27 February 2007

Christans, convert back to Judaism

Sorry Christians, the writing is now on the wall. I anticipate a massive conversion of Christians to Judaism, starting with the Pope himself. All former Christian majority countries should now consider themselves provinces of Israel.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, James Cameron has made a documentary about some 2000 year old stone caskets containing the remains of a family:
Mary; Matthew; Jesua son of Joseph; Mary; Jofa (Joseph, Jesus' brother); and Judah son of Jesua.

Cameron thinks that these names suggest that this was the historical Jesus who is mentioned in the Bible. Lots of people are very upset about this 'blasphemy' as it suggests that Jesus was in fact not divine. He was just a guy who wanted everybody to be nice to each other and maybe invoked the name of an imaginary superior being to bolster his case.

It's a good idea, this guy apparently lived the ideal and showed that it could be done by people. Who cares if he had a family like 100% of the other people his age in that time period and got buried? Just shows that he wasn't a complete weirdo. Hey, what next? Maybe they'll find that Jesus was Arab... probably related to Arafat or Hussein of Jordan or something. If Christians really care more about Jesus's divinity rather than what he said and did, then they have their priorities wrong.

If these do turn out to be the bones of Jesus and family then the sceptics are showing massive disrespect. Lightning will strike them down etc. Well, either way us neutral atheist/agnostic/non-Christians are in for an entertaining time. Wonder if the Bible will need a disclaimer in front of it, "This is a work of fiction..." Oh wait, it's been done already.

25 February 2007

The state within

Internement of UK citizens in Virginia, evidence suggesting the secretary of state of the USA collaborated with corporate elements to start a war in a -stan country, gay men kissing, lots of death, general mayhem, and a morally bankrupt leadership. A wag the dog style indictment of the US administration. And, did I mention Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) is the main character?

The acting in this BBC series is brilliant, the writers did not have to be very imaginative because the material is ready-made. Anybody who's been following geopolitics will understand the references... so it's a great watch. US citizens of a right-wing mentality may be very angry at the show, but I think it is useful for Americans to see how the rest of the world perceives the driving force behind US foriegn policy.

Americans are taught that their nation stands for freedom, free thought, free expression, and democracy. They are also taught that their country tries to promote these values in foriegn lands. Several actions the US government has taken does not add up to these values:

1. Coup that removed Patrice Lumumba from power in Zaire in the 60s. Led to Mobutu Sese Seko taking dictatorial control and the assasination of Lumumba.

2. Overthrow of Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran in the 50s. This lead to dictatorship of Reza Shah Pahlavi. He could not find any support among the population and was overthrown. The Iranians blamed the US government for Reza Shah, leading to the hostage crisis.

3. Support to various Pakistani dictators. The USA sold weapons to Pakistan in the 60s which led them to start a war against India in 1965. They also had help from the Joradian air force in that war, again using US weapons. In 1971, using US weapons again, the Pakistani army massacred about 3 million civilians in Bangladesh. India tried to help the Bangladeshis while the US sent an aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India.

4. Saddam and Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction.

I'm sure there are other things I'm missing. So the credibility of the USA to export democratic values has been tarnished by the USA itself. Now, I'm not saying that any other country would have behaved any differently in the same position. Bloody hell, I'm not even saying that I would have done anything else if faced with the ability to make those decisions. I'm just saying that the blinkers US citizens have about their government should maybe... be taken off. It's only what citizens should expect from a democracy.

24 February 2007

एक शेर

लातों के भूत बातों से नहीं मनते सोणिये,
और बातों के भूतों ने कभी लातों से नहीं माना पर्वेज़।

(with due apologies to my non-hindi reading friends)

15 February 2007

How NOT to behave during midwest blizzards

We had the worst snowstorm since 1978 here - 43cm of snow accumulated, with wind speeds expected to be up to 50 kph. Temperature started around -5 and steadily dropping to about -20. So... school was cancelled for 1.5 days (did not make a difference to me because the thesis is due next week) and everyone told to keep off the roads. So, based on our practical experience of surviving blizzards, here's some advice.

10. Do not drive from one end of town to another. Pick up groceries from the shop within walking distance, even if they do have inferior bottled water.

More of the blizzard

9. Do not forget the candles.

8. Do not forget the snow shovel. In fact, if a blizzard comes on Valentine's day, your girlfriend might appreciate a snow shovel more than roses.

7. Doggies are allowed on the bed if the electricity (=heating) goes.

6. Doggies go outside, they poop and pee, then they come right back in. They don't stay outside and run around, they have fur and a normal body temp of 38-39 degrees C. This is their home, not yours.
Ginga Boo run in blizzard

5. Trying to take pictures into blowing snow results in wet camera, shaky pictures and unhappy fingers.
Boo Run Pan

So Happy to jump in snow

4. Make sure your shoelaces are tied before wading through the snow.
Huge amounts of snow

3. If your shoelaces were not tied, and you get snow in boots, and can't feel your feet any more, come inside. (Ouch... this one is important). Don't wait for Ginga to learn the meaning of the word "Come" while chasing rabbits.

2. Do not forget your gloves.

1. When school is closed, there's a good reason for it, there's no need to go there, even if you do have to pick up your favourite hair brush.

Hopefully with these little suggestions you too may manage to survive arctic blizzards.

11 February 2007

Karamchand Sir, you are a genius

In the beginning, there was Karamchand. It was the first detective series I remember watching in India on DD, the sole national TV station of that era. Now, there are new episodes of Karamchand following an almost 20 year hiatus. The series Monk is similar in concept. It's about an eccentric detective and his secretary who solve crimes using fairly old-fashioned methods. None of this zooming in on DNA trapped on carpets or blacklights or evidence collected from the rear end of a stinky llama in Tibet. Just interviews of possible suspects, a keen eye for their behaviour, and an uncanny ability to puzzle out the mystery logically.

Sherlock Holmes could not have been happier, although his logic was fallible... especially in one case where he determined that the murderer was highly educated because of the gigantic volume of his head (there's 5 points I lost on a test because I had read the book and nobody else had, including the teacher who assigned us the whodunnit to solve logically. I left my brains at home and relied on memory. Should have remembered that my future career was science and not medicine and desisted. Sir Arthur, I will never forgive you for that).

Karamchand's eccentricities include stating the obvious and saying out loud what the other person is thinking in a rapid pace without any punctuation to mark sentence boundaries. In an ingenious vegetarianised nod to Jeeves, the genius butler of Wodehouse fame, he munches on carrots instead of the fish that Jeeves preferred. He also seems to order around A Khan, the hapless police inspector who's actually in charge of the case and who just has a first initial, no name. Just a random Khan.

The plot of the latest episode was good, and no obvious inconsistencies I could find, and the viewers got all the clues necessary to solve the case before K does. Brilliant. There's a little part where they try to make humour out of the Bengali language, but I didn't get the jokes. They kept the original actor, Pankaj Kapur, as Karamchand but unfortunately, as directors are wont to do, upgraded to a younger model in the secretary Kitty. I quite liked Sushmita Mukherjee in the original and wish that in a nod to the 21st century, she would have taken on the lead detective role with perhaps advise from a retired Karamchand. Sucheta Khanna performs the bimboesque role adequately.

Until the next time K airs, remember to shut up, Kitty, and chew on your carrots.

M reminded me to put in that the music has not changed since the 80s, and the opening credits are in a similar style too.


05 February 2007


We got to talk a lot of science in a rural setting over the weekend, in the Spring Mill Inn in Mitchell, Indiana (original home of Gus Grissom, the second US astronaut in space). We had an afternoon off to explore the surrounding Spring Mill state park, which we did with great gusto. In case anybody is wondering at the amount of padding that I have on, it was entirely due to the weather being approximately -18 degrees C.
Positively balmy!


This is a graveyard for the Hamer family. We could not read the carving on the earliest graves, so do not know how old they are. The ones we could read ranged from 1850 or so. Sadly there were many little graves of very young children. The information sign said that the average age was 27 of the people buried there. Many graves were of US soldiers and had little flags by them. I assume that they lived in the pioneer village that we visited next, but it was not clear.
Hamer graveyard

Pioneer village, leather shop. The door was locked so could not get in.
Leather shop pioneer village

Blacksmith's shop. Right next to what I presume were the stables, which were actually filled with a wagon and carriages and what looked like a sled.
Blacksmith shop pioneer village


The pioneers had to go in the woods... because their toilets were closed!
Pioneer village restrooms closed
(sorry.. had to put in a PJ aka poor joke due to it being one of the topics of this blog).

It's great to see the progress of science, both at the conference, and during the hike. The horse-drawn carriages and lack of restrooms reminded me of the progress in technology that enabled me to visit this place with very low risk. The graveyard reminded me of the high infant mortality of the 1800s. It also brought home that adult lifespan has increased since then due to progress in the biological sciences. Unfortunately we have not progressed so much socially since then, soldiers and civilians are still dying due to war, that has not changed since the 1800s.