An Awakening

I have always been a great fan of the movie ‘The Matrix’.

‘ Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?’

I guess that one line sums it all up about the film – and strikingly – life as well. It all started a year ago after a chance mail forwarding session that turned into a philosophical discussion on the existence of god and the purpose of life.

I cant imagine how thankful i should be to my best bud, Sai, for suggesting to me that one book which completely changed my perspective of life overnight (no kidding, really mean it)

Sai this is to you my man. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

Well i am sure everyone s wondering now if marriage can have such disastarous after – effects. Worry not,  it ain’t so (not so soon at least J ).

Anyways, its been an eventful year. A rollercoaster of emotions. Tense pre- marriage discussions, to-the-penny-planning of finances,  a forgettable marriage function,  a totally screwed up honeymoon,  a daring(probably bordering on the insane) resignation,  a phd admission to Nanyang, a month of separation from my better half, an ensuing reunion, two months of job hunting and finally now a chance to settle down – mentally.

My wife has this nice line in her emails. Life gives you answers in three ways, It says ok and gives you what you want. It says wait and gives you something better. It says no and gives you the best. I cant say if I have got all that I have asked for. But I realise now that whatever I have got has always been the best.

What more can I say? Thank you Mr. Uppilli and Mr. Kabali for everything. Just let me never ever forget you at any point of time.

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Insanely interesting games at school – Part 3

Hiya everyone, been one more long break again now. Completing a master’s thesis is turning out to be quite an ordeal, just like cooking the first time. You aim to prepare a delicacy, you start off well identifying all the necessary ingredients, start cooking confidently and then halfway through realize that you are way off course and that you have still not cooked anything. Then you’re hit by a wave of panic when you see that it’s almost time for guests to come. You execute plan B – add plenty of spice, salt and masala and put whatever you have cooked so far inside a pressure cooker and let it cook for 10 more minutes to produce a dish that is a highly distorted version of the original. Then you wait hoping for some kind of miracle to happen and get an ‘Excellent’ from your guests :).

Anyways, let’s move on now with the third insanely interesting game I had played at school. The name ‘dodge ball’ is self explanatory. Dodge the ball. As simple as that. I must confess that this was the only interesting game that was ever played during those boring common PT periods (basically a session of physical training where you just keep exercising most of the time/ do stuff like march pasts and rarely get to play a game).

Well so how is it played? This is a team game. The entire class is divided into two groups. The members of one group form a huge circle and the other group is confined to run inside this circle. The members of the circle have to target the people running inside with the ball. The people running inside the circle need to ‘dodge’ this ball and if they are unsuccessful, they have to leave the circle. The aim is to eliminate group running inside within the shortest possible time. Once fully eliminated, the dodgers become the throwers and the throwers get a chance to display their dodging skills. There are restrictions for both the groups. The dodgers are not allowed to step beyond the circle and likewise, the throwers cannot change the  diameter of the circle which means they stay rooted to their spots while throwing the ball. But the thing that makes it really interesting is the ball itself. It is not a small ball the size of a tennis ball which can be easily held and fired at full power.  Rather it is a much larger volleyball/throwball which is difficult to grip and rather cumbersome to hit the target with.

Needless to say, dodging is the best part. If you are inside the circle, there is this instinctive feeling that turns you into one of those graceful matadors in a Spanish bull fight. The temptation to go ‘torro torro’ is huge. And that’s exactly what gives life to this game. Logically speaking, the throwers should become more excited and pumped with each eliminated contestant. But in reality, desperation increases.  Because with each eliminated contestant, the probability of their wayward shots hitting the target is reducing.

Benefits :

–          Saves you from the drill of boring exercise sessions and march pasts.

–          A good way to take out your anger is throwing things at people. This would be a perfect way to do it and still get away cleanly with it.

–          Although morally incorrect, matchups between boys and girls are possible (and have been played as well) making it highly interesting.

Potential problems:

–          Hastily executed shots by throwers can result in the ball going dangerously away from the intended target. This can in extreme cases lead to a change of target. There have been numerous instances of the referee (the physical training instructor) getting floored.

–          Possibility of students using the above technique to get back at those rude and harsh instructors and in general people in the class they do not like.

Although not a game which could be played inside the class, this was one of the games I just loved playing at school 🙂

Insanely interesting games at school – Part 2

After discussing about a game based on luck, we now move on to a set of games which depend more on the skills of players. In the late 1990’s, Faber Castell, Camlin or Natraj must have noticed an unusual spurt in their sales and that too during off season time (no exam or school reopening). I can bet that they would have never found out the reason. Kudos to the imagination of whoever struck upon the idea of the scale, rubber and sharpener games. And thanks to my crazy classmates who followed these religiously. But for them I would have certainly missed out so much in school 🙂

Ok now lets move on. The three ingenious games are similar to carom board, except that while in carom you pocket the coins, here you send the contesting objects overboard by employing skillful maneuvering and striking techniques.

The requirements :

1. The striker can be:

A. a 15 cm scale, preferably made from wood (and as thick as possible for maximum impact)

B. a sharpener (ideally steel sharpeners can give maximum impact load but can lead to injuries of the striking finger, hence used only in cases where the drought of wins has extended for too long)

C. An eraser – the most preferred is the apsara non dust eraser (erasers in the shapes of cartoon figures/stars/any other attractive figures have been found to be totally useless and end up having the worst record in tournaments often)

2. A well contoured, relatively frictionless, large battlefield – the class desk.

As many contestants as space permits but low enough to cause commotion that can attract the next class teacher, can play together. All objects are positioned at the corners of the desk to start off. The starter (the first person to exit in the previous game) kicks off proceedings by sending his object right into the middle of the battlefield (normally it’s a hapless looking natraj plastic scale or the smallest of the erasers/sharpeners). Any attempts to kill the neighbors’ objects positioned near yours on the first strike itself is strictly forbidden and considered detrimental to the spirit of the game.

The killer strike:

The usual aim is to deliver killer strikes asap. The shape and mass give rise to a different killer strike for a scale as compared to the rubber or a sharpener. Owing to its length, the ‘see-saw slam’ (as i would call it) is the perfect ‘stick it up his a**’ move to blow your contestant scale out. This can be used when two scales are fighting it out on the edge of the desk. Lets say your scale is positioned perpendicularly to the edge with a portion of it sticking out (enough to be used as a see saw handle) and a contestant scale (by virtue of mindless maneuvering) happens to come on top of yours in an exactly perpendicular position to yours. No explanation is needed beyond this. ‘Astalavista baby’ used to be the killer dialogue before this strike. But caution needs to be exercised since in some rare cases, the scale delivering the blow out ends up turning turtle and goes over while the one that has been launched out manages to fall back into the desk making you red in the face. The rubber and sharpener games do not have such a complicated killer blow and it is a pretty straight in the face eat that strike. The basic requirement being that the rubber or sharpener is big enough to blast the other one away and not stop on impact.

Important factors :

– Slope of the battle ground – contestants starting out at the top of the slope need to exercise caution in delivering blow outs since their momentum can send them over the edge along with the contestant.

– Friction – becomes particularly important in the case of rubber games since the rubbers can stop short of their intended target.

– Size of objects – bigger is always better in these games.

Benefits:

– Guaranteed edge of the seat excitement.

– Oppurtunities to pit different objects against each other eg. scales vs rubbers, rubbers vs sharperners (that was more one sided) giving more interesting matchups.

– Easy and fun way to learn complicated names in biology – this arises due to the names given to the contesting objects ( names of amoebas/ bacterias) then thinking that it was stylish 😀

Potential Problems:

– The striker may have to move around the desk many times to execute the shot perfectly, this becomes a problem in case of too many persons.

– Can be played only during lunch time/toilet breaks/free hours since it attracts too much attention to be played during the class.

– Scales and sharpeners can break, unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it (rubbers are safe in this regard).

– Can piss off kids sitting nearby who are relatively studious and not vetti like the players.

– Possibilities that the scales/rubbers/sharpeners may be seized by an irritated next class teacher.

Not even the PT period during school hours generated such excitement as the trio of these games. I dont know though how many of you guys have played these. Neverthless, meet u all in the third part soon !

Insanely interesting games at school – Part 1

Hiya folks, been quite a while since I posted here. With the end of my stay nearing, things are becoming real hectic. Anyways so here I am with my next post.

School has undoubtedly been the best part of my life so far as fun is concerned. And I am extremely privileged to have had the exposure to a few crazy personalities who started a trend of some of these insanely interesting games. This is an attempt to recollect some of those games.

First on the list is Book Cricket.

This form of cricket can be described as nothing short of revolutionary and can well insult the common versions of the game(ODI’s, T20’s etc) when it comes to the excitement it generates. The investment needed – a nice, bound textbook (Ideally, not too bulky but at the same time having a considerable number of pages) and pencil – paper to note the scores. This highly addictive game is especially suitable to couch potatoes who do not wish to move a muscle but want to enjoy the excitement of scoring runs.

How is it played?

The aim of the game is to score/outscore the runs/target. The score is determined from the page numbers of the book. The player opens the book swiftly and sees the page number of the random page he gets. The last digit of the page number is taken as the runs scored. For eg. A player opens the book swiftly and gets the page number 64, then he has scored 4 runs. Usually even numbered pages are only considered in scoring. So a person can score either 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8 from any page he opens. 2,4 and 6 are normally the valid runs. 8 is usually considered as a single. The player is out when he scores a 0. That forms the main framework for the game.

Usually the two players have ten chances (or ten wickets) to score. Normally played are the limited overs and test version although the most famous version I can recollect was the ‘play-until-you-get-the-highest score’.

Benefits:

– Total use of resources – even the most boring book can become interesting and be put to maximum use.

– An interesting diversion during english/history/civics classes in school. All you need to ensure is a last bench seat that can shield you well from the teacher’s line of sight.

– No one will ever question you ‘Padichu ennatha kizhicha nee‘ again as the book is sure to wear out before you pass on to the next year (caution to be exercised since extreme cases have warranted the purchase of a second set of books just before the annual exams making the parents highly irritated).

– No more worries about dealing with that ‘sidu moonji pakathu veetu mama/thatha’ (your neighbour) who would be waiting to catch your ball in his backyard.

– No possibility of damage (and associated cost or replacement) to public or personal property (street lamps, car windows and any other glass item in the house)

– No restriction on age group. You can even teach this game to your pakathu veetu mama/thatha and make him your friend.

Potential problems:

– Opening the front cover/back cover of the book or a page with a roman number. (Usually that’s a dead ball and the player plays again)

– In many cases, people often open their books slightly and place their thumbs on a page which can get them 6 runs (in other words azhuvooni/bongu aatam) and they keep opening the same page again and again. Since the movements are extremely fast, the umpire (the other player) seldom gets a chance to see the illegal use of thumb, it results in some players scoring at a rate of 36 runs per over leading to records impossible in realistic cricket matches.

– Slow opening of book with the face placed extremely near so as to get a peek at the page number, another azhuvooni technique.

– Lax umpiring can lead to ‘extra gaaji’s’ resulting again in unrealistic scores.

– Can be disturbing at times to neighbours in class since when the adrenaline gets high, people tend to open or close the book with a bang often thinking that it will get them a six.

– Being a luck based game, the chances of a single wicket going on a scoring spree or losing all the ten wickets within a span of ten minutes are equal. Both scenarios can lead to loss of interest and stimulate the use of azhuvooni techniques described.

On the whole, a totally interesting and addictive game with no boundaries and borders. If you have not played this in your school days you have either not gone to school or never bought a textbook :P.  Any corrections/additions to what i have mentioned are welcome.

Meet ya all in the next part soon !

Secretary, Students Union

Arun Nagasubramanian III BE Metallurgical Engg.

Thrilled and chilled is exactly how I felt when I read these lines on the notice displayed on our college notice board. Thrilled because my name would be known to around 3000 students now. Chilled because I had not expected it and now I had to be in that post for a year. For sometime, I was not willing to believe it. Simply because, the performance I had given in the interview was nothing short of ridiculous. At one point of time during the interview, one of the panel members even asked ‘how is it that we get the same answer to this question year after year?’. ‘That’s what shibhu had asked me to tell you saar’, I thought to myself but said nothing. ‘Even if it is crap, be confident of it’ shibhu had told me. Add to that a little amount of peter and it did the trick.

I have to say that it was an awesome feeling. The year that followed was one filled with some of the unforgettable incidents of my life. The first of those was the students union inauguration function. It was the first time in my life that I was wearing coat-suit-boot with tie and I felt more like Obama walking to the swearing in ceremony – confident, greeting people graciously, walking coolly to the dias. But the moment I stepped on to the stage of the mammoth q-angle, all that changed. Petrified would be the most appropriate word to describe my mindset at that moment. The crowd was enormous. The only comparison I could make to it was the kabali kovil ‘ther’ festival crowd. The only difference being, I was now like the saami on the ‘ther’ and there were a thousand faces looking at me. Inside, all the nerves seemed to collapse simultaneously leaving me limp. Never had I been chilled so much in my life. I was glad that I got the chair to sit on.

Soon the proceedings began. I was to present the activities of the students union for the year. I had sat down with shibhu for that the previous night and had practiced it at least two hundred times, determined to maintain the peter I had put up in the interview. But my efforts were effectively brought to null by the overawing fear that had been generated in me. So much fear that I did not dare to even change my seating posture to a more comfortable one. I sat, frozen, praying for my chance to come and the function to end asap.

And it came after an eternity. I got up, pulling out my speech paper and walked to the mic. I opened up the paper and placed it in front of me and looked up to see the thousand faces staring at me. My heartbeat would have been close to 200 easily then. I made a decent start but halfway through, stammered and stopped. God knows why to this date. I turned uneasily to see our principal Vijayarangan giving me a stern stare. I had commited precisely the mistake he dearly hates. I experienced a pressure similar to being at the bottom of Marianas trench. It required one helluva effort and courage to gather myself again and continue till the end.

After I had finished, the claps said it all. I had screwed badly. I cringed when I had to face the principal after the function. I cannot forget that ‘Boy, you better make your next speech properly, else that’s it !’ stare till today. A year later though, it was a completely different ending. I managed to prepare and deliver a speech impressive enough to earn a pat from Vijayarangan himself :).

This post is dedicated to my senior shibhu – an awesome personality and the former secretary without whom I would have never seen the light of the day in that year 🙂

Caught in class !

Engineering is inarguably the most fun part of teen life. It is a time when stupidity reaches its peak and there happen a countless number of incidents which on looking back make you rotfl. This incident happened during my bachelors at PSG Tech.

Being a ‘metallurgist’ we were supposed to learn about the ways in ores are extracted from mines and hence we had to study this subject called ‘mineral beneficiation’. The course was taken by a seemingly soft spoken gentleman named Elangovan. We couldn’t stay focused in his class for two reasons. Firstly, he spoke so softly that I doubt if he would have heard his own words. Also the possibility of employing lip reading to decipher his utterances was ruled out by the well grown and maintained moustache that shielded his mouth. Secondly, he had this habit of giving a ‘jerk’ very often that would cause the face to go forward and the shoulders to come backwards suddenly while speaking. We found it very amusing and counting the number of jerks became a fun way to pass time. Needless to say, things get worse post-lunch.

In one such class, I decided enough is enough and started exploring the artist in me. I started drawing an all time favourite cartoon character of mine – Jerry. Soon I was totally engrossed in trying to make jerry look as comical as possible, blissfully unaware of the fact that there was a human being trying to hammer something about a jaw crusher into our senses. After a good fifteen minutes, I decided to join back the class and looked up to see elangovan sir coming towards me. I hurriedly tried to turn the pages and hide jerry but it was too late. He had already seen it and took my note questioning me ‘Enna pa panra?’. I was then a chamathu payyan who doesn’t get caught like this often in class and being the first time, I had almost gone numb with fear. So I just didn’t respond to him. He turned the page to where jerry was and gave me a stern look. I still can’t remember what he said to me but one thing was for sure. I could see the whole class wide awake now eagerly waiting to see my fate. Since I was not in the category of the more irritating people talking in class and disturbing others listening to the lecture, I was spared that day with a strong advice not to repeat such instances :).

A ‘hair-raising’ experience

This post is dedicated to my feat of trying to emulate the Great Sir C Pani (aka Mr. Chakarapani, our aasthana barber in Chennai). This feat of mine though, spared me this time and claimed as victim another ‘saga’ citizen of Chennai who is doing his master s here.

The start of this episode can be traced back to a fateful Friday evening after I had visited Aldi (a supermarket). The proximity of the electronics supermarket ‘Saturn’ to Aldi always creates this overwhelming urge to splurge euros on some electronic gadget. And on that evening, a ‘Haarschneider’ caught my fantasy. An hour later, I was taking my first attempt at styling my hair. It was a decent and successful one. Excited, I informed badri(the saga citizen who underwent this visha paritchai) about the new gadget I had bought and it incited him as well I guess. Now excitement in excess dose has an effect similar to a hyperactive monkey that has consumed alcohol. It basically loses it. I was no exception. Soon we were convinced that the next job for the machine must be styling badri’s head.

The paraphernalia was laid out and I was ready for the next assignment. I was confident of pulling off a stylish cut. Soon the right side was done. It looked pretty, except that I had removed a little more than I should have. Soon after starting off on the next side, to my horror, the ‘haarschneider’ started stuttering like a Pallavan bus on the verge of a breakdown and then the unimaginable happened – it stopped. My first thought was ‘OMG. 25 euros lost!’. Worse, there was a half completed cut for badri. Emergency CPR procedures to get the machine alive proved futile. We tried and tried, in vain. Five minutes later, it sprung to life but went kaputt again in seconds. It seemed to die a slow death.

I was speechless to badri’s questioning stare. I rushed through the instructions manual furiously trying to locate the trouble shooting section when I noticed the sentence – ‘Charge the batteries for a minimum of 13 hours before first use’.

Left with a big mess to clean up and no machine to help, I promised badri that I would finish it off the traditional way – scissors and comb. It was a painstakingly slow task, requiring the patience of a 1000 gandhi’s, accurate estimates of the cut off points and more importantly proper execution. To compound problems, there was not much of backup hair left since the machine had consumed much in one go. There was no room for error. I proceeded very cautiously. After forty five minutes, I had still not managed to make the second side similar to the first.

My confidence at an all time low now, I conceded defeat and suggested to badri that the best idea would be to visit the hair stylist the next day to get things straightened out. All this time badri had been relatively cool and I was rather surprised when he replied ‘Well its not so bad. You just need to take some more off here and here and then it’ll be fine’.

I started again and at approximately 1.45 AM, a decent looking ‘Mushroom cut’ was produced. I was somewhat relieved at the end for managing to give a ‘look-able’ look to badri, but was still haunted by the fact that badri was attending interviews for internships at this time. Thankfully, the episode did not have much effect other than giving folks here a hearty laugh and teaching me a lesson I will never forget.

The Middle East crisis – What is all the fighting about?

It is probably the first time in my life that i managed to study the‘history’ of something with real interest to know some stuff. Here I am putting forth some facts i gathered. The Israel – Palestine conflict is probably one of the oldest and most gruesome conflicts the world has ever seen – simply because of the sole reason that the huge number of causalities has mainly been civilian. The Israeli Ministry of foreign affairs data on this can be found here.

It is a sad and stark example of what effects can arise when human interests and emotions clash.

The history of the Palestine and Israel is too long to be told in short. It should suffice to say that the region currently belonging to Israel and Palestine (known collectively as Palestine) was subjected to repeated occupation by different rulers, right from the Egyptians (remember the story of Moses who rescued suffering Jews from the hands of Rameses), Romans, Turks, Arabs to the British and its Allies. The Jews, hence, found themselves oppressed, persecuted, made numerous revolts and often were forced to flee from their ‘homeland’. They never seemed to be in their ‘homeland’ at any point of time.

Historically, the strife between Israel and Palestine seems to be not due to religion. Land, rather has been the sole reason for struggle. The Arabs claim that Palestine (including Israel) belongs to them. Records reveal that entire area of Palestine was mainly inhabited by arabs and the number of Jews during the 1940’s was very less comparatively (obvious from the reasoning in the previous para). Post World War II, in 1948, the United Nations divided the land of Palestine into Israel and Palestine and had given the majority of the better land (rich in resources and water) to Jews while the Arabs were given only a small portion of the land.

Jewish settlements before UN partition - yellow area marks Palestine

Jewish settlements before UN partition - yellow area marks Palestine

Proposed Partion Plan by UN - Note the amount of land alloted to Jews.

Proposed Partion Plan by UN - Note the amount of land alloted to Jews. Jerusalem was to be under international control

This angered the Arabs and they refused to accept the state of Israel. The Arab states of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan tried to reclaim the land by waging many wars against Israel, but failed repeatedly. Also, ever since it was established, Israel had been getting huge amount of aids from the US (basically US wanted a friend in the middle east to protect its own interests) and its economy became superior to that of the partitioned Palestine. Its armies evolved to become one of the strongest and technologically best equipped in the middle east. One particular war in which Israel also managed to expand its territory is known as the ‘6 day war’. It was a ‘preemptive’ strike as claimed by Israel to prevent Arab troops which had bordered Israel on all the sides (ready to strike Israel to reclaim the old Palestine). The amount of land under Israel increased dramatically and also the number of Arabs under Israeli rule.

Israel in 1967 (after the 6 day war). Note the regions near to Lebanon and Egypt have now been taken over by Israel

Israel in 1967 (after the 6 day war). Note the regions near to Lebanon and Egypt have now been taken over by Israel

Israel since 1967 - the white areas are regions of undecided control.

Israel since 1967 - the white areas are regions of undecided control.

This infuriated the Palestinians and prompted the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) which declared its intention was the ‘destruction of Israel’. The PLO was headed by the then prime minister of Palestine, Yasser Arafat. But it slowly proved to be ineffective and with time more and more radical extremists started taking control of PLO. Israel on the other hand slowly started to encroach upon what was remaining of Palestine as well. Both these factors contributed to a revolution also known as the ‘Intifada’ in Palestine but it was dealt with brute force by Israel and slowly its force waned as well. Faced with defeat and desperation, the periods after the revolution saw the growth of terrorist activities and establishment of various terror groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc.

Late in 2007, the Hamas took control of Gaza with an extremely hostile takeover from Israel. Since then, the borders of Gaza have been closed by Israel thus stopping essential supplies to the territory. Hamas has launched numerous terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians including rocket launches into populated Israeli territory and Israel has retalitated with military offensive. The latest in the series of conflicts is the 21 day offensive launched by Israel on the pretext of wiping out various tunnels and locations Hamas uses for its terrorist activities.

Looking at it all, it becomes clear that this issue is similar to our Kashmir dispute. Each country feels it is right and never going to give up or compromise its stand. Whether this will have an end, only time will tell. All one can hope for is more innocent lives should not be lost in the name of holy wars/jihad.

The following links have much more information on this issue.

http://www.mideastweb.org/briefhistory.htm

http://www.fromoccupiedpalestine.org/node/737

http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background

Also here is one more post which claims Israel as a nation which indulges in terrorism.

http://charlie180.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/israel-is-nuculear/


De(lab)acles

I have always been enchanted with working in a lab with all the perplexing equipments with bizarre looking gadgets and fixtures and TU Darmstadt has totally fulfilled this fantasy of mine. Also here, the ‘lab culture’, if you can call it so, is entirely different from that in Indian colleges. A person who’s carrying out research is generally given a common key which can open almost all the labs in the Material Science department (where I am working currently). This noble gesture however assumes that the person who works in a particular lab has at least an exposure at the most basic level possible to the equipment he is using. My case is a bit different, since am neither a full time student (to give complete hands on training) nor a short term resident (to let others do the job for me), this assumption is not obeyed in its entirety. I have been given only a crash course on using some equipments and so its almost like ‘on-the-job-training’ for me when it comes to using them and considering my marvelous memory, the probability of a lab scale disaster is definitely not a negligible number.

Except for the furnaces (which are relatively dangerous but extremely failsafe), the other equipments I use are pretty simple to operate and any person who s undergone this crash course should be in a position to use it without wreaking havoc on lab property. I was in this normal category of persons until today when I successfully opened my account for glass breakages.

On one of the equipments I use (called the BET surface area determinator), a glass tube needs to be fixed, then the air inside it sucked out and then it must be filled with Helium gas. Following the established protocols, the air was sucked out and next the helium had to be filled. I switched off the vacuum first and then turned on the helium gas. The next thing I saw was my tube lying shattered into various sized fragments – definitely not a pleasant sight. The helium gas seemed to have blown apart the tube. Not being accustomed to this kind of misbehavior from the equipment, I was shocked for a moment and then recovered to clean up the mess.

Since I had to start this experiment today, I decided I would use a second tube and start again. Luckily I had not gone much into the experiment and I could set it up all again in a jiffy. Working swiftly, I got the new tube cleaned, fixed and started sucking out the air again. Soon enough I was back at the point where disaster had occurred. This time, trying to be extra careful, I started opening the helium gas valve VERY slowly (to quote the exact figure, 10.59 seconds, a bit too much considering that I just had to pull down a lever). It worked. I crossed the disaster step successfully. Happy now, I proceeded to quickly unscrew the tube from its holding fixture and tried to remove the tube. ‘Plop’ came a sound and I saw the tube nose diving at a speed at which Atlantis reenters the earth’s atmosphere, towards the floor. Apparently the speed was way too high for my reflexes to act in time. Result, disaster repeated. Loss count of glass tubes damaged raised to 2.

Sensing an emergency, I rushed to Jens (my PhD guide here and my 911 contact as well) and explained the ‘abnormal’ functioning of the machine. Jens listened patiently and explained then. ‘YOU must HOLD the tube while you remove it because helium tends to have an overpressure’. It dawned on me then, I had always followed those instructions – till today. Today had been an exception. Evidently, the doppelt espresso I had after lunch had turned out ineffective  in combating the afternoon siesta and the mathematics of probability held true!

The reasons for the recession…a layman’s understanding…Part II

Soon, as expected logically, people started defaulting on payments. To add salt to the wound, there is a provision by which these firms reset their rate of interest on the loans to a higher value every certain number of years. When that revision came, the already over burdened borrower simply said ‘I cannot pay, u can take my house’ to the firms. The number of such persons returning their houses increased exponentially with time and in the end the financial firms were left a huge number of houses and no cash reserves. Now with so many houses up for sale, the upward spiral of the house prices stopped and prices started plunging downwards, again from the simple relation between demand and price. At a certain point, the prices of the houses fell below the loan amount and the financial firms plunged into losses. Their assumption that the house prices can never fall proved fatal. This marked the ‘burst of the bubble’ that had been building up all the while firms had been investing in bad loans.

Ok now how does this relate to the problem of US people not spending? Naturally since the financial firms have no more cash to lend, industries which depend on them to run their factories will collapse. When industries collapse, people lose jobs. When people lose jobs, they lose income. When income is lost, people have no more money (remember that in US, the habit of savings is not there much, people spend more than what they earn through borrowing). When no money is there, you cant buy anything, demand for products goes down. When demand for product goes down, supply has to be lessened, when supply is to be lessened, again factories are shut (that’s what is happening now, with people getting laid of in thousands everyday). It becomes a vicious cycle from which escape is almost impossible without external stimulus and this is exactly what a part of the stimulus package is intended to do. It entails giving money to the people and encouraging them to spend so that the demand can be increased, factories restarted, jobs lost restored.

World over, the impact is felt essentially due to the reason that almost every major bank has invested in these bad loans and have had to write off millions of dollars in losses.

That in my view is recession as I can understand it. Hopefully the situation improves soon and normalcy is restored.

I have to give credit to this blogger as well. An amazing explanation with slightly more technical terms, but nevertheless in laymans terms !

http://www.theindianblogger.com/problems/reasons-for-global-recession-in-plain-simple-english/