Saturday, 8 November 2014

Science fair

I am planning a science fair again this year at the village school I volunteer at. I was very happy with last year's effort. The Youtube and Arvind Gupta's toys from trash are a god send for me, and I am planning to make full use of it this year.
I am getting a little over ambitious perhaps, but I am hoping one of the boys will be able to make a tiny wind turbine.
Unfortunately, I do very little Chemistry since the logistics are more difficult for Chem experiments and they need to be done repeatedly for each of the many visitors.
Today I went to buy some LED lights for the projects. The shop owner asked what it was for, and when I explained, he gave the LEDs free. Nice to meet good people.

Monday, 6 October 2014


My mother learnt Carnatic music for a very short period when she was a girl, and was very good. She could have been a musician of renown, but due to various reasons, had to give up learning and did not achieve what she could have. However, in the later part of her life, she did sing on AIR programs and a few concerts in Madras. She also learnt Devaram and Prabandham.
In the past few years, my phone conversations with my mother would sometimes turn to music and she would tell me about Tamil music and how she thinks it is a neglected genre. She was quite knowledgeable about Devaram and Divyaprabandham. So I had suggested she write a blog, and had started one for her. She writes regularly and it has grown quite a lot in the last two years. For those who are interested in music and read Tamil, it is  

Saturday, 6 September 2014

After the furious floods in Uttarakhand last year and J & K now, is there a possibilty that deforestation, encroachment into water bodies will be seriously prevented or controlled?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The HRD ministry/UGC has flexed its muscles and DU obeyed.
The original idea was that the first year of the UG program should be broad based. I agree that students need a broad based education. Students studying for a BCom degree do not know what diabetes is (the details of this story are rather hilarious, but perhaps left for another day).
Yes, some general education in the first year UG program is welcome. But they were taught quite a bit of biology, history, geography, civics in their schools. When asked "did you not learn this in school?" they just shrug it off........"who remembers?"
So when what was learnt in school is forgotten by the time they reach college, what is the guarantee that what is learnt in the first year will be remembered?

Most BSc students do not know anything about history, geography, or anything that's happening around them. Most BA students know no science. A broad based education is not given, and students are not experts in the subjects they study as their majors. So what do they know? Net result is that they are neither Jacks of all trades nor masters of any.
So perhaps three years or four years, just give them a general education such that they can at least read well and write well.
What used to be the goal of the middle school education should now be the goal of "higher education"

Friday, 11 July 2014

Any exam will have serious limitations. It may at best select people with a particular skill set. But universities need something to base selections on. What if a university could change the focus of its entrance exam every year? The 2014 batch would be people with good math skills, 2015 batch with logical on. They should all have classes open to all years at any time.......
Would such  an university be an interesting place or would it be  chaos?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


I have just finished today's quota of language-editing work and mailed it. This is for a prestigious international journal where the editors doing this work are expected to have earned an MSc or a PhD in Chemistry. After reading a research paper that described a strategy to target cancer cells, going over and over unfamiliar molecule names, unfamiliar techniques, and long-winded sentences for over 5 hours, I have earned maybe 800-850 rupees.

Yesterday, I got the airconditioners in 2 rooms serviced in anticipation of the coming summer. Here the word "serviced" means the following-- 2 fellows came, asked me for duster cloth and Colin. One made me get him a stool, on which he climbed and  dusted the 2 indoor units, wiped them after spraying my Colin. He then washed the 2 outdoor units by pouring 3 buckets of water each on them as if he was performing some abhishekam. The other fetched water from the tap in my garden. This went on for all of 45 minutes and I had to pay them 1000 rupees-- 500 per AC.

Three months ago, my first floor bathroom drain developed a leak. I got this plumber to come. He brought his assistant, I gave him all the material and he patched something up. It took him about 2-2½   hours. He charged me 2500 rupees. And the drain resumed leaking two days later when I started using the bathroom again after the cement dried.  

Of the three jobs above, AC cleaning is the most efficient way of making money. Zero skill, very little time consumed and no drains. I am considering taking that up instead of freelance editing.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

My air and My water

It is very difficult for people to understand  common good. Most of us have difficulty in accepting that some sacrifices must be made by us for common good.
In the case of ground water, I cannot even make people understand that ones borewell is not really ones own.
Our colony with more than 1000 dwelling units, has a couple of deep borewells from which we get our water supply. Of course we have shortages often. So some people have dug their own borewells and run that to supplement the colony water. This excessive availability of water makes them profligate. They wash the yard everyday, wash cars everyday............. they argue that it is their water, from their bore well.
It is not possible to convince them that like the air, groundwater does not belong to anyone. It a common good.
I tried asking one person that if I emit some acid fumes in the air above my house- ie "my" air -would they be fine with it?

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Chennai Autos

I have spent the last 15 days in Chennai. I just cannot believe it............the trip from the place I was staying in to the workplace cost me exactly the same everyday and most auto drivers were very haggling, no rude remarks, no rising blood pressure...............I have never experienced this in Madras in the past three decades. I am beginning to like Chennai! 

Saturday, 15 February 2014


There is this S&T "publishing enabler", for want of a better phrase, who had advertised for Chemistry editors.They do editing, pagination, etc for some international S&T journals. I had been wanting to do a little bit of freelance work after retirement, at least to make enough money to finance my small requirements for the childrens' projects..........magnets, LEDs, toy motors and the like, so I had applied.
They asked me to come for training. I have spent 10 days with kids much younger than my children who do not know whether Tokyo is a country, a city or a state. They are being trained for pre-edit work and have to check fonts for addresses of authors etc among other things.
I found out some truths about myself........I am able to read through  research papers quite easily- and that too in different areas ranging from nano materials to drug design-- a happy surprise! My grammar is worse than I thought it was- sad! 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The ET says that the Indian education market is thriving and likely to be valued at Rs 6,00,000 crores by 2015. They expect more private investment in the sector.
Our education sector is either poor-quality-but-cheap or poor-quality-and expensive. Very few institutions are good-quality-cheap or good-quality-expensive. Private investors seem to have got many things right , but when it comes to education, few seem to know what is required.
In Hyderabad, the crucial 'Junior College' segment is crucial because most, if not all children wish to join the IITs and prepare for it primarily in the 11th and 12th years of education.
There were two major players in in this--a group called Sri Chaitanya and another called Narayana. These made it impossible for other smaller fries to sustain themselves in this sector. Most others sold out to them and last year the two giant businesses merged  to form a giant conglomerate owning almost all the junior colleges in Hyderabad and much of AP. For them it is exactly like poultry farming..........they sort students into those expected to get into IITs, those likely to get 95% marks in the board exam, those expected to get 70-60% and so on. These are placed in different locations and treated differently. No one actually gets educated in the sense of being really exposed to different ideas and thoughts, but that's beside the point.
Now, as businesses, these are extremely successful. They make a lot of money for the promoters and investors. So this is how the 6,00,000 crore industry looks like.....efficiently managed, like the hi-tech poultry businesses with children huddled into caged tenements masquerading as schools.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Auto woes

A few days back, my nephew came to visit us from Chennai. He said that after a PIL filed by a lawyer, all autos in Madras now charge reasonably and go by the meter.........(maybe they have also become polite!!!). I am likely to go to Chennai next month and that would be a cause for celebration. I have forgotten that it was once, decades ago, possible to travel by auto in Madras without my blood pressure shooting up.
But perhaps the malady will now be transferred to Delhi...........The new government in Delhi has decided that auto drivers that fleece passengers cannot be challaned by Delhi Police.....the understaffed Delhi transport authority will take over.  In other words, field day for Delhi auto drivers!

Sunday, 5 January 2014


"Dehydrated Water 
Unlike traditional water bottling facilities who bottle water only from one specific region, we have designed an innovative blending system that harnesses and compresses the benefits of waters ranging from the French Alps to the Rocky Mountains.  Our 27-step process bonds the molecules and rigorously blends the waters together.  It then secretes the water molecules and harvests them for the final stage.  Once ready, the substance is introduced to the environment and the excess vapors are released.  The remaining substance is pure, natural, dehydrated water."
Someone has actually  sold it, bought it and reviewed it.

I watch this TV show called Blue Bloods. It is about a family of New York Police Department officers. The show is fictional and makes all ...