December 13, 2008


The third longest underground river in the world runs through Puerto Rico. The Rio Camuy is covered by an intricate system of caves. Currently the public is not allowed into the caves to see the subterranean spectacle, but other wonders await within the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy. There are two massive sinkholes in the area. The larger one, Tres Pueblos Sinkhole, is 400 feet deep and 650 feet in diameter. A trolley takes tourists around the sinkhole, stopping in each quadrant for a different view of the gaping void and the river below. Early inhabitants of Puerto Rico used the site as a garbage dump, since they could just toss rubbish into the basin and it disappeared from sight. Now the Rio Camuy Caves Park is a protected area.

The Spiral Sinkhole is smaller and more accessible by foot. A staircase has been built that allows visitors to descend the 200 steps into a lost world. The flora and fauna differs vastly from the world above. A glimpse into a foreboding cavern is available from near the bottom of the sinkhole. Hundreds of bats can be seen, heard, and smelt, hanging from the roof of the cave.

“I am much mistaken, however, if he has not fine strata in his nature. He is capable of rising to heights as well as of sinking to depths.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of The Lost World

December 09, 2008


Apart from mosquitoes and birds, my third main nemesis in India was the cockroach. No matter how many I disposed of, dozens would spring up to replace their fallen brethren. Many came into direct contact with the soles of my sandals. Others were coated with toxic subtances emitted by cans of bug spray. Some were flushed down the drain, swirling into oblivion. The objectionable creatures were resilient, surviving even after taking considerable punishment. They hid in my cabinet and under my bed, in the shower and under my bedsheets. They lived in my room and in my nightmares. Being an amicable fellow, I never deliberately hunted them down. Our coexistence was peaceful until they disturbed my serenity. They would rear their ugly heads when I least expected it, forcing me into taking defensive measures for the protection of my sanity.

Studies have shown that the antibodies needed to fight of cocroach allergens makes people more susceptible to asthma and other allergies. They are the ultimate survivors, having randomized escape patterns so that their enemies cannot predict their trajectories. Most horrific of all were the cockroaches that could fly. Combining their powers of indestructibiliy with airborne capabilities, they made for a very formidable foe. The epic struggle escalated. Usually every room in an India room has at least one resident gecko responsible for insect control. I enlisted the aid of these little lizards called 'tik-tikis'. They thoroughly enjoyed munching on the disgusting critters. 

December 08, 2008

Incredible !ndia

While crossing the street in front of my office building in Vancouver, I noticed an interesting message plastered on a public bus passing by. "Not all Indians are polite, hospitable and vegeterian" it boldly stated.

The punchline was the picture of a Bengal tiger underneath staring right back. The Government of India's Ministry of Tourism promotes the nation through the Incredible !ndia campaign. This eye catching advertisement was a step in the right direction for marketing one of the world's premier tourist destinations.

December 06, 2008


Although I am a fine piece of art I had never been inside the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). An opportune time to visit presented itself when an exhibit showcasing the "Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art" arrived at the establishment. On Tuesday nights, the VAG has extended hours and entry is by donation. I made a generous one to secure my entry to the KRAZY! attraction. The celebration of visual culture was named after the comic strip Krazy Kat.

There was a half an hour guided tour through the exhibit which provided a high level abstract of the different forms of art on display. Photography was not permitted within. After the tour ended, I went through the displays again more thoroughly. A small library had a collection of comic books available for reading, while another hall had anime classics projected on to the wall. Anime and manga are Japanese cartoons and comics respectively, and they have gained a large fan following around the world. I played Pac Man for the first time in a room containing playable versions of gaming consoles from different eras. Graphic novels and animation are visual forms of storytelling and artistry that are evolving at a rapid pace, and the KRAZY! exhibition strongly demonstrated the potential of the diverse media.

December 03, 2008

The Arecibo Observatory

Amidst the dense jungle around Arecibo, a gigantic structure faces skyward. Puerto Rico is home to the world's largest radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory. It peers into space, seeking answers to man's questions about the cosmos. Falling under the auspices of Cornell University, the celestial observer has been seen in films such as GoldenEye and Contact. A thousand feet in diameter, the awe inspiring instrument is used by scientists from all over the world for research purposes. The dish does not move, only the receiver. The antenna can be positioned in any angle as it slide along a cable far above the spherical reflector. SETI@Home relies on observational data provided by the Arecibo Observatory in its search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

In operation from 1963, the telescope can be used during the day or night. Its visitor center is only open during the day though. It has a small science museum, a theatre, and an observation deck from which the public can view the giant device. The film that describes a day in the life of the observatory is an interesting watch for the scientifically inclined. Only professionals are allowed to walk on the on the tiled surface of the reflective dish. Special footwear, resembling snowshoes, are required to traverse its near 40,000 aluminum panels.