Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Scientific experiment, STL, 170814

August 19, 2014

DnA suddenly decided that there would be a scientific experiment for the education and edification of KTB, and they chose one that involved baking soda, vinegar, a glass bottle, and a balloon.

D measured out the last of the baking soda:

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KTB put it in the glass bottle, which held some vinegar:

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The vinegar frothed up:

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At this point, D realized that the mouth of the bottle was too wide to fit the balloon around, and the experiment was going to be repeated with a narrower-mouthed bottle:

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Many hands were required for this delicate operation,because this was the last of the baking soda:

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We watched the end result:

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The observer observed.

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I think The Booda was recording and documenting all this on his laptop, but I am not sure:

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He certainly seemed happy with his efforts, though.

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The balloon filled up, satisfyingly but not fully, with carbon di oxide gas:

Now I’d like KTB to realize that all the cooking done in the kitchen, that gets the food on the table, is also a series of chemical reactions, starting from the setting of her favourite “thayir” (yogurt)!

Safety and security, STL, 170814

August 19, 2014

Yesterday I went to

<a href=”http://www.academyofsciencestl.org/calendar/functions/popup.php?ev=2456888&readFile=0&readSQL=1&showCat=&oc=1″&gt; this event </a>

at the St.Louis Zoo auditorium.

I had not read in detail about the extinction of Passenger Pigeons in the US (where a population of several billion birds was wiped out, purely because of human intervention), and it was a revelation to me.

However, I did not want to call on DnA to pick me up from the Zoo auditorium and I walked back. As I did, I mused on safety and security. There was nothing different about my walking back at about 9pm from the Zoo auditorium, across Forest Park, back home, I usually do it during Muny shows, Shakespeare-in-the-Park, or the Royal Philharmonic on Art Hill (it took me about half an hour, you can go to Google maps and look at the St.Louis Zoo, and look for Christ Deliverance Ministry, Enright Ave…you’ll know where I walked) I usually cut across the grass, not always keeping to the roads. I was wondering, yesterday, if walking in the dark was a wise thing to do. Then I told myself that the fears were mostly in my own mind and perception…in fact, it was probably safer now than before the Ferguson incident,
(here’s a video of John Oliver’s take on it:

…actually, with so many police cars on the prowl ! I walked uneventfully back home. (It does help that I am a “black” person, not white, I suppose, in this area!)

So much of our fears are in our own perceptions, coloured by our own prejudices…where should we draw the line between genuine concerns and our own timorousness?

The trouble in the US is the stupid gun culture. I might be walking far away from any know source of trouble, and might get cut down by a stray bullet! Well, at the end of it all, I believe it’s Fate…and I walk briskly, not loitering. And when I’ve got home safely, I like the feeling that I didn’t give in to the feeling of “Oh, what might happen to me!” and just call DnA to leave their hectic chores and come and pick me up!

But IF something had happened, I would have been reviled for my foolhardiness…how to know, in advance, if my fears are well-founded or groundless? No way, alas, but to put it to the test, and walk home!

Nature at a bus stop, St.Louis, 120814

August 13, 2014

Here’s the patch of “weeds” at the bus stop where we wait, to send KTB off to school, and get her back again in the evening.

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14719258767&#8243; title=”DSC07834 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5569/14719258767_46181acacc_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”360″ alt=”DSC07834″></a>

You wouldn’t think that would be full of interest, would you? But you’d be wrong!

First off, the grass with its seeds looked so lovely:

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14882825106&#8243; title=”DSC07835 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3926/14882825106_90499a4060_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”360″ alt=”DSC07835″></a>

I saw these beautifully-forming seed-pods:

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14902750571&#8243; title=”DSC07839 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5595/14902750571_d6fdbe8978_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”360″ alt=”DSC07839″></a>

Another plant gave me the gift of these burrs, to disperse its seeds far and wide:

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14719176019&#8243; title=”DSC07840 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5562/14719176019_5af5bb518a_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”408″ alt=”DSC07840″></a>

Then I realized that there was a flowering Convolvulus vine, too, so I went near one flower to photograph a bee.

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14719176349&#8243; title=”DSC07846 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5556/14719176349_d8ae5d0291_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”360″ alt=”DSC07846″></a>

I then realized that the flower had another occupant, apart from the bee….

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14902751051&#8243; title=”DSC07847 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5555/14902751051_1ffb989113_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”439″ alt=”DSC07847″></a>

There was a spider sitting there, as well as the bee!

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14882825926&#8243; title=”DSC07848 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3885/14882825926_565eb4cea7_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”446″ alt=”DSC07848″></a>

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Out she came, for me to photograph:

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14719260667&#8243; title=”DSC07852 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3919/14719260667_01acc17cf0_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”410″ alt=”DSC07852″></a>

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14905812245&#8243; title=”DSC07850 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3845/14905812245_4acf9cffae_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”433″ alt=”DSC07850″></a>

I did wonder if the bee and the spider would attack each other, but no, peaceful co-existence was the order of the day:

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14882826276&#8243; title=”DSC07854 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3891/14882826276_17730faa45_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”434″ alt=”DSC07854″></a>

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14905812725&#8243; title=”DSC07855 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3844/14905812725_e7073c234f_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”415″ alt=”DSC07855″></a>

</lj-cut>

The bees took their turn with the pollen:

<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/14882826706&#8243; title=”DSC07858 by mohandep, on Flickr”><img src=”https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5596/14882826706_36844fd204_z.jpg&#8221; width=”640″ height=”409″ alt=”DSC07858″></a>

I spent two hours at that bus-stop, and never got bored for a single minute! I had my fill of Nature and wildlife, just sitting in an empty lot and waiting for a bus!

House Sparrows having a mud-bath, Forest Park, 110814…and others

August 12, 2014

Sparrows mud bathing:

Here’s my video of two of these perky creatures, one of whom is not happy with what she sees in the rear-view mirror. This was from Ragihalli, 160110.

One of them having baths in water, from JLR, Kabini, 210710:

Finally, a video of them having a grass bath, replete with one Lousy Jokku from me (“Rice Baath” is the name of a Karnataka dish) , also from the same visit to Kabini:

The Green Heron, Forest Park, 100814

August 11, 2014

It felt good to be out, after a killer few days, walking in Forest Park. I strolled on(thanks to two fractured big toes,and a sprained ankle, my walking is only strolling these days) towards the Prairie area, and the stream.

I was amply rewarded by this

GREEN HERON

fishing in the waters of the stream; I saw it sitting there, in an attentive pose:

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Then, as the fish was sighted,there was this flurry of fishing:

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The fish was well-caught:

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The Wiki entry says the Green Heron, (Butorides virescens), is “is relatively small; adult body length is about 44 cm (17 in). The neck is often pulled in tight against the body. Adults have a glossy, greenish-black cap, a greenish back and wings that are grey-black grading into green or blue, a chestnut neck with a white line down the front, grey underparts and short yellow legs. The bill is dark with a long, sharp point.” Such beautiful colours, named just as a bland “Green”!

“Green Herons are intolerant of other birds when feeding,” says the Wiki, but this Heron I saw was right next to three Mallards, and seemed pretty tolerant of their presence.

One of the amazing facts about these birds, is that “sometimes they drop food, insects, or other small objects on the water’s surface to attract fish, making them one of the few known tool-using species. This feeding method has led some to title the green and closely related Striated Heron as among the world’s most intelligent birds.”

I left this intelligent bird to the rest of its breakfast, and walked to see what other delights Forest Park had for me…and as usual, Forest Park did not disappoint me!

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I wish I’d stayed in the Jumbo Hostel! Stockholm, 050814

August 9, 2014

As I took the bus to the Ibis Hotel (near the Arlanda airport) from Stockholm Central, I saw what I thought was a parked and exhibited Jumbo (Boeing 747).

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But PC tells me otherwise. It’s a hostel!

here

are the details of the hostel; there are, apparently, and I am very impressed.
Facilities of STF Jumbo Stay Stockholm
Outdoors
Terrace, Sun Deck
Ski
Ski Storage
Media & Technology
Cable channels, Flat-screen TV
Food & Drink
Restaurant, Bar, Restaurant With Dining Menu, Snack Bar
Internet
Free! WiFi is available in all areas and is free of charge.
Parking
Private parking is available on site (reservation is not possible) and charges apply.
Services
Packed Lunches, Airport Shuttle, Airport Shuttle (free), 24-Hour Front Desk, Express Check-in/Check-out, Baggage Storage, Private Check-in/Check-out, Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Business Center, Fax/Photocopying, Souvenir/Gift Shop, Honeymoon Suite
General
Newspapers, Non-smoking Rooms, Facilities for Disabled Guests, Elevator, Soundproof Rooms, Heating, All Spaces Non-Smoking (public and private), Air Conditioning
Languages spoken
Swedish, English

Wow…for the price I paid for the Ibis Hotel, this would have been a marvellous and unique experience…wish I’d known about it in advance!

Pleasanter stuff: back with my family…..

August 8, 2014

KTB starts school on Monday, 11th August, 2014; she will attend Wilkinsons School, where she will also participate in a program for gifted children (but will be most of the time with ALL children.)

Here is the family, at the pre-school “picnic” which turned into an indoor meet because of a heavy thunderstorm:

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Here she is, with her class teacher, Miss Paige Blansett:

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With the Principal, Dr Wuchs:

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and last but not least, Our Imp of the (as yet) Illiterate:

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The painters are overrunning their schedule by over a week; the house is topsy-turvy (I can’t even unpack!), A is having an emergency at work and was out at work all night..but family cuddles go on:

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My darlings, it’s worth all the trouble and expense I go through, to see them!

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Unpleasant experience with Department of Homeland Security at Minneapolis-St.Paul, 6th August, 2014

August 8, 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Deepa Lakshmi Mohan, an Indian. I have been visiting the US regularly since 1989. My daughter lives in St.Louis, and I come to visit her often.

I have a valid 10-year visa,granted in Chennai in December 2012.

Last year, I came at the end of January (January 28th) to be with my daughter and her family when my grandson was born. Because of health issues for the child, I applied for an extension of visa well within the time stipulated, through the official channel, UCIS-ELIS. I was granted an extension of visa and I left for home at the end of October. This was the only time in 25 years of visiting the US, that I have taken a visa extension.

This year, because of scheduled surgery for my grandson, on August 19th, I decided to visit her again. I came from Paris through Minneapolis-St.Paul airport.

Because I am a frequent flyer wtih Delta, I am entitled to two pieces of checked-in luggage, which I was to clear through Customs at Minneapolis. I will return to this later.

Here’s what happened to me.

My flight (Air France, Flight 1463 from Paris to Minneapolis-St.Paul) landed at noon I’d already spent 9 hours on the flight. There was a one-hour wait in the queue at Immigration. I was asked to go to the counter where Mr Brooks, an Immigration Officer, questioned me about why I had taken a visa extension last year, and why I was returning to the US now. I answered him to the best of my ability. I felt that he was being hostile, but I did not want to make assumptions. He agreed that my visa extension was legal, but told me that UCIS-ELIS granted visa extensions, and that the Department of Homeland Security “didn’t like them”. (I am quoting him, he repeated this several times.) He told me that my extending my visa, and wanting to return to the US now, raised “several red flags.” He would have to question me further, and in front of all the other incoming visitors, a police officer led me to another room, where several other visitors were also taken, and being questioned by Immigration Officers.

After about an hour’s wait, he came back and called me, and took me back to the same Immigration counter. The place was deserted by now. He told me that several visitors “lie” about their visas and stay and work in the US, abusing their visa status. He told me that the 10-year multiple US entry visa on my passport meant nothing, and it was he who would decide whether people could visit, or whether he would send them home. He repeated that my staying on for a long time in the US and then wanting to visit again in 9 months’ time was raising “several red flags”. I answered all his questions to the best of my ability. He said he was worried that I would ask for another extension again. I told him that I had no intention of staying longer, and that I wanted to get back home.

I also suggested that he call my daughter in St.Louis and he said that he could be doing so. He called her, and in the course of the conversation, he asked her if I was indeed her mother, and whether she had paid me for any work.

I asked him, since I had not been able to get to Baggage Claim and get my luggage, whether it would be safe. He told me it would be.

After about two hours, he finally stamped the entry visa on my passport.

I went to the Baggage Claim area and found that one of my suitcases was missing. I was told to file a complaint with Delta at my final destination (St.Louis) if my luggage had not arrived there. One of my suitcases is indeed missing, and I had to spend time in St.Louis airport, filing a claim for lost baggage.

Luckily, I had enough time to catch my flight to St.Louis.

Now, here are my observations and comments.

1. I agree that probably the Immigration officers find people abusing the visa regulations all the time. However, Mr Brooks repeatedly agreed that my visa extension was legal and valid. He repeated several times that “CIS grants extensions, but we don’t like them.” If one Government agency grants a valid US visa extension, how is it possible that the Department of Homeland Security is not able to accept that? And why should I, as a visitor be interrogated at such length, when I have done nothing illegal?

2. Does the manner of interrogation have to be so unpleasant?The hostile and intimidating attitude of Mr Brooks never wavered throughout the interrogation. He asked me whether my daughter was a US citizen and why she wasn’t. I found these questions intrusive and irrelevant to my case, but since, perhaps, he was probably doing his duty in asking these questions, I did not react. But the intimidating manner throughout was very distressing to me.

3. If visitors must be interrogated, could it not be organized so that they first secure their luggage, keep it aside on a trolley and then go for the interrogation process? This way, I could have made sure that my luggage was safe, instead of going through the additional trauma of losing one piece.

I repeat…I have nothing against the questions that were asked, in an effort to prove my bonafides. But I object very deeply to the tone of the interview, where it was made amply clear that I was not being believed. When I tried telling Mr Brooks, “Look at it from my point of view,” he responded, “I never look at any point of view but my own.” In that case, why bother to ask me anything at all?

I knew that he had the power to refuse me entry into the US, (a fact that he reminded me of, repeatedly) after a long and expensive trip, so I did not allow his intimidating manner to affect me. But when, after finally stamping the entry on my visa, he told me, “You are always welcome to the US,” I felt like telling him, “I’m sorry, it certainly did not feel that way.”

I have no doubt that several people are extremely keen to get into the US any way they can. But believe me, there are plenty of people like me who come on expensive visits only because of their family, and would like nothing better than to live peacefully at home.

I feel that some Immigration officers have met so many wrongdoers that they assume malafide intent on the part of anyone who raises their “red flags”. But politeness and a helpful manner, in my opinion, would go a long way in preventing bonafide travellers from feeling harassed and troubled.

Even US citizens accused of a crime seem to have some rights. But visitors to your country seem to have none. For the two hours that the interrogation went, I had to ask to get the officers to open up a toilet in the waiting area for me. I had nothing to eat or drink.

I underwent an extremely unpleasant experience and am not in the least interested in visiting your country again unless there is a great necessity. Unfortunately, with my only child living here with her family, that may arise once in a while. I still think that my 10-year visa means that I can visit when I want, without having to undergo such difficulties at the point of entry. In 25 years of visiting the US, I have asked for a visa extension only once, but that caused me such an unpleasant experience.

Also in nearly 25 years of visiting the US, this was the worst experience I have ever had at Immigration, and I would certainly like a response from you on this.

With regards,
Deepa Mohan
(Living in Bangalore, India)

After this, I also went through the experience of having a Customs man ask me to open up the single suitcase I had, throw out all my stuff to find out if (I quote) “you have been less than honest in your declaration” about not having food items, finally declare, “You are lucky that you don’t have food and stuff that I could catch!” (he’s obviously a rat-catcher) and leave me to pack my suitcase again and go to the connecting flight to St.Louis. But I want to fight the major battle, and let the minor skirmish go.

I still do not have my lost suitcase. DnA are painting the house, which is topsy-turvy; I have had no opportunity to buy new clothes. Hope to be able to do so with the weekend coming up ahead.

I really don’t feel like ever visiting this country again, and definitely I will avoid Minneapolis-St.Paul airport like the plague.

Chakra and yantra, 040814

August 4, 2014

When was tending his bike, he asked me to take this snap of the cycle gears:

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This was mounted on the bicycle wheel, which is called “chakra” in Sanskrit. It has 10 gears…or levels.

It reminded me of a spiritual aid, that has been worshipped for centuries in Hindu culture:

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(Pic from the net.)

Here is the wiki entry about

The Sri Chakra or the Sri Yantra

Which has nine levels.

How apt, I felt, that the cycle, which is a “yantra” or instrument, has two “chakras”, with gears that so closely resemble an ancient “chakra” or “yantra”!

Kinetic energy does not, after all, seem to change much over many centuries!And cycling is a religion for many….

August 4, 2014

I was looking at a Facebook post, made by Viju JB,of a very old photograph, of a couple, taken at their wedding. This suddenly put me in mind of an old English magazine that was very much a part of our lives…the

Illustrated Weekly of India.

The subject title is because we had a Marwari newspaper/magazine agent, who would come regularly to our home, bringing the latest magazines, and comics. (Something that just doesn’t happen any more.) I can still remember his face! He would arrive on his cycle, accept a cup of chai from my mother, and both of them would sit, and settle down for a nice session. Dell (and later, Gold Key) comics, Archie comics, Illustrated Classics comics, and Disney….my mother truly bought them by the dozen, and though the Reader’s Digest had started coming home by post, my mother (my father only provided; he was never home, all these were my mother’s interests!) would buy the magazines…I remember the starting of the “Junior Statesman” which was soon called “JS” and became the trendy youth magazine. (I also remember feeling out of touch with the very Westernized lifestyle it seemed to espouse.) Time, Life, National Geographic, Femina, Caravan, Filmfare…and of course, what our newsagent called the “Lusted Weekly”, and which most of us referred to as just the “Weekly”. It was a large-sized magazine (they all were!), and I went through each issue eagerly.

The wedding photos used to be a regular feature at the back of the issue, comprising many couples, looking deadpan into the camera in the wedding fashions of the day. (Almost no one had a smile on their faces.)

I also remember Nissim Ezekiel writing regularly, Kamala Das’ “My Life”, and Khushwant Singh’s editorial stamp on the magazine….I do remember that Pritish Nandy was the editor at a later stage…his daughter and mine were born on the same day, and the mothers shared a room at the Woodlands Nursing Home (Nov 2, 1978.)

I enjoyed Mario Miranda’s wonderful cartoons, and Raji Nimboopani and Moonswamy were good friends. I remember Raghu Rai’s excellent photographs….oh…the Lusted Weekly was certainly a wonderful part of our lives in those days. R K Laxman did a lot of work for the magazine, too; I never dreamed that years later (Dec 8, 1992) I would meet Laxman himself, in Bangalore, and have a long chat with him about his work and life.

I never did know why or how the closed down, but it did, and passed into history…the Wiki says it closed down in 1993….the Wiki says it started in 1880, so that’s more than a century of life!

My life was always full of excellent reading material, and I must say, the “Weekly” supplied a lot of it! Thank you, Viju, for making me look back….v


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