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Archives – June, 2010

Travelog: In the Skies Thinking About Dosa and Injera

While flying to New York and trying to kill time, I flipped Delta Sky magazine. It has got some nice articles about South Africa and the world cup. In the food section, they got picture of Masala Dhosa[sic] and Sambhal[sic] from Shayona restaurant in Johannesburg and it’s making me hungry!! It’s lunch time and south Indian dishes are my all time favourite. I just wish they were more popular in US as well. For those who dont know about Dosa, it’s a crispy pancake made out of rice and lentil batter and served along with spicy potatoes rolled inside, coconut chutney and spicy soup of lentils and vegetables(Sambhar). Dosa and sambhar are both South Indian dishes but they are popular all over India and one of the most popular snack along with Samosa.

While travelling or dining out, I always like to try out different cuisines from time to time. Especially, while travelling, eating local food is the best way of experiencing new city and culture. Somehow, I am also able to find an Indian restaurant in any new city I visit, always, and I end up having atleast one meal there. I had not tried any African cuisine until few months ago when I had lunch at an Eithiopian restaurant ‘Emanu’ in Cincinnati. I had Injera along with spicy chicken curry. Injera is a pancake like dish made out of lentils, looks like Dosa but has a distinctive taste. In Eithiopia they have a tradition, I guess, of eating together from a large plate. So if you visit any any authentic Ethiopian restaurant you will be given an option of eating together with your friends from one big plate. So go give a try to Injera if any Ethiopian restaurant out there.

I started writing this post in flight; while saving some error occurred and I lost all if it. I started writing again when I took a train from JFK airport to Penn Station. Finally, I am on another train to Princeton, where I will take another train called ‘dinky‘ to reach Princeton University. Adios for now.

1 Comment June 26, 2010

Weekend Video: City of Lakes

This weekend’s video is a 28 minute film which showcases Bollywood style of film-making. Fiction and reality has been interwoven in the narrative. The film depicts real life marriage of Samir and Melissa and in parallel there is a fictional story filmed in the beautiful city of Udaipur- The City of Lakes. The film is very colorful and beautifully filmed and consists of few actors and mostly real life people including the bride and the groom. As for narrative, acting and storyline, it’s upto you to decide whether you like it or not, but the visual quality of film is simply amazing.

I will be traveling this weekend and few coming days so will not be able to update my blog regularly. I will be updating some posts sans images and links from my phone as and when possible.

Enjoy and have a nice weekend!!

2 Comments June 26, 2010

Auroras, Why Are They Green?

What you see here is the amazing image of Aurora (aurora australis to be specific or southern lights) taken by astronauts onboard International Space Center.  Isnt’t it beautiful! Auroras are result of the interaction between ions and electrons from the solar wind with Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere. During Coronal Mass Ejections from the sun, high energetic ions are bombarded towards the earth. These ions migrate towards poles due to Earth’s magnetic fields, that’s why this phenomenon is seen mostly at Northern and Southern poles of the earth. These high energetic ions interact with Oxygen and Nitrogen of the upper atmosphere and excite them to higher energy levels. When the atoms fallback to ground state it emits light typical to particular atom. Oxygen emits at a wavelength of 558 nm (green) and at 630 nm (red ). Emission at 558 nm is more prominent and that’s how Aurora gets it’s greenish color. A slight tinge of red color can also be seen at lower left corner of the image.  Auroras in other colors have also been seen such as blue and purple but green ones are most prominent. Also, seen in the image is earth’s horizon, the limb, and the upper atmosphere (shown in blue).

This particular Aurora image is a result of a recent  coronal mass ejection activity in the sun which occurred during May 24, 2010. Our Sun has been surprisingly low in activity this year and scientists are puzzled as to what is happening to Sun. But there was some activity this month when four such mass coronal ejections occurred during May 22-May 24, 2010.  Here is the image of one such activity recorded during this period by NASA’s SOHO mission.  In the image, you can see the loop which is the mass of charged particles coming out of the sun’s surface; a disc has been used to cover the sun so that to get better image of the corona. The size and location of the sun’s surface  is indicated by the white circle. Truly amazing images and amazing phenomena. I will try to write in detail more about sun’s activity and it’s impact on earth sometime next week.

Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

2 Comments June 25, 2010

70-68: Isner Wins the Longest Running Tennis Match

4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 59-59  70-68  Isner Beats Mahut. (Updated)

That’s the score of just concluded  Tennis match in Wimbledon between 19th ranked Isner and 148th ranked Mahut . One fine Tuesday afternoon, June 22nd, Isner and Mahut started playing their first round Wimbledon match. Nobody knew that the match was going to break all sorts of records in Grand Slam tennis history. When the match started, BP was still able to collect some of the gushing oil, Gen S McChrystal was still incharge of Afghansitan operations and federal six month ban on offshore drilling was still on. Since then, BP lost the cap which was containing the flow and oil is gushing at a rate it never did before, McChrystal lost his job after he gave an interview to Rollingstone full of unwanted remarks about president and his office, and a District Judge lifted the federal ban on offshore drilling (interestingly the judge had invested heavily in oil companies including the TransOcean rig). And not to forget, USA advanced to next round of FIFA world cup after defeating Algeria in last minutes of the game.

So lots have changed, but the game between Isner and Mahut seems to be never-ending. The game started on June 22nd and they played first 4 sets and then they were forced to postpone the game to next day due to lack of light. The score read 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3). They started again on Wednesday afternoon , roughly about 2 PM. They played back and forth in the fifth set and the IBM scoreboard read like 10-10, 20-20, 30-30, 40-40 until it reached 47-47, when it froze. When crowd roared “Lets go Scorebord” it came back to life but not for long; ultimately the scoreboard was dead and gave up a few games later. But not the players, they played continuously without any calls for trainers or bathroom breaks- straight for seven hours. After seven hours of marathon set, the players took their first bathroom break when score read 58-58, much to the relief of match officials who needed break. The game has been postponed for Thursday due to bad light as of now and the score in the final set is 59-59 and no one is willing to give up!

The game has already broken many records. Duration of previous longest Tennis match was 6 hours 33 minutes between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement in the 2004 French Open. In this match, fifth set itself has been played for more than seven hours, while total duration of the game has been 10 hours and it is not finished yet! Another record broken is the number of aces in one single match. In this game a total of 193 aces (Isner- 98, Mahut-95) have been hit by both breaking previous record of 96 aces set last year. Infact, each of them individually has passed that record. Other records broken are maximum number of games- 193 and maximum number of points- 881 in a single match. And ofcourse the IBM scoreboard. Kudos to the endurance of both the players! We will come to know who won tomorrow, or will we?

Updates: Yes the marathon game has ended and John Isner finally won the game with a score of 70-68 in the final set. The record time for the entire match now stands at 11 hours and 5 minutes. The last set itself  ran for 8 hours and 11 minutes. Total number of aces -215 ( Isner-112, Mahut-103). Total points won- 980. For more stats visit Official Wimbledon site. 

Some comments from other Tennis players about the game:

Roger Federer: “In a way, I wish I was them; in some ways I wish I wasn’t them. This is a very special match. I hope somehow this is going to end.”

“It’s a marathon,” said Venus Williams, then corrected herself: “It’s longer than a marathon.”

“It makes me proud to be a tennis player,” said John McEnroe, working the BBC broadcast, after the 111th game. “It looks like Isner is about to fall over.”

Mahut “We are just fighting like we never did before, he’s a champ. The crowd is amazing and fantastic, they all want to see the end, but they’ll have to come back tomorrow. Mentally we played too long, but you just want the game you’re playing.”

Isner “Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever, we’re both serving fantastic but we both couldn’t agree to keep playing so it got cancelled.”

Picture credit: Guardian UK

Leave a Comment June 23, 2010

Energy Independent Future: Montage of Presidential Promises

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times, am I a f***** idiot?” – Jon Stewart

I guess that’s what the politicians think of the citizens. Watch this video montage from The Daily Show which exposes how presidents after presidents kept promising energy-independent future and kept moving the deadline to achieve that goal again and again (from 1980 to 2025 now). While the Gulf of Mexico bleeds, promises keep coming. It’s time to act, and act bigtime!

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart  

Video Courtesy: Comedy Central.

Leave a Comment June 20, 2010

Invictus: The Unconquered Ones

With the soccer fever catching up and South Africa being in the limelight, I thought of learning more about the Rainbow Nation. I started with Wikipedia and ended up with watching movie Invictus. I know mainstream commercial movies are not always the best way of learning about a country or a person, but movies can be fairly informative if historical information is not misrepresented. The good thing about Invictus was that it represented most of the historical facts accurately, as the movie critiques pointed out (although vuvuzelas were missing in the stadium scenes).

Invictus is a story of Nelson Mandela and his efforts to unify the nation with the help of Rugby, the sport which was played majorly by the white South Africans or Afrikaaners as they were called (speaking Afrikaan langauge) .Thereby their team Springboks was hated by the black South Africans, infact during the games, they cheered for opposing teams. Also, it was clear that none of Rugby followers or players voted for Nelson Mandela in the country’s first democratic universal elections in 1994. After Nelson Mandela’s party came to power, black leaders and sports authority wanted to totally change the structure of Springboks team including the name, color and anthem, which according to them represented hatred and oppression during the apartheid era. They almost did it, but Nelson Mandela opposed their views and stepped in and stopped any changes. He saw this as an opportunity to win trust of white Afrikaners, who loved the game. He wanted to build a unified South Africa, a rainbow nation, and supporting Rugby and asking the whole nation to rally behind the team was one of his approaches of reconciliation between blacks and whites. It took effort but the nation building process was started and South Africa ended up winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and brought much needed reconciliation.

I am always amazed reading or watching stories about great visionaries and leaders such as Gandhi and Mandela. Their focus, determination, willpower, courage, patience and dedication for the cause mesmerizes me. These are the men of their principles who defy all adversities. While today’s leaders follow partisan and popularistic politics, these leaders were not afraid of opposing their own followers and supporters if it was against their ideals. Wish today’s leaders had even a fraction of these ideals. Gandhi and Mandela both were leaders and politicians who looked at the bigger picture rather than short term gains or benefits. Who else would have thought and worked on the idea that Rugby can unite the country torn with racial discrimination since years? Who else would have thought that fasting and adopting non-violence means could instill fears in hearts and minds of British colonial rulers. They also took criticisms well and accepted their mistakes when they were wrong and instead of pointing fingers at others they worked on to rectify it. Mandela was criticized for not handling AIDS epidemic during his tenure and since then until now he has been constantly working for the cause, probably realizing that he overlooked the problem and now rectifying it. Even at this fragile age of 92, he keeps doing his part, though he has retired from public life to spend more time with his family. He was very happy when FIFA 2010 world cup was announced to be hosted in South Africa but unfortunately he was unable to cherish the moment as his 13 year old great grand-daughter died just a day before the event started after she met a fatal accident when a drunk driver hit her. She was returning from FIFA 2010 kick-off concert. Sad turn of events for him and his family, which has been a recurrent feature in his personal life.

I learnt a few things about South Africa while watching the movie Invictus.

  • The country had two national Anthems from 1995-1997– Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The call of South Africa) and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) in order to assimilate both black and white groups . In 1997, an unified or hybrid version was adapted combining both the anthems and employing 5 major languages of South Africa in the lyrics.
  • Nelson Mandela is affectionately called Madiba in South Africa, which is his clan name.
  • In the movie, they show the cell where he spent first 18 years of his 27 years in prison (Robben Island). The cell is the exact cell where he spent those years and one of the best moments in the movie (picture of the cell shown below)It makes you wonder how a man who spent those many years of his lives in that tiny cell and did rigorous labor during the day had the strength to come back and lead the nation; what kept him going? Salute to Nelson Mandela, you inspire me and many others all over the world.

Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King were all Invictus, the unconquered ones, and they were the masters of their souls. The poem “Invictus” by William Henley probably describes very well the struggles of such souls amongst all the obstacles, still emerging victorious.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Picture Credit: Top image-Madame Tussauds Wax museum, Amsterdam by Flickr user Berto Garcia

Second image from during FIFA 2010 by REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Third image: Young Mandela in Robben Island Prison by Guardian UK

Last image by Flickr user Paul Mannix. Used under creative Commons License.

Leave a Comment June 20, 2010

Weekend Video: Presto! One Man Band on a Partly Cloudy Day

Today’s weekend video edition consists of three short films from Pixar. As always, Pixar animations are the best. The first short film is Presto! which is a story of magician Presto and his rabbit Alec. While Presto lives for fame, Alec just needs a nice dinner, which Presto forgets to provide. So now it’s time for Alec to show some magic tricks to Presto! This short film pays homage to old cartoon styles of Tom and Jerry and Looney tunes while maintaining the typical Pixar style.

The second film is “One Man Band” which shows the competition of music players Bass and Treble to impress a young girl, Tippy, so that they can get one coin which she is holding onto. No dialogues, just the music. The film was also nominated for 2006 Oscars for short film in animation.

The third film for today is “Partly Cloudy”. We know stork delivers babies but where do they come from. Well, clouds make babies from the fluffy cloud material and give them life and then stork delivers them. Gus is one such cloud, but it creates dangerous babies which are too much to handle for its faithful stork ‘Peck’. Watch the rest to see how Peck handles the situation.

Have a nice smiling weekend!!

Leave a Comment June 19, 2010

Vuvuzelas Are Very ‘Lekker’, Are They?

If you did not get the title of this post that means you are not following FIFA 2010 world cup. Right from the moment the World Cup started on June 11th, vuvuzelas have been buzzing in the stadiums and TVs and have been driving both the players and TV audiences crazy. Vuvuzelas are 2-3 foot long colorful horns which South African soccer fans have been blowing continuously during the games. Vuvuzela creates a buzzing noise at close to 127 decibels like a swarm of bees generally at frequencies of 465 and 235 Hz, which can be deafening. Ask any player, TV broadcaster and Tv audiences and they will tell how deafening it is. Players have been complaining that they are not able to communicate during the game due to vuvuzela buzz, also their sleep is hindered as people start blowing it as early as 6 AM. But FIFA officials have ignored any requests for banning the use of these instruments as it represents culture and tradition of South Africa.

“To answer all your messages re the vuvuzelas, I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound… I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?” According to FIFA president Sepp Blatter. [NPR ]

So while Vuvuzelas might be deafening you or distracting you, it’s going to stay, atleast in this world cup. It’s South Africa’s tradition and it has to be respected. People who are watching on TV can mute it , get used to the buzz or broadcasters can work on filtering that frequency and provide vuvuzela free telecast which already some broadcasters have started doing. For people enjoying the games in stadiums, I guess, it’s anyways loud whether with or without horns, so it  should be ok.. else use an ear plug! I know it’s annoying, but imposing how we want to watch the games on host country doesn’t sound fair.

You can also try an antidote if you want to cancel the noise, just for few bucks. This antidote or anti-vuvuzela filter is a 45 minute audio clip which if played alongside your TV set is supposed to cancel out the vuvuzela sound. Clemence Schlieweis, a sound mixing engineer from Munich Germany, recorded sample of vuvuzela sound from some earlier games and created new sound clip by reversing the vuvuzela recording, keeping same amplitude but reversing the crest and troughs. Thereby the cancelling effect. How effective it will be, it’s doubtful. Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustics at the University of Salford, said: “I can’t see how it could work. The vuvuzela chorus may come across as a single sound on television, but it is actually hundreds of instruments being blown at different times. “Active noise control depends on lining up the two sound waves exactly, and that seems physically impossible in this case.” [Telegraph ]

Meanwhile, many of the soccer fans visiting south Africa as well as players have already started buying vuvuzelas as souvenirs to bring back homes. They are cheap too, so they can buy many. That means, many of these vuvuzelas will be back in other stadiums around the world in other sporting events. Well, as a pre-emptive measure many sporing clubs  have already started banning the horn. All England club banned any possible use of vuvuzelas in this years Wimbledon as well as Dortmund Borussia club banned such use in next season of their games. [NPR ] Watch the video to hear how it sounds and how it can be played.

By the way the word Lekker is South African slang for cool. So do you think Vuvuzelas are very Lekker?

Update: CDC NIOSH blog post on Vuvuzela sound measurement and noise exposure effects.

Photo Credit: Flickr user 50989081@N07

Leave a Comment June 17, 2010

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