Monthly Archives: February 2009

History Strewn all over the Place

 

Put me in an antique shop, any recycled goods shop or any shop that deals in old stuff, and I will invariably end up buying some crazy stuff that can always be tagged as useless, without any second thoughts. This morning, I happened to accompany my friend to a recycled goods and furniture shop in middle of central Pennsylvania. A location like Central Pennsylvania guarantees that same things have been recycling here over and over again since like the first human was born. I would have readily accepted had the shop owner told me that crumpled sheet of paper was the original declaration of independence and not the replica. Partly because I am dumb, and partly because, that shop seems like one of those seven wonders of medieval world.  

 

In consumer review somebody had written, “Inventory here changes every day. It is like a Treasure Hunt”. I couldn’t have agreed more. The whole shop is like portal to history that has been shattered and strewn all over the place. You might find things like the water bottle used by soldiers in World War II, a camera that in first look seems like a shoebox, a piano that very well might be the second or third piano ever built.  A shop like this that would have invoked only one word in my Mom’s dictionary, ‘Trash Can’, – is like ‘heaven of sorts’ to me. I pick up each piece with an anticipation that it is going to tell me something about some stranger in past. I was so disappointed when I did not find a bullet hole in that water bottle. That would have been amazing story to imagine and tell! Isn’t it?

 

Here is my shopping bag of the day:

1)   A wardrobe hanger that may also function as a beer trap or at least I think so. It is a reminder that how even hanging your clothes may have been a work out in those days.

2)   A metallic wall hanging that is in shape of a vine with kitchen utensils hanging on its leaves. The green patina adds a unique touch to the picture.

3)   A 1965 Kodak Instamatic 104 camera, that has lost its flash, its film-forwarding lever and a couple of other parts. But in my defense, Its cool!

4)   A refrigerator magnet, that has this very cheesy message, “If I could have world, I would give it you…If I could have start studded sky…I would have given it you..”

5)   Another refrigerator magnet that just says, “Stop”.

6)   A couple of sports trophies. I don’t know who sells them. Must have been some urgent need of money on seller’s part. Otherwise, I have my only bronze medal from lemon race in class II carefully tucked away in Swiss bank.

7)   A silver coffee mug with a glass base that says, “C.H.C.C 1st Flight Winner Bob Campbell 1972″

8)   Tennis racket that I am planning to send to International tennis hall of Fame, after I get my photo clicked in tight white shorts and Tees, with a headband and holding that racket.

9)   Cherry colored snuff box.

10) A kerosene lantern that now serves as the light source of the miniature light house that I had bought last year.

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Your Days are Numbered!

 

“My days are numbered!”

“Oh really! Mine too! What a coincidence!” I said in a mocking tone, and thus  obviously invoking the fury of  a guy who is lying on a hospital bed, with countless tubes coming in and going out of him. Some of them, the ones that pump red colored liquid, which might very well be carrot juice, are decidedly more exciting than other transparent fluid carrying ones. The numbers in the nearby machines keep on changing and follow some sort of cyclic pattern. I wonder, how boring would it have been in olden times when the hospitals were just beds and parts of people! No cool machines and tubes that give the whole room a feel of a miniature water theme park.

 

“You think, I am joking. Don’t you?!” he says sounding not too happy at my numbered days coincidence gig.

I want to say, “No” but don’t want to lie as somewhere inside, I feel that people can smell lies once they are on a hospital bed. And the truth is that due to my uncanny ability to find traces of humor, I think there is a jocular element to the whole statement.

 

I actually hate when people say that my days are numbered. My hate resides more in the use of word ‘numbered’ than in the utmost pessimism forming the foundation of such a statement. What do they mean when they say ‘numbered’? Is it countdown kind of thing where they are counting it on their fingers, and just to delay the eventuality and increase counting means they have taken their shoes off too.  Aren’t all of us going to live for numbered days? I don’t know anybody who lived for infinite number of days or even to a lesser extent somebody who lived to ‘iota’. I would love to meet somebody who says, “Ah! You know what, I found the cheat code of life, I have infinite life till Level 10”. 

 

I imagine myself meeting the same guy again at Pearly gates and saying, “Weren’t you the ‘cheat code of life’ guy?”

“Yeah!…code worked…but system crashed!” he replies.

Bush Presidential Survey Ranking: 36th

[Conversation]

“Did you see that George W. Bush is 36th out of 42 on Presidential rankings!” [Source: CNN]

“Yeah!! Really?”

“According to a survey by historians!”

“Ha ha ha…what happened to that one liner- History is going to judge my actions-shit!”

“lol….but still its historians who put him in that rank! Not history!”

“Ha ha ha”

“Ha ha ha …yeah history might put him even lower down the rug”

“Ha ha ha…I so totttally agree with you dude!”

“This should be his line now- I was not the worst. There were 4, no hold on..5 below me!”

“Yeah..that should be his reassurance speech like…My fellow Americans, we have come out of this mess 4, no 5, no couple of times before,..we will manage this time too!”

“That would have boosted his ratings and stuff!”

“I don’t know about that man!”

Notes on Valentine’s day

I distinctly remember that last year I had written a blog about Saudi’s banning Red for V-day. Since then a BMW M5 with a registration plate that says ‘UAE’ has been following me all over the place. I have seen it outside my coffee shop, my home, my lab, …. almost everywhere. Either it’s some strange force of attraction between that BMW M5 and me, or I am being followed! Really I think I am being followed!

            Anyways this year, for reasons excluding and including that I am scared of dying at hands of a crowd throwing stones at me, I am going to focus back home to India, where a group of saffron clad purveyors of God’s message, were trying to correct the morality standards of society on V-day (and earning media limelight on their way). I heard that there were incidents where couples were asked to tie Rakhis (a thread that signifies brother-sister relationship) to each other under duress, a guy was married to a donkey (what??) and a lot of couples were beaten up. And all this while when moral policing was going on, real cops who are always in a perpetual state of disillusionment, were standing and watching the proceedings. Anyhow, my take on the things is that, first, I agree with the quote that says Censorship like charity should start at home but(/and) should end there. Secondly, I don’t agree with the way some self proclaimed moral poilicing groups conduct their business, should I be allowed equal people beating, vanadalising rights to do the same to these groups. (and not to forget media attention!). Third, can somebody please tell me what happened to that guy who married to the donkey. Interesting story there isn’t it…

(The guy slowly trudges in to his parents house, with his newly wed wife donkey, slowly following him.

Slow music that accompanies walking fades down…)

Guy: Mom (pause), Dad, This is your new Donkey in Law!

Parents: Nahinnnnn!!!! (a very dramatic NO!)Mom faints!

(Donkey walks slowly towards her mother in law)

Chorus (all saffron colored): Applause! Jai Shri Ram! Jai Shri Ram!

Curtain falls

 

*****

[Excerpt from my novel currently titled ‘The Greatest Novel Ever Written”]

 

” I think I should write a song for her this Valentine’s Day and compose music on a didgeridoo for that song. Then I can arrange a group of Hawaiian dancers to dance to that tune. Oh! I would also need some flamingoes. Oh! And I would need a kid to dress up as cupid. …”

“What the hell are you talking about. V-day is tomorrow! Just tell her!”

 

****** 

What if Shri Ram and Sita got married on February 14th. Would it change Shri Ram Sena’s outlook towards V-Day in any way or will they file copyright case against St. valentine??

Biol 413: Project Runway meets Survivor

 

There are people who believe in self-study, and there are people who believe in lecture type classes. I, however, am totally different, as I believe in learning from hieroglyphics. Am kidding! Cave paintings are hard to understand. Anyhow, last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend this extraordinarily amazing Biol 413 class at Penn State, which is so unlike those other lecture type-boring-to-hell type classes where the only natural reaction that brain elicits is to shut itself down. The class is an amalgam of concepts of cell biology in a format that is a mix between Survivors and Project Runway. Intriguing, Right??

The class has been divided into 6 different tribes; Regulators, Alhazen, Nerds, Green Fluorescent Squirrels (funny name if you imagine the picture of one), Mutants and Killer Ladybugs (my favorite tribe name. Its outrageously hilarious!). In each class, tribes are given a task, which is mostly grounded in science of cell and molecular biology, and the tribe that wins gets immunity against a vote-out to the mutant island. Yes, there is vote out at the end of each task and besides all the fun in class, final scores that are earned from this task will lead to bonus grade points at the end of semester. Besides this there are bonus safety cards, extra immunity points for taking pictures of Immunity Idol in different locales in State College, …and lot of  strategy strategy strategy!! 

runway-toon1

 

Last Friday, I was the guest judge for this class and had an amazing fun filled experience. The task that day was called ‘Project Runway-Biol 413 Evening Gown Challenge” and task involved reading a scientific paper titled, “The Coupling of Cyclic GMP and Photopolarization of Pelvetia Zygotes” and tribes were asked to come up with a descriptive model and some future experiments to test ideas they proposed. I would have preferred a scientific paper title like ‘The coupling of Mars landing and Evolution of Skunks’ (kidding!!), but on a slightly serious note, I have never seen students more excited in class! NEVER EVER! All the tribes came up with such amazing ideas and I would be lying if I say that I was not surprised.  But after all the judges had tallied their scores, The Regulators were a unanimous winner as they had presented a very comprehensive model, with Mutants being a close second for their well controlled proposed experiments. As I had promised, the winner gets a cover on the The Antisense Strand, here it is the winning model and winner teams logo. (Yeah I can see the sarcasm when you say, “Yeah what a prize! Cover on some random humor blog that hardly anybody reads!)

logo-model1

With a pea-sized brain like me, I know, I should be the last one to express my opinion on such things but I believe science can be so much fun. I can however say for sure that classes like these definitely make studying science a fun and intellectually enriching exercise. Thanks to Randen and Damian for implementing such an idea and inviting me to be a part of it, and I so much wish that I was a part of such a class when I was an undergrad. I would have named my tribe Prot Surfers, T4 Terminators, or The Wingdings. Then we would have won the first task and tried to get the best person out of mutants in our…. Strategy Strategy!! Think Think!!

Messages in the Bottle

 

First

“We landed here and while you read this, your brain is being hacked by our plasma calculation system core (EMILY is its name!).”

 

Second

“Congrats! You are the first person to read ‘first alien letter in Enklish'”

 

Third

“If you found this floating in an unfrozen clear liquid, it means empty corked bottles can float long distances without getting tired and/or drowned. If successful, we are going to use same technology to make large bottles that would then transport stuff across the lakes.” – Trunckatus, 10235 BC

 

Fourth

“…and you thought MI-2 was a work of fiction. See when this bottle self destructs in 5 seconds.”

 

Fifth

God’s Message

“If you are sitting and reading this, then after your death you are going to..”

Part 1 of 2