Chennai Morning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am back home, visiting my parents once again.  I searched my blogs from the last few years, and realized that I have been making this trip more frequently in recent times.  And I have been posting pictures and writing my impressions about the experience over and over again.  It is a good thing.  The essential, core, feeling that comes with a trip home never seems to change regardless of the circumstances which bring me here, which tends to be different each time.  This time, I am here for my Dad’s 90th birthday celebration, a celebration of a life well lived, and still being lived.  I am happy to be home for the occasion.  Once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Learning More About WWII

I recently saw a Netflix show called the Greatest Events of WWII in Color.

This great ten-part series is highly recommended for anybody interested in history and not that familiar with the details of WWII. (As an aside, the show’s impact had little to do with addition of color to the footage.)  The series focuses on certain key events and elements of WWII.   The stories are clearly told, and in what I thought was a balanced manner.  You learn about the lead up to the particular events, the battlefield strategies employed therein, about how the event played out in reality, the end results, and, finally, the overall impact of the event on the direction of WWII itself, and on history.  I learnt a lot of new things.

I emerged from the experience of viewing these episodes convinced that very, very, few people are really completely “good”, or noble. Evil lurks in the human heart, perhaps closer to the surface in some more than in others.  All it takes is the right set of circumstances to bring out the worst in a person.  Some of us, even if we are not active participants, become complicit just from our capability to justify harsh cruelty done to others in our name, for what is claimed to be the greater good.

The last two episodes of this series were the most impactful on me.  They had to do with the genocide in the concentration camps in Europe, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  With the genocide, the killing of human beings became an effort of industrial scale, with the goal of speeding up the process of systematically murdering people.  The goal was to find the most efficient way to do this.  The bombing of  Hiroshima and Nagasaki attempted to legitimize the process of mass murder on an even grander scale.  It was, in a sense, a response to an already brutal war with a even greater level of brutality.  There appears to be no limit to which we can push each other in this regard.

There were many atrocities committed in WWII.  The conventional bombing of cities on a large scale, in a deliberate attempt to massacre civilians in large numbers and achieve a psychological advantage in the conflict, was something that both sides were guilty of.  The fire-bombing of Dresden was particularly horrific.

And it is not as if we remember the horrors of previous wars and strive not to repeat them.  We will never learn that war is hell.

Fields of Gold (9/11/2005)

I wrote this email in 2005. I had just started visiting the C&O canal towpath the previous year,  and was still in the process of regularizing my weekend exercise routine beside the Potomac river.  Some of the places that I visited along the canal were not as familiar to me then as they are now.

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I was up early this morning and headed for Point of Rocks for my morning run. These morning runs have become less frequent with the efforts to get the rest of the family involved in the C&O canal activities. Last weekend Teresa and I biked 16 miles on the trail. (That is certainly an great achievement for a first-timer!) I have biked with Angela on other occasions, and, a couple of times, also run on the trail while the others have biked along. However, as I realized this morning, while getting the family involved is a good thing, you still need your own time to rejuvenate and recuperate. There is nothing like the silence of the woods in the cool of the early morning to sooth your soul and bring your internal temperature back to normal. Come what may, I need to find a way to continue my travels and meditations.

As I was driving towards Point of Rocks this morning, I was struck by the sight of the fields of gold. Yes, the leaves in some of the fields are beginning to turn golden yellow. These fields alternated with the neighboring cornfields where the stocks of corn stood tall, some of them turning brown due to the coming of Fall. It was a sight to see, and I stopped by the roadside to take pictures. It immediately brightened my mood. Lona Alias, my favorite Sunday morning DJ on the radio, provided some reminders of events in the real world, including the anniversary of 9/11, and happenings down in New Orleans. She played some nice songs. If you have not done so already, you should find a way to listen to the song “Louisiana 1927” by Randy Newman. Although it is going to take up some space, I am going to include the words for the entire song here. Hope you don’t mind.

“What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tyrin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, “Little fat man isn’t it a shame what the river has done
To this poor crackers land.”

Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away”

Apparently, the 1927 flooding of Louisiana resulted in widespread death and destruction, and very poor response from the authorities. History is repeating itself. Enough said.

I ran from Point of Rocks to the Monocacy Aqueduct and back today. The morning was cool, portending the coming of Fall. All the people I encountered on the trail were cheery and greeted me with smiles. The kids were packing materials from the campsites that they were vacating after overnight stays, and carrying the stuff to their cars. Other kids rode their bikes in disorderly columns, with adults trying to provide supervision and prevent them from running people over. As I jogged by, one gentleman even wished me well on my efforts to complete the 12 miles. I did not even feel too tired after the run and my muscles did not give out on me during the run. I still feel great!

One incident to note. After I finished the run, I walked up to the railroad tracks to take some pictures. I walked along the tracks with my camera, trying to find spots with some interesting shots. When I returned, I observed a vehicle belonging to the Park Police in the parking lot facing my car. I walked by the officer trying to act nonchalant, wondering if I was in some kind of trouble, especially since I had been trespassing on the railroad tracks a couple of minutes back. (Think Al Qaeda!) “Good morning” I said to the policemen. “How is it going?” he responded cheerily. As I opened the driver’s door and got into the car, he got out of his vehicle and started walking towards me, at least that was what I thought. As he got closer, he angled away towards the car besides mine. It was an old beaten-up wreck, parked further away into the woods. He inspected the car carefully and started talking into his radio. He then turned and walked back to his vehicle, taking a glance a me as I sat in the front seat of my car eating a donut as he went by. He then drove away. I wonder if he also checked out my license number in my absence, and if I am now on some kind of a watch list. Of course I am paranoid! Anyway, that was my adventure for day.

Enough for now.
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The above letter was written shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.   This hurricane devastated the city.  It never fully recovered to its old self.

You can listen to the song I talk about here.

Here are some pictures taken that day.100_0936100_0937100_0947100_0950100_0956The parking area at Point of Rocks has changed significantly since 2005, the time I first started visiting.  It used to be real rough.  There were just a few spots off a dirt road, and you parked in whatever random space you found.  You could also drive beyond the lot to a space under the bridge carrying US Highway 15 across the Potomac. You could find dicier parking (if the water in the river was not too high) there.  All of this has now been replaced by a real parking lot, and a very big one at that! Also, you can no longer drive beyond this lot to the space under the bridge.  The space on the other side of the canal, between the railroad tracks and the main road (MD Route 28),  has also now been converted into a well-maintained park.  And a lot more people visit these days.

A Water Bottle on the Trail

Lo and behold, there stands the water bottle on the trail,
Looking completely out of place, and close enough to see detail,
It was left there on purpose, of that I do assure,
The reason why shall remain a mystery one has to endure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(With apologies to the purists of poetry.)

The picture was taken during one of our Sunday walks.  The trail has been completely redone in this particular section of the C&O Canal towpath.  The park service is working piece-by-piece on the entire 184.5 miles of trail that exists.  I suspect it will be a few years before it is all done.

Why String Theory Persists — Despite the Knotty Physics | Space

The author of this article has produced some very entertaining and informative videos that help make the ideas associated with string theory accessible to people like me, people who know very little about astrophysics.  If you watch the first video in the article below, you may be sucked in, just like I was.

via Why string theory persists — despite the knotty physics | Space

You can also view other videos that have been produced as a part of this series.

 

A Face from a War

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

This is the face on one of 19 statues representing a platoon on patrol, on the lookout for the enemy, and for danger lurking around the corner.

I was drawn to the eyes.  They look hollow and haunted to me. I think the artist has successfully captured the sense of weariness and fear in the soldier.

It still goes on.

One frigid night, I told a homeless man to leave the ER….: The Washington Post

Has something like this happened to you?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/one-frigid-night-i-told-a-homeless-man-to-leave-the-er-id-done-it-before-but-this-one-tugged-at-my-heartstrings/2020/01/10/7bdff596-2e76-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html