30 Apr 2005


The rooster is renowned for crowing-in the rising sun. But the diurnal bird that starts singing the earliest is probably the Common Koel. Their mellifluous songs can be heard as early as 3.30 at night. i often stand out on the terrace and listen to the low, hauntingly musical, triple-noted calls flowing through the woods from afar, as one after another, birds take up the singing. The song is not continuous; it is interspaced by periods of silence. Each bird sings for sometime and the song is then taken up by another bird, until all birds in the vicinity have sung their pieces. This is followed by a brief period of silence, to be broken by a bird starting to sing all over again…

Is the refrigerator at home CFC-free? Preliminary data analysis indicate that about one-third of ozone in the arctic stratosphere was
destroyed last winter. The protective ozone layer over northern and central Europe was thinner than it has been since measurements began 50 years ago!

I’m following with some alarm frequent news of violent bee attacks reported in my vernacular media. i wonder if this is just media hype or are honey bees really becoming more hostile and aggressive? i just hope someone has not - by mistake or otherwise - introduced African Killer Bees or their hybrids to our part of the world! Ill-informed (as well as, malintentioned and ill-advised) introduction of alien species have devastated ecologies across the globe. Is this another disaster in the waiting?

Have you ever dreamt of digging up a dinosaur? Wonder when, if ever, the socio-educational system in our country will evolve and embrace something like Paleotrek Montana…

btw, remember Gödel, Escher, Bach : an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter ?

29 Apr 2005

food for thought

Outcome of lateral thinking? Cemetery offers stand-up burial

Comet chase commences - the spacecraft Deep Impact has caught first sight of its quarry. The probe will launch a 372kg impactor into the path of the comet Tempel 1 to blast a deep hole in it. Subsequent analysis will help us understand what comets are made of. Comets are believed to be "undercooked leftovers" that remained when a massive cloud of dust and gas condensed to form the Sun and planets, 4.6 billion years ago

Amit D and I went out for dinner at the newly inaugurated “Yo! China” at Kalyaninagar - good Chinese cuisine, attractive pricing, quick service, trendy ambience

Do remember to lock your bags while traveling…

28 Apr 2005

hitch a hike...

  • We have probably become too successful - unprecedented human pressure on the Earth's ecosystems threatens our future as a species. Same story, new location - thanks to our exploding population, we are continuously pushing other species over the brink
  • Species are being wiped out so fast that scientists say humanity may be triggering the 6th mass extinction in history. How does it matter and what should we do? Should we protect all species or just the ones that are useful? Can we demand that the world's poor stop exploiting the ecosystems they survive on?
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has now been made into a film
  • The coverage of high-profile litigations in the mass media, convinces me that we have managed to retrogress from maintaining the rule-of-law and ethically delivering justice, to a mind-game on technicalities and professional oneupmanship (Laloo, Pappu, Sahabuddin, Dawood, Manikchand, O J Simpson, Michael Jackson, et ‘endless’ al). The law-abiding citizen is clobbered into slouching survival…
  • btw, try this… Laloo’s Goat’s Milk Icecream - locally produced in Sonoma and available at finer Bay Area groceries and restaurants, in the US!!!

26 Apr 2005

camels camels everywhere...

Bizarre news from the animal world - exploding toads in Germany

Continuing the legacy of infestation by alien animals (apart from the indigenous kangaroo and dingo) Australia now plans to cull feral camels in the outback. Australia has already supplied camels for meat to countries in the Middle East. European rabbits once swarmed across parts of the outback and now noxious cane toads brought from South America are also spreading across the continent, killing native wildlife

a`la Loo - Republican Tom DeLay, the former pest control entrepreneur who is now a top Republican in the US Congress comments on the effect of the web on the judiciary

Reference point - Average fresher salaries for Fall 2004, in the US

Cousin Debojyoti’s call came as a wonderful surprise today. Even though we have kept in touch on mail, we spoke after almost 3 years

Summer Rain

History pillaged in strife-torn Iraq. More from Iraq, sectarian violence looms large...

The travails of poverty in a journey named life

Swami Ranganathananda (97), the head of the Ramakrishna Mission, died today. Born in Kerala, Ranganathananda joined the Ramakrishna Mission, the international spiritual and cultural movement in 1926 at Mysore.

Weekend watch - Tears of the Sun, In the Line of Fire (re-runs) and not The Matrix Revolutions (Disc #1 got stuck, no go).

A summer thunderstorm on Sunday evening brought the earthy smell of rain on parched soil, made outdoors cool and pleasant on a full-moon night. Went out with a friend for dinner : chicken bolognaise with fussili and garlic toast, fresh lime with soda and syrup.

Little hunters - Amazonian ants lay traps to capture prey

BG has started a blog

23 Apr 2005

Despairing on Earth Day

Interesting dinosaur fact-files (increase text size in the browser for better viewing)

Bizarre news snippet - German cannibal to face retrial. Prosecution argues that Armin Meiwes, who was jailed in January 2004, should have been given a life sentence for murder. Defense lawyers however want the sentence reduced on the grounds that his victim had real Hannibal Lecters

Some visuals for the Earth we live in - On Earth Day. The theme for 2005 - "Protect Our Children and Our Future.".
Read on, The Death of Environmentalism - Global warming politics in a post-environmental world

Beyond the hype and emotional impulses, do many of us really care? i despair

We ought to, have to, we owe it to the future generations of all life, there’s only one Earth!

Good primers - Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Only One Earth : The Care amd Maintenance of a Small Planet by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos

22 Apr 2005

Small mercies

While the Chinese Communist Party and the bureaucracy embraces and promotes capitalist economics in great swathes of the country, it continues to support the communes of North Korea and exports it’s brand of Communist mayhem to Nepal (the Maoists) and parts of India (the Naxals)!
i presume this is a part of the grand plan to nurture socio-economic (and military) instability in South Korea and India?

The border fracas with Bangladesh continues. The latest victim - an Assistant Commandant of the BSF. He is reported to have been tortured and murdered by the BDR and Bangladeshi civilians after he had crossed over the border, reportedly to attend a flag meeting with his fuels public emotion and politics
- the pawns in the game fight unto death. Interesting reading on this subject from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Continuing on the subject of providing the dead their dignity – when will we (at least the government organizations) move over to using body bags? Do i understand that the powers-that-be do not appreciate the merits of using body bags? The minimum merit is another governmental purchase scam to keep everyone gainfully engaged for some time to come!!

Hear, hear, Mr. Lala! That’s a lucrative business opportunity begging exploration (a-la the Kargil coffins)!!

Touched base with cousin Debojyoti, an economic analyst in NY. He had just returned to office after a shower and change at home, having spent the entire night at work. He was trying to catch up with the morning deadline for a report. As he says, trying to make the most of a economy in the downslide.

Remember my ramblings on betting during the recent Indo-Pak cricket matches? Here’s fuel to fire !

Finished reading Henrik Ibsen’s drama “A Doll’s House”, recommended by a friend (she really pushed it through!). The mind is a wonderful world !
She has also suggested that i read Look Back in Anger (John Osborne) and Paradise Lost (Milton). am fast becoming a time traveler, it's time again to flip through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (DNA) …also on good old BBC Radio !

20 Apr 2005

Cannabinol legalised in Canada ?!

  • uh! oh! not really!!
  • UK biotech firm's prescription cannabis-based drug approved for use in Canada - Shares in GW Pharmaceuticals closed up 11.5 pence at 132.5p on the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The brand Sativex, is used to treat the central nervous system and alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. A spokesman said that GW would take the "first steps" to seek approval for a cannabis-derived drug in the US.
  • HIV is 'out of control' in India - The executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids has warned that India has now overtaken South Africa as the country with the highest number of people living with the human immuno-deficiency virus, HIV.
    He has also criticised the high prices of anti-HIV drugs in India. "It is easier to get Indian generic drugs in Africa than it is to get them in India. That is a scandal and has to be changed."
  • A new Pope - Benedict XVI - is elected
  • An iceberg the size of Luxembourg has smashed into another vast slab of ice that juts out from Antarctica. The 115km-long B-15A iceberg broke off a 5km long section of the Drygalski ice tongue, when they collided in the Ross Sea
  • Nepal’s rhinos follow Sariska’s tigers - According to a new census, the population of the endangered great Asian one-horned rhinoceros in Nepal’s biggest wildlife reserve has fallen to 372 from 544 five years ago, mainly because of poaching.
  • China’s Great Wall is visible from space, after all !
    Earlier, China (and Chinese textbooks) had planned to end the Great Wall space myth

19 Apr 2005

Just another day in paradise

Public memory has a reputation of being notoriously short!
He hogged the headlines in his heydays…now he’s gone. i refer to Veerappan - him of the lean frame and stout moustache. And the incredible stories that followed the brigand as he took the cops on a chase around the Ghats. Caches of ivory, pelts and sandalwood - stashed up for the rainy day. Has the media quickly developed selective amnesia? Are politicians creating eager election fodder by allowing his henchmen to quietly carve-up the jungle into their personal fiefdoms? Have some heroes of the STF returned to the forests after disbandment, to quietly dig up the loot? Can i go birdwatching in Mudumalai without fear ?

One size fits all, a universal charger around the corner ?
Dada, are you reading ?!

A hope for blue skies…

A Wake-up Call : Almost all terrorists are Muslims..
Abdel Rahman al-Rashed*

It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.

The hostage-takers of children in Beslan, North Ossetia, were Muslims. The other hostage-takers and subsequent murderers of the Nepalese chefs and workers in Iraq were also Muslims. Those involved in rape and murder in Darfur, Sudan, are Muslims, with other Muslims chosen to be their victims.

Those responsible for the attacks on residential towers in Riyadh and Khobar were Muslims. The two women who crashed two airliners last week were also Muslims.

Osama bin Laden is a Muslim. The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the world, were Muslim.

What a pathetic record. What an abominable "achievement." Does all this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies and our culture?

These images, when put together or taken separately, are shameful and degrading. But let us start with putting an end to a history of denial. Let us acknowledge their reality, instead of denying them and seeking to justify them with sound and fury signifying nothing.

For it would be easy to cure ourselves if we realize the seriousness of our sickness. Self-cure starts with self-realization and confession. We should then run after our terrorist sons, in the full knowledge that they are the sour grapes of a deformed culture.

Let us listen to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the sheikh – the Qatar-based radical Egyptian cleric – and hear him recite his fatwa about the religious permissibility of killing civilian Americans in Iraq. Let us contemplate the incident of this religious sheikh allowing, nay even calling for, the murder of civilians.

This ailing sheikh, in his last days, with two daughters studying in "infidel" Britain, soliciting children to kill innocent civilians.

How could this sheikh face the mother of the youthful Nick Berg, who was slaughtered in Iraq because he wanted to build communication towers in that ravished country? How can we believe him when he tells us that Islam is the religion of mercy and peace while he is turning it into a religion of blood and slaughter?

In a different era, we used to consider the extremists, with nationalist or leftist leanings, a menace and a source of corruption because of their adoption of violence as a means of discourse and their involvement in murder as an easy shortcut to their objectives.
At that time, the mosque used to be a haven, and the voice of religion used to be that of peace and reconciliation. Religious sermons were warm behests for a moral order and an ethical life.

Then came the neo-Muslims. An innocent and benevolent religion, whose verses prohibit the felling of trees in the absence of urgent necessity, that calls murder the most heinous of crimes, that says explicitly that if you kill one person you have killed humanity as a whole, has been turned into a global message of hate and a universal war cry.

We can't call those who take schoolchildren as hostages our own.

We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.

We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women.

We cannot redeem our extremist youths, who commit all these heinous crimes, without confronting the sheikhs who thought it ennobling to reinvent themselves as revolutionary ideologues, sending other people's sons and daughters to certain death, while sending their own children to European and American schools and colleges.

*Abdel Rahman al-Rashed is general manager of Al-Arabiya news channel. This article first appeared in the London-based pan-Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

London Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe has described her decision to answer a call of nature during the race as "an embarrassing necessity"

Zoe Young of the medical NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), is keeping a web diary for the BBC News Website from Angola as she helps with the emergency response to an outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus

Bookie meets Vatican displeasure - cops ask Paddy Power to move on. Any guesses on the money bet on the Indo-Pak One-day match at the Kotla last Sunday? Rs. 1000 crores (10bn)? 2000 crores??

Almost jumped out of my skin while passing employee personal lockers at work today - a cock was crowing in one of them (that too around midnight)! Took me a moment to realize it was the latest alarm or ringtone in a cellphone !!

Reading "Cold Zero" by Christopher Whitcomb

15 Apr 2005

shubho nawbo bawrsho!

  • April 15 is Bengali New Year Day - nawbo bawrsho, in Bangla. Here's wishing you peace and prosperity in the year ahead. Just in case you thought of wishing New Year in some other languages
  • Reminded of globalization, somehow - a Bangali in Maharashtra, drinking Indian beer and Mexican tequila, listening to a Sardar singing sufi rock at a disc named Elysium!
  • A collection of thousands of photographs showing the cultural (and economical) diversity of India
  • A readout on the Guinea Worm disease, which i first saw in a National Geographic film on Africa - worms eating their way out of patients, emerging through swellings in the legs
  • Vicious predators often come king-sized. But even the carnivore terror lizard - T Rex - could succumb to invisible parasites. Squirmy reading, “Parasite Rex” by Carl Zimmer

14 Apr 2005

terrorizing mistakes...

A killer Asian Flu virus has been sent to thousands of labs by mistake. btw, have you read The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston? A book i read cover-to-cover without a break, gave me sleepless nights…

Amitava C mailed that he plans to visit Washington to see the flowering cherry trees along the Potomac. The cherry blossom or “sakura” is a timeless symbolism of Japanese culture - how did it come to DC ? A quick internet search provides a fascinating story!

The circle of terror continues with militants claiming that they have details of passengers booked to take the next bus to Muzaffarabad

13 Apr 2005

depressed dancing stars...

  • Bombay dance bars also face closure - Bargirls will appeal to the National Human Rights Commission
  • Sourav gets deeper in the dumps as he is penalized for India’s slow bowling rate at Ahmedabad and banned from the next 6 One-Day Internationals. In contrast, Gen. Musharraf awards skipper Inzamam 1 million Rupees for the Pak win at the Ahmedabad ODI
  • Reports suggest that President Bush's choice to be US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, is a bully unsuitable for the job
  • Baby eels are now more expensive than caviar in France and even rarer - disappearing off the menu thanks to huge demand in Asia
  • Notes on our closest (barring our very own Sun) stellar neighbour
  • Mona Lisa has moved to her new home at the Louvre
  • Can depression be the subject of a best-selling book? Readings from Malignant Sadness - The Anatomy of Depression by Lewis Wolpert, a nominee for this year’s Aventis Prize
  • Cousin Debo from NY plans trip to Hindustan during the height of monsoon in July…

ps - An interesting one on pre-marital sex

12 Apr 2005

In and around...

Took leave from Thursday last week.
Spent a whopping time with friends and family, who had come in from Cal and Chennai. Evening trips to
Singhagarh, Khadakvasla and Mulshi lakes. The son-et-lumiere under a star-studded sky at Shaniwarwada - listening in awe to the tales of Maratha valour. Continuing Pune darshan with visits to Crossword, Either-Or, the Bombay Store, Dorabjee’s, Kayani Bakery, a stroll down M G Road and drives through the Junglee Maharaj Road and Pune University.

We enjoyed Continental brunch at The German Bakery and fine dining at Malaka Spice (Oriental cuisine with Indian wine) and Trishna (seafood - Seer, prawns, crab and lobster). And of course, a 7pm to 4am jam at my place Saturday night, complete with music (Clapton, Pink Floyd, Cactus, Chandrabindu, Bob Marley, Rabbi, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Mohineyr Ghoraguli, Eagles, Nusrat, Anjan et al), beer, wine, tea, cold-beverages, assorted tit-bits and fries, daal, prawns, mutton, paayesh and chutney…

Renewed hopes of hindi chini
bhai-bhai amidst the hype of signing accords, including one to settle border disputes between the two countries.

For all those who share my weakness for chocolate - it is reported to be also
sweet for the heart - a claim which appear to be corroborated in labs.

Continuing on my earlier life and death theme - a Nazi Army officer who saved hundreds of
Jews in Lithuania during he Holocaust, has been honoured in Israel.

Had picked up Bill Bryson’s “A Short History Of Nearly Everything” from the Crossword bookstore, couple of months ago. Not that i have been able to read a whole lot of it by now. I didn’t know that it had gone on, to become the winner of the
Aventis Prize for Science Books last year. The Aventis Prize, awarded since 1988, is often dubbed the scientific community's Booker Prize.

Do you have to sleep in the comforting protection of a mosquito net? i don’t, not after moving out of Cal - but news reports suggest that I ought to. They say, malaria never dies out, it hides! It’s time to find the right cannons to fire...

6 Apr 2005


Disturbing news on the spread of the Marburg virus in Angola. Marburg, a severe form of haemorrhagic fever, has no known vaccine or medical treatment.

The Marburg virus is similar to Ebola
which is amongst the most vicious viruses known to date

The Mona Lisa - da Vinci’s masterpiece of the lady with the ethereal smile - gets a new Louvre home.

5 Apr 2005

The Rainbow Named Life

Pope John Paul II died around 2am IST, Sunday 03 Apr, after a protracted and visibly losing battle with Parkinson’s disease. As Dada put it, Popes die…

But why was the Pope not put on life-support ?

I was awake on the wee hours of Sunday - weekends i try to maintain a schedule similar to weekdays - flipping through the news channels (no movies worth watching… nor am i a fan of zooming busts…), following the Pope’s health (in the absence of anything more productive) when CNN and BBC simultaneously broke the news of the Pope’s death, around 2.30am IST. Interestingly, none of the Indian news channels did the same till almost 40 minutes later! So much for the desi newshounds!!

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive degenerative disorder. We don’t yet know what causes it, but a group of cells in the brain, which help govern automatic motor functions, is gradually destroyed. Most patients with advanced Parkinson’s die of heart attack or stroke.

Continuing the death theme - a recent fossil find in China suggests that the earliest known “placentals” (mammals whose descendants include you and me…) lived on Earth about 125 million years ago. That would make them about twice as old as the Tyrannosaurus rex.

New fossil finds from China also suggest that fierce mammals ate dinosaurs for lunch (… don’t picture a Triceratops-chomping mammal… not yet) !

Museums have always fascinated me as a place for learning. And museums on the web - so much more - all the explanations are right there (no need to flip through guidebooks or listen attentively). Whether it is dinosaurs or Andy Warhol.

Commenting on the ensuing legal battle in the US Supreme Court over file-sharing, Bill Thompson writes, “In 10 years' time this may not matter much because China, India and Brazil will be leading the next wave of technological innovation, based around open source development and their own manufacturing capacity…” - India! i’m not too sure. Can we? Will we??

btw, have you tried Firefox ?

2 Apr 2005

today, tomorrow, eternity... ?

The saga of life and death continues to hog headlines, moving to another part of the world… the health of the Pope deteriorates. It will be interesting to understand how and who decides on life (and death… remember Catholicism is pro-life) issues for an invalidated Pope. Three Indian Cardinals are amongst the clergy eligible to vote to elect the next Pope.

Unity of faiths in nation-building - Arab goals keep Israeli football World Cup hopes alive !

With an economy driven by wars, it is no surprise that the US is now offering the F-18 (F/A-18 E/F) aircrafts to India, in conjunction with the proposed renewal of F-16 deliveries to Pakistan.

The F/A-18 E/F (Super Hornet) is an all-weather attack-fighter with adaptations for naval aircraft carrier-bound operations. Importantly, it is technically superior to the F-16, variants of which were deployed as early as 1979.

Discussions on war and Pakistan inevitably bring up the K-word. Did you read the Brown Haze story in the TOI today ?

NASA is preparing for its first space shuttle launch since Columbia burned up on re-entry more than two years ago.

Continuing on space technology, a technical review has suggested de-commissioning of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble opened new frontiers in visual astronomy, providing astonishing visuals of objects never visible from the Earth’s surface.

1 Apr 2005

Politiking with life

Politics and opinion-making - our land of diversities is not left behind! Punekar MP Suresh Kalmadi has a slick and professionally maintained website. Even desi MPs have begun to dig the power of blogs! Plenty of posts by the interested hoi polloi.

Terri Schiavo (41) passed away
today, ending 15 years of mute suffering. Her struggle pitted husband Michael Schiavo in a bitter legal and ethical battle against his in-laws and sections of the society, legislature and judiciary.

Her suffering brought out the zealots on both sides of the “choice” divide, spun a lot of greenbacks with primetime and primeprint (am i adding to the lexicon?) exposure. But then we are all mere mortals… and death is the inevitable truth. But the human race steadfastly reproduces and

Update from a friend - it is raining almost every evening in Kolkata this year - “becoming more n more like England”. Is this the Return of the Raj - an entrepreneurial opportunity to start tour operations to the “new England”?! i can almost count the handsome commissions for sourcing eager flocks from parched Chennai, Mumbai and Pune.

btw, are you a MP3 music fan, downloading industriously from the Net? Make more hay while the sun shines - good times don’t last