Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The French Connexion

After a day of brilliant seminar and some tough structure elucidation through software, I thought, why not blog today and complete the hatrick! In principle, the sequence would be good if I wrote about nostalgia again, but then I guess its time for a change!

When I was taking a holiday in Paris, even though I was stunned by the beauty of the city, I was nauseated with the attitude and behaviour of the public. After living and travelling in Germany for nearly two years and having travelled quite a bit to other European countries, by far, Paris has been the place of worst public attitude.

The first repulsive moment was when people understood English but refused to answer back in English! Fine, don’t tell me now that I am a tourist and it is an adventure to travel like this. Accepted. It is really adventurous to explore places, but when the entire world is striving to be cooperative, why can’t the younger generation speak English?! French may be like music even when spoken, but it can be really irritating when you have to catch a train on a day of train strike! We were really luck to find a young French girl (no eye brows going up please!) who could guide us using her broken English to the correct platform and even she was confused. Finally it was my ingenuity that lead us to take the correct train in spite of announcements happening in French!

Let me not press further with the language. I guess in a non English speaking country, it is always like this and no complaints. The above was just an experience ;-)

The metro trains were always crowded and people were standing jam packed even near the doors. Funny that the doors do no open automatically and even the people standing near the door will not open the doors unless it is their stop! Come on French people, can’t you open doors atleast?! They stand right in front of the door, sometimes with big bags on their backs, not even giving way to fellow Frenchmen, forget tourists! The very first time, we didn’t know the doors weren’t automatic and I was waiting for the doors to open. When they didn’t I fiddled with the knobs and still didn’t open. If such a situation was here in Germany, the person behind you will gladly help you with a smile. Here people were least bothered. I finally managed to kick the door open and then learnt that you had to turn the knobs! Crazy!!

Talk about French wine, French perfumes and French kiss! I guess some frustrated tourist got bheja fried in France and hence the name French fries!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Solar Cooker, more memories of 2000

The previous blog was induced by boredom but triggered up real good memories. But this one is an inspired recollection derived by the comments of Vivek on the previous post.

Standard X is an important phase of life and it’s supposed to mould you into what you wan to pursue in future. Although in schools a students future depends only on his mark sheet and not on his potential, I never gave a second look at scored. True, it did result in a lot of tension during admission to the next level, but it was unable to stop us from mischief and what I am right now!

Physics classes were the funniest ones for we had the weirdest teachers. IX standard saw us through with one whom we named ‘kuthiral vaal gundama’ (pony tailed fatty: P). I seriously don’t remember what her name actually is! But this named suited her for her curly haired pony tail and squeaky voice. In standard X landed in our class, the most brilliant physics teacher we ever can rejoice of, of torturing to the maximal extent. Indira alias Aaya. Aaya in Tamil means servant maid and she was named so because of her looks, language and behaviour! Well to simplify things in her language, she has no capaquity whatsoever, even to handle electriquity and her classes were pure atroquity.

She commanded our class to submit a project in Physics for which we would be granted 5 precious marks and this would be added to the final score of the practical in turn to get added with our board exam marks. The final threat to make us all work. BOARD EXAMS! The class was divided into groups and mine had my dear companion Vivek. I can remember only Vivek in my group for it was only the two of us who decided to work weekends and actually submit the project. I think our group also had few other students who failed to understand the importance and need of our project, to construct a working model of the solar cooker!

Initial days went off in designing the cooker in paper. Well, there wasn’t much to design, but me and Vivek drew on pages and pages and finally came to the conclusion that it had to be rectangle! Unfortunately there was no Wikipedia to guide us instantaneously! Then came the list of raw materials required to build it. In principle, it was a small list. Wood to make a rectangle box, nails, hammer, black paint, mirrors to reflect the light inside and a pane of glass to cover the top.

The above bill was not passed since making our own box seemed a bit out of way for the project and hence we decided to buy one. Now the problem was how to get some box like that. Jumping from one hardware store to another finally taught us that we need a box which translates into English as 5 ½ woods and 3 inches (anjara katta, moonu inch). I still have no clue what the dimensions mean, but we did get one that exactly fitted our need. The next weekend was a black one owing to painting of the box with black enamel. For some reason it was a good feeling to smear our hands with the paint and then remove it using turpentine!

The reflecting mirror was bought from Vel glass works, just near to Sanskrit college and had been fitted with supporting styrofoam as a reflector. Now the task of getting a glass cover remained. We scanned the glass works but then they all asked for exorbitant rates for a small piece of glass cover. Finally we hit upon one kind glass workshop in St. Marys street and the owner allowed taking the glass broken covers for free! Rummaging the throw aways, we fished out a huge piece of broken glass sheet, got it cut neatly and placed it to complete our cooker!

It was really funny when we took it to class. That was the last day for submission of the project and our ingenious Aaya kept our cooker in the middle of the playground with a bowl of water inside it for testing purposes. A thermometer was kept on the water and we were told that only if the temperature rose above 80 degrees we would be given marks. Seriously, we couldn’t take that risk though the sun was at its hottest. So, after few minutes of waiting, we replaced the water in the bowl with hot water taken from the chemistry lab and once the thermometer showed 80 degree Celsius, we ran to fetch our teacher who reluctantly gave us the full marks!

And then the cooker remained in the attic of our class room and the students made good use of the mirror to comb and style. After a few months, the same was used by my sister for her project submission and I guess it still remains in some classroom shifting hands to fetch easy marks!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Electrical Gadgets, some memories of 2000

A sudden urge to write just filled me. Is it because the volume of diethyl ether I have kept under argon will probably take 4-5 hours for evaporation or am I getting bored of trying to fix the conformation of my compound to perform density function theory calculations? I guess it’s because of the Harris Jeyraj music in the background and the fact that I just read a lot of very good blogs (some of my old ones too!).

For the past few minutes I have been staring at my screen deciding on what to write. I know that now, whatever I decide on, is not going to hinder my thought flow and words are going to be typed until my co-worker sitting opposite to me goes mad due to the non stop sound of the keyboard.

Somehow my thoughts stray back to my 10th standard EG classes! Every Friday was a treat for us because the two classes before lunch was EG and typewriting and we had so much of free time and fun. Our EG teacher was a very old yet stylish mallu guy named Balakrishna Nair. I have a very clear picture of how we were seated too! Two parallel rows and boys on one side and girls on the other and the teacher could move in between. I used to sit at the very first and opposite to me was her as usual and always. Besides me was Karthik followed by Vivek. The line further down had no significance since the source of maximum distraction and fun has already been listed.

Our master seldom took classes. Usually the blackboard had some stuff already written with which we had to copy to our record notebooks and then idle away the rest of the time silently. But me, Karthik and Vivek had other plans. We started directing movies with our EG master as the hero! We even used to tell it to him and every time he moves or tells some stuff in the class, we used to pre phrase it by ‘ Movie name – Scene 1 – Take 1 ‘. The hero entry for the movie was like this… Our EG sir comes in, takes a live wire to his head and the shock makes the hair on his head stand straight. Then he takes some styling gels and puts his hair back and then pick up his 1 meter long wooden scale and walks to hit the students, Darpan, Siva Saravanan and Arvind who have been playing sharpener game! Our EG sir for some reason disliked when students played that game in his class: P

I always wondered how he heard the chaos of the sharpener game in the last benches for in the first row; we used to make such a racquet. I always used to sharpen a small knife on a touchstone with Karthik trying to spin the touchstone faster and faster to produce more noise and sparks! Somehow he never scolded us for doing that, though the girls opposite to us complained.

May be he was frustrated with scores of students taking his subject as a fun session or may be he didn’t really mind all this as it reminded him of his younger days. Whatever is was, these are just beautiful memories!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Skiing - The ultimate experience

“Origin has reached the maximum number of users, please wait until someone disconnects.” This was the message displayed to me when I excitedly opened it to analyse the spectral data I had been accumulating for the past few days. Hyperfine couplings between electrons and protons had been recorded and it is time for me to interpret. But then, why am I writing all this?! Gosh, too much of project thoughts…

January 4th 2009 recorded the highest snowfall in Germany in the past 25 years. The entire city engulfed in whiteness and buried under several inches of snow made it a mesmerizing sight. The first two days after the snowfall were good, but thereafter, the snow became dirty, slushy and sluggish and made walking in the streets a total pain. Still, the excitement didn’t dampen much. So, wanting to make use of these conditions, I decided to Ski!

Saturday 10th of Jan 09 was chosen for this adventure. My first ski trip. Accompanied by enthusiastic friends, I started to Winterberg. It is nearly 3hrs travel by train from my home town, Muelheim and we reached there by 12.15. The travel had made us hungry and we headed straight to the pizzeria in spite of the welcoming white slopes of snow. After lunch, we rented our ski equipment, a pair of heavy boots, ski and poles and walked up the hill with great difficult owing to the heaviness of the equipment.

The ski slope was wondrous and the people skiing down made the adrenaline rush in me. Small children were skiing like accomplished professionals and this gave me some confidence that even after initial trials, I would be able to ski decently well. I imagined myself as James Bond and got ready for my first attempt. There was a conveyer rope that you had to hold to ski up the slope and since so many people were doing it with ease, I thought it would be a cake walk. Confidently I held the rope and skied up for a few seconds. My legs twisted on their own accord and I lost balance and then bham, I was on the snow with my body twisted in all possible funny angles. Moreover, I had to roll to the sides to avoid other skiers! After a few seconds, I thought I heard the echo of my fall, but looking back I saw my friend twisted in a similar funnier fashion!

The lady who was overseeing the conveyer walked up to us and decently told us not to try this again as it was for professionals and commanded us to walk up the slope to ski down. Unfastening the skis, we started walking up. The thrill rose when I was ready to ski down. Just one small lean, I was racing down, balancing well. The chill air brushing against my face made it more thrilling. The view through my sport goggles was blurring as I picked up tremendous speed, probably 50km/hr! The slope was nearing end and I had to stop. Only now I realised I didn’t know how to! It was a planned fall and I was flat on the snow. It didn’t hurt but it was taunting me to try again and again! Finally after 25 times of falling down and getting up, we decided to call it a day. It was really the best experience.

Proudly displaying the pictures and narrating my experiences had encouraged more people to experience it and hence we started on a second ski trip the following weekend. Now it was group of 16! 15 Indians and one adventurous Russian. This time, we hired a ski instructor and took lessons on how to stop, turn left-right and walk up inclines even with the ski attached. It was just great and now I am waiting to go for skiing again to test myself again!