Friday, 18 December 2009

Remembering Titanic

As the whole world gets ready to embrace the new James Cameron film, I decide to revisit a film which fascinated a child 11 years ago.

I was hardly five then. But to this day, the sunny April day of 1998 is as clear in my mind as anything else. A new English film had become the talk of the town. It had won 11 Oscars (I didn't know what an Oscar was) and became a global hit. (As though they were the only criteria for a good film) It had come to Kolkata and as expected, became an instant smash hit. People all over were rah-rah-ing about the film on the sinking ship.

My relationship with cinema till then was not very developed. I don't remember seeing many films before that. (You certainly wouldn't expect a five-year-old to appreciate Orson Welles or Satyajit Ray, would you?) I was taken to movie theatres a couple of times before but the experience at the cinema hall was nothing memorable to speak of.

We didn't know anything about this new movie except the fact that the protagonist was a sinking ship. I remember that Aunt managed to get five tickets for Mum, Dad, Sister, herself and well, that little child. I was very excited. I was going to watch a movie!

The day finally arrived and we were all ready to go to the movie theatre. Multiplexes were strangers to Kolkata until 2003. Single-screen halls were all we had then. We went to the Globe Cinema to see the movie called Titanic which was "edited to suit the family audiences in India". It was as clean and family-friendly as a five-year-old can possibly see.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

150 Years of Realisation

400 Years Later ...

That was the name of the Galilean Nights event I had organised last month. The event was very successful, to put it simply. I couldn't post the pictures and event reports on this blog because my studies left me with little time to blog or even Tweet. (I'll post the pics and reports soon.)

2009, as you must know, has been declared as the International Year of Astronomy to commemorate the 400th anniversary of that little invention called telescope. In 2009, we are remembering the Father of Modern Science – Galileo Galilei. So far, it's been an awesome and very fruitful year for all astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts.  IYA2009 perfectly accomplished what it intended to do and what it did was much bigger and better than many could have hoped for. More on that next month.

But if you thought that only that was the importance of 2009, think again.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Over the Moon!

The festive season is finally here! Bengalis all over the world have started celebrating. I find it very interesting to see the happy faces of people going crazy to receive blessings of goddess Durga whom they very affectionately refer to as Maa (Mother). You'll find another kind of people who find a lot of reasons to be happy, apart from, of course, the divine blessings. But that's another story altogether. Some people become happy to meet distant relatives and childhood friends. To them the Puja is a trip down memory lane, an opportunity to meet the older, younger self they have long forgotten. Then there's another kind of people whose lives are trapped in a bubble of perpetual sadness and gloom. Yet they try to force a smile on the face, hoping against hope to be happy.

My relationship with the goddess-mother (or mother-goddess, whatever you prefer) has always been very poor. As a matter of fact, there has never been any relationship between us at all. It was early in my childhood when I abandoned the idea of a Higher Power from Above controlling every aspect of the Universe from the eyelids of a child to a drop of rain. Yet I enjoyed myself during the Puja, but not by celebrating it. I have been worshipping pasta over the past few years, but still I try to be happy this season. I fail to derive joy from visiting the Puja pandals which are, apparently, the pinnacle of artistic brilliance. I don't find "hanging out" a great option either.  But everyone around me is very happy, so why should I not give myself a chance to be happy? But my source of joy is a bit (OK, a lot!) different. I decided to watch a movie this time. It should have been a very entertaining, action-packed, emotionally affecting movie with a great story to tell, but it wasn't.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Video: 100 Hours of Astronomy: Award Acceptance / Award Ceremony

I am sorry that I am uploading the videos this late. It's been more than one month since the 100 Hours of Astronomy award ceremony took place at the XXVIIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I've told you almost everything about the award before. So let's not be repetitive.

The following video is the one I had originally made to be shown at the ceremony.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Happy Teachers' Day!

For me Teachers' Day is one of the most anticipated days of the year. I don't look forward to this day because this day offers us a chance to express our gratitude to our teachers and tell them how great they are. That should be done everyday. We need to thank our teachers 365 days a year from the bottom of our heart. We deliver some very emotional speeches on this day but once the day is over do we really believe in what we said?

Everyday, there's a news headline indicating the steadily deteriorating teacher-pupil relationship. What is the significance of September 5 if students don't respect their teachers as much as they should? We need to observe Teachers' Day everyday by being obedient to them and showing them proper respect, not by giving them flower bouquets. I'm not saying that giving them flower bouquets is not a good thing to do, it'd just be better if the bouquets were accompanied by true respect and love. Otherwise, the observance of Teachers' Day becomes an exercise in pointlessness and falsehood.

However, I await September 5 with intense anticipation because of the mad celebration that takes place in our school. "Dazzling" would be another word to describe it aptly. We have, to use a much-abused phrase, loads of fun on this day and today was no exception.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A Moment of Ecstasy

How else can I define it? I fall short of words to describe the moment that's coming in a few hours. It will be erroneous to describe my feelings as ecstasy. What I am feeling now is something I've rarely, or maybe never experienced. It's not elation, it's something beyond that. It's that something plus anxiety, fear, anticipation, awe. Now that would be a more apt description. I think I have written ample words trying in vain to do what is beyond my ability.

Let's get it straight. How would you feel if you were an astronomy enthusiast and got to express yourself in front of the top astronomers of the world? How would you feel if you were being featured at the convention where world's best astronomers meet and where every major decision about astronomy was made? How would you feel if you got the chance to represent your nation, acknowledge the part of the most important people in your life and say what you want to at such a convention?

See? Don't all these feelings obstruct your thoughts? Oh, I forgot to add: how would you feel if the highest governing body in astronomy gave you an award for your work when you are still in school?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

An Award

I'll keep this post short. Promise.

No more unnecessary dramatic effect. Here's the thing. Yes, an award! That's what forced me to come out of my long hibernation. It's not some routine award I am talking about. The award I've got is pretty big.

Now anyone who's interested in science will know that this year has been declared as the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) by the UN (the International Astronomical Union and the UNESCO initiated this "global effort"). I've discussed at length what this year means to me.

A programme called 100 Hours of Astronomy was a cornerstone project of IYA2009. During 2-5 April 2009, professional and amateur astronomers and all sky-fanatics worldwide were united by the cause to celebrate astronomy and make it accessible for the general public. So that was the 100HA. And I was one of the passionate people who joined the celebration. It was a remarkable experience for me. (I've talked about the 100HA here, here, here, here, here and this is the final round-up.) It was announced later that they'd give away awards to 100HA organisers in 8 categories. I sent everything in. It was beyond my wildest imagination that I could win a prize for what I did.

But as you very much know, my imagination deceived me. Yes I was wrong.

Yes! I won the 100 HOURS OF ASTRONOMY YOUTH PARTICIPATION AWARD on behalf of Prof. Dhiranando Roy Study & Research Centre. But I won't write my acceptance here. I have to write that elaborately to do justice to my feelings upon receiving such a prestigious award.

But one thing I can surely say. For me, the International Year of Astronomy has just begun.

The Return of the Mudblood King

Should I apologise to you? And to myself? Or should I not? That's not really the question. The questions should be: Why did I stop writing when my Leaves from My Japan Diary series was being liked? And why have I decided to return?

It's true that I've received many appreciative and encouraging responses from readers. The reaction from my fellow team member wasn't really unexpected, considering that they were all part of the experience. But the response from others was unexpected, surprising and moving. I was very moved when some readers emailed me to express their thoughts on my writing as the comment form was not working. You may ask why I decided to discontinue the series after recounting the experience of only two days in Japan.

The fact is: I wasn't really happy with how I wrote the later posts. A couple of hours after I posted the account of Day Two, I decided to read the entire series from the beginning. (Just to let you know, it was already 25 pages, 15,000 words and 70,000 characters long and I'd already written half of Day Three.) This decision to reread was right and that was what led to another decision. You probably know what that is. I discovered that when I started writing the series, my passion was reflected in the introduction, prologue and the next post or two. But as the series progressed, the writing style started showing cracks. By the time it arrived in Japan, the style had completely fallen apart. There was no passion with which I'd begun to write. I thought the style of the latter posts was slowly becoming repetitive, dull and – forgive me for using this word – boring. (But if you still appreciated my writing, all I can say is: Thank you!) However, I knew that this style wouldn't work anymore and decided not to tamper with what I'd posted. I felt that I should write well rather than just posting exactly on the same date to do justice to the beautiful moments. So I stopped writing anymore and waited for the moment when I'd be able to (cliché alert) pour my heart and soul into the writing.

Meanwhile, a lot of events happened in my personal life, my school started and there was no time to devote to writing. Occasionally I did post a tweet/status update or two, but that was it. I had a lot of things in mind to blog about. But I told myself that Japan should be completed first. But I didn't know how I could start it afresh (it certainly wasn't blogger's block). July turned out even worse. There were a lot of problems on the personal front. My poor health kept me from posting any tweets. (2009 is the worst year so far for me in terms of health) I couldn't be online for more than 10 minutes. I couldn't even go out, as my doctor had advised. I lost all interest to come online.

Circumstances snatched away my chance to watch tomorrow's total solar eclipse (it'll be a partial eclipse for me). Isn't that very cruel? Chances are that I mayn't be able to watch even that, if the friendly clouds greet me tomorrow. There was no sign of happiness or hope around until …

Until something happened I'm not going to tell you in this post. So the second question will remain unanswered. For now. The next post itself will be the answer. Watch out.

And if the title of the post makes you want to know what I thought of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, well, I haven't seen that either.

(I will resume regular blogging soon. And the Japan posts? I'll let you know when it's over.)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: Sunshine

I awoke on this day with renewed enthusiasm. I knew at once that I’d not be feeling drowsy anymore. But when I looked out of the window the sight didn’t match my anticipation at all. I expected a genial, bright, warm day. Much to my disappointment, the sky was still overcast. It seemed the cloak of clouds was not to lift itself anytime soon. On the positive side, it was much less cold than it had been the day before. What I knew for sure was that I was going to enjoy this day better. I woke up very early in the morning and got ready. I felt refreshed; I saw clearly what a good sleep could do to me. Soon, the Wise Brother and the Silent Guy were ready and we were off to breakfast.

Breakfast at the Atagoyama Tokyu Inn was very interesting. I got to taste some delicious Japanese cuisine at breakfast. I always preferred chopsticks to forks and spoons while in Japan. It made me feel more Japanese. After a nice and filling breakfast, we gathered once again. I kept chatting with my friends (also from other groups). I kept saying “Ohay­ō gozaimasu” to everyone I met, Indian and Japanese alike. I had a feeling that I wasn’t in a foreign country at all. It felt like … my own.

I was introduced to another member of JICE, Hiromi-san, a wonderful lady. She and I had quite a lengthy conversation about our culture. (I had a similar exchange with Rie-san the day before.) I’ve just thought about two more names for the girls in our team: one will be called Pinkie Kaka (she too was a football fanatic, but two names like “Football Fanatic Guy” and “Football Fanatic Girl” may be misleading for non-Saga readers; therefore, this name, but I don’t have any particular reason for this, it’s just random) and the other, Ms Juiceless. Now everybody knows who Ms Juiceless is. And no, this isn’t a name I’ve invented. In fact, she was the one to coin the term. I’ll discuss the reason for this christening in a few days.

However, let’s get back to the day. When we went outside it was raining a bit, but it was nothing uncomfortable. In fact, I started enjoying the rain. There was a lecture on Japan at 9 o'clock. We were all going to Toranomon Pastoral (Mint), just five minutes’ walk from our inn. We were to learn a great deal more about the past and present of Japan. We arrived at the conference room in no time. Rie-san introduced us to our lecturer, Mr Takeshi Mura from J. F. Oberlin University. The lecture began at 9:05 a.m. sharp, not a minute before or after the scheduled time. Mr Mura started his lecture and slideshow. He spoke in Japanese and his words were translated by Hirooka-san. The lecture was for one hour and a half. But when the lecture finished, I didn’t realise how long it was. The lecture, as well as the slideshow, was so engaging, so interesting that I sat there captivated; I wish it were longer. The lecture was another eye-opener on Japan for me. I was getting more and more amazed and this lecture changed my perception considerably. We students were guests to Japan for cultural and educational exchange. So naturally, it was expected that we’ll be shown only about the positive side of Japan. We were indeed shown the advancement of Japan over decades and the uncountable technological achievements of Japan. I was stunned when the lecturer also chose to highlight the not-so-good aspects in the history of Japan, the mistakes Japan had committed in the past. I loved this tremendous honesty as very few dare to be self-criticising – a good sign for the progress of any nation. This highlighting of the mistakes didn’t make me any less respectful to the Japanese. On the contrary, my admiration and respect towards them increased even more after this wonderful gesture. Learning from mistakes: that’s what everybody needs to do, most don’t and Japan certainly did.

We had about half an hour to ask him questions. He was completely flooded by enquiries from the students. He answered them impeccably. I had thought of a question. But we ran out of time long before my turn came. But I did manage to take a photograph with him. He was very kind to let me (and others as well) take pictures with him.

video


After I came out of the hall, I saw the sky was still cloudy. But it had become a sunny day for me. Nothing could hold back my enthusiasm that day, nothing could … and nothing did. I was completely overpowered by endless – what do I call it? – joy, elation, ecstasy and what-not? I lost my self-consciousness and forgot to care about how I appeared. I didn’t notice how ludicrous I’d looked in that black jumper and scarf or how badly I’d worn the scarf until I looked at the pictures after my return home. I looked at my reflection many times that day but nothing seemed to be wrong. That was probably why many of my friends seemed to regard me as some sort of prankster. (The Vampire Addict was among them; oh, christened another girl!) But guess what, I didn’t care about that either (nor does it make me uncomfortable now). I was lost in my thoughts. I never thought about the quality of food I got because it was too insubstantial a subject to me and … I was getting something to eat. It didn’t matter to me what I looked like or what I ate or how I was perceived. All that mattered to me was what I felt. I won’t probably exaggerate when I say I was the most jubilant person there.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: The Land of the Rising Sun

video

Finally I was in the Land of the Rising Sun shortly after sunrise. As the plane came to a halt, everyone stood up. I took out my bag and followed the crowd to the gate. All members of the Saga Group stayed together. We could see Yamaguchi-san and other Japanese supervisors waiting for us. The pink flag of the Saga Group was in the hand of Yamaguchi-san. We followed her outside. Just as I exited the plane I got a big shock. I could see the rain from inside the plane but never did I realise that it’d be skin-piercingly, mind-numbingly cold. I was shivering. (I later knew that it was a typhoon which caused such cold on a summer day.) I was caught unawares by the extreme cold. My teeth were clattering. Thankfully, I had two sweaters in my hand-baggage. I put them on immediately. I had a scarf. I put that on as well. (You have to see it to believe how hilarious I was looking.) However, I followed the pink flag and went ahead. Here, I must note that Japanese supervisors of other groups were very helpful. My bag was heavy. I carried it on and arrived at the immigration counter. It was a smooth process. I arrived near the baggage belt before most of my friends did. I saw a Japanese gentleman coming towards me, smiling. He was, expectedly, from JICE. He helped me retrieve my luggage. I kept saying “Ohay­ō gozaimasu” to everyone. Maybe because I was coming to Japan as part of JENESYS, there was no hassle with the customs at all. Soon all Saga Group members formed a queue and followed the pink flag.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: On Board

I entered the aircraft. In a few minutes’ time, I was going to fly to the Land of the Rising Sun by Japan Airlines flight number JL472 (I also saw JO472 on my baggage). I’ve already said that I didn’t have any feeling (any feeling at all) when I was entering the plane. My mind was completely blank, overpowered by an unknown something. But thankfully I didn’t lose my sense. I was able enough to walk and talk and laugh and of course find my seats. I found it. I took out my passport and locked it safely inside my carry-on bag. After everything was over, I sat down. I was one sit away from the window. I’d have preferred sitting beside the window. But I didn’t care to choose a seat for myself. (I was misinformed by a probably misinformed friend.) To my relief, however, my roommate, the Wise Brother, was there. At least, I could chat up with someone during this 8½ -hour-long journey.

Leaves from My Japan Diary: In India 2

I awoke on the 12th at exactly 4:30 in the morning. As soon as the wake-up call was heard, I sat upright. The dread of the past two days kept coming back to me. I said earlier that I discovered myself during this trip. On the very first day of the journey I noticed something interesting about me. While I was home, sleeping in my comfortable bed, even the sound of a canon couldn’t wake me up. It took a great of effort on everyone’s part to wake me up. But as soon as I was away from the homely comfort I was conscious and careful. It happened automatically. In the following days, every wake-up call or alarm I set awoke me without failure. (There was only one event when I woke up late, but that was during the homestay. Will discuss it later.) I also got two calls from Mother and Sister early in the morning.

I took a comforting bath and got ready in my school uniform as I was told. We had to check out from the hotel within 6:30-7:00 a.m. I attached the name tags (once again, pink and the tags were given by Yamaguchi-san the day before) to all my bags. I arrived at the hotel lounge of ABC hotel at 6:20, ten minutes before the reporting time. Presently everyone else started coming to the lounge, dressed in their school uniforms. My mother arrived there shortly and she gave me some important things. She told me that my mobile was still uncertain but hope was not lost. Rohit Uncle was going to try his best. I had no hopes then. I had a photo-session with my supervisors and team-mates. When I look at the photos now, I feel ashamed as I looked so nervous, so idiotic then. I was so nervous about everything then that I didn’t even realise that I was nervous. As instructed, we kept the hand-carry luggage with ourselves and brought the check-in luggage separately to the bus.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: In India 1

The sound of heavy raindrops hitting the window-panes awoke me on the 11th. For a fleeting moment, I came close to feeling cheerful. But as soon as the memory of the previous day started flooding my mind, the happy feeling was driven off. It was Sunday. No mobile shops were open nearby. I had to report to a hotel (let’s call it ABC Hotel, it’s a very, very famous one) at 2 p.m. So Mother and I decided against searching for mobile shops in the morning. Mother said she’d search for international connections in the evening after my reporting.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: The Beginning

As I have said earlier, I didn’t know how the 10th of May arrived. It caught me unawares. Only on the sunny morning of the 10th did I realise that the day had finally come when I’d be leaving my home to visit a country – all alone. But the realisation had vanished at once. For there were more things to pack and the mobile connection was far, far away. Everyone was trying his/her best to get me a mobile. The final packing was done in the morning. Sister created several lists for me to find my things in the baggage. My parents helped with the packing.

I was going to Delhi with Mother as Father had some important business to attend to. In the afternoon we were off to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport to board a flight to New Delhi. I was still unsure of the weight of my baggage. Till then, there was no chance to talk to my family from Japan. I was in an absolute confused state. I almost wished that I were not going. The check-in counter confirmed my assumption that my check-in baggage was underweight but there was another problem: the rucksack I took was suddenly torn at the airport. You can guess my feelings then, can’t you?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: Prologue

Before I begin my description of the tour, I must write the quite long story behind my journey. Believe me, it was full of what we may call suspense and drama.

I still remember the rainy September day (22nd September, Saturday) in 2007 when I was called to the office of our Vice-Principal. I was in IX then. Some other students were also there. Our Vice-Principal told us to sit down and began talking. He said that as a part of an international exchange programme between India and Japan, students from Japan were coming to India and vice-versa. Then he told us that if we wanted to be a part of this programme we should submit our names to him within two or three days. He said that we must treat the foreign students well and give them a taste of our Indian culture.

But there was one thing he almost didn’t tell us before we left the office. I thought we were supposed to welcome our foreign guests as I had been a part of many such exchange programmes. Naturally, I thought our part was to play the host. Suddenly he said, ‘Do you have a passport?’

Friday, 8 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: An Introduction

If you’ve looked at my earlier posts, you’ll know how much I like to relive my memories – little memories which have become an inseparable part of me. I really wish I could live my thoughts in the Pensieve (like many characters do in the You-Know-What series). I don’t have access to such an object, but there’s way I can plunge into the sea of my memories and make myself happy – writing.

I’ve already said that, pleasant or unpleasant, little memories are very precious to me. But there are some memories which, in no way, are little. Try as I might – but I’ll never dream of trying such a dreadful thing – I can never erase those memories. There were some experiences which are etched on my mind for ever. Such a beautiful experience was the trip to Japan last year, as a part of a cultural-educational exchange programme. I am not exaggerating even a bit when I say that I spent some of the finest moments of my life in Japan. The experience in Japan was full of some little moments I loved. But the experience was far greater than the sum of such individual moments.

What I got and felt in Japan is nearly beyond words. And indeed there were moments which I can’t describe. I made new friends during this trip: Japanese friends, American friends, Indian friends, young friends, friends of same age, some friends who are older than me and some who are much older than me. Never did I imagine that my experience would be so overwhelming. I saw a country. I saw a new culture. I saw nature. I saw people. I saw … well, too many things. And quite unexpectedly, I saw myself.

For the next thirteen days or so, I will write my travelogue (it will be a part of the On This Day series), but it may not feel like a travelogue at all. It will be leaves from my diary at best. I warned you in my very first post that there would be occasions when I would be speaking to myself. I assure you that this series will be exactly that. It will be a totally personal journey down memory lane. I think that some of the opinions expressed in this series will be highly subjective. (I think all my writings are subjective.)

But if you want to be part of this journey … well, what on earth are you waiting for? Come and join!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Happy May Day

"Happy" to you, of course. This May Day wasn't exactly a heyday for me. Suffice it to say, I've been suffering from a badly-performed Conjuntivitus curse, which is likely to be performed by someone like Stan Shunpike. That actually means (well, you of course know what it means if you know the difference between a Cleanswep Seven and a Comet Two-Sixty) that it's not conjunctivitis I'm suffering from. But it's definitely an eye (the left one, to be precise) that's paining me. Which explains why I'm not blogging too often (I'm still not finished with the RTR campaign) or the absence of my Tweets.

I planned to write a lot starting from today, but I can't. Sigh. When I will come back I don't know. If everything had gone right, I'd be writing my first review now. But no such luck ("luck" is a word I despise, though).

Sunday, 26 April 2009

I am Ill

Yes, I am. I have been ill since Friday. That explains why I posted only once on Friday. I did turned the computer on to check if had new comments, but didn't have the energy to write a post. This is more of a tweet than a proper blog post. I have to, therefore, abandon the idea of writing the series as I planned here. I will have to rely on links instead. Will post tomorrow.

An yes, it's the weather that has made me sick.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: The Importance of Rainforests

The title, I think, is enough to indicate that this is either a very long post or a very short one, as the first part of a series. The latter is right. The importance of rainforests and forest in general is ... well, you know that.

Let me start with a story.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Projects

I am not writing anything here. Will write a lot in the upcoming posts. Meanwhile, have a look at these projects:

Borneo Reforestation Project
Related Posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Costa Rica (Mono Titi) Project
Related Post: 1

Belize Jaguar Project
Related Posts: 1, 2, 3

I have many things to write ...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Donation

I provided a link for you to donate to the RTR Campaign (if you wished, that is) for the last couple of posts. In case, you've ignored them here's the full message from RTR. Read it. I thought Aprill 22 would be the best day for such a request:

The Earth Day Birthday Campaign is designed to give those of us that care
about the environmental health of our planet a vehicle for effecting change. This is a grass roots campaign that is designed to empower people to help shape the destiny of the Earth without the need of governments and global institutions. This campaign is designed to engage people and to reach across borders and join together all those that care about our environmental future.

Earth Day Birthday - Give a Gift to Our Planet - Replanting the Rainforests

Replanting the Rainforests is not a passive program for conserving existing rainforests. Protecting our last remaining forests is vitally important, but it is not sufficient. Over 80 percent of the planet's native forests are gone! We must do more if we are to maintain a healthy environment for future generations.

Replanting the Rainforests is not another "Plant a Tree" campaign.

Virtually all tree-planting campaigns in third world countries take place on lands that have a history of illegal deforestation. Many programs take place on farmlands. Ask yourself: What do farmers do for a living? They plant things, they grow things, and they cut them down and sell them. This is clearly not the way forward if we want to permanently reestablish our lost forests.

What makes us different?

Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats

The Replanting the Rainforest Program creates Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats. Within these habitats both sustainable forestry and permagriculture techniques will be employed that will as close as possible mimic natural processes so as not to upset the continuity of the forest environment. The natural array of biodiversity is meticulously safeguarded, while at the same time we create the economic engine necessary to prevent the un-sustainable exploitation of the resource.

Our focus is to find under-producing agricultural lands, cattle ranches and degraded forests and restore them to more natural conditions. Our methods include analog forestry, wildlife habitat enhancement, biomass carbon negative energy production, and BioChar soil augmentation and edible forest gardens.

The Earth Day Birthday Campaign is run by the Eco Preservation Society in conjunction with Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation and the Rainforest Trust and in cooperation with TreeBanking LLC, and I Empower U.

We are Turning the Tide on Global Deforestation

Our Campaign Goals ---- Find Out How We Do It! ---- Get Involved

Letter from our CEO:

Dear Friend,

Welcome to Give a Gift to Our Planet - Replanting the Rainforests. Thank you for joining.

Through the venue of social media, over the course of just 3 weeks, The Earth Day Birthday Campaign has been joined by nearly 3000 people from more than fifty countries across the globe. Day by day the campaign continues to grow and the excitement build.

In another time and in another era this would have been impossible. In our era things are possible that were previously beyond imagination. Within this group lies the power to reach out to every corner of the globe. Within this group lies the power to reshape the destiny of our planet.

This is a call for action for all of those that share my passion and vision for the need to chart a new course for our future. It is no longer enough to sit back and wait for someone else to solve the problems that are faced by our Mother Earth. This is our time to make a difference. The world is in desperate need of solutions and we have solutions. All that is lacking is the will to act.

Now is not the time to talk and complain. Now is the time to seize control of our destiny. We have everything we need before us to reshape the world for future generations. We must act and we must act with purpose and resolve to avoid the catastrophe that our world faces.

I am asking each and every one of you to reach out to everyone that you know and invite them to join our cause and to let them know that we can make a difference. We need to make people aware that we have the power to change the course that we are on. Awareness precedes action and we must make people aware that there are solutions and that they have the power to make things right.

Make your voice heard. We need not wait for politicians and power brokers to shape our destiny. We have the power to shape our own destiny and to make a better world for our children and for future generations and it all starts with you.

Thank You!

Warm Regards,

Kevin Peterson, Founder
Eco Preservation Society
Replanting the Rainforests



Follow the link if you wish to donate. And you'll donate nothing to me. Everything will go to this campaign. And if you thought this is the last RTR post from me, let me tell you it's not. I'll keep posting for a while. Cheers!

Replanting the Rainforests: Carbon Sequestration in Soils

I've already talked about Biochar at length. It seems that there are more ways apart from Biochar to sequester carbon in the soils.

Here's simple set of data enough to make things clear:

• One hectare = 10,000 sq. metres
• Soil 33.5 cm deep (1 foot approx)
• Bulk density = 1.4 tonnes per cubic metre
• Soil mass per hectare = about 4,700 tonnes
• 1% change in soil organic matter = 47 tonnes
• Which gives about 27 tonnes Soil Carbon
• This captured 100 tonnes of atmospheric CO2

This is from a report by Soil Carbon. Have a look at it, it's pretty good. There's a plenty of information on this subject. But the first article argues that: 'As reasonable as a simple “1 % increase” may sound, it appears not to be scientifically valid.'

The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN) estimates that the soils can contain twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. (The extensive report by the FAO can be found here.) It says (page 19):

Soils are the largest carbon reservoir of the terrestrial carbon cycle. The quantity of C stored in soils is highly significant; soils contain about three times more C than vegetation and twice as much as that which is present in the atmosphere(Batjes and Sombroek, 1997). Soils contain much more C (1 500 Pg of C to 1 m depth and 2 500 Pg of C to 2 m; 1 Pg = 1 gigatonne) than is contained in vegetation (650 Pg of C)and twice as much C as the atmosphere (750 Pg of C). Carbon storage in soils is the balance between the input of dead plant material (leaf and root litter) and losses from decomposition and mineralization processes (heterotrophic respiration). Under aerobic conditions, most of the C entering the soil is labile, and therefore respired back to the atmosphere through the process known as soil respiration or soil CO2 efflux (the result of root respiration – autotrophic respiration – and decomposition of organic matter – heterotrophic respiration). Generally, only 1percent of that entering the soil (55 Pg/year) accumulates in more stable fractions (0.4 Pg/year) with long mean residence times.

The report is 129 pages long. It's useless posting excerpts from every chapter. You had better read it. I will highlight some of the key points here.

As I was saying earlier, the FAO report doesn't exactly validate the statistics provided by Soil Carbon. The carbon contents of the soil vary with the condition of the soil, i.e. dry or wet. It says that carbon content ranges between 7 tons and 24 tons in normal (non-depleted) soils, depending on the climate zone and vegetation. If we make a few calculations we'll find that an increased carbon sequestration of 14 tons/hectare is the best possible value – much less than the value SC provides.

Soil Carbon reckons that ruminant grazing plays an essential part in restoring the soils, sequestering carbon and, of course, keeping an ecosystem healthy. But the FAO doesn't agree wholeheartedly with this either. It argues that while their role is important, ruminant creatures don't increase the net amount of carbon in the soils; they merely shift carbon from one piece of land to another. The FAO also highlights the fact that cattle release methane (a much more dangerous GHG than carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.

But such disagreements between the FAO and SC are beside the point here. And that too, is just a difference of numbers. I think both the FAO and SC agree on one common environment-friendly point. We can (and we need to) sequester more carbon in soils. That can act as a weapon against GHGs and Global Warming. The farmlands will also be improved. To cut a long story short, it'll benefit us almost as much as Biochar.

That's it!

Happy Earth Day

I have been meaning to write this post ever since I participated in the RTR Campaign. I was sure from the very beginning that my first post on April 22 would have the title Happy Earth Day. Now, after writing the title, I'm feeling uncomfortable about the title. I mean, how exactly can I wish you a "Happy" Earth Day when there's no reason we should be happy about. On the contrary, there are things which can actually make us unhappy.

Should I be happy when Kolkata has had the hottest April ever – a clear indication of the ever-increasing grasp of Global Warming – at 42° C (107.6° F)?

Should I be happy because of the fact that we're still wasting energy shamelessly? Or should I be happy to experience frequent power cuts as the power stations are running low of conventional energy resources?

Should I be happy that many species of animals in India are just one step away from extinction? Should I be happy that the number of the Royal Bengal Tigers is decreasing rapidly? Should I be happy that mangroves of the Sundarbans (the Royal Bengal Tigers' dwelling place and the largest mangrove forest in the world) are severely damaged due to sea-level rise?

Or should I be happy because the groundwater of Kolkata is no longer at a safe level? Or because the groundwater in some places of West Bengal (which, needless to say, are far away from the sea) have become a bit saline?

Even if I don't talk about my own state, I find even fewer reasons to be happy about.

Should we be happy because the rainforests are in danger? Should we be happy that the Mono Titi, jaguars, orangutans are endangered? (This 'endangered' is not the IUCN classification.)

Should we be happy that the ice in the polar region is melting? Should we be happy that the amount of GHG emission is still very high? Should we be happy for sea-level rise?

Should we be happy that we have not yet put unconventional energy resources (like solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy among many others), our possible saviour, to full use? Or should we be happy because of ozone depletion?

On and on I can go. But I need not. We know the answer.

No, if we look at the present scenario, we can't help being unhappy. But we should be happy on Earth Day 2009 as there is hope, however faint it might be. We are thinking and acting. We are trying to replant the rainforests and preserve the balance in our ecosystems. That's only one part of our efforts. We are devising new methods to save our earth everyday.

Please, please, swear on your earth that you'll try to save it with all your might.

Done it? Now tell me if you're unhappy.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: The Secret of El Dorado

Now you know the secrets, don't you?



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Replanting the Rainforests: Biochar Video

After the last post, here's this:



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Replanting the Rainforests: Biochar

[Once again, this is my reinterpretation.]

Now the first question is: what is biochar?

Simply –



Soil enriching, carbon gobbling, lo-tech remedy to greenhouse emissions


Source.

The Biochar (you can split this word, of course) technology is not a new invention. Our ancestors (much more intelligent than we are) devised this ages ago. We know Biochar by another name. Terra preta, or "dark earth" in Portuguese, is found in the Amazon basin. The soils were created by humans in about 450 BC (see the last link). It is reportedly regenerating itself.

We can create Biochar by pyrolysis of biomass. That is, we have to heat biomass under low-oxygen conditions.

Now the question is: how exactly can Biochar help us?

The answer is long.

First thing first. While Biochar is produced, not only does the process not release the carbon content of the heated biomass into the atmosphere, but the process draws more carbon (in form of carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. It doesn't stop at that either. Biochar is able to sequester carbon in the soils for millenia. Therefore, it can consume more carbon from the atmosphere and increase its own volume by regenerating itself and rebuild the geological carbon sink.

The microorganic activities in the Biochar soils are very high. Such microorganisms improve the soil by fixing more carbon and making it more nutrient-rich and fertile. Moreover, there's little chance that Biochar will be damaged or the soil will erode. So we won't require any extra measure to conserve it.

Apart from drawing carbon dioxide (a major Greenhouse Gas or GHG), it absorbs other significant GHGs from the atmosphere. It also decreases the soil emissions of GHGs. According to the Wikipedia article, it can "reduce N2O [nitrous oxide] emissions by up to 80% and completely suppress methane emissions." That's one of the best ways to fight Global Warming. To add to this list, Biochar can also act as a source of renewable energy. The energy used to create Biochar can power tractors. Also see this.

Apart from reducing environmental pollution, it can also help us socially, economically and, of course, agriculturally. As it increases the fertility of the soil, the production of crops is much higher. It can help the economy. But most importantly, we can do away with hunger and insecurity of food. It can also help us cut down the high costs of irrigation and harmful chemical fertilizers. (Have a look at this article to see how we've already been benefited from Biochar.)

Wait, there's more. It can also act as a dietary supplement for animals and improve the quality of drinking water. It can reduce the acidity of soil too.

In case you thought that wasn't enough, I haven't really discussed the main thing – the relation between biochar and the rainforests.


One of the main causes of deforestation in the tropical areas is the increasing need of farmlands. Slash-and-burn method is used widely. Apart from destroying the trees, the process harms bio-diversity.

Biochar can create highly fertile lands and put an end to the practice of deforestation. It will restore the ecological balance by saving the forests and wildlife. Biochar will not only save the forests, but will do something the forests do – prevent pollution.

I don't need to say more, do I?

There's a fascinating video on Biochar. I thought that I'd include that in this post but decided against it. That deserves separate viewing. Will post two videos in an hour or so..

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Monday, 20 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Tree Avalanching 1

I must admit that I didn't hear the term "Tree Avalanching" till I came across this article. But as I have to write things about this subject, this post is, more or less, heavily dependent on that article. In other words, this is nothing but my reinterpretation.

The article begins with a theory I talked about in this post – that we should not just plant trees, we should restore the forests. To quote the article, replacing deforestation with reforestation must meet the following three requirements:



  • The trees must be able to fund land preservation.
  • The trees must be able to diversify.
  • The trees must be able to fund more acquisition of more land.


Point # 1:
What use is tree plantation or reforestation if we aren't able to protect it? We have to preserve the land where we are reforesting. Otherwise, it'd become a victim of tree poaching. As the article indicates, we don't need another law to protect the forest. We need activity.

Point # 2:
This is pretty simple. We need a variety of trees. And "continuous monocrop plantations of trees all of the same age" face a huge risk. The trees easily fall prey to insects, pests and diseases. Naturally, they would spread more easily when there's only one kind of tree in a particular area than when there are various trees. Can we really call something a forest if it had only one species of tree?

Point # 3:
This is best explained like this:


Most reforestation efforts are being spent on plantations, not on genuine new
forests. We use the term "reforestation" a lot, but in reality, unless the lands
are permanently returned to forest, you are not reforesting, you are raising a
crop of trees. Tree plantations can reduce commercial pressure on remaining
forests, but they are not themselves new forests. Just like a loss of trees is
not deforestation unless the land usage permanently changes, it isn't
reforestation unless the end result is a forest.


Now let's come to the point of the post – Tree Avalanching.


There is a way to pay the trees. We call it the Tree Avalanche. The Tree Avalanche works by using donated trees to create a pioneer forest of valuable wood. Among these trees are also planted the succession trees that will make up the more mature rainforest. Most tropical succession trees require shade to grow; that's why planting pioneer species speeds up the creation of the new forest.

The article explains this with a beautiful story we all have read in our childhood. It's about a king and a beggar. The beggar wanted something really negligible from the king. The following day, he wanted twice that amount and so on. It would have continued for days if a mathematician hadn't pointed out that the king would go bankrupt after a few days.

At first, the pioneer trees are planted. Over a long period of time, the succession trees are planted. But the pioneer trees are gradually removed. That'll not only make way for the new trees but will also bring money for improving the forest. This programme serves all the requirements simultaneously.

Firstly, after removing the pioneer trees and planting the succession trees, we will have a true, diversified forest.

Secondly, we can invest the money earned from the pioneer trees on planting more trees. Note that we'll not chop trees mindlessly. We will just remove and sell the "sellable" parts without harming the forest in any way. That will make the forest cover greater. Therefore, we'll have a greater area of forest.

But there's something it can't do. We will have to do that. We will have to protect them. But that isn't a very difficult task. If there's enough job opportunity for the local people in and around the forests, that'll do. Not only will the forest help them earn their bread, but it will be loved and protected by them. Isn't that the best possible protection?

I just realised that I learned a lot more about reforestation after writing this post. But have to stop now. Expect more posts on this.

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Replanting the Rainforests: In Papua New Guinea

I read the title of the video 3 times before I was sure I wasn't wrong.



I did intend to write something but I don't quite know what I should write.

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Replanting the Rainforests: Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats

Finally, I'm getting back to writing.

Today, we're talking about Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats. Here's an introduction from the RTR website:

The Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitat concept is a key differentiation point with other Tree Planting projects run by other organizations.

Because these programs do not have control of the lands where the trees are planted and in most cases the trees are planted in areas that have a history of deforestation. Many programs take place on farmlands. Ask yourself: What do farmers do for a living? They plant things, they grow things, and they cut them down and sell them.

What we do is different. Our projects mix a variety of technologies to create an economic engine to support the creation of these habitats. These technologies include analog (sustainable) forestry, wildlife habitat enhancement, biomass carbon negative energy production, BioChar soil augmentation and edible forest gardens (Permaculture).


That's where the uniqueness of this programme lies. We just don't want to grow trees in our locality. We want to – we need to – regrow the whole of the rainforests. There's a lot of difference between planting a tree randomly and replanting an entire rainforest. As you have understood, such scattered tree plantation does not make up for the loss of the rainforests because that doesn't support a habitat. Nor does it offer us so many benefits as the rainforests do.

At present, much of the forest cover we had 100 years ago, is lost. As a result, many species of animals are extinct today. Therefore, the bio-diversity is considerably endangered today. That's not the only loss. We have been victims of pollution in water, air and soil – a direct effect of deforestation. While we are being more conscious about the benefits from trees and the bad effects of deforestation, we are not really doing what we should do. We are planting trees at random places. Although that's a very admirable effort and must be encouraged, that doesn't offer a solution to the bigger problem.

Surely we can't expect our backyard trees to be the dwelling-place of jaguars and orangutans, can we? Can we expect the trees we planted to control the climate of our entire region? Can we ensure that our trees will prevent landslides, draughts and floods? Will they provide us with 30% of our planet's fresh water? Will they give us what the rainforests do?

Of course, you know the answers, don't you?

Yes, we need to restore – and if possible, create – the rainforests for the very same reasons. We have to give the habitat back to the animals, whom we've treated so wrongly. We need to create habitats which are permanent. We need to create habitats which we can manage well. And finally, we need to create habitats which can be sustained.

We don't want to see a time to come when the existence of the rainforests and the animals of the forests is limited to picture story-books. If such days are ahead, we must be aware of the fact that we won't even have a place in such books either.

So plant a tree, for sure. But also think about the forests.

Here's an awesome video.

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Sunday, 19 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: From BOS Sanctuary



It's the last post today. Actually, I was not able to write anything today for many a reason. From tomorrow, I will start writing.

So wait...

Replanting the Rainforests: Another Video on the Orangutans

This may present the facts you already know, but it's quite interesting:

Replanting the Rainforests: A Video on the Jaguars in Belize

I won't write anything creative today as well. The writing will start tomorrow. Another video:

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Saving the Orangutans

Watch the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation team here trying to save the orangutans:

On This Day in 2008, I Was Informed That ...

...I was going to Japan. (The trip I mentioned in my profile.) My mother called me up at probably 11 a.m. She told me that she had just received a call from New Delhi. My passport had to be submitted to the travel agent the following day. I was going to the Land of the Rising Sun in 22 days!

I will soon write more about my Japan trip. Watch out!

***
I also remember reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the 18th of April last year.

And yeah, the Indian Premier League (IPL) started last year on April 18 as well. (I'm adding the label "Sports" to this post, but this may be the only post under this label you'll ever see.) There's no team that I support in the second season of this cricket tournament. There's no choice, actually. The team which had the name Kolkata Knight Riders (you know that Kolkata is my city) have shed the word "Kolkata," for reasons I don't know nor do I wish to. Of course, some very intelligent (perhaps the most intelligent) mind is behind this extraordinary decision. And did I mention that the team have (or the Great Mind has) invented (but I guess, not yet implemented) a brilliant theory: multiple captaincy - as a part of the game strategy. I wonder how much better it'd be if every country had multiple Presidents, multiple Prime Ministers, multiple Queens and Kings and so on ... Surely, it'd benefit every country.

So there's no way I can support my city team when there's none. I have to support teams representing cities my friends are from. But if there's a match - and there will be - between two such teams, I don't know I am going to do.

So enjoy!

*

My blog template is making me crazy. You'll have a new template within an hour or two.

Replanting the Rainforests: A Video

Have a look at it. It's pretty long by YouTube standard:



Donate here, if you wish to.

Replanting the Rainforests: Orangutan Diaries Preview

I am not wrting anything on RTR today. I am providing a video instead. Here you go:



Go Green!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Orangutan on the Brink

One of the many pleasures of childhood is going through every kind of picture-book. I had many of them. Some of the books contained talking animals. And I loved those books! I guess my childhood affection for the cutely-drawn animals is responsible for making me concerned about wildlife today.

One of the animal I liked was the orangutan. For they were always given intelligent, witty dialogues. They were a sort of "respectable" species for me. Around the time my grandfather told me briefly Darwin's Theory of Evolution. He explained it in a way a four-year-old could understand. I was even more glad to know that humans and orangutans were related in some way. (It was only when I studied biology, did I know that both of them are hominoids and, more specifically, part of the same family Hominidae.) When I was about 6 (or maybe 7), I read detective stories where an orangutan was subdued and trained to rob banks or something like that. Though these stories fascinated me no end, the line between fact and [children's] fiction became clear as I grew up.

But somewhere in my mind, the apparently ugly-looking, super-intelligent animal still had a place. Probably that's why I (two years away from my school-leaving exam) was so shocked to read this:

The Sumatran species is critically endangered and the Bornean species of orangutans is endangered according to the IUCN Red List of mammals, and both are listed on Appendix I of CITES. The total number of Bornean orangutans is estimated to be less than 14% of what it was in the recent past (from around 10,000 years ago until the middle of the twentieth century)[.]


I need not say what's responsible for this as this is basically the point of the whole programme:

Orangutan numbers have declined sharply on the only two islands where they still live in the wild and they could become the first great ape species to go extinct if urgent action isn't taken, a new study says.

The declines in Indonesia and Malaysia since 2004 are mostly because of illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations, Serge Wich, a scientist at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, said on Saturday.

The survey found the orangutan population on Indonesia's Sumatra island dropped almost 14 percent since 2004, Wich said. It also concluded that the populations on Borneo island, which is shared by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, have fallen by 10 percent. Researchers only surveyed areas of Borneo that are in Indonesia and Malaysia.


See the full article here.

The orangutans don't deserve such short posts. I will definitely come up with more posts on the orangutans. As they say, it's just the beginning.

[Donate something, if you wish.]

Replanting the Rainforests: Jaguar - Part 2

[If you want to contribute to the Replanting the Rainforests campaign, see this page]

Here's more about the urgent condition of the jaguar after the last post:


Jaguars may be large, measuring 1.8m from snout to tail and weighing up to 158kg. They may live in places like Sirena, a tropical rain forest on the southwestern peninsula of Costa Rica, where every day is an ecotourist's Mardi Gras of spider monkeys tumbling over howler monkeys, Muppet-face sloths and toucans and scarlet macaws flapping overhead like crayons with wings. Yet even when other normally shy creatures feel free to make spectacles of themselves, the jaguar remains aloof.

[...]

Individual jaguars can be distinguished and accounted for by their singular patterns of spots. This spring, the cameras took a picture of a black jaguar, the first one known in Corcovado. Carrillo is reluctant to make estimates in advance of the data analysis, but he said he expected 50 to 100 jaguars in Corcovado [a biologist] and its environs, a reasonable density for a large meat eater that needs a extensive space to earn a living.

Rabinowitz, author of the influential "eco-memoir" Jaguar: One Man's Struggle to Establish the World's First Jaguar Preserve (2000), said such numbers were on the high end of jaguar statistics and applied to relatively pristine places like the Santa Cruz ranch in Bolivia and his hard-won Cockscomb jaguar preserve in Belize. Elsewhere, however, the jaguar is losing range to familiar culprits like logging, slash-and-burn agriculture and poaching.


More stuff here.

The jaguar is also posed a threat in Belize.

I don't like the fact that I'm writing nothing and providing links to other articles – a sign of laziness. But I want to write something original soon. Have been thinking about it.

Replanting the Rainforests: Jaguar

[If you want to contribute to the Replanting the Rainforests campaign, see this page]

Looking at my last post, I realised that my last post was somewhat cold. I couldn't understand why. You may also find this post very similar to the last one. But I guess this "coldness" is inevitable. I'm discussing the critical state of wildlife. I'm not discussing anything about how to save them. So I don't really have a scope to get creative now. I'll add my comments in future posts.

After Mono Titi or Squirrel Monkeys, we'll now talk about the jaguar. Jaguar conservation has become an important subject now. Here's a brief introduction (from Wikipedia):

The jaguar, Panthera onca, is a big cat, a feline in the Panthera genus. It is the only Panthera found in the Americas. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest and most powerful feline in the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona (southwest of Tucson), the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 1900s. There is, however, a high probability that (given the surveyed population in southwestern Arizona) populations of Jaguar exist in other unsurveyed regions within southern Arizona, New Mexico and possibly even Texas.


The jaguar is known as "a largely solitary, stalk-and-ambush predator," but it has never been known as a man-eater. It is located at the end of food-chain or at the apex of ecological pyramid. Therefore, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the stability of an ecosystem. But ...

Inconsiderate deforestation has imperiled this species. The IUCN has declared this species as "Near Threatened," which means "it may be threatened with extinction in the near future." Along with deforestation, poaching and hurricane (which is a result of the change of the climate pattern – another effect of deforestation) are also to blame for this. The "increasing competition for food with human beings" is also a risk factor for the jaguar.

Have a look at this to know better about the present condition of the jaguar.

[Is this post very cold as well? I think so. I am looking forward to the upcoming posts where I want to write in a more creative way.]

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Replanting the Rainforests: Costa Rican Mono Titi

[This the second part in the series Replanting the Rainforests.]

If we need to know the need for saving the rainforests and their present state, we must know how it (or the lack of it) affects us.

We know it very well that bio-diversity is one of the key aspects of our environment. The health of an ecosystem greatly depends on its bio-diversity. The current critical situation of the rainforests has had an adverse effect on bio-diversity.

At present, bio-diversity in Costa Rica has been threatened. The number Mono Titi, a species of squirrel monkey, is decreasing rapidly. Mono Titi is one of the smallest and most peaceful primates. Mono Titi are very dear to the Costa Ricans. You can find more about Mono Titi here.

However, there is great need to save Mono Titi. I will write more posts on Mono Titi soon.

To know more about the dangers Mono Titi are facing now, visit this. It's quite informative.

In the upcoming posts, I will provide links to the Saving Mono Titi project.

Replanting the Rainforests

I don't really need to tell you – and I'm really fed up of telling this to everyone – that our environment is seriously, brutally and almost irreparably endangered. You already know that. But there are some who know it, or shall we say, read and heard about it in details, but refuse to acknowledge the very existence of the environmental pollution. To them, Global Warming is a myth. So is every news that concerns the environment and the pollution that's affecting the environment and us. (By the way, what are we if not a part of the environment?)

No, I don't want to write a high school essay on The Bad Effects of Environmental Pollution, which we forget right after we have written the last word. Our (with "our," I mean the students) environment-consciousness usually stops right after we've scored fascinating marks. That's why I prefer a practical approach to environmental study to a theoretical one. While theoretical environmental study no doubt supplies us with valuable and necessary information, a practical approach enriches us with knowledge. Not any kind of knowledge, the knowledge which makes us think of the environment and protect it from all evils.

That brings us to the point of this post.

I am blogging now to be a part of the programme that's trying to spread this knowledge. I don't imagine in my wildest dreams that my blog, in any possible way, would rescue the planet from its present situation. I am blogging to spread the awareness. With my blog, I will urge everybody to devote their time to think about the condition of our earth. I will request them not to be limited to thinking. I will urge them to be active and do something...anything! If you plant a tree, you are doing something. So, become an active part of it!

With Earth Day coming next week, I start the "Replanting the Rainforests" campaign here. Our precious rainforests are in danger. Over the upcoming posts, I am going to discuss the present state of the rainforests, how important they are (not only from a natural perspective, but a social one as well) and how we should restore them.

We need to act before it's too late. Please think about it.

We can do it! Can we not?

[Note: I couldn't start posting yesterday as I was having problems with the template after the last post.]

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Śubha Nava Varṣa (or Śubho Nôbô Bôrṣô)

[This is the first time I've tried my hands at flower-photography. I switched to the "macro" mode. But the result is not very good. Do tell me if you know how to photograph a flower properly.]

Happy Bengali New Year 1416

Here's Upamanyu wishing you: A Very Happy Bengali New Year (or Śubha Nava Varṣa or Śubho Nôbô Bôrṣô) 1416.

Today is the first day of Voiśākh/ Boiśākh (or Pôela Voiśākh or Pôela Boiśākh).

The first day of the Bengali calendar transports me back to a distant past, a past that was so dear to me. So many colourful events shaped those days. Those days were distinguished by simple, limitless and unadulterated joy. Every single moment those days was filled with wonder. I can never feel the joy and wonder again. That's why this day makes me simultaneously sad and cheerful: sad, because I know I can never get the days back, and cheerful, because I can almost feel the joy and wonder of those days.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy: The Final Word

It's finally over. The 100 Hours of Astronomy. The hundred hours went away as if they were a dream. But they were a dream. How else can I explain the immense joy I derived from organising the 100HA events? Now that the 100 hours are over, I'm looking back at the event and penning -- sorry, blogging -- my thoughts about it.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy:Day IV

April 5
This was the final day of the 100 Hours of Astronomy. It was very saddening to close the event. The whole event was as enchanting as a beautiful dream. I will cherish the 100 Hours for ever.

Now let's talk about the event of the final day. Wait, there's not a lot to talk about. No, I'm not feeling lazy to write the report. But I've observed that all my previous reports had a sense of déjà vu. I'm pretty sure that if I start writing the event report of Day IV it will be nothing but a rehash of the reports of Days I, II and III (especially of Day III).

Here's the short of it:
From 10 a.m. in the morning I started showing webcasts. I also showed the NASA DVD on Saturn. The number of attendees was the highest this day. Therefore, I had to entertain the guests in several batches. The reaction was great, to say the least. (I can't find any other synonyms of "great." I've used a lot.) It was a busy day for all of us. People were disappointed with the observing session. But that's not my fault. You can do nothing if the sky remains clouded. Only the Moon was somewhat visible. So the observing session was not as satisfying.

But if you ask me how the day was, I'd say just one word: Excellent!

Here are the parting images of the 100 Hours of Astronomy from Kolkata. I could take these photos only after the participants left.

100 Hours of Astronomy - The Moon Behind the Clouds (2)

A rare moment when I could see the Moon fully.

Otherwise...Behind the clouds...

100 Hours of Astronomy - The Shielded Moon

The photos are not good. I know, I know.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy: Day III

April 4
Of all four days, this was easily the finest. The 100 Hours of Astronomy couldn't get any better for me. This was the busiest and most noisy day as well. After the good reaction to the events of the first two days (reports: Day I, Day II), people came in pouring. In fact, at one point, it became quite difficult to manage the crowd and, you won't believe this, count the attendance. It was overwhelming in every possible way.

100 Hours of Astronomy: Day II

3 April
The second day of the 100 Hours of Astronomy was not really satisfying for me as an event organiser in terms of public outreach.

Monday, 6 April 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy: Day I - Part 2

2 April
Oh, what a wonderful experience I had!

This was the first event for 100 Hours of Astronomy I organised for the public. (I did one before, but it was not open to the public.)

And it was brilliant.

The programme for this day was aimed at some students of a local school. The program was also open to some of their guardians. I persuaded those guardians for long before they finally allowed their children to come here.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Server Not Found (or How My ISP Almost Destroyed the 1OO HA)

This error message (and its variations like "The Page Cannot Be Displayed") irritates you and me, of course. But never before, I guess, this message has made me cry...well, almost.

That's what happened to me yesterday and the day before. Before I could submit my further plans for 3-5 April on the 100 Hours of Astronomy website, my truly great server went off. You may argue that reporting doesn't mean much (or anything at all) if I really celebrate the 100 Hours of Astronomy and reach out to everybody. And I'd agree with you, no doubt.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy: Day I - Part 1

What more can I say except that the very first hour of the 100 Hours of Astronomy was underwhelming for me?

I didn't really intend the first hour of 100 Hours of Astronomy to be like this. As you know, the 100 hours started from April 2. I wanted it to start with observing the sky through my telescopes. So I was there on my terrace with my two telescopes. The people I invited were there.

I scheduled an observation session from 00:01 to 01:01. But, alas, I was disappointed.

I was ready. I had everything ready. But something undesirable -- and also unchangeable -- happened. The weather in Kolkata proved a dampener for me. The sky was overcast! The red clouds created an impenetrable wall between the two of us -- the sky and yours truly. How much I loathe those red clouds!

But I was not completely disappointed. I did get a very faint and very brief view of Saturn. Just that, nothing else!

But astronomy isn't limited to observation. 100 Hours of Astronomy means the endless celebration of this branch of science, right? So who can possibly stop my celebration?

I will do more stuff today, involving even a greater number of people.

The celebration has begun. You better take part in it before it's too late.

[For more on this topic, click on the labels]

100 Hours of Astronomy: The Beginning

Ah, it's begun. We have started celebrating!

As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), astronomers worldwide have started celebrating 100 Hours of Astronomy.

Astronomers -- professional, amateur or otherwise -- and even astronomy-lovin' non-astronomers from almost every corner of the world are participating in this.

How proud I am to say that I started celebrating the 100 Hours of Astronomy before most people could. I have to thank the longitude of Kolkata for this.

I'll be organising various 100 Hours of Astronomy events here in Kolkata and around. I aim at reaching out to as many people as possible. I will be holding events at various locations, including schools. As a member of NASA's Saturn Observation Campaign, I will show films on the planet Saturn. It's also a great that Saturn can now be observed easily. And, of course, there's this telescopic event. I'll organise the events also a representative of Prof. Dhiranando Roy Study & Research Centre. I'll be holding events everyday there.

[Note: If you live in Kolkata and want to participate, please leave necessary details at the comments section of this page. Please provide your email.]

Coming up: DAY I - Part 1

Sunday, 29 March 2009

2009: The Universe - Yours [and Mine] to Discover

I couldn't have imagined before that the year 2009 would be so special for me.

It's been a roller-coaster ride for me already. I took my Board exams. My exams prevented me from doing what I liked, as I discussed in this post.

But it wasn't till my exams were over when I realised that there couldn't be a better year for the exams. I couldn't have got three long months for myself. Next couple of weeks, I believe, would enrich me with a number of remarkable experiences. I'd have been deprived of these extraordinary experiences if this were not 2009.

Why do I say so? Of course, you should know if you've looked at my profile!

2009 is the year of my love: Astronomy.

Yes, the UN declared 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), thus making it my year -- and the year of the millions who lose themselves in the sky. This is a year-long celebration which I wanted to join for long. And now, I officially take part in the jamboree that celebrates the triumph of science, the conquest of the unknown by human race and humanity itself. Yes, I use the word "humanity" as humanity and astronomy are so inter-related.

Some may question the significance of IYA2009. Yes, we, who worship science, (more specifically, astronomy) celebrate astronomy all our life. But this year is needed as we want to spread our madness among those who aren't crazy already.

We also need this this year to pay tribute to the man who revolutionized modern astronomy with exactly 400 years ago. We pay tribute to the man who faced the wrath of religion for simply stating what he saw. The man is Galileo Galilei (in picture, in case you didn't know already) who touched the sky with his new eye -- the eye which we call telescope.

No, not only Galileo, we also celebrate the intelligence of extraordinary minds (from all over the world) who made astronomy what it is now. They also made us what we are now.

This year is specifically mine in another way. This year, India is going to see a Total Solar Eclipse after a long time in July. This is the first TSE in India after I became seriously involved with astronomy.

So you've understood why this year is mine. This year can be yours too, if you join the craze.

I'll be discussing astronomy all along the year (of course, it doesn't stop on 31 December). I'll try to popularize astronomy more than I ever did. I will kick-start this event on the 2nd of April by hosting 100 Hours of Astronomy, a programme scheduled to take place during 2-5 April. It's also a part of IYA2009. The details of my plans should be up soon.

Also visit my astronomy-specific blogs:
1) Night Sky Fanatics (observation blog)
2) Go to Space (news blog)
[Some of the contents from these two blog will also be posted here.]

For now:

The Universe - Yours to Discover

Friday, 27 March 2009

I'm a Big Idiot

Yes, I am. Indeed. Forsooth.

The way I have messed up with my Internet browser proves that I'm nothing short of an idiot. I've been cursing myself since I did this.

Here's what I did:
Till Wednesday, I had Internet Explorer 7 running on my computer. Then I got to know that IE8 was released. I didn't care to look at any reviews or bloggers' reactions. I was informed that it was "fast," "compatible," and who-knows-what-else. Then I downloaded IE8. It was pretty fine until I (in my infinite wisdom) decided to uninstall IE7 before installing IE8. And boy, what a wonderful decision it was!

IE8 was slow in my computer and I decided to revert to IE7 at once. Then I uninstalled IE8. Meanwhile, I may have messed up with a thing or two. Now neither IE7 nor IE8 can be installed on my computer on account of "Cryptographic Service errors" and "Win32 generic host" stuff.

Now I've definitely reverted. To IE6. I don't know what I should do now. I'm so put off.

O' course, I'm an Idiot (with a capital I).

Now there's something coming up which can actually cheer me up. Watch out...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Do You Want to See a Bloodless Kill Bill?

For those who want to, here's this for you.



I'm writing this as PIX shows both the volumes of the spectacular Kill Bill. I am not watching, though. I like both the movies a lot, but (you won't believe this) I can't watch the [extremely] violent scenes. I know they're completely comical and all, but I don't have the stomach to digest some particular scenes from Kill Bill as the IMDb describes. It's not that I have anything against this superbly stylised movie by Tarantino. By "violent scenes", I mean these hand-slicing, eye-squishing ones, of which I've only heard, but never seen. So whenever it's aired on TV, I skip most of "The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves" (Vol. 1) and "Elle and I" (Vol. 2). I think I will be able to digest 'em, someday. I love "The Cruel Tutelage of Pai-Mei." Just look how hilarious Pai-Mei is in this video, which, I think, is one of the best creative works I've ever seen on YouTube.

For now, enjoy.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Ringing Out the Old

I realised only now that it's been two weeks since my last post. How could I not blog for two weeks?

Then again, I haven't really blogged since....,well, I don't remember. It may also be the exam hangover -- for the lack of a better word -- which prevents me from writing.

All these days, my life's been pretty irregular. Reading books, surfing the Net and spending "quality time" with the family kept me engaged and made me forget blogging.

[In an earlier draft of this post, I wrote a lot of stuff on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Then, bless my unlimited wisdom, the title of the post made me aware of the fact that I was writing about something different. Then I deleted all that I had written and started afresh. What a brilliant(ly bad) blogger I am! No?]

On the 8th of this month, I woke up at 8:30 in the morning. The morning filled me with a new kind of joy (the joy of the marriage mentioned in the last post) and refreshed me. I could not but be gay (yep! The Daffodils is one of my favourite Wordsworth poems.) as this was the first morning after ages which didn't greet me with the tension for the Board exams.

Little did I know that ten minutes later I would be overcome with a sadness for the very reason which gave me joy. When I went near my study-table I found my parents gathering all my books of IX- X in a corner.


Father was removing all my text-books and stuff from my shelf (he wasn't throwing it away) and carrying it away to our library (which is located elsewhere in our house). He was "freeing" my shelf for other books to occupy them. I must tell you that I haven't yet got "other books" i.e. textbooks of XI. Why read them now when I have so many other "other books" i.e. stories to read? So my favourite fictions occupy the shelf now and will continue to do so, at least, till I am admitted to class XI, probably in June. But that's not the point. Lemme get there.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd actually feel sad to part with my text-books of IX-X. For two years, those books frightened me and almost enveloped me like an octopus.Before my exams all I wanted was to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Then why did it hurt me when I was getting rid of them? Why did I feel sad when I realised that I'd never make notes of the pages and underline important sentences? Did the books anyhow became a part of me without my knowledge or realisation? Was it that I started loving them while disliking them?

These are the questions which I asked myself for the past few days.

Another question bugs me: Can I actually avoid these feelings ever in my life? You don't have an answer, do you? Nor do I.

I know that we must "Ring in the new/ Ring out the old." But doesn't this ringing-out-the-old gives us the "grief that saps the mind," sometimes? Oh, we have to ring that out too.