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Yesterday’s ascent of around 800m to La Moucherotte was quite exhausting so I have decided to do a smaller hike. Today’s hike is in the Belladonna mountain range, which is one of the three mountains surrounding Grenoble, the other two being the Vercors and the Chartreuse. The receptionist at my hotel suggested I go to Lac Achard which is a small hike (~400m) from a small town named Chamrousse. The 1968 winter olympics were held in Grenoble and seem to have developed the city as well as neighboring towns.

On reaching Chamrousse, I could see that it has been developed for skiing in winter with many cable cars to take people to the mountain summits. In the summers, people come here to trek in the Belledonne range but this time of the year falls between winter and summer so everything was closed. Perhaps the restaurant and hotel-owners were themselves on a vacation!

I had a quick glance at the map on my iPhone and decided to go in the direction of the lake without looking it repeatedly. As it would happen, I soon lost the way but decided to keep going. My motto during hiking is: There is only one direction – Upward!

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After some more time of climbing, my Google Map suggested the lake is only a few meters away from where I was heading, although there was no trail leading to it. And how could it be; the map’s top view seemed close enough but not the side view!

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Lac Achard (Lake Achard)

Anyhow, I decided to go to the Croix de Chamrouse, which is a peak from where people ski (in winters). There was snow enroute, just as the Russian couple in the bus had suggested. I took some quick pictures.

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The cable car lines in the background, which carry people uphill for skiing in winter

The higher I went, the windier it would get. My investment in the NorthFace rainproof windproof jacket seemed to pay off since it was the only jacket I was wearing. It was surprising to see a couple climb without much cold protection and I was so amused, I asked them for a selfie.

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Crazy awesome Europeans!

I took some pictures at the top – la Croix de Chamrouse but it was windy so I started my descent soon.

IMG_6123Indeed there was a cross, the French word for which must be “croix”.

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The “croix” of Chamrousse

I quickly descended in under an hour and waited for the bus. Since there were two hours for the bus and shops and restaurants were all closed, I hitchhiked from the same aforementioned couple to reach a latter bus-stop with restaurants. The hike was excellent so far except that I forgot my hiking poles (borrowed from Shashank) in their car. I will buy a new pair (as good if not better) in Interlaken, Switzerland tomorrow hoping that he won’t be too mad at me! May be I can buy a        for him and his wife just to be sure 🙂

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Local French/Italian cuisine

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I’ve been in Grenoble for two days now and am loving it. Grenoble is surrounded by mountains (the Vercors, the Chartreuse and the Belledonne (wow, I could recall all of them!)) on all sides with two rivers — Le Drac (the lion) and Le Isere (the serpent) — going through it. Indeed, it is the capital of the Alps.

Today I went on a hike in the Vercors mountain range, climbing the peak Le Moucherotte (1910m). I started in the morning by taking a bus from the Grenoble station to Saint-Nizier (110m) and started my hike from there.

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Signboard at the start

It was a perfect sunny day as I looked up to La Moucherotte.

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La Moucherotte

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The path went through scenic woods but it was a brutal, merciless ascent without resting spots.

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Crazy mountain biker!

Tired as I was climbing, a dog ran past me followed by it’s owners. “Bon jour”, I replied my ego crushed. I saw quite a few people on the way – people and their dogs and bicycles – doing the trek. Here is a mountain biker.

Finally I reached the summit after the promised two and a half hours, much to my surprise.

Beer time!

Beer time!

The circular table is called an orientation table and it helps to find which mountain range you can see in every direction.

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Snow!

There was some snow on the way, to say the least.

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View during descent

Waiting for the bus, chilling with some Italian food.

Waiting for the bus, chilling with some Italian food.

I am on a trip to CIRM, Luminy which is a research institute in the town of Marseille in France, for a conference in mathematics. CIRM seems to be a wonderful place for Mathematics, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The campus is on a mountainous terrain which meets the Mediterranean sea at stone’s throw. The result is a beautiful trail leading to what the French call a “calanque“.

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Since this has been my first visit to France, I couldn’t help but observe a few quirks about the place. At the train station, there was a mobile charger which you needed to pedal, to charge your phone; can’t imagine this in the US! I traveled from Paris to Marseille, which is a distance of 800 km in 4 hours in the famous TGV train. Bullet trains are also unusual in the US.

CIRM is a purely research institute and in fact, is purely for conferences. Every week there is a conference in some area of Mathematics and researchers around the world in specific areas gather here to attend it. The lunch and dinner at the institute are elaborate and methodical and indicate to me that the French take their food seriously. Every meal is a five-course meal : entrée –> main dish –> bread + cheese (baguette et la fromage) –> dessert –> café. One of the days, we were served the famous Bouillabaise of Marseille, which is a popular local fish dish. It was served with white wine, customized to pique the mathematicians’ taste buds (read the description).

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The Mathematician’s wine

Today I went to the local supermarket to buy fruits and other groceries. It was amusing to see the number of aisles reserved for cheeses and vin (wine). Language has been a problem because only youngsters seem to know English. But politeness and the willingness to learn their culture and language go a long way in making good conversations.

Umm… what else? Well, cars park on sidewalks, cats roam freely. Roads seem narrower and cigarettes are longer. But my sample-space of a part of a small town may be too small to generalize. Tomorrow I hope to conquer Mont Puget which might offer an excellent view of the Mediterranean. More later, au revoir!

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Now I’ll think twice before going to Greyhouse. Here is why.

I went to the coffee-house today evening for a cup of GreyCap and Cogdell’s book on Automorphic L-functions. Greyhouse is a wonderful place to do some Mathematics and at times, just gaze around and see what other people are doing. My Chess buddies often meet here for some rapid games. Today the place was less crowded since the school is closed for summer.

A lady approaches me and asks me my age. I have seen her earlier around the campus and even in Greyhouse. I remember last summer, she once interrupted our Chess discussion and made an awkward conversation. Kerem pointed out she’s crazy but “not guilty until proven” is my principle.

Not wanting to create a fuss, I told her my approximate age and she left me alone. After a while, she came to me and asked if I could share the table with her. Honouring the etiquette of the coffee-house, I welcomed her. Now she asks if I could be her friend. I say yes. But soon things start getting weird.

“Would you like to be my friend with benefits?”

“No.” (What the fcuk!!)

“Do you know what that means?”

“I think I know.”

“Hugging, kissing, … ”

“Yes I know” (This was getting creepy)

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“No”

“Why?”

“Because I love some things (pointing at my book) more than others.”

She laughed aloud enough for everyone around to hear. I could feel the pain hidden in that laughter. I felt pity toward her.

She tore off a page from her pocket-diary and wrote her phone number on it. When I accepted it, she asked mine. I refused to share my cell number with a creepy lady I just met. She asked her note back and I gladly obliged. With some more awkward comments, she left. I shared a moment with the Indian girl sitting at the adjacent table; I could tell she overheard our conversation.

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The conversation had an impact on me I hadn’t imagined. It was not just any other crazy experience but somewhat traumatizing one. I felt shaken, mildly violated although all she did was have an extremely weird conversation. I wonder what it would be to be a girl in India. Eve-teasing, stalking, groping are real problems because of roadside Romeos – jokers who don’t know how to woo a girl but know a lot of other creepy mischief. The askew sex-ratio also doesn’t help. My (female) friend used to tell me the little ways she used to retaliate against these miscreants. They should be brought to book. Hopefully “Ab ki bar Modi sarkar” or AAP improve things.

पूजा: अाईला सांगू नकोस!

  • Your first (half) marathon is the most cherished one. Ironically, it’s also your slowest!
  • I ran a half-marathon at the Indianapolis Marathon today, 19 October, 2013 in 2:18:56.
  • Running a half-marathon = 13.1 miles = 21 kilometers sounds like the craziest idea until you actually run it. After that it seems trivial.
  • It was good to have Jacob and Ryan run the 13.1. Qi ran the full marathon; bow to thee, master! Tianyang’s support in cheering us was invaluable.
  • A 81-year old lady completed the 13.1 in just over two and a half hours. Highly impressive. Humans are crazy!
  • I liked the way the marathon was organized. Fully planned, everything taken care of including parking and restrooms. The concept of time tracking by a tracker attached to the shoe was amazing. I’m impressed with technology.
  • There was so much energy in the atmosphere that you just couldn’t get tired, stop. People cheering, runners discussing their past and future marathons, volunteers offering water and energy drinks, loud music.
  • All this excitement made me forget the bad weather, it was 5 degrees (Celsius of course), windy and raining.
  • A lady had “13.1 on my 30th birthday” printed on her shirt. I wished her a happy birthday! There were some people from Lafayette, we had a “Go Boilers!” exchange.
  • There were volunteers encouraging us to keep going. Randomly, I would tell them they’re doing a great job cheering us 🙂
  • I was hoping Jacob, who was ahead of me would cross me and I’d wave to him saying, “*How* is it going?”!
  • I was in extreme pain after crossing the finish line, but knew I had made history (at a personal level, in the least).
  • There’s only one key to completing the run, don’t think about running, don’t count the miles, don’t calculate your pace — Just RUN!

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Tailpiece:

October 2012 : Biked from Bloomington to Purdue for Habitat for Humanity, 125 miles in 2 days

October 2013 : Ran a half-marathon at the Indianapolis marathon.

October 2014 : (Crazy suggestions?)

Half-marathon! Pu-Ma runners

I wish to pen down (key in?) a singular event I happened to experience, something that I wouldn’t forget soon. This blog post I hope will serve to me as a refresher down the memory lane, years later.

On Alex’s advice, I decided to run hills. (In his words, “You’ll hate yourself running uphill but I know no other method to improve your running speed and stamina.”)  I biked to the top of “Mt. Salisbury” and after running it up and down, was on my way back home. On the bridge on Lindberg Rd, I saw a girl drooping, leaning across the bridge. I gave her a second glance and biked ahead wondering if it she was running and the sun dehydrated her. But who runs in their sandals? I turned back and rode toward her.

“Are you alright? Do you want some water?”

She started sobbing. (Uh oh!) She drank some water and hugged me. My turn to freak out, because it wasn’t a brisk hug but a painfully long one.

“Whatever it is, it’ll be alright.” (I offered my two pennies of  solace).

“Would you help me commit suicide? I want to jump over.”

“This won’t help, it’s too shallow” (Who commits suicide jumping in a bog? She wouldn’t even have fractured herself! But I agree, this isn’t the best reply you can give to a girl contemplating death. In my defence, I handled it good enough, overall.)

She fell on the trail and I sat next to her, wondering what action to take. I asked her which direction her home was and that we should walk that direction. She told she was drunk, a fact I deduced during the aforementioned hug. I compelled her to keep walking to her home and get some rest. On the way, we embarked on a (trivial) discussion about the existence of god and the goodness in people. She told me how other people on the trail ignored her and walked past. She was a Purdue undergrad; her life was in shambles and she had no one. (I believe the last part is false; for you need some parent / guardian who’ll fund your undergrad, especially in this country. I didn’t challenge her.)

She also mentioned she had been contemplating suicide for years and that I should help her. (Now I am of the opinion that if a person truly wants to die in spite of being counseled, the government should give them the opportunity. In India and Indiana, it’s a felony. Nonsense; but I’ll save this discussion for another day.)

Now this girl jumps over the railing and stands on the road, waiting to be hit by a car. The speed limit for that road is 30 mph, so again an ineffective way to kill oneself. Again I sprung into action and made her jump to the other side. At this time, she collapsed in the grass. I felt it the perfect moment to call 911. She rose up and tried to snatch my cellphone but I overpowered her. Sensing trouble, she ran away in the direction of her home. I gave her description to the authorities and no sooner than I traveled some 100m than I saw a Sheriff car (without sirens, interestingly!) turn towards the apartment complex. They caught her as soon as she was about to enter the house and interrogated her. My role ended with me narrating the cops this incident and giving my identity.

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Tailpiece: Do you think we have free will? Was it my own free will that made me turn around and help (?) the girl out? Or was I programmed? My life would have been a bit different had I chosen to ignore and bike past her.

Assume for the moment that we do have free will. Was I right in doing what I did? For all I know, this suicide attempt stays on her “file” possibly throughout her life. Perhaps she was suffering with a terminal disease and death was her best option. Even then, I think I acted wisely. I think I can justify my actions. What do you say?

I ran my first race today. Last fortnight, my sister visited me here and we saw Chicago, New York and Boston. (Reminds me, I should email mom our sojourn photos). For all the fabulous restaurants we dined in these places, I gained about 6 pounds, making this running after the hiatus much difficult.

But still, I had been running for the past week. Had been trying to get myself back in shape, training for the Indianapolis marathon I’ll be running in October. (Well, it’s technically a half-marathon but a marathon achievement for me anyways.) My friend Alex had invited other Math friends (we’ve been calling ourselves the Purdue-Mathematics runners, or the PuMa-runners) for a 5k race along the Wabash trail. So here we were, Alex, Andrew (Ritchie) and me in the registration for this race.

A few things need to be narrated. My race bib had the number 777! Cool, given that I’m a number theorist and also actually love numbers (the two being mutually exclusive). I started out fast and quickly exhausted myself so the way back was extremely painful. Here’s a note to self for the future marathon: I should conserve energy and burst only towards the end.

Now when I was close to the finish line, I almost gave up and started walking. There was a girl running behind me. I calculated that I’d let her pass me and trail her. Imagine my surprise when instead, she started trailing me. We both then sprinted our way to an elegant finish! (I think I experienced some sportsmanship spirit they say about the marathons at this moment).

Timed 28:03 for a 5k run.

Definitely my fastest ever.

Now the best part about running your a-off is that you can relish all the sweet and high-calorie stuff without guilt. Let us see how the preparation for the half-marathon goes. I’ll keep you posted about my preparation in the next four months.

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Tailpiece: The new US-231 highway which is still under construction has been a good spot for runners and bikers this summer. Last month  there was some construction work going on and I was running along the corner of the road. As it happens, it was just ‘constructed’ so I put my feet and my whole body weight in the wet cement and came crushing down in that concrete pool! It was a plight. Fortunately a worker gave me a water-hose to wash off the cement on me and a few others came to re-build the road. (How amazing would it have been to just keep it as it were – with my feet in it – as a memento!) So that adds another little feather in the cap of extreme running adventures I’ve had, like the ice run, or the run when I swallowed a bug or the one after my jaw fracture.

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Edit (22/6): I ran another race last week and the current personal best (for 5k) is 26:15. Official results here. Pretty fast I’d say. Go me!

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. — Albert Einstein

With this in my mind, I pushed myself against the winds as I completed 125 miles from Bloomington to West Lafayette in two days. It was a fundraising bike-ride called the “Bucket 100” organized by the Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds houses for the homeless.

Let me firstly heartily thank my dear friends who helped me complete my fundraising goal. Kudos!

We set out on Saturday morning on a bus to Bloomington, IN. The night halt was 60 miles away at a school at Danville and today morning (28 Oct, Sunday) we set out for Purdue.

Tanner and me

The maximum I have ever rode on a bike was around 30 miles, around Purdue, so 60 in a day, and then 65 the next day seemed formidable. On the first day, the winds were not very strong but Bloomington is full of small hills. (In fact, the beautiful IU campus reminds me of the IITB campus with its hilly terrain). I found a biker friend in Tanner, whom I befriended in one of the practice rides. We encouraged each other to pull ourselves; at one point, we missed a turn and ended up cycling 6 miles extra. The last 10 miles were the toughest with daunting hills but the drive to reach kept us going. After arduous efforts I made it to Danville, wondering how I would make tomorrow’s 65 miles. But it was okay as I did those (dull) ‘stretching’ exercises.

The next morning (today) was much more challenging. The route from Danville to West Lafayette was a typical mid-west one. You can see nothing but farm-land for miles on end. The north (Chicago) winds have nothing – no forests, trees, houses – to stop them and we had to ride head-on into the wind. Tanner fell behind but I found myself riding with Karen, an awesome biker from near Chicago. We drafted each other from the wind alternately without which I could never have completed my ride. On the way, we passed lakes, rivers, railway-tracks, stinky pig-farms and many strange animals. At one point, a pet dog started following us even beyond a mile! We carried it to a nearby golf-club and whose owner was kind enough to keep it for a while.

Karen and I after completing the ride

The SAG vans (support and gear) stopped at regular intervals and we could replenish ourselves with energy bars, bagels, energy drinks and also chat with other bicyclists. Elaina and Marcus did a fantastic job of coordinating the entire ride – from marking the route to arranging the victory cake. It was great to get to know some cool people from Purdue and beyond!

I tracked my whole ride through my iPhone and it’s fun taking a look at the statistics. Here is the link –

Day 1      Day 2

Some ride photos

PS: Marcus has clicked an awesome photo of me, just as I rode toward the finish line. I will upload it as soon as he emails it to me. (Here it is…)

At the finish line

PS: The previous post on the blog was about mandibular fractures, my experience about the broken jaw from the bicycle accident. I would like to tell the distressed reader that recovering from a fracture takes time but life comes back to normal sooner than you expect!

I recently suffered from a mandible fracture and had a wired jaw for six weeks wherein I could only drink liquids. After removing the rubber-bands and braces, I went to India for the subsequent dental treatment. In this post, I describe the do’s and don’ts while recovering a mandible fracture. It is mainly a description of my experiences.

Nerve damage causes numbness – I realized that I lose sensation in some parts of the cheek. It probably is because of nerve damage because of the accident impact. Most likely it will heal within an year (mine took just a month) but there are instances of numbness never going away.

Talking with a closed mouth – In the first week, I was not able to talk clearly and it would pain after talking continuously for few minutes. By the third week, I became an expert in talking with a closed jaw. By the fifth week people couldn’t notice any abnormality unless they peeked and saw the metal braces.

A compete liquid diet – This is described in details in this post. Keep in mind that you would lose upto 10% of your body weight due to no solid intake. (In retrospect, I think it was good to lose the few extra pounds I had always wanted to. But staying hungry for a month was not easy).

Mixer – If you don’t have one, get one!

Emergency – DON’T PANIC. Carry scissors all the time. If you are suffocating, then chop off the rubber-bands. (The doc never told me this).

Oral hygiene – Brush with a soft toothbrush. Rinse (with mouthwash) after every major liquid intake. Use lukewarm salt water.

Fighting Depression – The two days between the accident and surgery were the worst as I didn’t know the future of my jaws. After the surgery it was a relief to know there was not permanent damage but the first few days were disturbing. I frequently went to the introspect-mode and used to feel hopeless.

Elastic band – My rubber bands lost elasticity because of yawning, coughing and talking. After 2-3 weeks, the doc fixed more bands.

Internet – The internet is a very useful resource. Once you suffer from something, you read every relevant bit of information you can find and become an expert in it. I think I am an expert in mandible fractures. About fora (forums), there are people who suffered similar accidents and believe me, what you are suffering would most probably be someone else’s problem too. It feels good to find people who suffered similarly and with whom you can connect yourself. But beware, people have suffered worse problems so it might not be necessary to panic for every trauma someone else had.

Healing – It’s obvious that everyone’s healing process is different. It depends on your fracture type, the doctors’ treatment and your own physical health.

Complete recovery – A month of no brushing decays teeth, also the accident may have caused dental damage. So after removing the braces is a good time to see a dentist. I had my root canal done in India because dental care there is excellent (and of course, inexpensive). Since the jaw was shut for weeks, the mouth muscles have lost their elasticity and it takes months to open the jaw completely.

 

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Tailpiece – If you are suffering from a mandible fracture and wish to get in touch, just leave a comment and I shall be glad to offer any help. After all, a bro is what a bro does!

About me

Abhishek Parab

I? An Indian. A mathematics student. A former engineer. A rubik's cube addict. A nature photographer. A Pink Floyd fan. An ardent lover of Chess & Counter-Strike.

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Quotable Quotes

ABHISHEK PARAB
“Do not think; let the equation think for you”

PAUL HALMOS
”You cannot be perfect, but if you won’t try, you won’t be good enough”

ALBERT EINSTEIN
“Don’t worry about your maths problems; I assure you, mine are greater”

THE BEST MATH JOKE
"A comathematician is a device for turning cotheorems into ffee"

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