Saturday, August 26, 2006

How to get snakes onto a plane

After the recent (inspiring?) Jackson starrer, one cannot but help contemplate various ways of installing snakes on an airliner with the motive of causing inconvenience to one and all. And the term "snakes", I use not metaphorically. This is indeed not a post with layers of meaning. The term "snakes" implies not a terrorist. This post is as crass and unsophisticated as, well, the movie in question.

How do we get snakes on a plane without getting detected? This question has puzzled countless moviegoers for a week and a day, and bloggers with nothing else to do for more than a year. So, I take a crack at bringing them on board. A warning though: one must not try getting snakes on a plane. It would be cruel to the snake; PETA would get back at you for doing so, no doubt. Another warning: if you're flying Sam Jackson on the plane, it would be better not to get any impressionable children on board. Profanity is something most children should never learn. Or they become like, well, Sam Jackson when confronted with wriggly thingamajigs.

One must make use of the fact that snakes are organic creatures. If smuggled in the check in baggage, they would be detected in the x-ray. Snakes are soft, and when pressed, some feel like a gel. It would be best not to get them in cabin baggage either - especially with the stringent new anti-gel norms. The sensible snake bringer would carry the snake on his person - preferably tranquilzed -something slithering would arouse immediate suspicions. The advantage of their "organicness" is that the metal detector won't go "beep beep beep" when it hovers over the snake. It will think the snake is a part of the body and will move on its quest of detecting firearms.

So, how does one smuggle these things into a plane? Snakes are not drugs - and cannot be smuggled in "body orifices" - for they might suffocate. Plus no one wants venom in the aforementioned parts of the anatomy. Prosthetic limbs come to mind; breast implants too, I guess - but how would one produce those snakes on demand in the plane without looking extremely conspicuous? One therefore does see that these methods entail severe risk. One could try bribing the stewardresses - but that would work only in domestic Indian flights. (Corruption seems to be an endemic part of current Indian culture right now).

I think the most pragmatic way of achieving the stated objective is to smuggle an undetected snake in one's pockets while boarding the flight. The snake must be in a state of infancy - so that it can be mistaken to be a part of the pocket lining of the trousers. The infant snake must then be hosted in, say, seat 12A. It must be put undetected in the seat pocket. Then, the assassin (let's call the snake-bringer the "assassin" rather than the "terrorist", primarily, because the term "assassin" has two asses) must make his people buy tickets on all flights of the plane in question such that they get to stay in seat 12A. They must feed the snake a share of their airline food daily - and remove its excreta in a litter bag.

And on D-day (let's refer to it as SSS day from now on?) the snake is released. One must make it a point to make it either an anaconda or a venomous snake; failing which the snake shall wind up as a mere amusement. Spray it with pheromones and hear Sam Jackson deliver his famous lines.

[Please note that there's a lot of bleeped profanity in the link. Please be aware of that before you click on it. ]

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Invulnerable to attack?

Dr Kalam, India's president reckons that India must make itself "invulnerable to attack". I am sure the statement was made with all the best intentions, but I must note that the world would be better off if India remained the one sixteenth super-power it already is.

Let' s face it. There's way too many bombs with the US, Russia and China. If they ever decide to attack us with them, then we're done for. Unless, of course, we build our own. But we're a small nation (at least in size). We're not that rich. If we ever manage to top these nations in Nuclear weapons (or at least get ourselves enough to make them think twice before they do the nuclear thing), then we would have spent an immense amount of money. Money that our poor nation call ill afford to spend. Money that could be spent in, say, building better roads and intersections.

I personally believe that we should not even plan for defending ourseleves against these nations. We should focus on becoming an economic superpower. An active trading partner that these nations can ill afford to fight with. Of course, we must fight with the terrorists. We must have good intellegence. The LET and the Maoists would be itching to get their hands on the bombs, for one.

Presidents are not elected directly. The constitution gives them almost no power. They just live in a large house and consume as many resources as the average American. India feeds its ego by feeding a figurehead with luxury that the normal person cannot even concieve. Indian presidents' opinions do not matter in the policy arena, as the recent "office of profit" episode has shown. Aren't we wasting an engineer of Dr Kalam's caliber in the Rashtrapathi Bhawan?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sticking to Principles

Among the most dangerous things that my parents taught me, it turns out, is sticking to my principles. Sticking to principles, for one, makes one unpopular immediately. The usual refrain "He thinks he is better than us!" plays repetitively in another's head when one refuses to consume alcoholic beverages to smoke some relaxing nicotine filled cylinders (which shall not be named, fearing government censorship) when approached by another to do so.

The danger of "principles" has landed emperors, kings and the like into the proverbial soup. It brought out female polygamy in Ancient India - when one woman was "shared" by five brothers. It brought about millions of wars in the past. A stubborn church brought about humiliation to greats such as Galileo and Copernicus; a stubborn interpretaion of the Quaran has plunged an an entire region into anarchy instilling "hate".

And right now, principle is being used as a "tool" to justify energy hungry imperial aspirations of cetrtain nations of the world (which shall remain unnamed - lest the author be deported, the right to free speech notwithstanding). I mean ... dictatorship doesn't look like utopia to you, but who the hell are you to say it's bad? How do you know other options are not worse? I guess you will learn in the long run.

We Indians are proud of our Indian principles and our Indian value system. How naive, how naive, how naive. For within this cloak of respectability lurks an ugly secret: there are no values, really. A respectable person is expected to have "values". But it has become a cloak for corruption. Indian principles, forsooth. And what of sex?

India shuns sex. Sex is out. If you're talking about sex to an Indian family, awkward silences ensue. Sexual awareness is not spread in school ... parents themselves are not well informed enough to talk to their children. In the land of Ajanta and Ellora, of Kama Sutra, of Kajuraho, sex is a taboo.

No wonder sexual abuse is rife ... (not reported, but prevalent, nevertheless)....

India is in need of some drastic social reform. We need to accept that, first.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The "tag"

Instead of posts on India (which I have been bombarding the unsuspecting general public with of late), I shall now respond to a tag. This might have broken the "fabric" of the blog, had there been any. But, fabric there is none. So, this post is probably more appropriate than inappropriate. Yada yada yada.

One Book that Changed my life?

Once upon a time, I was an optimistic guy. I thought the world was a beautiful place, and that the birds were cute little things that flew in the sky to make it look better. And then I read Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", which taught me the basics of cynicism. It taught me to abhor, it taught me to suspect. And then came Orwell's 1984. I can't look at a computer screen with ease .... is big brother watching me? These two books have made me a neurotic wreck.... they did change my life, obviously.

If Wikipedia were actually printed on paper, it would probably have not changed my life as much as it has right now in its online incarination. All I do is type anything I want to know in that firefox address bar ( for instance "wikipedia Adis Ababa") to get data on the average annual precipitation, the geography and the per capita income of that city. But I guess I'm digressing. Quintessential me?

"The end of poverty" byJeffery Sachs was another masterpiece that really got me thinking...

One book you have read more than once?

"The theory of partial differential equations" by Lawrence C Evans. If you understand it the first time you read it, then you are a better person than I. This guy skips so many mathematical steps .. I want to go to Berkley and kill him. Eighty six dollars, and I guess this big fat book filled with the most vexing form of data compression.

On a more serious note, Wodehouse is an author that one must read again and again. His humor seldom wears out. A smirk seldom fails to appear when one reads his prose. He has been quite an inspiration to me. Whenever I'm upset, I just pick up a Wodehouse, turn open a page at random and start chuckling. There's something dignified, silly and wholly satisfying in the way he writes. Perhaps, the most memorable among all the Wodehouse bits to me, is the episode where Freddie bounces tennis balls on the empress ... or maybe when Gussie presents the prizes ..... or when Edwin burns the house down ... or when Freddie talks of crysanthamums as cabbages ....... "It's raining in Northumberland".

One book you would want on a desert island?

Any modern book on math, where they deal with multiple dimensions. Just in case I come across a 7-dimensional coconut tree and need to make coconut chutney to go with the idlis (which conveniently were marooned on the island with me?)

On a more practical note, I woudn't mind the Hitch-Hiker's guide. I could do with some tips on how to tackle raveneous bugblatter beasts should I happen to bump into one of those, and what to do if I were caught by ravaging princesses. I might also pick up on some sub-etha signals.....

Or maybe Swiss Family Robinson. I could compare their way of life with mine....

One book that made you laugh

Each and every Wodehouse I have ever read has never failed to repeatedly make me laugh to tears. Of particular note are his short stories, for instance the one where the efficient Baxter finds himself at the "business end" of a rather painful air-gun. Douglas Adams is a funny guy too. Yes Prime Minister is a ponited satire.

Strangley, almost all good authors are British.

One book that made you cry

"Fluid Mechanics" by ******. A revolting text-book, inflicted on our entire batch in our second year at IIT Madras. Utterly unnecessary, especially when masterpieces such as "Fox and Macdonald " are around. This book ruined my entire foundation in the subject. It took me 4 years to set that right. It was a subject I really loved too. I just coundn't appreciate it then. Other books were too complicated..... The whole course made me cry.

One book you wish had been written?

Why does Jerry Sienfeld not write books? I would love to see a book by him and Larry David. Finally, an American novel book that I can read.

One book you wish had never been written?

Ramjee's load of bull on Fluid Mehcanics, for one.
I'm not sure "The O'Rielly Factor for Kids" is the right stuff to give impressionable kids. But that isn't exactly my war.
Stephen Hawking's "A brief History of Time" .... at least then, I wouldn't be ashamed of not reading it.

One book you are currently reading?

"The Hydrogen Economy" by Jeremy Rifkin. Got it cheap. It does not seem to make much sense. All rhetoric. Little sense.

One book you have been meaning to read?

Heat and Mass Transfer in Porous Media by Bejan. It's been lying at home (borrowed from the library). Need to work on it a bit for the project. Lazy me.

I need to tag 6 people. Damn. I don't know so many ....

Sunday, August 06, 2006

55 Rupee petrol: Under Water Investigations

I've been swimming of late in the university. And swimming has reinforced what I have been thinking all along: the free market is, in reality, a rather unfair and dangerous thing.

I might not be rich here in the USA. I might just be above the poverty line. But I consume way more than I ought to consume: by virtue of just being here. My house in centrally air-conditioned. I just could not get an Indian style apartment whose kitchens and bathrooms are not air-conditioned. I have a sports car: it gives miserable mileage. A third of the Maruti 800. I had to buy this car: public transportation is a big farce in this country.

Resistance heaters are used to heat up the water in the house. Even in the miserably warm summer. Air conditioners are necessary in the car. All buildings are centrally air-conditioned. Only incandecent lamps are used. The GE "low energy" lamps are frowned at and deemed way too expensive.

And swimming pools. Oh, just don't talk about swimming pools. The bloody auditorium is freezing cold (when the outside is at 40C). And the auditorium is as large as a Walmart. There's hot water showers everywhere, dispensing hot water at 40C, heated up using electric heaters. And then there's the hot tub. Water heated up, sent at high velocities (and high Reynolds numbers) into the same, so that shivering people (in the a/c room) can feel warm. When it is bloody 40C outside.

This country's life-style has made it a parasite. This country's natural resources have made it a rich man. It snatches the energy resources from the poor countries. (Just like a richest person gets whatever he wants in the market). American people, at a personal level, are probably some of the nicest and politest on earth. Personal experiences at Texas A&M have been fabulous.

But put them together, and you get a monster. A monster which just goes on eating, eating and eating while the poorer people starve. A monster whose short-sighted foreign policy is at the root of almost all world-threatening problems today.

Perhaps it should not be just America that is to blame for the current inequity and the current mess. More people in the world are getting richer every day than ever before. Oil resources in the world are more or less constant. The newly-rich people of India and China use more oil. More demand, constant supply. It's just that the rich are getting richer - and are increasing in number.

And another thing. Of the 55 rupees that you pay for petrol in India, 15-20 go to the government as taxes. The percentage is much lesser in the US. And what does that mean? India is forcing itself to consume a lot less. India is doing the US a favour by this draconian tax.

Personally, I appreciate it - it implicitly "funds" alternative sources of energy.

It's a rather sticky mess, the whole thing. Wheels within wheels, to use a wodehousian cliche.