Sunday, 8 March 2009

Angles and Demons

When a leading scientist at C.E.R.N is brutally murdered with the symbol

Try looking at the symbol upside down

branded across his chest, renowned symbologist Prof Robert Langdon is called in to investigate. It is hard to believe that a centuries old brotherhood is still in existence, deep underground. Illuminati, the enlightened was formed in the 16th century among the intellects of the era who were tortured and hindered by the Vatican, because their findings challenged the teachings of the Catholic church. Its most known member being Galileo.

When it's discovered that CERN's scientist's latest creation an 'antimatter' canister has been stolen, and is now ticking away like a time bomb somewhere deep inside the Vatican city, Langdon and Vittoria Vetta, a CERN scientist involved in the project rushes down to the Vatican to try and find the canister along with the missing cardinals that had gone missing just before the Vatican conclave.

The story is one filled with mystery, puzzles, riddles that need to be solved, clues and symbols, and intrigue. Dan Brown has done an excellent job at keeping the reader glued and in suspense with unexpected twists through to the end.

However the framework is pretty much the same as that of "The Da Vinci Code". Robert Langdon, a female accomplice, an ancient brotherhood, Vatican secrets, anagrams and ambigramm, solving puzzles for survival, brutal killings, the one person that is trusted in saving the day turning out to be the mastermind behind the brotherhood, and eventually a happy ending.

However it is understandable why Da Vinci Code made a bigger impact than Angles and Demons. With the story unfolding in one of the world's leading physics research institutions with particle physics terminology and concepts, it is easy for a lay person to lose interest in the story.

For those of you who prefer the big screen to the paperback, Angles and Demons the film is set to be released in the coming months. However as was the case with The Da Vinci code, I believe this will also be a disappointment. There is so much information and action packed in to each and every page of the 600+ page book, that it is next to impossible to cram it into a 2 hour audio-visual.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Lord of the Weather

In a grizzly reminder that man is still at the mercy of the natural world, during the last two weeks Australia's southern states South Australia and Victoria experienced the worst heat conditions the country has ever seen.

Victoria sweltered for 4 consecutive days with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius, with South Australia experiencing the heat over more than a week.
What's living in a a 43 degree temperature you'd ask, on a personal level it's like living inside an oven. You can feel your skin burn, your head ache, you breathe hot dry air, you lose so much moisture that you constantly feel dehydrated and restless. Nights are slightly less hot but not enough to get any shut-eye. Three consecutive days of that and you are at the end of your sanity.

At a metropolitan level, there arises other problems. Rail and tram lines expand way beyond their tolerance levels and buckle-up forcing the cancellation of public transport. The demand for electricity doubles over the capacity and causes blackouts, but worst of all Australia being the driest inhabited continent such conditions easily give way to massive bush fires.

The last few days have seen several storming fires raging across the state, taking many a people, animal and property with them. The death toll is over 100 and rising, with some townships completely reduced to ashes.

This includes the picture postcard town of Marysville I've blogged about here and here. I hear there's nothing standing in the whole town or its surrounds.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

It's not about the bike

No it sure isn't. It's about courage, an unwavering determination and a fighting spirit.

Lance Armstrong grew up in a rugged town in Texas, without the love of a father or the comfort of a stable income. But he was surrounded by his mother's tireless caring which instilled in him the confidence and the fighting spirit that saw him through not just the record breaking 7 Tour de Frances' but also through the even more difficult cancer treatments.

I've spent my life racing my bike, from the back roads of Austin, Texas to the Champs-Elysees, and I always figured if I died an untimely death, it would be because some rancher in his Dodge 4x4 ran me head first into a ditch. Believe me, it could happen. Cyclists fight an ongoing war with guys in big trucks, and so many vehicles have hit me, so many times, in so many countries, I've lost count.

At the age of 25 Lance was the picture of health, and begining to look the picture of wealth. All troubles seemed to be behind him, but the feeling was short-lived for fate had other plans. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer which had already spread into his lungs, he was in stage 3, and there were only 3 stages.

I thought I knew what fear was, Until I heard the words 'You have cancer'. Real fear came with an unmistakable sensation: it was as though all my blood started flowing in the wrong direction. My previous fears, fear of not being liked, fear of being laughed at, fear of losing my money, suddenly seemed like small cowardices. Everything now stacked up differently: the anxieties of life- a flat tire, losing my career, a traffic jam- were reprioritized into need versus want, real problem as opposed to minor scare. A bumpy plane ride was a bumpy plane ride, it wasn't cancer.

Immediate surgery was needed followed by an intensive chemotherapy, but the tale took another twist, the cancer had spread to his brain, his chances were slim, as slim as 3%, this information was somehow withheld from him, and he believed he had a 20% chance, whereby he started researching the disease, trying to strategise how to beat it. The game plan!

Brain surgery was called for to remove the malignant tissue. Followed by months long Chemotherapy.

The question was, which would the chemo kill first: the cancer, or me? My life became one long IV drip, a sickening routine: If I wasn't in pain I was vomiting, and if I wasn't vomiting, I was thinking about what I had, and if I wasn't thinking about what I had, I was wondering when it was going to be over. That's chemo for you.

The sickness was in the details, in the nasty asides of the treatment. Cancer was a vague sense of unwellness, but chemo was an endless series of specific horrors, until I began to think the cure was as bad as or worse than, the disease. What a casual bystander associates with cancer- loss of hair, sickly pallor, a wasting away- are actually the side effects of the treatment. Chemo was a burning in my veins, a matter of being slowly eaten from the inside out by a destroying river of pollutants until I didn't have an eyelash to bat. Chemo was a continuous cough, hacking up black mysterious, tar like matter from deep in my chest. Chemo was a constant, doubling-over need to go to the bathroom.

Despite the odds stacked up against him, he made it. And the cancer made him a different man.

People think my comeback as a triumph, but in the begining, it was a disaster. When you have lived for an entire year terrified of dying, you feel like you deserve to spend the rest of your days on a permanent vacation. You can't, of course; you have to return to your family, your peers, and your profession. But a part of me didn't want my old life back

With the help of his friends and newly found wife, he fought the depression and did get back on the bike. His previous contract with the professional cycling team "Cofidis" was withdrawn while he was in hospital. They didn't beleive he was going to make any more money for them. As Lance puts it, "The rug was pulled from beneath my feet" ,and "they let me there to die"

They searched for months for a team who would be willing to risk signing in a weakened ex-biker, until a new organization, the US postal services team decided to sign him up. And he didn't let them down.

Lance Armstrong went on to win 7 Tour de la France Tournaments, considered one of the toughest sporting events in the world. He established the "Lance Armostrong Foundation" which continues to raise funds for cancer to date.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Udawalawe Elephant Sanctuary

The first in line!
Glub....glub.....a bucket load of milk
" me me!"
"Hey you, the one with the inconspicuous look, you already had your turn!...cheeky!"

A happy looking mob :)
Place: Udawalawe National Park
Time: 3:00 pm daily
Free entrance, but any donations for milk is gratefully accepted.
Until the babies are old enough to be released in to the wild, they need gallons of milk a day.....literally.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Ancient city of Anu

The great Stupa from afar

Anuradhapura, affectionately (or conveniently) referred to as "Anu" in the book "The Winds of Sinhala" by Colin De Silva is one of my favourite places on earth, as is the book a favourite book of all time of mine.

If you haven't read "The Winds of Sinhala" already........!?! What the hell have you been doing all this time???!!@!#!#

Ruwenweli Dagoba
Anuradhapura doesn't possess the cool climate of the hill country nor its natural beauty, yet there's some magical force that continues to mesmerize the visitor.

"Eth Pokuna"
A hub for the water channel-tank network in ancient Anu, with underground water tunnels running in and out to tanks many kilometers away, ensuring flow control and minimising waste.


Tissa Wewa

The Citadel Sigiriya, "Lions Rock"
Sitting there looking pretty
David Attenborough once narrated the complex social structure and behavioural patterns of these fellows in Anuradhapura/ Pollonnaru areas
View from atop Dambulla temple

Monday, 12 January 2009

Recovering from....

A blissful five week holiday in the land of serendipity....... more on that later

winding up with long boring flights in the middle of the hoc sleeps.....transits.....flight checks....more awkward sleeps

Back at my desk early on a gloomy Monday morning, sooo out of what was it that I was doing here? and what are all these stacks of samples on my desk?

Half the people still on holiday.....

C-C-Cold!!!!! and it's supposed to be summer!

With images of the verrry comfy bed and cozy blankets flashing through my head........

mwwaaahh..... I want to go home!!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

As Easy as Pie

Heat up the frying pan with a tad bit of oil. Add chopped onions and fry until translucent.
Then dump in all the things that you'd like to find inside the pie...... the meat(s) of your preference, mushrooms, capsicums, sun dried tomatos (mmm...)..........whatever takes your fancy!
A wee bit of white wine or vinegar helps to infuse the flavours together.

Don't forget the salt and pepper!
Grease and line up the pie dish with pastry dough.
Chuck the filling into the pie base, add tons of grated cheese, and if you, like me find that the filling is not enough to fill-in the whole dish, just think of something to make it full, maybe pieces of bread or some leftovers or something.
Use another pastry sheet to cover up the pie. Leave an incission on it to let the steam escape.
And pop it in the oven (pre-heated of course).
Your nose will alert you when it's done


Friday, 31 October 2008

Random Memories

The incident happened many many moons Sri Lanka at home. We were wrapping up an ordinary day, past 9 o'clock in the night I think...... When our Bindu started barking somewhere in the garden. It was a bark with a certain alarm to it, as if saying "I'm not too sure what this thing is but I need to get some one's attention here!!!"

Now Bindu has always been a garden dog as he was never granted visa to enter the house by his superior, Bingo. So one would expect him to know his territory well, and he's not the kind of dog who barks at just about anything, so naturally this got us worried.

So torch in hand we approached the suspicious scene cautiously. The sight of 'back-up' sent Bindu into a frenzy! and he started jumping around this suspicious object and then looking towards us for an explanation.

Upon closer inspection the black rounded heap on the ground, turned out to be a tortoise with its head inside its shell!
Naturally we bursted out laughing! which seem to add to Bindu's confusion.
It wasn't the first time that we found a lonely wandering tortoise in the garden, but it has certainly never happened in Bindu's lifetime.

My father told us what they used to do (back in the good old days) when they found a tortoise like that. Light a candle and erect it on its shell, and send it on its way!

This was all good fun but somehow Bindu didn't seem to be convinced, so he decided to continue with his woofing and waffing. What with the tortoise going nowhere fast, we decided to lock Bindu up in a room, unknown to Bingo that is! ah the drama!.

And that's how we managed to get some sleep that night.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Points to Ponder

Been a long time since I last put anything up here. I'm rather caught up with work these days so here are some interesting questions for you to ponder on in the meantime.


1) How long did the Hundred Years' War last?

2) Which country makes Panama hats?

3) From which animal do we get cat gut?

4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

5) What is a camel's hair brush made of?

6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

7) What was King George VI's first name?

8) What color is a purple finch?

9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

10) What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane?

So you think you are smart eh?

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Tessellaar Tulip Festival

The annual Tessellaar Tuip Festival held in Victoria is an event dedicated to celebrating the beautiful flower that has captured the imagination of many a poets, artists and laymen alike.
It's an excuse to put on a spectacular display of colours that just make you go "wow!"

Despite the fact that it's the spring time, the weather wasn't too kind and spoiled half the day with heavy rains and gusts which made things a bit difficult for us tulip admirers.

Rows and rows and rows of tulips

Red Hot beauties

Stepping out of the conventional image, a more modern look.

A little touch of Holland....the home of the tulip.

Some Dutch folk dances and music

A taste of Netherlands.....'poffertjes' small fluffy pancakes with a dab of butter, icing sugar and maple syrup. mmmmmm........

A mix of colours
Couldn't find the precious black tulip that caused so much trouble in Alexander Dumaas's "The Black Tulip". However it was easy to imagine the grand tulip festival mentioned in the book, the only difference being that here there were no candidates from Ceylon who were exibiting tulips, only admirers. Yes Dumaas was misinformed that tulips were grown in Ceylon!

A close-up with rain drops

Blues and purples

There were some others who were screaming out for attention.