Thursday, December 24, 2009

A peaceful weekend at a Chalet

This was a new experience for me. Me and my friends decided to spend a weekend in a lonely place away from humanity. So, we booked a chalet. The chalet was at Lans en Vercors. It was called Ville Pleinevie. We reached friday evening with all the food and baggage needed to survive two days and two nights. The place was snow covered. The chalet was equiped with room heating and a very nice fire place. The first night started with a glass of whiskey and some hip shaking. After the hip got tired the leg started moving with the hands. The first night dinner was simply finished with khichdi when everything got tired. After dinner I went out with few of my friends for a round of night photography. The moon had come up and it revelaed to us the snow covered surrounding. But we had to wait till next morning to get a real view. The next morning started a bit late with cornflakes and milk. The morning sun gave us a first look around. The snow covered surrounding gave a feel of a valley draped in white sheet. We had our share of fun on the snow making snow man and all. The chalet also had a baby foot. Some of us got really busy playing the game. We could see all the excitment of a real football game without any people running around. The games continued till lunch. At lunch we had chicken Indian style with rice. After lunch some of us went for a walk in the snow covered mountains. I had the opportunity to click some nice snaps. The evening started with a small snack consisting of raclette cheese, boiled potato and salad. The snack was accompanied by beer. After the snack some of us got down preparing dinner. Rest of us got busy with vodka and some hip shaking. For dinner we had fried chicken. After dinner I went out for a long walk. We had only the moon to light our way. The silence around the place was complete which was broken only by the occassional vehicles on the highway. Next day sunday, started with a light breakfast. Frankly speaking, we had nothing to do accept have our lunch and go back to Grenoble in the evening. So some of us started preparing pizzas and pasta. Rest of us made ourselves comfortable and started chatting about things in general. In all this `in general topics' the most interesting was regrading the small animal `bat'. Wikipedia will give you loads of information regarding this nocturnal creature. But the point of discussion was whether it excretes from the mouth or not. Well I won't go into the sketchy details of the affair which continued for few following days on our return from the chalet. Coming back to our trip, we had lunch and then started cleaning up the place. In the evening the land-lady came and we cleared our dues and walked to our bus-stop for our bus to Grenoble. But the excitment did not stop here. In all this time of checking out and all, one of us left the baggage inside the chalet. By this time the land-lady was half a way to her home. Luckily, she agreed to come back for our baggage when we called her and we could retrive our baggage before the bus arrived. And thus ended our time away from the city.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The 'F' letter

When as an undergrad I came across the Feynman lecture series, it was an eye opener to me as a young guy trying to figure out his major options. I will not claim that I have become a master in physics, but, definitely that particular rendezvous with the series was one of the many incidents that motivated me to pursue the subject even though I terribly failed in capturing the intricate details of simple phenomena. That's a different picture all together. But the reason I write this, since today I am standing at a point in my life where very soon I will be facing the undergrad, that I was long-back, trying to figure out his or her options. But before going into anything else, let me go back few years to April 2005, when Matthew Sands wrote the story of the series in Physics Today. If you follow the link you will read that, this series is actually a compilation of lectures given by Feynman to undergrads at Caltech. There I remember reading a particular section where Feynman asked Sands, what was the class average for the final exams. Sands thought it was pretty good at 65%. Feynman's response was something completely different. He simply said the students should have done better and Feynman was a failure. The reason for pointing out this particular incident is that the overall performance of the class does not only reflect on the class or batch but on the teacher too. This simple fact is ignored by most teachers now a days when they face a difficult class.

I do not have a lot of teaching experience and the small amount of experience that I have, I am not sure if I failed or not. Anyway, coming to the 'F' letter in academics it stands for only one thing probably when come to classroom teaching that is fail or failed or failure. It can stick to both students or teachers. But in India, teachers are non-sticky like the famous special material coated non-stick cookware. Nothing sticks on them, whether they dole out the famous letter or force somebody by their action to leave this earthly abode. The main reason for writing this blog is not criticism but rather an insight into my own ideas about a feedback system that is needed for higher education in India. The system judges the students by taking exams and tests and accordingly rewards it in various ways. A similar evaluation and reward process should exist for teachers as well. As a student I felt that reward system does exist for teachers in the form of promotions, special chairs etc but I am not sure if as a teacher the person sees them as reward or his birth right. The more important thing is that, the student and teacher should be more of a friend, rather than being enemies out there to outsmart each other and in the end if the teacher is outsmarted he forcefully fails as many as he can. The learning process I believe is most effective if the environment is cordial. The effort to create such an atmosphere should come from both sides-the teacher and the student. The teacher being a very powerful entity in the Indian sense, with the special letter, the move to lighten the atmosphere should come from the teachers end and then the students have to reciprocate accordingly. I do remember some incidents from my undergrad days when friendly teachers were considered as meek. That, I feel was the problem of the system unable to control its components. But in a system, say like the premier institutes in India, where indiscipline is dealt swiftly and strictly, evolving a cordial system may not be completely impossible. I guess there is no pride in giving the 'F' letter. The more you give the more you yourself fail but care should be taken that one is not too lenient as well. After all a system is designed to fairly judge ones accomplishments. The line between a fair judge and an outsmarted teacher is very thin and that is where lies the distinction between those who nurture great minds and those who kill the society with a red pen and a simple letter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

GDR Lyon

GDR - well I don't know what it stands for but in France it is generally the starting three letters of a conference held in specific topic. I attended something called GDR Diamant in Lyon. I was supposed to speak about my recent advances in this field. So far so good, but there was a little problem, all the speakers except for me were speaking in French. So, for me I could not understand a word of what others were saying. Hence, I simple transformed this opportunity into GDR Lyon or in short sightseeing Lyon. I went there with my supervisor and then after the first session and lunch I simply slipped into the town. First stop hotel Alexandra on Rue Victor Hugo. I checked in dropped my luggage at my room took my camera and so started my Lyon trip. Straight from my hotel I went to Place Bellecour.
Place Bellecour
Place Bellecour
It is the largest clear square in Europe with a statue of of Louis XIV the place looked simply enormous. I stayed there for sometime then started towards Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. This is a place a little up the mountain. On the way I came across a cycle rental station. It is completely automatic and one just needs a French Up the mountainbank card or any international credit card to rent a bicycle. I took it with the intention that I will ride it up the mountain to the Basilica but what I did not realize is that the climb is extremely steep and I ended up hauling the bicycle all the way up with the incentive of riding it down with style. ExhaustedAfter a long haul I reached the basilica but I was completely exhausted. Nonetheless it did not dampen my spirits and chained my cycle to a post and then took out my camera.
Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Notre-Dame de
Inside the Basilica
Inside the
There were more surprises for me on this trip to Basilica. My lens cover had dropped somewhere on the way. Anyway without loosing heart I went in the basilica and started clicking as many pictures as I could take. I stayed there for few minutes then proceeded to climb down the hill. On the way down I visited the ruins of a roman era theater.
The Roman-era
One can get an excellent view of the city from here as well as the basilica.
City view
Next stop was the Saint-Jean Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Lyon. The astronomical clock inside the church is a thing not to be missed. After a short stay and few clicks at the cathedral I headed towards Place des Terreaux.
The Saint-Jean Cathedral
The Saint-Jean
Notable things at this place is the city hall and the Fontaine Batholdi. Here to after spending some time I went around the town on my bicycle and in the end back to the hotel to be ready for the dinner hosted by the conference at Brasserie Georges. That brought an end to my Lyon sightseeing. the next day in the
City Hall
City Hall
Bartholdi Fountain
Brasserie Georges
Brasserie Georges
evening I was back again at Grenoble.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Strasbourg and Basel

One day out of the blue I decided, I will go and visit Strasbourg. The main attraction being its over hundred meter high cathedral and European parliament. Anyway,
Train station
Train Station
once decided I put into the act of preparing for the trip. First I called one of my old friends to check if he would be around when I visit Strasbourg and then once confirmed his presence I booked my tickets. It is close to seven hours by train from Grenoble. Started early morning and reached around early afternoon. Had a light lunch at his place and then mission Strasbourg starts. First stop the famous cathedral. Built over a timescale measuring in centuries this cathedral
The Cathedral
is the sixth tallest church in the world. Me and my friend went around the place for sometime admiring the Gothic architecture before stepping into the church to look at the glass works. Currently the church is going through a renovation which is supposed to last for 29 months. Anyway that did not block our view of the main tower. We took some pictures. It is possible to climb half way up the church. We decided to do that the next day when we go around town with my friend and his wife. After spending sometime at the cathedral we went around the city clicking pictures here and there.
Kleber Place
Kleber Place
Since I reached in the afternoon we could get only few hours before it became dark and we decided to return home. Next day started with a visit to a place called Petit France.
Petit France
Petit France
Its a collection of old buildings but the name is not due to its architectural reason but rather due to a strange historical reason. According to wikipedia the name was given by its former German inhabitants because of the numerous prostitutes living in the area and in Germany prostitution was known as the "French business". Anyway, the place was nice to go around though I guess the place is now known for its beauty rather than its notoriety. I should have mentioned it earlier that the city of Strasbourg had been in and out of German occupation from time to time. One can read its detailed history on the net. After strolling around a little more, me and my friend headed back to his place for some light lunch and then back again to the streets but this time his wife was also with us since we were going to have the city view from the top of cathedral. Within 15-20 minutes we were on the top of the cathedral, not the top of the tower, and the view was simply unimaginable. It is true a bird's eye view of a city is always marvelous and if the city is as old as Strasbourg
City view
City View
from the top of
the cathedral
then the amalgamation of the old and the new forms a view that is unimaginable. We stayed at the top for half an hour or so and then went to see the Louise Weiss building. Inaugurated in 1999
Louise Weiss building
it is the seat of European parliament. Well, nothing much to say about it. Just that from whatever little we could see it seemed gorgeous. Our next stop, Jardin de l'Orangerie, its a beautiful garden with a small pond for boating. There I saw the white stork or the Alsace Bird. One thing amazed me most is the size of the nest of these birds. After we spent some time in the garden it occurred to my friend to visit the border between France and Germany. It is a place twenty minutes by bus. The river
The nest
The nest of the
white stork
Rhine divides the two country. There are many bridges connecting the two sides and one can walk or drive from one country to another. We went up a walking bridge, spent sometime on the river Rhine and then
from the bridge
From the bridge
on river Rhine
called the trip off for the day. Next day turned out to be a holiday in France and so my friend decided to visit Basel in Switzerland which is around 1 hour by train from Strasbourg. The city is just
Basel city
Basel on the
banks of
river Rhine
like any other European city with its mix of old and new buildings along the river Rhine flowing through the heart of the city. There we saw an exhibition of collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh. This was my first time that I was seeing original paintings of any great artist so I enjoyed it though my friends I guess were bored. Then somebody suggested that we go to the Basel zoo. Having come from India which is full of wild animals I was little reluctant to see it but then in a group majority counts. Anyway I was more interested in the cathedrals
Basel town hall
Town hall of
and architectural wonders that the city had to provide. But I would say the zoo trip was good. Though I was reluctant but
Statue in town hall
A statue
in the
town hall
I did see some animals which I did not see in India. After the walk through the enormous zoo all of us were more than exhausted and time was also short for us. Hence it was decided that we would see the famous city hall and the cathedral and then take the train back to Strasbourg. The city hall was closed but we could access the main courtyard. The town hall has little medieval look. From there to the cathedral which here too was under extensive renovation. So then back to the station and then back to Strasbourg. The next day was my day to return to Grenoble. In the morning I went to see the city again. Being sunday it was completely deserted. In the afternoon I took my train back to Grenoble.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Load shedding in Grenoble

ATM Down
This will be a short one. I experienced a small power cut or load shedding in Grenoble. That was not

No light at the end of the street

No light at
the end of
the street

Power is back
Power is back
exactly a load shedding because the power was back in five minutes. Probably some minor technical fault. Anyway but something stuck me very hard. If the power goes even for one minute here in France everything stops. The ATM, the traffic signals, the security locks in the building even the smallest gadget one can think of. There is no back up even for systems like ATMs. or security locks. At least back home in India everything has back up. From top to bottom we are so vulnerable to faults that we have back up of everything, probably that keeps us going.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fête de la Musique à Grenoble

I will remember 21st June 2009 as the day when I first saw what is called a festival of music. If you read in wiki, it will tell you the idea was first conceived by American musician Joel Cohen, who proposed a all-night music festival at the moment of the summer solstice. Later on French Music and Dance director Maurice Fleuret took the idea and the first festival was held in 1982. Well, as they say the rest is history. Being the longest day of the year me and my friends started to go around quite early. Our visit started with a visit to the nearest place from my apartment that is Victor Hugo park. There a group three guys were playing nice music on their instruments. The same park had another stage where we heard a few French songs. Some of the groups were amateur but many were professionals as well. So we stayed around that place for a while. People were so enthusiastic that some climbed on the statue of Hector Berlioz to get a better view. The groups changed after sometime. Then we moved into another place where a group of amateurs were playing soft rock. Then walking towards another crossing we came across two guys who had just setup their own place with just two chairs and their musical instruments. A similar thing I saw at another place where a lady had setup her instruments and was singing to a large crowd. I think when pioneers of this festival started this event they had exactly this image of city streets filled with musicians wherever you go somebody is playing a tune. The next stop took us to Place St Andre where a professional team was playing some modern classical. It was being conducted by a professional conductor. If I am not mistaken I had listened to this group earlier in a concert here in Grenoble itself but I am not sure. Here we stayed for sometime and were completely lost in the melodies being dished out. Our last stop took us to Chavant. Here a group of young people were singing some popular songs which I am not sure but think was soft rock. By the time we reached Chavant it was midnight, five hours from the time we started. So last stop Istanbul kebab shop for dinner and back home with nothing but a full belly and sweet memories.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trip to Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet - An experience to remember

I have been thinking of writing about this for quite sometime now. Last week on 1st June it was holiday for us. So me and my friends decided to visit Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet which is a man made lake 10 kms long and at places upto 300m wide. So we set out for the lake though we did not plan properly as to how to reach it just a brief sketch. We got down at a place close to the lake or we thought close to the lake. Since we could not find our way, we asked a local person and he told us go down the way a little and then you will see a road bifurcating from the highway, take that road down all the way. So we set out and then saw a road bifurcating and took it. That led us into the jungle. We walked for about an hour in the jungle and then we realized that we are lost and probably have taken the wrong crossroad. So now the aim became to get out of the jungle and ask somebody again for the direction. Walking another half an hour we finally came out on a small road. All this time in the jungle we could see the lake from far off but never could get close to it. So coming out we saw a small farm where an old guy was working in his garden. We walked in and in our imperfect French explained to the person that we are lost and we would like to go to the lake. The old man told us in no uncertain terms that it is impossible to go to lake from here on foot. You need to have a car. We said we have no car so tell us how to get back to the bus stop from where we will catch our bus back home. He said why the bus stop, you have come so far and you will go back without seeing the lake. This is not fair. By that time his wife had also joined the conversation. They said we will take you guys to the lake in our car. It was like we dropped from the sky and before we could even figure out what was going on we were in their cars and heading towards the lake. We stopped at a place to take a few pictures of the lake from the top of a cliff. After that they took us directly to the lake. It was a beautiful place with lot of wind and clear blue water. There were lot of people camping around with some people doing water sports. We stayed there for half an hour and then the old couple took us to restaurant for a drink where we payed even though the lady was reluctant to let us pay. While sitting in the restaurant we exchanged our names, places we came from, where we live in France and things like that. After the small drinks party they invited us to their house in the village for some wine and cake which we readily accepted. The wine was superb as was the cake. Their one of my friends sang an Indian song and then we chatted for sometime about our daily lives. In the end they dropped us at the bus stop from where we took our bus back home. While coming back to the bus stop we realized the mistake we had done at the first place while taking a crossroad. Well no regrets, at least this mistake led us to two wonderful people. In the end we had nothing else to say but to admire the people and really ponder over the fact that there are still people in this world who would believe in you without knowing anything about you.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A trek to Fort St. Eynard

Yesterday, me and my friends went for a trek to Fort St. Eynard. I have been there in the winter when the mountain track was covered with snow and the trees and plants were devoid of leaves except for the coniferous ones . The trek is approximately 3 kms and takes close to one and half hours. This time the whole path was completely different. The trees had leaves and occasionally we could hear the birds chirping. The weather was sunny and pleasent. We started off at approximately quarter past nine. It took us close to one hour forty five minutes to reach the fort. This time the fort was open. It is closed in the winter hence the last time I went, I had to satisfy myself with a view of the closed door only. But walking on the snow was both fun and more dangerous. We had to hire raquettes to be able to walk on the foot high snow. In the winter it feels like walking on a white sheet of imense expanse. After we reached the fort we continued along the track and reached a small village. Along the way we enjoyed the view from the top of a sheer cliff. I have vertigo, so it was little scary for me but anyway it was a nice feeling. After walking for a while we sat down and had our lunch with pain au chocalat, juice, chips, fruits and croissant. It was a little picnic and off course a nice one on the edge of a sheer cliff. On the way we met few trekkers which was completely absent in the winter. The fact is that the trekking route is closed in the winter but when we went to tourism office to enquire about it they could not give us any information. Anyway the absence of information was boon in disguise. Near the village in the winter the mountain slopes become a paradise for skiers. Generally the trekking routes are marked. But sometimes the marks are put on a stone in the ground. So when we went in the winter we were kind of lost in the snow and finally landed up on the skiing slope where I guess walking must be prohibited. Anyway, the funny thing was that while crossing over to the skiing slope from the forrest my raquette got caught on the trip wire of one of the telepheriques meant for carrying the skiers up the slope. And the consequence the skiers were stranded for ten minutes without power. Well that was in the winter. Once we reached the village, we trekked for four kilometer to Cole de Vence along D512 where we had parked our car. Last time we took the bus back from the village to Grenoble since it was already dark and we did not have our vehicle like this time. Walking on this track both in deep winter and summer I have seen the two faces of the same place. I could not imagine the place which had nothing but snow all around could play host to a variety of flowers in the summer.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Latecomers on time

To begin with this piece I am writing just to document that something of this type has happened on planet earth. Few days back an interesting thing happened. Here in Grenoble I have few friends who call themselves the company. I don't know why. But one thing is quite interesting about this company. They are never on time except for when they have to catch a train or bus. In that too one of them has a distinction of missing a flight. Well thats for another time. So I invited the company and some other friends for a small get together. The official time mentioned 7:30 in the evening. As usual I assumed the party won't start before 8:30. Accoridngly I prepared my stuff for the dinner. But then at 7:15 there is ring on the door. Wow! so early who are these people. I opened the gate and there they were the holy trinity called the company. I did not believe my eyes first. But they were there. I checked the batteries of my clocks to see if I am seeing the correct time. I even called the cell number one of the guys to check if it rings then and there itself. It did. I could not belive myself that they are on time and more precisley before time. Now its almost a week that event has happened but still its a mystery to me why it happened. May be someday they will tell me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flying away

I fly like a bird,
Over the mountains,
Covered with white snow,
Not knowing where to go,
The sun shines on my face,
The blue sky opening its arms
Greets me with a smile
And I flew for many a mile.

I fly like a bird,
Spreading my wings,
Peering from above,
One the vast expanse of water,
Blue and black it glitters,
Like a large shiny stone,
The clouds holding me high
And I have to fear nothing nigh.

I fly like a bird,
Singing my own song,
Over the dense green forest,
Looking like an emerald,
I flew a long distance,
Till my wings flapped,
And when I finally stopped,
I thought of the unseen I saw,
I simply clapped.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Music comes to life

Here I would like to document my first experience with live western classical music concert. Many times I have heard classical music on my computer and even seen recordings of those but the real thing is no much for those recordings. It was a concert organized by the Grenoble municipality I guess, for it was free. It is true I don't understand head and tale of any music but still the experience was worth putting in the form of few words. The motivation for going to this particular concert was twofold, first it was free second a colleague of my friend was playing the clarinet in the group. So me and my friends arrived at Grenoble theater at 8:15 in the evening. Took our seats in the last rows of the balcony. The show was to start at 8:30 and it did start at 8:30 a thing unthinkable back home. Well I think the west also has its share in late start ups but I am yet to come across one. I don't know what exactly it was a symphony or something else but there was a rhythm to follow. I guess through the music some story was being told and the twists and turns of the story was clearly audible. The concert was called l’Harmonie de Grenoble. It had two performances " Les tortueux méandres de la pensée" by Karim Maurice and Symphonie No. 3 "Planet Earth" by Johan de Meij. Both the performances were excellent as far as I am concerned. The minor details as to the strong and weak points of the composition can be debated only by experts in this field. I felt like being associated with the music which is missing when you listen to a piece on a computer or a music player. You feel charged up when the tune is playing a part of the story full of thrills, you feel the sorrow when it event are sad and so on. Its no different from watching the story on a silver screen.