Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rio Grande Bridge across River Rio Grande
Taos, New Mexico.
Truss spans of 300, 600 and 300 feet. 650 feet above river level.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A few quick ones (*)

Some conversations just stay in your mind. For their wit, stupidity or sometimes... their gaffe-cal nature. A few samples from my own life follow. If you are not amused, and think they are all B-grade, glance my name in the "About me" section. ;)

Addendum: You see I wrote this post but came across a wonderful (and clearly superior) blog while hopping. The blog is maintained by Peeyush (may he live long and prosper) and contains the quotes of his good kid, Ankit (may he become a smart, happy and a decent young man who blogs in his teens, finds a babe and lives happily ever after). You can read the page at Enjoy!
B: "There is this book by Tony Schwartz"
B's Boss: "The Art of the Deal guy?"
B: "Yeah... He wrote a book - Searching for wisdom in America. *brief pause.* I think your girlfriend should read it"

*B's boss and his colleague laugh their ass off. Half a second later, B realizes his gaffe and joins in the revelry.*
B drives to albuquerque to meet his cousin's little kids, that are both growing rapidly past his knee cap. G, all of 9 years old, keeps playing his gameboy videogame without a break. While leaving, as all responsible uncles do, he turns in a good word of advise for the younG:

B: "You should stop playing with the playboy. Too much of it is not good."
G's mom (my cousin): "It is a gameboy, Bala. Not a playboy."

Like all good ladies in my family, she let my weakest moment pass. But, deep inside, I know that they never forget... they never do...
The lady at the music shop, M, converses with B about the new metronome he wants to buy:

B: Will this work well without fail?
M: Dont worry, it won't miss a beat! *wink*

Thats all, folks!
(*) with apologies to P. G. Wodehouse.

(#) I have posted my responses to your comments on the y-chromosome. Do read through and lets spar some more. I dearly miss the possibility of having arguments in lonely Los Alamos.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Santa Fe, New Mexico. 2006.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The y-chromosome

(This thought is based on my perfunctory knowledge of genes and genetics. I wish some knowledge had diffused into me through my roomie from the past. But it hasn't. So bear with me and correct me but dont refuse to question me.)

I wonder why men prefer younger women and women prefer elder men. The reasons can be speculated without much trouble and is strewn all over the internet: the younger the woman, the better her chances of begetting kids. Since men remain fertile (and possibly lusty) long past their prime, it is only reasonable that men choose younger women to maximize their chances of making as many children as possible. As for the woman, she wants a man that can bring that piece of dinosaur meat every night without fail, and teach her kids to throw the spear right. A strong, stable man seems like the right feller: likely to be the elder of two young men. The second point is less certain than the first. But it sure sounds plausible.

Now, during sex, the y-chromosome from a man becomes the y-chromosome of a boy. Assuming mutations occur at a constant rate, this implies that the y-chromosome in a boy at any given time in the history (and future) is bound to be more evolved than the corresponding chromosome in a girl. The next logical step is to find out what traits are influenced by the y-chromosome and wonder if they are more developed in a man than a woman. So I turn to google.

It turns out that people thought the y-chromosome was devoid of any genetic information. But recent work shows that it contains numerous genes related to sperm production and traits like body size and tooth development. I find it strange that a small chromosome of a man could be more evolved, logically, than its counterpart in a woman. Does this imply that traits like tooth development/body size are better/more suitable in men compared to women? The evidence upon a direct inspection remains inconclusive. I find the possibilities mind boggling but I have just consumed a glass of soy milk, and a good game of soccer in about to start in the pleasant warmth that seems to have finally found its way into new mexico. So, I will leave the rest of the thinking to you. :)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tax tips

I have tried to fill my own tax forms for the last 4 years. Attended workshops, went to the payroll office to ask questions, talked to friends and searched the web. To no avail. But this time, ladies and gentlemen, when I had the most complicated tax return to file thus far, I finally got it all figured out. Two important pointers (especially for grad students out there):

1. Most of the simple tax returns can be filled by you, for free, without having to go to H&R or turbotax or any other of the myriad tax preparation services. Just call IRS at their toll-free number (800-829-1040) and ask for the forms which you need to fill. Download, print those forms and just follow instructions. Keep all your major expenses and incomes handy (including savings account interest/stock earnings/dividends) . If you have any questions, call IRS once again. The response is quite fast and they are open until 10 in the night!

2. Even if you have full scholarship, there will always be some money that you will have to pay. Calculate this amount using the 1098-T form that your university mails you and use the instructions there. The beauty of asking for an education credit is that it is not a deduction but a "credit" which means that you get this full amount off your income tax not your wages. For me, it was $20. Peanuts but gave me a huge kick to figure this out.

After the initial period of mystery, followed by semi-confused loathing caused by a lack of accesibility, understanding slowly dawns and I guess I have finally fallen in love. With tax forms. As my colleague says, "you are the only person in the whole world who would love to fill a tax form". And I silently think to myself, "Perhaps, I am a Gujarati".

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The basic acynic

Why do we start treating people nicely, far nicer than we are usually accustomed to, when WE are in deep trouble? A walk with a random stranger becomes an encounter to treasure, locking eyes with the grocery store cashier immerses us in gratitude, and a casual conversation assumes intense importance, as if it is the last word that will resonate across this world, before the million years of silence sets in.

I have two theories for this very strange behavior:

1. When all hell breaks loose and it looks like there will a radical shift in the way things function, much to our displeasure, we look for things that will annul this change, that will reaffirm our (clearly false) belief that everything is under control and would become normal. It is like the classic clutching of the straws problem -- grab anything you can to revitalize your faith, including the cashier's smile. This is merely a basal instinct to keep your beliefs intact and ensure their survival. Fine, but too logical. And hence, uninteresting.

2. The second theory is better. And more romantic:

Perhaps it is defiance. A battle against an unknown entity, showing it that no matter what the trouble is, it shall be overcome. Survived. And the rest of the journey, enjoyed. Almost like a warrior that knows he will be pierced by a thousand arrows and yet, walks into the battle to fulfill his purpose. To find meaning in his own life. Ironically, by choosing death. And when it comes, he is there no more to celebrate. But he is content. Or should I say, he was. Despite its strangeness, this pattern has a beauty akin to a baby's smile in the midst of a thousand wails. So I like it.

In either case, there is no reason to feel cynical about life, about lost loves, about passions unfulfilled, about questions unanswered. The aforementioned behavior only means that we are all wonderful acynics that love and treasure life and the world we live in. We just haven't figured it out yet!

ps: No, the thought has zero correlation with failed loves, lost friends or unfair bargains. So do not sympathize. If you do understand what I am saying, just raise your hand - that will make me more than happy! :)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Los Alamos, New Mexico. 2006. Click to enlarge (13.5 Mb!)

A couple of weekends back, I woke up early around 5:00am (never happens usually!). With nothing else to do, I picked up my camera and tripod to shoot some pictures. Walking across a trail, I came across this view. It was not a clear morning and the lighting was difficult. But this one shot was not bad. These mountains were created by magma flowing out of the Jemez volcano and by years of wind and water erosion. Gases venting out of the magma would explain the holes in the mountain sides. Before their extermination started, native Indians used to live inside these holes.