Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Postscript to "Nature in Art"

In response to various comments from both close friends and from people who've known me for a couple of hours, which were along the lines of
A not-so-young physicist, un Indio
Posted on his blog about VIBGYOR.
"The passion is clear,
The physics, 'No fear!',
But the tone, ahh that is a failure!"

After what RS, ARM, DST, SP, AP, SK, PSK, JB etc have put me through over the last few weeks in the "Home Truths Dept.", I think a Maoist re-education camp will be a piece of cake!


One of the above friends: "Do you acknowledge that you have been personally responsible for suppressing millions of hard-working peasants?"

RST: "Yes."

Same friend: "Wait, you've already self-confessed? I don't get to torture you?"

RST: "The other friends in the list above have said pretty much the same thing about me, so it must be true."

Some friend!: "So what are you going to do about it?"

RST: " 'Do about it?' ? What do you mean? That would require me to be different from what I am! ... Oh, I see your point!"


So here goes: I want that post to be seen as a learning opportunity about observing nature, not art criticism nor artist criticism. To be very very explicit: The artistic representations aren't incorrect representations of nature - they don't have to be, reality is not the only domain of art. They're just not realistic/scientific representations of nature. True, which doesn't prevent them from sometimes being spot-on in capturing some essence of nature.

In exchange, I would like acknowledgment that
1)  scientists can appreciate beauty in nature, in spite of "having an equation for it", and that
2)  scientists can appreciate art, in spite of being very analytical (Read any art reviews lately?).

In that post "wrong" should be interpreted not as a commentary on the moral nature of the artist, but rather as "observationally incorrect representation of nature, but of course the artist has artistic license to do what she or he wants, just use this as an excuse to step outside and look, really look, at a rainbow!"

A painter friend of mine in Madrid (Javier F L)  put it best when I asked him why he painted, "I paint because it gives me an excuse to gaze for long periods of time." I couldn't disagree less about why I do science, or data analytics for that matter. (This isn't helping me get a job, is it?)

Anant Kiran

Caught in the endless sunray,
          a droplet of rain.
   It glows, or is consumed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse

Maya, Elsa and I drove to Pleasanton, from where we carpooled with Sudhir and his family to Reno. When we got to the Univ. of Nevada, the grassy are was replete with a wide variety of viewing instruments, ranging from a pinhole camera kit, through home made wooden binocular stands to 8" telescopes with motors and computerized drives. A very large number of people had shown unprepared and queued up for the solar viewing glasses that someone was selling for $10 apiece. Just for comparison, the #14 welders' glass cost me $3 apiece.

Inspired by TIEcon2012, I saw a business opportunity and made a hole bunch of money selling pinholes for $5 each (cards not included).

The atmosphere was festive, most people happily sharing their viewers and explaining the construction to others. My 7' long cardboard box, which could have housed a family of four squatters in Mumbai, drew a surprising lot of attention! Here are a few pictures, not very good ones, but perhaps some of the people who I met there will send me copies. Maya and Elsa don't appear in any of the photos because they took full advantage of their unstructured learning opportunity and with their new friends Rukmini and Ila ran around the crowd with their welders' glass and solar viewing glasses.

Woman with eclipses on her face through her straw hat.

View in my pinhole camera, a few minutes after the start

A telescopic projector in which you could see the sunspots.

Der Sonnenteleskop

Photo through #10 welders' glass


My telescope projector. Is that a cloud in the sky?

There were expressions of disappointment all around, but look at how beautiful the cloud is!

15 minutes before maximum.

The cloud moved aside just in time.

Add caption

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sunspots on screen

See the initial post.

It took a little bit of work and twiddling with the cheapy $20 telescope ( which is probably an excellent seismometer since it shakes with my heartbeat if I am within 5 feet of it!).

Since a telescope is designed to focus a virtual image on your retina with the help of a third lens (your cornea), in order to use it as an effective real image projection device (without setting the screen on fire!) the eyepiece has to be removed completely and held just outside the tube.

 I've just realised that the 90 degree reflector for the eyepiece may give me that added distance!

Cut and install a screen around the objective side of the telescope to provide a dark back ground for the sun's image. Note that the spotter scope is rendered useless.

So you can insert a long tack or pushpin from the back of the screen to use as an aid in alignment.

Or just use the shadow of the body of the telescope. In the following photo the telescope is NOT aligned.

Ready for the ...
... lead astronomer.
You can see the sunspot groups: a streaky one angled towards 630, at 9 o'clock, half way out, and a second one at 8 o'clock about 2/3rds of the way out.

Since this image is taken at sunset, in this photo the sun's North pole is at about 9 o'clock, as is confirmed by the rotation of the sunspots that Maya and I have observed over the last two days.

In the first observation two days ago, the lower sunspot was just above the 9 o'clock radial, both were in the top left quadrant.

Not a bad hack!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Solar Eclipse Preparation

I am planning to drive with Maya and Elsa to Reno, NV to view the annular solar eclipse on May 20th.

Here are a few useful links:
Tips on preparation
simplified eclipse path
make a pinhole camera (see my bottom end modification to eliminate excess ambient light)
optical projection (place a sunglasses lens over the objective to keep things cool)
simulation of view from bay area at maximum
another chart

Photo of real image of sun in 7' pinhole camera, with large hole cut out of bottom of tube. Note the faintness of the image due to excess ambient light compared to small amount entering pinhole.

Photo after modification of the camera - a small, angled viewing aperture. Note the increase in contrast.

The modification.
I am going to add an additional screen on the side of the tube with the viewing aperture. The viewing aperture can be made smaller as well.

The complete pinhole camera ...

... being tested rigourously.

Taking turns.

Direct photo of sun with a 16X zoom digital camera ...

Do NOT point your camera directly at sun, you may burn out your CCD (as opposed to just the negative!).

Do NOT look directly at sun without a #14 welders' glass.

TRAIN your kids to use it: look down, glass to eyes, then raise head with glass and locate sun (not easy!). Look down again, then remove glass from face.

Looking at the sun with the #14 filter through a pair of binocs, two groups of sunspots are readily visible. Over one day, they've rotated in the RHScrew direction about the Solar North pole (approximately the same as earth's), meaning, at sunset, in the West, they've dropped down across the face of the sun.

Please leave other relevant useful links as comments.

See the follow-up with the sunspots.

Friday, May 11, 2012

OkupyCupid3: The Art of Seduction

Not because she doesn't have thumbs or fingers --
   but because he will not be her clay;
Not because he doesn't have brushes or paint --
   but because she will not be his canvas;
Not because I don't have pen or ink --  
   but because you will not be my paper;
Not because you don't have the moves or music --
   but because I will not be your space:
The art of seduction --
   is lost.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Home Made Cannon

All videos taken with a Flip video camera, and the slides are simply still captures from the video. I couldn't have captured the photos without a video camera, and the Flip has astoundingly good resolution!

Slides of failed attempts

The table should be NON-flammable!

Video 0

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Slides of fascinating stills of successful shots

Protest Bank of America

From the rally in favor of Credit Unions on May 9th, 2012.

Slideshow of protest signs and people.

Video of participant 1

Video of participant 2

Video of participant 3

Video of participant 4

Video of participant 5

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Occupy Food Donors - Thank You!

Nikunj, MM1, MM2, Aji, Krishanu and all the GA attendees who ate a bit and donated what they could - Thank you.

(List of donations. I'm at a break even point right now, haven't been to Oakland in a month, and with produce being donated, will not need cash donations to cover my expenses for a while. If you feel moved to do so, please donate directly to OccupyOakland.)

Leila, one of the OccupyOakland Kitchen coordinators, wrote this to the cooks and donors. I want to share her expression of gratitude with you. (Business stuff redacted.)

"hi everyone. i just wanted to give a shout out to all the amazing and powerful food people. I would love to make the email list more accessible to anyone that wants to write something and/or reach out to the whole kitchen crew.  please let us know if you're inspired. The BBQ crew has been on it! We also have a ton of occupy oaklanders helping at the farm in the, also thanks to the crazy autonomous cook and his huge meal actions all over know who you are, suspenders and all. its such hard work and we all know what it takes to cook for dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of people.

I wanted to touch base with everyone and see if anyone wanted to do food for an upcoming action, or had other food related ideas? i have been getting a ton of produce donations and have been processing a bunch. I would love to get some continuous weekly food actions going....similar to food not bombs but Oakland style! Maybe at a park, a big intersection, a hospital or community least a few days a week. we need groups of people who want to cook certain days and kitchen space offered to cook in.

Most of all i want you all to know how important you all are, and how much i love working with you.  Food justice is a passion we all share. These are the relationships we build for the future we are creating. I did an interview recently for occupy oakland and as interviews generally go, my description of the kitchen process was sized down from 25mins to 30seconds. It did not convey in the slightest my appreciation and admiration for everyone involved in the kitchen, from people who transport and set up, to cooks, to people who donate, to people who come and serve at events, or to people who eat and are grateful. i hope we all can see and feel how much love exists in the work we do and with each other.
Let's organize, open food centers and continue building for the future! food revolution! food Sovereignty!

That being said if you haven't been to the farm in Albany (san pablo and marin) please go see it! I would like to talk about getting Oakland farming as well. setting up more and more gardens. pot luck soon to insight ideas further?! love, Leila "

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Colored People

Colored People (Translated from Leopold Senghor's poem in Spanish. See the original below.)
Dear Rainbow,
I was born - black.
I grew up - black.
In the sun I am black.
I am black with cold,
and black with envy.
In illness I am black,
and I will die - black.
You, in contrast 
Were born pink.
Grew up white.
red in the sun,
blue with cold,
green with envy
and yellow with illness. 
You will die too - but grey.
Which one of us, then, is a colored person?
Leopold Senghor's original, via Pato Rafel's FB post.
Hombre de color

Querido hermano blanco:

Cuando yo nací, era negro.
Cuando yo crecí, era negro.
Cuando me da el sol, soy negro.
Cuando estoy enfermo, soy negro.
Cuando muera, seré negro.

Y mientras tanto, tú...
Cuando nacistes, eras rosado.
Cuando crecistes, fuistes blanco.
Cuando te da el sol, eres rojo.
Cuando sientes frío, eres azul.
Cuando sientes miedo, eres verde.
Cuando estas enfermo, eres amarillo.
Cuando mueras, serás gris.

Entonces, ¿cual de nosotros dos, es un hombre de color?

Salsa Al Raul

"Bright" Salsa Colorada Asada

Roasted red salsa, very bright, recipe from Raul.
Video 1:

Video 2:

Quoted text*****************************
Here's the simplest yet tastiest salsa you can get. The key is to avoid any sweet items (tomatillos) or sweet chili peppers like anaheims.

Jalapenos and/or serranos -- tons
Red tomatoes -- 8-12
2-4 limes
Salt and pepper

Turn on the grill and get it to 350-400

Grill the peppers and tomatoes. Grill the peppers until the membrane on the outside is blackened.

Grill the tomatoes a bit longer (not quite cooking them but somewhat ala parboiling) but make sure the skin is blackened as well.

At very end (with 1-2 minutes left on the tomatoes), cut the limes in half and put them pulp-side down on the grill.

Put everything in a big bowl and then with a clean kitchen towel or even paper towels just wipe the blackened parts off -- the easy thing here is that you just want to get a good portion off so leaving a bit is okay and makes this part very quick.

Put one tomato in and blend quickly; put the peppers in and blend until smooth(ish).

Squeeze grilled lime halves into blender.

Then for chunky style, put the rest in and hit the button 2-5 times; for smooth style, turn blender on for 15-20 seconds.

(Later, from Raul.)
I just made the first half of the tomatillo one and it’s HOT HOT HOT!
So, for Gringos you might try do 2 serranos, then 3 and so on until you think it’s just right.

The way I saw it made by my dad’s best friend: 2 tomatillos, one small white onion, tablespoon of oregano and THE REST serranos. Totally a “quien es mas macho” style but I’ve been the US of A for too long!End Quote *********************************

For the kiddie version I replaced the serranos with red bells. Based on that little experiment, even for the "cojones" version,  would add a few roasted bell peppers for a really bright color to counteract the green of the serranos, for flavor and body.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mango GInger Ceviche

A slight modification of a ceviche recipe I'd found years ago.

Ingredients: snapper/fresh cod/sierra mackerel/ hake/ tilapia - mostly any medium to mild flavoured white fish, non-oily. Filleted, skinned, de-boned.
About equal weight in ripe mangoes - the longish yellow "philipine" mangoes or mexican "maraton", slightly tart is OK.
bunch of fresh ginger
limes or lemons
green chillies or serranos
fresh coriander
salt, pepper, garam masala

Watch the videos for how-to.

Video 1:

Video 2:

VERY Important step:
This was pointed out to me by Raul. To prevent the ceviche from getting mushy (in both texture and taste):
1) Don't put the mango in the marinade!
2) When you are ready to serve the ceviche, drain it thoroughly and then add fresh lemon juice, seasonings if needed and the mango.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

OccupySF May Day March and Commune

The march began at Market and Montgomery, I walked east from Van Ness along Market in order to meet them. On the way I saw a guy wearing a 99% sticker and we fell in together. This was Leo, an early member of EarthFirst!
 On market, nearing Van Ness. The atmosphere is sunny, windy and festive.

The nice SFPD has sent the nice police people to escort us. I wonder why they have their riot helmets? I greet some of the cops and thank them for being there.
Lily had just been to the OccupyThe Farm plot in Berkeley/Albany, where there were a lot of families and programs for kids. Various established community gardens in SF are donating starters to the farm. See a great article on the Gill Tract Farm.
Extract from the "Occupy The Farm" site above: "
Occupy the Farm, a coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists are planting over 15,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.
For decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education. With deliberate disregard for public interest, the University administrators plan to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot."

Faces in the march:
The picture depicts farmers protesting against Monsanto.
See Lily's photos for May Day, and her blog posts for MayDay.
 This Colombian had just attended the AM's rally for immigrant rights in the Mission. He'd been at the pre-rally the evening before, which was supposed to have been an opportunity for Occupy and Immigrants' Rights people to get together, but, as many of you have seen, it ended up getting hijacked by violence on Valencia.
Heading north on Van Ness

Eduardo Galeano cameo appearance in the crowd.
 By the way I should mention that one of the leaders of the rally and march was a South Asian bro, a young Bangladeshi-American. The first time I met him after an OccupySF GA, he very nerdily, like a well-brought-up Indian boy, pulled out his laptop to do some classwork!
The cops lined up on the sidewalk, and didn't interfere with

the takeover of the abandoned ArchDiocese building. This is not a Liberation Theology church, it doesn't seem.

Long video (almost 4 mins) of walk through the building.

During the march, there was a police escort of 3-4 motorcycles in front, and a single file of about 30 cops on each flank of the marchers. Soon after the building had been taken over, most of the cops seemed to disappear, there were about 15 left milling about and videographing the entrance and crowd from the opposite sidewalk. But cops never mill about, they never just disappear, and I'll confess to being nervous.
The feeding of the people.

This man brought 8 trays of food to the commune.

The chain link fence was taken down peaceably, not torn down.
Why we do this: Jim Dorenkott, of VeteransForPeace. The T-shirt states "One of three homeless adults has served our country. Help house our homeless veterans." This is the practical meaning of "support our troops".
 Of course, many other vets become MERCENARIES, or whatever you want to call BlackWater/Xeon and other "private security companies". Some of you raised concerns about the amount of "my tax-money" cities are spending on Occupy related events. Do you have any idea how much money is pouring into the coffers of Mercenary companies? All are privately owned, and most are more profitable than even your most profitable SiValley Tech companies. Google the info. I find articles and post them later.
A poster inside the building, Top


I just loved this! You can add Bhagat Singh, Tupac Amaru, Steve Biko ...

The woman on the right is a what-passes-for-a-journalist for KGO/FOX, who went around asking what I considered antagonistic and provocative questions.
 At one point I asked her why she didn't engage with the cops and ask them why they were there, to which she responded with "Can you say 'Below low BlueBook Value' thrice?". I'll be prepared for that next time. There were multiple signs and posters designating the 2nd floor as media free, and she insisted on trying to bull-doze her way through. Yet another Anne Coulter clone, perhaps not as vituperative.

The entrance.

People on the second floor, playing music. Yes, I do realise its similarity to Munich Olympics 1972. Without comparing or judging the causes, one difference is M/C gun vs. laptop.
I did a walk through the place: there was electricity, running water in a sink in a utility room, a reception area, multiple classrooms and smaller rooms on the 1st floor, a kitchen and various sized living space on the second floor.
Puerto Rico Libre!

Messages on the sidewalk

and on the chain link fence.
Uh-oh! Front.


Left. They cleared and barricaded the sidewalk.

The black beetles had been hiding in the lobby of the posh apartment building opposite! The official SFPD resting posture - right hand playing with mouth or chin. Doesn't it indicate they are hiding something, lying? I have to say the SFPD is more racially (but not in terms of gender) heterogeneous than the Occupy movement.

The SFPD periodically would block-off the road and then open it up again, it seemed to me just so they could practising pushing people around when they opened the street up and wanted to clear it.

The embedded journalist again.

Videographer for CBS I think.
This guy's TV-journalist stated on TV that "they were right there in the midst of the Occupiers." I pointed out that just from the footage (showing the backs of the cops or with the cops off to one side, and mostly frontal, affronting shots focussed on the Occupiers and the building, no footage taken of the police preparations and the threatening atmosphere it was beginning to create) and thier physical location it was clear that they were NOT with the occupiers, they were already biased towards the cops. This was also apparent from the general big-press/police bonhomie.
An Occupier asking the police to leave.
 The street was blockaded and cleared, but most of the Occupiers seemed insouciant of the (what I felt to be ominous) police build-up. I asked some of them about it, and they responded that they knew they weren't doing anything wrong, and they had been facing this since November and had become used to it, and this played down the police threat.

More barricades.

Moving in for action from across the street.

No order to disperse had been given, but the cops were moving people around, from one side of the street to another, then they would all move in against us really quick and squeeze us into narrow spaces against the building, and move in really quickly so people were tripping over each other. There were a couple of people in wheelchairs who couldn't move fast enoiugh and the pressure from the cops led one in a wheelchair to fall over, the cops heeded no entreaties and their pressure caused another walker to also fall over.

Since the cops were using the barricades to encircle the occupied building (I'll confess to not having found the courage to stay on the inside.) and pressing people on the inside, confrontations were increasing. The cops would push the barricades in and then say, "Don't touch the barricade!". Batons were lifted and brought down on people who tried to push back against the barricades. I admire the cops for their bravery against overwhelming odds: against colorful skirts, hoop ear-rings, tattoos, masks, bandanas etc. any sane person would go armed with flak jackets, helmets, face shields, batons, guns, tear gas, rubber bullets. Did I already mention that they outnumbered the people by 2:1? To defend an unoccupied building? In a city with numerous homeless and a 60% ILLEGAL foreclosure rate? Of course "Occupy is costing the city millions.".

See a video-poetry version of the following indictment of US Police.

"Our security depends on regulation but the police have turned bandits. They don't obey the rules. (Nor their own mission statement.) They are swarming into civic life. ... The security forces have rebelled. The people are the victim of a coup. ...

Who comes here? Let me hold up my lantern. It's only the police ... just a few of them as always whistling as they go.

The faithful body public has made a mistake. ... Coming up behind are hundreds of them. Hundreds too many, armed to the teeth for a job that doesn't need doing. Not needed? With all that weaponry?

Here they come, hurtling through the lifestream trying to pick a fight. There's no one to fight but you. You're the foreign body now."
-- paraphrased from pg 115, Written on the body, Jeanette Winterson

Bad stuff goes down. Someone on the inside of the building climbed onto the top of the roof and stood there crowing. At some point he picked up some bricks, and periodically held them aloft. The cops took no action, they did not respond to this (for at least 15 minutes) leave alone anticipate this - there were numerous higher vantage points on buildings the cops could have climbed up onto.
We were in the street, facing the building, with the cops lined up 1-2 deep in front of us, any observer would have thought they were protecting us. There were people in the crowd who were shouting to the guy on the roof to get off, that he was not one of us, that he did not represent us. At some point the idiot on the roof, with no warning, threw a brick, I would assume at the cops. The idiot aimed high, the brick sailed over the impassive cops' heads, but only a couple of feet over. I could see it coming in, in seeming slow motion, rotating slowly, I seemed to think there was plenty of time to react, to yell a warning to the guy one person removed from me in the crowd, to move around and push him out of the way. In that millisecond after I spotted the brick over the heads of the very very smartly dressed cops, it was over! The brick smashed into the face of the guy, he fell down, unconscious, two people in the crowd quickly grabbed him, supported his head and dragged him to the sidewalk and started aiding him, with his head on one person's lap.

I didn't have time to respond, I was frozen, didn't see the brick until it was above the cops. Q: Weren't even some of them looking up at the roof, at the idiot in plain sight? A: They hadn't been ordered to. Q: Could none of them, with all their training, have anticipated the brick, responded to it by trying to block it? A: They hadn't been ordered to. Q: Could none of them, helmeted and flak jacketed (and nattily dressed) as they were have thrown their body on the line to save a fellow citizen, as the soldiers in the war movies seem to throw their bodies on a grenade to save their comrades? A: We aren't their comrades. A cop who'd done any of the above would have deserved a commendation for bravery, but ...

Someone in the crowd had called an ambulance, but the surrounding streets had been blocked by cops. It took the cops themselves two minutes to realise someone had been hurt, and one turned around and asked me whether the victim was okay and where he was. I said, "He's right there on the sidewalk.". Five feet away.

In the meantime, an experienced occupier had climbed up on the roof, disarmed the brick-throwing idiot and gotten him to disappear. The crowd yelled deprecations up at the brick-thrower, one young woman next to me was crying, "He doesn't represent us, he's not one of us!" See also OccupySF's response to the violence on Valencia.

So now the cops pulled out their guns (tear-gas and rubber bullets, I was told) and aimed them at the Occupier who'd controlled the brick-thrower. Some of the cops then lowered their sights and aimed them at the people in the windows on the second floor. I and others yelled at the cops to please lower their weapons,  that the guy now on the roof had eliminated the cockerel brick-thrower. No avail.
Soon we were herded onto a street corner, and then off the sidewalk onto the street! Just earlier, I'd noticed the motto on the arm-badge:

I'd started shouting their motto back at them, repeating it three times, sometimes in English, and then adding, "ESTO NO ES GUERRA, ESTO ES PAZ, QUE SEAIS DE ORO." (THIS IS NOT WAR, THIS IS PEACE, BE GOLD!)
A police higher up approached me, I told him, "You are stronger than us, hold your peace." He said he was only moving us off the street (?), "Everything had changed."
The civil suit is a reporter.
The senior officer approached me again, put his hands on my back, and when I turned around, said, "You seem to be a leader, call that guy off the roof." What is it about me that makes me such an obvious "leader"? My grey hair? My age? My green kurti? My sloganeering?
The brave, the few.
You've watched it on the news, you know how it ended. Homeless individuals and homeless families were evicted from what could and should have been a safe haven.

Huffington Post

So an empty building has been rescued from use by homeless via the massive deployment of police force. Was that expense necessary, given the situation of the homeless in SF?

Meanwhile in Oakland