Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tag Hammer's Cold

Which is because we've been tagged

Some, are apparently above such things as tags. The same some are also very clever with their post titles. Be that as it may, sum are not. Having been tagged by an agile venomous serpent of African origin, here goes...

Instruccziones: Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like). Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.

Family: Hmm. Haven't written none. Tangential reference to sibling and maternal unit will be found in this tag post. A couple of travel posts (1, 2) make passing references to sibling's onetime place of work.

Friend: Gah. We haven't written any of these also, it seems. OK, so this experiment in "collaborative worst" was done with a little help from my friends. As were the Odissi odyssey, the Bandipur trip, and the pornographic weekend. We note that Ram was on all these trips, and that the Chickmagalur trip was in the company of That (decidedly repulsive) Man Keynes And His Homosexual Intrigues. Finally, another one wrote the only guest post on this blob.

Yourself: We
(i) Are colour blind

(ii) Can get pretty mawkish and senti

(iii) Like to think we're a runner (1, 2) boobs notwithstanding

(iv) And yet are deliciously kinky.

Your love: ajeeb daastaan hai yeh...

Anything you like: Hah. Maths/science, poetry (although it all tastes like ash nowadays), films, history, quizzing, running, travel, filter coffee, biryaani, books, NPR will all figure somewhere or the other. Posts all over the place.

Who to tag, who to tag...Kenny because she'll have non-trivial links for all the categories, Srini because he's kind of melancholic nowadays and we also want to find out if he's reading our blog, the dolphin because it's been a while and because we're too mortified to apologize properly for various errors of omission and this might be a good way of finding out what the lay of the land is, Madam Secretary because she's written diddly squat for ages but she's probably not reading this blog, and She of the Furrowed Brow That has Hopefully Uncreased (Fedex notwithstanding).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The 5 Most Horrifying Bugs In The World

Scary. Viewer discretion advised.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mumbai Half Marathon 2008

Which is about racism... in "road race"-ism, which we periodically suffer from. Staggered through the half marathon at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon yesterday. All didn't begin well, thanks to last minute event in Madras, which forced us to take a very late flight to Bombay, resulting in us landing up at Kenny's at around 12:30 in the morning.

Scant 4 hours of sleep, wake up, unmentionables, dozy (but very fast, as the peeking through semi-closed eyelids showed) taxi ride from IIT to Azad Maidan, and we got into the holding area for runners well in time for the start. Points to the organizers for starting bang on time (0645). Didn't realize that the holding area wasn't the real start, so turned on the gizmo a trifle too early. Quick bathroom break (which, in hindsight, looks really funny on the map) and finally made it to the start (VT station).

It was impossible to run, there were apparently more runners in the half here than there were 10kers in Hyderabad! Nevertheless, we jostled and edged our way through the mob, trying to keep a steady trot, and it wasn't before we were well and truly on Marine Drive that we were able to get close to anything like a steady pace. Gizmo revealed alarmingly that at this time our pace was all over the graph.

Right from the beginning, it was evident that there were industrial quantities of doubtless essentially well-meaning but fundamentally clueless morons fellow citizens at hand. These ones had no clue about how to last for a long run, and were completely carried away by cameras, RJs with the attitude of varsity cheerleaders, and generally thumping music and tamasha, and were tearing down the beautiful streets of Bombay. To our horror, we discovered that we were also unconsciously playing catch and doing a brisk 6:00ish per k.m. right at the beginning, which was not part of the plan at all!

Deep breaths, and secure in the knowledge that somewhere after the 12-15k mark, a certain separation of milk from water etc. would occur, we took it easy and attempted a more manageable 7:00+ per k.m. It was a good day for running, the first half anyway, and the sights and sounds of Bombay kept us going for much of the time. Just a great feeling to be running in one of the world's great cities.

(Aside: Race log here and map here)

Somewhere near Kemp's Corner (we're estimating), our breaths were taken away by the sight of the elite buggers come hightailing down in the opposite direction at a crazy, insane pace. Much self loathing and inspiration followed. A little further, and very impressively, Milind showed up. The crowd was really good, egging us all along, especially right at the beginning. Of course, some of the more voluble "Run, Mumbai, Run!" freaks got a dose of "Run, Hyderabad, Run!" from us.

By the time we'd hung a U-ie (somewhat before Worli Dairy), the Great Separation had started to occur. Hapless souls floundering on the side of the road, general looks of despair and disillusionment, and this was enough to send Ludwig into rapturous inspiration, and we really started running. Caught up with Dhanraj (i.e. he was doing some stretches and we passed him) and motored along. Found that the ascents were really the best time to kick into gear and overtook hordes and hordes of mor... fellow citizens.

Ms. Right Knee did start an interesting conversation with Mr. Central Nervous System, intimidating the latter about certain twinges and aches and so on and so forth. HRH Brain instructed CNS to totally ignore RK, and we thundered along, very very very confident that we will end up paying for this in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, there was no time to lose, and so we kept at it.

All was hunky dory until we turned a corner and found ourselves on Marine Drive with the mid-morning sun all ablaze. Took the wind out of the sails for a bit, had to do some slight ratcheting down, drinking, and general self motivation. Can't say that the last 4-5 k.m. were too pleasant, although we didn't slacken pace. Charge of the Light Brigade only...

Right at the end, approximately 20 steps from the finish line, we spotted someone trying to sneak up on us and "win". It is useful to consider some facts at this juncture.

1. We are, in fact, cognizant about the Gebrselassie-Tergat photo finish.

2. We really, really, really HATE people who cut lines and queues.

3. We are not really thayir saadam type.

Taking all this into consideration, there was only one outcome. We sprinted, and judicious pumping of shoulders and elbows ensured that the would be Haile wouldn't be. Hah! We play hard, but fair.

Staggered towards the chip counter refund tent, where we ran into King Julian quite randomly after 6(?) years, which was well met. Alack, we lost him soon enough in the chip return melee, of which the less said the better. Kenny was there thankfully, so timepass was easy. Someone from the class of 96 was randomly run into, which was cause for joy.

The rest of the day happened per Kenny's story. The monster child isn't a monster at all, but really needs to learn to make better faces. We drew a ghastly Mickey Mouse using crayons, something from a Ramsey brothers version of the cartoon, in her rough drawing paper, which was fun.

Lunch, nap, drop to airport, caught up with S (who did the full and had horrible organizational stories to tell) and Y (who incredibly finished the half with approximately zero planning and prep). Late flight, got home by 12:30 a.m.

Phew. We learnt that that Energizer Bunny Dhammo had been spotted during the marathon course, zipping around like a chinkara on steroids. One wonders how the rest of the race was.

Anyway, now these revels are ended, and we're back home with an insane deadline, a wedding reception, and a quiz in the offing.

Onward, Christian soldiers...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bridges, Historiography, Patriotism and Politics

Where we proudly call ourselves a civil engineer, make some observations on historiography, comment on the last refuge of the scoundrel, and take a swipe at Our American Cousins

On the lines of the colourblindness confession, here's another one. We got a couple of degrees in civil engineering, and we have to admit that secretly and not-so-secretly, we're rather proud of ye olde profession. The heart leaps up with joy unbounded at the sight of buildings, roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, airports, railway stations, and so on. Large construction sites tend to cause a distinct uplifting of spirit. Something like this is a positive cause for bursting into song.

Blast furnaces, cooling towers, Bessemer converters are all poetic. There, we've said it once if we've said it once. Or whatever. (The other thing that sets one off is a gorgeous looking warship, but be that as it may...)

Some weeks back, we went on a birding trip to the AP Police Academy, and after having stumbled through the undergrowth for a couple of hours, we found ourselves at the edge of the campus, where that well known topological paradox, the Outer Ring Road cuts through. (Paradox: All plots in Hyderabad, nay South Central India, are within 2 km of ORR, if you believe the adverts.)

Of course, suitable horror was expressed at Man's depredation, the sullying of pristine nature and so on. But this was somewhat offset by the sight of earth movers and hard hats at work on the permanent way. The best photo from that trip follows. And its not just us, others were seen clicking away, possibly in appreciation only!

Which lets us segue into 18 stunning bridges. Molto fantastico. Check out the water-on-water bridge. Poetry only. There's that word again.

And although we are long sundered from bending moments and serendipity elements, we well up with emotion once in a while, and this will hopefully help us win the New Hampshire primary.

Martin R, over at Aardvarcheology has written a pertinent piece on history and proto-history. Several points he makes rang true, and deserves to be quoted at length.

A really good historical source is coeval with the events it describes, or it may even form a part of those events, such as in the case of a land deed. It is written by a knowledgeable participant in the events, one who is not strongly politically biased or whose bias is at least known. And any statement in a good historical source is ideally corroborated by other independent good historical sources.
But before the historical period...there is usually a proto-historical era: one for which there are only few and bad sources, often quite extremely bad ones. Typically, proto-historical sources are written centuries after the fact by political propagandists, and there exists no corroborating historical evidence.

Proto-history offers a powerful lure to all students of the past: oh, how we all wish that we could somehow dig good historical knowledge out of those crap sources!
Those texts must be treated like fairytales, because they most likely are and there is no way of finding out if they aren't.

Everywhere on earth, the proto-historical sources that appear to stretch the farthest inte the past are usually genealogies, often royal ones. "Lo, King Freddie reigned for 253 years and begat King Ronnie who smote the Fellatians and reigned for 346 years and begat King Reginald who reigned for 123 years and begat King Humpty" etc. At the head of the list is usually a god who acts as mythical ancestor of whoever is king at the time when the genealogy is compiled.

Indian history is also full of king lists which seem to be of the most dubious authenticity. When there appears to be no corroborating material evidence (written records of such mundane things as taxes, revenue, treaties, inscriptions, etc; coinage, other artifacts), it's a bit preposterous to think that the king lists/puraaNas whatever need to be given any credibility. Back to Martin...

As historical scholarship has improved, one area after another on Earth has lost its proto-historical innocence and relegated the king lists to a position as sources on the royal propaganda of far later ages than they purport to treat. But this process isn't complete yet. A good paper...shows that China is finally beginning the necessary reevalutation. This is a painful process, as the current Chinese elite quite likes the idea of unbroken historical continuity way back into the Bronze Age.

Parallels with some of the Hindu revivalist types who seem to be able to back calculate from Narendra Modi to Nala, Nakula and Nahusha? A word of caution for us, we think. [A good separate post for the choultry or elsewhere would be the the Top 10 Myths About History Cherished By Indians, including such pfaff as the definitive authorship of the Arthashaastra, "Vedic" mathematics, "India" never invaded any country (Go Cho!) and so on.]

We have written about popular historiography and engineering before.

If history has made an appearance, can patriotism be far behind?


The New England Patriots are apparently playing as though they are lving a dream. They didn't lose a game in their perfect season. This has been done once before by the Miami Dolphins, in 1972, but they had only 14(?) games then. If all goes well, they will win 3 more and duly pocket the Superbowl. They ought to. For those not in the know, the Pats this year are somewhat like the Australian team. Clinical in winning, with accusations of ( videotaping opposing coach's signals) and unsportsmanlike conduct (running up the score, or doing unto Washington what Achilles did to Hector or Dushasana(?) to Abhimanyu(?). Ludwig is a Macaulayite, he knows his Greek myth better than his Indian "history", and look at all that stuff he wrote about Indian history).

Who cares? Go Pats!


Reporter to passerby: "Sir, sir. Why is it that more Americans don't participate in the electoral process, is it ignorance or apathy?"
Passerby: "I don't know and I don't care."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Riemann Again, HIFF

Which is random

Lev Aizenberg has made a startling (to say the least) claim.

"We present an elementary, short and simple proof of the validity of the Lindelöf hypothesis about the Riemann zeta-function. The obtained estimate and classical results by Bohr-Landau and Littlewood disprove Riemann's hypothesis."

We've written elsewhere about the Riemann hypothesis, and mentioned that it appeared in a list of resolutions. If Aizenberg's proof holds, this is an earth-shattering result for mathematics. Don't know why, but it just is. And coming so close on the heels of Perelman's proof of the Poincare conjecture, it is like watching triple centuries in consecutive test mateches.

Via the Spaniard, the second edition of the Hyderabad International Film Festival is upon us. Any recos?