Thursday, 27 May 2010

dying

In the last two months, I have had a series of aged relatives dying. They all went peacefully. One uncle aged 89 or so, just did not get up from a nap, my mother-in-law, was having a conversation, and just slipped away, another uncle just slipped away into death one afternoon...all were above 80. I am beginning to believe that once you cross 80 or so, the chances are, you die peacefully- the way we were meant to die....just not be alive anymore.
I hope I die like that.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

what students taught me

One thing I learnt from students is how much more worldly wise they are than I.
On a train on a college tour, this student hangs out near the bathroom for almost an hour. I am a bit suspicious, but just let it pass. Turns out he's drinking. Policeman comes along and threatens to book him. Now I know the policeman wants to be paid off, but I don't know how the topic is raised. I just request him to let the boy off, since otherwise I will have to get down in some god-forsaken town in AP and go with him to the police station. Along come two of his friends, "Ma'm we'll handle this" and they manage to sort it out. I however, still do'nt know how to go about this bribery thing.

Monday, 24 May 2010

De-schooling

I certainly did not and probably will never have the courage to not send my children to school at all.
However, I noticed very clearly, specially with my older offspring that school diminished his mental abilities noticeably. He used to be very, very observant at age 3, noticing minutae and arriving at theories regarding these minutae which were totally logical within the framework he had. An example is that I am taller than my mother who in turn, is taller than my grandmother. With this observation, he told me seriously one day "you know, we all grow taller and taller till a certain age, then we start to grow shorter again till we become the size of babies."
Once in school, he stopped telling me these profound theories. I assume he stopped thinking that way. Still I would send him to school if I had to do it again.
However, a few parents are now experimenting with not sending their children to school. I don't know if it is a good thing or not. If your kid has an inclination towards -say - sculpture and is spectacularly good at it, then he/she can make a living out of it......it will work...maybe he can at a later date become apprenticed to some artist and learn sculpting. But what if your child is not spectacularly good at anything...just an ordinary kid? Then with no formal education, not knowing many things we take for granted, how will he/she make a living.
I notice that those who opted for this are quite well to do themselves. What do they think their children will make a living out of?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

synthetic life??

All this noise about synthetic life! Maybe I haven't understood it fully, but really as far as I can see it's Genetic Engg. 2.0...the usual genetic engg. taken to a much higher level.
I was quite pleased to see others voicing the similar opinions.....perhaps my understanding is not the problem.
What would qualify as synthetic life is if the whole cell or enough parts of it were synthesised and that started replicating.
Nowadays on the TV one sees shows with live audience....it's become the in thing to loudly applaud everything with a lot of noise. Guest comes in..loud applause (OK) ....guest sits down- loud applause (why? guest achieved the feat of sitting on the couch?)......you get the picture.
This phenomenon of hyperbole has perhaps come into science....is this synthetic life?

Friday, 21 May 2010

Sometimes you come across good schools and good Principals in rural India. This school Principal is indeed far sighted.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Journals

If journals are becoming so expensive, why can't the bigwigs of any area of research set up a website and then publish online with open access? You get to read all the others' data almost as soon as they get it analysed, and your work gets seen by everyone who matters.
So what is the flip side to this except for Elsevier? Or am I being naive?
Another aspect-
For a person not working in any Instt., getting to read a paper is really difficult. Nowadays, this is not of much interest to me, but 20 years back, it was a big contributing factor to why my career in science got aborted. However, in the interest of women or men who choose to take a break, it is essential to be able to keep in touch with what's happening (in between nappy changes for example).
Why cannot an IIX/University , allow membership and online access to its libraries for any of its alumni on the payment of an affordable fee? (remember the person is unemployed- so affordable has to be really inexpensive).

BTW, one of my ex students is working for her PhD in the XXX University and she says she can access only free online journals and I know that the Departments at the University do not have many print journals after the 1970's . So how do they get their lit. survey done? Is this the norm in all universities?
An article reminded me of the travails of paper chase in the 70's.......one goes from Own lib to INSDOC to DGHS ....to any place likely to have the journal one needs....
There is a law that says...if in the third library 20 km and 2 hour bus ride away, you find the right journal, right issue, the chances of the required page being torn away is 95.5%
The top floor of the IISc library had amazing journals...from the mid 19th century.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Homer Simpson

The DU episode where the Chemistry Dept said "Oops!! forgot to remove the cobalt source before calling the Kabadi walla" reminds me of the title track of The Simpsons.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A recent article by Mashelkar seems to have annoyed a few people . It was a reaction to Mashelkar's prescription that a dose of irreverance would see Indian science scale terrific heights.
I wonder what would have happened if one of the lowly pool officers (do they still have pool officers in CSIR?) had walked up to him and said "Dude! gimme 20 lakhs -I have this great idea..........." when he was the DGCSIR.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

forest cover and adivasis

The reduction of forest cover and the consequent displacement of adivasis, need not even be looked at altruistically. Just look at it in pure self interest. It is in our self interest to retain forest cover. It is in our self interest to let the adivasis live in their ancestral lands. It is in our self interest to see that the adivasis and other economically backward sections get basic rights to food,education, shelter, medicare.
In pure selfishness, we don't want to lose forest cover because we will not get any water in our taps. We do not want the dispossesed to be drifting and entering our metros and living in shanty towns. We do not want people desperate enough to turn to crime in large numbers and commit dacoities in our towns.
So let us not care one bit for the adivasis, the poor, the dispossesed. Let us only care about ourselves...the well-being of the urban elite. So, let the forest cover be maintained, the adivasis retain their land rights, the dispossesed get their basic requirements fulfilled.. so that we may live safe in our cities, enjoy good water supply, not be gated into high-security communities.

Vedic people

In my school days, the Aryans populating India were of central Asiatic origin who entered India from the north west. Then there was this hu...