Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Year and a Half

Time has simply whizzed past since my last post as has the semester, albeit with its occasional dull moments that seem to take forever to pass, which, I am told, is normal. I have gotten into a mindset in which anything more than one course a semester seems daunting and terribly impossible to see through. That is more than easily made up for by the several hours a week spent teaching basic dynamics, a task which in itself can be quite tricky, partly due to the vast disparity in mathematical aptitude amongst the undergraduate students in these parts. The rest of my time, and almost all of my mental capacity is occupied by my research, and freed most effectively by the time spent in the kitchen. This is the story of Fall 2011.

The end of last semester also involved an renewed interest in instrumental music, thanks to the virtuosic Guthrie Govan, a terrific musician whose weapon of choice is the guitar. A renewed interest in the guitar itself followed soon after and I have since been trying a more systematic approach to learning guitar than the one I had previously employed - a chronological study of the Beatles being my first (non-pedantic) undertaking. The arrival of migrants from warmer parts of the world made the semester break very enjoyable indeed, although at the cost of my guitar regime, a small price to pay for the profits that were reaped. Winter was anything but wintry; I felt very much at home.

After a month-long break, my fourth semester here begins today. Research-wise, I find myself quite comfortable, high on some fresh home-grown stuff on eigen modes of bubble oscillations. A meeting with the other TAs is in order, to smoothly accommodate the new masses of unenlightened sophomores. In addition, I intend to transfer to the PhD program around May, not to mention the Spring birding which which I must strive to wake up in time for, the overdue travel that better happen this Spring break, the bicycle that I must build (and then ride) and the camera that I must explore in detail. Add the guitar to the mix and I'm looking at a semester that is far denser than its predecessors. It's time I got cracking, no?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Home and back

Most of my posts over the last year or so have been closely associated with travel. Maybe it’s because a change of location brings with it a change in mental state of a strength that contrasts only too well against the relative insipidity that has come to be associated with my daily routine – a thought that I ought to keep in mind and develop, in the interest of more fruitful time management.

Bangalore is the same as it was a year ago. Namma Metro work still occupies most of the city's major roadways, and now sports an additional layer of cinema posters and advertisements. Traffic hasn't gotten any better, though I can't say with any level of certainty that it's gotten worse either.

The visit back home was near-perfect - time with family, a week-long escape to the countryside, meeting friends over weekends, some decent birding, and the great food and drink (read masala dosa and filter kaapi). The trip to Surathkal I so badly wanted will have to wait for next year, but that apart, there are few things I would have changed about this visit.

Having arrived questioning whether home would feel the same as it used to a year ago, I’m now preparing to leave, thankful that those qualms were unwarranted, and wishing I could stay for another month. To me, this has been more than a holiday; it has been an affirmation of my sense of belonging to the place I call home.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


South Florida is a terrific place for birds, this time of the year. Here's an incomplete list of birds I spotted there - there are tons more that I have been unable to identify. For completeness sake, I've also included the ones I've seen in Illinois. I've tried grouping similar or related birds together in this list.
Credits to en.wikipedia.org, www.whatbird.com and www.allaboutbirds.org, all three of which I used extensively.

Laughing Gull, Non-breeding plumage - Key West, FL
  1. Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata
  2. Mottled Duck, Anas fulvigula
  3. Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
  4. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  5. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  6. Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
  7. Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea
  8. Great Blue Heron, Ardea Herodias
  9. Tricolored Heron,  Egretta tricolor
  10. White Ibis, Eudocimus albus
  11. Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus
  12. Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga
  13. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  14. Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis
  15. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  16. Sanderling, Calidris alba
  17. Common Tern, Sterna hirundo
  18. Royal Tern, Thalasseus maxima
  19. Laughing Gull, Leucophaeus atricilla
  20. Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger
  21. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  22. Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus
  23. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  24. Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus – IL
  25. Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  26. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  27. Loggerhead Shrike,  Lanius ludovicianus
  28. White-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica
  29. Rock Pigeon, Columba livia  - IL , FL
  30. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Common Grackle, Quiscalus quiscula
  33. Boat-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus major
  34. Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  35. Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus
  36. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius
  37. Canada goose, Branta Canadensis - IL
  38. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  39. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  40. Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum
  41. Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis – IL
  42. Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata
  43. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos - IL, FL
  44. Monk Parakeet,  Myiopsitta monachus
  45. Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Polioptila caerulea
  46. House sparrow, Passer domesticus - IL, FL 
White Ibis - Boca Raton, FL

Brown Pelican - on the way to Key West, FL

Royal Terns - Key West, FL
Sadly enough I didn't have a camera in Boca Raton, where I spotted most of the birds on this list. The decent ones were shot with Varun's camera. The most exciting ones for me were the Great Blue Heron, which is probably the largest bird I've ever seen, and the Belted Kingfisher. The Skimmers at Key West I was quite excited to see - freakishly heavy bills! What the hell, they were all pretty amazing!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flying South for the Winter

Deciding to visit my uncle in Florida is probably the best decision I've made in a  long time. I was quite pleasantly surprised as I looked out the window, the morning after I arrived at my uncle's home.

After a bit of Googling, I discovered that right across the street was the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge. I knew I was in for a treat. All I was missing was some fellow birders and a camera (my uncle didn't have one either) so I had to make do with my mobile phone and a notebook (which in fact worked quite well). The several walks in the warm South Florida sun were quite rewarding - tonnes of birds, most of them lifers, but more about that in the next post.

My hosts showed me a great time around the region. The Knicks vs. Heat game at the American Airlines Arena that featured some giants from the NBA was pretty sweet. The first live professional sporting event I've attended, now that I think about it! No, I have not been to a cricket match before.

The impromptu New Year trip with the UF baays and Vatal was terrific - New Years eve on South Beach Miami, and the the killer trip to Key West, that included some a very scenic drive through the Everglades and over bridges connecting the Florida Keys. Snorkeling at what is supposedly the world's third largest reef system, some 8 miles off Key West was absolutely superb; a Parrotfish and several Yellow-tailed Snappers were sighted amongst the many coral formations.

I could have hardly asked for a better vacation after a semester's slogging. The general wothla, the time with family at home, the wildlife, and the company, amongst other things turned this into a very memorable trip indeed. Now I'm back home in Urbana, with a new guitar, Cothas coffee and two weeks before the next term begins. All is right with the world again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Sometimes it just feels nice to have a break. Some sort of escape. Today turned out to be one of those days.

As usual I was running late and the buses were running even later, hence the need for a cab, credits to Hari and Co. The cab ride to the station was pretty eventful in itself. The cab driver was new in town and had trouble finding the parking lot, and the ten minutes we spent searching for parking space turned out to be quite em… colourful. And he didn’t charge me nothin’ extra neither!

The train journey was pretty nice as well. For one, it was unlike any other train journey I’ve been on. The terrain was quite plain, pun intended, but it offered some pretty interesting sights. Tons of new birds, none of which I could identify of course, although I spotted something that could have been an American Kestrel. There were certain moments where I could see just white and nothing else through the windows – snow covered fields against a foggy dull white sky – an eerily beautiful sight, which gives the impression that one is floating around in nothingness. Very inspiring.

It was superb fun walking around downtown Chicago to the (somewhat poorly maintained) subway station, and even better riding the lightning fast subway station. I witnessed my first subway jazz performance – it’s amazing how talented these people are and yet how hard they have to struggle to make a living.

O’ Hare is a little cookie-cutter but absolutely massive- whoever designed it must’ve been out of his bloody mind! The flight to Memphis was delayed by half an hour, which meant I had just ten minutes after I landed at Memphis to board my connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale. I did make it just in time, not failing to notice on my run to gate 38B that the airport at Memphis is fact pretty neat, what with its own jazz bar and all.

Right now I’m halfway between Memphis and Fort Lauderdale, sitting in between some ten Eastern European types who speak not a word of English. The other passengers seem somewhat uncomfortable with their presence. I wonder why. We should land in about half an hour’s time from now, and if the Wi-Fi on the plane wasn’t being leeched by the other passengers on the plane, this’d go online right now. On a completely unrelated note, The Pixies are a pretty cool band!

It’s funny how you yearn for specific company sometimes and it’s frustrating when you don’t get it, but one day of solitude in someplace new makes for a nice escape. This cartoon I made seems appropriate to me at this moment.

PS. I'm posting this from my uncle's home. Too bad the whole posting from 37000 feet above sea level thing didn't work out. Damn Wi-Fi leachers!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Long Overdue

My last few attempts of putting something up here have proved futile. And so, several unfinished starts later, I start (yet again) to write, with the hope that this will go public. I suppose this post should be about my new life over the last four months. But first, a bit about grad school.

Quite simply put, grad school has changed is my perspective of science and how one approaches it. I love the research I'm doing (which is on acoustic streaming due to oscillating bubbles), and I've been lucky enough to find an awesome advisor. But maybe more about that later. Something that's appreciable here is that there is focus on learning rather than doing well in examinations, as far as coursework is concerned. A stark contrast from what I've been exposed to so far; this fact coupled with the variety of courses on offer means that one can learn exactly what one wants to. This is possible, of course, only after one scrapes off some of the rust that inevitably accumulates through engineering, but once that's done, it feels great to have a bit of the shiny old steel back again.

At a personal level, things have been far more dreary, and emotionally quite intense. For one, I sorely miss the company that made NITK what it was. I also know why 'long-distance' is such a big deal, and trust me it is, Skype being the only saving grace. Public transport in the US is absolutely appalling, which means one is more or less restricted to the limits of Chambana, which is fairly dry in general. The weather doesn't make it any better of course. Not having a guitar here is somewhat vexing as well, and not being much of a reader doesn't help. 'You never know what you have until you lose it' is probably a nearly accurate description of my life here, except that there has been no real loss, just a very large extent of dilution. The things that one takes for granted at home - from the people that make you who you are, to the street food - are all sadly quite out of reach.

On the brighter side, things seem to be looking up from here onwards. I'm packing to Florida for a couple of weeks, a welcome change of place and weather. A guitar should follow suit if all goes well, and my restlessness should be assuaged for the greater part. Hopefully I will acquire camera too, sometime the coming semester. And then I can find my solace in technological goodness, if nothing else. Of course, the trip back home I've almost decided upon in Summer should do me loads of good.

But right now I am content with the strange peace I feel finally writing this, just having watched YojimboBlackwater Park currently playing in my ears, and confident that for the most part, the next semester will be much more fun that the last.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Home has hardly been like home the past few days. I've been inducted into a house with one man who tells me how he was a punter in school and how I should do management and not science, one woman who always wants to order pizza, and one child who destroys my house in the most chaotic of manners. As I shirk away my familial obligations by running off to watch movies and then staying away from home for the rest of the day, I am visited tirelessly by my memories of college amidst the more imposing loom of the coming years' finances. Leaving NITK has not been the smoothest of changes for me, it seems.

Ironically enough, I seek peace in another, older man's talk about how he was a punter in school, a man much nearer to me than the one featuring alongside the woman and child. A long drive through the city in the cyclonic showers and I have my laptop back - working, and in spite of being very strongly skeptical of the authenticity of the innards of my machine, I feel comfortable at last - that comfort of familiarity that I had not enjoyed since leaving college.

Tomorrow, I am told, will be different from yesterday and today. There will be no talk of MBAs or pizzas, and I will not be awoken by the sound of shattering glass. And then home will be home once again.