Monday, December 20, 2010

Cars and Driving

Familiar to those brought up on a Cartoon Network diet, I would go gaga over all things in a car just like Dee Dee in Dexter's Laboratory. "Oooh what does this button do?"



All those nice memories, being small enough to lie down completely in the back seat and look in wonder at all the branches that hover past you. It's quite mind-boggling, almost gives a feeling of being upside down. 

Apart from that, more importantly, I was and am CRAZY about driving cars. I'm not as interested in makes and all that but rather am really fascinated by such a complete package. It's sort of the same adrenaline that flows when I solve a physics problem or code some program. I bet nobody paid as much attention to Basic Civil and Mechanical as much as I did when they took IC engines.



One of my most fundamental doubts was, alright you tell me that this is a four stroke engine - suction, compression, power and exhaust and energy is "produced" during power stroke alone, how can it possibly sustain itself with such a tiny battery? Also, I was told the battery was only for ignition. They took us to the lab and then I got it, thanks to the poignant description of the lab assistant. After the first cycle, the moment of inertia of the flywheel would keep the system running as long there was fuel even though the flywheel itself consumes a small amount of the electrical power from the battery.



I had a very simple doubt. It required so much of understanding. The people who engineered this feat truly are to be applauded to come up with such an elegant solution.

And oh yes, I did make a complete fool of myself in the lab jumping around like Hermione, "Oooh that's a spark plug".

On another line, my driving 'lessons' have become utter comedy. I haven't even started.



Here's the deal. My dad wants to be at my first ever lesson. I need to attend a driving class.

Ok, I have had the worst luck in the world, rain and vacationing instructors but I really thought this weekend was THE weekend.

Saturday:

Calling the class. Teacher is on leave. Dad has the odd and extremely rare Saturday meeting. Dad assures he'll at least teach me the basics when he's back. Mom chides my feet will not reach the pedals.

Dad takes out car at 4 in evening. Says we'll go repair the watches and start. Go to P.Orr and sons with him. Got my watch, the one I wore to my board exams, repaired. More on that later. Argument at shop. Delayed. Mom calls, asks Dad to get something from Saravana Bhavan.  We order parcel and tomato soup. Finish soup and talk and talk and talk. Little over an hour later, finally get parcel. Credit card #1 rejected. #2 rejected. Dad investigates. Finally accepted. Reach home at 8:30. Everyone's hungry. Dad says we'll see tomorrow. It's hard to be disappointed over paneer butter masala.

Next day, Sunday.

Dad wakes up late, tired from all that driving. Says he needs haircut and then returns. Says he's hungry. I make soup. We have lunch. He has his afternoon nap. He gets up and freshens up. I wait for him.

It rains the rest of day.

I'm optimistic. Maybe this weekend?

Macbeth

I don't remember when exactly I bought Macbeth, maybe four or five years down the line. Every time I read it gives me this thrill of emotions and there is quite some history behind it too.






I heard the story first when I was in sixth standard. We had to write our own scripts and I was Lady Macbeth. "All the perfumes in Arabia will not sweeten this hand... ". Never mind I failed miserably, that's another story.


The story of Macbeth goes thus. Three witches confronts Macbeth and his friend Banquo and claim that he is the Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and later the King of Scotland. Banquo, on the other hand, is said to be the father of future kings. Now Macbeth is presently the Thane of Glamis and tries to banish these prophecies from his mind, even as these witches disappear. No longer are they gone, that the king's messengers arrive to inform him that he is indeed the Thane of Cawdor. Doubt start stirring in noble Macbeth's mind and he hastens to inform his wife, Lady Macbeth, his experience. Fed by an unnatural desire, she seeks to help Macbeth fulfill the third prophecy by contemplating and planning the murder of the King who is to be their guest that night. She convinces Macbeth with a strong hand and the deed is done.


However, instead of the joy and comfort they anticipated, they are disturbed and confused. Macbeth goes on a killing spree, prodded by desire and ambition. He is seen as a tyrant and even plans for the murder of Banquo, his trusted aide in battle. Predictably, his son Fleance survives. Lady Macbeth, becomes engulfed by her guilt and suffers a sort of madness before taking her own life. The witches make three more prophecies, o be wary of Macduff, to rest easy until Birman Wood marches and know that he suffers death from a man not born from a woman. Macbeth is somewhat comforted by these omens and ruthlessly brings down Macduff's family. He does not succeed in killing Macduff who was in England at that time. Enraged by the murder of his wife and children, he seeks to avenge himself. His army moves towards his castle camouflaged by a branch until it seemed as thought the Wood were moving. Finally, he kills Macbeth by revealing that he was torn from his mother's womb untimely before birth. The story ends with the battle over and preparations for the next coronation.


There are several salient traits in this play. There is an undercurrent of the supernatural and a beautiful play of emotions. Shakespeare's shortest play is nevertheless powerful. You tangle with witches and ghosts, superstitions and omens. Honour, valour and other noble traits are also poignantly put forth.


There is a separate beauty to Shakespeare's plays. It has a poetic intonation due to its pentameter. Especially, the witches incantations are a poem more popularly known in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie


"Double Double Toil and Trouble"


It is a play on Scottish history to herald James of Scotland, the new King of England. It is said that James had a short attention span and thus this play was kept as short as possible. Also, he was obsessed with witchcraft and strove to fight against it. Well, looks like Shakespeare did some first rate grovelling and fawning!


Although it took me a while to become comfortable with Shakespeare's English, I think it was worth the effort. You actually feel as though you are in medieval Scotland. It's not very authentic but quite enjoyable.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The War of Roses

My name is Margaret. Margaret of Anjou. I was fifteen then. I recollect those times in a haze almost. I remember sitting on the banks of Moselle with my grandmother, reciting stories. Stories of old, how she would keep Anjou out of the hands of the English, stories about the Hundred Years Wars and Joan of Arc. My mother too, when she had time to spare, would tell me of heroic battles that she had overseen when father was in prison, fighting for the the kingdom of Naples. Together, they taught me all they knew and I was blessed to be one of the most educated girl in all of France.


I was happy, truly unconditionally happy without any worries then. Until, William de la Pole, the soldier in the Hundred Years Wars approached my father for an alliance between Henry VI and me, Margaret of Anjou. At first, I was hesitant, after all the we have been fighting the English for Hundred Years! Soon, I learnt that this was a noble attempt to restore peace between the two nations and will restore Anjou and Maine unconditionally to French hands. So, with ideas of peace, I married Henry VI, King of England.

Little did I know then, that my lot in life was not peace.
I was the Quene of England.

Unfortunately, I could sense unhappiness among the English. Their people had been ravaged by war just as much as the French had. However, in their eyes, the French were at fault and my mere presence bore them a repugnance that was visible in those fawning eyes feinting flattery. I also donned a diplomatic mask and met these smiles with marked civility in court. I may be French by birth, but I had now dedicated myself to England, as is my duty to the Crown.

Richard of York






Five years after I married Henry, Richard of York had been named as the successor to the throne in absence of an heir. I was, well, confused. It was la Pole who explained all the politics that I was a stranger to.








Henry VI of Lancaster
My husband had ruled England since he was a mere baby, with regents acting on his behalf and incapable of taking decisions. We belonged to the House of Lancaster. Richard, from the House of York, claimed ascendancy to the throne based on an impressive family history. He explained to me that his actions had foiled an attempt to reconcile the rival dukedoms who had contemplated an inter-marriage. He told me about the corrupt courtiers that Richard had won and his gaining popularity.

I listened with interest. However, there was nothing to be said as the law required an heir and that the House of Lancaster did not have. Under William's  advice, I tried to remove him with the best assassins but he lived without doubt about his claim. That is, until my Edward was born in 1453. To my chagrin, Richard was named Lord Protector of the infant in light of the temporary mental illness that gripped Henry. On another line, both me and Henry had shared a dream of education and reformation and I set-up the Queen's College at Cambridge in his absence.

Soon Henry recovered and tactically removed the threat, Richard from the court.

Richard of York took arms in 1455 to fight for his right to the throne beginning a civil war.

An unrest had been simmering all along on the English loss in the Hundred Years' War, taxes and the famous Percy-Neville feud. Also, everyone swore their allegiance to their immediate lord, not to the respective side. It diluted power. English blood boiled, waiting to be spilled.

I observed all these factors and above all, this hatred rose in my heart against the one person, Richard of York. I wanted to secure the throne for my son.

The first battle took place at the capitol, St.Albans. We lost. Richard killed the powerful members of our side.  Henry collapsed mentally and was found in a tent quietly musing. Richard was once again Lord Protecter.

Both Houses were shocked at the bloodshed. They sought dialogue to come to a peaceful solution. I allowed my mask to fall. I made it very clear that Edward of Westminster, my son, is the next heir. Henry recovered and sent Richard to Ireland. We also moved away from the angry over-taxed merchants of London and set court in the country at Coventry. Slowly, we built our army through conscription, an order for all youth to participate in this civil war.

Oh yes, now I recollect that preposterous venture of Thomas Bourchier who celebrated Love Day in honour of complete peace between the two houses in 1458. Hostilities continued the next year when the deported Richard returned illegally from Ireland. After a loss at the Battle of Blore Heath, we won at the Battle of Ludford Bridge.

Seizing this opportunity, we ordered all the confounded members of the Yorkist faction attainted, that is denounced their noble blood status. Alas, they won at the Battle of Northampton in 1460 where Henry became a prisoner.

When Richard thought he had won, he was wrong. It was I who led the House of Lancaster now and may I say with pride, we won the Battle of Wakefield. Meanwhile, with many adventures, I had escaped to Scotland to protect the heir. I struck a chord with the Queen of Scotland and she agreed to send troops in exchange for Berwick-upon-Tweed for this battle.

Richard was killed in this battle and it was with great satisfaction that I ordered his head to let rot at the city of York.

Finally, I thought my child is safe.
How very wrong I was.

Richard had a son who had survived, Edward, who led the Yorkist forces now. We lost the Battle of Mortimer Cross due to his ludicrous superstitious speeches about seeing three suns. We won the Second Battle of St.Albans. I took particular pleasure in executing the two knights who were trying to ransom the king.



Alas! The biggest battle, the Battle of Towton, near York, we lost. Our family fled. The few surviving leaders changed sides. Edward of York beheaded John Clifford, my best man who had ,in turn, killed his brother.

Richard's son, Edward IV was crowned King of England. He married some Woodville, I cannot recollect. I think Elizabeth Woodville. Seeing the corruption and the rise in the nobility of the Woodville family, his most powerful and richest ally, the Earl of Warwick, a Neville, by the way, joined our side, bless him. My Edward married his daughter.

There were many, many battles after that. We won some, lost some. The King temporarily lost service. I draw now to the close of my story.

The Battle of Tewkesbury, 4 May 1471. I will not, cannot forget it. We had just returned from our long exile to join the triumphant forces only to realise that the news relayed to us, in Scotland, was out-dated. We entered into the battlefield.

My son, Edward, was killed.

After that, there was no spirit in me. The very reason for my existence just faded right in front of my eyes. I was imprisoned in England. Henry was murdered.

I was ransomed by the French king in 1475.

There is nothing left for me to add. I once again look at the clear waters of the Moselle only now they ripple with the faces of those long gone. In my haste to protect and honour the one life that I helped create, I do not know, how many I helped extinguish. I failed to realise the mortality of my own son's life. It seems ironic, that today, the 23 March 1480 marks half a century in my life and I have witnessed both the principalities of the war die, Richard and my husband Henry VI. I am old, so old, just living in total poverty through the sympathies of others. My son lived to see just seventeen summers. I stop my story here. May God forgive me, I think I have been punished enough.



This narrative is continued by Margaret of Lorraine, her niece after Margaret's of Anjou's death in 1482.

Well, news poured into France. Edward IV died of an illness. He named his brother Richard as Protector. Preparations were being made for his son's coronation. Richard had other plans, of course and murdered the 11 year old and the 9 year old princes in the Tower of London. He was crowned Richard III.



Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian candidate revolted at Buckingham against Richard which failed. Finally, Henry won the Battle of Bosworth field in 1485. Richard III was killed.

The House of Lancaster had won.

Henry Tudor, a man of infinite wisdom, married the daughter of Edward IV of York and created the Tudor line and was crowned Henry VII.

My aunt never lived to see the final victory. Henry VII joined the two symbols the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York into the Tudor Rose ending the War once and for all. I think, historians will probably come to call it the War of the Roses. How ironic!

White Rose of York
Tudor Rose
Red Rose of Lancaster

In my opinion, the entire exercise was futile. The Richards, Edwards and Henrys were all killed. The ones who started this war were killed. Thirty years of Civil War from 1455 to 1485. England lost some of her best soldiers. The Battles were complicated and some times, chivalry was missing too. But as my aunt said, blood was boiling in English men, waiting to be spilled. They would have probably fought over another reason anyway. Peace exists now between and within England and France.

FINIS

Monday, December 13, 2010

House-elves and Feminism

"Dobby sir... Dobby the house-elf"


In light of the recent Harry Potter movie, these words just echoed within my head. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was the first book I read and I just love Dobby. 


I think I really connected with Dobby on several counts:


An insane, obsessive and indescribable worship of Harry Potter.
A powerful urge to protect the aforementioned specimen of courage, goodness and bravery.
A penchant for sticking out of the crowd with insane ideas.
A will to stand up for what's right.
A person who enjoys freedom above all.


Now Dobby wanted freedom from oppression and he got it. He enjoyed it but still shuddered at the "riches" Dumbledore offered. He adored work and didn't mind admitting it, he just wanted his worth. His dedication and affection are unparalleled.


He is FUN. 


Now before you start wondering what feminism has to do with all this or if you have got a whiff of the alley I'm headed at, let's go to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.


Now, Hermione comes up with the SPEW. It sounded ridiculous to me. Exactly how Harry and Ron felt at the time, my thoughts reverberated on similar lines. They want to work for free, let them. Hemione seemed downright silly to me and her ideas about brain-washing seemed absurd. Alright, Dobby wanted freedom, he's an exception.


Years later at Grimmauld Place, Harry lords over Kreacher and he realises what a raw deal house-elves have. Hermione's words finally make sense and he changed his chauvinistic views and especially how he felt Kreacher was responsible for Sirius' death. 


So did I.
But then, suddenly something just clicked in my head.


As a die-hard feminist, I've often stated how brain-washed women are and how true gender equality and freedom are far from being real. I realised that as far as house-elves were concerned, I was the chauvinist! I thought the exact same things that infuriated me about exceptions and capabilities and so on and so forth until the seventh book. 


I've changed my opinion now, of course but J K Rowling has taught me to never judge too quickly. It's okay to have an opinion but you must be open enough to alter that and most importantly, give an ear for what others say, there might be some wisdom.


Who'd have thought I took spiritual courses from Harry Potter?


On a final note, I'd just like to say "Here is a free elf"



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Presenting... My first Presentation

The presentation on William Wallace was my very first and I had lots of help from my father. I owe a lot of my presentation skills to my father. So this post is dedicated to my dad.

First let me give a little background. The presentation was due on Monday. Me and my friend had planned to do it over the weekend on Environment. She faced a family situation, her relatives had come from abroad and she couldn't make it. I was very low in spirits as I had no idea what to do. Two days, one presentation. My dad came to my rescue and gave me confidence.

Research: We surfed a lot of websites (this was before Wikipedia arrived) and collected a sizeable chunk of information and pictures.

Organisation: My dad said we needed to categorise all that we needed. He said that but didn't get to it. I asked him why? And I got a mumbling from which “no mood” was highly audible. I was kind of confused when I realised what he was doing. He was searching templates. His favourite technique to really get into the presentation was to spend some time on its appearance. Its a golden rule I've always followed. Finally, we made about twenty slide headings in Lucida Blackletter font. Then, we racked our brains for a title and finally the “Scottish Pride” was chosen. The template was the one with spectacles on the title slide and parchment feel to it.

Layout: Never have too much text. That's another nugget I learnt. I had real fun during this session. I mean William Wallace had a five-foot long sword and there was slide dedicated to that alone. There was another one where I mentioned Age of Empires too.

Sound: The soundtrack was Age of Empires || open. Also, I recorded my voice for all the text in the slides. Ah, all the trouble I went through.

The Scottish Pride”
You're supposed to sound proud not sleepy
The Scottish Pride”
Louder, even I can't hear.
The Pride.. chi.. Scottish”
What was the Scottish for?
The Scottish Pride”
Perfect! But the fan is too loud, let me switch it off.

The final slide has a neat little custom animation with a curtain descending and my dad added the clap sound effect.

I went to the AV room. I switched off the lights. I started it and sat down, everything was automatic.

The claps drowned the digital ones.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Belt and Physics

I was putting my belt to hang on the clothes rod which promptly fell with a loud clang. Obviously, I had left too much of the belt hanging on the buckle side.



I smiled as I remembered the pulley problems I used to solve. It reminded me of the typical free body diagrams we used to try. So if I had to find out how much of the belt I need to leave hanging on both sides of the rod, I could reduce it to an ideal problem by replacing it exactly as the above string pulley system with the mass of each side replaced as a point mass at the centre of mass.



Hence, its clear why my belt fell. At a point, the mass on the side with the buckle would be too heavy (have a large mg component) to be compensated by the other.

I assumed that both sides of my belt were at a state of equilibrium usually and that's why it stayed stationary. After a while I started playing with it and something kept nagging me. The buckle side of my belt fell down much later than I would have anticipated considering how light the rest of the belt was.

Then, it hit me. This couldn't be solved as an ideal pulley system cause I had forgotten one very important assumption.

The pulley is rigid and frictionless.

Friction. That was what was saving me from having bother about belt lengths usually. As long as the mg components remained less than the co-efficient of static friction between my rod and the belt, it was able to satisfy a large amount of stress. It was only when it crossed the limiting friction, it fell.

Ah, I love physics. I maybe wrong, these are just random thoughts based on my understanding and you have been warned, this is no guide to physics, just a flavour of my thoughts.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Model Student

The hall is silent. The only sounds your over-strained ears can pick up are the occasional rustling of paper and the scratching of the pen (yes, the phrase is borrowed from the Order of the Phoenix replaced with pen instead of quill). The physics examination was in session.

A student walks out an hour early.

Later, he is summoned to the office by his teacher to reprimand him for his abysmal performance.

Teacher: You need to answer this question correctly to pass, I'm giving you a last chance
Student: But what's wrong with my answer?
Teacher: Read this.

Q: How do you measure the height of the building using a barometer?
A: Tie a string to the barometer and let it down until the barometer just touches the ground. Add the length of the string to the length of the barometer to get the answer.

Teacher: How much do you expect for this answer?
Student: Full
Teacher: I'm giving you five minutes to tell me the right answer. Otherwise, you fail.

Student looks aimlessly for three minutes.

Teacher: Well, shall I fail you? Don't waste my time, do you know the answer?
Student: Well sir, I have many answers, I didn't know which to choose so I'll mention all of them.

You could measure the length of the upright barometer's shadow and the length of the building's shadow. By using the known length of the barometer, with a simple ratio you could ascertain the building's height.

You could tie a string to the barometer and use it like a pendulum. By calculating the acceleration due to gravity at both the ground level and at the top of the building and use the minute difference to measure the height.

Or, you could measure the air pressure at ground level and air pressure at the roof in millibars and substitute in this formula to find the height.

Personally, I'd just ask the janitor.

The student passed.
His name was Niels Bohr.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My First Novel

My very first book review on my blog is going to be on the very first book I read. Its Secret Seven Win Through by Enid Blyton. My mom had bought it when I was in third but I shrugged it off until a year later. I was terribly sick and had to lie in bed all the time. Simply, dying of boredom, I browsed the first few pages. Earlier I had run to the dictionary for every few words and had found it an awkward process. Since I was too tired, I just skipped the ones I didn't know. I found it quite easy to read without them and slowly figured them out too.

The story is set in 1940's something. Its summer and the children have a gang with passwords. Their dog leads them to a cave hidden by foliage and they convert it into their meeting place. Strange events befall them that seem unexplainable. A thief eludes every trap they lay and they leave. With a little bit of sleuthing and shadowing and proud bruises in the manner of traditional duel scars, they apprehend a criminal.

I loved it. The book truly gave me a feel of how their life was even if it was too far-fetched.

After two years, of course I noticed the subtle stereotyping in both Secret Seven and Famous Five. The entire book would be fantastical and filled with adventures but the boys would take care of the girls in an unnaturally protective manner. They'd basically not have any fun. The height was when George(ina) tells the police officer what happened from the beginning (including Timothy (her dog) having an ear infection), he looks up from his notes and says, “Oh I'm sorry, I didn't notice you were a girl. I'd better hear the account from Julian, I don't have any time for dog-collars.”


Well, I love Enid Blyton even without her seeming lack of feminism. Perhaps, she didn't want the kids to get carried away and tried to inject a sense of caring. I have probably read a hundred of her books and enjoyed each and every one of them completely. She is one of the great patrons of story telling.



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Should I wear glasses?

I've been wearing spectacles since I was in seventh regularly and for a short stint in fifth. Ever since I can remember, I used to tell my parents, “One of the first things I'm going to do when I turn eighteen is get contact lenses”.



Long story short, inspite of my mom's ritual force feeding of carrots, my eyes are regularly strained and both my eyes require different powered lenses. Plus, it doesn't help that whenever I fell ill when I was young (which was quite often), I'd curl up with a book and read at a stretch.

Well, I'm a year older than that VERY sought after age and yet I'm still wearing Bayonetta style spectacles. My mom keeps mentioning how we should to get it but I seem to just shy away from the discussion.

Have I actually started liking wearing glasses?

Glasses are cumbersome. Not only do I have an abnormally large number of accidents with my glasses on, I seem to lose them so often and the worst part is I wouldn't even remember removing them in the first place. The amount of time spent on my searching in house for my elusive spectacles have become family lore. They fog up when you drink something hot. They annoy me every morning when the AC clouds them and I clamber blindly onto my bus. Also, they're hopeless in torrential rains. Wish I could say Impervious like Hermione did to Harry's glasses in the third book during the Quidditch match.

On the other hand, they now seem to define my personality. A sort of no-nonsense approach and it seems to enhance my dignity. A proper set of glasses like the one I own now and not the despicably crooked ones I had to wear sometimes. Besides, it portrays a sense of intelligence and wisdom that I enjoy.

Everyone doesn't want to look like a nerd and you WANT to look like one???”

My friend is not known for tact.

Sowmya, please think of such unthinkable logic and save the family money”

My very down-to-earth dad of course.

The verdict: These glasses are here to stay my amigo!


Monday, November 29, 2010

The Story of my Science Project

It was a chemistry project that I was working on in eleventh grade. The topic was really interesting, the chemistry of colours.

Our team worked on fireworks, dyes both natural and man-made, cosmetics and preservation of ancient colours and so much more. I was in charge of the presentation, so I had to know everyone's topics. I took notes and researched so much. The highlights of the presentation was a clever superposition of slides with three torches – Red, Blue and Green. Depending on the sequence of how you click them, using links, gradients and other things, the colours will change ultimately culminating in white (I couldn't resist dedicating a few slides to the physics of colours). The fireworks section was very vibrant and their chemistry was startlingly simple.

Before I get engrossed in my highly enlightening research, I'd better get to the highly wonderful incidents I had to put up with in my all-girls school.

1. Girls, make that model better. You know girls can't win science projects.
My non-verbal reaction – It's not a competition, it's an expo.

2. Preservation of artefacts – Girls Style

While the more sincere of us were studying this area, my juniors had fabricated a very innovative and realistic model.

Preservation of mummies
Preservation of Pompeii in volcanic ash (two models before and after eruption)

Did I mention the project title was Chemistry of Colours?

I ran to the staff room.

Me: Ma'am, the juniors are completely ruining everything.
Ma'am: What happened now, Sowmya?
Me: They're making models we didn't ask them to do.
Ma'am: Yes yes. I only asked them to make those models.
Me(controlling my anger and hoping she didn't notice my red ears): Mam, but why?
Ma'am: Your orbital model was excellent. But we need something else to fill the stall.
Me: Ma'am, but pyramids???
Ma'am: Don't worry ma, I have a class now. The co-ordinator was very impressed with the excitation model. It really doesn't matter what the other models are as long as they look good. I am actually thinking of flyers like red for danger hanging from the ceiling, it'll be colourful. You are too sincere(walks out).

I look at her retreating silhouette in utter disbelief.

3) Ultimate Insult

On the very first day of the expo, I was invited to the inauguration graciously by my teacher for putting so much effort. Personally, it was really good for my low blood pressure.

Charmed.

Well apart from the fact I fell down a flight of five steps on my way down and got my finger stuck in a hinge while arranging the stall and screamed until everyone came to our stall and I nearly passed out until some girl practically wrenched my finger from it and people sniggered about sissiness, it was not eventful enough to irritate me.

Until.

For the presentation, I needed a computer. It was not to be found. Finally the co-ordinator got this huge vehicle filled with monitors, keyboards and CPUs. My friend carried everything and got it for me to fix.

I got down to business. I had a Wearnes PC around a decade old at home with a 12.5 GB (2.5 + 10 addition) with old-style serial ports. They were very confusing and my very scientific method of selecting them was to plug them into every socket and see which fits. So prepared, for the worst, I took the serial interfaces.

Surprise! They were USBs. Plus, the CPU had cute graphics illustrating which was for the keyboard and which was for the mouse. Only, the power port was old-style and easy enough. Brilliant!

I should have known it was too good to be true.

There were separate power sources for monitor and CPU whereas each stall had only one power line. Our extension block was that round rotating type that can support only one three-pin. Soon, I was grovelling to the electrician to give another line. He wrinkled his nose and grudgingly stole the nearby(thankfully empty) stall's line.

He had a tester and checked the two power sources with a speed Rajnikanth would have been proud of and clambered away with his heavy wires. I finally plugged both of them in.

It did not work.



I disconnected and reconnected everything. I switched power-plugs. Sometimes the monitor would work, sometimes the CPU. It seemed as if there wasn't any power in one of the sockets but my ma'am pulled that thought right out of my head with a “He checked dear”. I was sure something else was wrong. Beads of sweat sparkled on my eyebrow and my hurt finger (which was depressed so much for so long) started to swell up to a disgusting blob.

To my complete horror, two extremely tall (I have a complex about being short) guys from the opposite stall entered. I had been so engrossed that I didn't notice my teacher actually go and ask them for help. They were extremely polite and checked my handiwork. Speech wouldn't rise to my lips. My teacher had grossly under-estimated me. And it really hurt because it was a computer.

Well, they didn't find anything wrong.

Not immediately anyway. One of them casually said that it probably was a power problem.

My teacher thanked them profusely for “figuring it out”.

The grumpy electrician was called again.

It finally worked.

There was no PowerPoint.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Story behind Ode to First 4 Silver

The poem “An Ode to first 4 Silver” has a long story behind it. My father's college was celebrating their silver jubilee. It was truly a memorable and highly planned tour which I enjoyed.

Or at least most of it.

My sister had fallen ill on the last day and I went alone with my new friends to Veega Land (which was a complete waste of time, I took photos and held everyone's handbags and went on ONE roller coaster). I come back and this was the conversation that ensued.

Dad: We've finished packing
Me: OK
(clambered onto the bed, all tired)
Dad: Mom and I had an idea
Me:Yes?
Dad: You know everyone knows your sister, I mean she was a singing sensation yesterday
Me (eyes lighting up) : Yeah, her “Made in India” brought the house down
Dad: So, we thought you should also showcase your talents.
Me (grinning): Daddy, my talents aren't exactly performing type. I can't very well solve problems or something. It's OK, she can be famous here.
Dad: You do write good poems.
Me: That's the point, I write.
Dad: Well, we want you to recite one.
Me (grin gone): WHAT? Me? Speak? On stage? Not happening.
Dad:Sowmya, don't be ridiculous. You gave such amazing speeches in school.
Me: That was school and they were not always spectacular. I've re-developed stage fear. And besides I take a month to write poetry. I'm no Shakespeare.
Dad: Well, give it a shot.
Me: Hmmm... what do you want it to be about?

At this point, my father transformed into the school-boy (or college-man) and his eyes sparkled as he spoke lovingly about his college and about the re-union. I was intrigued. The right emotions always pave the way for poetry. But I didn't have any paper, much less my laptop.

I was reduced to scribbling with a fluorescent orange pen on the back of my sister's brown paper medicine wrapper.

My work of art was completed in fifteen minutes. I purred in fulfillment. My dad was ecstatic. He said I could read it with the “paper” on stage.

The shadow of fear was back. I begged him to read it and that I really don't care if a bunch of people didn't know who I was who,in all probability, I wasn't going to see again.

It's not the first time I lost against my dad in a rational argument. He has the art of convincing me that what I don't what to do is what I want to do and vice-versa.

It was karaoke night. My sister was going to rock of course. Me? Hmmm, my stomach suddenly disappeared.

The co-ordinator said he couldn't fit me into the itinerary.

I would have whooped with joy if I hadn't felt so queasy.

I threw up the minute I reached our room.

I claimed it was because of my trip to Veega Land.

P.S. Stage fear is not that much of an issue now. I've taken four seminars since then. I've grown from an artist to a performing artist.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Story behind my entry to Blogging

My idea of blogging a year ago was a vague and hazy remembrance of some boring newspaper article which went like

A weblog or blog, as it is popularly known, is an online diary, blah blah blah”

Obviously, I wasn't very interested.

As much as I like technology, the idea of blogging didn't appeal to me at all. I have no idea why. I just preferred taking a piece of paper and actually tracing my thoughts onto it, I guess. Somehow, its more personal, more satisfying. So I chucked this nugget of information to one of my vast recesses of unused memory units and forgot all about it.

Well, years after I read this article and entered college, my English teacher asked us to submit our group assignments on a blog. She guided us through the steps of setting up a basic blog on Blogger and she was trying very, VERY, hard to get us interested in English. After all, we were computer science students, we'd hopefully take interest in front of a computer.

Here are a few facts about my group:

Half of them were lazy.
Those who weren't were forgetful.
Nobody cared about English class that much anyway.
The time we were supposed to use to update our blog was put to good use on Facebook.
I am very sincere, love English and computers.

Predictably, I ended up doing pretty much the entire blog that semester. Only one post is not mine, nevertheless was typed by yours truly.

Did I like the blogging experience?

It wasn't a blogging experience to be frank. However, I learnt a few rudiments about posting. I was surprised that I was pretty comfortable typing my thoughts as much I was writing them down.

And then, of course, the next natural step was to set up my own blog. All very well said and done except I had no idea WHAT to blog. Naturally, Google and Wikipedia came to my rescue . All of them indicated that blogs are simply a reflection of your interests. So I chose poetry. My very first poem was An Ode to First 4 Silver with the exact same template as my English assignment's. I was very happy to see it published. You see, I had had a website way back in fourth grade on free hosting tripod with Trellix Web. Launching a website is definitely more draining and my dad helped me with FTP and all that. Or maybe he was doing that for his site. Anyway, before I digress further, I just want to say it was satisfying.

My first real shock came when I had my first follower. It was my classmate and she did it right in front of me but still the concept was fascinating. Soon, I started badgering my friends to follow. The only obstacle was my blog address which was ritaskeeterscoop before. Unless you are a fellow Harry Potter fan, this address is absolutely not congenial for followership. After sometime, I stopped. I blogged a few poems and got a few comments for My Dear poem. After that it was super-stagnation. People would comment on my Facebook profile but nobody would actually comment on or follow my blog.

It was time I revamped my blog. Also, I didn't want to display just one interest. At the dawn of template designing, I used a cute picture window template with a leafy background. It was not very personalised, not very me. So I got down to the brass tacks, browsed quite a few blogs and got a flavour of the entire thing. One of my favourites is Coconut Chutney. I could really connect with her blog on most counts and found the posts hilarious and absorbing. The height was her translation of Padichi Paathen song. I nearly fell off the bed even as I read that she stopped with two lines in fear of the sport of chappal throwing.

And this is the result.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The History behind the History

The first time I got interested in history was...

You are not going to believe it.

By playing Age of Empires II demo when I was really young, I don't remember exactly, maybe third I think.

The demo had only Learn to Play. I followed the story with real zeal. In fact, knowing the next part of the story was a welcome bonus and I often wonder, which gave me more pleasure, the “You are victorious', or the next part of the story. Even as I write, the Scottish accent fills my head with phrases like “Edward Longshanks, the avaricious king of Scotland” or “We are without a leader, the dead king of Scotland has no heir”.

The story of William Wallace. The game gives you the taste of unorganised Scotland before the entry of our hero. What I really liked was the inclusiveness you felt. William Wallace is their messiah bearing the torch of hope against oppression and subjugation. His battle techniques were quite unusual with wooden pikes to cover for their lack of cavalry. The Battle of Sterling and the Battle of Falkirk are covered. Of course, history tells us that William lost the Battle of Falkirk due to treachery whereas the campaign leaves with the victory over the English castle. The brutal quartering follows for our hero. The cause is taken up, twenty years later by Robert Bruce and Scotland wins.


The interest embedded was quite mild at that time. It really took off after this incident. My parents were seeing one of those English-dubbed-in-Tamil movies (Some of them are quite hilarious, Jackie Chan says “Naa singam, Nee asingam”). I sat down, with a familiar feeling. As I followed the story, I told them, “This is sort of like the game I play...” and I rambled on in my usual manner quite oblivious to their downright ignoring when

and his name is William Wallace”.

William Wallace” screamed the TV.

My parents were pleasantly surprised. “How on Earth did you know?”. “Its in my game...” And soon I had recited the whole story again. I got everyone excited and our entire family was a treasure trove of information on medieval Scotland. After that, it was no turning back. History was one of my favourite subjects.

My very first presentation was on William Wallace.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Me

I was just thinking if I had to describe myself in computer terms, how I would do it. Here goes:

I'm a single-tasking, hyper-threading, multi-core microprocessor with teraflops speed and terabytes of memory.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Sorting Hat

It all started when I saw the first HP trailer and loved it so much. I later got Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and from then on, its no turning back.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Mother


Happy birthday dearest mother. Today
let me use my own way with words to lay
those thoughts on paper that I have never
had an apt chance to express. You’re clever,
kind, beautiful, generous and all good
things put together. Even when in mood
to scream at me, even when I display
my displeasure, the harshness leaves in a way
incomprehensible to others. Thank
you ma, for trusting me like friends. Many thanks
for being there for me always. In rain,
or storm, you’re always a call away. It’s vain
attempt to hold you away when I’m ill. I know
you worry ‘cause you love me. Please know
that I love you so much too. That’s why I don’t
mind calling you a hundred times. I don’t
mind being told off for silly things. Not never,
it does rouse a tiny tongue of temper
sometimes. But your obvious care shines bright
through your cross face that I do what’s right.

You’re the one who stood by me all the time.
You’re the one who taught me to stand for what’s right.
You told me to knock the ‘t’ off the can’t.
You’ve helped me shake off my won’ts.
You’ve helped me come to terms with my faults.
You’ve always had high expectations of my potential vault.
You taught me to love learning and thinking
You never said no to my endless questioning.
You’ve taught me to be loving and caring.
You’ve taught me to be smart yet understanding.

You taught me to hope when I was in despair.
You gave me sympathy when no one else cared.

You told to dream yet be real.
You told me to be a boy yet be a girl.
To others, these may seem contradictions,
But to a fellow Libran, these are perfect instructions!

One of the first words I learnt was mother.
I really don’t think there is a more beautiful other.

.






Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jobless and Jolted


I am so dismayed,

at the news I heard today.
Although it should have made my day,
alas! I cannot have my way.
It is sad that my foray
into the blogging domain,
should make these poems not have a say
in my portfolio. So good day,
my next three poems will be away
from this space until the fear of disqualification is at bay.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Dear 猿




こんにちは。


On the Ides of last August
arrived someone to whom I must
dedicate my words of song
and hope that they belong
to one of her favourites.
She is a very spirited
soul, sometimes misunderstood.
To list her successes would
fill books, yet it was not that
facet that drew me, just that
I wanted to know her more. She
then removed the mask for me
and I can honestly say
that has indeed made my day.
She is a remarkably
selfless person who ably
assists me in my distress.
The one thing which has impressed
me much is her lack of ego.
She can take advice and let go
so easily. Self - esteem
is so high, nearly a dream.
Even though she's so deep, she's so
childish as well. That's so
great 'cause we share so much
together. Laughs, giggles and lunch.
Secrets, jokes, messages and
more. I never thought me and
my best friend would get along
so well. Our jokes to belong
only to ourselves. I'm glad
she likes my stories and had
given a ear to all of my
worries. She is different, my
dear honourable reader,
yet she is the same. We're enantiomers.
Non-superimposable mirror images!


さようなら。