automatic transmission issue. That transition went pretty smoothly. But I must say that a stick is way better than an automatic. Also I rarely clocked more than 40mph in India. So driving at 70mph on a crowded freeway was a slightly tense experience. On the bright side, I actually enjoyed driving here for the reason that the traffic flows very smoothly and there are no autos to induce chaos. Driving is not a stressful experience.

Coming to the Drivers License procedure, first you need to take a knowledge test. There is a manual online from where you can acquire the required knowledge before the test. Most of the questions are quite straight forward and shouldn't be much of problem as long as you have read the manual. I remember one question from my test. "At what rate on an average can the body safely metabolize alcohol?" I took a guess and went for the lowest option which was 1 drink/hr. It turned out to be the correct answer. Now I need to find out what does ‘1 drink’ mean.

Next is the road test. You can take an appointment (which means a wait time of about a month) or you can go to the test and hope to get a chance in case someone with an appointment doesn’t turn up. I chose the latter. A heads up here, go as early as possible (by 8am) and be in the first on the without appointments list. I was 16th and had to wait for about 4 hours for my turn. Also I have heard you must avoid Mondays and Fridays. Not quite sure why.

The driving test went smoothly. The officer was kinda gruff and didn't let me say anything extra. He asked me a series of questions about the controls in the car. I answered them confidently and then he said pass. I went ‘yoyoyo’ in my mind. I thought I was done. Then he said, ‘lets go for drive.’ Oh dear, that was the controls test I had passed. I put the car in drive and slowly pulled onto the street. He asked me to do a lot of lane changing and turnings at intersections. Then there was parallel parking (see picture), curb parking and reverse driveway parking. Then he told me to pull over to the side. Its was the moment of truth.

He launched into a barrage of critical comments. I didn’t park to close to the curb, I didn't look behind while starting to drive again from par, I didn't stop before the white line, I wasn't smooth. I began thinking of all the time I had wasted, and that I would have to come again and give it another shot. Damn it. And then he said ‘you have passed, enjoy driving and stay safe.’ Hugh?!! I was speechless. I was really happy. The big smile in my DL picture says it all. A piece of advice here, take the smallest car possible because the space for parallel parking and reverse driveway parking is fixed. So if you have a small car you have more space to maneuver.

Thanks Jonathan for the car and driving practice, Ben for the long driving sessions and Pranav for accompanying me to the test center.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Boundary Waters - Minnesota's finest outdoor gem.

A couple of weeks back, I finally went canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Three glorious days of canoeing, portaging and camping. It was an absolutely chilled out weekend just before the end of the semester.

Canoeing was the essence of the trip. Sit in the canoe and paddle splash-splash-splash. It was very relaxing. The serene lake, the gentle lapping sound of water and the rhythmic paddling. The trees were just coming back to life after months of hibernation. The scenery was stunning. Places so beautiful are only seen on calendars and wallpapers. We saw a couple of otters and a few loons too. It was a paragon of wilderness. We didn’t see any other human during the time we were there. I especially enjoyed canoeing in the marshy narrow lakes. We got to see a few beaver homes too. I liked watching the vortex shedding from paddles and tried to paddle in the most efficient way by applying my susupect fluid mechanics knowledge. Mech E \m/

Portaging was kind of a pain. But it was much easier once I got the hang of it. I felt like Atlas with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I didn’t know I had such good upper body strength. I guess lifting those feather weight dumb bells helped after all. And then there was the wind which was against us for most part. Sometimes it got a little too strong. If you stopped paddling you were going backwards! We rode the waves. It was hard work. Paddle paddle paddle. Full steam ahead. My 0.1 horsepower paddling coupled with Jon’s 0.1 hp was just about enough I think to keep us going. I think my biceps grew by an inch in 3 days!

And the wind is even worse when it is from the side. So there was this one time when I was steering, my first time. It was quite calm when we set out. Then out of nowhere the wind picked up. Suddenly we were broadsided by white crested waves. We almost overturned. Water actually came inside the canoe. The wind and waves tossed us around like a paper boat. I had a hard time orienting the canoe in the direction of the waves. In the mean time we were blown off course towards the rocks. We just about managed to beach among rocks without damaging the canoe. After waiting a while we set out again in the lake with Jon steering us. Finally we managed to ride far out enough and cut back in towards our destination. What an adventure. I should have carried some of my Mech E text books for ballast.

And then there was the camping part. We camped on an island. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? The whole process from setting up camp, cooking dinner, hanging our food above the ground, etc. was sweet. As far as camp talk goes, I must mention a good joke. It must be noted that there were four Mech Eng grad students in the group. “So if a girl asks you for your number, and you say Rho, V, L by Mu. And then she exclaims, are you Reynolds?! Then that girl is a keeper.”

We sat by the lake at dusk. It was kinda eerie to see the inky black water and the silhouettes of the trees against the dark sky. It was soothing to hear the gentle lapping of the water against the shore. We turned in for the night when it got too dark. I liked the idea of sleeping at sunset and waking at dawn. The sleeping bags were cozy. It was pitch dark and the only sound to be heard was the rain against the tent. Good night and sweet dreams.

The days dawned bright and clear. It was amazing to be awakened to the songs of birds and rustling of leaves, the sweet smell of the wet pine forest. It was heavenly. All in all an awesome trip. Aah I miss the Boundary waters. Hope I get to go back in the summer. The Boundary Waters certainly lived up to its reputation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day - It's not only about Global Warming.

April 22 was Earth day. The day when we, hopefully, took a moment to think about the Earth, how we are degrading it and what can we do to conserve it for the future generations. I hope this Earth Day we made a start in changing our habits, to become more eco friendly in our ways. Following are a few places I have observed where we can change easily for the good of the environment.

The basic mantra is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and in that order. Not the other way round. Most people used paper or plastic freely, thinking it will be recycled. First of all not everything you think is recycled, is recycled. It might end up in a large dump yard somewhere. Just because you don't see the thrash around that doesn't mean its all good. And secondly, if it does get recycled, take it account the amount of energy and resources that go into recycling. Sometimes its more costly to recycle than to make a product from new materials. Recycling paper for instance is a water and chemical intensive industry.

So the best option is too reduce. Don't buy or use what you don't need. Its good for your pocket and the environment. Or maybe buy second hand if you find something of your liking and in good condition. The next option is reuse by all means. Plastic bags can be reused a few times, cloth bags a hundred times! Don't use disposable crockery and dishes. Just a little cleaning up after wont hurt anyone.

Say no to bottled water. Have a look at this video. I never understood the need for bottled water. Tap water is safe almost everywhere in the US and in most places in India. So don't forget to fill a bottle at home before you step out.

Avoid using hot water to wash dishes. Just because hot water is easily accessible doesn't mean you have to use it all the time. Make cold water your first choice. It does the job just fine. Same goes with washing your clothes. And avoid using the drier is possible.

Unplug your devices at night. I make sure I unplug my laptop and my cell phone charger every night. Vampire power is the most easily avoided waste of energy.

Bike or walk. Minneapolis is one of the most bike friendly cities in the US. Bike lanes all over and pleasant weather (don't say the winters are cold, I biked through the winter) make biking an attractive option. I biked around in Bangalore too. Give it a shot. You might actually like it.

Take the stairs. The most efficient elevator is the one not in use. Most of you are young and run for miles and burn tons of calories in the gym. Remember the gym is not the only place to burn calories.

Print on both sides of the paper and write on both sides as well. It will make your notes and assignments lighter, compact and eco-friendly.

Switch off the lights. Just because you use CFL lighting that doesn't mean you must keep them on all the time. Don't think that less waste is no waste. Increase the thermostat temperature setting in summer and decrease it in the winter. Your room need not be a sauna in winter and a freezer in summer.

Reduce non vegetarian food consumption. The connection between non vegetarian food and carbon emissions is still highly debated. But the pollution caused by animal farming is clear to see. Animal farming pollutes water and is highly water intensive. Nat Geo Magazine this month reported that it takes 1857 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef while it takes 31 gallons of water for a pound of potatoes. And most of this water comes by destroying the nearest river. And there is the use of fertilizers to grow crops to feed animals. Can farming get anymore inefficient? Salmon farming in Chile is destroying pristine coastlines. Just because you are dirtying your neighbors backyard that doesn't mean you must enjoy the bliss that comes from being ignorant. In that sense I am happy nature is speaking through global warming. Now the repercussions of destroying nature have come knocking at everyone's door.

If you haven't noticed, most of the above step don't take too much time and are not a major hassle. You just have to try to make it a habit. Don't forget, even if your are not the eco-conscious person, these practices save money! I am sure all of us are money conscious if not eco-conscious.

And this post was not about global warming. I know many people think global warming isn't for real. But global warming is not the only environmental disaster looming ahead. The electricity that so cleanly and quietly powers almost everything we use comes mostly by burning coal. The entire process of mining, transporting and burning coal is highly polluting. You should read about mountain top removal coal mining. Why should we allow such avoidable abuses to nature? Yeah, take a moment to think of the ways we are destroying the earth. Its time man shows that he is truly intelligent and mend his ways.

Picture credits
http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumb_274/1212070475h4ovql.jpg
http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/biking-500.jpg
http://thewiddershins.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/mtn.jpg

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Road trip, Missions trip, Fun trip - New Orleans

My first spring break! New Orleans was the lucky city to host me over for spring break. [:D] It was a long drive from Minneapolis. Long in distance and time. Obviously, as they are both related. We passed through many states viz Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. I liked the part when we entered each new state. It gave a feeling of achievement. Yeah I know, I wasn't the first human to set foot there. [Because I was in a car silly!] But still, its good to say 'been there seen there' for those states.

And what about the time in between? Each state stretched for 3-4 hours. Well, the time was well spent by watching the sometimes stunning and other times drab scenery go by; talking and I thank the co passengers of the White Bolt for being such wonderful travel companions; gathering my few and far flung thoughts; flipping radio stations; eating, and some more eating; staring at people in cars passing by; counting sheep in my head; sleeping, trying to sleep and trying not to sleep. I hope you haven't gone to sleep by now. Twenty hours is a long time to be sitting in a car. At times I felt watching paint dry would have been more interesting. But most of the time it was fun. Thank you Jaime and Tony for the smooth and safe drive.

Our group from Newman Center went to New Orleans to help the organization Rebuilding Together in their efforts of helping New Orleans recover from the devastation caused by Katrina. The work included painting, putting insulation in the roof and caulking the windows. It was new experience for me. My paint stained, worn out work clothes will be my new chick magnet in Minneapolis. But this trip was more than an experience in hands on work.

We heard stories from many people. There was this 83 year old owner of the house we were working on. She was so energetic and cheerful despite her age, the 4.5 years wait for her house to be rebuilt and the recent death of her husband. She had this spark in her eyes and spring in her step that will always serve as an inspiration to me when I feel bogged down. Then there were the volunteers who told us about their experience and encouraged us to do the same. How could they help people they are not even remotely related to? As Jesus said, if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

A girl told us her story about being trapped in a house for days and the mayhem around her when she finally got out. Another guy told us about how he was trapped in his house as the waters rose. He had to stayed afloat for hours until he got washed ashore some place else. I had never seen a natural disaster struck zone before. Even after 4.5 yrs, the place is still scarred. I imagined the terrible scenes. I am thankful to God that I never had to experience a natural disaster. Sometimes we forget to be grateful to God for quotidian stuff like good weather!

I know the work we did was negligible as compared to what remains to be done. But it showed the people we cared. Every bit counts in the long rebuilding process. Besides, it may inspire some of us to join such volunteer groups after graduation from college. As for whether New Orleans must be rebuilt given that it is bound to be hit again as it is below sea level at most places, I don't know. If people wanna come back we must help them. And the city has a prominent place in history and culture of the Southerners especially the Afro-Americans..

New Orleans is a fun city. We lived in the French Quarter which is a tourist place. The one thing that caught my attention right away was the ubiquitous presence of alcohol. People walked the streets with booze in hand, there were pubs all over the place. The 'Hurricane' from Pat O'Brien's almost blew me off. The architecture of the houses reminded me of Goa. Music could be heard everywhere. This is the center for Jazz music. The air was filled with cheerful energy. Oh and there were palm trees. Long time no see, my dear palm trees. And the place is renowned for exotic cuisine. A must visit for the foodies.

Soon it was time to head North. It was a wonderful trip. A Spring break well spent. See y'all later!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grad Comics.

The new semester hasn't been easy as I have been quite busy and that has made me dizzy. Lame attempt at being poetic there. Now get ready for some lame attempts at being funny. Do you remember the Friends episode in which Chandler writes down his jokes? So I thought I might make note of some classics I have cracked in the past few days. [:D] means you are supposed to laugh, just like in sitcoms they have those laughter tracks to help you laugh at appropriate times.

“I have a long day ahead of me”. “Not possible, every day has 24 hours.” [:D]

“I cant understand the prof well.” “Sit at the back of the class so you will have more time to catch and understand what the prof says.” [:D]

“There is a meeting at 8:30, such an odd time!” “How is it odd? Both '8' and '30' are even numbers” [:D]

“The Panda is the least racist animal, its black, white and Asian.” “Is Michael Schumacher the most racist person?” [:D]

“I miss gals wearing sleeveless tshirts. When will the summer come?” “Yeah me too, I feel more comfortable with gals wearing sleeveless.” “Why?” “Then I am sure they don't have any tricks up their sleeve!” [:D]

“I went rock climbing yesterday.” “How was it?” “Didnt enjoy it as I am scared of heights.” “Hmm you will not get to far with career when you have to climb the corporate ladder.” [:D]

After a mock interview. Interviewer- “You think well on your feet.” Me thinking “Hows that possible? I was seated suring the interview. It was more like thinking on my butt!” [:D]

Hope you enjoyed the sad jokes. If not, read the post again!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Darwin's Leap of Faith - Busting the myth of evolution.

We all know the theory of evolution. Most of us 'know' that we have descended from apes, who in turn descended from some other animal, …...., who descended from nothing in particular. I learned this 'fact' when I was 10 years old. It took me 10 more years to start questioning it. And boy, am I glad to have done that.

Evolution is a theory not a fact. He just conjured it up based some a few things he observed. But why did Darwin's theory of man evolving from apes become a fact? There is no proof at all for Darwin's fairytale. It hasn't been proved at any level. I will give only a few points here just to arouse your interest so that maybe if you really care about where you came from and where you are going, you can start digging further.

Lets begin with the failure of man's attempts in creating life. If the top scientists in the world with the best equipment at hand cannot produce the simplest form of life, how can we believe blind chance doing such an awesome job in creating all life forms? The smallest living cell has the complexity of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet airplane. The components of the smallest living cell have the obvious arrangement showing intelligent design, just as the Boeing 747 did not appear from random parts stacked near each other in a junk yard. The minimal cell contains more than 60,000 proteins of 100 different configurations.

Mechanical Engineering
. The second law of thermodynamics proves that organization cannot flow from chaos. Complex live organisms cannot rearrange themselves into an organism of a higher form as claimed by evolutionists. This is scientifically backwards according to the second law of thermodynamics, which has never been proven wrong. The universe is slowing down to a lower state, not higher. The genes of plants, insects, animals and humans are continually becoming defective, not improving. Species are becoming extinct, not evolving. Order will always move naturally toward disorder or chaos, unless changed by an intelligent being. Sunlight by the way is a very diffuse form of energy and is incapable of reversing the disorder.

Chemistry. Proteins use only L form of amino acids. Chance lightening would form both L and D in equal amounts. Even a small amount of D form would produce proteins unsuitable for life. So there is no way that life could originate from the nutrient 'soup' that evolutionists claim life sprung from. Besides there is no evidence of this pre biotic soup in earth's oldest rocks.

Probability. Statisticians have calculated the probability of assembling amino acid building blocks into a functional protein as 1 in 4.9x10^191. And the simplest known self reproducing organism has 625 proteins. Can you imagine the amount of trust we have put in chance and time? There are only 10^18 seconds in 15 billion years. Just compare the two numbers.

Geology. We dont find any transitional forms in the fossils. Fossils have only fully developed extinct species. We have numerous fossils over all time periods, yet we don't see any transitional species. There are intermediate species between two species of the same level. These are lost cousins rather than ancestors. And all those fossils that were classified as the intermediate between apes and man have now been classified as either ape or man. The answer to this absence of transitional fossils, enter 'stepped evolution'. Stepped evolution theory states that evolution proceeded so fast over short time periods that there wasn't any chance for fossils to form from the transitional life forms. So what made evolution to speed up and slow down?

And since time is a major player in evolution, I must mention the fact that the age of the earth is also debated. All those radiometric dating methods are not fool proof. They are adjusted to suit evolution. To state it plainly, rocks are dated depending on the fossils found in them and fossils are dated depending on the rocks they were found in. Hurrah to circular reasoning!

Despite the overwhelming evidence against evolution, we all believe it without any question. Why? The main reason evolution is so widely accepted is because it takes away our accountability of our actions. We don't wanna know that God is watching over us and will judge us when the time comes. We want to be the masters of ourselves and sometimes others too. When we believe in evolution we are basically accountable to time and chance, both of which cant do anything besides maybe converting us to dogs if they get pissed off. But that will take a million years. So why bother?

Coming to the question most Christians ask, can we accept both theories (evolution and creation) and live happily? No! We cant please God and the devil. You cannot be here and there. Something cannot be both black and white. And grey is neither by the way. I feel our belief about our origin and our destiny is fundamental to our faith. How can you believe you will go to heaven after you die if you think you have come from apes? What amazes me is that a belief in evolution has created doubts in creation. Why isn't a belief in creation creating doubts about evolution?

To conclude, evolution is a new religion in which time and chance are gods. Evolutionists have incredible faith is the chance and faith that they are ready to disregard the Word of God and science. Its your decision, do you wanna be a (unwitting) follower of the religion of time and chance?

Credit: Darwin's leap of faith by John Ankerberg and John Weldon.

Picture: http://www.truthandscience.net/Creation-Hands.jpg

Added on Feb15: I got a lot of questions about references for this post. Those who are interested should read the book named as credit for this post. It had hundreds of references to the things they talk about. This book is basically a compilation of all scientific publications against evolution. Its concise and easy to understand. If you wanna delve into any field more deeply, check out the references for that section

Love this song. There is a God- Lee Ann Womack

Friday, January 22, 2010

First step towards Prof. Daniel

The other day I went to my first class as a Teaching Assistant. I didn't have to take the lecture but had to discuss any doubts the students had. I went and sat in the front of the class. The prof. introduced us first. I liked the way I had to wave out to the class when the prof. introduced me. I had wondered how I was supposed to acknowledge the intro. Should it be a brief nod and a slight wave? or should I wave like Sonia Gandhi during election rallies. Well, I can't remember what I did. But no one laughed. So it was fine I guess.

After the prof finished his brief material for the hour, the TAs and the prof were open for discussion. The other two TA and the prof were getting all the attention. Yeah I was NBD (No Bhav Dude) here also. Now why would they avoid me? Do I look dumb? Or did they think that they wouldn't understand me? Or did I have body odor? I should have used Axe. Then all the ladies would be swarming around me. I tried to look disinterested by flipping through the text book. Finally someone came up to because the others were occupied. I was nervous. I hope I could answer his doubt. Luckily his doubt was really dumb or as the protocol goes, the doubt was 'simple'. No question is deemed dumb here.

Then some guy asked me a doubt from the homework. Now the homework was given the previous day and I didn't expect anyone to start the homework right away. So I myself hadn't gone through it. And considering that I did the corresponding course 4 years back and I have the retention of a large sized sieve, I was in a spot of bother. I had no idea how to solve the problem he was stuck with. Hmm, what to do? Okay, lets do what most profs normally do when they don't know the answer. Act knowledgeable if the student is confused or act as if you can't follow the student's doubt if the student appears confident. My case was the former. So I said it was a easy problem and that any hints I give might give the answer away. In the mean time I was racking my brains for the solution. I said a few more things like 'it's there in the text book', 'the prof covered it in class', 'you will get it if you apply yourself a bit'. Finally I figured out the solution and told him that he had tried enough and I would tell him the answer. And with a flourish I started scribbling the steps of the problem. He was happy to have got the answer. And I was happy to have managed to wriggle myself out of the sticky situation.

The rest of the discussion hour went smoothly as most students left soon. Good for them and me. Finally the hour ended. I hurried out. I swore to myself to be better prepared next time and cursed the undergrad Daniel for not studying properly. I was also thankful to my profs, no not for teaching me well, but for teaching me how to handle sticky situations. One up Prof. Daniel!

Picture courtesy:
http://www.ibsaf.org/ibsafworld/2008/march/JustJokin/teacher1.jpg
http://www.hello.cat/images/adults4.jpg

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Living in a sports mad nation

I am a sports fan. How much of a fan? Well I was disappointed but didn't mourn when John Terry missed the penalty in the Champions league finals. I was happy when India won the cricket world cup. But I didn't go around distributing sweets. So I am somewhere in the middle. But I think I am a misfit in this nation obsessed with sports. Well I may have got such an impression because my friends are mainly guys in their twenties. But then how do you explain a prof discussing football before a lecture or old ladies in the stands for an ice hockey match? So you get an idea of how big sport is here. But this post is not about the fan fanaticism which I am sure all of us Indians know quite well. This post is about the unending list of new sports I have tried or come across in the US.

Football
For the uninformed, this football is nothing like the football the world knows. In fact I don't know why it is called football in the first place. They hardly used their feet to kick that something they call 'ball'. How that weird shaped object is called ball is beyond me. This game is like a human bullfight. Shoving, pushing, running, bang! And he is flat on the floor. Then the referee makes some announcement. And the cycle continues. This goes on for 3 hours. I didn't like the sport one bit. Too much violence. And that dude who runs with the ball reminded me the autos in Bangalore weaving through the traffic hurling abuses at everyone.

Ice Hockey
More violence. The main aim of this sport seems to knock the opponents down and start bashing the opponents. Getting the puck in the goal is an unimportant part of the game. Players just zoom around on skates back and forth. And there is absolute chaos near the touchline as players keep going in and out. I don't think I will understand this game even if it is played at half speed. These Americans took a decent sport like field hockey and made it a bit violent to suit the violent tastes of the American public! But I must appreciate the amazing control they have over that tiny puck on a frictionless surface with those long sticks while zooming around on their skates.

Tennis
Say hello to the right handed Nadal. That's me you skeptics. I watched tennis on TV since I was of your age [:)]. Finally I got a chance to play! I took a course and vowed to beat Nadal when we are both 50. I didn't have to start from from scratch. That's because I already have bulging biceps like Nadal! I like tennis because its a safe sport unlike the above two American sports which require you to write your will before you step on the the playing field. I like the fact that the opponent is on the other side of the net and cannot do anything to me besides yelling like Serena Williams. I can't hit those booming Nadal forehands yet, but maybe that's because I don't wear tight pants like him. Anyways looking forward to the match with Nadal in 2037.

Some more to come in the next post viz Basketball, canoeing, rock climbing, ultimate frisbee etc..

Pic courtesy: http://digitalheadbutt.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/rafael-nadal.jpg

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Book review – (Super+1)*Freakonomics – Exploring the power of incentives.

Freakonomics and its sequel Superfreakonomics are the products of some out of the box thinking by a 'rogue' economist about seemingly mundane everyday life matters. It is about economics at work in everyday life. Its about economics stripped down of its complex theories, formulas and obscure language. Its about 'exploring the hidden side of everything', how every action has a hidden motive or incentive that drives it, how statistics can be use to quantify anything and everything. Its about stripping down a layer or two from the surface of modern life and seeing what is happening underneath.

One of the most intriguing idea discussed is about how legalization of abortion may have cause crime to drop in recent years. The author provides various statistics to disregard other possible causes like gun control, strong economy, better laws, etc. He feels that the potential criminals are knocked out before they are born as most unwanted babies are potential criminals. If true, its a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. Its like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings on one continent and eventually cause a hurricane on another. I am firmly against abortion and feel that it must not be legalized even for a noble cause like crime reduction. Abortion is murder. Full stop.

Some interesting stuff for men and women looking for soul mates is discussed on pages 80-85. Supposedly men want to look taller and earn more while women wanna weigh less, look good and be blond. At least those are the conclusions drawn after analyzing profiles on dating websites. What men should do to get a date? Say they are looking for a long term relationship, earn a lot, be tall, and have a lot of hair on the head. Women can read the book to see what men want.

He also discusses the power of information, how the Ku Klux Klan was countered just by leaking their secrets, why schoolteachers may and do cheat, whether homes with guns or swimming pools are more dangerous for kids to play, does your name matter for your future, etc.

Superfreakonomics has some equally fascinating analysis of mundane matters. The book begins with some analysis about how the television supposedly changed the thinking of rural India. He also mentions some things about Indian men which might, let me say, make them feel inferior. And then he rants on with a lot of stuff about prostitutes which I think is included just as a marketing gimmick. Those who are not very comfortable with the topic can skip ahead to the next chapter as all the chapters are unrelated to each other. There are a few interesting things discussed like whether your birthday matters if you wanna become a sports star, why do less people die when doctors are on strike, how to live longer. He also discusses why terrorism is over hyped, like I had discussed in The bigger killers

I don't like the fact that he thinks man is basically selfish and works solely for his own benefit. But sadly his analysis of hard numbers corroborate his belief. The author also makes some weird arguments against global warming but he has clarified some of the finer points in his blog. But he mentions that meat based diets are the biggest contributors of green house gases. You can read my post SAY NO TO NON VEG FOODS

Some good quotes in the books
-Economics is about how people get what they want.
-Morality represents the way people would like the world to work, economic represents how it actually does work.
-Emotion is the enemy of rational argument.

On the whole the books are a good read. The books are fast and jump from one topic to another. The author has a good sense of humor which spices up tons of statistics he uses to illustrate or back his claims. Go explore the hidden side of everything and get freaked out.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Modern Art – Crap is the name of the game.

Everyone talks about the modern world going to the dogs. Our culture, lifestyle, moral values, etc. but i didn't know that even our art was going to the dogs too. Sorry my canine friends, I am sure your art would be better than the human modern art.

I visited the Weisman Art Museum on the UMN-Twin Cities campus to check out some modern 'art'. I thought that I would come across as cultured and intellectual by visiting art museums. But I wasn't prepared for the rubbish that was in store for me. Utter crap is called art. The more vague and hideous a painting or sculpture is, the more it is revered. Anything simple is considered unintelligent. I felt the world has lost its aesthetic sense. Things that you might not even spare a passing glance at a garage sale is kept at the museum. Some paintings were so hideous that I may get nightmares tonight. On the other end of the scale, things might go into the thrash bin are hung as paintings. There is a 'dirty paper' which is hung up as a piece of art. Read the description in the adjoining picture. Then there was plain colored paper. And some pieces of paper which looked like scribbles of an elementary school kid. And some more paper with water color splashes on it which looked very similar to my rough paintings when I first used watercolors. Oh and for the piece de resistance, there was an exhibit that consisted of a plane steel rod keep diagonal to the corner of the room. In the description it said, the steel rod enhanced the feeling of space. There was so much stuff which really taxed your imagination. You had to think hard to find something worthwhile about the painting.

And the best part was the talk between the guide and other visitors. How such nonsense could conjure such ideas and interpretations is beyond me. These rich people have no other work but a ponder over useless stuff like what the artist was trying to portray, or what led him to paint that particular piece of crap. I bet the artist is laughing his ass off at such in depth analysis of something that was meant to be nonsense! Here are some of the phrases and sentences used by people to describe the paintings; “minimalist and conceptual”,”rejected convention and tradition”,”Individualism, uniqueness, and personal expression were prized.”,”Artists labored to bare their inner souls, and each necessarily forged a new and different visual vocabulary.”,”look closely for a deeper perspective of the openness of the era”,”broke free from the bonds of yore” I could stop myself from laughing. I unwittingly attended the best stand up comedy show.

There were some positives from the visit. It inspired this post. It made me treasure my $1 painting even more. It helped me pass a lazy winter afternoon for free. It gave me a back up profession. Yes an artist. A crap expert like me can definitely put crap on paper.

Oh Leonardo, O Michelangelo, where art thou?



picture credit: http://www.roslynoxley9.com.au/images/galleries/FRANK_SoreThroat_2007/020.jpg