Monday, November 21, 2011

Fantabulous to traverse this very bridge that's a favorite of Rhea & mine. Serene beauty with fog :)

Taken at Covered Bridge Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

As wax melts down, the flame goes up!

Taken at St Francis De Sales Catholic Church Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"India dirtiest & filthiest country", says Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today described India as the “dirtiest and filthiest” country in the world where people with mobile phones go out to answer the “call of nature”.
“In one area in which India can claim success in the social sector is education. We can’t say the same thing in health, we can’t say the same thing in nutrition, we certainly can’t say the same thing in sanitation because we do remain the dirtiest and filthiest country,” he said.
He said around 65 per cent of rural houses had been provided with toilets but didn’t use them. “Today, if you go to many parts of India, you have women with a mobile phone going out to answer the call of nature. I mean it is paradoxical,” the minister, who also holds charge of sanitation, said at an event here.

I do not know why Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh used such harsh words to make a point. A healthy topic of sanitation is now going to be lost amidst the din of controversial remarks. Why do responsible persons use extreme superlatives, when soft-spoken words can accomplish better results? And why single out women? These remarks are insensitive, brash, and regrettable.

Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

No alternative to nuclear energy: APJ Abdul Kalam - The Times of India

"He, however, made it clear that there is no option before India but to go out to produce nuclear power because it is the cleanest and greenest form of energy."
"The plant is completely modern and safe. I can vouch for that. India is a power hungry nation and 2000 megawatt of power would be produced at the Tamil Nadu plant. We need it".
"We have no option but to switch to alternative sources of energy,like solar energy, nuclear energy and bio energy" Kalam added.

1. I am unable to understand how the superlatives like "cleanest" and "greenest" form of Energy can be attributed to Nuclear Energy, ignoring the 800-lb gorilla of recycling nuclear waste.

2. However noble a person Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is, still, nuclear safety and Energy Policy are issues that need to be redressed by a neutral Nuclear Energy Regulatory Authority. Till date, India does not have one and a fledgling bill is before the Indian Parliament.

3. I agree, nuclear as one amongst the other alternative sources of energy like solar, biomass, wind, etc. However, to tout nuclear as "cleanest" and "greenest" is ersatz at best.

Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Eyes see what they wish to see. Tis light that I choose to see amidst darkness.

Taken at Monastery of the Holy Spirit Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

History wasn't made by ‘can't doers': Kalam via @The_Hindu

If the great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I had believed for a moment that his monumental structure would be brought down in an earthquake, would we have got the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple?

Or, if Homi Bhabha had decided that radiation is too harmful for citizens, would the country be running a safe and successful atomic power programme for the last 40 years, producing 4,700 megawatt of nuclear power?

Hyperbole and rhetoric. Sad. Even the Bhopal victims cannot buy these arguments. Nuclear-safety is a very important topic when a country is ready to formulate its Energy policy investing billions of dollars and millions of lives. India does not even have a neutral Nuclear Regulatory Authority as USA or other developed nations.

Instead of rhetoric, why can't science and technology engage in a meaningful discourse?

Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Fukushima-like accident can be avoided at Kudankulam: APJ Kalam via @The_Hindu

On Germany's decision to give up nuclear power by 2022, he said it was a power surplus developed nation, which could afford to lose a few plants. “More importantly, Germany has completely exhausted its nuclear resources. Thus, nuclear energy never fits into their goal of energy independence.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has been dismissive of the tough decision Germany had to take in wake of the Fukushima accident by implying it as a Hobson's choice. Truth is not as Manichean as he states. With this tough decision to curtail its nuclear fleet, Germany will be compelled to rely on fossil-fuels, which will make its aggressive goals to cut down Greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, very tough. To Germans that is more of a discomfiting problem than operating their nuclear fleet. Yet, Germany took this hard decision in wake of Fukushima. Global decisions on important matters such as nuclear-safety are taken after significant evaluation of those countries' necessities and often reasons are not as simplistic as the sound-bytes are.

Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Added my comments to @The_Hindu on Dr.APJ's Op-Ed on Kudankulam Nuclear Project crisis

I have profound respect for former President Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam. However, I am concerned the way he bulldozes concerns by pushing arguments for nuclear energy by merely saying how much Energy it can bring. Sure, none of those villagers, who are protesting are going to oppose the notion of brining in additional 1,000 mW generation per day from each reactor in Kudankulam. They are genuinely concerned about safety and their future. This is now a concern in other developed nations too. Some of the parallels drawn by Mr. APJ to dismiss those concerns are ersatz at best and not helping to dispel doubts in the minds of those people who are on a fast to scrap the project.

What I also found too condescending and deeply regrettable was the feedback from some readers. A majority of them think as though those villagers, who are worried about their future are gullible masses, who know nothing! Many are advising that Tamil translations of the article be provided to them. That's the elitist view that is going to precisely turn those people off.

As Engineers and Scientists, I feel we are not good at Public-Relations. To understand the public's concern and to treat them with utmost respect, by dispelling wrongful notions with abject scientific truths, while remaining brutally honest to our neutral elements of Science, is our calling. When we wear elitist hats, we just turn those people off. We really need to work hard at conveying scientific truths to the general population, without being seen as having a hidden agenda.

That is easier said than accomplished. But, there lies an opportunity that is larger than generating power through nuclear energy!

Within the prescribed limit, I have dropped by $0.02 in the comments section in The Hindu.

"As an Energy Consultant,I am a cautious supporter of Nuclear Energy. While Dr.Kalam's article is edifying, it is disconcerting for several reasons:

1. He is obsessed with economic prosperity while flippant about real nuclear threats.

2. He chastises fearmongering with images of mushroom-clouds of the A-Bomb, while he fearmongers by insinuating foreign nations trying to subjugate India's energy ascendancy! Truth is nations like France & US are eager to earn India's huge nuclear-pie!

3. His cavalier attitude to nuclear safety is evident by equating a realistic threat of a cataclysmic nuclear event with his conjured folklore of first-flight accidents!

4. His deafening silence on terrorist-threats on nuclear plants is chilling, when India is on the seismic belt of terrorism.

5. Equating Japan's ER system to India's is an overstretch.

6. He's stoic on India's huge population density.

7. His dismissive attitude implies he thinks those who have concerns are Luddites.He is not right."

Here is the Op-Ed:

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, please understand that a power-starved state of Tamil Nadu and its populace crave for power to get out of the draconian power-cuts that have become the norm. So, they too support efforts to add more nuclear power generation methods to the overall mix. However, please don't tout that alone to floccinaucinihilipilificate their valid concerns!

Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Why would @WSJ / @IndiaRealTime presume Sivakasi to be in China?


Freudian slip? That is what I initially thought, when The Wall Street Journal's slideshow on Diwali had packs of firecrackers from Sivakasi displayed with a caption that said those crackers were from China. Which is what made me think: What makes @WSJ and @IndiaRealTime to think Sivakasi, a southern town of the State of Tamil Nadu in India, renowned for its firecracker and matchsticks industry, somehow belong to China?

All that glitters need not be gold, the same way as all that bursts and crackles need not be from China!

Here is Sivakasi in Wikipedia:

Picture Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal (slideshow)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Just got latest @TIME issue.Replace "America" w/ any other country.Equally true situation.


Not just America, but, any other country in the planet is equally undergoing turmoil, including BRIC. True America has problems, but, does media need to be this negative and sensational in framing headlines and cover-page, in discomfiting a fearful public all the more?

Originally blogged by me at at RandZoom.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

All Souls' Day--Remembering a Friend at Rest in Coimbatore from Atlanta!

It has been 15 years, since I was able to observe All Souls' Day in a cemetery, as I used to in India. Here in the USA, it is all pretty sanitized and within the church -- with lighting of the candles and reading of the names of the loved-ones, who are no more. It is different.

Naturally, I was lost in thoughts at the bilingual Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle in Smyrna, Georgia.

I am not sure how All Souls' Day is celebrated in India these days.

But, my memories around the Sungam Cemetery in Coimbatore are one filled with crowds, cleaned-up and white-washed cemeteries with crucifixes festooned with garlands, flowers and other decorations, besides candles and perfume-sticks. Some may not have visited the cemeteries for aeons, only to be lost as to where their loved-ones' resting place even existed. Ouch!

Lots of people of all ages will be there. At 6 PM, the concelebrated High Mass by the Bishop of Coimbatore with his Vicar General and Diocesan priests will commence. Most of the time, it rains. I do not understand the connection, though :).

I miss all of that, especially, Latin chants. Notwithstanding the turbulent IInd Vatican Council and its fallout in Latin being passé , the only last vestige of those glorious days is the "Libera Me" soulfully sung as a Gregorian Chant. The then Bishop of Coimbatore, Late Dr. M. Ambrose, had a uniquely cut-out voice to lead his congregation with this Latin Chant. Something very powerful about this song is that it will move anybody to tears, especially the portion where it goes "judicare saeculum per ignem" and "quando coeli movendi sunt et terra". I have seen its powerful effect on the congregation, which almost in its entirety did not understand Latin. It is a fitting testimony that music is language-agnostic.

In India, we were not lucky to have been exposed to Latin. It is as alien as Greek! Thankfully, my Father knew a little bit of Latin. So he used to sing it and I used to love him all the more for just that :) Later he confided how the stentorian Bishop Dr. Ambrose was his Rector and made sure he memorized those Latin songs, which only the Bishop, a few priests, and a few elders knew by heart. Good old days!

At least up until November 2nd, 1996, they used to finish it off with "Libera me", at the end of the mass, in Coimbatore. Hope they continue these days as well.

In India, people aren't too sensitive about going to cemeteries. For me, it wasn't a big deal as my maternal grandmother was laid to rest there and this place was just a stone's-throwaway from my school.

Since 1st grade, I remember going to pray at my grandmom's cemetery all alone, besides the once-a-year ritual of November 2nd, when there will be lots of crowd. Abutting this cemetery is the Nirmala College for Women, where I remember girls giggling and calling other girls to show a small boy walking all alone with a candle :)

I never knew why that was a big deal. I had my own fears -- fears of snakes, but, not of souls at the Sungam Cemetery.

Whenever I go to Coimbatore, I make it a point to visit many of my relatives, friends, teachers, priests and nuns laid to rest, besides my maternal grandmother. 

Last time I was there, I spent some calm time before my classmate and friend, who died 21 years ago in a freakish choking accident at dinner-time, when we all were busy preparing for our 10th grade exams.

Had he been alive, I have no doubt, he would have been a Nobel Prize front-runner in Science. No, this is not eulogy. People, who knew this prodigy would vouch for what am saying.

I remembered him today at Mass. This snap was taken in April 2010, at his Cemetery in Sungam, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. In a way, it connects me to all those distant memories of 10,000 miles and 15 years.

Despite distances of space and time, precious memories are innate, immanent, and within. I am afar, yet, very close. 

"Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis"!


(Minor corrections made, since original post.)