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F 117 Stealth Fighter Origami

Lockheed F-117 is a stealthy ground attack aircraft which was formerly operated by the US Air Force. Basically the weird, angular shape of this plane makes it very very difficult to catch on a Radar. What all that Geek and Latin means is:

If you can’t sees it, you can’t shoots it.

Anyways, I wanted to make an Origami model of the F117 Nighthawk. Tried it with this Youtube tutorial and got a quite a decent looking model.

But after the initial satisfaction had died down, I wanted to fold a more realistic looking model (ahh yes… I am beginning to get the symptoms of Origaminsanity: the uncontrollable urge to make a more realistic, more “3D” model).

Anyways, I initially tried to fold this model by myself without any external assistance.

And I was promptly shot down (zing!) by the vengeful Origami gods!

Hmmm.. whats a PolymathGeek to do ?

After my initial attempts crashed and burned (zing again!), I decided to bug out(zing once again! Am I am on fire today or what!) to the friendly airbase of Youtube for rest and refueling.

There I found this model which was fairly realistic and presented a great 3 dimensional representation of this awesome bomber. I was particularly impressed by the way the engine intakes were folded.

That was it. Mission Goblin Flight was a go.

Mission Objectives:

Your mission should you choose to accept it is to:

Fold an Origami model of the F-117 stealth fighter. Make weird airplane engine noises while you are folding it to ensure maximum annoyance to the wifey. Quoting dialogues from the Top Gun movie to the further annoyance of the wifey will earn you the medal of the Order of PolymathGeek, Second Class.

On to the Pre Flight Checklist:

  1. Black A4 Sheet: Check
  2. You tube video: check
  3. Hard board: Check
  4. Cup of Masala Chai: Check
  5. Top Gun them song playing in the background: Check.

and with that checklist completed, I started following the video and started folding the F117.

This particular Origami model I would categorize as being of Easy Difficulty level. There were no weird folds. The video was straightforward and easy to follow. You don’t need to be an Olympic gymnast or a concert pianist to fold this one.

And finally two cups of Masala Chai later, The F-117 was complete.

And this is how the F117 came out looking:

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And this is how an actual F117 looks like:

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That looks amazingly realistic! Hat Tip to the creator of this model.

Mission Accomplished! Promotions all around :)

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Origami

 

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First Attempt At Fruit Art!

Our first attempt at fruit art. From apples to ducks(well almost)…

 

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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Art Attack!

 

Pallavi Makes a Penguin

Origami has always interested me. There is something special about the way a piece of paper takes shape in your hands and slowly over a series of steps turns into a work of art.

I have always felt that Origami is an art for anybody. Anybody can do it. Such art forms hold a deep fascination for me. Decorative knotting, Origami etc are art forms which don’t require tons of starting material or even any great “artistic capability”. They require a certain interest in the art form, a certain dogged patience and the ability to see the big picture. Anytime you get bored of making the same old folds or tying the same old knots, you have to visualize the final model and keep going.

At the end of a busy day’s work Origami has always calmed me down and helped me to regain my focus. As Sherlock Holmes once said “A change of work is the best rest”.

Moving on, I was introduced to “Modular Origami” by my wife Pallavi when she made a really beautiful decorative piece for our wedding.

Later we lost touch with this craft for a while but Pallavi decided to start off with Modular Origami again after a gap of almost 2 years.

I asked her to start off by making a huge Origami dragon and she decided thankfully and wisely to start off with something simpler.

She decided to start with a simple model of an Origami Penguin for our showcase.

Modular Origami consists of:

1. Making building blocks for the model which are made like this:

2. Then you make more of these “modules”.

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3. And by more, I mean many, many, many more

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4. And some more…

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5. Finally you start assembling them together. To make the Penguin, she used the video instruction below:

6. And viola! The Origami Penguin was ready.

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Only glue used was to stick the beak and the eyes. The eyes we bought from a store called Itsy Bitsy.

Now you can say “AWWWWWWWWWWWWW”

This Penguin has found a pride of place on our showcase. Pallavi went on to make some more beautiful models like a swan, a very very difficult to assemble fish and an even more bigger tray shaped like a swan for my brother’s wedding. She is now thinking of something really really big. I can’t wait to find out! :)

I will be writing about these models in the future.

The great thing about Modular Origami is that there is a very vibrant and helpful community of artists on the net to help out a newbie. Youtube is full of videos for models ranging from simple fist sized models to huge, extremely complex models which can take days to assemble.

For me, the best part is the joy Pallavi gets out of creating these models and the way her eyes light up when guests to our house compliment her on the models in our showcase.

WIN for everybody :)

Has anybody else done something similar? Please drop me a line. Pallavi and I would love to find out what you did!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Art Attack!

 

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PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 3: In Which Two Lionesses Decide Not To Have Us For Lunch

Day 2 of our Mauritius trip ended on a fantastic note and we ended up buying a model of HMS Bounty.

On to day 3 of our Mauritius trip. As per the itinerary set by our trip organizer, day 3 was supposed to be a day of rest. However, we had done a bit of digging and discovered that Casela National Park was an absolute must see location for anyone visiting Mauritius.

So we made a few phone calls to our tour organizer, some money changed hands and we were on our way to Casela National Park. Casela National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, zoo and adventure park all rolled into one. It has loads of wildlife related activities and some adventure activities like zip lining and quad bike driving as well.

So let me get on to the activity which we were really really looking forward to.

Walking with the Lions!!

To the best of my knowledge, this activity is offered in only three countries in the world: Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mauritius.Let me try to describe this activity.

  1. Step 1: Take 2 Lions or Lionesses. We are an equal opportunities employer here in Mauritius.
  2. Step 2: Take a bunch of unsuspecting pieces of lion food/ pieces of meat tourists.
  3. Step3: Make them take an hour long walk with the aforementioned lions. Make the tourists hold a stick each to make them feel brave(please excuse me while I break into uncontrollable laughter). I suppose you could send along a bunch of guides.
  4. Step 4: Take a headcount and limbcount at the end of the walk. Missing tourists are bad for tourism.
  5. Step 5: Laugh all the way to the bank.

Basically, the Casela National Park animal keepers train the lions to the point that they do not attack any tourists who are accompanied by the keepers. In all other aspects, they are still wild. They hunt, they fight and display all the aggression, ferocity and yes, playfulness of their species.

Also, you are given a stick to hold on to which is an added signal to the lion that you are not to be attacked. The lions are not tame in any way. They have just been barely trained to reign in their aggressive instincts to a small extent when accompanied by their keepers.

For our walk, we were accompanied by four National Park Keepers, a bunch of tourists and two Lionesses. The lionesses were: a white lioness named Pizula and a tawny one named Sinanga.

Pallavi: Yash you remember the names of the lionesses who would have preferred to eat you and don’t remember the names of the Animal Keepers who were there to save your scrawny butt. Doesn’t that indicate something to you about your geeky personality?

Me: Hmmmmm… No.

Pallavi: <Rolling her eyes>

We really would have liked to walk with lions instead of lionesses as I think they look more majestic and beautiful and drop dead awesome (Go ahead .. call me a Male Chauvinist) but as per the keepers, males tend to be lazy and moody and not always active so early in the morning (wonder why Pallavi is laughing her head off..).

Anyhoo.. back to the walk..We received some preliminary instructions from the keepers.

  • No sudden movements.
  • Always keep the stick in your hands.
  • When we ask you to pat the lions(I can’t believe we did this and I can’t believe that I am using the words “pat” and “Lion” in the same sentence), do not pat it like you would pat your grandma’s little awww-cho-cute kitten. Pat Thump it with a firm hand. If you pat it softly, it will think that it is being buzzed by flies and will take a bite out of your hand(ouch!).
  • Stay with the group. If you lose sight of the group, be afraid. Be very afraid!
  • Do not touch the back of the lion’s neck as they take it as a threat.
  • Please try to smile for the photos.

Now I will let my pictures do most of the talking..

And they lead in the Furred, Feline Beauties

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Walking with Sinanga.

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And here we get to actually pat Pizula.

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The fact that these lionesses are quite wild was brought home to us in quite a dramatic fashion when Pallavi tried to pat Pizula.

Despite the instruction from the keepers, she patted Pizula with a light touch instead of giving the lioness a firm patting. Before we realized it, Pizula turned her neck and snapped at Pallavi’s hand! Thankfully, Pallavi pulled her hand back with a shriek and the keepers calmed Pizula down. No harm done except maybe to our blood pressures.

Then there was Sinanga. Her favourite and supposedly playful activity was to run ahead of the group, hide behind a tree and jump on Pizula when she passed by the tree!

As if these shenanigans were not enough, a few minutes later, Sinanga apparently smelled out some prey nearby and rushed right off! Pizula went running after her friend and some of the keepers had to go running after them to get them back.

Man those ladies sure know what they want out of life!

About 10 minutes later, the keepers led back the two lionesses. They had smelled some wild boar and had started chasing them. It was only with great difficulty and some bribery in the form of some chopped meat that the keepers were able to get them back for the walk.

And now we come to my favourite pics from this day..

The keepers got Pizula to climb up a tree.

Totally Obvious Side Note: If any misguided dumbass tells you to climb a tree when you are being chased by a lion; DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! Lions don’t just climb trees. They literally run up the trunk of the tree like they were born for it! If you want to avoid a lion by climbing up a tree, you need to find a tree which you can climb faster than the lion and which the lion can’t climb. Good luck with that Mr. Dead Meat.

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Anyways, the keepers got Pizula to climb up a tree and we got our pics taken with Pizula looking down at us like I would look at a plate of Aloo Paranthas with a side order of mango pickles.

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And finally my absolute favourite pic of the entire trip.

The precise moment when Pallavi realized that the 100 Kilo bundle of pointy clawed, sharp toothed ferocity sitting above us, probably sees us as lunch.

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Thank you so much Sinanga and Pizula for not eating us.

After this we got to see some Lion cubs and also explored the zoo for a while.

Then it was time for …

Zip Lining!!

Zip Lining was awesome fun but the part which was most scary and exciting was the Burma Bridge Crossing.

This is Burma Bridge Crossing:

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Yep..500 metres of shaky cable and plank bridge suspended over a gorge with awesome views of the park and the soundtrack being provided by your knocking knees.

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I would like to think that I have a good head for heights but the 20 minute walk across the Burma bridge was seriously scary. Yes we had safety lines and even if we had slipped, we wouldn’t have fallen. Try telling that to your mind.

Gotta say Pallavi did it like a champ. I could see that she was scared too but she just kept walking, one step in front of another and pretty soon she was across. There is an awesome life lesson right there.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How do you cross a 500 metre chasm on a shaky plank bridge? One step at a time!

Ok.. enough with the fruity self help talk.

It was Zip Lining Time.We went through three zip lining courses and each of them was mind-blowing..

Yes we had a safety line. Yes it was still scary.

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Go on it is just a small step :)

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Wheeeeeee ………….

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My plan for tandem skydiving with Pallavi was shot down by Pallavi on the grounds that I am legally insane and was probably dropped on my head when I was a baby leading to an unfortunate and incurable case of my brains having leaked out of my ears.

And with that I conclude my Mauritius trip chronicles. I have not included everything that we saw or did.I have mainly included the highlights.

If anyone is planning a trip to Mauritius, drop in a comment and I will help you out any ways I can.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Wanderlust

 

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PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 2: In Which We Buy The Ship HMS Bounty

WE BOUGHT A SHIP!

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No. Not this one

Day 1 of our Mauritius trip was great with Tube riding, parasailing and the can’t-recommend-it-enough Under Sea Walks.

On to Day 2:

Day 2 was supposed to cover the south side of Mauritius. It included lots of shopping(yaawwn.. boring) and a ship making factory. I will not cover the shopping part of our day much as it involved …hmm… let me see… shopping.

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Let me instead jump to the visit to the ship making factory. We were really intrigued by the ship making factory. Everyone we asked told us that ship making factory was a place where they (duh) made ships. Then they would say something like: “They make ships.. by hand..small ships.” Hmmm…curiouser and curiouser.

Anyways we reached the ship making factory and it turned out to be a Model ship making factory.They make scaled replicas of historical ships, yachts, modern battleships and what not. And yes they were all made by hand. When I walked into the shop I smelt the good old smell of wood, varnish, paint and glue and suddenly I was as excited as a four year old in Disneyland!

This is our story.

The amazing part about this whole operation is the level of detail these model makers bring to their craft. Pallavi and I had a whale of a time walking around this place, taking pics and talking to the craftsmen.

At the entrance to the Model Ship Building factory, we were welcomed by a guide who would be showing us around. Inside the factory, the first thing that we saw were a group artisans cutting and stitching pieces of cotton cloth. These turned out to the sails for the model ships. To give an authentic look to the sails, they were then steeped in dilute tea decoction. This gives a weathered look to the sails.

At the next workbench, another group was busy threading string through miniature pulleys and knotting strings. Tough work due to the very small size of the pulleys. This is what I call attention to detail.

Next we saw an easel mounted with the detailed plans for an actual historical ship. The guide had this to say “We get the ship plans from the maritime authorities of the respective country and replicate it exactly.” Mind-Blown!

The ship building process goes something like this:

The basic structure or framework of the ship is made first.

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This is followed by the keel and the decks. The whole process is very intricate and requires a lot of patience and skill.

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This is followed by mounting accessories like sails, pulleys, cables, cannons etc. They really nail the authenticity part of the ship building process.. everything is scaled perfectly to ensure that the model is a very very accurate scaled down replica of the original ship that they are trying to duplicate.

then it is time for a good coating of paints, varnishes and mounting on a stand.

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It takes anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks to complete one ship. And again depending on the type of ship being built, it may have 2 to 8 people working on it..

Aaaaand finally the completed ships are put up for display and sale in their showroom. After a long and very fruitful morning spent in roaming around the workshops and goggling at all the model ships on display at the showroom, we finally decided to buy a model of the infamous HMS Bounty.

Avast ye scurvy scallywag! Get down on your knees and swab them decks :)

Other than this we spent a lot of time just roaming around the town. Picking up souvenirs and just chilling out and having a good time.

Thus ended Day 2 of our Mauritius trip.

Coming Up Next: Day 3: In Which Two Lionesses Decide Not To Have Us For Lunch

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 1: In Which We Fly High, Go Low and Almost Eat Fish!

On to the day 1 of our Mauritius trip.

We started the day with a breakfast of toast, fruit, porridge, milk, orange juice, coffee and more fruit. The travel agency bus arrived at 8:30 am and off we went. There were a bunch of honeymooning Indian couples in the bus and we were glad for the company.  We were also glad and a bit surprised to spot a much older Indian couple with us. They were in their sixties and it was real pleasure to see them. It is not very common for older Indian couples to visit places like Mauritius and we were pleasantly surprised to see them.

The plan for the day was:

  • Visit to the Ille Aux Surfs island which has some great beaches and a small waterfall inland.
  • WATER SPORTS!!!!
  • Lots of swimming.

Our driver (another Mauritian of Indian descent called Manish) took us to an agency which conducts watersports and we bought tickets for the following activities:

  • Tube Riding
  • Para Sailing
  • Undersea Walk and
  • A boat trip to the waterfall

Lunch was part of the package. This whole package came to 6500 Mauritian Rupees(INR 12000 approx) per couple.

So anyways, off we went to the beach for the first activity of the day:

Tube Riding

Let me describe Tube Riding in my eloquent, moving and articulate writing style.

You sit on rubber boat. Rubber boat tied to speed boat with rope. Speed boat move at high speed. Rubber boat dragged behind. Bumpety-bumpety-bump-bump! Since you idiot enough to sit in said rubber boat, hold on for dear life. Screaming mandatory. Curse and swear to taste.

After this was over we headed out for our next activity:

Undersea Walk.

This was one activity that Pallavi and I were really, really looking forward to. We had heard a lot of great things about this and were really excited about it. In undersea walk, the operators take you to a shallow(3-4 m depth) stretch of the ocean. You put on a clear plastic helmet through which fresh air is pumped in through a pipe for you to breathe. They also attach a couple of weights to your waist. Then you descend underwater and can actually walk on the ocean bed. That’s right. You actually walk underwater!

Now that the boring technical description is over, I will actually get to describe the experience itself.

Undersea walks has got to be one of the highlights of our trip to Mauritius. I had never experienced anything like this before.(Mental Note: Learn Scuba Diving ASAP). We got to the launch point for undersea walk by boat. Launch point was a platform built in shallow waters about 2-3 km from the coast. Soon it was our time to go under. We put on the bubble shaped helmet(which I’ll be calling the Bone Dome:)), shoes and the weights and down the ladder we went.

The first thing that stuck me about the experience was the absolute silence underwater. This is something that I have experienced while swimming but it was a bit eerie when it happened during the walk. There was a serenity to the whole experience that was both enervating and unnerving at the same time. Lifting my head up, I could see the sunlight streaming down through the clear water. It was an awesome sight. Then I slowly relaxed and saw that the ocean floor was covered with broken coral pieces and some bits from an old ship wreck. White and black striped fish swam with impunity around us. Soon Pallavi joined me and we settled down to enjoy one of the most fantastic experiences of our trip. We tried touching the fish and barely managed it. Man can those fishes swim! They will be swimming along slowly, seemingly oblivious to their environment and as soon as you try to touch them.. zoom!! They swim away from you so fast. Then the operators handed us a bit of bread to feed the fish and suddenly we had the entire school of fish feeding from our hands. And it tickled like crazy :). This was an awesome experience. I will be probably boring my grand-kids with stories of how we fed fish underwater.

Here are some pics

Pallavi All Smiles :)

Pallavi All Smiles :)

Inside water.. This is y I came to Mauritius :)

Inside water.. This is y I came to Mauritius :)

All we need are a bunch of fins and we are good to go.. Hehehe

All we need are a bunch of fins and we are good to go.. Hehehe

Hmm.. Pallavi is pinching me right now..
Pallavi: Say it! Say it!
Me: Say what?
Pallavi: You know what!
Me: I am a geek. I can’t use that word!
Pallavi: Say it or I’ll poke you with my hairpin. Go on…
Me: Alright! Alright!

Me: Undersea walks. It was Magical!

Pallavi: There! See it was not all that tough, was it?
Me: Just you wait! This article is not over yet. I will have my vengeance. Muhuhahahahaha!
Pallavi: Prrrrrrrrrr! :P

Anyways getting back to undersea walks, it was an absolutely awesome experience and one I’ll recommend to anyone visiting Mauritius. We walked around underwater, fed the fish, had our pictures taken underwater and just chilled out and enjoyed the calming, soothing experience. Pretty soon the operators were asking us to come out and we were (very reluctantly) climbing the ladder to the surface again.

Then it was on to the next activity of the day…

Parasailing!!!

We were trying out this activity for the first time and the experience was really great. The view from the top was amazing and the wind gusting all over us has to be experienced to be believed. Now I can’t wait to learn Skydiving and Hang-gliding! My only beef with parasailing was the fact that it got over way too soon. We had barely settled down and were beginning to enjoy the view when the whole thing ended. It lasted for around 5-6 minutes which in my not so humble opinion is a big letdown. Be good if it lasts for something like 10 minutes.

Now it was time for lunch and a boatride to Ille Aux Cerfs island.

We came back to the start off point of the water sports activities for lunch. We were running a bit behind schedule so we all decided to have our lunch packed and eat at the Ille Aux Cerfs island. We collected the lunch packets and boarded the boat to Ille Aux Cerfs island.

Ille Aux Cerfs island is a beautiful island with some very pretty beaches. It also has a small waterfall inland and an Indian restaurant called Masala which we had heard a lot about.

Our ferry boat first took us to the waterfall which was just about okay. It was not a very big waterfall but the way the locals had hyped it up made you think of it as Niagara’s long lost twin sister or something.When we reached the waterfall, Pallavi’s first words were: “So where is this great big waterfall?”

Ferryman: Right in front of you madam.

Pallavi: What?? That thing over there is no waterfall!!

Me: Yeah Dude!! The diving board at my local swimming pool is higher than that!

Oh well… at this time I was reminded of a quote by Mark Twain:

The Gentle Reader will never, never know what a complete ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the Gentle Reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a complete ass“.

After visiting the “I-will-be-a-waterfall-when-i-grow-up”, we came back to the beach. It was time for lunch.

And this is when we almost ate fish!

As I mentioned before, we had taken two lunch packets before leaving for the island. Pallavi and I are vegetarians so we had asked for and received vegetarian lunch packets. And this is where I goofed up. I took the sealed lunch packets from the organizers. Asked them if they were veg and once they confirmed it, I took their word for it and didn’t open them and check.

On the Ille Aux Cerfs island, we found that one of the packets had vegetarian lunch in it, the other one had minced fish in it. That spoiled the mood a bit for Pallavi and me. Thankfully we went to the restaurant Masala on the island which had a some good reviews and had a proper lunch.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls

Do As I Say, and Don’t Do As I Do

  • Just because you are on vacation, do not switch off your common sense. Travelling, at the end of the day, involves dealing with lots of people. And people make mistakes. You do not have to make things worse by adding your own set of goof ups into the mix. Ask questions. Check things. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open. That does not mean that you should not be having fun. Have fun. Have loads of fun but do not leave your brains at home. :)
  • Listen to your partner. This is a big one. When I was collecting the lunch packets, Pallavi asked me to check if they were vegetarian. I should have listened to her and actually “checked”. Instead, I contented myself with taking someone’s word for it. Not a good idea. When you have a partner with you whose common sense is working as opposed to yours which has gone to sleep, it is a really good idea to just listen to them. Will save everyone a lot of aggravation.

On the plus side though, the lunch at Masala restaurant was awesome. We were really hungry and in addition to the single packed vegetarian lunch, we wolfed down two vegetarian thalis and a side order of samosas. We really felt great after that awesome lunch.

After lunch it was time for a long leisurely swim.

We spent the next one hour lazing around the beach, swimming, splashing water on each other and swimming some more. It was a beautiful beach and we had a great time.

After that we took the boat to return from the island and took the bus back to our hotel. We had loads of fun on the first day and came back to the hotel tired but happy.

Next Post: PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 2: In Which We Buy The Ship HMS Bounty

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Wanderlust

 

PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 0:In Which We Get Lost In A Dubai Shoppping Mall On The Way To Mauritius!

A trip to Mauritius was on the cards for a long time. When I was getting married, Mauritius was one of the honeymoon destinations that Pallavi and I thought about. Singapore was where we eventually decided to go for our honeymoon, but Mauritius was always in the list.

Anyways, for our second wedding anniversary, we decided to lay this craving to rest.

Pretty soon our bookings were done. We used a travel agent called Hoysala Tours and Travels and we were ready to go.

Helpful Hint:

Mauritius has tourist VISA on arrival. So, minimum of VISA related fuss.

We were booked to Mauritius on Emirates flight via Dubai, i.e, we had to switch flights in Dubai.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,

Do As I Say and Don’t Do As I Do:

Always try to book a direct flight to Mauritius if you are flying there from India.Taking a connecting flight via Dubai adds about 4-5 hours to your travel time.

On the plus side though, we got to see the Dubai airport and boy what an airport!!!

Dubai airport is HUGE!!! It is also built for trade, commerce, business, vyaapar and even money making ! :) In other words, Dubai airport is one massive, duty free shopping mall which also has a few planes taking off and landing here and there and a few pesky passengers wasting space and oxygen.

Anyways we left Bangalore on the 27th of November and reached Mauritius on the same day. The travel agent rep was waiting for us and we settled down for an hour long drive to our hotel: Le Surcouf.

Our driver was a Mauritian of Indian descent named Satish. From our conversation with Satish and by looking at the Mauritian countryside, we got the following facts:

1. Sugarcane is grown everywhere and I mean everywhere.

2. Water is an expensive commodity in Mauritius. Most hotels serve only mineral water on demand for which they charge a premium. That’s right! Unlike India, as soon as you step into a hotel, a waiter is not likely to plonk down glasses of water on your table. It is better to buy mineral water bottles at convenience stores and use them. Even these are expensive but are still cheaper than paying exorbitant rates for the same at the hotel.

3. Extremely good roads. Disciplined driving. One big city(Port Louis: the capital). Rest small towns and villages.

4. Everything shuts down at around 4 pm. When we were driving down, all we could see was closed shops.

Anyways we reached our hotel at around 6 pm local time and finished off the check in formalities. Since we were a little tired, we had an early dinner and went off to sleep. Our Mauritian holiday had just begun!

Next Post: PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 1: In Which We Fly High, Go Low and Almost Eat Fish!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Wanderlust

 

Of Decorative Knotting, Gift Giving and a bunch of Silly Geeks!

I came across the art of Decorative Knotting quite by accident. I was searching online for something completely different when I stumbled upon this art form.

So what is decorative knotting? It consists of creating different patterns of knots, loops and braids in a piece of string to create artistic masterpieces.

I liked this art form because:

1. It is relatively easy to do. Just requires a bit of patience.
2. Lots of resources online to help out a beginner.
3. Make for really good decoration pieces around the house (shameless show off that I am).
4. Great conversation starters :)

I bought a few rolls of different coloured string (The story of how my Wife and I went about getting the right type of string is a saga of epic proportions deserving a face melting guitar solo and another blog post). For my first attempt I decided to make this:

De Ana Star

I found the video instructions here:

Anyways, making this piece was not all that difficult. The video was very clear and well made and I am a great copy cat :). The challenge was something else.

Now we come to my wicked, ulterior motives for making this piece of art. My wife Pallavi had encouraged me so much to start with this that I wanted to do something special for her. I wanted to make this piece as a gift for her. The piece I selected was perfect as a cute little key chain or maybe even a funky necklace.

The tough part was to do it without her coming to know. Hmm…

Enter the office commute to the rescue.

I spend about 2 hours everyday commuting to and from my office. So the time was perfect for some sneaky surprise gift making. Or so I thought….

Working on an art project in a bus full of Engineers comes with (warning: groan inducing pun follows) a lot of strings attached.

After getting a few weird comments and questions from my co-passengers like:

1. Dude, why are you playing with string?
2. Dude, seriously! are you knitting a sweater?
3. Dude, you are an Aerospace test engineer doing artsy fartsy stuff with string. You have violated the code of geekdom! You will have to display the wallpaper of shame on your desktop for one month!

Wallpaper of shame.

Anyways after an interminably long duration (45 mins) of juggling an android phone(containing the video), 1 m of (Orange coloured. Shut Up!) string and (un)wisecracks from my co-workers (mental note: next project Build a Flamethrower), The Star Key Chain was done!

It looked like this.

The Completed Piece

Not a bad start even if I say so meself!

The look on Pallavi’s face was priceless.

Epic Win!

All in all a great start to a superb art form.

Anybody out there tried something similar? Please send me your pics and I will share them here.

Some resources for beginners:

Fusion Knots

Fusion Knots Videos

De’Ana Star Sinnet Image Courtesy of Fusion Knots.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on November 22, 2012 in Art Attack!

 

I Gotta Get Me One Of These: Curta Calculator

Curta Calculator is a piece of Mechanical Engineering Awesomeness so radical that it added a new term to the English language. Yeah! Thats right. The phrase “Cranking out answers” – which we associate mainly with with penny pinching accountants- came about thanks to this baby. I might be bluffing a bit there but never mind :)

This is what a Curta Calculator looks like:

Look Mommy! A Math Grenade!

The Curta Calculator story starts when a particularly insane Charlie Chaplin imitator called Adolf Hitler thought that it might be a really good idea to take his Panzer battle tanks and Messerschmidt fighter aircraft on a cross country hike across Europe and dump a crapload of bombs, bullets and bad German Martial music on unsuspecting Europeans till they died of it. Somewhere in this madness was his idea of killing Jews wherever he could find them. Anyways, during his tramp through the country of Austria, one of the Jews captured by the Nazis was a young Mechanical Engineer called Curt Herzstark.

Curt Herzstark was working on a prototype of a portable calculator when he was caught by the Nazis and thrown into the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1943.

Hmmm… Epic Suck.

Just when it seemed that Curt Herzstark was doomed to end his life sucking down poison gas in a Nazi gas chamber, his mechanical engineering know-how came to his rescue. His supervisor at the camp came to know of his portable calculator idea and asked him to develop it further. The idea was to present a completed piece to Hitler as a gift once the Germans won the war.

Well, as we all know, the war didn’t turn out all that well for the Germans and their leader. Hitler swallowed a piece of hot lead fired from a 9 mm Luger pistol, which killed him for some strange reason.

Curt Herzstark on the other hand survived the war and walked out of the Buchenwald Concentration camp with the completed plans of his calculator. It took him a few more years to start a company and begin manufacturing his calculator.

The concept of a mechanical calculator was not new. What differentiated the Curta was its compact size, relative ease of use and and a method to cross check your answers. It could perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and with a little extra effort, square roots as well.

Check out this video of a Curta in action:

You set your inputs, turn the crank and the machine just puuurrrrrrrrrs as it gets you the answer! Something deeply satisfying about that crank whirring around and generating the answer.

To return to Curt Herstark, he continued to make his calculators. Over the years he also continued to make improvements to his original design. These remained the preferred portable calculators till the 1970s when they were replaced by electronic calculators.

Today, nobody manufactures them anymore. The remaining Curtas remain highly collectible (and expensive) items. There are some of them for sale on Amazon and Ebay as well.

But looking at these I can almost visualize a half starved Jew sitting in an overcrowded cell, scribbling numbers and drawings on scraps of paper in the dim light. I can imagine the hope in his heart. The hope, not for wealth or material possessions, but hope for survival. Cliff Stoll describes it much better than me in this video:

All I can say looking at this baby go is: I Gotta Get Me One of These!

 
 
 
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