Mind Minds its own Business

The mind called “Mann” in Hindi, made from only two alphabets, is contains oceans in it which are so deep and vast in their extent. It exists physically or not, we are not sure. Even in this “Mann” is a component called “subconscious mind” which is like an ocean on which the “conscious mind” floats like an iceberg.  Conscious mind is so small in comparison to the subconscious mind. It stores all the past memories and suppressed emotions and saves us from the embarrassments the conscious mind can land us in.

Layers upon layers of memories are deposited with the passage of  time. These reams of memories are not deposited one upon another. There is an unknown architectural scheme for storing the data. Sometimes any disturbance or catalyst brings some memory floating up. It comes, surprises you, disturbs you, you earn to live in that moment again and for a time forget about the present. Suddenly the conscious mind taps you on your shoulders and reminds you about your present. The memory again sinks back and settles somewhere. Who knows how much is its resident time there? Whether it will come up ever again or be buried forever. Or someone shall again stir the settled memories and bring it up again.

Flaunting the Assets

If you have lived in Mumbai for a long time and then come to visit Chandigarh and adjoining Panchkula, you would be shocked to see how people in the Northern cities flaunt their wealth. When they drive they think that they are the only ones who are on the road. They talk on their cellphones, honk incessantly without any patient even if they can see clearly why the traffic ahead is halted. It seems that they have utmost urgent jobs to attend to. At night, many drive with the high beam lights on making the vehicle drivers coming from opposite side almost blind.
I don’t mean that the people in Mumbai don’t have big cars and other assets. I have seen high end cars lying along the roads in the most neglected style. Mumbai being the economic capital of India, many residents in Mumbai may be having more resources and wealth. But they don’t display it like they do it in the North. It may be that metropolis is used to heavy traffic since so many years and thus people have become quite disciplined barring some aberrations. In the North, the number of vehicles have exploded exponentially while the distances to be covered are shorter. For example, when we were studying in Chandigarh in during early seventies, there were only few cars to be seen. People used mostly bicycles and at the most well off ones had scooters. Nowadays there are traffic snarls to be seen at many places. One cannot plan for the future changes many many years early when the city was planned. It should have been a continual change which requires future vision. The problems are increasing by every passing day.

Some more memories of Ratnagiri

Although now I have gone far away from Panvel from where Ratnagiri was not far, the memories never die. Many times I have been to Goa where my son was studying, Ratnagiri was on the way and train halted there for sufficient time. I read about the city and particularly about the King of Burma Thibaw Minh who was confined to this place by the British after he lost the to battle to them and Burma was annexed to British empire. I don’t know how they thought to bring him and his family at such a distance away from his home. He was not old and his whole life was spent in Ratnagiri in a palace called Thibaw Palace. He was very much respected by the local people. Since his palace is located at a lofty place, he would sit with his binoculars and watch the Arabian sea and boats coming and going to the various landings. Area being the coastal, the main occupation of people was and is fishing. They waited for the fishing boats coming home. The king would announce the arrival of the boats as he was able to spot them through his binocular and people would then make for the landings.

English: Thibaw Palace, Residence of Burmese K...
English: Thibaw Palace, Residence of Burmese King exiled in Ratnagiri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also it was the habit of the King to visit the Bhagwati temple which was located on another hill. Only for this activity he went out. All this information excited me to visit the place and see for myself. So once we decided to visit the place while returning from Goa. This has been described in another entry. From here we went to see the Ganapati Pule which is religious place as well as a beautiful beach. In fact whole area possesses breathtaking beauty. There is blue Arabian sea and coconut groves. There are cashew trees growing in the wild and the world famous Alphonso mango tree orchards. Here are some beautiful pictures.

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English: Alphonso mango tree in a dense cultiv...
English: Alphonso mango tree in a dense cultivation orchard at Kotawade, Ratnagiri distirict, Maharashtra state, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Algae: A machine to make energy

In the beginning there was carbon dioxide, water and sunlight on our Earth and its environment. The same carbon dioxide which is the end product of today’s industrial processes. The factories spew carbon dioxide. Scientists are finding ways to fix this carbon dioxide which is the major cause of greenhouse effect and results in trapping the heat and disallows it dissipate and result in Global warming.

Whereas in the present climate living beings mostly use oxygen to breakup the food and convert it to glucose and energy, in the beginning only organism that thrived on carbon dioxide was called green algae. It mastered the art of harvesting sunlight by a process called photosynthesis in which it converted the freely available carbon dioxide and water into glucose which it used as food. But along with the glucose, another product was formed which we call oxygen and cannot live without.

Now the families of these algae, again seem to be rescuing us from the crisis of energy. The mineral oil and coal, major sources of energy are not inexhaustible and considering there rate of consumption, there is a concern to find the alternate sources of energy. One example is ethanol manufacturing from the corn.

Algae is holding the promise to save us again. The green covering on the ponds looks very unattractive but these tiny globules contain lipids which can be converted into the biofuels. Some of these also contain hydrocarbons. These algae sequester the carbon dioxide infused into the environment and helps cleaning the atmosphere.

At this stage, efforts are on to increase the yield of biomass and make it commercially viable. For this favorable conditions are being created to grow the algae into the open ponds where yield shall be more due to availability of sunlight also. Algae is attacked by some aquatic species called rotifers. Efforts are on to create the media which shall do away with all these problems.

Besides the energy in the form of lipids, there are algae which are excellent diet supplement because they contain a myriad number of minerals and proteins. One such algae is spirulina which is very popular among the people who want to become slim by shedding the weight.

Man Friday

Man Friday is used as an idiom. It refers to a very loyal servant or his master’s right hand man. Nowadays it is more than that. He is the person who is most efficient and helps his seniors to complete the difficult tasks on time and rescues the Boss from embarrassing situations.

He is one of the main characters in the book Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe. In this novel, Robinson Crusoe spends many years on an island near Venezuela. He chances upon the custom of cannibalism in which this man was to be killed. Crusoe rescues him and the man becomes indebted to  him for whole of his life.

Since this happened on Friday and Crusoe did not understand the language of the man, he names him as Friday. He remained with him for rest of his life and took part in the rescue of many more victims.

Crusoe converts him to Christianity and teaches him to speak English. He travels with Crusoe to England and ultimately gets killed in some ambush.

Wasabi: The Real Stuff is in short supply

There is a Wasabi restaurant in Taj Hotel in Bombay. We can never afford to go to such hotels but heard the name in context of the terrorist attack on the hotel. Actually Wasabi is root stem like ginger and its name is Wasabia Japonica. All this indicates that the whole thing is about Japanese food especially Sushi. Wasabi is used as one of the ingredients in the form of paste of pistachio-green color. It adds the zing to the food.

The real thing is in the short supply even in Japan its home itself.  So at most places what is served as wasabi paste is most likely just a mix of European horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.

As a member of the Cruciferae family, it is related to such plants as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard. Its distant cousin European horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) often substitutes for it.

Wasabi grows naturally in mountain streambeds, and the Japanese have cultivated it for more than a millennium. Wasabi grown in semiaquatic conditions is known as sawa, whereas wasabi grown in fields is called oka. The stream-grown wasabi produces larger rhizomes and is generally considered to be of higher quality.

The heat of real Wasabi lasts at the most for 15 minutes after grating. But its imitations like horseradish stays for long periods. The components of both wasabi and horseradish can be stabilized by acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

The key chemicals that give wasabi its characteristic heat and flavor aren’t present until the wasabi is macerated. When the cell wall is disrupted, it releases the enzyme myrosinase, which hydrolyzes glucosinolates, a group of sulfur-containing glucose derivatives, to produce isothiocyanates that provide wasabi’s spicy zing. The most abundant of these is allyl isothiocyanate. Horseradish has a different profile of isothiocyanates. One of the by-products of the myrosinase reaction is glucose.

The flavor is affected by how finely the wasabi is grated. The traditional way to grate wasabi is with a sharkskin grater, called an oroshi, which resembles fine sandpaper. Because the flavor and heat dissipate so rapidly, it’s best to grate it as you need it.

Scientific studies carried out by Savage and his coworkers show comparison of seven isothiocyanates in wasabi and horseradish. The horseradish contained 1.9 g total isothiocyanate/kg, whereas wasabi contained nearly 10% more (2.1 g/kg). Allyl isothiocyanate was the major component in both. The second most abundant isothiocyanate was 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanate, but it was found only in the horseradish. It, therefore, probably plays a major role in the flavor differences between the two plants. Every other isothiocyanate was present at higher concentrations in wasabi than in horseradish.

Chemistry of Tanning

People in Asia and Africa where plenty of sunshine is available and weather is hot have a auburn or dark skin. This is because of production of melanin in the skin and making it look brown or dark. In Europe, particularly the Northern parts, there is hardly any Sun to be seen for most of period of the year. Due to the shortage of melanin, the color of the skin is white or what is called fair.

Most people are not satisfied with whatever have God given to them. For example, the people in India want to look fair like Europeans and vice versa. Europeans come to India and sprawl themselves on the sunny beaches in the hope of getting the tanned skin.

Tan is caused by the action of UV rays on the cells of the body. The UV rays have higher energy than the visible spectrum light. UV spectrum is further subdivided into three ranges namely UVA, UVB & UVC with decreasing wavelengths and increasing energies from UVA to UVC. UVC are so energetic that they react with the matter in atmosphere and never reach the Earth. UVA & B both break the bonds. UVB stimulates the production of melanin by burning the skin and destroying DNA and gives the tan to the skin.

Interaction of UVB with skin produces vitamin D3 which is required to transport calcium to the bones. Additionally UV reduces the stress and eases the tension. There is scientific evidence that sunshine has a mood lifting effect and people in the places where the Sun is not seen for months show the symptoms of depression. Thus UV which is always seen in the negative terms has good side also.

But it is not healthy to expose your body directly to the UV rays. Instead sunscreens are beneficial and make the tanning in the Sun. How much time is safe for tanning is calculated by Sun Protection Factor (SPF) ratings on sunscreens. The SPF number is a “multiplier” and formula to calculate the safe time is = Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number

For example, if a sunscreen has a SPF value of 20 and it takes 12 minutes for your skin to burn without sunscreen, then sunscreen will protect you for 240 minutes (12 min. x  20 SPF = 240 min.). Doctors recommend a water-resistant sunscreen rated 15 SPF or higher with UVA and UVB protection, generally labeled “broad spectrum.”

Maybe the best tan is sunless. “Tan in a Can” products use materials that generate a tan without UV exposure. Creams, gels, lotions, and sprays contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a sugar that colors the outer skin cells. Unfortunately, this nice tan usually lasts only one week because you constantly shed dead cells.