19 May, 2006

Rant - the Loss of Meaning

"I was like, good gracious, ass is bodacious
I'm flirtacious, tryin' to show patience...
I see you drive sports car, ain't hittin' the throttle
And I'll be down, I'll do 100, top down and goggles"

While I support the efforts of the hip-hop community to display more skin and less clothes, and admire the Kaizen (constant improvement) in this field, I find myself desiring more from the music.

Try this for size...

"Do Naina, ek kahani.
Thoda sa badal, thoda sa paani,
Aur ik kahani..."


"Pyar mein sar jhukana padta hai
Dard me muskurana padta hai..."

Well, this post was supposed to be about painful music, the hindi songs are to accentuate the contrast. For the past week now, I have been trying to write things.

However, very recent events redirect my attention towards pain, which is what this one is about. Yes, and this is my disclaimer right here, so I will not entertain cribs about the post being painful. That is what is intended.

Right. Well what is most painful - actually there is this need to distinguish between various levels of pain. Each level would have different immediate effects and gestation period.

Four categories - Prick in the finger, pain in the neck, stone on the heart and death are my four categories.

The first one, is more of sudden unexpected discomfort than anything else. It is quick, unforeseen, and is usually over before you realise it is happening and then the pain stays but only for a while. Like when you say things without meaning it and regret afterwards, or just let go of something and the immediate regret pokes bites your tongue.

The second is less sudden in the build up and in dying down. Dull and throbbing, such pain comes from meeting sad people with sadder lives.

The third one is in bit more serious territory. Depends again on quite a few things..
You have trouble in breathing, sometimes you don’t want to breathe. To me, it does feel like a stone heaving down on my heart.(I read this somewhere long back, or perhaps I made it up and dont remember, but it seems falling in love also makes you understand poetry. Probably true only for me given my emotionally challenged growth)

Well, death is death.
(with due deference to Sid Sinha, for those who know what I am talking about).

17 May, 2006

An exercise in Memory

I read a post recently about the links between the power of smell and memory. It is known that the areas of the brain which receives information about smell, links directly with the section which controls emotional reactions and the hippocampus, which controls the collection of memories. So, smells, in a very literal sense are closest to memories.

The post set me thinking about my earliest memories. My earliest memories are specific incidents, random events which have stubbornly refused to fade away, while more interesting or important events have been erased, and I know about them only as second-hand memories passed on to me by my parents.
I remember my Nani like the light of day - asking her for money to buy sweets and complaining about my mother. I remember my father telling me stories and falling asleep because he used to be tired. (I remember how Ramayan was the only story he told me, which was ambitious given that he had put in 10 hours at work and then taken my mother and I out to the club.)

I wanted to see the Hailey's comet and wanted to wake up early in the morning to see it. I used to set the alarm every night, when it was here (in 1985?). I could not ever wake up, and wondered if I will be alive next time it came around (I like to think of myself as an inquisitive child, not a geek).

I remember going to see my sister for the first time. For some reason, I do not remember my mother growing fatter before that. I was late to school that day and was anxious about it. Missionary schools have inspired much dread in me. Always.

When in Assam, for a period of four years and then some, I used to go to a school in Digboi, some 30 kilometres away from home. There was a company car, which took me and a few others to school and back. Back in those days, there was not much traffic and the journey was singular at its best. (Later, there was some excitement when central rule was declared by Narasimha Rao, and we used to see Army columns and wave at them.) Anyway, I realised that I had gone up and down the same road so many times that I should remember the whole journey. I tried it both ways and realised that I remembered it more on the way to school than on the way back. I guess that had something to do with the fact that my mind is usually blank in the morning and hence, more receptive. This also implied that I should study early in the morning (not tested yet).

There is one more thing which I ponder about - when we look back at life and remember only patches of it - are we not shortening our lives? As in, if I do not remember various things about my own life, does it really matter that I lived it. I know it does and this is a very selfish/individualistic stand, but I sometimes get worried about this. I do not want to look back at life, say after 30 years, and know only as a mathematical fact, that I have lived for 60 years.

I really hope there is more to it than a subtraction.

15 May, 2006

Transcendental numbers

The first time I came across this kind of number was in a book called Contact, by Carl Sagan. It said that pi, which is quite familiar to all of us, was from a class of numbers called Transcendental numbers. I did a bit of digging and came across the fact that there are infinitely more transcendental numbers than there are integers, or even rational numbers. The same place told me that e too, is one of them. Also, the natural log of any positive rational number other than one. What is funny, is that, it is not known whether π+e is one.

There are many definitions of these numbers, but the coolest one, again from the book itself, was that there is no expression which is of finite length, which can accurately express such a number.
Waitaminute, so what about 22/7? Well , that goes out of the window. 22/7 actually is wrong after the first couple of decimals. It is used proabably because it is a good approximation and is easy to remember. For an accurate formula, try this one -

Or this...

I remember how I used to cringe every time the 7 remained in the denominator, but in retrospect, given the bad boys above, 22/7 has been a blessing all these years. (All these formulae are from here, btw, Wiki rocks!)

Two things amazed me while reading these pages on Wikipedia - one, by the level of detail and breadth of knowledge and the various problems, both solved and unsolved. (Look at the Wiki link for a list of such problems);Reminded me of Fermat's last theorem - which Fermat mentioned as a note in the margin, and also added that he had a very elegant proof in mind, but the space there (in the margin) was not enough. That added to the mystique of the theorem, especially as no one could solve it for over 350 years. It was solved in 1995 (357 years later) and the size of the proof - 200 pages - slightly more voluminous than as hinted by Fermat.

The second thing was the Wiki - Almost all things I have looked up, I have found very rich and well researched information on the Wiki. It truly is a modern miracle. Over 4 million pages and 55 million edits, it is the 17th most visited website as measured by Alexa.

Not so much an oddity anymore, but pretty much a mainstream website.

More ramblings soon...

05 May, 2006

Have not been able to post because I am in India on work. Came across an interesting article about new products being launched by Indian software professionals -
In a way, such things prove that the dream of the great Indian software product are coming true. More bluntly, it points to the maturity and confidence of the Indians in this space. The three people running this company - RHR networks are all software professionals with a couple of decades of experience in all. They have entered the web-enabled product space with a slew of products - a job search aggregator, a social image sharing website and a classified website (inspired by craigslist).

Each of the products has a clean interface and great functionality. All that they need now is volumes to increase the quality of content on these websites. As more and more Indians get online, they will be pleasantly surprised to see such websites - by Indians and for Indians but with a global appeal.